When measuring the magnitude of an earthquake's impact, the most extreme readings are generated from the focal point commonly known as the epicenter. The earth's underground jolting quickly makes its way up to the surface directly overhead, where the data readings are then evaluated and analyzed, both historically and geographically. If an earthquake is large enough, its seismic waves can be measured all around the globe.
The same kind of thing happens in the spiritual arena. From time to time, when religions clash and new holy wars begin, spiritual earthquakes occur. And without a doubt, the spiritual epicenter of the world is found in the tiny country of Israel—specifically, in the city of Jerusalem.
Out of all the great cities of the world, God chose Jerusalem to reside in and to place His name over forever. As a result, Jerusalem sends out enormous shock waves worldwide on a regular basis. It is and has always been the focal point of all spiritual history throughout the ages. No city has ever received so much attention. No city ever will.
Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, is mentioned in the Scripture 881 times, and is given at least seventy different names and descriptions from cover to cover. God's love relationship with Jerusalem is seen in the tender words He often uses to address her: “My holy city,” “My highest joy,” “My holy mountain.” Spiritual history has been cataloged here. In Jerusalem. This is where God met with humanity and one day will meet with us again. God is attached to this city—this Holy City—forever.
Notice how Yahweh feels about Jerusalem:
I have consecrated this temple you have built, to put My name there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there at all times. (1 Kings 9:3b)
The Lord loves the gates of Zion. (Ps. 87:2a)
For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His home. (Ps. 132:13)
This was the city of the prophets, the home of the priests. Kings ruled here. Men and women of God served here. Abraham came here to sacrifice Isaac. Jesus came here to die—and continues to shock the world because He didn't stay dead here. And one day again in Jerusalem, He'll show the world that He's alive.
God's beautiful, eternal love for Jerusalem cannot be quenched. For more than a thousand years, His home address was here at the original “clean room” called the Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount, the very heartbeat of Israel's existence. And when eternity begins, the new Jerusalem will come down from heaven adorned like a bride on her wedding day.
When I first traveled to the city of God, the effect on me was like nothing I had ever experienced. The sheer spiritual intensity of the place gripped me and wouldn't let go. What was happening to me? I wondered. I couldn't get the ancient walled city out of my mind. I had already done a fair amount of world traveling, but I never once returned home and dreamed about Moscow, Buenos Aires, or even our own Washington, D.C. After being in Jerusalem, however, I often revisited the city in my dreams. Was I experiencing some kind of spiritual breakdown?
Actually, I found out that I was in very good company. After all, our Savior, the disciples, and selected prophets were all prone to emotionalism while in this majestic city. Jesus wept over it. The Twelve marveled at it. The prophets made it the focal point of their scathing messages to God's disobedient people.
Truly, the call of Jerusalem gets into people's blood—sometimes mystically and misguidedly so. Jesus predicted in Matthew 24 that many would proclaim to be the Messiah in the days to come. How true! Jerusalem has experienced this phenomenon for years. Today, I'm told that at least one person a week walks into Jerusalem and proclaims to be the true Messiah. A special wing in the city's famous Hadassah Hospital has a steady stream of delusional visitors. Some claim to be Jesus, others Elijah, John the Baptist, Moses, or one of the apostles.
But even those of us who are still of sound mind and body continue to sense its pull. And the majority of those who experience what is now called “Jerusalem syndrome” are American Christians! Jerusalem, it seems, has special powers over people unlike any other place.
Jerusalem is paradoxical by nature. Its name means the “city of peace,” yet rarely does it ever experience any. The numbers are staggering! Throughout its history Jerusalem has:
International coverage of Jerusalem routinely highlights the fact that the city is the ultimate political minefield. A river of blood has flowed out of the city over the years, and the riverbed appears to be widening. As I write this, the day's top news story is a proposed plan that would divide Jerusalem between Jews and Palestinians. If this happens, Muslims will be rejoicing worldwide. Unfortunately, this would be a blatant disregard for history, since Islam has no valid claims to the city of Jerusalem whatsoever. Not only is history being ignored in this case but so is common sense. Islam makes no bones about it. They want all of Jerusalem minus the Jews.
One of the recent strategies designed to accomplish this aim is a phenomenon sweeping the world today called “Temple Denial.” This attempt to revise history was originally stated by Yasser Arafat in December 2000 at Camp David meetings with then-President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Clinton, desperate to leave behind something positive from his presidency after being impeached, was pushing hard for peace between the Jews and Palestinians. But in his plan, Israel had to sacrifice everything to get a “guarantee of peace” from the Palestinians.
This sacrifice included the Holy City of Jerusalem.
It is a vast understatement to say that Jewish concessions would have been catastrophic for Israel if they had accepted this peace plan. Here are the parameters for what Israel was expected to give up. The Palestinians would receive full control of:
Sound fair? Again—in my view—Clinton was grasping at straws for something positive to leave behind in a presidential legacy marked by failure and scandal. In a selfish, sweeping move, he was prepared to give away Israel's holiest site. The Temple Mount is the heartbeat of Judaism. Likewise, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is of major significance for Christians. True, the church is a turn off for most believers today because of the six warring denominations that fight over it continually, but it is central to our Christian history. Amazingly, Christians did not organize to protest the move.
On January 8, 2001, Jews gathered together and staged the largest protest in Israeli history. Four hundred thousand Jews rallied together just outside the Old City to vehemently oppose the plan that would divide their precious property.
On day nine at Camp David, Chairman Arafat had the ball in his court. The offer would never be better. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, who attended the meetings, told Arafat that if he did not accept the peace plan, it was a “criminal act.” This was an all-time no-brainer for Arafat.
That's when I believe God intervened. Arafat laid his cards on the table. He launched into a lecture claiming there was never a Jewish temple anyway, so why should he negotiate? He wanted all of Jerusalem. The talks were over.
Clinton had placed all of his eggs in one basket, and the basket had been thrown back into his face. True, the Palestinian chairman had been to the White House many more times than the prime minister of Israel during the Clinton administration, but all the cozying up to Arafat paid no returns for the outgoing president. It was over for Bill Clinton's hopes for Mideast peace under his watch.
I believe that God intervened because the results for Israel would have been tantamount to waving a white flag and giving their country in its entirety over to the Palestinians. Half of Jerusalem wouldn't have been enough—not when the Palestinian Authority mandate for existence is to drive the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea. A key component in eradicating the Jews from Israel is to prove that they never belonged there in the first place. This revision of history seems insane against the mountain of evidence both from inside and outside the Bible, but it is a movement that is gaining steam around the world. (We'll deal with “Temple Denial” in more detail later.)
Certainly, this had reared its head at a time in history when, in hindsight, other priorities may have been more pressing. Dore Gold, in his award winning book The Fight for Jerusalem, adds this insight from Clinton's last days in office: “Then there was the issue of terrorism. Outside of the peace team, some high-ranking U.S. government officials hoped that in his last months in office Clinton would attack Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Richard Clarke of the National Security Council later recalled, ‘Time was running out on the Clinton administration. There was going to be one last major national security initiative, and it was going to be a final try to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.’ Thus, Clinton apparently chose to court Arafat instead of making the elimination of bin Laden his first priority.”
Interesting how attractive Jerusalem remains.