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IMPORTANT BIBLE TOPICS

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

Jerusalem - City of Peace?

Everyone knows about Jerusalem for it is the centre of much interest and controversy in the media, but not everyone knows that Jerusalem is central to God’s plan with the earth as explained in the Bible. The name Jerusalem means abode of peace but as the title suggests it does not at present live up to its name.

Jerusalem in the Past

The first mention of Jerusalem in the Bible is in the book of Joshua [Joshua 10.1], but it is generally agreed that Salem where Abraham went to meet the king-priest Melchizedek [Genesis 14.18] is the same place. The mountain in the land of Moriah [Genesis 22.2] where Abraham went to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, was also part of Jerusalem which is built on the four hills – Zion, Acra, Moriah and Bezetha [Genesis 22.2 and 2 Chronicles 3.1].

The significance of these two events which took place at Jerusalem immediately identifies the city as central to the Divine plan. Melchizedek, the king–priest of God Most High, shared bread and wine with Abraham prefiguring the sacrificial work of Jesus as explained in the letter to the Hebrews chapter seven. Similarly, the faith in God shown by Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, established the principle of justification through faith and demonstrated that God would provide a lamb as a sacrifice. John the Baptist identified Jesus as The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

  • John 1.29

Jerusalem is a special place chosen by God and this is explained in more detail in the record of the life of David. David went to great lengths to capture it, fortify it and transfer his throne there. Then he was able to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the city. Finally, he bought the site for the temple and assembled the materials for his son Solomon to build the temple there. In all of this David was guided by God and we see many parallels between the life of David and that of Christ. Both shed tears over Jerusalem and both were destined to return to Jerusalem in triumph.

When Solomon dedicated the completed temple, he explained that God, who made the universe, could not be contained even in the heavens let alone a house [1 Kings 8.27]. But the temple was the place promised by God where The LORD your God chooses to make his name abide.

  • Deuteronomy 12.11
  • Artists impression of the Temple in Jerusalem built by King Solomon

Prayers made towards this special place would be heard by God. God accepted Solomon’s prayer [1 Kings 9.3] and repeated the promises made to David to establish his throne for ever [2 Samuel 7.12-16]. This is yet to be fulfilled when Jesus returns to the earth and was confirmed when the promise was repeated to Mary prior to his birth [Luke 1.32]. This all happened at Jerusalem. When the temple was completed and the ark was put in the Holy of Holies, the Glory of God filled the temple as a cloud [1 Kings 8.11]. These dramatic events represented God's intention to build a temple of saints who would have His spirit and a world that would give Him glory. Jesus Christ was to be the corner stone of this temple. As Paul explains: Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

  • 1 Corinthians 3.16

Abraham, David and Solomon all recognised that Jerusalem was a special place, as it represented the importance of the presence of God in the lives of all who worship Him acceptably. All through the Bible Jerusalem takes a central role. It was the capital of the kingdom set up by David and Solomon. It was central to the national identity of Israel when they returned from the exile in Babylon to rebuild it. At the time of Christ it was again the centre of worship for the Jews. After the Jews revolted (AD 66–70) the Romans recognised its importance to the Jewish nation so they razed it to the ground.

Jerusalem Today - Contention between Jew and Arab

For nearly 2,000 years it was the hope of the Jews to return to worship there as they eventually did in 1948

  • Jeremiah 30.18-20 and Jeremiah 31.10-14

Have their hopes now been realised? The answer of course is ‘only in part’ and that has only been achieved after fighting for their survival on a number of occasions since 1948. The land they occupy is only a fraction of that promised to Abraham Isaac and Jacob

  • Genesis 13.14-15
  • Map of King Solomon's Kingdom at its peak 990 BC (in yellow)

As the map above shows, they do not even have the land occupied by Solomon’s kingdom. In fact, in spite of winning several wars with the surrounding nations they do not have any land east of the River Jordan. They returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1982, and the Palestinians have been granted self rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas, which almost cuts Israel into two halves. They are still surrounded by hostile, mainly Moslem countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Only in 1967, after the ‘Six Day War’, did Israel gain control of the whole of Jerusalem. It is still a constant cause of contention with the Palestinians who object to Israel extending the city settlements to the east of the city into what they consider to be their territory. The presence of the third most holy Islamic shrine, ‘the Dome of the Rock’ on the original temple site and the Jewish reverence of ‘the western (or wailing) wall’ which is all that is left of Herod’s temple, produce two flash points in the city. Both Jews and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital city. No compromise is ever offered on that point. When one realises that Jerusalem is a centre of worship for Roman Catholic, Greek and Russian Orthodox and numerous Non-conformist Christian sects and all demand access to their shrines, we see that the result is a ghastly mix of religious fanaticism that only the return of Jesus Christ will ever solve.

