By William R. Newell
Part Two: New Creation
1. It is a literal city, the materials, dimensions, appearance, appointments, inhabitants, divine glory and indwelling, and eternity of which are all distinctly declared.
2. It descends from God out of heaven. It is that better country and heavenly for which Abraham and the patriarchs looked. It is that place prepared for God’s saints. “He hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).
3. It will be peculiarly the home of the Church, the Lamb’s wife (Ephesians 5:27-32); others will be there, and many will have access (Revelation 21:24-26); but the Church will be as the wife in the home.
4. It will be vast indeed: a cube of at least fifteen hundred miles each way (Revelation 21:16). Much, indeed all, of our conception of that city must be in the realm of faith—along with that of our father Abraham, who “looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose architect and maker is God.”
5. It will be lighted directly by the presence and effulgence of God. This is thrice stated:
6. It will be a new city—corresponding with a new heaven and a new earth. Many have taught that during the thousand years it will be suspended over the earth. Many hold also that Revelation 21:8 is the end of the progress of the Book; while 21:9 on through chapter 22:5 turns us back to millennial times. They compare this passage with chapter 17:18, which describes in greater detail the character and overthrow of Babylon the great, although that overthrow really occurred in the preceding chapter (16:19).
Those who hold that Revelation 21:1-8 describes the eternal state while Revelation 21:9 to 22:5 reverts to millennial times, because we read in 21:24-26 that “the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof” the kings of the earth bringing “the honor of the nations into it”—seem to overlook several important points:
Now, Israel is God’s elect nation—elect not for the past, or even through the millennial age, but forever. Yet, if Israel be the elect nation, the existence of other nations is presupposed! You reply, “Were not nations the result of God’s judgment at Babel?” They were, doubtless. But God, when He acts in grace, is evermore bringing good out of man’s evil! When Adam sinned, Christ, as the Seed of the woman, was first announced. When Israel asked for a king, God, after Saul’s rejection, brought in David, in whom He lodged the royal Messianic counsels for all time to come. When Israel crucified their Messiah—the highest act of sin—God brought forth “abundance of grace” through Him who “tasted death for every man.”
At Pentecost, salvation was announced to every nation in its own tongue. Grace came to the nations without destroying or changing national existence, or even national individuality.
The prophet Zephaniah (3:9) indeed tells us of a coming day, when, saith Jehovah, “I will turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve him with one consent.” The word “language” here is in Hebrew lip, as it is in Genesis 11:1. But that national existence will not cease, is shown clearly by verse 20 of the same chapter: “At that time will I bring you (Israel) in, and at that time will I gather you; for I will make you a name and a praise among all the peoples (plural!) of the earth.”
7. The new Jerusalem is the capital city of God—the place of the divine presence and government of the universe. “The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein” (22:3). No other or further throne than this is described in the Word of God. As we have seen, various phases and aspects of the divine majesty have heretofore been exhibited in Scripture. Now it is “forever and ever.” Note that it is “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Christ, who delivered up the kingdom to God, yet shares that throne, as the One who redeemed these now blessed creatures unto God. The Redeemer abides in view of His people as the sacrifice and priest. In each view of the city, the Lamb is named. Seven times does the word occur in connection with the new Jerusalem (21:9, 14, 22, 23, 27; 22:1, 3).
God’s Eternal Plan Was to Be “With Men”
His “delight was with the sons of men” (Proverbs 8:31). Man was made in God’s “image” and “likeness.” Doubtless we will never know all that these terms mean! God was manifest in the flesh in Christ, the Son of man. Jesus, though crowned with glory and honor, remains man forever.
What the “delight” of God will be in this new earth “with men,” and what their capacity for knowing God, and progressing in that blessed and only real knowledge, can be measured only by eternity, and the infinity of God Himself; which is to say, it is utterly without limit! Marvelous and yet reasonable fruit of “the redemption that is in “Christ Jesus,” who “suffered for sins … that he might bring us to God.” Note the words “with men,” “with them,” “with them”—three times in one verse (21:3). Pause now, and consider this long and well.
