Spotlight On Prophecy - Jerusalem

by Joseph Hunting

Among all the world's capitals, great or small, not one has captured mankind's attention as has Jerusalem. A thousand years before Roman legions located a garrison at a village they called Londinium Jerusalem was not only the capital of Israel but it was also the trade centre of the then known world.

Five hundred years later, the world's mightiest military power, Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem, and six hundred and fifty years later again, Rome, with the world's most powerful army, repeated the exercise, until its might in its turn eventually waned and sank into oblivion.

During those centuries, except for a brief period when the Holy City was controlled by the Maccabees, it was under Gentile domination. This situation was to continue for a further nineteen centuries during which the Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Saracens, Turks, British and Jordanians all controlled the destiny of Jerusalem.

This period of Gentile domination of the Holy City spanned a total period of two thousand five hundred years. Indeed, the only period Jerusalem had been totally free of Gentile control were the five centuries from David's reign to the City's destruction by the Babylonians.

The New Testament sheds a ray of light on the destiny of Jerusalem from its destruction by the Romans in 70 A.D. to a period when "the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled". But first, let me explain what is meant by the expression "the times of the Gentiles".

When the Gentile armies of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and overthrew the Davidic dynasty a new era for Jerusalem commenced. Scripturally speaking, the Davidic dynasty was Divinely appointed, for "the Lord has sworn to David in truth; He will not turn from it; of the fruit of your body will I set upon your throne." (Psalm 132:11). The expression, "the times of the Gentiles" covers the period when Jerusalem's destiny was dominated by Gentile nations.

In Old Testament times, following the overthrow of the Holy City by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., the Medes and the Persians dominated the destiny of Jerusalem; they in turn were followed by the Grecian rulers which in turn were followed by the Romans. The various invaders of the Holy land previously listed cover the further period up until June 7th, 1967, a period extending over two thousand five hundred years.

The disciples were so shocked when Messiah told them that the Temple would be torn down stone by stone that they asked Him, "Master, tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:2-3 and Luke 21:6-7).

Among other things, Messiah foretold the destruction of Jerusalem that was to take place forty years later. Because the prophecy is so relevant to Jerusalem's destruction in 70 A.D. and the amazing event that took place nineteen centuries later on June 7th, 1967, I will quote the prophecy in full.

"When you see Jerusalem being encircled with armies, then you know that her ruin has come. Then those in Judaea, let them flee into the mountains, and those in the midst of her, let them go out. And those in the countries let them not enter into her, for these are the days of vengeance, so that all things that have been written may be accomplished.

"But woe to those with child and those giving suck in those days! For there shall great misery on the land and anger against 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 upon by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:20-24 K.J.V.11).

This warning concerned the Roman siege of Jerusalem which commenced in 66 A.D. and terminated with the destruction of the Holy City and the Temple in 70 A.D. Josephus records the terrible sufferings inflicted upon the Jewish survivors. Apart from those slain by the sword, thousands were crucified. The survivors were sold on the Roman slave markets and finally were "led away captive into all nations". Thus ended the second Commonwealth of Israel and the long Galuth of compulsory banishment commenced.

It is difficult to frame the words that adequately describe the monumental events that have taken place in the past forty years in relation to Israel. It would not be wrong to say that it took two world wars to set the stage for the rebirth of Israel on the soil of its beloved homeland in May 1948. The very survival of Israel in those days was nothing short of a miracle. But then, where else would one expect miracles of this magnitude?

When the Six Day War commenced in 1967 Israel sent a diplomatic note to Jordan asking that she stay out of the conflict. In return Israel promised that it would not breach any or Jordan's territory on the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Jordan's reply to this olive-branch offer was to bombard the Jewish section of Jerusalem!

Israel then called on its paratroop brigades to take Jerusalem, but not to harm the holy sites such as mosques or churches etc. To the utter amazement of the world Jerusalem fell to Israel on the third day of the war. June 7th, 1967 was a historic and prophetic mile peg!

When, during the late afternoon on that momentous occasion, Chief Rabbi Goren blew the shofar at the Western Wall, it marked the end of two thousand five hundred years of Gentile domination of the Holy City. Interestingly, Zechariah foretells a time when Jerusalem will again be briefly overrun by Gentiles just prior to the Holy City's final deliverance by Messiah, but that is another story.

The world has bounced from one crisis to another since that memorable day in June nineteen years ago. The euphoria and excitement of that moment have dimmed with the passing of the years.

But not so with the God of Israel, who declares through Isaiah, "For Zion's sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth." (Isaiah 62:1).

And there are families who paid a very high price indeed for the liberation of Jerusalem, the memory of which has not dimmed with the passing of the years.

To me the most exciting and enduring feature of Messiah's prophecy is that His earthly reign in all the splendour the prophets have foretold awaits that day when "the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled". Of that time Zechariah prophesied, "His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives . . . And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one." (Zechariah 14:4,9).

The end of Gentile control of Jerusalem in 1967 is surely the prophetic pointer to that far greater day when the Lord of glory will finally deliver Jerusalem from all the nations of the world that are gathered against it. After this final conflict, Armageddon, He will establish His kingdom of equity, justice and peace.