Would you please explain the concept of the "New Jerusalem," as described in Revelation 21 and 22?


We are told in Revelation 21 that John sees in a vision that God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21: 1; compare 2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 65:17-18; 66:22; Psalm 102:25-26)—apparently after this earth and the heavens have been burned up (compare 2 Peter 3:7, 10). There will be no more sea on the new earth (Revelation 21:1)

In addition, John sees the “holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2). This is a literal city–albeit not physical, but spiritual (For more information on the spiritual nature of the new Jerusalem, please read our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World.”). That this city is literal and not just a symbolic reference to the church, for example, can be seen from the very detailed and specific description in Revelation 21:10-22; 22:1-5. We are told in Revelation 21:2, in conjunction with other Scriptures, that God is presently “preparing” this city in heaven (compare Revelation 3:12; Hebrews 11:9-10; 12:10, 22; 13:14; Galatians 4:26). We also read that Jesus Christ is presently “preparing” for us a place in the “Father’s house”–the new Jerusalem (John 14:1-3).

When the heavenly Jerusalem descends to the new earth, Jesus Christ and the saints will have ruled on earth for 1,000 years and an additional 100 years during the Great White Throne Judgment. Then, God the Father Himself will also come down to live with Jesus Christ–the Lamb of God–and the saints (Revelation 21:3). At that time, there will be no more death (Revelation 21:4; 1 Corinthians 15:26), and nobody will be able to enter the city who does not keep all of God’s commandments (Revelation 22:14).

The new Jerusalem is described as the “tabernacle of God… with men” (Revelation 21:3). Lehmann Strauss, The Book of Revelation, states on page 350: “The ancient tabernacle in the wilderness represented God’s presence and glory in the midst of Israel… The word translated ‘tabernacle’ is ‘skene,’ which literally means, ‘the place where God dwells.’ This means that God will make His tabernacle with His saints forever and ever; He will give His presence to them forever and ever. ‘Behold the tabernacle [‘skene’] of God is with men, and He will tabernacle [‘skenosei] with them’ [compare Revelation 21:3].”

Scriptures such as Ezekiel 40:2; 47:1-12; and Isaiah 60:3-22 reveal to us that a physical forerunner of the heavenly Jerusalem will exist in the Millennium–prior to the events described in Revelation 21. However, in comparing the descriptions of the future “earthly” Jerusalem and the new “heavenly” Jerusalem, we find remarkable differences. For instance, while the earthly Jerusalem will have a temple (Ezekiel 47:1), there will be no temple in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:22). Rather, “in God’s Holy City, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, is the Temple… [This wording could be misunderstood. In accordance with Revelation 21, 22, “… the Lord God Almighty (God the Father) and the Lamb (Jesus Christ) ARE the temple.”] Ezekiel saw healing waters proceed from the altar in the temple, the place of sacrifice (Ezekiel 47:1), but in the new order it issues forth from the throne, the place of sovereignty, for in that day there will be no need for a sacrifice” (Strauss, pages 354, 359).

The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown states:

“The descent of the new Jerusalem out of heaven is plainly distinct from the earthly Jerusalem in which Israel in the flesh shall dwell during the millennium, and follows… the creation of the new heaven and earth. John in his Gospel always writes [Greek] Hierosoluma of the old city; in the Apocalypse always Hierousaleem of the heavenly city… Hierousaleem is a Hebrew name, the original and holy appellation. Hierosoluma is the common Greek term, used in a political sense.”

The Life Application Bible adds: “The new Jerusalem is where God lives among his people. Instead of going up to meet him, he comes down to be with us, just as God became man in Jesus Christ and lived among us (John 1:14).”

The new Jerusalem is described in much detail. Even its dimensions are clearly revealed.The Broadman Bible Commentary explains that the heavenly Jerusalem “is cubical… Its length, breadth, and height are equal; each dimension was measured at… 1500 miles… The walls were… about 216 feet…” Unger’s Bible Handbook adds: “This could mean 2,250,000 square miles on each tier of the cube extending 1500 miles upward, like a huge skyscraper with innumerable floors.” Halley’s Bible Handbook writes: “A Cube, of which the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, a cube 15 feet each way, and the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple, a cube 30 feet each way, were types.”

Some commentators suggest that the new Jerusalem is in the form of a pyramid. The Wikipedia Encyclopedia explains:

“It is unclear whether the city is in the form of a cube or a pyramid… Many hold that the cubic form is more likely… However, the pyramid interpretation still has several adherents. A pyramid would allow a slope for the river of the water of life to flow down from the throne of God, and for the street of the city to ascend…”

The Wikipedia Encyclopedia continues to explain the volume of the new Jerusalem, as follows: “If in the form of a cube, it would have a volume of 11 thousand million cubic kilometers, which is about half the volume of the moon… If in the form of a pyramid, the New Jerusalem would have a volume of 3.7 thousand million cubic kilometers…”

In one of our Q&A’s, titled, “Who Is the Bride?,” we explain that even though the heavenly Jerusalem is–and will continue to be–a literal city, it has also symbolic significance and relevance. We pointed out:

“We have seen that the Church of God is called a ‘bride.’ Also, God’s Word reveals that He [Jesus Christ] addresses Himself as a Husband to Israel and that He will marry her forever in the future, after Israel’s conversion! Furthermore, the Bible also speaks of a ‘bride’ in an even greater context: ‘Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God’ (Revelation 21:9-10).

