Today’s reading: Revelation 21
Today we see a glimpse of what existence will be like after the second coming. The world, indeed the entire universe, “heaven”, will be transformed and made “new”. This new heaven and earth will be a place of perfection with no mortal danger to us. We can tell this because it (1) “the sea was no more” and in Jewish thought, the sea was a place of danger and (2) God will dwell among men and “wipe away every tear”. Here is the verse:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
The question arises as to what is the city, the “new Jerusalem”? It is the old earthly city of Jerusalem transformed and glorified? Or is it an entirely new city? To me, for several reasons, it seems more likely that it is an entirely new city. Notice, what is said about the new Jerusalem:
And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
And he who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its breadth; and he measured the city with his rod, twelve thousand stadia; its length and breadth and height are equal.
So John is shown the new city “coming down” out of heaven. This implies that old city is not being transformed but that something new is being set down upon the earth. One recalls Jesus words that, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). In other words, it could be argued that this city was “constructed” in heaven and is not being made present on the new earth. Second, notice that the new city is a perfect cube, “its length and breadth and height are equal”. We know that the earthly city of Jerusalem is not a perfect cube. This again suggests that the new Jerusalem is something totally unique and different.
Finally, notice that the foundation of the city is laid on the twelve apostles. Historically, we know that Jerusalem is destroyed soon after the advent of Christianity. The foundation laid by the Apostles is not to the city of Jerusalem but of the Church. The gates of the new city are named after the tribes of Israel and indeed Judaism was the first gateway into the Church and still provides the vitally important context to understand the revelation of Jesus. Therefore, based on the evidence I think the verses suggest that the new Jerusalem is, in fact, the Church. This is corroborated by the fact that elsewhere the Church is described as, “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”. Elsewhere the Church is described as the bride of Christ.
For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church;
I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
2 Cor 11:2
Finally, unlike Jerusalem, there is no temple in the new city because Christ is the new temple and being ever present in the city there is no need for a temple.
Tomorrow: Revelation 22