New Jerusalem is Spiritual, not Physical

New Jerusalem

New Jerusalem is the consummation of God’s New Testament building. Unlike the Old Testament tabernacle and temple, God’s people today are
• • • growing in the divine life
• • • being built together in Christ Jesus
• • • becoming a dwelling place of God in spirit
This building is growing unto New Jerusalem.

Ephesians 2:19-22, “You are…being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone; in whom all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.”

1 Peter 2:5, “You yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house.”

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

We All are Living Stones for New Jerusalem

In the New Testament, stones signify living persons. Jesus Christ is a living and precious Stone. God’s New Testament building, including New Jerusalem, is in Him, the Cornerstone in resurrection (Eph. 2:20-21).

New Jerusalem In the natural realm, human beings are vessels of clay (Rom 9:21), earthen vessels (2 Cor 4:7). In contrast, New Jerusalem has no clay, no dirt, only precious materials. How then can men of clay participate in New Jerusalem?

The answer is that in regeneration, in resurrection, the Lord makes us stones. When the Lord Jesus first met Simon, He told Him, “You are Simon, the son of John; you shall be called Cephas (which is interpreted, Peter).” Both Cephas (Aramaic*) and Peter (Greek) mean “stone.”

This change of name indicates a change of person, a change of constitution. In God’s salvation, the Lord transforms men of clay into stones for His building.

Peter tells us “Coming to Him, a living stone, rejected by men but with God chosen and precious, you yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4-5). This house will be enlarged to become New Jerusalem. We become living stones by coming to Jesus Christ mot only once but by coming to Him continually.

As we come to Him, he infuses us with His stone nature, reconstituting us from clay to stone. This builds us together as God’s spiritual house and prepares us for New Jerusalem, God’s eternal dwelling. In the context of Peter’s epistle, our “coming to Him” involves putting away evil things (2:1) and holding to His living and abiding word (1:22-25, 2:2-3). This is our path to New Jerusalem.

*The common language in Judea and Galilee in the first century.

Christ is the Chosen, Precious, Living Stone

New JerusalemIn the gospels, the Lord depicts Himself as a Stone. His words should cause us to realize that stones in the New Testament, including those in New Jerusalem, are not physical but are living people.

“Jesus said to them, Have you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the head of the corner. This was from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” By this word, spoken in Matthew 21:42, quoting Psalm 118,  the Lord tells us that He is the Cornerstone rejected by the Jewish leaders.

In Acts 4:10-12, Peter makes reference to this statement, telling the Jewish leaders that through death and resurrection, “This is the stone which was considered as nothing by you, the builders, which has become the head of the corner.” Here Peter is speaking about “Jesus Christ the Nazarene.” He is the Cornerstone.

Ephesians 2:20-21 proclaims “Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone; in whom all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord.” Here the Cornerstone is not only part of God’s New Testament building but is even the realm in which the building exists and grows.

In 1 Peter 2:4-8 Peter tells us further that the Lord is to us “a living Stone” and “a Cornerstone, chosen and precious,” but to the unbelieving He is “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”

Because New Jerusalem is a city in and of resurrection, everything brought forth in the Lord’s resurrection is in New Jerusalem. This includes Him as the Stone, in which the building, including New Jerusalem exists.

Shadows of New Jerusalem in Psalm 118 (3)

Psalm 118:22-23 is about Christ Jesus, rejected by the Jewish leaders, becoming the Cornerstone in resurrection. This Cornerstone is for building God’s house which expands to God’s city, His kingdom, and blesses the whole earth. Ultimately this is New Jerusalem with the fullest blessing to the new earth.

NGC 6496, NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterPsalm 118:24 continues, “This is the day that Jehovah has made; let us exult and rejoice in it.” It is possible to rejoice in every day that the Lord gives us. However, in context, this verse points specifically to the day of resurrection, the day in which Christ became the Cornerstone.

Whenever we are living Christ, we are living in resurrection. Here (in resurrection) we are being built together with other believers. Here we are richly supplied and knit together (Col. 2:19). Here we are entering the reality of New Jerusalem.

Psalm 118:25 says, “O Jehovah, do save, we pray! O Jehovah, do send prosperity, we pray!” This is not pointing to a physical salvation nor to material prosperity. Rather, it is about God saving us in resurrection into His building, which is in Christ Jesus the Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20-22). New Jerusalem is the final outcome of this salvation and is our utmost blessing. Let us follow Psalm 118 and pray for this kind of salvation and blessing.

Psalm 118:26 says, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of Jehovah; we bless you from the house of Jehovah.” This was spoken by the crowd when Jesus entered Jerusalem shortly before His death (Luke 19:37-38) and will be spoken again when He returns again (Luke 13:35).

