New Jerusalem

In The Bible, the New Jerusalem (also called the tabernacle of God, holy city, city of God, celestial city, and heavenly Jerusalem, as well as Jerusalem above and Zion, Shining City on a Hill), is a literal (or figurative, depending upon the writer's viewpoint) city that is a completely new dwelling for the Saints. Others may believe that it is a physical reconstruction, spiritual restoration, or divine recreation of the city of Jerusalem. Such a renewal of Jerusalem, if a reconstruction, is an important theme in Judaism, Christianity, and the Bahá'í Faith. As a prominent feature of the Book of Revelation, the New Jerusalem holds an important place in Christian eschatology and Christian theology. The New Jerusalem has also influenced Christian philosophy and Christian mysticism, see also Jerusalem in Christianity.

All of the earths beliefs and traditions, based upon biblical scripture and other writings in the Jewish and Christian religions, such as fundamentalist Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity, and Orthodox Judaism, expect the literal renewal of Jerusalem to some day take place at the Temple Mount in accordance with various biblical prophecies. Dispensationalists believe in a literal New Jerusalem coming down from God out of Heaven, which will be an entirely new city of incredible dimensions. Still other sects, such as, various Protestant denominations, Mormonism, and modernist branches of Christianity and reform Judaism, view the New Jerusalem as figurative, or believe that such a renewal may have already taken place, or that it will take place at some other location besides the Temple Mount.

Origins and Judaism

The paradise gardens of the ancient Near East are the earliest precursors to the idea of the New Jerusalem. In the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis describes the layout of the Garden of Eden as similar to that of the paradise gardens. In both schema, a walled enclosure divided by spans of water protects and delights its inhabitants. Also, the synthesis of geometric and natural arrangements in paradise gardens has an echo in the New Jerusalem. Since Judaism views the renewed Jerusalem as a kind of paradise, the Garden of Eden presents itself as the Jewish prototype for the New Jerusalem. In these ways, the Garden of Eden, as a prominent feature of the creation beliefs of both Judaism and Christianity, is elemental to the idea of the New Jerusalem.

The city of Jerusalem holds immense importance to Judaism. The Jewish faith has long considered Jerusalem its most holy city, the center of the Promised Land, and a symbol of the Jewish people. Indeed, the modern Jewish state of Israel holds Jerusalem as its capital, though this claim is controversial. This ancient and persistent religious significance of Jerusalem explains why Jews began to associate the renewal of Jerusalem with paradise.

The Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem were instrumental in the development of the idea of the New Jerusalem. The history of these places of worship tie into that of the New Jerusalem.

The concept of the New Jerusalem has its most immediate origins in Judaism with the destruction of Solomon's Temple and the Babylonian captivity, events that spurred the ancient Jewish hope for a restoration of Jerusalem. When Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon sacked Jerusalem, laid waste the Temple, and took the Jews into captivity in 586 BC, the Jewish prophet Ezekiel foretold of the restoration of Jerusalem to his people. The Jews held Ezekiel's promise of the restoration of Jerusalem close to their hearts during the captivity and afterwards. In the course of history, various other prophets came forth with messages of Jerusalem's renewal. There has long been a belief in Judaism that the Messiah will enter through the Golden Gate, renew Jerusalem and Israel, and save the Jewish people. Zion is related to the New Jerusalem.

Certain elements of modern religious Zionism, especially Christian Zionism, harken back to this ancient Jewish yearning for a restoration of Jerusalem. The idea of The Third Temple has much in common with the concept of the New Jerusalem.


As Christianity originated as a sect of Judaism, the history of Jewish places of worship and the currents of thought in ancient Judaism described above served in part as the basis for the development of the Christian conception of the New Jerusalem. In addition to Judaism's reverence for the city, Christians have always placed religious significance on Jerusalem as the site of The Crucifixion and other events central to the Christian faith. In particular, the destruction of the Second Temple that took place in the year 70, a few decades after Christianity began its split from Judaism, was seminal to the nascent Christian apocalypticism of that time. During the Olivet discourse of the Gospels, Jesus foretells of the destruction of Herod's Temple, and promises that it will precede the return of the Son of Man, the Second Coming. This prophecy of the renewal of Jerusalem by the messiah echoes those of the Jewish prophets. John of Patmos' vision of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation draws on the Olivet discourse and all the historical precursors mentioned above.

