By Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
As an important feature of biblical eschatology, the new creation concept is most powerfully presented in Isaiah’s prophecy of the new Jerusalem. In this prophecy we find both a re-created “Jerusalem” and “people” (Isa 65:17–19).
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing And her people for gladness. I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be heard in her The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.” (Isa 65:17–19)
Interestingly, in Galatians 6 Paul speaks of the new creation in the context of a transformed “Israel of God” existing in his day: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. and as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, even upon the Israel of God” (Gal 6:15–16; cf. Ro 2:28–29). In that same epistle, he urges a commitment to the “Jerusalem above” (the heavenly Jerusalem, Heb 12:22) rather than to the cast out Jerusalem that now is (the historical capital city of Israel, Gal 4:25–26).
The heavenly Jerusalem is detailed in Rev 21:2–22:5. There we discover that it is the bride of Christ that comes down from God to replace the earthly Jerusalem (Rev 21:2–5). We also notice that it must occur in the first century because immediately after its description, we read:
And he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.”
(Rev 22:6, cp. v 10).
With the shaking and destruction of the old Jerusalem in AD 70, the heavenly (spiritual) Jerusalem replaces her. We learn this in Hebrews where we read that his “voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’ Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made [i.e., the Levitical ritual system], that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb 12:26–28; cp. 8:13).
This is why the writer of Hebrews can speak of his first-century, pre-AD 70 audience as standing at the very city limits of the new Jerusalem which is about to enter into history:
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind. . . . But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb 12:18, 22)
The new, heavenly Jerusalem makes her appearance in history at the destruction of the temple in AD 70. The end of the earthly significance of the old Jerusalem in AD 70 is immediately followed by the beginning of the earthly influence of the new Jerusalem.
I will continue discussing the new creation in our next article.