Gal 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Isn’t this a fascinating verse? Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all! The Jerusalem that is above is our mother! How amazing is that?
How often do we hear grace pastors celebrating the fact that we have a mother in our heavenly Jerusalem? When you read about Jerusalem in the OT, do you feel that sense of affection for Jerusalem knowing that earthly Jerusalem is but a shadow of your heavenly Jerusalem, which is your mother?
Did you notice that she isn’t just the mother of the Body of Christ but she is the mother of us all, all saints across all ages, every one of us. How is that even possible? If kingdom and grace are two different programs, then in what sense is heavenly Jerusalem the mother of us all?
You know, when we first come into the Word rightly divided, we come to understand the distinctions between Israel and the church, the Body of Christ, between prophecy and mystery, between law and grace, between kingdom and grace, and we celebrate those distinctions. Those are important distinctions and they should be celebrated! And then we all breathe a sigh of relief, and we say, “Finally, I understand my Bible!”
Then we come across a passage like this one in which Paul happily points out our connection to Israel and he goes so far as to say that the Jerusalem that is above that is free, that Jerusalem is our mother!
I know for some this can feel a bit unsettling, you know? We cherish the distinctions so much that we tend to shy away from all the connections. So when we read a passage like this one, we can’t help but wonder, if there are all these distinctions, then how can there also be this huge maternal connection to a heavenly Jerusalem?
I’m here to tell you that this is a cause for us to celebrate every single day!
Look also at Gal 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
Isn’t that interesting? How are we, like Isaac, the children of promise? When you read about Abraham and Sarah and the story about the birth of Isaac, do you feel a sense of affection for that story because you are a child of promise just like Isaac? Do you feel that connection to Isaac himself, as if you were in his shoes, living his life, because you are also a child of promise like he was? How is all of this even possible?
Let’s read the whole context.
Gal 4:21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? Gal 4:22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. Gal 4:23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Gal 4:24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. Gal 4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. Gal 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. Gal 4:27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Gal 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. Gal 4:29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Gal 4:30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. Gal 4:31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
All of this is in Gen. 16-21. Long story short. God promised Abraham a son and a nation more numerous than the stars, but Sarah was barren. They were both getting up in years. When Abraham was about eighty-six, Sarah persuaded him to help God out by having relations with her maid, Hagar, so that they might have a child. As a result, Ishmael was born.
This, of course, was not the way God intended to give Abraham a son. After Hagar discovered she was pregnant, she began to despise Sarah. Sarah dealt harshly with her, and before the child was born, Hagar ran away.
The angel of the Lord (The Lord Himself as a Christophany) found her by a spring in the wilderness and told her to return to Sarah. He told her to name her child Ishmael and promised that He would multiply her seed greatly. Ishmael became the progenitor of the Arabian people.
God did not promise righteousness or spiritual blessings on Ishmael but only that He would multiply his seed and predicted that Ishmael would be a wild man who could not live peaceably with others.
Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth, when Abraham was about ninety-nine years old, God appeared unto Abraham and entered into the covenant of circumcision, at which time He also promised that next year Sarah would bear him a son and they should call his name Isaac, and God would establish His covenant with him for an everlasting covenant.
Abraham and Ishmael and all of the males in his household were circumcised.
One year later, when Abraham was one hundred and Sarah was ninety, Isaac was born. The day Isaac was weaned, Abraham made a great feast, recorded in Gen 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Gen 21:10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.
What was Ishmael doing to upset Sarah so much? He was mocking them. But we find here, in Gal. 4:29, that Ishmael also “persecuted” Isaac. So they cast out the bondwoman and her son.
These two women, Hagar and Sarah, represent the two covenants. Hagar represents the Mosaic covenant of Law. Just as the Israelites were in bondage to the law, so too, Hagar was in bondage to Abraham and Sarah, which is why in this allegory, she represents bondage under the law. But Sarah represents the Abrahamic covenant of Promise. The Mosaic covenant was conditional. “Do this, and I’ll bless you.” The Abrahamic covenant was pure grace without any condition of works. God simply told Abraham what He was going to do. “In thee and in thy Seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.” God did not insist on any condition of works. He said, “I am going to do this for you, and I am simply telling you what I will do.”
That is grace. Grace doesn’t make terms with people. Grace doesn’t demand works from you to procure any blessings from Him. This is grace from God to Abraham because of the righteousness of his faith.
So we have in the two sons of Abraham, one born into bondage and the other born of a free woman, one born after the flesh, the other by promise. So, in Paul’s allegory, Hagar represents bondage under the law. Sarah represents the hope of grace in God’s promises, the freedom, the glory, the blessings that will come when God fulfills His promises.
