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A study of Revelation 20-22. This is book 8 of an 8 part book series.
Category - Bible Commentaries
The layout of the new Jerusalem is prophetic, as are all of its features. Rev. 21:15, 16 reads this way in The Concordant Version:
15 And he who is speaking with me had a measure, a golden reed, that he should be measuring the city, and its portals, and its wall. 16 And the city is lying four square: and its length is as much as the breadth. And he measures the city with the reed to twelve thousand stadia. Its length and breadth and height are equal.
I quote this version because the NASB converts the biblical measurements into modern units of measure, destroying the prophetic element in the verse. The “twelve thousand stadia” they convert to “fifteen hundred miles,” which is an entirely different number.
A stadia was about one-eighth of a mile. This measurement was not of Hebrew origin, though it was commonly used throughout Judea. So in this case we have no choice but to use its Greek definition, which fixed the length of a stadia at 600 podes. A pode was roughly the length of a man’s foot and corresponds generally to what is called one “foot.” We may think of a single stadion, then, as being 600 feet (or 184.9 meters).
12,000 stadia, then, is 7,200,000 feet, which (by dividing by 5,280 feet per mile) converts to 1,363.6 miles for the perimeter of the city. Since it is “four square,” the city would be 341 miles on each side. These numbers give us some perspective in visualizing the stated size of the city. But for prophetic purposes, these numbers are quite meaningless, for they ought not to be taken literally.
The prophecy rests in the number 12,000, which means glorified divine government. Essentially, each of the 12 gates, 12 tribes, and 12 apostles are represented by a thousand. The number 1000 means the glory of God, so this suggests that the 12 tribes and apostles are showing forth the glory of God.
Paul tells us in Rom. 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The original sinner was Adam, who died at the age of 930 (Gen. 5:5). He fell short of the glory of God by 70 years, and so also 70 is the number of Restoration (to the glory of God). How are we to be restored to God’s glory? We must enter one of the 12 gates; we must become Israelites (“join” a tribe) through one of the tribes of Israel represented by the gates; and we must have faith in the word that was preached by the apostles, the gatekeepers.
Of course, becoming an Israelite is not about genealogy, for even Jacob himself was not born an Israelite. He was given the name Israel after wrestling with the angel Peniel, “the face of God.” He had been a believer all of his life, but when he encountered Peniel, the Angel of the Feast of Tabernacles, he became a new creature, prophetically speaking. Years later, Moses manifested the presence (“face”) of God when he came off the mount with his face glowing (Exodus 34:29).
Hence, the prophetic picture implied by the 12 gates and the perimeter of the walls is that the city itself contains the glory of God, and is governed by the law of God—which David said was “perfect, restoring the soul” in Psalm 19:7. All who enter are restored to the glory of God, which is their inheritance.
The Concordant Version of Rev. 21:17 reads,
17 And he measures its wall of a hundred forty-four cubits of a human measure, which is that of the messenger [angel].
The NASB tells us that the wall was “seventy-two yards,” hiding again the underlying prophecy in the biblical numbers. The number 144 is what Scripture sets forth as being important, though in this case even 72 can be seen as part of the revelation, because it is half of 144. Yet John set forth the number 144 in order to identify the walls with the 144,000—the resurrected overcomers having the glory of God. We have shown the significance of 144 and 144,000 and even 288,000 earlier in our study of Revelation 7 and 14.
Revelation 21:18 (CV) continues,
18 And the building material in its wall is jasper, and the city is clear gold, like clear glass.
The wall is not made of ordinary rock, but of jasper. Isaiah prophesies of the New Jerusalem, telling us in Isaiah 60:18, 19 (NASB),
18 Violence will not be heard again in your land, nor devastation or destruction within your borders; but you will call your walls salvation [Yeshua], and your gates praise [tehilla]. 19 No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light; but you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory.
I have included verse 19 above in order to show that Isaiah was speaking of the New Jerusalem, because, as we will see shortly, John refers to this characteristic of “Jerusalem” a few verses later. Isaiah’s entire chapter was a description, not of the old Jerusalem, but of the new. He speaks prophetically, telling us that “you will call your walls salvation and your gates praise.”
