The King of Jerusalem
Eden was a territory which stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to beyond the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. Adam and Eve were placed eastward in Eden in a garden which the Lord had prepared for them. They enjoyed a simple, productive life until the consequences of sin brought about their expulsion from the garden.
Despite this setback, the purpose of God continued working through people living on the land and in towns. It is not until we come to Abraham in the land of Canaan that we have any indication that God had a particular place in mind for the purpose of formal worship. The first mention of kings occurs in Genesis 14 where an alliance of four kings against five led to armed conflict. In this same chapter another king is introduced who had nothing to do with the war between the northern and southern kings. The King in Jerusalem (then Salem) is Melchizedec, who is described as both a king and a priest of the Most High God (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1). He was well known to Abraham, and so much revered that Abraham brushed aside the offer of the King of Sodom to worship with Melchizedec. In Psalm 110, Melchizedec’s priesthood is an Order in its own right, the one to which the Son of God belongs. Its peculiar characteristic was that the Head of the Order combined the functions of both Priest and King.
The pseudo King of Jerusalem or the Great Pretender
Man has an insatiable desire to leave his mark. Psalm 49:11 says, “Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever …. they call lands after their own names.” They desire to achieve a kind of immortality, but on their own terms. The first pretender was Cain, who would not comply with the protocol of worship when he offered only the work of his hands, what he produced from the ground. The work of our hands is not enough to offer to God. He requires also the shedding of blood, to acknowledge the need for a life to be offered to cover our sins.
As time went on, the descendants of Cain mixed the declared truth of God with their own theories. They set up their own enterprises and exulted in their own successes. There was a peculiar mixture of truth and error. It was the same diabolical mixture of truth and error which beguiled Eve. A straightforward lie is easy to detect, but mixed with an ingredient of truth a falsehood is disguised. One can be caught with an admission, “Well, they are right in one thing.” Thereby lies the delusion.
It was some two and a half thousand years after Adam and Eve when Israel, welded together as a nation at Sinai, entered the Promised Land. Before them lay a fruitful country spread over hills and valleys, and settled by the descendants of Ham. Archaeologists have established that the religion of the Canaanites involved some of the most depraved religious practices. One small step away from the Way of the Tree of Life had led to groves for the promotion of fleshly lust.
The people who inhabited Canaan were organised in small groups under tribal chiefs or kings. The most powerful had built fortress-like towns atop prominent hills. Hazor in the north occupied a formidable position and was equipped with storehouses and a deep well to withstand any assault.
Israel entered the land, taking Jericho and Ai. A peace treaty made with the Gibeonites galvanised one of the kings of the land into action and he called for other kings to join him. Rather than attack the new invading force, which had been so successful, they decided to attack the Gibeonites for forsaking allegiance to their own countrymen. It is not without significance that the king who led the call to arms was the king ofJerusalem, Adoni-Zedek.
His name means “Lord of Righteousness”, a Jebusite dynastic title This is a clear reference to that venerable King, Melchizedek, who was Priest of the Most High God. By the use of this title, Adoni-zedek was claiming that he ruled in the spirit of Salem’s former illustrious king. “Righteousness” indicates a religious aspect to his kingly role, a king-priest. Many pagan kings exercised this right. The Roman Emperors bore the title ‘Pontifex Maximus’ (High Priest), and others such as Nebuchadnezzar led their nation in religious worship (Daniel 3). By calling other local kings to confederate to punish the Gibeonites, Adoni-zedek was asserting headship over the nations of the land.
Adoni-zedec headed a confederation of five kingdoms to march upon Gibeon which immediately appealed to Joshua for assistance. The battle of the kings of the south against the Israelite invaders was remarkable and decisive. The Lord God of Israel sent a great storm, the hailstones causing more death than the hand to hand combat. As the sun dipped in the sky toward evening Joshua, driven to achieve a complete victory, addressed the Lord of the heavens with a most unusual request. Then, in Israel’s hearing he said, “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” (Joshua 10:12). “There has been no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.” (v14) The five kings, who fled for shelter in a nearby cave, were discovered and killed. This great battle is a pattern of the future day of the Lord, when the greater Joshua (Jesus) will conquer as he “marches through the land in indignation.. threshing the heathen in anger” going forth “for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed.” (Habakkuk 3:12, 13) In that day, “a great hail out of heaven” will cause great destruction as “the cities of the nations fall and great Babylon comes in remembrance before God.” (Revelation 16:21, 19)
When King David conquered Jerusalem there had been no king reigning there for some time (according to the Biblical record). The Jebusites occupied the area as a stronghold, but they did not have a resident king.
