The Spiritual Significance of Jerusalem

by Johan Malan

Jerusalem is the city chosen by God to put His name there forever. The important revelations to mankind through events in Jerusalem will be resumed at the second coming of Jesus.The divine history of Jerusalem started 4000 years ago when a man of God, Melchizedek, was the king of Salem...

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings; and blessed him; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (Heb. 7:1-3).

Melchizedek was a type of Jesus, or, according to some commentators, an Old Testament appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. He was the priest-king of righteousness and peace. These are titles of the Lord Jesus as He is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. He is also King of the Jews, and of the whole world, with His earthly throne in Jerusalem. Furthermore, He is our righteousness and peace.

Abraham went to Salem (where the later Jerusalem was built on Mount Zion and the Temple Mount, Moriah) to offer a tenth of his spoils to Melchizedek. In like manner Israel would, during subsequent centuries, go up to the “house” of the Lord to offer their tithes to God.

Abraham later returned to Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to God. The command of God to him was: “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Gen. 22:2).

On this mountain, where the temple of God would be built a thousand years later and where many animals would be sacrificed as a prelude to the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God just outside Jerusalem, Abraham had to sacrifice his only son to God. Isaac was a type of the Lord Jesus as he was made an innocent sacrifice after having carried the wood for the burnt offering on his own shoulders. At the last moment Isaac was raised from the altar and substituted with an animal, as he was only a type of the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for the sins of the world in the fullness of time.

This place, where Melchizedek was a priest of God and where Abraham had to sacrifice his son to God, was very special as it was chosen by God to put His name there. Five hundred years after Abraham, Moses said to the people of Israel that after entering the land and having driven out all their enemies, they should worship God on the specific place that will be chosen by Him:

But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the Lord your God giveth you to inherit, and when He giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you ; your burn offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the Lord“ (Deut. 12:10-11).

Jerusalem conquered by Israel.

After another five hundred years, that is about a thousand years before Christ, king David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites, moved to the new city from Hebron and declared it the capital of Israel. Three names were used for the city, i.e. ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Zion’ and ‘the City of David’. ‘Jerusalem’ means ‘Founded Peacefully’. David wanted to build a house for the Lord’s name in Jerusalem, but God said that David’s son would do that (2 Sam. 7:12-13). After having built the temple, God said to Solomon: “I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put My name there for ever” (1 Kings 9:3; emphasis added). God said that Jerusalem is “the city which I have chosen Me to put My name there” (1 Kings 11:36). God’s Name is forever linked to Jerusalem. It is “the city of the great King” (Ps. 48:2).

Solomon built the first temple there and the glory of the Lord entered into it. God was worshipped in the temple and He revealed Himself to Israel through the service of the priests and prophets. As long as the people served the Lord and obeyed His commandments Jerusalem would be a safe fortress. However, times of spiritual decline set in, leading to the neglect of the temple service in Jerusalem. God-fearing kings restored the temple service during their reign, after which decline again set in. Due to the persistent apostasy of the nation and their leaders, the glory of the Lord eventually departed from the temple and He surrendered them to their enemies. During the Babylonian siege in the 6th century BC, the city and the temple were plundered and destroyed and many of the Jews taken captive to Babylonia.

These events did not  terminate God’s eternal commitment to Jerusalem. After seventy years of captivity Israel were restored to their land, they rebuilt the temple and re-instituted the temple service. Again, obstinacy and apostasy set in, leading to the departure of the glory of the Lord. After Malachi, there was a four hundred year long ‘prophetic silence’ in Israel as the Lord sent no prophets during this time. Relying only on their own strength, Israel could not prevail against their enemies. The temple became completely dilapidated and fell into ruins while spiritual darkness prevailed in Israel.

Since about 40 BC, Herod the Great ruled as king over Judea. To win the favour of the Jews, while also intending to suppress their messianic expectation, Herod built a new temple in Jerusalem. This temple was known as the second temple, or the temple of Herod. The temple service was again instituted.

Coming of the Messiah

By far the most significant revelation of God to Israel and the whole world was the birth of His Son, Jesus, from Jewish parents. The angel said to Joseph: “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins” (Mt. 1:20-21). Jesus was the Dayspring from on high to a people who walked in spiritual darkness. But He was more than that – He was the light of the whole world. In a messianic prophecy, God said about Jesus: “It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth” (Is. 49:6). John the Baptist pointed at Him and said: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29).

In Jerusalem, that wonderful city where God chose to reveal Himself, Jesus proclaimed the message of eternal life. He also taught in the temple. But He and His message were rejected by the majority of the leaders and inhabitants of the city. In doing so, they brought great sorrows and peril over themselves. During the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, He was moved to tears because of the dire consequences of Israel’s spiritual blindness:

And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, if thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave within thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Lk. 19:41-44).

