The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
November 27, 2011


1) Jerusalem (Tom Edwards)



by Tom Edwards

There are probably many people today who wrongly classify a church by its number of attendants.  For example, how often do some individuals seem to think that a church's strength or weakness can be inferred from the number who attend?  In other words, to them, a small group is weak, but a large group is strong.  

But we know that such is not always the case.  And especially as we think of  many of the small congregations of the Lord's people compared to many much larger congregations of denominationalism that have several hundred in just one congregation.  

In today's article, we're going to briefly consider a city the Bible speaks of as being referred to as "the holy city."  It was a city of many inhabitants; and as we shall also see, a place where God's glory was to have rested --  but also a city in which we hear the voices of many crying out for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and a city in which many who were viewed as the religious elite turned out to be even more opposed to the way of Christ than many of the others were.  

So though this was to be a holy city, a special city for where God chose His name to dwell, yet, listen to what the Lord says about this place in Luke 19:41-44: "And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, 'If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.  For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.'"

This statement was made about 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  How the Lord must have grieved for this city.  This is also seen in Matthew 23:37-39: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!  For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'"

Some of the Lord's parables speak of this (that God's messengers were often persecuted and killed), such as the parable of the wicked vinegrowers (Matt. 21:33-46). Stephen also spoke of this in Acts 7:51,52: "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become[.]"

Even in the days of Isaiah, we find a declaration made against Jerusalem that very much sounds like something Hosea would write.  Notice Isaiah 1:21-28, which begins by saying, "How the faithful city has become a harlot, She who was full of justice! Righteousness once lodged in her, But now murderers."  What had become of their faithfulness, their justice, their righteousness, and their love for one another?

We can draw various lessons from this city.  

For one, just having a name (or reputation) for being holy is not what really makes a person that way.  For while reputation is how others perceive us, character is what we really are.  Of course, the Lord is one who can clearly see us for what our true character really is, even if we have been able to fool others about it.  For instance, in speaking of the church at Sardis, Jesus says in Revelation 3:1, "...you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead."  So regardless of the positive impression that church made upon others, the Lord, knowing the true condition, urges the brethren at Sardis to wake up and repent.  

When we think of the church in our time, though it is to be made up of Christians who zealously serve the Lord, remain faithful unto Him, and bring glory to His name, is that always the case?  Have we sometimes failed in being what we should be as the Lord's people?  Do we proclaim His name and serve Him as we should?

We can draw some lessons from ancient Jerusalem when they drifted from the Lord, to see how we should not become.  

What else does the Bible show us about this famous ancient city?

First of all, Jerusalem goes by several different names in the Scriptures, with the earliest being "Salem." It is seen way back in Genesis 14:18, which states, "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High."  Though we might usually remember Melchizedek as being that priest who blessed Abraham, we might need to remind ourselves that Melchizedek was also a king -- a king of Salem.  So here Jerusalem, though by the name of "Salem," was in existence way back in the days of Melchizedek and Abraham -- which was a few centuries before the Mosaical Period.  Smith's Bible Dictionary places the life of Abraham from 1996 to 1822 B.C.  (The Mosaical Period began about 1500 B.C.)

The name "Salem" is also seen in Psalm 76:2, about a thousand years after Abraham's time, in which Asaph says of God, "His tabernacle is in Salem; His dwelling place also is in Zion."  Though David wrote most of the psalms, Asaph is attributed with having written Psalm 50, as well as Psalms 73-83.  He lived during David's time and was one of his three musicians.  The first mention of Asaph is in 1 Chronicles 15:16-17, 19.  

Jerusalem also had the symbolic name of "Ariel" (Isa. 29:1,2,7,8).  It is said that this word literally means "lion of God."  In this passage, "Ariel" is used interchangeably with "Mount Zion"; and though literally just a section of Jerusalem, Zion is often used in the Scriptures to refer to all of the city.  

Another name for Jerusalem is "Jebus" (Judg. 19:10,11); and its inhabitants, "Jebusites" (1 Chron. 11:4).

In addition, Jerusalem was also known as "the city of God" (Psa. 46:4).  Notice, too, Psalm 87:1-3: "His foundation is in the holy mountains.  The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob.  Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God...."  How special this city was to the Lord.  It was the place God had chosen to have His name dwell (Neh. 1:8,9), and where it is said that God's presence was above the mercy seat in the temple's Most Holy Place (Exod. 25:22; 30:6; Lev. 16:2; Num. 7:89).  It had become the capital of the kingdom and, therefore, the phrase is often found in the Scriptures of going "up to Jerusalem" -- even when traveling in a southerly direction toward it (e.g, 1 Kings 12:28).   Of course, it was also high in elevation, so people could go "up" to it in that sense as well.

