Is the New Jerusalem the Church or Israel?

A kind correspondent has sent us a paper which seeks to prove that the holy city, new Jerusalem, is Israel; and the writer of the paper endeavours to substantiate his position by a sevenfold argument. But it is a most remarkable thing that all the passages which point to another conclusion are omitted. We propose, therefore, in a general way, to call attention to these, in the hope that our correspondent, as well as any others who may have been unsettled, may be re-established in the conviction that the subject of the glorious vision of Revelation 21 is, after all, the church, though the church (we speak of the vision commencing with verse 10) in relation to the earth during the millennium.

1. We will refer first of all to Ephesians 5:25-27. The writer of the paper in question makes much of the fact that in Ephesians 1 the church is said to be the body of Christ, and undoubtedly this was the special aspect of the church of which Paul was minister (see Eph. 3:1-11; Col. 1:24-27); but it is also true that he alludes to the church as the bride of Christ. No one, indeed, could read the scripture cited (chap. 5:25-27) without perceiving that a direct comparison is instituted between marriage and the union of Christ and the church. Leave out this analogy, and this precious scripture loses its blessed force and beauty. As an additional support for this interpretation the reader may be reminded that the apostle says elsewhere, when writing to the Corinthians, "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (2 Cor. 11:2.)

2. Let us now turn to a very direct scripture: "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (Rev. 19:7-8.) Now it is very plain that this scene is laid in heaven, and that it is previous to the Lord's coming out of heaven as described in verses 11-21. In other words, the time of this scene is between the rapture and the appearing, that is, after the saints of this period have been caught up to be for ever with the Lord, and before He comes forth with His people to establish His kingdom, and to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. If this be so (and the fact is certain), the church is the wife mentioned, for Israel at this time will be yet in unbelief, and will not even be gathered, as a whole, until after the Lord has appeared in glory.

3. Revelation 22:16-17, rightly understood, makes entirely for the same conclusion. The message is not to Israel, but to the churches: "I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, [and] the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come." The 20th verse shows that the Lord has not yet come; and we are thus again confronted with the fact that Israel, at this time, will still be in unbelief, and consequently could not be represented as desiring the advent of Christ. Will the question be asked, Why is it then that the Lord assumes here the titles of root and offspring of David? It is surely because He is the. heir of all the royal rights of David, as well as David's Lord, for He is the ROOT as well as the offspring of the son of Jesse; and it is in this character that He will found His kingdom, and then, as Son of man, through Israel as the centre, He will govern the nations of the earth. (Compare 2 Timothy 2:8.) Remark now that He is also presented as the bright and morning star, the One who will be seen by the watchers before His return shining aloft in all His heavenly beauty as the harbinger of the coming day. It is the contemplation of Christ in this character that ravishes the heart of the bride, and evokes in the power of the Spirit (for it is the Spirit and the bride) the cry, Come. The last clause, moreover, of this remarkable scripture places it beyond doubt that it is the church that is before the mind of the Spirit, because it is through her, through evangelists and others, that the proclamation is made, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." It is clear again, therefore, that the church is the bride of Christ.

4. It is scarcely necessary to add more, except to remove difficulties raised by the arguments of the writer in question. That Israel is also the bride of Christ, or, to speak more accurately, Jerusalem (if Jerusalem as the expression of the people), is taught in many scriptures. The church is the heavenly bride, as Israel will be the earthly bride; and this is not dimly adumbrated by Jacob and his two wives, Leah and Rachel. Bearing this in mind, the reader will all the better understand the similarity of many expressions in Isaiah 60 to those employed of the heavenly Jerusalem in Revelation 21. And there will be a direct connection between the city of the great King, Mount Zion, and the new Jerusalem. The former will be the vestibule, as it were, to the latter, which will shine above the earthly city with the light of the glory of God, in which she will be displayed.

One other thing may be recalled. The fact that the twelve gates of the heavenly city have written on them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and that the twelve foundations have in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, is employed to prove that the church is not signified. One word is almost enough to answer this objection. The heavenly city is the glorious metropolis of the Lord's universal kingdom, and, as may be seen from many scriptures, Israel will be the centre and the instrument of His sway. It is not, as often remarked, the Pauline aspect of the church which is here seen, but, in accordance with the character of Revelation, it is the church in relation to the earth during Messiah's kingdom; and hence it is a governmental scene - one in which the full issue and consummation of God's ways with the earth is finally reached.* Revelation 21:1-7 goes still further, and permits us to see the eternal fruit of the government of God.

*The church founded in Jerusalem at Pentecost under the government of the apostles shadows forth this aspect.

The general conception, then, of the new Jerusalem as the church, as the bride of Christ, is, we cannot doubt, scriptural; and this could be still more firmly established, if it were needful, by dwelling upon the more positive teachings of the subject. We will, however, gladly return to it if any perplexities still remain.