The purpose of John the Baptist’s ministry, was to prepare the people for the coming of the kingdom (and the Messiah): “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:1, 2). After Jesus refused the kingdoms of this world, offered to Him by Satan, the record states, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10; Lu.11:2). In other words, the kingdom of God was near – it was not far away.
When Jesus was accused of performing miracles by the power of Satan, He said in response: “…if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matt. 12:28). The Kingdom was no longer near – it was here. Soon after this encounter with the Pharisees, the disciples of Jesus take Him to task over why He always spoke to the people in parables. Jesus answered that: “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (see Matt. 13:11). Therefore, there are mysteries attached to the Kingdom. One of these mysteries, was how could the Kingdom be near, but also simultaneously here? It is because of this mystery that Jesus said, “…seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). In other words, we need to look for the Kingdom of God – seek it – pray for it:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Matt. 7:7, 8.
One of the discoveries a sincere seeker of the Kingdom will find, is that the Kingdom is not a literal Kingdom it is a spiritual Kingdom. This is why the Kingdom is always near and simultaneously here. It is always near, but there are few that understand the spiritual nature of the Kingdom, therefore they cannot find it:
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matt. 7:13, 14.
The religious leaders of Israel and the people always looked for a literal kingdom and Jesus was often queried about this (see Lu. 19:11; 24:21; Acts 1:6). On at least two occasions He tried to turn their attention from the temporal to the spiritual, He even tried to enlighten Pilate:
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Lu. 17:20, 21.
My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Jn. 18:36.
We enter into the invisible/spiritual kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ. But this is just the beginning of the kingdom of God – one day there will be a literal kingdom of God. Jesus spoke about the future literal kingdom of God when he spoke about the signs of His second coming: “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Lu. 21:31). At the last supper He made a promise to His disciples that he would not celebrate the Passover again, until the manifestation of the literal kingdom of God, “For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God… For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come” (Lu. 22:16, 18). When the literal kingdom does come – it is called the New Jerusalem.
The Father’s House
The Bible (and Jesus) tell the same stories in different ways. One example (among many) is the Father’s house. Before His death, Jesus in attempting, to prepare His disciples for the coming test of their faith said:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. Jn. 14:1-3.
As Jesus was entering Jerusalem for the last time, He knew that the people were going to celebrate His arrival, by proclaiming Him the King of Israel. Therefore, before he entered, He paused and began to tell the expectant people a parable:
And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. Lu. 19:11, 12.
Jesus told this parable because the people (and His disciples) thought He was going to declare Himself the King, drive out the Romans and set up the temporal Kingdom of Israel. Jesus was saying, No, I have to go away to a ‘far country’ (to heaven) and it is there that I will receive a kingdom, and then I will return. In other words, all dreams and expectations of a literal kingdom on earth were a fallacy. The there was a Kingdom but it was in Heaven, If one wanted to enter the literal Kingdom in Heaven, one first had to enter the spiritual Kingdom on earth. Jesus goes back to Heaven to ‘prepare a place’ – a literal Kingdom. When it is finished He ‘marries’ His bride (the Kingdom), then He comes back to take the guests who have accepted the invitation to the marriage ceremony (by faith) to the wedding feast:
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. Lu. 12:35-37, cf. Matt. 25:14; Rev. 19:9.
The Father’s House and the Jewish Marriage Ceremony
It is not just the Bible (and Jesus) that tell the same stories in different ways. The whole Israeli/Jewish structure does the same thing. It is all designed to exalt Jesus and the plan of salvation:
Through the teachings of the sacrificial service, Christ was to be uplifted before all nations, and all who would look to Him should live. Christ was the foundation of the Jewish economy. The whole system of types and symbols was a compacted prophecy of the gospel, a presentation in which were bound up the promises of redemption… The Saviour foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures was to offer Himself as a sacrifice in behalf of the fallen race, thus fulfilling every requirement of the broken law. In Him the sacrificial types were to meet their antitype, and His death on the cross was to lend significance to the entire Jewish economy. Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 14, 227.
This principle (same stories in different ways), is not just applicable to the ceremonies, rituals, prophecies types and antitypes etc. it also applies to the customs of the people, such as the marriage ceremony.
