The Three Sabbath City-States of Jerusalem

Jerusalem, as a city, has intimately been connected with the Creator since antiquity. It was the city where Melchizedek, described as the King of Salem and a Priest of the Most High God, once dwelt. (Gen. 14:19; Heb. 7).  Later, it was occupied by the Jebusites and finally taken by David, who called it “the city of David, the stronghold of Zion.” (Ref: Josh. 15:63; 2 Sam. 5:6-9).

The history of Jerusalem is a chequered one. Its founder is not known for sure, yet it’s arguably the single most important city in the world as far as the knowledge of the true God is concerned. Its early connection with Melchizedek (who typified Christ) suggests that God has had an enduring interest in using Jerusalem as a focal point for His salvation work on earth. (Ref: Psalm 48:2; 87:2-5; Isa. 14:32).

Prophets, Temple, Messiah—she has hosted them all. And she is not about to go out of the limelight! Jerusalem straddles the past, the present, and the future—and so does the Sabbath.

The scriptures speak of three Jerusalem city-states, each one inextricably connected with God’s Sabbath-rest.

The first Jerusalem is the earthly Jerusalem where the Sabbath tradition continues to this day. In the days of the holy prophets and righteous kings of Israel, it could safely be said that Jerusalem was the ‘Sabbath capital’ of the world living in peace and prosperity. (1 Kings 4:20).

However, when Israel rebelled against God and desecrated His Sabbath, the peace of Jerusalem was shattered. The sin of Sabbath-breaking was the primary reason why God sent the children of Judah into exile to, first, teach them a lesson and then allow the land a 70-year Sabbath-rest.(Jer.17:21-27; 2 Chron.36:20-21; Neh. 13:15-18; Leviticus 26:2-4; 34).

The lesson? Peace would elude Jerusalem, the city of peace, if the Sabbath is dishonoured. Ultimately, God wants His people to have both peace and rest—and that’s what Jerusalem represents.

In this gospel age in which God is reaching out to all nations, particular emphasis has again been placed on Sabbath observance for both gentiles and eunuchs who join the house of Israel through repentance and faith in
Yeshua, Israel’s Messiah. (See Isa. 56:1-7 and note the phrase “for my salvation is near to come”, meaning in these end times).

Definitely, “there remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.” (Heb. 4:9). The observance of the 7th Day Sabbath is our link to Jerusalem. Accordingly, the Sabbath-keeping nation of Israel has been enlarged through the adoption of the Sabbath tradition by all true called-out believers of all nationalities. (Isa. 26:15). In short, Israel and the the faithful Church of Jesus, the Messiah share a common distinction: The keeping of the Sabbath! (Numbers 23:9).

But what is it about Jerusalem that always makes the Sabbath her indispensable companion?

Jerusalem (in Hebrew Yerushalaym) means “the foundation [or city] of peace [shalom]”, and the Sabbath supplies the key component of peace:Rest. The Hebrew word “Shabbat” means rest, and rest goes hand-in-hand
with peace.

Jerusalem therefore provides the ideal atmosphere for keeping and enjoying God’s Sabbath-rest. Both Jerusalem and the Sabbath are rich in prophetic symbolism; they foreshadow the millennium  of bliss that will be inaugurated after the expiration of the 6000-year rule of man on earth.

The Prophet Isaiah alludes to this  epochal age—the Second Jerusalem–in the 65th and 66th chapters of his book. That will be the age when Jerusalem (Divine Peace) will be universalized along with the Sabbath. (See Isa. 65:17-19; 66:22-23).

As it is with Jerusalem, so it is with the Sabbath. Both are of ‘ancient of days’, yet they point to the future. Their relevance continues invariably in the salvation plan of Yah:

The Sabbath is a perpetual covenant or sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:16-17), while Jerusalem anticipates the everlasting ‘covenant of peace’ He has promised to make with His people, the saints. (Ezekiel 37:26).

