New Jerusalem, God’s Dwelling Place


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):

Two Covenants

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.

———————————————–

For more details behind the content in this post, see our study on Revelation 21 (verses 1-4 and verses 5-27).

Advertisements

Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

And [the angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2)

A survey of the Old Testament reveals a common theme, as God repeatedly proclaimed that Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple were His dwelling place. Consider the following texts (this is just a sample):

You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established” (Exodus 15:17).

But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go” (Deuteronomy 12:5).

In Jerusalem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion” (Psalm 76:2).

For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place(Psalm 132:13).

At the same time, God’s dwelling place was 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…”

A survey of the Old Testament also reveals that Israel and Jerusalem often proved unworthy of serving as a dwelling place for God. In these times of unfaithfulness, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea were among those who referred to Israel as a harlot:

The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlotAnd I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also” (Jeremiah 3:6-8).

But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it” (Ezekiel 16:15).

I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel: There is the harlotry of Ephraim; Israel is defiled” (Hosea 6:10).

When Jesus came, He summed up what had become of Jerusalem in this lament:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).

Strong’s Concordance defines the word “desolate” (#2048), used by Matthew here, as “lonesome, waste, desert, solitary, wilderness.” In the New Testament, we see indications that demons are attracted to such places:

For Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness” (Luke 8:29; some translations say “solitary places” or “deserted places”).

Similarly, recall what Jesus said would be true of the nation of Israel in His generation:

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation” (Matthew 12:41-45).

John wrote the book of Revelation in Jesus’ generation, and there we see a tragic picture of what had become of His former dwelling place, as John describes “Babylon the great”:

And [the angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2).

Someone may object here and say that Babylon the great is not Jerusalem. However, if we pay attention, John does positively identify the great city, Babylon. In the previous chapter, John is shown “the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication” (Rev. 17:1-2). She is shown sitting on a great beast (verse 3), and on her forehead are written these words: “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (verse 5). John sees her drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs (verse 6). The angel says to John, “The woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (verse 18). So the following is clear:

The harlot = Babylon the great = the great city

The “great city” is mentioned five times in Rev. 18 (verses 10, 16, 18, 19, and 21). In verses 10 and 21 it’s referred to as “the great city Babylon.” (See also Rev. 14:8.) Yet it’s in the first mention of “the great city” where we see the positive identification of that city. We see this in the scene of the two witnesses who are killed by the beast:

 “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8).

Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. Therefore, “the great city” is Jerusalem. This title was also given to Jerusalem by Josephus (Wars 7:8:7) and Appian, a Roman historian of the same era. It may also be a throwback to Jeremiah’s words when he described the soon-coming judgment upon Jerusalem by Babylon, which took place in 586 BC:

And many nations will pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor, “Why has the Lord dealt thus with this great city?” And they will answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them” (Jeremiah 22:8-9).

The great city, Babylon, is further confirmed as Jerusalem in at least the following three ways:

[1] This would not be the first time that Israel was referred to as “Sodom.” Isaiah did the same thing: Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of SodomGive ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: ‘To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?’ says the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:10-11)John invokes the names of two of Israel’s oldest enemies, Sodom and Egypt, and uses them to describe first century Jerusalem.

[2] John describes the great city using the imagery of a harlot. As discussed above, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea referred to Israel as a harlot in their day. Israel was in a covenant relationship with God, and therefore capable of spiritual adultery, unlike other nations in John’s day (or the United States or any other nation in our own day).

[3] John sees the harlot, Babylon the great, drunk with the blood of martyrs and saints (Rev. 17:6), and filled with the blood of prophets and apostles (Rev. 18:20, 24; see also Rev. 16:6, 19:2). Jesus said that Israel would be held responsible and judged in His generation for shedding this very blood (Matthew 23:29-36). He also said that “it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). 

In all this we see that a terrible thing had happened to Jerusalem, God’s former dwelling place. It was given over to spiritual adultery and had become overrun by demons:

“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2).

With God having abandoned Jerusalem as His dwelling place, was He then without a dwelling place of His own? Not at all. In the next post, we will see that God has chosen as His dwelling place the new Jerusalem, the community of saints who abide in His Son, Jesus.

————————————————————————————

For more information and details on the content in this post, see our studies on Revelation 17 (verses 1-6 and verses 7-18) and Revelation 18.

If time allows, consider also our study on Revelation 9, where John sees an army of torturing locusts emerging out of the abyss. There is good reason to believe John witnesses a horde of demons sweeping through the land of Israel. The locusts didn’t touch any vegetation, but were given authority to torment only those who were not God’s servants, and this torment was to last for five months. In Judea, locusts typically came between May and September (a 5-month period), and this is roughly the same period when Rome laid a 5-month siege upon Jerusalem in 70 AD leading to Jerusalem’s downfall in September of that year.

