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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "The Work of the House of Joseph." To view all parts, click the link below.
Jerusalem means “City of Peace.” It was called to bring peace to the world, and it was called to produce ambassadors for Christ with the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 says,
18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word [or message] of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
This was the calling of Jerusalem from the beginning. It was prophesied daily in all of the peace offerings offered in the temple. The sin offerings were for justification; the peace offerings were for reconciliation. Hence, Paul links the two in his discussion of the love of God in Romans 5:8-11, telling us that “while we were yet sinners” we were “justified by His blood,” and “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God.”
Justification is for sinners; reconciliation is for enemies. In both cases, God took the initiative, extending both justification and reconciliation before there was a response. This is seen clearly in the ministry of reconciliation described by Paul.
Jerusalem, the Bloody City
Jerusalem was supposed to send ambassadors to reconcile all men to God and to bring peace to the nations. However, it became known prophetically as “the bloody city” (Ezekiel 22:2; 24:6, 9; Nahum 3:1), that is, the City of Bloodshed. It failed to fulfill its calling, and for this reason God brought forth a new Jerusalem, a heavenly city not built by human hands.
Ezekiel 24:6-8 says,
6 Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “Woe to the bloody city, to the pot in which there is rust and whose rust has not gone out of it! Take out of it piece after piece, without making a choice. 7 For her blood is in her midst; she placed it [blood] on the bare rock; she did not pour it on the ground to cover it with dust. 8 That it may cause wrath to come up to take vengeance, I have put her blood on the bare rock, that it may not be covered.
The prophet accuses Jerusalem of violating the law in Leviticus 17:13, where the blood of a sacrifice was to be poured out and covered with earth. Leviticus 17:14 continues, saying, “the soul of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.” To eat blood is spiritually to become bloodthirsty, as we see in the example of Esau-Edom (or Idumea) in Ezekiel 35:6,
6 “Therefore, as I live,” declares the Lord God, “I will give you over to bloodshed, and bloodshed will pursue you; since you have not hated bloodshed, therefore bloodshed will pursue you.”
Jerusalem was characterized by the same bloodthirsty nature as we see in Esau-Edom.
The Heavenly Jerusalem
This new city was planned from the beginning, of course, though God gave the earthly city the first opportunity. Hence, Abraham himself “lived as an alien in the land of promise” (Hebrews 11:9), and we, who share Abraham’s faith, also “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16). We read further that God has prepared a city for us—not the earthly city, but a heavenly Jerusalem—to be our inheritance.
Although the apostles were anointed by the Spirit while in Jerusalem and sent out as God’s ambassadors, they were not authorized by the high priest of its temple. Their authorization came from their great High Priest of the Melchizedek Order, Jesus Christ. The earthly Jerusalem, in fact, persecuted the early church in accordance with its prophetic name, the City of Bloodshed.
Paul himself, while he was yet called Saul, was an agent and ambassador of this Bloody City, for he persecuted the church mercilessly, according to his own testimony in Galatians 1:13-16,
13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood.
Paul later went on to explain the difference between the two Jerusalems. Galatians 4:22-31 tells us that Abraham had two wives, each representing a different covenant in a great allegory. Sarah represented the New Covenant; Hagar represented the Old Covenant. He says too that the earthly Jerusalem is Hagar, and its “children” (Jews of Judaism) are spiritual Ishmaelites, born naturally as a child of the flesh.
The heavenly Jerusalem is Sarah, who brings forth the “children of promise” (Galatians 4:28). Sarah’s children are begotten from above in a supernatural manner. Only by being begotten by the Spirit can one be a child of promise who will be an inheritor of the Kingdom. The children of the flesh therefore persecute the children of the promise (Galatians 4:29), even as Paul had persecuted the church when he was an ambassador for the Bloody City.
Persecuting the Prophets
Throughout the Old Testament era, Jerusalem persecuted and killed its prophets, afterward erecting memorials to them and painting their tombs white. But honoring the prophets posthumously did not erase the city’s liability, nor did it change the name of the city from the City of Bloodshed back to the City of Peace. Jesus said in Matthew 23:29-32,
29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, “If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.
Their cup of iniquity was full when they crucified the Messiah Himself, whose right it was to rule not only Judea but the entire earth. Jesus went on to say in Matthew 23:33,
33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell [gehenna]?
