Heaven vs. New Jerusalem (Are They the Same)

As a kid, I heard several sermons on Heaven as the believer’s eternal home. Usually, the preacher described a golden city that outshone the sun. However, as a theology student, this idea was challenged. A cursory glance at Revelation suggested two destinies for the saints, which confused me. I sought help from a local priest, and together, we studied what the Bible said about Heaven and the Celestial City. Several hours and books later, we concluded what the Bible taught about the New Jerusalem. Last week, one of my theology students asked if Heaven and the New Jerusalem were the same place. Relying on what I learned, I offered my two cents. We had a lively discussion on what the Bible taught about Heaven and the New Jerusalem. So, what is the difference between Heaven and the New Jerusalem?

Heaven and the New Jerusalem are often used interchangeably. However, the Bible suggests that they are different places. God currently resides in Heaven. In contrast, the New Jerusalem will descend on the Earth and be God’s new dwelling place. He will live with the saints in the New Earth, with His capital in the New Jerusalem.

This article explores the difference between Heaven and the New Jerusalem. I invite you to join me in answering questions about the Biblical description of Heaven and the New Jerusalem, when the New Jerusalem descends, and who will live in the Celestial City.

How does the Bible describe Heaven?

Heaven vs. New Jerusalem 
How does the Bible describe Heaven? Image source: Pixabay

The Apostle John gives us the best description of Heaven. In his vision, he saw a throne room. In the middle was a throne where the Almighty God sat. He resembled jasper and rubies and emanated lightning and thunder. An emerald rainbow encircled his throne, and seven lamps blazed before Him.

John also saw four living creatures surround the throne. Each had different appearances: the first resembled an ox, the second a lion, the third a flying eagle, and the fourth a man. Also around the throne were 24 thrones occupied by the 24 Elders. They wore white robes and golden crowns. The Elders and four living creatures continually worshipped the Lord.

How does the Bible describe New Jerusalem?

Again, we turn to John’s vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. He described it as a walled city 1500 miles long and wide. Its walls were 200 feet thick with 12 gates, three on each side. The gates bore the names of the 12 tribes of Israel, and each was made from a single pearl, hence the name “pearly gates.”

As the city descended, John caught a glimpse of the foundations. It had 12 foundations decorated with precious stones. John identifies them as Agate, Amethyst, Beryl, Chrysolite, Emerald, Jacinth, Jasper, Onyx, Ruby, Sapphire, Topaz, and Turquoise. These foundations bore the names of the 12 Apostles.

The city’s buildings and streets were made of gold. There wasn’t a temple, and neither was there darkness. The city radiated God’s glory. The River of Life ran from God’s throne. On each side was the tree of life, which bore fruits throughout the year. The city was open to all who were saved. The gates remained open to anyone wishing to go in and out.

Is New Jerusalem the same as the New Earth?

No. The Bible distinguishes the New Jerusalem from the New Earth. Revelation 21:1-2 tells us that the New Jerusalem descended from Heaven onto the New Earth. Additionally, the Bible describes the New Jerusalem as a Celestial city where God will dwell among His people.

In contrast, the New Earth is the renewal of this world. The Bible clearly teaches that the New Jerusalem will be on the New Earth. Revelation 21:24-27 says that people will go in and out of the New Jerusalem, suggesting that the New Earth will be habitable and distinguishing the Celestial city from the New Earth.

When does the New Jerusalem come down from Heaven?

Heaven vs. New Jerusalem
When does the New Jerusalem come down from Heaven? Image source: Pixabay

The New Jerusalem descends after the Great White Throne Judgment. Revelation 20 narrates the millennial reign of Christ, the devil’s final rebellion, and the final judgment of the dead.

The millennial rule starts with an Angel imprisoning the devil for 1000 years. Then, the saints will ascend to positions of power and rule alongside Jesus Christ. The millennial rule fulfills the Messianic prophecies taught in Judaism. The Jews believe the Messiah will usher in unprecedented peace and righteousness.

After 1000 years, Satan will be freed. He will deceive the world and muster an army to overthrow the righteous government of Christ. God will swiftly crush this rebellion and cast Satan into the lake of fire, where the Antichrist and false prophet were. This will usher in the final judgment of the dead.

In this final judgment, those absent from the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire, while the saved will receive eternal life. After these events, the new Heaven and Earth will replace the current one, and the New Jerusalem will descend from Heaven.

Do people go from the New Jerusalem to Heaven?

There’s no indication of this. The New Jerusalem will be God’s dwelling on Earth. As such, there won’t be a need to go to Heaven since Heaven will be on Earth. John tells us that people will travel between the New Jerusalem and the New Earth. However, we don’t see people commuting into Heaven from the New Jerusalem.

Who will live in the new Jerusalem?

The Bible teaches that the saved and redeemed will live in the New Jerusalem. This group includes the Church and the Jews. Additionally, we see Angels guarding the gates, indicating there will be Angels in the New Jerusalem. The Bible mentions that the Lamb (Jesus Christ) will also be present, and the Lord God will have His throne in the New Jerusalem.

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