God’s Promise of A New Covenant to the House of Israel


(This post is somewhat similar to my April 2011 post titled, “No Alienation from the Commonwealth of Israel.” This post, however, features several new details and approaches the topic from a different angle.)

Summary Outline

In this post we will see that Scripture presents the following case:

1. God promised, through Jeremiah, that He would make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and that He would be their God and they would be His people.
2. In the New Testament, the church is called “the household of faith” and “the household of God”, which is no longer alienated from the commonwealth of Israel or separated from “the covenants of promise.”
3. In the Old Testament, God repeatedly said that He had chosen Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple as His dwelling place.
4. In the New Testament, John says Jerusalem has become a dwelling place for demons.
5. In the New Testament, God declares that the bride of Christ and “the holy city, New Jerusalem” has become His dwelling place, and that He is their God and they are His people.
6. In the New Testament, the household of God is said to be built on the foundation of the apostles, who are known as “ministers of the new covenant.” Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s new house.

Jeremiah’s Prophecy of a New Covenant for the House of Israel

Jeremiah, a prophet of Judah before and during the Babylonian exile (586 – 538 BC), delivered a key promise to the house of Israel and the house of Judah, a promise of coming days when God would establish a new covenant:

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

In this promise of a new covenant, we see the following elements:

Participants in this covenant: [1] God [2] the house of Israel, and the house of Judah*

Nature of this covenant: Not according to the covenant made at Mount Sinai, which was broken by the house of Israel

Features of this covenant:

[1] God’s laws in their hearts and minds [2] The house of Israel is God’s people, and He is their God [3] Everyone in the house of Israel will know the Lord, from the least to the greatest [4] God will forgive their sins and remember them no more.

*The houses of Israel and Judah were separated soon after Solomon’s death around 975 BC. The Assyrians captured Israel (the northern kingdom) in 722 BC, and Babylon would defeat Judah and Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Has Jeremiah’s prophecy come true? Has a new covenant been established with the house of Israel? Some insist that the answer to these questions is “no”:

[1] “This covenant must follow the return of Christ at the second advent… This covenant will be realized in the millennial age… the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 must and can be fulfilled only by the nation Israel and not by the Church” (Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, 1958).

[2] “…the new covenant is with Israel and the fulfillment [will be] in the millennial kingdom after the second coming of Christ… the new covenant as revealed in the Old Testament concerns Israel and requires fulfillment in the millennium kingdom” (John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, 1959).

[3] “The Church, then, is not under the new covenant…it is Israel which is God’s covenant people” (Harry Ironside, Notes on the Prophecy of and Lamentations of Jeremiah, 1906).

Those who believe this way apparently insist that we identify “the house of Israel,” even now, as national Israel. This assumption acts as a powerful filter against the idea that the new covenant has already been established:

  • It matters not that Jesus explicitly said His blood was to be poured out in order to give birth to the new covenant, “made with many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28), the very purpose for which Jeremiah said it was designed.
  • It matters not that Paul said he and his co-workers in the gospel were “ministers of the new covenant,” which he likened to “the ministry of the Spirit” and “the ministry of righteousness.” Paul’s ministry excelled the “ministry of death, written and engraved on stones” and ready to pass away (II Corinthians 3:5-11).
  • It matters not that Paul gave an “analogy of two covenants,” one represented by Mount Sinai (the birthplace of the old covenant), a woman in bondage, and earthly Jerusalem, which was about to be cast out; and the other covenant representing the “Jerusalem above,” which is free and “the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:21-31).
  • It matters not that the author of Hebrews states that Jesus “has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).
  • It matters not that the author of Hebrews immediately goes on to quote from Jeremiah’s prophecy and explicitly states (Hebrews 8:6-13) that this New Covenant had been established in his own time (i.e. the first century AD), even as the first covenant had been made obsolete and was ready to vanish away.
  • It matters not that Hebrews 12:22-24 says that the church 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 that speaks better things than that of Abel.”
  • It matters not that “the New Testament” is named as such due to its unveiling of God’s new covenant.

