“The history of Jerusalem is the history of the world.” This is the opening line of Jerusalem, an illuminating book chronicling the history of this city, written by British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore.
In the introduction, Montefiore describes how central Jerusalem is in the history of human civilization, especially in the history and theology of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Using examples and anecdotes, he shows that Jerusalem has been a focal point for humanity from the beginning.
He then asks this crucial question: “Of all the places in the world, why Jerusalem?”
This question gets to the essence of understanding Jerusalem. Montefiore writes, “The site was remote from the trade routes of the Mediterranean coast; it was short of water, baked in the summer sun, chilled by winter winds, its jagged rocks blistered and inhospitable.” Despite these disadvantages, Jerusalem became the “center of the Earth.” Why?
Anyone even slightly familiar with the Bible knows that Jerusalem is at the heart of the biblical narrative. This city is there from the beginning of the book to the end. But the Bible doesn’t just record events that happen in and around Jerusalem. It also answers the essential question: Why Jerusalem?
Here we will see that the exciting history and prophecy of this city began all the way back in Genesis.
In fact, there is evidence that the history of this utterly unique city started even before human beings were created.
The Garden of Eden
The history of humankind begins in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 1, God re-created Earth and, on the sixth day, created human beings. Genesis 2 shows that He placed the first man in this magnificent garden, which was a small area in the eastern part of a much larger area called Eden (verse 8).
In this garden, God personally educated Adam and Eve about their incredible human potential. Mankind’s destiny is to help God make the entire universe look like the Garden of Eden!
Where was Eden, and this garden within Eden, located? The Bible gives some fascinating clues.
Notice the remarkable geography described in Genesis 2. A great river originated at a point outside the garden, flowed through it, and then parted into four branches (verse 10). The first branch was the Pison River, which flowed through the land of Havilah. The second, the Gihon River, wended through the land of Cush. Third was the Hiddekel River, which ran through Asshur. And finally, the Euphrates flowed through Shinar (verses 11-14).
The historian Flavius Josephus shed further light on these four rivers in his epic work Antiquities of the Jews. He wrote that the Pison was associated with the Ganges River, the Gihon with the Nile River, and the Hiddekel with the Tigris River. The Euphrates retains its original name today.
As we will see, the biblical record suggests that the greater land of Eden was what we now think of as the entire coastal region on the east side of the Mediterranean Sea—the general area surrounding Jerusalem. It may also have included the region of the Red Sea in the south, down to the conspicuously named port city and gulf of Aden (a location tradition claims is as old as human history).
It is possible that this garden where God placed Adam and Eve was located precisely where present-day Jerusalem is located.
Genesis 2 strongly indicates that the garden existed near the opening of the Gihon Spring. This spring, which is today a mere trickle compared to what it once was, originates just outside of what is now the old city of Jerusalem.
The picture given in the Bible suggests that the Earth at this time was a paradise with a mild climate and that these four tributaries were wide, gentle rivers that flowed eastward toward the seas. Geologic changes, especially those caused by the biblical Flood, would have since altered the drainage pattern. As a result, these rivers now have separate sources and flow in different directions.
Verse 10 says the source that divided into four rivers “went out of Eden.” This indicates that the Garden of Eden was perhaps the highest point in the land. Jerusalem is not the highest point in the region today. However, Scripture reveals that after Jesus Christ returns, a great earthquake will lift up Jerusalem and open up rivers of living waters (Zechariah 14:8-10). A great river will flow eastward out the door of God’s temple into the Dead Sea (Ezekiel 47). Once this sea becomes full of living water, it will spill over and streams will flow through the surrounding region.
Jerusalem is repeatedly named in the Bible as God’s “holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9; Joel 3:17, etc). Ezekiel 28:13-14 use exactly the same language in connection to the Garden of Eden: “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; … thou wast upon the holy mountain ….” Could it be because these two are one and the same—that Jerusalem and the Garden of Eden are both God’s “holy mountain”?
