“For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. ‘This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.’” (Psalm 132:13–14)
From ancient times until the present, Jerusalem has been one of the most sought after cities in the world.
It continues to be so. Today, perhaps more than any other time in history, people, groups, and nations dispute whom Jerusalem should belong to. It seems that internationally speaking, all eyes are on Jerusalem.
Why is this city so important?
Jerusalem in the Heart of God
The most decisive statements regarding the importance of Jerusalem are found in the Bible, which states that Jerusalem is the City of God and the City of the Great King (Psalm 48).
Zechariah 3:2 says that “the Lord has chosen Jerusalem.” He has chosen to dwell on Mount Zion forever, according to Psalms 68:16 and 132:13–14. It is His resting place.
Because He claims this mountain as His own, God is “very jealous for Jerusalem.” He tells us: “I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there My house will be rebuilt.” (Zechariah 1:14, 16)
Though men of ancient days have placed their own nations at the center of their world maps, Ezekiel 5:5 and 38:12 says Jerusalem is the center of the nations and the earth. No other city can claim this Divine placement in the eyes of God.
It seems “natural” that since God will reign from Jerusalem, the enemy will do whatever he can to hold on to whatever power he has and move against God’s plan for salvation.
But naturally speaking, Jerusalem has nothing really to recommend itself. It has no resources of its own, and it’s 27 miles from the coast, not an ideal location for a nation’s capital.
Nevertheless, it stands tall in its calling to be a light to the nations as a shining city on a hill.
Jerusalem in the Plan of God
Many prophecies have been pronounced over Jerusalem. Some have already been fulfilled, but others are yet to be.
For example, in Jeremiah 3:17 God promises that the nations will gather to worship Him in Jerusalem — “At that time they will call Jerusalem The
Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD.”
Despite this glorious future, or perhaps because of it, Jerusalem is in a continuous battle.
We learn in Zechariah 12 that God intends to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling for the surrounding nations (v. 2) and a heavy immovable rock for the nations that gather against her (v. 3). This will culminate in the war of Gog and Magog.
Ezekiel 38:4 says that God would put hooks in the mouth of Gog, the leader of a coalition of nations who will draw them all into war against Israel. Of course, we are already seeing signs of this as the international community continues to come against Israel, and more specifically Jerusalem.
On April 4, 1950, just two years after Israel became a nation, the UN’s General Assembly passed the Statute of the City of Jerusalem, which establishes guidelines and regulations for ruling Jerusalem as an international regime.
If this United Nations resolution were to be enforced, it would be a game changer.
However, in 1980, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed the Jerusalem Law, declaring Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of Israel.
And a few thousand years ago, Psalm 48:8 declared Jerusalem to be the “City of the LORD,” — but not just any Lord. This LORD is specifically identified by name as YHWH — the covenant name that the Most High God first revealed to Moses.
We find throughout the Psalms and Prophets that Jerusalem is called the “City of YHWH.” (Psalm 101:8; Jeremiah 31:38; Isaiah 60:14)
Daniel also tells us that the city and its people are called by His name (9:19).
And in Isaiah 60:14, we are told that Jerusalem is called “Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”
No god other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) can claim Jerusalem as their own. And no other people group can claim Jerusalem as their inheritance except those who have called the God of Israel, Yahweh, their LORD.
The Making of the City of the LORD
Jerusalem is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 14:18, a passage that tells us Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, the King of Salem. Shalem means be complete or peaceable in Hebrew. It is the root word of Yerushalem (Jerusalem) and of shalom (peace).
Indeed, God intends that Jerusalem be a city of peace, which it will be in the completion of time.
In Jerusalem, Melchizedek ministered to Abraham after Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family had been captured in a war between several city-states.
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14:18–20)
Unlike the priests of pagan deity abundant in the region, Melchizedek speaks of the “most high God who is Creator of heaven and earth.” This is the same God that Abram (Abraham) worshiped at a time when very few knew of this one true God.
There is not a lot said about Melchizedek in the Bible but what is said points us to the Messiah.
Speaking prophetically of the Messiah, David refers to him in Psalm 110:4: “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’”
So this king and high priest over ancient Jerusalem was a forerunner of the Messiah.
Hebrews 7:1–2 refers to Melchizedek as being both “king of Salem and priest of God most High,” and explains that “the name Melchizedek means ‘king of righteousness’; then also, ‘king of Salem’ means ‘king of peace.’”
Here again, Melchizedek alludes to the righteousness of the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus), who would become the King of Peace.
Hebrews 7 goes on to describe this high priest as “without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.” (Hebrews 7:3)
The fact that Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God, reigned from Salem is further evidence of the importance of Jerusalem in God’s plan for humanity.
Although the city was called Salem in Melchizedek’s time, by the time of Joshua, it was called Jerusalem. In fact, the name “Yerushalem” is first mentioned in the Bible in Joshua 10:1.
At this time, Joshua fought a battle with the king of the city, who was called Adonai-zedek (Lord of righteousness), and with his coalition of kings.
On that day, God performed an amazing miracle: the sun and the moon stood still until Israel totally defeated her enemies. The one true Lord of Righteousness prevailed.
While Joshua captured the city, he did not establish a community in it, and its name eventually reverted back to Salem.
Jerusalem in Jewish Heritage
“So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.’” (Isaiah 28:16)
Although Jerusalem essentially remained in the hands of the Jebusites for 440 years after the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel, King David made it the capital more than 3,000 years ago. The city has ever since played a central role in Jewish existence.
