Alex's Blog for January 29, 2013 - The Mountain of the Lord
By Alex Dodson
Daniel gave a tremendous prophecy of a rock that struck a large statue and broke it to pieces. The rock grew and became a huge mountain that filled the whole earth. Later, Daniel interpreted this as the kingdom of God destroying the kingdoms of this world and replacing them. The kingdom of God would crush all other kingdoms and would last forever. It starts out as a rock but grows into a huge mountain and fills the whole earth. The rock was cut out of a mountain without human hands. This kingdom would have its origin in God and be a spiritual kingdom. (See Daniel 3) This prophecy began its fulfillment when Jesus came into this world and announced, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (Mark 1:15 KJV) This then was the beginning of a kingdom that would grow into a huge mountain and fill the whole earth.
There are other passages that mention a mountain in relationship to the kingdom of God. Sometimes it is called "the mountain of the Lord" or "my holy mountain" or "the mountain of the Lord's temple" or "The Holy Mountain". These expressions often mean the place in Jerusalem where the temple was located. Sometimes it means Zion or the place where God is present with his people. Sometimes it means just Jerusalem, the city where the temple was built. It could also have the meaning in a symbolic way of the church such as in Isaiah 2:2-3. However, at other times the prophet seems to use the term "my holy mountain" to describe the condition of the whole earth as in Isaiah 11:9 and 65:25. It is these two passages that we want to look at in this article.
Daniel described seeing a rock being cut out of a mountain and then growing itself into a much larger mountain that fills the whole earth. Daniel's prophecy is not too unlike the prophecy in Isaiah 11:9 which says, "They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." In Daniel's prophecy the mountain fills the whole earth. In Isaiah 11:9 the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord. E. J. Young in commenting on this verse writes, "Men will know Yahweh (the Lord) in that they will know that He truly exists, and they will act upon that knowledge in that they will give to Him all their love, obedience and devotion. He will be their God. This knowledge will be so extensive that it will fill the land, as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah does not mean that the earth will be divided into two parts, the earth and the sea, but would merely say that just as the sea to the fullness of its capacity is filled with waters so the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh (the Lord). When once the land will be thus filled, then men will cease to harm one another. Before there can be peace there must first be knowledge." (The Book of Isaiah, Volume 1, p. 392.) Matthew Henry writes, "Some are willing to hope it shall yet have a further accomplishment in the latter days, when swords shall be beaten into ploughshares…They shall thus live in love, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, which shall extinguish men's heats and animosities. The better acquainted we are with the God of love the more shall we be changed into the same image and the better affected shall we be to all those that bear his image. The earth shall be as full of this knowledge as the channels of the sea are of water - so broad and extensive shall this knowledge be and so far shall it spread - so deep and substantial shall this knowledge be, and so long shall it last." (Commentary on Isaiah to Malachi, Volume IV, p. 75)
How then do we interpret the words "my holy mountain" in this passage? Some would interpret it as Jerusalem. Others as the church. For example, John Gill writes, "'They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain' -In the church, so called, in allusion to the holy hill of Zion; in the latter day, after the destruction of Antichrist, there will be no more persecution of the saints; they will be no more injured nor harassed by wicked men…" (Commentary on Isaiah) This is certainly a valid interpretation of this passage. It could be referring to the church having reached a point when its influence is so great in the world that persecution ceases and peace reigns everywhere. So in that case "my holy mountain" is the church. Yet, does this really do justice to the passage? The entire verse again reads, "They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." It is also very possible that the words "my holy mountain" describes the whole earth since the latter part of the verse refers to the whole earth being full of the knowledge of the Lord. In that case, the whole earth then would become a holy mountain as the Word of God brings its influence on the entire world. Could this also be the outcome of the vision that Daniel saw of a rock growing into a mountain that fills the whole earth?
