For years one American husband and wife have fought the United States government over their son’s passport. Their son was born in Jerusalem. The parents argue that the boy’s birthplace should be listed as Israel. Instead, the passport lists his place of birth as Jerusalem—a city rather than a country.
A report in USA Today explains the situation: “Since the 1948 creation of the state of Israel, the U.S. government has declined to recognize any country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. State Department policy dictates that the passports of children of American citizens born in Jerusalem say only ‘Jerusalem’ for place of birth (Joan Biskupic,”Top Court Examines Birthplace Case,” Nov. 8, 2011).
In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israeli soldiers stormed the gates of the ancient city of Jerusalem. Standing before the massive wall of the Temple Mount, they claimed a birthright given to them by God.
But Arab Muslims claim the same area. Adorned with sacred Islamic sites, they consider it a birthright given to them by God. Both peoples assert ancient rights to ownership.
So the U.S. State Department, Congress, Justice Department and President all debate: Who are the citizens of Jerusalem? Israelis? Palestinians? Jerusalemites?
The biblical prophet Ezekiel wrote, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and the countries all around her’ ” (Ezekiel 5:5 Ezekiel 5:5Thus said the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the middle of the nations and countries that are round about her.
American King James Version×).
The ancient city of Jerusalem possesses little in the way of economic or military value. Still, it’s been such a focal point of history that at times it’s been called the center of the world. It’s considered holy by the three major monotheistic religions—Judaism, Islam and Christianity. And it’s certainly been the epicenter for centuries of religious strife and bloodshed.
Even in our global society, what happens in the Middle East seems far off and unrelated to our daily lives. The fact is that what happens in Jerusalem makes a big difference in your life.
The violent clashes between Israeli soldiers and rock-throwing Arab youths, American soldiers dying in Afghanistan, the Western world’s dependence on Arab oil, the fear of Islamic terrorism seen every time you have to be searched at an airport—these are all links in a chain binding you to the religious and political strife in the Middle East.
And at the heart of this conflict is a small plot of land in Jerusalem called the Temple Mount. What is the historical significance of this place? What will the future bring here, and what does this have to do with us?
Today the top of the Temple Mount, dominated by the famous Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is under Islamic control. Historically, it is also the site where King Herod’s temple, visited by Jesus, was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. According to the Bible, around 1000 B.C., Israel’s King David reigned from Jerusalem. On this plot of land his son Solomon constructed a magnificent temple to God.
These facts are taught in secular history classes in the United States, Canada and Europe. Solomon’s temple is an essential element of biblical history. But this history is being rewritten by various Islamic leaders.
In July 2000 the U.S. and Israeli delegations to the second Camp David accord were shocked when Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat declared that the Temple Mount was not the site of Solomon’s temple. According to Arafat the entire history of the Temple was a Jewish fabrication. Since that time more and more Islamic leaders have argued that Solomon never constructed a temple in Jerusalem.
In a 2009 Wall Street Journal story it was reported that the chief Islamic judge of the Palestinian Authority claimed that Solomon’s temple “has no historical roots.” He added that the Jews are engaging in “an attack on history, theft of culture, falsification of facts, erasure of the truth, and Judaization of the place.”
The same article noted that this Islamic rewriting of history is “echoed in Palestinian primary-school textbooks, preached at mosques, and printed in official newspapers” (“Palestinian Leaders Deny Jerusalem’s Past, Sept. 25, 2009).
The denial of the historical Temple is widespread among Muslims. Why is it so important for them to discredit the existence of Solomon’s temple on the Temple Mount?
The biblical account of Solomon’s temple presents Islamic clerics with a difficult problem. If Solomon’s temple existed, then great weight must be given to the historical accuracy of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. They proclaim that God’s blessing to Abraham was passed to Isaac and Jacob and to their descendants, the people of Israel. This is in direct contradiction to the Koran’s teaching that the blessing was passed from Abraham to Ishmael and his descendants, the Arab people.
The Bible describes Solomon’s temple as a beautiful and magnificent building. Rising above the rest of the city, it served as the place for the daily worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
It contained an inner room called the Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place, which housed the Ark of the Covenant containing the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.
The Bible states that when Solomon finished his prayer of dedication, fire came from heaven and consumed the sacrifice he had prepared, and God’s presence filled the temple.
The reason this history is unacceptable to Islamic leaders is because it flies in the face of their view of how God works in history. To support that worldview, one must rewrite history not only to erase the existence of Solomon’s temple, but to expunge any trace of Jewish presence in Jerusalem’s past.
Jerusalem and the Messiah
There’s another reason why Palestinian clerics wish to discredit Jewish claims to the Temple Mount. It’s because biblical prophecies foretell that God’s Messiah will reign from Jerusalem.
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3 Isaiah 2:2-3 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
American King James Version×).
Ancient Hebrew prophets didn’t just foretell a future Messiah. They also foretold a prominent place for the Jewish people in the Messiah’s reign from Jerusalem.
The prophet Zechariah wrote: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Peoples shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us continue to go and pray before the Lord, and seek the Lord of hosts. I myself will go also.’ Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord’ ” (Zechariah 8:20-22 Zechariah 8:20-22 20 Thus said the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:
21 And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also.
22 Yes, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.
American King James Version×).
Then notice the next verse: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’ ” (Zechariah 8:23 Zechariah 8:23Thus said the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.
American King James Version×).
