By P.J. Casebolt
Before Jerusalem was destroyed, the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 24:1-4) “was preached to every creature which is under heaven” (Col. 1:23).
Today, it is not necessary for us to visit Jerusalem, or even to know about it geographically, in order to be saved. But in order to understand the significance of Jerusalem in Old Testament times, it is helpful to know something about its geographical relationship to that era.
Also, as we examine the various doctrines with respect to premillennialism, the law of Moses, the law of Christ, the kingdom of Christ, the coming of Christ and related subjects, the significance of Jerusalem becomes apparent. Then, the Bible speaks not only of geographical Jerusalem, but also of the heavenly Jerusalem and a new Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 21:2).
Last of all, and probably of greater significance with respect to the controversy over the Old and New Testament covenants, a knowledge of Jerusalem geographically, politically, and religiously becomes indispensable. The Old Testament prophets, Jesus, the apostles Peter, Paul, John, and other New Testament writers all deal with these various characteristics of Jerusalem.
It is generally conceded that Jerusalem was first called Salem (Gen. 14:18; Ps. 76:2). It is certain that the city was later called Jebus, or Jebusi, and its inhabitants were called Jebusites (Josh. 18:28; Judg. 19:11). Still later, the Jebusites were driven out of their stronghold (1 Chron. 11:4-8), and Jerusalem became known as Zion, the city of David, and the geographical location of the temple built by Solomon (1 Chron. 22).
Because of the temple, Jerusalem became the location where the main feasts and sacrifices of the Jews were held. This system still prevailed in the time of Christ, but drastic religious and political changes were about to be made.
Jerusalem — Religious and Political
When God brought Israel, the fleshly seed of Abraham, out of Egypt, he made a covenant with them (Deut. 5:2, 3, 15). This law, or testament, served as both a religious and a political, or civil law, to the tribes of Israel. As long as the Jews remained in the land of Canaan and were faithful to God, they could enforce this law among themselves and also among strangers who sojourned with them (Num.9:14).
After the temple was built and the kingdom of Israel became divided, Jerusalem continued to be the center and capital of the Jewish religious and political system (1 Kings 12:27, 28; John 4:20). Even under the Romans, the Jews were allowed considerable freedom in the observance of their feasts and other customs. Jesus himself attended the Passover (Luke 22) and 50 days later, “devout men, out of every nation under heaven” assembled at Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11).
Early in his ministry, Jesus told his disciples that he had come, not “to destroy the law, or the prophets,” but to fulfill that law (Matt. 5:17-19). He later declared that this mission had been accomplished (Luke 24:44). At the last Passover feast, Jesus instituted a new feast which his disciples were to observe in the kingdom (Matt. 26:29). Jesus also warned his disciples about the coming destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20-24).
Jesus promised the woman at the well of Samaria that the hour was at hand when true worship would not be con- fined to Jerusalem (John 4:20-26). When Christ died on the cross, the old religious system of Jerusalem was fulfilled and abolished (Col. 2:14-17), and in A.D. 70, Jerusalem was destroyed politically, which destruction is still evident even unto this day.
Jerusalem — “The Heavenly”
“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem . . .” (Heb. 12:22-24). This heavenly Jerusalem is also referred to as “Jerusalem which is above” in contrast to “Jerusalem which now is” (Gal. 4:25, 26). At the time when Paul was writing (circa A.D. 60), the political city of Jerusalem still existed, but it and its temple were to be destroyed within that decade.
What significance does Jerusalem hold for us today? As Paul said concerning the advantage of the Jew, “Much every way” (Rom. 3:1). The “oracles” of the Old Testament were committed to the Jew, and it was from Jerusalem that “the word of the Lord” was to go forth (Isa. 2:3). Jesus emphasized “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
The “blood of the new testament” (Matt. 26:28) was shed on the cross of Christ, that testament was made valid by the death of Christ (Heb. 9:15-17), and the religious system centering around the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4) began in and from the city of Jerusalem. No other religious system can lay scriptural claim to this peculiar mark of identity. Every human religion had its geographical origin somewhere other than Jerusalem.
Before Jerusalem was destroyed, the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 24:1-4) “was preached to every creature which is under heaven” (Col. 1:23). The disciples in Jerusalem “that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). We still owe a debt of gratitude to those Jewish brethren who preached the gospel to the Gentiles (Rom. 15:27).
Jerusalem and True Worship
Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the time was at hand when true worship would not be confined to either Samaria or Jerusalem (John 4:20-24). With the end of the old Jewish religious/political system, God knew that it would be physically impossible for Jews, much less Gen- tiles, to continue assembling at Jerusalem for the various feasts and observances peculiar to that city and its temple. Especially would this be true once the city and the temple had been destroyed, with the Jewish nation dissolved and scattered.
The commandments, statutes, and ordinances of the first covenant, made with fleshly Israel at Mount Sinai (Deut. 5:2, 3, 5), were absolutely essential to the Jewish system of worship. In addition, the Levitical priesthood was also essential to that system of worship, service, and sacrifice. This is why the entire system — the Ten Commandments, ordinances, sacrifices, priesthood had to be fulfilled and abolished before any new system could he introduced (2 Cor. 3; Col. 2:14-17; Heb. 7:12; 8:6-13).
The scope and characteristics of true worship began to be witnessed when spiritual Israel/Jerusalem was established in geographical Jerusalem: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). The new priesthood began and continues “to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5-10). The church is now the temple of God (Eph. 2:10-22), the place of acceptable service and sacrifice, and the place wherein God is glorified through Christ (Eph. 3:6).
Let us not preach or believe “any other gospel,” or al- low ourselves to be brought into bondage by such (Gal. 1:6-9; 4:9).