One of the many cures for this hangup can be found in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Notice the vocabulary that Paul uses in the following passage (Eph. 2:11-22):

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

There are plenty of gems worth unpacking in this beautiful passage, but I’ve highlighted two sections to examine (verses 12 and 19-21), as well as three phrases which I believe relate to Jeremiah’s prophecy:

  • the commonwealth of Israel
  • the household of God
  • a dwelling place for God

The Commonwealth of Israel

In verse 11 Paul specifically addresses Gentile believers, i.e. non-Jewish followers of Christ. He reminds them (verse 12) that, just as they were separated from Christ, they were also “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.” By speaking this way, he indicates they now belong to the commonwealth of Israel, just as they now belong to Christ. This expression, “commonwealth of Israel,” appears to mirror the expression, “the house of Israel,” used in Jeremiah 31 and throughout the Old Testament. The Strong’s Concordance entry for the Greek word translated as “commonwealth” (#4174) is defined as “citizenship; a community.”

Paul also reminds these Gentile believers that they were once “strangers to the covenants of promise.” Again, by speaking this way, Paul indicates they are now recipients of “the covenants of promise” made to Israel. Paul made a similar point in his epistle to the Galatians, when he declared that all the promises were made to Abraham and his offspring, i.e. Christ alone (Gal. 3:16). He then added that those who belong to Christ—regardless of ethnicity, gender, or status (Gal. 3:28)—are heirs of those promises (Gal. 3:29). We, as followers of Jesus, have received “the covenants of promise” because they were made to Jesus, who is true Israel.

The Household of God

In verse 19, Paul refers to the Church as “the household of God,” very similar to the way he calls the Church “the household of faith” in Galatians 6:10. Again, it seems these titles are parallel to the title, “the house of Israel,” used since the days of Moses. The following is a sample of texts where this title occurs (notice the progression toward unfaithfulness and a state of being lost):

And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31).

For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:38).

So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it… Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:43-45).

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help” (Isaiah 5:7).

I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel: There is the harlotry of Ephraim; Israel is defiled” (Hosea 6:10).

But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6).

But He answered and said, ‘I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’” (Matthew 15:24).

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

In Ephesians 2:20-22, Paul goes on to define “the household of God” as “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” with Jesus as the cornerstone. Everyone, joined together, “grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” This is significant. Jeremiah prophesied that a new covenant would be made with the house of Israel. Here we see that the household of God, in Jesus, was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Recall that Paul said he and his co-workers were “ministers of the new covenant” (II Corinthians 3:5). Since Paul was a minister of the new covenant, this was also true of Peter, John, James, and the other apostles. The household of God, with Jesus as the cornerstone, has been built on the foundation of apostles who were ministers of the new covenant. This is nothing less than Jeremiah’s prophecy unveiled as a reality in the first century.

A Dwelling Place for God

Paul says something else very profound to the believers in Ephesus: “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Paul’s words very clearly echo a common and central theme in the Old Testament, where God repeatedly stated that He had chosen Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple as His dwelling place. Consider the following sample of texts:

You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established” (Exodus 15:17).

But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go” (Deuteronomy 12:5).

In Jerusalem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion” (Psalm 76:2).

For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place(Psalm 132:13).

At the same time, God’s dwelling place was in heaven (e.g. I Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49).

By the time John wrote the book of Revelation in the first century, we see a tragic picture of what had become of His former dwelling place, through John’s description of “Babylon the great.” Also known as “the great city” (see Rev. 14:8 and 17:18) and “the harlot” (see Rev. 17:1-6), “Babylon the great” was first identified in Rev. 11:8 as “the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” This is a clear reference to Jerusalem, the place of Jesus’ crucifixion. As we saw in the section above, Hosea called Israel a harlot in his day as well (Hosea 6:10). John invokes the names of two of Israel’s oldest enemies, Sodom and Egypt, and uses them to describe first century Jerusalem. Now, instead of being God’s dwelling place, a terrible thing had happened. Observe what God said had happened to His former dwelling place:

And [the angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2; see our study on Rev. 18)

Had God lost His earthly dwelling place then? Not at all. He dwells with (and in) those who belong to His Son:

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’” (Rev. 21:2-3; see part 1 and part 2 of our study on Rev. 21).

In her last days before judgment, Jerusalem was given over to demons, but since the time of Christ, God dwells in “the holy city, New Jerusalem.” We, the church, are that city: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). Is this promise from Revelation 21 awaiting future fulfillment? The author of Hebrews didn’t believe so 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 so 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).

Here, and also in Rev. 21, we see one of the features of Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant for the house of Israel: “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:33). Consider also this description of the church by Peter:

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:4-5).

The conclusion is simple. Jeremiah laid out certain things that would be true of the house of Israel when God made a new covenant with that house. Paul, John, and Peter said these things were true of the church, the bride of Christ, in their day. Therefore, the church is the house of Israel, and God has made His new covenant with us. Let us rejoice in this truth, and not allow anyone to try to steal this birthright from the people of God who are in Christ.