It is astonishing, and yet should not be so, that there is no mention after Revelation 21, of those blessed beings previously seen as accompanying the throne of God: cherubim, seraphim, living ones, elders: it is now simply “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Not that those others are not there. They are, and are in ecstatic, eternal delight that God is revealed at last as they could not as mere creatures ever know him: as the blessed One who is LOVE. Those beings knew His eternity, His power, His holiness, and His Glory; and celebrated these attributes constantly—as in Revelation 4:8-11 and Isaiah 6. But now God’s heart goes fully out. He has, through infinite sacrifice, “brought many sons unto glory,” to be “conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Not only to these, the “church of the firstborn,” but to the various peoples of this new earth, His love is now, without limit, extended; and will be extended forever and ever. And in this will all holy beings find endless joy.
“LOVE IS OF GOD.” We can scarcely write here for awe and wonder! How should her Creator say to the Bride: “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; Thou hast ravished my heart with one look from thine eyes.” “Turn away thine eyes from me, For they have overcome me.”
Oh, how little do we know our God! How small is our widest thought of Him! Do we not see this great Bible He has given us going right forward against all obstacles, over all mountains, through all valleys, yea, to Gethsemane and Calvary—to come to this sweet, eternal consummation, that God may be WITH MEN, THEIR GOD? that He may wipe every tear from their eyes, that He may banish into the far forgotten past, mourning, crying, and pain; and say, “Behold, I make all things new”? For GOD IS LOVE!
Let this thought overwhelm us as we turn to the closing chapters of The Revelation, that while God’s lovingkindness is “over all his works,” it is never said in Scripture that God LOVED any but man! John, who writes this closing book of God’s blessed Word, cries, “We know and have believed the love which God hath in our case. God is love” (1 John 4:16). Let us, too, know it and believe it; and thus enter by faith this glorious new creation scene; bending low under this weight of glory, though yet we tread this earth. Let us know this love that passeth knowledge, and, breathing the fragrant air of the city of God, walk daily through its gates of pearl and walk by faith its golden streets, “giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Note About This Heavenly Jerusalem
I. It is a Literal City.
II. Its Object and Destiny.
III. Its Relation to the New Earth.
IV. The Blessedness of Its Dwellers.
We do well to return again and again to Revelation 21 and 22, for it is the end of the pilgrim path. The more distinct the vision to the pilgrim of the beauty and glory of the city to which he journeys, the less the immediate environments of his journey attract him.
I. It is a Literal City
1. Because of the literalness of its description. If gold does not mean gold, nor pearls—pearls, nor precious stones—stones, nor exact measurements—real dimensions, then the Bible gives nothing accurate nor reliable. There is no one on earth who can assure your heart concerning the meaning of these “symbols”—if they are symbols! Nowhere in God’s Word, for instance, is there any account of the “symbolism” of precious stones. Twelve such stones are found in the high priest’s “four-square” breastplate (Exodus 28:15-21): sardius, topaz, carbuncle, emerald, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx, jasper—“inclosed in gold in their settings. And the stones shall be according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve... like the engravings of a signet, every one according to his name, they shall be for the twelve tribes.” No one doubts that these were literal stones, nor do we doubt that God has a special reason for assigning to each tribe a peculiar stone. Some time it may be revealed what these stones mean, and whether they have any connection with the foundations of the New Jersualem; but to deny that they are literal stones in The Revelation, and to admit them as literal in Exodus, is not only absurd, but unbelieving.121
2. A second reason to consider the city a literal one, is, that child-like faith in reading the account always regards it as such. As the little girl asked her mother concerning the preacher who said that our Lord’s words in John 14, “I will come again,” did not mean that He would come back in person: “Mamma, if Jesus did not mean what He said, why didn’t He say what He meant?”
3. Abraham and the patriarchs “looked for a city”— not a state of mind! The sublime faith of Abraham led him to leave a city in the most remarkable civilization known on earth, and become a stranger and pilgrim, caring only for a cave in which to bury his dead; “For he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose architect and maker is God”! Abraham will be satisfied with nothing short of a place, such as he looked for. And God will not disappoint him!
4. In all other parts of the Bible, simple faith in God’s statements is asked from man; why not then in Revelation 21, of all places, here at the end of God’s book? “Wherefore do questionings arise in your heart?” the Lord asked, when He presented Himself in a risen body in the upper room. If reasonings and doubts of the reality and literal-ness of His body were excluded, then, when the human mind would naturally be astonished; how much less now can questionings and doubts be admitted as to the literalness of the marvelous city of Revelation 21, which is to be the eternal home of our Lord’s risen body, and that of His saints in glorified bodies like unto His!
