Revelation 21:16 - 17
ESV - 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement.
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Since Revelation 22:18-19 pronounces judgments from God against anyone who either adds to or takes away from the words recorded in Revelation, and other portions of Revelation feature interpreters who explain the meaning of various aspects of what John is seeing if they are unclear or symbolic, while there is no such explanatory verbiage mentioned in connection with the New Jerusalem, that would lead me to believe that the dimensions given in the verses cited in the question are meant to be taken literally. If God created the universe out of nothing, it is certainly within His power to fashion a city conforming to the detailed description found in Revelation 21:16-21. Also, as I understand it, this city is to be located on the new earth mentioned in Revelation 21:1, and is not to be taken as being located in any of the three senses of the word "heaven" (the atmosphere around us; outer space; or the abode of God) since the city is mentioned in Revelation 21:2 and Revelation 21:10 as coming down from heaven, and Revelation 21:3 says that the dwelling of God is now with men.
All too often, when considering difficult passages, we tend to read over important contextual clues without factoring them into our interpretation. I believe that happens more frequently with Revelation than most other books of the Bible. This often leads us to assume things about the text are simply not true. False assumptions may then lead to false doctrine. For example, with regard to “the New Jerusalem” (also called “the city”) referenced in this text we have two clear indications of exactly what that city represents. In verse 2 of chapter 21 we see John’s description of what he saw. He tells us it was “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” And, in verse 9 of the same chapter John is told plainly by “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues” that what he was being shown was indeed “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” In all the Bible the only texts I can find regarding the “Bride” or the “Wife of the Lamb” or of Christ is in reference to the invisible church of Jesus Christ or to the chosen people of Israel as the precursor to the church (see 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:23, 1 Corinthians 11:3, John 3:29, Isaiah 62:5, Matthew 25:1-13, etc.). In context, Revelation 21 and 22 are giving us a symbolic description of “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” which is, in biblical terms, the elect of God or the true Church of Jesus Christ. Nowhere in scripture is heaven referred to as the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. That title is reserved for the church. The images used here to describe Jesus’ “Bride” are metaphorically descriptive and beautifully symbolic of the true spiritual nature and character of God’s collective people who have been purified and made holy by the righteousness of Jesus Himself. The Father and the Lamb are present within and among them providing light to reveal truth and to light their path. The Holy Spirit is “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city” (Revelation 22:1-2, John 4:10, John 7:38-39, Jeremiah 17:13, etc.). We could spend a lifetime pondering each of the metaphors used in Revelation. That process will bring blessing if we interpret correctly, but it can end in error and confusion if we misinterpret. However, when we are provided clear contextual indicators as to the meaning of a specific image, we should accept that meaning and consider it carefully in our interpretation of the overall text. Otherwise, we may be forced by our assumptions to ask the wrong questions. The “dimensions” mentioned in chapter 21 of Revelation as well as the characteristics of the walls, gates, foundations, streets, etc., are clearly symbolic of the purified, sanctified and beautified attributes of the Christian church, the Bride of Christ, and not a physical heaven. John was allowed in his vision to see the church, not as man sees it, but as God sees it.
The dimensions of this city are often described as being a cube. I would like to propose a different "shape" that I believe fits into a design that God seems to already show some preference towards. I believe that this will be a "city/mountain". At its base, the Bible says that the city "the New Jerusalem" will be about 1500 miles square, and it states that it will be as high as it is wide. As a "cube" city it would rival any hotel man has ever created, but nothing in Scripture actually says that it is a cube: only that it is as high as it is wide. As a mountain, this would create beauty and real estate for many mansions of glory facing in all directions. This causes us to pause and reread what the Scripture says though - it will be a NEW heaven and Earth. It would have to be because 1500 miles high is HUGE! God is in the habit of giving us a foreshadowing of what his end-state agenda offers. I believe that the Scriptures are showing us a hint of a life on earth, but an earth that is capable of sustaining a different environment than we are currently living under. (Christian scientists help us to see how God has already reshaped the environment between the pre and post flood eras.If he has done it once, he can do it again.) A mountain that reaches 1500 miles into the atmosphere would require the same type of re-engineering. And yet it seems like God would stay within his character to have a River of Life flowing down from a mountain and meandering all the way to the base, circumnavigating the mountain and reaching the most people as possible. This hypothesis also considers some interesting suppositions of human inclinations towards preferentiality that some may struggle with. For example, the wealthier tend to have the best locations for their "mansions" on earth. Though some may want to see our eternity as a socialist fantasia, Jesus himself talked about rewards in heaven based on our "investments" into his kingdom (while still in the "seeing dimly" phase of our life). Do you believe that God would want to offer even more to someone who offered him more? In fact, I believe that his rewards will humble us as we feel unworthy of them. His Presence at the top of a mountain, abiding in his shekinah glory fully revealed, would light up the entire city, a city that would then no longer need a sun to provide light. I can see our Father King wanting to elevate those who elevated him highest in their lives to the highest places in his kingdom.
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