|HEAVENLY CITY, THE |
The fulfillment of the hopes of God's people for final salvation. To the ancient world cities represented ordered life, security from enemies, and material prosperity. See Cities and Urban Life. Hebrews says the city “has foundations;” its “architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10 NAS); God has prepared it (Hebrews 11:16); and it is “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22). This city is the home to “an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22), to the assembly of the firstborn (Hebrews 12:23; an image of believers redeemed by the death of Christ; compare
Exodus 13:13-15), and to the righteous made perfect by God (Hebrews 12:23; perhaps the Old Testament saints). Some interpreters take these descriptions literally. The Christian goal is, however, not something that can be touched and sensed like Israel's Sinai experience (Hebrews 12:18). Indeed, believers have already come (Hebrews 12:22) to the heavenly Jerusalem, at least in part. Some interpreters thus take the Heavenly City as an image of the redeemed people of God whose “foundation” is the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). The experience of the patriarchs whose hope lay beyond their earthly lives (Hebrews 11:13-16) points to a final fulfillment of salvation in heaven.
The Heavenly City of
Revelation 21:9-22:7 has also been interpreted both literally and figuratively. One interpretation sees the Heavenly City suspended above the earth like a space platform. Others see an earthly city. Still others a city suspended in the air that later descends to earth. Others, pointing to the equation of the city as the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2,Revelation 21:9), take the city as a symbol of the church. Whether understood as a literal city or as representing God's redeemed people experiencing their final salvation, the city is a place of fellowship with God (Revelation 21:3,Revelation 21:22), of God-ensured safety (Revelation 21:4,Revelation 21:25), and of God-given provision (Revelation 22:1-2,Revelation 22:5).