Ezra, Revelation and the New Jerusalem
The book of Ezra tells the story of Israel’s return from Exile in Babylon and the early reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Ezra was a priest, a descendant of Aaron, who was given responsibility and authority by King Artaxerxes. In his record, he relates some of the challenges the people faced.
The first temple is referred to as Solomon’s Temple and this replacement is called the Second Temple.
This week we complete our reading of the book of Revelation. These final chapters offer the vision of the New Jerusalem “coming down from heaven.” This holy city is not created by the work of human hands; rather it is gift and grace from the hand of the Creator who is “making all things new.” In the New Jerusalem, there is no temple because “its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb…”
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
It sounds odd and even hurtful for us moderns to hear Ezra’s condemnation of the religiously mixed marriages he saw and his demand that the returned exiles should put away their wives and children. Here is an example of the high standard for purity and holiness that was expected of God’s people. The lines drawn between Israel and the nations was stark; crossing those lines, they believed, would lead to unfaithfulness and a defilement of the whole people.
Even in the New Jerusalem, we see the expectation of purity and total allegiance to the One True God. Anything “unclean” will not be a part of the new creation.
Please take this as comfort and reassurance. The Lamb who is Temple and Priest and Sacrifice is making US new. You and I and all creation are being refined like gold and made fit for the Kingdom of God.