JERUSALEM . . . thy KING cometh!
Jerusalem is a city suspended between Heaven and earth. Her spires stretch out from the hilltops to the skies; her ancient massive stones reach down to the very rocks out of which she was hewn. Jerusalem is in the heart of Israel on the crest of the Judean mountain range which divides the desert from the Mediterranean Sea. Her beautiful and gentle slopes are studded with slender cypresses and gnarled old olive trees. In the sunlight, the city glows golden; in the light of the moon she is silver – her beauty appears ethereal, almost unreal. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why, since the earliest time, men have believed there is something holy about Jerusalem.
Jerusalem remains inscrutable to human logic. Only to the spiritually discerning will she reveal her eternal secrets. Her very name means “city of peace”, but she has known more wars than any city in history. Among her antagonists have been Egyptians, Assyrians, Philistines, Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Seljuks, Crusaders, Mamelukes, Turks, British and Palestinians. Each came in conquest, to set up camp and remain, only to eventually be belched out of the land. Today the walls that surround the ancient city encompass a mere two hundred and fifteen acres of ground – not more than a fair-sized American farm. The walls can be encircled in a brisk fifty-minute walk. Add to the twenty-five thousand residents within the walls of Jerusalem those living outside, and there is a total Jewish and Arab population of three-hundred-fifty-thousand people. The city is unimpressive in size and certainly not large in population as major capitals go. Nonetheless Jerusalem makes an amazing and almost inexplicable contribution to global news, and world governments must allocate considerable time to Jerusalem in foreign policy considerations. Turn on the radio or television, pick up a magazine, and Jerusalem is likely to dominate the scene. Like a powerful magnet, the nations of the world are irresistibly drawn to this dot on the landscape.
Jerusalem came on history’s scene like a good transistor radio – loud, clear and unannounced. The patriarch Abraham was returning home after the rescue of his nephew Lot. On the way he encountered Melchizedek, king of Salem (Gen. 14:18). Salem was the city later to be called JeruSALEM. The name Melchizedek comes from two Hebrew words, “meleck” meaning “king”, and “tzedek” meaning “righteousness”. Taken together, Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”. This king of righteousness ruled over “Salem”, meaning “peace”. It is the first occurrence of any word in the Bible that gives the clue to its primary significance. It is this first biblical mention of the city of Jerusalem which sets forth her ultimate destiny and, therefore, supreme importance in history. Jerusalem is one day to be the city of peace ruled over by the King of righteousness. It is this singular fact that sets Jerusalem incomparably above and apart from all other world capitals. And, the King who will rule is the Lord Jesus Christ. He will rule in righteousness during the thousand-year kingdom age (Isa. 9:6-7; Rev. 20:4).
Jerusalem is the city where Abraham, in obedience to God, was prepared to offer Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen. 22:1-13). Jerusalem is the name which David gave to the city (formerly called Jebus) after capturing it from the warlike Jebusites and making it his capital (2 Sam. 5:6-9). Jerusalem is the place where Solomon built the Temple as an abode for God (1 Ki. 6). Jerusalem is five miles north of Bethlehem, the city where Jesus was born (Mt. 2:1; Lk. 2:4-7). Jerusalem is the city where He was tried and, outside its northern walls, He was crucified, buried and resurrected (Mt. 26-28; Mk. 14-16; Lk. 22-24; Jn. 18-20). On the Mount of Olives, directly east of the city, Jesus ascended (Acts 1:9), and to that same Mount He will return (Zech. 14:4).