5. If the New Jerusalem is not to be taken literally, we can not claim that the millennial Jerusalem of Ezekiel 40-48 and Zechariah 14 can be literal. But to deny these is wholly to abandon faith in the accuracy of God’s Word!
6. In this book of The Revelation, the former Jerusalem is literal (11:8); and also Babylon the Great (18:10). Indeed both Jerusalem (the “great city”), and Babylon, were the objects of the last fearful earthquake of Revelation 16:19. Just as the old earth which disappeared was literal, and the new earth which takes its place is literal and substantial, so also must the New Jerusalem be.
7. The unfolding of divine things in the Bible is pre- cisely contrary to the idea that in order to have “spirituality,” material things must be left behind.
God was revealed to the patriarchs’ faith without a definite place of abode or habitation. Then, in the wilderness, the pillar of cloud and fire accompanied His visible dwelling-place, and both the tabernacle and the temple were so filled with His glorious presence, that, for the moment, the priests themselves, “could not stand to minister”! Also we are told that Jehovah chose Jerusalem, and Mt. Zion therein, because He loved it (Psalm 87:2; 78:68; 132:13, 14).
Then, so far from the progress of God’s revealing Himself to man taking on more and more ethereality, the contrary is seen, for God “was manifested in the flesh” when Christ came! Immanuel is, God with us: i.e., God present here, in the Person of that babe of Bethlehem! This of course is what the Devil hates. “Many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7).
Even in the thousand years, the children of Israel are told: “Thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation … Jehovah will be with us in majesty … thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty; they shall behold a land of far distances.” How beautiful these things to simple faith, and what a denial of the vagaries of those deluded souls who connect sin with matter as a necessity! The only logical “spiritualizers” that I know of are the Christian Scientists—which are neither Christian, nor scientific! The old Manichaean heresy governs millions who call themselves Christian, though it is a Satanic lie, and pagan, and utterly anti-Biblical. The Bible leads on to a literal and blessed home of the redeemed, possessed of bodies like Christ’s body—real and holy, incorruptible, immortal!
8. It is therefore wicked and harmful to permit ourselves to drift into that weak apprehension of future realities expressed in many hymns, and much loose preaching and speaking of these days. What right have we to thoughts of “going to heaven,” merely, concerning those who “fall asleep”? God says they have departed to “be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23), or “to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8)122
It is sad to find, from a devoted pen like Cowper’s:
“Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing they power to save.
When this poor lisping stam’ring tongue
Lies silent in the grave!”
How much better to sing:
“When this poor lisping stam’ring tongue Hath triumphed o’er the grave!”
But it is even more distressful to hear real Christians using blinded, demoralized, worldly expressions concerning a believer’s falling asleep: such as “he passed on,” “he is gone into the unknown,” etc.
Now while we may not be certain that the New Jerusalem is yet opened to the saints (for that event, perhaps, is reserved for Christ’s second coming, and for His saints in redeemed bodies), yet surely we should have that City constantly before us as a reality; and remember that those that have gone to be with Christ are simply swelling the great expectant throng, whose eager hope looks forward to that blessed day of glory and joy when they shall enter in through the gates into that ineffably blessed City!
Meanwhile, the saints are “with Christ.” Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12, “was caught up into Paradise (to the third heaven) and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”
Evidently he was given to taste the infinite joy of what is coming.
What a company is gathering yonder!
Some believe that the marriage of the Lamb will mark the Bride’s entrance into that city.
At all events, remember that it is a literal city to which you are going. There cannot be anything else meant!123
II. Its Object and Destiny
It is the eternal dwelling place, “habitation,” of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Although only “God and the Lamb” are named, yet we know from the Scriptures, and from this very book of Revelation, that the blessed Spirit administers eternally that glorious state of which the Father is the Author and the Son the Source.
In other parts of Scripture, as we have noted before, various aspects of God’s throne are displayed: in connection sometimes with the expression of His character, or being, as the Holy One; sometimes with the execution of His government; sometimes with the form of His perpetual worship—as in the progressive perpetual tenses of Revelation 4:9, 10.