Gehenna is not the same as Hades. Gehenna was the valley of the son of Hinnom (Jeremiah 19:2), where, in ancient times, the people of Jerusalem sacrificed their children to Molech. Jeremiah 19:4, 5). This was at least part of the reason the prophets renamed it the City of Bloodshed. Jeremiah was thus told by God to smash an earthen jar in this valley and prophesy the destruction of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 19:10, 11).
Because the jar was smashed in the valley of the son of Hinnom, this became a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. Hence, when Jesus spoke of Gehenna, He was reinforcing the prophecy of Jeremiah. This is how we must understand Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:33 above, which shows the inevitability of Jerusalem’s destruction. “How can you escape Jeremiah’s sentence of Jerusalem at Gehenna?”
Jerusalem’s Liability back to Abel
Matthew 23:34-36 says,
34 Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zecharish, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Luke 13:33 adds, “it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.”
How could Jerusalem be held liable for all the bloodshed dating back to the murder of Abel? The murder of Abel took place long before Jerusalem was built. Jesus did not explain it here. The answer is found elsewhere in Scripture and is bound up in the law of authority. Authority comes with an equal level of responsibility and liability. Jerusalem could not be held liable unless it had taken control of the whole world and was the world capital at the time of divine judgment.
Jesus described Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37, saying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!” The Greek word for “sent” is apostello, for an apostle is one who is sent as an ambassador. Hence, John writes in Revelation 18:20,
20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.
This is the only place where the book of Revelation includes “apostles” among those who were unjustly treated by Mystery Babylon. Nonetheless, we may then include them in the great vindication, when God destroys Mystery Babylon. But the greater question is this: which entity is the final form of Mystery Babylon in this time of judgment? Is it not Jerusalem itself? From God’s point of view, Babylon, Sodom, Egypt, and Jerusalem are all the same prophetic city, for we read in Revelation 11:8,
8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city [Babylon] which mystically [spiritually] is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified [Jerusalem].
The Third Bowl is Against Jerusalem
When the angel pours out the third bowl of wine against Babylon, Jerusalem itself is cast into Gehenna according to the word of Jeremiah. So Revelation 16:5, 6 says,
5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; 6 for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets [and don’t forget the apostles], and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.”
If it was not possible for a prophet to die outside of Jerusalem, then surely this judgment is directed against Jerusalem. If Jerusalem is to be held liable for all the martyrdoms dating back to Abel, and including the prophets and apostles, then it suggests that Jerusalem also must be in authority at the end of the age.
In Matthew 21:33-46 Jesus told a prophecy about God’s vineyard whose stewards usurped the fruit for themselves. They beat or killed the messengers called to receive the fruit. Finally, they saw the Son coming, and having recognized Him, they killed Him, too (Matthew 21:37, 38).
The chief priests and Pharisees did not understand this parable, but Jesus asked them how they would judge such a case. Matthew 21:41 says,
41 They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
Thus, Jesus allowed them to judge themselves, and soon “they understood that He was speaking about them” (Matthew 21:45). Jesus’ verdict was given in Matthew 21:43, 44,
43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.
The Kingdom of God was thus taken away from “you,” the religious leaders, and given to others. Secondly, Jesus recalled the prophecy in Daniel 2:35, wherein the stone was to smash the image on its feet. The image “became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found.”
Jesus was giving them a veiled warning not to be found sitting on the feet of the Babylonian image at the end of the age. The implication is that they would indeed take control of the world at the end of the age, thereby incurring the liability for sin from the time of Abel. They wanted control of Jerusalem, and they got it in 1967 during the Six Day War. This fulfilled prophecy, but not in the way that most Christians think.
Jewish control of Jerusalem is not quite complete as of 2021. It may be that they must take control of the temple mount before the judgment of God casts the city into prophetic Gehenna. Perhaps they must even rebuild a third physical temple to rival the true Temple that God Himself is building, as Paul described in Ephesians 2:20-22.
The question for men to decide for themselves is which temple is the true temple? Which should a believer in Christ support? Which city is our mother? Will we claim to be children of the flesh or the children of promise?
Time will prove all things, but blessed are those who have ears to hear the truth ahead of time.
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "The Work of the House of Joseph." To view all parts, click the link below.