Tuesday, 17 August 2021
Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Revelation 21:14
With the description of the wall and gates complete, John next turns to the foundations of the wall, saying, “Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations.” A foundation is a support for an edifice. It is the substruction of a building upon which everything else rests. The idea of twelve foundations can be taken in a couple of ways. One is that the foundation stones would be separate stones going from gate to gate. Another is that the stones are laid one upon another.
An architectural reason for them being on top of the other would be strength. However, whatever God builds, it is going to be permanent and unyielding based on its construction. As such, either way is possible. The point of there being twelve stones, however, is based on the spiritual meaning of what is being conveyed. There may be twelve literal stone foundations, but – like everything being described – there is a symbolic and typological reason for it. That is then seen in the next words, saying, “and on them were the names of the twelve apostles.”
As noted, a foundation – even if it is made up of many things – is one thing. It is that upon which everything else rests. The typology is plainly evident and can mean only one thing, but it takes care and consideration to understand it. Paul says in Ephesians 2 –
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22
The prophets – all of them, and in every word placed into Scripture – ultimately called for the message of Jesus Christ, the coming Messiah. When Christ came, the apostles spoke forth the fulfillment of Messiah’s coming, and they did so in a united voice. They all proclaimed exactly the same gospel message, as is evidenced by Paul’s words of 1 Corinthians 15 –
“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” 1 Corinthians 15:9-11
There is one united message which forms the basis of the apostles’ proclamation, Jesus Christ. Grace through Jesus is God’s one purpose of the written word. To say otherwise is a false and heretical teaching. Every detail of what is presented in the law, the prophets, the gospels, the epistles, and which is summed up in Revelation, points to the coming of Messiah and the grace of God found in Him. Everything else has been a means of instructing the people of the world that they cannot reach back to God apart from Jesus Christ.
And yet, the false teachings of deceitful liars crop up in the Hebrew Roots Movement, in the teachings of Judaizers, in the doctrine of hyper-dispensationalists, and in numerous other aberrant sects, cults, and false gospels that proclaim God is doing “more than one thing.” He is not. Paul explains this “foundation” in 1 Corinthians 3 –
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:10, 11
In other words, the foundation stones, upon which are written the names of the twelve apostles, are the united (single) message which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their proclamation is one. Just one message is given by the twelve apostles. The author of Hebrews repeats this same sentiment immediately after a note about Abraham, the father of justification by faith –
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10
This is the exact building that is now being described. It is the building proclaimed by the prophets, explained by all twelve apostles, and which points to God in Christ – the single, unified message of Scripture. John finishes with the note that they are apostles “of the Lamb.”
The sacrificial role of Jesus Christ, meaning His death as the Passover Lamb, is the hinge upon which everything else turns. It is a single, unified message of all of the apostles. This is made plainly evident by the two noted apostles of the book of Acts, Peter and Paul, in their epistles –
“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” 1 Corinthians 5:7
“And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, “but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:17-21
Paul, referring to the Passover (the Lamb), speaks of the exact same redemption as Peter when he refers to the Lamb (the Passover). The symbolism of the foundations is as clear as crystal. And yet, false teachers throughout the world attempt to divide up the message of Christ, again and again, in order to put forth a false gospel. It is, as Paul says in Galatians 1, anathema. It is the message inspired by Satan (the devil) – 2 Timothy 2:26.
There is one gospel, there is one thing that God has been doing and continues to do, and it is reflected in the beautiful symbolism of the foundation stones of New Jerusalem.
Life application: The wall is where the gates are, and those gates are represented by the twelve sons of Israel. Thus, the wall, with its foundations, is the uniting of the message of Israel and the church. The same message which allows access to God through the people of Israel (the hope of God in Christ) is that which was then proclaimed by the apostles – the foundation which is God in Christ. There is no division between the two.
This is alluded to in Ephesians 2:11-18. In the temple which stood in Jerusalem, there was a wall of separation that kept gentiles out of a large portion of the temple area. Paul tells us in the book of Ephesians that this wall is removed in Christ –
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” Ephesians 2:11-18
This is then followed up by the obvious words of Paul (cited above) concerning the foundation of “the apostles and prophets” with Christ being “the chief cornerstone.”
The foundation of what God is doing is built on this foundation. Some prophets who predate Israel – such as Abel, Enoch, and Abraham – are noted as prophets implicitly or explicitly. There are many prophets who came from Israel as well, noted throughout the Old Testament and as far as John the Baptist – “Christ is coming!” This is noted in Acts 3:24. The apostles, as noted above, proclaim the same message, Christ – “Christ has come!”
In this is the foundation of God’s household and their united proclamation of Christ. As such, one central precept of the Bible is that God uses people to proclaim His word, and it is His word that tells us of Jesus. The New Jerusalem is an eternal city for the people of God, and it is the home of the Living God who reveals Himself through the second member of the Trinity – Jesus Christ. Any attempt to divert attention away from this is to be rejected.
Another note to consider is that on the twelve foundations are written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Judas is obviously not going to be listed, but a question that then arises is “Which names will be listed?” In Acts 1, a person named Matthias was chosen to replace Judas, and in Acts 6:2 these twelve are noted together. However, Paul is the “apostle to the Gentiles” chosen by Jesus personally. Which will be listed? It is something that is left unstated.
The point of the symbolism is that of the unity of government (the number twelve). Just as there were actually fourteen sons of Israel (Jacob adopted Ephraim and Manasseh for inheritance purposes), and as those sons are variously listed in the rest of Scripture, there are fourteen named apostles (Judas, Matthias, and Paul all reckoned in this). Thus, the “names” of the sons of Israel on the gates, and the “names” of the apostles on the foundation, may not be their actual names at all, but this is simply a way of saying that the proclamation of these is united. That proclamation is JESUS.
Lord Jesus, even in Your words of revelation, you have kept things hidden from us. You do this because You are sovereign. Therefore, help us to explore Your mysteries and love Your word, but also help us to patiently wait on the unveiling of the mysteries yet to come. Thank You, Lord, for Your wonderful promises that we have and the anticipation of more to be revealed! Amen.