The events which unfolded on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, will be remembered in the minds of all who were old enough to note what happened on that day of infamy. A group of terrorists commandeered several jet planes and guided them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, and another jet was steered into the Pentagon Building in Washington, D.C.
The shock and fear and death associated with this horrible deed is almost impossible to express with words. Schools and banks and a variety of other institutions were closed (in some cases) for days. The news media broadcast updated reports around the clock. What the news analysts failed to report about this whole tragic series of events—is that there is a City at the center of all the conflict. That city is the one where God has promised to dwell in a very special sense, and one which He loves especially much. The 87th Psalm is a Psalm in praise of Jerusalem. The Bible says, “His foundation is in the holy mountains. The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob” (Psalm 87:1-2).
The offspring of Ishmael and Isaac have quibbled over this City for hundreds of years. Today, both Jew and Arab claim Jerusalem as their holy city. When Ariel Sharon became Prime Minister of Israel early in 2001, he said, “The Western Wall in Jerusalem shall remain in Israeli hands forever.” The day after the election, Arab newspapers had this headline: “Rivers of blood shall flow!” The Bible says that Jerusalem shall become a burdensome stone for all peoples. Every nation will feel the effect of the conflict over Jerusalem. Rivers of blood are flowing, not only in the Middle East, but in other parts of the world as well.
As a result of the conflict and violence and terror, many people are anxious about the future, gravely concerned about what might happen next. Those persons who are not Christians have great cause for anxiety; they should be desperately afraid of the future, for the Bible says, “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). Those who love the Lord, however, are told to “be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing (every circumstance), by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). This is a wonderful promise beyond description.
Jerusalem is a unique city:
- it is the capital of Israel.
- it is built on a mountain.
- it is surrounded on the south and east by the Judean wastelands.
There are mountains on one side and there is a tremendous desert on the other side. All around the City there are deep valleys and difficult roads. Jerusalem is not a large city (as cities go). Its population is only a few hundred thousand people. It is not a seaport town. It is not located on any major trade routes. There is scarcely any industry. Yet, out of Jerusalem, down through the centuries, have come events which have shaped the direction of human history.
Jerusalem is an important city to many people:
To the Jews—Jerusalem is the heart of the Promised Land. It is the land promised to Abraham and his offspring—to be theirs for ever. Jews from all over the world flock to the ruins of the Temple wall in Jerusalem—to meditate, to pray, and to simply stand in awe.
To the Muslims—Jerusalem is the place where Muhammad supposedly ascended into heaven. According to the Muslim “Hadith,” one act of worship in Jerusalem is like a thousand acts of worship anywhere else. Jerusalem is the home of the mosque called “The Dome of the Rock”—the third most sacred shrine of the Muslim faith.
To Christians—Jerusalem is the city to which Jesus came when He was a 12-year-old boy. It is the city where Jesus conversed with people like Nicodemus. It is the city over which Jesus wept. It is the city where Jesus was crucified for our sins, and it is the place where He arose from the grave. And so Jerusalem is a much loved city for Christian people.
God says in Psalm 132:13-14, “For the Lord hath chosen Zion (that is, Jerusalem); he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” (This is the real reason why Jerusalem is such a fascinating city. The true and living God, who is everywhere present, says that He dwells in Jerusalem in a very special sense.)
It is in Jerusalem that some great events are going to take place at the end of the age. We want to look at some facts related to the city of Jerusalem and some of the things that will take place there.
1. Jerusalem is the city to which Jesus will return when He comes a second time.
We Christians are not so much waiting for something to happen; we are looking for Someone to come! We are not primarily looking for signs; we are listening for a sound—the voice of the archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God.
