Bible Prophecy, Chap. 11, Appendix: A Tale of Three Cities
Jerusalem, the New Jerusalem, and The Lord Is There
To compare The New Jerusalem of Rev. 21 (NJ) and the “city” of Ezekiel 40-48 called “The Lord Is There” (L), we must first calculate their respective sizes. No dimensions are given for the Jerusalem (J) of Zech. 14.
Converting cubits to miles:
The “Sacred District” containing the areas for L and the priests, Levites, and workers, measures a square of 25,000 cubits, or about 8 miles. The city itself is 5000 cubits or 1-2/3 miles square. The temple inside the District (but not inside L) is 500 cubits (including 50 cubits spaces around it) or .17 mile square.
The length, width, and height of NJ are all 12,000 stadia or 1400 miles. The wall is 144 cubits or 252 feet thick.
While all three are cities and there are some similarities, the differences force us to conclude that rather than three descriptions of one city, there are indeed three separate cities: The New Jerusalem, Jerusalem, and The Lord Is There. NJ and J have a river flowing from the city, while L has none; only the District temple has a river flowing from it. NJ and J speak of no day/night distinction, while L refers to “six working days” and the New Moon regarding the temple (Ezekiel 46). And of course, NJ is far too large to fit the descriptions of either of the other cities.
J and L exist after Jesus returns to the earth to set up his kingdom at the end of the Tribulation, and NJ descends from heaven after the Millennium. J and L are in times when people are still mortal, while the time of NJ is when “the curse is no more”. Nothing in NJ’s context limits the lack of curse to only NJ, and there is no reference to any more places for the dead or judgment seats for the dead to face. So J and L are during the Millennium, while NJ is after it.
The only other reference to a future Jerusalem is Isaiah 65:17-25, in a context where there is mortality, though in a time of great abundance and peace. This would seem to match the J of Zech. 14, except for the statement “new heavens and new earth”, which is mentioned in Rev. immediately before NJ descends from heaven. Yet the statement in Isaiah 65 does not say that this new heaven and earth precedes the restoration of Jerusalem, but that God “will create” them. Yet on the other hand, everything in that passage “will be”. But given the sequential character of Revelation as opposed to the other passages, it would seem that the order of events is clearer there and should carry more weight.
Chapters 1-24 of Ezekiel predict the captivity of Israel, chapters 25-32 predict the judgment of the other nations, chapters 33-39 predict the return of Israel to its land, and chapters 40-48 predict the Millennial Kingdom. Since all the fulfilled prophecies have been literal, there is no justification for treating the remaining prophecies as figurative or only spiritual.
One timing difficulty is the vision in Ezekiel 43:7 where God says from within the temple, “This is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever”. And to this day, the temple has not been built. Its stated purpose will be to shame the people of Israel for their former practices and defilement. It would seem unlikely that such a shaming and lesson for Israel would be perpetuated for eternity. And the sacrifices and festivals are not identical to those prescribed by Moses.
Another puzzle concerns the “prince” mentioned in chapters 40-48. Whoever this may be, this person will be mortal since the passages speak of his children. This person also does not perform the functions of a priest. Neither can this be King David, since David died long ago rather than being taken alive to heaven as were Enoch and Elijah. And David was promised that someone from his line would always be on the throne of Israel, so this person will be from his line.