The New Jerusalem exists Now according to the Bible and Near-Death Experiences
A Preterist Commentary on Revelation 21: Summary and Highlights
In this Preterist commentary on Revelation 21, compelling evidence is presented showing that the new Jerusalem exists right now! In Revelation 21:2 John sees the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven as a symbolic illustration of Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 11:13, and John 17:16. Philippians 3:20 says that “our citizenship is in heaven.” Hebrews 11:13 refers to the saints as “strangers and exiles on the earth.” John 17:16 echoes this idea when referring to Himself and the saints, Jesus says, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” In Revelation 21:2 the New Jerusalem is depicted coming down from heaven to earth illustrating the fact that the saints are of heaven as stated in John 17:16. The fact that the saints are “strangers and exiles on the earth[,]” “not of the world” and have their “citizenship in heaven” is depicted in Revelation 21 as the new Jerusalem seen coming down from heaven.
There is more to the imagery of Revelation 21 and 22. The New Jerusalem is a symbolic depiction of the church on earth portrayed in the image of the Jerusalem that is in heaven mentioned in Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:26. In other words, the new Jerusalem IS quite literally the new heaven and new earth predicted in Revelation 21:1. Accounts of heaven from near-death experiences strikingly resemble the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21. Throughout Revelation 21 and 22 the Christian church whether it exists in heaven or earth is symbolically portrayed in the image of the Jerusalem that is in heaven. Because the Christian church is present both on earth and in heaven and because the Christian church on earth is destined for heaven, the new Jerusalem is the church described in the likeness of heaven. Thus Revelation 21 and 22 follow the precedent set in Ezekiel 28 and 37 in which earthly realties are portrayed in heavenly trappings.
There is also historical significance to this imagery. For a 1000 years after the Jewish War, Jerusalem grew to become an almost exclusively Christian city. Thus the fact that the Christian church on earth is called the new Jerusalem is an appropriate title. Since the new Jerusalem is the Christian church it, of course, represents the Christianized Jerusalem that was on earth during the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades. The peaceful bliss of post-war Jerusalem is meant to contrast the then present joy with the previous despair of war. The new Jerusalem is also described as a utopia in order to symbolize and mirror the post-resurrection Jerusalem awaiting the saints after death.
Revelation 21 Preterist Commentary Intro: Because the Church is Both on Earth and in Heaven and because the Church on Earth is destined for Heaven, the New Jerusalem is the Church described in the likeness of Heaven.
In Ezekiel 28, Ezekiel predicts ruin for the king of Tyre, a prophecy likely fulfilled in the sixth century B.C. However, while predicting the fall of this earthly king, Ezekiel describes this event as if describing the fall of an angel from heaven:
“Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. . . . You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. . . . You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. . . . So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings (Ezekiel 28:12-17).
Revelation 21 also describes earthly things in heavenly imagery. The New Jerusalem is the Christian church. Hebrews 12:23 says that the church has its names “written in heaven.” Because the Christian saints are destined for heaven after physical death, the church, of course, exists presently in heaven and earth. And because the church exists in heaven and earth, the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22 is a visionary depiction of the church as it exists in both realms. In other words, the New Jerusalem is the new heaven and earth mentioned in Revelation 21:1.
In Revelation 21 and 22 the church is pictured in the image of heaven and the heavenly Jerusalem as a symbolic illustration of Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 11:13, and John 17:16. Philippians 3:20 says that “our citizenship is in heaven.” Hebrews 11:13 refers to the saints as “strangers and exiles on the earth.” John 17:16 echoes this idea when referring to Himself and the saints, Jesus says, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” In Revelation 21:2 the New Jerusalem is depicted coming down from heaven to earth illustrating the fact that the saints are of heaven as stated in John 17:16. The fact that the saints are “strangers and exiles on the earth[,]” “not of the world” and have their “citizenship in heaven” is symbolically depicted throughout Revelation 21 and 22 where the Christian church whether it exists in heaven or earth is symbolically portrayed in the image of the Jerusalem that is in heaven.
Covenant Eschatology and The New Heaven and Earth: Does “Heaven and Earth” Just refer to the People of Israel?
In v. 1 John sees a “new heaven and earth.” It is often thought in preterist circles that when the Bible mentions “heaven and earth” that this expression just denotes the people of the earth, i.e. Israel. This idea is largely derived from Isaiah 1:2 and Deuteronomy 32:1. In Deuteronomy 32:1 Moses addresses Israel with the following expression: “Listen, you heavens, and I will speak; hear, you earth, the words of my mouth.” Isaiah does the same in Isaiah 1:2: “Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!” At first glance both Isaiah and Moses appear to be just speaking to the people of the earth, i.e. Israel, in Deuteronomy 32 and Isaiah 1. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. The fact that heaven and earth are told to listen when it just appears to be the people of Israel who are being addressed has given rise to the idea that the expression heaven and earth refers just to the people of earthly Israel. Is this true?
