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Daniel and Revelation
Chapter 4
The Pre-Millennial Appearance of the New Jerusalem

New Wine premillennialism, like dispensationalism, sees the Old Testament prophecies as being literally fulfilled in a Messianic millennial reign of Christ before the heavens and the earth are destroyed.  But unlike dispensationalism, New Wine premillennialism says that Gentile believers are grafted into Israel.  There is no difference between Jew and Gentile.  We are all in Israel.  All Old Testament prophecies must be fulfilled in Israel.  So we will all reign with Christ over the nations during the millennium.  But if this is true, then what do we do with verses like these?

John 14:2-4 ESV  In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you(3)  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself , that where I am you may be also(4)   And you know the way to where I am going."

Philippians 3:20-21  For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;  (21)  who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working by which he is able even to subject all things to himself.

Dispensationalists simply say those caught up in the rapture will be in heaven, while those “left behind” will live on earth during the Messianic reign.  Under New Wine premillennialism, the wise, who mature in Christ to overcome sin, and walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:9), will have citizenship in heaven, and will dwell in these rooms in heaven.  The wise will have spiritual bodies, and will be able to come and go like the wind (John 3:8).  Only the wise will be able to “enter the kingdom” in heaven (John 3:5).

In other words, dispensationalism distinguishes those living in heaven and those living on the earth as being the Church and Israel.  On the other hand, New Wine premillennialism distinguishes those living in heaven and those living on the earth as being the wise and foolish, which is based on holiness.  There is no distinction based on what time-period one happens to have lived in.  There is no distinction based on whether or not one is a physical descendent of Abraham.  There is no distinction of being in the Church or in Israel.  The only distinction made is whether or not one has matured to overcome sin through a relationship with Jesus Christ and is thus doing the works of the Father.  For more information about Christian Perfection, please read my booklet titled, Christian Perfection by Grace and Works.  It's available online.  Or it can be purchased from Amazon.

Dispensationalism tends to keep the two groups isolated from one another.  Those in heaven stay in heaven.  Those on the earth stay on the earth.  But New Wine premillennialism says those who overcome sin will literally rule the nations (Revelation 2:26-27).  The wise, in heaven, will directly rule over the nations living on the earth.  Those who rule over the earth from heaven do so because of their maturity, not because of their bloodline or the age they were born.

Not all dispensationalists have completely separated the Church and Israel.  Some have had the idea that the New Jerusalem could appear over the earth during the millennium, and that the Church will be in the New Jerusalem, while Israel dwells on the earth.  J. Dwight Pentecost, in his book, “Things to Come”, on page 546, writes (emphasis mine):

The conclusion to this question would be that the Old Testament held forth a national hope, which will be realized fully in the millennial age.  The individual Old Testament saint’s hope of an eternal city will be realized through resurrection in the heavenly Jerusalem, where, without losing distinction or identity, Israel will join with the resurrected and translated of this church age to share in the glory of His reign forever.  The nature of the millennium, as the period of the test of fallen humanity under the righteous reign of the King, precludes the participation by resurrected individuals in that testing.  Thus the millennial age will be concerned only with men who have been saved but are living in their natural bodies.   This heavenly city will be brought into a relation to the earth at the beginning of the millennium, and perhaps will be made visible above the earth It is from this heavenly city that David’s greater Son exerts His Messianic rule, in which the Bride reigns, and from which the rewarded Old Testament saints exercise their authority in government.

If such an interpretation be correct, there would be a solution to the perplexing problem that arises from placing resurrected saints on the earth to mingle freely with the unresurrected during the millennium.  The fulfillment of Israel’s national promises would be realized, not in resurrected individuals, but rather in natural saved Israel who are living at the second advent.  The unity of God’s redemptive purposes in Christ would be preserved by bringing the first resurrection group together into one place, where the Bride will share in His reign and His servants serve Him forever (Rev. 22:3).  Such a view is in harmony with the Scriptures and solves some of the problems inherent in the premillennial system.

