The Spirit World: Ch. 16 (The New Jerusalem)

This entry is part 18 of 23 in the series The Spirit World

New Jerusalem

(This is a continuation of The Spirit World book series. This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts in the series.)

For purposes of this work, the name of this abode will be rendered “New Jerusalem,” but it is stated in that exact phraseology only one time in scripture.  There are, overall, three unique renderings of “Jerusalem” in a spiritual and metaphorical usage, as it refers to a spiritual abode.  As has been noted, that abode will be demonstrated to be one and the same as Heaven proper.

The first text is found in Galatians.

Galatians 4:24-26 (NIV)
24 These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

In this text, Paul is speaking of the two first sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac.  Of Ishmael it is noted that he was born in the ordinary way (v23) while Isaac was born of God’s promise to Abraham.  Paul then equates the “ordinary” to represent the Jerusalem of earth and the “promise” to represent the “Jerusalem that is above.” While this is only a passing reference, Paul at least introduces the spiritual Jerusalem as one which is above, noting the first deduction of this spiritual realm; that it is in an upward direction.  What Paul references in passing, however, the author of Hebrews develops much more fully.

Hebrews 12:22-24 (NIV)
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Hebrews references in this passage the nature of the new covenant in Christ:  it is a covenant where one comes spiritually rather than physically into the place of worship.  The author is building off of an idea he explored earlier concerning the nature of the Old Testament sacrifice:

Hebrews 9:20-24 (NIV)
20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.

This text demonstrates that worship which transpired in the historical, earthly temple was “a copy” of that which was to later happen in the “true” temple in Heaven.  The blood of animal sacrifices were offered in the earthly temple while the perfect blood of Jesus himself was later offered in the heavenly temple.  Jerusalem is the city of the earthly temple while “the Jerusalem above” is the city of the heavenly temple. 

Several deductions can be gleaned from the Hebrews account of the New Jerusalem.  First, the spiritual Jerusalem is noted as “the city of the living God.”  This designation upholds the earlier note that Heaven proper is indeed one and the same as the location of that spiritual city.  Secondly, “thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” are noted to reside in that location, further supporting the spiritual Jerusalem as a designation of Heaven proper, as it coincides with John’s Revelation account.

Lastly, Revelation gives an exceptionally thorough illustration of the New Jerusalem and the nature of its definition.

Revelation 21:1-27 (NIV)
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” 9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. 22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Prior to this text, John had written,

Revelation 20:11 (NIV)
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.

Noting the final events concerning the judgment of the great white throne, which will be examined later in this work, “Earth and sky” are noted to have fled from Christ’s presence.  The term the NIV translates as “sky” is the Greek term, ouranos, or “heaven,” which was noted earlier to be a term which can refer to one of three possible locations.  Clearly the context in this passage demands that the “sky” of “earth” is that which fled away; the second heaven.  The portrait being revealed is that of the old earth and its accompanying sky being destroyed in preparation for the eternal and final new earth which will be created.  Next, in chapter 21 John begins with “then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”

Some misinterpret this text to mean that Heaven Proper is replaced at this time by “the New Jerusalem.”  This is not the case.  The heaven which “passed away” was the sky of the former earth which fled away in chapter 20.  That particular usage of ouranos is coupled with the earth, indicating that the heaven in question refers to the skies of the earth.  In chapter 21, however, the New Jerusalem is also noted as “coming down out of heaven from God.”  Once again, the term ouranos is used.  The New Jerusalem, in this text, is noted as coming down from the second heaven, or what would be commonly known as the remaining “space” of the heavens; outer space, as the skies of earth were destroyed in chapter 20.

Several overall conclusions can be further gleaned from Revelation 21 concerning the New Jerusalem.  First of all, it is conclusive that the New Jerusalem is one and the same as Heaven proper, the place of God’s throne and central abode.  Verse 3 notes after the coming down of the New Jerusalem, “now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.”  Thus, the New Jerusalem is clearly the central place of God’s dwelling, or Heaven proper.  When it comes down, God’s dwelling comes with it.

