O Jerusalem! Jerusalem!Erwin W. Lutzer | April 13, 2014
Selected highlights from this sermon
In a brief overview, Pastor Lutzer takes us through history from the time of the building of Solomon’s temple to today’s Dome of the Rock and further into the future to the New Jerusalem.
Throughout this lesson, we’ll be reminded that God isn’t interested in buildings, He’s interested in us. He wants us to be worshippers. And because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we no longer need a temple—we have immediate and intimate access to God.
Jerusalem! What comes to mind when I mention that city? The name Jerusalem occurs 804 times in the Bible. Jerusalem also occurs many other times because it is called Zion, and so that’s why we sometimes sing Glorious things of Thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God.
One day God said to Abraham, “Abraham, I want you to sacrifice your son, Isaac.” Abraham, in obedience, walked three days to Mount Moriah, and there he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, and there the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “No, don’t do it,” and there was a ram that was caught in the thicket and he died in the place of Isaac. It was the mountain of sacrifice.
Then throughout the centuries, that area of the world went to the Jebusites, and after Israel is in Egypt they come back under Joshua, and what happens is that David conquers the City of Zion from the Jebusites. And David cannot build a temple. God says, “No, you can’t,” and then God says, “But you have a son by the name of Solomon, and he is going to build me a temple in Jerusalem.” So Solomon builds his temple in Jerusalem, and when he does, he prays a long prayer. Solomon’s temple, this glorious temple that was built through faith and through a great deal of work and hardship, was a place where God was going to dwell. And when Solomon was finished he prayed one of the longest prayers in the Bible. It’s actually 31 verses. I’m going to give you a few of those verses, and then there’s still a benediction of 5 or 6 verses.
Solomon prayed when he dedicated his temple and said, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.”
Wow! When Solomon had finished his prayer, the Bible says that the glory of God came into that temple. In fact, the glory of the Lord descended upon the temple in such a way that it was very clear that the priests even could not minister because the cloud of glory was there. Now that temple lasted 367 years – three and a half centuries – and in that temple also was the Ark of the Covenant. And the Ark of the Covenant was a box about five feet long and about two feet high and about two feet wide. And in that Ark of the Covenant were things like tablets – the tablets that Moses had from the mountain. Some of the original scrolls that Moses had were in that Ark. There was also a pot of manna. There were a number of different other things – Aaron’s rod that budded, for example.
And after 367 years you had the prophet Jeremiah who was warning the people and cautioning them and saying to them, “Please repent of your idolatry because if not, Israel is going to be destroyed, and the temple is going to be destroyed.” In fact, the prophet Ezekiel said that he saw the Shekinah Glory, the glory of God, as it went to the door of the temple and then it went through the Kidron Valley and eventually it disappeared over the Mount of Olives. The Glory had left Israel.
In 586 B.C. we have that great event when the Babylonians swooped down and they destroyed the city. The children of Israel living there suffered horrendously and terribly and they went through a terrible experience, and they were all hauled off to Babylon. Thousands of them were taken to Babylon.
After 70 years they return, and the temple is rebuilt under Zerubbabel. We don’t know a whole lot about the temple and its size and so forth, but we do know it had a pretty big footprint. It was quite a structure, and then Nehemiah comes to build the wall so that the city would have some kind of security, and after that period of time the Jews now are in that temple for a number of centuries - three or four centuries. They worship in that temple – Zerubbabel’s temple.
And then you have a man by the name of Herod come who represents, of course, the Romans. They came and conquered the land. And Herod said to the Jews, “I want to build a huge temple,” and what Herod did was he made sure that Zerubbabel’s temple and the building of his happened simultaneously. And he convinced the Jews that he was not really building a new temple. He was simply rebuilding and refurbishing theirs, but of course, really it was a new temple. That’s why when you go to Israel today, tour guides will talk about the first temple era. That’s of course the temple under Solomon. Then they’ll talk about the second temple. When I was there I thought, well, Herod’s temple should really be known as the third, but Herod convinced the Jews that he was only rebuilding the temple that they already had. In fact he used a thousand priests as masons to build that huge temple so that the Jews would not complain about common people going into the holy places.
