The New Jerusalem and the Heavenly Jerusalem

How good it is to turn away from man's judged and ruined city, which for so long dishonoured God and the Name of His dear Son, to view the divine structure which has ever been in the mind of God, a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. It is the city for which Abraham waited, "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22), to which we have already come in faith, "the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God" (Rev. 3:12), whose name will be written on the over-comer, as promised to the church of Philadelphia. Nothing of the first order of man will be found in it; all that is displayed will speak of Christ, and the love, wisdom, grace and glory of God will shine from it for the delight and satisfaction of the heart of God.

The New Jerusalem

The opening verses of Revelation 21 bring before us the church as the New Jerusalem. It comes into view after the present heavers and earth have passed away. In contrast to corrupt Babylon, it is a holy city, displaying the nature and character of God, and with the purity and beauty of a bride fit for the eye and heart of Christ. This is the vessel that has been in the purpose and counsels of God from eternity, a creation of divine workmanship capable of setting forth before the universe God's own glory, that in which He can find His pleasure, and that brings satisfaction to the heart of His Son.

Divine in origin and heavenly in character, the city is viewed "as a bride adorned for her husband." The church will have been with Christ for a thousand years before the heavens and earth pass away, and before the city is seen in its eternal character; but she is as precious and beautiful in the eyes of Christ as on the day He presented her to Himself all glorious, and without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Perennial freshness and beauty belong to the church as the new creation workmanship of God. Everything down here grows old, but what is of new creation retains its newness and loveliness for evermore, it never has the marks of age or a trace of decay.

This is the church that Christ loved, and for which He gave Himself. He loved the church before she had any actual existence; but His heart was set upon her as He saw her new creation beauty mirrored in the counsels of eternity. Now He has her for Himself, the cherished object of His affections, the joy of His heart, to lavish His love upon her for the ages of ages. During her sojourn on earth He had watched over her, sanctifying and cleansing her "with the washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:26); and now she is His eternal companion in the scene of His glory. To procure her for Himself He had laid down His life, but He had not counted the cost too great to have such a bride, with the heavenly adornment that God had put upon her.

For God, the New Jerusalem was "The tabernacle of God with men." It had ever been in the mind and heart of God to dwell with men, and nothing would He allow to frustrate His purpose. When Adam fell, it appeared as though God's plans had been ruined irreparably; but He used the very conditions that the devil had brought in to further His designs for the eternal blessing of men with blessing far excelling anything that belonged to Adam innocent. And Satan's influence on man to get rid of the Son of God had also been used to procure the glory and work of redemption, and upon this foundation the eternal city had been founded.

God showed in the shadow of His relations with Israel what was in His mind. Moses reared the Tabernacle as a dwelling for God in the midst of a redeemed people, and there His glory rested, even if it was but for a brief period of time. But His glory resting there foreshadowed what He would bring to pass; He would dwell in the midst of a redeemed people for ever; and in the New Jerusalem God has shown to us what He will soon have for His eternal pleasure.

Israel was God's earthly people, but now it is no longer only Israel, but God dwelling with men. There is no middle wall now, no segregation of nations, indeed, nations seem to have gone with all the distinctions belonging to them, and God dwells with men, no doubt in many families, among the many families "in heaven and earth" all named of the Father (Eph. 3:15). In His heavenly tabernacle, God will dwell with men and he their God. If God finds His pleasure in dwelling with men, how blessed it will be for men to have God as their God, finding their joy and all in Him.

It almost seems as if the joys of that day cannot be conveyed to us in positive terms, but there will be the absence of all that has distressed the human heart in the present conditions of this world. Not only will there be the absence of tears, but "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." How very touching that God should take away every trace of the sorrows connected with the first creation that man has brought into ruin.

Death, sorrow, crying and pain have all been known in the lives of men in this world, but not a trace of them will be found in the new scene that God will bring into being for His eternal day. All these are the dread results of sin, but the Lamb of God will have taken away the sin of the world, removing it as an active agent by His power, even as He had taken it away from before God's eye by the sacrifice of Himself, and taken it away from His own with the giving of the glorified body, the old nature for ever gone when that which is mortal is swallowed up of life. All things are new in that day; and the old with all its effects for ever gone.