God revealed Himself to Jerusalem and its inhabitants, but in spite of clear messianic prophecies they did not recognise the Messiah and, as a nation, rejected Him. In a planned betrayal of Jesus He was falsely accused, arrested, tried and convicted innocently in Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders insisted upon His crucifixion so strongly that the Roman governor, Pilate, conceded to their request for the sake of popularity among the Jews.

The Lord Jesus was crucified just outside Jerusalem in the stone-quarry of Solomon. Here, He made atonement for our sins by paying the price for the transgressions of a lost humanity to God. Calvary will forever stand out as the expression of God’s condescending love and forgivingness, and as the only door to eternal life. There is no other name under the heaven given to us whereby we must be saved – only Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Jesus was buried outside the gates of Jerusalem but rose from the dead three days later. On the Sunday of His resurrection He preached in Jerusalem in what can be describes as the first service of the dispensation of the Christian church. A week later the second sermon was delivered (Jn. 20:19-29). Forty days after His resurrection Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives. Just prior to His ascension He gave the Great Commission to His disciples. That ministry would only commence after something very important happened in Jerusalem. Jesus said to them:

Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Lk. 24:46-49).

That was the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out over the disciples, the process of world evangelism began. On that day, three thousand souls were saved and became members of the church of Christ in Jerusalem. From that day onwards, the gospel of salvation would be preached in Jerusalem and beyond, even to the uttermost ends of the earth.

The continued role of Jerusalem

Many people argue that the divine purpose of Jerusalem expired with the moving out of the disciples to preach the gospel in the rest of the world. What about God’s decision that His name would forever dwell in Jerusalem? Was that decision rescinded when Israel rejected Jesus and crucified Him? Not at all! The long-term future of Jerusalem was always, and still is, securely fixed in the divine counsel and purposes of God.

To clarify this issue, we only need to study the Olivet discourse of Jesus. In it, He discusses the first and last generations of the present dispensation between His first and second coming. Both these generations are identified in terms of events that have occurred (or will in future occur) in and around Jerusalem.

The first generation started when the inhabitants of Jerusalem rejected Jesus as their Messiah-King. It ended with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. After that, Israel were dispersed among the nations (the Diaspora).

During the times of the Gentiles (of unspecified duration) Jerusalem is trodden down by the Gentiles while the gospel message is preached to all the nations on earth.

The last generation started with the restoration of Jerusalem when Israel captured the Old City from Jordan. It will end when the Messiah-King of Israel comes back to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and is heartily accepted by the remnant of Israel.

In connection with His rejection by the spiritually blinded Jewish leaders during the first generation of this dispensation, Jesus said the following them:

Fill ye up the measure of your fathers… That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth… Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye say, Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord” (Mt. 23:32, 35-39; emphasis added).

The generation referred to by Jesus includes the people who were alive when He made this pronouncement. Within the life-span of most of them, the prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem were fulfilled. Luke describe the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of Israel as follows:

And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that gave suck, in those days! For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk. 21:20-24).

The first generation, therefore, began with the rejection and crucifixion of Israel’s Messiah-King in Jerusalem, and that generation was terminated by the destruction of Jerusalem. That was followed by the long Diaspora of Israel, during which time Jerusalem was trodden down by the Gentiles. Please note that Jerusalem was not to be trodden down indefinitely, but until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. At the end of the time of world evangelism, when the non-Jewish people had the opportunity to enter the kingdom of heaven, Israel, their land and their city will again be restored. Paul says:

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:25-26).

Israel will be saved as a nation after the fullness of the Gentiles have come in. The end of the treading of Jerusalem has already been witnessed. Biblical Jerusalem (the Old City, or the City of David) was captured by Israel from Jordan during the Six Day war in June 1967. Israel has [partially] been physically restored to their land and the city of Jerusalem – not yet spiritually. But the time is approaching when they will say to Jesus, on the day of His second coming: “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord” (Mt. 23:39).

Before their national spiritual revival will occur a time of severe testing and affliction awaits the restored Israel in their land, and particularly also in the city of Jerusalem:

Therefore thus says the Lord God; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you” (Ezek. 22:19-20).

The time of Jacob’s trouble, which is aimed at the spiritual revival of a remnant in Israel, form part of the events of the last generation of the present dispensation, at the end of which the Messiah will come back.

The 70th year-week

The last seven years of the last generation are described as the 70th year-week of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27). That will be the tribulation period under the reign of the false messiah (Antichrist). Shortly after his revelation he will authorise the building of the third temple in Jerusalem. In the middle of the seven year period he will declare himself to be God in the rebuilt temple, defile the sanctuary by having an image of himself placed there, and command all people to worship the image (Dan. 9:27; 2 Thes. 2:4; Rev. 13:14-15). Israel will be severely shocked and disillusioned when they realise that they accepted and worshipped a false messiah. They will break their covenant with him and flee to the wilderness. The ensuing 3½ years are described as the great tribulation (Mt. 14:15-22).

