Title: Where Is Jerusalem? Texts: Galatians 4:21-26, John 4:19-26, Hebrews 11:13-16, and 12:18-24

INTRODUCTION:

Geography is a neglected subject. Some people think that the U.S. capitol is in the State of Washington. Others do not know where Tanzania or Burma (Myanmar) is located. You probably know where Tampa is. Others can stand at their door and not know whether they are facing north, east, south or west, and always get lost trying to follow a map. This of course is why God invented the global positioning system, or GPS for all of us who are directionally and geographically challenged However, when I ask you, “Where is Jerusalem?” I am not testing your proficiency in geography, but rather your understanding of the Bible. My aim is to let you know where you are, not in the geography of this planet for you will have to figure that out for yourself, but in the plan of God in the Bible. The purpose of this is, in the words of the old adage so you don’t miss the woods for the trees. I could select a specific text and explain it and apply it, but then you would just see a tree. I want you to see the woods so that you can relate whatever you learn to the whole of God’s revelation. Where is Jerusalem? Jerusalem is at the center of the Old Testament and is the focus of Old Testament prophecy and New Testament fulfillment. You must know that the present city of Jerusalem is the focus of a conflict that affects all of us and plays a major role in U.S. foreign policy, and in the destiny of other nations. But Jerusalem is also the center and focus of the Bible. Today we are going to look at what the Bible says, and we are going to find that there are three Jerusalem’s. There is the Jerusalem of the Past, the Jerusalem of the Present, and the Jerusalem of Prophecy. My aim is to give you an overview of God’s revelation that will help you in understanding the Bible.

I JERUSALEM OF THE PAST

The ancient Jerusalem was selected by David to be the exalted capitol of Israel and the place where God’s glory would dwell. He conquered the site about 1000 years before the birth of Christ. God’s glory was first displayed in the Hebrew Tabernacle and then David desired a house for God that was better than his own.  He did not get to build it but his son, Solomon, did, 40 years later, and so the temple was established on Mt. Zion. At the dedication of that temple God revealed His approval in I Kings 9. God appeared to Solomon and said, I have consecrated this temple which you have built by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. After that, everything centered around Jerusalem and the temple. Psalm 46:4 and 5 declares of Zion, the holy place where the most high dwells, God is in the midst of her, she will not fall & 48 records that Jerusalem is the city of the great King, God is in her citadels, he has shown himself to be her fortress. Jewish people went up to the temple to worship. Especially after the nation was scattered they had a saying, “Next year Jerusalem." There are many more psalms such as the songs of ascent in Psalms 120-134 which describe the pilgrimage of the faithful up to the hills of Zion and the temple. And the prophets, such as Isaiah continued this perspective. They declared that all nations would come up to Jerusalem as in Isaiah 2:2 and 3, In the last days the mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills,and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways. However the trust of Israel in the temple was also discouraged because they were disobedient. Thus in Jeremiah 7:4 we read, Reform your ways and your actions and do not trust in deceptive words and say, “this is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” And their folly was revealed when Nebudchadnezzar and the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s temple in 586 BC. About 70 years later feeble reconstruction began, but it was not until 19 years before the birth of Jesus that Herod the Great completed the second temple. Then Jesus came. The centrality and importance of the Jerusalem temple vanished. Jesus, Son of David, predicted its destruction and he said that He was the temple. He declared in John 2 Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up, and John adds that he spoke of His body as the temple. So my conclusion is simply that the ancient temple was passe’. In other words it had exhausted its usefulness, and so had ancient Jerusalem. In 70 AD Herod’s second temple, which replaced Solomon’s, was destroyed forever under the Roman Emperor Vespasian and his general Titus. Subsequent attempts to rebuild it all failed. In the seventh century AD the Muslims conquered the site and built a mosque on the temple mount.

