I have been to Israel 45 times, and every time my spiritual life has been enriched. I recently took a video cameraman with me and had him shoot on the fly as I led a pilgrimage group through the land. We began in Tel Aviv, and went from there to Tiberias in the north, and then back to Jerusalem.
I’ll continue to share some of the sermons I presented from that trip with you. As I do so, I think you’ll come to understand why a person once wrote, “A pilgrimage to the Holy Land converts the Bible from black and white into Technicolor.”
My next message was presented at the Eastern Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. There we will discover why I call the Eastern Gate the “Gate to Prophecy.”
The Eastern Gate I call the “Gate to Prophecy.” The reason for that is back in 1967, when the Six Day War broke out, I was a Professor of International Law and Politics at a university. At the time I was following very closely what was going on over in the Middle East. It fascinated me.
I was born into a Christian family and grew up in church. Every time the door opened I was there. I was at the church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, Vacation Bible School, gospel meetings, you name it, but I never heard of Bible prophecy. Never!
We were an Amillennial Church, and so we were taught that Jesus is never returning to this earth again. They said He’ll never put His foot on this earth again, and also that the Millennium and the Tribulation are going on right now simultaneously. They said that everything is just going to come to a screaming halt when Jesus returns, but He’ll never return to this earth. Instead, He’ll just appear in the sky and we’ll go up to Heaven, and that’s it. That’s why I didn’t know anything about Bible prophecy growing up.
So, I’m reading the newspaper everyday about the Six Day War, and about a week after the war was over, I happened to read this news article that didn’t make any sense to me. The article said that when the Israeli Defense Forces were trying to figure out how to take the Old City, it occurred to them that the Jordanians would assume they would attack from the west on the other side at the Jaffa Gate. By the way, there’s only one gate on the west side of the city. The Jews decided as they always do, to go around and hit the Jordanians from the other side and catch them by surprise, and that’s just what they did. In the middle of the night they moved their forces around to the other side.
The article actually stated that in the process of all of these discussions that somebody suggested the possibility of putting satchel charges on the Eastern Gate and blowing it open to really catch the enemy by surprise. But, the article stated there was a rabbi at the meeting who said something like, “You’ll do that over my dead body. Nobody is going to blow open that Eastern Gate, because the Word says that the Eastern Gate will be sealed and it will remain sealed until the Messiah comes.”
I thought, “What in the world is that all about?” I got out a concordance as we didn’t all have computers back then. I got out a concordance and I looked up the word gate. I looked up every scripture in the Bible that had to do with the word gate. Then I happened to read Ezekiel 44 which says that the Eastern Gate will be closed and will not be reopened until the Messiah comes. Let me tell you, I couldn’t believe my eyes!
So then I went to the Encyclopedia Britannica and I wondered, “Why is that gate closed? Has it always been closed? What’s the deal?” I started studying on that topic and I discovered according to the Encyclopedia Britannica that nobody knows absolutely for sure why the gate was closed.
The story that has been passed down through history is that while the Jews were in the process of rebuilding the city walls, a rumor swept across Jerusalem that the Messiah was coming. The Turkish officials called the rabbis in and asked, “Who is this Messiah?” They replied, “He’s going to come and deliver us from you, and the Messiah is going to reign here in Jerusalem over all the world.” The Turkish officials said, “Thank you very much” and dismissed them. Then they brought in their engineers and proclaimed, “We’re going to take care of that Messiah. Brick up the Eastern Gate so he can’t go through it, and put a Muslim cemetery in front of it so that no Jewish holy man will ever step foot there.” And so, they bricked it up and put a Muslim cemetery in front of it to block the Messiah. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, but that is the story I ran across in every source I found.
The point of all of this is that this story got me hooked on Bible prophecy. I never knew anything about Bible prophecy before. I thought, “I’m seeing this fulfilled before my very eyes.” I immediately started studying Bible prophecy back then in 1967, and the more I studied it the more amazed I became. As I saw prophecies about the regathering of the Jewish people, the reestablishment of the Jewish State, the reclamation of the land of Israel, the revival of the Hebrew language, the reoccupation of the City of Jerusalem by the Jews, and the growth of Israeli military power — all of that was prophesied. The Bible prophesied that all the nations of the world would come together against Israel over the issue of Jerusalem, which is where we are right now in history.
So, why I call the Eastern Gate my Gate to Prophecy? It’s because it’s what got me interested in studying God’s prophetic word, and finally brought me to the point where I gave up my academic career to spend the rest of my life talking about Bible prophecy.
In the second part of this sermon from the Holy Land presented at the Eastern Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, I’ll tell the story of another event in my life that got me excited about Bible prophecy.