Thus Pentecost (a very famous dispensationalist) believes that having the New Jerusalem brought into a perhaps visible relation with earth would solve some problems.  Pentecost is not the only famous dispensationalist to hold this view.  Quite a few dispensationalists hold this view.  John F. Walvoord , in a article titled, "The Doctrine of the Millennium - Part IV: The Heavenly Jerusalem," (  www.walvoord.com/article/76 ) writes:

A third view, however, is sometimes offered which is a mediate view between the first two mentioned. This view contemplates the heavenly Jerusalem as in existence during the millennium over the earth as the habitation of the resurrected saints, and is in contrast to the city of Jerusalem located on the earth. The heavenly Jerusalem apparently is withdrawn at the time of the destruction of the present earth and heaven. Then as pictured in Revelation 21:2 it returns to the new heaven and the new earth when the scene is ready for its descent. This interpretation regards Revelation 21:9ff as the heavenly city in the eternal state though recognizing its existence in the millennium. This seems to solve most of the exegetical problems that are involved and, in fact, answers many objections to the premillennial interpretation of Scripture as a whole. It provides a clear distinction between resurrected saints who inhabit the New Jerusalem and the millennial saints on the earth who will inhabit the millennial earth. It is assumed, though the Scriptures do not state it, that the millennial saints at the end of the millennium will be translated prior to their entrance into the eternal state and thus will qualify for entrance into the heavenly Jerusalem.

This is exactly what I believe will happen.  However, the dispensational side of Pentecost and Walvoord must look at this possibility only through the dispensational eyes of a separate and distinct Israel and the Church.  Pentecost places Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church as both dwelling together in the heavenly Jerusalem, but without losing their identity as Israel or the Church.  However, if we can abandon the separation between the Church and Israel, and if we can start to view the separation as between the saints (holy ones) and those who have not yet matured, then this view of the millennium starts to make lots of sense.  The nations on the earth still need to mature in Christ.

The main point that Pentecost made was that people with spiritual bodies would not be living with people of natural mortal bodies.  People with spiritual bodies will dwell in the Father's house, where there are many rooms or dwelling places.  Pentecost realized that if the Father's house is brought into a place over the earth, it would solve this problem.  I would think that it will orbit the earth.

The wise saints of all ages will rule during the millennium.  The wise saints will live in rooms prepared by Christ in the New Jerusalem.  And the New Jerusalem, called the Bride, the wife of the Lamb (Rev. 21:9), will be in orbit around the earth.  The wise saints will have "citizenship in heaven" (Philippians 3:20-21, quoted above), which is in orbit around the earth.

The purpose of the millennium is not simply so that God can fulfill Old Testament promises.  The purpose of the millennium is so that God can complete his redemptive plan for all men of all ages.  Christ died for our sins.  But now we must overcome sin and walk as Jesus walked.  The millennium accomplishes this purpose for all people who come short of walking as Jesus walked, and yet do not reject Christ as King.

1 John 2:5-6 NIV  But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him(6)  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

Dispensationalism distinguishes the Church from Israel.  Dispensationalism considers the Church to be a “parenthesis” between Old Testament Israel and the Messianic Age Israel.  Most dispensationalists believe the Church will remain in heaven, while Israel remains on the earth.  Does this mean that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will live on earth during the millennium?

Matthew 8:11 tells us the Old Testament saints will be in the wedding banquet, and thus be a part of the Bride of Christ.  Indeed, many dispensationalists have concluded that Old Testament saints will remain in heaven with the Bride, because they will have resurrected spiritual bodies.  What does this say about the dispensational separation of Israel and the Church?”  Is Abraham still a part of Israel?  Why does part of Israel remain in heaven with the Bride, while another part remains on earth?

According to dispensationalists, the reason for the millennium is to literally fulfill Old Testament prophecies and covenants.  This includes the literal fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham.  This covenant promises all the land of Palestine, as defined by Genesis 15:18-21, to be given to Abraham’s offspring.  Does this mean that Abraham himself will be in heaven, and will not be able to literally inherit according to his own promise?

On the other hand, New Wine premillennialism says Abraham is indeed part of the Church (meaning assembly).  We are grafted into Israel.  The Church inherits the land on the earth, and Old Jerusalem on earth becomes the capital of a one-world government.  Abraham, with his spiritual body, will dwell in the New Jerusalem, in orbit around the earth.  Jesus has prepared a room for him there.  Abraham will be at the wedding banquet in the New Jerusalem along with all of his offspring, both Jews and Gentiles.

Those who have not as yet matured in Christ will dwell on the earth.  The Old Jerusalem, and the entire area of Palestine promised to Abraham, will be the capital of the world.  This is necessary because people who do not as yet have spiritual bodies cannot enter into the New Jerusalem in heaven (John 3:5).  But they will be able to enter into Old Jerusalem on earth.  People will be able to enter the capital city of their seat of government.

