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Hebrews 10:19-25 (NASB):

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, through His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let’s approach God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let’s hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, 25 not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Verse 19 is probably using symbolic language. How should we interpret the expression "enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus"? I've seen it being cited by some as the biblical basis for having supernatural experiences in the presence of God, but I've never seen an explanation justifying that interpretation (or any other interpretation for that matter).

3
  • You should interpret this in light of the other uses of "holy" and.or "holy place(s)" in the letter to the Hebrews, especially where it is the exact conjugation of ἁγίων (Genitive Neuter Plural): in Hebrews 8:2, 9:3, and 9:8. The isolated claim that 10:19 is "probably using symbolic language" makes me wonder what you think hermeneutics is... Mar 29, 2021 at 15:14
  • You are misparsing the text. The "by" phrase is attached to "confidence" (this is why we have confidence). Mar 29, 2021 at 22:24
  • Heb 12:4 might be the verse you are looking for? Aug 9, 2023 at 7:12

7 Answers 7

1

There are undoubtedly symbols in this passage. Fortunately, we are told what several of the symbols represent.

Symbols

The veil

through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; (Hebrews 10:20)

Jesus is the antecedent for “his” in this verse. The veil is a symbol for Christ; specifically, that it was His body that was sacrificed on our behalf.

Blood of sacrificial animals

The blood of animals sacrificed in the temple was a symbol for the blood of Christ to be shed as an atoning sacrifice for redemption (see passage in section “the holy place”).

The holy place

This refers to the presence of God.

For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: (Hebrews 9:24)

This was understood by ancient Israel—the second veil led into the holiest location of all, the “Holy of Holies”, which was understood to be (or to represent) the presence of God.

From Hebrews 9:

And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; (verse 3)

...

But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: (verse 7)

...

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; (verse 11)

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (verse 12)

Why “enter boldly”?

Entering the presence of God should be terrifying if one is unprepared. Without a mediator (and without having accepted the mediator’s terms) the prospects don’t look good:

From Hebrews 10:

29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.

31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I understand the message of the passage in the OP to be, then, that because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it is possible to be prepared to enter the presence of God with confidence.

When?

The passage in Hebrews doesn’t explicitly reference when.

From Revelation 20:12 we learn that we will stand before God to be judged after the resurrection (see references to the resurrection in vs. 4-5):

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Will people enter the presence of God at other times? The passage in Hebrews does not preclude this, but it does not appear to directly answer that question either.

Conclusion

Under Levitical ritual, only the high priest could enter the holy place, and the blood of animals was required for entrance.

Hebrews teaches that we can become prepared to enter the holy place—the presence of God—and need not do so in terror—because of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, which offers not only forgiveness and redemption, but sanctification as well.

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  • Helpful answer! What does the water symbolize in verse 22? May 6, 2023 at 14:26
  • What translation is that? Please identify it in your post. Also, Hebrews 9:12 has a corrupt reading. It adds the words "for us" at the end, which completely misses the point of the passage. Hebrews is saying that Jesus, being raised to everlasting life, is free from death, because he already died once. Apparently there is a rule against a "second death."
    – Ruminator
    Aug 7, 2023 at 20:15
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Under the Mosaic Law, in the tabernacle (and later the temple) there was a section named the Holy of Holies. It was the section furthest from the entrance. The ark of the Covenant resided here, in the tabernacle and in the first temple (the one build by Solomon).

Entry into the place was forbidden to everybody but a single priest entering to make an offering on one specific day of the year. He had to bring an offering on that day with him.

What the Hebrew writer is saying here is that as Christians we have the blood of Christ on us (on account of having been baptized into Him), and therefore have the best possible offering with us, and are able to enter into the holiest of all places; not a physical holy place (in the tabernacle or temple), but in the spiritual holiest place (fellowship with God), and not just once a year, but at all times. It makes the point that the law of Christ is superior to the law of Moses.

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  • "not a physical holy place (in the tabernacle or temple), but in the spiritual holiest place (fellowship with God)" - would you mind expanding a bit on what you mean by "fellowship with God"? Otherwise, this is a good answer.
    – user38524
    Mar 29, 2021 at 16:14
  • I'm afraid I'll have to beg out of giving an answer, because the question is worth an entire book in its own right, and I haven't given it much study. It stands for a closer relationship with God, and a taking away of the enmity caused by our sin, but there are certainly details that we won't understand this side of eternity.
    – EvilSnack
    Mar 31, 2021 at 1:24
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Great question, I have pondered the same thing. The letter indicates that there is a Holy Place that was not built by human hands, and there's also an earthly analog (the Tabernacle).

