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Old and New Jerusalem

Jul 29, 2009

(Yesterday I had to deal with a major virus on my computer, which shut me down most of the day. The problem was difficult to fix, but we were finally successful. I apologize for not having a web log for you.)

One of the major difficulties today among Christians, particularly since the rise of Zionism a century ago, is the failure to understand the difference between the old and the new Jerusalem. This causes many to assume that when Scripture speaks of "Jerusalem," it always means the physical city in the Middle East.

Part of the problem is in the simple fact that the Old Testament prophets never distinguished between the two, but left it to the New Testament to do this. The terms "new Jerusalem" and "heavenly Jerusalem" are purely New Testament terms not found anywhere in the Old Testament.

And yet we find John quoting extensively from the Old Testament in his descriptions of the new Jerusalem. A Jew might find this objectionable, but Christians ought not to have a problem with this. Yet we find many prophecy preachers insisting that every time the OT mentions Jerusalem, it must mean the old city.

Jeremiah tells us that God forsook that old city and its temple as He forsook Shiloh in an earlier time. The prophet tells us God's reasons for leaving Jerusalem in Jer. 7:9-11,

(9) Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal, and walk after other gods that you have not known, (10) then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered!'--that you may do all these abominations? (11) Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight?

In other words, the people were being lawless, but religious enough to go to the temple and say "We are delivered." According to Jamieson Fausset and Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible,

"In spite of the prophet's threats, we have nothing to fear; we have offered our sacrifices, and therefore Jehovah will 'deliver' us to do all these abomination."

According to Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Holy Bible,

"Thus the Jews made the Lord's house a den of robbers, by frequenting it in the midst of their unrepented frauds and oppressions, yet they thought that the temple they so profaned, would be their protection."

Christians do virtually the same thing today when they insist that Grace gives them a license to commit sin (i.e., break the law of God). The more times change, the more it all stays the same.

God's view, as expressed through Jeremiah, is that they had turned the temple into "a den of robbers." God then hired the Babylonian army to destroy that temple after He moved out.

This same indictment came upon the second temple, when Jesus cast out the bankers from the temple (Matt. 21:12, 13). In applying that wording to the second temple, Jesus was prophesying its destruction as in the days of Jeremiah.

Back in the days of Joshua, Israel set up the Ark of the Covenant in a town of Ephraim called Shiloh (Joshua 18:1). Jeremiah says in 7:12,

"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."

Take note that God's name was on the mailbox in Shiloh long before God moved to Jerusalem. Shiloh even appeared to be the location prophesied in Gen. 49:10. Shiloh was in Ephraim, the tribe holding the Birthright. But none of that mattered when the people became lawless, and particularly when the high priest (Eli) had sons who were more interested in women and offerings than in obeying God (1 Sam. 2:16 and 22). God turned His back on Shiloh and never returned. Instead, God found a new location in Jerusalem. Psalm 78 tells us,

(60) So that He abandoned the dwelling place at Shiloh, the tent which He had pitched among men . . . . (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. . .

That was how and why God forsook Shiloh. Three or four centuries later, God found fault with Jerusalem in the same manner as with Shiloh, according to Jeremiah. The temple in Jerusalem had become "a den of robbers" (i.e., a hideout and refuge from the law).

"(14) Therefore, I will do to the house which is called by Name, in which you trust, and to the place 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."

The prophet Ezekiel saw the divine presence leave that temple in stages. Ezekiel 10:4 says "the glory of God went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple." In verse 19 the glory of His presence moved to the east gate. Finally in 11:23,

"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."

The prophet loses sight of it after it moves to the Mount of Olives on the east side of Jerusalem. The top of the mount was 2,000 cubits beyond the city wall, which was the legal definition of "outside the camp." After another 600+ years, Jesus came as the representative of the glory of God. After His death and resurrection, He ascended to heaven on the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12), probably from the very spot where the glory of God was last seen by Ezekiel.

This completed God's exodus from Jerusalem, now that Jesus had finished His ministry there. The glory of God had to ascend first in order to return to the new Temple ten days later on the day of Pentecost. This new Temple is made of "living stones" (1 Peter 2:5). Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:16,

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"

When God left Shiloh, He never returned. God then left Jerusalem and treated that city "as I did to Shiloh." Since the fulfillment of Pentecost in Acts 2:1, He has chosen to indwell human flesh as His Temple. Each of us is a temple individually, but speaking corporately, we are each just one living stone in a collective Temple (Eph. 2:21).

Modern Zionism now tells us that God is going to return to His former address that He abandoned years ago. Christian Zionism tells us that God did not really forsake Jerusalem "as Shiloh," but that He will return there after a new temple has been built on the old site. Jeremiah apparently got it all wrong. The Jews have received a free pass to be chosen in spite of lawlessness.

No doubt most Christian Zionists have never really thought this through. They see no contradiction with the Spirit of God indwelling US and a physical temple in Jerusalem as well. Of course, it is presumed that the temple in Jerusalem is His preferred residence. But that is not the point. The point is that the old site was condemned as "a den of robbers," first in Jeremiah's day, and later by Jesus Himself. We already have two precedents that show us the consequences of such a judgment. Shiloh and Jerusalem were both destroyed; the glory of God departed; and His name is now in our foreheads (Rev. 22:4).

The New Jerusalem is NOT the Old Jerusalem restored. It is a new location. And its temple is our body.

This is the first part of a series titled "Old and New Jerusalem." To view all parts, click the link below.

Old and New Jerusalem

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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones