Jerusalem—“A Cause for Exultation”
“Here I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart. But exult, you people, and be joyful forever in what I am creating. For here I am creating Jerusalem a cause for joyfulness and her people a cause for exultation. And I will be joyful in Jerusalem and exult in my people.”—Isaiah 65:17-19.
1. (a) Why should God’s people find the words of Isaiah 65:17-19 thrilling? (b) Yet what questions are raised about Jerusalem?
THRILLING are these words of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah as expressed through his prophet! They speak of an abounding joy. Do you not want to share in that joy? Surely you do! But you may ask, What is the Jerusalem referred to here? Does it have any connection with the modern city—so much a center of violent religious and political controversies? Will “Jerusalem” ever fulfill a role in harmony with the meaning of its name—“Possession [or, Foundation] of Twofold Peace”? In what way are the “new heavens and a new earth” related to the Jerusalem of this prophecy? We shall see.
2. What was the early history of Jerusalem’s location?
2 The location of Jerusalem has a long history of being favored by Jehovah. No doubt it was here, more than 3,900 years ago, that the king-priest Melchizedek blessed Abraham. Further, he blessed Jehovah as “the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth.” (Genesis 14:18, 19) However, in course of time that mountainous city, Salem, became a stronghold of the demon-worshiping Jebusites.
3. What mention is made of Jerusalem during and after Joshua’s time?
3 More than 400 years pass, and in Joshua chapter 10 we find the first mention of “Jerusalem” in the Bible. Here we read that King Adonizedek of Jerusalem called on four neighboring kings to join him in the war against Israel. But Jehovah fought for Israel. Even the sun and the moon stood still, so that the Canaanites could be routed completely. The five kings were slain. However, it is not said that Joshua took Jerusalem. In fact, the record states: “As for the Jebusites who were dwelling in Jerusalem, the sons of Judah [who inherited that territory] were not able to drive them away.”—Joshua 10:1-27; 15:63; Judges 1:21.
The Jerusalem of Kings David and Solomon
4. How was Jerusalem blessed in the days of David and Solomon?
4 Some 400 years later, David became king over all Israel. In the year 1070 B.C.E. “David proceeded to capture the stronghold of Zion, that is to say, the city of David,” in Jerusalem. There on Mount Zion he came to reign as Jehovah’s anointed king. His son Solomon also sat “upon Jehovah’s throne as king.” During his peaceful reign, Solomon built a glorious temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. This temple became the center for worship of Jehovah and for instruction in His word and Law.—1 Chronicles 11:5; 29:23; 2 Chronicles 7:12-16.
5. How does the book of Psalms describe Jerusalem and its “grand King”?
5 Many of the psalms extol the beauty of Zion and of Jerusalem. The sons of Korah sang of it as “the city of our God, in his holy mountain.” Yes, “pretty for loftiness, the exultation of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the remote sides of the north, the town of the grand King [Jehovah God].” David himself described it in these words: “Our feet proved to be standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is one that is built like a city that has been joined together in oneness, to which the tribes have gone up, the tribes of Jah, as a reminder to Israel to give thanks to the name of Jehovah.” This “grand King” is said to be “residing in Jerusalem” and to be the loving Protector of its people. “Jerusalem—as mountains are all around it, so Jehovah is all around his people from now on and to time indefinite.”—Psalm 48:1, 2; 122:2-4; 135:21; 125:1, 2.
Ruination and Restoration
6. (a) What did Jerusalem come to symbolize? (b) What judgment was executed on Jerusalem, and why?
6 Appropriately, Jerusalem and Mount Zion came to symbolize the nation of Israel and its people. But in the space of less than 500 years that people became apostate, and wicked kings “filled Jerusalem with innocent blood.” (2 Kings 24:4) They refused to heed the warning of God’s prophets, so that finally the Sovereign Lord Jehovah pronounced judgment on Zedekiah, the last king to reign in Jerusalem, saying: “Lift off the crown. . . . A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I shall make it. As for this also, it will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.” (Ezekiel 21:26, 27) Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in 607 B.C.E. and carried the survivors captive to Babylon.
7. (a) What restoration took place, and why was this astonishing? (b) How did Jerusalem then differ, but what did the restoration make possible?