It is logical that when God makes this change, He will be restoring the region’s geography to the way it was when He first created man. This picture the Bible paints of the future could reveal how conditions were in the past!
Genesis 3:23-24 show that after Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, God removed them from the garden and placed an angel with a flaming sword “at the east of the garden of Eden.” This indicates that Adam and his family settled in territory east of the garden.
There is further evidence of this in Joshua 3:16, which records that when the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land around 2,500 years later, they returned through “Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan” (rsv). This city was in the region of “the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea” (rsv), an obvious reference to the Dead Sea, further confirmation that Adam and Eve settled on land east of the garden.
More recently, archaeologists have associated Tel ed-Damiyeh, ancient ruins near the Jabbok River, with the “city of Adam.” Nearby is Damia Bridge, or Adam Bridge, an ancient bridge that crosses the Jordan River. All these signs agree that Adam and Eve settled in territory adjacent east of the Garden of Eden, in the region we now call the Jordan Valley.
Considering how important Jerusalem is to God, and the central role it plays in God’s master plan, wouldn’t it make sense for God to begin His plan for humankind in a beautiful garden that He planted in that very location?
We will see later in this book a scriptural indication that God’s plans for this piece of real estate went back much further in antiquity than even Adam and Eve.
Melchizedek Founds Jerusalem
When Adam’s son Cain murdered his brother Abel, God exiled him from the land of his mother and father. “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16). We do not know the precise borders of Nod, but this passage makes clear that it was further east of the Jordan Valley region, where Adam and Eve had settled. “Land of Nod” means “land of wandering,” an apt description of the barren deserts of Arabia.
Verse 17 says that after they arrived in Nod, Cain and his descendants built the first city, called Enoch. Some have associated Enoch with Eridu, an archaeological site in southern Mesopotamia and one of the world’s oldest cities. Enoch has also been associated with Babylon, which is in the same general area. Ancient Sumerian and Babylonian records agree with the Bible, which identifies Babylon as the seat of rebellious government and pagan religion. Genesis 10 and 11, for example, record that the arch-rebel Nimrod, the tyrant who built the tower of Babel, was headquartered in Babylon. Isn’t it rational that Nimrod would have established his headquarters in the same region—and perhaps rebuilt the city—as his forefather Cain, the original rebel and tyrant?
Roughly two millenniums after Cain, God founded His chosen nation through a man named Abram. Genesis 12:1 says that God told him, “Get thee out of thy country … unto a land that I will shew thee.” Abram lived in the city of Ur in Babylon, in the same general region as Cain and Nimrod—a region historical records show was steeped in paganism. God told Abram to leave that place—just as He does spiritually with all of us (e.g. Revelation 18:4).
Abram obeyed and “went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came” (Genesis 12:5).
Realize: When Abram left Ur and traveled to Canaan, he reversed Cain’s journey. Rebellious Adam and Cain traveled away from Eden. Obedient and faithful Abram traveled west from Babylon back toward Eden.
After Abram obeyed God and returned to Canaan, God made this wonderful promise: “Unto thy seed will I give this land” (verse 7).
This promise is what made this land, Canaan, the “Promised Land.” It was to this land that God would later bring the nation of Israel, which comprised the descendants of this patriarch. This land was clearly very special to God—likely because it was where God had first created man—not to mention God’s plans for its future!
God made this epic promise, and Abram moved to Canaan, around 1900 b.c. Archaeological excavations and ancient writings confirm that the land of Canaan at this time was already home to some important cities, including Jerusalem.
Genesis 14 describes Abram’s encounter with “Melchizedek king of Salem.” Who was this great king? Verses 1-17 describe Abram’s great military victories over four powerful Assyrian kings. Verses 18-20 record that following these victories, “Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he [Abram] gave him [Melchizedek] tithes of all.”
