Tag Archives: Israel

Destination Israel: The Assurance of the Empty Tomb (Part 13)

I had hoped to post this blog on Easter Sunday, but God had other plans. Perhaps it would have been too seamless in its timing (I thought it couldn’t be any more perfect) or it might have been too easily forgotten due to all the activity of the day. After all, Easter Sunday is a huge day when we (as the church) pull out all the stops—unleash all the bells and whistles—because we know we have an opportunity to share the gospel with people who may not return to our churches again until next Easter. In retrospect, I think God wants to remind all of us that Easter is not a day we celebrate once a year, but a quality of life we are to experience every day for the rest of eternity as believers.

The greatest event of human history took place in a tomb in Jerusalem in those moments where darkness gave way to light and another day dawned. Except on this day—something occurred that had never happened before—God raised His beloved Son Jesus (who had been crucified three days earlier) from death by the power of the Holy Spirit. That one act changed everything. Death and the grave were defeated and Satan’s back was broken as Jesus stepped forth from the tomb—alive! That resurrection, that transforming act of God’s power, declared that the full payment of sin’s debt offered by Jesus was sufficient and accepted by God the Father. O, what must it have been like to be the first to look inside and hear those amazing words: “Why do you look for the Living One among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!

The Empty Tomb

Every pilgrim who travels to Israel longs for that moment when they will see the empty tomb. It is the highlight of not just the trip but a lifetime. Faith becomes sight and praise erupts from deep within your spirit and soul. But…there is one tiny problem. No one is 100% sure where the tomb is exactly located. In fact there are four or five locations that claim to be the one and only true site. Just a note here, no matter which location is the true one—the reality is they are all empty. Jesus is not there; He has risen!

It is my own personal belief that the tomb is probably located in the Church

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

of the Holy Sepulcher, a site venerated since the 4th century. This is the same church I mentioned in an earlier blog about the site of Golgotha or Calvary. Eusebius, an early church father, claimed this spot had been a place of veneration since the first century, but that Emperor Hadrian covered the site with earth and desecrated it in the 2nd century by building a temple to the goddess Aphrodite. Emperor Constantine later ordered the temple

The Tomb inside the Church

demolished, the soil removed and a church constructed which connected the sites of the crucifixion and the resurrection. Tradition says that much of the rock face surrounding the tomb was removed, and today within the church is a marble rotunda (a small building) which supposedly encloses the tomb. Currently the veracity of that claim cannot be verified due to the site being covered in marble. Though this is probably the true site, it is impossible to visualize what it looked like that first Resurrection morning.

The Garden Tomb

Anglicans and a few Protestant groups claim the Garden Tomb (another site) as the place of the Resurrection, but this site has no historical patina before 1883—no tradition to back up the claim. But if you want to see what an actual first century tomb looked like, this one fits the biblical description, and here you can celebrate a memorable communion. It is a wonderful place to contemplate, pray and travel with your imagination back in time 2,000 years to that fateful moment when Christ arose.

Gordon's Calvary

In the end it’s not the site that proves the event. We don’t worship sites—we worship the Risen Lord Jesus! That assurance of the Resurrection is voiced throughout the whole realm of Christendom, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, in these simple words—“Jesus is not here. He has risen!”

Destination Israel: The Invitation of the Eastern Gate (Part 11)

The Eastern Gate

The Eastern Gate of Jerusalem stands like a bloodied, yet tenacious soldier refusing to surrender his ground as he eagerly awaits reinforcements. Each day, as the sun rises over the Mount of Olives, the Eastern Gate greets those shimmering shafts of light with a settled assurance that this could be the day…Could be the day for what?

The Eastern Gate, or the Golden or Beautiful Gate as it is also known, was one of eleven entrance gates into the walled city of Jerusalem. This was the main gate that welcomed most of the pilgrims going up to the Jewish temple, who then entered the area known as Solomon’s Poarch in preparation for offering their sacrifices. This was the gate where Peter and John healed the lame man in Acts 3. Jesus would have often used this gate as well.

The original gate was destroyed in 70 AD as the Roman legions led by Titus sacked and destroyed both Jerusalem and its temple. It lay in ruins for almost 1500 years until Suleiman the Magnificent, the leader of the Muslim Ottoman Turks, captured Jerusalem and began the rebuilding of her walls. A wave of excitement and anticipation swept through the conquered Jews because of an ancient tradition that promised their Messiah’s return and that He would enter the temple through the Eastern Gate from the Mount of Olives. In their minds Suleiman was just a tool in hastening  the Messiah’s return.

Suleiman soon heard about the rumors sweeping through his conquered

View of from the Mount of Olives (Jewish Cementary)

foes and put a stop to by walling up the Eastern Gate and creating a Muslim cemetery down the hillside in front of it, believing no holy man would set foot, much less walk across a cemetery to get to the gate. And for the last 500 years the Eastern Gate has waited.

Muslim Cementary in front of the Eastern GateGod gave Ezekiel a prophetic word as He spoke of the new temple that would one day be rebuilt: And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord God of Israel has entered it; therefore it shall be shut” (Ezek. 44:3). This prophecy was given a thousand years before Suleiman walled up the gate.

So, when did the Lord God of Israel enter it? On Palm Sunday, Jesus (God the Son) rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s colt (the traditional Jewish transportation for a king) as He was proclaimed the King—the Son of David—the Messiah by His disciples (Luke 19:28-48). Just a few days later Jesus would be rejected by the nation as a whole, condemned as a traitor and blasphemer, and then crucified.

Today, the Eastern Gate is still walled up. It awaits the return of the King. For any believer who understands the prophecy of the Second Coming a view of this Beautiful Gate makes the hair on your neck stand up and chill bumps erupt on your body. As you stare at this gate you are looking at the very place where Jesus will return in glory and power. Zechariah tells us that on that day the Jews will look on the One whom they pierced and they will mourn in repentance (12:10), as their King—Messiah Jesus—touches down on the Mount of Olives and prepares to enter His temple (14:3-4). This is awesome, but what gives me chills and goose-bumps is the understanding that we as believers will accompany the Lord at His return
according to Revelation 19:11-16. You may not ever visit Jerusalem as a tourist, but somewhere in your future you have an appointment—a destination Israel—and you will personally see the Eastern Gate as it opens to receive the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Those limestone blocks and hundreds of Muslim tombs will not stop the return of Jesus. He is coming! Mark it down and whatever you do prepare for it—He is coming!

Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory many come in! Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory (Psalm