Just a Metaphor?
Q. Isn't the New Jerusalem city just a biblical metaphor? Churches I've attended say that it isn't a real city but is a symbolic description of heaven.
In early church history Augustine was famous for presenting the City of God as an allegory or a metaphor. Some scholars state that he was avoiding conflict with the Roman emperor. He did not want the emperor to think that the New Jerusalem would replace Rome or Caesar. So he allegorized most of Scripture.
You can follow scholars today who allegorize most of Scripture - still. But, unless the bible is clearly metaphorical or allegorical, the "plain sense of scripture" should be interpreted literally. There is no reason to do otherwise. "Like" something - such as gathering Jerusalem "like a hen with chicks under her wings," or God protecting someone "like covering with wings," is metaphorical. An allegory is a story with deeper meaning.
A Real City
The New Jerusalem, however, is described as a very real city. Consider the following gleaned from Revelation, chapters 21 and 22:
1/2 the size of United States
The New Jerusalem is 1,400 miles long and 1,400 miles high. It is like an "enormous floating continent" which comes down out of the third heaven to rest upon or above the new earth. (It reminds me of a space-city).
It is a perfect cube and contains 2.25 million square miles. Its size is big enough to accommodate one hundred thousand billion people (that's not a typo).
Astrophysicist Hugh Ross says, "if its population exceeds ten billion, the New Jerusalem alone would give each of us about forty billion cubic feet of living space (equivalent to a fourteen square mile home with a hundred foot high ceiling)…" (1996, 220).
14 Square Mile Mansions
Our 14 square mile homes with hundred foot high ceilings is what Jesus probably referred to when He said, "In my Father's house are many rooms (mansions). If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?…" (John 14:2-3).
Encased in thick transparent Walls
The wall around N.J. is transparent, bright and glowing, 216 feet thick and 1,500 miles high. Some theorize that this keeps the temperature suitable for its inhabitants and protects everyone from outer space threats or harsh elements.
N.J. gates are pearlized and inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel Think of it. This means we remember and honor some of earth's history in the heavenly city!
There is one main street which is made from a gold, transparent glass like substance (on which we will travel).
There is a river which runs through N.J. It doesn't take too much imagination to think a river suggests there may also be streams, lakes, and waterfalls in the vicinity.
Your best health food Store
The "tree of life" alongside the river provides healthful, life-giving nutrients, and its leaves heal the nations. It is what the "tree of life" in Eden was meant to be. This is the ultimate health food supplement!
The N.J. has no sea, sun, or moon as we know it. This suggests that we will no longer fight hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, or other incidents of instability. Hurrah!
"Beam me Up"
Not only is this space-city our ultimate destination and an awesome future for all believers, but we are told we will be "beamed up" off of the earth to get ready to enter our fabulous new home in the New Jerusalem.
1 Thessalonians 4:17 says it this way:
"Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…"
Read it for yourself - in context. Awesome!
New Home - New Citizenship
Get ready for a new life in new galaxies containing a new earth with a stunning, brilliant space-city to call your home. It is there that we will have true citizenship…because, "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20).
Does any of that sound like a "metaphor" to you?
Not to me - it's more like a description of a fantastic Star Trek adventure whose mission and destination is the most beautiful space-city imaginable.
Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale.
Hitchcock, Mark. 2005. 55 Answers to questions about life after death. Sister, OR: Multnomah.
Ross, Hugh. 1996. Beyond the cosmos. Colorado Springs: NavPress.