Today’s news media devote more attention to the Middle East than to any other area on earth. Here are centered the issues and conflicts that could — overnight — spark World War III. The main factor that has contributed to this dramatic increase in attention to the Middle East is the emergence of Israel as a sovereign Jewish State.
So why am I interested in Jerusalem? What’s so special about this ancient city? My Pilgrimage to Jerusalem has everything to do with the key role it has played in human history and the role it will play in the future.
Central to History
Jerusalem has a unique place in the history of Israel, not shared by any other nation in the world. It was there that God commanded David to purchase ground that was destined to be the site of the Temple: Therefore, the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David that David should go and erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite ….
So David gave Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the place. And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the LORD; and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering. 1 Chronicles 21:18, 25–26 Later, Solomon built his temple on this site and God said to him: “My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” (1 Kings 9:3).
It is Jerusalem that God has declared to be the city He has chosen for Himself. Solomon quotes the words that had been spoken by the Lord to his father, David: “Yet I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there” (2 Chronicles 6:6). The Lord reiterates the permanence of Jerusalem again in 1 Chronicles 23:25: “For David said, ‘The LORD God of Israel has given rest to His people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem forever.’” (1)
In 1 Kings 11:36, God speaks to Jeroboam and says, regarding Rehoboam (Solomon’s son and heir to the throne): And to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for Myself, to put My name there.
The Jewish people are mandated by Scripture to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year: Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles. Deuteronomy 16:16
In no other religion is pilgrimage to Jerusalem mandated. The name Jerusalem occurs 778 times in the sacred Scriptures of the Jewish people. By contrast, in Islam’s sacred book, the Koran, Jerusalem is not mentioned once. Historically, Jerusalem has been the only capital of the Jewish people, both political and spiritual.
Jerusalem has never been the capital of any other people throughout history. As a city, it only became politically important to the Arab peoples after the Six-Day War in June 1967. Previously, under the Jordanian occupation, Jerusalem never had the status of a capital.
After the return of Israel from the Babylonian captivity, when people from other nations sought to share in the restoration of Jerusalem, Nehemiah, the Jewish governor, said to them: “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:20).
Over the years, the Jewish people have adopted from Scripture a special name for their inheritance in Jerusalem. It is Zion. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. Psalm 48:1, 2 This is where the term Zionism originates.
Restoration of Zion
The prophet Isaiah depicts the rebirth of the State of Israel as a unique phenomenon: Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a male child. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children. Isaiah 66:7–8
The rebirth of the State of Israel is correctly presented in Scripture as a unique event and without historical parallel. On one day — May 15, 1948 — Israel emerged as a complete nation with all its functions: army, navy, air force (one airplane), parliament, police force, medical and education systems, etc.
I know of no other nation in history that has had a similar rebirth. It is staggering to try to imagine the consequences of opposing such a sovereign act of God.
The Return of the Lord
The restoration of Zion is seen as a prelude to the return of the Lord in glory: “For [when] the LORD shall build up Zion; He shall appear in His glory” (Psalm 102:16). All the predictions of Scripture and all the developments of current history combine to focus our attention on one impending event of unique importance: The return of the Lord Jesus in power and glory.
This gives special significance to the drama predicted to take place on the Mount of Olives: And in that day His [Jesus’] feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Zechariah 14:4
There will follow a period when God will judge all the nations on the basis of the way they have treated the land and the people of Israel: For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up [partitioned] My land. Joel 3:1–2
God’s purpose is to make Jerusalem a source of blessing to all nations, and He promises severe judgment on all nations that oppose His purpose for Jerusalem. Scripture makes it clear that when the Lord returns, it will be to a sovereign Jewish Jerusalem.
Jesus said: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” Matthew 23:37–39
In Matthew 24, Jesus refers to the “abomination of desolation” (v. 15) spoken of by Daniel the prophet. He then says, “Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…. And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath” (vv. 16, 20).
The warning against fleeing on the Sabbath assumes that Jerusalem will be under Jewish regulations, which would forbid the operation of either public transportation or places of commerce such as gas stations and banks. Only under Jewish government would this be a problem.
Let me briefly sum up my conclusion. In the eternal counsel of God, He has determined to make Jerusalem the decisive issue by which He will deal with the nations. Those nations who align themselves with God’s purposes for Jerusalem will receive His blessing. But those who follow a policy in opposition to God’s purposes will be severely dealt with.
Commit yourself to pray that divine wisdom, discernment and understanding would be the portion of all who hold positions of influence over matters in the Middle East.
(1) This verse has a dual application referring to both the natural and spiritual Jerusalem.
Get the pdf-file of this teaching here. It was adapted from Derek Prince’s teachings: “Promised Land” and “An Open Letter from Jerusalem.”