“The Mystery of the Rapture” from the Mount of Olives

Got time for a good teaching this weekend? If so, how about settling in with a cup of coffee to take in Amir Tsarfati’s The Mystery of the Rapture, taught live on the Mount of Olives!

If you have been to Israel, you are sure to be taken back to that memorable place overlooking Temple Mount from the other side of the Kidron Valley. If you have never been to Israel, this is the next best thing! Think of Jesus sitting on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24) when the disciples ask Him what will be the signs of the times. It is from a spot right there on the Mount of Olives that He answered their questions…and it is upon this very mount Jesus’ foot will touch down at His Second Coming (when He physically returns to earth following the tribulation).

But before that, the Bible tells us He will descend from heaven to receive us (believers in Christ) unto Himself, and we will be taken up to meet Him in the air. We know that as the rapture, and we obviously will not all be at the Mount of Olives or any other single place, but will be taken up from wherever we are. However, the Mount of Olives is such a vivid place to picture Jesus when He walked this earth, and to consider that place to which we will return with Him at His Second Coming!

Our time is coming! Enjoy the teaching!

Happy Palm Sunday!

In the midst of worldly turmoil, we kick off Passion Week today and set our sights on the most significant event of the year for Christians: Resurrection Sunday.  But that is next Sunday.  Passion Week begins today with Palm Sunday.

Map of Jesus' last journey to Jerusalem

Jesus’s Journey to Jerusalem for Passover

As was Jesus’s custom, he traveled from the Galilee area (where the vast majority of His ministry took place) to Jerusalem for Passover, which was celebrated annually on the 15th day of the Jewish month Nissan.  Matthew 19 tells us that Jesus left the Galilee area to the region of Judea, and that He healed the sick along the way.  Matthew 20 goes on to describe Jesus’s teaching and ministry to people on the way, even teaching them about serving others.

Sheep on Hillside (Jericho)

Shepherd and sheep on a hillside between Jericho and Jerusalem

On the map above, you see that it is a significant distance Jesus and His followers would have walked in order to attend Passover in Jerusalem.  Notice that travelers crossed over the Jordan River in order to avoid Samaria, where Jesus was rejected.  They crossed back over just east of Jericho and headed “up to Jerusalem.”  The terrain was difficult and the journey was not easy.  The “valley of the shadow of death” reference in Psalm 23 may well have been a section of the journey along the route between Jericho and Jerusalem.  It was an area fraught with robbers and criminals, and a difficult part of the journey.  On the lighter side, it was also an area shepherds may have taken their flocks to graze.  They may have seen something similar to this:

When they reached the city of Bethpage on the Mount of Olives to the east of the Temple, Jesus sent two of His disciples ahead to procure a donkey and, on that fateful Palm Sunday, He rode it into Jerusalem to the wave of palm fronds and shouts of “Hosanna to God in the highest.”  He was hailed as a king.  (Matthew 21:1-11)

That ride took Him from the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, through the Eastern Gate.  Here are pictures of that area today:

Eastern Gate

Eastern Gate today (The gate Jesus entered is below ground level in this photo.)

450a View of Eastern Wall and Gate from Mt of Olives (Tom)

The Kidron Valley, lying between the Mount of Olives and Temple Mount. (This photo is from the Mount of Olives, toward Temple Mount. In Jesus’s day, the Temple still stood. It is not there today.)

It is important to note that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not on a big white horse, on which kings victorious in battle or coming for a royal visit would have ridden.  Jesus came humbly on the back of a servant animal, depicting His purpose.  However, that very fact is a primary reason the eyes of Jews were veiled, making it difficult to see their messiah.  You see, they were under heavy Roman rule and were expecting a conquering king.  On Palm Sunday Jesus was hailed as king, but within the next few days the mood changed and He was rejected as messiah.  He wasn’t the conquering king they expected.

Jesus knew He would be rejected, and the apostle Mark records Jesus’s words as He lamented their blindness:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
~Mark 13:34-35

Indeed, most Jews continue to seek the coming of their Messiah.  Having missed His first appearing, they will not recognize Him until His Glorious Appearing following the Tribulation.  So, on this Palm Sunday, why not pray for hearts to open and eyes to see.  Jews are not the only ones who have missed the Savior’s first coming.  Many Gentiles reject Him as well.  We are all in need of the saving grace of Jesus, so pray for friends and family who do not yet know Him.  By the way…Resurrection Sunday is coming.  Why not invite someone to come to church with you!  It just might be the day eyes see and hearts are opened.

A Week that Changed History

Friends, Jesus came to earth on a very specific mission, and He fulfilled it in one week that changed history.  As a Jew, Jesus made dozens of trips to Jerusalem for feasts and festivals…all of which paint a picture of the Messiah.  But one Passover was different, as the Messiah became the sacrificial lamb that takes away the sin of the whole world.  His final Passover trip to Jerusalem is well documented in the Gospels, and I’m going to do my best to make some of those passages come alive as we travel together through Passion Week.

