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What Is the New Jerusalem?

The Apostle John's vision in Revelation of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, has sparked many debates over the years. So what does the Bible say about this city, and why has it created so much discussion?

Author of Someplace to Be Somebody
Updated Apr 01, 2024
What Is the New Jerusalem?

Biblical eschatology (the study of end things) fascinates people from all walks of life. Theologians wrestle with the exact meaning of Scripture regarding what is and will happen at the “end of the age” (Matthew 24:3, 28:19-20). Students of biblical prophecy exchange their views on what will happen when. And unbelievers step into the fray with fantastical accounts of things to come via prophets operating outside the Bible’s truth. But the Bible, even within apocalyptic literature, provides some understandable prophetic details, such as concerns about the New Jerusalem.

Where Does the Bible Mention the New Jerusalem?

The book of Revelation gives the Bible’s only explicit mention of the New Jerusalem identified as such (in Revelation 3:12 and Revelation 21:2, 10). The verse in chapter three is addressed to the first-century church of Philadelphia, located in modern-day Turkey. John, who penned the book, told the faithful Philadelphia church that the overcomers would be a pillar in God’s temple with His (new) name and that of the New Jerusalem written on them. The New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven from God. These words are an eternal promise which instilled hope within the temporal tribulation the church experienced. And then the New Jerusalem is revealed in Revelation 21:2, 10 as part of the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21:1) as it comes down from heaven from God.

Different schools of thought (and even those within the same school, such as premillennial dispensationalists) hold different opinions about what the New Jerusalem is. Some see it as the eternal state. Others describe it as the coming millennial age. Others see the New Jerusalem as the church as connected to Christ or Israel’s relationship to Christ. Some depict the new Jerusalem as a literal city, and some as a symbol. The many views can be confusing.

Before we get into the interpretations, let’s take a look at what the Bible says.

How Does the Bible Describe the New Jerusalem?

The entire chapter of Revelation 21 gives us a stunning description of New Jerusalem, what will transpire there, and who will inhabit it. Lest we think the Bible has little to say about the New Jerusalem, here is a list of its attributes (cf. Ezekiel 48:30-35).

The New Jerusalem will:

- Be part of the new heaven and new earth (v. 2).

- Be a holy city (v.2).

- Come prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Scripture reference and explanation) (v.2)

- Will hold God’s tabernacle (v.3).

- Contain the glory of God (v. 11).

- Have a pure and radiant light (v. 11b)

- Have twelve gates named after the twelve tribes of Israel, twelve foundations named after the twelve Apostles of Christ, is as a cube measuring 1.9 million square miles (1500 miles per side and height), walls of jasper, construction and streets of pure gold, gates of pearls and walls covered with precious stones (vv. 12-21).

- Will have no temple (v. 23).

- Be illuminated by the glory of the Lord—the Lamb (v. 23).

- Have open gates (v. 24).

- Bar entrance to anyone not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (v. 27).

God will:

- Send new Jerusalem down out of heaven (v. 10).

- Dwell with men as His people, and he will be their God (v. 3).

- Wipe away every tear from their eyes (v. 4).

- Make all things new (v. 5)

- Be the city’s temple along with the Lamb (Jesus Christ) (v. 22).

The New Jerusalem will reveal:

- No more death, nor sorrow, nor crying (v.4)

- No more pain (v.4)

- No more of the former things because they are gone (v. 4).

- Not one who does not know Jesus as Savior (v. 8).

The inhabitants will:

- Drink freely of the water of life for eternity (v. 6).

- Walk in its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory and honor into it (v. 24).

Do We Know When the New Jerusalem Will Be Built?

The Bible does not indicate the exact “when” of the New Jerusalem, only that its arrival here will be in the future. What we do know is that, as of now, when a believer dies, they go up to paradise. When God ushers in the New Jerusalem, He will bring it down to us, erasing the worldly system and its evils forever.

But this does not mean that God is not constructing the New Jerusalem now. The Bible does not clarify this point, except for the allusion Jesus makes to His disciples in John 14:2-3 that He will prepare a place for them (and us). One day we may get to ask Him, but it’s doubtful a person in His presence will care about asking that question.

Will the “New Heaven and New Earth” Really Be a New Place?

