The New Jerusalem

By Ferrell Jenkins

The name “Jerusalem” is used only three times in the book of Revelation, in the following passages:

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name (Rev. 3:12).

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2).

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (Rev. 21:10).

Two other references to Jerusalem are to be found in Revelation 11. The “holy city” is mentioned in verse 2 (cf. Matt. 4:5). Verse 8 describes the city where the two witnesses were left dead in the street of “the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” “Mount Zion,” one of the principal hills upon which Jerusalem was built, and which became synonymous with Jerusalem, is mentioned only once in Revelation (Rev. 14:1).

Jerusalem dominates both Old and New Testaments as the most prominent city of the Bible. After David took the city from the Jebusites, his son Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem; it became the center of worship for fleshly Israel. On the plains of Moab, before they entered Canaan, the Israelites were told to “seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God shall choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling,” and to offer their sacrifices at the place (Deut. 12:5-6). 1 Kings 8 implies that Jerusalem, where Solomon built the temple, was the place God had chosen for his name. The dedication of the temple is described in these terms: “And it came about when the priests came from the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kgs. 8:10-11; see also 2 Chron. 5:13,14; 7:1-3).

New Jerusalem

Remember, however, that it is not “Jerusalem” to which John makes reference, but “new Jerusalem.” The figure of the new Jerusalem is drawn from the old Testament, yet is independent of it. Several of the components of the new Jerusalem of the Apocalypse are drawn from Ezekiel’s vision of the reconstructed temple (Ezek. 40-48). Stuart has well remarked:

The mind of the writer must have been most deeply imbued with that description of the prophet. Yet he is not so close an imitator as to expose himself to the appellation of a servile copyist. While everything in Ezekiel is perfectly before his mind, he ranges the field of vision for himself, and retains, modifies, omits, or creates anew, entirely at his pleasure. Hence while Ezekiel, after his usual copious manner, occupies nine chapters with his description of a new Jerusalem, and a new temple with its services, John occupies only twenty three verses, into which he has compressed all that is splendid and striking, while, at the same time, some portion of it is entirely original (Moses Stuart, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 11:378).

The Jerusalem about which John speaks is “not ‘new’ in the sense of being a replica of the literal city by the same name, but in supernal contrast with its earthly counterpart” (The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, VII:760). The Greek language leaves English a pauper in connection with the word new. English uses only one word to translate both kainos and neos. The same things may be described by both terms, depending upon the predominant idea. Behm explains, “neos is new in time or origin, i.e., young, with a suggestion of immaturity or of lack of respect for the old. Kaninos is what is new in nature, different from the usual, impressive, better than the old, superior in value or attraction” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 111:447). In describing the heavenly Jerusalem John has used the word kainos, implying the new quality of his city. This fact points up a difference between the city seen by Ezekiel and that seen by John: Ezekiel was looking for a restored city and temple, whereas John saw an entirely new creation.

The “new Jerusalem” is the antithesis of the great Babylon in the book of Revelation. The new Jerusalem is pictured as “coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2, 10). Babylon is presented as “the woman . . . clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, . . . drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” (Rev. 17:4-6). Instead of coming down out of heaven, the overthrow of the harlot is described in the terms “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” (Rev. 18:2).

The saints addressed in the book of Revelation were exhorted to “overcome.” The promises to those who overcome were expressed in different ways. To the saints at Philadelphia the Lord promised, “I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. . . ” (Rev. 3:12). The new Jerusalem is an ideal city prepared for the victors (Rev. 21). Let us live in such a way that we may enter in. (Most of this article in taken from my book, The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation. FJ.)

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 20, pp. 615-616
October 17, 1991