Gateway to a World of Peace
Have you ever opened a gate and passed through to the other side? Or entered an already open gateway or archway to get to your destination, to see the sights beyond? Of course you have. Gates come in all shapes and sizes; and I would dare say that anyone over the age of five has been through one kind of gate or another. There are ordinary gates that will allow access to someone’s front yard, or parking lots, or airplanes, or animal grazing pastures. There are famous gates that can yield admission to historical monuments, to beautiful estates of the rich and famous, to splendid castles of kings and queens, and to fascinating worlds of enchantment.
Some folks—like thieves, trespassers, and those up-to-no-good—don’t like the idea of locked gates and doors. Even some of our Old West (and modern-West) heroes such as the Cattle Ranchers had an aversion to fences and gates, except the archway that led to their home.
For most of us: gates, gateways, doorways, arches, portals … provide both literal and symbolic entrance to exotic places, interesting people, and special things (to see, hear, do, touch, and experience). We often brim with excitement when we pass through a gateway, because we’ve gone from being an outsider to being on the inside of wherever and whatever the gate brings us.
Brandenburg Gate, Germany
Disneyland? Paramount Studios? Downton Abbey? Golden Gate Bridge? Brandenburg Gate? India Gate in New Delhi? Graceland Estate (Elvis Presley)? Have you been through one or more of these famous gateways or others? How about the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri? Soaring 630 feet in the air, it is the tallest monument in the United States.
Entrance to Graceland Estate
Born in Lawrence, Kansas, and living many years in the Kansas City, Missouri area, I sometimes traveled across the state to take in the sights, including a trip or two to the top of the Gateway Arch. It is an awesome view from up there! In America’s days of progressive expansion, St. Louis, Missouri was considered: The Gateway to the West. And the nearby Mississippi River separated the east from the west, literally and figuratively. Technically, when someone in my current state of Arizona tells me they’re from “back east,” I take that to mean east of St. Louis.
Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri
Or the historical Jaffa Gate, one of the gates leading to/from today’s Old City of Jerusalem? Including several other memorial sites during my 2006 trip to Israel, I rode in a car through the Jaffa Gate, then walked back out of Old Jerusalem through the same gate. I’ll never forget the experience … for many reasons but mostly because of the ancient and modern significance of Jerusalem.
Built in 1538 by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, Jaffa Gate is one of, if not the most used entrance to Old Jerusalem, with six of the other seven gates dating back to Biblical times. However, in Biblical days (for example during the time when Nehemiah wrote his Old Testament book in the 5th Century B.C.), there were twelve gates in Jerusalem. There are eight gates in today’s modern Jerusalem, but only seven are open. What about the gate that is not opened? Why is it closed? What is the mysterious significance of this gate? Will it ever be opened again?
The other seven gates: The Zion Gate, Dung Gate, New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod’s Gate, Lion’s Gate, and (the focal point of today’s article), The Eastern Gate.
The Enigmatic Eastern Gate
Don’t think of a gate on hinges that is shut and locked. Or a gate that rolls back and forth in place when you press a remote control pad. This incredible gate is not only closed, it’s sealed … actually imbedded into thick stone walls on either side. In my estimation this unused, inactive, seemingly irrelevant gate was the most significant gate ever built; the most prestigious ever to be closed; and, one day soon, will be the greatest gate to ever be reopened.
Yes, I’m referring to the Eastern Gate, also called the Golden Gate, the Mercy Gate, and often referred to in ancient times as The Beautiful Gate. It is the oldest of the current existing gates in Jerusalem’s Old City Walls, having been built around 520 AD by Justinian I or perhaps (no later than) the 7th Century by Byzantine artisans. However, the current Eastern gate was built on ground level (obviously) over the remains of the much older gate, dating to the times of the second Temple (Herod’s Temple) which, of course, was built over the original Solomon’s Temple.
Eastern Gate because it’s located on the eastern side of the Old City of Jerusalem. And what is the significance of the eastern side? Just keep reading and you’ll find out!
