It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over
A look at the real reason behind the struggle for Jerusalem.
A city’s significance is often measured by its commercial importance, the height of its skyscrapers, or the grandeur of its architecture. But Jerusalem is not like any other city. Jerusalem’s significance comes from the One who chose to dwell there—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
God has a unique relationship with the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem. The God of peace chose Jerusalem, which means “city of peace,” as the place where the Jewish people should worship Him and from which the Jewish Messiah will one day reign. Because of the city’s crucial role in the plan of God, God’s enemy—Satan—has launched a spiritual war against Jerusalem and the Jewish people.
Satan invests his energy in attacking what God loves, and Jerusalem and God’s Chosen People are prime targets. Consequently, the Jewish people must constantly defend their historical connection to their beloved city.
Jerusalem is embedded in the spiritual fabric of the Jewish community worldwide. Prayers like the Amidah, which have been recited three times a day for nearly two millennia, recall the link between God’s faithfulness and the hope of rebuilding Jerusalem. And the phrase Next year in Jerusalem, recited at the end of Passover and Yom Kippur, expresses the Jewish anticipation of a future Jerusalem where peace will reign.
It’s hard to believe that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) approved in 2016 a resolution on “Occupied Palestine.” Supposedly designed to protect Arab culture in eastern Jerusalem, UNESCO knowingly repudiated 3,000 years of Jewish culture by labeling all holy sites solely in Arabic and calling Israel an “occupying power.” Even UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon spoke out against the wording that robbed Jerusalem of its Jewish identity.
But nothing is new under the sun. This is not the first or last time nations will attempt to separate what God has knit together. The ugly narrative that defrauds the Jewish people of their unique, historical connection to Jerusalem did not originate with UNESCO.
It is an age-old tale that has been unfolding for millennia. Past kingdoms and empires also tried to sever Jerusalem from the Jewish people and claim God’s eternal city as their own. In 167 BC, the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes sought to dismantle Judaism from the inside out. His anti-Semitic mission started by outlawing Jewish traditions and rites, such as reading the Torah, performing circumcision, and honoring the Sabbath. He eventually struck at the heart of Judaism, turning Jerusalem into a Greek colony and the Temple into a place of pagan worship. The Hellenization of Jerusalem, however, met its demise when God raised up Judas Maccabeus to fight against the forces of the evil one.
A few centuries later, Roman Emperor Hadrian tried to rewrite Jewish history by renaming Judea and Jerusalem. He removed every ounce of Jewish identity from the city and quelled a massive Jewish uprising led by Simon Bar Kokhba, a Jewish leader who fought for an independent Jewish country and a liberated Jerusalem. Hadrian’s anger led him to rename Judea “Palaestina” and rename Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina, a name that remained until the Arabs seized control from the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire in AD 638.
Satan has been influencing rulers to try to separate God’s Chosen People from God’s city since King David established Jerusalem as the Jewish capital more than 3,000 years ago. One would think the vast amount of empirical evidence from both written and archaeological records connecting the two would quiet such opposition. Yet, even in our advanced and modern age, Jerusalem remains the subject of international dispute. This ongoing tension reveals the deep spiritual battle over the city.
Spiritual warfare is Satan’s battle against God. God is holy, good, and righteous; and Satan—who embodies evil—works tirelessly to thwart God’s sovereign plan to redeem His creation. The apostle Paul said, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
Why does Satan focus his efforts on Israel? Because Jerusalem plays a vital role in God’s plan to make all things new. Satan and his demonic forces generate lies and hate and cause the darkness, death, and war we observe in the world. They know God plans to redeem His creation and set His King on His holy hill in Jerusalem (Ps. 2:6), defeating sin, death, and Satan once and for all.
God gave the prophet Micah a vision of Jerusalem’s future. He saw Jerusalem lifted above every city as a beacon of light and global epicenter of the world, where God will reign over His creation:
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days,…many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Mic. 4:1–2).
Satan believes he can disrupt God’s role for Jerusalem, the city of peace, and obstruct God’s plan to bring everlasting peace on Earth through His Son, Jesus the Messiah. But God will reclaim dominion over this world. Jesus the Messiah will sit on His throne, and Satan’s corrupt rule will end. Truth, justice, and peace will stream from the Temple in Jerusalem, as God’s righteous laws permeate the world like light and guide all nations.
Satan deceives the world into believing Jerusalem does not belong to the God of Israel. Some leaders in the past even have proclaimed: “Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation!” (Ps. 137:7). Today Satan’s lies are somewhat more sophisticated. They come in the form of news headlines and bad resolutions. But Satan will not win (Rev. 20:10). King David wrote, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you’” (Ps. 122:6). When we do so, we ask for God’s victory over the seen and unseen battles between good and evil that wage over Jerusalem.
Final victory will come only when Jesus returns. So as we eagerly await His coming, let us boldly add to our prayer for Jerusalem the Christian anthem, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).