Selected highlights from this sermon.
Jerusalem is God’s favorite city. It’s where He’s chosen to put His name, and it’s where Christ will return in all of His glory.
From Abraham to David to Jesus and His return to Earth, Pastor Lutzer takes us through a sweeping history (and future) of the City of David.
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As I’ve thought about this series that I am doing entitled Great Cities of the Bible, it’s been very frustrating to me because I wish I had spent three or four weeks on Babylon. I wish that I had scheduled it so that I would have preached three or four messages, or perhaps six, on the city of Jerusalem. I hope that Jerusalem is your favorite city. I really do. You say, “Well, I’ve never really been there,” perhaps. Well, the fact is that Jerusalem should be your favorite city whether you’ve been there or not.
Why should Jerusalem be your favorite city? Let me tell you why. It’s because it is God’s favorite city. Two times in 1 Kings chapter 11, and many other times throughout the Old Testament, God constantly says, “Jerusalem is the city that I have chosen to put my name there.” God says that He has chosen Jerusalem. It is God’s favorite city.
Some of us have had the privilege of being in Jerusalem, and when you go through some of those old gates that lead into the city - smelly, dusty, dirty, and into some narrow alleys and streets, how often I have thought of Psalm 87:2 where the Lord says, “I love the gates of Zion more than all the other cities, and all the other places in Judah.” God says He loves the gate of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is God’s favorite city. He loves it and you ought to love it too.
Not only should we be interested because God loves Jerusalem, but Jerusalem is God’s timepiece, if you will. I want you to know that some very interesting events have taken place in Jerusalem. Some of them will be mentioned this morning, but also it is important for you to know that Jerusalem is going to be the focal point of where history as we know it is going to finally come to its inglorious, as well as glorious, end. And Jerusalem is going to be the place where it’s all going to happen. It is sometimes said that ancient maps made the city of Jerusalem the center of the world. And in that sense they are right because soon all eyes are going to be focused, not just on Israel. Jerusalem is going to be the center of a climactic incredible glorious worldwide event.
Now just a couple of thoughts regarding the beginning of the city of Jerusalem, and I’m going to ask you to turn to two passages of Scripture, and actually three and maybe four. But let’s begin with Genesis 22. And if you can, find two passages simultaneously – Genesis 22 and 2 Chronicles 3:1. Do you think you can do both at the same time? I know you can because I’m doing it. And if I can, you can. I said that in a class one day when I was teaching at Moody Bible Institute. I said, “Whatever I can do you students can do,” and one in the back row said, “Better.” Well, that’s probably true.
In Genesis 22 God says, “Abraham, take your son and sacrifice him.” And where was he supposed to sacrifice him? In verse 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Did you get it? Mount Moriah! Well, where is Mount Moriah? It occurs one other time in the Bible and that’s in 2 Chronicles 3:1, the passage that you’ve just turned to: “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father (David also had a very interesting experience there, as did Abraham, and notice), at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”
When you look at the city of Jerusalem today and you see the Golden Dome Building on the Temple Mound, remember it is there that the original temple of Solomon stood. It is there where Abraham proved his love for God by being willing to sacrifice Isaac on the altar. Now after Abraham left that area of the country, and of course, his seed eventually went into Egypt, hundreds of years traversed and Jerusalem grew up to be a strong, fortified Canaanite city with walls that were tough and hard to get over.
But David became king. Saul was the first king of Israel. Then David became king, and it is David who captured the city of Jerusalem and transferred it into his capital. And that story is found in 2 Samuel, chapter 5. It’s the other passage that I want you to see for just a moment. David originally reigned at Hebron. That’s where he set up his kingdom, but it says in verse 6: “And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David (and they were taunting him, making fun of him), ‘You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off (turn you away)’ (In other words they were saying, “Even the blind and the lame can defend this city.”) thinking, ‘David cannot come in here.’ Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion (and Zion, as you know, is the poetic name for Jerusalem that referred to one of the hills and then became associated with the whole city), that is, the city of David. And David said on that day, ‘Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack “the lame and the blind,” who are hated by David's soul.’” And the Bible says in Chronicles that it was Joab that did it.
Now, you have to understand that the Jebusites felt secure because here were the walls of the city, and the big problem in Jerusalem was water, but the Guyon Spring was just outside the city, and they diverted water through a tunnel so that they could get water into the city without even going outside of it. And that’s why they felt so secure.