II JERUSALEM OF THE PRESENT

Now in 1948 The British Balfour Declaration reestablished the nation of Israel in Palestine. Ever since then there has been nothing but grief because this has been cheered as the fulfillment of God’s promises regarding Jerusalem by some Christians and Arab nations object. Until 1967 the Muslims had full control over the temple area. Then in the Six Days War Israel got control. The Israeli Knesset or parliament passed legislation allowing Muslim control of the site. Although it remains under Israeli sovereignty, because of this set-up, the site has become a flash-point between Israel and the Muslim world. I have no desire to engage in a discussion about the Arab-Israeli conflict which troubles us all. My point is simply that when God talks about the restoration of His people in the Old Testament, He describes it as a spiritual restoration and not simply as physical restoration of the temple and OT worship. Consider Isaiah 2 which we looked at before. Does that sound like the present Israel? Or consider Jeremiah 31 where God describes the restoration of Israel in detail. In verse 10 he says, He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd. And he goes on to say in verse 21, Return, O Virgin Israel, return to your towns. And a little later God says He will do a new thing in the earth and He will give them a new heart. There is only one way Israel can be changed from a prostitute into a virgin again and it is through the atoning sacrifice and blood of Jesus. And there, in the prophets, God promises a new covenant and new hearts. Does this sound like the present Jerusalem? I have been there. There are a small minority of Arab Christians and Jewish Christians in the population. This present Jerusalem is not God’s description of restoring His people. Foolish people may go there thinking that it is a holy place and visit the Jordan to be baptized again because it is a holy place. It is not. The Encyclopedia says “Though some Christians believe that the temple will be reconstructed before, or concurrent with, the Second Coming of Christ, the Temple Mount is largely unimportant to the beliefs and worship of most Christians." To wit, the New Testament recounts a story of a Samaritan woman which we recently studied and she was asking Jesus about the appropriate place to worship, Jerusalem or the Samaritan holy place at Mt. Gerazim, in John 4. To this Jesus replies, Neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father... But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. This is the most important thing ever said about Jerusalem The woman wants to debate the place of worship. Jesus said neither in Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem but right now in Spirit and in truth. It now IS the hour. Although President Clinton may have uttered that famous quote now enshrined in Bartlett’s Quotations, “It depends on what the meang of ‘is’ is,” You and I know the meaning of Jesus saying the hour is coming and NOW IS.

III THE JERUSALEM OF PROPHECY

The present condition of Jerusalem and its inhabitants doesn’t bother me, because I know where Jerusalem is. It’s up-above-waiting to come down. Let me remind you that Abraham, who was given the land of promise as an inheritance, including Jerusalem, looked for a city whose builder and maker was God, and so did all the Old Testament saints according according to Hebrews 11: 13-16. Paul says to us in Galatians 4:26, The Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. Ultimately God never cared and does not care now about any geographical city on the face of this earth. Such were only symbols and types. He has prepared a city, the true Jerusalem, in the future for those who love and serve Him. It is the holy city of Revelation 21 and 22. However you live in that city of Jerusalem now and the proof is in Hebrews 12:22 where the writer says to the believers, But you have come to Mt. Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the city of the living God. These were current Jewish converts and believers whom he was addressing, and they were already in the holy city. You live in the place where God dwells. You live in the church and in the company of faithful believers who share in this privilege. You live where God is with His people. This is a basic Biblical principle which we call already-not yet. You are already righteous in Christ, but not as righteous as you will be when the body of sin is destroyed in the the resurrection. Then  you will be righteous in practice as well as principle. You are already risen in Christ, but not as you will be in the bodily resurrection at his coming. You are already seated in the heavenlies in Christ, but not as you will be in the new heavens and the new earth. The church, the body of Christ is part of that New Jerusalem now. The city is above and it is below. See what Paul says in  Philippians 4:20, Our citizenship is in heaven, (not Jerusalem) and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Consider also Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:18-21 We, Jew and gentile alike, have access to the Father by one spirit and we are no longer aliens but fellow citizens with God’s people. We are built on the foundation of the apostles with Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone and in Him the whole building is a holy temple in the Lord and a dwelling of God. Ephesians was written just 8 years before the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, but it would not matter because a new temple was already being erected in the church. Many years ago I wondered why any congregation would call itself Zion Presbyterian, or Zion United Church of Christ, or Zion Baptist. Now I realize it is a wonderful name because it explains the whole course of God’s revelation in one word. Jerusalem used to be Zion, now we are. As Personett says in the great hymn that we have sung on occasion, “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name,” “Ye seed of Israel’s chosen race, Ye ransomed from the fall Hail Him who saves you by His grace and crown Him Lord of all.” This is not new. It has been the vision of the church from the earliest times. It was early enshrined in the classic about the church by St.Augustine “The City of God,” And the hymn writers of the ages have often reflected this as did John Newton, author of "Amazing Grace," in his hymn, “Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God; God, whose word cannot be broken, formed thee for his own abode. On the Rock of Ages founded, what can shake thy sure repose? With salvation's walls surrounded, thou mayst smile at all thy foes. See, the streams of living waters, springing from eternal love, well supply thy sons and daughters, and all fear of want remove. Who can faint while such a river ever will their thirst assuage? Grace which like the Lord, the giver, never fails from age to age. Round each habitation hovering, see the cloud and fire appear for a glory and a covering, showing that the Lord is near! Thus deriving from our banner light by night and shade by day, safe we feed upon the manna which God gives us when we pray. Savior, if of Zion’s city, I through grace a member am, Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy Name. Fading is the worldling’s pleasure, All his boasted pomp and show; Solid joys and lasting treasure None but Zion’s children know.

CONCLUSION

So what does this have to do with your life? First of all, forget the conflict in the Middle East in relation to your spiritual hope. It has nothing to do with you. Secondly, be like Abraham and focus on the city whose builder and maker is God and not on this present world. Thirdly, realize that you are a citizen of the city, and a citizen of the New Jerusalem. You did not earn this place, but God gave it to you by His grace. So, in gratitude, act like you are a citizen of the real new world.