One cannot understand the concept of tribulation in the Bible without seeing it in the context of Jerusalem. Nor can one understand the fulfillment of prophecy without seeing that there are two Jerusalems: the old Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem. This distinction makes it possible to understand the seeming contradiction between biblical statements of blessings and curses upon Jerusalem.
In Isaiah 62 we read a prime example of “Jerusalem” in a favorable light.
1 For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning. 2 And the nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will designate.
This establishes that “Zion” and “Jerusalem” are to be made glorious and righteous. It seems to give hope to the physical city of Jerusalem until the prophet tells us that God Himself will give her “a new name.” As Revelation 3:12 says, this new name is New Jerusalem.
12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon 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 new name.
The next verses prophesy Jerusalem to be a “diadem of glory” in God’s hand. She would no longer be called “Forsaken” or “Desolate,” but instead, “Married.”
4 It will no longer be said to you, "Forsaken," nor to your land will it any longer be said, "Desolate"; but you will be called, "My delight is in her," and your land, "Married"; for the LORD delights in you, and to Him your land will be married. 5 For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you.
We see the fulfillment of this prophecy in Revelation 21, where we read that the holy city God marries is not the old Jerusalem. The Bride is the New Jerusalem.
2 And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
A few verses later, an angel again identifies the Bride as the Jerusalem that descends from heaven, as opposed to the Jerusalem that originated in the earth.
9 And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jeru-salem, coming down out of heaven from God.
The same passage in Revelation describes the “walls” and “gates” of this city in physical terms, but it is quite obvious that these are symbolic things. The wall is said to be 144 cubits high (21:17). It also is said to have 12 gates with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel written on them. In verses 22-27 we are told that the city had no need of the sun or the moon to give it light. Verse 27 tells us that only the righteous will inhabit this city.
This is precisely the description given to us in Isaiah 60. Isaiah also gives us the basic definition of the walls and gates when he says in Isaiah 60:18,
18 Violence will not be heard again in your land, nor devastation or destruction within your borders; but you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise. 19 No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light; but you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory. 20 Your sun will set no more, neither will your moon wane; for you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be finished. 21 Then all your people will be righteous; they will possess the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified.
A simple comparison of Isaiah 60:18-21 with Rev. 21 makes it clear that this is not the old Jerusalem restored and made glorious. Both speak of the light of the sun and moon as being replaced by light from a divine source. Both speak of sinners being excluded from the city.
This is the New Jerusalem whose origin is in heaven, not on the earth. It must also be noted that at no time does the Bible state that the New Jerusalem will come down and overlay itself upon the piece of ground that presently is called Jerusalem. I am often amused by the way men depict the New Jerusalem coming down with a system of cranes and pulleys as if it were a physical city weighing millions of tons.
Christians need to learn that the New Jerusalem is simply the territory of God’s creation that has been redeemed and reclaimed for the glory of His Kingdom. This includes people, because we are made of the dust of the ground that God created at the beginning.
The Walls of the New Jerusalem
The walls of the New Jerusalem, Isaiah says, are “Salvation.” The gates of the New Jerusalem, Isaiah says, are “Praise.”
John tells us that the walls are measured at 144 cubits, which is the biblical number denoting the elect. The numeric value of the letters in the name Lazarus is precisely 144. This connects the number to those elect who are raised from the dead. (See John 11.)
Walls of a city are for its protection and act as a boundary to keep out those who are not authorized to enter the city. In that the walls are called “Salvation,” it indicates that only the saved may enter this city. In that Zechariah 2:5 describes the walls as “a wall of fire,” it also shows that it is the boundary of the “fiery law” given at Sinai (Deut. 33:2). A law is a moral boundary, which, if transgressed, is a “transgression,” or sin.
We read that all those who enter this city are righteous. One cannot be lawless and enter this city. Nor do the saved transgress the law when they enter.
This city is more than a single location upon the earth. Zechariah 2 prophesies,
1 Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. 2 So I said, "Where are you going?" And he said to me, "To measure Jerusalem, to see how wide it is and how long it is." 3 And behold, the angel who was speaking with me was going out, and another angel was coming out to meet him, 4 and said to him, "Run, speak to that young man, saying, 'Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls, because of the multitude of men and cattle within it. 5 'For I,' declares the LORD, 'will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst'. "
On the one hand, Zechariah prophesies the city will be “without walls,” and then in the next verse he says there will be a “wall of fire around her.” Yes, there is a “wall” around this Jerusalem, but it is not a physical wall around a group of buildings called a “city.” It is a wall of Salvation and a wall of Fire (Law). No one passes through this wall by physically walking through one of its gates. One may qualify only by “Salvation.”
