JERUSALEM (Jə rū´ sȧ ləm)

Jerusalem is a city set high on a plateau in the hills of Judah, considered sacred by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Its biblical-theological significance lies in its status as Yahweh’s chosen center of His divine kingship and of the human kingship of David and his sons, Yahweh’s vice-regents. Besides the name “Jerusalem,” the city is also called “the City of David” and “Zion” (originally referring to a part of the city, the “stronghold of Zion” that David captured from the Jebusites; see 2 Sam. 5:6-10).

In the Pentateuch, the city of Jerusalem is not directly mentioned. Moriah (Gen. 22:2; associated with the site of Solomon’s temple in 2 Chron. 3:1) and Salem (Gen. 14:18; associated with Zion in Ps. 76:2) apparently refer to the same site and establish a link between the city and the patriarch Abraham. The city (known earlier as Jebus; see Judg. 19:10-11) was captured in Joshua’s time (Judg. 1:8), but the Jebusites were not driven out (Josh. 15:63; Judg. 1:21). After David captured it and made it Israel’s capital (2 Sam. 5:6-10, 1 Chron. 11:4-9), David brought the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:17) and made it the seat not only of his own but also of God’s monarchy (cp. 1 Kings 11:36; 14:21; and Ps. 132; which emphasize that it is Yahweh’s own chosen/desired habitation). Jerusalem came to be “the city of our God,” “the city of the great King,” “the city of Yahweh of hosts” (Ps. 48). Under Solomon, the temple was constructed (2 Chron. 3-7) and the nation reached its political and economic zenith with Jerusalem at the center (2 Chron. 9).

In the Prophets, besides literal references to the city, “Jerusalem” appears as a corporate representative of the entire community in speeches of judgment and of future salvation. The theological centrality of Jerusalem and events such as God’s historical deliverance of the city from the hands of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19) led the people to a mistaken belief in the city’s invincibility. This view is denounced by prophets such as Jeremiah (Jer. 7:1-15) and Micah (Mic. 3:11-12) as it abetted the people’s apostasy from Yahweh. Since the people had abandoned Yahweh, Yahweh eventually abandoned His chosen city to the Babylonians in 586 b.c. (2 Kings 23:26-27).

Yet judgment was not Yahweh’s final word. The Persian king Cyrus (decree in 538 b.c.) was Yahweh’s servant in facilitating the return of many exiles and the rebuilding of the city and the temple (Isa. 44:26-28; 45:13; Ezra 6; Neh. 1-6). Moreover, the future salvation of Jerusalem would exceed the temporal restoration of the postexilic community. All peoples would come to it (Isa. 2:2-4; Jer. 3:17). God’s new work for Jerusalem would usher in nothing less than a new age (Isa. 65:18-25; Zech. 14:8-21).

The NT portrays the various Jerusalem-related prophecies as fulfilled in and through Jesus, Israel’s Messiah. In the Gospels, Jerusalem takes on ironic, contrasting roles. On one hand, it is “the city of the great King” (Matt. 5:35) and “the holy city” (Matt. 4:5; 27:53). On the other hand, it is the city “who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her” (Luke 13:34 HCSB). While there were those who longed for “the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38), the city and its inhabitants will face awful judgment because they did not recognize the time of divine visitation by Jesus (Luke 19:41-44). Indeed Jesus’ mission ended in His rejection by Jerusalem’s rulers and His death outside the city walls (Mark 8:31; 10:32-34; chaps. 14-15).

While repentance for the forgiveness of sins is to be preached to all the nations “beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47), in the aftermath of Jesus’ death and resurrection, biblical hope is centered on “the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22; cp. 11:10,16; 13:13-14). The true worshipers need not “worship the Father in Jerusalem … but … worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:21,23 HCSB). The “Jerusalem above” (the mother of the free, who are children of the promise) stands in contrast to “the present Jerusalem,” which is the mother of unbelieving slaves (Gal. 4:25-26). The city where the Lord Jesus was crucified was called “prophetically, Sodom and Egypt” (Rev. 11:8), but the “new Jerusalem” will come down from heaven with the coming of the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 3:12; 21:1-2).

