Naturally, I do not claim the ability to read into every aspect and phase of fulfillment concerning the New Jerusalem. When the city is established, then only will we know in precisely what manner the temple ordinances are fulfilled in Christ. For it is very difficult, nay, impossible, to accurately gauge the nature of a substance by the shadow it casts. We may discern the outlines and general character of that substance, but must wait for the substance to arrive before we can see it distinctly. So, I cannot concur with those "prophetic experts" who claim to peer into the innermost mysteries of fulfillment. Let us only believe that Christ is coming to reign; and that at His reign He shall establish Jerusalem in the midst of the earth, that all nations may be blessed in it. Selah!
Nevertheless, it may be edifying to discuss the general nature of the New Jerusalem, for this lies within our ability. As we stated previously, Jerusalem is seen descending to earth in John's vision. Now, granted, many students will say that this 'descent' must be perceived mystically and allegorically. But we do no think so at all. For their spiritual interpretations do not at all line up with the realities of the evidence before us. The same city is described by Paul, as being "above," and "the mother of us all" (Galatians 4: 25). And so we infer that in the present dispensation, the church has a real existence in the heavenly realms. But that it is not forever to remain in heaven we learn from John, who sees the city descending to earth. Now, if the city were only a celestial city, without any substantial reality, it might very aptly remain in heaven forever: for that would be according to its true nature. But John sees it descending to earth.
Moreover, he says: "And I heard a great voice in 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). This obviously precludes any kind of spiritualizing, for the city is described descending to earth. Why? Because it is the city of the Great King, in which He shall dwell to administer judgment and justice to all nations. Remember that Jesus Christ is Immanuel, which means "God with us." He tabernacled among us once during His first advent. Now this present period is described as His absence. Yes, the King is absent: make no mistake. But God shall come again, to tabernacle with us during His Second Advent. And this is surely what John's vision relates. Of course, it is true that during this entire dispensation the city is invisible: for it is still being prepared. But when the Heavenly Bridegroom comes, what then? His presence and His city will be established.
But those who insist that these passages must be taken allegorically will get themselves into many difficulties. For they cannot explain, firstly, why, if the city is among us now, nobody knows of its existence. For two thousand years the church has functioned in the midst of great upheaval and turmoil. Never has the following admitted of verification on earth: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21: 4). Then, too, the allegorists cannot explain why an invisible city is given dimensions. For John clearly states that the city is foursquare, having a length and breadth and height of twelve thousand furlongs (Rev. 21: 16). "Ah!" they say. "These numbers signify something spiritual." Very well. Nevertheless, the city is so substantial that whole nations are seen walking in the light of it; and kings of the earth are seen bringing their glory into it (Rev. 21: 24-25). And we point out, once again, that the prophecy is fulfilled on earth: for the city has descended to earth.
Jeremiah prophesies of this same city, which shall be established when Christ cometh with all His saints to reign on earth. They only shall see it who have kept God's laws:
(Jeremiah 22: 4) "Thus saith the Lord; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place. For if ye do this thing indeed, then there shall enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and upon horses, He, and His servants, and His people."
Note that Jeremiah's vision is in essential accord with previous Scriptures I've cited, in which Christ has promised to give His faithful saints power over all nations. And Jeremiah tells us that the reign will be fulfilled in Jerusalem: and not in the old Jerusalem, but in the New Jerusalem.
Let us see if we can examine more closely the nature of this city. Is it mystical or substantial? Note that John's vision agrees with Isaiah's in almost all particulars. In Isaiah 60: 11-12, the prophet writes: "Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted." Of course, these passages may be allegorized, but you must admit that the substantial meaning makes more sense.
And let me say that never in the history of the world has anything of the like been fulfilled on earth. For today we see nations that refuse to serve Jesus Christ not only not being punished, but prospering greatly, while the Christian nations languish. Is this the fulfillment of the prophets' vision? I think not. We'll remember that Zechariah spoke similar words, when he said, "And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles" (Zech. 14: 17-18).