This is why in vs. 27, Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1 as application for us today, a reason for us to rejoice as well. Gal 4:27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
First, why were the barren of Israel to rejoice? Because at the Lord’s Second Coming, when He resurrects all the saints and He fulfills His promises to all the saints who shall now enter His kingdom, the blessings from God will be like a barren woman having more children and more family then she could ever possibly dream of having with a husband.
But we know Israel had an earthly hope. We have a heavenly hope.
Yet, this principle of blessing is just as true for us, because after the Lord’s return for us at the Rapture, when He fulfills all His promises to the Body of Christ, the blessings from God will also be for us like a barren woman having more children and more family then she could ever possibly dream of having with a husband. So, Isaiah 54:1 is a cause for both Israel and the Body of Christ to celebrate. We are to rejoice as Israel rejoiced, because the promises fulfilled to us will be as glorious as the promises fulfilled to Israel.
But back to the big picture point of this allegory. The point is simple. These Galatians who were wanting to go back under the law were to not only reject that notion, but they were to also cast out all those who would put them back under the law just as Abraham and Sarah cast out Hagar, because we are not the children of bondage like Ishmael but we are the children of promise like Isaac.
Predestination & Promise
So then the question becomes, how are we the children of promise like Isaac? Are we to receive all those same promises that were given to Israel?
No, that was a different program. In fact, Paul would clarify in Rom. 15:8 “that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers”. Those were different promises made to Israel for Israel confirmed by their minister in the flesh, their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul speaks of a different promise for us. I looked at all the times Paul mentions the word “promise,” and I’d suggest all the promises of God for us are tied to the one big promise mentioned here in
Tit 1:1. Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; Tit 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began…
Look at what we have in these verses. We have the faith of God’s elect and we have the promise God made to Himself before the world began. What promise is that? The same promise Paul spoke about in his letters to Timothy, the promise of the life that now is (1 Tim. 4:8), which we have in us, which is the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1:1). This is the promise God made to Himself before the world began, the promise that we would all possess His life in us through the atoning work of His Son on the cross whereby we may all obtain His eternal life by accepting His free gift of salvation by grace through faith, plus or minus nothing.
Do you see what’s going on here? Just as Isaac was a child of the promise God made to Abraham, we are the children of the promise God made to Himself.
Imagine that. Isn’t that amazing?
We also have in these verses of Tit. 1:1-2 the beautiful doctrine of predestination and election. God promised to Himself that after His Son would be crucified, He would implement a period of grace before He would carry out judgment in the Tribulation. God would use His Son’s sacrifice as a means by which anyone in His period of grace could receive the eternal life we have in Christ Jesus, the life of Christ Himself manifest in us, now designated as His elect, because we accepted His calling through the gospel by faith. We’re now chosen… in him… (that we should be saved? No.), that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” God predestinated, not who would be saved, but how we would be saved, and that His Son would be the firstborn among many brethren, the first one to be resurrected forever, and we would be spiritually identified with Him and victorious over sin and death with Him.
Everyone in this age who chooses to believe in His Son and what He accomplished for us at Calvary were designated by God that we would all stand before Him in love holy and without blame because of the all-sufficient perfection of what Christ accomplished at Calvary. God the Father made this promise to Himself before the world was ever created. God the Father kept this secret to Himself until the time was right that His secret should be revealed through Paul. But see, even though God the Father was keeping all this a secret until it’s revealed by Paul, He always had us in mind all throughout the OT.
Rom 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all…
Just as Paul tells us in Galatians 4 that the heavenly Jerusalem is the mother of us all, so too, Paul tells us here that Abraham is the father of us all. Isn’t that amazing? When you read about Abraham, do you not feel affection for him because Paul tells you that he’s your father, too? So how is it that Abraham who gave birth to the nation of Israel, which is a different program with a different calling and a different hope, how can he be the father to us as well?
In Rom 4:3 we find, For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. He was saved by faith alone. God’s righteousness was imputed to Abraham because of his faith.
Then we read in Rom 4:10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. Rom 4:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: Rom 4:12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
This is proof text that Abraham was saved by faith alone and he had eternal security because God had him circumcised. Circumcision was only “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised.” Circumcision was just a sign to show that Abraham was sealed in God’s righteousness by faith, just as we are sealed by His Spirit and we’re circumcised with the circumcision made without hands. He was saved and sealed in God’s righteousness by faith, which is why Abraham is our father, too, because we are also saved and sealed in God’s righteousness by faith without being circumcised.
