One of the seven angels who poured out the vials of God’s judgment upon Babylon (cp. Revelation 16), came to John and told him that he would show John the Lamb’s Bride (Revelation 21:9). This may be the very same angel who showed John the judgment of the Great Whore, Mystery Babylon the Great (Revelation 17:1). If so, this same angel took John and showed him holy Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10), which indicates the new Jerusalem is the Bride of Christ. One cannot help but contrast the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21 with the ‘old’ Jerusalem of Revelation 17, which was judged by the Lord and destroyed.
The Great Whore had been the Lord’s wife under the old heavens and the old earth (cp. Jeremiah 3:14), but they had been destroyed with the judgment of the Lord’s wife, who had played the harlot with the nations (Revelation 17:2; cp. Revelation 21:1). In other words, with the Lord’s judgment upon Jerusalem in 70 AD, the first heaven and the first earth were destroyed. That is, the Second Coming had occurred in that Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed (Matthew 23:37-38; 24:2-3, 29-30). The Old Covenant—the first heavens and the first earth—had ended in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.
In the context of the destruction of Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth—the New Covenant—was established. This is what John saw as he witnessed holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:10). Of course, this wasn’t literally so, because everything John sees occurs in the Temple compound and the New Jerusalem. So, John saw Holy Jerusalem coming out of the Most Holy Place, as it were, to consummate her marital relationship with her husband, Jesus, the Messiah. All this is in the context of the Second Coming and the believers on earth being caught up together to be with Christ:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1Thessalonians 4:17 KJV)
Notice that both the Thessalonians and Paul expected Jesus to return in their generation. So, at the coming of the Lord the dead in Christ would rise first, and this resurrection in the context of 1Thessalonians 4 was to occur in the first century AD. No matter what else can be said of what Paul wrote, this is a fact that, in as much as I can tell, cannot be denied. The resurrection was to occur in the first century AD at the coming (parousia – G3952) of Christ (1Thessalonians 4:15).
What is interesting about the parousia is that whenever a dignitary was to visit or come to (parousia) a city, an emissary of the city’s citizens watched for his coming (parousia), and when they saw him or heard that he was near, the representatives of the city would go out to meet (G529 – apantesis) him and escort him back to their city. In the context of 1Thessalonians 4:15-17 this shows the Lord’s coming (parousia) was to be with and remain with his people. This is the idea behind Jesus’ Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). The ten went out to meet the Lord and escort him back to the banquet. It is also the idea behind believers going out to meet Paul and accompanying him to Rome (Acts 28:15-16).
We shall meet (G529) him in the air (aer – G109). Ephesians 2:2 implies that the air in this sense is the spiritual realm of evil, but at Christ’s return, it becomes the heavenly realm of his saints (Revelation 21:1). We are seated in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6). The theme of 1Thessalonians 4 is the **near** coming (parousia) of Christ, whereby we who are alive meet him only to escort him to the earth (Revelation 21:10), so that he might remain with us (Revelation 21:3). In other words, “the Tabernacle of God was with men” (Revelation 21:3). This language has been abused by literalists with an agenda for a future coming of the Lord.
John describes the new Jerusalem as having ‘the glory of God’ and her light was like jasper and clear as crystal. As I consider this description, I cannot help but think of Moses’ request to behold the glory of God (Exodus 33:18), but when Moses witnessed that glory, his face shone, but he put a veil over it to the end that no one would see that glory fade away (cp. 2Corinthians 3:13). Nevertheless, the new Jerusalem is unveiled (2Corinthians 3:16-18), because her glory, which is the glory of the Lord emanating from her face, doesn’t fade away (1Peter 1:4; 5:4).
Finally, John described the city as having a very high wall with three gates on each of its sides, north, south, east and west, and each gate had a name of one of the tribes of Israel written above it (Revelation 21:12-13). Moreover, the wall around the city had twelve foundations with each foundation having one of the names of the twelve Apostles. What might that look like?
Abraham, we are told, looked for a city that had foundations (Hebrews 11:8, 10), as did, also, the believers of the first century AD (Hebrews 13:14), a city that cannot be moved (Hebrews 12:28), yet not one that could be touched (Hebrews 12:18, but to Mount Zion, the city of the Living God (Hebrews 12:22). Paul tells us that we are built upon the foundations of the Apostles (Ephesians 2:20). Clearly, this cannot be a physical city that can be touched (Hebrews 12:18). Rather, it is the spiritual city of Zion, the new Jerusalem founded upon the Gospel of the Apostles, the truth of the Lord, Jesus, our Christ.