This article has been specially prepared by Brother Leen Ritmeyer and presents a graphic and visionary contrast between Jerusalem today and Jerusalem in the Kingdom Age. The “Jerusalem today” story is presented in the left hand column and is based upon an actual tour conducted by Brother Leen in 2000. The vision of “Jerusalem in the Kingdom Age” is presented in the right hand column and is set in contrast to the corresponding areas of the city and surrounding countryside described in the left column.

A VISIT TO JERUSALEM IN THE YEAR 2000

Arrival

We land with our party of forty-four Christadelphians, thirty of them young people, at Ben Gurion Airport. We have come to discover the ‘lie of the Land’ with the Bible in hand and to see the future inheritance of Christ and the saints, among whom we all hope to be. While we wait to collect our luggage from the carousel, we look at the huge tapestry that decorates the Arrivals Hall. It shows lines of returning exiles flowing up the hills to Jerusalem, which sits exalted on top of a high hill. The Bible quote this is designed to illustrate appears on top of the tapestry: “And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border” (Jer 31:17). This quote puts us in a good frame of mind for our visit to the Land and to Jerusalem in particular.

Let Us Go Up

After a very peaceful night’s sleep at our retreat on the hill of Kiriat Yearim, some six kilometres outside Jerusalem and where the Ark of the Covenant had rested for twenty years, we climb excitedly into our tour-bus to spend our first day in Jerusalem. The bus descends into a valley, then ascends a steep incline, descends again into the fertile valley of Motza, then climbs again steadily to the entrance to the city. All this time, we only catch glimpses of Jerusalem when the road reaches its highest elevation. We see that the mountain upon which the ancient part of the city is built is nestled among the mountains a n d a r e comforted by the assurance given to us i n P s a l m 125:2: “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so Yahweh i s r o u n d a b o u t h i s people from henceforth even for ever”.

The Suburbs

We see the dormer suburbs of Ramot (Heb High places), Mevasseret Yerushalayim (Heb He that bringeth good tidings to Zion). The apartments, all faced with Jerusalem stone, are crowded together with little privacy and give the impression of being built as a fortification, with security of paramount importance. We tell our group of the little deserted farm called “Etz Egozi” (Walnut Tree) that we found in one of the hidden valleys off this main road, when we lived in the Land. We had been commissioned to grow herbs for a herbal company on this farm, which had been forsaken by an Arab family in 1948. There was a plentiful natural spring, with steps built lovingly around it and the carefully built terraces would have required very little work to make them functional again. There were vines and figs and, of course, a massive walnut tree. Permission was denied in the end, however, as a couple living alone in a secluded valley would have posed a security risk and would have required army protection.

Zion’s King Shall Reign Victorious

As our bus enters the city on the west, we see a garden bed in which flowers are planted in a formation that spells out the letters in Hebrew “Bruchim habaim le Yerushalayim” (Blessed are the coming ones, or Welcome, to Jerusalem). Our heart swells and a sister possessed of a good voice is asked to give the note to sing an old favourite hymn Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Hymn books are searched for and we sing other popular hymns about Jerusalem such as Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion and of course, Zion’s King shall reign victorious. Magnificent as the latter hymn is, we are reminded of an incident when a Christadelphian group began to sing this in one of the large synagogues in Jerusalem, only to be requested to stop as the tune is the national anthem of Germany and had uncomfortable associations for Israelis. We are conscious that the music of David’s psalms has been lost and our efforts to praise God are imperfect. Researches such as those of the Frenchwoman, Suzanne Haik-Ventoura, suggested that the Temple music had been preserved in Jewish synagogue music in remote communities such as Iran, but one could never be sure. And the style of our worship causes so much friction now. How wonderful it will be to know the acceptable way!

Security

Our group are amazed at the density of traffic and the aggressive driving on Jaffa Road. The statistics say that between 1948 and 1990, twice the number of Israelis died in road accidents than died in the Arab-Israeli wars of the same period. This is put down to the tense security situation that is their constant living environment. We tell our group that if you look at the city from a vantage point, you see a pall of smoke over Jaffa Road, but come the Sabbath, the air is clean within a few hours. The city residents that are religious Jews refrain from driving on that day, as we were reminded when we drove to the beach one Saturday during the time we lived in the Land and had our tyres punctured by residents of a nearby Orthodox neighbourhood. Another impression is of the presence of soldiers everywhere. The girls in particular remark on the young female soldiers who so nonchalantly bear their arms.