Now after Herod’s temple was built, what we find is that it was grand, and this temple was begun in 20 B.C. and was not yet finished when Jesus was on earth. You see it was Herod’s temple that Jesus went into. It was the one where He experienced his dedication. It was the one where He went about with all of the Jews and would have various discussions with them. That was the temple that was built by Herod in 20 B.C., and yet at the same time what we find is that the temple wasn’t finished during the time of Jesus.
You see, Jesus one day was talking to his detractors, and He was standing there in the temple area. In John 2:18:21 it says, “So the Jews said to Him, ‘What sign do You show us for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking about the temple of his body.”
Now of course Jesus was there interacting with the Jews. He had come to die, and now we come to what we generally call Palm Sunday because Jesus was there on the Mount of Olives and He begins to descend toward the city of Jerusalem. He comes down the Mount of Olives and it is then that they had palm branches that they waved, and the children were shouting hosannas, and blankets were put out for Him as He rode down the Mount of Olives. But it is while He was there that He wept for the city. And Jesus said, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that kills the prophets and stones those who are come to thee! How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings? But you would not. Therefore your house is left to you desolate.” It takes your breath away.
One day Jesus was sitting there on the Mount of Olives and the Bible says that He was talking to His disciples and they were asking Him various questions about the future. It says first of all, “And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” But it was after that that Jesus is on the Mount of Olives, and He is surveying the temple of Herod and all of the complex buildings in that particular area. And Jesus sees it, and the Bible says He left the temple and was going away when His disciples came to point out the buildings of the temple, and they were very impressive. But He answered them, “You see all these things do you not? Truly I say to you there will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down.”
A little bit of history here! The Jews rebel against the Romans who were controlling their country. In 64 A.D. you have a great rebellion. Then in 70 A.D., six years later, you have Titus, the Roman general, who comes to the city of Jerusalem, and he surrounds the city. And the great historian, Josephus, tells us all about what happened, and it was terrible. I mean we’re talking about people starving, people thirsting to death from dehydration. I mean, I hate to say it publicly, but things were so bad that mothers were eating their own children. That’s the kind of suffering that the Jews endured. Hundreds of thousands were killed.
Now just imagine this for a moment. Here you have a temple that was finished six years ago, and Titus comes and destroys the temple. He takes it down stone by stone. There was this belief among the Romans that there was gold in the stones and so the temple is totally demolished. Today, of course, you can still see the great Herodian stones. If you’ve been to Israel you to go the Wailing Wall, as it is called, and here are stones that are tons. In fact, I read that one of the biggest stones was hundreds of tons. Now I know that that is difficult to grasp but you have to see these stones in order to believe it. And those stones that we see at the Wailing Wall are actually retaining stones, and as a result of that, what you have is the total destruction of Jerusalem at that time. No temple has been built in Jerusalem since then.
The Muslim armies came in 686 and they built two structures on the temple mount. One is known as the al-Aqsa Mosque. It’s the silver-domed building. It’s one of the holiest sites of Islam. The other is the golden-domed building called the Dome of the Rock. Why is it called the Dome of the Rock? If you were to go inside what you’d discover is that there is a rock. This rock was really at one time the part of a mountain, and it is there that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, because remember the Bible says that Solomon built his temple on Mount Moriah. And it could well be that on that stone, which at that time was the top of the hill, is exactly the place where Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac. Today it’s all filled in so you don’t recognize it. It’s also the place where God spoke to David, and as a result of that, David received a revelation right there.
It’s called the Dome of the Rock. Now in Islam the belief is that it is from that stone that Muhammad ascended into heaven. Now there’s no historical evidence that Muhammad ever was in Jerusalem, but nonetheless, either in a dream or in some kind of vision, the belief is that he went to Jerusalem and then ascended to heaven from what we call today The Dome of the Rock.