The other passage we want to consider is Isaiah 65:25 which says, "'The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy in all my holy mountain.' says the Lord." Notice the almost identical phrases used in Isaiah 11:6 -"The wolf will live with the lamb…", Isaiah 11:7 - "…the lion will eat straw like the ox.", and 11:9 "They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain." These expressions very likely indicate that Isaiah 11 and 65 refer to the same period of time. We then must ask ourselves the question about the words "my holy mountain." What do the words mean in Isaiah 65? Do they refer to Jerusalem, the temple mount, the church, or the whole earth? Many would refer them to Jerusalem. Some would seem to refer them to the church. Matthew Henry seems to take this position. He writes, "God's people, though they are sheep in the midst of wolves, shall be safe and unhurt; for God will not so much break the power and tie the hands of their enemies as formerly, but he will turn their hearts, will alter their disposition by his grace….Men shall be changed; the lion shall no more be a beast of prey, as perhaps he never would have been if sin had not entered, but shall eat straw like the bullock, shall know his owner, and his master's crib, as the ox does. When those that lived by spoil and rapine, and coveted to enrich themselves, right or wrong, are brought by the grace of God to accommodate themselves to their condition, to live by honest labor, and to be content with such things as they have - when those that stole steal no more, but work with their hands the thing that is good - then this is fulfilled, that the lion shall eat straw like the bullock….Satan shall be chained, the dragon bound; for dust shall be the serpent's meat again. That great enemy, when he has been let loose, has glutted and regaled himself with the precious blood of saints, who by his instigation have been persecuted, and with the precious souls of sinners, who by his instigation have become persecutors and have ruined themselves for ever; but now he shall be confined to dust, according to the sentence, 'On thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat' Genesis 3:14. All the enemies of God's church, that are subtle and venomous as serpents, shall be conquered and subdued, and be made to lick the dust. Christ shall reign as Zion's king till all the enemies of his kingdom be made his footstool, and their's also. In the holy mountain above, and there only shall this promise have its full accomplishment, that there shall be none to hurt nor destroy." (Commentary on Isaiah, p. 388) Matthew Henry's interpretation of this passage is very good. He would tend to interpret "my holy mountain" as the church which had reached a point when its enemies had been conquered and it no longer suffered persecution since the world had become a place of peace. This is certainly a valid interpretation.
Though not disagreeing with Matthew Henry, I would again like to think that "my holy mountain" could refer to the whole world which had come under the influence of the gospel and had become a place of righteousness and peace as a result.
What we have here in the prophecy of Isaiah 11 and 65 is a prediction of a future time when peace and righteousness shall reign on the earth. Some would say this will come only after Christ returns. Others would say these prophecies are merely referring to the heavenly state or the new heaven and new earth that will come in the end after the judgment. Yet, it is very possible that these passages are referring to a future period of time in this age when the gospel shall prevail everywhere and as a result righteousness and holiness among men will prevail. Those who oppose the gospel will be few and far between or none existent because they will have been conquered by the gospel itself.
Earlier evangelicals saw a day coming when the gospel would prevail in the earth in this age. Few today know that the majority view among evangelicals from shortly after the Reformation to the later 1800's was that the gospel would progress and eventually cover the whole earth. The church would eventually be victorious in the earth not in some future age but in our present age. For example the evangelical Edward Reynolds wrote in 1659, "As it is the ardent prayer of all that love the Lord Jesus in sincerity, that his kingdom may be enlarged, and the glorious light of the world may see the salvation of our God, that the stone cut out without hands may become so great a mountain as to fill the earth, that the idols may be utterly abolished, and the gods of the earth famished, and that all the isles of the heathen may worship the only true God…." (As the Waters Cover the Sea, p. 54) Another evangelical of this period, Richard Mather, who had accompanied John Eliot on one of his early visits to evangelize the Indians in America, wrote, "The amplitude, and large extent of the kingdom of Jesus Christ upon earth, when the heathen shall be his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth his possession: and when all kings shall fall down unto him, and all nations do him service, all contrary kingdoms and powers being broken in pieces and destroyed, is a thing plainly and plentifully foretold and promised in Holy Scriptures…." (Ibid., p. 54-55). The views of these two men reflect a prevalent view among these early evangelicals in the 17th century. The gospel would eventually prevail in this age and the whole world would come under the dominion of Christ and His kingdom. This was not some other worldly vision but a vision for this world in this age and a great confidence that the gospel would eventually prevail. Their view is quite different from the popular view today among so many evangelicals that the church will go down in defeat in this age and have to be raptured out of the way and that only after Christ returns will the kingdom of God prevail. The outlook for this age is clearly pessimistic and only after the return of Christ in a future age will things get better. Today's popular view among evangelicals has only been around since the later 1800's and became prevalent in the last century. Earlier evangelicals for the most part would not have held to this pessimistic view.
