THE SYMBOLISM OF THE NEW JERUSALEM
Copyright © 2013 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Some passages of Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:2,3)
Now, what is the “dwelling of God”?
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
“The dwelling of God is with men.” “You too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives.”
It is clear, then, that the Christian Church, which is the eternal dwelling of God, is the new Jerusalem. The new Jerusalem is the Tabernacle of God that will be with the citizens of the new earth during the ages of eternity.
The earlier description of the Bride, found in Revelation chapter 19, tells us that the Bride makes herself ready. This is a firstfruits of the Bride, who will be ready when the Lord next appears to the earth.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7,8)
However, the majority of the members of the Bride of the Lamb will be required to remain in the heavenly Jerusalem until she has been made ready by the firstfruits, the stronger Christians, who at the same time are governing with Christ the nations of people living on the present earth.
The firstfruits of the Church makes herself ready, with the assistance of the Lord Jesus. The majority of the Church will be made ready by the firstfruits, throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
So here we have two groups of people living on the new earth:
- We have the Royal Priesthood, the Christian Church, the new Jerusalem.
- Then we have the “men,” the people of the nations, who have chosen to serve Christ.
God has had a vision in His mind since Satan rebelled. It is a living temple which His person and His throne are in, and multitudes of people whom God can love, guide, and bless through a prepared priesthood. It appears that the description of the new world of righteousness, presented in the last two chapters of Revelation, is both real and symbolic. Part of it is real and part is symbolic.
It assuredly is true that the present earth and sky shall pass away with a great noise. There shall be a new sky and a new earth. There shall be a city that descends through the new sky to be installed forever upon the new earth. I believe this much is certain.
But the new Jerusalem is the dwelling of God, the Christian Church. And that is people! So I guess, when seen from the outside, it is an actual city. But I suppose God perceives some additional facts. We are so bound with time, substance, and distance that it is difficult for us to understand how things can look one way from the natural and another way from the spiritual.
We live with this duality all the time. The Bible says that we already are at the right hand of God in Christ. This is how God perceives us. But all that people see is a weak, seriously flawed human being. Isn’t that a fact? So to get at truth, we must consider what we see with our eyes and also what is true in a spiritual sense. I know you can see the sense of that. Let us think now of what God is telling us when we view the symbolic aspects of the new world of righteousness.
One of the major impressions of the new world of righteousness is the “wall.” The wall is made of jasper. It is large and has twelve foundations of various colors. The stones that compose the foundations are formed under great heat and pressure. Now, what is the wall telling us? It is highly significant! As you may recall, there was no wall in the Garden of Eden. Satan could enter readily. That was the first Paradise on the earth. But now, in the Paradise to be placed on the earth, there is a massive wall. The Church, the dwelling place of God, is protected by a wall.
What does the wall represent? It represents the resistance to sin that has been created in the saints. The saints are militantly righteous.
Here is the tremendous error of today’s Christian teaching and preaching. To a great extent, there is very little emphasis upon the development of righteous character. The general idea seems to be that Christ is righteous and we are righteous by identification with Him. Thus, our personality is not being created as a wall against sin.
In many passages of the New Testament, we are exhorted to gain victory over our sinful nature, and that failure to do so jeopardizes our position in the Kingdom of God. Yet from most pulpits, we hear that Jesus has “done it all” for us, and we only are to believe that He has done it all.
Sound familiar? That is the voice of Satan in our day.
We have made going to live in Heaven forever the goal of our salvation. It is not. The goal of our salvation is to be delivered from the person and all the works of Satan. It is to have a wall against sin created in us. It is to work with Christ in His war against lies and lawlessness. When we are not overcoming lies and lawlessness, we are not being saved!
The purpose for the thousand-year Kingdom Age is to bring to maturity in righteous behavior God’s elect who compose the Royal Priesthood, the new Jerusalem. They cannot serve as God’s priests over the people of the earth until they themselves are militantly righteous.
So we understand the foundations of the wall are being formed in us today. Only after the wall has been formed in us, will the new Jerusalem, the Christian Church, come down through the new sky and be installed upon the new earth.
God has determined to make an end of sin. The wall shall ensure that sin never again shall enter the Presence of God and His saints.
The twelve gates in the wall are made of pearl. Pearls are formed by the irritations in the shell of an oyster. They are of living material, not minerals hardened by heat and pressure. The gates symbolize the saints who have learned patience from many tribulations. They have the authority to permit the people of the earth to receive the Divine blessings found in the holy city.
Note that the names of the tribes of Israel are on the gates. I believe this is an important reminder to us of the fact that God has not changed His mind concerning His chosen people. We Gentiles are grafted on a Church that primarily and always is Jewish.
There is no church building in the new Jerusalem. God and the Lamb are themselves the Temple. Churches and church buildings are temporary accommodations to meet the needs of human beings. There being no temple is another way of saying there is no religion or religious trappings.
I suspect that religion is one of the greatest enemies of Christ. A Christian organization or a local church is doing God’s will only when it is pointing people away from itself toward the Person of the living Jesus. Far too often the emphasis of a Christian institution is on its own welfare.
