Unveiling the Symbolism in Revelation
Spiritual things are more readily grasped when illustrations are provided from the seen realm. This explains why we need to understand the symbols used in the book of Revelation, for they are shadows of the reality. The significance and beauty of symbols lies in the fact that they illumine the eyes of spiritually-minded people, while at the same time, they hide truth from the carnally-minded. Different representations of truth are seen in the various symbols, and they reveal the purpose of God for, and in, His people.
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." (vv.1-2)
What a contrast between the beginning of this chapter and the ending of the previous chapter! After John saw the lake of fire, he saw a new heaven and a new earth. Before we can see the new heaven and the new earth, the lake of fire has to cleanse us of all our carnality!
The true perspective and understanding of the new heaven, the new earth and the new Jerusalem fill us with awe and great joy. The natural mind finds it difficult to understand that a city can symbolize the bride of Christ, and that the temple is not a physical building. So we need to let the Spirit of God show us the spiritual realities of these symbols. Only then will we realize that the holy city is the bride of Christ in her perfection.
John saw a new heaven and a new earth. The Greek word KAINOS, translated NEW, does not mean new in time, or recent, "but new as to form or quality, of a different nature from what is contrasted as old." (Vines) Something new is not something that has been remodeled, nor is it a mixture of the old and the new. It is completely new!
This was not the heaven John was used to seeing when he looked up into space; neither was it the heaven man's imagination has concocted! How exciting it must have been for John to see a new heaven - not a physical heaven, but a spiritual heaven and earth! This brought him into a new dimension, for this heaven and earth symbolize the nature of the new creation man created in Christ!
This new earth is characterized by the absence of a sea. Throughout this book the sea has symbolized the restless turbulent nations that have no knowledge of God. We saw that the beast came out of the sea, and that the sea contained the living dead - the mass of humanity that is dead in its sins and trespasses. (20:13) The absence of a sea indicates that there is no place for the old humanity in our new earth.
Heaven speaks of a dimension that is higher than the earth. Our traditions and imaginations have created a heaven that is an idyllic place in a far away abode above the visible sky. But in Matthew 5:34 Jesus said that heaven is the throne of God. A throne represents government and authority. So heaven is God's government and authority! To experience heaven we have to be governed by God!
Our mind is the highest place within us. Our first heaven is our carnal mind for it dictates and governs our thoughts and actions. Our first earth consists of the dust that the serpent feeds on - the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life. In order to get out of its jurisdiction and control we have to receive the mind of Christ by becoming a new creation in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:16 Paul says that Christ has given us His mind. His mind delights in doing the will of God, and is totally submitted to the government of God. So the mind of Christ is our new heaven. A new heaven is not a mixture of the old and the new. Everything has become new! Peter refers to this new heaven and new earth, saying, "But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells." (2 Pe. 3:13) Christ has given us His mind of righteousness. As we learn to live out of the mind of Christ, our new earth will shine forth. Christ's righteousness does away with all the old humanity, so there is no more sea!
"For the first heaven and the first earth passed away." The Greek word PROTOS is translated "first", and it means before or opposite to the last; foremost (in time, place of importance." (Vines) Our first heaven and earth were all important to us before we knew Christ. Self was on the throne, and self caters to self. Our understanding of spiritual realities was in the natural realm, and lies had become our truth. When the new heaven and earth become ours, the old heaven and earth are left behind.
After "the first heaven and the first earth passed away", John saw the new Jerusalem coming down from God. The new Jerusalem is a city, and cities are populated with people. The new Jerusalem is not populated with the same people that populated the old Jerusalem. There is a big difference between the two cities. In Galatians 4:21-31 we learn that the two Jerusalems are two covenants. The present-day Jerusalem represents the old covenant of law, and it keeps its children in bondage; the new Jerusalem represents the new covenant of "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," and it sets us "free from the law of sin and of death." (Rom. 8:2) Therefore the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem are freed from their bondage to sin. This pictures the bride of Christ! John was receiving a vision of the bride of Christ as she is in her perfection.
This city comes down out of heaven from God where it originated. It is not built on this earth, raptured up, and then brought down again. It comes out of heaven. Jesus said that He was a man from heaven. The source of His being came from above - and so does ours! We are born of the Spirit, and therefore we have a heavenly nature. Since this city has been prepared in heaven (the spiritual realm), the inhabitants of this city have not chosen to live there; rather they have been chosen and prepared by God to become inhabitants of this city. Their thinking has been changed from independent to corporate thinking. In corporateness they see that their uniqueness adds beauty and true greatness to the whole.
