This May my heart turns toward the city of Jerusalem, and I hope yours will, too. Two dates draw my attention to that location. The first is May 10, Jerusalem Day, or Yom Yerushalayim, as it is known in Hebrew. It commemorates the modern-day reunification of Jerusalem as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967.
The second event is the biblical festival of Shavuot, or Pentecost, celebrated on May 17 on the Jewish calendar and May 23 on the Christian calendar. Christians celebrate Shavuot as the day that God sent His Holy Spirit, as prophesied in Joel 2:28-29 and promised by Jesus (Acts 1:4, 8; 2:1).
The Link Between God’s Salvation Plan and Jerusalem
Some teach that the gospel has done away with any special link between God’s salvation plan and the Jewish people or Jerusalem: “Moreover, apart from Christ, there is no special divine favor upon any member of any ethnic group; nor, apart from Christ, is there any divine promise of an earthly land or a heavenly inheritance to anyone, whether Jew or Gentile.”1
It is true that “apart from Christ,” the significance of the “earthly land” of Israel, including Jerusalem, is greatly diminished—because apart from Christ, it is disconnected from the eternal purposes of God. But I believe that “in Christ,” the rich, biblical references to Jerusalem show it remains hugely significant. Glossing over that significance can lead to historical, theological, and apocalyptic dislocation.
From Genesis to Revelation, we read repeatedly of Jerusalem as a location of eternal significance. The moment that Abraham was ready to offer Isaac upon the altar on Mount Moriah (which became the Temple Mount), Jerusalem was marked for God’s special attention and ours.
My First Visit to Jerusalem
I first visited Jerusalem in 1984 while leading the Jews for Jesus music group, the Liberated Wailing Wall. At first I felt very intimidated as people yelled, threatened, and a few times, physically assaulted us as we shared our Jewish gospel music on the streets. But one night, my feelings about Jerusalem were forever changed.
We were performing to a packed audience at Christ Church in the Old City. As we sang the very words of Jesus from Matthew 23, an overwhelming sense of heartbreak came over me. We’d had just a tiny taste of the rejection Jesus experienced in this very city. And yet, He longed for the people there to come to Him.
As we sang the verse, “O Jerusalem, I’ll not be back again till you shall say to me, ‘Blessed be He who comes in the name of the Lord,’” I began to weep. I could barely finish singing. I felt as never before the love my Lord expressed for the people of Jerusalem. His urgent desire to meet their desperate need was mixed with sadness but also with hope. Jesus knew a day would come when the people of Jerusalem would finally receive Him.
Reaching Jerusalem with the Hope of the Gospel
That urgency and hope has moved me through many seasons of ministry all these years. I’ve returned to Jerusalem many times. In fact, three years ago this month, I had one of the greatest experiences of my life there, participating on our Behold Your God Jerusalem campaign. While there was still resistance, we saw many hearts opening to Jesus. Now we have an established branch in Jerusalem with a strong team reaching the diverse Jewish population there, from religious Jews to people living on the street.
Jerusalem is incredibly significant, not apart from Christ but because of Christ and because of His great love for her. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and so should we. All of us who love the Lord should likewise fervently, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you’” (Psalm 122:6).
One day, all of God’s plans will reach their grand finale, just as John envisioned:
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:2-4)
May we likewise have a heavenly vision and a biblical love for that amazing location: Jerusalem.
1. An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel.”