When Moses and Isaiah call heaven and earth to listen to their words in Deuteronomy 32:1 and Isaiah 1:2 these prophets are alluding to Deuteronomy 17:6: “On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.” When Isaiah and Moses tell heaven and earth to listen to their prophetic warnings introduced in Deuteronomy 32:1 and Isaiah 1:2 they are calling on both heaven, the realm of God and angels, and earth to act as two witnesses. Heaven, the realm of angels, is addressed alongside the people of the earth, Israel, in Deuteronomy 32:1 and Isaiah 1:2. The calling on heaven and earth in Deuteronomy 32:1 and Isaiah 1:2 is no different from what is stated in Deuteronomy 4:26 and 30:19:
I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed (Deuteronomy 4:26).”
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deuteronomy 30:19)[.]”1
The angels of heaven are expected to hear and act as witnesses in the above verses because both blessings and curses ultimately issue forth from God and his angelic messengers in heaven. Thus heaven is told to listen in Isaiah 1:2 and Deuteronomy 32:1 and act as witnesses in Deuteronomy 4:26 and 30:19 so that the angels of heaven can witness the fact that God’s prophetic warnings were, in fact, proclaimed to Israel by His prophets. Thus when Moses and Isaiah call heaven to listen to their words they are calling on the angelic beings of heaven who are ultimately responsible for enacting God’s blessings and curses on Israel to witness the fact that Israel has received God’s prophetic warnings that immediately follow Isaiah 1:2 and Deuteronomy 32:1. Thus in Deuteronomy 4:26; 30:19; 32:1; and Isaiah 1:2 heaven and earth are called upon to collectively to act as the two witnesses required to put someone to death (Deuteronomy 17:6). Thus Isaiah 1:2 and Deuteronomy 32:1 cannot be used as evidence that when heaven and earth are mentioned together in the Bible that this conjoining of heaven and earth just denotes the people of Israel, the earth. Instead, Isaiah 1:2 and Deuteronomy 32:1 are actually evidence of the fact that when heaven and earth are mentioned together that the heaven portion of this expression refers to the realm of God and His angels as is the case in every or nearly every other instance in which heaven is mentioned in the Bible.
In Revelation 21:2 John sees the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven. In Revelation 21 and Revelation 22, the church is depicted in the symbolic image of the Jerusalem that comes down from heaven. The heavenly Jerusalem is mentioned in Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:26. Hebrews 12:22 reads, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,” Galatians 4:26 also mentions a Jerusalem that is in heaven: “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” The fact that there is a Jerusalem that is in heaven suggests that the Jerusalem on earth is a dark shadow of the Jerusalem that is above in the same way that the inner sanctuary of the Temple is a dark shadow of heaven according to Hebrews 8:5: “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”’
As stated above, the Jerusalem on earth is a dark shadow of the glorious Jerusalem that exists in heaven. The fact that the church is called the New Jerusalem at the end of Revelation is an appropriate title since the Jerusalem that is on earth—like the Jerusalem in heaven–grew to become an almost exclusively Christian city during the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades. Therefore, given the fact the Christian church permeated the Jerusalem that is above and the Jerusalem on earth during the first thousand years of the New Covenant, it is no surprise that the New Jerusalem is described in the image of the Christian church in the concluding chapters of the Apocalypse.
Revelation 21 Full Preterist Commentary Intro: Descriptions of Heaven in many Near-Death Experiences strikingly resemble the New Jerusalem.
Very often people who have had near-death experiences (NDE’s) describe seeing cities of light of inexplicable grandeur much like the new Jerusalem. During an NDE, George Ritchie was “shown a distant city made of brilliant light. Its description resembled the city described in the Book of Revelation.”2 Don Piper, an ordained minister since 1985 had a similar experience. After being brought back to life after a near-fatal car accident, Don describes having seen a city of immense beauty strongly resembling the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21. In his book 90 Minutes in Heaven, he writes:
One thing did surprise me: On earth, whenever I thought of heaven, I anticipated that one day I’d see a gate made of pearls, because the Bible refers to the gates of pearl.3 The gate wasn’t made of pearls, but was pearlescent—perhaps iridescent may be more descriptive. To me, it looked as if someone had spread pearl icing on a cake. The gate glowed and shimmered. I paused and stared at the glorious hues and shimmering shades. The luminescence dazzled me, and I would have been content to stay at that spot. Yet I stepped forward as if being escorted into God’s presence. I paused just outside the gate, and I could see inside. It was like a city with paved streets. To my amazement, they had been constructed of literal gold. If you could imagine a street paved with gold bricks, that’s as close as I can come to describing what lay inside the gate. Everything I saw was bright—the brightest colors my eyes had ever beheld—so powerful that no earthly human could take in this brilliance.4
In Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem is pictured in much the same way as it is in Isaiah 60. This kingdom from heaven bears a striking resemblance to the Jewish temple. As suggested in Hebrews 8:5 and Psalm 78:69, the temple appears to be a symbolic model of heaven and earth with the inner sanctuary of the temple being a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. Beale writes the following concerning the fact that the temple in Jerusalem was a symbol or model of heaven and earth:
[T]he OT temple was a microcosmic model of the entire heaven and earth. One of the most explicit texts affirming this is Ps. 78:69: “And he built the sanctuary like the heights, like the earth which he founded forever.” Josephus understood the tripartite structure of the tabernacle to signify “the earth [= outer court] and the sea [= inner court], since these . . . are accessible to all, but the third portion [the holy of holies] he reserved for God alone, because heaven also is inaccessible to men [before the resurrection]” (Ant. 3.181; cf. 3.123).5
The new Jerusalem is a symbolic depiction of the kingdom of God. Indwelt with the Holy Spirit, every member of the body of Christ, according to 2 Corinthians 6:16, is said to be a temple of the living God. Therefore the temple described in this chapter also represents the Christian church in heaven and earth. But why would John describe the body of Christ as the temple of God? John hints at a possible answer in v. 2. But before addressing this question, John sees the new heaven and earth:
1Then I saw a new heaven and earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
A Realized Eschatological View of Revelation 21:1: The New Heaven and Earth Explained . . .
