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Saturday, October 25, 2014

The City of the Living God: 5 Biblical Facts about the New Jerusalem ( The 7th Era of Jerusalem)

To go to the first in this series of the " 7 Eras of Jerusalem" click on this link:
 The 7 Eras of Jerusalem

When the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century  - the only kingdom many people had known - Augustine of Hippo wrote his great work The City of God. One aim of this book was to comfort the people with the truth that though worldly kingdoms may fall, God's kingdom stands forever. Here we shall study God's everlasting kingdom.

Names and References of the City:

It is important to start with the Biblical texts that speak of the New Jerusalem and the names by which the Holy Spirit calls it. 

Galatians 4:22-26 “The Jerusalem above”

Hebrews 11:8-10 “ …(Abraham) waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

Hebrews 12:22-24 “The City of the Living God”, “The Heavenly Jerusalem”

Hebrews 13:12-14 “…Here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come."

Revelation chapters 21 and 22 -  These chapters go into great detail about the “Holy City”, “New Jerusalem” 

The Bible tells us it is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev 21:2). This is a term directly related to the Church but it seems clear to be understood that it is not the city itself that is the Church but rather those that inhabit it. 

Measurements and Features of the City:

Although Revelation is full of symbolism, we can take from the wording and context of Revelation 21 and 22 that this city is not merely symbolic but real and literal. If there is a capital of the Kingdom of Heaven, then this surely must be it.

The New Jerusalem has 12 gates of pearls, 12 angels at the gates and the names of the 12 tribes of Israel are over the gates. The wall of the city has 12 foundations of precious stones and in them are the names of the 12 apostles.  The wall is also 144 cubits high (12 x 12). The city is “laid out as a square” or cube measuring 12,000 furlongs which is about 1,400 miles wide, long and high. 

The Holman Bible Dictionary says "After seven, the most significant number for the Bible is undoubtedly twelve." And another source defines its symbolism as such: "It represents divine authority and appointment, as well as governmental foundation and perfection..."    ( - This is congruent with most other Bible scholar definitions)

There also abides in that wonderful place a “pure river of water of life” and the Tree of life. 

What Isn’t There:

The city is defined as much by what is not there as by what is there. There is no temple there, no need of the sun or moon but neither is there any night and finally -  O blessed thought - there is no curse there. Instead the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple and its light and in place of the curse is the blessing of God’s unhindered presence  - His throne is there and we shall see His face! 

Neos vs Kainos ( Two Different Greek Words): 

There are two specific Greek words used in the New Testament to describe something “new”. They’re definitions are very different though so it is worth noting which is used. The Greek word for new used in combination with the New Jerusalem and the New Heavens and New Earth is Kainos. 

Vines tells us that Neos is new in terms of time, recent; whereas Kainos is new in terms of form or quality. The best Scriptural example is probably Luke 5:38 where Jesus likens new ( neos) wine being put into new (kainos) skins. The wine has not aged and is therefore literally new, just begun. The skins however could have been made long ago but have not yet been used – they are new in quality “never been used”. The same word Kainos is used to describe the tomb that was given to bury Jesus (Matt 27:60) – it must have been carved out a while before but the point is that it is new in quality, fresh – no dead body had ever been laid there before. 

Earthly Jerusalem compared to Heavenly Jerusalem:

As both the word “Kainos” and the passage in Galatians implies, The New Jerusalem seems to exist already but has not yet come down to us or been presented to us. This will not happen until the end of all time – at the very end of Revelation. This city differs from the earthly Jerusalem in that it is Holy, New and Heavenly yet it is specifically named Jerusalem so as to keep the continuity of the importance of that earthly city – where, above all else, our Saviour was crucified. 

It is most interesting to understand that this picture of Heaven is not one of us floating alone on a cloud but of a vibrant and beautiful community unmarred by sin. It is all about fellowship – chiefly with God but also with our fellow believers. 

As David Guzik points out, “Problems arise when believers expect this kind of community now, or fail to realize it only comes down out of Heaven. This city is not, and never can be, the achievement of man, but only a gift of God.”

So how do we obtain entrance and citizenship in this blessed city? How do we end up living where God lives? For that is the chief and defining value of Heaven – to be with God our Maker, forever, unhindered by these broken bones and endless sins. 

The answer is Jesus Christ who is so often referred to in Revelation as “The Lamb”. It is by His blood, His sacrificial death that our passports to this celestial city are stamped and approved. 

Revelation 22:17 says it this way   “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” 

The key to the city gates are in the hand of Jesus and His hand is clearly reaching out to us. Yet it is not this city itself that is to be desired above all but its Central Inhabitant – Its Temple, Its Light… Jesus Himself. He is truly the Way, the Truth and the Life.

I knew a wonderful man whose favourite hymn was called “No Night There”. He has since passed and I realize he knows all of this now in a more intimate and enlightened way than we here on earth could imagine. Here are some of the words to that old hymn:

“In the land of fadeless day
Lies the city foursquare;
It shall never pass away,
And there is no night there.
God shall wipe away all tears,
There’s no death, no pain, nor fears,
And they count not time by years,
For there is no night there.”

Jerusalem, ultimately, is for us all – for any that would come to Jesus in repentance and faith and make Him their King. 

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” Philippians 3:20

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