Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”
In the previous post, “Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons,” we looked at:
- how Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple were once known as God’s dwelling place on earth
- how God’s dwelling place is also in heaven
- how Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness at times earned her the title of “harlot”
- how Jesus said Jerusalem’s house was “desolate,” and that His “wicked generation” would be like a man exorcised of a demon but then inhabited by seven worse demons,
- and how John was told that “the great city,” known as “Babylon the great” and “the harlot,” and first identified as Jerusalem, was “a dwelling place of demons.”
We also ended with this question: With God having abandoned Jerusalem as His dwelling place, was He then without a dwelling place of His own? As we also noted, God’s dwelling place was always in heaven (e.g. I Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49):
“And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive…”
Since we, as God’s people in Christ, know that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), it’s no surprise to discover that God has chosen us as His dwelling place. The New Testament record is clear that God’s earthly dwelling place is not in any way confined to a geographical location. God dwells with (and in) those who belong to His Son, Jesus.
In the book of Revelation, “those who dwell in heaven” are repeatedly distinguished from “those who dwell on the earth.” This pattern is discussed more fully in a 3-part series (part 1, part 2, and part 3). In the following two passages, we can see this distinction:
“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time‘” (Revelation 12:10-12).
“And [the beast] was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:5-8).
Earthly Jerusalem was filled with demons, marked for judgment, and was judged, but God had already chosen a different Jerusalem as His dwelling place. This is John’s triumphant message after detailing the judgments which were soon (Rev. 1:1-3; 22:10) to be poured out on earthly Jerusalem:
“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God’’” (Revelation 21:2-3).
I don’t believe John’s words here only became true after he wrote them, but rather they were already true of those abiding in Christ. John’s vision here stands in contrast to his previous vision of the harlot city ripe for judgment. Earthly Jerusalem, the harlot, had become a dwelling place for demons (Rev. 18:2), and that demon-filled city met its demise, but God’s dwelling place, the bride, stood unshaken. Since the time of Christ, God dwells in “the holy city, New Jerusalem.” We, the church, the bride of Christ, are that city:
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
Many believe that this promise from Revelation 21 has not yet been realized or fulfilled, even in our day. However, the author of Hebrews didn’t believe this way when he told his first century audience that they had already “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling…” (Hebrews 12:22-24). The apostle Paul also didn’t believe this way when he quoted Exodus 29:45, Leviticus 26:11, and Ezekiel 37:27 as a present reality for the Church in his own day:
“For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people‘” (II Corinthians 6:16).
The apostle Paul also said this to the believers in Ephesus:
“You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you are also being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
I would like to submit that the book of Revelation reflects a picture also shown in Galatians 4:21-31 and in Hebrews 12:18-29, of two cities, two women, and two covenants (this chart appears larger if opened in a new tab):
Also, note how the following passages in Revelation compare with, and contrast, each other:
A. Revelation 17:1: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’”
A. Revelation 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”
B. Revelation 17:3: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.”
B. Revelation 21:10: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”
In the first scene, it’s likely that John was taken to a wilderness because it was in a wilderness that God established the old covenant with the Israelites. In the final scene, it’s likely that John was taken to a great, high mountain because of what God said He would do in the last days of the old covenant age:
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1).
With His Son, Jesus, as the cornerstone, God has built His church as His spiritual house and temple. Because Jesus is the light of the world, we are also the light of the world, and the nations are being drawn to His light. Jerusalem, in its last days, was a dwelling place for demons, but God’s new covenant community, new Jerusalem, is now His holy dwelling place.