Is the New Jerusalem a place for people—or the people themselves?

Come with me, if you will, on an adventure of biblical imagination in Revelation 21 and 22. The New Jerusalem that is described there by John is mostly taken to be a place in which the people of God dwell with the presence of God—but what would happen if we interpreted everything in the vision as a description not of their place, but of the people themselves? And what then happens if we use that as a way of imagining the destiny of the people of God in the current day?

The reason for asking these questions came from when I was writing a short study booklet (of around 15,000 words) on Revelation, for small groups meeting for six sessions. (You can buy the final result online here.) And for the final session, I was once more reading Rev 21, and was struck forcibly by the opening claim John makes at the start of this vision:

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband (Rev 21.2).

There is no doubt that the use of ‘bride’ is a personal metaphor for the people of God. It has been used earlier in Revelation to signify the people of God (the ‘saints’ or ‘holy ones’) as they experience oppression in the 42 months of their wilderness wanderings between the exaltation of Jesus and his return (‘The gentiles will trample it…’, 11:2). And previous use of the personal metaphor of the people of God as the bride in 19:7–8 identifies the adornment of her fine clothing as ‘the righteous acts of God’s people’, which connects this vision to the earlier, less developed nuptial imagery of 14:4–5. The personal adornment and the jewels of the city are neatly connected by the background text Isa. 61:10, where the the ‘bride adorns herself with jewels’.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Is 61.10)

This kind of nuptial imagery, with the Messiah as bridegroom and the people of God as his bride, is present in the gospels (Matt. 9:15; 25:12; Luke 5:34; John 3:29) as well as Paul (2 Cor. 11:2).

But there is another reason why we might press the ‘city’ imagery to be that of a people rather than a place: John also emphasises that the city is the ‘dwelling place’ of God (Rev 21.3), and the fact that the city is a cube, thus looking like an enormous Holy of Holies in the temple, confirms this. But with the (anticipated? recalled?) destruction of the physical temple in Jerusalem in AD70, the NT consistently transfers temple language to the new covenant Israel of God, that is, the Jewish-Gentile followers of Jesus. Thus Jesus declares his own body to be the new temple presence of God in the world in John 2.19 (a claim picked up at his trial in Mark 14.58); Paul develops his metaphor of the followers of Jesus as his body from his Damascus Road encounter (‘Why are you persecuting me?’) so that both the community and individuals within it are God’s temple and his dwelling place (1 Cor 3.16–17, 1 Cor 6.19). In fact, Paul goes so far as to actually draw on the exact OT image that John makes use of in Rev 21:

What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Cor 6.15)

Paul is here making an ethical appeal to the Corinthians, on the basis of the spiritual understanding of the ekklesia as the holy dwelling place of God. But what is fascinating here is that he is drawing on a range of OT texts. Firstly, he is drawing from Lev 26.12, which is the promise looking forward to the settlement of the people in the Promised Land. But then he is also drawing on Jer 32.38 and Ezek 37.27, which are both re-purposing this future promise to look forward to the end of exile and the restoration of God’s kingly rule over his people when they are restored to that land.

And here’s the thing: this is the move that Revelation is constantly making—combining promises of the exodus with promises of the end of exile. This is found most clearly in the use of the equivalent time periods ‘three and a half years’, ’42 months’ and ‘1,260 days’ that we find in chapters 11 and 12. The number 42 corresponds to the desert wanderings, since the total time in the desert is 42 years if you include the sojourn at Kadesh Barnea, and the people stop at 42 places listed in Num 33. But John’s calculation using ‘perfect’ months of 30 days each makes this equivalent to the time of ‘tribulation’ in Daniel 7.25 and 12.7. For John, the followers of Jesus are both in a time of exodus wanderings, heading towards the Promised Land, and in a time of ‘tribulation’ as they await final deliverance, which is first enacted by Jesus’ death and resurrection, but only completed with the descent of the Holy City. And for Paul, these promises are clearly fulfilled in Jesus.

The question then arises: can we read the vision of the Holy City completely in those personal terms, as people rather than place? I checked back in my commentary, and saw that I held back from this. At the start, I comment on verse 2, ‘Different aspects of the report that follows will emphasise both aspects, of the city as the dwelling place of God and the dwelling place of God’s people’ (p 340), and I return to the language of ‘place’ several times in the following pages: the city is the ‘dwelling place of God’s people’ (p 348), its gates are the way that God’s people find their entrance into the city (p 349), and ‘the city is the home of the priestly people of God’ (p 352). 

