When Heaven Comes to Earth
Have you ever heard the expression “It’s Heaven on Earth”? Well that’s literally what the New Jerusalem will be.
It is probably the best known and most fought over city in the world. The Jewish people cherish it. The Muslims want to take it. The United Nations wants to divide it. Nations are willing to go to war over it.
But the Jerusalem of today is not the final incarnation of the holy city, which actually belongs to God. He has promised a New Jerusalem—a magnificent, enormous city that will descend to Earth; and it will be glorious.
The key Bible book on the New Jerusalem is Revelation, and the first reference to it is 3:12: Jesus told the apostle John to write, “I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God.”
The future city will descend from heaven to Earth after the following events take place: seven years of tribulation (described in Revelation 6—19), the Second Coming (19:11–16), the Millennial Kingdom (20:1–10), and the Great White Throne final judgment of the lost (vv. 11–15).
The age following the Millennium (Messiah’s 1,000-year reign), when all things are made new and right, is sometimes referred to as the eternal state; and the New Jerusalem is an integral part of it. In Revelation 21, John described a vision the Lord gave him of this future city. He told of its beauty, location, inhabitants, and its absence of sin and suffering.
The New Jerusalem is described as a “bride adorned for her husband” (21:2), which points to its unsurpassed beauty. It is a great metropolis of matchless glory and brilliant light like that of “a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (v. 11).
It has 12 foundations; and its high wall has 12 gates, three on each side.
Laid out as an even cube, it measures 1,500 miles long, wide, and high, making it enormous (vv. 15–16).1 The United States is 3,200 miles from coast to coast. The New Jerusalem is so massive every side of the cube could extend almost halfway across the United States.
Its walls are of jasper, and the city is of “pure gold” (v. 18). The 12 foundations are adorned with precious stones, such as jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, and emerald (vv. 19–20). Each gate is composed of a single large pearl, and the street of the city is “pure gold, like transparent glass” (v. 21).
Bible commentator David M. Levy astutely noted, “The walls of jasper and the city of pure gold would look like a sparkling diamond in all its crystalline beauty, designed to reflect the effulgence of God’s radiant glory in every area of the city.”2
New Jerusalem is a literal, physical, and spatial city. Though some of its splendor may symbolize the holiness and brilliance of God, the vast number of details provided suggests it is a literal metropolis.
New Jerusalem is actually heaven (God’s abode) on Earth during the eternal state. After God creates a new Earth, heaven will descend to Earth so that He may dwell with His people forever in a way they have never before experienced:
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God….The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are [the city’s] temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light (vv. 3, 22–23).
God’s presence is so bright the light of the sun and moon are not needed.
Who enjoys God’s presence in the New Jerusalem? Jesus said only those who have thirsted and taken freely of the water of life (v. 6). Believers from throughout the ages will live there with God. (See also Hebrews 11 and 12:22–24.)
This multitude includes church saints (Rev. 21:9–10), a fact also indicated by the names of the 12 apostles on the city’s 12 foundations (21:14); Jewish and other Old Testament believers; and believers from the Tribulation and even the Millennium. “The names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” will adorn the city’s 12 gates (v. 12).
Its Absence of Sin and Suffering
God’s presence in the New Jerusalem means the elimination of the curse of sin and death: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (v. 4).
Today we live in a sin-cursed environment. But the Lord will eliminate the curse, not only in New Jerusalem but throughout the new earth. No hospitals, funeral homes, graves, diseases, or wars will exist; and Israel finally will dwell in peace.
Nothing will enter the holy city “that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (v. 27). And those whose names are written there will “reign forever and ever” in the future city (22:5).
Until then, we must urge unbelievers to trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through His Son, Messiah Jesus, so they, too, may share in our glorious hope. As many commentators have pointed out, the Bible’s narrative of human existence begins in a garden, but it ends in a brilliant city—the New Jerusalem on a new earth.
- Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1995), 466–67.
- David M. Levy, Revelation: Hearing the Last Word (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1999), 267.