As we have seen, God’s purpose in the millennium is far more than just fulfilling promises.  It’s about bringing all who will be saved into holiness through Christ’s literal reign.  However, this purpose is not seen from the dispensational perspective.  All distinctions between the Church and Israel must be discarded in favor of distinctions between the saints (holy ones) and those who have not yet overcome all their sinful habits.

Revelation 3:11-12  I am coming quickly! Hold firmly that which you have, so that no one takes your crown.  (12)  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will go out from there no more. I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name.

Notice that those who overcome also get the "name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God," written on them.  When does this happen?  Is it when Christ returns?  Or is it a thousand years later?  One of the seven churches promises "the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God."  When do we get to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God?  Does this happen when Christ returns?  Or is it a thousand years later?

Revelation 2:7  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God.

All of the seven letters to the seven churches give promises to those who overcome and are ready for him when he appears.  This includes reigning over the nations during the millennium.  These rewards are not intended to be after the millennium.

Revelation 2:25-26  Nevertheless, hold that which you have firmly until I come.  (26)  He who overcomes , and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.

The New Jerusalem is approximately 1400 miles wide, 1400 miles long, and 1400 miles high.  If it were to sit on the earth it would tower high into space, much higher than the space shuttle flights and the international space station.  In my opinion, it will not sit on the earth, but will be in orbit when Christ returns.

The Jews believed there are seven levels of heaven and that Paradise is in the third level.  Paul spoke of visiting Paradise in the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4).  Revelation tells us that the New Jerusalem will come "down out of heaven."  But with seven levels of heaven, the New Jerusalem could simply be moved from the third heaven to the first heaven in order to come "down out of heaven."  It would then be in orbit around the earth.  It does not actually need to sit on the earth.

Revelation 21:1-2  I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more.  (2)  I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband.

Revelation 21:9-10  One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were loaded with the seven last plagues came, and he spoke with me, saying, "Come here. I will show you the wife, the Lamb's bride."  (10)  He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,

The biggest objection to the pre-millennial appearing of the New Jerusalem is that it comes after the new heaven and new earth, with the first heaven and the first earth having passed away.  But why does John report seeing the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven twice?  Could it be that it happens twice? 

Everything recorded from verse 21:1 through 21:8 is about the New Jerusalem coming down to the new earth, after the present heavens and earth have been destroyed.  But then in verse 21:9, John is told to "Come here and I will show you..."  This is like the "Come up here and I will show you..." back in verse 4:1.

Revelation 4:1  After these things I looked and saw a door opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard, like a trumpet speaking with me, was one saying, "Come up here, and I will show you the things which must happen after this."

Verse 21:9 should be read as if it is a new chapter in Revelation.  John is being shown another major section of the vision.  As we will see, starting with verse 9, there are several things stated that make more sense if it's during the millennium.  So John really does see the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven twice.  Verse 21:9 is about a pre-millennial appearing of the New Jerusalem.

One of the strongest arguments used by amillennialists is that the New Jerusalem is called "the wife, the Lamb's bride."  But the marriage feast (wedding banquet) occurs when Christ returns, not a thousand years later.  I've even heard one dispensationalist try to argue that the wedding banquet is after the thousand years so that those saved during the millennium could be included.  But Revelation tells us the wedding banquet happens when Christ returns.

Revelation 19:7  Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad, and let us give the glory to him. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready."

New Wine premillennialism resolves this conflict with the pre-millennial appearing of the New Jerusalem.  And a thousand years later, the New Jerusalem also comes down out of heaven to the new earth.  Notice the slight difference in the way "bride" and "wife" is applied to the two appearances of the New Jerusalem.  In the pre-millennial appearing, the New Jerusalem is called "the wife, the Lamb's bride."  This is where the wedding banquet occurs for Christ's Bride, the Wife of the Lamb.  In the post-millennial appearing, the New Jerusalem is said to be "like a bride."

Those who mature in Christ during the millennium will receive spiritual bodies and eternal life.  So they also become "children of God."  But I don't think they are considered to be the Bride of Christ.  They are never grafted into Israel.  We, as Israel, are the firstfruits of the harvest (Romans 8:23, James 1:18).  But there probably will be a post-millennial celebration for rest of the harvest.  So they are "like a bride."

