The destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple occurred way back in 70AD. Yet the desire for Zion has continuously burned in the hearts of the Jews throughout the centuries in exile. One might even say that Jerusalem is written in their DNA.
Though Jerusalem was rebuilt as a Roman city in 135AD - and except for the crusade periods - it has lain fallow, largely forgotten by the world for centuries. Photos of the Temple Mount taken at Israel's recapturing of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War attest to its desolation under Islamic jurisdiction.
It was only after Israel's historic victory that the world cast its collective eye on Jerusalem once again. I rather imagine a vision of Sauron sitting in his Dark Tower discovering the location of the Ring and suddenly turning all his attention to it.
From a secular viewpoint it is remarkable that in recent years it has become such an intense focal point of conflict, drawing global attention. Why would western nations bother about what happens in a far away place? Why does the United Nations conspire to remove Jewish history from Jerusalem?
We know why.
The United Nations is an Islamic devotee. Despite the terrorism associated with Islam, its demands are appeased, and it seeks to purge Israel from the region. It is because of the Jewish presence that Jerusalem has once again become a precious jewel to be protected from the Jew.
The church has done its share to disqualify Jewish claims to Jerusalem. Evangelical Lutheran Minister Barbara Rossing was content to note that the Dome of the Rock was an obstacle to the construction of a Jewish Temple. She wrote in awed exultation:
The Dome of the Rock is a beautifully proportioned octagonal building with graceful columned arches covered by turquoise and blue tiles, crowned by a golden dome. Take off your shoes to go inside, and a sense of peace and tranquility surrounds you. ~ The Rapture Exposed (p 59)
While you're standing there in rapt wonder you may also note the denial of Christ inscribed on its walls. Unless you want to shatter that "peace and tranquility," make doubly sure you don't get caught praying in Jesus' name as you admire the building.
Why are some Christian leaders comfortable with an edifice in Jerusalem which denies Christ, but not a Jewish Temple? Rossing didn't say. But she isn't alone.
There is a majority tendency for theologians today to spiritualize Zion and the kingdom. Christian writers and pastors deny a relevance of Zion as a location of value for the Christian. Typical of this, Peter Walker cites T. L. Donaldson:
If there is a "new Zion", therefore, it must be identified no longer with a place, but rather with a person. "Jesus replaces Zion as the center of the gathered people of God" and "as the center of eschatological fulfillment." ~ Jesus and the Holy City (p 41)
Reformed Theology has served Christianity admirably in expounding the glory of the Triune God in Scripture. Unfortunately, its "new Zionism" is carryover baggage from Roman Catholicism. Why else would these theologians struggle with straightforward eschatological passages such as Acts 1:6-7?
We're told we no longer need an outward physical temple (i.e., Jerusalem) to worship in because we are all temples of God (John 14:23; 1 Cor 6:19). This is true. Ironically Christians have buildings used for corporate worship. Roman Catholics have Rome. Catholics and Protestants alike have their Cathedrals.
It isn't an either or proposition. There is a spiritual and physical dimension to the kingdom.
In The Greatness of the Kingdom (p 520), Alva McClain tells the story of a non-premil preacher who was denouncing the carnality of a proposed millennial kingdom (as Augustine did). McClain noted that he was doing so while generously helping himself to fried chicken. Could we not, then, have a godly Millennial Kingdom which involves eating and drinking?
McClain also noted the irony of those who propose to influence society through moral and political means in the "present kingdom." Why, then, cannot the rule of God be applied by the Mediatorial King during the millennium?
That there will be a future temple in a physical location is supported by a straightforward reading of Scripture. Some theologians appeal to complex allegory and supersessionism, not to defend Scripture, but to protect a presupposed theology.
Jerusalem cannot be expunged from eschatology.
In The Temple and Bible Prophecy (p 524), Randall Price suggests several verses supporting a Millennial Temple. Joel 3:17-18 contradicts Walker's assertion that Zion must be understood as Christ. These verses speak of Zion as a future dwelling, and a fountain flowing from the "House of the Lord." See also Isaiah 2:3, 60:13 and Haggai 2:7, 9.
In Matt 24:15, Jesus warned of a future Abomination of Desolation standing in the holy place. That this is speaking of a temple is confirmed by Jesus' referring to Daniel (Dan 9:27, 11:31 and Dan 12:11). Paul further corroborated this future abomination by an individual in "the temple of God" (2 Thess 2:4).
Unless one takes liberties in spiritualizing the texts, there's no evidence that what was spoken by Jesus and Paul was fulfilled in 70AD. Some claim a future Jewish temple cannot be deemed holy. But if the Jerusalem Temple was no longer "holy" after the Cross then how does one consistently apply Matt 24:15 and 2 Thess 2:4 to the events of 70AD.
Amillennialist Riddlebarger deals with these problems by asserting that there is no gap between the 69th and 70th week. According to him the first half of the 70th week involved the three-and-a-half years of Christ's earthly ministry. Riddlebarger then arbitrarily squeezes the entire church age into the last half of the 70th week!
Premillennialist Robert Duncan Culver (Daniel and the latter Days) notes that the very language of Dan 9:26-27 specifies that the cutting off of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem, not only follows after the 69th week (v26), it also precedes the 70th (v27). Culver's study of Daniel is recommended reading and can be accessed online.
See also John Walvoord's Daniel the Key to Prophetic Revelation.
Zechariah refers to Jerusalem as a stumbling stone in which all who come against it shall be cut in pieces and destroyed (Zech 12:3, 9). The future tribulation is designed to show Israel that it can only trust in the Lord, not its so-called allies (Zech 14:3-4). God will answer their call when they recognize their Savior (Hos 5:15; Zech 13:9; Matt 23:39).
The focal point of this future conflagration is Jerusalem. Compare Zech 14:4, 12; Joel 3:14-16; Matt 24:15-30 and Rev 16:14.
Note the mourning of the tribes in Zech 12:10 and Matt 24:30. Not only didn't Israel mourn for their Savior in 70AD but they didn't ask Him to return at that time either.
After the Messiah's return, Jerusalem will become the center of government of the Millennial Kingdom. See Isaiah 60:12-14, 66:20 and Zech 14:16-19.
Christians look to a Heavenly City and Kingdom at the moment, yet the heavenly New Jerusalem will descend to a physical location on the new earth. See Heb 8:1-2, 12:22; Rev 16:17, Rev 21:1-2. This location won't be in New York, Rome, London, Mecca or Paris. The headquarters of the future Kingdom of God in the Eternal State will be Jerusalem.
It is only by respecting God's eschatological plan that we can understand the dynamics which drive world events. Why is Jerusalem such a jealous hot-bed of conflict? Why do the nations constantly rage against Israel? Why is there a steadily growing desire in Israel for a Jewish Temple?
The Lord returns when Israel repents. When Jesus returns Satan will be incarcerated (Rev 12:12, 20:1-3) Jerusalem is at the epicenter of a Cosmic Battle which will ultimately usher in God's Kingdom.
It's all in God's Word. Read it and believe what it plainly says.