When studying the Bible, understanding ancient history, geography, and even ancient infrastructure provides enhanced insight into the context of Scripture and the prophetic wisdom it contains. All the events in the Bible happened at a specific time, and in a certain place; on a mountain or near a river, in a garden or a desert, on a boat in a lake, on a road, in a valley, on the seacoast, in a tent, or in a temple. While the Bible is filled with extraordinary accounts and prophecies concerning specific locations, there is a sacred place that many see as one of the most spiritually important locations on earth—the Holy of Holies.
Located within the larger Temple and separated by a heavy woven veil, the Holy of Holies was the sacred place where once a year, the High Priest came before the Presence of God that rested upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant to offer sacrifice on behalf of the nation.
Jewish tradition views the Holy of Holies as a gateway—a spiritual junction between heaven and earth or the axis Mundi (also called the cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, center of the world, or world tree). As the “world’s center,” the Holy of Holies has been biblically documented as being a place of phenomenal connection between the divine and God’s earthly creation.
Access from the East
In ancient times the closest gateway to the Temple Mount was reached from outside the city through the Eastern Gate, leading the Levitical Priests straight to the Altar of Sacrifice, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies where they ministered as priests mediating on behalf of men unto the God of all Creation.
Steeped in ancient history, religious tradition, and biblical prophecy, the Eastern Gate is known for its extreme historical importance and supernatural activity. Adjacent to the Kidron Valley, it was the gateway between Jerusalem’s Old City and those traveling to or from the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, or the cities of Bethany, Bethphage and Jericho. Over the centuries, this eastern entrance has had quite a few names attached to it, such as the Gate of Mercy, the Beautiful Gate, the Sushan Gate, and the Golden Gate.
So then, what does God’s Word say about the significance of this eastern gate—and how does it relate to us as modern-day Christians? Quite simply, the story is still unfolding. For you see, in addition to its rich and sacred past, the gate that faces east also holds a very special prophetic place in the future of Jerusalem and the Messianic Kingdom.
Join me as we journey back to where the sacred story—and the Holy of Holies began.
The Holy of Holies – from Tent to Temple
On Mount Sinai, Moses was given more than just the Ten Commandments. He was also given a set of elaborate instructions for the building of a portable tent-like structure that would serve as a meeting place for God and His people. This Tabernacle served the Israelites during the time they wandered in the wilderness and for 369 years after they entered the Promised Land. Built according to God’s specifications, the Tabernacle of Moses was, in essence, a traveling sanctuary, a place of worship that involved specific protocols and procedures that enabled God’s people to dwell with Him.
“Have them make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).
From the fall in Genesis up until the Tabernacle construction, the Bible records people occasionally walking and talking with God but not necessarily “dwelling” with Him. The word tabernacle is a translation of the Hebrew word Mishkan, which means “the dwelling-place.” The Feast of the Tabernacles commemorates this time of “wandering with His Presence” before the Israelites entered the land of Canaan.
The Tabernacle was the first resting place for the Ark of the Covenant, a sacred chest built by the Israelites, under exact specifications given to them by God. Made of acacia wood and covered inside and out with pure gold, it contained the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s staff that budded, and a jar of manna. The Ark included a pledge by God that He would dwell among His people and give them guidance from the Mercy Seat located on the top of the Ark.
Spiritually, the Ark was the manifestation of God’s divine presence on earth (Shekhinah- from the word Mishkan in Hebrew). When God spoke with Moses in the Tent of Meeting in the desert, He did so from between the two Cherubim atop the Ark, as written in Numbers 7:89.
During the time the Israelites wandered in the desert, the Ark was carried by priests of the Levite tribe as the people moved from place to place. However, during times of encampment, it occupied the sacred space known as the Holy of Holies (Kodesh Kodashim). Hebrews 9:1-9 tells us that a veil separated the Holy of Holies—the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence—from the rest of the Tabernacle where men dwelt. This signified that man was separated from God by sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). Only the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) was permitted to pass beyond this veil, and then, only once each year (Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7) to enter into God’s presence for all of Israel and make atonement for their sins (Leviticus 16).
This sacred ritual was an important foreshadowing of the Messiah (dwelling among us in a human Mishkan) as the sole place of atonement for sins. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Ark within the Holy of Holies was the only place worshipers could go (represented by the high priest) to have their sins forgiven. In the New Testament, Christ—Yeshua—fulfilled the function of the Ark becoming the way to salvation and the kingdom of heaven.
