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There are two Jerusalems in Scripture, as well as two temples. The first is earthly and physical, while the second is heavenly and spiritual. Both cities go by the name “Jerusalem.” Both temples go by the term “Temple.” It is for us to know which one is being discussed in any portion of Scripture.
In the days of Moses, the presence of God came down as fire upon the Mount. When the tabernacle was completed a year later, His presence inhabited that “tent of meeting” throughout their sojourn in the wilderness. After Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, the tabernacle was set up in Shiloh, a town of Ephraim, the leading tribe. We read in Joshua 18:1,
1 Then the whole congregation of the sons of Israel assembled themselves at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there, and the land was subdued before them.
A few centuries later, the priesthood of Eli at Shiloh had become corrupted, and so God forsook that place. The child who was born that day was named Ichabod, “the glory has departed,” to mark this event (1 Sam. 4:21). God then moved His presence to Jerusalem in the time of David and Solomon. Psalm 78 says,
59 When God heard, He was filled with wrath, and greatly abhorred Israel, 60 so that He abandoned the dwelling place at Shiloh … 67 He also rejected the tent of Joseph and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, 68 but chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved, 69 and He built His sanctuary like the heights …
But after a few more centuries had gone by, the corruption in Jerusalem was every bit as bad as it had been in Shiloh. So God forsook the old temple even as He had previously left Shiloh, as we read in Jer. 7:11-14,
11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? … 12 But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things … 14 therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place [Jerusalem] which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brothers, all the offspring of Ephraim.
While Jeremiah prophesied of God’s presence leaving Jerusalem, it remained for the prophet Ezekiel to see the vision of His departure. He first saw the cherubim rise up from the Most Holy Place (Ez. 10:15). A few verses later we read,
18 Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim.
Finally, in Ezekiel 11:22 and 23 we read,
22 Then the cherubim lifted up their wings with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them. 23 And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood over the mountain which is east of the city.
Ezekiel saw the glory depart from Jerusalem, but he only saw it go as far as the top of the Mount of Olives on the east side. The top of the mount was 2,000 cubits beyond the city walls, and this was defined by the rabbis as being “outside the camp” and “a Sabbath day’s journey.”
Hence, this was where they stored the ashes of the red heifer that were used to cleanse people as they came to the temple (Num. 19:3). It was also the place where David sacrificed to God (2 Sam. 15:30) when prophesying of the greater Sacrifice that Jesus would make on that same spot many years later. Forty days later, Jesus ascended from that spot, and Acts 1:12 calls it “a Sabbath day’s journey.”
There is no indication that the glory of God returned when the second temple was built in the days of Zerubbabel. In fact, since the Ark of the Covenant had long disappeared, that second temple had a Most Holy Place that was empty. Josephus tells us that a stone slab was put in its place. But the glory of God did not return to that place, because He had forsaken it “as Shiloh.”
After five centuries, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. In Him was the glory of God, for Paul says in Col. 2:9,
9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.
Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem and cast out the money changers. Matt. 21:13 says,
13 And He said to them, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a robbers’ den.”
Jesus quoted Jeremiah 7:11, which was the prophet’s indictment on the temple in his own day that brought about the departure of the glory of God. So when Jesus repeated this word, He was confirming that the glory of God would not return to that place. In fact, the priestly rejection of Jesus represented their rejection of the glory of God itself. The only way that the glory might have had opportunity to return to that place (if possible) would have been by accepting Jesus Christ as King-Messiah. But this did not happen.
After Jesus finished His work on the cross, He ascended to heaven from the very spot where the glory of God had been seen last by Ezekiel. Jesus took His disciples to the place of ascension, after which time we read in Acts 1:12,
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.
This concluded the final step of the departure of the glory of God from Jerusalem. Ten days later the glory returned, but not to Jerusalem itself, nor to its physical temple. The glory began to inhabit the believers in Christ, as we read in Acts 2:3,
3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distri-buting themselves, and they rested on each one of them.
From that point on, the glory of God began to rest in the people of the New Jerusalem, those who were living stones in the final Temple that God had prepared for Himself.
Not only did the glory depart from the temple, but He also forsook Jerusalem itself. Why, then, does Scripture prophesy also of the restoration of Jerusalem? Jerusalem in Scripture is always written in the plural. It is Ierushalayim, “Jerusalems.” While the ancient rabbis discussed this fact, they never understood that there were two Jerusalems. There was the old city, and there was the New Jerusalem, revealed in the New Testament by men who understood the difference.
Paul spoke of this in Galatians 4:24-31, telling us that the earthly Jerusalem was “Hagar” and incapable of bringing forth the promises of God. The Jerusalem that is from above, however, is Sarah, and is “our mother,” the mother of believers in Christ.
