What of Jerusalem?
The center of the universe for the Jews is Jerusalem. The current geo-political battle over that city is challenging Israel's claim and seeking to universalize it. Strong powers are laying claim to its parts and seeking to divide it in order to weaken its Jewish heritage and diminish its place in history. However, the focus on this ancient city, which has been in the plan of God from the beginning, is nothing short of an end time indicator of the returning Savior.
Jerusalem is the most important city in the world.
It is mentioned 971 times in Scripture.
Many of those references are simply locators, reviewing where some event or occurrence took place. Always, whether prophet or priest, when addressing Jerusalem, it is like addressing the entire nation and all the tribes of Israel. Jerusalem is the touchstone for Judaism and is the birthplace of the early church.
It was not insignificant the disciples were told to remain in Jerusalem until endued by the Holy Spirit. Jerusalem, then, became the site for the change in covenants as pointed out by Paul. (Islam has no legitimate claim upon it and neither do other powers of the world who had best take leave of their plans for Jerusalem lest they encounter conflagration and decimation beyond their wildest thoughts.)
This study begins with a few quotes from Jesus who ministered within Jerusalem's gates before its destruction in 70 AD. Actually, Jesus was laying the groundwork for the transition of the covenant in the quotes below. He did so in many passages, but these specify Jerusalem.
For it wouldn't do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem! 34 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! The city that murders the prophets. The city that stones those sent to help her. How often I have wanted to gather your children together even as a hen protects her brood under her wings, but you wouldn't let me. 35 And now—now your house is left desolate. And you will never again see me until you say, "Welcome to him who comes in the name of the Lord."'
The same venue is reported six chapters later and adds meaning to what was just cited:
1 But as they came closer to Jerusalem and he saw the city ahead, he began to cry. 'Eternal peace was within your reach and you turned it down,' he wept, 'and now it is too late. 43 Your enemies will pile up earth against your walls and encircle you and close in on you, 44 and crush you to the ground, and your children within you; your enemies will not leave one stone upon another--for you have rejected the opportunity God offered you.'
Oh that this phrase is never spoken over the West!
Consider this next passage though, for it too was spoken by Jesus:
'Jerusalem shall be conquered and trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of Gentile triumph ends in God's good time. 25 Then there will be strange events in the skies--warnings, evil omens and portents in the sun, moon and stars; and down here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. 26 The courage of many people will falter because of the fearful fate they see coming upon the earth, for the stability of the very heavens will be broken up. 27 Then the peoples of the earth shall see me, the Messiah, coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand straight and look up! For your salvation is near.'
Now Jesus knew the hearts of the rulers in Jerusalem and that the gospel would be rejected by them, and from that rejection, He knew the Gentiles would be converted as the gospel reached them. Hence, He focused on the Temple as the central place in the central city. He cleansed the Temple, spoke of His death and resurrection in terms of destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days. He knew His destiny would occur in Jerusalem, for those meeting Him on the mount of transfiguration discussed that issue with Him. Everything He spoke over the city had eternal configurations in view. He knew David was predestined to choose Jerusalem as his capitol. He knew He had to come there and be a witness against it. He knew He had to die there. He knew the church had to be born there. He knew the old covenant had to pass from view at that location and the new covenant in His blood had to issue from Jerusalem.
All the prophecies about Jerusalem in the Old Testament bore witness to all these events in the same eternal tones as Jesus (Note: future newsletters will investigate these phenomena). It certainly was/is the city of the Great King; it is truly the city of David; it is the site of the New Jerusalem as the old one passes away.
When Jesus cried out, "It is finished" and the veil was rent -that ended the efficacy of the sacrifices which could not touch the hem of the New Covenant's garment. Even though Paul succumbed to the Jewish league, who urged him to shave his head and make vows of allegiance to the former ways and persuaded him to offer at the altar found their efforts were in vain, for he was arrested by the Temple authorities. (The preservers of the Jewish traditions never came to terms with the sacrifice of Jesus and its plan with God. They didn't then and they don't now!)
