Israel’s End-Times Relevance: Jerusalem, the Capital
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With all of today’s diplomatic and military conflicts, riots in the streets, boycotts and even controversy among Christians over Jerusalem, we need to discover what God says about the city. Is Jerusalem even relevant to a Christian perspective of life, especially in the end times? Let’s consider what the Bible says about the capital of Israel.
God made some significant statements in the Old Testament about Jerusalem, as shown in the following verses.
“I will give one tribe to his son so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put my Name” (1 Kings 11:36 NIV).
“He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, ‘In Jerusalem I will put my Name'” (2 Kings 21:4).
“In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever” (2 Kings 21:7).
“But now I have chosen Jerusalem for my Name to be there, and I have chosen David to rule my people Israel” (2 Chron. 6:6).
For God to put his name on the city reveals not only his special interest, but a sense in which the city belongs to him. Jerusalem is the only city for which God said this. The fact that the Bible records this statement several times affirms God’s attitude and indicates this is very important. Keep this in mind as we examine other scriptures.
Zechariah recorded a statement from God that clearly is relevant to the end times and describes a scenario we can see developing today.
“I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling…. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves” (Zech. 12:2-3).
Verse 2 refers to “all the surrounding peoples,” all the nations surrounding Israel, which are Muslim nations. God said these people would be “reeling” over Jerusalem, from a Hebrew word which describes reeling, staggering, tottering, and wobbling; that is, the stumbling, clumsy, half-falling motion of a drunken person trying to walk. This image implies the surrounding peoples will seem out of control and will react outrageously toward Israel.
Verse 3 refers to the day when all the nations of the earth are gathered against Jerusalem. At first, this seems to describe a military action, but it might instead describe diplomatic opposition. In fact, it more likely refers to diplomatic pressure or opposition if literally “all the nations of the earth” are involved. As Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, diplomatic pressure and opposition against Israel would be focused on the city, the seat of its government.
Jerusalem will be like an “immovable rock,” something so large or heavy that even extreme effort can’t move it. Considering that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, how is this scenario developing now? Almost all nations currently oppose Israel’s policies and are pressuring her to give up land, accept a two-state solution, stop retaliating against attacks, and stop building new housing. The nations are trying to force Israel — that is, the national government in Jerusalem — to accept their demands, but the Israeli government likely will remain immovable, which will infuriate the surrounding nations.
When diplomatic pressure and manipulation fail to force Israel to comply, the surrounding Muslim nations will attack. Zechariah then describes God’s response to the attack.
“Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘The people of Jerusalem are strong, because the Lord Almighty is their God.’ On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot in a woodpile, like a flaming torch among sheaves. They will consume all the surrounding peoples right and left, but Jerusalem will remain intact in her place…. On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:5-6, 9).
God will make the Israelis strong so they can successfully defend themselves against the attack. He then will “set out” to destroy the attacking nations. That is, he will hold them responsible for their actions and destroy them for trying to destroy his city, the one on which he put his name.
Zechariah then describes what seems to be another attack on Jerusalem.
“I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city” (Zech. 14:2).
The phrase, “all the nations,” may be a regional statement, not necessarily all nations of the world. This is a common figure of speech, used in the Bible and most cultures; a “universal” statement to add emphasis. It’s like saying, “Everybody does it.” Or this could describe an international force, representing the whole world, like a U.N. force comprised of armies from many nations. The context could support either a regional or worldwide interpretation. However, this event may be the battle of Armageddon, which will involve armies from all over the world (see Rev. 16:14, 16).
Notice how God responds to this invasion of Israel. “Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south” (Zech. 14:3-4).
Jesus himself will return to earth and fight against the nations that invaded Israel. The first time, he helped Israel defend herself, but this time he will intervene in her behalf, because Jerusalem will be overrun and there is no reference to the Israelis successfully defending the city.
After the Lord returns and begins to reign, he will bring peace and honor to the nation of Israel. Zechariah says Jerusalem will never again be destroyed and it will be secure (see Zech. 14:11). A few verses later, we see the city as the center of an annual worldwide celebration.
“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain” (Zech. 14:16-17).
