The New Jerusalem
There are many who have been taught that when Jesus comes back on the clouds of glory that He will establish a new Jerusalem; a literal, physical city, at a location somewhere on this earth. Some people believe that it will be at the location of the old Jerusalem, while others, particularly those in the LDS (Mormon) church, believe that it will be located in the United States, and, more specifically, in Independence, Missouri. Let’s see what the Bible has to say regarding this issue.
With regard to the possibility that this earth will even exist beyond Jesus’s second coming (Judgment Day), In 2 Peter 3:7, we read, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Further on in verse 10, we read, “But the day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” God reiterates this point in verse 12 and finally in verse 13 we read, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
In Revelation 21:1, it reads, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
Regarding the new Jerusalem, however, in the very next verse we read, “and I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Later, at the end of verse 9, one of the seven angels told John, ” Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And in verse 10, “and he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain and shewed me that great city, holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” We can readily see that the city, the new Jerusalem is not some literal, physical, city, but rather the kingdom of God encompassing the body of all true believing Christians, the true eternal Church, which God looks upon as the bride of Christ!
To see that the new Jerusalem is a spiritual representation of the kingdom of God that is made up of the body of believers, we just have to turn to Revelation 3:12, where we read, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall no more go out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches.” This truth is also evident in Galatians 4, verses 25 and 26 which contrasts the earthly Jerusalem and her children (the Jews of national Israel), described as being in bondage (to the works of the law), with the heavenly spiritual “Jerusalem which is above is free (through the grace of God), which is the mother of us all (all true believing Christians).”
Additional support is found in Hebrews 12:22-23 , where we read, “But ye are come unto Mount Sion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,”.
As to the timing of the fulfillment of the coming of the new Jerusalem we are told in Matthew 24:29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
The Holy Temple of God, Where is it Now?
This brings us to another problem. There are those in various religions today who claim to have access to a literal, physical, earthly holy temple of God. As was indicated above, the holy temple of God is a spiritual structure made up of true believing Christians (described as pillars in the temple) coincident with the new Jerusalem in heaven. This is entirely consistent with what we read in 1 Peter 2:5-8, where God equates the true believers to “lively stones” that are part of the spiritual temple of God of which Jesus Christ is the “Chief Cornerstone.” “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in scripture, (Found in Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22) behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he (The Lord Jesus Christ) is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (See also Isaiah 8:14, Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, and Romans 9:53)
So that there can be absolutely no doubt that the holy temple of God could never, ever, again be defined by physical stones and mortar (whether in Jerusalem; Salt Lake City, Utah; Independence, Missouri; or anywhere else for that matter), we read in Ephesians 2:19-22, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
Finally, in 2 Corinthians 6:16, we read, “…Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said (see Ezekiel 37:26&27), I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
To more clearly understand why there could never again be any need for an earthly, physical temple of God following the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, we have only to search the scriptures to review what happened at the precise moment of His death. We read in Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45 that, at that very moment, the veil of the temple was rent in twain (torn in two) from top to bottom.
The result was that the “Holiest of all,” (see Hebrews 9:3) the tabernacle altar of God (where only the high priest, alone, could venture once a year to make an atoning sacrifice of blood on the Day of Atonement) which had heretofore always been hidden from outside view by the veil, had now been fully exposed by God to show that the sign or figure that the “Holiest of all” of the temple represented had been perfectly fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; as He was both the sacrificial Lamb of God and the High Priest that offered the perfect atoning blood sacrifice. God was showing that the function of the earthly temple had come to an end! (Read all of Hebrews chapter 9 to see that this is so). Although the Jewish high priest (Caiaphas) no doubt rushed in to repair the torn veil, so that he, and the other Jewish high priests that followed him, could continue the yearly atonement sacrificial rite until the physical temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., the priestly action would have been pure vanity and rebellion against God. Those efforts could not have had any effect or substance so far as God’s plan of salvation was concerned. In fact, (according to Isaiah 66:1-4) they would have only been an abomination in God’s sight (because by carrying out those rites, the Jews were continuing to deny that Jesus Christ had come to fulfill the law of sacrifice, which had all along been the sole focal point of the blood sacrifices that were carried out in the temple before Christ died).
This is the most likely reason why God finally allowed the physical temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed for the third (and last) time (as prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24:1-2), and why he scattered National Israel, the Jews (until our day). Additionally, because God also subsequently allowed the Islamic Dome of the Rock to be built on the temple site in Jerusalem, the Jews have been prevented from rebuilding the temple ever again (despite the fact that the Jews in National Israel have had political sovereignty over Jerusalem since 1967).
Excellent! Having an earthly hermeneutic is a sure way to miss the meaning of Scripture.