“He showed me the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.”
As John sees the new Jerusalem come from God at the fall of Babylon, the city is described as possessing the, “glory of God.” The casual reader might well ignore or miss the significance of this idea. Yet, this reference is helpful in identifying Babylon.
The, “glory of God” is a reference to the Shekinah, the manifestation of God’s presence and is associated with the temple of God. It is necessary to trace the history of this idea.
In Exodus 25-40, YHWY delivered instructions to Moses for the construction of the tabernacle. That tent was to be the “tent of meeting.” God said, “I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory” (Exod. 29:43-46).When the construction of that tent was completed, “A cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exod. 40:34).
At a later period, when Solomon had built the temple at Jerusalem, the time of dedication had arrived. It was an August occasion. As the priests took the ark of testimony into the Most Holy Place, and exited, “The cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10-11).
Later in Israel’s history the nation apostatized. Idolatry and immorality was rampant. The nation killed the prophets sent to her, and oppressed the righteous (Ezek. 7:23, 22:3-27, 24:7-14, etc.).YHWY sent Ezekiel, “the son of man,” to the nation calling for repentance, all to no avail. In chapter 10:18, the Son of Man was given a vision, “The glory of God departed from the threshold of the house.” Again in chapter 11:23, “The glory of God went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.” (The mountain would have been the Mt. of Olives, keep this in mind.) With the departure of the glory of God, the city of Jerusalem fell in 586 BC.
In spite of the departure of the glory of God, Ezekiel was given the promise of the new tabernacle in chapter 37, a text we have already examined. In the last days, YHWY would once again establish His presence among the people. This time, however, the tabernacle would be for all men of all nations (Isa. 2-4). In Ezekiel 43:1-5, the Son of Man is given a vision of the new temple of God, and, “The glory of God came from the way of the east…and the glory of God came into the house.” In the ensuing description of the new tabernacle, Ezekiel sees a River of Life flowing from the temple, giving life to all (Chapter 47). We now leap forward to the ministry of the ultimate “Son of Man.”
JESUS AS THE SON OF MAN
The one term Jesus applied to Himself more than any other is “Son of Man.” In the book of John, it is His exclusive title, and Jesus’ ministry reflects that of the son of man called Ezekiel.
Like Ezekiel, Jesus was sent to Israel (Matt. 15:24). He called the sinful nation to repentance (Luke 19:10). He also came proclaiming impending doom on the nation because she had shed innocent blood (Matt. 23:29-35). Just like Ezekiel, Jesus signaled the departure of the glory of God from the temple.
In Matthew 23:37-38, after pronouncing seven “woes” on the city, Jesus said, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” This signaled the departure of the glory of God from that hallowed place.
Ezekiel saw the glory of God depart to the mountain east of the city, and Jerusalem was destroyed shortly thereafter. Likewise, Jesus left the temple, and went to the Mt. of Olives east of the city, and there pronounced the impending end of the age.
Ezekiel foresaw the coming of the new tabernacle (Chpt. 37), and the glory of God descending upon it (Chpt. 43). Jesus foretold His coming in the “glory-cloud” when He would “gather together” the elect (Matt. 24:30-31). (Important note: It is interesting and significant that in Matthew 23:37, Jesus spoke of His desire to gather together Israel/Jerusalem to Him. He uses a distinctive Greek word episunagogee for gather. Israel refused to be gathered to Christ. Thus, He pronounced doom on the old temple. However, He said the gospel of the Kingdom would be proclaimed into all the world (Oikoumene = known world, Roman Empire), and then the end would come (Matthew 24:14). He had promised that at the end of that age He would come in the glory-cloud and “gather together” (episunagogee) the elect (v. 31). While the word episunagogee in and of itself does not denote a rapture (or snatching away), when looking at this verse in conjunction with 1 Thess. 4:17 which is speaking of Christ’s second coming (Parousia) when He would descend from heaven and catch together (rapture) His dead saints from out of Sheol/Hades (who were already in the unseen realm), and the living saints would be caught together with them (thus be translated into the same unseen realm), and both go to meet Christ in the air “where He was,” and knowing that He descended from the heavenly spiritual realm, and was to return to heaven with His bride for the wedding in His Father’s house (Rev. 19:5-9), and to sit on His heavenly throne, and those saints were to “always be with the Lord,” then it corresponds perfectly that Matt. 24:31 is inferring the same doctrine of a rapture.)
Just as in Ezekiel and John, the imagery of the passing of the old order, and the establishment of the new, is related to the demise of the Old Covenant world of Israel and not to material creation.
The parallels between Ezekiel and Jesus are striking as the chart shows.
|Title: son of man||Title: Son of Man|
|Sent to Israel||Sent to Israel|
|Message of impending judgment on Jerusalem (Chpt. 7)||Message of impending judgment on Jerusalem (Matthew 23-24)|
|Glory of God departs the temple, goes to Mt. Olives (Chpt. 11)||Jesus departs the temple, goes to Mt. Olives (Matthew 24:1-3)|
|Predicts a new temple and new order (Chpt. 37)||Predicts a new temple and new order (John Chpts. 2 and 4)|
|Glory of God descends on new temple||Glory of God descends on new temple (Revelation 21:11)|
|River of Life flows from the new Jerusalem/Temple (Chpt. 47)||River of Life flows from the new Jerusalem/Temple (John 4; Rev. 22)|
|Judah is the Harlot in Ezekiel||Babylon is the Harlot in Revelation|
Quickly take note of the last comparison. In Ezekiel’s day Judah and Jerusalem had become the harlot in God’s eyes. She had committed adultery with her lovers. (Read Ezekiel 16 and 23 to gain insight into her depravity). Ezekiel, the son of Man, said that Jerusalem was the harlot. Likewise, Jesus, Son of Man, repeatedly said that Judah as once again guilty of adultery (Matt. 16:1-4; Mark 8:38). Considering that John draws so heavily on Ezekiel, and knew personally of Jesus’ teaching, his referent to Babylon as the harlot and the adulterous woman lends itself toward identifying Babylon as Jerusalem.
In John 4:20-24, Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman about the water of life. One is hard pressed not to hear the echo of Ezekiel 37 and 47 about the coming new temple and the River of Life. Just as Ezekiel foretold the demise of Jerusalem, and the coming of a new temple, from which the River of Life would flow, Jesus spoke to the woman about the Water of Life, the passing of the old Jerusalem, and the coming time of a universal worship. This is precisely what we find in Revelation, and thus what Jesus said has a direct bearing on the identity of Babylon.
If Jesus associated the River of Life in the new heavens and earth with the passing of Jerusalem, and if John associated the River of Life in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 22:1-2, 17) after the fall of Babylon, how can Babylon be any other city than Jerusalem? (See eschatology Study Series 16 Lesson 10 in the section on Rev. 22:1 for further study into the River of Life).
How would the fall of Rome, or the World Council of Churches, or any other entity complete the new temple of God? Are we to ignore the historical context of the appearance of the glory of God? Are we to ignore the covenantal significance of the glory of God departing from or descending on the temple? Should we ignore the relationship between what Jesus foretold, and what John saw?
When we honor the significance of the descent of the glory of God as the Lamb and the Father as the new temple of God in the new heavenly Jerusalem, and the implicit contrast with the preceding destruction of the “great city” of Babylon “where our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8), then the identity of Babylon becomes clear, Babylon was first century Jerusalem.
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 9 Rev. Chapter 21”]