Chapter 7: Seeking the City That Is to Come
So far we have journeyed through the Old Testament, tracing God’s promises throughout the ups and downs of redemption history. This chapter looks to the New Testament witness of the fulfillment of those Old Testament promises, the promise of New Jerusalem. As we move into the New Testament, we see that the followers of Jesus become the new temple, “the new earthly dwelling place for God” (143). There is a significant shift here: “In the Old Testament God lived among his people; in the New Testament he lives within them” (143). Both Peter and Paul testify to this point (1 Peter 2:4–8; Eph 2:19–22). Additionally, this transition was inaugurated by the Spirit’s work at Pentecost. God’s Spirit had come down and filled the tabernacle (Ex 40:34–35) and the temple (1 Kgs 8:10–11); now God’s Spirit has come down and filled God’s people (Acts 2:4). This experience in Jerusalem is then repeated to Samaritans (Acts 8:14–17) and to Gentiles (Acts 10:44–47).
This shift in the New Testament is reinforced by the negative portrayal of physical Jerusalem in the Gospels. Matthew’s Gospel is widely recognized as the most Jewish of the canonical Gospels, yet “Jerusalem is portrayed as the center of power for those who oppose Jesus. Jesus is not born in Jerusalem, but King Herod lives there” (147). If the physical Jerusalem has become corrupt, where is our hope of the city of God? The New Testament responds with a chorus of hope: Hebrews tells of the “city that is to come” (13:14), “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (12:22). Paul speaks of a “Jerusalem from above,” a spiritual city that gives freedom to all her citizens (Gal 4:26). Finally, Revelation depicts New Jerusalem as “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9) and contrasts this city with Babylon, the “great prostitute” (Rev 17:1–5). Shaped as a cube and with streets of gold, New Jerusalem resembles the Holy of Holies. There is no need for a temple there because the whole city is the new garden-temple: it is the place where God dwells with his people, a garden with a tree of life and a river. New Jerusalem is Eden redeemed and restored; it is the place where God’s resurrected saints will dwell with him forever.