Does Earthly Jerusalem Have any Prophetic Significance?
Israel is celebrating its 70th anniversary since its political reestablishment in 1948. Many Christians consider this to be prophetically significant. The rapture was to take place within 40 years of 1948, and when it didn’t happen, they said it would happen 70 years later. Seventy years have passed, and we’re still here. This does not mean that Christians will stop claiming that modern-day Israel is a prelude to some massive end-time event leading to another Jewish holocaust and mass global slaughter.
I saw the following on Fox News:
President Donald Trump has fulfilled biblical prophecy by moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro said over the weekend. “Trump], like King Cyrus before him, fulfilled the biblical prophecy of the gods worshipped by Jews, Christians and, yes, Muslims, that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state and that the Jewish people finally deserve a righteous, free and sovereign Israel.”
God would hardly approve “of the gods worshipped” by three different and contradictory religions.
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Is this true? The New Testament doesn’t say anything about Israel becoming a nation again or earthly Jerusalem having prophetic meaning. Cyrus fulfilled a prophecy because there was an actual prophecy mentioning King Cyrus (2 Chronicles 36:22–23; Ezra 1:4–11; 6:4–5).
Many in the Arab and Muslim world are in an uproar because Pres. Trump honored a campaign promise to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, thus, acknowledging that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
Of course, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Every nation has the right to choose where to put its embassy, and every nation has a right to choose its capital. Long before there was Islam or Palestinians, there was Israel. Jerusalem has been its capital of Israel since the reign of King David. It’s true that most Jews were driven out of their land in AD 70 by the Romans, but this did not change the fact that the nation continued to exist, Jews continued to live there, and Jerusalem was its capital
Moving an embassy to Jerusalem has no biblical significance, however, and neither does the United States acknowledging or not acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Bible doesn’t make any mention of these types of political maneuverings. Many Evangelicals who disagree with Trump’s pronouncement about Jerusalem do so because of the political fallout the decision might bring about. I’ll leave that discussion to others.
What I would like to answer is the claim that this particular event and others like it regarding Jerusalem have prophetic significance. According to modern-day prophecy theorists, a time will come when God will take His church off the earth in something called a “rapture.” At that point, God will once again deal with national Israel for a period of seven years. “Setting the stage” for this end-time event is said to have started in 1948. The first half of the seven years will seem like heaven on earth for Israel and the world. Israel will rebuild its temple, Jews will flow into Israel from around the world, the sacrificial system will be reinstituted, and peace will break out. But in the middle of the seven years, a world leader that the Jews had made a covenant with will show his dark side. This is said to be the antichrist. He’ll break the covenant he made with Israel, and all hell will break loose. He will lead the world to Armageddon where billions of people will be killed, including two-thirds of the Jews living in Israel (Zech. 13:8-9).
There’s more detail to this interpretation. I explain how this view of the end times developed in my book Truth About the Rapture: A Biblical Study. Also, see my books Last Days Madness, Wars and Rumors of Wars, 10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed and Answered, and Identifying the Real Last Days Scoffers.
What does the Bible say about the future of Israel as it relates to the question of Jerusalem’s prophetic significance? The Old Testament teaches that Israel was taken into captivity, first, the northern kingdom by the Assyrians in 722 BC, and the southern kingdom by the Babylonians between 597 to 581 BC. God promised He would return Israel to the land after a period of time. They did return, the capital city of Jerusalem was reestablished and the temple rebuilt (see the nooks of Ezra and Nehemiah).
Any promises in the Old Testament related to Israel returning to their land and rebuilding the temple were fulfilled in the post-exile period and continuing with the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Jesus had this to say about the redemptive center of Jerusalem in His discussion with the Samaritan woman:
The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers (John 4:19-24).
There are two Jerusalems: earthly Jerusalem and heavenly Jerusalem:
Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem [that was in existence when Paul wrote to the Galatians], for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother (Gal. 4:25-26).
There is nothing in the New Testament that mentions any change in the redemptive nature of these two Jerusalems. The truth of this revelation is even more clear in the book of Hebrews:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:22-24).
The only Jerusalem that matters redemptively is the heavenly Jerusalem. The Jerusalem of today is no different from any other capital city.
What about the need for a rebuilt temple? There isn’t a single verse in the New Testament that says anything about a rebuilt temple. In fact, Jesus is the temple (John 2:19-22), its cornerstone (Eph. 2:20; Luke 20:17; 1 Peter 2:6-9), and we are living stones with Him in it (1 Peter 2:4-5).
While acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has political significance, it doesn’t have any redemptive or prophetic significance.