New Jerusalem and the Center of Creation
Commentary for December 16, 2004 — God’s Presence on Earth
There is a basic misunderstanding that many prophetic commentators have regarding the New Jerusalem and the importance that it holds. This commentary will clarify some of these issues.
There are two Jerusalems in existence at this moment. One is the physical Jerusalem in the country of Israel, the same city where Jesus and the apostles walked. And there is another Jerusalem, the present abode of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
“New Jerusalem” is also referred to as Jerusalem that comes down from heaven in the future (Revelation 3:12, 21:2, 10) and the “Jerusalem which is [present tense] above” (Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 12:22). There are other references to this city in heaven, which is also God’s Temple (God’s house, if you will) in heaven. All speak, apparently, about the same thing.
The New Jerusalem is first mentioned explicitly by that term in a statement by Christ to the ekklesia of Philadelphia in Revelation chapter 3:
“Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, [which is] new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and [I will write upon him] my new name. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.”First note that in this passage,
• Revelation 3:12–13
(words in brackets are mine)
“Temple of my God” = “the city of my God” = “New Jerusalem”There is every reason to equate these three as the same structure. The heavenly Temple is God’s city, the name of which is New Jerusalem. Note also that the believer who triumphs over the pressures of life and in faith overcomes (to the end of his or her life, or to the resurrection at the return of Jesus Christ to this earth) will receive several things:
(1) He will be made “a pillar in the Temple of My God” (Christ is speaking),These conditions and markings are not given for God’s benefit. (He certainly knows who His children are.) They will be given not so much for the individual receiving them (although they will be gifts of God), but they are given for the benefit of others who are outside of New Jerusalem — which is the Temple of God — at that time to distinguish those who are part of the city of God, the family of God, and those who are not.
(2) “He shall go out no more” [i.e., he shall always be part of God’s Temple]
(3) God’s name [the seal of God] will be written upon him, and
(4) “The name of the city of God, New Jerusalem,” will be written upon him.
It is likely that New Jerusalem has a connection to Jesus statement in the Gospel of John, otherwise the verse is rather meaningless. Jesus spoke to the disciples (after Judas had left) about the future:
“Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions [Greek, mone, abodes, dwellings, plural]: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”Many people today do not realize it but the Jerusalem Temple in Jesus’ day had apartments within the precincts of the larger sanctuary for the priests who ministered in the Temple. They would stay in those apartments during their ministry when they were “off duty” and they would maintain their ritual cleanliness. This mention of “mansions” or dwelling places in heaven would be figurative, but they also likely have a reality, in the same way that the apartments in the Jerusalem Temple in Jesus’ day were a reality.
• John 14:1–4
The priests slept in the apartment called Chamber of the Hearth. See Tamid 1:1–2 and Middoth 1:8–9 in The Mishnah (Danby translation, London: Oxford University Pres, 1958), pp. 582, 591. Although after the resurrection there will be no need to sleep (and I presume we will not do so), the apartments, dwellings or abodes in God’s New Jerusalem will serve more as offices rather than as sleeping quarters.
See the article “Temple Symbolism in Genesis” which demonstrates what the apostles knew regarding the symbolism of the Temple. Even so the apostles did not understand what Jesus was saying.
While the apostles knew about the apartments, dwellings or abodes within the physical Temple, it is clear that when Jesus’ disciples first heard these words, they did not understand their full implication even though they knew that the Tabernacle and their present Temple represented God’s palace in heaven. Note Thomas’ question in John 14:5 that indicates this misunderstanding.
The Greek word “mansions” in the King James Version is the same word used later in that chapter. Its repeated usage is intentional:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode [Greek, mone, abode, dwelling, in this instance singular] with him.”
• John 14:23
The apostle Paul tells us that even today our bodies, as repositories of God’s Holy Spirit, are termed to be temples:
“Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] you are.”This presence of God’s Holy Spirit is a more powerful reality than we imagine (or can imagine). God’s Holy Spirit (“the power of the Highest,” Luke 1:35) within us is what marks us, and energizes us to be recognized as righteous and suitable for spiritual resurrection at Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15:42–46; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).
• 1 Corinthians 3:16–17
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal [aionian, age-lasting] in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that has wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also has given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”
• 2 Corinthians 5:1–5
The ancient Hebrews, the fathers of the faithful, also sought that house. In the book of Hebrews it was termed a city, which is indeed what the New Jerusalem shall be, a complete city.
“For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. ... These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly [country]: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he has prepared for them a city.”The apostle John describes a physical structure that comes down from heaven. He is in awe of its majesty and glory. It has walls, streets, gates and other identifiable aspects of a city. It is 12,000 furlongs square and 12,000 furlongs tall. This could mean that the structure was a massive cube, or it could have a pyramid shape. The text does not specify.
• Hebrews 11:10, 13–16“For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”
• Hebrews 13:14“To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
• Revelation 3:21
“And the city lies foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.”Twelve thousand furlongs is approximately 1,364 miles on a side, and 1,364 miles tall. Such a structure would not fit (given the curvature of the earth) on the present size of earth. Of course, we do not know the size of the “new earth” that will come:
• Revelation 21:16
“And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; ... And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination, or makes a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”The new Jerusalem is specifically said to come “down out of heaven from my God.” (Paul too refers to a heavenly kingdom, 2 Timothy 4:18.) Some have questioned the nature of that New Jerusalem to come down and scoffed. They have said that it is a physically impossible — a city 1,364 miles on each side and 1,364 miles. This is indeed a physical impossibility on the present earth.
• Revelation 21:10–11, 22–27
But read the text of Revelation chapter 21, where the entire chapter deals with the creation of the new heaven (singular) and the new earth. We do not know the size of this new earth. It is nowhere stated. We do, however, know the dimensions of the New Jerusalem. It is gigantic. One would suppose that the new earth would be of such size and proportion that it would easily support New Jerusalem and be aesthetically marvelous — just as the vision of John describes.
New Jerusalem is not some mystical place. It exists — at this present time. It is being constructed and is being prepared. It is nearing completion. As more and more people receive God’s Holy Spirit, another place is prepared. It is in heaven waiting to come down after the 1000-year reign after Christ’s return, the millennium.
For us of the ekklesia of God, New Jerusalem will be a base from which we will reconcile the universe outside of earth. (See the “January 2003 Newsletter” where this is discussed.)
I encourage you to read (or reread) Chapter 16, “Resurrections from the Dead,” from Dr. Martin’s book The Essentials of New Testament Doctrine, particularly the portion that discusses the Great White Throne Judgment (pp. 244–246). The role of New Jerusalem is put in context with the entire post-Millennium sequence of events. It would also be useful to review Dr. Martin’s excellent article “The Geography of Heaven,” which will give additional insights about the nature and condition of heaven at the present time. New Jerusalem is part of that present geography.
You should become familiar with the scriptures regarding the New Jerusalem. Why? Because you will experience and view the tremendous reality of what John saw in vision of the new creation of heaven and earth.
You will be present when the New Jerusalem, the only remaining structure of the old heavens and earth, descends from the new heavens. You will be part of it. New Jerusalem will involve you and me and the apostles and the patriarchs, all of whom, as the body of Christ, are seated alongside God the Father legally at this present moment.
This is not some fantasy; it is a reality as sure as your reading these words at this moment. The only difference is that the future will be much more amazing and satisfying.
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