To Keep the Feast of Tabernacles

As we pass by some of the apartments on Jaffa Road, members of our group notice the small booths that are being built on many of the balconies. What a thrill for brethren and sisters to see how the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles (Succot) is kept, when boys help their dad to erect a temporary structure according to the stipulation of Leviticus 23:39–43 and the family takes all their meals outside in the booth (succa) to remind them that they dwelt in temporary structures when Yahweh brought them out of Egypt. Ahead of us is a busload of Japanese tourists with the banner “Christian Feast of Tabernacles” in Japanese and English on their bus. In a few days’ time, the streets of Jerusalem will be alive with evangelical Christians from all over the world parading their love for and identification with Israel. Sadly however they appear to believe in Heaven-going, which is difficult to square with the Feast of Tabernacles pointing forward to God’s Kingdom. We remember sitting in the succa of a rabbi who was our landlord when we were first married and who was in full agreement that the feast was a type of the Kingdom that would be set up at the coming of Messiah. The only difference between us was that we believed in different Messiahs.

We See the Place Afar Off

We circumnavigate the Old City on the west and drive along Hebron road to the Haas Promenade, a well-known viewpoint, where visitors to Jerusalem can get a good introductory view of the city. This, of course, is the view that Abraham and Isaac would have had travelling up from Beersheba (Gen 22), when on the third day he saw the place “afar off”. We read the chapter and rejoice to compare it with the words of Jesus in John 8:56: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad”. We have, of course, to mentally strip away all the layers of occupation we see from our viewpoint, the Crusader towers, the Islamic Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, the Turkish City Wa l l , t h e clusters of Arab houses a n d t h e modern Israeli dwellings.

For Then Will I Turn to the People a Pure Language

We return along Hebron Road and travel along Hativat Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Brigade) Street on the slopes of Mount Zion to the Dung Gate. Here we may park and visit the place that all our group have been longing to see, the Western Wall, remnant of the ancient Temple. What a babble of languages assails us as we alight from our bus! Our driver, the boys selling postcards and the elderly man selling Turkish coffee from a copper tray, all speak Arabic, while the Israeli soldiers speak Hebrew among themselves and tell the boys off in Arabic. The tourists being disgorged from the other buses are French-speaking, German-speaking and Korean. As we walk up to the Dung Gate, many more languages are added to the gabble. How Yahweh’s confounding the language of men at Babel had divided them! Even though English is the most common of all the languages here and the first tried by the ubiquitous vendors: “Wanna cold drink?” “See my Hebron glass / olive-wood rosary-beads / t-shirts. Speshul price for you. You are my friend!”, the amount of understanding between the people is minimal. The commercialism is crass—as it has been well said: “Jerusalem is full of holy junk”. It is difficult here to get a sense of how Jerusalem will be in the Kingdom. It is rather in cities like Canberra, where the stateliness and dignity of the place dictates that all commercialism be hid from view, that we get a foretaste of how the future world capital will be in that great day.

I Yahweh Do Sanctify Israel

As we line up to pass through the security booths to enter the Western Wall area or Kotel, there is an outbreak of shouting and terrible verbal violence among the Israelis in the queue. There appears to be no great reason for this, only that, as our group have begun to notice, people erupt easily in Israel. An article written by a Gentile researcher who lived for many years in Israel described the national character as “commonly cited for its arrogance, insolence (chutzpah), coldness, roughness, rudeness, to begin a long list of unpleasant, uncivil attributes”. The Scripture describes them as “a stiff-necked people” (Deut 9:13). As Israelis now travel a lot, particularly the post-army generation, notices such as the following in a Thai hotel; “Israeli nationality (sic) is not welcome in this hotel, because they are problem-makers” have become common in the countries they frequent. This is not to say that there were not many we loved among the nation.

They Shall Teach My People the Difference Between the Holy and Profane

At long last, we are allowed to enter the Western Wall Plaza. Here we see the wall, which, over the centuries has come to symbolise the Temple to Jewish pilgrims. Gentiles who saw the yearning of the Jewish pilgrims for their destroyed place of worship, particularly on the 9th of Av, the date on which both temples were destroyed, called it the Wailing Wall. The drops of dew that can be seen in the morning on the tufts of wild hyssop and caper that grow between the stones, are believed by pious Jews to be an expression of tears shed by the wall itself. Consisting of the remains of the Western retaining wall of Herod’s Temple, it has become the national and international focus of Jewish prayer and celebration. A barrier divides the wall into two areas enforcing strict segregation between male and female worshippers. Our males must cover their heads with a skullcap and go to the left, while the females approach the area reserved for women’s worship, on the right. The fervency of some of the Jewish worshippers is very moving, The Orthodox men ‘davening’ or rocking their whole body in front of the wall, are observing, in their mind, the words of Isaiah 66:2: “to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word”. Our group are amazed to see the crevices between the stones stuffed with little scraps of paper on which prayers are written, so much has the wall become a symbol of Jewish hope, as the Shechina or Divine Presence is supposed to hover over it. Despite the great interest of this singular place, as Gentiles, we feel cut off from all it represents for the Jewish people.

