New Jerusalem Unveiled

SYNOPSIS = The physical dimensions and shape of “New Jerusalem” are presented in preparation for its inhabitants – Revelation 21:9-23

Toronto Dawn - Photo by Yalın Kaya on Unsplash
John has seen a glimpse of “New Jerusalem” descending from heaven. Now, the time has arrived for the city to be unveiled in all its glory. The next section concentrates on its physical dimensions. What is presented is a vision, a reality communicated in symbolic language. In the present age, a city measuring twenty-four hundred square kilometers is a physical improbability. The enormous size of the city staggers the imagination, but sufficient room is necessary to contain the promised innumerable multitude of inhabitants.

The physical glory and size of the “city” prepare the reader for the subsequent description of its inhabitants - New Jerusalem is to be occupied by an innumerable multitude of men and women redeemed by the “Lamb” from every nation, not just a tiny remnant of faithful martyrs who barely escape from the claws of the “Dragon.”

The vision employs language and imagery from the Tabernacle in the Exodus story, and from Ezekiel’s vision of an idealized city and Temple (Ezekiel chapters 40-48). This background links “New Jerusalem” to the covenant people of God. The “holy city” is not a reconstituted ancient Tabernacle, Temple, or the city of Old Jerusalem, but the fulfillment of all that they foreshadowed.

The idea of a sanctuary in which the presence of God dwells but also limits its manifestation is transformed - His glory will fill the entire creation without any limitations. And the book of Revelation locates this ideal “sanctuary” foreshadowed in Ezekiel in the “New Jerusalem,” not in the ‘Millennium’.

The “Bride of the Lamb”
  • (Revelation 21:9-14) – “And there came one of the seven messengers which had the seven bowls that were full of the seven last plagues, and spake with me, saying— Hither! I will point out to thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in spirit unto a mountain great and high, and pointed out to me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God; having the glory of God,— her lustre like unto a stone most precious, as a jasper stone shining as crystal; having a wall great and high, having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve messengers, and names inscribed, which are [the names] of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel,— on the east three gates, and on the north, three gates, and on the south, three gates, and on the west, three gates; and the wall of the city having twelve foundations, and upon them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” - (The Emphasized Bible).
One of the seven angels carried me away in the Spirit unto a mountain great and high.” John was “carried away” by one of the seven angels that delivered the “seven bowls of wrath,” just as occurred in the vision of the “Great Whore.” The “bride,” “New Jerusalem,” is contrasted with the “Great Whore, the city of Babylon.” Previously John was “carried away” to the “wilderness” to see the “Great Whore” - now, he is carried in the spirit to a “mountain great and high” where he sees the “Bride” of the “Lamb.”

The image echoes the opening paragraph of Ezekiel’s lengthy description of an idealized city and Temple. The description of John “carried in the spirit” to a specific location where he receives a vision parallels the start of each of the four major divisions of Revelation:
  • (Ezekiel 40:1-4) – “In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year, in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day, the hand of Yahweh was upon me, and he brought me thither. In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me down upon a very high mountain, whereon was as it were the frame of a city on the south. And he brought me thither; and, behold, there was a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed; and he stood in the gate. And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thy heart upon all that I shall show thee; for, to the intent that I may show them unto thee, art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel.”
  • (Revelation 1:8) – “I came to be in the Spirit in the Lord’s day {on the isle of Patmos}, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.”
  • (Revelation 4:1) – “After these things I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard, a voice as of a trumpet speaking with me, one saying, Come up hither, and I will show thee the things which must come to pass hereafter. Immediately, I came to be in the Spirit: and behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting upon the throne.”
  • (Revelation 17:1-3) – “And there came one of the seven angels that had the seven bowls and spoke with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the judgment of the great harlot that sits upon many waters; with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and they that dwell in the earth were made drunken with the wine of her fornication. And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness: and I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.”
In Revelation, the “wilderness” echoes the story of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness prior to its entrance into the promised land. The “wilderness” corresponds to the “earth” in the present age - The church is a pilgrim people protected by God but harassed by malevolent forces during its sojourn. Thus, John saw the persecuting power of end-time “Babylon” persecuting the saints in the “wilderness” - (Revelation 12:6, 12:14).

Likewise, the “great and high mountain” corresponds to the “Zion” where the Lamb stood with the 144,000 saints “redeemed from the earth,” but all other “mountains” in the present age will “flee” at the arrival of the “Lamb” on the “day of his wrath” - (Revelation 6:12-17, 14:1, 16:20).

The holy city Jerusalem, descending out of heaven.” Note well that “New Jerusalem” descends to the earth – The “saints” do not ascend to it - (Revelation 3:12, 21:2).

"Her light was like a precious stone, a jasper stone clear as crystal.” The clause links “New Jerusalem” and its “glory” to the Throne in John’s vision of the “one who sits on the throne” - (Revelation 4:2-3 – “He that sat was to look upon like a jasper stone and a sardius”).

The point is not the kind of materials or the color of the stones from which the “city” is constructed; rather, it reflects the glory of the person who sits on the Throne - (Ezekiel 28:13).

The names of the twelve tribes of Israel.” This is another link to Ezekiel’s vision of an idealized city where the gates are named after the twelve tribes of Israel - (Ezekiel 48:31-34 – “The gates of the city shall be after the names of the tribes of Israel”).