Abram and Melchizedek clearly had a close relationship. Melchizedek had tremendous affection for Abram, and this great patriarch, whom God later renamed Abraham, tithed to this “king of Salem”! Melchizedek was not only a king, he was also a “priest of the most high God.”
Who was Melchizedek exactly?
Ancient Jewish records, including text on the Dead Sea Scrolls, show that certain Jews in the second and first centuries b.c. believed Melchizedek was a divine being. Many Jews referred to him using the same Hebrew terms used to describe God and believed that he would one day atone for, and later judge, his people.
This early Jewish belief is consistent with the later writings of the Apostle Paul. Note carefully what he was inspired to write: “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace” (Hebrews 7:1-2). His name means “king of righteousness.” Who could this be? Only God could have such a title!
Notice these additional, crucial revelations Paul gives us about this Melchizedek: “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils” (verses 3-4).
Consider how great Melchizedek was! This is no ordinary man! In addition to being a king, he was a priest. He has neither beginning of days nor end of life. He is “made like unto the Son of God.” Who could be without father, without mother, and have neither beginning nor ending of life? Only God can be described this way. And no man has ever seen God the Father (John 6:46).
This Melchizedek was none other than the eternally existing member of the Godhead who later became Jesus Christ! John 1:1 describes Him as the Word.
This eternal God Being was “king of Salem.” Salem was a city that eventually became known as Jeru-salem! It is located right there in the Promised Land, and that is where God brought His chosen servant Abraham.
When Abraham met with Melchizedek in Salem, he was literally back with God at the location of the Garden of Eden.
Jerusalem was chosen by God, and these scriptures show that it was undoubtedly founded by the great Being who became the Son of God. Jerusalem was surely founded by Jesus Christ Himself! No other city has had such an incredible beginning.
God chose Jerusalem from the very beginning. “Salem” is translated as “peace” and “completeness.” In the Bible, Salem is largely synonymous with the terms Zion, City of David, Jebus, Moriah and Jerusalem. For example, Psalm 76:2 says, “In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.” Jerusalem means “city of peace.” God founded this city in peace. That means the city is itself a prophecy of what is to come. It was founded to be a city of peace and joy and happiness—forever!
Before there was ever a Jerusalem on Earth, there was a “Jerusalem which is above”—a “heavenly Jerusalem” (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22). God founded this city on Earth to point us toward that heavenly city.
Today, God has turned His back on Jerusalem because of the sinful people. But that problem will be corrected in the near future. This city will shine again.
Abraham loved family. He yearned for a son, yet for decades he and Sarah could not conceive. Nevertheless, God promised him that a son would come—a son through whom He would fulfill His promise and give Abraham descendants without number (Genesis 15:1-5).
Abraham waited 25 years for this promised son. He was 100 years old when Isaac was born. And it is easy for an old man to almost worship a young son.
Yet it was through Isaac that God later gave Abraham the most difficult test of his life—a test unlike any He gave to any other man. Realize how profound Abraham’s obedience test was!
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt [test is a better translation] Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:1-2).
What a shocking trial for any person! God’s requirement for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was a supreme test. There had to be intense emotions and strenuous mental battles.
The land of Moriah includesJerusalem. This is where Abraham offered his son.
It was also the very place where, some two millenniums later, God Himself would sacrifice His own beloved Son! What a stunning parallel and picture.
“And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son” (verses 9-10). Abraham fully planned to sacrifice Isaac. His son was as good as dead in his mind.
How could this man do this? Abraham knew that giving up Isaac was so littlecompared to the Father giving up Christ to be crucified! As we will see in Chapter 3 of this book, when God sent His Son to Earth, there was the chance that Christ could have failed. Had Christ sinned, the plan for man would have also failed. Had Christ failed, God the Father would have been alone for the rest of eternity.
Abraham held God the Father’s perspective. He saw the Father’s love and Christ’s love—and he wanted to be just like the Father!
