The apostle Paul teaches that “the Jerusalem above,” that is the eschatological Jerusalem, “is our mother” (Gal. 4:26). Likewise the author to the Hebrews exclaims, “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22). The believer has already in part reached the destination he seeks by faith. Though he is a pilgrim on earth, today he belongs to that eschatological city, which the saints of old greeted from afar:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb. 11:13–16).
Because the believer is said to have “come to… the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22) in a way he has already “received the things promised,” which the Old Testament believers only “greeted … from afar” (Heb. 11:13). How can this be? Only through the person and work of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He has become for them true Israel, summing up the entire nation in himself, and the new Jerusalem. Just as Christ is the true tabernacle in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Col. 1:19), the true Israel who loved God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, the true son of David who has ascended the throne of his everlasting kingdom, so he is also the true Jerusalem and the true promised land.
But he does not remain these things alone. As the Spirit gathers his people from throughout the world and works in them faith so that they are united to Christ, they too partake of these ineffable realities. All who identify with Christ are themselves part of the true tabernacle, true members of Israel, true sons of David, and true citizens of Jerusalem.
Believers are Given a New Name: The New Jerusalem
Jesus wrote to the church in Philadelphia, “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Rev. 3:12; cf. 2:17). The new name that Christ now possesses (“my own new name”) is “the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem,” which he writes on the believer. Thus, upon the believer is written the name of the new Jerusalem.
This reference to a “new name” is an allusion to Isaiah’s repeated prophecy that in the eschaton God’s people will have a “new name.” For example, “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give” (Isa. 62:2; cf. 56:5; 65:15). This new name, according to Isaiah, designates Israel’s future kingly status: “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isa. 62:3). It also designates the restoration of the covenant marriage relationship in the land: “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married” (Isa. 62:4). Notice the inextricable relationship between Israel’s kingly designation as the New Jerusalem and the restoration of Israel’s land.
The fulfillment of the land promise (in which the Lord swore to return Israel from exile) coincides with the new name that Israel is to receive. For this reason, the church is given a new name from the Lord, which implies the beginning restoration of the land. It was Christ who first received this name as the true Israel and true Jerusalem and who then writes this name on all believers. By having the new name written on them the believer is identified with Christ and have, therefore, begun to be restored to the land. The name of the very city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God, that Abraham was looking forward to by faith (Heb. 11:9–10), has been given to the church by Christ in whom the land promise is now being fulfilled.
The heavenly city, which was typified in the Old Testament, has been entered into by its rightful king, King Jesus. He has taken his seat upon the throne of his eternal city to reign forever and ever. And all who are united to him by faith come to join him in this city to share in his anointing as eschatological kings. This means, as the Heidelberg Catechism so nicely puts it, we are to “fight with a free and good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter reign with him over all creation forever and ever” (Q/A 32).