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“Jerusalem, a Shared city with Muslims?” My Response to Dr. Steven Sizer

This paper is a rebuttal to Dr. Stephen Sizer’s (pictured…he is the one of the right) paper, “Jerusalem: The City of God in Biblical Tradition,” that he gave at the Int’l Conference on Jerusalem in Qatar, before a multi-religious group. In his paper, Dr. Sizer seems to suggest that Jerusalem belongs to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. A rebuttal was demanded…

The conference, which took place in February 2012, was organized by the Arab League, a group of Arab states made up of some of the most repressive regimes on earth, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia and Syria. That an Evangelical Christian minister would give a paper at this conference and bring up human rights abuses in Israel, while ignoring these dictatorships and police states, which arrest without warrants and jail and execute political opponents, is enough to give us pause and wonder concerning his motives. 

The participants were largely Muslim. ( Dr. Sizer, who claims to be evangelical, meaning he believes salvation can only be found in the redemptive work of Yeshua, seems to believe Islam has a religious claim to Jerusalem.

(Note on the Picture: While Dr. Sizer would most likely claim that his relationship with the now deceased Arafat and others like him, is to reach them, it must be noted, that his friendship with them is welcomed primarily, if not exclusively, because of his anti-Zionist, anti-Israel stance. I found no pictures of him with Israeli officials that he is trying to reach.)

Sizer’s paper was entitled: Jerusalem: The City of God in Biblical Tradition

Sizer rejects Zionism, the teaching that the Land of Israel was a gift from God to the Children of Abraham forever. He believes promises such as the one God made to Abraham, “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God,” (Gen. 17:8) are invalidated by the New Covenant. Traditionally this has been referred to as Replacement Theology, although in conventional Replacement Theology, the Church replaces Israel. Sizer seems to be preaching a theology of inclusion—Jerusalem can be an international city with Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Sizer’s paper was intended to “demonstrate from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures that Jerusalem was always intended to be an inclusive city of peace for all who acknowledge the One true God,” and from his paper and the fact that it was presented before a largely Islamic audience, it would appear that he includes Muslims amongst those that acknowledge the One true God and who have a right to Jerusalem. If not, he surely would not have been welcomed at the gathering.

This paper is a rebuttal to the key points in his Dr. Sizer’s paper. I will seek to establish that God’s promises to Israel regarding the Land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem are indeed still in effect. To be fair, you can read Sizer’s paper in its entirety here.

1a. Jerusalem is part of National Israel, not a shared city

Sizer seeks to make the point that based on Psalm 87, Jerusalem is home to many nations.

Glorious things are said of you, city of God:  I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me—Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush — and will say “This one was born in Zion.” Indeed, of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.” The LORD will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion.” (Psalm 87:3-6)

However, he conveniently leaves out verse 2, something that could only have been intentional for a man of his pedigree, as it completely invalidates his point.

The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwellings of Jacob. (Ps. 87:2)

God refers to Zion here as one of all the dwellings of Jacob. Even as Zion is synonymous with Jerusalem, Jacob is synonymous with Israel. Thus the Scripture could read: The Lord loves the gates of Jerusalem more than all the other dwellings of Israel, without changing the meaning one bit. In the very Psalm that Sizer seeks to use to say that Jerusalem does not belong to natural Israel, God refers to it as one of the “dwellings of Israel.” Jerusalem belongs to Israel.

1b. Correctly Interpreting Isaiah 2

He then quotes Isaiah 2:3, where the prophet says, “people of many different nations will come to Jerusalem and put their faith in God.” However this is referring to the time after Yeshua returns to Israel (Zech. 14:3-4) and sets up his millennial Kingdom. At that time, the nations will visit Jerusalem yearly to worship the King:

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. (Zech. 14:16)

Even if there is a present application, it would be more proper to interpret the Scripture as Gentile believers visiting Israel, as in pilgrimage, and strengthening their faith, not Muslims and Christians taking over the city. The passage ends with “the Law will go forth from Zion” which means the people who come to worship God in Jerusalem don’t stay—they visit—and then they take the word of God to the nations. They are not residents, but pilgrims.