The promise of Yahweh’s reign (“the kingdom of God”) and of the salvation of His people, both Jews and Gentiles, find their fulfillment in Jesus’ death and resurrection and in the dawning of the new heaven and new earth. Biblical hope is now focused on “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22).

Randall K. J. Tan


The absolute fundamental to the Christian faith. The person Buddha is not essential to the teaching of Buddhism nor is the person Mohammed essential to the Islamic faith. Yet everything about Christianity rises or falls in the person of Jesus Christ. Liberal theologians have thought it possible to separate Christ from Christianity by suggesting that Jesus’ teachings form the basis of the Christian faith. They want to assert that one may accept Christ’s teachings without coming to a decision about Christ Himself.

Names and Titles Jesus’ proper name derives from the Hebrew “Joshua,” meaning “Yahweh saves” or “salvation is from Yahweh” (Matt. 1:21). Christ is the Greek term for “anointed,” equivalent to the Hebrew Messiah. This anointed Savior is also Immanuel, “God is with us” (Matt. 1:23; Isa. 7:14). Paul’s favorite term for Jesus was kurios, “Lord,” and the earliest Christian confession was that “Jesus is Lord.” The sublime introduction of Jesus in the prologue to John’s Gospel presents Him as the logos, the “Word” who created all things (1:3) and who became flesh and dwelt among us (1:14). He is the Life (1:4) and the Light of mankind (1:4); the Glory of God (1:14); the only begotten God who makes the Father known (1:18). The Gospels record Jesus’ own self designation as Son of Man, the title He frequently used to speak of His humiliation, His identification with sinful mankind, His death on behalf of sinners, and His glorious return. While Jesus was the Son of Man in respect to His ministry and passion, He is also Son of God, the uniquely begotten one sent from God Himself (Mark 1:1; John 3:16). The book of Hebrews shows Jesus as God’s great high priest (3:1; 4:14) who both makes sacrifice for His people and who is Himself the sacrifice (10:10-14). Hebrews also presents Jesus as the creator of all things (1:2), the perfect representation of God (1:3), and the apostle of our confession (3:1). The metaphors used of Jesus, particularly in John’s Gospel, speak poignantly to the indispensable need for a person to know Jesus. He is the water of life (John 4:14), the bread of life (6:41), the light (8:12), the door (10:7), the way, the truth, and the life (14:6).

Humanity Jesus was fully human. He was not partially human nor did He function at times as a human and at times as God nor did He merely appear to be human. He was at once both man and God. The Baptist Faith and Message emphasizes this truth when it says, “Christ took upon Himself the demands and necessities of human nature, identifying Himself completely with mankind” (Art. II, B). The evidence for Jesus’ humanity in Scripture is abundant. He displayed physical symptoms that all humans experience: fatigue (John 4:6), sleep (Matt. 8:24), hunger (Matt. 21:18), and suffering (Luke 22:43-44). Jesus also experienced the emotional reactions of mankind: compassion (Luke 7:13), weeping (Luke 19:41), anger and indignation (Mark 3:5), grief (Matt. 26:37), and joy (John 15:11). These physical and emotional traits, along with others mentioned in the Gospels, demonstrate that the NT everywhere assumes Jesus’ real and full humanity. Yet Jesus was not just a real man; He was also a unique person. Though really human, Jesus differed from all other people in two ways. First, He was born to a virgin; He had no human father. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb (Matt. 1:18-25). Second, unlike any other person, Jesus was without sin. He claimed to be sinless (John 8:46) and there is never a record of His confessing sin, though He told us to confess ours (Matt. 6:12). Other biblical writers ascribe sinlessness to Jesus. Paul said that Jesus became sin for us but that He personally knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21). The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus never sinned (Heb. 4:15) and Peter affirmed that Jesus the righteous died for the unrighteous (1 Pet. 3:18).

