Jesus, Jew, and Jerusalem
February 2nd, 1975 @ 8:15 AM
JESUS, JEW, AND JERUSALEM
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2-2-75 8:15 a.m.
This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and we welcome you on radio to share with us this holy service. As the announcement was made, we are beginning our annual conference on prophecy, and the subject of the pastor’s message today is Jesus, Jew and Jerusalem. Just as a background text, not to be expounded as such, but as a background against which the address is prepared, I read from the concluding verses of the twenty-third chapter of Matthew:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and ye would not!
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem”; this is the name of the most famous city in the world, and it is located on the most famous site in the world. Even in the first century of the Roman Empire, Pliny said that the most famous city of the Orient was Jerusalem. It is the city of the great King David. It is the city of the mighty prophets such as Isaiah. It is the city of the holy sanctuary, the temple of Solomon. It is the city of the Savior; there so much of His ministry was bestowed in blessing upon the people. There He was crucified [Matthew 27:32-50]. There was He buried [Matthew 27:57-61]. There was He raised from among the dead [Matthew 28:5-7], and from there did He ascend into heaven [Acts 1:9-10].
It is the city of the quickening and endowment of the church: it is the city of Pentecost [Acts 2:1-42] and of the upper room [Acts 1:12-26]; it is the city of the great first council of the churches of our Lord in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts [Acts 15:1-29]. And it is the city where Paul came to bring his message of relief and encouragement to the saints [Romans 15:26], and from which city he was arrested and, as a man condemned before the law, appealed to Caesar [Acts 25:10-12] and was taken to the eternal city of Rome [Acts 27-28].
The name and location of Jerusalem are ever interesting. The first reference to it in secular history is the Tel el-Amarna tablets; Amarna, the name of one of the ancient capitals of Egypt. And in those cuneiform tablets, about three hundred fifty in number, some of them are from a city in Canaan called Yerushalim, the city of Salem, the city of peace. The governor of the city is making appeal to the Pharaohs for help because he is being overrun by the people roundabout.
The first reference we have in the Holy Scriptures to the city is about five hundred or six hundred years before that. In the days of Abraham, the ancient patriarch in the city of Salem, the city of peace, there made obeisance before the priest, and that is the first time the word priest is used in the Bible [Genesis 14:18]. Abraham made obeisance before the priest of the Most High God named Melchizedek [Genesis 14:20]. Before the nation of Israel was founded, for Israel is the name of Jacob, and this is Abraham— before the name of Israel came to be known as a nation of God, and almost a thousand years before David won the site [1 Chronicles 11:4-9], was there a witness to the true God in Salem, the city of peace, Jerusalem [Genesis 14:18-20].
The location of the city is interesting. It is thirty-three miles east of the Mediterranean, fourteen miles west of the Dead Sea, nineteen miles north of Hebron, thirty miles south of Samaria, on a high ridge two thousand five hundred fifty feet above the sea. You never come to Jerusalem from afar. Whatever direction, in whatever direction you approach it, it suddenly bursts upon your vision. “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about them that love Him” [Psalm 125:2].
Oh, “beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,” is Jerusalem [Psalm 48:2]. It has always been a city of walls, and these walls are perforated by famous gates. Down here on the southeast, the Dung Gate; beyond, the Fountain Gate; beyond on the east side, the Golden Gate which now is closed. Beyond still on the east, the Gate of Stephen’s, St. Stephen’s, out of which he is supposed to have been dragged to martyrdom [Acts 7:58-60]. Turning the corner, now on the north wall, the Gate of Herod; in the center, the famous Damascus Gate; up to the end toward the north, the New Gate. Then turning on the western side, perforated by one gate, the Jaffa Gate, out of which the people pour down the road to Tel Aviv and to the Mediterranean.
The history of the city is like a history of the Lord and of the human race. It is called, in the days of Abraham and in the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, Mt. Moriah. And to that mount, the third day’s journey from Hebron, did Abraham bring his son Isaac that he might offer him unto God [Genesis 22:1-12]; a type and a picture of the posterity and seed of Abraham offered unto God. The first time we know it by the name of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Yerushalim, the city of peace, Jerusalem, is in Joshua when the Jebusites possess it and the children of Israel were not able to take it from them [Joshua 15:63].
Then as the days pass, David is crowned king of Israel [1 Chronicles 10:14, 11:3], and Joab, the nephew of David, is promised the captainship of the host of the people of God if he is able to win it. And Joab takes by a ruse the city of the Jebusites called Jerusalem, and there does David make his capital [1 Chronicles 11:6].
