The whole world is discussing the decision of Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But what does this mean in practice and why is the whole world so fired up?
Imperia News is taking a look at the Jerusalem question from the standpoint of the great religions. Much of the desire to control Jerusalem lies in “eschatology” that is, the study of the apocalypse. In this article, we will see how these different viewpoints relate to the geopolitics of this Holy city.
Some say that Trump’s decision is just a statement of fact. Indeed, the residence of the Prime Minister and the Israeli parliament has long been in Jerusalem. A nation may select any city on its territory to be the capital.
Others argue that Trump has destroyed an already unreliable peace between religious and national groups in both Israel and beyond.
From a historical point of view, everything is not so simple. For millennia, the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam view Jerusalem as sacred.
After the defeat of the city by the Roman legions in 70 AD, the Temple of Solomon – the only temple of the Jews – was destroyed, and the Jews themselves were scattered all over the world. In modern terms, today’s Israel was recreated after World War II. The “Holy Land” was divided between Arabs who profess Islam and Christianity and Jews. Jewish territory was in the west and Arab in the east. The Israeli leadership, using military and diplomatic levers, consistently seized more and more new territory. However, sometimes violence came into play. In 1967 after the Six Day War, ended Israel took control of East Jerusalem. And most importantly, they took control of the Old City.
The Old City is a sacred place for billions of people on our planet.
For Christians, the most significant place here is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It unites under one dome Golgotha, where Jesus Christ was crucified, the tomb, where He was buried and resurrected. For Orthodox Christians, it is the place where the Holy Fire descends on Easter. Also and of great significance, there is the Wailing Wall – the only part of the Solomon’s Temple, that survived after Romans invasion. Directly next to it is the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock – the most important shrines of the Islamic world. Naturally, Jews want to restore their main shrine – the Temple of Solomon. But this is a very difficult task – the Islamic shrine was built on top of the Jewish shrine. Thus, to restore one temple, it is necessary to destroy another.
The other side of the question is that the Restoration of the Temple of Solomon has a key significance in eschatology. Eschatology is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. All the great religions of Israel connect Jerusalem with their vision of the End of Days.
The Islamic Perspective
In Islamic Eschatology the World will end with a great Resurrection. All people will rise from their graves anew to be judged, rewarded or punished by the Lord God. This is the end of the World.
But before the end, Islamic eschatology believes that there will be an end of History. History itself will culminate with the final and conclusive triumph of the truth and justice. Then after this, starts the reign of Al-Masih ad-Dajjal “the false messiah”. The Apocalypse will arrive with the return of the true Messiah – the son of Mary – Jesus Christ. And he will restore in the Holy land as the true state of Israel. And because fo this Islam recognizes the present state of Israel as an imposter. It will be replaced by a true authentic Holy state of Israel, which has come from the Prophet David and Solomon.
In this aspect there is no difference between Christian eschatology and Islamic eschatology. The destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the restoration of the Third Temple of Solomon provoke the accession of the Antichrist. The End of the World and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will happen soon thereafter.
The Christian Perspective
Christianity sees the Apocalypse as a deeply seeded part of their religion. All the messages of the apostles and especially the book of Revelations possess the idea that the end is coming soon and Christians should expect the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.
The Bible clearly states that no one can know the exact date of the Apocalypse. The date of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is not for us to know.
However, many religious texts describe the events that will directly precede the end of the world. One of the key events is the coming of the Antichrist. The False Messiah will rebuild the Third Temple and resume services there. That will serve as one of the signs of the proximity of the Second Coming of the True Messiah-Christ. The rule of this representative of Satan will culminate in a human uprising against God. And it is during his reign that the coming of Jesus Christ will occur. And this shall be the end of the world. Christ will destroy the Antichrist and condemn those who followed him. And, everyone who truly believes in Jesus Christ will live forever with God in the Kingdom of Heaven. This will be the end of all evil.
The Jewish Perspective
In Judaism, the end of times is usually called the “end of days” or “the Day of God”. Jewish eschatology in many ways coincides with both the Christian and the Islamic:
The period before the end of the world is accompanied by sorrows, executions, the eschatological war of Gog and Magog, the extraordinary tension of evil, the triumph of the pagans. It is accompanied by the expectation of the Messiah (Moshiach, the Lord’s anointed). The appearance of the Messiah is connected with the last struggle of good and evil and the victory of the Messiah. Then comes the Judgment and salvation, the renewal of Jerusalem – the Restoration of the Temple of Solomon in the New Jerusalem. Next comes the beginning of the millennial Kingdom of God on earth, the resurrection of the righteous. It ends with the end of the existing physical world – the renewal of the universe.
Christian eschatology tends to interpret ancient prophecies as real physical processes, wars, catastrophes and cosmic cataclysms. Judaism does not accept this understanding and emphasizes that all these torments will be spiritual.
The Zionist Perspective
The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion rightly names the two factions of Zionism as Conservative Jews and “Messianic-Oriented Protestants” especially in America. It would be inaccurate to portray Zionism as an exclusively Jewish project. Even former Vice-President Joe Biden said “you don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist. I am a Zionist.”
In fact, Christians United for Israel is the “largest pro-Israel organization in the United States”. This is a purely Protestant and evangelical organization that is one of Washington’s powerful lobbies.
The motivations for a Zionist project have a practical/geopolitical side – establishing and maintaining a pro-Western beachhead in the Middle-East. There is, however, a spiritual ideological side – restoring the Temple and bringing about the End of Days.
For Protestants, the end of the world will induce the Rapture that will send them, the chosen, to paradise while we suffer until the end. The Jewish side of Zionism desires to provoke a Messianic Age which is a far more appetizing offer. What is important here, is that these groups see the end of the world as a good thing. They see it as something that they need to bring about. Zionism is a mechanism to do that. Generally, these religious and philosophical ideas take a back seat to practical political affairs but we cannot completely ignore them.
In short Protestants and many Conservative Jews see the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital as the approaching end of the world. In their logic, this is one step in the right direction of prophecy.
Dispensationalism (viewing history as the realization of Revelation’s phases) and even Christian Zionism in the US are not marginal positions anymore. Millions of people believe in this, including the elites. One of the most striking examples is Mike Pence.
The Anti-Zionist Perspective
We should clearly note that not all Jews believe in Zionism. Zionism is not a dogmatic belief of Judaism and many reject it. There are significant numbers of Jews who feel that their “religion is thousands of years old but Zionism is 100 years old”. That it is something new and not from holy scripture. There is also a belief that only God could return Israel to the Jews and the UN is certainly not divine. Some Jews believe they no longer have the right to any state by God’s will. Thus, any type of Jewish state for them is unlawful and in defiance of God’s will.
The large Hasidic Jewish community in New York generally stands against Zionism. Rabbi David Niederman, a liaison for the Central Rabbinical Congress accuses Zionist Israel of being “anti-Semitic”. He states that “There is a hidden agenda (of the Zionists) here to try to change what the Jewish community believes in, forcing them to change their religion and culture.” This statement was made in regards to the Israeli authorities trying to draft pacifist Jews into military service.
The Zionist view is certainly not a solid majority view however it is the view of many in Washington and Tel-Aviv… or should we say Jerusalem?
This piece was written by Tim Kirby, Andrey Afanasyev and Lady N
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