Yes, there's something about Jerusalem. Why all this sudden interest in an ancient city, situated in a tiny nation? Any mention of Jerusalem is bound to elicit a range of passionate responses. I'm not necessarily speaking of the Palestinians and Jews either. Why is this so?
BTW, when I say "Jews" I mean Israel. The term "Jew" is often used interchangeably with Israel. Many Christians prefer "Israel" to the term "Jewish Nation." Just like many prefer to refer to Jesus as a Palestinian fighting oppression, rather than a Jew.
Deuteronomy 12: 37 and Psalm 44 are prophetic,
And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a taunt among all the people where the LORD will drive you. Deut 28:37
You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples. Psalm 44:14
Isn't it passing strange that we find the same situation in this supposedly enlightened age? The church has done its fair share of making "Jew" a byword. Even to the point of siding with Islam. Pro-Palestinian Christian activists (Sabeel) have sided with terrorist Yasser Arafat.
In another example I've noted ELCA scholar-minister Barbara Rossing's book "The Rapture Exposed." It's striking how she demonizes Zionism, yet romanticizes Islam. Her glowing account of the beauty of The Dome of the Rock starkly contrasts with her abhorrence of the possibility of a Jewish Temple.
This article (and excerpt) partly sums up the Christian Left's thinking:
Many Palestinian political and religious leaders, including the late Yasser Arafat, have falsely portrayed Jesus as a Palestinian revolutionary fighting Roman oppression, and described Palestinians today as the Body of Christ suffering under Israeli oppression.
While the modern church generally tends to eschew prophecy, it has often engaged in fulfilling it. Many might aver that Israel (the Jews) are self-fulfilling the "byword" part. Yet "peacemakers" are more than happy to accommodate that portion along by regularly pointing out Israel's sins. Of course, all other (benevolent) prophecies relating to Israel are said to be fulfilled in Christ or the church.
Anglican Theologian Peter Walker (Jesus and the Holy City) wrote:
...Jerusalem has lost whatever theological status it previously possessed. The way the Old Testament ascribes to Jerusalem a special, central and sacred status within the on-going purposes of God is not reaffirmed by the New Testament writers. Instead they see God’s purposes as having moved forward into a new era in which the previous emphasis on the city (as well as on the Land and the Temple) is no longer appropriate. (pp. 319)
In fact this contradicts the plain-sense response Jesus gave to the disciples in Acts 1:6-7. See also Amos 9:14-15 and Rom 11:25-28. Paul was alluding to Jer 31:31-37 and Jer 33:20-26. If the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable then God's purpose for Israel and Jerusalem haven't altered. The fact that we look to a Heavenly Country (Heb 11:16) does not cancel a future physical kingdom on earth with Jerusalem as its headquarters.
For further reading on this subject I recommend Mike Vlach's book He Will Reign Forever. A more in-depth review can be found HERE.
"Vacuous" or not, both testaments seem to agree. One would be hard pressed to ignore all the references to Israel, Jerusalem and the land in context to Christ's return - and then force them into saying something entirely different. You'd have your job cut out for you!
When one departs from the obvious sense, there's no consensus on what these verse-by-verse prophetic texts are supposed to actually mean. This is why you often see all these prophecies generally dumped in a fulfilled-by-Christ bucket.
Yet the following passages from Joel are straightforward:
For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there On behalf of my people and my inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up my land. Joel 3:1-2
The theme of the gathering of nations against Israel, the judgment of these same nations and the restoration of Israel-Jerusalem occurs in several texts. For some examples see Isaiah chapter 60 & 62, Jer 16:15, 25:31; see Zechariah chapter 12 and Zech 2:4-5, 8, 8:22-23, 14:2-3, 16. The dots can be connected to the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24), right up to Revelation (Rev 16:13-16, 19:11-21).
It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. In that day," declares the LORD, "I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. Zech 12:3-4
But Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem for all generations. And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged; for the LORD dwells in Zion. Joel 3:20-21
For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, And for Jerusalem's sake I will not keep quiet, Until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, And her salvation like a torch that is burning. Isaiah 62:1
Yes, there's something about Jerusalem. It shouldn't be lost on us that until the Jews returned in larger numbers (after WWII), the land was largely deserted. Even the Temple Mount was in disrepair. See HERE and HERE.
And around the time of this writing we see increased interest in the Temple Mount (and Jerusalem) by the Saudis and Turkey's Erdogan. This interest hasn't originated through diligent study of Bible prophecy, but I'm betting it isn't "vacuous" either.
Whatever the nations' secular reasons for coming against Israel and Jerusalem, you can be sure that it is really a supernatural impulse. Ultimately God is behind it all. The current Middle East conflicts surrounding Israel may be the dynamics driving the End Game and culminating in the return of the Lord as prophesied.