As the days pass, because of a great sin against God [2 Samuel 24:1-10], there is a judgment upon the land, and David sees the angel of visitation and wrath standing with sword drawn above Jerusalem [2 Samuel 24:16-17; 1 Chronicles 21:16]. Coming before God in entreaty, in confession, he pleads for the sparing of the people, and God says to David, “Go to the threshing floor of Araunah, and there build an altar” and offer sacrifice, expiation, propitiation in behalf of the people [2 Samuel 24:18-21]. And on that Mt. Moriah, the top of which Araunah possessed as a threshing floor, there did David, buying it, offer sacrifice unto God, that the wrath of the Lord against sin might be appeased [2 Samuel 24:22-25].
And on that famous place, Mt. Moriah, where Abraham offered up Isaac [Genesis 22:1-12], where David built an altar in expiation of sin [2 Samuel 24:22-25], there did Solomon build his beautiful temple [2 Chronicles 3:1]. After the death of Solomon, in the next three hundred years, the city was pillaged eight different times. Finally, in the days of Jeremiah preaching in the city, calling the king and the nation to repentance, they scoffed at the voice of the word of the Lord [Jeremiah 38:1-6].
And Nebuchadnezzar came in 605 BC [Daniel 1:1-6] and carried away Daniel and some of the choicest seed of the royal family. Jeremiah the prophet lifted up his voice and cried, “Repent. Get right with God” [Jeremiah 3:12-14]. And the people mocked at the voice of the Lord. And Nebuchadnezzar came back in 598 BC [2 Kings 24:10-16] and took away Ezekiel and many of the flower of the priesthood and of the royal family [Ezekiel 1:1-2].
Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried, “Repent. Get right with God” [Jeremiah 3:12-14]. And the people mocked. They even took the prophet of the Lord and put him in a miry pit to die of exhaustion and exposure [Jeremiah 38:6]. And Nebuchadnezzar came in 587 BC [Jeremiah 52:4-30; 2 Kings 25:1-21] and he didn’t need to return anymore. The city was destroyed, the walls were broken down, and the temple laid in utter and devastating ruin.
After seventy years of Babylonian captivity, in 536 under the mandate of Cyrus the Persian, who had overwhelmed the Babylonian kingdom, there returned Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest with about forty-two thousand straggling pilgrims who returned to rebuild the temple of God [Ezra 1:1-2:64]. Then about sixty years later Nehemiah, the prime minister of the Persian Empire, and Ezra the scribe, the priest, returned and brought to the struggling pilgrims a great spirit of revival and hope, looking up to God [Nehemiah 8:4-9]. And under the prophets of Haggai and Zechariah, they completed the rebuilding of the temple [Ezra 5:1-2], and the house of worship rose to be the glory of the flower of the faith of the people of the Lord.
Then as the years passed, in the interbiblical period, Alexander the Great, marching over the whole civilized world, came up to destroy Jerusalem. But God in a vision spoke to the high priest, Jedaiah, and in a dream God in the years past had spoken to Alexander the Great. And in keeping with the vision of the Lord, the high priest Jedaiah, dressed in all of his beautiful robes—the miter, the ephod, the bells and pomegranates, the high priestly breastplate with the twelve stones—and followed by the priests dressed in white, they opened the gates of the city and marched out to meet Alexander.
The great conqueror was overwhelmed by the spirit and the reverence, the deference, the holiness of these men of God. And going up with them to the temple of the Lord, he worshipped there in the name of Jehovah, and said to the high priest, that in a dream years before he had seen just such a priest, just such a procession, just such a temple, and in the name of God he bowed down and worshipped, thus sparing the city the edge of the sword.
After the death of Alexander in 320 BC, the kingdom of the north, the Seleucids, the kingdom of the south, the Ptolemies, the Seleucids in Syria, the Ptolemies in Egypt used it as a football, warring between them. And finally the Seleucids prevailed, and in 169 BC one of them named Antiochus Epiphanes, tried to force the people to worship god called Jupiter, and he renamed the temple in the name of Jupiter.
There was a priest at Modein named Mattathias who had several sons, one named Judas, called the Hammer, Judas Maccabeus. And warring against the Syrian king, on the twenty-fifth day of December, they won their liberty. In desecrating the temple, Antiochus had offered a pig, a swine on the holy altar and took its juice and spread it all over the temple to defile it. The first thing that Maccabeans did was to reconsecrate and cleanse their holy house of worship, on the twenty-fifth day of what we would call December; celebrated by our Jewish people and friends and compatriots and worshippers of the true God, celebrated as the Feast of Lights, the Feast of Dedication [John 10:22], what they call Hanukkah.
Then in the warring, differing groups of the Maccabees, in 64 BC, Pompey the Roman emperor seized the city and made it a part of the Roman Empire. And in 40 BC, the Idumean Herod, called sometimes Herod the Great, became king, vassal king of the kingdom and of Jerusalem under the appointment of the Roman Caesars.