There are good reasons in the text for moving from ‘city as people’ to ‘city as place’. Stephen Pattemore, in his monograph The People of God in the Apocalypse (SNTS Monograph series 128, 2004) notes some of the reasons, principally the nature of the metaphorical language, particularly in the second half of the vision.

R H Gundry ‘The New Jerusalem: People as Place not Place for People’, NovT 29 (1987) pp 254–64, argues that the New Jerusalem represents only the people of God, with no remainder of allusion to a place for them to live. This becomes increasingly difficult to sustain in the later parts of the second vision (21.24–7, 22.1–5). Schüssler Fiorenza…argues that the city is distinguished from the saints. It seems rather that the imagery is fluid, suggesting both identification and distinction (Pattemore, p 200 n 11).

I am not sure I am persuaded by Pattemore’s reticence here. After all, the later parts of the vision he refers to includes the idea that ‘the nations walk by its light’ (Rev 21.24), which corresponds very directly to Jesus’ declaration in Matt 5.14 to his followers that ‘You are the light of the world’. And the river that flows down the centre of the city symbolises (I would argue) the presence of the life-giving water of the Spirit, which elsewhere in Scripture flows in and from believers themselves. And the tree of life provides fruit, and its leaves are for healing; elsewhere in the New Testament, the fruit of the Spirit are personal things found in the people of God, who themselves minister healing in the name of Jesus.

So what does happen when we press this to be a personal vision of the people of God rather than a place? What if John is doing his theology—or rather his ecclesiology—through architecture?

The city is on a great, high mountain (Rev 21.10): the people of God are visible, like a city on a hill (Matt 5.14), and they draw all sorts of people to them.

‘It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal’ (Rev 21.11). The attractiveness of the people is due only to the presence and glory of God in their midst, and it is this which draws people, rather than any particular quality of its own. Jasper has characterised the appearance of ‘the one on the throne’ in the opening vision of heavenly worship (in Rev 4.3)—so the people of God look stunning and impressive to the extent to which their character reflects the character of God. And they are to have a transparency about them; the idea of being ‘clear as crystal’ suggests that there is no pretence.

The city has ‘great high walls’ (Rev 21.12). If we read this as about people not place, then rather than being contained in a place of safety, the people themselves are a place of safety. The gates are constantly open (Rev 21.25, since gates of a city in the ancient world close at night, and in the New Jerusalem there is no night), so the people of God constantly hold out a welcome to others to join them. But angels guard the gates, and ‘nothing impure will ever enter it’ (Rev 21.27); there is always an open welcome, but this is received by repentance, forgiveness and cleansing that comes through the death of Jesus for us.

‘On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Rev 21.12). The way into the people of God is through understanding the story of God’s dealings with his people all through the history of Scripture, and becoming a part of that story through Israel’s Messiah, Jesus. I find it continually striking that Paul, writing to the very mixed Jewish-Gentile community in Corinth (and probably a good deal more Gentile than Jewish), simply assumes that the story of Israel is now the story of this new Jesus community, and that they should take Israel’s scriptures as their scriptures.

‘There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west’ (Rev 21.13). Where ancient cities had gates usually only on one side, this city can be accessed from every direction. There is no limit to the different ways in which people can join to become part of the people of God.

‘The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb’ (Rev 21.14). The people of God are themselves built on the foundation of the apostolic testimony about Jesus, which we now have in the Scriptures of the NT, rooted in the OT. That is why, for example, Luke emphasises that the new community attend daily ‘to the apostles’ teaching’ (Acts 2.42).

‘The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass’ (Rev 21.18). The mention of jasper again symbolises the character of God—but the image of gold consistently represents faith, sometimes in the context of being purified through testing, often by persecution (see 1 Cor 3.12, 1 Peter 1.7, and especially Rev 3.18). Gold as pure as glass might then symbolise a people with pure faith and absolute trust in God, perfectly refined by having come through the most severe of tests.