The description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation is very much like the Paradise of Eden.  Paradise means enclosed garden.  It's the word that is used in the Greek Septuagint for the Garden of Eden.  In Jewish eschatology, when the Messiah comes, the gates of Paradise will be opened up.  The Testament of Levi 18.10 says, "one will open the gates of Paradise."  In Latin IV Eduras 8.52, God says to Ezra, "because it is for you that Paradise is opened, that the tree of life is planted."  A Jew reading Revelation would not assume this waits until after the Messianic age to come.  It would happen when the Messiah appears.

Some might object to my use of ancient texts, other than Scripture, to show Jewish culture and their expectations for the appearance of the city of God when the Messiah comes.  So let's see the same thing in Galatians, in the book of Hebrews, and even in the Psalms.

Galatians 4:26  But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

Hebrews 11 is the faith chapter.  Abraham is a known for a man of faith.  How does this chapter begin?  What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen.

And what is the only thing mentioned in this chapter for which Abraham had faith?

Hebrews 11:9-10  By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.  (10)  For he looked for the city which has the foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Some might argue this verse refers to the old Jerusalem here on earth.  But this city is mentioned later on in this context.  It's a "heavenly" city.  It's a "heavenly Jerusalem."  The "builder and maker [of this city] is God."  Some might say the fact that the city has foundations makes it an earthly city.  But foundations only makes the reader understand that it's not a metaphor.  It's a literal and a very real city.

Hebrews 11:16  But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 12:22-23  But you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem , and to innumerable multitudes of angels,  (23)   to the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,

This verse says those in the Bride are “enrolled in heaven.”  The elect are “enrolled” to be at the wedding banquet.  However, those enrolled in the “heavenly Jerusalem” are only the “firstborn,” according to this verse.  If the Bride of Christ is only the “firstborn,” then many others are to follow. Therefore, many in the nations will also become righteous and inherit eternal life.

Hebrews 13:14  For we don't have here an enduring city, but we seek that which is to come.

The author of Hebrews speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem as a city which is to come.  That was their hope.  That was their faith.  Hebrews was written well before Revelation.  How would the original Jewish readers of Hebrews have interpreted this verse?  The natural interpretation is for the heavenly Jerusalem to come when Christ returns.  Our hope is in Christ.  This should correspond to a faith and hope for the appearing of the New Jerusalem.  The city of God can also be found in the Psalms.  These verses can be read either as a heavenly Jerusalem or as an earthly Jerusalem.  I believe the earthly Jerusalem is a shadow of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Psalms 46:1-7  God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  (2)   Therefore we won't be afraid, though the earth changes, though the mountains are shaken into the heart of the seas;  (3)  though its waters roar and are troubled, though the mountains tremble with their swelling. Selah.  (4)   There is a river, the streams of which make the city of God glad, the holy place of the tents of the Most High(5)  God is in her midst. She shall not be moved. God will help her at dawn.  (6)   The nations raged. The kingdoms were moved. He lifted his voice, and the earth melted(7)   Yahweh of Armies is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Psalms 87:1-3  His foundation is in the holy mountains(2)  Yahweh loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.  (3)  Glorious things are spoken about you, city of God. Selah.

Some people believe the heavenly Jerusalem of Psalms, Galatians, Hebrews, and Revelation is a metaphor.  Others believe the New Jerusalem of Revelation is literal, but does not come until after the thousand-year reign of Christ.  But then when you read about the heavenly Jerusalem in Hebrews, it seems much more like something associated with the return of Jesus Christ.  So even dispensationalists might say the heavenly Jerusalem of Hebrews is a metaphor of our relationship with Jesus while the New Jerusalem of Revelation is literal.  It seems as if people are more willing to accept the literal nature of the heavenly Jerusalem if it's pushed way off into the future and not equated to the soon return of Jesus Christ.

In other words, even if they are premillennial, preachers and Bible teachers are trained to think like amillennialists.  That's because the Church, both Catholic and Protestant, was predominantly amillennial throughout Church history.  The traditional meanings of metaphors and allegorical ways of looking at Scripture are passed down from generation to generation.  For example, the Greek word Gehennah is a metaphor that is translated as hell in most English translations of the Bible.  Literally it was the garbage dump outside Jerusalem.  So it's a metaphor.  Yes, there is a hell.  But it's the "lake of fire" after the thousand-year reign of Christ.  We read the word "hell" in the Bible and very few people know it's a metaphor.

