Holding to Truth

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Heaven or the New Jerusalem—Is there a Difference?

Heaven or the New Jerusalem—is there a difference? I’m afraid many genuine believers mistakenly consider the New Jerusalem and heaven to be the same.

Heaven or the New Jerusalem—is there a difference?

For example, when I was a child, I remember singing a song that says:

“I’ve got a mansion just over the hill top
 in that bright land where we’ll never grow old
and some day yonder, we’ll never more wander,
but walk those streets that are paved with gold.”

The gist of the song was pretty clear. We’re going to heaven and there we’ll “walk those streets that are paved with gold.” However, in aspiring to heaven,  the writer referred to “golden streets,”  addressing an attribute of the holy city, New Jerusalem.

I’ve never once read in the Bible where it says that heaven has golden streets. However,  Revelation  21:21, in speaking of the New Jerusalem, says “the  street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.”

You can see from this illustration, the thought of heaven having golden streets, is just one example of the confusion of heaven and the New Jerusalem.

You might say, “How can you prove that heaven and the New Jerusalem are different? …And what difference does it make anyway?

So let’s consider what the Bible says about this difference. Then we’ll address how this seeing impacts our Christian life.

Heaven or the New Jerusalem—is there a difference?

Revelation 21:2 says that the holy city, New Jerusalem is coming down out of heaven. This verse directly indicates a difference, for the New Jerusalem to come down out of heaven indicates that the two expressions are not the same.

Heaven is God’s dwelling (1 Kings 8:50), the place of His throne (Isa. 66:1), and the place where Christ ascended physically after His resurrection (Acts 1:9-11). Heaven no doubt is a physical place.

The New Jerusalem, however, is not a physical place “to which we go.” It is the greatest sign in the entire Bible (see Rev. 1:1) signifying, God’s spiritual, eternal building of divinity and humanity.  It is the eternal, consummation of all God’s work in humanity throughout the ages.  This holy city is the mingling of God and man to be the mutual dwelling place for both God and all His redeemed people for eternity.

Why is seeing this difference so important?

 The view you hold between heaven or the New Jerusalem can change your entire Christian life.

We’re not just waiting to go to heaven

If your view is that a Christian’s eternal destiny is simply to “go to heaven” when we die, you may feel that as long as you are born again or regenerated, you are basically waiting to go to heaven. You may also consider your main service to God in this age is to help as many perishing people as possible to also go to heaven when they die.

Yes, an earnest desire to save lost souls is wonderful!

However, this heaven or hell gospel causes many sincere Christians to miss out on the deeper meaning of their Christian life on earth today.

This kind of view of a Christian’s eternal destiny focuses on a change of place, from earth to heaven, instead of hell.

We’re preparing to be Christ’s bride

Revelation 21:2 tells us that the New Jerusalem is “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  Verses 9-10, say that the bride, the wife of Lamb is the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

First, remember that this city is “out of heaven,” so it is not heaven.

Second, this city is married to the Lamb, Christ (John 1:29). She is “a bride adorned for her husband” (v. 2). This implies that a process of preparing is needed in order to meet Him. The bride must match her husband, to be his counterpart.

The New Jerusalem being“prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” implies that we must be “adorned” to marry Christ, to be His corporate counterpart, His wife.

To be ready for her marriage a bride must reach a certain measure of maturity. In this way we believers must grow up in Christ’s life unto maturity (Eph. 4:13, 15-16).

Christ, would never be humiliated to marry an immature bride. He would rather wait. This has been the case for nearly 2,000 years. Christ is still waiting for His bride to be prepared.

We’re not just going to the New Jerusalem, we’re becoming the New Jerusalem.

Being in the New Jerusalem is not  just a change in location. It is an “intrinsic” or “essential” matter—a change of our essence or constitution to that of Christ.

To be in the New Jerusalem, we must first become the New Jerusalem.

We must pass through the process of God’s complete salvation—from the regeneration of our spirit (John 3:6), through transformation of our soul (Rom. 12:2), to the glorification of our body (Rom. 8:30).

