Interestingly, I received a letter on this “New Jerusalem” from a reader of mine who receives my weekly column. My answer follows. He writes...
“Buff, a thought or two on the ‘New Jerusalem’ that comes down from heaven in Rev. 21. Although the Book is highly symbolic and notoriously difficult to interpret, it seems that any interpretation which makes the description of the ‘Holy City’ a description of heaven does not respect the internal cohesion of the Book.
“I’m not sure if it is fair to accuse you of this exegetical error or not. Personally, I think John is describing a future and idealized body of believers, the ‘ekklesia’ of Christ, as described in Acts 2, much as Paul does with the ‘Bride of Christ’ in Ephesians—although, obviously, in a totally different way.”—Name Withheld.
“Good to hear from you. I appreciate your understanding of and your stance on Revelation 21. Actually, when I selected that portion of Revelation to add to my comments on Heaven, I was contemplating at the moment exactly how you described the possible meaning. Yet I posted it because, in Heaven, there will be no tears, no sorrow, no pain, and no death.
“We are very much in agreement on the symbolic structure of the Book of Revelation. As to how we will appear in the eternal afterlife, I think we will agree we will have a heavenly existence in the form of a glorified body. I believe our Lord ascended back to Heaven with a glorified or sanctified body—very possibly the kind of body we, too, will possess, an immortalized and sanctified body, not composed of flesh and blood but a “spiritual” body or being, not subject to human and earthly frailties. Or as Paul expresses it...
“ ‘It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body...I tell you, brothers, flesh and blood cannot inherit the [eternal] reign of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable’ [I Cor. 15:44 & 50].”