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18th June, 2007

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Rome or Jerusalem?

Today the Vatican produced a new document, a set of “Guidelines for Pastoral Care of the Road”, whose objective is to promote “road ethics”. The document is marked by a number of sensible guidelines, such as, “Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents”. To non-Catholics, at least one exhortation — to “make the sign of the cross before undertaking a journey” — smacks of superstition.

Faithful Catholics look to such documents emanating from the Vatican as tantamount to the Words of God. To them, Rome is the city from which God administers salvation. Many non-Catholics see Rome as, “Babylon… that great city” of the book of Revelation, whose evils are denounced and whose downfall is foretold (14:8). Without indulging in such intriguing prophetic possibilities let us ask the question: where does God's affection lie today — in Rome or in Jerusalem?

The online “The Catholic Encyclopedia” in its article “Rome” says this:

The significance of Rome lies primarily in the fact that it is the city of the pope. The Bishop of Rome, as the successor of St. Peter, is the Vicar of Christ on earth and the visible head of the Catholic Church. Rome is consequently the centre of unity in belief, the source of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the seat of the supreme authority which can bind by its enactments the faithful throughout the world. The Diocese of Rome is known as the "See of Peter", the "Apostolic See", the "Holy Roman Church" the "Holy See" — titles which indicate its unique position in Christendom and suggest the origin of its preeminence.

One simple fact alone betrays the fatal weakness of such lofty claims: Jesus Christ never set foot there. If God had intended to make Rome the new seat of His affection He would have sent Jesus there, not to Jerusalem. Jesus shed His lifeblood as a ransom for many in Jerusalem, not Rome. If the gospel was to find its headquarters in Rome it would have been preached first from there, but according to Luke 24:47, “… repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”. Not one stitch of either biblical evidence or of commonsense can be adduced to support Rome's claims of preeminence. In the famous Apocalypse of

John (Revelation), which looks down the course of history all the way to Jesus' return, Jerusalem, not Rome,is referred to as “the holy city” (11:2). God promised that His affection would always lie with Jerusalem and its temple:

For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually (2 Chron. 7:16).

Prophecy shows that God has retained His love of Jerusalem:

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “I am zealous for Zion with great zeal; with great fervor I am zealous for her… I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the Lord of hosts, the Holy Mountain… Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zech. 8:2-5).

These words still await complete fulfillment. Prophecy shows that Jerusalem will serve as the capital of Jesus' future earthly kingdom:

At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts (Jer. 3:17).

Prophecy shows that God has not transferred His love to any other special city but will always hold Jerusalem in special regard:

Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you (Ez. 16:60).

Don't look to Rome, or Canterbury, or Salt Lake City, or any other earthly city in expectation of a revival of the cause of truth or as the place where Jesus' words of an end-time preaching of the gospel will begin to be implemented. Don't imagine the “Elijah to come” will arise in some American city. Surely any great end-time surge of spiritual activity will be administered from Jerusalem — possibly in conjunction with a revival of worship at a yet-to-be-built temple. Jesus loved the Jerusalem temple. Shouldn't we? Paul sacrificed there. How can believers despise it?

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth — If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy (Ps. 137:5-6).

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: may they prosper who love you (Ps. 122:6).

For brief comments on the biblical case for the ongoing value of the Jerusalem temple, see How could I have been so blind?


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