David, a man after God’s own heart, whose devotion enabled him to understand what God required, understood from his consideration of the Scriptures that God intended to make a “place for His name.” It was intended to be a religious centre where Israel would gather for worship (Deuteronomy 12:5 ,11, 14, 18). This knowledge came to David from personally searching the Scripture and, as a result, God made a covenant with the king, confirming it with an oath, that a descendant of David would occupy the throne forever. “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell.” (Psalm 132:13,14)
The kingdom reached its greatest extent under Solomon, son of David. He supervised the building of a great centre for worship at Jerusalem, saying, “I have surely built thee a house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever.” Solomon was farsighted enough to appreciate that God’s scheme was not limited to one nation, Israel, but “that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel.” (1 Kings 8:13, 43) He realised that there would be people from other nations, “not of thy people Israel,” who would “hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand…. when he shall come and pray toward this house.” (v41, 42). In the time of Solomon there were such visitors, a mere foretaste of the many who will come to do homage to Solomon’s greater son (Psalm 72:10, 11, 17).
Israel’s kings occupied the throne in Jerusalem until finally their wickedness was too great, and the Lord banished the king, disbanded the kingdom and sent His people into exile. “It shall be no more until he come whose right it is.” (Ezekiel 21:25-27) So there was no king sitting on the throne of David. Later, for a short while, there was one man, Herod, an Edomite who claimed kingship and sought to embellish Jerusalem and Judea with great buildings, but he was not the rightful king. There was a king with torn clothing and bleeding back who was hung on Golgotha’s hill, wearing a crown of thorns. This king did not assert a king’s prerogatives; instead, he had shepherded his hesitant and needy people, and had stood before them to show them the way of life. Forty years after his death, Rome put down the Jewish rebellion, destroyed their temple city and took the surviving Jews into slavery.
The European Kings of Jerusalem
The land of Israel was renamed Palestina and generally remained under the control of Rome and then Byzantium until the Arab Moslems swept throughout the Middle East and across North Africa in the early seventh century. They were formidable fighters and expert horsemen and they despised idolaters and relic seekers. Even so, it was still possible for the pious to make their pilgrimages to the holy sites. But in the late eleventh century other invaders came from the Far East and often intercepted the pilgrims’ journeys, or imposed heavy taxes for the privilege of visiting the Holy Land. The Roman Emperor in Constantinople asked the Pope for support to mount a defensive force against the Turks.
The reputation of the Catholic Church had been suffering from corrupt, greedy priests, so the Pope, attending a church council, saw a timely opportunity to call for spiritual renewal. He called for a holy war, and cut the first cloth crosses for the knights to wear. The Crusades began. The first respondents were poor people, ill equipped but fired with religious zeal. Many fell by the hand of the competent Turkish soldiers. They were followed a few months later by the Frankish knights led by Godfrey de Bouillon. After a five week siege ofJerusalem, they captured the ancient city. On 15 July 1099, they vented their fury in a terrible massacre that lasted for eight days and plundered everything they touched. They even desecrated the Dome of the Rock, that remarkable structure built by Islamic conquerors of the city some 400 years before. They chipped pieces off the Rock to sell in Europe for their weight in gold.
The spoils of war were dedicated to the Church. Godfrey de Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine, (in France) was elected ruler ofJerusalem, with his brother as successor. Godfrey refused the title of “king”. When he died a year later, his brother Baldwin was crowned King of Jerusalem, at Bethlehem on Christmas Day.
Jerusalem was reconquered in 1187 by Saladin, an outstanding leader of the Turkish Muslims, and Crusader rule was confined mainly to the coastal plain and Galilee. The Mameluke Muslims, centred in Egypt, finally ousted the Crusaders. Their capture of the last Christian stronghold at Acre (1291) sounded the death knell for the Kingdom of Jerusalem and attempts during the fourteenth century to re-establish it were unsuccessful.
Over the years, there have been various claimants to the title of the King of Jerusalem. The title was held in turn by the French Dukes of Lorraine; the Kings of Cyprus belonging to the House of Lusignan (from which line it came to the Italian princes of Savoy); and by the two Houses of Anjou which claimed to hold their rights from Mary of Antioch. On occasions, it was given by one titleholder to another family member, or even sold! The title was also attached to the long list conferred upon the Napoleonic King of Spain, Joseph (1808). The maintenance of this title reveals the desire to reinstate the lost Kingdom.
When François, Duke of Lorraine, married the Empress Maria-Theresa in 1736, the claim to Jerusalem passed to the Habsburgs. The arms of Jerusalem could be seen in the grand arms of state of the Austrian Empire in the nineteenth century; and the title was used until 1918, the end of the Austrian Empire.