The history of Jerusalem from its very beginning has been a series of ups and downs. The City has been built and destroyed and rebuilt more than twenty times. Jerusalem has been occupied by the Babylonians, and Persians, and Greeks, and Romans, and Byzantines, and Arabs, and the Crusaders, and the Turks, and the British. But the event which makes Jerusalem so fascinating for the Christian is not merely the fact that Jesus was crucified at Jerusalem, or that the Holy Spirit descended from heaven (on the Day of Pentecost) at Jerusalem. The event which makes Jerusalem so special for the Christian is that it will be the City to which Jesus comes when He returns to the earth again in great power.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, the angels said, “This same Jesus . . . shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). We don’t know the exact chart of events, but at some time in the future, Christ will return for the church, and meet the saints in the air. And then at some point Jesus will come and actually stand on the earth (Zechariah 14:4). There will be a period of judgment, and life as we know it today will come to an end.
And so we see that when Jesus comes back, He will not be returning to London, nor to Washington, nor to Cairo—but to Jerusalem. This is one of the reasons why many who travel to Jerusalem are moved with deep emotions when they get their first glimpse of the Holy City. It is the place to which Jesus will come when He returns to rule the earth with an iron grip.
2. Jerusalem shall become “a burdensome stone” for all people.
The prophet Zechariah says, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling . . . and . . . a burdensome stone for all people” (Zechariah 12:2-3). A “burdensome stone” is something that one wishes he didn’t have to carry. It is heavy, and the longer he carries it, the heavier and the more exhausting it becomes.
The history of Palestine bears plenty of testimony to the fact that Jerusalem has indeed been a burdensome stone. After Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in the days of the prophet Daniel, the City later fell into the hands of the Persians and the Greeks and the Egyptians and the Romans—and today it is in the hands of the Israelis. There has been more bloodshed and more contention over this 250-acre tract of ground, than over any other piece of land on the face of the earth.
And today Jerusalem is still a trouble spot. The writer of an article in Time magazine said several years ago, “Of all the conflicts between Jews and Arabs, the conflict over Jerusalem is the most complex. The Israelis are willing to bargain on many things, but they will not bargain on Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem is really a city comprising two parts—the Old City (within the ancient walls)—that 250-acre tract of ground with about 40,000 inhabitants—and the New City (on the surrounding hillsides) with more than 300,000 inhabitants. The Old City has the sacred spots: the Pool of Bethesda, Pilate’s Judgment Hall, the ruins of Solomon’s Temple—these are all within the walls of the Old City. The New City is much more modern. The Israeli Parliament Building, the universities, the hospitals, and the major hotels—are all located in the New City.
When Israel became an independent state in 1948, the Old City of Jerusalem remained in the hands of the Arabs, but Israel captured the Old City during the 1967 War. Israel now claims that both the Old City and the New City are one unit, and that the entire city of Jerusalem is the capital of the Israeli state. But only one or two nations of the world recognize the Old City of Jerusalem as part of the Jewish capital. All the foreign embassy buildings are kept in Tel Aviv (and not in Jerusalem), so that the Arabs don’t shut off their oil supplies.
The Palestinian Arabs claim that Jerusalem is their capital city, but the Jewish Parliament (in 1980) declared that Jerusalem (Old City united with New City) “shall be the capital of Israel forever.” Both Jews and Arabs want control of the Old City with its holy places, and thus Jerusalem is becoming “a burdensome stone” to all the world. And Zechariah 12:3 says that those nations that “burden themselves” with this City (those that “lift it up”; those that take sides with its people) — “shall be cut in pieces” (or, “they shall grievously hurt themselves”).
Arab leaders in the Middle East are saying that they must have “a corridor of access” to the Dome of the Rock (which Muslims built in Jerusalem squarely on top of the ruins of Solomon’s Temple). Israel says, “But that’s the site of our ancient Temple. We will never give up that spot”—and so the conflict over Jerusalem is becoming “a burdensome stone” for all nations.
3. A Jewish temple shall be built again in the city of Jerusalem.
Three times the Jewish Temple was built and destroyed. It was first built by Solomon, and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. It was later rebuilt by Zerubbabel, and destroyed by the Syrians during the 400 Silent Years between the Old Testament and the New Testament in 198 B.C. It was again rebuilt by Herod the Great, and was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.