In these few verses we exult, rejoice, and bless the Lord. We are being built together in Him. His second coming, with more rejoicing, brings us closer to New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God (Rev. 21:2).

Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center 

Precious Stones Adorn New Jerusalem

New Jerusalem is adorned as a bride prepared for her Husband, Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:2). This adorning is not outward. Rather, it is accomplished by the Spirit working within us and Christ living through us.

New Jerusalem

Revelation 21:19 tells us, “The foundations of the wall of the city [New Jerusalem] were adorned with every precious stone.” Twelve stones are named. To understand this, we need to consider what is precious to God, not what is precious to society.

In 2 Peter 1:1 the faith allotted to us by God is precious and in 1 Peter 1:7 the proving of our faith is “much more precious than of gold which perishes.” This faith does not originate with us but is from God (Rom. 3:22). This faith is precious when it becomes our initial ability to believe into Jesus Christ. It is also precious as it holds us through trials in our Christian life.

In 1 Peter 1:19 the blood Jesus shed to redeem us is precious. In 1 Peter 2 the Lord is a living Stone (v. 4) and the Cornerstone (v. 6); both are “with God chosen and precious.” Peter shows us that Christ, what He did for us, and what He is to us, are precious to God.

Christ is the precious Stone. He is uniquely one, but the stones adorning New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 are many, not one. They signify various aspects of the unique Christ experienced by His many members, so that we, as living stones (1 Peter 2:5), become preciously constituted with Christ.

The twelve stones on the foundations of New Jerusalem are not literally twelve in number but are the unsearchably rich Christ formed into many believers. This process displays in New Jerusalem the eternal richness and perfection of Jesus Christ in His believers.

Bible verses quoted in these posts are from The Holy Bible, Recovery Version, published and © by Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim CA, 2003. The New Testament of this Bible, with its outlines, footnotes, and cross-references, is at online.recoveryversion.org; this too is © by Living Stream Ministry. Besides this New Testament, many books published by Living Stream may be read online.

Photo courtesy of NASA Johnson Space Center.

A Physical Building is not the House of God

New JerusalemGod’s building, as revealed throughout the New Testament, is not material but spiritual. Christ Jesus is the builder, the cornerstone, and the foundation; we are living stones; the word of God’s grace builds us together; and our growth into Christ results in the building up of His Body. This building culminates in New Jerusalem.

New JerusalemIn Acts 7:47 Stephen speaks of Solomon building the Old Testament temple. In verses 48 to 50 he goes on, “Yet the Most High does not dwell in that which is made by hands, even as the prophet says, ‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is a footstool for My feet. What kind of house will you build for Me, says the Lord, or what is the place of My rest? Has not My hand made all these things?’ ”

Stephen’s word shows that God’s longing in the Old Testament matches the spiritual building in the New Testament. The Old Testament temple was a temporary picture of God’s real desire.

New JerusalemStephen quoted Isaiah 66:1-2, where the Lord goes on to say “But to this kind of man will I look, to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” This shows that God’s desire is for a spiritual building, a dwelling in men, as in Ephesians 2:22, “a dwelling place of God in spirit.”

New JerusalemThe conclusion of the New Testament and the consummation of God’s building is in Revelation 21–22. We cannot expect New Jerusalem to depart from the pattern prophesied in Isaiah 66 and clearly revealed through the New Testament. New Jerusalem is a spiritual building, a building of God into man, the corporate consummation of Christ making home in our hearts (Eph. 3:16-17) and of the church as the house of the living God (1 Timothy 3:15).

Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

In Christ Jesus We Are Being Built Together

Colorado, Blancco Wetlands, US BLMIn Old Testament times God’s people built the ark, the tabernacle, and the temple, and rebuilt the temple after their captivity. All of these were physical buildings, symbols of the real building. Now, as God’s New Testament people, we are building the church, the Body of Christ. This is a spiritual building. The materials are the Triune God Himself and the Triune God deposited in and worked into humanity.

Here is a list of recent posts about the New Testament building with a few words from, and a link to, each one.

Jesus Said, I Will Build – In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “I will build my church.” All the following verses in this chapter are related to this declaration.
Christ Jesus Himself is the Cornerstone – In Matthew 21 Jesus quoted Psalm 118 referring to Himself as the cornerstone for God’s building. Acts 4, Ephesians 2, and 1 Peter 2 also speak of JEsus Christ as the cornerstone.
We Are Living Stones for God’s Building – In John 1 Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus. Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, meaning “a stone.” In his first epistle, Peter said that all of us are living stones for God’s building.
The Resurrected Jesus is the Temple – In John 2 the Lord told the Jews that His physical body, which they would “destroy” by crucifixion and He would “raise up” in resurrection, was the replacement for the Old Testament temple.

