Are the Bride of Christ and the New Jerusalem the same?
The question arises from the following two passages in Revelation:
Rev. 3:12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
Rev. 21:2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
The word “city” often elicits images of crowded streets and clustered buildings, as when we hear the word “church” and picture buildings with sanctuaries and steeples. But in both cases, the principle idea behind the terms is the people within, rather than the structures that accommodate the people. After all, what would a city or a church be without people?
That being said, the Greek word used here for “city” is “polis,” which pictures a clearly defined town or city with walls. The New Jerusalem is presented in both the Old and New Testaments as city in terms of a physical location and as the people who populate it.
The New Jerusalem is not the same as the Jerusalem from which Jesus will reign on the earth during the Millennium. The Millennial Jerusalem will be built from earth’s resources brought in by the nations surviving Armageddon and the Lord’s return:
Is. 45:14 This is what the LORD says: “The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush, and those tall Sabeans—they will come over to you and will be yours; they will trudge behind you, coming over to you in chains. They will bow down before you and plead with you, saying, ‘Surely God is with you, and there is no other; there is no other god.’”
Is. 54:11 O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires.
The New Jerusalem, however, is described as coming down from God through the new heavens to the new earth (21:1), all of which follows the Millennial Reign of Christ, the defeat of Satan and the Great White Throne Judgment.
This is the city Abraham anticipated:
For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:10).
This city is a “polis,” a physical location perfectly suited for the resurrected people of God:
…Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Heb. 11:16).
But the New Jerusalem is also the people who inhabit the city, the Bride of Christ:
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven (Heb. 12:22-23).