On the ancient temple mount in Jerusalem there stands a mosque.
Observant Jews see a profaning of their most holy place and plead with YHWH to remove their disgrace. Observant Muslims see Allah’s favor, a sign that the true religion sits in ascendency.
The world sees a centuries-old religious/political drama being played out on the edge of a knife, with diplomats delicately working like a bomb squad to avoid an explosion.
But most miss the real significance of the mosque on the mount.
When the temple stood there it was the very heart of Judaism. It was the place where the presence of God dwelt among his people and sacrifices were offered to atone for sin.
But the Presence remained inside the temple, in the holy of holies, cut off from sinful humans. And no one was allowed to enter there except the high priest, “and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offer[ed] for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people” (Hebrews 9:7).
But that all changed when Messiah appeared, as God had promised in the Law and Prophets.
Messiah “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). Having accomplished that, he “entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself. . . to appear in the presence of God” on behalf of all who would believe in him (Hebrews 9:24).
Jesus became the one final sacrifice and the one final undying high priest (Hebrews 7:24). He opened a “new and living way” (Hebrews 10:19-20) into the most holy place in heaven for “all who would draw near to God through him” (Hebrews 7:25). He became the mediator of the new covenant God had promised (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
At this point the presence of God moved out of the temple’s holy place into his people, whom Messiah had made holy. And he began to move his people to take the gospel of the new covenant to all the peoples of the world. The Presence was moving to the peoples.
The age of the temple was over. The “copy and shadow” (Hebrews 8:5) was obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). Therefore Jesus prophesied: “Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). This was fulfilled in AD 70.
For the past 13 centuries a mosque has occupied the temple’s former site. It is not a sign of God’s endorsement on Islam. Rather, it is an unwitting guardian of the new covenant reality. God wants the temple gone, not because Judaism is destroyed, but because in Jesus it is fulfilled.
So when you see the Al Aqsa Mosque or the Dome of the Rock, pray for both Jews and Muslims, that they will hear and believe the new covenant. For “the hour [has come] when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will [they] worship the Father” (John 4:21).
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