Mountains in prophecy [pdf]
Isaiah said, “And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.” [Isaiah 49:11] By various interpreters, the mountains of prophecy are said to be powerful, self-righteous and proud people, kingdoms, obstacles in a road, proud thoughts, or literal mountains. However, I suggest, the mountains of prophecy are in fact none of these, but instead, they represent God’s promises. These promises, and blessings are a way or route that believers can follow, because in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus promised a number of blessings to those who follow him. [Matthew 5:1-11] Below are some of the reasons why the mountains represent God’s promises to believers.
The mountains of Israel were the prominent parts of the promised land, which God promised to give to Jacob, in his dream at Bethel, in which he saw a ladder reaching to heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. [Genesis 28:12-22] The land which God promised to give him in the dream was connected or associated with the oracles of God and the angels conveying messages between earth and heaven. The promised land was to become the location of many of God’s revelations. The land promise, and Israel’s Exodus, their journey to the land, their taking possession of it, dwelling in the land, the monarchy, and their ultimate loss of the land, are all prominent themes in the Old Testament. Mountains are prominent in the account, especially in the prophets. The ark of Noah rested upon a mountain; the offering of Isaac occurred upon a mountain; when he blessed Joseph, Jacob connected his blessings with mountains. [Genesis 49:26] Elijah offered a sacrifice upon mount Carmel to end a great drought.
While the promised land was the scene of many revelations; other revelations given elsewhere were often about the land.
The mountains are durable; they last for long span of time. Because of their durability, mountains seem unsuitable as symbols of men, or nations, or kingdoms, except, of course, for God’s eternal kingdom, and the covenant people. The mountains resist change, and are not moved around. They are landmarks. The mountains offer a higher view on things, a view from above. Thus Isaiah wrote, “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!” [Isaiah 40:9] And, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:9]
Ezekiel was taken to a high mountain, to record his vision of the temple, [Ezekiel 40:2] and similarly John was taken to a high mountain, to describe the heavenly Jerusalem. [Revelation 21:10] In each case, mountains connect the visions with high, spiritual revelations, or else, what else could their significance be?
Jesus was taken to a high mountain when he was tempted. [Matthew 4:8] Again, the mountain represents a spiritual experience; it was not a literal, earthly mountain.
The kingdom of God is represented by a mountain; it is described as a mountain that began as a stone, cut without hands, [Daniel 2:35] and eventually it grows to fill the earth. This is a tremendous promise. The prophecies about mountains confirm that they represent promises. The mountains, representing God’s promises, are possessed by the heathen, who make them desolate; [Ezekiel 36:3-5] they are cast out for a prey; they are assaulted by the armies of Gog and Magog. [Ezekiel 38:8] They will be restored to God’s saints. The armies of Gog and Magog fall down upon them. [Ezekiel 39:4] They will be inhabited by the saints, the true Israel; and they will bring forth fruit, which no doubt alludes to the fruit of the Spirit. The saints will possess them; [Ezekiel 36:8-10] rivers and streams will flow on mountains; [Isaiah 30:25] and wine will drop from them, and hills will flow with milk. [Joel 3:18] Rivers of living water represent the Spirit, and wine and milk are each symbolic of God’s word in the New Testament. [Luke 5:37; 1 Peter 2:2]
When Jesus said, “flee to the mountains,” [Matthew 24:16] he could not possibly have meant flee to preserve your own life, as many assume; he said, whoever seeks to save his life, will lose it. [Matthew 16:25] He must have meant, flee to the promises of God that the mountains represent.
What is the way in the mountains that Isaiah mentioned? Mountains are metaphors; they represent God’s promises. Departing from evil is a highway connected with a promise: “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.” [Proverbs 16:17]