Paul struggled with his affection for this city and declared that from it the gospel would be scattered all over the world, but not without cost to that city. From Jerusalem he declared:
46 Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, 'It was necessary that this Good News from God should be given first to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and shown yourselves unworthy of eternal life--well, we will offer it to Gentiles. 47 For this is as the Lord commanded when He said, "I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to lead them from the farthest corners of the earth to my salvation."'
The early church blossomed in Jerusalem for a while, but too many converts were leaving and the Temple offering plates suffered. Their financial hold was threatened, so they felt they had to snuff out these traitors. Such uproar caused the Christians to be persecuted. Those who remained in Jerusalem found few job openings, discovered the market place held no love for them, and could or would not find solace among those in the Temple. Jerusalem closed ranks politically and religiously on them. They suffered the same kind of discrimination that they bear today. It happened in a flash. Where once they were the center of the Lord's work, they fell into disarray upon the death of the apostles. Where once Simon and his fellows ruled from that domain, so much so, that Paul explained, after his conversion, he did not consult with the church leadership in Jerusalem but went to the desert. He felt he needed to explain why he acted differently than others. BUT, his missionary recipients could not deny the Jerusalem Christian's influence. Wherever Paul went, even though he rebuked Peter for separating himself from the Gentiles when the Jewish band arrived, he secured offerings and gifts for those back home.
Paul caused the Gentile world to know of the early church's struggle in that city and the persecution they experienced. He kept contact with the faithful and knew their problem, so naturally, the Gentiles honored them and sent offerings.
25 But before I come, I must go down to Jerusalem to take a gift to the Jewish Christians there. 26 For you see, the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia have taken up an offering for those in Jerusalem who are going through such hard times. 27 They were very glad to do this, for they feel that they owe a real debt to the Jerusalem Christians. Why? Because the news about Christ came to these Gentiles from the church in Jerusalem. And since they received this wonderful spiritual gift of the Gospel from there, they feel that the least they can do in return is to give some material aid.
Heavy migrations of Christians characterized the city early on. To those refugees who fled the city and were dispersed in many surrounding areas, Peter spoke these comforting words.
1 Peter 1:1-6
To: The Jewish Christians driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia.
2 Dear friends, God the Father chose you long ago and knew you would become his children. And the Holy Spirit has been at work in your hearts, cleansing you with the blood of Jesus Christ and making you to please him. May God bless you richly and grant you increasing freedom from all anxiety and fear.
3 All honor to God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for it is his boundless mercy that has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God's own family. Now we live in the hope of eternal life because Christ rose again from the dead. 4 And God has reserved for his children the priceless gift of eternal life; it is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And God, in his mighty power, will make sure that you get there safely to receive it because you are trusting him. It will be yours in that coming last day for all to see. 6 So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here.
Jerusalem was left desolate, just as Jesus predicted, for no longer would the sacrifices be accepted and the Temple ways became obsolete (and they still are). After the 70 AD invasion, nothing remained of value. Jerusalem would have to wait to the end of ages to be at the center of the world stage again and that only to signal the coming of the wonderful New Jerusalem moving toward them.
Only in this manner does it house its destiny in the eternal plan. It is still emerging as the place yet to be cleansed. However, no one could put this place in its proper perspective better than Paul, who knew it as the center of persecution for Christians, for he held licenses from the Temple rulers. Paul knew they held to hypocrisy and idolatry, while embracing the Torah. He understood their blindness and oft referred to his Gamaliel training as his credential for assessment. From Galatians to Hebrews, he unfolds the eternal plan of God for the place where satan took Jesus and tempted Him from its pinnacle. Why? He was/is unafraid of religion and when that is all that is going on, nothing in it affronts him.