David said, “Whoever is going to go onto it, you have to go through the water tunnel.” And Joab said, “I’m going to do it,” and he snuck through the water tunnel, undoubtedly opening the gates of the city, and David’s men rushed in and the Jebusite city collapsed and became the property of David, and he established his kingdom there. He brought the people from Hebron, and they came and they set up the capital in the city of Jerusalem.
Now what I’d like to do today is to give you five stages in Jerusalem’s history. And I know I need to do this quickly. I’m not going to expect you to remember every date, but I’m going to be throwing out centuries like Frisbees. You know sometimes we think America is 200 years old; we’re an old country. Two hundred years is nothing in comparison to Jerusalem. Two hundred years is like a flash in the pan. We’re going to talk about centuries here. We’re going to talk about five centuries, six centuries, ten, nineteen centuries. We’re just going to throw them all out and you are going to take a tour with me, and we want you to fasten your seatbelt and relax, but we’re in for a ride.
First of all, you have what is called the First Temple Period in Jerusalem’s history, dating from about the year 1,000 to 586 B.C. – five centuries. You see, after David became the King of Israel, Solomon, of course, followed him, and it was Solomon who built that beautiful grand temple. And I intended to read some verses but I’m not going to. On your own read 1 Kings, chapter 6 to chapter 9, where you have a description of this incredibly ornate building. And at its dedication the Glory of God came so powerfully upon that temple that it says that the priests were unable to minister as the cloud and the Shekinah Glory came into Solomon’s Temple. Incredible! You read the descriptions and the archeologists and historians and the architects simply drooled over what Solomon built – the Temple of grandeur and splendor. But after Solomon, there was a division and there was a southern kingdom and the Jerusalem folks and those who were in Judea, of course, continued to have their capital in Jerusalem, but there was a revolt of some of the tribes, and they said, “We’re having our own capital.” And so they went and they made Samaria their capital. Samaria is both a city and an area. And they said, “We’re going to rule from there.”
So throughout hundreds of years of Israel’s history you have a whole line of kings that reigned from Jerusalem, and a whole line of kings that reigned from the Northern Kingdom in Samaria. The Northern Kingdom finally went into captivity in 722 B.C. when the Assyrians came and took at least 27,000 of the Jews with them into Assyria, and they were dispersed among the nations. It was God’s judgment because of their idolatry. But the Southern Kingdom, headquartered in Jerusalem, continued for another 136 years. Finally in 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, came and not only took the vessels of the city of Jerusalem back to Babylon, but he took Solomon’s Temple and it was totally demolished, totally taken apart and destroyed so badly that only recently archeologists have said that they have found any of its ruins deep underneath The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. And that was the end of Solomon’s Temple – 586 B.C.
Now you must understand that the Babylonians also took many people from Jerusalem captive into Babylon, and those who went as teenagers, when they came back 70 years later, remembered the glory of Solomon’s Temple. And they decided to build a temple too, but it was so small and so puny that it says that the older men stood around and they wept when they remembered it in comparison with Solomon’s Temple, because if they were 15 years old when they were taken into captivity they would have remembered Solomon’s Temple. Now coming back they were men of 85. And Zerubbabel built it and Zechariah was one of the prophets, and he said to them, “Please don’t despise the day of small things. We know that this can’t compare to Solomon’s Temple, but at least it is a place to worship.” And that temple that was built served the Jews for five centuries. For 500 years it stood there to service them.
In 19 B.C. a man comes, a Roman ruler by the name of King Herod, under whose leadership and jurisdiction Jesus Christ was born. In 19 B.C. Herod said, “I want to build the Jews a real big temple.” The Jews said, “No, we don’t want your temple for two reasons. Number one, we wouldn’t have a place to meet if you tore this temple town. And number two, we don’t want unsanctified Gentiles working in a holy place where the Holy of Holies is going to be. We don’t want your temple.”
But King Herod was not only an evil king. He was also a politician. Forgive me for putting those two descriptions so closely together. And he said to them, “I’ve got an answer for you. Number one, we won’t tear the old one down. We’ll just renovate it.” He said, “We will build a brand new one over it. In fact, the building of the new one and the tearing down of the old one will go on simultaneously.” And secondly, he trained one thousand priests to work as masons so that no Gentile would have to go into the Holy of Holies, into the inner shrine. And he said that the priests could do it, and therefore he satisfied the people, and he began a building project that lasted from 19 B.C. all the way to 64 A.D. long after he was dead. And it’s that temple that Jesus Christ was in. So the second temple period is basically 538 B.C. to 70 A.D.
