Drew Craig, Belfast, N. Ireland
CITY OF THE GREAT KING
The first reference to Jerusalem in scripture is Genesis chapter 14 verse 18 and it is in relation to Melchizedek who is called king of Salem, city of peace. Further references to it are Jebus, Josh. 19. 10; Jerusalem, Josh. 10. 1; Zion, Isa. 60. 14; Holy City, Isa. 52. 1 and Ariel (lion), Isa. 29. 1. With almost 5,500 years of history it became Israel’s capital in 1400BC when the first temple was built by king Solomon.
Jerusalem, geographical centre – literally
Some years ago Echoes of Service produced a wall map of the world with Israel and Jerusalem as its centre. Radiating out in 1000 mile concentric circles to the extremities of all the land masses it showed that the outermost circle touched each one.
On the 3rd May 1996 in Hereford cathedral the Queen dedicated the restored map of Mundy. Originally painted in the 12th century it depicted the world with Jerusalem as its centre! The uniqueness of the land of Israel with its capital Jerusalem is, without doubt, one of the central themes of the Bible. For example, Jerusalem is mentioned thirtytwo times in the Gospel of Luke!
Jerusalem, salvation centre – spiritually
Luke chapter 9 verse 51 states that ‘(Jesus) steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem’ and the bewildered travellers to Emmaus in Luke 24 verse 18, said to their travelling companion, ‘dost thou sojourn alone in Jerusalem and know not the things that are come to pass?’ Jerusalem would be the place where the greatest transaction and triumph of the planet, indeed the universe, would be enacted. King David’s greater son, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, would enter through one of its gates, symbolically as its King, only three days later to hang outside its wall, disrobed, destitute and disgraced to die between two common criminals, the just One for the unjust to bring us to God.
The highest thing that men could see above the cross on that day was His lovely name, ‘this is Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews’. It was written in Hebrew, the language of religion and revelation, Greek the language of culture and philosophy and Latin the language of law and government. Yes! all the world was at Golgotha, outside Jerusalem. It was there that He, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, the Messiah, died for our sins to bring us to God. Yes, all the world was at Golgotha. You were there and so was I!
Between the thieves on either side, The Lord of life was crucified Men wondered at the sight so rare, And sitting down they watched Him there.
And none who saw could understand Why darkness covered all the land, And none who heard the cry ‘I thirst’ Knew why the sinless One was cursed.
Nor understood those words so true, Forgive they know not what they do, For God alone, and none beside, Knew what was done when Jesus died.
Jerusalem, trouble centre – prophetically
The prophet Zechariah wrote long after the Babylonian captivity and he recorded that Jerusalem would be ‘a drugged cup affecting those besieging it and a heavy stone rupturing all who would interfere’, Zech. 12. 2-3. In chapter 14 verse 2 he refers to a coming day when all the nations will be gathered against Jerusalem to battle. Never before has there been a conflict such as described in this chapter. No battle, in world history, could even remotely compare with it.
At this very moment in time, the eyes and thoughts of the major nations are upon Israel. Peace talks follow more peace talks and they have all come to nothing. From all over the world, in the last fiftyfive years, hundreds of thousands of Jews have returned to their homeland. And despite Israel’s present great difficulties, the build up has begun and the actors are taking this central stage to enact the final scenes in world history. It is well understood that the centre to it all is the future status of Jerusalem; that is the bottom line! The conflict envisaged would be conventional and cruel, incorporating the time known as ‘Jacob’s trouble’, more commonly described as ‘the great tribulation’. It will commence on the human level but quickly progress to the supernatural, ‘then shall the Lord go forth and fight those nations . . . and his feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives’.
It will be the battle of all battles. A godless, selfcentredness characterizes men. They counsel and cry for the overthrow of divine restraint, ‘The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us’, Ps. 2. 2-3.
All their ire is concentrated on Jerusalem, the city of God. It is to this place, in a glorious consummation of events that the Lord Jesus, will return to earth ‘taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ’, 2 Thess. 1. 8.
Jerusalem, nerve centre – governmentally
The prophet Isaiah also has much to tell us of this future day and the centrality of Jerusalem, ‘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 peoples’, Isa. 2. 3-4. The disaster of our world is an increasing lawlessness; the shadow of the antichrist is already seen. Events in many nations can be described only as anarchy, but there is a day coming when all will be changed. Antichrist who proclaims universal peace will bring all such peace to an abrupt end, and it will only be with the direct intervention of the Messiah that true world government and peace will begin. This will be a regulated society centred upon law and order and the benefit of all men.