The Old testament Jewish marriage ceremony began with the betrothment. After the betrothment the bride returned to her father’s house and prepared for the wedding. The bridegroom returned to his father’s house and built a home there for his bride. However, it was not the bridegroom’s prerogative to decide when the home was ready and it was time to return and fetch His bride. That decision was made by the father. The father would inspect the son’s work and when the father was satisfied that all was perfectly in order, then he would authorise the son to fetch the bride to the wedding. This Jewish marriage custom, points forward to the second coming of Jesus / the date of which is determined by the Father – “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matt. 24:36). In addition, one can see much of this Jewish custom and the symbolic imagery of it, in the parable of the ten virgins (see Matt. 25:1-13). The ‘far country’ and the ‘Father’s house’ are the same thing – Heaven. Jesus has to go away and build a home for His people. The home He builds is the New Jerusalem.
The New Jerusalem is the Bride
The people of God are often called the bride of Christ, based on Scripture stating that Jesus comes back for His wife (see Rev. 19:7). If the people are the bride, then why is the New Jerusalem also called the bride:
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband… And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. Rev. 21:2, 9, 10.
Jesus goes away to a wedding (see Lu. 12:35-37). The wedding takes place in Heaven – the wedding is the receiving of His Kingdom (see Dan. 7:13, 13; Rev. 11:15-17). His Kingdom is represented by the New Jerusalem, which Jesus built after going back to the Father’s house. All are invited to the wedding feast, but most refuse the invitation (see Matt. 22:1-14; Lu. 14:15-24). Jesus comes back to take those who accept the invitation to the wedding feast to Heaven (see Rev. 19:9):
The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, which is the capital and representative of the kingdom, is called “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” Said the angel to John: “Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” “He carried me away in the spirit,” says the prophet, “and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” Revelation 21:9, 10. Clearly, then, the bride represents the Holy City, and the virgins that go out to meet the bridegroom are a symbol of the church. In the Revelation the people of God are said to be the guests at the marriage supper. Revelation 19:9. If guests, they cannot be represented also as the bride. Christ, as stated by the prophet Daniel, will receive from the Ancient of Days in heaven, “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom;” He will receive the New Jerusalem, the capital of His kingdom, “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Daniel 7:14; Revelation 21:2. Having received the kingdom, He will come in His glory, as King of kings and Lord of lords, for the redemption of His people, who are to “sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,” at His table in His kingdom (Matthew 8:11; Luke 22:30), to partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb. Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 426.
The New Jerusalem Represents the Kingdom
The ancients were fascinated by numerology. Therefore, we should not be surprised to find numerology in the Bible. The number 3 represents the Godhead; the number 6 represents creation; 7 represents perfection etc. The number 12, represents the Kingdom. Jesus founded His first Kingdom on 12 tribes. He founded His second Kingdom on 12 apostles. The 144,000 are made up of 12 times 12,000. Clearly the number 12, and multiples of 12 represent the Kingdom.
The dimensions of the New Jerusalem are also based on the number 12. The New Jerusalem has 12 gates – 12 angels – 12 names of the tribes – 12 names of the apostles and the length, breadth and height of it are 12, 000 furlongs – the wall is 12 times 12, 000 cubits (see Rev. 21:12-17). These numbers are all telling the same story – the New Jerusalem represents the Kingdom of God.
The Light in the New Jerusalem
We are told that the light in the New Jerusalem was the colour of a jasper stone. Jasper stone is the colour of fire, and it represents God Himself:
And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. Rev. 4:2, 3.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (Jn. 8:12). And Jesus and the Father will be the light of the New Jerusalem, and there will be no night and no need of sun or moon:
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof… And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. Rev. 21:23, 25.
The Wall of the New Jerusalem
The wall is also made of jasper (see Rev. 21:18) – which again represents God. Walls were vital in ancient times and God has always wanted to be a wall, around His people – blessing them and protecting them. God wanted to bless the Old Testament city of Jerusalem so abundantly that it would not need walls for its protection:
I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, and said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her. Zech. 2:1-5.
This desire on the part of God, to be the wall around Jerusalem, was not fulfilled in the time of Old Jerusalem. But it will be fulfilled in the New Jerusalem.