This is why Abraham became the father of the physical nation of Israel. This is also why he became the father of the faithful, spiritual Israel. He had the Father’s view and perspective—the whole Family of God picture.
In this test, Abraham became a type of God the Father, giving up his own son. Abraham and Isaac were a type of God the Father and Jesus Christ. This is another major reason this incident occurred in the same place where God sacrificed His own Son: in Jerusalem.
An Unparalleled Act of Faith
“And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:11-12). God stopped Abraham just short of him taking Isaac’s life. He didn’t require Abraham to actually kill his son, but in his mind it was as good as done.
After this act of faith, God knew that Abraham would withhold nothing from Him.
This was not a mere act of obedience.It may have been an act of faith without parallel by anyone except Jesus Christ Himself!
What an example! This is an example of Abraham’s works—the kind of works that bring faith alive! God wants us to look to Abraham’s example and realize how far he was willing to go in obeying God. We must strive to develop the same faith that Abraham did. With God’s power, it is possible for us to do so.
“Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:22-23).
Abraham didn’t just believe in God’s existence, His sacrifice or His saving Work—he “believed God.” This is where the whole “Christian” world is deceived. Abraham believed every word of God. He believed all of God’s many promises. He did precisely what God said to do.
This living faith was imputed to him as righteousness. Only this living faith makes us God’s friends.
Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac is a major reason he will have one of the highest positions in the eternal Kingdom of God. Look at how richly God blessed him for his faith. The message is, if we build that level of faith-filled obedience in our lives, God will bless us accordingly.
A Vision of New Jerusalem
Paul writes this of Abraham: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise” (Hebrews 11:8-9).
Exercising faith in God’s promises, Abraham obeyed God, left the home of his father, and lived in tents in a strange country. Why was Abraham able to do this?
“For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (verse 10). This is describing new Jerusalem. Abraham clearly saw a vision that stretched all the way to new Jerusalem, the city and vision described in Revelation 21.
Abraham is known as the father of the faithful (Romans 4:11, 16; Galatians 3:7, 9). He set an example in righteous obedience based on real faith in a very real vision.
It was this vision that made Abraham so willing to sacrifice his son Isaac! Think about the spiritual depth of this man! He and his sons knew that our bodies are temporary—like tabernacles. He looked forward to the city built by God the Father. He was able to look past all of God’s abundant physical promises and focus on the fantastic spiritual promises of new Jerusalem.
We must also learn to see the new Jerusalem vision as Abraham did. We will talk about this in far more depth in Chapter 7 of this book.
What incredible history this city has had! But the richest part of that history is yet to be fulfilled!
God Establishes His Chosen Nation
God had promised Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:5, 7). This promise transferred down through Isaac, then Jacob. Sometime around the 17th century b.c., Jacob, to survive a famine, was forced to move his family to Egypt, where his son Joseph was a high official. They lived in Goshen, the choicest property in Egypt. The Israelites found favor with the Egyptians and prospered.
After Joseph died, however, a new king arose in Egypt “which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). He was concerned about the rising power of the Israelites. He grew to despise them. To weaken the tremendous power and wealth of the Israelites, the pharaoh made slaves of them.
For several generations, the Israelites were subject to their Egyptian taskmasters. “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Exodus 2:24). Hearing their anguished cries, God sought to bring His people out of Egypt and return them to the land He had promised to Abraham—back to the area of Jerusalem!
God then raised up a man of character who feared God and obeyed His commands: Moses. Under Moses’s leadership, God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. He brought them through the Red Sea and then led them to Mount Sinai through a series of awesome miracles. He then instructed Moses to tell them, “[I]f ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). They were to become a kingdom of priests, a holy nation! God’s nation! What a covenant this was. It contained a vision of what God planned to do with New Covenant Christians in bringing salvation to all mankind! (e.g. 1 Peter 2:5, 9).
At Sinai, God gave Israel an unparalleled gift: He spelled out His eternal spiritual law for them (Exodus 20). This was a detailed, codified form of law that had existed even before human beings were created. It is a spiritual law that, if we obey it, brings dazzling blessings—and if we disobey, exacts a toll on our lives.
