In Part 1, we reviewed Jerusalem’s historical and foundational relevance to Christianity through biblical references. The Bible also reveals that prophetic events in this, our generation, focus on the City of Jerusalem.
Prophecy is vital to Christians, and Jesus emphasized this fact when He discussed signs which would show that His return to earth was imminent. He spoke of religious deception—then of wars, famines, earthquakes and violent persecution (compare Matthew 24:4-12). He also added a measure of responsibility to His followers by saying, “‘See, I have told you beforehand’” (Matthew 24:25).
We have been warned in advance—before it happens! This means we should be watching for the fulfillment of those things told to us by Jesus. The City of Jerusalem is prominently identified because of the momentous events which will occur there just before Christ’s return.
Note the physical setting and the prophetic timeframe described by Jesus:
“‘Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened’” (Matthew 24:15-22).
Let us understand that the “holy place” can only refer to an area within the Temple of God as existing in the City of Jerusalem. Also, this prophecy addresses those “in Judea.”
Consider that for almost nineteen-hundred years following this prophecy by Jesus Christ, the Jews were without a country. However, against seemingly impossible obstacles, the Jewish people formally re-established their homeland in Palestine on May 14, 1948, calling it, “the State of Israel.” At that time, Jerusalem remained a divided City, partially controlled by the Jordanians (East Jerusalem and the Old City) and the Israelis (West Jerusalem).
As a result of the Arab–Israeli war in 1967 (called the “Six-Day War”), the State of Israel gained full control of Jerusalem, and on June 28th declared Jerusalem unified and announced free access to holy sites of all religions.
While the State of Israel designates Jerusalem as its capital city, no other major nation in the world recognizes this claim! The Palestinians continue to demand an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, and there is growing international support for their cause.
Yet, the Temple Mount, situated in the Old City and administered by Jordan, is off-limits for Jewish worship—to this day! Nonetheless, the Bible gives clear evidence that Jews will once again gain control of this area and that a Temple of God will be built!
The Apostle Paul, writing to Christians of his day about the return of Jesus Christ, spoke of events which would take place in the City of Jerusalem:
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
Paul isn’t using a metaphor when he says the man of sin will sit “in the temple of God.” His meaning is literal, and the time setting for this event is unmistakable:
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
In the Book of Revelation, John is instructed to “‘…measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months’” (Revelation 11:1-2).
We see from these verses that a Temple of God will be in existence in Jerusalem for three-and-one-half years, but exactly how long it will have existed before the start of this time is not stated. The vitally important understanding for us is that we should be watching for the development of events which will lead up to what is so clearly revealed.
Coinciding with this time period—while Jerusalem is under the control of outside forces, that is, nations other than the State of Israel—two “witnesses” will prophesy with great power from God. They will be killed in Jerusalem, once their work is finished:
“And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 11:8-10).
Only in the last few decades has it become possible for people all over the earth to be aware of the death of two people in Jerusalem! With the advances in media technology, people can see live broadcasts from around the world. Cell phones are now possessed by over ninety percent of the world’s population, and gifts can indeed be sent using a cell phone.
In the Book of Luke, Jesus is quoted concerning the signs of the times and the end of the age. His answers include events at Jerusalem which have not yet been fulfilled—but things we should anticipate:
“‘But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled’” (Luke 21:20-24).
Carefully bear in mind what Jesus specifically said—to Christians:
“‘Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man’” (Luke 21:36).
“‘Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near–at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is’” (Mark 13:28-33).
What is happening right now in Jerusalem is the fulfillment of prophecy!
Events in Jerusalem—especially the Temple Mount—grip the attention of the world. In the meantime, many of the neighboring countries to the State of Israel continue to openly call for Israel’s outright destruction. As unsettling as the news is at the present time, things will become even more volatile:
“‘Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that 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 12:2-3).
There is much more ahead for the City of Jerusalem, and in Part 3 of this series, we will address how its future relates very directly to the promises given to Christians.
Lead Writer: Dave Harris