Walk About Zion

We ascend the ramp that leads up to the Temple Mount via the Mograbi Gate. Security is extremely high at the checkpoint here, because of the number of incidents that have taken place on the Temple Mount, for example, when a disturbed Australian Christian tried to burn down its mosque in 1969. One of our group carries the book The Temple and the Rock, which details my analysis of the rock inside the Dome of the Rock and traces the outline of the early Temple Mount. We are told that this book is banned on the Temple Mount, because, as one of the Arab guards reasons, “Visitors to the Temple Mount usually look up and around, whereas visitors who carry this book, look down”! The exquisitely tiled and golden-domed Dome of the Rock dominates the man-made platform the Arabs call The Noble Sanctuary. It is a place of repose, with arched colonnades on the western and northern sides of the enclosure. Over to the east, the Mount of Olives can be seen over the Eastern or Golden Gate, which has been blocked since the Byzantine period. The black-domed El Aksa mosque adjoins the southern wall of the Temple Mount. We pay the exorbitant entry fee and take off our shoes to enter the Dome of the Rock, which is built over the site on which Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. Our group are highly amused to hear the comment of a member of an American group; “Hey, what great carpets!” We peer over the balustrade and try to look (but not too obviously) at the tell-tale marks on the Rock or Sakhra which indicate the original foundation walls, location of the Holy of Holies and even the negative impression of the Ark of the Covenant. On exiting the Dome, we observe the Arabs at one of their five times of prayer throughout the day, wash their hands and feet, get down on their prayer-mat and prostrate themselves in the direction of Mecca. Although this makes them turn their backs on Jerusalem, we are nevertheless impressed at their reverence for their God, Allah, and their lack of embarrassment at displaying their reverence for all to see.

They Shall not Hurt nor Destroy in all My Holy Mountain

We spend the rest of our seven days in Jerusalem visiting the archaeological remains of the sites familiar to us from our daily reading of the Scriptures. We explore the City of David, wade through Hezekiah’s Tunnel and see Shebna’s Tomb high up in the rock. We walk down from the Mount of Olives, following the path that Jesus used when he entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey for the Feast of Succot, decide against visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but rather to capture an atmosphere more conducive to a reading on the death and resurrection of Christ at the Garden Tomb on the north side of the city. We speak to residents of Jerusalem whenever we get the opportunity and marvel at the love for and knowledge the Jews have of their city. We remember our professor taking his Bible off his desk, where it always lay to hand, and saying emphatically: “This is our history book!” For light relief, we visit the new Biblical Zoo in Malkha where we are intrigued to learn that each spring, tiger cubs and baby goats, wolves and lambs are placed in the same enclosures and co-exist. Apparently, the tiger cubs tend initially to be afraid of the lively kids, but eventually the tigers begin to play too rough, and by late Autumn, the meat-eaters and their vegetarian friends must be separated. So many impressions and connections to the Biblical world! At the end of each day, our group says, “If it was only just for today, the trip was worth it!” The future land of our inheritance is the place for believers to come on holiday.

Next Year in Jerusalem

After visiting many other parts of the Land which, we are told, is “a land which Yahweh thy Elohim careth for: the eyes of Yahweh thy Elohim are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year” (Deut 11:12), we return to our own countries. We take back with us many happy memories, the capacity to better visualise the background and atmosphere of events in Scripture and, of course, many photos in our digital cameras. As members of the group say: “Next year in Jerusalem” and “The readings will never be the same again!”

A VISIT TO JERUSALEM IN THE KINGDOM AGE

Our group has just spent some days in the city of Yahweh Shammah to rest after their long journey from the north of Europe. It had taken them many weeks to sail to the Land in long boats. They had anchored at one of the ports on the Western Sea and marvelled at how different it was to the grimy ports of Ashdod and Haifa before the coming of our Lord and master. It was good for them to recover strength, not only from the journey, but also from the harvest back home before going up to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. They had encountered in the service city many from climatic zones similar to our own for whom the time had also come to come up to celebrate the feast. After all, what nation would want to have rain witholden from them, or to be visited with plague?