This law distinguished Israel from every other nation on Earth. It is the same law that will go forth from Jerusalem in the World Tomorrow (Isaiah 2:2-3).
God also gave Moses detailed plans for the construction of a tabernacle (Exodus 25-30). At the heart of this sacred tent was the ark of the covenant, covered by the mercy seat, symbolizing God’s own throne. The Israelites built this impressive movable tabernacle, and God came down and dwelled in it in spirit (Exodus 35-40). God desired to dwell among His people! This tabernacle would later be replaced by a spectacular temple at the headquarters in Jerusalem.
What vision there was in how God established Israel! Imagine this unique event! You can’t compare this with anything that has happened at the beginning of any other nation on Earth! Clearly, God had His complete master plan in mind from the very beginning!
From there, the Israelites were only two weeks’ walk from the Promised Land on the other side of the Red Sea. God wanted to fulfill His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and it centered on this specific land.
Inheriting the Promised Land
God brought Israel to the frontier of the Promised Land. There He instructed Moses to send spies into the land to preview the marvelous inheritance He was giving them (Numbers 13). However, all but two of the spies brought back a faithless report, and the people grew fearful. They didn’t trust God to deliver the land to them. So God cursed them by withholding the Promised Land at that time (Numbers 14). That generation of Israelites ended up wandering around for 40 years and dying in the wilderness because they would not trust God.
We are about to enter the spiritual Promised Land, the Kingdom of God. He will surely test our faith. We must trust God to lead us through the wilderness and continue building our faith!
After that generation of Israelites died, the next generation entered the Promised Land under Joshua. With a high hand, they crossed the Jordan River, routed the walled city of Jericho, and settled in Canaan. This prosperous land, flowing with milk and honey, was the land of their father Abraham. An abundance of archaeological evidence today confirms the biblical record of Jericho, including its miraculous destruction by God—evidence that the walls really “fell down flat” (Joshua 6:5, 20).
When Joshua and the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, Joshua established the tabernacle in Gilgal. After they completely conquered the land, he moved it to Shiloh. That is also where the ark was. Shiloh is where God had all Israel look—to headquarters, to the tabernacle, to the ark. That is how God will rule the world in the Millennium: He will have people focus on headquarters. That is the kind of government that should rule the nations of Israel, as it does rule spiritual Israel, God’s Church.
Israel served God all the days of Joshua. And the nation prospered and had good success.
During that period, Jerusalem was called Jebus (Joshua 18:28; Judges 19:10). It was on the border of the inheritance of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah. But it remained inhabited by the Jebusites. They were Canaanites, descended from Ham through Canaan.
God promised to drive out the Jebusites if Israel would be His soldiers (Exodus 33:1-3; 34:11-15). But the city of Jebus was such an impressive fortress that it appeared the blind and lame could defend it! It would be many generations before the Israelites would actually conquer this well-fortified city.
David Conquers Jerusalem
Genesis 49:8 states that Judah’s brethren would praise him. This verse is primarily talking about the scepter promise and the fact that Jesus Christ Himself would descend from the tribe of Judah. But it is also referring to the many benefits that Judah’s warlike qualities brought to the nation. Verse 8 states that Judah would have its hands on the necks of its enemies. Historically, the Jews have had a rousing warlike quality that gave security to the nation. From Numbers 2:3 we learn that while in the wilderness, the tribe of Judah was assigned to take the lead in all marches. This was a position of great honor. Caleb, a great-grandson of Judah and one of the original 12 spies, had great skill and strength as a warrior, even into his old age (Joshua 14:11).
And, of course, the greatest Jewish warrior of all time was King David. There is no doubt he fought like a lion.
