The name Jerusalem means “foundation or city of peace”. There is some uncertainty about the first part of that meaning but not about the second: it definitely means “peace”.
Yet, as we know only too well today, far from living up to the meaning of its name, news bulletins constantly remind us that Jerusalem is a city of tension and hostility.
Epicentre of Enmity
The capital city of the nation of Israel has become the epicentre of enmity between Jews and Arabs because the Palestinians are determined that Jerusalem should be their capital city, and that aspiration is abhorrent to Israelis. ….
Jerusalem is, of course, a city which has great importance to Christians as well as to Jews and Muslims. Above all, Jerusalem is of enormous importance to God, and that is the aspect we will be concentrating on. Our aim is to take a Biblical point of view, not a political one. For looking at Jerusalem from a Biblical point of view, it’s evident that God’s plan of salvation for mankind involves this very city. We can’t have a proper understanding of the gospel of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ without Jerusalem coming into the picture.
God’s Kingdom on Earth
God made a very important promise to King David just after Jerusalem had become the capital city of the newly united nation, nearly 1000 years before Christ’s birth. It’s detailed in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 and 1 Chronicles 17:11-14, and this promise is an essential foundation block of the gospel. These are the relevant verses from 1 Chronicles 17:
“When your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers … I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be my son; and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. And I will establish him in my house and in my kingdom forever; and his throne shall be established forever” (17:11-14).
This is God’s unconditional promise of a descendant of King David – who would also be God’s Son – who would build a house for God and then occupy David’s throne in Jerusalem for ever. The New Testament makes it clear beyond doubt that this promise refers to Jesus, for the angel promised Mary:
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).
David’s throne was in Jerusalem and it is destined to become Christ’s throne. So Jerusalem is evidently central to God’s purpose with His own Son and that is to be understood in a physical and literal sense. If you need further confirmation, look at Psalm 89, verses 3-4 and 35-36.
God made a solemn covenant with King David – one which could never be broken, because God never breaks His Word – and both Old and New Testaments recognise that it is only a matter of time before this is fulfilled in its entirety.
God is going to fill the earth with His glory, by allowing it to be inhabited by men and women who choose to obey Him and to follow His direction and guidance. Lots of Scriptures combine to declare that great truth (for example, look at Numbers 14:21; Isaiah 11:9; 45:18; Habakkuk 2:14 and Psalm 72:19).
Taken together with the promise made to David about a long-term occupant of his throne, it is clear that a glorified earth is God’s intention, not a desolate earth. But our focus is upon the role that Jerusalem is destined to play in this new world and it may be best to bring several passages together to provide an overview of what things will be like when a King rules again from the city of peace. So here goes:
“I have set my king on my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: Yahweh has said to me, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession” (Psalm 2:6-8);
“Yahweh of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before his elders, gloriously” (Isaiah 24:23);“At that time Jerusalem shall be called ‘The Throne of Yahweh’, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of Yahweh, to Jerusalem; they shall walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jeremiah 3:17);
Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, 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 shall go forth the law, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:3,4);
Thus says Yahweh: “I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of Yahweh of hosts, the Holy Mountain” (Zechariah 8:3);“Yahweh shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be – ‘Yahweh is one’, and his name one” (Zechariah 14:9).
If you were to read through the whole of Zechariah chapter 14, you would find that Jerusalem is named no less than ten times and that important topographical changes affecting it are also described.
The Mount of Olives, to the east of Jerusalem, is to be split to north and south by an earthquake; the city area will be raised in elevation; and rivers of water will flow from the city westward into the Mediterranean and eastward into the Dead Sea. For the city of Jerusalem is to be beautified and glorified so that it can become a fitting dwelling place for the Lord Jesus and those who share that new world with him in glory.
You may be thinking that this all sounds very strange. Surely, you might think, the place of reward for faithful people is in heaven. However, the doctrines of the immortality of the soul and heaven-going are not in the Bible. They actually tear the heart out of the true Gospel taught in the Bible.
The Bible builds a consistent and graphic picture of the future very real glory of Jerusalem integral to God’s future Kingdom on earth. It teaches that God’s new-made world will last for ever. In its first one-thousand year stage it will involve subject peoples, a worldwide dominion, a king with rulers to assist him, and a capital city at the natural crossroads of the earth. The immediate prelude to its establishment will be the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth, together with a resurrection and judgement following his return.
These prophecies about Jerusalem are firmly connected to the Second Coming of Christ, a great event which is promised often in the New Testament and which was believed in fervently by first century Christians.
Christ’s Second Coming
The return of Christ was longed for by those early believers, and they were not mistaken in their understanding. It was properly based on Old Testament Scripture and has been many times endorsed and elaborated on by Christ and his Apostles. Yet the majority of professing Christians today find no meaningful place for this central teaching of the Bible. What is he coming for? The Bible tells us that Jesus will:
- raise the [faithful] dead …
- judge mankind [i.e. the nations, Matt 25.32ff] (at which some will be accepted and others rejected);
- establish God’s Kingdom on earth – a time of restoration and blessing;
- rule the Kingdom from its capital city Jerusalem;
- rule with his immortal saints – so it is evident that their place of reward will be on the earth, not in heaven.
The New Testament clearly teaches the literal and personal Second Coming of Christ to the earth and the coming Kingdom of God as a time of refreshing and restoration. And the Bible clearly places Jerusalem right at the centre of God’s purpose. It is the city of the great king (Matthew 5:35) and it is here that Jesus will restore again the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6; Micah 4:8).
Will you be found watching out for the King when he comes? Will you be ready and waiting to welcome him into the city?