Jerusalem is a one-people city. Many peoples have tried to possess her – but only one people has loved her, the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the Jew. As a priest is an inexplicable enigma without a sacrifice, so is a city without its rightful people. Jerusalem and the Jew are inseparably bound together. It was God himself who forged the link (Gen. 15:18; Dt. 30:5; Ezek. 37:21-25). The land would, on occasions, withhold her fruitfulness to the sons of Jacob when they abused her, and three times, because of sin, the people were compelled to leave her borders – once to Egypt for four hundred years, once to Babylon for seventy years, and once to the “four corners of the earth” (Isa. 11:12) for more than nineteen hundred years. But from Egypt she returned, from Babylon she returned, and from worldwide dispersion return has begun. How could it be otherwise? Did not God promise to Jacob who was on the threshold of leaving the land that, “. . . I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places to which thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Gen. 28:15). The promise included the divine presence – “I am with thee”; the divine protection – I “will keep thee”; the divine restoration – I “will bring thee again”; the divine consummation – “until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and in that single verse of promise God has kaleidoscoped Israel’s entire history – election, dispersion, preservation, restoration, exaltation. Israel would be thrice scattered, and thrice she would be reconciled to her land. And all the while God, behind the scenes, would be with her fulfilling His purposes. What grace is this!
But never, during the absence of the Jew from the land, would Jerusalem give herself to another. History will amazingly substantiate this fact. Nations violated her. She, for her part, never responded. Only the Jew loved her, drew her to his bosom – and the desert began to blossom. Here indeed is a truly great love story which can only be fully comprehended in the broader context of “. . . God so loved the world . . .” (Jn. 3: 16). But Jerusalem was not given to the sons of Jacob for their benefit alone. No, it was the divine intent that this union issue forth in worldwide fruitfulness and blessing. This fundamental purpose was divinely underscored when God said to Abraham and repeated to Isaac and Jacob, “. . . in thee [and thy seed] shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3; 26:1-3; 28:1-4). It was through the Jewish people in the land that Jesus came the first time as the “Lamb” to die (Jn. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:18-19), and it is to that people back in that land that Jesus will come the second time as the “Lion” of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10; Rev. 5:5), to consummate His redemptive plan. This is the basic principle for understanding history in general, and the present hour in particular.
Jerusalem the city, and the sons of Jacob the people, have paid an incalculable price in suffering through the centuries because of the important role they have been jointly called upon to play in the history of redemption. A former Israeli Prime Minister, noting the past and present suffering of the Jewish people, lamented, “Let somebody else be the chosen people for a while.” But the end is not yet.
Jerusalem will “. . . be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk. 21:24). These words spoken by the Lord himself define the major characteristic of a period of time designated in the Bible as the “times of the Gentiles”. This time period is bounded on the one side by the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C., when Daniel was taken away captive, and, on the other, by the physical return of Jesus the Christ to the earth. It is the period of time which is depicted in the image of Daniel chapter two, and the four beasts of Daniel chapter seven. Between these two termini (the Babylonian captivity and the return of Christ), Jerusalem is to be under Gentile domination. Without a son of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5), of the family of David (Isa. 11:1; Rev. 5:5), ruling over Jerusalem, Satan cannot be executed (Rev. 5:5, cp. Rev. 20:7-10). For the past twenty-five hundred years, Jerusalem has been under Gentile authority. There was a brief respite from Gentile domination under the Maccabees, who drove out the Syrians in 165 B.C., but that would give way to Roman domination. Most recently in 1967 the Israeli Army, repulsing a Jordanian attack, recaptured Jerusalem for the first time in more than two thousand years. Personal feelings aside, the old city of Jerusalem must eventually revert back to Gentile domination. The eleventh chapter of Revelation underscores this fact. The temple mount during the coming Tribulation period will be under Jewish control, but not the city. The angel is commanded not to measure the city because it is under Gentile control (Rev. 11:2). This is precisely the opposite of the present hour. Today the city is controlled by Israel and the temple area, while in Jewish hands, is governed by Arab Muslims. This change will doubtless not come about through the papacy and other nations demanding that Jerusalem be internationalized, nor through negotiations directed at bringing peace to the Middle East. Most likely Jerusalem will revert back to Gentile control in the middle of the Tribulation period through the battle graphically described in Zechariah chapter fourteen.