Jesus Invites Us: Come to Me to Have Life – Acts 20:32 tells us that the word of God’s grace is able to build us up. This is Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, who became flesh full of grace and reality for us to receive (John 1:1, 14, 16).
The Grace of Jesus Christ is with Your Spirit – The word of God’s grace is able to build us up and our spirit is the organ by which we receive and apply this grace. Philippians 4:23 says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
Receive the Word of God by Prayer – The word of God’s grace is able to build us up; we receive this word by our praying, giving thanks, singing, and praising.

Let Us Pursue the Things for Building Up – This exhortation is Romans 14:19 and is related to our serving in the Holy Spirit (v. 17-18).
We Are Growing and Being Built Together – In 1 Corinthians 3 we find milk and solid food for growth in life, with building up coming out of the growth.
Knowledge Puffs Up, But Love Builds Up – This is 1 Corinthians 8:1. Building up in love is also in Ephesians 4:16 and Jude 20.
We Prophecy for Building Up the Church – In 1 Corinthians 14 he who prophesies builds up the church. This prophesying supplies Christ as life and it is this life which builds us together.
Receive Grace and Give to Those Who Hear – In Ephesians 4:29 our words should be good for building up by supplying grace to those who hear.

We Are The Temple of The Living God – This is the proclamation in 2 Corinthians 6:16. God makes home in us and lives through us.
We Grow into Christ for His Building – Life and building are inseparable. Christ is our life, and growth in life is Christ being formed in us (Galatians 4:19).
We Are Growing and Being Built Together – Jesus Christ is the cornerstone for God’s building. In Him we are growing and being built together (Ephesians 2:19-22).
We Cooperate with Jesus Christ the Builder – The Lord Jesus said that He will build the church. He does this by working in and through each member; in Ephesians 4:12 we are being perfected for participating in His building work.
Holding Christ, We Grow unto Building Up – Ephesians 4:15-16 tells us that, as we hold to truth in love, we grow up into Christ our Head, out from whom comes a rich supply for building His Body.
The Rich Supply for Our Building Up – Ephesians 4:16 tells us that a rich supply from the Head, Christ, coupled with His operation in every Christian, causes the growth of His Body unto the building up of itself in love.

We Have the Life Supply for the NT Building – In Colossians 2:6 we have been rooted in Christ (for the life supply) and we are being built up (by this life).
Tasting & Coming to Jesus, We Are Built Up – In 1 Peter 2 we taste the Lord by receiving the spiritual milk, then we come to Him as a living stone. The result is that we, as living stones, are built up to be a spiritual house.
Freed from Self for God’s Building Work – In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said “I will build My church.” In verse 24 He told us to deny ourself, take up our cross, and follow Him.

How good it is for the Lord to give each of us a spirit of wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17) to see life and building.

For online reading of more about life and building, select any of these titles in this list.
• The Building Up of the Body of Christ
The Building Work of God
• Enjoying the Riches of Christ for the Building Up of the Church as the Body of Christ

Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Tasting & Coming to Jesus, We Are Built Up

New JerusalemWe were born as human beings and we have been born again as children of God. First Peter 1:23 says that we have “been regenerated…through the living and abiding word of God.” Because of this spiritual birth, 1 Peter 2:2-3 continues:

As newborn babes, long for the guileless milk of the word in order that by it you may grow unto salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.

When we were born of God, we received God in Jesus Christ as our new life. Now, just as human babies need milk for their growth, we need the milk of the word that we may grow. This growth is the development of Christ as our life in us. Verses 2:4-5 go on to say,

Coming to Him, a living stone, rejected by men but with God chosen and precious, you yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Our drinking of the milk and our tasting the Lord is our coming to Him. He is the “living stone” who makes us “living stones.” The more we come to Him, the more life increases in us. By this life we “are being built up” and the result is “a spiritual house.” This matches the revelation throughout the New Testament that building is not physical but spiritual. Let us continue “coming to Him.” Verse 6 continues:

For it is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a cornerstone, chosen and precious; and he who believes on Him shall by no means be put to shame.”

Jesus Christ Himself is the cornerstone of this building. Our believing on Him brings us to Him not only for life but also for this building. While we grow in this life the building work is progressing. Ultimately the building will become New Jerusalem.

We Are Growing and Being Built Together

The prior post touched 1 Corinthians 3. Ephesians 2 is another chapter about God’s New Testament building; verses 19-22 have many rich points about this building:

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone; in whom all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.

New Jerusalem“In whom” (twice) and “in the Lord” tell us that the building is in Christ Jesus Himself and the building work takes place in Him. The dwelling place of God is in Christ Jesus, who is the embodiment of God (Colossians 2:9).

It is of God (not of ourselves) that we also are in Him (1 Corinthians 1:30) and fellow citizens and members of His household.

Christ Jesus Himself is also the cornerstone and He is the foundation laid by the apostles.