Notice also this. 4:22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. 4:23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 4:24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
Do you see what’s happening here? Even though God was keeping a secret about this age of grace, He still had US IN MIND when He imputed His righteousness to Abraham forever because of His faith.
Look at what Paul says here in vs. 4:23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 4:24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead… The story of Abraham was written for our sakes, too, because we’re saved by faith like Abraham and we’re sealed forever like Abraham and THAT makes him our father, the father of all who believe even today.
The amazing thing here is that the story of Abraham wasn’t written about us or to us, but it was always written FOR US. God always had us in mind even when He had Moses pen the story of Abraham. God wants us to feel affection for, and a connection to, all the faithful saints of old. And even though God never revealed His grace secret, He always had us in His mind all throughout the OT.
He elected to have Abraham saved by faith before he was circumcised so that Abraham could be our father as well, because God wants us to know that we are part of His entire family. When Paul tells us that we are accepted in the beloved, God wants us to know that we are part of His whole family of beloved saints and that Abraham is our father, too. We believers in this age of grace are not some exclusive group set off to the side in the heavens while the Lord and all of Israel run His kingdom down here on Earth. Even though we’ll be in our heavenly seats, we are as much a part of the administration of that kingdom as the Lord and Israel.
But there’s more.
Rom 4:13 For the promise (the promise God made to Abraham), that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith (see, this is about how he got that promise, not through the law, but the righteousness of faith). Rom 4:14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Rom 4:15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Rom 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all…
Do you see how inclusive the promise is to Abraham? The promise to Abraham wasn’t just for the nation of Israel but to everyone saved by faith like Abraham, who is the father of us all. So the question becomes, if we’re part of a different program with a different hope than Israel, then how can the promise to Abraham become our promise as well?
Let me ask you this question – during the 1,000-year reign of Christ on the Earth, where will we be? We’ll be in our heavenly seats judging the Earth and judging angels. We will be part of the administration of His kingdom from our heavenly seats. Israel will be part of the administration of His kingdom on the Earth, and we will be part of the administration of His kingdom from our heavenly seats. Do you know what this means? This means that Israel’s kingdom is our kingdom, too.
This means that Abraham’s promise is our promise, too. We have two programs. One on the Earth and one in the heavens. But it’s the same kingdom. This is why Paul can say that to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed, all those across all ages who possess the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, because the end game for both programs are roles of administration in the same kingdom. Part of that promise God the Father made to Himself before the foundation of the world is our inclusion into the promise of Abraham in the sense that we, too, will become ministers of His kingdom on Earth, except from our heavenly seats.
Eph 2:18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Eph 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; Eph 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; Eph 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: Eph 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
I absolutely love this illustration here about the temple, because this perfectly visualizes for us how we fit into the big picture of God’s eternal purpose. We have this gorgeous, glorious, holy temple in the Lord and this temple is filled with the entire household of God.
Imagine that there is a first floor for Israel because they have an earthly hope, and there is a second floor for the Body of Christ because we have a heavenly hope. Yet, we’re all in the same temple, part of the same household, because the chief cornerstone of everything is Christ. This is why Paul can write of those who were in Christ before him, because everyone in that temple is in Christ. Everyone in that temple, both the first floor and the second floor, are all part of the seed of Abraham, the father of us all, because of faith. Everyone in that temple will be ministers for Christ in His kingdom, except Israel on the first floor will be ministers on the Earth and the Body of Christ on the second floor will be ministers from our heavenly seats.
I like to picture that the second floor is made of glass. We can see them, and they can see us, because we’re all part of the same family. And I like to picture that there are all these connections between the two floors, columns, if you will, that tie those two floors together. One column is labeled Abraham, because he is the father of us all. We all, everyone on both floors, had God’s righteousness imputed to us because of faith.
Another column is labeled the blood of Christ. Israel’s Messiah is also our Savior and the blood that lays the foundation for the new covenant with Israel is the same blood that washed away all our sins and reconciled us to God, which also made us heirs of God to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.
Another column is labeled children of promise. Just as Isaac was a child of the promise God made to Abraham, we are the children of the promise God made to Himself.
Another column is labeled grace. Just as God showed grace to Abraham blessing him because of his faith, so too, God has shown grace to us blessing us because of our faith.
And another column is labeled kingdom. Just as Israel will be ministers of His kingdom on earth, so too, we shall be ministers of His kingdom from our heavenly seats.
Their kingdom is our kingdom, too.
And I like to picture that in the middle of this temple, there is a circular staircase which all the people on both floors can access. And that circular staircase leads up to Jerusalem, which is above, which is free, which is the mother of us all.