‘The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl’ (Rev 21.22). Within the text, these pearls are a counter-point to the pearls worn by the harlot Babylon (Rev 17.4), and within John’s context this refers to the ostentatious delight taken by the extremely wealthy in pearls, which were valued more highly than diamonds. In the gospels, the ‘pearl of great price’ stands for the kingdom (Matt 13.45–46), though John does not seem to make any connection there. But in wider culture, pearls have symbolised wisdom gained through experience, as a reflection on the way pearls form over time around a piece of grit in the oyster. So here we might have an image of the people of God blessed with unimaginable and incomparable wisdom, born of the experience of being faithful to God in an alien world.

‘The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it’ (Rev 21.24). As I mentioned above, this resonates with Jesus’ teaching to his followers that ‘You are the light of the world’ (Matt 5.14). But John goes further; not only does the wise and illuminating presence of God amongst and in his people shed light on the whole world—his people are even hospitable to the best that the wider world has to offer, the ‘splendour’ of the kings of the earth. In my commentary, I note that this is ‘one of the most important and challenging statements in the whole of the text’.

Taken as a whole, the nations seem to be constantly opposed to God and his people. They trample the holy city (11:2); they are angry with God (11:18); they were seduced by the great prostitute (14:8, 18:3) and deceived by the magical spells of her prosperity (18:23); they are deceived by Satan and make war with the lamb in the final battle (19:15; 20:8). And yet, from the beginning, Jesus is the rightful Lord over them (1:5; 12:5) and shares his authority with his followers (2:26) and God is ‘king of the nations’ (15:3). The same is true of the kings of the earth. They hide from the wrath of the lamb (6:15); they are ruled by the prostitute who is the great city (17:18) and ‘commit adultery’ with her (17:2, 18:3) and also make war on the rider on the white horse (19:19). Yet they too are subject to the rule of Jesus from the beginning (1:5), and the vision of the holy city makes true de facto on the earth what has always been true de jure in the economy of God (p 356).

Finally, if we read the imagery personally rather than architecturally, then the water of life signifying the gift of the Spirit flows not so much through a city as through God’s people, and the fruit of the tree of life grows in them, and it is their ‘foliage’ that provides healing.

I think there is more that could be said, but I hope you get the idea. I didn’t press these things in this way in my commentary—but I feel that it is quite a valuable way to read the text. (And it also goes to show that, however many times you read about a biblical text, and even write about it, there is more to be said!)

But what difference might it make to us now, in practice? Some readers of Rev 21 want to take it in quite a realised way—as a description of the present reality of the church, or at least what the church might be in the present (I think Simon Woodman, in his SCM Core Text, reads it in this way). I don’t find that persuasive, due to the strongly future perspective that these chapters have, in contrast to the earlier parts of the book.

But it does offer us a picture of what we are heading to—so that, even if this will never be fully realised in this age, we at least begin to see signs of this, and it might shape our ambitions for what we are in the process of becoming.

What it might mean is that God is seeking to form us into a people in his likeness, who are transparent in our integrity and have nothing to hide. We become a safe place for others to find refuge. We constantly are open to welcome people in, of every kind, coming from every direction—but at the same time there is nothing evil or unclean to be found in our midst, since the Spirit of God is forming us in holiness and purity. We are shaped by both the story of Israel, which has become our story, and the apostolic testimony to the life and truth of Jesus. Our faith, that is, our complete trust in God, has been purified to perfection by faithfulness in the face of trials and difficulties, so that our trust in God is without flaw. As a community, we are marked by the wisdom of the ages—and we offer a place of hospitality to all that is best in the world around us. People of all faiths and none look to us for wisdom, integrity, and insight.

In one sense, there is nothing new here; all these remarkable ambitions can be found elsewhere in the Scriptures. But John’s direct and striking imagery, doing theology through architecture, gives a new edge to this sparkling vision. (Article previously published in 2020.)

(You can buy my commentary on the Book of Revelation in the Tyndale series here.)

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35 thoughts on “Is the New Jerusalem a place for people—or the people themselves?”

  1. Hi Ian, that is a thought provoking analysis. Where does The Throne and The slain Lamb fit into the idea the City is the people not a place ?

    Also, are you unconvinced by the “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule” model of theology ?

  2. Thanks for this Ian

    “theology through architecture”

    A concept I have never really considered before. I guess the OT temple communicated theology in its building.

    Any other examples I wonder?

      • Compare Nehemiah 11 to the contemporary Word from Zechariah chapter 2

        In a nutshell, Nehemiah was in a shanty town with a low budget rush job repair of a few stretches of wall and the temple. Zechariah was pointing to Revelation 21.

