No city on Earth stirs up passion and interest quite like the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is in the news a great deal, which may seem strange to people who think it is just an average city. Those who understand anything about Bible history and prophecy, however, understand that Jerusalem is the key city in God’s plan for mankind.
Jerusalem’s Rich History
Jerusalem, which means “city of peace,” is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible. It has a long and celebrated history that goes back thousands of years. Most people think Israel’s history with Jerusalem began with King David around 1000 b.c., but Israel’s attachment to Jerusalem actually goes back more than 1,000 years prior to that.
If you look into the life of Abraham, for example, you will see that his entire identity—his behavior, his lifestyle and all of his ambitions—was shaped by Jerusalem in his day, and he had hope because of prophecies about Jerusalem’s future.
Genesis 14 gives an account of this great patriarch dining with Melchizedek, the king and high priest of Salem (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1). Melchizedek was the God Being who would later become Jesus Christ, and Salem was an early name for Jerusalem! Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:2).
Hebrews 11 says that Abraham was able to leave his native land and sojourn “in the land of promise” because he “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (verses 9-10). This means that Abraham actually envisioned the time when God would establish heavenly Jerusalem on this Earth. More than just focusing on the Jerusalem of his day, he taught his family that their faith must be established in the sure foundation of the Jerusalem that has yet to be established in our day. He had a vision of new Jerusalem, God’s headquarters for eternity.
King David had the same kind of strong and unwavering faith as his forefather Abraham—his life revolved around Jerusalem. David took Jerusalem from the Jebusites early in his reign, and he established the city as Israel’s capital (2 Samuel 5:5-7). Jerusalem became the seat of Israel’s political, cultural and religious identity.
Under King Solomon, David’s son, Jerusalem became so rich that silver was like regular stone (1 Kings 10:27), and the queen of Sheba fainted at the splendor of the city’s main edifice, which we refer to as the First Temple (1 Kings 10:5). This magnificent temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 3:1; 6:1), constructed by Solomon, made the city even more majestic and beautiful.
After Solomon’s death, Israel split into two nations: Ten tribes (counting Ephraim and Manasseh as separate tribes) departed to form the kingdom of Samaria in northern Israel while Judah, Benjamin and Levi established a kingdom in and around Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:19-21). Thus, the house of David remained in Jerusalem, and his dynasty continued to rule from that city for centuries. What a history revolves around the city of Jerusalem!
As glorious as some of Jerusalem’s history is, it has experienced a lot of trouble. Enemy nations have fought over it for centuries, and much blood has flowed in this city. “And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant” (Jeremiah 9:11). “Heaps” can mean “a heap of stone or dung.” God prophesied that Jerusalem would become nothing more than a heap of stones.
After the kingdom divided into the northern tribes of Israel and the southern tribes of Judah, God sent prophets to warn Israel to return to Him. They did not heed the prophets’ warnings, so God sent them into Assyrian captivity. The Assyrians carried them away from 721-718 b.c. (2 Kings 17:6, 18), and the ten tribes of Israel never returned to the area.
Israel’s captivity was meant to be a warning for Judah, and God sent more prophets to Judah to warn them to not follow after the treacherous ways of their brothers. Judah did not heed the warning, however, and eventually, God sent them into captivity as well (2 Kings 17:19; Jeremiah 3:6-11; Matthew 23:37). Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in three stages from 604-585 b.c. Since that time, there have been “heaps” of destruction added to the rubble again and again.
70 years after the destruction of the city, King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city (Ezra 1:1-5). The Jews rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:6, 17; 6:15), the city itself, and the second temple. This second temple wasn’t as glorious as Solomon’s, but it proved that the Jews had a deep attachment to the holy city.
During the first century a.d., the city of Jerusalem was where Jesus Christ kept the final Passover with His disciples before His crucifixion. In this Passover ceremony, He instituted foot washing and the new symbols of the bread and the wine (Matthew 26:26-28; John 13). He was later crucified just outside the city.
Moving on in the early history of the Church, after many of the apostles were martyred for the work they did to proclaim the gospel that Jesus Christ had taught (Mark 1:14-15; Mark 16:15), the city of Jerusalem was utterly destroyed by the Romans in 70 a.d. The destruction of the second temple was so thorough that not one stone was left on top of another (Matthew 24:1-3).
For the 2,000 years since that time, Jerusalem has continually been caught in the crossfire, especially during the Crusades. The Crusades were a series of battles where the Catholics and the Muslims fought each other over several holy sites. Jerusalem was a major city that each side wanted to acquire because they each claimed the city to be sacred to their religion.
In 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour wrote the Balfour Declaration, which supported the creation of a nation for the Jews in the territory that ancient Israel held during biblical times. Israel was established as a state in 1948. As soon as Israel was declared an independent state, it was thrown into war with the neighboring Arab countries of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, which opposed its independence. The Jews won the War of Independence, but it was still almost 20 years before the city of Jerusalem was completely united under Israeli rule. They first had to defeat another Arab alliance in the Six-Day War in 1967.
All of this was actually prophesied. There are many prophecies that revolve around just this one city—the book of Zechariah alone mentions Jerusalem 41 times! And in order for many of these prophecies regarding Jerusalem to be fulfilled, there must be a Jewish state in this end-time, and the city of Jerusalem has to be unified under Jewish rule.
