Jerusalem means “city of peace” or “foundation of peace.”
But the history of Jerusalem is one of war and destruction.
The sounds of battle, the clash of arms, have been heard in Jerusalem through the centuries. From the siege of David in 1000 B.C. to the Six-Day War of 1967, the city of peace has experienced forty-six sieges and thirty-two partial destructions. It has been burned to the ground five times, yet has always risen from the ashes. It has been the scene of four wars in the past twenty-five years. Today it is the site of the most volatile political, religious, and military problem in the entire world.
The Jewish cry for peace in Jerusalem is sincere, finding its roots in the promise of peace for the Jews given through Moses: “And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land” (Lev. 26:6).
The Jews were instructed to pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee (Ps. 122:6-8).
As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel (Ps. 125:5).
Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel (Ps. 128:6).
He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat (Ps. 147:14).
The Jewish desire for peace has waited long and weathered many storms. Since the dispersion, this troubled people has anticipated a day of peace.
Following the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry, during the Spanish Inquisition, while Crusaders attacked them in the Rhine Valley and murdered them in the name of God, the Jews longed for peace.
Suffering unbelievably at the hands of the Cossacks during the Polish rebellion, under the reign of the merciless Czars who instituted the bloody pogroms, the Jews cried for peace.
During Hitler’s holocaust, when total annihilation of the Jews in Europe seemed imminent, the Jews longed for peace.
At the birth of their nation in 1948, the Jews longed for peace.
When surrounded by hostile neighbors and under the threat of being pushed into the sea and destroyed by the forces of Nasser in 1967, the Jews longed for peace.
But peace did not come. The long struggle for the end of hostilities continued. Tranquility evaded them. And the words of the prophet Jeremiah seemed to describe their daily experience: “We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!” (Jeremiah 8:15).
The Push for Peace
Today the entire world has a stake in the peace of Jerusalem. As never before, the Middle East is the proverbial powder keg of the world. Informed people everywhere know that a spark of conflict there might ignite a fire that would engulf the entire planet, plunging all of civilization into a nuclear nightmare.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” is good advice for all people.
Since the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the introduction of oil as a weapon of war, all industrial nations need peace in the Middle East. The prospect of unemployment, recession, inflation, and worthless currency has made political leaders aware of the absolute necessity of solving the Middle East problem and moving the Arab-Jew conflict to a peaceable solution.
Talk of peace will be increasingly the order of the day. Western nations, the United Nations, and the Communist world, acting together and unilaterally, may be involved in seeking to both calm and exploit Middle East tensions. Top-notch diplomats will be employed. Peace conferences will be scheduled in the most desirable locations. Behind-the-scenes bargaining between all powers can be expected. Diplomatic arm-twisting will not be overlooked. News releases reporting the slightest progress toward peace will be fed to the public. The push for peace will seem almost irresistible.
But peace will not come easily to the Middle East. Differences there are deep and longstanding. Jerusalem itself presents an almost insurmountable obstacle to peace. It is important to the three major religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Some Arab leaders are determined to wrest control of Jerusalem from Israel. And the Jews, having finally retaken their most important city, are determined not to give it up.
Jerusalem has passed from one Gentile power to another since 400 B.C. Consider the conquerors since A.D. 70 alone: A.D. 70, the Romans; 614, the Persians; 637, Caliph Omar; 1099, the Crusaders; 1187, Salidan; 1250, the Egyptian Mamalukes; 1517, the Turks; 1917, the British; and finally in our lifetime, 1967, the Jews.
An anguished and heartfelt cry for peace is both desirable and dangerous.
The desire shows the heart is right regarding peace, for that is to be the aim of the child of God: “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14).
On the other hand, one may be so enamored with the hope for peace that he closes his eyes to the danger of accepting fraudulent conditions for peace. Prime Minister C. Neville Chamberlain of England met with Hitler before the outbreak of World War II and thought his policies of appeasement had bought peace for the world. Instead they had but increased the appetite of an evil ruler. The report of the conference was one of peace, but it was a false peace that would not last. The temporary tranquility was just the calm before the storm. And what a storm! Jeremiah described that kind of peace, lamenting: “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).
Another fact that makes Israel open to the acceptance of peace negotiations is the message of peace associated with the promised Messiah. Of His rule, Isaiah wrote:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6,7).
Micah declared: “And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men” (Micah 5:5).
And the prophet Haggai spoke of a better day: “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts” (Hag. 2:9).
The Bible message then is one of genuine peace for the Jews in the future. For that reason, leaders of Israel who believe the prophets are conditioned to expect ultimate peace. Since they have not recognized nor accepted their true Messiah, they may be open to deception by one who seems to be able to deliver peace to the world, especially to the Middle East with security guarantees to Israel.
The Hebrew prophets warned of a false peace plan that will be accepted by the Jews near the end time. The attack upon Israel by Russia and other nations prophesied by Ezekiel for the “latter years” will come when the Jews feel secure in their land:
After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them…. And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates(Ezek. 38:8,11).
Furthermore, Israel and perhaps many other nations will enter into a covenant (treaty) with the final world dictator wherein they will be guaranteed peace. The duration of the agreement will be seven years. This seven-year agreement will coincide with the seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy, and genuine peace will be short-lived. The treaty will be broken after three and one-half years, and its breaking will usher in earth’s most terrible time:
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate (Dan. 9:27).
Commenting on Daniel 9:27 and the efforts for peace in the Middle East, Walvoord and Walvoord have written:
A peace settlement in the Middle East is one of the most important events predicted for the end time. The signing of this peace treaty will start the final countdown leading to Armageddon and then introduce the new world leader who will be destined to become world dictator — the infamous Antichrist. According to Daniel 9:27, the last seven years leading up to the second coming of Christ will begin with just such a peace settlement. The same passage describes a covenant to be made between the nation of Israel and the prince who will rise to power (Daniel 9:26). While the details of the covenant are not given, it will be an attempt to settle the Arab-Israeli controversy which has focused world attention on the Middle East. It may well take the form of a forced peace settlement in which Israel returns much of the land conquered through war in exchange for strong international guarantees for Israel’s safety and prosperity…
The key issue in negotiations would be the city of Jerusalem itself, which Israel prizes more than any other possession. Undoubtedly there will be a strong attempt to make Jerusalem an international city with free access not only for Jews but for Christians and Muslims as well. The temple area may be internationalized, and Israel’s territorial conquests will be greatly reduced. In the light of Arab power and the isolation of the United States as the sole supporting force behind Israel’s continuity as a nation, it seems that any settlement short of this will not satisfy the Arab world.
The ingredients then in the coming peace agreement between Israel and other Middle Eastern countries are as follows:
- Israel will long for peace.
- The Arabs will long for peace.
- The world will fear the igniting of a nuclear war through a Middle East confrontation.
- Arab wealth and power will have produced worldwide apprehension of an energy cutoff or another economy-shattering rise in the price of oil.
- The prophets have written of a temporary peace that will come to Israel in the end time that will be broken by the Antichrist.
The peace offensive is already on. We may expect a number of lesser treaties before the tragic one involving the final world dictator. As diplomats assemble and the push for peace increases, it will be well to remember Paul’s comment concerning the cry for peace at closing time: “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
Students of the Scriptures will remember that real peace can only come when the Prince of Peace returns. Until then there will be no lasting peace on earth. And the crescendo of peace rhetoric that has already begun is but a sign of end-time destruction, the harbinger of history’s bloodiest hour — the Time of Jacob’s Trouble.
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