Emeral Lake - Photo by clement fusil on Unsplash
Photo by clement fusil on Unsplash

Twelve foundations and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” This demonstrates that what is portrayed is NOT a reconstituted nation of Israel. The office of “apostle” was not instituted until the ministry of Jesus. Previously in Revelation, the book summoned the saints, the “apostles,” and the “prophets” to rejoice over the demise of the “Great Harlot, Babylon” - (Revelation 18:20).

The book of Revelation does not develop its understanding of church government. True “apostles” are only mentioned here and in Chapter 18. Be that as it may, the “twelve apostles of the Lamb” can only refer to the twelve disciples of Jesus who built the church.

Of more relevance is the close association of the “twelve apostles” with the “Lamb.” True apostleship means to follow the “Lamb wherever he goes” - To emulate the “faithful witness” of Jesus.

The Shape of the City
  • (Revelation 21:15-21) – “And he that was talking with me had for a measure a reed of gold, that he might measure the city and the gates thereof and the wall thereof. And the city four-square lieth, and the length thereof is as great as the breadth. And he measured the city with the reed,— twelve thousand furlongs: the length and the breadth and the height thereof are equal. And he measured the wall thereof,—  a hundred and forty-four cubits: the measure of a man, which is [the measure] of a messenger. And the structure of the wall thereof was jasper, and the city was pure gold, like unto pure glass. The foundations of the wall of the city with every precious stone were adorned: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, the twelfth amethyst; and the twelve gates were twelve pearls,— each one of the gates, severally, was of one pearl; and the broadway of the city was pure gold, as transparent glass.”
A golden reed to measure the city.” This recalls the vision of the “reed” given to John to measure the sanctuary. That reed was not “golden” but the one given to him now is made of gold. It is used to measure “New Jerusalem,” which is constructed of gold and many other precious materials.

New Jerusalem is measured to establish its physical parameters in preparation for its habitation. The massive dimensions are designed to house an innumerable multitude of redeemed men and women - (Ezekiel 48:8-35):
  • (Ezekiel 40:2-5) – “In the visions God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me down upon a very high mountain…there was a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed; and he stood in the gate. And the man said unto me…Declare all that you see to the house of Israel. And, behold, a wall on the outside of the house round about, and in the man’s hand a measuring reed six cubits long, of a cubit and a handbreadth each: so he measured the thickness of the building, one reed; and the height, one reed.”
The city lies foursquare…its length, breadth and height equal.” The dimensions are multiples of four and twelve – The numbers symbolize the people of God - (e.g., The “twelve tribes of Israel”). The 144 cubits recalls the company of the 144,000 males from the twelve tribes of Israel “sealed” for service to God - (Revelation 7:1-8, 14:1-4).

The altars of incense and burnt offering used in the ancient Tabernacle were both “foursquare” and constructed of shittim wood.” So, also, the “ephod” or breastplate worn by the high priest was “foursquare” - (Exodus 37:25, 39:9, 1 Kings 7:31, Ezekiel 40:47, 48:20).

New Jerusalem” is also “foursquare,” but it is constructed from gold and precious gems to stress its glory and permanence. It is not built of “shittim wood” or anything perishable. “Foursquare” stresses the idea of universality, as in the “four living creatures,” the “four corners” and the “four winds” of the earth - (Revelation 4:6, 7:1-3, 20:8-10).

The physical dimensions are massive - Twelve thousand “stadia” or approximately fifteen hundred miles long (twenty-four hundred kilometers), wide, and high. The proportions would be nearly impossible to build on the earth - Its boundaries are coterminous with the New Earth - The city encompasses the entire inhabited New Creation.

The foundations of the wall were adorned with every precious stone.” The twelve stones correspond to the gems that were displayed on the breastplate of the high priest when he performed his priestly duties. This is another symbol that points to the new people of God - (Exodus 28:17-20, 39:10).

No “Sanctuary” in the City
  • (Revelation 21:22-23) – “And sanctuary saw I none therein; for the Lord God, the Almighty, is the sanctuary thereof and the Lamb. And the city hath no need of the sun nor of the moon, that they should shine therein; for the glory of God illumined it and the lamp thereof was the Lamb.”
I saw no temple for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are the temple.” Revelation has not abandoned the biblical vision of a perfect temple; however, the entire “city” is now the “sanctuary of God,” the place where His glory dwells. No longer is the Temple contained within a narrow physical space – It, also, encompasses the entire New Creation.

In the book of Revelation, the sun and moon are parts of the old order that can be affected by God’s judgments; for example, the sun became “black as sackcloth” and the moon “became as blood” on the “Day of the Lord.” With “New Jerusalem” now filled with the glory of God, no longer is there any need for the sun, moon, or stars to provide illumination - (Revelation 6:12, 8:12, 9:2, 16:8).

The city is illuminated by the “glory of God,” and because the “Lamb” is the “lamp” in the city.  There is no knowledge or glory of God apart from Jesus, and it is in his role as the “slain Lamb” that he achieves all of this. Ever since the vision of the Throne, Jesus has been identified as the “Lamb,” and so he remains in the city of “New Jerusalem.”


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