The heavenly Jerusalem

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy (Psalm 137:5-6).

The Artscroll Tanach series on Ezekiel, vol.3 pg.670, with reference to God’s heavenly throne and the temple in Jerusalem says: “In Radak’s (Rabbi David Kimchi) view, My Throne refers to the Divine Throne, [which is] the seat of God’s glory in the heavens. To the Divine Throne, the temple relates as a footstool. The physical building in Jerusalem is ‘opposite’ the spiritual ‘throne’ in the heavens. (This is analogous to Jerusalem. According to Taanis 5a the physical Jerusalem is ‘opposite’ a heavenly, spiritual city.)

In his book, “The Meaning of Judaism”, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn points out in the chapter entitled “If I forget thee” (pg.173) that Orthodox Jews pray three times daily for the peace and rebuilding of Jerusalem. He goes on to say, “For centuries, religious Jews have concluded their Passover Seder as well as their services on Yom Kippur with the Hebrew words ‘Lashana haba-ah biru-sha-layeem -Next year in Jerusalem.’ Most revealing of all is the strange and wondrous anomaly that even Jews who already live in Jerusalem repeat this hope twice yearly. Our tradition speaks of two Jerusalems: Yerushalayeem shel matah, the earthly city, and Yerushalayeem shel ma-alah, its heavenly counterpart.”

The Sages acknowledge the existence of the heavenly, spiritual temple and city of Jerusalem. However, while they look only from the vantage point of the Old Covenant made at Mt. Sinai, a veil, like that which kept the Israelites from approaching the presence of God in the Most Holy Place of the temple, covers their hearts. The veil is removed in the new and better covenant, by which we have access into the Most Holy Place through the blood of Jesus the Messiah.

The earthly counterparts of the heavenly city and temple, to which the Mosaic covenant related, were given to assist us in relating to the reality of God’s heavenly throne. Moses was instructed to make the earthly Tabernacle according to the pattern shown him on the mountain. The writer to the Hebrews tells us plainly that this was just a copy and a shadow of the heavenly temple. The law of the new covenant that is written upon our hearts supersedes the external law that was given at Mount Sinai (cf. Jeremiah 31:33). The new covenant is entirely spiritual, stripped of the external, visible props which were given to teach us about spiritual realities, but which were just types and shadows, not the realities themselves. The Lord says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” (Isaiah 66:1) We no longer rely on these types and shadows because through Jesus the Messiah the way into the true tabernacle has been made known. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If we cling to the earthly types we are chasing after shadows.

Soon after Jesus had ascended again into heaven to sit down at the right hand of the Majesty the Romans destroyed the earthly city and temple. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, who escaped from the desolated city in 70AD in a coffin, rejected the heavenly reality revealed through the Messiah and set about trying to preserve the remnant of the old covenant shadows. Rabbinical Judaism, without an earthly temple or priesthood, does not even conform to the Torah given through Moses.

Every year at the conclusion of the Passover Seder Jews will say, “Next year in Jerusalem!” This expresses the hope of all Jews to be restored to the land of Israel, but as we have seen in the opening quotations this is said even by those who already live in Jerusalem. The question needs be asked, “Do we set our hearts on a heavenly eternal hope or an earthly temporal hope? Are we, like Abraham, looking for the heavenly city whose builder and architect is God (cf. Hebrews 11:10) or for the earthly city of Jerusalem?” Jesus said, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man. I am going there to prepare a place for you…and I will come back and take you to be with me” (John 3:12-13 & 14:2).

The Lord promised to establish an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants. In this he also promised the land as an everlasting possession. (Gen.17:8) Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not receive what was promised but continued to live in tents as sojourners in the land of Canaan because they were looking forward to an eternal inheritance. The writer to the Hebrews says, “And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth . . . Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them . . . These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:13-16; 39).

Abraham was looking for his permanent dwelling place in the heavenly city. It is only there that the promise of God could be fulfilled, for only the heavenly city of Jerusalem will remain an everlasting possession of God’s people. For this world in its present form is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31).

Esau is an example of those who exchange an everlasting inheritance for something that is temporal and passing away. We, like Abraham, are sojourners and must continue to trust in God’s promises.