We must become the same as Christ in life and nature as Eve was the same in life and nature with Adam (Gen. 2:21-23).

Such a change in essence requires that once we are saved, we cooperate with God’s central work, that is to allow Him to work Himself into our entire being (1 Thes. 5:23; Eph. 3:17).

Only in this way can we become the proper constituents for the building of Christ’s Body today and of the New Jerusalem for eternity. Only in such a way can we be Christ’s bride, adorned for our dear Husband.

How is this bride-city being prepared today?

Between the first couple, in Genesis 2:18-23 and the eternal couple in Revelation 21-22, there is another couple in Ephesians 5:25-32—Christ and the church.

First Christ died for the church in the past (v. 25), He is sanctifying her in the present (v. 26), and He will present her to Himself as His glorious bride to be His wife for eternity in the future (v. 27; Rev. 19:7-9).

When we realize that our eternal destiny is to become Christ’s bride, the holy city, the New Jerusalem, we will not foolishly waste our precious time today.

Instead, we will redeem every moment to pursue Christ (Phil. 3:12), to gain Christ and be found in Christ (vv. 8-9). We will become God’s heavenly people today.

Let’s grasp every opportunity to be sanctified by Christ, by enjoying His daily washing with the water in His word (v. 26). In this way we will be daily renewed (2 Cor. 4:16) to become as “new” as the New Jerusalem.

If you’ve enjoyed this post please share what touched you in a brief comment.

References and Further Reading

  • For a further understanding of the believers going to heaven, and how this relates to the New Jerusalem, you may want to read the later  part pf chapter 18 of a book entitled, The Church as the Body of Christ by Witness Lee.  You can read it online at ministrybooks.org.

About Tom Smith

Hi. My name is Tom Smith. I'm the writer behind Holding to Truth in Love, and I love the Lord Jesus and His life-giving Word. Please feel free to send me an e-mail through the contact page if you have any questions. I hope you'd take a moment to subscribe to the Holding to Truth blog. Then you'll be sure not to miss a post. Thanks!

23 Replies

  1. This is an interesting post, but isn’t Jesus a carpenter? I heard that He is in heaven building our mansions right now. Right now I live in an apartment so a mansion sounds really cool. Can we have mansions in the New Jerusalem?

    1. John,

      The many “mansions” that you are referring to in John 14:2 (KJV) are actually many “abodes,” referring the many believers who become Christ’s abode in His resurrection (John 14:23). That is base for us to abide in Christ and He in us in the next chapter (John 15:1-5).

      The Carpenter from Nazareth, passed through a perfect,God-expressing human living, a redeeming and life-releasing death, and entered into life-imparting resurrection so that as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45), we can enter into Him (1 Cor. 1:30) and He can enter into us (Rom. 8:9-10). He is now building Himself into us (Eph.3:17) so that God can be glorified in the church, the Father’s house (3:21; 1 Tim. 3:15).

  2. Thank you for posting this – many people in their natural concept think and hope for “heavenly mansions”, especially due to the wrongly translated portion of the Bible in the old versions! If the ultimate intention of God was to give us some nice mansions – and for this we need to be “good Christians” – then Christianity is very poor and similar to many other fake religions…

    The Word of God reveals clearly that the goal of God’s purpose is to obtain a city with sure foundations, of which all the Old Testament saints hoped and looked forward to! The unique goal of our Christian life and work should be the New Jerusalem!

    1. Stefan,

      Thanks for the encouraging reply. I would hope that many more people will be enlightened to see that the destiny of the Christian life is not a future, physical transfer to a heavenly mansion. Our blessed hope is to enter into the spiritual reality of becoming the New Jerusalem today by living Christ. Our work today is to minister into others the very Christ with whom we are being constituted. As Noah, in type, entered the very ark that he was building, so we have the blessed hope of becoming that city with foundations–the city that we are living out and working out today. Much grace to you,


  3. Erica Sutphin

    Thank you for this. This is very clear to me. It’s so sad that this isn’t being taught in the pulpit. I’m afraid that a lot of Christians do not understand this.

  4. Amen. Oh what a clear vision! We as the redeemed ones, God’s Old and New Testament people, are the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem.

