2) THE CITY REPRESENTING THE KINGDOM
Our second major point is that this ultimate consummation of God’s work is not only a tent, a tabernacle, but also a city. A tent is not very strong or permanent; but this tent is also a city. According to the scriptural meaning, a city is a center for the exercise of authority. Therefore, the city symbolizes the kingdom. The New Jerusalem is not only a tent as a dwelling-place; it is also a city as the center of a kingdom. In the early stages of history there was a small tent; then came the tabernacle and eventually the temple; finally there will be a city, the strongest and most established structure of all.
It is difficult to visualize authority as symbolized by a tent, a tabernacle, or even a temple. But a city aptly symbolizes a center where authority is exercised. It is the symbol of the kingdom. The throne of God will be displayed in the New Jerusalem, for this city is the center of God’s authority. The early chapters of the book of Revelation reveal God sitting on the throne apart from the city (Rev. 4:2-3). But in the concluding chapters God is on the throne in the city (Rev. 21:5; 22:3). This signifies that it is not until the New Jerusalem descends out of heaven at the end time that God will be enthroned in a city. He is on the throne now, but at that time He will exercise His authority over a full kingdom.
The church today must be the realm of God’s kingdom. The Apostle Paul speaks of this vital principle in his writings. Romans 12 reveals the Body of Christ, but Romans 14 speaks of the kingdom. The proper church life is a realm, a sphere, where God may exercise His authority. Strictly speaking, the proper church life is the kingdom of God. The church life must be like the holy city, the New Jerusalem, a center where God may exercise His authority.
3) THE CITY BUILT IN ORDER
Our third major point is that the New Jerusalem is a city built up in perfect order. It is not just a heap of precious stones, but a city built up with precious stones (Rev. 21:10-11). We may possess many good materials which are ideal for building; however, if these materials are merely gathered in a pile, they certainly do not compose a building. Even so, in the church life there must be the real building, not just a group of wonderful believers gathered together. Our first need is to be transformed into precious material; then we must be built up with others as a building. When we have the real building, the city will be manifested in order. In the church life we must all be in a good order, not just heaped together as a pile of materials. If I were to invite someone to my house, I would not take him to a lumberyard. I must bring him to a house which has been built up in good and proper order. To be a proper church, we first need to be a building, and then we will be a city.
4) THE TABERNACLE
The fourth major point is that the New Jerusalem is the very tabernacle of God (Rev. 21:3). The tabernacle conveys three basic thoughts: that of dwelling, of rest, and of expression. The church must be such a tabernacle. It must be a place where God dwells, where God rests, and where God expresses Himself.
5) THE BRIDE
The fifth point is that this city is also called the Bride (Rev. 21:9-10). A bride portrays several main things. The first bride, Eve, was a part of her husband. She came out of Adam (Gen. 2:21-24); therefore, she was his counterpart. Even so, the church must be a part of Christ (Eph. 5:30-32). A bride also speaks of love and unity. The husband loves the bride, and the bride loves her husband. She is united in oneness with her husband. Such unity is not only a matter of love, but also a matter of life. Adam did not find his counterpart in any of the other living creatures, for none possessed a life which matched his own. Only Eve had the same life that Adam had. The church must firstly be something which is taken out of Christ; then it must be in a union of love with Christ; finally, it must possess the same life and nature as Christ.
To be a bride is easy. But the bride must also be a wife. Everything is wonderful on the wedding day, but afterwards the bride must become the wife, and that is more serious. The New Jerusalem is not only the Bride, but also the Wife of Christ for all eternity.
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 17, by Witness Lee)