21 Listen to me, you friends who think you have to obey the Jewish laws to be saved: Why don't you find out what those laws really mean? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave-wife and one from his freeborn wife. 23 There was nothing unusual about the birth of the slave-wife's baby. But the baby of the freeborn wife was born only after God had especially promised he would come.
24 Now this true story is an illustration of God's two ways of helping people. One way was by giving them his laws to obey. He did this on Mount Sinai, when he gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. Mount Sinai, by the way, is called "Mount Hagar" by the Arabs--and in my illustration, Abraham's slave-wife Hagar represents Jerusalem, the mother-city of the Jews, the center of that system of trying to please God by trying to obey the Commandments; and the Jews, who try to follow that system, are her slave children. 26 But our mother-city is the heavenly Jerusalem, and she is not a slave to Jewish laws.
27 That is what Isaiah meant when he prophesied, 'Now you can rejoice, O childless woman; you can shout with joy though you never before had a child. For I am going to give you many children--more children than the slave-wife has.'
28 You and I, dear brothers, are the children that God promised, just as Isaac was. 29 And so we who are born of the Holy Spirit are persecuted now by those who want us to keep the Jewish laws, just as Isaac, the child of promise was persecuted by Ishmael, the slave-wife's son.
30 But the Scriptures say that God told Abraham to send away the slave-wife and her son, for the slave-wife's son could not inherit Abraham's home and lands along with the free woman's son. 31 Dear brothers, we are not slave children, obligated to the Jewish laws, but children of the free woman, acceptable to God because of our faith.
In these modern times, the state of Israel desires greatly to declare Jerusalem as theirs and rightly it should be, but God will soon use it to draw the nations to judgment and once again its significance will be forever changed.
Even though the Messianic movement has done a monumental job of acquainting Christians with Jewish traditions, holidays, feasts, offerings and the Torah--Paul's assessments stand in opposition to the re-establishment of adherences often demanded. Jerusalem still rejects the One they brandished with palm leaves and still stands short of its end time destiny.
Paul (who I believe wrote Hebrews) does not stop in his love for the city, though. He wept and wished himself anathema if it would mean the whole of Israel would embrace his Jesus. Their rejection of the Messiah came after a long heritage of God dealing with them directly and indirectly. So, what is the lesson to be learned? God has dealt with the Gentiles for thousands of years and spoken through His Spirit to all the nations, so the lesson to be learned is simple-do not reject Him as did the Jews. Listen to His voice. Be drawn, not to the ancient treasures of a dissolute township, but the forthcoming New Jerusalem.
18 You have not had to stand face to face with terror, flaming fire, gloom, darkness, and a terrible storm as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai when God gave them His laws. 19 For there was an awesome trumpet blast and a voice with a message so terrible that the people begged God to stop speaking. 20 They staggered back under God's command that if even an animal touched the mountain it must die. 21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he shook with terrible fear.
22 But you have come right up into Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the gathering of countless happy angels; 23 and to the church, composed of all those registered in heaven; and to God who is Judge of all; and to the spirits of the redeemed in heaven, already made perfect; 24 and to Jesus himself, who has brought us his wonderful new agreement; and to the sprinkled blood, which graciously forgives instead of crying out for vengeance as the blood of Abel did.
25 So see to it that you obey Him who is speaking to you. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, how terrible our danger if we refuse to listen to God who speaks to us from heaven!
It is to this New Jerusalem from which our prospects of glory emanate-not the earthly one!
To the over comers in the early church at Philadelphia came this word.
As for the one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; he will be secure and will go out no more; and I will write my God's Name on him, and he will be a citizen in the city of my God--the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from my God; and he will have my new Name inscribed upon him.
This promise is most cogent for us in the Twenty-first Century. We are being called to conquer on a scale that is mind boggling. Across our foreheads must be a mark, like Ezekiel's Scribe gives. Our citizenship is not in the world system, but in the Jerusalem not made with man's hands. Our new names tell our character and calling! Our longing is for THIS Jerusalem made with His hands.