The earthly city known as Jerusalem could no more bring forth the promised seed than could Hagar. Jerusalem brings only bondage, not liberty in Christ. The end of Jerusalem is found in Gal. 4:30,
30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall NOT be an heir with the son of the free woman.”
The clear message of Galatians is the fact that the Old city of Jerusalem can never bring forth the promise of God. Hagar can never bring forth Isaac. Hagar is only the mother of Ishmael, who is NOT the inheritor of the promises, even though he is the son of Abram.
Throughout the Old Testament we find countless prophecies about “Jerusalem,” or Yerushalayim. Sometimes they are positive, and other times negative. For a negative example, we read in Jeremiah 19,
1 Thus says the Lord, Go and buy a potter’s earthenware jar, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the senior priests. 2 Then go out to the valley of Ben-hinnom [i.e., gehenna] and proclaim there the words that I shall tell you.
The prophet was then told to pronounce judgment upon the city and its inhabitants.
10 Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you 11 and say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts, Just so shall I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired; and they will bury them in Topheth [“burning”] because there is no other place for burial. 12 This is how I shall treat this place [Jerusalem] and its inhabitants, declares the Lord, so as to make this city like Topheth.
When we compare this prophecy of Jerusalem to the earlier prophecy given to the House of Israel in Jer. 18:1-10, the comparison is even more startling. The northern House of Israel had already been carried captive into Assyria a century earlier, and yet Jeremiah prophesies that they would be like a jar of wet clay, which would be remade into another vessel.
But Jerusalem was like a jar that had already been hardened. Once it was broken, it could not be repaired and could only be thrown into the city dump—the valley of the son of Hinnom. The Greek name is gehenna, mentioned in the New Testament. The point of the contrast is to show that while Israel was given good promises of restoration, even after its long history of idolatry, Judah was not given a similar promise. In fact, there is not one word of hope in the entire passage (Jer. 18 and 19).
Jerusalem, of course, was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in the days of Jeremiah’s prophecy. However, it was later rebuilt by Nehemiah. It was destroyed again in 70 A.D. by the Romans, but it was later rebuilt. It was destroyed during the Middle Ages during the Crusades, but it was always rebuilt. The city thus stands today as a city rebuilt many times over the centuries.
Jeremiah, however, prophesies of a destruction in which it can never again be repaired or rebuilt (19:11). That prophecy has yet to be fulfilled, and so it can only happen in the future (as of this writing). But this speaks only of the old physical city. It does not speak of the New Jerusalem of Rev. 21:2, or the “heavenly Jerusalem” of Heb. 12:22.
Isaiah 62 also speaks of “Jerusalem” in glowing terms that appear to contradict the prophecies of Jeremiah.
1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning, 2 And the nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will designate.
Isaiah goes on to describe this “Jerusalem” in heavenly terms. John interprets this for us in the book of Revelation, showing that Isaiah was speaking of the New Jerusalem. Isaiah 62:5 calls the city a “bride,” and John does the same in Rev. 21:2. Isaiah 60:18 says that the “walls” of Jerusalem are salvation, and its “gates” are praise. These describe the New Jerusalem, not the old.
Isaiah 60:19, 20 says that “Jerusalem” will have no need for the sun or moon to give it light, because God Himself will be its light. John says the same of the New Jerusalem in Rev. 21:23,
23 the city has no need of the sun or the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.
Likewise, Isaiah speaks of the inhabitants of Jerusalem as being entirely righteous—in contrast to Jeremiah’s prophecy. We read in Isaiah 62:21, “Then all your people will be righteous.” And later, John says in Rev. 21:27,
27 And nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
A simple comparison of Isaiah and Revelation make it clear that neither prophet was talking about the old Jerusalem, but about the New. Judaism, of course, rejects the New Testament, and so they do not believe John’s explanation, nor yet the book of Hebrews which speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem.
But we who are Christians, claiming to believe that the New Testament is part of the inspired word of God, should have no trouble accepting the fact that God has blessed the heavenly Jerusalem, rather than the physical city on earth.
The key, of course, is to understand that Yerushalayim is a plural word, indicating more than one city. Though the prophets of the Old Testament never mention the heavenly Jerusalem, they prophesied of it nonetheless by use of the plural name. And so, when we read the Old Testament, we must seek to know which Jerusalem the prophets were referencing. As a general rule, when the prophets speak of Jerusalem in positive terms, they prophesy of the New Jerusalem. When they speak of Jerusalem negatively, it speaks of the Old Jerusalem.