    1. Tom Smith

      It is so good to see what has been in God’s heart from the beginning—the New Jerusalem. This will be the consummation of all His work throughout the ages. It should become our vision and our goal. May we cooperate with God by have a living and work that issues in His goal–the New Jerusalem. May we see it and live in the reality of the New Jerusalem today!

  5. I believe we should always seek to do Gods will, and I’m all about perusing Christ fervently. However I believe to go to Heaven, or become the new Jerusalem as you put it doesn’t require good works which I feel your post implies. It only takes God’s grace through excepting His Son Jesus Christ as your personal savior. You can’t earn your way there.

    1. Tom Smith

      Unfortunately, there is shortage of understanding about God’s salvation and His ultimate goal. Our eternal salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone. There are no works involved and there is nothing that we could ever do to earn God’s salvation. It is purely a matter of our receiving by faith, what Christ has done for us.

      However, the New Jerusalem is more than a gathering of God’s redeemed one. It is the eternal consummation of all God’s work in His redeemed people throughout the ages. Our eternal salvation is just the beginning of such a process. To have the glorious city as His eternal expression, God not only regenerates our spirit, but transforms our soul and will eventually glorify our body. He also wants to build us up into His spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5).

      If we see such a wonderful destiny, which is much more than a physical transport to heaven, we will cooperate day by day and hour by hour with God’s transforming and building work in us to prepare us for this eternal consummation. This is what our life is for.

  6. Efe Osayande

    Revealing! Indeed no eye has seen, no ears has heard neither has any mind conceive the fullness of what God has prepared for the Saints (1 Corinthians 2:9). Yes indeed the New Jerusalem (the City and its people) is the Bride of Jesus Christ.

    1. Tom Smith

      Glad you were touched by the post. Sadly, many of the Lord’s children are waiting to go to heaven when they die. However, the Lord’s heart is not set on heaven. He is longing for the holy city, New Jerusalem, to come down out of heaven, from God as a bride adorned for her Husband (Rev. 21:2). May we see that today, as believers, we are in the process of “bride-preparation (Eph. 5:25-27). May we be those being saturated with Christ, through His sanctifying Word so that “He can present the church to Himself, glorious.” Every day, we’re being prepared to match Him for our eternal marriage. WHat a hope! Thanks for your comment.

  7. O.K. I get where the new Jerusalem is the completion or perfection of God in us, but are you implying that there is no real rest for the saints after this life? I mean uh…shunning hell is a real thing that Jesus taught and frankly going to be with the Lord “Heaven” is something we should look forward to. Our light affliction (Real pain) is but for a moment that works in us a for more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2 Cor. 4:17) The sufferings (Real) at this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom.8:18) (See also 2 Cor. 5:1-8) Did not Paul long to be with the Lord? It just seems like we are dismissing the “hope” of a REAL eternal life with the Lord in a literal place called “heaven” and “New Jerusalem”. Jesus went to “heaven” when he ascended. Paul said he would be present with the Lord (heaven). Eventually we dwell in a New Jerusalem (literal place) for eternity. Am I missing something?

    1. Tom Smith

      There is real rest for the saints after this life. We just need to be clear that heaven is not God’s eternal goal for the believers. Rather, He will make us the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2, 9) by the working out of His complete salvation IN us (Phil 2:13). So it is not a matter of waiting to go some place. It is a matter of daily cooperating with the inner operating God to allow Him to make us what we will be for eternity, the mutual dwelling place of God and man. The first thought makes us passive believers. The second and divine thought causes us be watchful every day to be filled with Christ more and more (Matt. 25:1-4), to allow Christ to renew us (2 Cor. 4:16), transform us (3:18) and conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). Such an experience will usher us into the real rest. At this point, I’d rather focus on the life experience and not discuss doctrine. As long as we are encouraged to enjoy Christ daily (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:17), we’ll be living in His presence today and enjoying the fullest enjoyment of Him in the coming age and for eternity. Thanks for the comment.