David assumed rulership around 1010 b.c. He was about 30 years old. For the first 7½ years, he ruled Judah from the city of Hebron, which was situated about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem within the land assigned to the tribe of Judah. But King David wanted to control Jebus. He knew this was God’s special city; he was aware of its glorious history with Abraham and Melchizedek. As soon as he was crowned king over the northern tribes of Israel, uniting the nation, he set about conquering Jebus. These events are recorded in 2 Samuel 5 and 1 Chronicles 11.
2 Samuel 5:6 records the Jebusites taunting Israel’s king, telling him that even blind and deaf people could defend the well-fortified city. David then made a bold offer to his troops: “Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind, that are hated of David’s soul, he shall be chief and captain” (verse 8). Joab accepted the challenge and penetrated the city through underground tunnels used to collect water.
“Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David. … So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward. And David went on, and grew great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him” (verses 7, 9-10).
King David’s conquest of Jerusalem marked the start of a golden period in Israel’s history. For a brief moment, the entire nation united under a godly king with Jerusalem as the capital!
Under King David, Jerusalem was once again at the center of God’s Work on Earth! The history of this city from the period of King David onward is well documented, not only in the Bible, but also in secular historical records and by archaeological evidence.
Ruling From Jerusalem
The Israelites had lost the ark of the covenant about 20 years before Samuel judged Israel (1 Samuel 4; 7:2)—the most shameful thing that could have happened to them—and it remained in a border town all during the reign of King Saul (1 Chronicles 13:3). It certainly revealed the degenerate state of their relationship with God at that time.
Once he became king and made Jerusalem his capital, King David wanted to reclaim the ark and bring it into the capital city (Psalm 132:1-8). This was a good desire! But David didn’t go about it the right way. You can read in 2 Samuel 6 about the disaster that resulted. David had some important lessons to learn about following God’s instructions in detail. God used that experience to better train him to rule forever over all Israel!
David repented of his carelessness and then brought the ark to Jerusalem with great fanfare. He then started thinking about building a more permanent structure to house the ark.
David became inspired to build God a spectacular temple in Jerusalem. God was moved by David’s love for Him. He told the Prophet Nathan to give David this promise: “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdomfor ever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13). Here is a clear prophecy from the living God that David’s throne would be established forever!
Notice: God made this towering promise after David brought the ark to Jerusalem and determined to build a magnificent temple for the ark in Jerusalem. King David understood how important the ark and Jerusalem were to God—and because of this, God blessed David.
God is establishing an eternal family throne. The next verse reinforces this truth even more: “I will be his father, and he shall be my son” (verse 14). This is a family throne! It is a throne that the Father and Son are opening up in order to build their Family!
Luke 1:30-33 reveal what kind of throne this is: God is going to give it to Jesus Christ, who “shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end”! This is an eternal promise! Christ will rule on that throne from Jerusalem forever! An understanding of David’s throne unlocks eternity!
God was pleased with David’s desire to build the temple, but He did not want David to construct the building. So God told him only to plan and prepare for the temple construction. David embraced the opportunity with all his heart! He “prepared abundantly”! (1 Chronicles 22:5). How abundantly? He gave and gathered a hundred thousand talents of gold and a million talents of silver—so much that most commentaries think this is an exaggeration or an error! Besides that, he gathered limitless amounts of brass and iron, timber and stone (verse 14). During the latter years of his reign, King David devoted his energies to preparing for the construction of the temple. He gave everything to God! He was being prepared to build forever!
Why did David want to build God’s house in Jerusalem? “See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains” (2 Samuel 7:2) David was bothered by the fact that he lived in a magnificent palace and the ark of the covenant remained in a tent. To him, this was a travesty, and he wanted to rectify it. David wanted to build God a house so impressive that it would be famous throughout the whole world—to magnify God’s name forever!
David wanted the temple in Jerusalem to be the center of worship for the whole nation. That is why he was so dedicated and excited to build God’s house. Everything in the nation was to revolve around it. The purpose and work of that nation was to emanate from the temple.