Hebrews 8:1-2 (ESV)

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.

And a few verses down, 8:4-5,

Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

There's an interesting way to think about these verses if you take the earth to be the first section and heaven to be the inner place (since both places were built without hands).

Hebrews 3:3-4

For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)

If this actually works, then the next question becomes when you enter the Most Holy Place and you get a possible answer later in the letter.

Hebrews 9:8-9

By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age).

The ESV has translated it this way and it seems to work with our heaven/earth analogy. If the "first section" of the Tabernacle is symbolic of the current earth, then the way into the Holy Place is not opened until the earth is destroyed. In fact, we do see this happening later in the letter:

Hebrews 12:26-27

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken (that is, things that have been made) in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain."

At Sinai, the earthly mountain was on the way to the earthly kingdom. Those at Sinai heard God's words and begged that nothing more be spoken with them (they "refused him who was speaking"). Even though it was a scary situation, that was no excuse for not listening, after all, this terrifying God was also making promises to be their God and drive out the Canaanites, giving them their estates.

I'm taking a tangent here, but it's related to our discussion. In the resurrection, Jesus said that we aren't given in marriage because we will be like the angels and sons of God. There is an analogy to our Canaanites because we are going to be given the "real estate," the unshakeable heavenly kingdom because God is going to give us the immortal life that the Lord and the holy angels have. Losing my grip here a little, but long story short, the earth is going to be destroyed with fire when Christ returns, and this is when we will inherit our place in the Most Holy Place.

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I also recommend going through the Help Center's sections on both asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Aug 7, 2023 at 20:29
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In addition to EvilSnack's good answer. I'll add some context here.

The author addressed the OT times of routines and regulations in Hebrews 10:11

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

After Jesus' perfect sacrifice, things were different.

12 But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

It was done. It was finished.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body

What does “enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” mean in Hebrews 10:19?

It means that now we have open access to God's Most Holy Place at any time. Our sins are atoned for by the blood of Christ at any time, not just once a year as formerly.

22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

No more persistent guilty conscience if one has faith.

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  • Thanks Tony for the answer. You said "It means that now we have open access to God's Most Holy Place at any time" - would you mind explaining the concept of God's Most Holy Place as you understand it? Otherwise, good answer as well.
    – user38524
    Mar 29, 2021 at 16:16
  • God's Most Holy Place symbolizes the place/throne of atonment. Only allowed access once a year.
    – user35953
    Mar 29, 2021 at 16:23
  • Yeah, but that was in the OT. But the meaning changes in the NT, right?
    – user38524
    Mar 29, 2021 at 16:32
  • The Most Holy Place existed before and even after Jesus' cross.
    – user35953
    Mar 29, 2021 at 16:42
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The Israelites used sacrificial blood as an apotropaic or spiritual detergent.

Michael Alan Stein, The Religion of the Israelites in Egypt (pdf) Jewish Bible Quarterly, XXXIX:3

This framing makes a lot of the Biblical discussion of blood and its power(s) clear: water cleanses the body from dirt, while blood cleanses holy things from spiritual contamination. This is why the temple was constantly sprinkled/splashed in blood, and blood applied to the horns of the altar, and why blood was used to ward off the destroyer at Passover.

This function is made clear in Leviticus 16 (NIV):

He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

That is, the blood does not perform its function by being let out of the animal, or as some symbolic restitution for humans; instead, it performs its function of being a barrier to unclean spiritual things by being applied to and for the thing that needs to be protected from such evil: the Most Holy Place, for certain, but also the tent of meeting on Yom Kippur.

It is therefore highly probable that when the author of Hebrews says:

having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water

...that the sprinkling of hearts is a sprinkling of (Jesus') blood.

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Jesus is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8 Every sin since Adam and Eve against His holy and righteous Father grieved, crushed, and pierced His heart. Genesis 6:5-6, Ezekiel 6:9

At one point in history, He came physically to earth and allowed all the sins of men and their reproaches against God to fall on Him Psalm 69 Romans 15:3 and it pierced and wounded Him, He bore our sins in His body on the cross, we spilled His blood and we murdered Him. Every sinner is guilty of spilling the blood of the Lamb of God and is condemned to hell.

