Here's today's spiritual truths: In the Book of Revelation, there are two cities named Jerusalem. They both come down from Heaven and the city we know as Jerusalem is largely destroyed.
Like York and New York, they are different places! New Jerusalem and Jerusalem aka the Holy City and hereafter referred to as such are not always specified in the text which is which, so the reader has to know the context and the differences to determine which place is being referred to in which passage. Understanding the similarities and differences make that task easier. So here goes:
How are they alike:
- They are both physical places
- God dwells with His People in both of them (Rev 21:3 and Rev 22:1)
- They both shine with the Glory of God (Rev 21:23 and Rev 22:5)
- There is no night in either place (Rev 21:25 and Rev 22:5)
- Both have 12 gates (Rev 21:12 and Ezekiel 48:30)
- Both descend from Heaven (Rev 21:2 and Rev 21:10)
How are they different:
- Jerusalem the Holy City is on the Earth (Rev 21:3, Ezekiel 40:2, Rev 20:9)
- New Jerusalem is above the Earth (See below for Scriptures)
- The Holy City is 1 mile square (Ezekiel 48:30)
- New Jerusalem is about 1400 miles square (Rev 21:16)
- People in physical bodies can enter the Holy City (Ezekiel 46:9) (Rev 22:14)
- No one in a physical body can enter New Jerusalem (Rev 21:27)
- The Holy City gives light to the region and its neighbors (Rev 22:5)
- New Jerusalem gives light to the Earth (Rev 21:24)
- The Holy City has a functioning and working Old Testament Style Temple (Ezekiel 45:13-15,17)
- New Jerusalem does not have a Temple (Rev 21:22)
- The Gentile Nations will come and bring sacrifices to the Holy City (Zechariah 14:16-19)
- People in physical bodies, who keep God's commandments come and eat from the tree of life (Rev 22:14)
What happens to Jerusalem as we know it today?
- For all intents and purposes, the city is wiped out during the Tribulation. (Zechariah 14:2) (Isaiah 24:3 and Isaiah 24:12)
- Zechariah 14:4 describes the gigantic earthquake that accompanies the Second Coming touch down
- Fault lines have been discovered that run under Jerusalem
- The rubble falls into the chasm and is buried forever with the living water that flows from the new temple and the new city.
- Jeremiah 4:23-28 describes the condition of the Earth at the second coming, basically destroyed.
- Isaiah 24:19-20 confirms the utter destruction.
- The latter part of Isaiah 61 describes the Millennial Kingdom and speaks of rebuilding the desolate and destroyed cities (Isaiah 61:4).
Both Cities Come Down from Heaven:
Given that Jerusalem is in ruins, I surmise that both the earthly and the heavenly cities are made by God and both descend from Heaven. No one disputes that New Jerusalem is made by God but I've never read any teaching that states that the earthly Jerusalem is made by God and descends from Heaven but here is my opinion:
Let's look at the Scripture: Rev 21:1-3 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away ; and there was no more sea. 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 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.
We must understand the new Heaven and the new Earth; the earth is wiped out after the Tribulation. Also, this is a quote from the Old Testament: Isaiah 65:17 and Isaiah 66:22. Taken in context this is clearly the coming age of Israel - the thousand year reign of the Lord on the Earth; the Millennium. So we are talking about Israel here. The next verse says she is adorned like a bride, not that she IS the bride. Finally, God proclaims that his tabernacle is with men and that he will dwell with them. We know men don't dwell in New Jerusalem.
In the same chapter, we move forward six verses to Rev 21:9-10 and the angel of the Lord takes John to another place to see the bride of the Lamb. This is clearly a different place, a different city, yet both have descended out of Heaven made by God.
The Sheer Size of New Jerusalem make it impossible (well, nothing is impossible for God) for the city to be physically on the earth. 1450 miles square... this is equivalent to the entire east coast of the US to the Mississippi River.... Our atmosphere is only 300 miles tall, what would attaching a gigantic cube due to a perfectly balanced spinning planet? How would the rest of the world receive light if the city was on earth? The below picture is not exactly to scale but you get the idea of how massive New Jerusalem is.
Jack Kelley put the resolution of this question quite eloquently: With the differentiation of these two Holy Cities, the apparent conflict between Jewish and Christian eschatology is resolved. Israel was promised that one day GOD would come to Earth to dwell among them forever, while the Church is promised that Jesus will come to take us to heaven to live with Him there. Both promises come true.Since Ezekiel specifically quoted the Lord’s promise to dwell among the Israelites forever (43:7) and then described the new Holy City, while Jesus promised to return for the Church to take us to be with Him (John 14:1-3), they must have been talking about two different destinations. They were. Heaven is the New Jerusalem where we will dwell with the Lord forever, while the Holy City on Earth is Jehovah Shammah where God will dwell in the midst of His people Israel forever.. (source The Coming Temple)
(Note, we develop these ideas further in Part 3 but particularly in Part 4 where we show that Jesus makes both cities!)