Around 1000 BCE, the Ark found a permanent home when King Solomon built the magnificent First Temple (also known as Solomon’s Temple) on Mt. Moriah or Mt. Zion on the east side of the Jerusalem. His father, King David, had wanted to build the great Temple a generation earlier, however, a divine edict had forbidden him from doing so: “You will not build a house for My name,” God said to David, “for you are a man of battles and have shed blood” (I Chronicles 28:3). The building plans of the magnificent structure King Solomon built are outlined in great detail in 2 Chronicles 3:1-17.
The Temple Mount
It should come as no surprise that the land on which King Solomon was instructed by God to build the First Temple had deep religious significance. Known as Mt. Moriah in ancient times, it was the place where Abraham responded to the Voice of God and was about to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice when he was supernaturally stopped. As written in Genesis 22:12, the Angel of the Lord appeared and instructed him, “Do not reach out your hand against the young man—do nothing to him at all.” Instead, a ram that was caught in the thicket was sacrificed as a substitutionary sacrifice on the very spot.
It was about this Holy Place that the prophet Ezekiel had a curious prophetic vision concerning God’s plan after the days of man’s governance (known as the End of Days.) This will be just before the Messiah returns to set up His Kingdom and bear the world’s government upon His shoulders. Notice the location of God’s Presence.
“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.
So, the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was high above them. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city” (Ezekiel 11:17-20, 22-23 NKJV).
Ezekiel again mentions this glorious gateway a few chapters later and expounds on God’s culminating purpose concerning this sacred place:
“Then he led me to the gate, the gate looking east, and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters. The earth was radiant with His glory. The appearance of the vision that I saw was like the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city. The visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar. So, I fell on my face. Then the glory of Adonai came into the House by way of the gate facing the east. The Ruach took me up and brought me into the inner court. Then behold, the glory of Adonai filled the House. Then I heard someone speaking to me from the House, while a man was standing beside me. He said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of My throne, the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of Bnei-Yisrael forever” (Ezekiel 43:1-6).
A City Divided
The Old City of Jerusalem is divided in many ways politically, but since the 19th century, four distinct quadrants divide the city culturally, religiously and even historically. The Muslim, Armenian, Jewish, and Christian quarters. These quadrants have played significant roles throughout history, particularly in relation to their proximity to the Temple Mount and the east side of the city.
To better understand the prophetic significance of the gate, “which is on the east side of the city,” we need to better understand the city itself—Jerusalem.
Jerusalem – Now
Covering an area of approximately 49 square miles, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, located in the Middle East. With an elevation of 2,575 feet, this ancient city sits high on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains. To the east, the city looks down on the Dead Sea and across the Jordan River to the arid mountains of eastern Jordan (the biblical mountains of Moab). To the west it faces the coastal plain and the Mediterranean Sea, about 35 miles away.
With its sophisticated network of streets and transportation, high-rise buildings, supermarkets, businesses, schools, restaurants, and coffeehouses, Jerusalem is, in every sense, a modern city. The frequent mingling of Hebrew, Arabic, English, and other languages in the streets characterizes a cosmopolitan city with rich multicultural and political complexities.
One of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem plays a central role in the spiritual and emotional perspective of the three major monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. For Jews throughout the world it is the focus of age-old yearnings, a living proof of ancient grandeur and independence and a center of national renaissance; for Christians it is the scene of Jesus’ agony and triumph; for Muslims it is the goal of the Prophet Muhammad’s mystic night journey and the site of one of Islam’s most sacred shrines.
For all three faiths, Jerusalem is a Holy City, a center of pilgrimage, and an object of devotion. With profound historical, archeological, and political roots, Jerusalem is first and foremost a deeply spiritual place sanctioned by God. For Christians, it is the beating heart of Jesus—Yeshua—a place of hope, healing, salvation, and expectation. A place He will once again occupy when He makes His ultimate Triumphal Entry by way of the Eastern—Golden Gate.
At the center of this sprawling modern municipality is Jerusalem’s Old City, a walled medieval enclosure of less than half a square mile (roughly 220 acres), from which the entire city has grown. Think of a Temple Compound—a Holy Place surrounded by fortified retaining walls on all sides. Home to the Temple Mount and the Western (Wailing) Wall, until 1860, this walled-in fortress constituted the entire city of Jerusalem. If indeed walls could talk, these would share profound stories of life and death, destruction and reconstruction, and of the continuous unfolding of God’s plan, provision, and prophecies concerning His chosen people and this Holy Land.
