The dominant news stories exploding across our media today have left little room for what is perhaps the most significant conflict on the planet. While America is consumed with the White House, health care, investigations, North Korea, Russia, and Syria, there is a tinderbox of epic proportion that may be about to ignite: the nation of Israel–the epicenter of the world.
From the Judaeo-Christian perspective, the nation of Israel, and more specifically the city of Jerusalem, is the focal point of all civilization. It was where God led Abraham to establish a land in which He raised up His chosen people. According to the New Testament, Jerusalem is where Christ was crucified and will return to rule His eternal Kingdom. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is a most holy and sacred place for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. It has been a target of conflict and war for over 3,000 years and is so today. What happens on this mountain will always have a monumental impact on civilization.
King Solomon led the building of the first temple on the Temple Mount in the 10th century BC. It was totally destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. At that time, most of the Jewish people had been taken captive earlier by Assyria, and almost all remaining of God’s chosen were exiled to Babylon. Most of the Jews remained scattered around the world from then until now, but a large number were released from exile and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple around 515 BC. That second temple was destroyed in AD 70 by Rome never to be rebuilt to this day.
After a Christian Church occupied the Temple Mount for a brief period in the sixth century, the site was claimed by the Muslims who completed their al-Aqsa Mosque in 705. The Mosque was completely demolished twice by earthquakes and rebuilt each time. The last rebuilding in 1099 is the iconic gold-domed al-Aqsa Mosque on the Mount today.
When the Jews reclaimed their land, and Israel was declared a nation again in 1948, they vowed to ultimately rebuild a third temple on the Temple Mount replacing the al-Aqsa Mosque. Although Israel assumes control of the Temple Mount, the Mosque remains there, and it is considered the third holiest site of Islam. The barring of Jews other than security forces from the Temple Mount has been the source of great tension for years. The events of the past month, however, should command our utmost attention.
On Friday, July 14, 2017, two Israeli policemen guarding the Temple Mount were fatally shot by three Palestinian Muslims. The three gunmen were also killed in a shootout near the Mosque. On the following Monday, Israel’s government closed the site to Palestinians and opened it for Jews to pray and worship for the first time in decades. Jewish Rabbis are now urging all Jews to visit the Temple Mount to “strengthen their hold” on the site. Jews are openly proclaiming the place to be theirs and declaring the eventual replacement of the Mosque with a third temple. For the time being, they seem to have the momentum over the Palestinian Muslims in dominating the Mount with their presence.
During my first visit to Israel in 1978, I was privileged to not only visit the Temple Mount, but also to go inside the al-Aqsa Mosque, although our Jewish guide was prohibited from accompanying us. I was allowed no access to either on my second visit in 2015. An intriguing part of my second trip, though, was to visit the Temple Institute where Jewish religious leaders, engineers, and architects are planning the details of rebuilding the third temple. That would mean the destruction of the al-Aqsa Mosque. The Bible indicates a temple will sit on the Temple Mount before Christ’s return.
Why are we not hearing more about this in our news media? In my opinion, there is too much noise about the temporal that is drowning out the eternally significant. Be alert for any and all breaking news coming out of Israel. Your thoughts?