Based on the Book of Revelation, premillennialism holds that, following the end times and the second creation of heaven and earth, the New Jerusalem will be the earthly location where all true believers will spend eternity with God. The New Jerusalem is not limited to eschatology, however. Many Christians view the New Jerusalem as a current reality. Christians view the New Jerusalem as the consummation of the Body of Christ, the Church. According to this view, Christians already take part in membership of both the heavenly Jerusalem and the earthly Church in a kind of "dual citizenship." In this way, the New Jerusalem represents to Christians the final and everlasting reconciliation of God and His chosen people, "the end of the Christian pilgrimage." As such, the New Jerusalem is a conception of heaven.

The Book of Revelation

The term New Jerusalem occurs twice in the New Testament, in verses 3:12 and 21:2 of the Book of Revelation. The new in the New Jerusalem comes from the Greek word kainos, which has a meaning different from neos, the other Greek word usually translated into English as new. Neos refers to something newly created, whereas kainos means something renewed or refreshed. A large portion of the final two chapters of the Christian Bible deals with John of Patmos' vision of the New Jerusalem. He describes the New Jerusalem as "'the bride, the wife of the Lamb'".

After John witnesses the new heaven and a new earth "that no longer has any sea", an angel takes him "in the Spirit" to a vantage point on "a great and high mountain" to see the New Jerusalem's descent. The enormous city comes out of heaven from God, down to the new earth. John follows his narration of the city's descent with an elaborate description. This description of the New Jerusalem retains many features of the Garden of Eden and the paradise garden, such as rivers, a square shape, a wall, and the Tree of Life.


According to John, the New Jerusalem is "pure gold, like clear glass" and its "brilliance [is] like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper." The street of the city is also made of "pure gold, like transparent glass". Biblical writers often used gold as a symbol for eternity, as it does not rust, and kingship, as it is very valuable. The base of the city is laid out in a square and surrounded by a wall made of jasper. It says in Revelations 21:16 that the height, length, and width are equal and they measure 12,000 stadia (2200 km). John writes that the wall is 144 cubits, which is assumed to be the width since the length is mentioned previously. 144 cubits are about equal to 65 meters, or 72 yards. It is important to note that 12 is the square root of 144. The number 12 was very important to early Jews and Christians, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, and the number of months in a year. The four sides of the city represented the four cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West.) In this way, New Jerusalem was thought of as an inclusive place, with gates accepting all of the 12 tribes of Israel from all corners of the earth.

Also according to John, there is no temple building in the New Jerusalem, as the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the city's temple, since they are worshipped everywhere. Revelation 22 goes on to describe a river of the water of life that flows down the middle of the great street of the city from the throne of God. The tree of life grows in the middle of this street and on either side, or in the middle of the street and on either side of the river. Each tree bears twelve fruits, or kinds of fruits, and yields its fruit every month. According to John, "The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." This inclusion of the tree of life in the New Jerusalem harkens back to the Garden of Eden. The fruit the tree bears may be the fruit of life.

John states that the New Jerusalem will be free of sin. According to the Seer, the servants of God will have theosis, and "His name will be on their foreheads." Night will no longer fall, and the inhabitants of the city will "have need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light." John ends his account of the New Jerusalem by stressing its eternal nature: "And they shall reign forever and ever."

There are twelve gates in the wall oriented to the compass with three each on the east, north, south, and west sides. There is an angel at each gate, or gatehouse. These gates are each made of a single pearl, giving them the name of the "pearly gates". The names of the twelve tribes of Israel are written on these gates. This list either alludes to the traditional division of the Twelve Tribes as written on the vestments of the Kohen Gadol, or the other division based on the partition of land. The gates are arranged in the same way as the tribes were in the encampment of the forty years' wandering, though the Seer lists the gates in an order different from that of the Old Testament's description of the encampment. The layout of the gates likely remains parallel to that of the tribes, given the description of precious stones that follows.
Foundation Stones
The wall has twelve foundation stones, and on these are written the names of the Twelve Apostles. Revelation lacks a list of the names of the Twelve Apostles, and does not describe which name is inscribed on which foundation stone, or if all of the names are inscribed on all of the foundation stones, so that aspect of the arrangement is open to speculation. One scholar holds that Judas Iscariot's name is absent from the foundations, replaced by that of another Apostle.

These foundation stones are adorned with twelve types of precious stones. In modern times, the precise identification of all these precious stones is not certain, as several of the ancient names may refer to several different types of stones, or may no longer refer to the same kinds of stones that they did at the time of Revelation's writing. Also, the layout of the precious stones is contested. All of the precious stones could adorn each foundation stone, either in layers or mixed together some other way, or just one unique type of stone could adorn each separate foundation stone.