        The theology is nobody gets to build heaven on earth. Only the return of Jesus does that job.

        • Thanks, Peter.

          Amen !

          ” For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father and with his angels, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”

          (Matthew 16:27; cf. Titus 2:13 – where ‘the appearing of the glory of our great God’ refers to the Father; according to the Anglican scholar, Henry Alford).

    • ” I guess the OT Temple communicated theology in its building “.

      Would this have included the Jewish Shema (Mark 12:28-34; John 17:3), concerning our Father God, Yahweh (Isa. 63:16, 64:8; Mal. 2:10; John 8:41; John 8:54; Rev. 1:6; 3:12; 4:8) ?

      Cf. Deut. 4:35 :

      “You have been taught that Yahweh alone is God – there is no other beside Him.”

  3. Thank you Ian. Very interesting as far as our minds can go. I agree scripture can offer little openings and insights, but I’m sure you would agree with reference to Revelation that there will always also be the danger of ‘trying to explain’ things that lie beyond our imaginative capacity, or to over-literalise metaphor too precisely. I’m not saying you’re doing that (quite the opposite), but being honest – and from what I can draw from contemplative experience – we are simply not meant to understand and pin down and control the deep, deep mystery of who God is, and what it is like to be called into union in God. (I’m pretty sure you would agree.)

    The very nature of the soul is that we inhabit unique and individual identity, while at the same time being called towards and into union in Christ and aspects of shared awareness in God. It’s not “either… or”. And in a similar way, perhaps the deeply mysterious, almost unfathomable reality is that it is not ‘either’ people ‘or’ place, but possibly ‘both’. Conjecture can only take us so far, I think. We just don’t know. The scale of it all is too vast for containment or control within the limited capacities of our little human brains.

    What can certainly be said it that the imagery is beautiful, even if we cannot expect it to fully communicate the eternal outcomes, where “eye hath not seen, nor mind conceived”… etc. There is a risk in trying to pin down John’s multiple images, and over-systematising what might more usefully be understood to be wonderful outbursts of insight.

    So I think we have to be cautious of trying to understand too much.

    In contemplative practice, even the novice learns that the opening to encounter may come at the point where we stop processing words and it seems as if we gaze through a ‘cloud of unknowing’ in trust… because our brains simply can’t process too much of who God is. And it is at that point of stillness and mentally empty availability that God sometimes chooses to come.

    God is going to inhabit our souls in eternity (as in part, already) and our souls are going to grow vast in capacity as they also open out into the consciousness of God. But we are not completely there yet. As John looks ahead with vision, there is prospect of what lies ahead. The imagery is wonderful. It is sufficient for us to thrill, to feel touched, to believe. And it in bursts incites imagination and recognitions… illuminations… by the Holy Spirit. I think that’s enough. We simply can’t contain everything that we shall be called to.

    But we do know that, in God’s eternal dwelling place, God is everywhere, both within our souls and around us, and drawing us into God’s wonder, consciousness, compassion, and utter loveliness.

    John is resorting to metaphors and imagery for the very reason that we can’t understand very much (and nor can he). His metaphors become glimpses, but as an over-arching structure I don’t see the need to piece it all together as architecture.

    I agree with you that Rev 21 does not portray the present state of believers, but offers a picture of what we’re heading to. And it’s a very wonderful prospect, as you say, giving us hope (in adversity that John knew himself) and shaping our ambitions. Encouraging us to live up to our calling. It is, as you say, “a sparkling vision”. I really appreciate your article.

  4. One cultural thing I’m aware of and you all probably are too: it’s that people in the UK (and probably elsewhere) if they have any vague kind of Christian faith or culture will say, after someone dies, “they’ve gone to heaven”.

    To be honest, that’s what I think as well.

    So I don’t really think in terms of ‘Jerusalem’ coming down on our present planet, but of our souls joining God in heaven.

    As for the planet itself, I figure that is probably set to chug along until the sun engulfs it in a few billion years’ time, so I make sense of life after death as a kind of migration into an existence with God in some different kind of dimension.

    Of course, in those realms God may give us ‘Heaven’ to live in or, as some deduce from the Bible, a brand new Earth in those realms, as some kind of annex of Heaven, given that resurrection is physical in some way.