Isaiah’s prophecy clearly states that the word of the Lord will go to the ends of the earth from Jerusalem. This has never happened before in all Israel’s history. When it does Israel will have at last recognized their Messiah and the remaining pieces of the prophetic jigsaw will be put in place.
The law will go out of Zion, in contrast to man going his own way, and doing his own thing. Isaiah says ‘the Lord will teach us ways, and we will walk in his paths’.
The lawlessness of the present age will be replaced with good and effective government. We are witnessing ever increasing international lawlessness, with spiralling corruption and wickedness that scripture tells us will characterize our world in the last days, 2 Thess. 2. 1-12; 2 Tim. 3. 2.
Can this filthy tide be turned? Can the bitter waters become sweet? Yes! The Man who rules the wind and the waves will turn them. The raging seas of international unrest will be calmed and ‘the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ’, Rev. 11. 15.
Jerusalem, glory centre – ultimately
This is truly a marvellous concept, out of this world! It is Zechariah that we are indebted to for a glimpse of a new world order. ‘I . . . will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the city of truth . . . there shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem . . . and the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof . . . and I will save my people from the east country and the west country and . . . they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem . . . I will be their God, in truth and righteousness’, Zech. 8. 3-8.
Ever since the Creator formed man in His own image and placed him in Eden’s paradise it has been His design and desire to dwell among them and have communion with them. Early scripture records that ‘God was walking with Adam in the cool of the day’, suggestive of His great desire to be with the man He created, Gen. 3. 8.
The rise of Israel from among the nations 2000 years later reinforced this desire as God carefully laid out plans for the tabernacle. He said to Moses, ‘there I will meet with thee . . . from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim’, Exod. 25. 22. On its completion scripture records ‘that the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle’, Exod. 40. 34.
As king David approached the end of his reign, he wanted to build a permanent sanctuary to the Lord, he felt that the ‘tent’ which had been the centrepiece of Israel’s worship for centuries was no longer appropriate and that he would build something solid and beautiful and of a permanent nature, befitting the worship and service of the Lord. But it was not to be. David had to be content to gather the materials. God decreed that it would be Solomon his son who would have the honour of building and beautifying the temple. 1 Kings chapter 8 verse 11 records that when the ark was brought into the temple, ‘the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord’. The temple remained the symbol of the presence of God until the day dawned when the literal and physical presence of God appeared on earth in the Person of His Son. Writing many years after the incarnation, the apostle John described it as ‘the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled (made His home) among us’, John 1. 14. All previous manifestations were but faint reflections of this revelation of God.
Jerusalem, the church’s worship centre – presently
Hebrews 12 verse 22 states ‘But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.’ We must note the present tense, ‘are come’. This is our present position in Christ in this day of grace. We are not exhorted to pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem. From the right hand of the majesty on high our resurrected Lord has decreed that He is in the midst of His people, the church of the firstborn ones! What a wonder that the wild Gentile olive branches are being grafted into the very heart and purposes of the God who in His sovereign choice called and predestined us to the adoption of sons! Rom. 9 to 11.
The church of Jesus Christ now worships where He is! ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst’, Matt. 18. 20. How can we ever grasp the significance of the Lord being ever present as His obedient and submissive people gather together around Him?
The concept of worship in a ‘heavenly’ Jerusalem was unfolded by the Lord Jesus in a theological discussion with the Samaritan woman as they talked together at Sychar’s well. The Lord said to her that the time would come when people would neither worship in mount Gerizim, the worship centre of the Samaritans, nor in Jerusalem, the Jews’ worship centre, but the ‘true worshippers shall worship the father in spirit and in truth’, wherever they were found, John 4. 23. So He was pointing forward to the replacement of the temple, or any other building, large or small, as the focus of worship in this present age.
Jerusalem, the dwelling centre of God – eternally
The apostle John winding up his great apocalypse gives us a brief description of the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. This surely is the optimum of the long association of this city with the God of heaven. Of the dwellers within scripture records, ‘his servants shall serve him, they shall see his face and his name shall be on their foreheads’. Hallelujah! Home at last. Rev. 21. 1-6.