How Many Heavens Are There? Is The New Jerusalem (3,373,000,000, Cubic Miles) Really Over Twice The Size Of The Moon?
We know of three heavens in the Bible. Paul refers to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), which implies a first and second. The three heavens, along with scriptural examples, are:
1. The earth's atmosphere: Genesis 1:20 (where birds fly)
2. The cosmos beyond earth's atmosphere: Genesis 1:14 (where the stars are)
3. The abode of God: Psalm 11:4
Two of those are obviously physical in the same way we are physical. The third heaven must be spiritual, since God is spirit (John 4:24), and can not be comprehended by the physical mind. Therefore God's abode must be described symbolically, comparing it to things that we know.
The New Jerusalem (Revelation 21) is also symbolic, since it is in a book that is almost entirely symbolic, and since it is described in human terms. Another reason it is obviously symbolic may be seen in its measurements. It is described as being a perfect cube, but how do you measure the height of a city? It is described as being 12,000 furlongs to a side (Rev 21:16), making it 3,375,000,000 cubic miles. That would put it just smaller than Australia, but having a height of 1,500 miles. But the walls are described as measuring only 72 yards high (Rev 21:17), so what does it mean by the height, if not the walls? Also, this New Jerusalem can not be heaven itself, because it comes out of heaven, which must be much larger. At least one preacher has proposed that the New Jerusalem is a symbol for the church on earth, and he makes a very convincing argument. Since it is in a book of symbols you can not take the measurements as literally comprising a cube larger than the moon, but that the symbolism is that it will spread over a large area of the earth (which the church has). If it is a picture of heaven (even though it comes down out of heaven), then it is still obviously symbolic and not to be taken literally, just like the 1,000 years of earlier chapters can not be taken literally.
The comparison of the New Jerusalem size to the size of the moon. My math shows them to be within ten percent of each other. What do YOU find?
I recalculated the size of the New Jerusalem, using stadia (the term in the Greek, about 600 feet) rather than furlongs (660 feet). That would make it 1,363.64 miles to a side. It would cover an area considerably smaller than Australia, but much larger than India. It would be approximately 2,535,707,671 cubic miles. Using those figures, the moon (5,268,000,000 cubic miles) would be roughly twice the size of the New Jerusalem. But I fail to see what difference that makes. As I pointed out before, the moon is a physical body and the New Jerusalem is a symbol of a spiritual body. To compare the two would be the proverbial "comparing apples and oranges." You might as well ask how big is a blue whale compared to God. It compares to the old question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The answer would be meaningless.
I invite you To read, John Wesley's Notes On Revelations Verse 15. And he measured the city, twelve thousand furlongs - not in circumference, but on each of the four sides. Jerusalem was thirty three furlongs in circumference; Alexandria thirty in length, ten in breadth. Nineveh is reported to have been four hundred furlongs round; Babylon four hundred and eighty. But what inconsiderable villages were all these compared to the New Jerusalem! By this measure is understood the greatness of the city, with the exact order and just proportion of every part of it; to show, figuratively, that this city was prepared for a great number of inhabitants, how small soever the number of real Christians may sometimes appear to be; and that everything relating to the happiness of that state was prepared with the greatest order and exactness. The city is twelve thousand furlongs high; the wall, an hundred and forty-four reeds. This is exactly the same height, only expressed in a different manner. The twelve thousand furlongs, being spoken absolutely, without any explanation, are common, human furlongs: the hundred forty-four reeds are not of common human length, but of angelic, abundantly larger than human. Do you agree with that wall? Could Wesley comprehend?
Thank you for your research on the New Jerusalem. I teach educated adults (?), skeptics, who believe everything in Newsweek or Time, but nothing in the Bible. Your comments were refreshing! God bless you!
My previous calculations were based on 12,000 stadia to each side of a perfect cube. The wall, however was clearly not 12,000 stadia. The scripture (Rev 21:17) says the wall was 144 "pechus," which is translated cubits, high according to the cubit of a man, of an angel. This seems to indicate an angelic cubit was the same as a man's cubit, roughly 18 inches. So my measurement for the wall still stands, and is nowhere near the height of the city, however that may be defined. I agree with you that it shows, "figuratively, that this city was prepared for a great number of inhabitants, how small soever the number of real Christians may sometimes appear to be." That was my point in all my previous answers to you. The city is figurative, not literal, and indicative that it can hold a large number of people.