Jerusalem stands as one of the most contested cities on earth. It is divided politically, economically and culturally. The religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity all claim holy sites within the city—especially, the Old City, which is in East Jerusalem.
The Israeli-Arab conflict which dominates today’s world news is growing more and more volatile as Palestinians and Israelis vie for control of Jerusalem. The prophetic importance of what is happening right now in Jerusalem must not be underestimated!
First, though, a review of Jerusalem’s historical and foundational relevance to Christianity is necessary.
A little over four-hundred years after the Flood, Abraham was told by God to move to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-7)—the area in which modern-day Jerusalem now exists.
In the Bible, we are introduced to Jerusalem when it was called by another name, Salem. Melchizedek, the king of Salem, met with Abraham (Genesis 14:18-20). This king of Salem is identified in the Book of Hebrews as none other than Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7).
A later reference to Salem is found in Psalm 76:
“…In Judah God is known; His name is great in Israel. In Salem also is His tabernacle, And His dwelling place in Zion” (Psalm 76:1-2).
Next, we find a very specific place mentioned that can be shown to be a part of the City of Jerusalem. For God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice “‘in the land of Moriah’” on a specific mountain (Genesis 22:2)—called by Abraham “‘the Mount of the LORD’” (Genesis 22:14).
Note how this location emerges as the same place in which Solomon was instructed to build the Temple of God:
“Now Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (2 Chronicles 3:1).
When Israel entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, Jerusalem remained under Gentile control:
“But the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem; so the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day” (Judges 1:21).
It was not until the time of King David—hundreds of years after Israel possessed Canaan—that Jerusalem was captured and then became the capital of Israel:
“And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, ‘You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,’ thinking, ‘David cannot come in here.’ Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David). Now David said on that day, ‘Whoever climbs up by way of the water shaft and defeats the Jebusites (the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul), he shall be chief and captain.’ Therefore they say, ‘The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.’ Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward” (2 Samuel 5:6-9).
It is important to note that God rejected Shiloh, which was in Ephraim, and He chose Jerusalem and Judah for Himself:
“And he said: ‘Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who has fulfilled with His hands what He spoke with His mouth to my father David, saying, “Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there, nor did I choose any man to be a ruler over My people Israel. Yet I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there; and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel”’” (2 Chronicles 6:4-6; compare Psalm 78:60, 67-69).
The Bible relates that God punished Jerusalem and Judah because of their flagrant sins against Him (compare 2 Chronicles 36:15-21), but He did not utterly reject and abandon His city. Jerusalem and the Temple of God built by Solomon were destroyed, but God provided for the restoration of Jerusalem—even before it was devastated by the Babylonian empire. Note this remarkable prophecy given about a future ruler some one-hundred-fifty years before his birth and long before Jerusalem’s fall:
“‘Who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ And to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid’”’” (Isaiah 44:28).
Even in their captivity, God caused the prophet Jeremiah to write to the Jewish captives in Babylon to assure them that they would return to Jerusalem and the land of Judah (compare Jeremiah 29:1-11).
In both the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we have a record of the remnant of the House of Judah who returned to the land of Israel and who rebuilt the Temple of God and the City of Jerusalem—including its defensive walls. The Gentile rulers of that time who were neighboring Judah stood in opposition and tried to stop the Jews.
They failed, for the Jews re-established the City of Jerusalem, the Temple of God and other cities in the land of Judah.
It was after another approximately 500 years that Jerusalem became the focus of the life and work of Jesus Christ—and His death. The New Testament of the Bible records detailed accounts of those events, but let us also consider the dramatic prophecies Jesus gave concerning Jerusalem:
“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation’” (Luke 19:41-44; compare Mark 13:1-2).
Historically, that occurred! In 70 AD, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the magnificent Temple of God. Judah, as a nation, ceased to exist. Throughout the centuries several attempts have been made to re-establish the Temple in Jerusalem, but all have failed!
One other point of note is this, Jesus established the Church of God in Jerusalem, on the Day of Pentecost in 31 AD (Compare Acts 2). Following His resurrection, Jesus had specifically instructed His disciples “‘…that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name in all nations, BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM’” (Luke 24:47).
Much, much more is said about Jerusalem in biblical prophecy, and, in the future, Jerusalem will actually welcome Jesus Christ—even though many trials still lie ahead:
“‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!”’” (Matthew 23:37-39).
In Part 2, we will examine events of our time—our generation—and the dramatic role Jerusalem has now taken on the world stage—plus the incredible future that is in store for this city, for its inhabitants and for all of mankind!
Lead Writer: Dave Harris