New Jerusalem is the Eternal Development of the Triune God’s Relationship with Man

Revelation 21:16 tells us that New Jerusalem “lies square, and its length is as great as the breadth. And he measured the city with the reed to a length of twelve thousand stadia; the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.” Even without knowing the meaning of “stadia,” it is obvious that New Jerusalem is very large. Many Bible notes and commentaries discuss the size in physical terms with a great variety of explanations. Marvin Vincent* mentions several explanations and no doubt was familiar with others. His conclusion is that these varied and sometimes fanciful explanations “show how utterly futile are attempts to reduce these symbolic visions to mathematical statement.”

What then is the symbolic significance of this verse? The number twelve shows that New Jerusalem  is something eternal in God’s operation. “Thousand” indicates that God’s operation to produce New Jerusalem is to a surpassing magnitude.

The length and the breadth and the height of New Jerusalem are equal; hence, New Jerusalem is a cube. Putting together various measurements in Exodus 26, we learn that the holy of holies in the tabernacle was a cube ten cubits on each side. In 1 Kings 6:20 the holy of holies in the temple was also a cube—“the interior of the innermost sanctuary was twenty cubits long and twenty cubits wide and twenty cubits high.” This innermost sanctuary is where God meets with His people and speaks with us face to face (Ex. 25:22).

The innermost sanctuary (the holy of holies) is the place where the Triune God and His people have the most intimate mutual fellowship. This fellowship has been expanding (in richness, depth, constancy, and human participants) through the ages, from “ten” to “twenty” to “twelve thousand.” New Jerusalem will be the ultimate and eternal development of this marvelous fellowship.

*Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. II, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887; reprinted by William B. Eerdmans multiple times.

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