    I don’t honestly know for sure, but ‘going to heaven’ is how most people describe it, or (as I would say) going to live with God. I believe we are called to God’s heavenly country – a radiant and beautiful country – and to God’s household and community, to live with God forever.

    Quite where the return of Jesus fits into all that is another thing I don’t know.

    And the ‘New Jerusalem’…? I don’t think it’s literally coming down to Earth. I just think that’s a metaphor and sort of ‘jives’ with the whole concept of the old temple, and the idea of us being a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit who comes down to dwell in us and among us, while we’re alive.

    Afterwards – I really want to go to heaven. In fact I feel homesick for it until I do.

    • To Susannah :

      Have you read 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 recently ? If not, and if you get time, have a read of it, and a good think about it; and, if possible, give any comments.

      God bless you.

      • It’s an absolutely stunning chapter, isn’t it? And thank you for prompting me to re-read it. I don’t wish to engage further in discussion or debate, but to observe that Paul is talking with faith in the resurrection of Jesus who demonstrates the Way, and the reality of the resurrection of the dead. My point remains that I don’t know where we are resurrected to, and I tend to see it as a migration to dimensions of God’s deeper and eternal (out of time) reality. I also suspect that union in Christ expands the parameters of our consciousness at the resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15 is an amazing chapter alright.

        • Thanks, Susannah;

          To me, what Paul seems to saying is that :

          (1). Deceased Christians are ‘asleep’ (i.e. not conscious, or at least not fully conscious), in their union with Christ (1 Cor. 15:20).

          (2). If the resurrection of Christ had never occurred, then all deceased people would not exist – in any form (1 Cor. 15:18).

          (3). At Christ’s ‘Parousia’ (1 Thess. 1:10) , those Christians who are ‘asleep’ will be enlivened (1 Cor. 15:22-23), and supernaturally re-embodied (1 Cor. 15:42-44), so as to accompany Christ back to this earth (Acts 1:10-11; Acts 3:21; Matt. 5:5).

          4. Thus, the scene will be set when God’s will, will really be done upon earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10; Dan. 7:14, Isa. 2:1-5; Rev. 5:10).

          I think this point (4), was an essential part of ” The Gospel” (or “The Good News”) that Jesus proclaimed in His very first public statement, in Mark 1:14-15.

          Thank God for Jesus ! (2 Cor. 9:15).

  5. Thanks Ian.
    I don’t think I want to read it as “realised” but there must be something of a continuity in the transforming change (however embryonic) that the residing presence of the Holy Spirit is and brings?

    I find it surprising and welcome at a time I despair about some aspects (quite a lot if I’m honest!) of the church in the 21st C. There is something lovely, if latent, in what God is doing in his people. We plod on towards a glorious place/time/being… which is the gracious handiwork of God at every stage.

  6. Would anyone like to suggest why, after the Temple had been destroyed by the Romans, John still refers to the “new Jerusalem” rather than say, the “new Rome”? Similarly why are the gates named after the 12 tribes of Israel and why are there 144,000 listed explicitly from every tribe (except the tribe of Dan)?
    It seems that John is emphasising that being Jewish is still important (as Paul emphasises throughout Romans especially in chapters 9-11).
    This is not to create some sort of false distinction between Jewish believers in Jesus and Gentile believers in Jesus, as we are all one in Christ Jesus (as Ephesians 2 makes clear) and yet we are different, just as men and women are different (despite what a few modernists may think).
    Perhaps we need to encourage those who are Jewish Christians and who worship in predominantly Gentile churches to express a bit more about what it means to be both Jewish and Christian? Perhaps this might also encourage a much greater reading of the so-called Old Testament which, after all, Jesus used to preach the entire gospel?

      • Another oddity in the list in Rev 7 is that there is both the tribe of Joseph and the tribe of Manasseh. The latter is normally said to be a half-tribe, with Ephraim being the other half, these two making up the tribe of Joseph.

        A certain commentary discusses the listing of tribes – but you will have to buy it to find out what 🙂

        • Good spot, David B.

          David – do you happen to have any Commentaries on the book of Revelation that take the line that the ‘seven Spirits’ in Rev. 1:4 are possibly/probably the seven supernatural Angels mentioned in Rev. 8:2 (cf. 1 Tim. 5:21; Rev. 3:5; Luke 9:26) ?