Deity Throughout the centuries few people have denied the existence of the man Jesus. A fierce battle has always raged, however, concerning the supernatural nature of Jesus. If Jesus was virgin born and sinless, as noted above, then a supernatural element is already introduced into His nature that sets Him apart from all other people. Further, His resurrection denotes that this is a person who transcends time and space. The Gospel accounts record many eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ (Matt. 28:1-10; Luke 24:13-35; John 20:19-31), and all attempts to refute such accounts fall short of credibility. However, the NT goes beyond these implicit references to deity and clearly states that Christ is divine. The demands of unabashed loyalty from His followers (Luke 9:57-62) and the claims that He will judge the world (John 5:27) sound strange if they come from a mere man. He also claimed that He could forgive sins (Mark 2:5), and He averred that in the judgment people will be condemned or approved according to their attitude toward the people who represent Him (Matt. 25:31-46). Scripture says that Jesus created (John 1:3) and now sustains all things (Col. 1:17). He even has the power to raise the dead (John 5:25). Angels and people worship Him (Heb. 1:6; Matt. 2:2). He possesses equality with the persons of the Trinity (John 14:23; 2 Cor. 13:14). Beyond these assertions, the NT provides even clearer evidence regarding the deity of Christ. He is called God in Heb. 1:8. John’s prologue (1:1-18) affirms that Jesus is from the beginning, that He is “with” (literally “face to face”) God, and that He is God. John’s intricate Greek declares Jesus to be equal in nature with God the Father but distinct in person! Another important passage is John 5:16-29. During a controversy with the Jews about healing a man on the Sabbath the Jews sought to kill Him because He blasphemed in making Himself equal with God. Rather than correcting them for mistaking His identity, Jesus went on to make even further claims regarding His deity: He has power to give life to people (v. 21), all judgment is handed over to Him (v. 22), and all should honor the Son with the same honor they bestow upon the Father (v. 23). Jesus preexistence as God is demonstrated in John 8:58 where He affirmed that He transcends time. Romans 9:5 reveals that Paul called Jesus God, and there is no doubt that in Phil. 2:5-11 Paul understood Jesus to be the One who existed eternally in the form of God and on an equal nature with God. The outstanding christological passage in Col. 1:15-23 says that Christ is the image of the invisible God; that is, He is such a reproduction or likeness of the God who is invisible to mortal man that to look at Christ was to see God. Clearly, the Christ of the NT is not a man who was deified by His disciples (the view of classic liberalism), but He is the eternal Son of God who voluntarily became a man to redeem lost humanity.

Teaching and Mighty Works Jesus was a master teacher. Crowds that claimed no loyalty to Him were forced to admit, “No man ever spoke like this” (John 7:46 HCSB). At the close of His compelling Sermon on the Mount, the multitudes were amazed at how He taught (Matt. 7:29). He taught mainly about His Father and the kingdom that He had ushered in. He explained what that kingdom is like and the absolute obedience and love His followers are to have as citizens of the kingdom. His teaching often enraged the religious leaders of His day because they did not understand that He was the promised Messiah who appeared to usher in the kingdom through His death, resurrection, and second coming. He stressed that the kingdom, though inaugurated at His first appearing, will find its consummation in His second coming (Matt. 24-25). Until then, His disciples were to conduct themselves as salt and light in a dark, sinful world (Matt. 5-7). Often He spoke in parables, helping people to understand by using common things to illustrate spiritual truths.

Jesus’ mighty works validated His unique and divine nature. He backed up His claims to deity by demonstrating His power over sickness and disease, over nature, and over life and death itself. One great miracle that demonstrates conclusively His claim to deity is His resurrection from the dead. Death could not hold Him. He rose from the dead and showed Himself alive by many “convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3). Despite rigorous attempts by liberalism to expunge the miracles from the gospels, it is impossible to eliminate these supernatural elements from Jesus’ life without consequently damaging the credibility of the Gospel records about Him.

Christianity affirms that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). This view seems intolerant in light of our pluralistic, relativistic age. Yet, given the evidence presented above, one must deal with Jesus Christ either as the Lord God whom He claimed to be or as an imposter who somehow was deceived as to His own identity.

Dale Ellenburg