Why is the Eastern Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem closed, and what does it have to do with Bible prophecy?
By Dr. David R. Reagan
The Eastern Gate in the old walled city of Jerusalem has a very special place in my heart, for it was that gate which God used to open my eyes to His Prophetic Word.
The year was 1967. The occasion was the Six Day War. As the fate of the new state of Israel hung in the balance, I searched the newspapers daily for any information I could find about the war. The turning point came on June 7 when the Israeli army broke through the Lion's Gate and returned control of the ancient city of Jerusalem to the Jewish people for the first time in 1,897 years.
A Mysterious Remark
The next day I read a fascinating news account about one of the Jewish commando groups that had been involved in the assault on the city. The article stated that some members of the group had suggested catching the Jordanian defenders of the city off guard by blowing open the sealed Eastern Gate. But the leader of the group, an Orthodox Jew, had vehemently protested the idea, stating that "the Eastern Gate can be opened only when the Messiah comes."
That statement caught my eye. I wondered what the fellow was talking about. I knew nothing about the Eastern Gate except that it was the only gate of the city that led directly onto the Temple Mount. I was not aware that it was sealed, nor did I know that its opening was in any way Biblically linked to the return of the Messiah.
A Remarkable Prophecy
I decided to do some research on the matter, and that decision initiated my study of Bible prophecy. I had been attending church for 30 years, but like most Christians, I knew nothing about Bible prophecy. The topic was generally ignored by the preachers in the church I grew up in.
My concordance quickly directed me to the passage that the Orthodox Jew had alluded to. I found it in Ezekiel 44. The context is a supernatural tour the Lord is giving Ezekiel of the future Millennial Temple (40:1-3).
In chapter 43 the Lord gives Ezekiel a vision of God's glory entering the Millennial Temple from the east, through the Eastern Gate. The Lord then says to Ezekiel: "Son of Man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of my feet where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever" (43:7).
The Lord then reveals to Ezekiel that the Eastern Gate will be closed for public use and will be available only to a person who is described as "the prince" (44:3).
The identity of this prince is one of the mysteries of Bible prophecy. He certainly is not the Messiah, for he offers a sin offering for himself (45:22), and he has sons (46:16). Some have speculated he might be King David, but David will have a glorified, sinless body during the Millennium and thus would not need a sin offering. Most likely, he is a regent of King David, a prince in the flesh who is a descendant of David.
A Pre-fillment in Type
Bible prophecies often have a pre-fillment in symbolic type before their actual fulfillment in history. A good example is Antiochus Epiphanes who was a symbolic type of the Antichrist. Another example would be the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which was a symbolic type of the destruction Jerusalem will experience during the Great Tribulation.
In like manner, I believe the prophecy of Ezekiel 44:1 was pre-filled symbolically almost 500 years ago in 1517 when the Turks conquered Jerusalem under the leadership of Suleiman the Magnificent. He commanded that the city's ancient walls be rebuilt, and in the midst of this rebuilding project, for some unknown reason, he ordered that the Eastern Gate be sealed up with stones.
Legends abound as to why Suleiman closed the Gate. The most believable one is that while the walls were being rebuilt, a rumor swept Jerusalem that the Messiah was coming. Suleiman called together some Jewish rabbis and asked them to tell him about the Messiah. They described the Messiah as a great military leader who would be sent by God from the east. He would enter the Eastern Gate and liberate the city from foreign control.
Suleiman then decided to put an end to Jewish hopes by ordering the Eastern Gate sealed. He also put a Muslim cemetery in front of the Gate, believing that no Jewish holy man would defile himself by walking through a Muslim cemetery.
The Jews believe the Eastern Gate will remain shut until the Messiah returns. I think they are correct.
Psalm 24:7-10 contains a prophecy about the Lord's return. It reads as follows:
"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 may come in!
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory."
This is clearly Second Coming imagery. The Lord is returning as a King ready for battle. And when He returns, the doors of one of the gates of the Old City of Jerusalem will open to receive Him. I believe this is speaking of the Eastern Gate which is now closed, for the Messiah is always pictured in Second Coming prophecies as returning from the east. For example, in the Second Coming passage in Isaiah 63:1-6 the Messiah is portrayed as coming to Jerusalem from the direction of Edom and Bozrah — areas to the east.
A Prophetic Symbol
The Eastern Gate has remained sealed now for almost 500 years, and the Muslim cemetery still blocks the entrance. The old walled city has eight gates, and the Eastern Gate, and it alone, is sealed — just as prophesied in Ezekiel 44. The world would call that an "amazing coincidence." I call it a "God-incidence."
I believe the Eastern Gate is proof positive that the Bible is the Word of God. Its sealing is clear evidence that we are living in the end times. The Gate awaits the return of the Messiah. Then and only then, will it be opened.
An Exciting Vision
I have a vision of what that glorious day will be like. It is related to the Lord's First Coming. I believe Jesus is going to replay His triumphal entry into Jerusalem when He returns.