Given the fact that the Temple is a symbolic model of heaven and earth, it is not surprising that the Temple’s destruction in A.D. 70 occurred together with the destruction of heaven and earth. The passing away of heaven and earth is implied in Revelation 20:11. Here the earth and sky fled from the presence of God “and there was no place for them.” The destruction of heaven and earth is also described in Revelation 6:12-14. In these verses, the sky recedes like a scroll and the stars fall to the earth as an indication of the destruction of heaven. Then in v. 14 “every mountain and island was removed from its place.” The removal of the mountains, which often represent cities and kingdoms throughout the Bible (Psalms 2:6; 48:1; Isaiah 66:20; Jeremiah 51:25; Joel 3:17), is another way of expressing the fact that the land was made desolate, resembling the earth at its creation in Genesis 1:1—without form and void. After the Romans conquered Judaea, they left its “mountains” or cities burned and destroyed to such an extent that Josephus says little sign of these settlements remained. After the passing away of heaven and earth, God creates a new heaven and earth. This destruction and recreation, fulfilled in the Jewish War, is depicted throughout the Book of Revelation in such a way as to mirror Genesis 1.
Preterism and Revelation 21:1 Commentary: Heaven and Earth were Destroyed Several Times in Biblical History. Whenever a Nation was Conquered by Another, the Bible often Poetically portrays this Conquest as the Destruction of Heaven and Earth itself.
The destruction of heaven and earth is often understood to mean that God is going to destroy the whole world and rebuild a perfect one in its place. However, the destruction of heaven and earth did not just occur at the eschaton. Whenever a nation was subjugated or conquered by another, the Bible often poetically portrays this conquest as the destruction and subsequent creation of heaven and earth itself. For example, when the Hebrew slaves subjugated and conquered the land of Canaan, this conquest is described in Isaiah 51:15-16 as the creation of heaven and earth:
But I am the Lord your God, who divided the sea whose waves roared [at the crossing of the Red Sea during the exodus]—The Lord of hosts is His name. I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, that I may plant the heavens, lay the foundation of the earth, and say to Zion, “You are My people.”
Furthermore, in Ezekiel 32:7-9, Isaiah 13:9-13 and Isaiah 34:4-5 the fall of Babylon, Egypt and Edom which was fulfilled in the sixth century B.C. is described as the destruction of heaven and earth itself. Whenever a nation was subjugated or conquered by another the Bible often poetically portrays this conquest as the destruction of heaven and earth itself. For a comprehensive explanation of the destruction of heaven and earth in the first century in addition to a description of the first century miraculous signs that fulfilled Biblical prophecies concerning the destruction of heaven and earth in a surprisingly literal way see The Destruction of Heaven and Earth and the New Heaven and Earth Explained!. Also see The Covenantal Significance of the Destruction of Heaven and Earth.
Revelation 21:1 Preterist Commentary: “Let there be Light!”
According to Josephus, just before the Jewish revolt on the eighth day of Nisan a miraculous light lit-up the darkness of the night such “that it appeared to be bright daytime.”6 This light appears to be an omen pointing to Genesis 1:1-3: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light . . .” Is this light in the darkness mentioned by Josephus a presage of the light that separated day from night in Genesis 1:3-4? Could this miracle be a sign of the imminent creation of a new heaven and earth?
Preterism, and Revelation 21:1: The Fact That there is “No Longer Any Sea” in Revelation 21:1 is Probably Not Literal as a River is Mentioned in Revelation 22:1.
According to Revelation 21:1 in the New Jerusalem “there was no longer any sea.” The fact that there is a flowing river in Revelation 22:1-2 implies that “sea” is not being used literally in this verse: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.” But if “sea” is a symbol, what does it symbolize?
Revelation 21:1 Realized Eschatology Commentary: Within the Temple in Jerusalem which Symbolized Heaven and Earth (Psalm 78:69) was a Large Bronze Bath called the Sea. The Fact that there is No Longer Any Sea in Revelation 21:1 may point in Part to the Fact that at the Destruction of the Temple, the Romans Carried the Sea Away as Plunder.