But, what of the national Jerusalem that stands today? What is its end time role? The answer is not withheld from us.
4 These two prophets* are the two olive trees, and two candlesticks standing before the God of all the earth. 5 Anyone trying to harm them will be killed by bursts of fire shooting from their mouths. 6 They have power to shut the skies so that no rain will fall during the three and a half years they prophesy, and to turn rivers and oceans to blood, and to send every kind of plague upon the earth as often as they wish.
7 When they complete the three and a half years of their solemn testimony, the tyrant who comes out of the bottomless pit will declare war against them and conquer and kill them; 8 and for three and a half days their bodies will be exposed in the streets of Jerusalem (the city fittingly described as "Sodom" or "Egypt")--the very place where their Lord was crucified. No one will be allowed to bury them, and people from many nations will crowd around to gaze at them. 10 And there will be a worldwide holiday- people everywhere will rejoice and give presents to each other and throw parties to celebrate the death of the two prophets who had tormented them so much!
11 But after three and a half days, the spirit of life from God will enter them, and they will stand up! And great fear will fall on everyone. 12 Then a loud voice will shout from heaven, "Come up!" And they will rise to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watch.
13 The same hour there will be a terrible earthquake that levels a tenth of the city, leaving 7,000 dead. Then everyone left will, in their terror, give glory to the God of heaven.
*For many years, I have considered the two prophets to be symbolic of Holiness and Righteousness. I have seen them as companions to all who hold high the Name and Ways of Jesus. When the evil one rises to strike them down, they will be preserved and raised from the dead. Perhaps my thoughts are but conjecture and far too simplistic. The drama of this Jerusalem event is horrific and demands attention. BUT it is still not our city. This city is being prepared and cleansed for the advent of a far greater New Jerusalem, adorned as the Bride.
14:1 Then I saw a Lamb standing on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and with him were 144,000 who had his Name and his Father's Name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roaring of a great waterfall or the rolling of mighty thunder. It was the singing of a choir accompanied by harps.
3 This tremendous choir--144,000 strong-sang a wonderful new song in front of the throne of God and before the four Living Beings and the twenty-four Elders; and no one could sing this song except those 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 For they are spiritually undefiled, pure as virgins, following the Lamb wherever He goes. They have been purchased from among the men on the earth as a consecrated offering to God and the Lamb. 5 No falsehood can be charged against them; they are blameless.
6 And I saw another angel flying through the heavens, carrying the everlasting Good News to preach to those on earth--to every nation, tribe, language, and people.
7 'Fear God,' he shouted, 'and extol his greatness. For the time has come when he will sit as Judge. Worship him who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all its sources.' 8 Then another angel followed him through the skies, saying, 'Babylon is fallen, is fallen-that great city--because she seduced the nations of the world and made them share the wine of her intense impurity and sin.'
The Reformers believed the Babylon portrayed here was the Vatican of the Roman Catholic Church. For now, let us leave speculation, eschatological meanderings and traditional beliefs and accept the fact that something new has come down to earth and earth is rattled because of it.
Things happening as a result of this action:
1. Wrath of God on those who worship the Creature
2. The martyr's rewards
3. The reaping begins with Jesus accompanied by an angel
4. Babylon falls
The New Jerusalem is our destination and our participation and home is with it.
7 'Let us be glad and rejoice and honor him; for the time has come for the wedding banquet of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself.
8 She is permitted to wear the cleanest and whitest and finest of linens.' (Fine linen represents the good deeds done by the people of God.)
9 And the angel dictated this sentence to me: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.' And he added, 'God himself has stated this.'
Now, this Jerusalem is much better than the old one. He, who had been exiled from the old one, was seeing the New one-what wonder and grace!
1 Then I saw a new earth (with no oceans!) and a new sky, for the present earth and sky had disappeared. 2 And I, John, saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven. It was a glorious sight, beautiful as a bride at her wedding.