There are three levels of Salvation: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. We obtain these through the experiences of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Because Pentecost celebrates the giving of the law under Moses, the “wall of fire” indicates that people must have the law written on their hearts to be allowed into the city. Hence, the wall called “Salvation” in Isaiah 60:18 presumes the citizens have been fully saved and have also learned obedience through the Sanctification of Pentecost.
One cannot measure these walls, as Zechariah was told, because of the “multitude” of men and cattle in it. The description is interesting. Not only does it speak of men, but also of cattle. Thus, it appears to describe a physical, earthly setting, yet not limited to any a small geographic location such a Jerusalem. The cattle may possibly be symbolic of God’s servants, and if so, the New Jerusalem may be seen as purely “in heaven.” However, these cattle are mentioned along with men, so it seems more likely that it is describing an earthly setting with its men and animals.
My conclusion is that the New Jerusalem is a multitude of people in whom God has written His Name (Rev. 3:12). These people are located on the earth, because the whole purpose of creation was to manifest the glory of God in the earth. The glory of God has always been manifested in heaven (spiritual realm), but He created the earth to manifest His glory in a new dimension. He will not rest until His purpose and plan has been fulfilled.
The New Jerusalem has been coming down out of heaven for a long time. On a personal level, it comes down upon individuals to make them citizens of this new City when they become believers. But on a historic level, the first coming of the New Jerusalem was at Mount Sinai, when the Lord descended in the cloud with the sound of the loud trumpet, or voice like a trumpet. In this coming, the Spirit was given on its first level—the Passover level—to begin the first stage of God’s Kingdom (Israel).
The second historic occasion of New Jerusalem’s descent was when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost in Acts 2. This initiated the second stage of the New Jerusalem, or the Kingdom of God upon the earth. It was characterized by a Pentecostal anointing.
We now live in the historic time when the first body of believers will come experientially into the fullness of the knowledge of His glory and righteousness. This is the experience of the Feast of Tabernacles. But this is only a new beginning, because at first, only the overcomers will experience His glory. Once God has brought the overcomers into the heights of godly experience, then the Kingdom will begin to widen until it covers the whole earth. It will take a long time.
Zion and Jerusalem Prophecies
We have shown thus far that the favorable prophecies of “Jerusalem” in Isaiah 60 are essentially the same as those of the “New Jerusalem” found in Revelation 21. It is plain from this comparison that the New Testament interprets the “Jerusalem” of Isaiah 60 to mean the New Jerusalem, rather than the old Jerusalem.
So many Christians assume that when the Bible speaks favorably of “Jerusalem” that it must of necessity mean the old city. This is foundational to much prophecy teaching in the Church today. But the fact is, when the Bible speaks of “Jerusalem,” one cannot assume it means the old city. Jews, of course, who do not agree with the New Testament will dispute John’s revelation. But as Christians, we believe that John’s revelation is divinely inspired, so we conclude that God is building a new city unlike the old.
This teaching has direct implications upon one’s view of tribulation. In short, tribulation is soon coming upon the city in the middle east known as Jerusalem, even as it did in 586 B.C. and again in 70 A.D. The purpose of this tribulation is to abolish the old Jerusalem and establish the New Jerusalem. The Apostle Paul calls the old Jerusalem “Hagar” in Gal. 4:25, for it cannot and will not inherit the promise to bring righteousness to the earth.
Besides “Jerusalem,” the Bible often uses another term, “Zion” and the prophetic end-time “daughter of Zion” (Isaiah 62:11). Zion in the Old Testament was the place from which David ruled Jerusalem and the rest of Israel. It became a symbol of rulership. Because the Bible speaks of Zion as well as Jerusalem in the prophets, many have assumed that the Zion of Bible prophecy is the physical location within the old city of Jerusalem. Hence, we have “Zionists” today who are those who have placed their faith in the old Jerusalem, thinking this is the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham. But Hebrews 12:22-24 says,
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.
The book of Hebrews makes it clear that our hope is in a greater High Priest (Jesus Christ), who ministers in a greater temple (our hearts) in a heavenly Jerusalem and its greater “Mount Zion” by means of a better covenant. In other words, there is a new Mount Zion just as there is a New Jerusalem. The New Zion has all the characteristics of the New Jerusalem, but it is the place of Jesus’ rule, for He is the Son of David.
The book of Hebrews was written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. in order to explain why God would allow the old city and its temple to be destroyed. Many early Christians (especially those of Judean descent) were devastated at that event, because they still did not understand that God had cast out that “bondwoman” with her son (the Levitical priesthood and Judaism itself).