Two prevailing camps exist regarding the reality of the new heaven and new earth. Everyone agrees they will be new, but in what sense? Will it be totally new, as in the old is completely gone, or will it be a refurbished new? 

When He created the heavens and the earth, God declared all His creation good (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). Genesis 1:31 tells us God saw everything He had made, and “it was very good.” It was perfect, with no sin. Then came the Fall (Genesis 3), and God told Adam, “Cursed is the ground for your sake” (Genesis 3:17). Since that time, “creation groans and labors” (Romans 8:19-22), and God is in the process of restoring humans (those who have surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord) and the rest of creation.

Do we as humans parallel creation and its renewal (or re-creation)? Second Corinthians 5:17 says if we are in Christ, we are new creations. Look ahead at Ephesians 2:1, which says we were dead in our trespasses and sins. When a person becomes a Christian, do they physically die and resurrect as a new creation? We all know the answer is no; we have been renewed and transformed to Jesus’ image and are no longer to be conformed to the world. But we humans are groaning too (Romans 8:23). This is something to consider when we look at either assumption (will the heavens and earth be destroyed? Will they be re-created or restored?).

We will look at four specific passages which speak of the new heavens and a new earth: Isaiah 65:17-19, Isaiah 66:22, 2 Peter 3:7-13, and Revelation 21:1, 5.

Isaiah 65:17-19 states God will create new heavens and a new earth. He says, “the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” Verse 19 parallels Revelation 21:4 when it says there will be no more weeping or crying.

Isaiah 66:22 says that “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘so will your name and descendants endure.”

Our key passage is 2 Peter 3:7-13. Second Peter 3:10 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” Other translations say, “burned with fire” for “exposed.” John Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck explain in The Bible Knowledge Commentary – New Testament that the Greek word used here possibly means everything will be exposed as it really is. Either that or it asks a question, ‘The earth and everything in it—will they be found?’” Other translators utilize “burned up,” as in total annihilation of the earth and elements.

John MacArthur believes (as do most Premillennialists) that the heavens refers to the physical universe and the “roar” is a crackling sound, like something on fire as God incinerates the universe. He likens the heavenly bodies to all existing atomic elements (atoms, electrons, neutrons, protons) and thinks they will be consumed. MacArthur references Isaiah 24:19-20 and Isaiah 34:4.

2 Peter 3:12-13 describes “waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Revelation 21:1 says “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

Matt Emerson makes this argument: “the historic Christian position is that the new creation is a renewal of the old creation, in which Christ’s work and particularly his death and resurrection remove the effects and source of sin and thereby bring restoration not only to human beings but to all that God has made.” 

Those who follow a renewed earth belief quote Psalm 104:30 to back up this thought: “When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the ground.”

John Piper tells us, “So, Paul’s words in Romans 8:21, that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption, means this old earth will become a new earth. He understands the word new to mean renewed, not new in the sense of getting a new car because it’s not the same car when you get a new car. New (kainos) can mean renewed — new because it’s been fixed.”

Each view has its merits and limitations, all worthy of respect and research. It appears the words used in the passages can mean different things. Is this a disagreement that can affect someone’s salvation? No, but it does influence the peacefulness of the church. What counts is God is “making everything new” according to His will and His standards. We will be in the New Jerusalem with the Lord, which should be more than good enough for every believer.

Why Does the Promise of a New Jerusalem Matter?

Some may ask, “Why does any promise made by God matter?” It matters because of Who God is. God is our Sovereign, Almighty Father, and throughout Scripture, His promises are told, foretold, and fulfilled. One (among many) examples is God promised a Messiah (Psalm 2:2; Daniel 9:25-26), and 574 verses directly reference Jesus as Messiah. Therefore, when the Lord God tells us in His Word there will be a New Jerusalem, we can trust Him to fulfill His promise.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/nu1983

This article is part of our larger End Times Resource Library. Learn more about the rapture, the anti-christ, bible prophecy and the tribulation with articles that explain Biblical truths. You do not need to fear or worry about the future!

The Second Coming of Jesus
Who Are the 144,000 in Revelation?
Who Are Gog and Magog in the Bible?
What Is the Apollyon?
Is the Apocalypse Mentioned in the Bible?
Signs of the End Times and the Rapture


Christianity / Theology / End Times / What Is the New Jerusalem?