Golden Gate because of the sometimes golden glow and hue cast by the rising sun on the eastern wall and gate. Beautiful Gate in very ancient times because it was just that, both literally and figuratively considered the most sacred or holiest of the ancient gates of Jerusalem. Mercy Gate because Jews used to pray for mercy at this gate, in fervent anticipation of the coming of Messiah through the gate, which would lead to the restoration of the Shekinah Glory of God in the rebuilt Temple. For it was from the Eastern Gate that the glory of God left the Temple and through which God’s glory will return.
The Jews are absolutely correct that Messiah will triumphantly enter Old Jerusalem (which is really the historical heart of even modern-day Jerusalem) through the Eastern Gate. But other than Messianic Jews, they haven’t yet grasped or accepted the reality that Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ) is the Incarnate Glory of God himself, because he is God … The Son of God and God the Son! “…While we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed” (Titus 2:13).
I vividly remember standing on the Mount of Olives gazing across the Kidron Valley at the eastern wall and the Eastern Gate; trying to envision our Savior, the King of kings and Lord of lords commanding the gate to open and majestically striding into the Holy City of the Holy Land given by the very promise of God to his chosen people.
Let’s take a look at the remarkable historical and future significance of this unique gate, built near the very center of the eastern wall of Jerusalem … the only gate that led directly to the Temple on Mount Moriah. The double-arched edifice that protrudes from the main wall contains two gates, side by side. The southern arch is the actual Gate of Mercy. The northern arch (to the right when facing the gate complex) was called the Gate of Repentance, the closest entrance to the Temple of Solomon.
Eastern (Golden) Gate of Jerusalem
As a reminder, God’s glory dwelt in Solomon’s Temple until a short time before the Temple was destroyed. When Scripture speaks about the glory of God, it refers to God’s very essence, his attributes, who he is and what he’s like … as much as we can comprehend. The Shekinah glory represented and contained God’s very presence over the Ark of the Covenant in the inner sanctuary of the Temple, the Holy of Holies. In fact, as soon as the Levitical priests had carried the Ark of the Covenant into the inner sanctuary of Solomon’s newly built Temple and placed it beneath the wings of the Cherubim, they, “…could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple” (I Kings 8:11).
Tragically, after Solomon’s reign ended (actually a few years before he died), Israel slowly then more rapidly began to abandon their Sovereign Lord and worship false, man-made, non-existent gods. To the point where God’s warning through Moses hundreds of years earlier—that God would abandon them and withdraw his protection—finally came to pass in 722 BC when Assyria conquered the ten northern tribes of Israel, then Babylon defeated the southern tribes of Benjamin and Judah in 586 BC, including the sack of Jerusalem and complete destruction of Solomon’s Temple. Ezekiel was given a phenomenal real-life vision of God’s glory (God himself) actually leaving the Temple. Based on Ezekiel’s description, this was a literal, physical departure that even included how and where God left the Temple. Let’s read what happened.
God’s Departure From and Return to the Temple & Jerusalem
“Then the glory of the Lord moved out from the door of the Temple and hovered above the cherubim. And as I watched, the cherubim flew with their wheels to the east gate of the Lord’s Temple. And the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them” (Ezekiel 10:18-19). Then a few verses later: “Then the glory of the Lord went up from the city and stopped above the mountain to the east (Mount of Olives)” (Verse 23).
Although Ezekiel’s vision took place after the Jews were conquered and exiled to Babylon, we know that God withdrew his presence from the Temple before it was destroyed, because the Temple was still intact when Ezekiel observed this extraordinary event. Moreover, it’s decidedly significant that God left the Temple through the Eastern gate built into the mighty stone walls that surrounded the Temple. Because just as Messiah Jesus ascended back to heaven from the Mount of Olives (visible from the Eastern gate) after his spectacular resurrection, he will first set foot on the Mount of Olives when he returns to planet Earth (Zechariah 14:4), from where it is certain he will enter Old Jerusalem through the Golden (Eastern) Gate.
When Christ Jesus enters Temple Mount through the Eastern Gate, he will dramatically fulfill Ezekiel’s subsequent prophecy that the Shekinah Glory of God (God himself in the forever Incarnate Son of God) will return to Jerusalem. On April 28th, 573 BC, some twenty years after Ezekiel witnessed God’s withdrawal from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was given an equally astonishing vision of the third Temple, even before the second Temple (called Herod’s Temple) was rebuilt and then destroyed. For many more details on the 3rd Temple, please refer to Eye of Prophecy articles entitled, A Third Jewish Temple, Part I & II, published 4-26-14 and 5-3-14, respectively.