The city is made of pure gold, as pure as glass. It is difficult to understand how the assemblage of the resurrected bodies of the believers could be made of pure gold. Perhaps this is a point at which our normal idea of what it means to be made of gold has to give way to the symbolism. Pure gold may be speaking of the pure faith of those who make up the city.
These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (I Peter 1:7)
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it. This tells us that as we press into Christ, the wisdom and knowledge of the world become less important to us as we are able to hear and see what Jesus is telling us.
Drinking without cost from the water of life certainly is speaking of the Spirit of God and not of literal water. Those of us who are pressing forward in Christ are changing from living souls to life-giving spirits. Out from us shall flow the rivers of living water that will bring life to dead mankind.
The people of the world whose names have been found written in the Book of Life will bring their treasures to the holy city. They will walk by the light of the Glory of God shining from the city, meaning that they will behave righteously as guided by the Spirit of God.
It’s gates will never be shut, for there will be no night there. This applies to us today. We need to be in prayer constantly so we always are prepared and ready to meet the needs of people when they come to us.
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)
We can see from this the error of the teaching of our day. Present teaching states that we can be a part of the holy city, or be saved to the new earth and enter the city, by “grace.” That is not the case. If we continue to be shameful or deceitful, the Scripture denies us entrance to the Kingdom of God. Our name will not be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and we will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
The present teaching of “grace” as an alternative to godly character is a grievous lie!
The pure water of life flowing from the Throne of God is referring to the life which the royal priests of the holy city will make available to all who come to the city. The water is clear. How often do we who are charged with the Gospel allow ourselves to become distracted by the things of the world, such that the “water” coming from us is not clear and pure?
One “great street” is mentioned. Ordinarily a large city (and the new Jerusalem is very large!) will have numerous streets. So we interpret this to mean that there is only one way of living that pleases God. That is the way of righteous behavior, of faith, of holiness of person, of stern obedience to God.
The Tree of Life is standing on each bank of the river of eternal life, the Life of Christ. How can one tree be on both sides of the river? It is because we who are dwelling in Christ are also trees of life. It is God’s will that every member of the Body of Christ be a tree from which all those who wish to live by the Life of God may come and partake, and be healed.
The Throne of God and of the Lamb resides in the city. Today, the Throne of God is far away in Heaven, it seems to us. This is not the Father’s will. God wants to be close to us so He can bless and guide us.
That is the purpose for the Church. It is to be the Throne of God and of Christ—a living Presence by which all of God’s creatures can experience the Persons of God and Christ. The Throne of God will come down from Heaven to be among people!
God’s servants will see His face and His name shall be on their foreheads. I take this statement rather literally, although seeing the Face of God is an unheard of privilege. I read once of a minister who was dying who said he was seeing the Face of God and did not want to be revived. I don’t blame him!
As far as God’s name on our forehead, I believe this symbolizes that we belong to God in a special way and always do His will. Perhaps it will be visible on our forehead, or something like that.
The servants of the Lord are blind to the light of this world, as Isaiah chapter 42 tells us. They can do nothing of themselves, only what they see and hear from Christ. Such servants will govern the works of God’s hands for eternity.
I think some of the angels mentioned in Revelation are spirit angels, while others are former human beings. The term “angel” means “messenger.”
Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:10,11)
The passage above indeed is remarkable, being so different from other statements in the Bible that exhort us to repentance. It must be that there is coming a time when the wicked can no longer repent—a dreadful situation to contemplate!
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12,13)
I am writing out these concluding verses in full instead of just alluding to them, because they are so needed in our day.
It is commonly taught that we will not be rewarded according to what we have done. “If we receive Christ, we will go to Heaven and live in a mansion. We can forget about our behavior on earth, or in the spirit world for that matter. There are no consequences that attend our behavior.”
That teaching is so terribly incorrect and destructive! Remember, that Revelation is the one book of the Bible that is bound with a curse, as to adding to it or removing from it.
My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. Yes, or no!
Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Revelation 22:14,15)
We wash our robes by confessing our sins and turning away from them, with the help of Jesus.
Today we would say, “You cannot live an unholy life and then enter through the gates into the city unless you accept Christ.” But that is not what Revelation says, is it? I think we had better get back to the Bible. I believe we are sorely in need of a reformation of Christian thinking.
The Spirit of God and the Bride, the new Jerusalem, both say “Come. Receive eternal life without cost.” Not just the Spirit, but the Spirit and the Bride. We are becoming a co-worker with the Spirit.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18,19)
Thus we discover that the last chapter of the Bible speaks about the need for us to live a righteous holy life. If we do, we will be able to bring eternal life to the nations of the earth. If we do not, we will lose our share of the Tree of Life, the Lord Jesus, and our part in the holy city.
A real new sky filled with stars of colors we have not known. A real new earth, no doubt many times larger than the present earth. A real holy city. A real Royal Priesthood. Real nations of saved people.
But hidden in all of these are numerous important messages to the Lord’s faithful saints, which are the topics discussed in this article.
(“The Symbolism of the New Jerusalem”, 3100-1, proofed 20210825)