        • Joseph, Manasseh, Ephraim, Joseph? An explantation?
          a brief history of the twelve tribes:

          “The twelve tribes of Israel came from the twelve sons of Israel—Israel being the name that God gave Jacob (Genesis 32:28). Jacob’s twelve sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin (Genesis 35:23–26; Exodus 1:1–4; 1 Chronicles 2:1–2). The progeny of those twelve sons comprised the twelve tribes of Israel.

          In the time of Joshua, when Israel inherited the Promised Land, Levi’s descendants did not receive a territory for themselves (Joshua 13:14). Instead, they had priestly duties and took care of the tabernacle. The Levites were given several cities scattered throughout the land. To fill out the twelve allotments, Joseph’s tribe was divided in two—Jacob had adopted Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, essentially giving Joseph a double portion for his faithfulness in saving the family from famine (Genesis 47:11–12). In this arrangement, the tribes given territory in the Promised Land were Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. In some places in Scripture, the tribe of Ephraim is referred to as the tribe of Joseph (e.g., Numbers 1:32–33).”

          From, Got Questions, accessed today.

      • Dan Where?

        “There are some other details of the history of the tribe of Dan that might help explain why Dan is missing from the list of sealed tribes in Revelation. Judges 18:1–31 tells the story of the people of Dan falling into gross idolatry. Also, the Danites did not like the territory allotted to them near the Mediterranean Sea—the Amorites and Philistines gave them trouble—so they sent out spies to find a better area. In the north, the Danites learned of an area inhabited by a peaceful group of people, whom the Danites proceeded to wipe out; they then moved the entire tribe up to that region, just south of present-day Lebanon. There they established their main city and called it Dan.

        Later, in the divided kingdom, the people of Dan were part of the northern kingdom of Israel. King Jeroboam I established two pagan worship centers, one in Bethel and one in Dan (1 Kings 12:25–33). Sadly, this man-made worship at Dan, centered on a golden calf, became one of Dan’s lasting legacies.

        Skipping ahead to Revelation 7, all the tribes of Israel are mentioned in the end-times tribulation except for Dan. Commentators through the centuries have proposed the following reasons for why the tribe of Dan is not included in the list:

        • Dan’s historical embrace of idolatry and immorality leads to a disqualification for service during the end times.

        • The Antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan (based on certain readings of Genesis 49:17; Deuteronomy 33:22; and Jeremiah 8:16).

        • By the time of Solomon, the tribe of Dan had assimilated with the neighboring Phoenicians (as 2 Chronicles 2:14 may hint at) and so lost their national identity.

        • The tribe of Dan, once the second-most populous tribe, declined in numbers and influence until, by Ezra’s time, it had been totally wiped out. This would explain why Dan is not listed among the tribes in 1 Chronicles 4—7 or in Revelation 7.

        For Further Study
        Revelation: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament by Buist Fanning”

        From Got Questions, accessed today.

    • To Andy :

      (1) The concept of a “new Jerusalem” being established upon a “new earth” (cf. Isaiah 2:1-5), is part of ” the hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20), and this belief would doubtless have been an important component in what Jesus called ” the Gospel” (or, “The Good News”), in Mark 1:14-15.

      Thus, Acts 3:21 = Isaiah 65:17-25 = Isaiah 2:1-5 = Acts 8:12 = Acts 28:23 = Hebrews 11:10 = Hebrews 12:22 = Hebrews 13:14.

      (2). I don’t think you have to be particularly Jewish to have a great interest in the Jewish (Old Testament) Scriptures. I’m greatly interested in Judaism because, as Christian Apologist Alistair McGrath stresses, the first Christians were typical Second Temple era, ethnic Jews or Jewish proselytes – but who held the additional beliefs that the man Jesus had been raised to new life (Acts 2:22-36), and who had been appointed by God to be ‘Messianic lord’ (cf. Psalm 110:1 = Acts 2:36).

      • Thanks for your response.

        The reason why I raised these questions is that I am convinced that folk like Paul believed there were benefits in being Jewish and explaining these to new believers, most of whom had previously been pagans. Understanding this context makes it far easier to answer questions like, “why did Jesus say nothing about homosexuality when Paul wrote so much?” (Jesus spoke almost entirely to Jews, all of whom had been taught from the days of Moses onwards that homosexuality was a sin, whereas within the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus homosexuality was even more commonplace than it is today.)

