Revelation 21:13

Monday, 16 August 2021

three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Revelation 21:13

John just described the wall and gates of New Jerusalem. He now continues with the location of those gates, saying, “three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.”

The word for “east” is anatolé. It literally means “dayspring.” It was used to describe the Messiah in Luke 1:78. It has been used twice so far in Revelation, and this is its final use in Scripture. It is an actual direction, from which one would expect the sun to rise. As such, there must be something to mark out actual directions. It would make no sense to give directions if directions no longer existed. This might seem like a pointless argument to make, but it is not. Rather, it concretely establishes that what is coming has a direction indicating the dayspring. Otherwise, the account would simply say something like “there were three gates on each side.”

Likewise, the word for “west” is dusmé. It literally means “a setting.” Thus, and by implication, it is the west – the place where the sun sets. In verse 21:23, it says of this city, “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it.” This doesn’t mean that there is no sun. It simply means that another source of light is always available to the city. There is a place of the rising, and there is a place of the setting. As the city is square, there is also the north and the south as well. Each direction contains three gates.

The names of the tribes situated in these four directions around the tabernacle were listed in Numbers 2. Then in Ezekiel 48, as the book closes out, the names of the tribes are listed on the gates of Jerusalem in a different order, but still in the same clockwise rotation –

Numbers 2 – East: Judah, Issachar, Zebulun. South: Reuben, Simeon, Gad. West: Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin. North: Dan, Asher, Naphtali.

Ezekiel 48 – North: Reuben, Judah, Levi. East: Joseph, Benjamin, Dan. South: Simeon, Issachar, Zebulon. West: Gad, Asher, Naphtali.

The directions of the compass are presented in order as –

Numbers 2: East, South, West, North.
Ezekiel 48: North, East, South, West.

Thus, both are listed in a clockwise rotation.

No specific names or directions are provided by John in Revelation. The point is that as there are four directions, and as each side has the same number of gates, it is an indication that people are welcome from all four points on the compass.

This is actually anticipated by Christ Jesus when dealing with a Roman centurion in Matthew 8 –

“When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! 11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.’” Matthew 8:10-13

Such references are found elsewhere in both the Old and the New Testament, demonstrating – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that what is being presented applies to Jew and to Gentile, and it applies in every dispensation equally. Israel under law was used as a tool of instruction and for learning, not as a means to an end. In these gates, it is seen that God’s grace symbolically extends outward to all people from all places, and the same access is granted to all.

Life application: Assuming that Ezekiel’s description of Jerusalem is referring to the millennium, which is a possibility, in New Jerusalem there will be a layout similar to what is coming during that millennial period. During that period, as noted above, there will be twelve gates around the city of Jerusalem, but the city will be much smaller than New Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 48:35 says that the name of the city will be Yehovah Shammah, or “The Lord is There.” This signifies that Jesus, the Lord, will sit and reign in the city. The same will be true in New Jerusalem as will be seen in the coming verses. The glory of Jesus will be fully realized then, and it will be visible to all.

As another interesting side note, and as noted above, the tribes of Israel were also aligned in named formation around the tabernacle before Israel departed Mount Sinai. The specific layout is detailed in Numbers 2 & 3. When the number of the people who surrounded the tabernacle is determined, it forms a most beautiful picture, a cross.

Throughout the Old Testament, there are shadows and pictures of the cross hidden in the details. God is meticulous in how He arranges all things. It will be no different in the New Jerusalem. He will have order and structure for us to marvel at for all of eternity.

To see this presentation of the layout of the tribes forming a cross, you can watch (or read) the Superior Word sermon entitled, Numbers 3:14-39 (A Sign in the Wilderness). In the end, everything God is doing has a set purpose, and it is intended for all of the people of the world. The redemption of man, through the cross of Christ, is at the heart of this plan. It is hoped that you will yield yourself to Him and come to Him for spiritual renewal. Yes, come to Him today through His offering of peace and restoration – JESUS.

Surely You, O God, are a God of order. The harmony and detail You have laid out in Your creation as well as in Your word can only bring us to rejoice in the things You have done. Praises and majesty belong to You, O wonderful Lord! Thank You for all You have done for Your people. Amen.