Jerusalem! What a halo of glorious associations the Scriptures have thrown around that beautiful name; yet how sad has been its history! Most highly privileged of all spots upon earth, it has nevertheless been the scene of continual apostasy, culminating in the murder of the Son of God. He who knew it from the beginning, and had marked the ways of its guilty inhabitants, pronounced its character when He said, “It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 13:34, 35.)
Many other Scriptures foretell the present protracted desolation of Jerusalem and of the temple. “When He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying. If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44.)
Again: “For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword; and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:23, 24.)
And again: “The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without a pillar, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:4, 5.) And again, “Blindness in part has happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Rom. 11:25.)
From the consideration of all this the Spirit of God would teach us a deep practical lesson. “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”
The “severity of God” is a fearful term, but it must have its way against sin if grace be despised. Grace was despised by Israel, and what a witness are they during 1800 years of God’s “severity.” Grace is despised by Gentile Christendom, and turned into lasciviousness (Jude 4); and so surely as the vengeance written was fulfilled literally and to the very minutest detail upon apostate Israel, so surely shall the vengeance foretold be executed upon the Gentile rejectors of the gospel.
But the time is coming when the “glorious things “(Ps. 87:3) that are spoken concerning Jerusalem shall have their fulfilment; for the city shall be built again “upon its own heap “(Jer. 30:18); not as an act of unbelief, to be again the scene of desolation (though doubtless this will first take place), but “built to the Lord,” “and it shall not be plucked up nor thrown down any more for ever.” (Jer. 31:38-40.) “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch3 of Righteousness to grow up unto David; and He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell in safety: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.” (Jer. 33:14-16.) “Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion:… When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory.” (Ps. 102:13-21.)
“After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up.” (Acts 15:16.)
From these and very many other Scriptures that might be referred to, it appears that Jerusalem shall again be rebuilt upon its former site; in it shall be mount Zion, and upon mount Zion the temple which the Lord Himself shall build. The city shall be holy. “Every pot in Jerusalem shall be holiness to the Lord.” (Zech. 14:21.)
The Lord Himself shall dwell there; for it shall he called “Jehovah-shammah”— “The Lord is there.” (Ezek. 48:35.) “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” (Ps. 132:13, 14.)
Consequently Jerusalem shall be the gathering-place for all nations. “They shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Zech. 14:16, 17.) “The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lilt up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Micah 4:1-3; see also Zech. 8:20-23.)
The worship of God shall then be established in the earth; the “King of kings “shall be the Head—the final appeal of the religion as well as of the politics of all nations. There will be the House of the Lord—one house, built by Himself, and called “the house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17); such a house as man could not build; its architecture divine. It shall be “the perfection of beauty.” (Ps. 1:2.) The glory of Jehovah that Ezekiel beheld as with a fond lingering over the much-loved spot, slowly departing (see Ezek. 8:4; 9:3; 10:4; 11:23), “till it stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city, shall again have returned, as it is written, “Behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and His voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with His glory.” (Ezek. 43:2.) “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the month of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isa. 40:1-5.) “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously!” (Isa. 24:23.) “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.” (Ps. 48:2.) And although it was the scene of our Lord’s most bitter opposition, and named in the very hour of His glorious transfiguration as the place where His decease should be accomplished, yet did He look forward to the fulfilment of all that had been written concerning it. To Him it was indeed “the city of the Great King;” for He knew that where He was shamefully crucified He would also gloriously reign.
The glory and wealth of all earth’s great and influential cities are meantime, in comparison with that which shall yet be in Jerusalem, mere glitter and tinsel; for they are not monuments bearing witness to the grace of God, but to the pride and selfishness of man. The palace and the princely mansion, whose inmates are rolling in luxury, may be but a stone’s-throw from the workhouse, where the suffering poor are dying on the tax-gatherer’s pittance, “cold as charity;” yet the little space between is a gulf that no man passes over. Are not such the brands that tell of the city being the city of Cain? They can increase in wealth, and be artificers in brass and iron, and handle the harp and the organ; science and art may prosper, and men congratulate themselves on progress, as they flutter along the surface of life, not knowing or caring to inquire into the depths of misery, poverty, and sin that lie around. Practically they say with Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” or with the Pharisee who, in self-justification, parried the thrust of the “two-edged sword,” “Who is my neighbour?”
But of Jerusalem it is written, “God is known in her palaces for a refuge.” (Ps. 48:3.) Blessed guarantee of peace and prosperity. Each one shall have come to the Man who is the “hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest.” (Isa. 32:2.) No longer, like Adam, hiding from God, they shall hide in God. “They shall all know the Lord, from the least unto the greatest.” (Jer. 31:34.)
Their eyes “shall see the King in His beauty;” “the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick;” “the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.” (Isa. 33:17-24.)
It will be the “city of solemnities”—“a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down.” (Isa. 33:20.) “Thus saith the Lord, I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem shall be called A city op truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, The Holy Mountain.”
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts; There shall yet old men and women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.” (Zech. 8:3-5.)
“Their fasts shall be joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts.” (Zech. 8:19.) “I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying… And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.” (Isa. 65:18-25.)
Truly glorious things are spoken of this city, which time and space are alike wanting to tell. May the thought of what God is thus about to do for His own praise upon this sin-blighted world make all its present pomp and ambition—its godless progress and outside refinement—to be in our eyes, as it is in God’s eyes, “vanity of vanities.”
Attempts have often been made to spiritualize and apply to heavenly things those Scriptures quoted, and many others which describe the coming glory of Jerusalem. That there is a heavenly Jerusalem and a spiritual mount Zion, to which we, as believers in Jesus, are brought, is indeed true (see Heb. 12:22-24); but, as already indicated, nothing is gained, but, on the contrary, very much is lost by seeking to spiritualize such Scriptures, to the exclusion of their literal and primary application.
There is the glory of the terrestrial as well as the glory of the celestial (1 Cor. 15:40); and if ours be the latter, Israel’s shall be the former. The seed of Abraham of the heavenly calling may be “as the stars for multitude, but the earthly shall be “as the sand upon the sea-shore. (Gen. 22:17.)
3 This title of the Lord Jesus denotes His kingly character as David’s Son and heir. See Zech. 3:8;6:12, 13; Jer. 23:5, 6; Isa. 4:2; also especially Isa. 11:1, where, as to His manhood, He is the Rod out of the stem of Jesse; as to His Godhead, the Branch out of his roots. Just as, in Matt. 22:45, He is David’s Son and David’s Lord. Such distinctions are of value to faith, but folly to those who deny the Godhead of the Son.