When King David chose Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, he never dreamed that the city would be the focus of world controversy 3000 years later. Jerusalem became a center of warfare in many periods: the Roman, the early Islamic, the crusades, the British mandate period, and most of all at the present time. Amazingly, Zechariah prophesied the difficulty!
I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling … I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves (Zechariah 12:2, 3).
The central battle over Jerusalem today is between the Jews and the Muslims, though Christians play a background role in this struggle. The whole world is drawn into it. Shallow thinkers have a simple analysis. Israel and especially Jerusalem are problematic because Muslims lost their rule here after centuries. The problem is further compounded because Muslims were also displaced from their land (Often, it is not admitted that most of the land before Israel’s independence was legally purchased). The simple analysis says the issue is about recovering property – a justice issue. I want to assure you that this is not about a mundane justice issue. The issue is a much larger spiritual issue and is crucially important for the whole world.
The Real Issue of Jerusalem
The real root of the battle over Jerusalem concerns the Lordship of Yeshua as King of Jerusalem and His covenant promises. God has declared himself concerning the government of Jerusalem. Rebellion against God’s declared will is the root of this war.
Ancient tribal peoples understood inter-ethnic conflicts in a very simple way. If one people conquered and dominated another, their gods were superior to the gods of those conquered. Peoples operated through the power of their gods. Gods could wax and wane in strength. Thus there could be reversals. Such a primitive concept is not without truth, but in simplistic terms it is fraught with problems. The biblical perspective indicates that the victory of the God of Israel is not contingent only on the strength of God. God’s strength is unlimited. Victory is contingent on the spiritual condition of God’s people.
When the Romans conquered Israel and destroyed Jerusalem, they named the rebuilt city after Jupiter and built a temple to honor him. By doing this, they asserted the superiority of Rome and Roman religion. Jews were forbidden to live in the city.
When Christianity superceded Roman paganism, the Christian emperors came to view Jerusalem as a key to asserting the superiority of both the new Christian Roman Empire and its religious faith – Christianity. The Church taught that the Jewish people were no longer God’s chosen people; the Church had replaced them. The central symbolic expression of this view was how Jerusalem was handled. The Temple Mount remained desolate as a manifestation of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the destruction of the Temple by Jesus and the replacement of the Jews by the Church.
The mother of Emperor Constantine, Helena, sought to identify holy sites in Israel. She had the Church of the Holy Sepulcher built upon the then traditional site of the crucifixion (Golgotha) and the tomb of Yeshua. This place became the center of a triumphant Christianity and the most important holy site in the city. The city became permeated with the places identified as holy sites. Churches were built throughout the city for Christian pilgrimage. This situation lasted for 300 years. Though a small Jewish population was allowed to settle in the city, Christian control of Jerusalem trumpeted the superiority of Christianity over paganism and Judaism.
Christianity in the Middle East became weak, divided and anti-Semitic. Islam arose in the context of a weakened Christianity in the seventh century. When the Moslems conquered Jerusalem, they proclaimed their view of truth – Islam replaced Judaism and Christianity. Moslems used a new tactic in this proclamation. It was to build the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount on the very spot where tradition said that Abraham offered Isaac on an altar. Moslems claimed that they were the chosen and that Ishmael was offered, not Isaac. This was the most severe replacement theology. Christianity reinterpreted the promises to Israel to exclude a positive future for the Jews. Islam re-wrote history itself and denied the election of the Jews through Isaac. The Crusades themselves sought to return Jerusalem to Christian control to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity.
Mecca or Jerusalem?
Observers of the Middle East scene often wonder why Muslims care so much about Jerusalem when Mecca is Islam’s holy city. This shows poor understanding. Mecca is the center of Islam, but Jerusalem is also crucial, for it is in Jerusalem that Islam demonstrated its triumph over Judaism and Christianity. This is the true significance and intended meaning of the Dome of the Rock.
Amazingly, the Jews supported the Moslems in taking over the city of Jerusalem, for they were so very poorly treated by Christians. They instructed the Moslems on the ancient Temple and its rites. So when the Dome of the Rock was built it was over the very site pointed out by the Jews. Jewish instruction about the Temple influenced incense rituals that were established in the Dome. Jews did not perceive how Islam would eventually turn against them. The inscription on the Dome proclaims in Arabic, “The Unity of God and the Prophecy of Muhammad are true,” and “The Sonship of Jesus and the Trinity are false” (Biblical Archaeology Review; July 2006, p. 44 article by Moshe Sharon). What a direct challenge!
The loss of the land including old Jerusalem (after the ’67 war) to the government of Israel was considered the greatest disaster and shame to befall the Islamic world. Why? Because such control calls into question the very truth of Islam itself. If Islam does not control Jerusalem, has it really superceded Judaism and Christianity? Though Israel gives Moslems control of the Temple Mount, this is clearly by Israel’s governmental delegation. This is why a religious Moslem can never consent to any peace agreement that allows the Jews to control Jerusalem. Palestinian land and rights are secondary issues – useful propaganda for the West. These are not the real issues.
Multitudes in the Valley of Decision (Joel 3:14)
All nations are drawn into the conflict. Will the West appease radical religious Islam or stand against it? Will Israel be chosen as the sacrifice for the sake of an illusionary world peace or will Israel be defended? President Trump took a significant step when he implemented the move of the Unites States embassy to Jerusalem. We may be moving toward the ultimate clash prophesied in Zechariah. Yet the end of it all is the final demonstration of the Lordship of Yeshua and the truth of His word.
The present clash will lead to a great harvest of Muslims and Jews. Israel has been given the deed to the land, but this can only be fully implemented when she embraces Yeshua. The Church is destined to a task to see Israel protected and to be grafted back into her own Olive Tree. The ultimate roots of the conflict are spiritual and Yeshua will have the final word.