Secondly, it can be concluded that Heaven proper will exist on the newly created earth.  Verse 10 notes, “and he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”  From the perspective of a high mountain on the new earth, John sees the New Jerusalem, or Heaven proper, coming down and settling on the new earth.

A third conclusion equates the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 with the “Jerusalem that is above” referenced in Galatians 4 and the “heavenly Jerusalem” of Hebrews 12.  Revelation 21:22 notes, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”  As Hebrews 9 speaks of a new covenant in Christ blood fulfilling the old covenant of the law and the earthly Temple by introducing a new covenant of the heavenly Temple, so Revelation 21 notes the lack of a need for a Temple in the New Jerusalem, as The Lord God and Christ are the essence of the Temple in the eternal abode of Heaven.

A fourth deduction overall is that the New Jerusalem is not “new” in the sense that it will be created at a future point in time, but rather in the sense that it is without flaw or decay.  Galatians and Hebrews both note it as a location which is in existence at this very moment.  While it will be brought to the new earth at the end of history, it in fact exists today.  It is Heaven itself.  The old (earthly) Jerusalem housed God’s name and glory while the New Jerusalem houses God’s very literal presence.

Lastly are a host of conclusions regarding the composition of the New Jerusalem, or Heaven.

An overriding characteristic of the eternal kingdom of Heaven is the results of the very presence of God’s glory.  Verse 11 notes, “It shone with the glory of God.”  That Heaven shines, because of the presence of God’s glory is indicative of a presence of God not commonly experienced in human history.  This measure of God’s glory was formerly seen in some circumstances, however, such as Moses’ encounter with God on Sinai.

Exodus 34:29-30
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.

Moses’ encounter with God was exceptionally up close and personal.  The end result was that his face remained radiant, even after his journey back down the mountain and away from God’s presence.  Clearly, the radiance of his face would not be likened to a radiance that may be described from a school girl who just had an exciting date, as Moses’ radiance was visible to others as a literal glow.  The Israelites were afraid even to come near Moses because of this luminosity, which indicates that this radiance must have been visually perceptible from a distance.

The glow on Moses face from his encounter with God will be the common reality in Heaven.  Heaven will be full of God’s glory, which will give it a permanent shine.  From that shine, verse 23 notes, the entirety of Heaven will draw it’s light.  There will be no need for a sun, “for the glory of God gives it light.”

A General description of heaven is given next in the text.  In verses 12-14, its walls are noted to be very high, with twelve foundations upholding the wall itself.  Each of the foundations will bear the name of one of the apostles, and will be decorated with precious stones.  The wall is made of jasper, which is a highly ornamental type of silica.  The wall measures 144 cubits thick, which is roughly 200 feet.

Verse 16 notes, “the city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide.”  Furthermore, “he measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.”  Thus the city, being as wide and high as it is long, may be representative of a cubical design, or may perhaps relate some very tall elements while not quite resembling a cube.  At any rate, it is an impressive city, being 12,000 stadia, which is about 1,400 miles in each direction.

The gates of the city receive a considerable amount of description in the text.  Verse 12 notes that Heaven will have twelve gates, three on each wall, with an angel posted at each gate.  It is a curious detail that an angel is to be posted at each gate, being that all who are sinful have been eternally confined.  Perhaps the angels posted at each gate are a demonstration of God’s glory and control over his domain.  The substance of each gate is that of a single pearl.  Pearls are traditionally interpreted as symbols of suffering, as an oyster is understood to suffer greatly in the production of a pearl.  The gates, or the entrance to Heaven, then, are understood to represent the suffering of Christ who himself is the gate, providing access to the city for all who enter it (John 10:7).

Other characteristics of the city include the infamous “street of gold.”  The gold is noted to be so pure that it is translucent “like glass.”  Coupled with the walls made of jasper and a foundation covered in jewels, this city indeed will be a masterpiece of the literal reflections of the glory of God, as the light of his glory is able to reflect off of an array of shimmering surfaces.