The Heavenly Jerusalem

The New Jerusalem is God's city in a scene of which He has said, "Behold, I make all things new"; and with it we are brought to the threshold of eternity. But the Heavenly Jerusalem is God's heavenly millennial city, the divine centre of administration for the world to come. During the thousand years of Christ's reign in righteousness there will also be an earthly Jerusalem, the divine metropolis on earth, with the temple built according to the plan given to Ezekiel, with a Levitical priesthood and sacrifices and feasts as foretold by Ezekiel. There will therefore be two Jerusalems in the millennium, a heavenly and an earthly, but for the eternal day there will be but one, the New Jerusalem.

From Revelation 21:10 we have the description of the heavenly city, which will have radiated the divine glory to the nations of the earth for a thousand years before the earth and the heavens pass away. Like the New Jerusalem, the millennial city is holy, heavenly and divine, resplendent with God's glory. It is the centre of God's administration for the world to come, and the apostles of the Lamb have a bright reward there, their names being engraved on the twelve foundations of the wall of the city. The names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel are on the gates; and it would seem as if there is the answer here to what the Lord promised His twelve apostles, "Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:28).

Every beauteous feature of Christ is reflected from the precious stones that adorn the foundation of the wall, and their light brings heavenly illumination to the nations of the earth. In glory, and in righteousness, the saints shall walk together on the street of gold, displaying in glory the unity that God has given them, a unity that belongs to the divine nature possessed during their earthly sojourn, and that marked them in their testimony for God while waiting to be taken with Christ to heaven.

No evil can enter this fair scene to mar the joys of those whom God has blessed, or to dim the shining of the glory. Nor is there need for a temple to enshrine that which belongs to God, and to keep it in holy separation from that which is of man, for all in this holy, heavenly place is of God, and God and the Lamb are the temple of it.

As the Lamb's wife, the city displays the glory of the Lamb; and she is His bride, the one in whom He finds His delight, and upon whom His affections are bestowed. All the glory and beauty in which she is now adorned has come from Him, not like her wedding garment of" fine linen, clean and white" (Rev. 19:8), which was her own. He sold all that He had to get the pearl of great price to display at the gates of the city, and to obtain the treasure that was hid in the field to lay in the foundations of the wall (Matt. 13:44-46). The rays of dazzling beauty display God's nature and the moral attributes that were so perfectly manifested in Christ here on earth.

Excluded from Eden on account of his sin, man has been seeking to make himself happy away from God. Some, with religious zeal, have been endeavouring to improve man in the flesh, and to improve his environment, in the fond but vain hope of regaining an earthly paradise. But man in the flesh has been set aside in the cross as incorrigible, and no amount of culture or improvement of his conditions of life will ever make him any different. The earthly paradise will never be regained, but for those who believe on the Son of God, a heavenly paradise has been opened, with the river of life and the tree of life with all its precious fruit.

When Adam sinned, God sent the flaming sword and the cherubim to keep the way of the tree of life, to prevent, in mercy, the perpetuation of sinful conditions in this world. Man after the flesh was to be ended, and a new man was to enter the paradise of God in heaven to eat there of the tree of life, and to drink of the water of life, while serving God and the Lamb in the nearness and joy of His presence, and reigning with Christ for ever and ever.

The curse that came with Adam's fall will be removed, and the nations that have been brought through the judgments of God upon men will have the leaves of the tree of life, from the heavenly city, to bring them healing. For God's heavenly people, the heavenly Jerusalem will be the scene of their joys and blessing; but for the nations of the earth it will give light and healing for the thousand years of Christ's glorious reign in righteousness.

How great is the contrast between man's city and God's city! Man has reared his city to display himself, and has brought into it everything his inventive genius could conceive to gratify his fallen nature. But he can never find satisfaction in anything that proceeds from himself, and very soon all that he has devised and constructed will be brought down in eternal ruin. God's city, whether seen in its millennial or eternal character, will bring delight to the heart of God and to Christ; and will bring joy, rest and bliss to those whom God has brought there through the work of His Son, and whose precious blood has given them title to be there.