Then in 4 BC in a little town nearby, just about four or five miles away, the Savior of the world was born [Matthew 1:20-2:1]. Into Jerusalem did the parents take Him to present Him before God in the holy temple [Luke 2:41-49].
In the ministry of our Lord, four times does the Lord speak of Jerusalem, and all four times it is with infinite sadness. The Lord said, “It is not possible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem” [Luke 13:33]. And He turned His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem to die [Luke 9:51]. The second time the Lord mentions it is in the pitiful event that I read as a background text. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . Behold, thy house is left unto thee desolate” [Matthew 23:37-38]. The third time the Lord mentions it is when coming to the brow of Olivet and looking down on the city, He bursts into tears. He weeps, saying, “If only thou hadst known the day of thy peace! but it is hid from thine eyes” [Luke 19:41-42].
And the last time the Lord mentions it is in the great apocalyptic discourse. “Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the days of the Gentiles be fulfilled” [Luke 21:24]. The prophecy was made that the city would be destroyed, and in 70 AD Vespasian came with his Roman legions to quell a rebellion. Called back to be crowned as the Caesar of the Roman Empire, he left the subjugation of the state, the rebellious state, to his son Titus; who, bringing his legions against the Holy City, destroyed it utterly, took the people into captivity, and made the population a slave state scattered in the Diaspora over the empire.
The Jew was forbidden even to approach the holy site after the Romans renamed Jerusalem Capitolina. But after the conversion of Constantine, Helena, the mother of Constantine, a British girl that Constantius, the general of the Roman army, had met in Britain—Helena was a devout Christian, and under Constantine and under the aegis of Helena it was made a Christian city. And Christians by the thousands made pilgrimages there every year and by the scores of thousands inhabited the city.
But in 637 Omar, the Mohammedan Muslim caliph, conquered the city, putting it to the edge of the sword. And for the first time the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine, was built on Mt. Moriah, Araunah’s flat threshing floor [2 Samuel 24:22-25], the site of the holy temple of God [2 Chronicles 3:1]. For the Muslim had to persuade himself somehow that Mohammed had something to do with Jerusalem. He was never there, not in his life, but they invented the fiction that Mohammed was miraculously carried to Jerusalem and from that place he was taken up into heaven on a white steed. So they made of it, fictitiously, a shrine of the Islamic religion.
As the days passed, the Crusaders came in 1100 AD, and for a hundred years won back the holy sepulcher of our Lord and the Holy City to the Christian faith. But a hundred years later, in about 1200, Saladin, the Arab, one of the most able and courageous generals in history, overwhelmed the Crusaders and made it an Arab city, a Muslim city.
In about 1500 the Ottoman Turks won it and ruled over it, making it a part of the Ottoman Empire until 1917, when General Allenby of the Allied forces, having overwhelmed the Ottomans, the Turks, entered into the holy gates, and there opened the city for all of the pilgrims who thus would choose to worship God in that holy place.
Then as the days went by, the British mandate, after General Allenby, became increasingly difficult, and in May 1948 the British gave up the mandate of Palestine. War immediately broke out, and the state of Israel, for the first time in almost two thousand years, the state of Israel was proclaimed a viable people and recognized by sixty-five nations of the earth, including the United States of America.
Then, of course, the conflict that has raged; that war of June in 1967, I was there right after that war. On the top of the hotel of Mt. Olivet, eating lunch with the minister of tourism and with their most gifted guide, Aaron Braun, the minister of tourism; Israel Solkovitz, their finest guide; and Aaron Braun said, “ “My father and my grandfather used to tell me about going up to the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, and there touching the stones of Solomon. But it never was possible for me because we were forbidden from that part of the city. And I thought it would never be my privilege and my part to stand in that holy place and to touch those sacred stones.”
Then, he said, the war broke out, and within a week, within a week the two of them, Aaron Braun and Israel Solkovitz, arm in arm, walked down to the Western Wall and stood there in the most holy place known to our Jewish people and touched the walls of the temple.
The story, Yom Kippur and its conflict, brings us to this present moment of Jerusalem in prophecy. What shall it be in the years that are yet to unfold before us? Jerusalem has ever been a subject of the prophecy of God. For example, in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, six times in that one chapter does the Lord say there shall be a place God will choose in the future to put His name there, for sacrifices to be offered in His name there, and for the people to be gathered in prayer there [Deuteronomy 12:5-27]. And that place prophesied in the twelfth chapter of Deuteronomy, that half dozen times, came to be known to us as Yerushalim, Jerusalem, the city of peace [1 Kings 9:3].