Sizer says, referring to the Isaiah passage, “One of the glorious consequences of [the nations sharing Jerusalem] is that Jerusalem will become associated with the end of war, and with peace and reconciliation between the nations.”

However, once again, Isaiah speaks of a time after the Messiah returns when, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (v. 4) Clearly this could not be referring to a time before Yeshua’s return, as He returns to a world at war (Zech. 14:1-3) in order to make war with the nations (Rev. 19:11). He returns as a man of war. It is difficult to comprehend that a man of Sizer’s knowledge could think that Isaiah 2 refers to today. Rather, it seems that he has a ‘cut and paste’ mentality with Scripture. Context and timing mean nothing, if it helps supports his predetermined interpretation.

Jerusalem will sadly be a source of conflict until the Lord comes back. Any other view is simply unbiblical:

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of reeling unto all the peoples round about, and upon Judah also shall it be in the siege against Jerusalem.  And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the peoples; all that burden themselves with it shall be sore wounded; and all the nations of the earth shall be gathered together against it. (Zechariah 12:2-3)

The very fact that the Arab league has an Israel-bashing conference over the fate of Jerusalem is a fulfillment of this Scripture!

When Yeshua returns, He returns to fight for Jerusalem, not to a peaceful city filled with peaceful inhabitants from the nations. Rather He comes to fight the not-so-peaceful nations who have just attacked her:

I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. (Zechariah 14:2-3)

This passage is far more in line with present day Jerusalem as the very nations who gathered to claim Jerusalem as their own would love the opportunity to militarily liberate her.

2a. The New Covenant does not cancel out God’s promises in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Sizer states: “The focus of the New Testament shifts away from an earthly onto a heavenly Jerusalem, which by faith in Jesus, we are already citizens.”

This is absurd. If Sizer is correct, then God is a liar. Pure and simple. All of His promises to Abraham and his natural seed are lies. The scores of prophecies about Israel’s scattering and regathering (Ezekiel 36:24) are falsehoods if Sizer is to be believed. And my question to Sizer is quite simple: If God could break His word to Israel, then can he not break His word to the Church? How can we trust a God who uses words like everlasting possession, when He gives Canaan to “Abraham and his descendants forever” and then breaks his promise?

Furthermore the New Testament does not shift away from earthly Jerusalem. Did Yeshua weep over an earthly Jerusalem in Matt. 23 and Luke 19 or a heavenly one? (The answer is earthly) In Rev. 11 the two witnesses prophesy, just before the coming of the Yeshua, from literal, earthly Jerusalem. Again, this is just before His return, so it could only be in restored physical Jerusalem. The two witnesses are clearly Jews after the flesh, as they are called ‘olive trees’ and ‘menorahs’ (this comes from Zech. 4:14).

2b. New Jerusalem does not cancel out earthly Jerusalem

Sizer states that when Yeshua prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, He is referring to the end of a Jewish Jerusalem and the focus “shifts to heavenly Jerusalem.” While I agree that we are looking to the millennial reign of Yeshua, it is unbiblical to say that a phrase mentioned three times in the New Covenant (New or Heavenly Jerusalem) equates a shift away from God’s repeated promises in the Hebrew Scriptures. How can the Scriptures shift away from from God’s promises?

First of all, the destruction of Jerusalem was prophesied not only by Yeshua, but by the Hebrew prophets as well. Secondly, the promise of restoration after this destruction is stated over and over again by these same prophets.

Hear the word of the LORD, you nations [Arab League!]; proclaim it in distant coastlands: He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.” (Jer. 31:10) (This is one of dozens of passages. Please read Jeremiah 30 and 31 and Ezekiel 36)

Here is the problem with Sizer’s understanding of Jerusalem. The Hebrew Scriptures give us a glimpse of Jerusalem; the New Covenant gives us a fuller understanding. However, Sizer claims the New Covenant cancels out the first understanding, whereas a more honest view sees the New Covenant view as completing it. I say more honest, because to embrace Sizer’s view, God becomes dishonest. In Sizer’s view God says one thing in the Hebrew Scriptures, only to fail to keep His promise in the New Covenant. He literally rips large portions of the Hebrew Scriptures right out of His own Word.