However, if we listen to the Holy Spirit who pleads with us to look up to Him whom we have pierced and remorsefully confess this Zechariah 12:10, Acts 2-4, repent, get baptized into Him and make restitution, He promised to forgive, deliver and cleanse us from all sin through his blood we confess we have spilled, fill us with His Holy Spirit, and make us righteous and holy. Then our hearts and consciences are forgiven and cleansed from all sin and we are having boldness to enter into the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh;

He did this cleansing work in us by allowing us to wound Him, to tear His flesh apart, and to spill His blood - that we see how evil sins are, to condemn sin in our flesh Romans 8:3, that we may deeply confess and repent, die to sin, live for righteousness, be healed by His wounds, stop going astray and return to our Shepherd and Overseer. 1 Peter 2:24-25.

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Q. How should we interpret the expression "enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus"?

A. Platonically.

That is, everything in the Tanach, the intertestamental books, Greco-Roman religion, all rituals of the Tanach, etc. are obviated by Christ, and replaced with an ethic of faith, hope and love. The NT authors spill a great deal of ink to show that the Temple, the Priesthood, the Sanhedrin, the sacrificial system, kosher laws, "Churches," "Holy Days," Passover, Torah observance, and so on are no more (or that they would be no more with the destruction of the Temple). NO rituals. Nothing public. Secret piety, not public piety.

In Hebrews, he's focusing on the obviation of the Temple, Yom Kippur, and some other things. He compares and contrasts the orthopraxy of the Jews with much better things, consisting of faith, hope and love.

According to Hebrews, once per year on Yom Kippur aka "the Day of Atonement," the priest had to make two sacrifices before he could enter the holy place, one for himself and one for the people, but Jesus did them both in one shot:

[Heb 7:27 NKJV] [27] who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

[Heb 9:7 NKJV] [7] But into the second part the high priest [went] alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and [for] the people's sins [committed] in ignorance;

Hebrews seems to make a very clear point that Jesus had a moral failure of cowardice:

[Heb 2:14-18 NKJV] [14] Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, [15] and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. [16] For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. [17] Therefore, in all things He had to be made like [His] brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things [pertaining] to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. [18] For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

[Heb 5:1-10 NASB20] 1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of people in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; 2 he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is clothed in weakness; 3 and because of it he is obligated to offer [sacrifices] for sins for himself, as well as for the people. 4 And no one takes the honor for himself, but [receives it] when he is called by God, just as Aaron also was. 5 So too Christ did not glorify Himself [in] becoming a high priest, but [it was] He who said to Him, "YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE FATHERED YOU"; [6] just as He also says in another [passage,] "YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK." [7] In the days of His humanity, He offered up both prayers and pleas with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His devout behavior. [8] Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. [9] And having been perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him, [10] being designated by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Paul also speaks of Christ dying to sin:

[Rom 6:8-11 NASB20] [8] Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, [9] knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. [10] For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all [time;] but the life that He lives, He lives to God. [11] So you too, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

So if he was ultimately relieved of all of the pain of the execution except the three easiest hours of a process that was designed to last for days, then to whom did God pass the cup that he was supposed to drink? Paul:

[Col 1:24 NKJV] [24] I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,

[Act 9:15-16 NKJV] [15] But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. [16] "For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."

So we can see how relieved Christ was to have a vicar:

[Psa 22:19-25 NASB20] [19] But You, LORD, do not be far away; [You who are] my help, hurry to my assistance. [20] Save my soul from the sword, My only [life] from the power of the dog. [21] Save me from the lion's mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me. [22] I will proclaim Your name to my brothers; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. [23] You who fear the LORD, praise Him; All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel. [24] For He has not despised nor scorned the suffering of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard. [25] From You [comes] my praise in the great assembly; I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him.

So when Jesus tapped/wimped out, Paul took over.

So how could Jesus enter the holy place? Not without blood:

[Heb 9:22-28 NASB20] [22] And almost all things are cleansed with blood, according to the Law, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. [23] Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these things, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. [24] For Christ did not enter a holy place made by hands, a [mere] copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; [25] nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year by year with blood that is not his own. [26] Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been revealed to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. [27] And just as it is destined for people to die once, and after this [comes] judgment, [28] so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without [reference to] sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

Notice that the words "reference to" were added, and corrupt the meaning of the passage.

Notice also that the words "we are, yet" were likewise added, and the preposition for "separate/apart" is rendered as "without." No, no. He is saying that when Jesus would return (c. 70 AD/CE) he would be free from Mr. Sin, and would have learned to obey God.

[Heb 4:15 NASB20] [15] For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as [we are, yet] without sin.