We now look at the third Jerusalem. This Jerusalem is heavenly, the Kingdom of God in situ, the locus of the heavenly throne. Here, it’s Sabbath throughout; Sabbath and Jerusalem consummate. Absolute rest, absolute peace! Entry into the heavenly Jerusalem is the ultimate reward for the believer. (John 14:1-3).

The Distinction between the Second and Third Jerusalem
What differentiates the Third Jerusalem from the Second Jerusalem is the semblance of ‘normal’ earthly life in the latter, but under new and improved conditions of peace and Sabbath observance. In the second Jerusalem, the saints will reign with Christ as rulers of the earth. (Isai. 65:21-23: “long life, vineyards” and all).

However, the third Jerusalem will be and is the acme of the Jerusalem-Sabbath ideal:Peace and Rest without end, after the expiration of the 1000-year duration of the second Jerusalem. (Rev. 20:4-11).

In this heavenly Jerusalem, sinners will not be allowed entry; it will be “the land of uprightness”—Isa. 26:10. (Contrast this with the apparent ‘toleration’ of sinners in the second Jerusalem such that “the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed”- Isa. 65:20). Moreover, the city will have “no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it”. (Rev. 21:23; 20:11). In contrast, the moon will at least be present in the Second Jerusalem—hence “from one new moon to another”  shall all flesh come to worship the great King. (Isa. 66:23). To put it briefly, the Second Jerusalem—the Millennium—is time bound and the Third is eternal.

This Jerusalem is the final destination of the redeemed saints—the Church in its perfect state. It comes in the
wake of the 1000-year reign of Christ with the saints on earth after the first resurrection of the just. (Rev. 5:10; 20:5-6).

Revelation 19:1 pictures the saints in the heavenly Jerusalem thus: “And after these things I heard the voice of
much people in HEAVEN, saying, Alleluia; Salvation and glory, and honour, and power unto the Lord, our God.” (Emphasis ours).

Home at last! This is the Jerusalem Abraham looked forward to as he sojourned in the land of Canaan, for “he looked for a city…whose builder and maker is God”—Heb. 11:10. (Conversely, men shall build  houses, vineyards, etc, in the 2nd Jerusalem – Isa. 65:21-23).

The 3rd Jerusalem represents an entirely new beginning for man—a glorious chapter without precedent in the history of humanity. (1 Cor. 2:9).

In keeping with tradition, the names of the twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles of the Sabbath-keeping nation of Israel and the faithful Church have been inscribed on the twelve gates and twelve foundations of the city respectively— thus stamping their ‘claim’ on the city. (Rev. 21:12-14).

Surely, the observance of the Sabbath through faith in Christ leads to the Jerusalem in Heaven. The desire of the saints who observed the Sabbath—in expectation of the LORD’s promise of eternal rest—will have finally come to pass. Their works (the keeping of God’s righteous laws, Sabbath included) will follow them into Heaven. (Rev. 14:13).

Jerusalem, in all of its three manifestations, is distinguished by her Sabbath tradition. The coming Yerushalaim, “Olam Haba” (Hebrew for ‘the world to come’), is ‘Shabbat’ and  ‘Shalom’ ad infinitum!

The Almighty Father never abolished the Sabbath, neither did Christ.  He (Christ) rather  He endorsed it as made for man, and even declared Himself “the Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28). All the apostles and the early Church kept it. (Acts 13:42,44; 16:13; 17:13; Heb. 4:9-10).

As the return of the Messiah draws ever closer, it’s high time we dropped all prejudices against the Sabbath and see it for what it is—a constant pointer to God’s eternal rest for mankind.

The promise is as sure as the dawn of a new day. The Messiah will give Peace and Rest in Jerusalem, the seat of His universal reign, even as He restores the Sabbath to its pride of place.

The ascent of Jerusalem and of the Sabbath is the ascent of the Church in glory. Certainly, we cannot afford to miss the import of God’s call to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”. (Exodus 20:8). The Sabbath is far bigger than we ever imagined!