Prophecies of the “Rebuilt” Temple
Ezekiel 40-48 speaks of a “rebuilt” temple. It is common for prophecy teachers to take these chapters in a literal sense, even to the point where they believe God will revert back to animal sacrifices. This is based upon Ezekiel 43:18-27 and other passages. Of course, we must admit that if God intended to build a physical temple in the old Jerusalem and re-consecrate the Levitical priesthood, then we would have to believe that Judaism is to become to true religion once again, and animal sacrifices must be made to God in the days ahead.
But let it be known that I myself do not believe this. As a Christian, I have come to know better things. As I see it, such adherence or reversion to Judaism is precisely what the Apostle Paul was refuting in the book of Galatians.
How many times does Paul have to tell us that we are the temple of God before we actually believe this?
The pattern of the “rebuilt” temple is given to us by the prophet Haggai. If you recall, some of the people of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi had returned after the Babylonian captivity in 534 B.C. They had laid the foundation of the new temple in the second year of their return (Ezra 3:8). Haggai 2:18 says that this occurred on the 24th day of the 9th month (December, 534 B.C.)
After the foundation was laid, the work ceased because of the opposition from their neighbors (Ezra 4:24). Finally, in 520 B.C. the prophet Haggai began to urge the people to complete the work on this temple. This is dated as the second year of Darius, king of Persia (Hag. 1:1). The temple was finally finished toward the end of the sixth year of the reign of Darius, which is dated in March 515 B.C. [The years of their reign were reckoned from April of each year.]
This established a prophetic pattern applicable to our study. Jesus Christ, we know, is the Foundation Stone of the New Temple (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20). In that He died and was laid in the earth, His burial laid the foundation stone of the New Temple. He later indwelt the individual believers on the day of Pentecost until such time as the corporate temple could be completed. Of this ongoing work, Paul told the Ephesians in Eph. 2:19-22,
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
In general, the building process of this new corporate temple began with the same enthusiasm in the early Church as we find with their Old Testament counterparts in Ezra 3:11-13. However, in later centuries the Church became corrupted, and what it ended up building was NOT a spiritual temple, but a carnal religious system. Insofar as the true temple was concerned, “the work ceased.”
The work never totally ceased, of course, for there were genuine Christians in every generation, both in and outside of the established religious order. The Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s began to spark a renewal of interest in building this spiritual temple. In the early 1900’s the Spirit of Pentecost again began to be poured out. Fifty years ago the Latter Rain movement extended this outpouring of the Spirit into new heights.
Even so, the prophetic time of the final “building” of the New Temple insofar as Haggai’s prophecies are concerned, really began in the year 2001 A.D. and will extend until 2006-2007 A.D. This is my belief.
These dates are 2,520 years after Haggai’s ministry. Haggai began to prophesy in 520 B.C. If we add 2,520 years to this, we come to 2001 A.D. (Keep in mind that there is no Year Zero.)
The Mystery of Iniquity
Paul speaks of both the mystery of godliness and the mystery of iniquity in contrasting terms. Of the mystery of godliness he says in 1 Timothy 3:16,
16 And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, beheld by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
The mystery of godliness, then, has to do with Christ coming in the flesh. This speaks not only of Jesus being born as a man on earth, but particularly of Christ coming in OUR flesh by the indwelling Spirit. (See Col. 1:26, 27.)
The mystery of iniquity (lawlessness) is the opposite for it speaks of the external temple in old Jerusalem. Paul speaks of this in 2 Thess. 2:7,
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.
In verse 3 Paul connects the “man of sin” and “the son of perdiction” with the mystery of lawlessness. We know from John 17:12 that Jesus called Judas “the son of perdition” in his betrayal. Judas had helped the priests of the day to crucify Jesus. The priests, in crucifying Jesus, the Son of David, acted the part of Absalom when he usurped the throne of David for a time (2 Samuel 15). Judas acted the part of Ahithophel, David’s counselor and friend who betrayed him and later committed suicide.
In other words, the priests in Jesus’ day usurped the throne that rightfully belonged to Jesus Christ, even as Absalom had done with King David. God allowed it, but it was only temporary. Even so, God allowed the Jewish priests to usurp the throne of Jesus Christ for a time. This is the mystery of lawlessness.
Hence, in verse 4 Paul tells us that the man of sin . . .
4 . . . opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
Paul speaks in the present tense, because the temple in Jerusalem was yet standing at that time. The priesthood in Jerusalem had unlawfully usurped the throne-right of David and had thus proclaimed itself as God. And today those same people desire to continue this usurpation by restoring the destroyed temple in Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, many Christians today have betrayed Jesus Christ again, playing the part of Judas, by supporting this lawless effort. If Christians today were not true disciples and friends of Jesus Christ, they would not fit the part of Judas. Only a friend can betray. Yet even as Judas later saw what he had done (Matt. 27:4), so also will those believers see what they have done.
It is important to know these things, so that we do not end up betraying Jesus Christ in His second coming, even as Judas did in His first coming.