Verse 22 articulates, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”  Temple worship lacks a general appreciation in the church age.  In the current age, believers in Christ have His very Spirit living within their hearts.  Yet, in the Old Testament, the Temple was the “house” for God’s presence and glory on the earth.  It was a dwelling place whereby man could draw near to God in some physical manner.  Likewise, a Temple will play a key role in millennial worship.  In the millennial kingdom, it is not God’s name, or his glory which resides in the Temple, but Christ himself will be bodily available for the nations to approach him in worship (Isaiah 2:1-4).  In Heaven, however, the presence of God and Christ will be so pervasive that a Temple is an unnecessary medium.  The Lord God and Christ are the Temple, permeating every square inch of the city.  Thus, in Heaven, the purest of all possible worship experiences will exist.  There will be no Temple necessary to experience God’s present glory as it will saturate one’s existence at all places one should go in equal measure.

Verse 24 states, “the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.”  It is unclear if these nations refer to some division into heavenly nations, or if they reference the people of former earthly kingdoms.  The kings of earth are said to bring their splendor into it, yet once again, it is unclear if the kings refer to the kings from historical earth who knew Christ, or if it refers to people of a certain authority on the new earth, who perhaps would be allowed to enter and exit the city for life on the new earth, where the city resides.

The text seems to imply that the latter is a possibility.  Verse 26 states, “the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it,” and verse 27 continues, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”  Thus, it seems that while the Holy City will exist on the new earth, people will have the ability to enter and leave the city to traverse the new earth for various activities. While this idea is certainly not conclusively determined from the text, it does seem that the new earth on which the city will reside will be open for activity. 

In all fairness, day to day life in Heaven does not appear to be the focus of this text, but rather, the overwhelming reality of the glory of God’s presence.  Of all spiritual abodes, it is Heaven proper which should be one’s clear goal and greatly treasured anticipation.  

For purposes of this work, the name of this abode will be rendered “New Jerusalem,” but it is stated in that exact phraseology only one time in scripture.  There are, overall, three unique renderings of “Jerusalem” in a spiritual and metaphorical usage, as it refers to a spiritual abode.  As has been noted, that abode will be demonstrated to be one and the same as Heaven proper.

The first text is found in Galatians.

Galatians 4:24-26 (NIV)
24 These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

In this text, Paul is speaking of the two first sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac.  Of Ishmael it is noted that he was born in the ordinary way (v23) while Isaac was born of God’s promise to Abraham.  Paul then equates the “ordinary” to represent the Jerusalem of earth and the “promise” to represent the “Jerusalem that is above.” While this is only a passing reference, Paul at least introduces the spiritual Jerusalem as one which is above, noting the first deduction of this spiritual realm; that it is in an upward direction.  What Paul references in passing, however, the author of Hebrews develops much more fully.

Hebrews 12:22-24 (NIV)
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Hebrews references in this passage the nature of the new covenant in Christ:  it is a covenant where one comes spiritually rather than physically into the place of worship.  The author is building off of an idea he explored earlier concerning the nature of the Old Testament sacrifice:

Hebrews 9:20-24 (NIV)
20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.

This text demonstrates that worship which transpired in the historical, earthly temple was “a copy” of that which was to later happen in the “true” temple in Heaven.  The blood of animal sacrifices were offered in the earthly temple while the perfect blood of Jesus himself was later offered in the heavenly temple.  Jerusalem is the city of the earthly temple while “the Jerusalem above” is the city of the heavenly temple. 

Several deductions can be gleaned from the Hebrews account of the New Jerusalem.  First, the spiritual Jerusalem is noted as “the city of the living God.”  This designation upholds the earlier note that Heaven proper is indeed one and the same as the location of that spiritual city.  Secondly, “thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” are noted to reside in that location, further supporting the spiritual Jerusalem as a designation of Heaven proper, as it coincides with John’s Revelation account.