  8. noeladapon

    Hi Tom,

    I would like to ask sincerely… Is there any difference between a mediocre Christian or Passive Christians and Those Faithful Christians who performing their best by God’s Grace in their lives here on Earth? I mean will there be a separate places for both who worked well and those who not? I know its not clearly stated in the Bible about this distinction that I want to make clear. But there will be new Earth, Heaven and Finally the New Heaven coming down ( which I presumes She never touched down on the New Earth) Thank you for your response and your post. God bless.

    1. Tom Smith

      Yes, there is a difference in the place of the overcoming versus defeated believers in the coming millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:4). Those who cooperate with the Lord in this age will have prepared themselves—”made herself ready”—for the marriage dinner of the Lamb. Revelation 19:7-9 says, “Let us rejoice and exult, and let us give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints. And he said to me, Write, Blessed are they who are called to the marriage dinner of the Lamb.” The marriage dinner is a joyous place in the Lord’s presence as a reward.

      In contrast, the foolish virgins (see Matt. 25:1-13), who were not prepared for the Lord’s coming, will be outside the bright glory and joy of the wedding feast. They must still pay the price after being “raised from sleep” to buy the extra portion of oil to fill their vessel, that is to gain the extra portion of the filling of the Holy Spirit. To miss the marriage dinner is not to perish eternally, but it implies the sorrow of missing the reward of the kingdom in the next age. In the following parable in Matthew 25:14-30, this shameful place is referred to as “outer darkness,” as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, implying regret. But again this is not eternal perdition but a temporary discipline over God’s defeated elect that they may be prepared to match Christ for eternity.

      Thank you for your comment. For more help on this matter I would encourage you to read the related Life-study Messages of Matthew and Revelation available for free reading at: ministrybooks.org

      In eternity, all God’s redeemed, having been fully transformed to Christ’s image will enjoy the eternal blessings of the New Jerusalem in the new heaven and the new earth. (Rev. 21-22)

  9. Dakota


    I was looking at this to try and help understand something specific but am still confused about it. Could you help me understand the truthfulness or falsehood of the argument “when we die we won’t go to heaven, we just sleep until God’s return.”

    1. Tom Smith

      This is surely one of the mysteries that we will not fully apprehend until we are on the “other side of the veil.” However, we do know by thoroughly reading God’s word, that much of the talk about “dying and going to heaven” is not according to the Scriptures, but superstition. We know that Jesus after He died rested in Paradise along with the repentant thief on the cross (Luke 23:43) We also know from Luke 16:19-31,that Lazarus, the beggar, when he died was carried to Abraham’s bosom, the pleasant part of Hades (Luke 16:22). Whereas, the unbelieving rich man was in the place of torment with a chasm between them (vv. 23-24). We also know that at the Lord’s coming, the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thes. 4:16). If dead believers automatically went to heaven, there would be no need for them to rise from the dead, as they would already be in heaven. The pleasant rest of the believers after their body dies is referred to as “sleep” (1 Thes. 4:13; John 11:11-14) rather than a mere death as they are still alive in their spirit.

      For more on this matter you may want to read my post, “Where will our spirit and soul go after our body dies?

      1. Janice

        II Corinthians 5:8 Paul says “We are confident I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Ecclesiastes 12:7 “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” When the rapture occurs our spirit which has been with the Lord in paradise will join with our bodies (dust) which have been changed into our new glorious bodies and we will meet Him in the air.

        1. Tom Smith

          Yes. We have a precious hope of meeting the Lord and being changed to His glorious likeness. Ultimately, this glorious expression will consummate in the holy city New Jerusalem, “having the glory of God. Thank you for your comment.

  10. Paul,

    I appreciate your interest in my recent post, “Heaven or the New Jerusalem–Is there a difference? It is with loving concern for many of the Lord’s children that I call attention to this difference in view concerning a believers eternal destiny. It is my sincere hope that many children of God will be awakened to their need to pursue Christ, gain Christ and live Christ today as the apostle Paul did. Such a living is to “live out the New Jerusalem” and such ministry is to “work out the New Jerusalem, to build the New Jerusalem.” This is the kind of living and work I hope many more of God’s children would be called to.

    In Him,

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