My Virtual Reality Tour Through Jerusalem’s Second Temple

And a danger of living in a virtual reality mindset.

Have you ever experienced virtual reality? I hadn’t. But a Tweet from my friend, Carl Rasmussen, changed that. He made me aware of a new exhibit in Jerusalem. I checked it out recently.

My Virtual Reality Tour Through Jerusalem's Second Temple

(Image: Screenshot from the promotional video below)

On our free day in Jerusalem on our recent tour, my wife and some friends and I decided to experience a virtual tour through the Second Temple. This exhibit is sponsored by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation (the same organization that hosts underground tours of the Western Wall).

After entering a small room and receiving some instruction on using the virtual reality equipment, the guide ushered us to a room with a dozen swivel seats, each outfitted with virtual reality glasses and headphones. I put the gear on.

Suddenly, I was all alone.

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Masada— A Place of Sanctuary, Suicide, and Inspiration

Israel's symbol of resolve still inspires us.

One visit to Masada is not enough. It’s no wonder. Masada looks as intimidating today as it did to those who stood at its base thousands of years ago. 

Masada— A place of Sanctuary, Suicide, and Inspiration

(Photo: The magnificent fortress of Masada. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Towering 1300 feet above the Dead Sea, this natural mesa looms tall across from the Lisan at the southern half of the Dead Sea.

Steep cliffs on all sides make the mountain look virtually impregnable.

And it was.

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Nazareth—Jesus’ Hometown with a View to the Past and the Future

Not many people can say they grew up on a hill that overlooked the battlefields of history. But Jesus could.

Jesus’ hometown sat off the beaten path and high on a ridge that overlooked the International Highway and the prominent Jezreel Valley.

Nazareth—Jesus’ Hometown with a View to the Past and the Future

(Photo: Nazareth Mount of Precipitation. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The gospels tell us Nazareth rested on a hill with a formidable precipice (Luke 4:29). From here Jesus cold see the battles of Israel’s history.

The city’s name likely comes from the Hebrew term netzer, meaning “branch” or “shoot.” Some scholars believe this represents the faith of those Jews who returned from exile. Their hope focused on the coming Messiah, the “righteous Branch” of David, promised by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15).

But when He did finally show up, they tried to throw Him over the cliff.

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Mount of Beatitudes—Beauty that Illustrates Truth

Seeing Beyond the Lake to Life

No matter where I stand to view the picture, the subject seems to be smiling. The hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee frame the lake like a portrait. In spring, the hillsides burst with wildflowers, fresh grass, and spectacular color. The tranquil slopes tower above fruit crops and fertile fields that stretch across the lush Plain of Gennesaret.

Mount of Beatitudes—Beauty that Illustrates Truth

(Photo: Mount of Beatitudes and Sea of Galilee, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Numerous places around the lake offer splendid panoramas.

  • The best view, by far, is atop Mount Arbel. Windy and requiring a walk, the vast landscape stuns every first-timer.
  • Another grand vista is the view from Kfar Haruv on the eastern side—I can see the whole lake from tip to tip. Impressive, for sure.

But the picturesque view from the Mount of Beatitudes offers visitors more than simply a beautiful view.

It offers a place to consider truth taught there by One who knew it.

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The Harod Valley—Your Overwhelming Anxiety Finds its Peace

Truths as enduring as the beautiful settings in which they occurred.

It’s amazing how history repeats itself in our lives. We think we’ve learned to deal with overwhelming anxiety, but each new day offers a new challenge we never would have expected.

The Harod Valley—Your Overwhelming Anxiety Finds its Peace

(Photo: The Harod Valley. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In ancient Israel, the Harod Valley gave stage to two sets of desperate situations. From threats to insecurities to death and hopelessness, in every case the overwhelming anxiety found its peace only one way.

It’s the same with your overwhelming anxiety today.

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Israel’s Negev Gives Enormous Hope for Your Barren Life

Nothing can stop God from fulfilling His promises.

Nothing can stop God from fulfilling His promises to those who believe in Him. In the mean time, it takes great vision to see something where there is nothing. Israel’s Negev provides a great example.