Now I believe that there is going to be another temple that is going to be built in Jerusalem. You know the Bible predicts that there is going to be a temple during the time of Antichrist. How this is going to happen we don’t know. We don’t have a clue, because right now there is no temple that could possibly be built upon the temple mount. But listen to this verse of Scripture predicting the time when a temple will be built. It says in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”
Now in the temple area there is enough room for a temple on the temple mount, but politically that seems impossible. Will there be an earthquake that destroys the Dome of the Rock? Could it be that Antichrist is going to have so much clout and so much power that he’ll actually be able to build a temple right next to the Dome of the Rock? I have no idea. But many of us believe that prophesies like this one have never yet been fulfilled. They relate to Antichrist, and someday there will be a temple in Jerusalem and Antichrist will enter and proclaim himself to be God. And the Bible says that all who dwell upon the face of the earth shall worship him except those whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before the foundation of the world.
Now of course the time is going to come when there is going to be a Battle or Armageddon as things begin to wrap up. All the armies are going to be arrayed against Jerusalem to take care of the Jerusalem question once and for all. And in the middle of this we read from the book of Zechariah that Jesus Christ is going to return to the Mount of Olives. How appropriate it is that Jesus was there, and the Bible says that He went up into heaven. And the angel said, “Why do you keep staring up into heaven? This same Jesus who has gone into heaven shall likewise come again.”
Now in the Acts passage it does not say expressly that Jesus is going to return to the Mount of Olives, but how appropriate the fact that He will. Listen to these words of Zechariah in chapter 14, verses 3 and 4: “Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.”
When you see the Mount of Olives, you notice that already it really does come in two parts. It’s like two mountains – two hills. We can imagine that when Jesus Christ descends there, that mountain is going to be split in two (the Bible says). The whole topography of the area is going to be radically changed. What a marvelous experience that is going to be because you and I are going to be with Jesus when He comes! That’s a larger topic, but we will have finished the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and according to Revelation 19, when Jesus Christ makes that huge descent to the Mount of Olives, His saints go with Him. And furthermore, we don’t have to do any fighting. He does it all. We just watch and we say, “Wow! He’s our Man.” And Jesus Christ is going to be the One who is going to finally bring peace to Jerusalem. He will finally bring peace to the Middle East because He will come with power, the Bible says, and great glory, and His saints will come with Him to the Mount of Olives. (applause)
Then Jesus establishes His Kingdom. His enemies will be defeated and He will say to His people, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Then we have what is known as the Millennial Kingdom, and there’s going to be a temple during the Millennium. Now this temple that is described in the book of Ezekiel is so unique, so special and so difficult to comprehend that artists sometimes have really struggled with what it’s going to look like. But this much we do know. It is going to have a river that is going to flow from it that is going to bless the world.
This is what it says in Ezekiel 47:1-7 about the water and the river in the Millennial temple. “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, have you seen this?’ Then he led me back to the bank of the river.”
And verse 12 says, “And on the banks on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” This is the Millennial Kingdom, which according to Revelation 20 is going to last for a thousand years.
Now during this period of time, the curse is only partially lifted. The lion and the lamb lie down together. There is peace in the animal world. It’s during this time that people say to one another, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us his ways and that we may walk in His paths. For out of Zion (the poetic name for Jerusalem) shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations far away; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.” That time is coming.
And then that isn’t the end of the age yet. The Bible says that the earth is destroyed. It is remade. It is destroyed by fire so that all sin finally has been totally taken care of. And then suddenly we’re introduced in the book of Revelation to a new vision of the city of Jerusalem.
And John said this in Revelation 21:1-4: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”
And then it says this in verses 22-23, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” There is no need for the sun or the moon, it says, because the Lamb is the lamp.
Think about this for a moment. The purpose of the temple was so that people could have fellowship with God and so that God could dwell with His people and still maintain His reputation and not be contaminated with sin. That’s why you have all these elaborate rituals and sacrifices in the Old Testament.