Our group of mortals left Yahweh Shammah to follow the injunction contained in the name “Yahweh thither”, to seek the place of His Name in Zion. It has taken them three days’ journey to reach Zion. They are encouraged to meet again with us, who, in God’s grace, have become part of the elect and unwearied. We tell them that we too once tired and weakened, but had looked forward as they do now, to the promise that: “they that wait upon Yahweh shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa 40:31). We pass by Hebron and Bethlehem, with the view of the city always there to guide us. How different is the prospect now! We had longed to see Jerusalem “exalted above the hills” (Isa 2:2). Each time we start up again after resting, we say: “Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord”.

On our way to Zion, we pass by smallholdings in the portion assigned to the Levites, the mortal priests who are ministers in the Sanctuary and keepers of the charge of the house (Ezek 44:11). When not on Temple service, they enjoy a lifestyle “every man under his vine and under his fig tree”. The little farms are built with love, and dotted over the surrounding landscape with plenty of space between them, in accordance with the Scriptural injunction: “Woe to him that joineth house to house”. The picture of fruitfulness was painted long ago by the Prophet Amos: “Behold, the days are come, saith the Lord, that the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” (9:13,14)

We approach the city with the cloud over the Temple becoming more and more visible as we draw near. For our people, the comforting words of Isaiah were becoming a reality: “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down” (33:20). And we, their rulers, sing, as we have been promised we would sing: “the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa 51:11). We tell them that during our stay in Jerusalem, we would continue our task of teaching and guiding them: “This is the way, walk ye in it”, and that here they would learn more about the purpose of Yahweh than they had ever learnt before. For sheer joy our group breaks out into singing: “Beautiful for situation [Heb elevation] the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King”. Now, of course, they sing it in Hebrew, as they have practised in our little community back in Northern Europe. And now we know the music—its sweet perfection cannot be compared to our feeble efforts before the return of our Messiah.

Reaching the entrance to the Holy City, we hear the words: “Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in” (Isa 26:2). All our group are allowed entry and we thank our Father that we had prepared to be able to meet the stipulation: “No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary” (Ezek 44:9). It is an amazing sensation to be able to look at someone and to discern what our Brother Paul described as “the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12). With everyone of evil intent kept out of the city, there is no need for the security we used to experience when entering into Jerusalem when our bags were always searched, because of the threat of terrorist activity.

All around us, we see evidence of booth-building, for how can one keep the Feast of Tabernacles without building a succa? In this way, our mortals learn that they are also “strangers and sojourners”, as were the Israelites who lived in booths when Yahweh brought them out of Egypt. What an opportunity to teach them about the three main feasts, Passover, Firstfruits and Tabernacles, each having lessons for them! How Passover looked back to the sacrifice of Christ, how the Feast of Firstfruits pointed to those that would be Christ’s at his coming (we spoke about the wonderful deliverance we had obtained through grace) a n d h o w Ta b e r n a c l e s r e p r e s e n t e d t h e g r e a t ingathering at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, w h e n they could look forward to obtaining eternal life. This would be when all things, including the Son, would be subject unto God, when He would be “all in all”.

Our approach is from the south, as was that of Abraham when he brought Isaac to Mount Moriah, but our view is very different to his. We see now the “mountain of teaching”, as the name of the mountain means, elevated above the surrounding countryside. Our mortals are amazed to hear how the topography has changed, how under this eminence is buried the ruins of both the Old and New Cities of Jerusalem. We told them of the fascination of the archaeological digs for which Jerusalem had been famous, but also of how the ruins of past civilizations were an indictment against each one, showing their failure to understand the great purpose of Yahweh. Truly there has been a “ great shaking ” in the Land of Israel ( Ezekiel 38:19).

We meet other groups from countries where they have also just brought in their harvest. The mortals of these groups have similar trouble to our group in remembering to speak Hebrew, but they know that this is the language of the Kingdom, the language in which Yahweh communicated His Word to mankind. Although they sometimes revert to their own language, they also know that eventually these languages will become obsolete and that the confusion of tongues that began at Babylon will be reversed. Even though each group speaks Hebrew with a different accent, they can see the advantage of having a common language in which to communicate. We encourage them with the promise in Zephaniah 3:9: “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may serve him with one consent”. As our group comes up to Jerusalem every year, it will get easier as they become more fully immersed in the language. Eventually, they will be able to sing all the Psalms in Hebrew, as the Prophet Isaiah foretold: “from the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs [Heb psalms]” (24:16). And of course, the word “pure” in the quote from Zechariah means clear or purged, so that they must also be careful how they use language. When we were mortals, we always found it telling that when Israelis chose to curse, they would usually revert to using Arabic swear words as few existed in Hebrew!