The fact that v. 1 predicts that there will no longer be any sea at the creation of a new heaven and earth also points to Genesis 1. But before addressing the link between Genesis 1:9-10 and the fact that there is no longer any sea in Revelation 21:1, let us briefly turn our attention again to the Temple in Jerusalem. As stated above, the temple in Jerusalem was a microcosmic model of heaven and earth (Psalm 78:69) with the Holy of Holies symbolizing heaven (Hebrews 8:5; 9:24-26). Within this temple was a large bronze bath called the Sea. When the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, the Roman army took the Sea and brought it as plunder to Rome.7 Since the Temple was a microcosmic model of heaven and earth, the fact that the sea was taken away by the Romans at the destruction of the Temple, a symbol of the old heaven and earth, is an earthly symbol of the fulfillment of the destruction of heaven and earth and the fact that there was no longer any sea at its destruction.
Revelation 21:1 Covenant Eschatology Commentary: The Metaphorical Flood Created by the Conquering of the Earth, Judaea, by the Sea, Rome, points to the Pre-Creation Water World of Genesis 1:2.
The earth is represented by Palestine and the sea, by Rome throughout the Book of Revelation. This symbolism thus portrays the conquest of Palestine by Rome as a metaphorical flood. This flood signifies the water world of Genesis 1:2 that the Spirit of God moves over before the creation of the earth. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations.
Preterism and Revelation 21:1 Commentary: The Fact that “there was no longer any Sea” hints at Genesis 1:9 and the Receding of the Metaphorical Flood Waters to Create the New Earth.
The fact that there is “no longer any sea” represents the separation of the waters to expose the new earth in the same way that the earth was created by the separation of the waters in Genesis 1:6-9.8 See How and Why the Imagery of Zechariah 14 Intentionally Mirrors Genesis 1:1-10.
A Preterist View of Revelation 21:1: The Fact that “there was no longer any Sea” also hints at the Reconciliation of Jew and Gentile.
The second point made at the end of v. 1 may also concern the unification or reconciliation of Jew and Gentile in Christ. As stated above, earth symbolizes Judaea and sea, the Gentile nations in the Book of Revelation. The Israelites were to be a nation of priests, a holy people. They were to remain separate from the Gentiles as the land is from the sea. In this way, they would not be defiled and led astray by the unclean ways of the surrounding people. Perhaps the fact that there is no longer any sea representing Gentile nations in v. 1 also hints at the fact that the Gentiles are no longer unclean? The fact that there is no longer any sea may be an indication that all people, not just Jews, are invited to the kingdom of God as stated in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Revelation 21:1 Full Preterist Commentary: Lastly, the Fact that “there was no longer any Sea” Symbolizes v. 4: “There will be no more Death. . . .”
Lastly this verse may also fulfill 1 Corinthians 15:26: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Recall that in addition to representing the Gentile nations, sea also represents death, Hades and the Abyss throughout the Book of Revelation. See The Poetic Biblical Link Between “Sea” and “Abyss”. The fact that there is no longer any sea could also symbolize what is literally stated later in v. 4: “There will be no more death. . . .”
2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
Revelation 21:2 Preterist Commentary: The Wedding of Revelation 21:2 Echoes 2 Esdras 10:48 in which the Entry of a Woman’s Son into His Wedding Chamber Symbolizes the Fall of Jerusalem.
Evidence that the wedding of Revelation 21:2 is fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 echoes the precedent set in 2 Esdras in which the entry of a woman’s son into his marriage chamber is explicitly said to symbolize the fall of Jerusalem (2 Esdras 10:48). In 2 Esdras 9:38-10:59 the prophet sees a vision of a woman mourning after her son had died on his wedding night. The prophet rebukes the woman for mourning over just one person after the whole city of Jerusalem had been destroyed. Then the woman’s appearance becomes bright and she disappears and the prophet sees a city with large foundations. An angel explains the vision to the prophet and he is told that the entry of the son who appears to represent the Shekinah (2 Esdras 10:45-48) into the marriage chamber symbolizes the fall of Jerusalem: “But whereas she said unto thee, That my son coming into his marriage chamber happened to have a fail, and died: this was the destruction that came to Jerusalem (2 Esdras 10:48).”
Revelation 21:2 Preterist Commentary: The New Jerusalem is the Church.
The new Jerusalem represents the church. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul writes, “I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” In order to marry the church, God would have to divorce his previous wife, the unfaithful of the Jewish old covenant community, as he had done in Jeremiah 3:8 and Isaiah 50:1 during the Babylonian invasion. Revelation 17 presents the unfaithful people of Jerusalem as an adulterous wife. Jerusalem is said to be an adulteress in order to make the divorce lawful. According to Matthew 5:32, anyone who divorces his wife except for cases of marital unfaithfulness causes her to become an adulteress. Because of her adulteries, Jerusalem was given her certificate of divorce; and in Revelation 21:2, God marries the Christian church, the new Jerusalem. Duncan W. McKenzie makes the following interesting point concerning the marriage of the new Jerusalem, the church, after the destruction of the old Jerusalem and its Temple symbolizing the old covenant:
I find it interesting, one of the reasons given for the breaking of the glass at Jewish weddings is that it is in remembrance of the A.D. 70 destruction of the Temple. This is most appropriate. As Revelation 19:1-9 shows, the destruction of the Temple happened at the time of a wedding.9
Preterist Interpretation of Revelation 21:2: According to John 3:13 the New Jerusalem, the Christian Church, Came down from Heaven through Jesus Christ, its King and Founder.
