The Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge located on the east of Jerusalem. It is separated from the city of the Kidron Valley toward Bethany and halfway distant toward that village (Matthew 21:1). Bethany is 15 furlongs, about 2 miles (3 km) from Jerusalem (John 11:18). The Mount of Olives is elevated 2,700 ft. (823 m.) above sea level, around 250 ft. (76 m.). It is higher than Jerusalem around 300 ft. (1 m.) and higher than the Temple plateau. The hill, also named Mount Olivet, due to fact that it was once covered with olive trees.
The Old Testament
Mount Moriah is where Abraham obeyed the Lord and offered Isaac to Him showing his faith (Genesis 22:2,9). But Jehovah did not desire the death of Isaac. He only wanted to test the obedience of His servant and give him a glimpse of God’s future great sacrifice for humans (1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6).
Later on, King David bought Mount Moriah from Araunah the Jebusite for the purpose of building the Temple (2 Chronicles 3:1). Also, the Mount of Olives is mentioned when Absalom stole the hearts of Israel and conspired against his father king David. As a result, King David fled from Jerusalem. He “went up by the ascent of the Mount of Olives and wept” before the Lord (2 Samuel 15:30). God heard his prayer and delivered him from Absalom.
On this Mount, King Solomon built the First Temple, which was destroyed by the Babylonians in the year 586 BCE. The returning exiles from Babylon set the foundations of the Second Temple in the same place in 536 BCE. After about 500 years, Herod extended the Temple Mount and rebuilt the Temple on it.
The New Testament
The Mount of Olives is mentioned as the spot from where Jesus “beheld the city, and wept over it” (Luke 19:37–41). The Mount of Olives was about 300 ft. higher than the Temple. There, Calvary was also visible, not far from the Sheep Gate, which was near the northeast corner of the city.
Due to the spiritual degradation of God’s chosen people, Jesus pronounced the Temple as a “den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13), and predicted the fall of the city (Matthew 22:7; Luke 21:20). Jesus saw the doomed future of the city of Jerusalem and how the armies of Rome would surround it and lay it desolate. And He disclosed the future of Jerusalem with some of His disciples on the western slope of the Mount of Olives (Mark 13:3; Matthew 24:15–20).
Soon after, Jesus did visit the Mount of Olives and went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray the night before His crucifixion. Gethsemane is located near the western foot of the Mount of Olives, opposite Jerusalem (Matthew 26:30, 36). This is the first mention of the Mount of Olives in connection with the life of Jesus.
At the garden, the Master told His disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38). And Jesus prayed to the Father three times, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (verse 39,42,44). In spite of all the suffering and the fierce temptations Satan pressed upon His soul, Jesus submitted without question or hesitation to the Father’s will. His perfect submission to God’s will provides a perfect example for us to follow.
After being sentenced to death by crucifixion, the apostle John tells us that the chief priests led Jesus out of the city to a place called Golgotha (John 19:17-20). The site was not far from the city and the Temple. The Lord “suffered without the gate” (Hebrews 13:12) and was there nailed to the cross.
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). The Son of God suffered for us, and not for Himself. The pain, humiliation, and death that we deserve, He took upon Himself. There is no greater love than this (John 15:13; 3:16).
After the Resurrection, the Mount of Olives was again the place where Jesus ascended to heaven. Luke explains that after the last meeting with the disciples in Jerusalem, Jesus “led them out as far as to Bethany” (Luke 24:50), perhaps because it was in the old familiar place He loved so well.
Jesus’ prediction and warning of the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple (Matthew 24:15-18), came to pass by the Romans in the year 70 CE. However, all Christians, who headed His warning were saved as they escaped to the city of Pella before the final siege.
After the Millennium
Both the Old and New Testaments predict that at the close of the 1,000 years, the New Jerusalem, will come down from heaven to this earth. The prophet Zechariah wrote, “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming. … And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two. … Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You. … All the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem” (Zechariah 14:1, 4, 5, 10).
And the apostle John wrote of the same event saying, “I … saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. … And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men’ ” (Revelation 21:2, 3).
The New Jerusalem will settle where the mount of Olives is now located. The mountain will be leveled to make a great plain, upon which the holy city will settle. All of the redeemed of all ages (Zechariah 14:5), the heavenly angels (Matthew 25:31), God the Father (Revelation 21:2, 3), and God the Son (Matthew 25:31) will come back to the earth with the holy city.
The Churches of the Mount of Olives
Today, the Mount of Olives is the home of different historic churches in the city. Some of these are: Church of Mary Magdalene (The Russian Orthodox Church), the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension, the Augusta Victoria Lutheran Hospital, Church and Tower, the Chapel of the Ascension (Dome of Ascension), the Church of All Nations (Basilica of the Agony), the Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept), the Pater Noster (The Church of the Lord’s Prayer). In addition, there are other historical sites on the Mount of Olives which include a Jewish cemetery.
In His service,