Jerusalem as we know it

Since Jerusalem’s destruction, various powers have controlled Palestine and the place known as Jerusalem, including the Persians, Arabs, Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamelukes and Mohammedans.

Today, the Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. Jerusalem is also a very important place for Christians as it was there Jesus was crucified outside the wall.

“Jerusalem has had a very disturbed history throughout its existence, quite contrary to the meaning of its name.”

While modern Israel has a strong military force and significant support from the USA, it is not expected that Jerusalem will be a place of real peace well into the future. What peace exists is a forced peace.

Until the Jews and the Palestinians can live in harmony there will be frequent border skirmishes, reported or not. These only serve to continue the antipathy—or worse— between these two people groups, both of whom trace their ancestral lineage to Abraham.

The New Jerusalem

Information about this purpose-built city is found principally in the book of Revelation, chapter 21 and into chapter 22. However, there are interesting references to the heavenly Jerusalem in Paul’s letter to the Galatians and in the book of Hebrews.

In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul contrasts people who operate under the two covenants. The first, an “earthly” covenant, based on performance, is likened to the offspring of Hagar. Paul says this covenant corresponds to “the present city of Jerusalem” (v25), in other words, the Jerusalem of Paul’s time. He then immediately says, “but the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother” (v26, emphasis mine). Here the other covenant is referred to that includes the “children of promise” (v28). Paul concludes his argument in verse 31, where he says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.”

So we see in these passages that the early Church was not only well aware that “their” Jerusalem would come to its end, but that they could look forward to an infinitely more wonderful Jerusalem that would come down to this earth from heaven, purposely made by God for that majestic event, to be His dwelling place for ever after.

A thoughtful reading of Revelation 21 reveals that the New Jerusalem will be a city like no other. Its dimensions are staggering and it is not made of humble timber and stone but of gold. Its gates are of pearl, not born out of an irritation in an oyster shell but made directly by the word of God. Its impact on the waiting saints will be one of awe and strong emotion, for John says the city will be “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2, KJV).

Now we know how beautiful a bride appears as she approaches the man of her choice. If ever a woman looks beautiful, she looks even more so on her wedding day. Do we read into that description that God will put some “special touches” on the city that will be the home of the saved?

The question for each one of us to ask is this: Will I be a citizen of that heavenly Jerusalem? The only alternative is that we will still be living in the “old Jerusalem” that will perish along with everything else of human origin in the great day of Christ’s second coming.

This should really be an easy question for us to answer, shouldn’t it?

William Ackland worked for the Church for 40 years. He lives with his wife in the Adventist retirement village in Cooranbong, NSW, where he has written six books.

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