As stated above the fact that the New Jerusalem is said to come down from heaven to the earth illustrates the fact that the saints on earth are “strangers and exiles on the earth (Hebrews 11:13)[,]” “not of the world (John 17:16)” and have their “citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20).” But there is more to this imagery. In John 3:13 Jesus says, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.” It is through and by Jesus Christ who descended from heaven to establish his church that the New Jerusalem (the Christian Church) is said to come down from heaven in Revelation 21:2. This message is implicit in Daniel 2. Here Daniel sees a rock cut out without hands that crushes the feet of the statue of four metals. This rock representing Jesus presumably descends from heaven before it shatters this statue representing four Gentile empires. After shattering the statue, this rock then grows to become a large mountain that fills the earth. Mountains represent kingdoms in the Bible (Psalms 2:6; 48:1; Isaiah 66:20; Jeremiah 51:25; Joel 3:17). Therefore this mountain represents the kingdom of God which as stated above is the New Jerusalem or the Christian Church. For an interesting, though controversial, complimentary interpretation of this verse with evidence from the Bible and testimony from near-death experiences see Daren Wisman’s controversial article The Biblical Solution to Christianity’s Predestination Paradox.
Revelation 21:2 Realized Eschatology Commentary: Post-War Jerusalem is often described as a Utopia in order to Symbolically Connect the Jerusalem of this World to the Jerusalem Above.
In Revelation 21 and Revelation 22, the Jerusalem that is on earth is described in a similar euphoric state to that of the Jerusalem that is in heaven mentioned in Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:26. In other words, the Jerusalem of this world is described in what is often called poetic hyperbole. I believe the reason that post-war Jerusalem is sometimes described as a utopia is not just to contrast the present joy and peace with the previous despair of war but also to use Jerusalem as a poetic illustration of its heavenly counterpart.10 Just as the old Jerusalem at its destruction in Revelation 19:3 is described in the image of hell, the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21 and 22 is described in the image of heaven. Perhaps Jerusalem may also be described in this way in order to hint at the fact that it is occupied to a large extent by Christians destined for heaven?
Revelation 21:2; 22:2; and 22:15 Full Preterist Commentary: Arguments that the New Jerusalem cannot be a Description of Heaven Addressed . . .
Commentators sometimes argue based on Revelation 21:2; 22:2; and 22:15 that the New Jerusalem is just the Christian church on earth and it is not at all a description of heaven. This I strongly believe is false. Revelation 21:2 has been addressed above. The next bit of evidence is found in Revelation 22:2. This verse says that the tree of life in the city is for the healing of the nations. Some commentators argue that this cannot be a description of heaven because they question why someone would eat or need healing in heaven. Yet in 2 Enoch 8:1-3 Enoch is taken to the third heaven and there he explicitly says that he saw the tree of life. And in confirmation of 2 Enoch 8:1-3 the New Jerusalem which contains the tree of life is explicitly said to come down from heaven in Revelation 21:2.
Is there eating in heaven? In Luke 22:15 Jesus says that He will never again eat the Passover meal until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of heaven. The feast that Jesus refers to in Luke 22:15 is elaborated upon in Matthew 8:11: “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Of course the kingdom of heaven is more than just heaven (Luke 17:21). However, one might ask how it is that someone on earth can eat or drink whether literally or purely spiritually with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob if these patriarchs are in heaven after the resurrection? When Jesus says that many people from the east and west will take their places in a feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, how could this point to anything other than literal fellowship between the new and the old covenant saints in heaven? And if this fellowship truly does take place in heaven after the resurrection as Jesus implies in Matthew 8:11, how can one say that there is no eating (whether literally or purely spiritually) in heaven? Perhaps the eating and drinking mentioned in Matthew 8:11 is purely figurative or spiritual as the drinking of the water of life in Revelation 21:6 appears to be? And if the eating mentioned in Revelation 22:2 is figurative or spiritual, it follows that the healing that occurs as a result is also figurative or spiritual.
Similarly in Luke 22:29-30 Jesus says, “And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” As I explained in the commentary on Revelation 6 it could be said that the saints judged the twelve tribes of Israel in an earthly manner when they prayed for vengeance for their unjust deaths in Revelation 6:9-11. Therefore, maybe one could say that the judging of the twelve tribes mentioned in Luke 22:29-30 was fulfilled on earth? But if this judgment if purely earthly, how could the apostles be said to be seated on twelve earthly thrones? Though as founding fathers of the Christian church, the apostles were and are eminent men in the church, the thrones upon which the apostles sit and judge the twelve tribes mentioned in Luke 22:29-30 also appear to be heavenly ones. In 1 Corinthians 6:3 Paul writes, “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” If the apostles are not truly eminent beings in heaven after the resurrection who are able to judge angels, how could they be so revered by the church throughout its history? The thrones upon which the apostles sit in Luke 22:29-30 appear almost certainly be heavenly thrones. And if these thrones are heavenly ones, then according to vs. 29-30 it follows that there must also be some type of eating and drinking in heaven. Now whether this eating or drinking is literal or purely symbolic is, of course, impossible to know just as we cannot know whether the tree of life upon which this fruit is produced in Revelation 22:2 is a literal tree or just a symbol of the kingdom of heaven itself.