Heaven itself, from the perspective of the ancient Bible authors, is what you see when you look at the sky.  It's the universe.  In both Hebrew and Greek, there is no difference between "heaven" and "sky."  It's the same word in both Greek and Hebrew.  The translator uses the word "heaven" in some places and "sky" in other places depending on his own interpretation.  But the original authors of Scripture didn't distinguish "heaven" and "sky."  Heaven is what we see when we look at the sky.  But in the sixteenth century, when Galileo and Copernicus showed that the earth is not in the center of the universe, heaven became a "spiritual realm" that is outside the universe.  This allowed theologians to still think of the earth as in the center, or below heaven.  This became the new tradition.  Today, Bible teachers look at you funny if you say you believe that heaven is the universe.  They don't think you believe the Bible.  Heaven itself has become a “spiritual realm” and not the literal universe that can be seen when we look at the stars.

Starting with Darby, dispensationalists began to interpret eschatology more literally.  But they applied it to the Jews and not to themselves.  The focus of the Church remained as heaven-or-hell when you die instead of the more Biblical focus on a literal resurrection.  Dispensationalists believe the kingdom of heaven is literally the earthly reign of Christ.  But when it comes to the Gentile believers, it remains a kingdom that is not of this world.  The pre-tribulation rapture is all about going to heaven when Christ returns.  Therefore, things like the heavenly Jerusalem in Hebrews tend to remain under the more allegorical and figurative way of interpreting Scripture.  Many preachers, even if they are dispensational, say the heavenly Jerusalem is a metaphor of our relationship with Christ.  But the heavenly Jerusalem is the same as Paradise.  Paul went to Paradise.  It's a real place even if he only saw it in a vision.  It's not a metaphor.  And it's coming when Christ returns.

Let's go back to Revelation 21 now and take a look at some of the details about the pre-millennial appearing of the New Jerusalem.  These are all things spoken of after verse 21:9.  Remember that verse 21:9 can be interpreted as if it is a new chapter in Revelation.  This last chapter of Revelation is a conclusion to the overall theme of Revelation, which is to overcome sin.  We must overcome sin and have faith and hope for the coming of Christ and the appearance of the heavenly city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem.  From a Jewish perspective, these are all things that would only make sense if it's during the Messianic age to come.

Revelation 21:24-27  The nations will walk in its light. The kings of the earth bring the glory and honor of the nations into it(25)  Its gates will in no way be shut by day (for there will be no night there),  (26)  and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it so that they may enter(27)  There will in no way enter into it anything profane, or one who causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.

The nations will walk by the light of the New Jerusalem.  This means the nations will be taught righteousness by the Bride of Christ.  And the Bride of Christ will be living in the New Jerusalem.  The Greek word for "nations" is the same as the word for "Gentiles."  The people of Israel do not refer to themselves as Gentiles.  Israel is the holy nation.  But a general reference to "the nations" does not include Israel.  The Bride of Christ is not part of the nations.

If John is talking about a New Jerusalem that only appears after the post-millennial new heavens and new earth, then why does John make distinctions as to who can enter into the New Jerusalem?  Those who are still living in sin will not be able to enter into the New Jerusalem.  You must be written in the book of life, not having had your name blotted (Revelation 3:5), in order to enter.  But if this is after the great white throne judgment, then everyone not written in the book of life would have already been thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 22:1-2  He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,  (2)  in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

This verse talks about the tree of life.  The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations.  Again, the Greek word used here for ‘nations’ means Gentiles.  Think about this from the Jewish perspective.  They believed that when the Messiah comes, Eden (Paradise) will be opened, and Israel will rule the nations.  Righteousness will go out to all the nations.  This Jewish belief is exactly what is being described here in Revelation.  Righteousness and healing goes out to all the nations as a result of the Messiah's rule.  Also, think about the fact that those with spiritual bodies will not need healing.  Perhaps the water of life will give us eternal life.  But we will never get sick.  So we will never need healing.  The Gentiles on earth, however, with their natural bodies will need healing.

Revelation 22:3  There will be no curse any more. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants serve him.

Romans 8:19-22  For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed(20)  For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope  (21)  that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God (22)  For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.

The curse is removed at the start of the millennium, when the children of God are revealed.  Revelation 22:3 mentions this because it's talking about a pre-millennial appearing of the New Jerusalem.  We don't have to wait for the post-millennial new heavens and new earth for the curse to be removed.