This latter possibility is favored by tradition, as each gate presumably stands on one foundation stone, and each of the twelve tribes has long been associated with a certain type of precious stone. These historical connections go back to the time of Temple worship, when the same kinds of stones were set in the golden Breastplate of the Ephod worn by the Kohen Gadol, and on the Ephod the names of each of the twelve tribes of Israel were inscribed on a particular type of stone.

Given the ambiguities of John’s description, the exact arrangement of the gates, foundation stones, and precious stones of the wall of the New Jerusalem is debated. The layout of the New Jerusalem according to John's vision might follow something like this:

Layer 6 10 3
Stone Sardus (Ruby?) Chrysoprase Chalcedony (Carbuncle?)
Tribe Reuben Simeon Levi
Layer 4 2 8
Stone Emerald Sapphire Beryl
Tribe Judah Issachar Zebulun
Layer 9 11 12
Stone Topaz Jacinth (Turquoise?) Amethyst (Crystal?)
Tribe Dan Naphtali Gad
Layer 7 5 1
Stone Chrysolite Sardonyx Jasper
Tribe Asher Joseph Benjamin


One of the more striking features of the New Jerusalem is its vast size. In 21:16, the angel measures the city with a golden rod or reed, and records it as being 12,000 stadia by 12,000 stadia at the base, as well as 12,000 stadia high. A stadion is usually stated as 185.4 meters, or 600 feet, so the base has dimensions of about 2225 km by 2225 km, or 1500 miles by 1500 miles. These measurements equate to an area of 4.9 million square kilometers, which is larger than the 3,892,685 km² of the 25 states of the European Union in 2005, but smaller than the 7,617,930 km² of Australia. It is 79% of the area of the Middle East which may have around 6,289,592 km². In the ancient Greek system of measurement, the base of the New Jerusalem would have been equal to 144 million square stadia. If rested on the Earth, its ceiling would be inside the exosphere. If the entire flat area of the foundation was supported by the Earth, a chord of 1500 miles would generate a trench on the Earth of about 71.6 miles deep at the very center of the base: 1500 mi = 2 sqrt{(3963 mi)^2 - (3963 mi - 71.6 mi)^2}.

It is unclear whether the city is in the form of a cube or a pyramid:

Shape Notes Volume

Many hold that the cubic form is more likely, as a cube carries symbolism obvious to John's audience at the time and is more in keeping with John's establishment of Judeo-Christian continuity throughout the text. A cube is the specific geometry of the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and the Holy Temple of Israel. Also, in the form of a cube, each of the New Jerusalem's twelve edges of 12,000 stadia each, when added together, would equal a total of 144,000 stadia, a number important to the Seer's numerology elsewhere in the text. If in the form of a cube, it would have a volume of 11 thousand million cubic kilometers, which is about half the volume of the moon, about a cubic mile for every monotheist ever alive since the time of Abraham.
square pyramid

However, the pyramid interpretation still has several adherents. A pyramid would allow a slope for the river of the water of life to flow down from the throne of God, and for the street of the city to ascend. Also, the New Jerusalem in the form of a pyramid would be a less incredible size. Given the Book of Exodus' narrative, the pyramid is sometimes considered a symbol of slavery. If in the form of a pyramid, the New Jerusalem would have a volume of 3.7 thousand million cubic kilometers - about a cubic kilometer for every follower of an Abrahamic Religion alive today.

Dispensational View - Henry M. Morris

In his book, The Revelation Record, Morris takes a literal viewpoint on the description of the Heavenly City. The author disagrees with those writers' viewpoints suggesting that the city is a pyramid in shape and quotes biblical sources for his conclusions:

"Furthermore, its height is the same as its width and breadth, the whole comprising a gigantic cubical structure 1,380 miles on every side. A number of writers have interpreted the city to be like a pyramid in shape, with the height of the pyramid equal to the dimensions of its base. Such an interpretation is quite forced, however, the language of the passage being much more naturally understood to mean a cube, with the length and breadth and height all the same. Such a shape was long ago associated with the sacred presence of God, suggesting the attributes of tri-unity as it does. That is, the fundamental cosmic entity of space is a genuine trinity. Space must be composed of three dimensions, but each dimension pervades all space. Space is always referenced to the first dimension (length), but can only be seen in terms of two dimensions (area = length squared) and experienced in three dimensions (volume = length cubed). Similarly, the Godhead is referenced to the Father, seen in the Son, experienced in the Holy Spirit.

The pyramidal shape, on the other hand (whether as in Egypt, Mexico, or the stepped-towers of practically all ancient nations), seems always to have been associated with paganism, with the pyramid's apex being dedicated to the worship of the sun, or the host of heaven. The first such structure was the Tower of Babel, and the Bible always later condemns worship carried out in high places (Leviticus 26:30) whether these were simply natural high hills or artificially constructed hills in the form of a pyramid or ziggurat.

