As we’ve continued this series of re-imagining biblical eschatology along lines intelligible to and resonant with those who produced it, we’ve come to see that whatever existed in a tangible form in Israel under the Law paradigm finds its counterpart in spiritual form in the in-breaking Gospel paradigm.
It should be of no surprise, then, to find two Jerusalems in the Bible.
These two cities are contrasted in Paul’s allegory, in Galatians 4. It is stated that Hagar, the bondwoman, represents the covenant from Mt. Sinai, corresponding to Jerusalem in Palestine; the city that Paul said was at that time in bondage with her children.
However, there was another Jerusalem, of whom Sarah through the New Covenant was representative – this Jerusalem is the one above, the heavenly Jerusalem of Hebrews 12:22:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…
This city, according to Revelation 21, contains the elements of Eden: the Tree and River of Life, gold and precious stones. And yet it is a city, with buildings and measurements, depicting a creative union of the earthy Divine with the spiritual human. Rather than being in one particular place, though, Scripture envisions this New Jerusalem as being a way of seeing a renewed earth, descending from heavenly places.
Many cannot admit the presence of the heavenly Jerusalem now because they entertain a literal concept of this city. But the writer of Hebrews did not say, “you will” come to the heavenly Jerusalem, but rather “you have” come to it. This is a statement of a present fact, and not a future prospect. The heavenly Jerusalem is not a future prospect anymore than the church, Christ, his blood, or the New Covenant listed in this same context are future prospects. A rejection of one in a present state results in a rejection of all. Humanity has either come to all, or we have come to none.
The purpose of the writer, therefore, is to show the spiritual nature of those things enumerated in the text belong to the kingdom of Christ here and now. The heavenly Jerusalem exists in marked contrast to the literal Jerusalem of the Mosaic paradigm. The qualification for admission into this city is spiritual, not temporal and barrier-driven. It is a matter of spiritual character, not of physical circumstances. We must be born of Abraham’s spiritual seed as represented in Isaac, and not of his temporal seed as represented in Ishmael.
To demand a literal New Jerusalem would be in opposition to everything in relation to it. In Spirit and Reality, the fact of a spiritual tabernacle, priesthood, sacrifice, temple, throne, seed, Israel and mountain has already been established. Why oppose having a city that corresponds – by nature – to the things that belong to it? A spiritual tabernacle, temple or throne would not fit in a literal city. Surely it is obvious to the thoughtful person that Christ came to lead us from the limitations of the temporal, with its prejudices and barriers, to the spiritual, which is boundless and welcomes all.
As this year unfolds, we’re going to continue seeing how the Hebrew Bible, teachings of Jesus, and writings of the New Testament support moving beyond the parochial concerns of religion-as-such into a spirituality that supports an open-ended trajectory of becoming co-creators with God. With renewed vision, we’ll see a new heaven and earth, swords transformed into plowshares, re-wilding our hardened cities until they reflect God’s garden city, the New Jerusalem, found at every address on the planet.
Let us therefore maintain a worship that is in harmony with this city, which has been hiding in plain sight:
The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Next week we’ll examine the nature of Land as depicted in biblical prophecy.