With such rich history, and as the purported spiritual junction between Heaven and Earth, it isn’t surprising that Jerusalem is one of the most fought-over cities ever in human history.
Completely destroyed at least two times (by the Babylonians in 587 BC and the Romans in 70 AD), attacked 52 times, besieged 23 times, and recaptured 44 times, Jerusalem’s Old City has been built and rebuilt literally on the blood, sweat, and tears of its people. Over the centuries, as battles have been fought, leaders have come and gone, and political power has shifted, the foundations within these walls have been leveled, structures have been razed, and Temples replaced. Walls and gates have been restored, repaired, and even repositioned.
Throughout the Old Testament, we are given detailed accounts on the construction and reconstruction of this ancient city, and of the people and governments responsible for tearing it down and building it up. That said, it isn’t hard to believe that layers upon layers of hidden history exists beneath the dusty fortified walls we see today.
A Prophetic Purpose
It was after the destruction of Solomon’s Temple during the time of Nehemiah that the Judeans returned to repair their Temple, the gate that faces east would be known as the Sushan Gate. It appears that special attention was given to this gate as it was not only repaired but guarded.
“After them, Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his house and after him Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the guard of the East Gate, made repairs” (Nehemiah 3:29).
We also see this important gate mentioned as a “guarded or kept gate” during the reign of Hezekiah 100 years later.
“Kore the son of Imnah the Levite, keeper of the East Gate, was over the freewill offerings of God, distributing the offering of Adonai and the consecrated gifts” (2 Chronicles 31:14).
Clearly, the East Gate holds special importance. Scripture tells us that there were “guards” and “keepers” of this gate. Does one “guard” or “keep” a relatively mundane area? Would God have assigned these sentries to watch over an insignificant location? Not likely.
That said, there is a significant biblical prophecy about the Eastern Gate in Jerusalem, particularly with respect to attempts to prevent its prophetic fulfillment.
The current walls surrounding Jerusalem’s Old City were built under the orders of Suleiman the Magnificent, a Turkish Sultan in the Ottoman Empire between the years 1537 and 1541. At 40 feet high and roughly 2.36 miles around, some portions were built over the ancient walls from 2,000 years ago.
Suleiman’s wall had six gates, to which a seventh, the New Gate, was added in 1887; several other, older gates have been walled up over the centuries. The East Gate (Golden Gate) was at first rebuilt and left open by Suleiman’s architects, only to be walled up a short while later. The New Gate was opened in the wall surrounding the Christian Quarter during the 19th century. Two secondary gates were reopened in recent times on the southeastern side of the city walls as a result of archaeological work.
In searching Scripture, you’ll find numerous references to fortified walls and gates that existed in ancient times, in Israel as well as in surrounding geographic areas. Many of the ancient walls and gates have been destroyed, while others still exist all or in part deeply underground, buried under centuries of battle cries and mournful memories.
The Gates of Jerusalem
In Old Testament times, the city walls represented not only the strength of the people within that city but also the strength of the God they served. Built within the fortified walls that surround this ancient city exist the gates through which history has been made, prophecy has been and will be fulfilled, and Yeshua has traveled.
Today, eight gates lead into the Old City of Jerusalem, all but the Golden Gate still serve the people of Jerusalem and visitors streaming to its markets and sacred and historic sites.
- Damascus Gate (North) –
- Dung Gate (South) Entrance to Jewish Quarter and closest in proximity to Temple Mount and Western Wall
- Golden Gate (East) Sealed Shut
aka: Mercy Gate, Sushan Gate, and East Gate
- Herod’s Gate (North) Entrance to Muslim Quarter
- Jaffa Gate (West) Main Entrance to Old City and Christian Quarter
- Lions Gate (East) aka St. Stephen’s Gate – Entrance to Muslim Quarter
- New Gate (Northwest Corner) Entrance to Christian Quarter
- Zion Gate (South) Entrance to both Armenian and Jewish Quarters
Though the Golden Gate has been sealed for many years, Christians anticipate it to be the entrance of Christ upon His return. As stated in Ezekiel 44:1-2, NIV translation.