God wanted David’s son, Solomon, to build the temple. Solomon simply had to implement the plan David had laid out for him! That is the fruit of really working to organize for God.
Near the end of his life, David had to learn another powerful lesson. 1 Chronicles 21 records that the devil, who was aware of God’s exalted plans for David, provoked David to get his mind on his armies and on taking a census of them. God was angered by his focus on numbers for defense rather than on God. He brought a plague on the nation, and 70,000 people died! (2 Samuel 24:15)—terrible punishment for David’s sin! But then something truly inspiring happened.
David repented, and God sent the Prophet Gad with a message for him: “Go up, rear an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Aruanah the Jebusite” (verse 18). The king visited this man and offered to buy his land. But this Jebusite man offered to simply give it to his king (verses 20-23). David insisted on paying for it (verse 24). He wanted to give an offering to God, and he wanted there to be some sacrifice in it.
Once he acquired the land, King David built an altar on it and made offerings to God, and God stopped the plague (verse 25).
The location of that altar ended up being within the temple that Solomon would build. God gave David this special honor. Even though there was a lot of suffering, David’s repentance turned this tragedy into good news.
King David, a man after God’s own heart, will always have a special association with God’s temple in Jerusalem.
The beginning of Solomon’s reign as king of Israel truly was magnificent (2 Chronicles 1:1). Solomon had a humble attitude before God, and that made it easy for God to use him. When God asked the king what he desired most, Solomon asked for wisdom and an understanding heart—a prayer God answered richly, and added physical wealth on top of it (1 Kings 3).
God’s Philadelphians today are God’s priests in embryo. We are preparing to rule as priests over the whole world. We must have wisdom and knowledge from God to fulfill such a heavy responsibility! Pray fervently as Solomon did for wisdom and knowledge. You are going to need it!
Solomon comes from the Hebrew shalom, which means peace. The words Salem and Solomon share the same root: shalam, meaning peace, completeness. He was a man of peace. While he ruled, Israel enjoyed peace and political stability. God prospered Solomon’s kingdom tremendously. The population multiplied, and Israel soared to its greatest heights! (1 Kings 4:20).
This period of Israel’s history is a type of the soon-coming Millennium, when God’s government will rule this Earth!
“And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life” (verse 21). The whole world began looking to Israel. Surrounding peoples came to Jerusalem to pay obeisance to Solomon and to Israel.
This foreshadowed many prophecies of the World Tomorrow, when the nations of the world will come to Jerusalem where Jesus Christ rules (e.g. Isaiah 60:3-10; Revelation 21:24-26).
“And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon” (1 Kings 4:25). The prosperity and peace in Israel during this period foreshadowed what the whole world will experience in the Millennium! (Micah 4:4).
Israel was at the peak of achievement. It was fulfilling the role God had always intended: to be the light of the nations, the example for all peoples!
Much of this fame came from the knowledge and wisdom God gave His king (1 Kings 4:29-33). “And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom” (verse 34). People from all over came to Jerusalem to get educated! And Solomon was happy to share that instruction. This was, after all, God’s purpose in giving it to him. This is the purpose for spiritual Israel: We are to educate the world! God is the supreme Educator.
When Christ returns, it will be a time of the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:19-21)—a revolution in right knowledge! At that time, people from all over the Earth “shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).
What the world experienced in the time of Solomon was just a small foretaste of this marvelous future!
Building the Temple
We can learn many lessons from the history surrounding the physical temple in Jerusalem. The physical temple contains prophecy about the spiritual temple. We can also learn from Herbert W. Armstrong, the man God used to lead spiritual Israel and the building of another physical house for God, in Pasadena, California. These lessons teach us how to build for God.
Solomon had 200,000 workers build the most magnificent structure ever to grace the Earth. He commissioned the most skilled laborers available on the planet. Today, the Father and Christ have a skilled angelic army of many millions helping to build His spiritual temple, the Church of God.