Jerusalem, because it is the city of peace to one day be ruled over by the King of righteousness, will be the hub of end-time events. Unregenerate mankind, motivated by pride and empowered by Satan, will presume to think that they can frustrate the purposes of God. In answer to such folly comes the immutable reaction of God: “He who sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his great displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (Ps. 2:4-6). The Jewish people, back in the land and one day soon to be under covenantal protection of the Antichrist (Dan. 9:24-27), will refuse to bow down to the lifelike image this usurper will erect in the Temple three-and-one-half years into the Tribulation period. This is the “abomination of desolation” to which the Lord referred in His Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24:15). It is the final Satanic attempt to set up his throne in Jerusalem and get Israel to bestow on him the worship and praise which Israel was created to direct toward God alone. Hear God himself speak to this issue: “I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry; and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel, my glory” (Isa. 46:13). Satan cannot have God’s glory! The believing remnant within Jerusalem at the time of the end will refuse to bow down to his image and worship Satan. This event will signal the beginning of the Great Tribulation – a second three-and-one-half-year period of such severity that “. . . except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved . . .” (Mt. 24: 22). The Gentile armies of the world will be arrayed against the holy city as part of a series of battles that lead to Armageddon. But hear the words of the Lord once again: “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 half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (Zech. 14:2).
Jerusalem will be under siege and when all seems lost, when all avenues of deliverance from every human sphere are exhausted, when annihilation is imminent – “. . . then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven . . .” (Mt. 24:30). He will return to the Mount of Olives, descend through the Kidron Valley, enter the city through the Eastern Gate as He did on that Palm Sunday almost two thousand years ago, and offer Himself to the Jewish nation a second time. Then shall be fulfilled the words of the psalmist, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle . . . The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory . . .” (Ps. 24:7-8, 10). Once again, and with great fervor, the surrounding hills will reverberate with the cry, “. . . Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt. 21:9). Hosanna literally means “save now” or “deliver now”. And this time, surrounded, with no earthly help, on the verge of annihilation, Israel will finally repent. What my beloved, stiff-necked people would not do at Messiah’s first coming, they will do at His second. Jesus had this moment in mind as with a broken heart at His first rejection, He prophesied, “. . . Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt. 23:39). And then, “. . . they shall look upon [him] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son . . .” (Zech. 12:10), and “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1). “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle” (Zech. 14:3).
Jerusalem will be ruled over by Jesus the Christ, David’s Greater Son and the rightful King of the Jews. From this position He will become King of kings and Lord of lords, and “. . . out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3). Here then is the answer to the sarcastic query posed by the infidel Voltaire when he asked, “Why should the world be made to rotate around the insignificant pimple of Jewry?” The answer is quite simple: In the sovereign plan of God, “. . . salvation is of the Jews” (Jn. 4:22). And here too is confirmation of the discerning eye of Mark Twain who, though himself an unbeliever, wrote, “The Jew could be vain of himself and not be ashamed of it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian arose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream stuff, and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up, and held the torch high for a time; but it burned out, and they sit in twilight or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?” To Mark Twain’s question must come this response: The Jew has an unalterable, irrevocable, unavoidable date with his Creator at Jerusalem and as a result of that reconciliation, blessings like life-giving water will flow to all of believing humanity and the very earth itself. It will mark the restitution of all things (Acts 3:21).
In the day of that meeting, the curse placed upon the earth by the fall of man will be lifted, and righteousness, justice, love, truth, mercy and goodness will become a reality in the earth. But until that glorious day dawns – until Israel looks with favor upon her long-rejected Savior, the tender loving words of the poet must continue to fall from prayerful, spiritually-discerning lips:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, enthroned once on high, thou favored home of God on earth, thou Heaven beneath the sky,
Now brought to bondage with thy sons, a curse and grief to see, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, our tears shall flow for thee.
Hadst thou known thy day of grace, and flocked beneath the wing of Him who called thee tenderly, thy own anointed King,
Then had the tribes of all the earth gone up, thy pomp to see, and glory dwelt within thy gates, and all thy sons been free.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, until thou turn again, and seek with penitence of heart, the Lamb thy sons have slain,
Till to the Savior of all mankind, thou humbly bow the knee, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, our tears shall flow for thee.