By Norman Manzon
This is our forty-sixth study in a series that provides scriptural underpinnings for each of the points in our AMC doctrinal statement. Links to all studies composed thus far may be found in our Library.
In 2005 we began our series of a detailed exposition of the We Believe statement of The Association of Messianic Congregations. Little did anyone know, including me, that it would turn out to be a fairly well developed systematic theology, a topical exposition of the Scriptures presented in a logical sequence. To use formal terminology, we've covered Bibliology, the doctrine or study of the Scriptures that addresses such questions as how we know that the Bible is the written, inerrant, infallible word of God and how He composed it through human writers; Theology Proper, the study of God, which includes, but is not limited to, the study of the Trinity and God the Father; Christology, the study of the Son; Pneumatology, the study of the Holy Spirit; Angelology, the study of angels; Satanology, the study of Satan; Demonology, the study of demons; Anthropology, the biblical study of man (not to be confused with the sociological science of anthropology); Hamartiology, the study of sin; Soteriology, the study of Salvation through the ages; Israelology, the study of Israel; Ecclesiology, the study of the Body of Messiah or the Church; and finally, Eschatology, the study of future events.
Though I expect to fill in some blanks in the future, this present eschatological study will bring our sequence to a close. We have made quite a bit of headway in Eschatology, having covered what I have entitled The Destinies of the Dead; The Rapture; The Great Tribulation; The Second Coming; The Millennial or Messianic Kingdom; and The Millennium-Eternity Interval, which includes The Final Rebellion and The Return of the Kingdom (by the Lord to His Father), and The Great White Throne Judgment. We will now commence our final study, The Heavenly Ages.
It has been my great privilege and blessing to do this.
Let us once again lay a foundation by reading relevant aspects of the We Believe statement of The Association of Messianic Congregations. For context, we'll include the entire statement on Last Things.
The eternally blessed state beyond the Millennium in which all believers since Adam will reside is commonly referred to as Heaven. Will Heaven be the eternal dwelling of the righteous? What does Scripture tell us about our future eternal heavenly home?
Let us look at the Old Testament, and then the New.
The Tanach, or Old Testament, does not cite Heaven as the future eternal dwelling place of the redeemed.
Three places in Scripture are called Heaven. One is the atmosphere. Genesis 1:20: Then God said, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens." Another is what we call outer space, which contains sun, moon, stars, interstellar dust and all else that is there. Genesis 1:14-17: Verses 14-15: Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and it was so. The third place is the Heaven where God dwells, which can be seen in Revelation 11:13 and numerous other places. In 2 Corinthians 12:2 and 4, Paul called this place Paradise and the third heaven. This is the Heaven that is our present focus.
What does the Old Testament say about Heaven?
It says that God is the Possessor of Heaven (Gen. 14:19, 22), that He dwells in Heaven (Deuteronomy 26:15; 1 Kings 8:23), that He rules earth from Heaven (2 Chronicles 36:23) and that He performs actions on earth from Heaven (Exodus 16:4, 20:22). Also, the Angel of God or the Angel of YHVH, Who is God the Son, spoke to Hagar and Abram from Heaven (Genesis 21:17, 22:11).
When the righteous died in the ages before Yeshua, they went to the Paradise section of Sheol (Genesis 37:35; Job 14:13; Psalm 16:10. Luke 23:43: And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." Although there was a compartment in Sheol reserved for the unrighteous, even the righteous spoke of themselves as going "down" to Sheol (Genesis 37:35; Job 7:9). This Paradise section of Sheol could not possibly be the same as Heaven because Heaven is constantly referred to as being "up" (Deuteronomy 30:12; 1 Samuel 5:12). Enoch was taken up (Hebrews 11:5); Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven (2 Kings 2:11); Yeshua was taken up (Acts 1:2); Paul was caught up to the third Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2).
Enoch and Elijah were taken up to Heaven, but Scripture does not say that they were to abide there forever. In fact, it is likely that they will be brought down from Heaven to enjoy the Messianic Kingdom along with all the other Old Testament saints (Ezekiel 36:24-28; Daniel 12:1-2; Matthew 8:15-18; 24:31; Mark 13:27).
To conclude, the Tanach nowhere states or implies that Heaven, or the Paradise section of Sheol, for that matter, will be the eternal dwelling place for the righteous. As far as Sheol is concerned, Yeshua emptied it of its saints upon His ascension, to ascend with Him to Heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10); but they will be brought down again to enjoy the Messianic Kingdom (Ezekiel 36:24-28; Daniel 12:1-2; Matthew 8:15-18; 24:31; Mark 13:27). The chronological reach of Old Testament revelation concerning a blessed dwelling place for the righteous is the Messianic Kingdom, which is addressed at length and in many places, and which the New Testament informs us will be terminated after a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6). Plain revelation about what will follow the Kingdom was reserved for the New Testament.