The location was an unlikely one for David to place his capital, but it had great spiritual significance for the Jewish people because on this very mountain Abraham brought Isaac — his only son by his barren and aged wife Sarah — to be a sacrifice unto God. We read in Genesis 22:2:
“Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love — Isaac — and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’”
It then says in verse 14: “So Abraham called that place Adonai Yirah [The Lord Will Provide]. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’”
Of course, God did provide a ram as a sacrifice in place of Abraham’s son Isaac, which many believe is a representation of the Lamb of God, who was given for sin.
Even though David conquered the city and could have taken the Mount as plunder, he legally purchased the deed to it from the Jebusite Araunah (see 2 Samuel 24:24 and 1 Chronicles 21:25).
Here on this mount lies the Even ha-Shetiyah or the Foundation Stone. Judaism believes that not only were the First and Second Temples built on this stone but the entire earth.
Indeed, Jerusalem is also connected with Eden. Genesis 2:8 says that Adam was placed eastward from where he was created, leading the Jewish sages to argue that he must have first existed in the location of Jerusalem.
While David could not build the Temple that he so longed to erect, God allowed His son Solomon who reigned c. 970–931 BC to build it.
1 Kings 9:10 says that it took Solomon 20 years to build the Temple and his palace.
All that remains of the Temple today is the platform itself and the Western Wall or Kotel in Hebrew. It is a small section of the ancient retaining wall originally constructed as a part of the expansion of the Second Temple by Herod.
This area is today considered the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray.
It is believed that the wall is part of the structure Herod built around 19 BC. Just over half of the wall is exposed. The very large stone blocks in the wall are Herodian while the smaller medium-sized stones above these were added during the Umayyad era (an Arab caliphate lasting from AD 661 to 750), topped by smaller stones added mostly during the Ottoman period.
The exact location of the Temple is unknown but is believed to have stood where the Dome of the Rock (a memorial to the Foundation Stone) now stands. That mount remains the most disputed real estate in the world.
Jerusalem in the Jewish Faith
Jerusalem has been central to the Jewish faith for some 3,000 years. The city is a reflection of the Jewish People’s past, present, and future, which is understood through the lens of Bible prophecy.
Whether the Jewish People have been in Israel or in exile, Jerusalem has remained the heart of the Jewish People. The city is so central to Judaism that Jews pray in the direction of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
On the Ninth of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the First and Second Temples, they recite, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand whither.”
Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are remembered even during a Jewish wedding ceremony when a glass is broken as a reminder of the destruction of the Holy Temple.
In the eternal hope of returning to Jerusalem from their exile in the nations, both the Passover Seder and the Yom Kippur liturgy end with “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
And speaking of holidays, the Bible states that the Jewish People were to come to Jerusalem three times a year: Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles).
Jerusalem in the Muslim Tradition
“Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24)
Although the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque are located on the Temple Mount, where Muslims have prayed since the 7th century, Jerusalem has never been particularly important to Islam.
It has never been a Muslim cultural center or a Muslim or Arab capital. In fact, during the 19 years that Jordan ruled Jerusalem (1949–1967), it made no attempt to make this city the capital of a Palestinian state.
Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran. It does speak of a night vision (Lailat al Miraj) experienced by Mohammed in which he is transported from Mecca and carried up to heaven from the “farthest Mosque” while riding a white stallion.
It became a tradition to identify the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem with this dream.
Muslims also contend that the Temple Mount is the location of Eden. They call the Foundation Stone “es-Sakhra” and the Dome of the Rock “Kubbat es-Sakhra.” On the entrance to the Dome of the Rock there is an inscription in Arabic which translated means “The Rock of the Temple from the Garden of Eden.”
Jerusalem in the Christian Heart
For 2,000 years, Jerusalem has held special significance for Christians, which is reflected in the fact that this city is referred to over 800 times throughout the Bible.
The early Jewish Believers in the region continued to go up to Jerusalem on the Biblically appointed times of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Since many of them lived in Jerusalem, they devoted themselves to prayer in the Temple.
Today, almost two million Christians visit Israel each year, many on their own pilgrimages to pray where Yeshua prayed and walk where He walked.
They walk up the Mughrabi Bridge to the Temple Mount upon which Yeshua was dedicated as a baby and sit on the Temple Court steps where He taught the masses.
They descend to the pools of Bethesda and Siloam where the lame and blind were healed.
They cross the Kidron Valley to ascend the Mount of Olives, stopping to overlook the great city of the LORD, as Yeshua did when He wept over Jerusalem, predicting that the Gentiles would rule over it for a time.
They ascend to the top of the Mount where He will return to rule and reign from this city over the entire earth.
They continue on into the Old City of Jerusalem, along the traditional path that Yeshua may have walked on His way to Calvary or Golgotha (the Place of the Skull), where He was executed on a Roman stake.
There, they remember that from His tomb in Jerusalem, He rose from the dead and 40 days later ascended to Heaven in the same manner in which He will return (Acts 1:11).
For many pilgrims, the presence of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is intensely sought in Jerusalem, as they recall that the Ruach was poured out on the Temple Mount 10 days after Yeshua’s ascension — 50 days after His resurrection.
Believers recall that it is here that the Ruach first “set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come [our redemption].” (2 Corinthians 1:22)
Although the Israeli government was formed to be a uniquely Jewish nation, it has continually emphasized its commitment to preserving these sites that are holy for both Christians and Muslims, as well as protecting freedom of worship for all faiths.
The Vindication of Jerusalem
“I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night.” (Isaiah 62:6)
Because of the immense spiritual promises and prophetic destiny for Jerusalem, the spiritual warfare in the city is also immense. Satan has his plan to take ownership of the city and rule the world from it.
That spiritual battle permeates the atmosphere of Jerusalem. Tensions run high as people live, work, and try to rest. Yet, God never rests nor forgets His chosen. He has promised that “for Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” (Isaiah 62:1)
The Lord says to Jerusalem that one day, “the nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. … As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:2–3, 5)