The next argument that the New Jerusalem cannot be a description of heaven is found in Revelation 22:15. Here it says that outside the New Jerusalem are “the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” These sinners mentioned in Revelation 22:15 are outside of the New Jerusalem because they are in the lake of fire according to Revelation 21:8: “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.” Is the lake of fire somewhere in heaven? Why is this evidence that the New Jerusalem is not a description of heaven? Of course evil doers are not in heaven. Obviously these people must be somewhere outside of heaven.
3And 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.
Revelation 21:3 Commentary, A Preterist Interpretation: The New Jerusalem is the Church Described in the Likeness of Heaven.
As indicated in Exodus 25:8 and Ezekiel 43:6-7, God is believed to have resided in spirit within the Holy of Holies of the temple. The above verse is a virtual quote of Leviticus 26:12. In this verse, God is said to walk among His people and be their God because of the presence of the Temple among them. The interesting thing about the new Jerusalem is that there is no temple within the city (Revelation 21:22). This is because the whole city is the temple. In this temple city, God freely dwells in spirit with His people as He had within the Holy of Holies of the first and second temple.
As explained above, the new Jerusalem is a symbolic depiction of the church described in the likeness of heaven. Jesus promised His people that after His death they would be indwelt with the Holy Spirit of God. In this way, every member of the church has become a temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16) similar to the temple in Jerusalem in which God was thought to dwell in spirit. This idea is explicitly stated in 2 Corinthians 6:16: “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’”11 The fact that this verse is fulfilled on earth by the presence of the Holy Spirit within the hearts of the saints is a dark earthly shadow of the literal fulfillment of this verse in the Jerusalem that is in heaven mentioned in Galatians 4:26. It is here that God literally dwells with His people after death.
4He 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.”
Revelation 21:4 Commentary, A Preterist View: The Fact that there is no more Death means that the Dead in Christ are now raised to Heaven immediately without having to await Redemption in Sheol, the Land of the Dead. In Heaven there is no more crying or Pain.
Reflecting the bliss reserved for those in the presence of God in heaven, the Christian refugees returning from Pella resettled in Judea likely overwhelmed with joy that the war had ended. With the war over, in a way, there was no more death, sorrow or pain. The elation of the saints returning home mirrored that of the Jewish exiles returning home from Babylon in Jeremiah 31:12. Here the prophet writes, “[T]hey will sorrow no more.” The Christian church shares in this promise. The prophet Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would carry their sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). As a result, the believer is left with joy in the Holy Spirit, as stated in Romans 14:17 and John 15:11.
This promise of no more mourning, crying or pain which is fulfilled on earth in the joy in the Holy Spirit is merely a shadow of the literal fulfillment of this promise in heaven. Adding to the joy of the believer is the promise of eternal life in heaven through Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross (John 17:3). Because of this sacrifice, there is no more death as the old order has passed away.
In Isaiah 65:17, Isaiah looks ahead to the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and Revelation 22 with the words: “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.” The new Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22 opens with a nearly identical expression in Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” Interestingly, in Isaiah’s description of the new Jerusalem that is on earth, he explicitly indicates that there will still be physical death. Isaiah 65:20 reads, “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.” Thus when Revelation 21:4 states that in the new Jerusalem “there will be no more death,” this death is not physical death, it is spiritual death.
Before Jesus’ death for the remission of sins, the Old Covenant saints had no perfect sacrifice to cleanse them from sin and the resulting scourge of spiritual death which is separation from God in heaven. Thus these saints were confined to Sheol, the realm of the dead, after physical death. Sheol is spiritual death because it is a realm of darkness and separation from God in heaven. Sheol, the afterlife realm of death, is often just translated death in the Bible. Prior to the seventh trumpet and the concurrent resurrection, the saints had to await their redemption in Sheol before they could receive their inheritance in heaven (Daniel 12:13). The fact that there is no more death in v. 4 means that after the seventh trumpet, the saints no longer have to wait in Sheol before they are allowed to enter heaven. Many of the dead are now immediately resurrected to heaven after death, and it is here that there will be no more death or “mourning or crying or pain.” Because of Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross, there is no more spiritual death as the old order has passed away. See 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: Preterism, the Rapture and the Resurrection. For an explanation of how Jesus fully erased the curse of death and its implications for answering a common objection to old earth creationism see Why Isaiah 65:20 and Related Verses Imply that Physical Death Preceded the Fall of Man.
