The Way It Happened

Revelation 21:2, The Parousia, part III of III

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

//Wrapping up this discussion of the parousia, let’s now turn to the final book of the Bible: Revelation.

In the Revelation story, the parousia occurs just before Christ begins his 1,000 year reign on earth. In other words, if we are to be “with the Lord forever” from that moment on, new life will at least begin on earth, not up in the sky.

So what are we doing up in the clouds, according to Revelation? Well, the New Jerusalem is about to float down to earth, and it is referred to as the bride of Christ. The adornment of the bride, as it settles upon Mount Zion, is God’s people. Thus, we might conclude that in the parousia, we fly up to the sky, welcome Jesus to earth, enter the New Jerusalem, and float back down inside the city of God.

This idea comes from the book of Jubilees, written in the second century BCE, in which a New Jerusalem descends from heaven and replaces the old Jerusalem. Never do we read in Revelation of this New Jerusalem ascending back up to heaven or of the saints leaving the city to go to heaven. Those Old Testament passages that speak of an afterlife (Job 19:25-27; Psalms 49:15; Isaiah 25:8, 26:19, 53:10; Daniel 12:1-3,13) do not mention dwelling in heaven.

Yes, I know this is very different from current Christian theology. Make of it what you wish.


  1. Lee, I’ve been with you all the way on this short parousia series, but now with one exception – why do you place the parousia before the 1,000 years ala premillenialism? Do you take the “Christ coming on horseback” image to be the parousia? I know I am letting my theology determine my interpretation, (don’t we all?) but it seems to me (as a post mil/amil kind of person) that the “binding of satan” occurs at Christ’s “first coming” (Mark 3 – yes, I know different authorship and so different school of christianity) and that after the “1,000 years” the New Jerusalem descending is the parousia.

    I would take the 1,000 years to be the advance of God’s kingdom (“of the increase of his kingdom shall be no end..” and the parables of growth) and the final climax being the New Jerusalem/heaven/earth at the end of that time.

    I know apocalypses are notoriously hard to decode unless you try to have the mindset of the original authors and hearers, so if I’m missing something, let me know!

  2. Lee Harmon

    Hi, Martin! Well, clearly, there is room for argument or there would BE no diverse views. But for me, it seems that Revelation’s writer/readers anticipated the newly-destroyed Jerusalem to be replaced immediately with a new one (who would get excited about waiting another 1,000 years for their dream?)

    So in Rev 20:5-9, we see Satan attacking the city of God (surely the New Jerusalem) which is already populated with “God’s people.” This is after Satan has been bound 1,000 years, but these are apparently the people resurrected in the first resurrection, before the 1,000 years. Where have they been living all this time, if not in the New Jerusalem? Did God drop the New Jerusalem from the sky 1,000 years later, then move his people there, just before Satan is released? That scenario doesn’t make sense to me, and since we already know Revelation’s final few chapters aren’t chronological (the City that descends at the end of chapter 20 is attacked earlier in the chapter) it seems most logical that the city descends and provides a place for Jesus to set up rule for the 1,000 years.

    That’s my take, as described more fully in my book about Revelation.

  3. OK – but I think the “first resurrection” is spiritual (as in Eph “raised with Christ, seated with Christ” etc) and I have been influenced by theologians like J. Marcellus Kik with that view, so I realize that you are writing as a Biblical historian (with an interest in theology) and I am writing as a theologian (with an interest in Biblical history) … would that be fair to say? Maybe we are coming from two different starting points. But, never the less, I love your writing, so please keep it coming (and I am sure that, some day, God will tell us both that neither of our interpretations are the correct one)

  4. Lee Harmon

    Yeah, I’d say that’s quite fair to say! 😉 I wouldn’t have a clue about any “correct interpretation” (one that would pass muster with God, I mean), it’s hard enough to guess what was in the heads of human authors as they wrote.

    thanks for the kind words!

Leave a Reply to Lee Harmon Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>