7 However, Jehovah’s prophets had foretold a glorious restoration of Jerusalem, and Jeremiah had even stated that this would take place at the end of 70 years. (Isaiah 44:24–45:7; Jeremiah 25:11, 12; 29:10) Astonishingly, and in fulfillment of Jehovah’s prophecy by Isaiah, Babylon was overthrown, and conquering King Cyrus of Persia issued a decree that enabled God-fearing Jews to return and restore Jehovah’s worship in Jerusalem right on time—in 537 B.C.E. As Isaiah had foretold, “the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God” shone forth once more in Judah and Jerusalem. This time no king ruled in Jerusalem. But Jehovah again favored that city because his name had been placed there and because of the faithfulness of a remnant of his people. Moreover, this typified grander things to come. The city was rebuilt, making possible the prophesied appearance there of Messiah.—Isaiah 35:2; 62:1-7.
Jerusalem’s House Abandoned
8. (a) Why did Jerusalem fail to welcome Messiah? (b) What prophecy by Jesus was fulfilled toward Jerusalem, and how?
8 More than 500 years after that restoration, Messiah did indeed present himself to the Jews in Jerusalem. This happened also at Jehovah’s appointed time, in 33 C.E., fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy of Da chapter 9 verses 24-27. But did Jerusalem welcome Messiah? No, for her hopes had become political. Jerusalem had apostatized from the teachings of Jehovah’s Word, and the rulers of the Jews committed the unforgivable crime of murdering the Son of God himself! Just three days before he was cruelly nailed to a torture stake, Messiah, Jesus, said to that people: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” (Matthew 23:37, 38) Earthly Jerusalem was judged and cast off by Jehovah in that year 33 C.E. In 70 C.E. the Roman armies wiped out Jerusalem and most of its people, destroying also the temple, together with genealogical and other records pertaining to the Jewish system of things.
9. Has earthly Jerusalem lived up to the meaning of its name?
9 Has the earthly, rebuilt Jerusalem enjoyed any blessing from God since that time? Its turbulent history of the past 1,900 years provides the answer. And today Jerusalem continues to be a religiously divided city. No “possession of twofold peace,” no glory of Jehovah, is to be found there. The earthly Jerusalem no longer enjoys a place in his divine purpose.
10. (a) What does apostate Jerusalem well picture? (b) How may Matthew 7:20 be applied to this modern “Jerusalem”?
10 The Jerusalem that twice apostatized, and that Jehovah punished by bringing against it, first, the Babylonian invaders, and, later, the Roman legions, well pictures another apostate system—the organized religion of Christendom. Just as the hypocritical rulers of Jerusalem gave lip worship to Jehovah’s Law, so the clergy of Christendom claim to speak for the God of the Bible. But, says Jesus Christ, “by their fruits you will recognize those men.” (Matthew 7:20) And what kind of “fruits” has modern-day Christendom produced? Have these provided any “Foundation of Twofold Peace”? No. Rather, there has been the fruitage of two dreadful world wars, both of which broke out in the realm of Christendom and were fought with the blessing of the religious clergy on both sides. Truly, the prophetic words addressed by Jehovah to apostate Jerusalem apply even more pointedly to the leaders of religious Christendom: “In your skirts there have been found the blood marks of the souls of the innocent poor ones. . . . They are upon all these.”—Jeremiah 2:34.
11 It is in Christendom today that we find a bumper crop of immorality, divorce, broken families, drug abuse and crime of every kind. Christendom’s religion has proved powerless to stay the growth of lawlessness. (Matthew 24:11, 12) How well Jesus’ words apply to its religious clergy! He declared: “Isaiah aptly prophesied about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach as doctrines commands of men.’ Letting go the commandment of God, you hold fast the tradition of men.” Thus Christendom, the modern-day apostate “Jerusalem,” together with all other “antichrists,” faces “tribulation” from God when the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven to bring vengeance upon disobedient ones.—Mark 7:6-8; 1 John 2:18, 19; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.
Restoring the Kingdom
12. What period of ‘trampling’ was foretold in Luke 21:24?
12 However, did not Jesus indicate a restoration of earthly Jerusalem when he said: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled”? (Luke 21:24) True, Jerusalem had been trampled down by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E., and despite the glory of a restoration, no king of David’s line had ever again reigned in that city. And, in the first century, Jerusalem was being trampled on by the Romans, who were detestable to the politically minded Jews. To this present day, there has been no restoration of a theocratic kingdom in earthly Jerusalem. Nor will that ever occur.