In 1739, Jonathan Edwards preached a series of sermons on the history of redemption which were later published under that same title. It is interesting to note the optimism he had for the victory of the gospel in this age. He wrote, "And however small the propagation of the gospel among the heathen here in America has been hitherto, yet I think we may well look upon the discovery of so great a part of the world as America, and bringing the gospel into it, as one thing by which divine Providence is preparing the way for the future glorious times of the church; when Satan's kingdom shall be overthrown, not only throughout the Roman empire, but throughout the whole habitable globe, on every side, and on all its continents. When those times come, then doubtless the gospel, which is already brought over into America, shall have glorious success, and all the inhabitants of this new discovered world shall become subjects of the kingdom of Christ, as well as all the other ends of the earth: and in all probability Providence has so ordered it, that the mariner's compass, which is an invention of later times, whereby men are enabled to sail over the widest ocean, when before they durst not venture far from land, should prove a preparation for what God intends to bring to pass in the glorious times of the church, viz. the sending forth the gospel wherever any of the children of men dwell, how far soever off, and however separated by wide oceans from those parts of the world which are already Christianized." (The History of Redemption, p. 284) Edwards looked forward from his day to a time when the whole world would come under the dominion of the gospel in this age. He saw Satan's kingdom being overthrown in this age not having victory. He did not see the church as going down in defeat and having to be raptured out of the way but he saw the glorious times of the church as yet to come in this age.
David Brainerd was a missionary to the American Indians and lived during the same period as Jonathan Edwards who wrote about Brainerd's life and ministry and published his diary which would in the years to come inspire many to go on the mission field. Brainerd believed in the future prosperity of the church in this age and prayed for that prosperity to cover the earth. Under his ministry he saw revival come to the Indians to whom he preached. He longed for revival to spread every where. Brainerd died very young and in his last days, Edwards wrote about what he said in those final moments of his life - "He also was much engaged in expressing his longings that the Church of Christ on earth might flourish, and Christ's kingdom here be advanced, not withstanding he was about to leave the earth, and should not with his eyes behold the desirable event, nor be instrumental in promoting it. He said to me, one morning, as I came into his room, 'My thoughts have been employed on the old dear theme, the prosperity of God's church on earth. As I waked out of sleep, I was led to cry for the pouring out of God's Spirit, and the advancement of Christ's kingdom, for which the Redeemer died and suffered so much. It is that especially which makes me long for it.' He expressed much hope that a glorious advancement of Christ's kingdom was near at hand….He once told me, that 'he had formerly longed for the outpouring of the Spirit of God, and the glorious times of the church, and hoped they were coming; and that he should have been willing to live to promote religion at that time if that had been the will of God: but,' says he, 'I am willing it should be as it is, I would not have the choice to make for myself, for ten thousand worlds.' He expressed on his death-bed a full persuasion that he should in heaven see the prosperity of the church on earth, and should rejoice with Christ therein; and the consideration of it seemed to be highly pleasing and satisfying to his mind." (Life and Diary of David Brainerd, p. 136-137) Brainerd could look ahead and long for the time of the glorious advancement of God's kingdom on earth. He realized that he would not live to see it, but he was fully confident that he would see from heaven those glorious times come on earth. How we need his vision today when so many look only for a soon coming rapture to take them out of the way and have very little confidence for the future prosperity of the church in this age.