5He 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.” 6He 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. 7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8But 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.” 9One 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.” 10And 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. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
Revelation 21:11 Preterist Commentary: The Crystalline Beauty of Heaven is Commonly Reported in Near-Death Experiences.
In v. 11, the heavenly Jerusalem is said to shine with the brilliance of a precious jewel. Describing the crystalline brilliance of heaven, one near death survivor writes, “In the distance I saw a sight so magnificent and astounding—a city made up of what seemed to be glass or crystal! The lights were of many colors that radiated from it.”12
12It 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. 13There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south, and three on the west.
The new Jerusalem has three gates at each point of the compass verifying Jesus’ testimony in Luke 13:29: “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16The 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.
Preterism and Revelation 21:16 Explained: The Christian Church like the Holy of Holies of the Second Temple is a Shadow of Heaven.
Verse 16 indicates that the New Jerusalem is a perfect cube similar to the Holy of Holies. As stated in Hebrews 8:5, the Jewish temple is a copy and shadow of the temple of God that is in heaven: “They [the Levitical priests] serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’” Ephesians 2:19-22 illustrates the fact that the church is also a shadow of the Temple of God which is in heaven. In Ephesians 2:19-22 the church on earth is depicted as a temple built upon the foundation of the twelve disciples as is the New Jerusalem in v. 14:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
According to Hebrews 8:5 and Ephesians 2:19-22 the Christian church on earth takes the place of the Holy of Holies of the Second Temple and is thus the new shadow of the Holy of Holies that exists in heaven.
Preterist Interpretation and Revelation 21:17-21 Commentary: A Description of Heaven in another Near-Death Experience . . .
In the next four verses, John describes a golden city surrounded by walls decorated with all kinds of precious stones. One survivor of clinical death portrayed heaven in much the same way:
I saw a golden city with towers like European castles. The whole city seemed to be shining with light that shot up into the sky like a giant searchlight. I could see that some of the domes of the city were red, others were gold, and a few were blue. The gates and walls of the city seemed to be made of bright blue, red, and violet lights.13
17He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19The 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, 20the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21The 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.
In these verses, the walls of the new Jerusalem are adorned with twelve precious stones similar to the twelve stones worn on the high priest’s breast piece (Exodus 28:15-21). In addition the new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, is described as a city of pure gold with gates of pearl. In comparing these five verses with Revelation 17:4 it seems clear that the author of Revelation intends to contrast the city of Babylon with the new Jerusalem. In Revelation 17:4 the city of Babylon is also adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls. The clothing worn by the whore of Babylon is meant to be a clue to her true identity as God’s ex-wife—the old adulterous Jerusalem.
22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
The fact that there is no temple in the city means that there is no literal, physical temple since the LORD and Christ are said to be the temple in v. 22. Of course, the Father and Son are not literal temples. As stated above, the New Jerusalem is a description of heaven. The New Jerusalem is also a metaphorical description of the saints on earth who are destined for heaven portrayed in the image or likeness of heaven.
Arguing that the New Jerusalem is just the church on earth, one preterist commentator says that v. 22 is “proof” that the New Jerusalem is not a depiction of heaven since there is mention of a heavenly Temple in Scripture.14 This same reasoning can be used to refute the idea that the New Jerusalem is just the church on earth. Verse 23 says that in the New Jerusalem there is no sun or moon: “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.” Of course there still exists a sun and moon on earth during the Church Age.
The New Jerusalem that is in heaven (Hebrews 12:22, Galatians 4:26) has no temple because the whole city is the Holy of Holies this is why it is depicted as a cube (Revelation 21:16) just like the Holy of Holies. The New Jerusalem that is on earth by the presence of the saints also has no physical temple, the Temple having been destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Revelation 21:22 indicates that Christ, the Lamb, is the temple as is echoed in John 2:19-21. If Jesus is the temple in the New Jerusalem then since the saints are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27-31), the saints are also the temple of God as is stated in 2 Corinthians 6:16. Thus the New Jerusalem that is on earth also has no physical temple because the church, the Body of Christ, is the Temple.
23The 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. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
Revelation 21:23-24 Preterist Commentary: God is a Being of Light.
According to Psalm 72 and Psalm 89, the sun and moon are celestial signs of royalty.15 In v. 24, God and the Lamb are the sun and moon. There is more to this symbolism then what has been stated above. Describing the likeness of God, Ezekiel writes:
Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him (Ezekiel 1:26-28).
Christ’s appearance before Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9:3-9 and the author of Revelation in Revelation 1:12-16 was quite similar. Here Jesus appeared before both men radiating brilliant light. The sun and moon are apt symbols for beings whose heavenly likeness illuminates like that of the sun. Independent attestation of the beaming radiance of God in heaven is found in the testimony of one near death survivor:
As we walked along to find Jesus, I noticed there was one building larger than all the others. It looked like a football stadium with an open end to the building where a blinding light radiated from it. I tried to look up at the light but I couldn’t. It was too brilliant. Many people seemed to be bowed in front of this building in adoration and prayer. I said to my parents, “What is that?” They said, “In there is God.”16
In confirmation of Ephesians 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 12:2 near-death experiences confirm that there is more than one heavenly realm. Each heavenly realm or vibratory zone as it is called in the NDE literature contains a different world of light increasing in grandeur and luminosity upon ascending to higher heavenly realms. Visions of these cities are a common near death experience. V. 25 indicates that there is no night in this city; there is no night here because the city itself is constantly alight. In this city, the gates are always open to allow the continuous influx of saints as the Messianic age continues through the age of ages.