Now turn to John 2 for just a moment. You’ll notice that Jesus cleansed that temple. Here’s the story. It says in John 2:14: “In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.” And then Jesus is asked for a sign. And He says in verse 19, “‘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,” and they misunderstood Him.
But notice this: When Jesus was cleansing the Temple it had already been 46 years in building, and it still wasn’t completed even though King Herod was long dead. So you must understand that this then is the Second Temple period. It is the period of the temple in which Jesus was.
Now turn to Luke 21, and this will probably be the last passage I’m going to ask you to turn to today. But in Luke 21 Jesus and his disciples are sitting on the Mount of Olives, and they are having a discussion regarding Jerusalem, and they see this glorious temple that Herod has built, and it says in verses 5 and 6, “And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be torn down.’” And they questioned Him as to when this was going to be, and he begins to talk about the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus. Seventy A.D., you see! The Temple was completed in 64 A.D. Six years after the Temple was completed, Titus and all of his armies come and they surround the city of Jerusalem. And in order to basically explain how he captured the city of Jerusalem, it would be wonderful to give a one-hour lecture.
Titus was there with his armies and the city of Jerusalem was literally starved. The things that took place were so terrible it is impossible to even speak about them in a public audience. Women were taken. Men were taken. They were crucified. They were hung outside of the city in Roman crucifixion. The stench was so incredibly difficult that people just looked in despair upon the way in which the Romans were capturing the city of Jerusalem. Everything that Jesus said about the terror of those days was true and a whole lot more beside. But in 70 A.D. Jerusalem fell then to the Romans.
Now I want you to look at Luke 21 because there’s another verse or two that you have to see. Jesus said in verse 23: “Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.” Verse 24: “They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations….”
You see after 70 A.D. the Jews were dispersed throughout the whole world – to the Soviet Union, to Europe, to Britain, eventually to America – all throughout the nations, just as Jesus predicted. But notice it says:
“… and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Jerusalem will be in Gentile hands until that time is fulfilled. That’s 19 centuries.
Now I’ve told you about the First Temple period that ends in 586 B.C. I told you about the second that ends really with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. – the first Temple and the second Temple. Now what we’d like to do is to take a tour through the times of the Gentiles. What’s been happening in Jerusalem in the last nineteen hundred years since the destruction of the Temple? What’s been going on? Let me give you seven time periods, and just stick with me through this fascinating tour of nineteen centuries. Aren’t you glad that my lecture is going to be a lot shorter than the time period that we’re going to cover?
First of all, you have the Roman period. That’s from 70 A.D. to 330 A.D. – two and a half centuries. During the Roman period the emperor Hadrian came to Jerusalem and he transformed it into a Roman town. The Romans brought people and they populated the city of Jerusalem and they made it into a thoroughly Roman city – two and a half centuries.
Then you have the Byzantine period, which is 330 to 638. Toss out another three Frisbees – another three centuries. What in the world is the Byzantine period and why should you be interested in it? Oh my goodness! One day my wife and I were in Rome and I said to the young man who is the son of some missionaries, “Please take me to the bridge. Take me to the river.” And I explained to him where I wanted to go, and he knew where it was, and he took me there. And incredibly I saw it with my own eyes. What did I see? One day in that very spot Constantine was crossing the river in order to take the city of Rome and he saw in the sky a sign that said, “In this sign conquer,” and he assumed that it was the sign of the Christian God. And he had all of his men baptized, and they all began to have crosses on their helmets. And he (quote) became a Christian, and because Constantine became emperor, he Christianized all of the Roman Empire. The persecutions ended and he began to exalt the Church, and because of the Treaty of Milan all of Christendom therefore was free now to become Christian, and if you weren’t a Christian you were now persecuted. The shoe was on the other foot.
Constantine changed the pages of Church history forever in ways that I could never possibly explain today. What did he do? He decided to move the capital from Rome to a city called Byzantium, which was a Greek city, which he loved, and he said, “This is going to be the capital, and I’m going to rename it after myself, and I’m going to call it Constantinople, after me, Constantine.” Today it is the city of Istanbul.
