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The eternal Jeruzalem.

 

 

Jerusalem is the unique place in the Bible due to God’s own choice. Other names of the city are The City of Our Lord, The Blue Jerusalem or The New Jerusalem.[1] It is sacrum connected with devotion and traditions of the generation; the center of the world, where the history of salvation has begun, with the sacred time system, which leads to one particular aim- The Last Judgment.

            Jerusalem is the eternal, spiritual city, which was created again for the saints and called The Rebirth of Jerusalem (Is 66:5) or the building city (Ez 40:2). The city was foretold by the prophet Ezekiel and St. John in the Revelation as the masterpiece among the buildings, the God’s center and his heart. We can say that there are two Jerusalems, which exist at the same time.

The city of Jerusalem in the Prophets is an allegorical image of a man and his spiritual development. Moreover, it is the symbolic picture of life to God and with God by rejecting the improper way of life and getting back to good values. It is the allegory of transformation and fullness; the way to holiness.

History

The first information about Jerusalem can be found in The Book of Joshua and it says ‘this was the inheritance of Benjamin for its clans’ (Jos 18:26). Through many Biblical cards God protects the chosen people and does not allow the enemies to capture them. The fortune of this holy town depended on actions taken by its citizens. Its creator as sensitive, but conservative Father has allowed the destruction, while calling for the true and living faith: ‘[…] the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.’ (Jer 11:13) There is the contempt of gentiles connected with desolation, which was the humiliation to people who were chosen by God: ‘[…] all who honored her despise her, for they have all seen her naked; she herself groans and turns away.’ (Lm 1:8) Not only had the destruction played an important role in its history, but also the full of triumph. According to the prophet Jeremiah the city of Jerusalem was considered a great, powerful and beautiful place, which will be ‘[…] joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’ (Jer 33:9)

The temple of Jerusalem was the center of national life of Israelites starting with the time of monarchy in the tenth century BC until its final demolition by Roman legions in the first century of our age. Jerusalem took over the role of the Ark of the Covenant, which for Shekinah Jews was the place, where God was close to His people. The first temple in Jerusalem was built by Salomon between 970-930 BC, however, it was ruined by Nebuchadnezzar, while the Babylonian incursion in 587 BC. After returning from exile the Israelites under the leadership of Zerubbabel made an attempt to reconstruct it in 515, but it was not as beautiful as The First Temple. The King Herod was the only ruler, who decided to extend and beautify it in order to gain Jewish subjects. The works started in 20 BC and it continued after Herod’s death until 10 BC. Nonetheless, the temple was burnt by Roman soldiers on August 6th 70, despite Titus’s strict ban.[2]

Jerusalem was the sacred place, which gave the feeling of higher order and good.[3] There were some places outside the city, which were dangerous for the Jewish nation, such as Pagan tribes with whom they kept only merchant relations. Jewish people paid a lot of attention to their culture, preserving ritual purity that is why they protected themselves against undesirable influences from the outside. Thanks to isolation, they preserved their faith: ‘the space that surrounds a religious man is not consistent. Some consecrated places have a completely different dimension and a way more value.’[4] For Jews the city of Jerusalem was not only their own place with its entire Judaic heritage, but it was the confirmation of God’s presence.[5] The protection of the city was closely connected with the security of people, but what is more important; it was associated with the protection of the temple and The Ark of the Covenant.

            Jerusalem in the Ezekiel Book

We read in the Ezekiel book that the prophet, who was guided by an angel, received a vision of a city being built (Fez 40,2). He was supposed to remember the precise description of the city to pass it to other generations: tell the people of Israel everything you will see (Ez 40:4). According to this vision Jerusalem was surrounded by a wall with four gates in each direction. What is more, there were inner and outer yards, porches and halls, which all have their own particular functions. It was a hundred cubits long (Ez 41:13) what emphasizes the perfect shape. The river of living water was flowing from the right side of the altar. There were trees with endless fruit and leaves with healing properties.[6] In accordance with the word  miqqədāš, God is the temple. The information given to Ezekiel says that God is everywhere, not only in one specific place at a particular time. Therefore, its name means the Lord is there (Ez 48:35). The prophet received this vision after his wife’s death. It was the relief in sadness and despair, which he could not have revealed. God showed him the holy city as a prophecy of salvation and eternal life.

