When the United States acknowledged this week that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv, it set off a wave of violence along the Israeli-Gaza border, with dozens of Palestinians killed.
The political situation there is difficult to understand, whether you support Israel, favor a two-state solution or have something else entirely in mind. As Christians, we need to look at these issues through a biblical lens.
But the Bible makes it clear that Jerusalem has been considered the capital of Israel since the reign of King David. In fact, there are some 800 mentions of Jerusalem in the Bible; it plays a central role in the biblical story, from Genesis to Revelation.
Jerusalem in biblical times was a city unlike any other … not so much because of any political importance, but because it was home to the Temple – the throne of God who called the Jewish people to be a light to the nations.
Recently, UNESCO sought to separate the Jewish people from Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. By doing so, UNESCO denied the inspiration of both the Old and New testaments. This was offensive to Jews and Christians who believe the Bible to be true.
The New Testament makes Jerusalem the center of the Gospels and records the relationship Jesus had with the city beginning with his boyhood, when He visited the holy city with His family for Passover.
Many of the landmarks in his ministry, his most famous miracles and teachings, took place in Jerusalem.
And His earthly ministry ended there. Jesus walked toward Jerusalem and His death in what is described as His triumphal entry. His route would have taken Him from Bethany to the Temple Mount, down a long slope adjacent to the Mount of Olives. When Jesus saw the holy city, Luke tells us that He wept. The immediate future of Jerusalem was dark and so was His personal future. Jesus would be rejected and crucified and within a generation, the Romans would destroy Jerusalem and tear the Temple apart stone by stone.
Yet Jerusalem remains a sacred city. It has a great past, challenging present and glorious future. How could evangelicals possibly not understand that Jerusalem is a literal city, the biblical and historic capital of Israel? So many of the great Patriarchs of the Bible agreed on this important claim. Jerusalem was and always will be the capital of Israel and the future home of Jesus upon His return. We understand that the first church was born in this great city, that the Gospel proclamation began there (Acts 1:8), that salvation is of the Jews (John 4:24) and one day as Isaiah describes, the Kingdom will be centered in this very same city of Jerusalem.
As followers of Jesus and Bible-believing people of faith, we must read the text literally and allow the words of Scripture to fill our souls, inform our minds and direct our actions. But the truth is, the Bible makes no mention of embassies.
So perhaps we should start with what we know. If someone asked me, “Was Jerusalem the capital of Israel or will it be the capital of Israel, according to the Bible?” My answer would be a resounding yes.
As for the rest, it is up to us to study the Bible and to make up our minds biblically – not politically – and allow our understanding of Scripture to inform our views of current events. Although the Bible says that the Jews are God’s chosen people, it also makes clear God’s concern for Palestinians and all the peoples of the Middle East. There is no simple solution to the complex problems of one of the world’s most troubled regions.
And, as the Psalmist said, we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Dr. Mitch Glaser is the president of Chosen People Ministries and one of the founders of the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem. He is also co-author of “Israel, the Church, and the Middle East: A biblical response to the current conflict.”