Jerusalem is on a high mountain plateau approximately 2,500 feet above sea level between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. Abraham met Melchizedek, the king of Salem here (Gen 14:14-24). God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac in that place called Moriah (Gen 22:2). While the Israelites settled in Canaan, King David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites and established it as the capital of his kingdom. Though that area was assigned to the tribe of Benjamin, they had not conquered it (Josh 18:28). King Solomon built the Temple there.
GOING UP TO JERUSALEM
On the map, Bethlehem and Jerusalem are below or south of Nazareth. When recording the travel of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the text could be “went down from Nazareth.” However, Luke records, “Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem” (Lk 2:4). Bethlehem, that is near Jerusalem, is at a high altitude than Nazareth in Galilee. So, one who travels from the north to the south was climbing up.
Regardless of where one was traveling from, that person would be “going up” to reach Jerusalem. The climbing was especially felt when one was walking on the street that led to Jerusalem. Going up to Jerusalem” has also a spiritual meaning because it was the site of the temple of God, “the Mountain of the Lord’s House.”
According to the prophesies, Jerusalem was the peak of the world from where the Lord’s instruction would come to all nations. “In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it” (Isa 2:2). “Many nations shall come, and say, ‘Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, that we may walk in his paths.’ For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Mic 4:2).
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
Jesus had predicted the destruction of Jerusalem along with its Temple because of their denial of him as the Messiah. The destruction of the Temple and death of many Jews happened in 70 A.D., 40 years after that prediction. Besides the political destruction of Jerusalem and its inhabitants who, those who do not follow Jesus would also face spiritual damnation in the future.
Revolution was developing among the Jews against Roman rule. There were groups like zealots that organized such revolts. It happened in 70 A.D. when the Roman army under the leadership of Titus attacked Jerusalem as a reaction to the revolts against Rome. According to the historian Josephus, the Roman army killed 1.1 million people and took 97,000 as slaves to Rome. Many fled to areas around the Mediterranean Sea. It was believed as the wrath of God against Jews and Titus was only an instrument for the punishment.
The prophecy of the destruction of the unrepentant happened within 40 years. The Christians who believed in Jesus escaped from the attack of Romans. They fled from Jerusalem because of persecution from Jews and because they believed in the words of Jesus about the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and had fled when they saw the sign of a Roman attack. “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews” (Acts 11:19). According to the early Christian historians Eusebius and Epiphanius, the Christians in Jerusalem escaped to Pella, a Decapolis city prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.
God dwelt among the Israelites in the Holy of Holies of the Tent and later in the Temple Solomon built. When the Israelites abandoned God and ended up in idolatry, the Temple was destroyed. Babylonians and Romans were only instruments of God for this destruction. Now God dwells in the hearts of his faithful (Eph 3:17; 1 Cor 3:16). Jesus clarified the condition for this: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23).