The goal of Islamic leaders in rewriting history is to discredit the Bible. That way they can dispel all Jewish claims to the ancient land of Israel. Even more, they can discredit the prophecies of God’s Messiah who will rule from Jerusalem.
For those of us who believe the Bible is the Word of the living God, this attempt to discredit the Bible is nothing less than an attempt to defy and discredit the God revealed in the Bible. This is why Christians are inevitably drawn into the strife surrounding a few acres of land in a faraway and ancient city.
Desire to build a new temple
Today no temple dedicated to the God of Israel exists on the Temple Mount. However, there are both Jews and Christians who are dedicated to rebuilding the temple. They believe that Bible prophecy foretells a future temple when Jerusalem becomes ground zero of biblical prophecy.
We are told by the first-century historian Josephus that when the Roman army sacked Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Jewish temple caught fire and burned. Titus, the Roman conqueror, erected an arch as a memorial to his victory. That arch still stands in Rome to this day. It’s adorned with carved scenes depicting Roman soldiers carting off various items from the temple in Jerusalem, including the large golden menorah, silver trumpets and the table of showbread. The Arch of Titus stands as one of the great proofs of the existence of Jerusalem’s temple.
Since the time of Josephus and Titus, many Jews have longed and prayed for the reconstruction of the temple. Some devout Jews turn to Exodus 25:8 Exodus 25:8And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.
American King James Version×and cite God’s instructions to Moses: “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”
The intense emotions created by the concept of a rebuilt temple were seen in October 2011 during a Jewish prayer service at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Rabbi Eliyahu offered this prayer as recorded by Israeli news sources: “We are lifting our voices to God. We are shouting out to him like a baby shouting out to his father. When a baby cries, his father understands him. His mother understands him. This is how we shout out to God. Without talking. We pray to God that the prayer will not just take place here at the Kotel (Western Wall) but in the actual Holy Temple, on the Temple Mount. May it be rebuilt quickly and in our time.”
One of the organizations committed to the rebuilding of the temple is the Temple Institute. This Jerusalem-based group states that the rebuilding of the temple is a biblical command. They have recreated many sacred vessels plus the golden menorah, the altar of incense and special clothing worn by the high priest in anticipation of reinstating sacred temple services.
Of course, there are many obstacles to building a temple, not the least being the fact that the Temple Mount is under Islamic control. There is also debate among Jewish scholars as to the exact location of the Most Holy Place and whether the temple is to be built before or after the Messiah’s coming.
Controversy to intensify
To understand how this small patch of land becomes ground zero of biblical prophecy, we go to the writings of the prophet Daniel. In Daniel 12 we find a prophecy of “the time of the end,” which speaks of a great resurrection of the dead. We can couple Daniel’s prophecy with Revelation 20, which refers to Christ’s return and the resurrection of His followers.
There’s a vital connection to the exact timing of Daniel’s prophecy. Daniel is writing of the time when the Messiah is sent to rule from Jerusalem. He also refers to a time before the coming of the Messiah when “the daily sacrifice is taken away” (Daniel 12:1-13 Daniel 12:1-13 1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
4 But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
5 Then I Daniel looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on this side of the bank of the river, and the other on that side of the bank of the river.
6 And one said to the man clothed in linen, which was on the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?
7 And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was on the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by him that lives for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.
8 And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?
9 And he said, Go your way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
11 And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.
12 Blessed is he that waits, and comes to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.
13 But go you your way till the end be: for you shall rest, and stand in your lot at the end of the days.
American King James Version×).
According to the laws given to ancient Israel, the daily sacrifice can only be conducted by authorized Levitical priests at an authorized site for sacrifice such as the temple. So Daniel’s prophecy reveals that before the second coming of Jesus Christ, there must be some sort of animal sacrifices taking place in Jerusalem. When international pressure and violence stops those sacrifices, the world enters a time of calamity so great that Jesus Christ must intervene or all humanity will be exterminated (Daniel 12:11 Daniel 12:11And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.
American King James Version×; Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×).
This is why is it important for you to stay informed about events unfolding in the Middle East!
The temple God is building
While there are no biblical instructions for Christians to build a physical temple on the Temple Mount, the Bible does tell us of a temple being constructed by God Himself.
The apostle Paul wrote about a group of people being prepared by God as “citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-21 Ephesians 2:19-21 19 Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21 In whom all the building fitly framed together grows to an holy temple in the Lord:
American King James Version×). God is building a spiritual temple in which people are living stones (2 Corinthians 6:16 2 Corinthians 6:16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
American King James Version×; 1 Peter 2:4-5 1 Peter 2:4-5 4 To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×).
One purpose of biblical prophecy is to reveal the God of history and prophecy. Discovering the prophecies about restoring the sacrifices in Jerusalem and witnessing the events leading up to the fulfillment of those prophecies should motivate us to turn to God. It’s to help us become one of His living stones in His spiritual temple.
It’s time to turn away from complacent, secularized Christianity and, in humble repentance and obedience, turn to our Creator God and what Jesus actually taught. The gospel is more than a message about the person of Jesus Christ. It is a message of how we are respond to God through Jesus Christ.
The controversy over the Temple Mount will continue to intensify. Jewish and Christian desires to rebuild a temple are going to be matched by staunch opposition from the entire Muslim world.
When animal sacrifices are reinstituted in Jerusalem, you will know that biblical prophecy is being fulfilled. But a physical temple isn’t God’s main focus. Jesus Christ is returning to a spiritual temple built of people who have responded to His call and dedicated their lives to becoming part of it!