God said of Solomon, “He shall build an house for my name …” (1 Chronicles 22:10). Our building project is not for us; it is for the living God! What a wonderful picture for God’s people to remember today! The very elect are God’s spiritual temple. That is where you will find God’s truth and Work today.
The stones for Solomon’s temple were each precut. No hammer, ax or tool of iron was heard on the building site when the temple was constructed (1 Kings 6:7). This is a great lesson and a powerful prophecy about how the spiritual temple is being built today. God is precutting His individual spiritual stones—future kings and priests—today. God’s “holy temple” today is “fitly framed together” by God through His apostles and prophets—His government (Ephesians 2:19-22). We must each submit to God’s measuring and cutting if we are to be part of His spiritual temple.
Since this work is spiritual, the world is unaware it is going on. But soon God will take all of these precut “stones” to Jerusalem and rule this entire Earth! When Christ returns, that temple will be waiting for Him! The world will be shocked to see a spiritual nation, or temple, that appears to have been built in a day! (Isaiah 66:8). What a magnificent master plan God has in building His temple.
When the temple was finished, Solomon had the ark of the covenant brought in with unparalleled pomp and pageantry, including a huge orchestra with 120 priests blowing trumpets! (2 Chronicles 5:12). God was so pleased that “the house was filled with a cloud … for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God” (verses 13-14). After all the fanfare, King Solomon stood up and said, “The Lord hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. But I have built a house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever” (2 Chronicles 6:1-2).
Solomon reminded the people that God had told his father David, “Since the day that I brought forth my people out of the land of Egypt I chose no city among all the tribes of Israel to build an house in, that my name might be there; neither chose I any man to be a ruler over my people Israel: But I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel” (verses 5-6).
Of all the cities on Earth, God chose Jerusalem! And He established a righteous king to rule from there. God gave the whole world a picture of what is going to happen again very soon from that illustrious city!
When King Solomon told his people that God had chosen Jerusalem, he was referring to the past, present and future! King Solomon was no doubt aware of Jerusalem’s history with Abraham and Melchizedek. Perhaps he was also aware that Jerusalem was situated in the same region as the Garden of Eden.
Solomon reiterated the covenant God had made with David, and said, “Now then, O Lord God of Israel, let thy word be verified, which thou hast spoken unto thy servant David. But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!” (verses 17-18). What a mind-stretching question! Will God in very deed dwell with men on the Earth? And the stunning answer is: absolutely yes!
If you study the Scriptures, including Proverbs and the book of Ecclesiastes, it is evident that King Solomon—like his father David and Abraham long before him and all the Jewish prophets—understood God’s future plans for Jerusalem. He understood that the temple he constructed for God was just a type of a future temple, the third temple that will be erected when Christ returns.
Like the first and second temples, the third temple will be constructed in Jerusalem. This is made clear by the prophets, including Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
Solomon’s temple captured the imagination of all Israel and even the world! Read in 1 Kings 10 how the Queen of Sheba responded when she came to Jerusalem and saw the temple and everything taking place there. She told Solomon, “Blessed be the Lord thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel …” (verse 9). That is a picture of the effect the magnificent headquarters of the world will have on people all over the Earth when Christ is ruling from there!
In fact, the establishment of the temple points directly to this prophecy in Revelation 21:3: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
The day is coming soon when God won’t simply be dwelling in Spirit within a few Spirit-begotten individuals in a world that is hostile to Him. There is coming a day when God the Father will move His headquarters to the very location of Jerusalem—and rule over everything—and dwell with men on Earth!
This is the future that Solomon’s temple pointed to!
In many ways, this is perhaps the strongest proof that Jerusalem today is situated in land that was part of the Garden of Eden. God does everything with great purpose, logic and design. He plans meticulously, and He follows through perfectly. It makes perfect sense that when the Messiah comes, He will establish His headquarters, the third temple, in exactly the place from which God has worked with man from the very beginning!