But God’s home is never spoken of until the New Jerusalem comes on the scene. Heretofore, it had been written: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). To Israel in the wilderness, through Moses, Jehovah had indeed said, “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them,” and it was done. Yet he dwelt in thick darkness, and judgments had to be executed from time to time upon that unbelieving and wilful generation: so that finally, as we read in Ezekiel 8:6 (and in all the prophets) they drove Him away from His sanctuary—as they did afterwards His Son when He sent Him to them.
But now all is over. Redemption has been accomplished—the thing dearest to God’s heart—that which for all eternity reveals Him as Infinite. God is love, and yet absolutely righteous; the Lamb slain and now risen and abiding in that city, becomes throughout the new creation, the eternal proof and utterance of all God is!
It will also be the capital city of the new creation, for we read, “the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein.” Nor is any other center of the divine manifestation and government hinted at in this closing book of the things that are revealed. We are indeed told three times in The Revelation, that the New Jerusalem “cometh down out of heaven from my God” (3:12; 21:2, 10). But this describes its double character from God—divine in its origin, and also heavenly. “It might have been of God and earthly; or heavenly and angelic. It was neither: It was divine in origin, and heavenly in nature and character.” (Darby.) This perhaps is the full meaning of the words: “from God.”
On the other hand, there remains this question: Is there to be a manifestation of the glory of God, and a seat of His government belonging to heaven, while this New Jerusalem, located upon the new earth, governs only the affairs of the new earth?
Several considerations lead us toward the conclusion that the New Jerusalem is God’s one eternal resting place.
1. Immediately we see the new heaven and new earth and the New Jerusalem descending to the new earth (21:1, 2), we are told, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men”—the former heaven and earth having disappeared. The object of the new heaven and earth is to bring about this—that God shall eternally have His home in this capital city of the new creation!
2. No other eternal habitation of God is seen than this of the New Creation’s capital! Always before, God was in heaven and man upon earth. Now that this city has come down, created by God for His dwelling, we cannot conceive of His real presence and worship being elsewhere!
3. This heavenly city has the glory of God (21:11, 23; 22:5). It is the home of Him who “dwelleth in light unapproachable.” It is not that this city has glory given to it; it has God’s glory: for He is there! The glory is the effulgence of His Being!
4. It also has the throne of God, and that “service” of 22:3, properly called priestly service, or spiritual worship—(latreia: Hebrews 9:1; Romans 12:1; Philip plans 3:3; Revelation 7:15).
5. “They shall see his face” Here at last God, who is Love, reveals Himself to the saints of that blessed city directly. There is no temple, no form, no distance. This, therefore, must be the place of God’s rest forever!
6. We need only to remember that the dwellers in the New Jerusalem “shall reign unto the ages of the ages” (22:5). This could not be written of others than the inhabitants of the capital of the new creation!
III. Its Relation to the New Earth
In the thousand years’ reign of Christ and His saints upon the old earth (Revelation 20:46), Christ and His heavenly saints formed a “camp” above the old Jerusalem (Revelation 20:9), and Gog and Magog, the hosts of earth, were led by Satan into its final rebellion against the reign of Christ and His glorified saints in the “camp” above Jerusalem, and the earthly Jerusalem itself, “the beloved city.” It seems wrong to assume that the New Jerusalem has come down so that the nations “walk amidst the light thereof,” as in the new earth (Revelation 21:24). For, although Christ and His glorified saints will have taken over the control of affairs, such as angels now exercise (Hebrews 2:5-8 R. V. margin), yet it is to the earthly Jerusalem and the nation of Israel that God will directly subject the nations of the earth in the Millennium (Isaiah 60; 61:4-9; but especially 4:5, 6). This is the glory of Jehovah revealed upon the earthly Jerusalem, and to it, during the Millennium. The effect of this unveiling of the divine glory in the thousand years is seen in Micah (7:16, 17): “The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might… They shall lick the dust like a serpent; like crawling things of the earth they shall come trembling out of their close places; they shall come with fear unto Jehovah our God, and shall be afraid because of thee.” Psalm 72:9 declares: “His ene- mies shall lick the dust”! “Kings, kings, kings,” are men mentioned in the next two verses; while kings will lick the dust of Israel’s feet, according to Isaiah 49:23. It is a day of iron-rod rule; of compelled subjection. The very atmosphere is different from that of Revelation 21; when, down to the new earth, wherein righteousness is at home—(2 Peter 3:13 Greek) this New Jerusalem will come from God to be planted upon her eternal foundations, and to become the glad center of attraction unto the kings and nations of those happy days.124
It has impressed me more and more that the New Jerusalem will not be in sight of the old earth during the Millennium, which will be a highly judicial time—a time of military rule, the holding of a position already conquered. At the Millennium’s beginning, peace and prosperity on earth will be conditioned on complete subjection. Consequently the heavenly saints constitute a “camp,” evidently above the earthly Jerusalem. Upon that earthly city and upon redeemed Israel, the glory of God will be seen, Israel’s twelve tribes being “judged” by the twelve apostles (Luke 22:28-30) including Matthias (Acts 1:21-26).