Remember that Jesus would have traveled from the Galilee area “up to Jerusalem,” which was about a 70 mile trek.  When he arrived in the area, He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11), and later had supper in Bethany with His close friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus (John 12).  The stage is set at the Mount of Olives.  (See yesterday’s post.)

Matthew 21:1-17 and Luke 19:29-44 tell us what happened the next day.  According to Scripture, Jesus gave specific instruction to two of His disciples to go get a colt (or a donkey), and He made what is known as His “Triumphant Entry” into Jerusalem.  Imagine Jesus riding that colt from here on the Mount of Olives, down through the Kidron Valley, and entering Jerusalem as a sacrificial lamb through the Sheep Gate, to the right (north) of the Eastern Gate pictured here.  Imagine, also, a beautiful, huge temple rising off the top of Temple Mount.

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At one point after entering Jerusalem, He cleared the money changers from the Temple.  The Temple obviously no longer exists, but can you imagine those money changers set up here in the courtyards…and Jesus scattering their goods when He overturned tables!?!  (This picture is from the model city at the Israel Museum.)

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Throughout that week, Jesus taught in and around the Temple area, as well as on the Mount of Olives, teaching His disciples key things about end times (among other things).  Matthew 24, for example.

After weeping over Jerusalem, spending time teaching His disciples, and preparing for what laid ahead, it was on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane, that the full weight of the curse of our sin began to be born upon our Savior when He went there to pray.

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And it was here that Judas betrayed Jesus and He was arrested.

This is the beginning of the week that changed history.  Tomorrow we’ll take a look at locations where Jesus was on trial.  Stay tuned!

The Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley

Just beyond the eastern wall of Jerusalem lies the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives.  Technically speaking, the Mount of Olives is a mountain range running north-south (Mount Scopus, Olivet, Mount of Scandal).  The Kidron Valley lies between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives.  Here’s a map to provide some perspective.  (Temple Mount and city walls during Jesus’ day are outlined in pinkish-red.)

Today, Hebrew University sits atop Mount Scopus, the Olivet is immediately east of Temple Mount, and Mount of Scandal lies to the south.  The Mount of Scandal is aptly named, as it is the location where Solomon built houses for his pagan wives.  (Recall that polygamy was NOT God’s desire for mankind.)

We’ll focus on Olivet, and will refer to it as the Mount of Olives, as that is how it is typically translated in our Bibles.  It is rich in history!  David went there weeping, to escape his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15:30-37); Ezekiel looked on as the glory of the Lord left Solomon’s temple to hover over the mount (Ezekiel 11:22-23); in a vision, Ezekiel witnessed the prophetic event of the glory of the Lord returning from the east (over the Mount of Olives) to a new temple (Ezekiel 43:1-5); and Zechariah prophesies that,  at His return, the Lord’s feet will one day stand on the Mount of Olives and the mountain will split in two (Zechariah 14:3-5)!  Here’s the view Jesus would have today if He stepped foot on the Mount of Olives.

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The small city of Bethany lies on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives, about 2 miles from the edge of Jerusalem, and was home to Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Jesus’ closest friends in the area of Jerusalem.  Scripture tells us that Jesus often spent time in Bethany.  (Luke 10 and John 11, for example).

Jesus came as the Jewish Messiah, yet knew that His own people would not recognize Him as their long-awaited Messiah.  Thus, Luke 19:41-44 describes Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, while looking over the city from the Mount of Olives.  Perhaps He saw it this way (minus Pastor Mark standing in the foreground teaching about it!):

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Jesus also described the prophetic future of Jerusalem, including its destruction, while on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21).  Likewise, after Jesus’ resurrection, He ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives (Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:9-12).  Now for a fuller view of the Mount of Olives, from Temple Mount!  (Can you just picture Jesus there with His disciples?  Or ascending to heaven from this hilltop!?!)  Notice all the olive trees!

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Here is the Kidron Valley that lies between the city walls (to the right) and the Mount of Olives (to the left).

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On the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane.  Did you know that Gethsemane means “oil press?”  It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus was “pressed” until water and blood poured through His pores.  The Gospels (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46) tell us that He took His disciples there and, in agony, asked them to pray.  Instead, they fell asleep.  Jesus was about to literally take on the sins of the world when He prayed, “Father, if You are willing, please take this cup from Me, yet Your will, not Mine, be done.”  He was then arrested and taken to trial.  He would soon be crucified…taking on your sins, mine, and those of the entire world.  It is no wonder he sweat drops of blood.

Olive trees are very difficult to destroy.  Thus, though the Romans burned everything down, and other attempts have been made to remove olive trees from the area, ancient trees from the time of Jesus still stand!  Here are some shots of the Garden of Gethsemane and the ancient olive trees.

There you have it…the Mount of Olives.  An amazing place!  Thanks for sharing today’s journey with me!  Join me again tomorrow for more!

Shalom!