“Earlier, in Revelation 21, verse 2, we find this overview: ‘Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’

“Please note that the holy city, spoken of as the ‘bride,’ will descend to this [new] earth after the first resurrection, the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment. At that time, the heavenly Jerusalem, placed on earth, is compared with the bride; that is, it will be comprised of ALL of God’s saints. Most commentaries understand this analogy. For example, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say that the bride in Revelation 21:2 is ‘made up of the blessed citizens of the “holy city,”‘ and the Ryrie Study Bible states that ‘the heavenly city [when here on earth] will be the abode of all the saints, the bride of Christ…'”

In addition, let us note the following further symbolic significance of the heavenly Jerusalem:

The heavenly Jerusalem has twelve gates on which are written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 21:12). It has also twelve foundations on which are written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:14).

The Nelson Study Bible states:

“The description of the great and high wall that contains twelve gates named after the twelve tribes… of Israel echoes Ezek. 48:30-35. [Some] Commentators… interpret these twelve gates as representing all of God’s people, including both Israel and the church [our comment: it would clearly appear to include the church, the “Israel of God,” compare Galatians 6:16] … The twelve foundations, the huge stones upon which the wall of the New Jerusalem rests, contain the names of the twelve apostles of Christ (see Luke 6:13-16), calling to mind Paul’s imagery of the apostles as the foundation of the house of God in Eph. 2:20 (see Jesus’ promise to His apostles that they would occupy a prominent place in His kingdom in Matt. 19:28).”

Halley’s Bible Handbook points out:

“The Bible begins with a Garden, and ends with a City. The Holy City, New Jerusalem, Bride of Christ, Wife of the Lamb… ‘Holy City’ is the antithesis of ‘Babylon.’ Babylon, the Adulterous Church [described in Revelation 17, 18 and 19]. Holy City, the true Church, Bride of Christ. The Adulteress has disappeared. The True Wife, Glorified… Ancient Babylon, which had been given its name to the Adulterous church, was known as a ‘City of Gold’ (Isaiah 14:4), wonder city of the ancient world… Now the Real City of Gold appears in its Infinite Splendor and Magnificence.”

The New Student Bible, New International Version, contains the following annotation–comments in brackets were added by us:

“The last two chapters of Revelation contain numerous parallels to the description of the Garden of Eden in the first three chapters of Genesis. Revelation describes a new creation that excludes all the things that spoiled Eden. There will be no more night and death [Revelation 21:4, 25]. Satan will disappear forever [Revelation 20:10], and nothing impure will enter the new city [Revelation 21:27]. People [who have by that time become immortal Spirit beings] will walk with God again [Revelation 21:24-26], just as they [Adam and Eve] did in Eden. There will be no crying or pain [Revelation 21:4; and there will be no more curse, compare Revelation 22:3]. Once again humankind [by then made immortal] will rule over creation [Revelation 22:5], this time with open access to the tree of life [Revelation 22:2, 14]. Everything put wrong by human rebellion in Eden will be set right. In Eden, Adam and Eve were driven from the garden; in the new earth, they will see God’s face [Revelation 22:4].”

Jesus says in Revelation 2:7 that the tree of life is presently in the midst of the “Paradise of God.” “Paradise” describes a beautiful Garden, also called “Eden.” But it is a spiritual garden, which is presently in heaven (compare 2 Corinthians 12:1-4), but which will descend to this earth, together with the [spiritual] tree of life and the heavenly Jerusalem. A reference to the spiritual garden of Eden or Paradise can also be found in Ezekiel 28:13, where Lucifer’s fall from heaven is described.

We are told, in Revelation 22:2, that the leaves of the tree of life will be “for the healing of the nations.” This is not to be understood that physical sicknesses will exist at that time, which will have to be healed.

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible points out: “We are not to suppose that there will be sickness, and a healing process…, for that idea is expressly excluded in [Revelation] 21:4; but the meaning is, that the life and health of that blessed world will have been imparted by partaking of that tree; and the writer says that, in fact, it was owing to it that they who dwell there had been healed of their spiritual maladies, and had been made to live forever.”

Revelation 22:5 tells us that the saints will rule in God’s Kingdom forever and ever, compare Daniel 7:18. They will “inherit all things” (Revelation 21:7). However, as God’s children (compare again Revelation 21:7), they will always be obedient and submissive to God the Father (Revelation 22:3). As immortal members of the God Family, they will have access to the new Jerusalem–they will not and cannot sin anymore (1 John 3:9). We read in Revelation 22:14: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” God tells us that those who practice sorcery, murder, idolatry and lies, as well as other violations of God’s commandments, will not be allowed to enter the new Jerusalem (compare Revelation 22:15; compare Revelation 21:26-27). By that time, those practicing such things will have been burnt up in the lake of fire (compare Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8).

We are assured that the things written in the book of Revelation will shortly come to pass (Revelation 22:6). Christ will come very soon (Revelation 22:7, 10, 20), to reward each “according to his work” (Revelation 22:12). We are therefore admonished to be mindful of the prophecy of the book of Revelation (Revelation 22:7) and to continue to be righteous and holy (Revelation 22:11), as only those who endure to the very end shall be saved (Matthew 10:22; 24:13). God has opened our minds to His Way of Life, and He gives us the choice to respond accordingly (Revelation 22:17). We are specifically warned not to add to or delete anything from the things which are written in the book of Revelation:

“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book [better: Tree] of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

God’s true servants are admonished to persevere and to live by faith, not by sight (Revelation 13:10; 2 Corinthians 5:7). And with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:21), we can and will succeed.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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