26The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27Nothing 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.
Revelation 21:27 Realized Eschatology Commentary: The Dual Fulfillment of Revelation 21:27 in the Jerusalem on Earth and the Jerusalem in Heaven . . .
As stated above, the new Jerusalem represents the church which is present both on the Jerusalem on earth and the Jerusalem in heaven (Galatians 4:26). Once populated by ethnic Jews, Judea was 95% Christian by A.D. 614.17 This was, in a large part, because of the expulsion of many Jews after the Jewish War and the second Jewish revolt, the Bar Kokhba Rebellion. After the second Jewish revolt in order to eliminate the possibility of future insurrections, Hadrian ordered the exile of the remaining Jews in Judea. After this war, few Jewish settlements remained with the exception of three areas in the Jordan valley.18 Jerusalem was then renamed Aelia Capitoline and racial Jews were not permitted to approach the city upon threat of execution.19 At the end of the fourth century with Jews still only allowed in the city one day a year, Jerusalem became an exclusively Christian city, the only one in the country.20 The fact that Jerusalem grew to become an exclusively Christian city during the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades literally fulfills Revelation 21:27: “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” The fact that the Jerusalem on earth grew to become an exclusively Christian city during the Thousand Year Reign is an earthly reflection of the exclusively Christian nature of the Jerusalem that is in heaven as is implied by John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Thus in this way the Christianized earthly Jerusalem became a true earthly mirror of the Jerusalem that is in heaven.
In the next chapter, the Book of Revelation comes to a close and with it the Bible itself. In Revelation 22, John continues his description of the new Jerusalem. After describing the richness of the temple city, John’s vision ends as it began with an interaction with an angelic messenger. Here one of the angels of the seven last plagues promises the eminent return of the Messiah and with him the beginning of a new and glorious age.
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
In this commentary on Revelation 21, the reader is once again exposed to evidence from the Bible and NDE’s that the new Jerusalem is a symbolic depiction of the church that had populated post-war Jerusalem described in the likeness of heaven.
- Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you[.]” In this verse it appears that Israel, the earth, is called upon to act as a witness against its transgressors. Of course not all of Israel transgressed God’s Law, throughout Israel’s history there had always been a faithful remnant.
- www.near-death.com/experiences/research20.html (3/20/2008).
- Revelation 21:21.
- Don Piper and Cecil Murphey, 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2004), 34-35.
- Beale, Book of Revelation, 1109-10. cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, Ph.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination Volume 2: The Book of Revelation (USA: Xulon Press, 2012), 429.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.
- John Noe, Ph.D., The Greater Jesus: His glorious unveiling, (Indianapolis: East2West Press, 2012), 349.
- The fact that there is no longer any sea in v. 1 does not mean that there are literally no seas left on the earth but merely that the separation of the metaphorical waters made dry land appear such that there is no longer a vast sea covering the entire face of the earth.
- Duncan W. McKenzie, Ph.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination Volume 2: The Book of Revelation (USA: Xulon Press, 2012), 292.
- Another example of this poetic hyperbole is found in Isaiah 60. See Isaiah 60: A Preterist Commentary.
- See also Ephesians 2:19-22.
- “The NDE and the City of Light: Kevin Williams’ Research Conclusions,” Ricky Randolph’s Account in http://www.near-death.com/experiences/research19.html (3/14/2008).
- “The NDE and the City of Light: Kevin Williams’ Research Conclusions,” Randy Gehling’s Account in http://www.near-death.com/experiences/research19.html (3/14/2008).
- Ralph E. Bass, Jr., Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 485.
- Interestingly, Roman emperors of the first century were often portrayed in the likeness of the sun god. On a first century coin, Caesar Augustus and Livia are depicted as the sun and moon symbolizing their imperial authority. (George Bradford Caird, “A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Black’s New Testament Commentaries (New York: Black and Harper & Row, 1966), 148 cited in Jacques M. Chevalier, A Postmodern Revelation: Signs of Astrology and the Apocalypse (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 348.)
- “The NDE and Afterlife Realms: Kevin Williams’ Research Conclusions,” An Accountant’s Account in http://www.near-death.com/experiences/research20.html (3/20/2008).
- Thomas A. Idinopulas, Jerusalem Blessed, Jerusalem Cursed: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Holy City from David’s Time to Our Own (Chicago: Ivan R. Deer, 1991), 102.
- M. Avi-Yonah, The Jews of Palestine: A Political History from the Bar Kokhba War to the Arab Conquest (New York: Schocken Books, 1976), 16.
- Teddy Kollek and Moshe Pearlman, Jerusalem: A History of Forty Centuries (New York: Random House, 1968), 140.
- Ibid., 149.