The eternal Jerusalem. Revelation.

At that time Jerusalem will be called The Throne of the Lord. All nations will gather there in the name of Lord and they will no longer act in the stubbornness of their hearts (Jr 3:77).

In Revelation the city of Jerusalem is presented as a reality which exists in a spiritual world. According to the Apostle’s the city is a holy place, where there are Trinity, Mother of God, angels and saints. Due to Biblical books and interpretations; its symbolic and full of metaphor description is easy to read and understand. In Jerusalem, there are people who love God and the city is ruled by the prince from the house of David; Jesus. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Re 1:8) The first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet have symbolic nature, which defines the transcendence of God.[7]

            The eternal city is a perfection of a new order, a place where the Creator is. An angel takes St. John to a high mountain, and shows the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven (Re 21:9). Its shape is precisely defined and compared to a Bride of Christ. “It had a great, high wall with twelve gates and with twelve angels at the gates.”(Re 21:12)

Jerusalem has twelve gates on each side of the world, which represent twelve Apostles. Moreover, the wall has twelve powerful foundations, which will not be passed by anyone undesirable and it is protected by a host of angels.The foundations are adorned with precious stones. This theme is taken from the Old Testament and means the charisms of the apostles, who came to inherit the twelve patriarchs, selected and awarded gifts of God. It is certain that the jewels symbolize both the beauty and spiritual wealth of the Church.’[8]

St. John, similarly to the prophet Ezekiel received a measuring rod to ‘[…] measure the city, its gates, and its walls’ (Re 21:15). The gates are built from consistent pearls, which symbolize a new life. Each entrance is named after one Apostle and it has the shape of perfect quadrangle. Life in this city is united with God, precisely speaking, being in God’s and a constant happiness. The winner (from letters) will be the son drinking from ‘[…] the spring of the water of life’ (Re 21:6). The meaning of this quote is the human desire for God, which cannot be met on the Earth. The believer is like a plant, which takes from God’s blessing. It lives and sprouts thanks to the life-giving source.[9] The city is a pure gold, as transparent as glass, which means that there are only things coming from the Lord. There is not any temple in the city, ‘[…] because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple’ (Re 21:22). Moreover, ‘[…] he city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp’ (Re 21:23). The brightness mentioned above was compared to a crystal or jasper and means to see and to know God. The moment of meeting God will enable people to understand everything without asking for any reasons. There are no nights and the gates are open, because ‘[…] anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful’ (Re 21:27) is not allowed to enter.

When the Apostle saw the throne of God he was delighted with the view of the Lord and compared him to a transparent precious jewel: ‘the brightness symbolizes the splendor of transcendence’.[10] There is a rainbow around the throne- the symbol of covenant, love and wealth. The elders and angels are gathered there to worship God by saying ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come’ (Re 4:8)[11] It is the place where the book with all the saved people will be open. When the final time comes a group of chosen angels will begin destruction.

The throne of the God and of the Lamb is the source (Re 22:1) - the symbol of the Holy Spirit. There is a tree ‘[…] bearing twelve crops of fruit […]’ (Re 22:2) which is the symbol of inner life. The leaves stand for Christ and these are a remedy for nature which has been hurt by a sin. All citizens of Jerusalem create an ideal society. They are God’s people, who have served him and will do it as saints. His name will be written on their foreheads, which means that they come from God and belong to Him. It is the holy city, where everything is beautiful and perfect.

The spiritual robe.

The city of Jerusalem is an authentic place in Revelation. Similarly to Ezekiel, St. John was accompanied by an angel, which explains phenomena, symbols and visions. It teaches, calling itself a brother. Jerusalem is the place, from where the Saviour governs the whole world, the life of particular communities and individuals. He takes care of them and makes the cooperation between chosen people easier. These are happy, who read and believe His words and put them into actions. Although, St. Johns was a favourite Apostle (J 13:23) he wasn’t able to recognize Jesus at once, because the Son of God was seen in a different way. His attributes and virtues have their equivalents in his appearance. The white robe with a gold belt means divinity and sanctity. ‘And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace;’(Re 1,15) reflects doing everything what is in accordance with God’s will.

