The New Jerusalem
“The one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal” (vv. 15–16).- Revelation 21:9–27
Having finished our study of the book of Ezekiel, we will now turn to one key New Testament passage that depends upon the prophet’s vision. Revelation 21:9–27 presents John’s account of the New Jerusalem that he saw when Jesus came to him on the isle of Patmos and told him about the consummation of God’s plan. This New Jerusalem recalls Ezekiel 40–48 and Ezekiel’s prophecy of the temple to come after the Jews returned from their exile.
Many in the dispensational theological tradition interpret today’s passage in a woodenly literal fashion, reading John’s account as if he is describing a precise geographic space that will exist at the return of Jesus. Two things in Revelation 21, however, make this impossible. First, John calls the New Jerusalem “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (v. 9). Obviously, our Savior does not take a physical city for His wife; rather, as John indicates just two chapters earlier, the bride of Christ is the community of the saints, the people of God who have trusted in Jesus alone for their salvation (19:6–9; see also Eph. 5:25–33). If our Creator’s saints and the New Jerusalem are both referred to as the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem must be a way to symbolically represent the church triumphant.
Second, the vast size of the New Jerusalem demonstrates that John does not want us to read Revelation 21 as a precise description of the physical dimensions of a restored city in the Promised Land. John’s city is a perfect cube, with sides that each measure 12,000 stadia (v. 16). This works out to a city that is 1,365 miles wide, 1,365 miles long, and 1,365 miles high. Such a city could not fit on Mt. Zion in Palestine, and it would reach far into the atmosphere, touching the orbits of several man-made satellites circling the earth today. Moreover, in the Jerusalem temple, only the Most Holy Place was a perfect cube, and Ezekiel looked forward to the day when this perfect cube would be rebuilt in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6:20; Ezek. 41:4). Given this background, John’s vision indicates that the Most Holy Place and the people of God will be identical in the consummation. That is, the Lord’s bride will be so pure and spotless that there will be no separation at all between Him and His people (see Rev. 21:3).
Ezekiel looked forward to this kind of purity (Ezek. 36:22–38). We look forward to this holiness as well, but we understand how it will come about better than Ezekiel did. At Jesus’ return, all sin will be gone and we will obey the Lord perfectly forever (1 John 3:2).
We make real progress in holiness in this life as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and conforms us to the image of Christ. However, we still await the Lord’s return in order for us to be fully perfected in righteousness. As we grow in holiness and the awareness of our own sin, we always see just how far short of His glory that we fall, and we are reminded that we need Him to set all things right. Let us pursue holiness, trusting that He will consummate His good work in us.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 13