Read with me from Ezekiel: “After this, the man brought me back around to the east gateway. Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. The sound of his coming was like the roar of rushing waters, and the whole landscape shone with his glory. This vision was just like the others I had seen, first by the Kebar River, and then when he came to destroy Jerusalem. I fell face down on the ground. And the glory of the Lord came into the Temple through the east gateway (the Eastern Gate). Then the Spirit took me up and brought me into the inner courtyard, and the glory of the Lord filled the Temple” (Ezekiel 43:1-5, italics for emphasis).
Just Inside the Eastern Gate
Let’s match this incredible last day’s prophecy with the magnificent return of Messiah, as described by Messiah Jesus himself: “For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 24:27).
Here, Jesus is not referring to the Rapture of the Church, which is a totally different event (see my series on The Rapture … What, Why, When, Who & How, published 7-26-13 through 8-24-13, respectively). Rather, he is describing his majestic return at the end of the Great Tribulation, which will usher in the magnificent Millennium. Later in this same chapter, Christ declares: “And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth (including the Jews … Zechariah 12). And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). There will be global grieving and remorse; for most people alive at that time, it will be too late. They will have already chosen their eternal destiny by following the one who would dare to be Antichrist, taking his mark, and joining him in the futile battle against the true Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Revisiting John in Revelation, we read the triumphant conclusion: “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army. And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshipped his statue. Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. And the vultures all gorged themselves on the dead bodies” (Revelation 19:19-21).
All these things are the Tribulation’s last day’s beginning of the end of this age … with the beginning of the beginning of the end taking place at the Rapture of the Church—followed by seven years of global cataclysmic and catastrophic calamity never before experienced (nor ever again) by mankind. And the last of the last days begins when Jesus steps foot on the Mount of Olives, then enters Old Jerusalem and Temple Mount through the Eastern Gate. Jesus is the Son of God, but also Son of Man (God incarnate); thereby, is the express image of God and his glory. (See Colossians 1:15-20). It is he who fulfills God’s prophecy through Ezekiel: the return of God’s glory (his very presence) to the earth, specifically in Jerusalem.
But Ezekiel also gave us another astounding prophecy, one that we’ve already touched on. After Ezekiel had the awesome privilege of receiving all the meticulous plans of the distant future rebuilt Millennium Temple; then watched the (future) glorious entrance of God (Messiah) through the Eastern Gate, this is what he was told: “Then the man brought me back to the east gateway in the outer wall of the Temple area, but it was closed. And the Lord said to me: ‘this gate must remain closed; it will never again be opened. No one will ever open it and pass through, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered here. Therefore, it must always remain shut’” (Ezekiel 44:1-2).
AND SHUT IT IS!
The Kingdom of God through the Eastern Gate … Not Once, but Twice!
In Israel, as I stood and stared from the Mount of Olives, I saw the Eastern Gate. Look again at the photos of the Eastern Gate. What do you see? You see two side-by-side gates that are as sealed as any gateway could be.
Eastern Gate of Jerusalem
Of course the Eastern Gate was opened in the time of Christ Jesus, because it was through the Eastern Gate that the first part of Ezekiel’s prophecy would be fulfilled … the triumphant Palm Sunday entrance of Jesus through the Eastern Gate into Jerusalem. Do you remember what happened? Read with me: “Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, ‘Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Praise God in highest heaven!’” (Mark 11:8-10). Ever so sadly, many in this same crowd who hailed Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, would shout again within the week … this time to crucify him!
Yes, the Glory of God had returned to the Temple through the Eastern gate; only to be snuffed out by cruel, hard-hearted religious leaders, a mob who saw him only as a deliverer from Roman oppression, and Roman soldiers who took pleasure in their crucifixion death squads. He arrived not as the mighty Messiah Lion from the Tribe of Judah (that will come later); rather as the Suffering Servant Messiah (Isaiah 53) who first came to deliver them/us from sin.