This is one of many prophecies concerning Yeshua (Jesus) and His body. Jasper represents the character of Yeshua. It relates to the city’s “wall of fire” (Zech. 2:5) and to the “fiery law” (Deut. 33:2, KJV) that establishes its moral boundary. As we have already shown, the fiery law is in God’s right hand, and so are the saints. In fact, Jesus Himself spoke of these, saying in John 10:27-29,
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish, and no man shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
So we understand that the 144-cubit wall represents the overcomers, who are in God’s hand (as His own possession, or peculiar treasure), manifesting the nature of God (“fire”) and having the law written upon their hearts. Collectively, they represent the body of Christ in the New Creation Man that is being formed as part of the new heaven and the new earth.
Isaiah 60:18, quoted earlier, also tells us that the gates were called “praise.” The Hebrew word translated “praise” here is tehilla. It carries the same basic meaning as Judah, which also means “praise,” and no doubt both Isaiah and John intended for us to make that connection. Tehilla is from the root word halal, “to shine, praise, boast, glory.” This is also the word from which we derive Hallelujah, or “praise Yahweh.”
The name Judah differs in that it is built upon the letter yood, which means “a hand.” The name Judah depicts a man with raised hands in worship and praise. Perhaps this did not fit Isaiah’s word picture describing the gates of the city, so he used tehilla. This word draws attention to one whose voice glorifies God, rather than to his upraised hands that praise Him.
Regardless of this, however, since Yeshua came through Judah in His first appearance, the new Jerusalem is surrounded by the character of Yeshua and the testimony of praise. No one has access to the New Jerusalem without going through a gate of praise.
True praise is not merely a kind of spiritual password, but is an expression of one’s being. Even now, true praise is not telling God what a wonderful God He is—for He already knows Himself and needs no one to make Him feel good about Himself. God is not so concerned about our words of praise as He is about our actions that spring from our hearts. The highest form of praise is to manifest His glory, to be like Him, and to be in full agreement with Him.
Revelation 21:19, 20 says,
19 The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; 20 the fifth, sardonyx, the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.
The wall of Jerusalem is said to be “adorned with every kind of precious stone.” The picture being painted is not of huge precious stones being laid as foundation stones for the wall, but rather that the wall itself is made of jasper (Rev. 21:18) and the foundation stones are adorned with various other stones.
As usual, spiritual principles are set forth in physical terms. It appears that precious stones in general represent the works that men do by faith, at least in Paul’s comment in 1 Cor. 3:11-13,
11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds upon [adorns?] the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, 13 each man’s work will become evident…
Paul’s metaphor shows the possibility of building upon the foundation various things that represent “each man’s work.” There are combustible materials such as “wood, hay, stubble,” which can be burned by the fiery law, and there are things that survive the fire, such as “gold, silver, precious stones.”
Paul, of course, seems to apply this to the foundation of a spiritual temple (1 Cor. 3:16). John’s Revelation applies it to the foundation stones of the wall around the city. Nonetheless, in the absence of any other explanation of the meaning of these stones (when used to adorn foundation stones), we cannot go far astray in applying Paul’s metaphor to Revelation 21.
Of course, the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem have no wood, hay, or stubble. Only the pure faith-works of the apostles adorn these 12 stones. In that sense, are we not all adorned, for better or for worse, with the works that we do? So let us not adorn ourselves with works that will shame us in the day of judgment.
In Exodus 28:17-20 we find the list of 12 precious stones that once adorned the high priest’s ephod. The stones were laid out “four-square” (Exodus 28:16), like the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:16), as if to suggest that the high priest was adorned by a modular city. The stones can be viewed as the same foundation stones as seen in New Jerusalem. The order of stones is different, because in a city wall all of the stones must be placed on the perimeter, whereas on the breastplate, stones are also placed inside.
Comparing the stones themselves in the order in which they are listed:
Exodus (NASB) Revelation (NASB) Revelation (C.V.)
Ruby Jasper Jasper
Topaz Sapphire Lapis Lazuli
Emerald Chalcedony Chalcedony
Turquoise Emerald Emerald
Sapphire Sardonyx Sardonyx
Diamond Sardius Carnelian
Jacinth Chrysolite Topaz
Agate Beryl Beryl
Amethyst Topaz Peridot
Beryl Chrysoprase Chrysoprase
Onyx Jacinth Amethyst
Jasper Amethyst Garnet
Only five of the twelve stones in Revelation 21 are clearly the same as the ones in Exodus: Jasper, Sapphire, Emerald, Beryl, and Sardonyx (or onyx). Because Exodus was written in Hebrew and Revelation in Greek, it is possible that other stones may actually be the same but are named differently. Translations differ as well, because many names of the stones are unknown or disputed.
