Symbolic Jerusalem

symbolic Jerusalem

'Jerusalem' in prophecy is commonly explained by many commentators as
being a reference to the current day literal city of Jerusalem.

However, for those who have started to view the prophetic Jerusalem
as a symbolic entity other options arise.

In the Old Testament the city of Jerusalem represented:

               (A)  The capital of all Israel.

               (B)  The capital of the house of Judah.

               (C)  The centre of religious worship. 


Jerusalem became the capital of ALL Israel during the reign of King
David and continued as the capital of a unified Israel through the
reign of his son Solomon.

However, thereafter, the nation divided and the houses of Judah and
Israel came into existence. Jerusalem continued as the capital of
the house of Judah, while the house of Israel eventually established
it's capital at Samaria. 

In the following prophetic texts we can see the capitals, Jerusalem,
Samaria and Damascus(capital of Syria), being used to symbolize the
associated people and kingdoms.

    Isa   10:9    "... Is not Samaria like Damascus? 
            :10   As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols,
                  whose carved images excelled those of Jerusalem
                  and Samaria,
            :11   As I have done to Samaria and her idols, shall
                  I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols?"
            :12   Therefore it shall come to pass, when the LORD
                  has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on
                  Jerusalem, that He will say, "I will punish the
                  fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of
                  Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks."
            :13   For he says: "By the strength of my hand I have
                  done it, and by my wisdom, for I am prudent;
                  also I have removed the boundaries of the
                  people, and have robbed their treasuries; so
                  I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant
            :14   My hand has found like a nest the riches of the
                  people, and as one gathers eggs that are left,
                  I have gathered all the earth; and there was
                  no one who moved his wing, nor opened his mouth
                  with even a peep."

    Hos   13:16   Samaria is held guilty, for she has rebelled
                  against her God. They shall fall by the sword,
                  their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and
                  their women with child ripped open. 

Following the division of Israel, Jerusalem continued to be the capital
of the house of Judah for almost four centuries, ie until the captivity
to Babylon. Following this captivity the city was immediately rebuilt
and became again the centre of government. 

So even though Jerusalem was initially the capital of a unified Israel,
through most of it's history it was the capital of only the house of 
Judah. For this reason it is natural to perceive symbolic Jerusalem
as a symbol for; (A) the racial descendants of the Jews(Judah),
                 (B) those of the Jewish faith or
                 (C) the modern day Jewish nation.

  [ NB: As the descendants of the ten tribed house of Israel
        failed to retain God in their worship, God relocated
        that people amongst the nations. 2 Kings 17:18. ]

Apart from Jerusalem being the capital of the house of Judah, it also was
the centre of Godly worship.  


The city of Jerusalem was in the past a focus of formal worship.  

In the days of King David Jerusalem became the city of the house of God.
As the place where God chose to place His name, Jerusalem, became the
centre of worship. 

    Deut  12:5    ... you shall seek the place where the LORD
                  your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to
                  put His name for His habitation; and there
                  you shall go.
            :6    There you shall take your burnt offerings,
                  your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave
                  offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings,
                  your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of
                  your herds and flocks.

Since the house of God (the footstool of God, Ps 132:7) was present in
Jerusalem, the city came to represent the religious faith of the people
of God.

    Gal    4:22   For it is written that Abraham had two sons:
                  the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.
            :23   But he who was of the bondwoman was born
                  according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman
                  through promise,
            :24   which things are symbolic. For these are the two
                  covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives
                  birth to bondage, which is Hagar;
            :25   for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and
                  corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is
                  in bondage with her children;
            :26   but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the
                  mother of us all.

    Heb   12:22   But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city
                  of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an
                  innumerable company of angels,
            :23   to the general assembly and church of the
                  firstborn ...

In the above verses the Old Covenant faith is being contrasted with
the newly established Christian faith, and both are being represented
as forms of the city of Jerusalem.

[ NB: These scriptures use the terms 'Jerusalem above' and
      'heavenly Jerusalem' to describe the newly born Christian
      faith. The early Christian faith portrayed a 'type' of the
      future end-time 'New Jerusalem'. ]   

The fact that the above text uses the symbol of the city of Jerusalem
to represent both the Jewish and Christian faiths creates uncertainty.
To assist in the study of this subject it is helpful to consider the
symbolic olive tree of Romans chapter 11.