Two passages provide us with a vision of our future eternal glorious abode, a vision that God has lovingly blessed us with in the midst of the storms of this life that we may fight on for His glory. As it says of Yeshua in Hebrews 12:2, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. So may it be for us as we behold the joy set before us. Let us rise above mere intellect and partake of the passages with reverence and joy!
The passages are Hebrews 12:22-24 and Revelation 21:1-22:5. The Revelation passage opens our eyes to the New Heaven, the New Earth and the New Jerusalem, providing a broader vision than the Hebrews passage does. We will therefore read the Revelation passage first.
The apostle John is being shown visions of the future by the ascended Yeshua.
The Hebrews passage:
When John saw the Lord Yeshua sitting upon His throne in preparation for the White Throne Judgment, he wrote, Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them (Revelation 20:11).
This is poetic language, but not mere poetic language; for immediately after the sentences of the Judgment are carried out, he wrote, Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away (21:1). Though expressed poetically, 20:11 describes the literal obliteration of our present created universe. That universe, so polluted by sin from the time of Adam until the end of the Millennium, upon which the Adamic curse presently resides in full force and which will retain elements of that curse even in the Kingdom, will be obliterated. As God spoke the universe into existence out of nothingness, so will He return it into nothingness that it may be replaced by a perfect, wholly intact, holy and thoroughly blessed dwelling for the saved of all ages.
This fleeing away of earth and heaven is not to be confused with what is described in 2 Peter 3:10, which is the destruction and ruination, but not obliteration, of the earth during the terrible judgments of the Great Tribulation.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea (Revelation 21:1).
With our present created heavens and earth obliterated, the White Throne Judgment terminated and the sentences of the doomed carried out, God will create a new heaven and new earth, a newly created heaven and earth which are not to be confused with those spoken of in Isaiah 66:22 and 2 Peter 3:13, which refer to the repaired heaven and earth of the Millennial Kingdom after the judgments of the Tribulation. Nor should this newly created heaven be confused with the Heaven that God dwells in, which is uncreated and has existed from eternity past. The new heaven will be a newly created heaven, just as our atmosphere and all that is in the universe were created. Also, the newly created earth will be very different from the one we know. Whereas four-fifths of our present earth is covered by ocean, in the new earth . . . there is no longer any sea. Furthermore, it will likely be many times larger than our present earth, as we shall see.
No sooner are we told of the creation of a new heaven and earth than we are told of the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband (21:2).
New Jerusalem, still in Heaven, must be where Yeshua is now preparing the many mansions (KJV) or dwelling places for those who love Him: In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2); for as it says in Hebrews 12:23 above, the saints of all of earth's ages will dwell there.
Clearing Up Some Issues
1) Is New Jerusalem a Designation for the
cannot be a designation for the church
In and of itself, the passage appears to declare an identity between the bride, the wife of the Lamb and the holy city, Jerusalem; but is it actually doing that? After all, elsewhere in the New Testament, the church is referred to as a bride; and if the bride is called the holy city, Jerusalem here, doesn't that mean that New Jerusalem is really the church?
Revelation 21:2: And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. The verse uses bride as a simile for - not as the identity of - New Jerusalem - as a bride. If 22:9 uses the bride as a metaphor for - not as the identity of - the holy city, Jerusalem, it would be consistent with the use of a bride as a simile in 21:2, and would also fall in line with the two reasons shown above as to why New Jerusalem can't be the church. It is reasonable to say that bride in 22:7 is used as a metaphor for the city, not as the identity of it.
To clarify the distinction between a metaphor and an identity, consider Juliet's use of "a rose" as a metaphor for Romeo in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Did she mean that Romeo was a literal rose with ants crawling all over him and bees buzzing around his head? Of course, not. She used "rose" as a metaphor to convey the sweetness and beauty of her heartthrob. In the same way, the bride is used as a metaphor for the holy city, Jerusalem to convey its purity and beauty. Another thing to note is that although the bride is used elsewhere as a metaphor for the church, there is no reason that it cannot have a different meaning here. Scripture contains other metaphors that are used in more than one sense. In Psalm 66:12, water represents trouble; but in John 7:38, it represents spiritual life. In the same way, bride is used elsewhere as a metaphor for the church, but here it is used as a metaphor for the holy city, Jerusalem.
In addition to the bride being used as a metaphor for New Jerusalem, it may be used in a second sense here, as well, as metaphorical of all believers in the city, not just those in the church. An understanding of the sequence of events leading to an Israeli wedding at the time of the writing should shed light on this use of the bride, the wife of the Lamb here.
