A well-known Messianic Jew of our time, Joel C. Rosenberg (see www.joelrosenberg.com) wrote a book with the title, Epicenter, in which he dramatically describes the rising tension in the Middle East as a prelude to the great war of Ezekiel 38 and 39. This best-selling book has led to a documentary dvd production with the same title (www.epicenterdvd.com). Epicenter pursues some themes explored in fiction form in his books, The Last Jihad, The Last Days, The Ezekiel Option, and The Copper Scroll.
The word epicenter (Greek: epi-kentros) means in or on a central point. It may, for instance, refer to the point at which an earthquake reaches the earth’s surface, spreading out from there. Joel Rosenberg uses this concept to indicate that Israel is the epicenter of the world, Jerusalem is the epicenter of Israel, and the Temple Mount is the epicenter of Jerusalem.
Considerable tension is building up in the area around the hub or epicenter of the world, reflecting conflict between Israel and Christianity on the one hand, and the Muslims and their allies on the other hand. All these religions regard Jerusalem as holy ground:
To the Jews Israel is a God-given land (Gen. 13:14-15), with Jerusalem as its 3000 year old capital. God has chosen this city to put His name there for ever (1 Kings 9:3 and 11:36). King Solomon built the first temple on the Temple Mount. It was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity, but over time fell into dilapidation. Herod built the second temple which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. At present the Jews consider building the third temple in the epicenter – that is the only place where it may be built (2 Chron. 3:1; Ezra 6:7).
Christians regard Jerusalem as a holy city and the cradle of their faith because Jesus suffered there for our sins, was crucified and rose from the dead. The Holy Spirit was poured out there, resulting in the formal beginning of the Christian faith in Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus ascended to heaven from Jerusalem and will return to the same city at His second coming (Acts 1:8-12; Zech. 14:4-5).
To the Muslims Jerusalem is the third most holy place after Mecca and Medina. Two of their famous mosques are on the Temple Mount, i.e. the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque. They are fanatically opposed to all Jews and Christians. Their ultimate goal is the establishing of an Islamic world state in the Middle East with Jerusalem as its capital. According to radical Muslims Israel should make way for the emerging Muslim state by being driven from their land. Israel’s allies (particularly the US) should also be fought against and destroyed if they stubbornly refuse to bow the knee before Islam by accepting it as the only authentic faith.
Joel Rosenberg reveals exceptional insight into the spiritual and ideological dimension of the struggle for the control of the world’s epicenter. The struggle between Israel and the surrounding Muslim states that are supported by Russia is aimed at controlling the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, as well as the entire land of Israel. It is believed that the religion which succeeds in establishing its shrines and authority structures in the world’s epicenter is the only true religion which will enjoy the privilege of giving spiritual directives to all the earth’s people.
Islam is a religion which regards military force as the most important method of achieving the objective of world domination. Radical Islam states that it is completely justified to kill all infidels (those who refuse to accept Islam and the Koran). They see it as an obligation to wage a ‘holy war’ (jihad) against all non-Muslim faiths. The president of Iran, together with religious leaders in that country, openly propagate jihad against Israel with the aim of obliterating this land and its people and erasing it from the world map. They also declared jihad against the United States as Israel’s most important ally. It is in view of promoting these objectives that Iran is engaged in developing nuclear arms. They believe that the Islamic mahdi (messiah) will shortly make his appearance to ensure the military triumph of Islam to become the undisputed world leader.
The Israelis are making secret plans to counter and eliminate this huge threat to their future survival, thereby further increasing the tension in the Middle East. Israel has to survive against an evil and murderous enemy which has various front organizations and terrorist groups at its disposal.
In the midst of all this, orthodox Jews in Israel are preparing to build the third temple on the Temple Mount. This area, however, is under the control of an Islamic committee which has embarked upon the building of more mosques on this site. They strongly resist the idea of a Jewish temple here as they are aware of the expectation that Israel’s Messiah will appear on the Mount of Olives after which He will, according to prophetic promises in the Bible, restore the throne of David in Jerusalem to rule the entire world from there.
