The Study of Last Things
by James T. Bartsch

Learning about the Future to Live Better Today

"And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." (Rev. 21:2)

The Arrival of New Jerusalem

1. What John saw: The Apostle John recorded that he saw New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21:1). This was so because the first heaven and the first earth departed. And the sea no longer exists (Rev. 21:1). We discussed the significance of these statements in the previous article.

2. What John saw next: John recorded next that he saw the holy City, New Jerusalem, descending out of the heaven from God, having been prepared as a bride having been adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2). Allow me to make several observations.

a. The place here described is a City. God will spend the rest of eternity with man lodged not out on some plain or some private acreage, or in a mountain retreat. He will reside with man in a City!

b. This City is Jerusalem! The identity of this City cannot be more Jewish than Jerusalem! God's eternal future will be to reside in the capital City of His chosen, favorite nation, Israel!

c. This City is holy. The Jerusalem of old was oftentimes anything but holy. Too often it was characterized by breaking God's laws, even by worship of false gods. When the Messiah arrived the first time, the leaders of Israel had Him put to death by the Romans. Ever since, the bulk of the people of Israel who claim to know God have not known Him because they have rejected the only way to God (John 14:6). For over 2,000 years at the present time, Jerusalem has been trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, and the people of Israel have been led captive into all the nations (Luke 21:24). The Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock presently defile Israel's Temple Mount. Present Jerusalem is anything but holy. Millennial Jerusalem will be a holy city with its Millennial Temple (Ezek. 40-46) and its life-giving river (Ezek. 47:1-12). But after a thousand years it will be defiled by Satan and his hordes of unbelieving humanity, Gog and Magog. They will surround Jerusalem to destroy its citizenry, its administration, and its King (Rev. 20:7-9). Providentially, the insurrection will be terminated by fire from heaven, and the ringleader will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:9-10). Then the entire universe, the earth, and the present city of Jerusalem will be obliterated by fire (2 Pet. 3:7, 10-12; Rev. 20:11). Then God will create New Heavens and New Earth, and the Holy City of Jerusalem will descend out of heaven from God, already having been prepared and already having been adorned as a bride (Rev. 21:2). I take it that New Jerusalem already exists up in heaven. Jesus left to prepare residences for His Bride in His Father's House (John 14:2-3). Even now He has had 2,000 years to prepare these dwelling places in this magnificent City! It is now, and will be then, in the future, the supremely Holy City. The cowardly, the unbelieving, the abominable, murderers, immoral persons, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars will have no place in this City. Their part will be in the Lake of Fire and Brimstone, the Second Death (Rev. 21:8). Outside the City are the dogs, the sorcerers, the immoral persons, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying (Rev. 22:15).

d. This City is New Jerusalem! (Rev. 3:12; 21:2) That means it is a Jewish City. That means it is the capital of Israel. That means the nation of Israel has to exist down below on New Earth during the Eternal State. God promised the land of Israel to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants forever
(Gen. 13:14-17; 17:8; Jer. 31:31-40).

3. The City was Descending. John saw the city in the process of descending out of God from heaven (Rev. 21:2, 10). The verb "descending" is intriguing. It is the Present Active Participle of katabaínō (2597), literally meaning "stepping down" or here, "coming down" or "descending." The Present tense is durative action. John never saw the City actually arrive upon New Earth. Had that been the case, he would have used the Aorist tense of the verb (action at a point in time). What John witnessed was a process. What better tense could he have used to describe the fact that the City never actually landed upon New Earth, but actually was orbiting New Earth? Indeed I believe that is exactly what will happen. The City is so huge, measuring some 1400 miles in all three directions (Rev. 21:16), that it will present some engineering nightmares were it actually to rest upon New Earth. Assuming there will be some kind of rotational process for New Earth, just as there is for the present Earth, how out of balance and wobbly would the rotation be? It would be like a severely "out of balance" tire on a car. If, however, the City is actually orbiting New Earth, the effect upon New Earth would be not substantially different than the effect our present Moon has upon the Earth as it orbits.

a. Moreover, since the land of Israel will exist on New Earth, how big will it be? If the land of Israel in Eternity anywhere approaches the size of Israel on the present earth, this enormous City would completely cover it and many of the surrounding nations! All the more reason to understand that this City will be an orbiting City, circling high above New Earth.

b. Since the city is high above New Earth, it will have the capacity to shed its glorious light over a huge portion of the Earth below, much as our present Moon does (Rev. 21:24). The nations living on New Earth will walk (Future tense of the verb peripatéō, 4043), i.e., live, or conduct their lives by the light of this orbiting City.

c. Since the glory of God and of the Lamb will illumine this city (Rev. 21:23), it is stated that there will be no need of the sun or moon to shine upon it. We cannot know for certain, but the text does not say there will be no sun or moon, only that the City itself has no need of sun or moon. Its glory is so great that it shines upon New Earth below just as the present sun and moon do. It would not surprise me at all if a sun exists for New Earth somewhere. If New Jerusalem is in geosynchronous orbit above the newly created Land of Israel down below on New Earth, why could there not be a sun on the opposite side of Earth from where the City is stationed? In that way there would be perpetual light on the entire New Earth.

d. Alternatively, perhaps the physics of that light are different than the physics of our light in this present universe. Perhaps the light from the City can bend around New Earth and illuminate the totality of it. In that case, there would be no need for either a sun or a moon for the "back side" of New Earth, the side opposite the orbiting City.

e. With regard to the Universe as a whole,it is hard for me to believe, personally, that God will create New Heavens that are empty of any stars or planets. Why would God create an empty universe, inhabited only by New Earth and New Jerusalem? His original universe, filled with billions of stars, was good (Gen. 1:16-18). A New Universe, also filled with stars, would also be good. I anticipate, when I inhabit New Jerusalem, to be able to make interstellar and intergalactic travel to see and explore all of God's great creation out there!

(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)

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Posted May 22, 2021