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, 'Look, the home of God is now among men, and he will live with them and they will be his people; yes, God himself will be among them.
4 He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever.'
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, 'See, I am making all things new!' And then he said to me, 'Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true: 6 It is finished! I am the A and the Z-the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty the springs of the Water of Life-as a gift! 7 Everyone who conquers will inherit all these blessings, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But cowards who turn back from following me, and those who are unfaithful to me, and the corrupt, and murderers, and the immoral, and those conversing with demons, and idol worshipers and all liars--their doom is in the Lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the Second Death.'
9 Then one of the seven angels who had emptied the flasks containing the seven last plagues came and said to me, 'Come with me and I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.'
10 In a vision he took me to a towering mountain peak, and from there I watched that wondrous city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of the skies from God. 11 It was filled with the glory of God and flashed and glowed like a precious gem, crystal clear like jasper. 12 Its walls were broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. 13 There were three gates on each side--north, south, east, and west. 14 The walls had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel held in his hand a golden measuring stick to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 When he measured it, he found it was a square as wide as it was long; in fact it was in the form of a cube, for its height was exactly the same as its other dimensions-1,500 miles each way. 17 Then he measured the thickness of the walls and found them to be 216 feet across (the angel called out these measurements to me, using standard units).
18 The city itself was pure, transparent gold like glass! The wall was made of jasper, and was built on twelve layers of foundation stones inlaid with gems:
the first layer with jasper;
the second with sapphire;
the third with chalcedony;
the fourth with emerald;
the fifth with sardonyx;
the sixth layer with sardus;
the seventh with chrysolite;
the eighth with beryl;
the ninth with topaz;
the tenth with chrysoprase;
the eleventh with jacinth;
the twelfth with amethyst.
21 The twelve gates were made of pearls--each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure, transparent gold, like glass.
22 No temple could be seen in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are worshiped in it everywhere. TLB
Since heaven and earth have passed away and the old Jerusalem has gone with them, why is so much attention being paid to it? Could it be, the church is so worldly that its heart is easier fixed on that which fades rather than to that which is eternal?
Is it easier to be concerned with the Temple mount, where God does not dwell, than to concentrate on the Temple in heaven where we come boldly to the throne of Grace?
9 Then, in heaven, the temple of God was opened and the ark of his covenant could be seen inside. Lightning flashed and thunder crashed and roared, and there was a great hailstorm, and the world was shaken by a mighty earthquake.
National Jerusalem cannot fathom what this next verse entails and neither do we.
20 But you, O heaven, rejoice over her fate; and you, O children of God and the prophets and the apostles! For at last God has given judgment against her for you.
We are told to rejoice over what is coming and to anticipate what lies ahead for us.
10 Then he instructed me, 'Do not seal up what you have written, for the time of fulfillment is near. 11 And when that time comes, all doing wrong will do it more and more; the vile will become more vile; good men will be better; those who are holy will continue on in greater holiness.'
Many preachers are talking about the acceleration of times, knowledge and even revelation as indicative of the last days. Verse eleven talks about spiritual acceleration-that speeding up of what exists about us.
For the saints, this is the time for holiness and more of it; this is the time good men become better, for the vile are getting more vile and those doing wrong have increased exponentially.
My prayer for the "Peace of Jerusalem" is not for a hassle free existence for the one on earth, but for the New Jerusalem, where the Prince of Peace reigns. It is now appropriate to say as do Jews: New Jerusalem, next year, if not now!
(Note: These are Scriptures in sequence; please do not think I have no compassion for modern Israel-I admire modern Israel for their tenacity [I was there after the 67 war and my family was one of the first to cross from Egypt across the Sinai into Israel]. I continue to marvel at the astuteness of Netanyahu and the daftness of modern politicos.)
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 03.08.2015
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Thanks to the Newsletter Division and C. R. Oliver for allowing the use to his newsletters for this study book.