Christians know that the Messiah is Jesus Christ, who has not yet been accepted by the Israeli nation. We, too, have a great interest in future events in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount. There are increasing numbers of Muslims who also realize that Jesus is the Messiah, and thousands are converting to the Christian faith. Joel Rosenberg offers amazing information on this awakening. He says that even in a fundamentalist Islamic state such as Iran, the number of Christians have increased from about five thousand to more than one million.
But the struggle continues. With their main aim of controlling the epicenter and its immediate surrounds, Israel’s enemies are seeking their destruction.
The true epicenter
An important perspective which Joel Rosenberg does not discuss in his book and dvd is the promise on a fully revealed divine system of authority which will be established in the world’s epicenter in Israel, specifically in Jerusalem, after the second coming of Jesus Christ. That will be the seat of a world government during the Millennium. Zechariah says the following on this most dramatic event:
“In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east… Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You… And the Lord shall be King over all the earth… And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 14:4,5,9,16). Authority will be exercised from the earth’s centre where the throne of the Lord will be, while spiritual illumination will emanate from there.
In Acts 15:16-17 the Lord says: “After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.” After a long time during which the epicenter was in a ruined and dilapidated state, the Lord will come and restore it. During that time God will establish Jerusalem and make it “a praise in the earth” (Isa. 62:7).
Jeremiah adds to this prophecy: “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem; they shall walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17). The deceiver of the world, Satan, will be bound during this time, “so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished” (Rev. 20:3).
This new dispensation will bring big wonderful blessings to Israel and the nations: “Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord… In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” Zech. 8:22-23). From the holy land in the epicenter of the earth blessings will go out to all nations. Isaiah says: “Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit” (Isa. 27:6).
The second coming of Israel’s Messiah-King, Jesus, who is also the Savior and King of the world, will be the final breakthrough into this new dispensation. It is important to know that the dispensation of the law in the Old Testament was only a shadowy preparation for the coming of the Messiah: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come… can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect… For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins… Then I [the Messiah] said, Behold, I have come… to do Your will, o God… By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:1-4,7,10). All the sacrifices in the temple service typologically pointed to the perfect, once for all and sacrifice of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
The implications of an incomplete perspective
It would be highly deceptive if we would present Israel’s restoration and control over the Temple Mount as final objectives in themselves, rather than preparatory events for the coming of the Messiah. That would render Israel with their Old Testament faith a role model to other nations, and the rebuilt temple as the symbol and heartbeat of their religious system. Orthodox Jews are in fact waiting for a Messiah who will restore the temple to its former glory. They don’t contemplate a Messiah who has fulfilled and thereby abolished all the sacrifices of the temple service.
The real struggle is not about Israel and their obsolete national religion but about the Messiah of Israel. If we advance Israel as a nation to centre stage in the end-time world conflict, we would actually encourage them to rebuild their temple and to conclude a covenant with the coming false messiah who will encourage practices related to the old covenant. Promoting them instead of Jesus Christ, would give them a handy excuse to continue their rejection of the true Messiah, thereby preparing the way to a covenant with the false messiah. Jesus warned them 2000 years ago against the full implications of rejecting Him – it would cause them to end up in the arms of the false messiah: “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John 5:43).
One of the first things the false messiah will do, is granting Israel the right to build the third temple in Jerusalem. With this decision he will have two objectives in mind. The first is to ensure the perpetuation of Israel’s national rejection of the once for all sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross, while his second objective will be to get the opportunity of declaring himself as God in the rebuilt temple. Paul says the Antichrist “opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:4). Daniel says that he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering in the temple, and place there the abomination of desolation (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; cf. Matt. 24:15-21). All people will be forced to worship the image of the beast (Rev. 13:15).