So because Christ died to sin and shed his blood for the people also, he was qualified to enter in to the holy place. But how? Technically, what does bloodshed accomplish?

The prevailing interpretation of the meaning of the death of Christ is The Satisfaction Theory:

The satisfaction theory of atonement is a theory in Catholic theology which holds that Jesus Christ redeemed humanity through making satisfaction for humankind's disobedience through his own supererogatory obedience. The theory draws primarily from the works of Anselm of Canterbury, specifically his Cur Deus Homo ("Why was God a man?"). It has been traditionally taught in the Roman Catholic tradition of Western Christianity. Since one of God's characteristics is justice, affronts to that justice must be atoned for.1 It is thus connected with the legal concept of balancing out an injustice.

Or perhaps Substitutionary Atonement theory. But regardless, they are both utterly stupid, stupid, stoooopid. Why? Because they are based on the principle that two wrongs make a right. It suggests that God doesn't care who his wrath falls upon, as long as he gets to vent. I like to compare its "logic" to this:

"You raped my daughter; how about if you kill my son and we'll call it even?"

Would that satisfy the father? I trow not.

It also interprets the death of Christ as an act of justice, or even one of commerce (Christ "paying for sin.") It was decidedly not. It was an act of grace.

The correct interpretation is given by Paul in Romans 3:25, and is called the Governmental Theory.

But Hebrews goes another way. He says that the death of Christ gave "teeth" to the New Covenant. In other words, the New Covenant was a blood covenant that was ratified over the death of God's son, and that New Covenant provided forgiveness, without the activities of the Torah:

[Heb 9:16-17 BBE] [16] Because where there is a testament [IE: covenant], there has to be the death of the man who made it. [17] For a testament [IE: covenant] has effect after death; for what power has it while the man who made it is living?

[Heb 9:11-20 YLT] [11] And Christ being come, chief priest of the coming good things, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands -- that is, not of this creation -- [12] neither through blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, did enter in once into the holy places, age-during redemption having obtained; [13] for if the blood of bulls, and goats, and ashes of an heifer, sprinkling those defiled, doth sanctify to the purifying of the flesh, [14] how much more shall the blood of the Christ (who through the age-during Spirit did offer himself unblemished to God) purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? [15] And because of this, of a new covenant he is mediator, that, death having come, for redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, those called may receive the promise of the age-during inheritance, [16] for where a covenant [is], the death of the covenant-victim to come in is necessary, [17] for a covenant over dead victims [is] stedfast, since it is no force at all when the covenant-victim liveth, [18] whence not even the first apart from blood hath been initiated, [19] for every command having been spoken, according to law, by Moses, to all the people, having taken the blood of the calves and goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, he both the book itself and all the people did sprinkle, [20] saying, 'This [is] the blood of the covenant that God enjoined unto you,'


So what is the "holy place"? It is, like everything else, Christ. Now, just as Jacob was the name of a man, and yet it was also the name of all of Abraham's chosen seed, so Christ is a single person, but much more importantly, Christ is also a corporate entity. That corporate entity is "the holy place."

There are many metaphors for Jesus and all God's People, fused together by the New Covenant. For example, the God's sheep, in the care of Christ, God's vine and the branches, the City on a Hill, God's chosen King and his loyal subjects, and on and on and on. But my favorite is the New Jerusalem, the God's Lambkin and his Bride-City:

[Rev 3:12 NASB20] [12] 'The one who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; 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 out of heaven from My God, and My new name.

[Rev 21:2 NASB20] 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

The thing I find so crystal clear in John's depiction is that the Holy City descends to earth. It is described as "God's Tabernacle." IE: God's sacred space on earth:

[Rev 21:3 KJV] 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God.

For those still dismissive about this observation, notice what is outside:

[Rev 22:15 NASB20] [15] Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral persons, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

That doesn't sound like heaven.

And there are twelve gates, and the dogs must be washed before they can enter the holy city. And the saints inside whisper, inviting sinners to be washed, and enter the Holy City:

[Rev 22:16-17 KJV] [16] I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, [and] the bright and morning star. [17] And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

Again, this is all metaphor for Christ and God's People fused together in the New Covenant.

1
  • The new heaven and the new earth could be Neptune and Uranus (or two other planets in the universe). If so, the New Jerusalem comes down from Neptune onto Uranus, which Rev 21:1 would depict. A minor copy of this arrangement would then be established on earth for a thousand years, possibly earlier. Aug 9, 2023 at 6:30

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