The New Jerusalem (Bavinck)

Reformed Dogmatics (4 vols.)

One great aspect of being a follower of Jesus is the fact that we have a great inheritance waiting for us in the new creation (1 Pet 1:4-5). The new creation itself will be an amazing place where God’s people will no longer have to worry about sin, sickness, evil, death, cancer, kidnapping, rape, divorce, pain, persecution, guilt, temptation, and so on and so forth. It’s a future so awesome that our imaginations cannot even grasp it (1 Cor. 2:9). In Revelation 21-22 John speaks figuratively about the new creation, the heavenly Jerusalem. Here’s how Herman Bavinck summarized it:

The description John gives of that Jerusalem (Rev. 21–22) should certainly not be taken literally any more than his preceding visions. This option is excluded by the mere fact that John depicts it as a cube whose length, width, and height are equal, that is, 12,000 stadia or 1,500 miles; still the height of the wall is only 144 cubits, just under 75 yards (21:15–17). By this depiction John does not intend to give a sketch of the city; rather, since he cannot bring the glory of the divine kingdom home to us in any other way, he offers his ideas, interpreting them in images. And he derives these images from paradise, with its river and tree of life (21:6; 22:1–2); from the earthly Jerusalem with its gates and streets (21:12ff.); from the temple with its holy of holies, in which God himself dwelt (21:3, 22); and from the entire realm of nature, with all its treasures of gold and precious stones (21:11, 18–21). But although these are ideas interpreted thus by images, they are not illusions or fabrications, but this-worldly depictions of otherworldly realities. All that is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, and commendable in the whole of creation, in heaven and on earth, is gathered up in the future city of God—renewed, re-created, boosted to its highest glory.

The substance [of the city of God] is present in this creation. Just as the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, as carbon is converted into diamond, as the grain of wheat upon dying in the ground produces other grains of wheat, as all of nature revives in the spring and dresses up in celebrative clothing, as the believing community is formed out of Adam’s fallen race, as the resurrection body is raised from the body that is dead and buried in the earth, so too, by the re-creating power of Christ, the new heaven and the new earth will one day emerge from the fire-purged elements of this world, radiant in enduring glory and forever set free from the “bondage to decay” (δουλειας της φθορας, douleias tēs phthoras [Rom. 8:21]). More glorious than this beautiful earth, more glorious than the earthly Jerusalem, more glorious even than paradise will be the glory of the new Jerusalem, whose architect and builder is God himself….

Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 719–720

 Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015