13 Ah, but “the appointed times of the nations” have been fulfilled! The very context of Jesus’ prophecy at Luke 21 indicates how this must be. Do we not see all around us today the very things that Jesus there foretold—‘nation rising against nation’ in hot and cold wars, ‘earthquakes, pestilences, food shortages, fearful sights, anguish of nations, not knowing the way out, and men becoming faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth’? Yes, the ending of the “times of the nations” is tied in with these world-shaking events that have exploded on earth from the year 1914 onward! (Luke 21:7-11, 24-26) It was no mere coincidence that Jehovah’s people had been pointing forward to 1914 throughout the 35 years preceding that date. They understood that the “seven times” of Daniel’s prophecy, Da chapter 4, would run out in 1914, this marking the end of the Gentile nations’ rule over the earth without interruption by God.
14. Why could Luke 21:24 not refer to the earthly Jerusalem?
14 So in 1914 the nations were due to cease ‘trampling on Jerusalem.’ Which “Jerusalem” is this? It could not be the earthly Jerusalem that was captured by the British general Allenby in 1917 and that remained under mandate to British rule until 1948, when the republic—not the kingdom—of Israel was born. To which “Jerusalem,” then, did Jesus refer?
15. Why would we expect the ‘seed of David’ to have been enthroned in “Jerusalem” in 1914 C.E.?
15 We recall that Jehovah established a theocratic kingdom at Jerusalem with David as king. It was to David that Jehovah there made the promise: “Once I have sworn in my holiness, to David I will not tell lies. His seed itself will prove to be even to time indefinite, and his throne as the sun in front of me. As the moon it will be firmly established for time indefinite, and as a faithful witness in the skies.” (Psalm 89:35-37) With the ending of “the appointed times of the [Gentile] nations” in 1914 C.E., the ‘seed of David’ with legal right was due to resume ruling in “Jerusalem,” or Zion. But not in the earthly Jerusalem!
16. (a) Where, then, has Messiah been ruling since 1914? (b) What is the evidence that Christ has begun to reign?
16 Instead, he rules now in the Jerusalem, or Zion, of which Jehovah says, at Psalm 2:6: “I, even I, have installed my king upon Zion, my holy mountain.” This is the city David refers to at Psalm 110:1, 2, when he speaks prophetically of the Lord Jesus Christ: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’ The rod of your strength Jehovah will send out of Zion, saying: ‘Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.’” Yes, the Messianic King, Jesus Christ, is enthroned now in a heavenly Mount Zion, or Jerusalem, to rule in the midst of his enemies. Already he has hurled the archenemy, Satan the Devil, down to the vicinity of this earth. Knowing that his time is short, Satan has brought the nations into “tumult,” as the psalm writer so aptly expresses it.—Psalm 2:1; Revelation 12:7-12.
17. Why should we expect an early end to the “tumult” of the nations?
17 However, will the Sovereign Lord Jehovah permit those nations to raise “tumult” indefinitely in flagrant opposition to his Kingdom by his Son? Remember, it was charged against first-century Christians that they ‘filled Jerusalem with their teaching’; and after that vigorous campaign of public house-to-house preaching had sounded the warning, earthly Jerusalem met up with Jehovah’s execution of judgment. (Acts 5:28, 41, 42; 4:16) Similarly today, Jehovah’s Witnesses have proclaimed His day of vengeance throughout the realm of Christendom.
18. Why do we confidently await the triumph of Jehovah’s “eternal purpose”?
18 Will Jehovah now fail to cap this greatest global proclamation of all history with his coup de grace at Har–Magedon? Will Jehovah fail “to bring to ruin those ruining the earth”? Never could that be so! Those whose hopes are anchored in God’s promises look confidently to the triumph of his “eternal purpose.” (Revelation 11:18; Ephesians 3:10-12) Through the Kingdom by Messiah, who now rules out of the heavenly “Jerusalem,” our “grand King,” Jehovah, will cause his Sovereign Name to be vindicated. Then, by restoring mankind to eternal life in perfection on a Paradise earth, Jehovah will demonstrate that he “is our God to time indefinite, even forever,” and that he “did not create [the earth] simply for nothing.”—Psalm 48:14; Isaiah 45:18, 22-24; 46:9-11; 55:11; Jeremiah 25:31.
How would you comment on the following:
□ What does the name “Jerusalem” mean?
□ Has the city lived up to its name?
□ What parallel to unfaithful Jerusalem is seen today?
□ What does Luke 21:24-26 show as to the end of the “times of the nations”?
□ Which “Jerusalem” then ceases to be ‘trampled’?