Sunday, 15 August 2021
Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: Revelation 21:12
John continues with his description of New Jerusalem, beginning with, “And she had a great and high wall.” The Greek uses a present participle – “And having a wall, great and high.”
The dimensions are given in verse 21:17 as one hundred and forty-four cubits in height, but to support such a height, they would also be thick. The idea is that of complete security within, even though the gates will never be closed (see verse 21:25). The size of height and thickness are probably then metaphors for eternal security (everlasting life) promised to those who have come to Christ.
John next says it is a wall “with twelves gates.” The word translated as gates, pulón, is a common one, but it is not the type of gate that we would think of today. Rather, it is more of a portal or passage leading from the outer area and arriving at an inner court. This passage would have a heavy gate (a large door), known in Greek as a pulé, at the passage entry.
As far as the number of gates, the number twelve in Scripture, according to Bullinger, “is a perfect number, signifying perfection of government, or of governmental perfection. It is found as a multiple in all that has to do with rule. The sun which ‘rules’ the day, and the moon and stars which ‘govern’ the night, do so by their passage through the twelve signs of the Zodiac which completes the great circle of the heavens of 360 (12 x 30) degrees or divisions, and thus govern the year. Twelve is the product of 3 (the perfectly Divine and heavenly number) and 4 (the earthly, the number of what is material and organic). While seven is composed of 3 added to 4, twelve is 3 multiplied by 4, and hence denotes that which can scarcely be explained in words, but which the spiritual perception can at once appreciate, viz., organization, the products denoting production and multiplication and increase of all that is contained in the two numbers separately. The 4 is generally prominently seen in the twelve.”
Bullinger’s description of the number twelve, when carefully considered, beautifully explains the twelve gates of the city where God rules among men. It is where the creation meets with the Creator, and where the earthly meets with the divine. It is where access to God is through these twelve gates. John next says, “and twelve angels at the gates.”
This takes the reader back to Genesis 3. Man was placed in Eden to worship and to serve his Creator. Through disobedience, he was cast out of Eden, and angels (cherubim) were placed as protectors to keep him out –
“Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.’” Genesis 3:22-24
The tabernacle, and later the temple, made a picture of this forbidden access. Both faced east, with the Most Holy Place to the west. Cherubim were woven into the veil that divided the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, facing outward (facing east) –
“You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim. 32 You shall hang it upon the four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Their hooks shall be gold, upon four sockets of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy.” Exodus 26:31-33
“And he made the veil of blue, purple, crimson, and fine linen, and wove cherubim into it.” 2 Chronicles 3:14
It was this veil, representing the body of Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 10:20), that was torn when Christ died on the cross –
“Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” Luke 23:44-46
The tearing of the veil (His body) is a metaphor for allowing full access into the Most Holy Place because of His shed blood. Understanding this, any who come to God, must do so through Jesus Christ. Only through Him can access be restored, because He is “the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
All who have come to Him have access into New Jerusalem – past these angels, through the gates, and into the Most Holy Place where God resides. Of these gates, it next says, “and names written on them.”
In the Bible a name identifies more than just who an individual is. The nature and character of that which (or who) is named is expressed in the name. The very substance and qualities are seen in the giving of a name, and each name – and the use of the name – has particular meaning. These gates, then, are identified with the substance of the names they possess. As for the names, John says they are names “which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.”
The naming of the sons of Israel is noted in Genesis. Each one is given for the reason stated in the text at the time, and each anticipates more concerning the son (the tribe) later in Scripture as well. But the reason for naming the gates of New Jerusalem with the names of the tribes of Israel appears to be for exactly the same reason that Jesus is the one and only way to be reconciled to God.
Jesus descended from Jacob (who is Israel), even if He did not descend from each and every son individually. He came through this group of people, and thus it is an acknowledgment that it is through Israel that access into the city is obtained – because Jesus is of Israel. The one religious expression that allows access is the law that was given to (and agreed upon by) the people of Israel. All must meet the standard of that law, and that is only possible through the One who met its demands perfectly –
“Keep My statutes and My judgments, for the man who does these things will live by them. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 18:5 (BSB)
Christ, the Man, did the things of the law, He died in fulfillment of the law, and He died as a substitutionary sacrifice for violations under the law for any who come to Him. In doing so, atonement is provided, and propitiation with God is realized. This law, given to Israel, is the way to enter into God’s presence, and it is made possible by the true and perfect Son of Israel, Jesus.
The walls and gates of this marvelous city, and access through them because of the work of the Lord, are prophetically anticipated by the prophet Isaiah –
“In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
‘We have a strong city;
God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks.
2 Open the gates,
That the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in.
3 You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.’” Is 26:1-3
Life application: In ancient days, before aircraft and more powerful artillery, the walls of a city were its main defense against outside attacks. Watchmen were placed on the walls, just as sailors on the top of a mast on a ship at sea would act as lookouts for enemy ships. The New Jerusalem will have “great and high walls.” These walls won’t be defensive though because there will be nothing to defend against. Rather, they will reflect the absolute security of the believers who dwell in the city. The mightiest power of all, the Creator, dwells there. Therefore there is the truth that eternal security is realized.
One thing to be noted is that if there are walls, regardless of the height, they are a set size. In other words, the size descriptions which will be given in the coming verses are real and literal and should be taken as such. This is a real city with real dimensions, even if it contains a wealth of spiritual truths. As noted, in the walls are twelve gates.
Throughout the Bible, it is the gates of the city where judgments are made, legal transactions occur, and where the elders sit to rule and determine legal proceedings. The angels of the gates will most likely be used for the announcement of certain occasions and maybe to announce the comings and goings of special dignitaries, as well as to provide glory to God in the presence of those who come and go between the city and the new heavens and new earth.
There is no reason to think that there won’t be established hierarchies in the new order of things, and these angels will be there to handle them as well as the other matters. Isaiah speaks of a similar concept in his writings which gives us a glimpse into what the future may hold as well –
“I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
They shall never hold their peace day or night.
You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent,
7 And give Him no rest till He establishes
And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” Isaiah 62:6, 7
As far as the names of the sons of Israel, there is an immense amount of coded information in them that shows wisdom, harmony, and structure. An involved study of them reveals truly astonishing patterns that are fitting for the gates to this marvelous city. Everything, down to the minutest detail, will be glorious and wonderful.
What God has planned for His redeemed will be amazing, awe-inspiring, and a blessing to His people for all eternity, and it is all available to you if you will simply call out for reconciliation with Him through the giving of His Son. Do so today. Call on JESUS.
Lord, even the walls of our future home are filled with wisdom and wonder. Since this is so, how glorious will be the things contained within those walls! How we long for this time to be realized so that we can walk in Your glorious city and investigate the wonders and mysteries You have waiting for us. Thank You for this hope, O Lord. Amen.