"Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to
all the surrounding peoples...I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all
peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all
nations of the earth are gathered against it"
by Darris McNeely
The Bible characterizes the
ancient capital city of Jerusalem as a holy city as well as a type of Sodom and
Egypt, two ancient cities that typified sin. This is quite a contrast for a city
that three major religions revere.
Talks that seemed to promise peace suddenly broke down in 2000, leading to weeks
of bloody violence in the last months of the year. The central contentious issue
was Israeli and Palestinian disagreement on who should control Jerusalem.
An article in The New York Times during negotiations summarizes the
problem: "Jerusalem is rarely publicly discussed by Israeli or Palestinian
leaders in anything but black-and-white terms. It is the 'eternal, undivided
capital' of Israel, on the one hand, and the future capital of the Palestinian
state on the other: seemingly irreconcilable concepts that have led many
intelligent politicians to recommend that the issue be left unresolved in the
current, supposedly final, peace talks" (May 21, 2000).
The most hotly contested part of the city is the area called the Temple Mount,
the site of two Islamic mosques as well as the Western Wall of the temple
precincts destroyed by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago, which is important to
the Jews. The Palestinians hope to claim permanent sovereignty over the site and
gain a significant victory in the long-standing struggle between Arab and Jew.
Indeed, Jerusalem's status remains unresolved and a huge stumbling block in any
effort to reach a meaningful accord.
The prophet Zechariah predicted the politically central position and troublesome
nature of the city in the end time: "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of
drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples ... I will make Jerusalem a very
heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in
pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it" (Zechariah
A history of continuing conflict
We have been there before. Jerusalem has seen a succession of revolutions,
sieges, surrenders and famines-followed by restorations and rebuilding. Its time
of greatest glory was under Solomon, son of Israel's famous King David. Solomon
built the fabulous temple described in 1 and 2 Kings.
Over the centuries Jerusalem has inspired much contention. Christians and
Muslims have alternately slaughtered each other to wrest control of the
"city of peace." Many thousands have died under the banner of the
cross and the crescent within its walls and gates. Aldous Huxley once called her
the "great slaughterhouse of religions."
From 1948 to 1967 the city was divided between Jews and Arabs. Author and
lecturer Amos Oz observed: "The years 1948 through 1967 saw Jerusalem
divided by trenches and barbed wire.
The frontier between Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem and Israeli-controlled
West Jerusalem ran erratically through gutted houses and deserted streets; great
scars of no-man's-land marred the city centre" (Jerusalem: City of Mirrors,
1990, p. 39).
In 1967 Israel gained control and united the holy city during the Six Day War.
Since then Israelis have guaranteed the major religions access to all holy
sites. The push to achieve a settlement of the Palestinian-homeland issue has
again highlighted Jerusalem's emotional pull.
Tension remains high over the Temple Mount area, which is sure to continue to
Calm before the storm
Bible prophecy shows Jerusalem to be the focal point of important events before
the return of Christ to inaugurate His rule over the earth. Notice what Jesus
revealed: "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken
of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him
understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains"
Jesus was referring to a prophecy in Daniel 9, a detailed prediction of the
coming of the Messiah. Daniel described "one who makes desolate"
(verse 27). Here God reveals a conflict that will involve a sacrifice and a
covenant (treaty or other legal agreement). Apparently Jerusalem will see a
respite from conflict when outside powers become involved and lead-or force-the
combatants into a brief peace. But such a peace will only be the calm before the
Notice these additional details from Jesus' Olivet prophecy: "But when you
see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then
let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst
of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.
"For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may
be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing
babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath
upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away
captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the
times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:20-24).
Revelation 11:2 tells us that this period of gentile (non-Israelite) control
over Jerusalem will last 42 months. During this same 31/2-year period a powerful
person will lead a military, economic and religious power that will arise in the
end time to rule over much of the world (Revelation 13). This great power will
diametrically oppose God and persecute and even murder those who are faithful to
God (verses 5-8).
At the same time, God will raise up two prophets in Jerusalem who will proclaim
His truth to a world growing ever more ensnared in religious deception
(Revelation 11:3-6). The world will celebrate when they are martyred, but then
be stunned when God raises them to life again (verses 7-13).
Jerusalem again will be the site of a great battle. God says that at the time of
the end He will "gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the
city shall be taken, the houses rifled ..." (Zechariah 14:1-2). Christ will
return at that point and battle the armies gathered around Jerusalem (verses
3-4; Revelation 19:11-19).
Coming: Gentile control of Jerusalem?
In the meantime, the issue of Jerusalem's status awaits a resolution. Will the
Vatican offer its services to break through the Gordian knot that prevents a
In July 2000, while Israeli and Palestinian leaders met at Camp David with
President Clinton, the pope urged that Jerusalem be governed under international
protection. "... I want to ask all the parties not to neglect the
importance of the spiritual dimension of the city of Jerusalem, with its sacred
places and the community of three monotheistic religions that surround
them," he said.
In September he reiterated his desire for international intervention in
Jerusalem: "The history and present reality of interreligious relations in
the Holy Land is such that no just and lasting peace is foreseeable without some
form of support from the international community."
Since then spokesmen for the Palestinians and Israelis, as well as other
national leaders, have called for intervention not only from the Vatican but
from the European Union and United Nations. Growing numbers are calling for
exactly the kind of solution prophesied in the Bible: the passing of Jerusalem
to gentile or Vatican control-or both.
Of the climactic circumstances that will overwhelm Jerusalem at the time of the
end, Jesus says: "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift
up your heads, because your redemption draws near" (Luke 21:28).
At Christ's return He will rescue the then-downtrodden city. It will regain its
status as a font of light, truth and glory. Ruling from Jerusalem, Jesus Christ
will liberate mankind and bring peace to this war-torn world.