“Then the man brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, the one facing east, and it was shut. The LORD said to me, “This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered through it.”
Yeshua’s Ministry and the Second Temple
It was at the time of the Second Temple (built by King Herod) that Yeshua frequented the Temple grounds. We see Him often traveling on the Mount of Olives, traversing from the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, who lived in Bethany on the west side of the Mountain, continuing through the Kidron Valley to the enigmatic Eastern Gate that leads to the Temple. Through this well-traveled path, we see miracles performed, prophesies fulfilled, and monumental acts conducted.
The End that Ushered in The Beginning
Yeshua’s most notable action declaring His sovereign purpose occurred on the 4th day before Passover. A day reserved for a Holy act performed by the High Priest. On this day, the Priest would walk to the Shepherd’s Field in Bethlehem Ephrat (about 5 mile south) to select the perfect Passover Lamb with no blemishes. The tradition was to bring the selected lamb through the Eastern Gate while the people gathered to cheer with palm leaves and declare Hosanna. The lamb would be observed for any defect for three days until it would be sacrificed on the Day of Passover. It was before this ancient ritual occurred that Yeshua gave His disciples instructions that would set into motion His arrest and crucifixion.
“Now, as they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Yeshua sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village before you. Right away, you’ll find a donkey tied up and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Master needs them.’ And right away he will send them.”
This happened to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘See, your King is coming to you,
humble and sitting on a donkey,
a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
The disciples went and did as Yeshua had directed them. They brought the donkey and colt and put their clothing on them, and He sat on the clothing. Most of the crowd spread their clothing on the road, and others began cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. The crowds going before Him and those following kept shouting, saying,
“Hoshia-na to Ben-David!
Baruch ha-ba b’shem Adonai!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hoshia-na in the highest!”
When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds kept saying, “This is the prophet Yeshua, from Natzeret in the Galilee” (Matthew 21:1-11).
The fact that the people were there with palm branches suggests that Yeshua, the true Lamb of sacrifice came through the Eastern Gate before the High Priest arrived. The people rightfully proclaimed “Hosanna” to the Lamb of God. It was right after this incident that the Pharisees and Sadducees, who wish to find a reason to arrest Yeshua, began to question or inspect Him for any “blemish.”
The Bridal Price Negotiation
After the Last Supper (Passover) Yeshua and some of His disciples retired to the Garden of Gethsemane where Yeshua (foreknowing what agony He would face) agreed to pay the price for His bride.
Then they come to a place whose name is Gethsemane; and Yeshua says to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He takes with Him Peter, Jacob, and John; and He began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 And He tells them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch” (Mark 14:32-34).
The Arrest on The Mount of Olives
It was on this mountain, east of the Beautiful Gate, that Yeshua gave Himself over to authorities.
45As soon as Judah came, he drew near[f] to Yeshua and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 46 Then they threw their hands on Yeshua and seized Him. 47 But one of the bystanders, drawing his sword, struck the servant of the kohen gadol and cut off his ear. Yeshua said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs, to capture Me as you would against a revolutionary? 49 Every day I was with you in the Temple teaching, and you didn’t seize Me. But this is so that the Scriptures[g] would be fulfilled” (Mark 14:41-49).
The portal opens to receive Him.
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany (on the Mount of Olives), he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven (Luke 24:50-51).
…they watched as He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently into the sky as He was going when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).
Divine acts continued to happen on this sacred spot through Yeshua’s disciples.
“And a certain man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful, so he could beg for tzedakah from those entering the Temple. 6 But Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you—in the name of Yeshua ha-Mashiach ha-Natzrati, get up and walk!” 7 Then grabbing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately the man’s feet and ankles were made strong. 8 Jumping up, he stood and began walking; and he went with them into the Temple, walking and leaping and praising God! 9 Now all the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 They began to realize he was the one who used to sit begging for tzedakah at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, and they were filled with wonder and astonishment over what had happened to him (Acts 3:2,4-10).
We learn in Luke 21:37-38 that every day Jesus taught at the Temple. Early in the morning, all the people would come to hear Him teach, but every evening He went out to spend the night with His disciples at his favorite place—the Mount of Olives.
One evening while Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately and asked about His teaching. “Tell us,” they said, “when will all this happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”
In Matthew 24:30, Yeshua foretells a prophetic act that would occur on the very place they stood. “At that time, the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.”