“You also are being built together” reminds us that the building work involves us as members of Christ’s Body. “Being built” (twice) and “being fitted together” show that the building work is in progress now.

“Growing” declares that the temple in the Lord is a living building. It is composed of the living God and all who have been made alive with eternal life by receiving Jesus Christ.

We are being built together “in spirit.” This is our human spirit regenerated (John 3:6) and indwelt by the Spirit of God. It is in this mingled Spirit/spirit that we live and walk (e.g. Galatians 5:25). For more, see Living in the Mingled Spirit.

Photo by Rhea S. Rylee, courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.

Christ Jesus Himself is the Cornerstone

At the end of Matthew 21 is a parable. In verse 42 the Lord Jesus asked, quoting Psalm 118:22-23,

Have you never read in the Scriptures, “The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the head of the corner. This was from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?

New Jerusalem is spiritualThe Lord did not explicitly identify Himself as this Stone. But, in Acts 4:10-12 Peter clearly tells us that Jesus Christ the Nazarene is this Stone. Paul confirms this in Ephesians 2:20 saying that Christ Jesus Himself is the Cornerstone.

In the context of Ephesians 2:11-22 the Lord became Cornerstone to join His believers from the nations to His believers from among the Jews. Those of the nations had no hope and were apart from God (v. 11-12) but we were brought near by the blood Jesus shed on the cross (v. 13). Through His death, He became our peace and reconciled us all in one Body to God (v. 14-16).

Now peace is announced to the nations and to the Jews and “through Him we both have access in one Spirit unto the Father” (v. 17-18). Hence we are no longer strangers but members of the household of God (v. 19) and are being built together in Christ Jesus the Cornerstone (v. 20-22).

Since the Lord Himself is the Stone, He is the strongest evidence that God’s New Testament building is a living building, not something physical. This living building grows until it reaches its final state in New Jerusalem.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

We Consecrate, Build, and Feast

New JerusalemWe continue looking at Old Testament pictures of our New Testament spiritual eating. In 1 Kings 8 Solomon led all Israel in bringing the ark into the new temple. He then spoke to Israel and prayed to God. They concluded dedication of the temple with sacrifices (v. 62-64) and a feast. Verse 65 says, “And Solomon held a feast at that time and all Israel with him…before Jehovah our God, seven days and seven more days, fourteen days in all.”

Ezra records the effort, by Jews who returned to Jerusalem, to rebuild the temple. In Ezra 6 the work was completed and they had a dedication with sacrifices (v. 16-17) and with the feast of Passover (v. 19-22). Verses 21-22 say that they “…ate the passover and held the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for Jehovah had made them joyful…”

In both of these records the feasting follows the sacrifices and celebrates the completion of the building. No doubt there will also be a feast celebrating the completion of the New Testament building. But let’s not wait until then.

Let us thank the Lord that He sacrificed Himself for us (as the reality of the Old Testament sacrifices) and consecrate ourselves again (1 John 3:16). Then we pursue the building up with one another. As the issue of our consecration and building, we will have a spiritual feast. Eventually New Jerusalem will be completed and we will have an eternal feast.

Here, very briefly, are ways to participate in the New Testament building work:
• coming to the Lord (in prayer, praise, thanksgiving, consecration, etc.) – 1 Peter 2:4-5
• taking Christ as our foundation and cornerstone – Ephesians 2:20
• speaking the Lord to one another (prophesying) – 1 Corinthians 14:3-4
• holding to Christ as the truth in an atmosphere of love – Ephesians 4:15-16
• receiving from Him through both the gifted members and each one – Ephesians 4:15-16
• praying with others – Jude 20

Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Precious Stones for New Jerusalem

Revelation 21:19-20 says, “The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every precious stone: the first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.” And John saw New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:11) “Having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, as clear as crystal.”

Before Revelation 21 there are other mentions of precious stones. In 1 Peter 2:4 the Lord is “a living stone, rejected by men but with God chosen and precious” and in 2:6 He is “in Zion a cornerstone, chosen and precious.” In 1 Corinthians 3 we all are to participate in the New Testament building work by using gold, silver, and precious stones. On the one hand, Christ is the precious stone; on the other hand, we build with precious materials.

First Corinthians 3:12 says, “But if anyone builds upon the foundation gold, silver, precious stones…” In our natural being we are none of these materials. In 2 Corinthians 4:7 we are earthen (clay) vessels and Christ is the treasure in us; He makes us precious. The precious stones in New Jerusalem are developed through Christ being revealed in us (Galatians 1:15-16), we being rooted in Him (Colossians 2:7), Christ living in us and us living one with Him (Galatians 2:20), Christ being formed in us (4:19), and Christ making home in us (Ephesians 3:16-17). Lord, grant me grace to cooperate with Your living in me every day. Be the precious one in me!

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