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During the time of the First Temple the Eastern Gate (also called Shushan or HaKohan gate) was the main entrance into the Temple area. It was also the gate that Jesus entered on a humble donkey in His triumphal entry. If one were to stand on the Mount of Olives he could look over this Eastern Gate into the huge area presently north of the Dome of the Rock and see all the gates (at different levels) in a perfect line: the East (Shushan) Gate --Outer Court Gate --Inner Court Gate --Temple Entrance. The Talmud makes an interesting observation:
"All the walls which were there were high, except the wall in the east, so that the priest who burned the heifer, standing on the top of the Mount of Olives, and directing himself to look, saw through the gateway of the sanctuary, at the time when he sprinkled the blood." [Mishnah, Middot 2:4].
The Golden Gate (Eastern Gate) in the eastern wall of Jerusalem gave access to the courtyards of the Temple from the Kidron valley.
According to Jewish tradition the Messiah (Mashiach) will enter Jerusalem from the east. The gate has a special holiness; legend has it that the Shechinah (Divine Presence) used to appear through this gate and will appear again, and that in the meantime it must be left untouched.
The Arabs (Moslems) call this gate The Mercy Gate (Bab el Rahmeh) and according to the Koran, the just will pass through this gate on the Day of Judgment.
The Sealed Gate
It is interesting that this gate is the only one of the eight gates in Jerusalem that is sealed. The Arabs believe that since the Jews expect that Messiah would come through this gate (Sha'ar harachamim) they would try to prevent any possibility of His return.
The East gate was walled up by it's Muslim conquerors (the Ottoman Turks) with great stones in 1530 A.D. and a cemetery was planted in front of it thinking that the Jewish Messiah could not set foot in a cemetery and therefore would not be able to come. Many believe this was done to prevent the entrance of the Jewish Messiah through that gate as was foretold by known Old Testament prophecies. However, Ezekiel prophesied the shutting of this gate itself around 600 B.C. -- that it would be shut "because the LORD (Jehovah or Yahweh), the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut."
The East Gate and the Return of the Messiah
Neh. 3:29 "...the gate that looketh toward the east: And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east."
Ezekiel 44:1-3 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east; and it was shut. And he said to me, "This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut. Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way."
Jesus entered Jerusalem through the East 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. He would have entered through the original gate in the wall which was destroyed with the city by the Romans in 70 A.D. Ezekiel says concerning this closed gate that the "Prince" (which the Messiah is often called throughout the Old Testament and Jesus is called in the New Testament) shall enter it again. Jesus, having entered the city, said that he would not be seen again until Jerusalem acknowledges him (Matthew 23:37-39).
Today the Temple Mount is under Muslim control, and it is just over the golden (eastern) gate and has been guarded very closely even today.
The Eastern gate is presently considered by the Arabs to be their exclusive property. It is sealed up and blocked off. However one day, the Messiah will land on the Mount of Olives, with all His saints, and walk down to and right through the Eastern Gate and into the Temple area.