The main aim of the Antichrist will be to declare himself as God in the epicenter – boasting that he is the highest authority in the universe. This will be the most extreme act of rebellion against God. Since the Antichrist will know that the true Christ will come back to judge him and his millions of followers for their treason against God and His kingdom, he will, with the assistance of demons, instigate all nations to deploy their armies for the final battle in Israel (Rev. 16:13-16). That will lead to the battle of Armageddon.
John says: “And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse” (Rev. 19:19-21).
A wonderful future
The true King of the universe will set up His government in the epicenter in Jerusalem after having destroyed the Antichrist and his satanic system of authority over the world. That will be the further fulfillment of a promise which the Lord made more than 3000 years ago to Solomon: “Jerusalem [is] the city which I have chosen for Myself to put My name there” (1 Kings 11:36).
During Old Testament times there were only limited and indirect revelations of God. Major revelations occurred with the first coming, preaching, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, and again during the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Due to the agnosticism of the Jewish nation, the fulfillment and subsequent redundancy of the temple service, and the ascension of Jesus which lead to the physical absence of Israel’s Messiah-King, Jerusalem temporarily lost its significance as the spiritual epicenter of Israel and the world. During the church dispensation people do not need to worship God in Jerusalem, but in spirit and truth anywhere in the world (John 4:21,23). Christians themselves, as the body of Christ, are the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16). During this time it is Satan’s main objective to attack and destroy the faith of believers. Israel was dispersed all over the world and Jerusalem was in a downtrodden and humiliated state.
Now, in the end-time, Israel and Jerusalem are again restored. The prophetic scene is prepared for the second coming of Israel’s Messiah. It is for this purpose that Israel is back in their land – to receive the Messiah, and not to rebuild the temple as a further sign of their denial of Christ. The end-time meeting between Israel and the Messiah will have positive results for the whole nation. After Jesus was rejected by Israel during His first coming He said to them: “I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 23:39). At His second coming the broken relationship between Israel and their Messiah will be restored. Israel will look on Him whom they have pierced and grieve for Him (Zech. 12:10). After that, the Jewish people will indeed be a Messianic people who will proclaim the praises of the Messiah everywhere.
The epicenter in Jerusalem will attain its full significance for which God has destined it, because the Lord Jesus will be revealed in all His glory and majesty to be the centre of everything. He is the Creator of the earth and the universe: “All things were made through Him… He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:3,10; cf. Col. 1:15-17). Satan is the instigator who still deceives Israel not to know and accept Jesus as Savior but, in conflict with the true knowledge of God, to rebuild the temple and perpetuate the shadowy practices of the Old Testament.
After the second coming of Jesus the entire remnant of Israel will be reconciled to Him (Rom. 11:26), as will the remnant of the nations (Matt. 24:29-30). The world’s epicenter will radiate a divine presence; peace will prevail on earth, and the names of the idols [the false religions] will be cut off from the world (Zech. 13:2).
The enemies of God are outraged by any developments which validate this prophetic expectation. They know that Israel’s restoration is part of God’s plan to physically establish His rule on earth. That is the reason why they have resolved to destroy Israel (cf. Psalm 83:1-8). Should they be able in doing so they would prove the Bible wrong, thus confirming the power and lies of a false god. However, they are only hastening their own downfall.
The entire apostate world will eventually be gathered against Jerusalem, only to be judged by the Lord (Zech. 12:3; 14:2). He says, “For behold in those days and at that time when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land” (Joel 3:1-2).
After the Lord has judged the enemies of Israel, who are also the enemies of evangelical Christianity, condemned the Antichrist and the false prophet, and cast Satan into a bottomless pit, He will reveal His own kingdom in glory to the world and establish it in Jerusalem. The Creator of the world, who is also the Savior and King of the world, the Holy One of Israel, will rule from David’s throne in Jerusalem – the epicenter of the earth and the universe. True peace will then prevail!