Lastly, Revelation gives an exceptionally thorough illustration of the New Jerusalem and the nature of its definition.

Revelation 21:1-27 (NIV)
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” 9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. 22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Prior to this text, John had written,

Revelation 20:11 (NIV)
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.

Noting the final events concerning the judgment of the great white throne, which will be examined later in this work, “Earth and sky” are noted to have fled from Christ’s presence.  The term the NIV translates as “sky” is the Greek term, ouranos, or “heaven,” which was noted earlier to be a term which can refer to one of three possible locations.  Clearly the context in this passage demands that the “sky” of “earth” is that which fled away; the second heaven.  The portrait being revealed is that of the old earth and its accompanying sky being destroyed in preparation for the eternal and final new earth which will be created.  Next, in chapter 21 John begins with “then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”

Some misinterpret this text to mean that Heaven Proper is replaced at this time by “the New Jerusalem.”  This is not the case.  The heaven which “passed away” was the sky of the former earth which fled away in chapter 20.  That particular usage of ouranos is coupled with the earth, indicating that the heaven in question refers to the skies of the earth.  In chapter 21, however, the New Jerusalem is also noted as “coming down out of heaven from God.”  Once again, the term ouranos is used.  The New Jerusalem, in this text, is noted as coming down from the second heaven, or what would be commonly known as the remaining “space” of the heavens; outer space, as the skies of earth were destroyed in chapter 20.

Several overall conclusions can be further gleaned from Revelation 21 concerning the New Jerusalem.  First of all, it is conclusive that the New Jerusalem is one and the same as Heaven proper, the place of God’s throne and central abode.  Verse 3 notes after the coming down of the New Jerusalem, “now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.”  Thus, the New Jerusalem is clearly the central place of God’s dwelling, or Heaven proper.  When it comes down, God’s dwelling comes with it.

Secondly, it can be concluded that Heaven proper will exist on the newly created earth.  Verse 10 notes, “and he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”  From the perspective of a high mountain on the new earth, John sees the New Jerusalem, or Heaven proper, coming down and settling on the new earth.

A third conclusion equates the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 with the “Jerusalem that is above” referenced in Galatians 4 and the “heavenly Jerusalem” of Hebrews 12.  Revelation 21:22 notes, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”  As Hebrews 9 speaks of a new covenant in Christ blood fulfilling the old covenant of the law and the earthly Temple by introducing a new covenant of the heavenly Temple, so Revelation 21 notes the lack of a need for a Temple in the New Jerusalem, as The Lord God and Christ are the essence of the Temple in the eternal abode of Heaven.

A fourth deduction overall is that the New Jerusalem is not “new” in the sense that it will be created at a future point in time, but rather in the sense that it is without flaw or decay.  Galatians and Hebrews both note it as a location which is in existence at this very moment.  While it will be brought to the new earth at the end of history, it in fact exists today.  It is Heaven itself.  The old (earthly) Jerusalem housed God’s name and glory while the New Jerusalem houses God’s very literal presence.

Lastly are a host of conclusions regarding the composition of the New Jerusalem, or Heaven.

An overriding characteristic of the eternal kingdom of Heaven is the results of the very presence of God’s glory.  Verse 11 notes, “It shone with the glory of God.”  That Heaven shines, because of the presence of God’s glory is indicative of a presence of God not commonly experienced in human history.  This measure of God’s glory was formerly seen in some circumstances, however, such as Moses’ encounter with God on Sinai.

Exodus 34:29-30
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.

Moses’ encounter with God was exceptionally up close and personal.  The end result was that his face remained radiant, even after his journey back down the mountain and away from God’s presence.  Clearly, the radiance of his face would not be likened to a radiance that may be described from a school girl who just had an exciting date, as Moses’ radiance was visible to others as a literal glow.  The Israelites were afraid even to come near Moses because of this luminosity, which indicates that this radiance must have been visually perceptible from a distance.