When it was shut up by Sennacherib, the bitter Assyrian, having conquered all of the land, the prophet Isaiah was sent to Hezekiah the king, who was on his face before God pleading for God’s intervention in the deliverance of the city [Isaiah 37:14-20]. Isaiah was sent by the Lord God to Hezekiah, saying, “Sennacherib shall in no wise take it or enter it.” And that night an angel of the Lord passed over the hosts of the Assyrians, and the next morning he counted one hundred eighty-five thousand dead corpses [Isaiah 37:21-36].
It was the prophecy that the city would be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar [Ezekiel 9:1-11]. It was the prophecy that it would be desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes [Daniel 11:31]. It was the prophecy that it would be destroyed by the Roman legions in 70 AD [Matthew 24:1-2]. And it was the prophecy of Zechariah, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people, and in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people” [Zechariah 12:2-3]. And this is the day in which we live.
What do you do with Jerusalem? It is the heart of contention, and the United Nations and the nations of the earth offer their solutions. Shall it be made an international city? Shall it be returned to the Arabs? Shall we stand by the people of God, the Jewish people, and let it be their capital as it was made by David the great king? [1 Chronicles 11:6]. Jerusalem is a burdensome stone for all people. This is the prophecy of God, “a cup of trembling in the hands of the nations” [Zechariah 12:2]. What shall come in the future as God portrays it before us?
It will be in Jerusalem that the nations of the earth find their focal point in final confrontation. You cannot escape the headlines of the Middle East. “But I don’t believe in prophecy, and I don’t believe in God, and I don’t believe in the Holy Scriptures.” Just read the newspapers; God says that, there, will come the consummation of the age and the denouement of all civilization; God says, there, and however we may try to rivet our attention on Peking, or Moscow, or Washington, or London, or Paris, God says, “there!” And the attention of the world, and the wealth of the world, and the confrontation of the world is increasingly gathering there, even as God said.
And in that place, Megiddo, Armageddon here [Revelation 16:16], and Bozrah, from which God comes with His garments stained in blood [Isaiah 63:1], a thousand six hundred furlongs with the blood up to the bridles of the horses [Revelation 14:20], in the heart of it is the holy city of Jerusalem. And in the midst of that great conflict when the nations of the world are gathered in the Middle East, there does God make intervention, and Christ comes in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 19:11-16]. “And His feet shall stand in that glorious, consummating day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east” [Zechariah 14:4]. And the city, by the prophecy of the Lord, will be cleansed [Isaiah 4:4-6]. All unrighteousness and all uncleanness will be taken out of it [Revelation 21:27]. “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion” [Psalm 48:2]. And there the great King will build His throne, and thither shall the nations of the earth come, there to be instructed in the way of the Lord, and there to be blessed by the hands of our coming King [Revelation 21:24-26].
This is the millennial prophecies of the Holy Scriptures when Messiah, Christ the Lord, shall come and bring peace to the world [Micah 4:3-4]: “His name Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace.” [Isaiah 9:6] “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” [Psalm 122:6]. There is no peace outside of the Prince, no hope outside of God, no future apart from His keeping hands.
And now the consummation and end of the age: there shall be a rebellion when Satan is loosed out of the abyss in which he is chained for a thousand years [Revelation 20:7-10]. And in that awesome rebellion, there is the final cleansing of the whole heavens and the whole earth [Revelation 20:11-21:2]. And in that cleansing by fire [2 Peter 3:10-13], that rejuvenation by fire, when all that is ugly and blasphemous, all that is wrong and hurtful, when it is taken away and God recreates the heavens and the earth, there shall come out of heaven, down from heaven, the beautiful and holy city of God, where our people are gathering, when God’s redeemed, one by one, are translated to heaven [Revelation 21:1-7].
And when the final one is translated and the last martyr has laid down his life, and the last saint of God has died, and all of God’s children are in that beautiful city, it shall come down from God out of heaven to this earth, our final and eternal home, and that city is called the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:2]. God is our helper, and our strength, our shield, and our refuge, our Savior, our coming and eternal King. And His throne and His palace will be in Jerusalem [Revelation 21:9-11, 22-27, Revelation 22:1-3].
Our time is far spent. In this moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while our people pray and wait, if the Spirit of God has spoken to you, does God say a word to you? If He does, would you answer with your life? “Here am I, pastor. The Spirit has knocked at the door of my heart, and I’m coming. This is my life, it is God’s. These are my children, my wife, our home; we belong to the Lord, a people of the Lord. I’m accepting Him as my Savior [Romans 10:9-10], and here I am. I want to be baptized. Here I come.” Or, “I want to join the communion and fellowship of the saints, and here I am.” In this moment when we stand to sing the appeal, on the first note of that first stanza, come. If in the last row on the topmost balcony, there is time and to spare, come. Come, while we stand and while we sing.