As a result of his influence and the continuation of what is called the Eastern Roman Empire, you have the Byzantine Period from 330 to 638, and it was Constantine’s mother, Helena, bless her heart, who traveled to the land of Israel. And she went and she found all of the holy sites, and wherever Constantine’s mother, Helena, went that’s where a church was built because she said, “The site of the Holy Sepulcher is here,” so the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built there. She went to Bethlehem, and she said, “I believe that the Church of the Nativity should be here,” because tradition says that this is where Christ was born, and that’s where the Church of the Nativity was built. The Byzantine Period can be clearly seen when you go to Israel today with all of the Byzantine architecture and what have you – three centuries.
And then thirdly, you have the first Muslim period – 638 to 1099 A.D. Toss out another four centuries. It was during this period of time that Muhammad began the Islam faith, and you know the stories of Medina and Mecca, and eventually he came to Jerusalem, which is Islam’s third holiest city. And as a result, the land of Israel came under the domination of the Islam religion, and when you see that beautiful Dome of the Rock in the Temple area that was dedicated in the year 691, you see, after the time of Muhammad. And it is overwhelming to think that that structure has been standing there for thirteen hundred years.
I need to pause here. I can’t get over it. No steel, no cranes, no Caterpillars, no engines, and people built these massive structures that stand century after century after century after century. It is truly awesome. That’s the first Muslim period.
Then you have the Crusader period. In about the year 1099, Pope Urban II said, “I want you to know that if you are willing to leave Europe and to go to the Holy Land you will be instantly forgiven all of your sins. If you cannot go, you can send a substitute, and that will forgive your sins. So what you need to do is to go there and to liberate the Holy Land from the infidels, the Muslims.” Five thousand left on the first crusade, but you know that there were waves and waves of crusades, one after another, making sure that the Holy Land was liberated. And liberated - in quotes - it was. Toss out another hundred years here – 1099 to 1187. All through Israel today you can go and you can see Crusader castles and Crusader buildings because the Crusaders were great builders, and these buildings are a thousand years old.
Then you have the later Muslim period. They returned in 1187 to 1517. Toss out another four centuries in which the land of Israel was under Muslim control.
Then you have what is known as the Turkish period. In 1517 Luther was putting his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg – 1517 to 1917. Another four centuries! What did the Turks do? They captured Constantinople – Istanbul if you please. They began to rule that area of the world. There was a man by the name of Suleiman the Magnificent who ruled all of the eastern block there of the Roman Empire. It is under his leadership that the present walls of the city of Jerusalem were built four hundred years ago, and you can see those walls still standing today, built of solid rock, and probably would be willing to stand another couple of dozen centuries if they were allowed to.
Then finally you have the British period, which was very brief – 1917 to 1948. Palestine was wrested out of the hands of the Turks and given to the British. And the British found it too difficult because there were some Jews and there were wars, and there were all kinds of conflicts that we’re not even able to speak about today. And then because of the Second World War and the Jews losing so many people under Hitler, the decision was made that Israel would be made into a state, and that of course, was 1948 among many, many battles and wars with the Arabs.
But Jerusalem was still trodden underfoot by the Gentiles. It was not in the hands of the Jews. As a matter of fact, Israel was a divided city. There was a Jewish quarter, a Muslim quarter, a Christian quarter, and an Armenian quarter. And there was the city of Jerusalem divided until 1967. In that war the Israelis not only captured the old city but they captured the territory all the way to the Jordan River, which is known as the West Bank, which is so disputed today. And finally Israel has total control of the city of Jerusalem – 1967.
Now look at your Bible again. In Luke 21 it says that Jerusalem must be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. And many people think that 1967 ended the times of the Gentiles. Jerusalem is now under Israeli control. Interestingly the return of Christ in verse 25 is closely associated with the end of the period of the Gentiles. It says, “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations.” And Jesus launches into a discussion regarding His glorious appearing. That’s just one more reason why some people think that we must be surely nearing the return of Jesus Christ because it seems as if the times of the Gentiles has been fulfilled. Jerusalem is no longer trampled underfoot by them, but at least it is under Israeli control, though of course, the Muslims are also allowed to use the city.
So much for the Gentile period! The First Temple period, the Second Temple period, the Gentile period! Fourthly, the Jerusalem of the future is the fourth stage in this great city. What is going to happen in Jerusalem? Keep your eye on the city of Jerusalem because there are going to be terrible events that are going to take place, one a very horrendous event and one filled with incredible blessing and benediction for the whole earth.
First of all, the bad news! The Bible says in Zechariah 14 the Battle of Armageddon is going to take place throughout all of Israel, but the focus will be Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:2 says: “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.”
