Have you ever yearned to worship in Jerusalem? Have you ever thought to yourself, I wish I could worship in the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem? There are many sacred and desirable places that have been sanctified throughout history that would be very interesting and even emotionally moving placed to worship. The idea that Jesus actually was born, or was baptized, or lived, ate, drank and died in a certain location has for many hundreds of years been a magnet for Christians to want to worship in those locations. But are any of those places any more special than any other place? Maybe you just like to be in your home church in your favorite seat with your family. For some this is enough. But what of a day and a time where God said, “In this place and this place only will I accept worship from my people”. To live under such a restriction would make it hard for many to participate in legitimate worship.

We are currently constrained by our physical bodies as to place and time of our worship. But the issue of the location of worship was not always so clear cut. In the old covenant the ONE AND ONLY LOCATION for acceptable worship was Jerusalem. We do not now in the New Covenant have such a singularly restricted location. I can worship in New York City; I can worship in London, Moscow, Leipzig, or even Walla-Walla Washington. I can worship ANYWHERE and at ANY TIME. I can worship in my living room, in my back yard. I can worship with friends at the local diner over coffee and eggs in the morning. I can worship over lunch with my wife at our favorite Greek restaurant. I can worship by myself behind the wheel of my car on the interstate. I am not restricted in the New Covenant as to where or when I can worship. Under the old covenant there was a clear restriction…YOU MUST WORSHIP IN JERUSALEM. Moses made this very clear when he was preparing the nation of Israel to enter into the Promised Land when he said in many places:

Deuteronomy 12:5, But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come:

“AND THITHER THOUT SHALT COME.” No choice here. You WILL come to the place that the Lord your God chooses or you are not worshipping him properly under the requirement of the Old Covenant.

Deuteronomy 12:11, Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD:

ALL manner of worship must be done at this one and only location; “Burnt Offerings”, “Sacrifices”, “Tithes”, “Heave Offerings”, etc. ALL must be don’t in the place where God choose to cause his name to dwell…and nowhere else.

Deuteronomy 14:23, And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.

Deuteronomy 16:2, Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there.

Deuteronomy 16:6, But at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 16:11, And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there.

Deuteronomy 26:2, That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there.

Exodus 34:23: “Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the Lord God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.”

Here God is promising a blessing of protecting their homes when they come three times a year to Jerusalem for the required feasts. God felt so strongly that His people are to worship in Jerusalem, (the place He chose to place His name) that he guaranteed them protection while they were away on these required sojourns.

Now we have a few passages where God names Jerusalem as that one and only place where Israel may worship. As well he records for us the false places, the “High places”, places with “Altars” that God had Hezekiah destroy. The thing that drove Israel-the Northern tribes into captivity in Assyria was the fact that they neglected proper worship in Jerusalem by building “High places”, Groves” false centers of worship. In first Kings we have the account of Jeroboam, just after the kingdom was divided, where he instituted worship in Bethel and Dan.

1 Kings 12:28-32, So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.

The very next chapter; chapter 13 God sends a man to condemn this act of false worship. It was false worship because it was not in Jerusalem.

2 Kings 18:22, But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?

2 Chronicles 32:12, Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it ?

Isaiah 36:7, But if thou say to me, We trust in the LORD our God: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar?

The position of traditional dispensational-futurism is that in the Millennium all the people must come to Jerusalem to worship. Passages used by teachers of this position are Jeremiah 3:17 and Zechariah 14:16-17. I believe that this is in error and that the interpretation of these passages flies in the face of the words of Christ in John 4.

Jeremiah 3:17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.

Zechariah 14:16-17, And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts,and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.

But in John 4 Jesus is declaring to the women at the well that the restriction to worship at the one and only location (Jerusalem) is no longer a requirement in the New Testament. This being the case, why would we ever go back to a restrictive singular location? Where in the scripture are Christ’s words cancelled? Where in the scripture is this wide open worship declared in John 4 given restrictions to the church age?

John 4:19-24, The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

The bottom line is that the dispensational position takes the freedom that we have in our worship, in the gospel, and puts it back under Old Covenant law by restricting the location to Jerusalem once again. This freedom of worship that Christ gave to us in John 4 is part and parcel of the blessings of the gospel in the New Covenant. There is no passage in the scripture where this gospel blessing is overturned. And, if you can overturn the blessings of the gospel, are you not in essence overturning the gospel?

Today in the New Covenant we are never restricted as to time and place of worship. Yes we come together corporately in public worship at conveniently designated times and places. But we do not do this as a limitation of worship. We are still free to worship at any place and at any time. The Pre-millennial Dispensational-Futurist teaching contradicts this freedom.

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