She has been made ready as a bride adorned for her husband! This is the hour of preparation. In the previous chapters we have seen the cleansing that was needed to prepare the bride — to bring her to this glorious state. The Greek word for adorned is KOSMEO, and primarily means to arrange, to put in order. Our English word, cosmetics, is derived from it. The noun form, KOSMOS, which means a harmonious arrangement, is often mistranslated as world in our Bible. Here we see that the adornment of the bride depicts her harmonious relationship with Christ.
The bride is now fully prepared and matured, qualified and glorified as Christ's wife upon His throne. By right of marriage she takes His name, which symbolizes His nature. She is the complement of Christ and has joint-ownership of all His possessions, and co-dominion over all His realms. By marriage she is joint-heir with the King of kings!
During our lifetime we build with gold, silver, and precious jewels, or with wood, hay, and stubble. These elements and substances refer to the outer expression of our inner being. The hay, wood and stubble represent the works of religiosity - like keeping the law, regulations, precepts and traditions. Fire (pressure) reveals the source and quality of our works, and causes them to become either a precious jewel or a heap of ashes. Works that are not destroyed by fire have their source in life, and are an expression of Christ's life within us. These works will remain.
The bride's adornment consists of the heavenly nature of the Bridegroom lover. The processing of God has burned away everything that did not have its source in life. Earth's pressures did not deter the bride from following the Lord. Therefore she is arrayed with all manner of precious jewels. There can be no restoration of creation, no demonstration of the kingdom and no manifestation of the sons of God apart from the bride.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ` Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them." (v.3)
A loud voice came from the throne. The throne represents God's authority and rule, and He rules us from within. Therefore this loud voice came from the Spirit realm within him. John received a message that came with the authority of God Himself! This message was almost too good to be true! It declared that God's dwelling place is now in His people!
In the old covenant God dwelt in the holy of holies in the tabernacle that Moses raised up in the wilderness. This was the innermost part and it was situated beyond the outer court and the holy place. In this vision the Holy Spirit witnessed to John that this city, the new Jerusalem, corresponds in symbol to the most inward realm of the tabernacle of Moses - a realm in which there was no corruption! The manna in the ark remained fresh, so it did not need replacement; neither did it need any natural light as in the outer court, nor any artificial light as in the holy place, for its light was the glory of God - the Shekinah glory!
"Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and God Himself will be among them." The word among, from the Greek META, means "in the midst of." God's dwelling place is now in the midst of humanity; He dwells in His people! This too was symbolized in the Old Testament by the tabernacle of Moses. All the tribes of Israel were camped around it! The natural can only typify the spiritual to a certain degree. Christ now tabernacles in the midst of His people; but He is also in them. He dwells in our spirit, and leads and directs us! He is our light and our glory! God's plan for us is so much greater than we can ever imagine!
"And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (v.4)
"And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Since we cannot envision life on earth without tears, we immediately say that this applies to life after we have died. If we look at these things and apply them to the physical body, we won't understand them any more than Nicodemus could understand that we must be born again. How can we believe that this is for now when we see so much suffering, sadness and sin every day? We join Nicodemus in asking, "How can these things be?" In looking for the answer to this question, let's remember that this voice came from the Spirit realm, and therefore has to be understood spiritually.
In our earthly journey we experience difficult situations that cause an upheaval in our emotions. Tears are present because of sorrow, difficulties, heartaches, etc. God has promised to wipe away those tears. This means that even in the most difficult situations our tears will be wiped away, because in Christ we have been delivered from the hopelessness of a situation. In the midst of every trying situation we can walk in peace and serenity because we know that Christ is working something out that is beyond our comprehension.
The tears of a Christian sparkle with triumph. As 1 Thess. 4 puts it, "We sorrow not as others, who have no hope." We sorrow, but not as others. There is triumph in our tears! When an unsaved loved one dies, we sorrow, but not as others. We have the hope and blessed assurance that the message of salvation will be brought to him at a future time, and that he will accept it, even though he must first pass through great affliction. Therefore we do not sorrow as others sorrow who have no hope.
