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New Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, NEW. A name found twice in the Bible (Rev.3.12; Rev.21.2) where the new Jerusalem is described as coming down out of heaven from God. In Rev.21.2 it is also called “the Holy City,” and in Rev.21.10 “the Holy City, Jerusalem.” In Rev.21.10-Rev.22.5 the city is described in material terms, as though it were literal. It is in the form of a cube, 1,500 miles (2,500 km.) square; its walls are of jasper; its streets, of gold; the foundations of the walls are precious stones; its twelve gates are of pearls. For light it needs neither moon nor sun. A pure river of water of life flows through it; and in the midst of it there is the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

Views on the nature of the city, whether it is literal or symbolic, and on when it comes into existence are legion. Hardly any two expositors fully agree, but in general there are two main views. Some hold that the city is a symbol of the ideal church as conceived in the purpose of God and to be fully realized in his own time. The church, allegorically depicted by the city, is of course already in existence, but God’s ideal for it will not be reached until the new age has been ushered in by the Lord’s return. The great size of the city denotes that the church is capable of holding almost countless numbers. The fact that the city descends “out of heaven from God” means that it is the product of God’s supernatural workmanship in the historic process of redemption. In support of this view it is said that in Rev.21.9-Rev.21.10, when John is told that he would be shown the bride, the Lamb’s wife, he is actually shown the New Jerusalem; and, moreover, as Jerusalem and Zion often refer to the inhabitants and faithful worshipers of the Lord, so the new Jerusalem is symbolic of the church of God.

Those who consider the New Jerusalem a literal city usually regard it as the eternal dwelling place of God. Premillennialists believe see it as a special creation of God at the beginning of the Millennium, to be inhabited by the saints, first during the Millennium and then, after the creation of the new heaven and new earth, throughout eternity. It would seem, however, that the city will not be in sight during the Millennium but will be above the earthly Jerusalem. The saints in the city will have the privilege of seeing the face of God and of having his name on their foreheads. Some expositors hold that the New Jerusalem as a literal city does not appear above Jerusalem during the Millennium and that the description in Rev.21.10-Rev.22.5 has reference to the eternal state.——SB

NEW JERUSALEM, ̔Ιερουσαλὴμ καινή. It is the ultimate center where the glorified redeemed of all ages dwell eternally with God and His holy angels in perfect bliss after all aspects of resurrection and judgment and the creation of a new heaven and earth.

The city should not be understood as only symbolic of the redeemed. It is distinguished from them (Rev 21:24-27; 22:2-5). Also, if the King (Christ) and redeemed have literal substance in glorified bodies, the city most likely is literal. Further, the new heaven and earth are evidently as literal as the old, and this would naturally be true also of the New Jerusalem. Descriptions of size and other matters also suggest this.

The size of the city as given in Revelation 21 totals 1,342 m. in length, breadth, and height (round number 1,500). Scholars debate its shape, cube or pyramid. Only the redeemed, all of whom are overcomers by faith (1 John 5:4, 5; Rev 21:7), are there. It is made of precious stones. The streets are gold and, since God makes all things new (21:5), it is irrelevant to object that gold is a poor paving substance. Names of the twelve tribes on the gates and twelve apostles on the foundations represent both Israel and the Church as present. Kings bring glory and honor into the city (21:24), evidently in the sense that they render the glory they had to Christ or else they share in His glory and reflect it in their individuality and to their capacity. All conditions there are ultimate.

Where does the new Jerusalem fit timewise? Some place it immediately after Christ’s return, viewing the thousand years (Rev 20) as symbolic of the present age (amillennialists). Others see this age progressing into a golden era before Christ comes (postmillennialists). Most premillennialists see the sequence as: Second Coming, thousand year rule of Christ on earth, judgment on Satan, great white throne judgment, new heaven and earth with new Jerusalem. In this latter group, some believe that the new Jerusalem described in 21:9-22:5 is the millennial city on earth. Others have it suspended in close proximity to earthly Jerusalem during the millennium as the habitation for resurrected saints who already have entered into their eternal state, but have access to earth to rule with Christ. Still others say that the new Jerusalem conceived of here is just as it is in 21:1-8, after creation of new heaven and earth. Conditions described have the ultimate, eternal bliss in view. See J. D. Pentecost, Things to Come, for reasoning behind all views.


G. N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, III (1952), 32ff.; J. D. Pentecost, Things To Come (1956); R. C. H. Lenski, Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (1957); J. F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (1959); E. Sauer, Triumph of the Crucified (1960); J. O. Buswell, Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, II (1963), 434-538; J. F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (1966); W. Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (1967); A. J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (1968), 442-515.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


See New Jerusalem; Revelation of John.