Tuesday, August 09, 2005
More About the New Jerusalem
Revelation 21:9-10 tells us, “One of the seven angels . . . came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”
Some are so astonished by this that they don’t believe it, preferring to keep on believing that the city is the eternal home of the redeemed, instead of believing that it is the redeemed themselves.
For example, Randy Alcorn, in his excellent book, Heaven, comments (page 244) that the city can be symbolic of the church and still be a real city where we will live forever, comparing it to a wedding ring that symbolizes his commitment to his wife and is also a real, physical ring of gold. Of course, it can be both, but the text never says it is the place we will live. But it clearly says it is a picture of the Church.
In chapter 1, John sees seven candlesticks (verse 12). Later, he is told that the candlesticks are seven churches (verse 20). Is it possible that they are symbolic of seven churches and also seven literal candlesticks? Yes, it is possible, but the text directs us to understand how to think of them.
In chapter 17, we read an exact parallel to the presentation of the Holy City. “One of the seven angels . . . came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.’ . . . Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast . . . ." The angel proceeded to explain various aspects of the vision: heads, precious stones, pearls, gold, etc. Clearly, we are to understand this, not as a woman on a weird animal or as both the literal beings plus something else, but as a representation of the evil of Babylon.
So, when we come to chapter 21, we should likewise understand the precious stones, pearls, gold, streets, gates, etc., not as a literal city where we will live, but as a representation of the good of the Bride. The angel explicitly said he was showing the bride, the wife of the Lamb.
I have no doubt that in the resurrection we will live with very physical bodies on a very physical new earth, probably in great cities or small towns or rural areas. But let’s not force the description of the church in Revelation 21, against the clear statement of verse 9, into a futuristic portrayal of our eternal home. Let’s read with our eyes open.