And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
Yes, while many interpreters mistakenly think John is describing a physical heavenly city, his vision is in fact a rich combination of symbols reinforcing the basic point of the vision: "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them." Both the description as bride and city as we will see reinforce this basic intimacy of God's dwelling with his people.
In Johannine literature in general, but especially in Revelation, John uses the dual themes of hearing and seeing to give two seemingly contradictory descriptions of one reality. One of the most obvious examples of this is in Revelation 5:5-6, where John describes the Lion/Lamb:
John is told here "See, the Lion..." and when he looks he says, "I saw a Lamb." On the surface a slain lamb doesn't seem very much like a conquering lion. But it is clear from the narrative that both descriptions are of one person: Jesus Christ.
So it's not unusual in Revelation for John to combine very disparate symbols to give a richer picture of some reality. We find a similar pattern at the beginning of Revelation 17 that will be quite helpful for understanding the bride/New Jersualem in chapter 21:
An later in 17:18, the vision is explained:
Now, notice the parallels with the text in chapter 21:
Just as the woman in the vision of chapter 17 is a whore who is also the great city Babylon, so here in chapter 21, the woman - the bride of Christ - is also the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven.
It's worth noting that the New Jerusalem is modeled in a lot of ways after a temple - it is made of pure gold and fine jewels, it is inhabited by priests, it is shaped like the inner sanctum, it has a lamp, and is a light to the nations. In other words, the New Jerusalem is the place where God dwells. And this city itself has no temple, because "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." That is, God dwells in the city, and the city dwells in God and in the Lamb.
*All Bible quotations from NIV (1984), all bold emphasis is mine
Yes. Of course Jerusalem has always been the image of the church as it is God's house. As far as I can tell the most common interpretation is to understand this image of the New Jerusalem as the Church 'at the end of the world', where it is perfect and without sin.
In Chapter one in Revelations the seven churches are the bride of Christ on this earth. This is quite a contrast as it has many problems and blemishes. It is not so radiant there but here it is.
There are strong parallels between this vision and the one Ezekiel had in Ezekiel Chapter 40-43.