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Neither City Nor Land Are Holy!

By  Joseph M. Canfield

A very important statement of our Lord about Jerusalem has been overlooked and ignored throughout the Christian Era. Early in His ministry, Jesus, talking to the woman at the well at Sycher in Samaria, said:

Woman believe Me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father. (John 4:21 KJV)

Most interpreters pass over that verse, going to verse twenty three to concentrate on the very valid proposition that Christian worship is not to be confined to any special place but can be offered with assurance of acceptance by God, from any origination, but only if the worshipperís heart is right. The verse reads:

But the hour cometh and now is, when true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. (John 4:23 KJV)

Many in the Church have agreed with John 4:23. However, there has been a continued hankering for a visit to "the Holy Land" or to the "the Holy City" to see what are alleged to be "sacred" places. The motive is not just tourism, but the hope of obtaining religious merit. Using verse twenty one as a standard, it is here submitted that in the 1,968 years since our Lord voiced what we now identify as John 4:21, blessing has not accompanied visiting Jerusalem for "sacred" reasons.

But, you say, no one in those 1,968 years has ever so taught. That point is subject to question. Some teachers outside denominational mainstreams have analyzed Jerusalem, and seem in agreement with our proposition. In their research they found authority --Old Testament and New-- for considering Jerusalem outside the realm of spiritual correctness.

Patrick Fairbairn, writing in the nineteenth century noted: 

The local temple which formed the centre of the old religion with its holy persons, and places, and seasons, bespoke in its very nature imperfections, since it implied with respect to other persons, and places and seasons, a relative commonness or pollution: so that the prophets themselves anticipated a time when it would be supplanted by something higher and better (Jer:17). The same kind of imperfection is inseparably connected with the idea of an elect people and a holy land (sic) . . . .1

G. H. Lang, writing in the twentieth century, noted that the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel is a thumbnail sketch of Jerusalem, from the precarious Amorite settlement to Jerusalemís final judgment, for an almost total history of disobedience, a point confirmed in Rev, 17:16-172. Langís picture accords with Jesusí words in Matthew 23:32 and in His Olivet Discourse.

E. E. Gordon (also twentieth century) notes a sevenfold repudiation of Jesus by the Jews (John 5:18, 7:20; 8:59; 10:31; 11:53; 12:37-40; 18,19.3 Such a continuous record can only mean that Jerusalem and all it stood for was outside the purpose of God.

 The Prophet Micah, going back to the Old Testament, opens his denunciatory prophecy with specific reference to both Jerusalem and Samaria. It is a denunciation which calls for the necessary destruction of the city. In chapter two verse ten of his message, he refers to the city as a "pollution which will destroy the people." 

Note that the Samaritans, despite the Lordís directive in John 4:21, continued worshipping at Mt. Gerizim until 1919. But in continuing to consider Mt. Gerizim a special place, they remained outside the religious mainstream, and worse, in a state where they could not receive Godís blessing.4 They became an inbred enclave and made no contribution to the religious or social life of the world at large. One wonders why the Lord allowed this disobedience to continue for 1,890 years. The ways of God are not always revealed to men.

A careful study of our Lordís ministry shows continual movement to disengage from Jerusalem. Except for Judas Iscariot, all disciples were from Galilee. Judas, a Judean, was not from the Capital. After His public ministry commenced, our Lord never spent a night in Jerusalem, returning to Bethany each night.

His contacts with officialdom were negative (besides those pointed out by Gordon, supra). They were so negative that they led to the Crucifixion. Jerusalem was not held sacred by the Lord when He was on earth. A careful look at the Gospels shows that His positive contacts in Jerusalem were outside the Establishment. Nicodemus (Jn. 3) was a leader but his ideas placed him outside. Note the man at the Pool of Bethesda (Jn. 5:20), the widow and the two mites (Mk. 12:42; Lk. 21:2) and the Greeks who sought Him (Jn. 12:20). Even the response on "Palm Sunday," fickle as it was, sent a message to the leaders. Its intensity was such that they became more determined to proceed with the Crucifixion.