Today, only a small part of the western wall of the Temple platform still remains. But some day, if I interpret the prophetic Scriptures correctly, the Jewish Temple will be built again. We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 that in the end-times the Antichrist will sit in the temple of God, declaring that he himself is God, and demanding a blasphemous worship from the people.
The prophet Amos speaks about the time when God “will bring again the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities . . . and I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord” (Amos 9:14-15). It is in that setting that the prophet says, “In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David . . . and I will raise up its ruins, and will build it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11).
4. There will be a final siege against the city of Jerusalem.
Probably no city on earth has suffered so many invasions and sieges and destructions, as the city of Jerusalem. The City has been destroyed more than a score of times. Its streets and aqueducts and buildings have been reconstructed over and over again. That’s why today, in order to see anything in Jerusalem that is authentic from Jesus’ time, one has to go underground at least twenty or thirty feet.
Jerusalem is built on the rubble of more than twenty previous civilizations. And the prophetic Scriptures indicate that there are still some more days of agony ahead in the future of Jerusalem. More than half of the nations on earth are openly hostile to Israel, and many others are tottering on the brink.
The Bible says that at the time of our Lord’s Second Coming, all nations shall be gathered in the land of Israel, against the city of Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:2 and 12:8 say, “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished . . . and in that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
The armies of earth’s nations will assemble in Palestine. The king of the North will come down; leaders from the West will come over; the kings of the East will arrive. All these armies will converge on Palestine with the aim of destroying the Jewish people—but just then, in the midst of that conflict, the Son of God will appear, and Revelation 19 says that those armies will be slain by the sword of Him who sits on the white horse! Finally, at long last, the filthy condition of this earth will be wiped clean. Jesus himself will rule the earth with an iron grip.
5. From Jerusalem Jesus will reign during the Millennium.
Some day the city of Jerusalem will live up to the meaning of its name. It will become “the city of peace.” During the period when Jesus reigns on earth, the city of Jerusalem will become headquarters for the Messiah. He is going to dwell in Jerusalem, and rule the world from there.
Isaiah 2:2-3 says, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and . . . all nations shall flow unto it. 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 of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go . . . the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
In that day, glory will return to the city of Jerusalem. Where Jesus was once mocked, He will be exalted. Where He was once placed on a cross, He will be on a throne. Toward this City, some day all nations will move, seeking the law of the Lord. From this City, some day, blessings will flow out to the whole world. The Psalmist says that Jerusalem shall be “the joy of the whole earth” (Psalm 48:2).
6. Jerusalem is typical of a new Jerusalem yet to come.
Abraham looked for a city whose builder and maker is God. That hope will some day be realized. The heavenly City (described in Revelation 22) will be a kind of “new” Jerusalem. The Bible says, “And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
We sing a hymn which expresses a great truth:
“Oh the night of time soon shall pass away,
And the happy golden day will dawn;
When the pilgrim staff shall be laid aside,
And the kingly crown put on.”
The chorus says:
“We are watching now for the morning light;
For the New Jerusalem to come;
We are waiting still for the Savior Christ,
Who will call His children home.”
Some say that there are only two things in this world that you can be absolutely sure of—death and taxes. But we can be absolutely sure of a third thing—and that is that Israel will some day be restored to a place of blessing, and the city of Jerusalem will become the center from which Jesus Christ will reign over all the earth.
Today, Jerusalem is the center of international controversy. Several times the hostility between Arab and Jew have brought the world almost to the brink of war. Well might the Psalmist say, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm 122:6).
Jesus spoke often about final events during this present age. He says that the nations of the world will make an insane march against the land of Israel, with a focus on the city of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20). Those will be “days of vengeance” and will be followed by “signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity . . . men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming upon the earth . . . and then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:25-28).
Today, if you are not right with God through faith in Jesus Christ; if you have never repented of sin and bowed in humility before the heavenly Father, it would be wisdom on your part to respond with a great big “Yes” to the Lord’s invitation to “Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).