Hence we infer that all nations shall do homage to Jesus Christ when He comes to reign. Those nations that keep the feast of tabernacles will come to a real and substantial city with true dimensions; whilst those nations which refuse to come will be afflicted with real and substantial punishments. Such fulfillment implies the personal reign of Jesus Christ on earth. There is simply no allegorizing of these passages. For if you choose to allegorize, you must water down fulfillment as the Preterists do, and argue for a restricted and qualified meaning. And the farther you depart from the meaning of language, the more erratic and far-fetched your interpretations will be. No. I believe that these passages have never yet been fulfilled. When they are fulfilled, however, then we shall see Jerusalem established in the midst of the earth, and all nations coming to do homage to the Great King.
Of course, we ought to make a note that there is some difference between the Millennium and the "New Heavens and Earth." However, most of early Fathers agree that the predictions of Revelation 21-22 largely apply to the Millennium. For we must remember that the Millennium is the "regeneration" of the earth (Matt. 19: 28); and so it is the beginning of the New Heavens and Earth. It marks the restitution of all things, of that state of the world which would have existed on the seventh day had Adam and Eve not eaten of the forbidden fruit. Yet the New Heavens and New Earth proper, which are established after the Millennium, what are they but the eternal and perpetual establishment of that which was already begun in the Millennium? As the regeneration forms the beginning of eternal existence, so the resurrection completes it once and for all.
Therefore, it is no inconsistency to say that the Millennium is the beginning of the New Heavens and New Earth--yet that epoch only which is termed the "regeneration," when all the nations will be released from the bondage of tyranny and evil, and made free from the delusions of Satan, that they may serve and worship God. And I suppose we may elucidate the nature of the New Jerusalem further by bringing to mind this phrase, "the restitution of all things." For hearken closely to Peter's speech: "Whom the heaven must receive, until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets, since the world began" (Acts 3: 21). What is this 'restitution of all things?' It must consist of that state of blessedness which Adam forfeited when he and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. If this statement be deemed acceptable (and there is no reason why it shouldn't) then we have in hand a very important key which we may use to unlock the true nature of the New Jerusalem.
For Adam did not lose Christ's presence spiritually, but on earth. He was not evicted from a heavenly paradise, but from an earthly paradise. Thus, the "restitution" must refer to that which Adam lost. Now he (and we through him) lost Christ's presence on earth: but, behold, it is restored when John's vision is fulfilled. And then he was not permitted to eat of the tree of life, but was evicted from the Garden of Eden. But, lo! In John's vision we see not only entrance into Eden, but access to the Tree of Life. And how is Eden entered? John writes that it is entered through the gates of the city (Rev. 22: 14). Where is the city? It is described as having descended to earth. Hence, Paradise is restored to earth; and this is the restitution of all things.
The city, then, is solid and substantial: just as our bodies are substantial, and not ethereal. For Christ formed Adam out of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2: 7). The perfect man, then, is a compound being, composed of body, soul, and spirit. We do not say that the soul is man, neither that the body or the spirit is man. But when using these terms we refer to the soul, the body, the spirit of man. For this reason we know that the perfect man consists of all three. Thus, they who have previously been prepared and made ready for inheritance by the Spirit of God will awake from the dust and be clothed with their very own bodies: for the body is part of the whole man. And then these blessed ones shall inhabit the eternal and everlasting city that God has been prepared for them.
Wherefore, this is called the "restitution of all things." For Adam dwelt on earth with God in a real and substantial body, which would have become immortal had he not transgressed God's law. But when he transgressed, he became subject to death. Now, of what does restitution consist other than the abolition of death and granting of access to the Tree of Life? And not in ethereal and insubstantial bodies neither, but in real and substantial bodies made eternal and incorruptible in the resurrection. And I think all will agree with me that these are the true teachings of Scripture. So much, then, for the nature of the fulfillment of John's vision.
To be continued...