Solomon’s temple was the first to be glorified. It prophesied of the greater Temple that was to come. This greater Temple is not a physical temple, but rather the one that Paul described in Ephesians 2:20-22,
20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
Paul was speaking of the corporate Temple made up of the entire Body of Christ. Peter says of this Temple, that we are each “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) used to build it. There is another sense in which we, as individuals, are also a complete Temple in ourselves, for Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:16,
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
In this individual sense, we can make the comparison of the three parts of the Temple with the three parts of our being. The Temple consisted of an outer court, the holy place, and the Most Holy Place. Our personal “temples” contain body, soul, and spirit.
The point is to show that in the Old Testament God dwelt in buildings made of wood and stone, but that these were never intended to be the final dwelling place of God. Even Solomon recognized this when he said in 1 Kings 8:27,
27 But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!
Solomon recognized the impossibility of building an earthly house that could house the glory of God. And so he hinted of a greater Temple that was yet to come, one made of living stones and Holy Spirit callings and ministries (“vessels” and “pillars”).
In this new Temple would also be a new order of priests, not of Levi but of Melchizedek. The priests of Levi were a temporary order of priests, called to minister during the time of the Old Covenant. One had to be descended from Aaron to minister in that temple. But in the New Covenant Order, the Melchizedek priests did not have to be descended from Aaron, but from Jesus Christ—not in a natural manner but as spiritual sons of God.
The Melchizedek priesthood was older than that of Levi. The original king of Salem (Jerusalem) was not of Levi, because he came long before Levi was even born. Years later, David was a priest of the Melchizedek Order, even though he was not a Levite. Psalm 110:4,
4 The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
David was of the tribe of Judah, and so he was not eligible to be a Levitical prirest. Instead, like the original Melchizedek, he ruled Jerusalem, the “city of Salem.” But in the greater sense, all of this prophesied of the New Jerusalem, which would be ruled by David’s greater Son, King Jesus.
Jesus Christ was of the tribe of Judah, and so it was not lawful for Him to be High Priest of the order of Levi. He came as High Priest of Melchizedek. Heb. 7:11-14 says,
11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. 13 For the One concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.
Jesus Christ is the High Priest of an entirely new order of priests, whose sacrifice is the Lamb of God alone. Neither the High Priest nor his children, the sons of God, are eligible by law to offer animal sacrifices, nor are these effective after the Cross.
Jesus is not going to return to the old Jerusalem to be high priest over Levitical priests making animal sacrifices in a physical temple. The New Covenant is not a temporary interlude after which time the Old Covenant provisions will be reinstated. The Old Covenant was faulty and has become obsolete. The “better” covenant and its provisions are here to stay. Those who promote the old way do not know the mind of Christ. Heb. 8:13 says,
13 When He said, “A New Covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
The New Covenant, on the other hand, will never grow old, nor will it ever become obsolete.
The modern teaching in Dispensationalism that animal sacrifice will be reinstituted is based upon Old Testament prophetic statements such as Ezekiel 44, which prophesies in Old Testament terms, but which must be interpreted in the light of the New Testament. The Temple that God is now constructing is of the New Jerusalem., as described in Ephesians 2:20-22.
This is the Temple from which Jesus Christ will rule in the Tabernacles Age to come. He does not intend to rule the earth from an old-style temple in the old Jerusalem, nor will He call Aaronic priests to minister with animal sacrifices upon an altar on the Temple Mount.
Those who teach such things have not understood the book of Hebrews and the call to come out of that old system.
The Dispensationalist misunderstanding of Scripture has given rise to Christian Zionism, which has re-established the problem Paul faced in the first century of Judaizing the Church. Prior to the destruction of the temple in the first century, the early Church continued sacrificing in the temple and submitting to all of the Old Covenant forms which had actually changed at the Cross. In fact, the book of Hebrews was written anonymously by the Apostle Paul and directed specifically at them in order to break their dependence upon the Old Covenant, its forms, and its rituals.
Modern Dispensationalism has brought us once again to the same problem that Paul faced in the first century. The attempt is being made to turn the Church back to the Old Covenant, which would empower Levites to re-institute animal sacrifices in a physical temple in Jerusalem. Like the Jerusalem Church, the Christians are trying to add Jesus to the Old Covenant and its old priestly system.
Such a view may admit that Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant in His first coming, but it strongly suggests also that Jesus becomes the Mediator of the Old Covenant in His second coming. There is hardly a doctrine that is more detrimental to the foundations of Christianity than this. It overthrows virtually all that Jesus accomplished on the Cross. It reverses virtually every major change that took place under the New Covenant that is described in the book of Hebrew.
If this teaching were allowed to stand, the book of Hebrews would eventually be removed from the New Testament.
So we must choose which Jerusalem is to be our “mother.” If we choose “Hagar,” we will become her sons and fall short of the promises of God. Only by choosing “Sarah,” the New Jerusalem, will we be able to be inheritors and co-heirs with Christ.