The Foundations of the New Jerusalem
There are 12 foundations in the construction of the New Jerusalem. Each foundation is garnished/decorated/emblazoned with a specific precious stone. The first foundation is jasper (see Rev.21:19). We already know that jasper represents God. Therefore, the first foundation of the New Jerusalem is God Himself. The second foundation is sapphire. What does sapphire represent?
When Jesus was standing on Mt. Sinai and delivering the law to Moses, He cut two stones from the mountain and wrote the law on the tablets of stone. When Jesus cut these stones the record states that He was standing on sapphire:
And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. Rev. 24:10.
The paved work of sapphire stone is called ‘the body of heaven.’ It is highly probable that the paved work of sapphire is the same as ‘the sea of glass’ that is before the throne of God (see Rev. 15:2). Jesus came down from Heaven to lead His people out of Egypt. When He met them at Sinai, many signs were manifested testifying of His majesty and power. Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that the sapphire/sea of glass, was another of the many signs that testified to the divinity of the God of Israel. It is also reasonable that when He cut the stones for the Ten Commandments, that He cut them from the very stone He was standing on. In addition, Jewish tradition states that the original stones, given by God to Moses, were made of sapphire stone.
This conclusion, is reinforced, by recognising that the colour of sapphire is blue and that the colour blue represents the law:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: and it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them ; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: that ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God. Num. 37-41.
In addition, God’s throne is of the colour of sapphire/blue (see Eze. 1:26; 10:1). And it is from His throne that God dispenses justice based on His law (see Ps. 9:4-7; 89:14). Therefore, sapphire and the colour blue represent the law of God, which means that the second foundation of the New Jerusalem is the law of God.
The symbolism of the remaining ten foundations, are too difficult to determine. It is difficult to understand which precious stones are being referred to by the words in the original text. In addition, after speculating what the Greek words for the stones mean, one has to then find the corresponding word for the same stone in ancient Hebrew. These attempts to determine the symbolism with any degree of accuracy, devolve into subjective speculation.
God With Us
God has always wanted to live with His people. One of the titles given to Jesus is ‘Immanuel’ (Isa. 7:14: Matt. 1:18, 23) – which means, ‘God with us.’ In Old Testament times, the closest God could get to His people was in the sanctuary, which had four coverings to the roof, to contain His glory, in case His brilliance broke out and killed the people. In addition, the sanctuary was located in the middle of the camp and the Israelites had to erect their tents at a great distance from the sanctuary. In New Testament times God lived with His people spiritually, through the Holy Spirit (see Jn. 15-23). However, in the New Jerusalem God’s desire to live with His people will be finally realised:
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Rev. 21:3.
New Jerusalem Antitype of Old Jerusalem
The New Jerusalem, is the antitypical representation, of what God always wanted Old Jerusalem to be. It was God’s original intention, that Old Jerusalem be the metropolis of the whole world. It was God’s intention, that the gentile nations would look to Jerusalem, as the place to find God and the place to worship God. God wanted the Jews to evangelize the whole world and the whole world would flock to Jerusalem (see Ps. 22:7; Isa. 60:1-22; 62.1-4; 66:23; Zech. 8:1-3; 20-23; 14:16). This desire of God will be realised in the New Jerusalem:
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. Rev. 21:24-26.
When God called Abraham, to cross over the Euphrates River and enter into a new land, and start a new life, God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land. But Abraham knew that this was just the beginning, at some point, Abraham was instructed that there were bigger plans afoot, because it is stated that he longed for and looked for something greater than the land of Canaan:
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Heb. 11:8-10.
And not just Abraham, but all the ancient people of faith, counted themselves ‘strangers and sojourners and pilgrims’ (see Lev. 25:23; 1 Chron. 29:15):
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Heb. 11:13-16.
All those who feel the same spiritual condition – all those who feel like strangers and sojourners ad pilgrims on this earth, have a share in the promises made to all those who have the faith to grasp it. Jesus added to the promise when He said He was going away to prepare a place, so that we can be with Him in the ‘far country.’ These promises will be fulfilled, when the New Jerusalem descends upon the earth, ‘like a bride adorned for her Husband.