Surprised by Hope: 2 Peter 3:10-13 — The New Jerusalem

Now, to really get the picture, we have to go way back into the Old Testament.

(Isa 65:17-25)  “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. 23 They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.

Notice the use of language. “I will create …” is an echo of Genesis 1. Isaiah prophesies a new act of creation by God. “New heavens and new earth” parallel God’s creation of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1.

But God will not only re-create the heavens and the earth, God promises to re-create Jerusalem. And he promises a new world with no sadness or suffering.

In v. 24, he promises an intimate relationship — to know his peoples desires even before they call on him. In v. 25, he promises defeat for the serpent — meaning, I think, an end to the Curse of the Genesis 3.

And all this is to happen on “my holy mountain,” clearly a reference to Jerusalem here on earth. Somehow, the blessings to come will be given and enjoyed in Jerusalem.

(Isa 66:10-24)  “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. 11 For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”

12 For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. 13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Again, God promises abundance, peace, and comfort to Jerusalem.

14 When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes. 15 See, the LORD is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. 16 For with fire and with his sword the LORD will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by the LORD.

But God promises destruction by fire on “many” who will be slain by God.

17 “Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things–they will meet their end together,” declares the LORD.

The verse describes idolatrous practices, and so the destruction is for idol worshipers.

18 “And I, because of their actions and their imaginations, am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory.

19 “I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations–to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. 20 And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD–on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says the LORD. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the LORD in ceremonially clean vessels. 21 And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites,” says the LORD.

God promises to spread his kingdom to the nations and to even make some of the Gentiles priests.

22 “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. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD.

The “new heavens and earth” will be for all mankind — all who survive God’s destruction by fire. And unlike the original creation, they will endure.

24 “And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

But those who rebelled against God will be dead and repugnant.

(Isa 62:5-7)  As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. 6 I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, 7 and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.

Part of God’s promise of redemption is to establish Jerusalem — as a bride for God.

Now, we see in these passages the idea not only of new heavens and new earth, but a new Jerusalem. The theme of a new Jerusalem appears several times in the New Testament.

(Gal 4:26)  But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

Paul radically changes images here, speaking of Jerusalem as “above” and as “mother,” rather like Russians speak of “Mother Russia.” She commands our loyalty as a mother.

James D. G. Dunn. in his commentary on Galatians, points out that the emphasis should be seen on “our”, that is, that as Gentiles incorporated into the spiritual Israel, the new Jerusalem is our mother, too.

For the first time, we see that the New Jerusalem is “above.” The idea is that the New Jerusalem is being kept in heaven for us, in some sense not yet defined.

There are occasional references in uninspired Jewish literature from between the testaments to a Jerusalem in heaven, with the Jerusalem and temple on earth being but replicas of the true Jerusalem and true temple in heaven. The idea of a heavenly temple, of course, shows up in Hebrews.

(Heb 9:11-12)  When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

And to the First Century Jewish mind, the temple and Jerusalem were inseparable. Therefore, if there’s a heavenly temple, there’s a heavenly Jerusalem.

(Heb 11:8-10)  By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

What city was Abraham looking forward to? Jerusalem?

(Heb 12:22-24)  But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

The author now tells us — it’s the city where God lives in heaven, the heavenly Jerusalem.

(Heb 13:14)  For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

The Jerusalem on earth won’t endure (it would be destroyed very soon by the Romans), but the city that is to come will endure.

Notice that this Jerusalem already exists, so “is to come” doesn’t mean “is to be made.” Rather, the idea is that it will come to earth.

(Rev 3:12)  Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.

This new Jerusalem is presently in heaven, but will come down “out of heaven.”

Therefore, the picture the scriptures paint is a new, heavenly city built by God and in which God lives, that will come down out of heaven to earth — and which will endure.

(Rev 21:10-11)  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

Now, at this point, we have to comment that there must be some place for Jerusalem to come down to. If we go to heaven when we die, the new Jerusalem would need to stay in heaven, not come down out of heaven.

(Rev 21:1-4)  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. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The image the scriptures give us, from multiple New Testament writers, is of Jerusalem descending from heaven to the new earth, so that God, who lives in the New Jerusalem, will now live with man on earth. And it’s here, in the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven that the prophecies of Isaiah will be fulfilled.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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2 Responses to Surprised by Hope: 2 Peter 3:10-13 — The New Jerusalem

  1. Tim Perkins says:

    Since I was raised in a traditional C of C setting, most of my life has been spent thinking Revelation was symbolic only. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about the prospects of spending eternity on a renewed earth in a New Jerusalem.

  2. I am hopeful that those of us who have taken a more literal view of Revelation and those who have taken a more symbolic view of Revelation can move a little closer together.

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