Secular, political Zionism is a humanistic movement, which grew impatient waiting for the Messiah to restore the Jewish people to the land and therefore decided to take matters into their own hands. The philosophy of modern Zionism is not an expression of the faith of Abraham. Secular Zionism does not represent faithfulness to the messianic hope. We must be careful not to confuse human interventions with God’s eternal purposes. Many Christians have been led to believe that they must give unconditional support to the political actions of modern day Israel and to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

It might be well to note that not all Jews are Zionists. The following excerpts are from an advertisement that was placed in the New York Times in May 1988 by an American rabbi representing “American Neteuri Karta”:

According to Torah we Jews are obliged to state the Jewish belief regarding this issue. Before the Almighty gave us the Holy Land 3260 years ago he made these conditions: If we will abide by the Torah, it is ours, if not, we will be expelled. Alas, we sinned and were all exiled from the land . . . Only through complete repentance will the Almighty alone, without any human effort or intervention, redeem us from exile. At that time there will be universal peace. This will be after the coming of Moshiach. . . The following oaths were imposed on us by the Almighty: We should not rebel against the nations and we should remain loyal citizens; we should not leave exile ahead of time. Even if the land would be given to us by all the nations, we are not allowed to accept it (Talmud tractate ksubos 111).1

Modern Zionism is an expression of man’s impatience, which abandoned the sure hope of the Messiah and Redeemer, but we, the redeemed, know that we will only receive an everlasting inheritance through the Messiah and Redeemer. Messiah has already come to make atonement for his people so that we have faith to enter our everlasting inheritance when the time comes for us to put aside this earthly tent: “Since, then, you have been raised with Messiah, set your hearts on things above, where Messiah is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Messiah in God. When Messiah, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

Instead of holding out the reality of the eternal hope “of an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3), some well meaning Christians expend all their resources on encouraging and assisting unbelieving Jews to take hold of an earthly hope, even though the Patriarchs were themselves looking for a better country – a heavenly one (Hebrews 11:16). “Christian Zionists” will often say that one must not “spiritualise” the promises of God, as though spiritual things are somehow not real. The sad truth is that they are holding out earthly shadows that will pass away in place of the promised eternal inheritance. Only those who have eternal life can receive an eternal inheritance. The faithful remnant of God’s holy nation continues to serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God’s Holy nation is not defined by land or confined by time. Faithfulness to God’s covenant is what defines God’s holy nation. The Lord said that Israel would never cease to be a nation before Him (Jeremiah 31:36). He is the God of the living not of the dead. When we place all the emphasis on the tangible, visible things of this world we forget that these are just the shadows that are passing away – the real eternal world is spiritual!

Those who fail to take hold of the real, heavenly hope through faith in the Messiah do not represent the true faith of Israel. They cling to the old, external regulations that were intended to apply until the time of the new order because they have not experienced the spiritual reality of the new life revealed through the new covenant (Hebrews 9:10). The carnal, earthly mind does not accept or understand the spiritual law that the Lord writes upon the hearts of His new covenant people. Paul, in rebuking this lack of faithfulness, compared the earthly city of Jerusalem and the old covenant with Hagar, the slave woman:

“Tell me, you who want to be under the law [the old covenant external law], are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:21-26).

Those of the faith of Abraham, who wait patiently for the glorious appearing of Jesus the Messiah, will receive their everlasting inheritance in the eternal heavenly city whose architect and builder is God: If you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:29). God’s people are not separated into earthly people and heavenly people. The earthly shadows are merely the vehicle through which the heavenly reality is made known. The heavenly hope is for all who take hold of it by faith. Such faith comes by hearing and responding to the word of God spoken through Jesus the Messiah.

The way into the everlasting inheritance, the heavenly reality, has been made known. Jesus is the Way. The only way to enter is by applying the blood of the true Passover Lamb by which . . . we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrews10: 19-23).

In order to take hold of God’s everlasting promises, we must take hold of everlasting life. The soul who sins is the one who will die (Ezekiel 18:20). The external law was given to show us that we all, Jew and Gentile alike, have sinned. Only by faith in Him, who died on our behalf, will we be raised again with him to receive eternal life. The angel of death will only pass over those who have applied the blood of the Passover Lamb by faith to the doorposts of our temporary earthly dwellings.

God calls us to eat the Passover Lamb in haste, anticipating our soon departure. Figuratively this means that we demonstrate our faithfulness by thoroughly consuming the teaching of Jesus the Messiah (John 6:53). He is the Word of God, He is the Passover Lamb, and He is our life! The unleavened bread – the aphikomen, which is eaten at the end of the Pesach celebration, represents his body that was given for us and the red wine represents the new covenant in his blood. Just as Jews conclude their Passover Seder with an expression of their hope in the restoration by saying “next year in Jerusalem,” every time we partake of the new covenant meal – the “Lord’s supper” we proclaim his death until he comes to take us to be where he is, where he has gone ahead to prepare a place for us in the heavenly Jerusalem. Maranatha!


1. Quoted by Steve Schlissel in “Hal Lindsey & the Restoration of the Jews pg. 28