The cube, on the other hand, was the shape specified by God for the holy place, or the oracle, in Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:20), where God was to "dwell" between the cherubim. Both the language and the symbology thus favor the cubical, rather than the pyramidal, shape".

Morris then continues with a discussion of the resurrected saints' new bodies, writing that these "will be like those of angels, no longer limited by gravitational or electromagnetic forces as at present".

He further writes:

"Thus, it will be easy for the inhabitants to travel vertically as horizontally, in the new Jerusalem. Consequently, the "streets" of the city (verse 21) may well include vertical passageways as well as horizontal avenues, and the "blocks" could be real cubical blocks, instead of square areas between streets as in a present-day earthly city.

Morris discussion of the New Jerusalem space geometry

Morris writes that, going by text in Matthew 7:13, that the large majority of people throughout all ages will not be saved. He uses this scripture as the basis for his conclusion that the New Jerusalem "would have to accommodate 20 billion residents." He also writes with the assumption that 25 percent of the city is used for the "mansions".

Other Biblical writings

The term "heavenly Jerusalem" is used in Hebrews 12:22. Paul refers to the Jerusalem above in the Epistle to the Galatians 4:25, 26 and explains it as the mother of Christians.

Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church places the New Jerusalem in the eschatological role found in Revelation. Catholicism also holds that the New Jerusalem already exists as a spiritual community in heaven, the Church triumphant, with an outpost on earth, the Church militant. Together, the Church triumphant and Church militant form the Church universal. Augustine of Hippo, a Doctor of the Church and Church Father, draws inspiration from John's account of the New Jerusalem to outline this view in his monumental work The City of God.

The Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Heaven" states that Catholic

theologians deem more appropriate that there should be a special and glorious abode, in which the blessed have their peculiar home and where they usually abide, even though they be free to go about in this world. For the surroundings in the midst of which the blessed have their dwelling must be in accordance with their happy state; and the internal union of charity which joins them in affection must find its outward expression in community of habitation. At the end of the world, the earth together with the celestial bodies will be gloriously transformed into a part of the dwelling-place of the blessed (Revelation 21). Hence there seems to be no sufficient reason for attributing a metaphorical sense to those numerous utterances of the Bible which suggest a definite dwelling-place of the blessed. Theologians, therefore, generally hold that the heaven of the blessed is a special place with definite limits. Naturally, this place is held to exist, not within the earth, but, in accordance with the expressions of Scripture, without and beyond its limits. All further details regarding its locality are quite uncertain. The Church has decided nothing on this subject.

Eastern Christianity

Emperor Lalibela of Ethiopia built the city of Lalibela as a new reconstructed Jerusalem in response to the Muslim capture of Jerusalem by Saladin's forces in 1187. Also, the New Jerusalem Monastery in Russia takes its name from the heavenly Jerusalem.

Protestant denominations

For the most part, Protestant views of the New Jerusalem fall in line with the Catholic understanding. However, there are exceptions.


Lutheran minister John Christopher Hartwick unsuccessfully attempted to establish the intentional community of New Jerusalem in Otsego County, New York and elsewhere.


The New Jerusalem was an important theme in the Puritan colonization of America.

Emerging Church, Liberation Theology, and Liberal Theology

The emerging church movement, liberation theology, and liberal or progressive Christianity may hold very different views on the exact nature of the concept of the New Jerusalem, although this is to be expected in the generally non-dogmatic formulations of these movements. However, in this context, it is more likely to refer to a future goal of a harmonious, peaceful world, outside of the traditional view of prophecy and eschatology.

Restorationist movements


Ecclesiastic Swedenborgians often refer to their organizations as part of or contributing to the New Jerusalem as explained by Emanuel Swedenborg in such books as New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine, Apocalypse Revealed, and Apocalypse Explained. According to Swedenborg, the New Jerusalem described in the Bible is a symbol for a new dispensation that was to replace/restore Christianity. Also according to these books, this New Jerusalem began to be established around 1757. This stems from their belief that Jerusalem itself is a symbol of the Church, and so the New Jerusalem in the Bible is a prophetic description of a New Church.

Latter Day Saint

The Latter Day Saint movement (Mormonism) refers to the New Jerusalem as Zion. Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, prophesied that God will establish the New Jerusalem at the site of the Temple Lot in the present-day city of Independence, Missouri. Smith drafted a detailed plat of Zion based on the biblical description of the New Jerusalem.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that New Jerusalem is the number of anointed Christians serving as Kings and Priests (144,000)

British Israelism

Richard Brothers, the ideological architect of British Israelism developed this viewpoint. Adrian Gilbert described the relationships between the New Jerusalem and British Israelism in his 2002 book The New Jerusalem.