Revelation 22:4  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

1 Corinthians 13:12  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known.

When the pre-millennial appearance of the New Jerusalem occurs, we will see Christ face to face.  Also, his name will be on our foreheads.  This can be seen in the letters to the seven churches.

Revelation 3:12  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will go out from there no more. I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name.

Each of the seven letters conclude with a reward that is given to those who overcome sin.  Do we have to wait a thousand years after Christ returns before we can receive our rewards?  We will see Christ face to face when he returns.  He will write his name on our foreheads when he returns.  And the New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven when Christ returns.

Revelation 22:5  There will be no night, and they need no lamp light; for the Lord God will illuminate them. They will reign forever and ever.

Over whom do we reign if not the nations during the millennium?  The Jews believed that when the Messiah comes, Israel will reign over all the nations.  This verse also connects back to one of the seven letters.

Revelation 2:26  He who overcomes , and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.

All these things make better sense with a pre-millennial appearance of the New Jerusalem.  But are similar things said before verse 21:9?  At first glance, that would seem to be the case.  But with a closer reading, the things said before verse 21:9 are only true after the millennium.

Revelation 21:4-5  He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away."  (5)  He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." He said, "Write, for these words of God are faithful and true."

This verse (above) says he will wipe every tear from our eyes.  At first, one might think this could be talking about the millennial reign.  But look at the context of the next sentence in the verse.  "Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning or crying."  Yet there will be death during the millennium.  Paul speaks of the Messianic reign in this verse below.

1 Corinthians 15:24-26  Then the end comes, when he will deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power.  (25)  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet(26)  The last enemy that will be abolished is death.

The last enemy is death.  Some people will reject Christ's reign.  In so doing, they reject Christ's salvation.  They will reject the healing of the nations.  Those who reject Christ's rule over their lives will die the second death.  They will not be resurrected.  And their souls will come alive again at the end of the millennium to be thrown into the lake of fire.  This is cause for tears.  It's a cause for mourning and crying, especially when it will happen to someone we know.  So the tears are wiped away only after the present earth is destroyed, and the new earth is created.  That's why Jesus says, "Behold, I am making all things new" (verse 21:5).

The section in Revelation about the pre-millennial appearing of the New Jerusalem seems to go from verses 21:9 through 22:5.  The next verse seems to have left the vision and returns to Jesus (or an angel) talking with John.

Revelation 22:6-9  He said to me, "These words are faithful and true. The Lord God of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel to show to his bondservants the things which must happen soon."  (7)  "Behold, I come quickly . Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."  (8)  Now I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. When I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who had shown me these things.  (9)   He said to me, "See you don't do it! I am a fellow bondservant with you and with your brothers, the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God."

Here we are clearly in the context of waiting for Jesus to return.  We are in the context of overcoming sin and doing the works of the Father so that we will be ready for Christ to return.

Revelation 22:12-15  "Behold, I come quickly. My reward is with me, to repay to each man according to his work.  (13)  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  (14)  Blessed are those who do his commandments , that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.  (15)  Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

When Christ returns he will bring a "reward."  He says, "My reward is with me."  Notice that "reward" is singular.  In this context, Jesus is not talking about different rewards for different people.  It's one single reward for us all.  In this context, what is that reward?  The reward is the New Jerusalem.  It's the Paradise of Eden, opened up for us.  Christ will bring this reward when he returns; not a thousand years later.

Christ said, "Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life."  We don't get the tree of life a thousand years after Christ returns.  We will be able to "enter in by the gates into the city," when Christ returns, as a reward for doing his commandments.

Do you remember back in verse 21:7, where John makes a distinction as to who can enter the New Jerusalem?  Those who are still sinning will not be able to enter into the New Jerusalem.  Here, in verse 22:15, John elaborates.  The theme of Revelation is to overcome sin in order to be ready for Christ to appear.  Outside of the New Jerusalem are the "dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murders, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood."  So again, if the New Jerusalem only appears after the post-millennial new heavens and new earth have been created, then how can all these sinners be outside the New Jerusalem?  We know there will be some sin during Christ's millennial reign.  But this level of sin is even more than we would expect.  Could this suggest that the New Jerusalem appears even before Christ sets up his kingdom?  As we will see, the New Jerusalem appears before the great tribulation.

Philip Brown