There were four stages in
an Israeli wedding:
Scripture shows the church passing through all four stages, some of which contain more that one step. Eight steps are shown below. Scripture also shows that those believers who are not members of the church pass through most, but not all, of the eight stages.
Also Isaiah 42:5-7 and 49:5-6.
To review, the point of showing that all believers will eventually pass through this marriage sequence is that, in addition to the bride being used as a metaphor for New Jerusalem, it is also likely used as a metaphor for all believers in the city, not just for the church.
To summarize this
A comment by Dr. J. Vernon McGee on 21:9 may nail it on the head. (Ouch!): "Although a distinction between the bride and the city needs to be maintained, it is the intent of the writer to consider them together."
2) Is Mount Zion a Designation for the Church?
Mount Zion is a literal mountain or hill in Jerusalem. In the Tanach, which the writer of Hebrews was very familiar with (judging from the entire Book), Zion was a term, rich in meaning, that was used for all Israel (Jeremiah 31:12; Zechariah 9:13), Jerusalem itself (Isaiah 40:9), and the Temple in Jerusalem (Psalm 2:6; 48:2, 11–12; 132:13; Jeremiah 31:6). It would be consistent with that that the writer used Mount Zion in the same way in reference to the heavenly Jerusalem. Furthermore, in the passage, the city of the living God is equated with the heavenly Jerusalem, which also adds to the likelihood that Mount Zion is a third designation in the equation (the heavenly Jerusalem = the city of the living God = Mount Zion); and since New Jerusalem cannot be another name for the church, Mt. Zion, which is equated with it, cannot be a name for the church either.
conclusion is supported by various
Even if one may suppose that the writer is referring to a literal Mount Zion in the New Jerusalem, it cannot be a name for the church for the same reasons that New Jerusalem can't be; nor does any use of Mount Zion elsewhere in Scripture point to its use as a name for the church.
Fifteen hundred miles long, wide and high can describe either a perfect cube or a four-sided pyramid; but if the city were a pyramid as some speculate, surely the writer would have made it clear as that would be a most unusual shape for a city. In this regard, it is interesting to note that its closest earthly counterparts, the holy of holies in the tabernacle, and later the temple, were in the shape of a cube (Exodus 26:31-33; 1 Kings 6:20; 2 Chronicles 3:8).
The dimensions of New Jerusalem are not to be glossed over: fifteen hundred miles long, wide and high.
Fifteen hundred miles is the distance between Galveston, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico and the Canadian border, and between Washington DC and Denver, Colorado. At 1,500 miles squared it will cover an area of 2,250,000 square miles, three-quarters of the area of the forty-eight contiguous states of the United States, and 261 times the area of modern Israel. (4) In contrast, millennial Jerusalem will cover an area of 100 square miles. (5)
How high is 1,500 miles? For comparison's sake, according to Space Today Online, "U.S. space shuttles . . . . usually fly at altitudes around 200 miles above Earth;" (6) so New Jerusalem will be seven and a half times as high as space shuttles fly!
At a height of 1,500 miles, New Jerusalem will be six thousand times taller than the Empire State Building, which is a quarter of a mile high. If any semblance of proportion is to be presumed, New Earth may be thousands of times larger than our present earth.
The holy city is said to have walls, gates and streets.
According to 21:16, it walls will be seventy-two yards or two hundred and sixteen feet high, twenty-two storeys, which is less than one thirty-seven thousandth of the city's height. So what's the point of having walls? Not for security! 21:5 says, its gates will never be closed. In addition, the Triune God will be dwelling there as well as the entire host of holy angels, and they will be quite enough for security! Also, we, in a state of confirmed creaturely holiness, will be impervious to spiritual attack; and dwelling in immortal, invincible, glorified bodies, we'll be impervious to physical attack. Furthermore, nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it (21:7) because they'll be "a great gulf fixed" away in the Lake of Fire. So why the walls and gates? In addition to blessing the saints with their great beauty, they will be there to honor the twelve tribes of Israel and the apostles.
The gates will honor the twelve tribes of Israel through whom God brought forth His written Word and the Messiah. They will also honor the foundational work of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, who established the church and laid down New Testament doctrine in their declarations and writings.
The Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb, who will fill the city with the glory of their Presence, will be the city's Temple, and we will abide in Them.
e. Nations and Kings Will Bring Their Glory
When considering what nations the verse might be referring to, we must not think in terms of countries. All believers will dwell in New Jerusalem. The word for nations is ethnos, better translated as "peoples." We believers, who will be gathered from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9) will be its nations or "peoples."
What kings of the earth will bring their glory into it? We, the redeemed, will be its kings. 22:5 says of us, and they will reign forever and ever.