The stones are specifically identified with the twelve tribes of Israel in Exodus 28:21. In Rev. 21:12 the tribes are identified with the twelve gates. In Rev. 21:14 the twelve foundation stones are inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles, and these are adorned with the twelve precious stones, setting forth their works of faith.
Revelation 21:21 continues,
21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
This verse is the origin of the expression “the pearly gates.” The name of the apostles on the twelve gates has also given rise to the idea that Saint Peter is the gatekeeper into heaven, empowered to decide who gets in and who goes to a lower region. Peter, presumably, stands at the East Gate leading into the courts of the temple, holding the keys of the kingdom. Such is the church tradition.
As we saw earlier, Isaiah 60:18 says, “you will call your walls salvation and your gates praise.” Hence, in Revelation 21, “praise” (tehilla) is represented by pearls. What does this mean? As I wrote earlier, tehilla is more than words of praise. It means “to shine, praise, boast, or glory.” True praise is to become an expression of His nature. Speaking words of praise without a corresponding change of nature (heart) is meaningless and empty.
Therefore, the gates of praise work together with the walls of fire by restricting entrance to anyone who is yet in disagreement with the character of Christ. The gates of praise are open to all who truly manifest the divine nature, praising Him by their being, and not merely by their words.
Rev. 21:21 also tells us that “the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” I have been told by an expert that pure gold is transparent. Most gold today that is of investment grade is only .999 or .9999 fine, leaving a tiny amount of impurities in the gold that prevent it from being transparent.
When Jeremiah lamented over the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, he wrote in Lam. 4:1,
1 How dark the gold has become, how the pure gold has changed! The sacred stones [or the stones of the sanctuary] are poured out at the corner of every street.
The streets of the earthly Jerusalem were never paved with gold, but in building the temple, Solomon “overlaid the floor of the house with gold, inner and outer sanctuaries” (1 Kings 6:30). This was to signify that the priests who ministered in that temple were “walking” in the purity of the divine nature.
In that sense, the floor of the temple carries the same meaning as the streets of a city, except that streets of gold signify that all of the people walk according to the divine nature. A street signifies daily life, not only among the priests, but with everyone in the city.
On the other hand, the streets of New Jerusalem are said to be paved with gold so pure that it is transparent. It is a prophetic way of telling us that all who enter into the city must come through the gates of praise (pearl), having the divine nature. When they walk the streets of the city, their thoughts, actions, and their very lives themselves are transparent to all, and yet they are unashamed.
This entire prophecy about the New Jerusalem is given after the Great White Throne judgment, during which time many are judged by the lake of fire. I have already shown how the Age after the Great White Throne is a time where sinners (debtors) must be sold as slaves in order to learn righteousness from their new slave-owners.
In other words, the Restoration of All Things is a process that is not completed until the great Jubilee sets all men free after 49,000 years—or, as Psalm 105:8 says, “to a thousand generations.” It appears that a generation in this sense is a Jubilee cycle of 49 years.
During this long period of time, there will be unperfected people still being processed, still learning to be led by the Spirit, still being refined in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and its fire, and still not worthy of entering the gates of the city or of walking its streets of gold.
For this reason, there is still a need for the wall of fire and the gates of praise. Whether or not this city is literal, and whether there will be parts of the earth where only the perfected ones may set their foot, it is clear that some will yet be ineligible to enter the city. The perfected ones, of course, will be able to go where they wish without restriction, because Christ will then be King over the whole earth. But the majority of humanity will be restricted while they are being trained in the principles of righteousness.
If this restriction is purely spiritual, then it means that those who are enslaved to the overcomers under Christ will not be able to attain absolute perfection (transparent gold) until the Jubilee. On the other hand, if God sees fit to set up a specific place on earth for the New Jerusalem, then only the righteous will be eligible to enter its gates.
In my opinion, neither view can be proven to the satisfaction of all, so we leave it to each to come to his own conclusion. It is important only to know that during that final Age of Judgment, many will remain unperfected and will live under certain restrictions until the great Jubilee sets all creation free.