As these incidents are carefully evaluated, it should be obvious that our Lord never considered the city, the system, nor the land, nor the leaders to have any connection with holiness, whether personal or group. Nor could the leaders in any way be considered acceptable to the God of Heaven.

The two cleansings of the Temple, one at the start, the other near the finish of His ministry, served to point out that the Jews were not only disobedient spiritually, but also that such disobedience led to the actual garden variety of corruption (Jms. 2:10 is relevant).

 The Lord was completely aware of how the relationship between the official city and the Son of God would soon come to a denouement. The story of the two sons (Matt. 21:28ff), the parable of the householder and his vineyard (Matt. 21:33-46) and the parable of the wedding feast all plainly point to a severing of the relationship between the God of Israel and the rulers of Jerusalem. Reactions show that the Jewish leaders were fully aware of the import of His messages, and yet they remained determined to pursue their course to the final rejection and Crucifixion.

The break forecast in the parables cited was more clearly delineated in Matt. 23:36-39. This was followed immediately by the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 where the destruction of both temple and city were very clearly pointed out to the disciples. That destruction, without promise of restoration, occurred in AD 70.

After the Resurrection, the Lord told His disciples to "tarry in the city until endued with power from on high" (Lk. 24:47-49). There were to tarry only "until . . . . " The disciples obeyed (Lk. 24:52,53), awaiting what we now refer to as Pentecost. That enduement recorded for us in Acts 2 began in the Upper Room. After the enduement they obeyed the Lord (at His directed pace) and did go, go, go to the uttermost parts of the earth (probably in some cases far beyond the record of the limited histories of the day). Peterís breakthrough at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10) and Philipís encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), both indicative of the new thrust of the Lordís purpose for the Church, were quite appropriately outside Jerusalem.

The record of the book of Acts shows that after Pentecost, Jerusalem was really not the place for those who wanted to pursue the Lordís purpose to its fullest extent. The arrest of Peter and John (Acts 3), the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7), the arrest and martyrdom of James (Acts 12) and the arrest of Peter (also Acts 12) all attest to the ultimate inappropriateness of that once-great city as a place for those whom the Lord had anointed.

The one bright spot in those dreadful years in Jerusalem was the Great Council related in Acts 15. The whole direction of that council was a thrust toward the broader, Gentile world and away from the provincial Jewish milieu in which the Jews had altered the Old Testament religion. The misuse of the reference to the Tabernacle of David,5 making it refer to a political entity, seems like a deliberate obfuscation. The word "tabernacle" can also be translated "tent." The spread of the Gospel, referred to as "raising the Ďtentí of David," was at first and most magnificently carried out by Paul, who had been trained as a "tent-maker" (Acts 18:3). A point of typology apparently usually overlooked: Paul, the holy tent-maker.

The arrest of Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21-22), while making possible his trip to Rome (and eventually beyond), was part of the process of writing off Jerusalem and with it any "Holy Land" idea. The "peeling of the Jews off the carpet" by Paul in Rome (Acts 28: 25-28) unmistakably declares the obsolescence of the old system and points to the fiery demise of the city (Jerusalem) in A. D. 70.

It does seem strange that while Jn. 4:23 is used to give men the idea that a specific place has no part in Christian holiness, the Church has failed to note the continuing negative trend from Sychar in A. D. 29 to Jerusalem falling to Titus in A. D. 70. The whole shaping of events since then should suggest that neither city nor land could in the new economy have any importance. Commentators outside the liturgical churches have noted that the sites considered "holy" are never the actual spots where biblical events took place. In the light of Jn. 4:23, it would be more than logical that the Lord would make very sure that the actual spots would not be known or identified. Thus the claim that certain spots are "sacred" and subject to veneration is total disobedience to the will of our holy God. The record should make any reasonable person think, and either not book, or else cancel a trip to that city and country, even if the trip is under the auspices of some church group.

We submit that when the Lord had Jerusalem destroyed in A. D. 70, He wanted it to remain so throughout the Church age. Such is completely congruent with the Lordís plan for His Church. It was required by the Lordís righteousness. Remember Matt. 23:2: "Your house is left unto you desolate." The record of the last 1,900 years confirms the point that worship in and from Jerusalem is ruled out. The non-existence of the city would have helped compliance with His command, but disobedience builds on disobedience.