When will we bring our glory into New Jerusalem? The moment God escorts us into it after it settles upon the New Earth.
What glory we will bring into it? Daniel 12:3 says, Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
We must also note that we, who will reign as kings, will also be the Lamb's bond-servants who will serve Him (22:3), though we are not told in what capacity we will serve Him. Perhaps our service will be in the form of continual worship of Him akin to that of the seraphim and twenty-four elders of Revelation 4:7-11. What else could it be? Perhaps that question has an answer, but we can't tell what it is now.
That which is purely and fully life-giving will flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and that fruit which is purely and fully blessed for the sustenance of our eternal lives will proceed continually from the tree of life.
And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Nearly every translation renders it for the healing of the nations or something similar; but how can we need healing if our spirits are already purged of the sin nature, our bodies are already glorified, and no trace of the curse or its effects will have any place there? Perhaps Wuest translates it best: And the leaves of the tree were for the health of the nations.
The Feast of Tabernacles is the seventh and final feast of the yearly cycle of feasts prescribed by God in Leviticus 23 for the Israelites under Moses to observe. Each of the feasts has prophetic significance, and the significance of Tabernacles may be viewed as the resolution of the six feasts that preceded it. (7)
Tabernacles had its initial fulfillment in Yeshua (John 1:14). It will also have a fulfillment in the Kingdom (Zechariah 14:16), and its final and ultimate fulfillment will be in the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21:3: "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them. . . .
The tabernacle of God is identified with a divine He. Who is He?
The word for tabernacle here is the same as that used by the same author for dwelt in John 1:14, where he wrote, And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. Yeshua will be dwelling or "tabernacling" among us once again in the New Jerusalem; but in light of 22:3, and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, we see that God the Father will also be tabernacling among us.
Many years ago, I sat under a Bible teacher as he taught a long series; and he said repeatedly, "Big doors swing on little hinges." Over the years, I've discovered that he was absolutely correct when it comes to rightly dividing (KJV) or accurately handling the word of truth. So let's work on this little hinge.
Is New Jerusalem a symbolic reference to Heaven? Some say that it is; but Revelation 21:10 speaks of the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. If it comes down out of heaven it cannot be Heaven. It must be distinct from it. Nowhere does Scripture call New Jerusalem Heaven. Hebrews 12:22 calls New Jerusalem "heavenly," but not Heaven. It carries the glory of Heaven, but is not Heaven itself.
Hebrews 12:22 tells us,
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the
city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23. to
the general assembly and church of the
firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to
God, the Judge of all . . . .
New Jerusalem is not a designation for Heaven.
Scripture contains doors that swing on the hinge of New Jerusalem not being Heaven; and those doors may be hinges for even larger doors.
The doors that I have in mind are such declarations as were made by Yeshua and Peter in Matthew 5:12, 6:1, 6:20, 19:22,10:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 6:23, 12:33; 18:22; and 1 Peter 1:4.
In and of themselves, and depending upon the
particular passage, they may have one of the
following meanings or implications:
Another passage akin to the above is Philippians 3:20-21:
To say that our citizenship is in Heaven is not to say that we will dwell there forever, and we've seen that our eternal home will not be Heaven, but New Jerusalem.
In our legal standing in Messiah, whom God made to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21), God counts us as much citizens of Heaven as He does His own Son, who now dwells with Him in Heaven. Even as we dwell body and soul here on earth, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ and has raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6). Similarly, our citizenship is in heaven.
1. The entire We Believe statement of the Association of Messianic Congregations may be found at http://www.messianicassociation.org/believe.htm.
2. See The Universal Body of Messiah at http://www.messianicassociation.org/ezine13-believe.htm.
3. For a discussion of the meaning of the bride, the wife of the Lamb in Revelation 21:10, read or listen to The Jewish Wedding System and the Bride of Messiah by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum at http://ariel.org/come-and-see.htm, or read Dr. Fruchtenbaum's Messianic Bible Study 015: The Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of Messiah.
4. Today's Israel covers an area of 8,630 square miles. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/aboutisrael/land/pages/the%20land-%20geography%20and%20climate.aspx.
5. The Millennial Jerusalem described in Ezekiel 47 and 48, will be a mere ten miles by ten miles in area. Dr. David L. Cooper, http://ariel.org/dlc/dlc.htm.
6. Space Today, http://www.spacetoday.org/Satellites/SatBytes/SatAltitudes.html.
7. See Dr. Fruchtenbaum's Messianic Bible Study 062: The Feasts of Israel, or the author's The Prophetic Feasts of Israel at http://www.biblestudyproject.org/feasts-of-israel-messianic.htm.
Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum
Dr. David L. Cooper
Thomas Paul Simmons
Norman Manzon is a Bible teacher in Hawaii
and may be reached