In Nehemiah 11:1, Jerusalem is called "the holy city."  This verse pertains to that time after the captivity when Jerusalem was being rebuilt and repopulated.  The passage says, "Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine-tenths remained in the other cities."

This designation is also used in the New Testament for Jerusalem. For example, in Matthew 4:5, "Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple."  This incident took place after Jesus had fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, near the beginning of his 3.5-year public ministry.  

Also Matthew 27:53: "and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many."  Isn't that something that it would still be called that even at this time.  For it was just a  few days after many in that city had cried out for the Lord to be crucified.  Of course, it had still been that city that the Lord had "set apart" to be that special city where He had made His name to dwell.  So it had been holy in that sense, even though many of the inhabitants had failed to be. 

In the Revelation letter, "holy city" is used to refer to the church:  "Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months" (Rev. 11:2).  This is referring to that time, beginning with the days of Domitian's reign, when the church underwent much persecution.  It is a period that is figuratively referred to as "forty-two months," a symbolic length of time, which is also expressed as "three and a half years," as "1,260 days," and as "a time, times, and half a time."  So it is not a literal number of days, months, or years; but, rather, used symbolically to refer to the entire period of that persecution that actually lasted up to the days of Constantine who made Christianity the favored religion in the Roman world in the 330s.  

The very first mention in the Scriptures of Jerusalem going by the name of "Jerusalem" is seen in Joshua 10:1, where it also speaks of Adoni-zedek who had been king of Jerusalem.  He was one of the Canaanite kings, during the time that Joshua was leading Israel in conquest of the Promised Land.

We also see in Judges 1:8 that after the death of Joshua, the sons of Judah had fought against the heathen who had been living in Jerusalem, took their city and set it on fire; but even that did not drive all the Jebusites out.  

Jerusalem is not mentioned again until David had brought the head of Goliath there (1 Sam. 17:54), which was during the period of Israel's first king, Saul.  (Some sources date the beginning of Saul's reign from about 1020 to 1050 B.C.)

Later, David then drove the Jebusites out and made his own dwelling on Zion, which is recorded in 2 Samuel 5:5-9.  In the parallel account in 1 Chronicles 11, it also includes in verse 8, not only that David "built the city all around, from the Millo even to the surrounding area," but also that, "And Joab repaired the rest of the city."  This is, therefore, why Jerusalem is also called "the city of David."  So after ruling 7.5 years from Hebron, David then reigned from Jerusalem for the next 33 years.  (We normally round this off to a total of 40 years that David reigned, but from 2 Samuel 5:5 we see that it was more precisely 40.5 years.)

Jerusalem was also called "the city of the great King" (Psa. 48:2), where "God, in her palaces, has made Himself known as a stronghold" (v. 3). 

In Lamentations 2:15, it shows that Jerusalem used to be referred to as "The perfection of beauty, A joy to all the earth"; but Jeremiah, the "weeping prophet," is writing this during a time when Jerusalem was far from being that perfection and joy; and he, therefore, is lamenting over it.  For Jeremiah was in that city preaching God's message to a people who for the most part rejected that instruction, and during the time when King Nebuchadnezzar began taking its people into the Babylonian captivity, which lasted 70 years, as prophesied (Jer. 25:11,12; 29:10).  Many would never see their homeland again.

In Daniel 9:16, Jerusalem is called "Your city" and "Your holy mountain," in speaking of its relation to God.   As we think of many cities in our nation, and around the world, would we think of them as being cities that show forth characteristics that would identify then with belonging to God?  Of course, salvation is an individual thing.  In Sodom and Gomorrah, for example, there were not even 10 righteous people (Gen. 13:13; 18:32; 19:23,24).  Only Lot, his two daughters, and his wife were able to flee the city from its oncoming destruction.  But, alas, Lot's wife disobeyed God by looking back and was destroyed (Gen. 19:26).  So now there were just 3 -- but they were able to escape.  They were not swept away with the wicked.  We think, too, of the days of Noah in which only he, his three sons, and their wives -- just a total of 8 people -- were saved from God's wrath that destroyed the rest of the world.  So though greatly outnumbered by the ungodly, Noah and his family were still able to find favor with God and not be condemned with the others. 

I've often thought what a wonderful world it would be if every citizen became a believer in Jesus Christ and strove to live as one.  But even if that doesn't come about, as we considered in these previous examples, we can still strive to do our part in being that way.  For then we will be heading for a place where goodness and blessings truly abound -- and for all eternity!  It will be in God's heavenly city (Heb. 11:10,16; 13:14), which is in heaven itself and where God's people will enjoy everlasting glory.  The "road map" for this heavenly city is the gospel.  Be sure to take the time to check it out and to get on the right road for it.  Since heaven is a final destination for the redeemed, the trip itself to there can be well worth it -- and even if you run into many bumps and potholes along the way!

-- Concluded Next Week

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)