Romans chapter 11 depicts the religious work of God as a symbolic
olive tree. For this reason, it may be thought that Jerusalem today
may represent those attached to the olive tree.  

This appears to suggest that Christianity represents this symbolic

    Rom   11:17   And if some of the branches were broken off,
                  and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted
                  in among them, and with them became a partaker
                  of the root and fatness of the olive tree,
            :18   do not boast against the branches. But if you
                  boast, remember that you do not support the
                  root, but the root supports you.
            :19   You will say then, "Branches were broken off
                  that I might be grafted in."
            :20   Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken
                  off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty,
                  but fear.
            :21   For if God did not spare the natural branches,
                  He may not spare you either. 

The perspective that Jerusalem may represent those attached to the olive
tree, appears to be reinforced by the following text which states that
Jews today, are those who are Jews inwardly, ie, those who can claim
circumcision of the heart.

    Rom    2:28   For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor
                  is that circumcision which is outward in the
            :29   but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and
                  circumcision is that of the heart, in the
                  Spirit, and not in the letter; ...

Yet, an examination of the olive tree text shows that it continues on
to prophesy of a future grafting back in of the natural olive tree
branches, those which had earlier been cut off.

    Rom   11:12   Now if their fall is riches for the world, and
                  their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much
                  more their fullness!

            :15   For if their being cast away is the reconciling
                  of the world, what will their acceptance be but
                  life from the dead?

            :24   For if you were cut out of the olive tree which
                  is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to
                  nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much
                  more will these, who are natural branches, be
                  grafted into their own olive tree?
            :25   For I do not desire, brethren, that you should
                  be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be
                  wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part
                  has happened to Israel until the fullness of the
                  Gentiles has come in.

            :31   even so these also have now been disobedient,
                  that through the mercy shown you they also may
                  obtain mercy.

Therefore, because Romans chapter 11 indicates that both Christians and
Jews will compose the future olive tree, the composition of the symbolic
faith based 'Jerusalem' in future prophecy is complicated.   

It is helpful to document some of the verses which allude to the prophetic
judgment that will be unleashed on Jerusalem.


There are many verses which imply a future destruction of Jerusalem will
take place. Such prophetic texts relate to past judgments, but also
prophesy of a future devastation.

    Isa    2:1    The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw
                  concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
            :2    Now it shall come to pass in the latter days

            :8    Their land is full of idols; ...
            :10   Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust,
                  from the terror of the LORD ...

            :12   For the day of the LORD ...

           3:1    For behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, takes
                  away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stock
                  and the store, the whole supply of bread and
                  the whole supply of water;

          22:1    The burden against the Valley of Vision. What
                  ails you now, that you have all gone up to the
            :2    you who are full of noise, a tumultuous city,
                  a joyous city? ...

            :12   And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts called
                  for weeping and for mourning, ...
            :13   But instead, joy and gladness, ...
            :14   "Surely for this iniquity there will be no
                  atonement for you, even to your death," says
                  the Lord GOD of hosts.

          28:14   Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you
                  scornful men, who rule this people who are
                  in Jerusalem,
            :15   because you have said, "We have made a
                  covenant with death, and with Sheol we are
                  in agreement. When the overflowing scourge
                  passes through, it will not come to us, for
                  we have made lies our refuge, an under
                  falsehood we have hidden ourselves."

            :18   Your covenant with death will be annulled,
                  ... when the overflowing scourge passes
                  through, then you will be trampled down by it. 

    Isa   29:1    Woe to you Ariel, to Ariel, the city where
                  David dwelt! Add year to year; let feasts come
            :2    Yet I will distress Ariel; there shall be
                  heaviness and sorrow, ...
            :3    I will encamp against you all around, I will
                  lay siege against you with a mound, and I will
                  raise siegeworks against you.
            :4    You shall be brought down, ...

There are many other strong prophecies against the city of Jerusalem.

         a) The book of Lamentations.
         b) Ezekiel chapter 5 - The hairs cut by a sharp sword.
         c) Ezekiel chapter 14:12-21 - Four severe judgments.  
         d) Ezekiel chapter 16 - The nurtured child who becomes
                                 an adulterous wife.
         e) Luke chapter 21:20-24 - The desolation of the city.