        I am also interested on a personal level in meeting Jewish believers in Jesus who have chosen not to worship in Messianic Jewish synagogues but instead in ‘ordinary’ churches like the Church of England. Many of the latter hide their Jewish roots because of past Christian antisemitism and the perception (especially if they lost relatives in the Holocaust) that it was Christians who perpetrated the Holocaust. I think it is vital that we make the Church a far more welcoming place to Jewish believers – in some places even saying that you are Jewish (just because you have a Jewish mother) seems to provoke some and get you called a Judaiser or, alternatively, they seek to blame you for everything that the government of Israel has ever done (often without attaching any blame at all to the terrorists of Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad). I have even sat in a home group and heard a visitor refer to “Jewing down” the cost of something he planned to purchase.

        Despite these attitudes there are still estimated to be several thousand Jewish believers in Jesus worshipping in churches in England today. It would be good to hear more of their perspective in places like the General Synod.

        • Andy –

          Do you think there are any current advantages to being a Jewish Christian, as opposed to being a Gentile Christian ?

          Current “Christian Jews” (as too, with the relatively modern phenomenon of, so called, “Messianic Jews”) are not a homogeneous group of people – apart from a commitment to God and Jesus.

          Some ‘Christian Jews’ are ‘Biblical Christian Unitarians’, some are ‘Trinitarians’, and some may well be ‘Binitarians’. Some current ‘Christian Jews’ are Torah observant, whereas others are partially -Torah observant, and others, non-Torah observant.

          ‘Christian Jews’ can doubtless be found in all branches of Christianity, including : the ‘Assyrian Church of the East’, the ‘Oriental Orthodox Church’, the ‘Roman Catholic Church’, the ‘Protestant Churches’, the ‘Eastern Orthodox Church’, and the ‘Christian Restoration Movement’.

    • The simplest explanation to me is that in the Hebrew Scriptures Jerusalem (not actually a Israelite city until David captured it) became Zion, with the temple representing the place where God presence was known. It is hardly surprising that the new place where God will dwell with his people on earth is the “New Jerusalem”.

      The relationship between ‘old’ and ‘new’ testaments is not disputed. This is particularly true for Revelation. Ian has pointed out that although its 400 or so verses have no direct quotations from the OT, there are over 600 allusions to it. I would love to have a list.

      • “The kings of the earth take their stand,
        And the rulers take counsel together,
        Against Yahweh and against His Messiah..” (Psalm 2:2; LSB);

        alludes to Rev. 19:19.

        “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our God, and the power of His Messiah..” (Rev. 12:10), alludes to Psalm 2:6-8.

    • “ It seems that John is emphasising that being Jewish is still important”

      Surely, John is emphasising that God’s promises, including those made in the OT, are important.

      That the culmination of the New Jerusalem does not undermine God’s promises, but, instead, fulfils them,

      • I agree that all God’s promises are important, especially those that have not yet been fulfilled. After all God promised that the Jews would returns to the hills of Samaria and harvest grapes again and that promise was not fulfilled until after the Six Day War in 1967. He also promised that He would return the Jews to the land that He had promised to them and it took until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to see that fulfilled in large numbers, culminating in the re-founding of the state of Israel in 1948.

        • Andy –

          There is to be a greater fulfilment of the Biblical prophecies than what occurred in 1948 and 1967 – which will happen after the return to Earth of the Lord Jesus Messiah (Luke 22:30; 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7).

      • To David –

        Amen !

        “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).

        ” It was not through the Law that Abraham and his descendants were given the promise that the World should be their inheritance, but through the righteousness that came from faith.” (Romans 4:13).

        ” ..for you [the Lamb] were slain and by your blood you have bought for God people of every tribe and language, nation and race. You have made them kings and priests for our God, and they shall reign on earth.” (Rev. 5:10 = Matt. 5:5 = Rev. 2:26 = Dan. 7:27).

    • Chris –

      This is essentially just a minor quibble, Chris, because the lists of the tribes of Israel within the Old Testament, do sometimes vary as regards both content and order.

  7. I agree for the most part. I have thought this for quite a while. I do think it is probably more than just people, but it is at least the people.

    Another way to think about it is what is a city? How is a city defined? By its size? By the population? By location and place? By the terrain? By the industry and economy? By the government? By the mayor or leaders? By its heroes? By the culture? By the language and dialect? By the ethnic mix? By its sports teams? By its wealth? By its history?

    It is hard to define a city, but at the very least it is its people.


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