It was not until A. D. 131 that a rebuilding was attempted. Emperor Hadrian rebuilt the city, renamed it Aelia Capitolia, a pagan name. He designed it as a pagan center with no provision for either Jewish or Christian worship. The Emperor had an antipathy for Jews. His contempt for Christians was so complete that he did not bother to persecute them.6

After the debacle at Massada and the rebellion of Bar Kochaba, a Jewish remnant attempted to survive around Jerusalem. Hadrainís name-change did not survive. The traditional name had been so ingrained that it regained its place in the minds of those who cared not about God's decree.

In A. D. 313, St. Helena, the Welsh-born Mother of Emperor Constantine, claimed to have found remnants of the cross on which our Lord had been crucified. She started a cult of relics, icons, images and incense as if they could help sinful men find access to God. She was so far astray that not one site she picked as "sacred" can be considered correct. It now appears that even the places touted as Calvary and the Garden Tomb are not the spots where the recorded events took place. The Lord would not have wanted the actual spots to be profaned by the present extravaganzas, which are a reproach to valid Christian faith. Again, Jn. 4:21.

In A. D. 361, Julian the Apostate (Emperor) encouraged Jews to try to rebuild Jerusalem as a center for resurgent Judaism. An explosion stopped the work before it could be completed. Whether it was gas or divine intervention has not been determined. The work was not resumed and Julianís Apostate reign was ended by a battle two years latter.7

From A. D. 70 until today, Jerome, the translator of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate), was the only prominent ecclesiastic to be based in the city. But even Jerome complained about the behavior of pilgrims in that early day, many from as far away as Britain: "The Briton no sooner makes progress in religion than he quits the Western sun to go in search of a place which he knows only through Scripture and common report.8 . . . Jerusalem is now made a place of resort from all parts of the world, and there is such a throng of pilgrims of both sexes that all temptation, which in some degree you might avoid elsewhere, is here collected together." That sort of behavior does not sound like an exercise in holiness. More was to come.

In his important study of the Creeds of the Church, Foundations of Social Order, R. J. Rushdoony describes the councils of the patristic period which hammered out the great creeds of the Church, and which are now so essential in defining the Church and its purpose. Speaking of Nicea, Rushdoony notes:

The early church came to Nicea already battle scarred from struggles without and within, struggles with the Empire and the heretics. The fathers went to Nicea with the marks of battle-arms made useless by the application of red-hot irons to the nerves, crippled and maimed of body. Some had the right eye dug out, others had lost the right arm.9

In the entire study, Jerusalem is not mentioned. No Council was held there. Could John 4:21 have even then been operative?

The Crusades were based on ideas contrary to our view of Jn. 4:21. Virtually all results were negative. The Christian image in the Middle East sank to a new low, almost as low as at present. The cost of the Crusades in wasted human lives was incalculable. Arabs were exposed to disease and famine. Arab women were raped. Thousands were left dying along roads. Most pitiful were the thousands of children who followed misguided leaders and perished in the "Childrenís Crusade," a medieval extravaganza of child abuse. Measured against Jn. 4:21, the Crusades were an era of total disobedience. They opened the West to Arab culture. That led to the Renaissance which in turn had to be countered by the Reformation.

Since the Reformation, no person who has made any serious contribution to Christian thought or theology has even visited Jerusalem.10 The greats do not have time to make pilgrimages. The only possible exception in four hundred years was Robert Murray McCheyne who in 1839 visited Jerusalem, ostensibly on a trip to recover his health. The trip failed in that purpose. Andrew Bonar, his companion noted:

. . . He would lie down on the ground under some tree that sheltered them from the dew. Completely exhausted by the long dayís ride, he would lie almost speechless for half an hour; and then, when the palpitation of this heart had a little abated, he would propose that we two should pray together. Often, too did he say to me, when thus stretched on the ground, not impatiently, but very earnestly, shall I ever preach to my people again?11

Hardly the situation usually expected on a trip to recover health. McCheyne never really recovered his health and passed on in 1843 Ė a very short life for one so spiritual and so needed in that day.