What impact would a one-year drought have on a nation? It would be devastating. Yet that will be the result of their refusing to honor the Lord Almighty at the annual feast in Jerusalem. Isaiah gives more details about Jerusalem’s recovery.
“Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
and their kings will serve you.
Though in anger I struck you,
in favor I will show you compassion.
Your gates will always stand open,
they will never be shut, day or night,
so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations –
their kings led in triumphal procession.
For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish;
it will be utterly ruined.
The glory of Lebanon will come to you,
the juniper, the fir and the cypress together,
to adorn my sanctuary;
and I will glorify the place for my feet.
The children of your oppressors will come bowing before you;
all who despise you will bow down at your feet
and will call you the City of the Lord,
Zion of the Holy One of Israel….
The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.” (Isa. 60:10-14, 19)
Any nation or kingdom that doesn’t bring wealth or serve Jerusalem will be utterly ruined. This parallels Zechariah’s statement about the penalty for refusing to observe the annual celebration in Jerusalem.
The current city of Jerusalem is the focus of God’s attention and the site of major end-times events: international opposition, military invasions including the battle of Armageddon, and Jesus’ return to earth.
Revelation Chapter 21 states that God will replace our current heavens and earth with new ones, then add a new Jerusalem. Let’s consider some related scriptures.
“Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother” (Gal. 4:25-26). This clearly refers to two cities named Jerusalem; the present city on earth and a heavenly one.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:8-10).
This passage hints at the heavenly Jerusalem. Notice it’s a city with multiple foundations built by God. In describing the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven, Revelation 21:14 describes it as having twelve foundations; again, a city with multiple foundations.
“Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:16). This verse refers to the heavens then states God has prepared a city. The grammar clearly shows the city already exists.
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22). This indicates the heavenly Jerusalem is God’s city; probably the location of his throne. How might this explain why God put his name on earthly Jerusalem? The heavenly city clearly is his, so he put his name on the earthly city as well, and the heavenly city will eventually replace the earthly one.
“The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name” (Rev. 3:12).
This is Jesus speaking and he states that the new Jerusalem is God’s city. He also states he will write the name of the new Jerusalem on anyone who overcomes, which shows the new Jerusalem is extremely important.
“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Rev. 21:1-2).
This will occur after Jesus’ 1000-year reign, when he replaces the current heavens and earth. The new Jerusalem then will come down out of heaven, where it’s currently located.
I’ve read or heard numerous accounts of Christians who went to heaven and returned. Many of them describe a city in heaven that matches the description in Revelation 21, and that city is where God’s throne is in heaven. When God moves the new Jerusalem to the new earth, he will be relocating his throne from heaven to earth to be with his people, the Jews.
“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:9-10).
Some commentators and teachers identify the New Jerusalem as the glorified church, but I disagree. As we’ve seen, the heavenly Jerusalem is an actual city in heaven, which God will relocate to the new earth.
You might object: How can a city be the bride or wife of the Lamb? Frankly, there are many things God says or does that don’t seem rational to us. But if he were limited to what we can understand, he wouldn’t be worth worshiping.
“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:23-27).
An Old Testament passage we examined earlier said the nations of the world would bring wealth to Jerusalem, and any nation that didn’t serve Jerusalem would be utterly ruined. Those passages refer to the current city after Jesus comes to reign. Revelation 21:26 (above) states the nations will bring their glory and honor to the new Jerusalem. So the Jerusalems will be the world capitals; the current Jerusalem during Jesus’ 1000-year reign, and then the new Jerusalem in the new heavens and earth.
The passage states the new Jerusalem will not need the sun or moon to shine on it because God gives it light. Isaiah 60:19 says the same thing: “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light.”
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.’
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity” (Ps. 122:6-9).
As we’ve seen in this article, Jerusalem is very important to God. He put his name on the current city, which is a key to end-times events. We can expect the nations to invade the city at least twice, and the final invasion will prompt the Lord’s return. Jesus will rule from the current city for 1000 years, then the new Jerusalem will descend onto the new earth, in effect moving God’s throne from heaven to earth, where he will be among his chosen people forever.