Tuesday, 24 August 2021
The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. Revelation 21:21
With the foundation stones described, John now notes that “The gates were twelve pearls.” This is the last time that the margarités, or “pearl,” is mentioned in Scripture. The gates of pearl are contrasted to those of the millennial kingdom described by Isaiah –
“I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.” Isaiah 54:12
The word used by Isaiah, translated as “crystal,” is found only that once in Scripture, eqdakh. It is from a root signifying either cassia, or – more likely – a root signifying “to kindle,” and thus “fiery.” It is that which then sparkles with a fiery glow.
As for the pearl, it is used in parables by Jesus to refer to the precious teachings (spiritual truths) of the gospel. That is seen, for example, in Matthew 7:6 and 13:45 –
“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” (7:6)
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (13:45, 46)
It is of note that the twelve foundation stones (written with names of the apostles) are of varied stones. As Christ is the Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11), that would speak of the manifold ministry of Christ as described by the apostles. The twelve gates are written with the names of the twelve tribes (Revelation 21:12), and the gates themselves are all alike, being twelve pearls. Despite being twelve, being each a pearl speaks of unity of entrance. There is one type of access, the spiritual truth of Christ – and Him alone – by which access is attained.
Charles Ellicott wisely notes, “It is the only precious stone which the art and skill of man cannot improve. The tools of the artificer may give fresh lustre to the emerald and the sapphire; but he must lift no tool upon the pearl.” In this, nothing can be added onto the gospel message to make it more perfect. It is the message of God in Christ, granting access once again into His presence. With that thought in mind, John next says, “each individual gate was of one pearl.”
The translation by the NKJV is lacking. The word “gates” is plural and it is in the genitive case. It more precisely reads, “severally, one each of the gates is out of one pearl.” The precision of John’s words speaks of unity of the material in the production of the twelve separate gates. There is one, and only one, gospel message that allows man access into the city.
With that understood, John next says, “And the street of the city was pure gold.” The gold speaks of the divine and kingly nature of the One who rules there. Everything about the symbolism speaks of the constant reminder that man will dwell with the King, walking in His presence forever. Of this gold, John says it is “like transparent glass.”
The word translated as “transparent” is found only elsewhere in 2 Peter 1:19, diaugazo. It is a compound word signifying “through” and “shining at dawn.” Thus, it speaks of the glory of God radiating off of it as if it is transparent. Like in verse 21:18, it does not necessarily mean that the gold is transparent, but that it is so perfect and polished that it appears as such. The radiating glory of God will highlight everything that is reflected in its surface.
The picture given is that of perfection in all ways. Nothing but pure and undefiled glory will be seen as one enters and then walks through the expanse of the city.
Life application: The words concerning the gates convey to us the truth that Jesus is the only true way of entering into the glory which lies ahead. The street of the city conveys to us the truth that God has brought us back to Himself through Christ, the divine path of restoration. The radiant shining of the street will highlight the fact that only the glory of God, without any taint of sin or corruption will be seen. Full, final, and forever restoration between God and man is realized in this marvelous display.
What God has prepared for His people will be astounding and we shall never tire of it. Great days lie ahead for those who live by faith now. So have faith. Trust that God can bring you back to Himself, and that this restoration is found in JESUS!
O wonderful God and precious Lord! What a treasure it is for our hearts to read Your word and peer with anticipation into its pages. How its descriptions stir our souls and make us excited for the glory which lies ahead. Great are You, O God, and wonderful are Your promises to the sons of Adam who are born again through Christ! Amen.