This will be the time of Israel’s testing. Jeremiah says: “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:7). God says: “…in their affliction they will seek Me early” (Hos. 5:15).

The Antichrist will be aware of the fact that the true Messiah will return to Jerusalem at the end of the tribulation period of seven years, and for that reason he will deploy a multi-national military force in Israel to fight against Him. The Antichrist and his forces will be utterly defeated and destroyed on that day (Rev. 19:19-21). The remnant of Israel will also know from biblical prophecies that the Messiah will come to Jerusalem to save them. During the siege of Jerusalem they will go the Mount of Olives at the risk of their lives to await the arrival of Messiah:

And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal: Yes, ye shall flee as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee… And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder seas; in summer and in winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and His Name one…. And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zech. 14:4-5, 8-9, 16).

There will be a moving reunion between Israel and their Messiah-King when they say to Him: “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.” That will only happen after the Holy Spirit has been poured out over the people of Israel who humbled themselves before the Lord:

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn… In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness… they shall call on My name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is My people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God” (Zech. 12:10, 13:1, 9).

After Israel has been reconciled with the Lord Jesus, He will also restore the throne of David in Jerusalem. Then, the promise will be fulfilled which the angel made to Mary before the birth of Jesus: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David” (Lk. 1:32). Jesus never ruled from the throne of David, but after His second coming this promise will be fulfilled:

After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof; and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my Name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things” (Acts 15:16-17; compare Amos 9:11-12 and Is. 16:5).

Jerusalem as world capital

Jerusalem will be made capital of the whole world. The Lord Jesus will be the King of kings and lasting peace will prevail everywhere:

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Is. 2:3-4)

At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17).

Satan will be bound during the millennial reign of Christ and consequently be unable to deceive the nations into hating and fighting one another (Rev. 20:2-3). They will seek the favour of the Lord in Jerusalem and also honour His people, Israel:

“Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech. 8:22-23).

In the coming dispensation, Jerusalem will be a city of brilliance and glory. Every child of God should earnestly look forward to this time of divine harmony and peace on earth when Jerusalem will rise from the ashes of shame and deprivation:

Awake, awake! put on thy strength, O Zion, put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city” (Is. 52:1).

Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams… For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; He will save us” (Is. 33:20-22).

And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and the kings to the brightness of thy rising… thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and the kingdom that will not serve thee shall persih; yea those nations shall be utterly wasted… The sons of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel… Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise” (Is. 60:3, 11-12, 14, 18).

Because Jerusalem will be a blessing to the whole world after the second coming of Christ and the setting up of His millennial reign, we should join Isaiah in exclaiming: “For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth” (Is. 62:1).

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

In these dark days of hostility and attacks against the City of the Great King we should constantly remind the Lord of His promises to bless Jerusalem. He commanded us to intercede for Jerusalem:

I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Is. 62:6-7).

We should never forget Jerusalem as a place of divine revelationnot its past, neither its wonderful future. David said: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (Ps. 122:6). The struggle for the control of Jerusalem is a struggle between light and darkness. The Lord Jesus will return to Jerusalem and rule the world from this city. That is why the kingdom of darkness does everything in its power to conquer Jerusalem or to estrange it from Israel with a view to converting it into a heathen city.

Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem in the words and in the deep longing of the Jewish captives at the rivers of Babylon: “If I for get thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Ps. 137:5-6).

The Holy One of Israel explicitly said that His name shall dwell in Jerusalem forever, and for that reason alone this city has a secured and eternal future. The occasions when He withdrew His glory from Jerusalem and its sanctuaries was because of the prolonged apostasy of the leaders and people of Israel. But that situation was never meant to be permanent. There was always promises of a glorious restoration and spiritual revival. Daniel says there will come a time for the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Dan. 9:24). That time is fast approaching and will dawn at the end of the 70th year-week. Then the whole remnant of Israel will be reconciled with the Messiah and all of them will serve Him wholeheartedly:

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:33-34).

With inhabitants such as these during the coming millennium, ruled by the Messiah Himself, Jerusalem will indeed be a blessing to the whole world.

The new Jerusalem

In the future creation of God there will be a new Jerusalem in which all the saved ones will dwell. The apostle John said:

An I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. An I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:1-5).

Be sure that you are born again and by virtue of that a member of the bride of Jesus Christ and a future resident of the new Jerusalem. You will then share in the eternal glory and joys of the kingdom of God. The great deeds of God’s salvation that were done and revealed in earthly Jerusalem should be proclaimed in the whole world as that is the only doorway to heavenly Jerusalem.

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