Now once we get to heaven and we are in the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, what we will discover is that there is no temple. Why? It’s because we have direct fellowship with God with no sin ever coming in between. Perhaps I’ve mentioned in a previous message that Joni Eareckson Tada said that the thing that she looks forward to most in heaven is not being able to park her wheelchair in the vestibule and send it to a place beneath heaven. She said that the thing that she looks forward to most is to be in the presence of God with His glory lighting us without any sin ever coming in between. The presence of Almighty God! And it’ll be our first experience of uncreated light. All the light that you and I see today is created light.
And so Jerusalem is the great city that you and I shall experience not only on earth but the heavenly Jerusalem, about which the Bible also speaks.
Now I’ve given you a quick tour of the history of the temples. I should have told you to fasten your seatbelts because we are flying over this like you fly in a jet plane, just looking at the very bare bones history. But why this history lesson at Moody Church today? I believe that the reason is there are some very important bottom lines. There are some very important lessons we must learn.
And number one is this. God does not care very much about buildings. He cares about the human heart. I just can’t get over this. To me it’s a big deal. You know that temple that Solomon built? If the Babylonians had not destroyed it, you could still see it today. I have no doubt about the fact. I mean they built these things with such stones, and even if his temple had not lasted all these centuries, Herod’s would have. Huge temple! Huge stones! And God says, “Not one will be left upon another.”
Now remember, as I explained, the temple is finally finished in 64 A.D. Six years later it was totally destroyed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go to Israel and say, “Come to Israel with some of our people who are going – with Michael Rydelnik for example - and we’ll be able to walk in Herod’s Temple. We’ll be able to walk exactly where Jesus walked. We’ll see Solomon’s Porch. It will be all there.” It would be great, wouldn’t it? God says, “I don’t care about the bigness of the building. I don’t care about all of the energy that you put into it. I don’t have your heart, and that’s what matters to Me.”
And you can go to Washington, D.C., today and see our buildings and our nation’s capital, most of them with verses of Scripture engraved in them, and today it is all washed away, as we drift into secularism, and with it a great deal of paganism and hostility actually to Jesus. And God says, “I don’t care about those buildings either. I don’t care about any buildings. I want your heart.”
One day Jesus was talking to a woman of Samaria, and the woman said to Him, “You know, our fathers worshiped in this mountain.” And she pointed to Mount Gerizim, which is right next to Jacob’s Well. I’ve been there – way back in 1968. And Jesus said, “The day is coming when neither here in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” Jesus said, “It doesn’t matter where you live. It’s no longer a matter of an earthly temple. You worship in spirit and in truth, and you can do that in any place you live around the world.”
Sometimes people are turned off by the Church. They say, “All that the Church wants is our money.” Well, we need money in order to function. We sure do. Ministry is generated because of money, and money is invested to produce results in ministry. But actually God doesn’t want your money at all. He wants your heart, and of course, if He has your heart the money will flow from that. God wants you as a person. He wants you to be a worshiper. And today we have no temple, and we don’t need one because when Jesus Christ died on the cross, His death was a sacrifice for sinners, and as a result of that we now come into the very Holy of Holies through the blood of Jesus. We come where the high priest could only go one day a year. The Bible says, “into the holy place by the blood of Jesus.” We have access to God. We have intimate access to God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
And you know the Holy of Holies? Of course it never did reside again in the temples of Jerusalem. After it left and the temple was destroyed, we don’t know what happened to it. Perhaps it went to Babylon when the Babylonians came and took the temple. Ethiopia thinks that it has the Ark somewhere. Jimmy DeYoung said that a rabbi said to him that he saw the Ark under the city of Jerusalem in an archeological dig. We don’t know where that Ark is. We don’t know where the Holy of Holies once was. But this we do know: We know today that the Holy of Holies actually exists in our hearts. Did you know that? God says, “I take up residence not only with My people but I indwell My people,” and He makes it very clear that that’s where the Holy of Holies now resides.
God wants your heart. If you have never received Jesus Christ as your Savior, today would be a good day. He’s not after your money. He’s after your heart, and He wants us to be His worshipers.