His voice like a noise of great water which stands for all saints praising God’s justice. There was a double-edged sword coming from his mouth; the words striking into the whole meaning of human existence which are able to estimate hidden intentions of human’s heart. The words have the power of conversion, radical return to God and the ability to separate the spirit from the soul. Everybody who stays in the eternal city has their own spiritual robe.[12] According to theology all believers are clothed with the Christ with the day of their baptism. People’s most important task in life is to be a faithful copy of the Saviour. The Holy Spirit leads people through others’ experiences and situations in order to develop their own gifts such as joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, piece, faith, gentleness and celibacy.

All of these are seen as particular items of spiritual clothing. The winner will receive a piece of stone with a new name on it (Re 2:17). ‘It does not mean that someone will have a different name, it means that a person will be a glorious reality or a new creature that has been changed.’[13] In other words it is a constant work of God and human, which can result in a valuable inner life similar to a precious jewel. Due to various people’s characters, approaches to life and experiences their stones will be different, whereas the name will be known only for them.

Both the soul and the inner quality are forever, for that reason, St. John emphasizes the words in order to get to all people’s hearts. God wants people to be precious diamonds; the purity is perceived as the light bouncing from the soul. Faith, hope and love are spiritual wealth; lack of these is nakedness, poverty and blindness to everything what is the most important (Re 3:17). The human being will not be able to notice them unless they completely turn to God. Then, there is the birth of the spiritual man, who is capable of receiving the material world with the body senses and the spiritual world with the spiritual senses. His competence is double. These features are not limited only to humans; they are also available to other superior beings, such as angels and demons. They see how the believers live and influence their lives depending on one’s condition and attitude.

St. John, who remembered his Master, was horrified by the vision, where nothing was hidden: ‘when I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.’ (Re 1:17). The Saviour reassured him by explaining that he will be the witness of that reality. He is about to say everything what he sees starting with the Letters, which are addressed to all believers. Each letter has its own individual recipient, who is the only person able to understand its content, because it reflects their life and talks about mistakes which should be repaired. People who badly understand the faith that means they believe, but live according to their own principles are called nicolaits by Christ who hates what they do.

He calls everyone to turn to God again, to lively and deep love and faith in accordance with the evangelic message. What is more, Christ warns us against indiscretion and stupidity: I will come like a thief (Re 3:3). He asks people to change their way of thinking and perceiving the world through faith before it is too late. In return he gives us the eternal reward- the salvation. It is the introduction to apocalyptic events which are supposed to show the seriousness of human’s choices and the fight for their soul.

Those who read the Revelation are called happy people by Christ: blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! (Re 19:9). They experience the fullness of eternal life, while living, because they die in the Lord from now on (Re 14:13). It presents the vision of mortification or resignation from all material goods and spiritual purification, which were mentioned by St. John of the Cross. His knowledge about the Cross depends on absolute rejection of our own desires to ‘set’ the nature properly and gain God. These who are wearing the robe of salvation, these who are graced with virtues and holy deeds, persistent and winners will all participate in the Festivity of Lamb, in the eternal life and endless joy.

The picture of evil

The vision of the Beast and the Whore is interpreted as the destruction of the world by deception and all actions taken against God and Church are ‘demonic powers’.[14] The evil is outside the holy area, somewhere in the wilderness, on the barren land. It has some specific features: ‘the dogs and the magician and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.’(Re 22:15) Others are violence, propaganda and manipulation. It is a clear collapse of a man, but also trials and temptations, which believers are prone to. They have to be patient and persistent in order to win. According to the Revelation the evil is completely dependent on Christ against its own will.