When He came the first time, Jesus rode a donkey from the Mount of Olives down into the Kidron Valley and up to the Eastern Gate where He entered the Temple Mount for His last days of teaching. As He made that ride, the Valley of Kidron was filled with thousands of admirers who had heard about the resurrection of Lazarus. They waved palm branches and chanted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Within a few days that same fickle crowd was shouting, "Crucify Him!"
We are told in Revelation 19 that when Jesus returns He will come as a victorious military conqueror, riding through the air on a supernatural white horse. In Isaiah 61 we are told that He will come from the east, and in Zechariah 14 we are told that he will touch ground on the Mount of Olives.
Revelation 19:14 says that all the Redeemed will come with the Lord. Think of it! You and I will be there to witness the Lord's return. Zechariah 14 says He will speak a word that will supernaturally destroy the Anti-Christ and his forces.
Then, I believe we will witness a replay of the Lord's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. With angels hovering above and millions of the Redeemed filling the Kidron Valley, Jesus will ride up to the Eastern Gate on His white horse, and as He approaches the Gate, it will blow open. He will then enter the City of David, and to the triumphant shouts of "Hosanna to the Son of David," He will be crowned the Kings of kings and the Lord of lords.
The Gate in Waiting
by Terry Gibson
Note: In 1987 Terry Gibson and his wife, Virginia accompanied Dr. Reagan on a pilgrimage to Israel to attend the International Christian Embassy's celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. On the last day of the celebration, 4,000 pilgrims from all over the world paraded around the city of Jerusalem and then marched to the top of the Mount of Olives where they sang hymns as the sun set behind the city. This poem was written out of that experience. Terry Gibson pastors a church today in Santa Fe, Texas.
There is a gate in waiting
In the City of the King
It waits above the valley
And adorns a tranquil scene
Jerusalem is churning
On the north, south and west
Yet the Eastern Gate waits quietly
Above multitudes at rest
On Olive Mount, I stood one day
And viewed this Golden Gate
Amid singing saints and setting sun
In the spirit was my state
Looking o'er this glorious Gate
From atop that blessed mount
Two scenes of great events
I saw, and now recount
One scene took place in ages past
The other is soon to be
In both there was the Son of God
And this Gate of Destiny
The First Coming
The first scene was triumphant
They hailed Him as a King
There were thousands in the valley
And "Hosannas" loud did ring
Many miracles of greatness
Had He done before their eyes
Giving sight to the blind
Calling forth the dead to rise
His disciples were elated
As they joined this happy throng
But little did they know
That their hopes would soon be gone
So long ago the prophet told
That lowly, He would come
Riding on a donkey's colt
Unbefitting the Righteous One
Yet thousands upon thousands
Stood in the valley on that day
And up the path to the eastern Gate
With palm branches did array
"Save us Son of David"
The multitude did cry
When suddenly, the crowd did change —
They shouted "Crucify!"
Oh! What price our God did pay
While sinners yet were we
The mocking ones — The crown of thorns
Pierced hands — what agony!
And so the only Son of God
Was hung upon a cross
He'd come to earth in Godly love
To save those that were lost
The Second Coming
Then the scene did fade away
And another took its place
For Jesus had said He would return
To redeem mankind's disgrace
On Olive Mount I stood again
And viewed the Eastern Gate
Yet it was closed, sealed with stone
Awaiting a King to coronate
Ezekiel long ago had said
The Gate would thus be so
Until the Prince returned to earth
Then all the world would know
Around the city armies stood
From nations of the world
As smoke and fire were everywhere
The armaments were hurled!
Yet the Golden Gate still quietly stood
While looking upward it seemed
Suddenly the trump did sound
It was the coming of the King!
And then I saw the Lord of Lords
Descending from on high
With multitudes of Heavenly Hosts
Behind Him in the sky
He came and stood on Olive Mount
And then the earth did shake
He spoke and all the armies fell
And the evil power did break
Upon a white and valiant steed
Down Olive Mount did ride
Through Kidron Valley up to the Gate
While the Jewish remnant cried
They looked on Him
whom they had pierced
And grieved as for a son
So bitterly they wept in shame
Yet with grace He did respond
And all the while the numbers grew
Of Angels and the Saints
Millions upon millions
Joined Him in the ranks
They sang "Hosanna to the Son of David"
"Hosanna to the King"
Throughout all heaven and the earth
The loud Hosannas ring
The Gate in waiting trembled
And the stones then blew apart
As the Holy One did enter
His eternal reign to start
Oh! What sweetness in that Day
The redeemed of God shall know
From Mount Zion in Jerusalem
The living waters flow
Are you yearning for that day
When the Lord of Hosts shall come?
Or do you flee in fear
Before the Holy One?
Call upon His name!
Before that coming day
Flee into His loving arms
He will wipe all tears away.