Current title holder
When Empress Zita, wife of the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor, was buried in 1989 in Vienna, her titles were read out and among them was the title “Queen of Jerusalem.” This is peculiarly appropriate. For one thousand years,Europe had been dominated by the two powers of Pope and Emperor, both claiming the right to rule. As protectors of the Church, (via the Order of the Golden Fleece), there is still a desire to not merely hold this title, but to exercise control over the holy city.
The Hapsburgs are still influential. Zita’s son, Dr (Count) Otto von Habsburg, was the longest serving member of the European Parliament; and several grandsons and a granddaughter are also involved in the EU. Zita’s husband, ex-Emperor Charles, was beatified by Pope John Paul II.
The churches are still interested in Jerusalem. In 2000, Pope John Paul II made an agreement with Yasser Arafat over the Holy Places, in anticipation of the formation of a Palestinian State. Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital and certainly, archaeologically speaking, can lay a pre-eminent claim to the ancient city. Many of the ancient Churches have interests in Israel. The Israeli Government continues protracted discussions with the Catholic Church, which refuses to pay taxes on its Israeli property. In the 19th century the Russian Orthodox Church built a hospice in Jerusalem, west of the ancient city. The hospice was funded by Russian royal ladies and built to house visiting Russian pilgrims. However, the Soviets had no interest in such assets and sold the Hospice and the 17 acres of land to Israel. They have recently bought it once more. This demonstrates that there is very much a religious aspect to the coming confrontation when “all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem to battle.”
The underlying anti-Semitic feelings will once again come to the surface. Jews still living in Jerusalem will be deported (Joel 3) as an international force attempt to make Jerusalem into an international city. Zechariah is very clear. The city will fall and half of its population will “go into captivity” (14:2). It is at this point the Lord will arise to redeem his people.
Return of the true King
The Lord will set up his standard over the ancient city, much of which will be in ruins from the massive earthquake which will intersect the Mount of Olives and cause it to split into two halves, the sections sliding north and south. Before the astonished eyes of the world, the Lord will announce that he is occupying the throne of his royal ancestor David and will proceed to assert his rights to rule over the ancient territory of the Kingdom of Israel. This is the resumption of the Kingdom of God over Israel. The howls of protest as nations and the Catholic Church object to the declaration of Israel’s sovereignty can easily be imagined.
Christ as the “stonepower” of Daniel, begins phase 1 of the Kingdom of God. In chapter 2:35 “the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” This graphically portrays the process of conquering the world. Initially, there will be a ‘smiting’ when Christ confronts the nations who have dared to invade his realm. He will “break in pieces and consume” all the elements of the Kingdom of Men. In the context of Daniel 2, this particularly relates to the Roman Empire, both Western and Eastern divisions. Russia, as the inheritor of the former Byzantine Empire, will be involved. The reformation of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Empire has involved the readopting of the old Russian emblem, honouring her former imperial rulers and giving honour and position to the Russian Orthodox Church.
The stonepower settles in Jerusalem and some of the surrounding nations willingly acknowledge the new sovereign. These peoples are named; they are the people who “dwell in the wilderness” (Psalm 72:9, 10; Isaiah 60:6, 7). The other consenting power is “Tarshish” (Isaiah 60:9; Psalm 72:10)), identified with the British Commonwealth. Some of these people, “the sons of strangers,” will assist in the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Isaiah 60:10) which will be in ruins after the devastating earthquake. On the other hand, there are nations in the Middle East that will confederate with the invading force, notably Syria, Iran and Iraq. Many were once part of the ancient Roman Empire.
The stonepower will grow over a period of time as nations accept the Lord as their sovereign. The ambassadors of the King in Zion will present their credentials to the governments of the world. There are those who refuse the sovereignty of the King and will call for a crusade against him. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed…..” (Psalm 2:2). Doubtless among these rulers will be those in Europe who claim the title “King of Jerusalem”. Daniel 2: 44, 45 describes the violence with which opposition to the divine ruler will be dealt with.
It will take some years before “The Lord shall be king over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:9). When this is accomplished all will acknowledge the true King of Jerusalem. The King’s policy will be not merely to rule the nations, but to involve them in worship of the one true God. He will combine the function of both King and Priest (Psalm 110:1-4), being the head of the Order of Melchizedec. Psalm 110 describes the divine authority of the King; for this King has dealt sin and rebellion a death blow within himself. The “rule” (Psalm 110:2) he will assert is the “dominion” (Genesis 1:26) promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. (They are both the same Hebrew word). The kings who challenge the Lord of all the earth will he “strike through in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the nations, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.” (Psalm 110:6)
The Lord Jesus Christ has the personal integrity to rule justly – a far cry from corrupt rulers and politicians in the Kingdom of Men. “Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice… the work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Isaiah 32:1, 17, 18) This is the peace that people yearn for all over the world. It will only be achieved by the righteous one, the Prince of Peace.