Jerusalem- the allegory of a man

The biblical image of prophetic promises can be read through the third allegoric key. Jerusalem is the reflection of the man. The prophets called to a radical return to God and the rejection of desires and Pagan habits. This is where the pictures of Babylon, Egypt and Samaria, which reflect life in captivity and blindness (Is 29:9) come from. This kind of existence is rebellious and characterizes the obduracy of heart and contrariness, which lead to destruction (Is 30:9). After making a decision about repentance there were fast and transformation on the desert connected with reflection, change in the way of thinking and behaviour. It is time when a new man was born; the one who is oriented to God. The rebuild of Jerusalem (the spiritual man) takes place after the collapse of the previous worldview. According to St. Teresa of Avila this process is compared to chambers, which you must go through in order to mature thanks to grace and then finally reach the deepest inside of the soul, where you have God. ‘This different perspective requires to redefine and reinterpret the reality and what is more to change the point of view and established attitudes’[15] Heritage is a life, which will be the continuance in prosperity, joy and peace that provide protection ‘any weapon aimed at you will not be effective (…)  the one who attacks you will die’ (Is 54:15) The new man will be devoted to the Lord, he will be his property; as a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you’ (Is 62:5).

Jerusalem is presented in several different ways in the Bible. The first one is literal, connected with a particular area involved in the time of war and the history of chosen people, who lived according to God’s principles or walked away straight to the enemy that destroyed them mercilessly. Jerusalem was the only city, which Jews wanted to rebuild- the most important place on the Earth, which was unique, safe and stable, due to constant faith in the living God.

The eternal Jerusalem is the picture of the city transmitted by extraordinary people, prophets and St. John, who wrote everything they saw and heard. They were witnesses of the spiritual life, which was taking place simultaneously with the time on the Earth. Thanks to these people, the connection of Jerusalem was possible. The city is perceived as the new Heaven, which was lost but then rebuilt, available in the eternity, where God is waiting for His people.

Finally, the biblical Jerusalem is the symbol of a man, who leads one’s life and according to their willingness can turn to God. They can become a new being with a sensitive heart and in return they will be saved; ‘I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God’ (Fez 11 19:20).

            These three images are included in the story of Jerusalem.

Bibliography

Apokalipsa św. Jana, pod red. Ks. J. Kantego Pytla, Poznań 2007.

Biblia a literatura, pod red. S. Sawickiego, J. Gotfryda. Lublin 1986.

J. J. Pudełko: Ezechielowa Nowa Świątynia – zapowiedzi i realizacja, http://wroclaw.biblista.pl/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=105:ezechielowa-nowa-witynia-zapowiedzi-i-realizacja&catid=24:teksty (access 5.12.2015).

J.K. Wasilewski: Jerozolima, http://www.bu.kul.pl/art_11741.html (access 5.12.2015).

Miasto w literaturze, http://motywy-literackie.klp.pl/a-5633.html (access 5.12.2015).

Pierwodruk: Pedagogika Katolicka nr 17 (2/2015).

 

Translation Royal Academy of English


[1] Miasto w literaturze, http://motywy-literackie.klp.pl/a-5633.html  (access 5.12.2015).

[2] J. K. Wasilewski: Jerozolima, http://www.bu.kul.pl/art_11741.html (access 5.12.2015).

[3] R. Tomalski: O pojęciach sacrum i profanum, http://gazeta.us.edu.pl/node/210371 (access 8.12.2105).

[4] D. Kuciński: Przestrzeń sacrum: geneza, istota i jej wymiary, http://www.dominik-kucinski.e-blogi.pl/komentarze,38681.html, (access 8.12.2015).

[5] There.

[6] It is a well-known picture of a man’s spiritual life connected with actions taken by the Holy Spirit. These symbols are used In Zachariash’s books and Gospel according to St. John. There is a description of water and blood coming from Christ’s side.

[7] Apokalipsa św. Jana, pod red. Ks. J. Kantego Pytla, Poznań 2007, p. 67

[8] There, p. 107

[9] J. J. Pudełko: Ezechielowa Nowa Świątynia – zapowiedzi i realizacja, http://wroclaw.biblista.pl/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=105:ezechielowa-nowa-witynia-zapowiedzi-i-realizacja&catid=24:teksty (access 5.12.2015).

[10] Apokalipsa św. Jana, pod red. Ks. J. Kantego Pytla, Poznań 2007, p. 73

[11] There.

[12] In the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, there is mention about the formal outfit in the parable of the royal feast; its lack causes that they are banished outside in the dark.  (Mt 22, 1-14).

[13] Biblia a literatura, p. 20.

[14] Apokalipsa św. Jana, p. 87.

[15] Biblia a literatura, p. 7.

 

09 February 2017