During the Victorian years, Evangelical Lord Shaftsbury was determined to establish an Evangelical Anglican Center in Jerusalem. He waded through endless red tape at Lambeth Palace (the British Foreign Office) then had to secure clearance from the Turkish Government. After all that, several men in "Holy Orders" who had indicated a willingness to take the Jerusalem charge passed away suddenly before even leaving Britain. Could we apply Jn. 4:21?

The entry of General Allenby into Jerusalem in December of 1917 brought forth amazing effusions from the Dispensational crowd (now riding high, wide and handsome, thanks to C. I. Scofield). Scofield himself is reported to have said, "Now we have a definite sign" (of the Lordís return).12 One might have thought that up in Glory, Jesus had been straining at the end of some heavenly leash held by the Father, held back so that as He came in the Rapture, He would not come too close to Allenbyís rear guard as his troops were racing through Palestine into Syria. Those prophecy buffs who waxed so enthusiastically over Allenbyís conquest conveniently overlooked the fact that Allenby was just as much a gentile as the Turkish Emir he chased out. If Lk. 21:24 does have application in this century, it would not have been considered fulfilled until the Six Day War of 1967, if then. The pronouncements about fulfilled prophecies in Jerusalem and Palestine which have been pouring out since 1989 must be considered absolute hogwash. Dwight Wilsonís book Armageddon Now!13 makes it clear that most "fulfilled prophecies" are total fabrications made deliberately. Jerusalem, whether in Jeromeís day or today, does not seem to nurture Christian character.

Samuel Houghton, son of China Inland Missionís Frank Houghton, reports with some amazement and perturbation about a visit to Jerusalem just after the Six Day War of 1967, relating the difficulty he had in finding a place to worship according to his Evangelical position.14 He appears not to have considered John 4:21.

This writer helped Grace Halsell (sometime speech writer for President Lyndon Johnson) with her book Prophecy and Politics,15 written after she had toured Palestine (I refuse to use the term "Holy Land") with an excursion under the auspices of Jerry Falwell. Grace noted the obvious blindness of the Falwellians to the Arabs and their legitimate social and spiritual needs. She was horrified at the fiendish delight of the Falwellians at the prospect of two-thirds of the Jews coming to a fiery end in a nuclear holocaust after the supposed soon-coming "Seven year Tribulation." Evidently Falwellians, even in a land they called "Holy," had no concern for the spiritual needs of the locals. Hardly Biblical correctness!

James B. Jordan in his article entitled "The Great Hangover" notes:

. . . the various sites are incorrect as I mentioned above. Second, the land today looks more like a desert than it did in Biblical times . . . . Palestine was a green and verdant land in the ancient world . . . . Superstitious belief that this land is still holy accounts for the erection of shrines there by the early church, and the pilgrimages and crusades there later on.

Jordan continues, reporting a story told by someone who traveled with some Charismatics.

When they got to the supposed site of the "Upper Room," she said, "they went bananas, screaming and falling down in fits of glossalia.16

Hardly mature Christian behavior. Jordan reinforces the fact that in the fourth century, Empress Helena was wrong about the sites of Biblical events. The Lord has seen to it that the same lack of certainty prevails today even though many refuse to accept this fact. It could be that God is serious about John 4:21. With perverse human stubbornness, men attempt worship which cannot be pleasing to God. Meanwhile tourist agencies, guides and hotels reap profits.

A careful look at Scripture makes it clear that holiness is something of the heart and soul, not of externals. The behavior of pilgrims to Palestine from the fourth century as related by Jerome, through the Crusades, to the Charimatics related by Jordan, show that making a trip to a geographical location does absolutely nothing for the heart and soul. The curses against Jerusalem and the Land itself by the Old Testament prophets, the Apostle Paul and the Lord Himself make it more than clear that nothing of spiritual benefit can possibly come from visiting any land as a land, less so from visiting that trouble spot at the eastern corner of the Mediterranean.

The New Testament requirements for worship, for spiritual nurture, do not include anything relating to geography. Worship, the Lordís Supper, baptism and faithful persevering prayer all can take place anywhere on the globe, except Jerusalem. The money wasted on trips to Jerusalem could better be spent on supporting regular endeavors of Christian activity.