When the thousand years, and the last judgment are over, and the new heaven and the new earth have succeeded the old, then, and not until then, does the New Jerusalem come down to the new earth.
IV. The Blessedness of Its Dwellers
Of the blessedness of those who dwell in that eternal city of infinite beauty and delight, who shall speak! It is enough to repeat: “They shall see His face; and His name shall be on their foreheads.”
Of even the inhabitants of the new earth, though not of the new city, it is written: “The tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, they shall be His peoples, and God himself shall be with them … their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, anymore: the first things are passed away.”
But to see His face, and to be so wholly His in likeness that His Name shall be on our foreheads—what a destiny! It is even more eagerly to be anticipated, than the reigning eternally!
“The Jerusalem That Is Above”
Jerusalem the golden,
With milk and honey blest,
Beneath thy contemplation
Sink heart and voice opprest:
I know not, O I know not
What social joys are there;
What radiancy of glory,
What light beyond compare!
For thee, O dear dear country,
Mine eyes their vigils keep;
For very love, beholding
Thy happy name, they weep:
The mention of thy glory
Is unction to the breast,
And medicine in sickness,
And love, and life, and rest.
O one, O only mansion!
O Paradise of joy,
When tears are ever banished,
And smiles have no alloy!
The cross is all thy splendor,
The Crucified thy praise;
His laud and benediction
Thy ransomed people raise.
O sweet and blessed country,
The home of God’s elect!
O sweet and blessed country
That eager hearts expect!
Jesus, in mercy bring us
To that dear land of rest,
Who art, with God the Father
And Spirit, ever blest.
Bernard of Cluny—12th century.
Lo! what a glorious sight appears
To our admiring eyes!
The former seas have passed away,
The former earth and skies.
The God of glory down to men
Removes His blest abode;
He dwells with men; His people they,
And He His people’s God!
Jerusalem, my happy home,
Name ever dear to me,
When shall my labours have an end
In joy and peace, and thee?
When shall these eyes thy heaven-built walls
And pearly gates behold,
Thy bulwarks with salvation, strong,
And streets of shining gold!
For ever with the Lord!
Amen, so let it be:
Life from the dead is in that word;
Here in the body pent,
Absent from Him I roam,
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent
A day’s march nearer home.
My Father’s house on high,
Home of my soul, how near!
At times, to faith’s foreseeing eye,
Thy gates of pearl appear!
Ah! then my spirit faints
To reach the land I love,
The bright inheritance of saints,
122 Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:4, that the Christian’s hope is not to be unclothed, that is, disembodied, but “clothed upon, that what is mortal” (mortal and immortal always being spoken of the body) “may be swallowed up of life.” He is simply willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord (R.V.). It might, indeed did, become Paul’s lot. But it is not the proper Christian hope, which is the redemption of the body at Christ’s coming.
123 Alford well remarks: “As in our common discourse, so here with the evangelist, the name of the material city stands for the community formed by its inhabitants. But it does not follow, in his case, any more than in ours, that both material city and inhabitants have not a veritable existence. Nor can we say that this glorious description applies only to them” (and not to the literal city).
124 It has been well remarked by Govett: “That the eternal standing of the city is in question, I gather from 22:3: ‘There shall be no more curse.’ Now at the close of the Millennium comes the most fearful sin, and wrath of God, with the second death. Again, entrance into the heavenly city would not be possible during the Millennium; for then the city is only suspended over the earth. It does not come down upon it. To meet this difficulty, the holders of the opposite view translate Revelation 21:24-26, ‘bring their glory unto it,’ not into it. But this translation is unfounded, for, whenever a verb of motion capable of signifying penetration, or entrance into, a penetrable subject, such as a river, house, etc., is followed by the preposition eis, ‘into’—there entrance is affirmed.”