Israel has been in control of Jerusalem since 1967 bringing to a close the Gentile occupation as prophesied by Christ himself:

...they (the Jews) will be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
  • Luke 21.24

Jesus included this in the Olivet prophesy which spoke of the end time just prior to his return:

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory
  • Luke 21.27

He said that not only would the kingdom of God be established at that time but ''This generation will by no means pass away, till all things are fulfilled'

  • Luke 21.32

How long is a generation? It is now more than 40 years since Jerusalem came under the control of Israel.

In the meantime the mayhem continues with terrorism a constant concern. Any activity like an archaeological dig near the temple site is an excuse for more conflict. Truly the words of the prophet Zechariah are being fulfilled:

...In that day…I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it
  • Zechariah 12.3

The day that Zechariah refers to is ‘the day of the LORD’ or in other words the day of the return of Jesus Christ. The prophet repeated the phrase many times as he foretold the events that would lead up to the Jews eventually recognising Jesus as their Messiah – ''they will look on me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son''

  • Zechariah 12.10

Then the prophet tells us that ‘in that day’ God will be in control of Jerusalem:

...in that day…I (God) will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem
  • Zechariah 12.9

As the days of the last generation pass, we can see again that the city of Jerusalem will be the focal point of the interaction between God and man. The interaction will be destructive for those who know not God but a great day of salvation for the faithful. We do not know exactly what will set off this political powder keg. At the time of writing attempts are again being made to engage in yet another round of ‘peace’ negotiations and there is talk of turning Jerusalem into an international city in an effort to meet the demands of Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims..

But centuries of oppression and atrocities make for implacable hatred in the area and a human resolution seems as far away as ever. It seems impossible that the ‘City of Peace’ will ever live up to its name but the Bible clearly states that God is in control and Zion (Jerusalem) is ‘the apple of His eye.’

  • Zechariah 2.8

Jerusalem - Future Capital City of the World

  • Photograph of a sunrise over Jerusalem

So what does the future hold for Jerusalem? The Bible is full of references to its glorious place in the kingdom of God, which Jesus will establish on his return. To quote just one passage, we read:

. . . be glad and rejoice for ever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her . . .
  • Isaiah 65.18-19

But the prophets also tell us that Jerusalem will experience a time of great trouble, until a faithful remnant of Israel return to the true worship of their God

  • Zechariah 14.2,3

Only then will God intervene in the person of Jesus Christ, who will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. A huge earthquake will ensue and the Mediterranean will be joined to the Dead Sea along the major fault zone in that area. Jerusalem will then be elevated above the surrounding hills [Zechariah 14.8-10]. After the destruction and rebuilding of both the geographical and national boundaries, Jerusalem will really become a city of peace and Jesus, the Prince of Peace will reign there. It will be ‘safely inhabited’ as Zechariah puts it.

  • Zechariah 14.11

The prophet Ezekiel describes in detail the building of the new temple in the city in Ezekiel chapters 40 to 47. The long closed eastern gate will be opened when Christ returns to the city and true worship of the Almighty God re-established. People from all over the world will travel to Jerusalem to worship there in recognition of its unique position as the meeting place chosen by God, and where the one mediator between God and man – the Lord Jesus Christ dwells.

  • For example see Zechariah 14.16
Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in his paths.” For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem
  • Micah 4.2

Jesus will then be King on the throne of David in Jerusalem, as the angel Gabriel told his mother Mary:

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.

  • Luke 1.32, 33

This is the destiny of Jerusalem!

However there is a deeper spiritual aspect to the city that is described in the Revelation given to John. John saw a vision of postmillennial Jerusalem:

Then I, John, 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, and he will dwell with them..."
  • Revelation 21.2-3

Just as there was a real temple but also ‘a temple of saints’, so there is a real city of Jerusalem, but also a city ‘new Jerusalem’ of saints. God will be present in the temple and the city of saints in the sense that they will be immortal and reflect His character just like His son Jesus Christ does now. The City of Peace teaches us lessons about the purpose of God and the Prince of Peace its future king.

As we think about the great future that is assured for Jerusalem let us echo the words of the Psalmist:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces”
  • Psalm 122.6
Author: Richard Griffiths, Norfolk, UK
Source Light on a New World - Volume 21/11

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