The insistence of our Jewish friends on the vain hope, "Next year in Jerusalem," suggests an unbridgeable gap between them and what is taught by the New Testament. Their insistence on this vain hope has made inevitable the bloody mess which now curses the Mideast, a curse that can only be lifted by abandoning the land until the Lord may restore it.

From Scripture we find no warrant, no necessity for special treatment of any land or city. The New Jerusalem is a concept of a city which comes from the God who transcends the limitations of the physical earth, earth which has been blasted and as Paul puts it in Romans 8:28, awaits the lifting of the curse. Both men and land await glorification. Until then, John 4:21 must be considered a ban on at least worship, if not the existence of Jerusalem.

 

1 Patrick Fairbairn, The Interpretation of Prophecy, 1856, 1964, London and Edinburgh, p. 258, 259.

2 G. H. Lang, The Parabolic Teaching of Scripture, Eerdmans, 1956, p.17. The book is probably a compilation of articles written earlier.

3 E. E. Gordon, Notes from a Layman's Greek Testament, W. A. Wilde Co., Boston, 1941, p. 115.

4 The story of the last Samaritan Sacrifice is found in the National Geographic Magazine, January 1920, Vol. 37, p. 1-46

5 For an understanding of the Tabernacle of David, see George Smith, The Harmony of Divine Dispensations being a series of Discourses on Select Portions of Holy Scripture designed to show the Spirituality, Efficacy, and Harmony of the Divine Revelations made to mankind from the Beginning, Longmans, London, 1856, Discourse IV, p. 103ff. The acts quotation usually refers to Amos 9:11.

6 Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Part III, Caesurae and Christ, Simon and Shuster, New York, 1944, p. 419.

7 Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Part IV, The Age of Faith, Simon and Shuster, New York, 1950, p. 419.

8 Barbara W. Tuchman, Bible and Sword, England and Palestine form the Bronze Age to Balfour, Ballantine Books, New York, 1984 Paperback Reprint of 1956 original, p. 22.

9 R. J. Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1968, p. 20.

10 There have been prominent religious figures who regularly have placed Jerusalem on their circuit. But almost without exception those who have pursued the deep things of the Spirit, the meat to be found in God's Word, those who have laid down teaching to guide the Church, have not been seen in Jerusalem.

11 Andrew Bonar, The Biography of Robert Murray McCheyne, Zondervan reprint, p. 108

12 Scofield's statement first appeared as a quote by A. C. Gaebelein without specific attribution, suggesting a private conversation or letter, it has been widely circulated and quoted.

13 Dwight Wilson, Armageddon Now!, Baker, 1977 reprint ICE Tyler, TX 1991

14 S. M. Houghton, Tourist in Israel, The Benner of Truth, London, 1968.

15 Grace Haisell, Prophecy and Politics, Lawrence Hill, Westport, CT, 1986

16 James B. Jordan, Biblical Horizons, a newsletter from Niceville, FL July 1995. The destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70 left not a building standing. Thus it is impossible to identify any present civilian building as being from Bible Days. The spot shown to those tourists is as legitimate as a sideshow at Coney Island.

[Published with permission]

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Date:
22 Aug 2004
Time:
19:40:54

Comments

JOSEPH M.CANFIELD,A HATER OF C.I.SCOFIELD, AND OTHER DISPENSATIONALISTS,SEEMS TO ME TO BE AN ANGRY MAN WITH NOTHING TO DO BUT TO CRITICIZE OTHERS.IF HE IS A CHRISTAIN I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT HIS SPECIFIC CALLING IS. A GOOD DOSE OF CONVERSION MIGHT BE A GOOD STARTER.


Date: 12 May 2009
Time: 20:10:09

Your Comments:

Way to go, Canfield! I wish I could forward this article to my misguided friends. But I suppose those who choose to read in scripture what is not there because an adulterer said it was will also choose to ignor scripture that disagrees with their hope of some sort of rapture off of this earth, rather than doing God's will of standing up against evil and loving their brothers, no matter what their color and creed. God bless you. Keep up the good work.


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