There’s a second lesson, and that is that the world cannot have peace until Jerusalem has peace. I mean when you stop to think of it, all of the attempts of peace in the Middle East are all doomed to fail primarily because our Palestinian friends believe that there can be no peace unless Israel is pushed into the sea. And God says, “That’s not going to happen.” As a matter of fact, in the book of Zechariah the name Jerusalem (that word) occurs 39 times. God says He will come and He will defend Jerusalem. He says that He is going to make sure that the enemies of Jerusalem are going to be destroyed, etc. etc. God says, “I am going to send My Son,” and until Jesus arrives on the Mount of Olives (and don’t you wish it were soon?) there will really be no peace in the world.
When we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we should pray that. In effect what we are praying for is for the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. Only He will bring peace to Jerusalem. And so we should recognize that Jerusalem is really a ground zero as far as prophecy is concerned. The city of Jerusalem is the place where everything is going to happen. Armageddon is going to be in that vicinity, and Jesus Christ is going to return and we are going to be a part of that throng.
There can be no real peace in the world. Today Jesus does give us peace within our hearts, but there can be no real peace in the world until Jesus comes and the Prince of Peace establishes it.
There’s a final lesson, and that is simply this. It’s not over yet. It’s not over until it’s over. This past Wednesday in prayer meeting, I told the folks that were there what I was going to preach on Sunday, that I was going to give a brief history of the city of Jerusalem. And there was a woman who prayed very fervently. And she said, “Lord, we thank You today that as we look around, it isn’t over yet.” And I told her, “I’m going to use that in my sermon.” Watch what you pray. You might hear it again.
It’s not over. You know, when you go to the city of Jerusalem, if you can, go to the Temple Mount. I’ve been up there a number of times, and we think of that golden dome building that is there called the Dome of the Rock. The Muslims built the Dome of the Rock in the year 638. I believe that’s when building began and then it was built over a period of time.
I’m going to speak to you very candidly today by saying that that particular building is really an insult to Jesus.
It’s an insult to Jesus because what you find on the mosaics both on the inside of the building and on the outside are these words. “The Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, is only an apostle of Allah. Believe therefore in god and his apostles and say not three. It will be better for you. Allah is only one god. Far be it from his transcendent majesty that he should have a son.” And so what is said there is that Jesus isn’t God. God could not possibly become flesh. You know that in Islam, to believe that is the greatest of sins, and yet this is right there on the Temple Mount and has been there for about 14 centuries. Imagine that! The Temple Mount where Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac! It’s the mount of sacrifice where God appeared to David. It’s the place where sacrifices were offered. It’s the place where the Holy of Holies was. It’s the place where the glory of God once descended and then left because of Israel’s disobedience. This is a very sacred place, and yet there you have the Dome of the Rock, standing in defiance of the triumph of Jesus.
So I want to be very clear today and tell you that the Dome of the Rock is not the last word about Jesus and Jerusalem. (applause) Iran does not have the last word about Jesus and Jerusalem. The United Nations does not have the last word about Jesus and Jerusalem. (applause) Washington does not have the last word about Jesus and Jerusalem. (applause)
God says, “I love the gates of Zion.” Jerusalem is going to be exalted in all the earth. He said in Zechariah, “I’m going to make it a cup of trembling,” so that those who plan to hang onto it are going to stagger as if they are drunk. And Jesus is going to come. He’s going to return, the Book says, and defend His people. And He will vindicate Himself because Jerusalem is the place where He says that righteousness will someday rule and where the worship of the King of kings and Lord of lords will take place. (applause) And someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (applause)
It ain’t over, because it isn’t over yet, and we rejoice in the triumph of Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be exalted and that’s why we sing:
Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
God, whose word cannot be broken,
formed thee for His own abode.
And it will happen.
Let’s bow together in prayer.
Father, we want to thank You today for this blessed city. We ask, Lord, that even as we have toured its history, it might be with the reminder that no matter what we see, it’s not over yet. And we ask today, Father, that with the faith of those who believe your Word we may be confident that Jerusalem will be exalted, Jesus will be honored, He will be crowned King, which He already is, and we shall worship Him forever and ever. Thank You. We pray this in His name, Amen. Amen.