Our fraternization included a group of Jews from the tribal cantons of Simeon and Benjamin. They tell us of the abundant harvest they have just brought in. This is on land that was part of the Negev where former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion’s dream to make the desert bloom never became a reality, until the Kingdom Age, that is. We see in them, the work of Elijah the Prophet who, “turned the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Mal 4:6). The Jews are now everywhere beloved. Instead of the revulsion and suspicion that brought about the Holocaust, people now rather say to the Jew; “We will go with you; for we have heard that Elohim is with you” and the saying of the Prophet Ezekiel is come to pass: “and the nations shall know that I Yahweh do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore” (37:28).

Our group is greeted by the Levitical priests and the mortals are taken by them to be taught, as Ezekiel the prophet foretold; “They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean”. What a confirmation it will be for our people to hear the great things of Yahweh expounded by these ministers of the Sanctuary, as well as from us. Our people are caused to reflect how seriously we should take our walk in the truth when the Levites tell them that because of their worship of idols and because they became a stumbling block of iniquity to the people of Israel, they are not allowed to actually come into the sanctuary and serve Christ, our new ruler. However, in their teaching work with the people, they were fulfilling what Yahweh had always intended them to do; “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of Yahweh of hosts” (Mal 2:7). One of the educational activities (for surely Jerusalem has become the world’s educational centre) that our group is required to take part in, is to “walk about Zion” (Psa 48:12). On this tour, as they examine the towers, bul-warks and palaces of the city, they are taught about such lofty precepts as the salvation of Yahweh and how we should praise Him. The Levites leave our group with careful instructions to be ready for the following day, the Sabbath.

The day we have been waiting for has arrived. Our mortals are longing for their first view of the Prince on the Sabbath day and keenly anticipating seeing us, their rulers, ministering to him and keeping the charge of Yahweh. We take them through the south gate of the temple and then, to where they can observe the Prince entering in through the eastern gate, which is closed on every other day of the week. A thrill goes through us as we see him arrive and stand by the pillar in the gate. Being part of the Bride of Christ we see him as “altogether lovely”. It is our great joy also, as sons of Zadok, to be allowed to prepare the burnt offerings and peace offerings for him. Our people burst into songs of praise: “Make a joyful noise unto Yahweh, all ye lands … enter into his gates with thanksgiving [Heb confession] and into his courts with praise”. How the saying: “He will magnify the law, and make it honourable” (Isa 42:21) has come to pass. Six unblemished lambs are offered together with a ram for the burnt offering. We delight to be able to explain to ready minds the great significance of Christ’s sacrifice, which is taught by this burnt offering. You can see their minds working out that if both Christ and ourselves were once prone to sin and have had the beauty of immortality bestowed on us, that this is something worth striving for. On our way to the north Temple gate, by which we must exit, we see a magnificent procession in the Sanctuary: “The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them the damsels playing with timbrels” (Psa 68:25). We spot Benjamin, the younger brother of Joseph and princes from the tribes of Judah, Zebulun and Naphtali. Egyptian princes are also to be seen bearing gifts for the greatest prince of all. We were told that the king and queen of our own island of Tarshish would soon be arriving with their presents. Truly with His judgments in the earth, the inhabitants of the world are learning righteousness (Isa 26:9).

We are altogether eight days in Jerusalem, keeping the Feast of Tabernacles and sleeping under the green boughs. There is much for our people to see and learn. Truly the Law is going forth from Zion and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem. Our group can learn here of the blessings that obedience can bring to all the nations of the world, until the whole earth is perfected. What a prospect that “Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit” (Isa 27:6). Now the blessings are restricted to Zion: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain” (Isa 11:9). We are privileged to see the most delightful scenes; men and women, so aged that they have lived through the tumultuous times of the twentieth century, walking in the squares in the secular section of the city, living out their days in peace and contentment. These were sincere upright men and women, residents of Jerusalem, who did not embrace the truth before the return of Christ, but who had remembered what they had heard and glorified Yahweh in the day of visitation. The most delightful scene and one we had often looked forward to with our children, was the scene of the animals living in perfect harmony together. It was amazing to think that those we saw had had a complete genetic makeover, allowing them to subsist on a vegetarian diet. The scene of children frolicking and playing with these animals, was a picture of Eden restored. As we leave Jerusalem, we pass through the river that flows out from under the Temple towards the Dead Sea. Some traverse it where it is lowest, while some of the braver and more spiritually-minded cross where it is deepest. There are woods on either side of the river. We journey to the coast along the highway, rejoicing over all that we have seen. Truly: “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor 2:9).