Stop there for just a moment. What’s going to happen is this: All the nations of the earth eventually are going to turn against the Jews because, you see, once Antichrist has control, and once things begin to go badly in the world, if there’s anything that Satan wants it’s the extermination of the Jews so that he can prove God a liar because God said they were going to inhabit the land. They were going to inhabit it forever. That has not yet happened in the way in which God promised it, and therefore, what Satan wants to do is to exterminate the Jews. And consequently all the nations of the earth are going to be in battle, standing before Jerusalem. People are going to be so sick and tired of the intransience and the stubbornness of the Israeli government that they are going to say, “The only thing that we can do is to blot these people out from the face of the earth.”
Parenthetically, I love James Baker. I’m sure glad that I’m not James Baker. I look at the time zones that that man crosses in his jet plane, shuttling in the Middle East and between the Middle East and Washington. And I don’t understand how in the world he even remembers his name by the time he gets back to Washington. He’s trying to find peace, and we ought to pray that he will be blessed in doing so. But I’m here today to tell you it’s not going to come except for very short periods of time when naive people will rejoice, not understanding what’s at stake.
Let me tell you what’s at stake. I told you at the beginning of this message that God says, “Abraham, I’m going to give you a son.” And God gave Abraham Isaac. And Isaac became the heir of the promise. You have Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that became the line then that God is going to bless and give the land to. Right? Twenty-six hundred years after the time of Abraham, Muhammad comes along, and decides to write a book called the Quran, and rewrites it in accordance with the way in which he wished history would have occurred. So in the Quran you do not have Abraham sacrificing Isaac. You have Abraham sacrificing Ishmael, who is generally the father of the Arabs. And therefore, the Arabs believe that through Ishmael they are the ones who receive the heir of the promise. They are the ones to whom Allah owes the land. So, you see, the dispute is not just political. The dispute is not just historical. At root, the dispute is religious, and the question that is being settled in the Middle East is two gods are squaring off against one another. You have Allah of the Muslim faith, and then you have Jehovah of the Jews. And the question is, which god is right? Which god gave whomever the Land? That’s what’s at stake, and that’s not going to be settled. Antichrist is going to make a covenant with the nation Israel that will last only 3½ years. It will look good, but at the end of the 3½ years even Antichrist turns against the Jews, and then all of the nations of the earth come and they gather against Jerusalem.
And does God stay in heaven and say, “I’m not going to defend my people? They sin so much. Go ahead and blot them out.” No! God’s reputation is at stake. That’s not going to happen. Look at what the text says in verses 3 and 4 of Zechariah 14: “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.” Christ is going to return. He’s going to return at the very moment when it looks as if the city of Jerusalem is going to be totally destroyed. And He is going to fight against all of the enemies, and He is going to defend His people. And that generation of Jews living in that era is going to look at Him and recognize Him as the Messiah, and they are going to believe and be saved. And that’s the way in which it will eventually end.
And after that you have the Millennial Kingdom when Jerusalem is exalted among the nations. Look at what Isaiah said: “And many peoples shall come, and say: 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 shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; 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.” And in the end, Christ is going to be victorious, and the kingdom will be established with its capital in Jerusalem.
Now there’s a final stage, and that is the eternal Jerusalem because that kingdom which God has instituted is going to go on, and then eventually it is going to be absorbed into an eternal city – the eternal city of Jerusalem, which John saw in the book of Revelation.
And now I’m going to be quoting some passages of Scripture from Revelation 21 and 22.
And I, John, saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men.” And he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God. And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more sorrow or crying or death. Neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things have passed away.
And he carried me away in the Spirit. And I saw that New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, from God, and its light was like unto a stone most precious, even as a jasper stone, clear as crystal. And I saw no temple therein for the Lord God is the temple of it, and the lamb is the lamp thereof. And the nations of them, which are saved, shall walk in the light of it and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and their honor into it. And I saw, as it were, a pure river of water of life, flowing from the stream. And in the midst of the street of it, on either side of the river was there the tree of life, which bears twelve manners of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it. And his servants shall serve Him, and His name shall be on their foreheads, and they shall reign with Him forever and ever.
Blessed is he who washes his garments that he may eat of the tree of life that he may be able to enter through the gates into the city. And the Spirit and the bride say come, and let him that heareth say come, and let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. Behold I come quickly. Even so come, Lord Jesus.
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