A STUDY OF THE NEW JERUSALEM
Let us begin our study of the new Jerusalem with the passages that have the most to say about it, i.e. Rev. 21:2 and 9:10. We read in Rev. 21:2, “And I John saw the holy city; new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”. And in verses 9-10 we read, “Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he…..shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God”. There are two very important elements in these verses that will be discussed below. One is that the new Jerusalem will be “prepared as a bride for her husband”, and the second is that the new Jerusalem will come down out of heaven.
When Will The Marriage of the Lamb Take Place?
Before we consider the important elements mentioned above, I believe it will be helpful to consider first when the marriage of the Lamb will take place. The Lamb is, of course, Jesus Christ and the parable of the wedding banquet recorded in Matt. 22 will answer the question as to when His marriage will take place.
We read in Matt, 22:1-9, “And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. ……. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways and as many as ye shall find bid to the marriage”.
I realize that most interpret this parable to say that God represented by the king in this parable, sent His armies to destroy Jerusalem, and that was accomplished at 70 AD by the Roman army. But we read in Ezek. 5:9, “And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like.…..”. This verse tells us that after the destruction by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar, God will not destroy Jerusalem again.
We must bear in mind that, as clearly stated, the parable “is like unto the kingdom of Heaven”. As the paper on the kingdom of Heaven will prove from Scripture, the phrase refers to Christ’s millennial reign over Israel. So the parable describes something having to do with Christ’s millennial reign. That reign will begin with the return of Christ. Therefore, the marriage spoken of in this parable will begin with the second coming of Christ when He will establish His kingdom on earth. Please see the paper on when the marriage of the Lamb will take place for the Scriptural evidence that the marriage feast will begin at the second coming of Christ and will last until the end of the millennium.
The Husband and the Bride
We are now prepared to address the question of Who are the Husband and the bride. But before we address these questions we must understand the Hebrew custom of marriage. In the present day western culture when a man marries a woman that woman becomes his wife after the marriage ceremony. But in the Hebrew culture of Old and New Testament times, the woman was called the “bride” after the marriage ceremony, and the word “wife” is used of both one who is engaged and one who is married, the context will determine which is meant. The man is called “husband” as the couple becomes engaged and after the marriage ceremony; and the engaged parties are spoken of as being married, even though they had not yet married. That is why we read, for example in Matt. 1:19 that Joseph is referred to as Mary’s “husband”, even though they had not yet married.
How are we to understand the term “wife” in Rev. 21:9, “the bride the Lamb’s wife”, i.e. does the word “wife” refer to one who is betrothed or to one who is married? In my opinion, that question is answered in the broader context. That is to say, the word “wife” in Rev. 21:9 refers to the one married because John saw this scene as it will occur after the marriage feast had been completed. As mentioned above, the marriage feast will be completed at the end of the millennium which is when John saw the new Jerusalem which, of course, represents the bride (please see the paper on when the marriage will take place). Does that make the phrase “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” redundant”? It does. But I believe the redundancy is used to make a point. May I respectfully remind the reader that the word “wife” is used of one who is married, and it is also used of one who is engaged. In my opinion, the phrase, “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” is used to point out that the one who had been engaged is now married, i.e. they are one and the same.
We are now prepared to address the question of Who is the Husband and who is the wife/bride spoken of in Rev. 21. A few Old Testament verses should suffice in answering that question. It should be noted that the verses quoted below speak of those who are married. However, as shown in the section above on when the marriage of the Lamb will take place, these passages must refer to the betrothal, not a marriage because the marriage feast will not begin until Christ’s return to establish His millennial reign.
Consider for example, Isaiah 54:5-6, “For your Maker is your husband– the Lord (Heb. “Jehovah”) of hosts is His name- …..The Lord (Heb. “Jehovah”) will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit- a wife who married (was engaged) young, only to be rejected,’ says your God”. It is clear that the Husband is Jehovah, but who is the wife of this context? Verse 3 tells us to whom this passage is addressed. That verse reads, “…….thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles….”. Note the contrast between the Gentiles (should read “nations”) and Israel, i.e. Israel will inherit the nations. It is Israel to whom this passage is spoken and it is Israel that was the wife of Jehovah.
Consider also Jer. 3:14 which reads, “Turn O backsliding children, saith the Lord (Heb. “Jehovah”); for I am married (i.e. engaged) unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion“. It is Israel that Jehovah will bring to Zion. Again it is clear that the Husband is Jehovah and it is Israel to whom Jehovah is “married”, i.e. engaged.
And we read in Hosea 2:15b-18, “……and she shall sing there as in the days of her youth and as in the day when she came out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord (Heb. “Jehovah”), that thou shalt call Me Ishi (meaning “my Husband”), and shalt call Me no more Baali (meaning “my Lord”)…..”. Verse 15 refers to the “day she came out of Egypt”. Again, it is clear that the Husband is Jehovah, but to whom was Jehovah a Husband in this context? It was, of course, Israel that came out of Egypt and it is Israel that will call Jehovah “Ishi”, i.e. “my Husband”.
