Revelation: A Tale of Two Cities

All students of the book of Revelation agree it is the story of two cities — "Babylon" and the New Jerusalem. The identity of these two cities is where the confusion sets in.

Some define Babylon as "apostate Christianity," some say the Roman Catholic church, others say it was the old city of Rome. The New Jerusalem is variously defined as heaven, or a literal new city in the millennium, or in the New Heaven and Earth. Does the Bible help us with this mystery?

In Galatians 4:21ff Paul told an allegory contrasting the Jew and Christian Covenants. Hagar, mother of Ishmael, represented "the Jerusalem that now is and is in bondage with her children" Gal. 4:25. This is clearly a contrast between literal Jerusalem, the Old Covenant System, and the "Jerusalem above" or the New Covenant Church. Paul says the children of Old Jerusalem, the Jews, were persecuting the children of the New Jerusalem, vs. 29 and were to be cast out, vs. 30. A tale of two cities — a contrast between literal Jerusalem of Paul’s day and the church.

In Hebrews 12 the writer contrasts Mt. Sinai of the Old Covenant Israel and Mt. Zion, the New Covenant Israel, vs. 18-22. He says they had come to "the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" "the church" vs. 22f. The contrast is between the Old Jerusalem and the New. That Old Jerusalem was persecuting the New, Heb. 10:32ff. But that Old Creation of Sinai and City of the Old Covenant was to soon pass away so that "the things which cannot be shaken might remain. Wherefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace" vs. 27-28. Here is the tale of two cities — the Old Jerusalem was persecuting the New; but the Old was about to be removed so that the unshakable kingdom — the New Jerusalem would remain.

In Revelation we find the identical contrasts. The city "where their Lord was crucified" 11:8, had a cup full of the blood of the saints in her hand, 17:4-6; and "in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth. If there are any doubts about what city Jesus said this was read Matthew 23:35! It is this city that was to be destroyed, chapters 17-19, resulting in the marriage of the Lamb to his bride the New Jerusalem, 19:7f; 21:2ff.

In Galatians and Hebrews the tale of two cities is between the Old Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem, the church. Why abandon this consistent principle in Revelation and extend the vision thousands of years into the future? Why not allow the Bible to interpret itself?

Revelation is not about apostate Christianity, Roman Catholicism, or the city of Rome. It is about the conflict between the two Jerusalems. The Old Jerusalem insisted she was still the chosen city and persecuted the church for claiming to be the New Jerusalem of God. Jesus said he would settle the issue of who the true Israel/City was by his promise "Behold, I come quickly" Rev. 3:9-11 against those "who say they are Jews but are not, but are liars." When Jesus came in A.D. 70 and destroyed the Old Jerusalem the tale of two cities was complete and the New Jerusalem stood triumphant over the ruins of the Old.