But we know what happened next, the rest of the story! In three days, Messiah Jesus arose from the dead, which ushered in the Kingdom of God in the hearts of men and woman and children the world over—to all who believe and receive him as personal Savior. To one day (soon) bring the Kingdom of Heaven physically to this earth, with the Messiah King of all kings ruling from Jerusalem.
For hundreds of years, I’m certain some Christians and Jews wondered about Ezekiel’s closed Eastern Gate prophecy. ALL of God’s prophecies as found in Scripture have or will come to pass. Some immediately … others a few days, weeks, months, or years afterward. And still others, hundreds of years later.
After the year 1541, they need wonder no more. The same Ottoman Sultan who built the Jaffa Gate and rebuilt some of Jerusalem’s walls and other gates, Suleiman the Magnificent, also sealed off the Golden Gate. And so it remains to this very day.
Why did this Ottoman Turk Monarch, endorsed by Arabs and Muslims the world over then and now, seal the Eastern Gate and then build a cemetery for Muslim graves in front of the gate? Answer: To prevent Elijah, the anticipated forerunner to the Messiah, from passing through the Eastern Gate, thus precluding the Messiah from coming and entering this same gate. Of course, Suleiman didn’t know or understand the Bible much at all. He had not a clue that John the Baptist was the foretold prophet who would literally fulfill the role attributed to Elijah—paving the way for one much greater … Messiah (Jesus). Even the Jews of the time and today, expected Elijah himself to return. And so, he will, but as one of the two witnesses during the Great Tribulation as found in Revelation Chapter 11. (See Eye of Prophecy articles for some amazing details about the two witnesses, the other being Moses, entitled The Two Witnesses, Part I, II, & III, published 6-7-14, 6-14-14 & 6-21-14, respectively).
Do you think Jesus Christ will be deterred from entering the Eastern Gate by a few graves or by the sealed gate itself? Hardly. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life as he boldly, but lovingly confirmed to Martha while she grieved over the death of her brother, Lazarus—just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to prove to the whole world that Jesus had power over life and death. (See John Chapter 11). Later affirmed even more amazingly, by his own resurrection from the dead.
Since the Eastern Gate was sealed tight in the 16th century, the nearest it came to possibly being reopened by force was during the British campaign against the Ottoman Turk Empire (ally of Germany) during World War I. After a series of campaigns, British General Edmund Allenby (under whom T.E. Lawrence—Lawrence of Arabia—served by unifying Arab tribes to victory over the Turks in other battles) reached the walls of Jerusalem. He had been given orders to capture Jerusalem; thus, he was ready to do whatever necessary to take the city from the Turks, even if it meant heavy bombardment.
General Edmund Allenby
By the providence of God (Allenby was a Christian who knew both Biblical and secular history of Israel and the Middle East), the British didn’t need to fire a single shot to finally capture Jerusalem. Instead, the Ottoman commander surrendered the city, with one reason given that he didn’t want to see religious holy sites destroyed by a British attack on and Ottoman defense of the Holy City. In the process, the Eastern Gate was protected from damage through potential breach of the walls and gate to access the eastern side of the city.
General Allenby Entering Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate
But such is the sovereignty of our great God. What he says will happen, happens. What he declares will not happen (opening of the Eastern Gate until Messiah does so himself) will not happen. What he says he will do, he does. There is no one like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. None but he can declare the end from the beginning.
Things to Ponder
Jesus will again enter Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate as a great Warrior King; but also as the Prince of Peace, the only one who can bring true and lasting peace to a hopeless, helpless world of evil and strife.
He not only enters through the Golden Gate; Christ Jesus IS the gate.
“But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:2-3).
Then the Apostle John records: “Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved … I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep’” (John 10:6-11).
How good it would be for each one of us who know Christ, who are the sheep of his pasture, to be a gatekeeper to those around us. When the opportunity presents itself, to open the gate and show them the way to Christ. Or to be watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem and give our support to Israel and the Jews who have returned to the land given to them by the true and living God.
The next time you open a gate or walk through an archway or pass through a portal, remember that Jesus is The Gate. He is the only Gateway to peace on this earth and everlasting life with him and the host of heaven.
Hallelujah to the Lamb of God!
To the Lion from the Tribe of Judah!
To the Great Shepherd who is the Gate of Salvation!