An Attempt to Thwart Yeshua’s Return
Archeologists have found and verified that the east gate of Solomon’s First Temple is indeed still beneath the visible Golden Gate. Currently located on this Holy hill or “Temple Mount” is Islam’s Al Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, and the Dome of the Spirits.
The Dome of the Rock is known as the place of the “Foundational Stone,” where Jewish tradition declares all earthly creation began, hence the axis Mundi – the spiritual portal. And according to archeologists and scholars, the probable place of the Holy of Holies lies beneath the Dome of the Spirits.
After the Crusader defeat by Saladin in 1187 AD, the Golden Gate was closed. Two and half centuries later, Suleiman the Magnificent was determined to thwart the Jewish tradition of the Messiah returning via the Golden Gate. Thus in 1540-41 AD he sealed the gate shut.
In front of the Golden Gate lies a massive Muslim cemetery. In fact, dotted along either side of the Kidron Valley lie thousands of graves. Some Muslim. Most Jewish. Ironically, both cemeteries lie there because of the Messiah and His connection to the Golden Gate.
Two Cemeteries and Two Purposes
The largest Jewish cemetery in the world dots the side of the Mount of Olives as it slopes down into the valley that separates it from the city of Jerusalem. Jews pay a dear price to be buried near the place of the coming King, hoping because of their proximity to the Gate they will be among the first to be raised.
On the other side of the Kidron Valley, sloping up towards the Temple Mount, a large Muslim cemetery blocks the Eastern Gate. While Muslim tradition also places the resurrection in the end days occurring in front of the Eastern Gate, the reason for burying their dead on this sacred ground is quite different. Muslims ascribe to the belief that the graves represent an attempt to “defile” anyone who would ascend the hill in order to enter the gate. Consequently, this cemetery, coupled with the gate being sealed shut, are Islamic attempts to dissuade the Messiah from returning to Jerusalem.
Yeshua Fulfills Prophecy – The Place of Return
When Jesus performed His first Triumphal Entry, He was proclaiming Himself as Messiah by entering Jerusalem from the east. He fulfilled in part the passage in Ezekiel about the Prince returning and entering by the Eastern Gate. This bold and daring move on His part set the stage for the showdown with the scribes and Pharisees, which led to His arrest and ultimately His crucifixion.
Jesus entered Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate around 30 A.D. (long before it was blocked by the Ottomans) as he came down from the Mount of Olives and entered the temple according to our understanding of Luke 19:28-48. His entry was through the original Eastern gate which was destroyed with the city by the Romans in 70 A.D. Ezekiel says concerning this closed gate that the “Prince” (Messiah) shall enter it again. Yeshua, having entered the city, said that he would not be seen again until Jerusalem acknowledges him by saying “Blessed is He, who comes in the Name of the Lord”. (Matthew 23:37-39). The Eastern Gate is presently considered by the Arabs to be their exclusive property. And though it is sealed up and blocked off, the Messiah will land on the Mount of Olives, with all His saints, and walk down through the Kidron Valley, again enter the Eastern Gate and triumphantly into His Temple.
An Earthquake Will Create a Valley
Today, the Golden Gate is the only sealed gate of the Old City of Jerusalem and has been that way for nearly five hundred years. However, while access to the gate remains restricted, the belief that the Messiah will return to rule over Jerusalem and the world by entering the city through this sacred and prophetic place does not wane. How will He do it?
“In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which lies to the east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a huge valley. Half of the mountain will move toward the north and half of it toward the south (Zechariah 14:4).
There is a fault line that runs under the Mount of Olives straight to the East Gate, that is the former gate from the time of Yeshua. At that time the entire Muslim cemetery will be destroyed as the “first” East Gate, the one Yeshua traveled through, will be exposed.
The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabah. Jerusalem will be raised up and occupy her place, from the Benjamin Gate to the place of the First Gate (or the former, First Century East Gate) to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. People will dwell in her, and no longer will there be a ban of destruction—Jerusalem will live in security” (Zechariah 14:10-11).
And so, the Golden—Eastern Gate remains as one of the most interesting and mysterious of the gates of Jerusalem, with still more secrets left to be uncovered and prophecies to be fulfilled.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. How fortunate are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the Tree of Life and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:13-14).
May you be prepared as a Bride waiting for her groom – may your garments be washed, and may you enter with Him through the Beautiful Gate where you will dwell with Him in His Holy City forever.