And we read in Hosea 2: 20, “I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord” (Heb. “Jehovah”). To whom does the pronoun “thee” in the phrase “I will betroth thee” refer? If we answer that question from the context (see vs. 15 quoted above) it is clear that it is Israel that was Jehovah’s betrothed.
The passages quoted above prove that Israel was betrothed to Jehovah, i.e. God. But Rev. 21 speaks of the bride of the Lamb. Obviously there will not be one Husband for the one engaged and a different Husband when the engaged one becomes the bride after the marriage feast. There is one wife/bride and one Husband. We must take into consideration that “Lamb” is a metaphor which represents Christ, Who is God. In point of fact, as the paper on Jehovah will show from Scripture Jesus Christ IS Jehovah. In short, Christ is the Husband and Israel is the wife who will become the bride.
But many believe that the church is the bride of Christ and point to Eph. 5:25-32, “Husbands love your wives even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it……so ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church”.
Does this passage say that the church is the bride of Christ? I believe that if we consider Paul’s point in this passage we will have our answer. The point is that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. Note the twice used phrase “even as”. That is to say, the relationship of the church to Christ is used as an example (even as) of what the relationship is between husband and wife. The church is called the “body of Christ”. So the church is one with Christ “even as” the husband is one with his wife.
So the mystery spoken of in this chapter is not that the church is the bride of Christ; it is that the relationship of the church to Christ is the same as the relationship of the husband to his wife, i.e. they are one body.
In short, I believe that the new Jerusalem which represents the wife/bride in Rev. 21:2 is Israel. The Old Testament is clear that Jehovah’s wife was Israel, and we learned that the term “wife” was used for a woman who was engaged and that the term “bride” was used for that same woman who would later marry and become the bride. Surely, we cannot think that God was engaged to Israel but married the church. Therefore, we must, in my opinion, conclude that the bride of Jehovah/Christ is Israel.
A Consideration of the Physical Description of the New Jerusalem
Now let us consider the passages in Rev. 21 which describe the new Jerusalem. We read in verse 12 of a “wall” of the city that had, “twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel”. Note that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written at the gates. The number twelve is, of course, the number of Israel. With that in mind let us consider verse, 14, “and the wall of the city had twelve foundations”. And verse 16 where we read that the city was “twelve thousand furlongs long”.
These passages are consistent with the fact that Israel will become the bride at the marriage of the Lamb.
Is The New Jerusalem The Calling of the Church?
Because many believe that the new Jerusalem is the calling of the church let us consider that belief. We read in Heb. 11:10, “For he (Abraham) looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God”. And in verse 16 we read, “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He hath prepared for them a city”.
Does the phrase “an heavenly” when used in reference to the new Jerusalem indicate a calling to heaven? I believe not, in part, because again, the new Jerusalem will come down “out of” heaven.
Further, let us consider the word “heavenly” “Heavenly” is an adjective, i.e. it modifies the noun “country” which refers of course, to the new Jerusalem. Let us consider the definition of the word “heavenly”. Heavenly: adj. 1. Sublime; delightful; enchanting. 2. Relating to the firmament; celestial: the sun and other heavenly bodies. 3. Relating to the abode of God; divine. Let us consider the first definition, i.e. “Sublime; delightful; enchanting”. This definition is without doubt applicable to the new Jerusalem, but the word “heavenly” itself does not indicate a place, that would need a noun. “Heavenly” is a description (an adjective) of a place.
But let us also consider the second and third definitions quoted above. Please note that “heavenly” sometimes relates to the firmament and/or the abode of God. That is to say, when we speak of a place we must use a noun. But when we use an adjective, which is what “heavenly” is, the adjective does not imply a place, but can be used in relation to a place. I believe an example will make this thought more easily understood.
We might say that a house is “homey”. “Homey” is, of course, an adjective. Let us apply the definition quoted above to the word “homey”. “Homey” is used to describe a home and it is used in relation to a home. But it does not mean “home” any more than “heavenly” means “heaven”.
Gal. 4:26 is another verse that many believe tells us that the new Jerusalem is the calling of the church. That verse reads, “But Jerusalem which is above is free…..”. This is written in reference to the new Jerusalem which is put in contrast to the “Jerusalem which now is” (vs. 25).
To begin, the point of the entire epistle is that one is saved by grace through faith, and not by the law. The context of verse 4:26 therefore, has nothing to do with the calling of the church or of Israel. The new Jerusalem is used to further the main argument of the entire epistle, i.e. one is saved by grace, not by the works of the law.
Secondly, the Greek word translated “above” is “ano”. It is also translated “brim”, “high” and “top”. It is not a noun, that is to say “ano” is never translated “heaven”, therefore it is not used of a place, i.e. it is used only to indicate direction. But most importantly, we must bear in mind that the new Jerusalem will “come down out of heaven” to the new earth. Because the church is called, not to earth, but to heaven (please see the paper on the calling of the church), we must conclude that the new Jerusalem is not the calling of the church.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org