The glow on Moses face from his encounter with God will be the common reality in Heaven.  Heaven will be full of God’s glory, which will give it a permanent shine.  From that shine, verse 23 notes, the entirety of Heaven will draw it’s light.  There will be no need for a sun, “for the glory of God gives it light.”

A General description of heaven is given next in the text.  In verses 12-14, its walls are noted to be very high, with twelve foundations upholding the wall itself.  Each of the foundations will bear the name of one of the apostles, and will be decorated with precious stones.  The wall is made of jasper, which is a highly ornamental type of silica.  The wall measures 144 cubits thick, which is roughly 200 feet.

Verse 16 notes, “the city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide.”  Furthermore, “he measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.  Thus the city, being as wide and high as it is long, may be representative of a cubical design, or may perhaps relate some very tall elements while not quite resembling a cube.  At any rate, it is an impressive city, being 12,000 stadia, which is about 1,400 miles in each direction.

The gates of the city receive a considerable amount of description in the text.  Verse 12 notes that Heaven will have twelve gates, three on each wall, with an angel posted at each gate.  It is a curious detail that an angel is to be posted at each gate, being that all who are sinful have been eternally confined.  Perhaps the angels posted at each gate are a demonstration of God’s glory and control over his domain.  The substance of each gate is that of a single pearl.  Pearls are traditionally interpreted as symbols of suffering, as an oyster is understood to suffer greatly in the production of a pearl.  The gates, or the entrance to Heaven, then, are understood to represent the suffering of Christ who himself is the gate, providing access to the city for all who enter it (John 10:7).

Other characteristics of the city include the infamous “street of gold.”  The gold is noted to be so pure that it is translucent “like glass.  Coupled with the walls made of jasper and a foundation covered in jewels, this city indeed will be a masterpiece of the literal reflections of the glory of God, as the light of his glory is able to reflect off of an array of shimmering surfaces.

Verse 22 articulates, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”  Temple worship lacks a general appreciation in the church age.  In the current age, believers in Christ have His very Spirit living within their hearts.  Yet, in the Old Testament, the Temple was the “house” for God’s presence and glory on the earth.  It was a dwelling place whereby man could draw near to God in some physical manner.  Likewise, a Temple will play a key role in millennial worship.  In the millennial kingdom, it is not God’s name, or his glory which resides in the Temple, but Christ himself will be bodily available for the nations to approach him in worship (Isaiah 2:1-4).  In Heaven, however, the presence of God and Christ will be so pervasive that a Temple is an unnecessary medium.  The Lord God and Christ are the Temple, permeating every square inch of the city.  Thus, in Heaven, the purest of all possible worship experiences will exist.  There will be no Temple necessary to experience God’s present glory as it will saturate one’s existence at all places one should go in equal measure.

Verse 24 states, “the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.”  It is unclear if these nations refer to some division into heavenly nations, or if they reference the people of former earthly kingdoms.  The kings of earth are said to bring their splendor into it, yet once again, it is unclear if the kings refer to the kings from historical earth who knew Christ, or if it refers to people of a certain authority on the new earth, who perhaps would be allowed to enter and exit the city for life on the new earth, where the city resides.

The text seems to imply that the latter is a possibility.  Verse 26 states, “the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it,” and verse 27 continues, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.  Thus, it seems that while the Holy City will exist on the new earth, people will have the ability to enter and leave the city to traverse the new earth for various activities. While this idea is certainly not conclusively determined from the text, it does seem that the new earth on which the city will reside will be open for activity. 

In all fairness, day to day life in Heaven does not appear to be the focus of this text, but rather, the overwhelming reality of the glory of God’s presence.  Of all spiritual abodes, it is Heaven proper which should be one’s clear goal and greatly treasured anticipation. 

image The Spirit World series will continue weekly until the entire book is published online. If, however, you enjoy this series and do not wish to wait, you can purchase the paperback version of The Spirit World here.



Series Navigation<< The Spirit World: Chapter Fifteen (Heaven)The Spirit World: Ch. 17 (The Glorified Body) >>

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