The great modern missionary movement began with a vision for reaching the whole world for Christ. In his book, The Greatest Century of Missions, Peter Hammond wrote, "One of the most influential sermons in world history was preached on 31 May 1792 by William Carey in Northhampton, England Carey's sermon literally sparked the greatest century of Christian advance. It marked the entry of the English-speaking world into missions. Since that time English speakers have made up 80% of the Protestant missionary force." (p. 14) From India, Carey wrote, "The work, to which God has set His hands, will infallibly prosper…We only want men and money to fill this country with the knowledge of Christ. We are neither working at uncertainty nor afraid for the result…He must reign until Satan has not an inch of territory!" (The Greatest Century of Missions, p. 16) Carey saw all of India coming to Christ in the future. That was his vision. He was beginning the work that God would yet bring to fulfillment in the future in this age. It seems that we have lost such a vision in the present generation. So many evangelicals are looking for the "soon coming" rapture that we have lost sight of a gospel that has the power to overcome Satan and all his forces. After all, it was Jesus, Himself, who said, "And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18 KJV)
One of the greatest revival periods in America was in the early part of the 19th century and has been called the Second Great Awakening. It lasted up to fifty years during a period when there was wave after wave of revival in all sections of the country. It is interesting to note that the leaders of the churches during that revival period had a great vision for the victory of the gospel in the world. Rev. Joel Hawes, Pastor of the First Congregational Church in Hartford, Connecticut wrote in a letter to William Sprague in 1832, "It should be the great aim both of ministers and Christians, in time of revival, so to conduct the work, both in affectionate zeal, and in sound Christian wisdom and prudence, that the effect may be to prolong the season of mercy; to prepare the way for a return of it; and to cause all the true friends of Christ to regard revivals as the most precious blessings that God bestows upon a guilty world….It would be ease to enlarge, but I forbear. May the blessing of the God of revivals attend the volume you propose to publish with a view to promote them, and hasten the day when he shall pour his Spirit upon all flesh, and fill the whole earth with his praise." (Lectures on Revivals, p. 291) Rev. Ashbel Green, President of Princeton College, wrote in 1832, "Now, if the world is to be converted to God by revivals of religion, which I fully believe, and think must be evident to reflecting minds, those who abuse and pervert revivals, whatever may be their pretensions or intentions, are really opposing the plan and purposes of God." (Ibid., p. 393-394) These preachers of the gospel during the Second Great Awakening believed that the gospel could prevail in the world to such an extent that they could say that the whole world could be converted. They were not talking about another age but the age in which we now live. They believed that God could send revivals in the future more and more and that the gospel could permeate the whole earth.
Rev. Moses Waddel, President of Franklin College in Athens, Georgia wrote in 1832 reflecting the view of so many evangelicals who lived in that great period of revival - "May the blissful period speedily arrive, when 'the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters fill and cover the sea', 'when the rightousness of Zion shall go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth', is the prayer, I doubt not, of yourself, and of your friend and fellow-laborer in the gospel" - written to William B. Sprague (Ibid., p. 400)
We seem to have left this vision of the whole world becoming a holy mountain far in the past. Most evangelicals today look for the soon coming of Christ to rapture His church out of here. Yet, is it possible that we evangelicals have deserted a teaching of yesteryear that could be right after all. Is it possible the Puritans Edward Reynolds and Richard Mather, and others like Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, William Carey, the leading evangelical ministers during the Second Great Awakening, and many others of our evangelical fathers were correct in their belief that the gospel would prevail in this age and that the whole world would be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea? Their confidence was in the power of the gospel to win the whole world to Christ. Is that gospel any less powerful today than it was back then? Why then should we not also believe that through the preaching of the gospel accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit that this world can yet be won to Christ and that Satan's kingdom can be rooted out and that the whole world can become "My Holy Mountain"? As we anticipate the Second Coming of Christ, let us not forget our mission in this world to make disciples of all the nations. Should we expect Christ to return before our mission is accomplished? We have a job to do and our work is not finished yet. May our Lord return at a time when he can say to us "Well done, good and faithful servants."
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (1978) unless indicated otherwise.
DeJong, James A. As the Waters Cover the Sea, Audubon Press, Laurel, MS, 2006.
Edwards, Jonathan. The History of Redemption.The National Foundation for Christian Education, Marshallton, Delaware, first published in 1773.
Edwards, Jonathan. Life and Diary of David Brainerd. Sovereign Grace Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1971.
Hammond, Peter. The Greatest Century of Missions, Christian Liberty Books, Cape Town, South Africa, 2002.
Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. IV - Isaiah to Malachi, Fleming H. Revell Company, USA, originally in 1712.
Sprague, W. B. Lectures on Revivals, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1958, First Published 1832.
Young, Edward J. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Isaiah, Volume 1, Chapters I-XVIII, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1972.