There are also prophecies referring to God's olive tree, vineyard, vine
and fig tree.

    Jer   11:16   The LORD called your name, Green Olive Tree,
                  lovely and of good fruit. With the noise of a
                  great tumult He has kindled fire on it, and
                  its branches are broken.  

    Isa    5:1    Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my
                  Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved
                  has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill.
            :2    He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and
                  planted it with the choicest vine. He built a
                  tower in its midst, and also made a winepress
                  in it; so He expected it to bring forth good
                  grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes.
            :3    "And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men
                  of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My
            :4    What more could have been done to My vineyard
                  that I have not done in it? Why then, when I
                  expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it
                  bring forth wild grapes?
            :5    And now, please let Me tell you what I will do
                  to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and
                  and it shall be burned; and break down its
                  wall, and it shall be trampled down.
            :6    I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned or
                  dug, but there shall come up briers and thorns.
                  I will also command the clouds that they rain
                  no rain on it."       
            :7    For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the
                  house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His
                  pleasant plant. ... 
            :24   Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble, and
                  the flame consumes the chaff, so their root
                  will be as rottenness, and their blossom will
                  ascend like dust; ...

    Joel   1:7    He has laid waste My vine, and ruined My fig
                  tree; he has stripped it bare and thrown it
                  away; its branches are made white.

It is noteworthy that both the houses of Israel and Judah are mentioned
in the above Isa 5:7 verse. This is not the only such example, Ezekiel
chapter 4 also links the notion of Jerusalem to both houses of Israel. 

    Ezek   4:1    You also, son of man, take a clay tablet and
                  lay it before you, and portray on it a city,
            :2    Lay siege against it, build a siege wall
                  against it, and heap up a mound against it;
                  set camps against it also, and place
                  battering rams against it all around.
            :5    For I have laid on you the years of their
                  iniquity, according to the number of the days,
                  three hundred and ninety days; so you shall
                  bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.
            :6    And when you have completed them, lie again on
                  your right side; then you shall bear the
                  iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. ...
            :13   Then the LORD said, "So shall the children of
                  Israel eat their defiled bread among the
                  Gentiles, where I will drive them".      

This combined linking of both houses to 'Jerusalem' reinforces the olive
tree teaching of Romans chapter 11.

It also suggests Jerusalem may symbolize the current groups of Christianity
and also a future 'Christ' modified form of Jewish faith.

Nevertheless, not all apparent references to Jerusalem refer to both the
divisions of religious faith.


Where there is a clear or implied association with the kingdom of
Judah, symbolic Jerusalem may be being used solely to represent the
Jewish faith.

    Luke  21:20   But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,
                  then know that its desolation is near.
            :21   Then let those who are in Judea flee to the
                  mountains, let those who are in the midst of
                  her depart, and let not those who are in the
                  country enter her.

                  [ NB: The 'mountains' being apparently a
                    reference to the mountains of Ephraim
                    immediately to the north of Judah. ]

The following prophecy also appears to relate directly to the Jewish

    Ezek  14:13   Son of man, when a land sins against Me by
                  persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch
                  out My hand against it; I will cut off its
                  supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut
                  off man and beast from it.
            :14   Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job,
                  were in it, they would deliver only themselves
                  by their righteousness," says the Lord GOD.

            :21   For thus says the Lord GOD: "How much more it
                  shall be when I send My four severe judgments
                  on Jerusalem; the sword and famine and wild
                  beasts and pestilence; to cut off man and
                  beast from it?

                  [ NB: The notion of 'persistent unfaithfulness'
                    suggests inaction after multiple opportunities
                    for repentance. ]

It is apparent why God, after re-awakening the Jewish faith again in
the future - as indicated in Romans chapter 11, would pour out His
wrath upon them should they again reject the prompting of God.


Symbolic Jerusalem is at times used in reference to the house of Judah,
since for many centuries Jerusalem was its capital.
It is a question of prophetic significance, as to whether one relates
this to the racial descendants or the faith descendants.

Symbolic Jerusalem may also be used to represent the place of the worship
of God. As such it has religious connections to both the Christian faith
and any future re-grafted (to the olive tree) Jewish faith form.


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