Israel's Negev Gives Enormous Hope for Your Barren Life

(Photo: Sculpture garden at Sde Boker, by שי קסל CC-BY-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)

Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, saw the vast expanse of Israel’s Negev as something that offered great potential. In 1953, he settled in the kibbutz Sde Boker, urging Israelis to help him tame the Negev into a new society for Israel.

To many, the idea seemed no more than a pipe dream. As a result, the plea fell on deaf ears, for the arid region receives barely eight inches of rain per year.

In the Negev, life has one uncompromising requirement: water. Through this simple need in the same land, God taught His people a life-giving lesson.

We can drink from it as well.

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How Antioch Can Energize Your Right Motivation for God

Where you are and who you are make all the difference.

Some cities have a geographical location that seems especially designed by God as a springboard for communication. Antioch on the Orontes, for example, bears the thumbprint of God.

How Antioch Can Energize Your Right Motivation for God

(Photo: The modern city of Antakya covers much of ancient Antioch. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Scripture’s first mention of Syrian Antioch refers to the city on the Orontes River, 300 miles north of Jerusalem. Antioch served as the Roman capital of Syria and ranked as the third largest city in the entire Roman Empire, behind Rome and Alexandria.

Its influence came from its location.

  • The river snaked southwest along a narrow valley between the Amanus Mountains and the harsh Lebanon Mountains.
  • This valley offered the easiest access inland for those traveling from the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Anyone journeying overland across the Taurus Mountains would have to pass by Antioch.

The land funneled all who traveled in this area by Antioch. No wonder the Lord chose this city as a springboard for the known world to hear God’s universal good news.

Antioch offers a great lesson in our motivation for God.

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Connecting the Rapture, Rosh Hashanah, and the Place of Trumpeting

A reminder of where our true hope lies.

Whenever I visit the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, I’m eager to walk to the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. I’ve never been to this corner on Rosh Hashanah or during the Feast of Trumpets, but I’d love to go there then. Archaeologists have uncovered a large portion of the first-century street that stretched north along the original Western Wall.

Echoes of Rosh Hashanah— To the Place of Trumpeting

(Photo: The southwest corner of the Temple Mount at left. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

One hundred meters north of the corner is the part of the Western Wall where locals and tourists pray. But beneath the ground, Jerusalem’s Central Valley has been filled in with the rubble of the Second Temple’s destruction in A.D. 70.  As a result, the beautiful modern plaza stands about 30 feet above the first-century street uncovered at the southwestern corner.

There at the corner lies a reminder of something Jesus predicted 37 years before the temple’s destruction.

And of a promise He made that could be fulfilled at any moment.

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Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea

More lies beneath the surface if we will simply explore.

When we think of the Red Sea, we tend to picture Moses holding up his arms and dividing the waters. This body of water parted like curtains in the opening act of Israel’s history. The parting of the sea set the stage for one of history’s most incredible escapes (Exodus 14:29-31).

Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea

(Photo: Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But this part of the Red Sea represents only half of its northernmost edges.

The sea has two fingers that point north, divided by the Sinai Peninsula. The more famous finger, the one that parted in the exodus, is the western one—today called the Gulf of Suez.

If the western finger of the Red Sea represented Israel’s beginning as a nation under God, the eastern section, or the Gulf of Aqaba, could embody Israel’s ongoing relationship with the Lord.

And it offers a spiritual lesson for those who will look below the surface.

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Hezekiah’s Tunnel and Wall Give a Lesson from Archaeology

Scripture is supported by what we can dig out of the ground.

The ancient world had a bully system that worked in straightforward terms. A nation would conquer a region and demand tribute—annual payment of money and goods. If you didn’t pay tribute, they’d come and kill you. Pretty simple system.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

(Photo: Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

King Hezekiah refused to pay tribute to the bully. So the Assyrians invaded Judah.

Archaeology has unearthed treasures that reveal Hezekiah’s faith in God. How does it strengthen your faith to see the Bible in archaeology?

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