Jerusalem, our Mother
What exactly is the Jerusalem which is above, which is free, which is the mother of us all? What other Jerusalem is above except New Jerusalem?
Rev 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. Rev 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Rev 21:3 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. Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
After the Rapture happens, we all have to admit, on some level, that there is a total mixture of prophecy and mystery, because we will be ministers from our heavenly seats of His prophesied kingdom on Earth. Israel’s kingdom has become our kingdom. How can it not be our kingdom, too, when Paul tells us repeatedly that we’re joint-heirs with Christ?
And what will Christ inherit? Everything.
This means that the promise God made to Abraham has become our promise, too. And by logical necessity, this also means that New Jerusalem has become the mother of us all, because New Jerusalem is the endgame for both programs. When John writes, 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, who are His people?
I think John is talking about everyone in the temple of the Lord, both floors. I think in that verse you are totally seeing a reference that includes the Body of Christ. How can it not include us when New Jerusalem is the mother of us all?
How is it that New Jerusalem is our mother? Look at vs. Rev 21:9 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. Rev 21:10 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…
After this you have all these many verses describing the length and breadth and height of New Jerusalem. This structure is so massive, it’ll be 1,500 miles high. The Lord will be exalted so high above the Earth in the eternal state, He won’t even be in the Earth’s hemisphere, that is, if all things are equal after we get the new Earth.
There’s also a reference to the heavenly Jerusalem in Heb. 12:22, which tells us that there will be an innumerable company of angels. We cannot fathom the glory to come.
But the bigger point is this – it seems quite evident from all these verses that the Bride of Christ is New Jerusalem. The angel said, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife, and then John wrote, and he shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God… The Bride can only be New Jerusalem.
But how can a building be a bride?
The arrival of New Jerusalem onto the new Earth and Christ taking up residence in New Jerusalem is described like a marriage for us because this is the permanent union of Christ with New Jerusalem forever on the Earth.
After the Bride gets married, she becomes our mother. She is the home city, the city in which all of God’s people will abide in and around forever as God’s children, and the righteousness of all the saints will adorn that city.
Rev 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready (we established in chapter 21 that the Bride is New Jerusalem). Rev 19:8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints… The fine linen of New Jerusalem is the righteousness of saints.
Again, I think we’re seeing in this verse a reference that includes the Body of Christ. How can it not include us when New Jerusalem is the mother of us all? Hal once told me the story how men were debating whether the Bride is Israel or the Body of Christ and Hal said, “Neither. New Jerusalem is the Bride, and we’re the dress!” LOL
John tells us that the fine linen of New Jerusalem is the righteousness of saints, which I suspect means that the personality of that city, the glory of that city, will be characterized by the righteousness of all the saints, both Jews and the Body of Christ. This is why Jerusalem that is above is free, because no one will be in bondage to the law, and She herself will be adorned with the righteousness of ALL the saints.
And because Paul tells us that she is our mother, God is, essentially, inviting us to join with His people in their great anticipation of what will become the center of our universe all eternity. We cannot yet see that city with our eyes, but we study these passages and we dream of the glory to come because she is the endgame to it all, and we, like Israel, anticipate her arrival through the eyes of faith.
Eph 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: Eph 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him…
Notice what he says here. Paul mentions the mystery in the same sentence as the dispensation of the fulness of times. It’s part of the mystery to reveal the full picture of what happens in the eternal state, because it’s not only the Jews who will be with the Lord for all eternity but also all the members of the Body of Christ.
Some say that the dispensation of the fulness of times is the end of the age of grace, which makes no sense. Paul calls it the dispensation of the fulness of times, plural, more than one time, or more than one age. What Paul is talking about here is what happens after both programs, both earthly and heavenly programs, have run their course, when time itself ends. This is when time has run its course, when time fills up, when time has become complete.
When is that?
That has to be after the thousand-year reign, after the Great White Throne judgment, when we get a new Heaven and a new Earth, and when New Jerusalem, the mother of us all, descends from Heaven onto the Earth to be married forever to the Lord Jesus Christ.
When that happens, the Lord will gather together all who are in Christ both in Heaven and on Earth. Well, who is in Christ on the Earth? All those saints on the first floor. And who is in Christ in Heaven? All the saints on the second floor. Paul’s saying that all the saints within both programs, both floors of the great household of God, the great temple in the Lord, they will ALL be gathered together as one.
From that moment forward and for all eternity, there will be no more division between the two programs. We will all be one, and God will be all in all.