Jerusalem’s End-Time Prophecies
Jerusalem is the center of three major religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. This is easily proved by a quick look at the history of the division and conflict this “city of peace” has experienced.
Zechariah 12:2 says, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem” (verse 2). “A cup of trembling” can be translated into “a cup of reeling.” “Reel” means, “to stagger, lurch, or sway, as from drunkenness.” The people who try to take over Jerusalem will be made to tremble and stagger about, in other words.
In Jerusalem in Prophecy, my father writes: “Every nation that has ruled Jerusalem has experienced serious problems. This is true up to the present day …. God said the Jerusalem problem would be a nightmare for peacemakers and diplomats who get entangled with it, not to mention the people who call it their home. And yet, it seems that every nation wants Jerusalem.”
So many people and religions want this city, and so many peoples and religions are willing to fight for it. Yet, everyone who gets control of Jerusalem experiences a lot of trouble. The city is indeed a cup of reeling.
“And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it” (Zechariah 12:3). Jerusalem is a heavy burden to any nation or group of nations that gets involved with it. The heaps and heaps of ruin throughout its history prove that. This one city proves quite effectively just how incapable man is of solving his problems. “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
Everything that man has done to solve Jerusalem’s problems—to try to make it an international city where every nation or religion is happy—has only made the problems worse. We need God’s guidance, as the Prophet Jeremiah wrote. God has great plans for Jerusalem, but it is going to take a lot of suffering in Jerusalem, and in the rest of the world, before mankind will submit to those plans.
Like Zechariah, the book of Hosea also covers some end-time prophecy for Jerusalem. “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound” (Hosea 5:13). The “wound” spoken of here is the Arab-Israeli peace process that the Jews are in the midst of today. The peace process will not work, and once the Jews realize that all the process has done is weaken them, they are going to seek help from the Assyrians—modern-day Germany (Ezekiel 23:1-5, 11-12, 22-25).
“And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them” (Hosea 5:5). There are quite a few prophecies that talk about the division between these brother nations—the United States (“Israel” in this verse), Britain (“Ephraim”) and Israel (“Judah”)—and this prophecy talks about all three of them being weakened in these last days. They will all fall together.
Isaiah 9:21 talks about the division between these three brothers: “Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall all be against Judah ….” The United States and Britain, who have traditionally been the Jews’ allies, will turn against them and the city of Jerusalem. This division is prophesied in Zechariah 11:14 as well: “Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”
Since Judah—the tiny nation of Israel within the Middle East today—will not have the support it traditionally has received from the United States and Britain, it has yet another reason to turn to the modern-day Assyrians for protection. And, as Ezekiel 23 points out, the German-led Holy Roman Empire will pretend to help it at first—and then turn against and destroy Judah. This is one more prophecy of the suffering and misery that is coming to this city.
Another prophecy regarding Jerusalem is found in Zechariah 14: “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 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” (verses 1-2).
For half the city to go into captivity, as this verse prophesies, it means that the whole city had to first come under the rule of the Jews in this end time. This is a prophecy that says there would be a Jewish state in the latter days and that it would have control over the entire city. Then, right before the Great Tribulation, the Day of the Lord and the return of Jesus Christ, God says that this city will be divided—and all of it is according to God’s plan.
This city really does stir up passion—and a lot of hatred and anger as well. Man has his plans for the city of Jerusalem, but they will all come to naught. God’s plans are absolutely sure. They will happen. And God has quite a plan and purpose for this city!
In Zechariah—The Sign of Christ’s Imminent Return, my father writes, “God begins to gather all nations, beginning with half of Jerusalem falling to the Arabs. That event TRIGGERS a series of events that lead to Christ’s battle in Jerusalem!”
This prophecy in Zechariah 14 is about God gathering all nations to Jerusalem for the return of Jesus Christ! “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west …” (verses 3-4).
We have been to Jerusalem several times over the years. Herbert W. Armstrong College students have been a part of archaeological excavations in the City of David and on the Ophel—and directly east of that excavation area is the Mount of Olives. This is the mountain that Jesus Christ traversed, and the one to which He will return very soon!
“All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the first gate, unto the corner gate …” (verse 10). As Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures says, “The whole land is to be leveled to a plain in order that Jerusalem may be elevated ….” This is God’s plan for the city!
“Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (Zechariah 1:17).
God will yet choose Jerusalem! That is in the near future, and that is when Jerusalem truly will bring comfort and peace to this world. “And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again” (Zechariah 2:12).
God is going to choose Jerusalem, and He wants to put Jerusalem on display. It is God’s headquarters city! That is the city from which Jesus Christ will rule. He is coming back, as Revelation 19:16 says, as “King of kings and Lord of lords,” and Jerusalem will be His city. Jerusalem will finally be a city of peace once God’s government is established.
God’s plan requires dramatic miracles so that Jerusalem may be exalted above all other cities on Earth. He is going to change the topography of the region. He’s going to lower some portions and then raise Mount Zion so that the city of Jerusalem may shine forth as an example for the entire world to see!
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” God will exalt this holy city in the World Tomorrow. It will shine forth, just as Jesus Christ admonishes His people to do in Matthew 5:16. No wonder Jerusalem is mentioned more than 800 times in scripture. No wonder it factors into so many end-time prophecies. It is going to be the seat of God’s government for all eternity!