Adrian Gilbert's The New Jerusalem shows that there was a secret tradition that the British are descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel, an idea known as British Israelism, and that the capital city of Britain should therefore be re-modeled as a New Jerusalem for the coming Age of Enlightenment. Gilbert presents evidence showing that this belief has its origins from at least the 6th century AD. It became more popular at the time of Elizabeth I and spread in influence during the Stuart period. It reached its height of influence during and just after the First World War. Gilbert shows that though the full idea of rebuilding London as a New Jerusalem had to be abandoned for practical reasons. Certain building, such as St Paul's Cathedral, contain elements of the plan in their design.

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í Faith views the New Jerusalem as the renewal of religion that takes place about every thousand years and which secures the prosperity of the human world. Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, identified the New Jerusalem with his claimed revelation (the word of God), and more specifically with the Law of God.

`Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son, further explains that the New Jerusalem which descends from heaven is not an actual city which is renewed, but the law of God since it descends from heaven through a new revelation and it is renewed. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, stated that specifically Bahá'u'lláh's book of laws, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, is the new Jerusalem.Taherzadeh, Adib (1984). The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume 3: `Akka, The Early Years 1868-77. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-144-2. Bahá'u'lláh, in the Tablet of Carmel, also states that the new Jerusalem had appeared upon the new Mount Zion, Mount Carmel.


The Kaaba, the Most Holy Place in Islam, has several similarities to the New Jerusalem. The Kaaba is a large cuboidal building located inside the mosque known as al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The mosque was built around the original Kaaba. According to the Qur'an, the Kaaba was built by Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (Ishmael ). Islamic traditions assert that the Kaaba "reflects" a house in heaven called al-Baytu l-Maˤmur (البيت المعمور) and that it was first built by the first man, Adam. Ibrahim and Ismail rebuilt the Kaaba on the old foundations.

Medinah is the second most holy city in Islam, in which the Prophet Muhammad preached Islam. It has remained there for over 1400 years.

Jerusalem is the third most holy city in Islam, and it is the place of many of the holy Prophets of Islam such as Jesus son of Mary, David, Solomon etc. This city is highly populated by Muslims even today.


The concept of the New Jerusalem as an ideal or mobile city has influenced utopianism, science fiction, urban planning, and architecture.

Margaret Wertheim suggests in The Pearly Gates of CyberSpace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet that cyberspace has replaced the New Jerusalem in transhumanism.

American pseudophilosopher Gene Ray has referred to the cubic interpretation of the New Jerusalem in an effort to express his Time Cube theory to religious believers who will only take seriously Biblical scriptures.

Popular culture

  • The climax of the epic song "Supper's Ready" by progressive rock band Genesis refers to the New Jerusalem.
  • New Jerusalem is a nickname for New Jersey.
  • "And did those feet in ancient time", a famous poem by William Blake and contender for the national anthem of England, mentions the New Jerusalem as the ideal society that should be built on England's "green and pleasant land". In turn, Christian Socialists drew on this inspiration to envision an explicitly socialist society that could be built in the here and now through political work.
  • Mentioned in the Carly Simon's song "Let the River Run" from Working Girl; indeed "The New Jerusalem" is often given as an alternate title for the song, which, in the movie's closing credits plays over a long pull-back starting from a single office window in one of the towers of the World Trade Center, perhaps implying that New York City is the New Jerusalem.
  • New Jerusalem is the name of a Christian hard rock band from Phoenix, AZ.
  • New Jerusalem is the default name of the Lord's Believers' home base in the computer game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.
  • In Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the murderer and protagonist Raskolnikov argues to Porfiry, the detective investigating his murders, that great men such as himself, in the process of becoming great men, will have to cast off absolute morality and commit crimes until such time as humanity has established the perfect society, "the New Jerusalem." The inspector retorts, "So, you believe in the New Jerusalem. You must believe in God, then."
  • Pilgrim's Progress features a Celestial City based on the New Jerusalem.
  • The New Jerusalem is the subject of a Medieval allegorical poem, "Pearl".
  • The 1967 hit song "Jerusalem of Gold" is reminiscient of the New Jerusalem.
  • "New Jerusalem" is mentioned in the song "Ghetto" performed by Joan Baez on the album "One Day at a Time".

See also


New Jerusalem of Adventist cult ideology

External links

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