"There will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain." This death does not refer to our physical body; it is speaking of spiritual things. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes on Me shall never die." He did not say that we have to first die physically before we receive the resurrection. Without Christ we were already dead! Believing in Him resurrects us out of our death and gives us His life! Those who believe in Him have already received the life of God! There is no death in His life. Sadness, pain, tears and death cannot dwell in His presence! These things do not reside in His glory! In His presence there is joy forevermore! The Shekinah glory in us takes away all darkness and everything related to darkness! This is not only for the future — it is also for now!
We continue to live in the eternal life that we have in Christ even when the newspaper carries our obituary and says that we have died. There's no such thing as death for a Christian except the death to sin. And that death brings us into life! If we live in the reality of what is declared in this book, we will live in joy unspeakable and full of glory. It is glorious to cease all our carnal thinking and to live in the truth that Christ is. Physical death frees us from the mortality and limitations of this body, and therefore we can welcome it.
"The first things have passed away." The natural is first - it is the prototype. The natural was not meant to remain, for it does not have immortality. . Christ takes us out of our old Adamic nature and gives us His nature! We have been taken out of Adam, the first man, and have been placed into Christ, the second man! Paul wrote that we are a new creation in Christ. "The old things passed away; behold , new things have come." (2 Cor. 5:17) It says that we are new — not that we will become new some day. We cannot relegate this to the future; this is past tense. We have been "sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance..." (Eph. 1:13b-14a) A pledge is a down payment - there is more to come. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we receive more of what we already have in Christ. A pledge is a little bit of a lot more; it is multiplied over and over again into infinity.
"And He who sits on the throne said, `Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, `Write, for these words are faithful and true.'" (v.5) These words come with great authority, for they come from the One who sits on the throne! When the Holy Spirit speaks to us, He gives us the words that are in the mind of Christ! We can always trust the Holy Spirit, for His words are faithful and true!
From the throne comes the promise that "He makes all things new." He takes us out of mortality and puts us into immortality; He takes away the desires of the flesh and gives us His desires. He gives us a new spirit — the Spirit of Christ; He gives us a new mind — the mind of Christ; He gives us a new body — the body of truth and light that Christ is. In Christ everything becomes new!
"Then He said to me, 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.'" (v.6) The speaker identifies Himself as the Alpha and the Omega — the first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet. In other words, He is the whole alphabet! Now why would He describe Himself in this way?
Christ is our communication with God; He is the Word made flesh! The letters of the alphabet represent every sound needed for every word that is used for communication. With this description Christ is saying that He is everything we need to receive and express spiritual knowledge: wisdom, understanding, directives and emotions! All our needs are fulfilled in Christ! He truly is our Salvation and Provision!
Only He can give us the water of life from the spring of salvation! But in order to avail ourselves of this water, we have to be thirsty. I'll never forget the time when my three-year-old baby brother was deathly sick because of complications of an appendectomy. He was not allowed to have water, and he was so thirsty! It was so pitiful to see him! Finally the doctor said that he would die anyway, so we could fulfill his desire for water. The little guy eagerly drank almost a full pitcher of water! This deluge of water undid the knot in his bowels, and he lived! It's the thirsty land that drinks in the water!
Those who are thirsty for truth will eagerly drink the life-giving words of our Lord Jesus Christ! The self-satisfied, smug and traditionally -oriented people will be content with the non-changing clanging of the old doctrines, rituals and traditions in which there is no life. They are unaware of their true condition. An earthquake or two will shatter their smugness, and their ears will be opened to hear Christ's invitation to come and drink of the water of life. God knows how to create in us a desire for more of Him!
The water of life is given us freely! Money cannot buy it; neither can we work for it. It is free of any cost to us. However the cost to God was great! He gave His only begotten Son to die for us that we might live! The cost was also great for Christ. He endured humiliation, rejection, and untold suffering, even death on the cross, that He might give us His life! Christ desires the oneness that can only be ours in Him!
"He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son." (v-7)! We cannot be overcomers without having difficulties and problems to overcome. We cannot run away from our problems. Our carnal thinking is our biggest problem, and difficulties reveal whether we are living out of the natural mind or out of the mind of Christ. The overcomer conquers the self-centered nature within him. The promise to the overcomer is that he will inherit these things — the things that are mentioned in the preceding verses.
An inheritance comes to us on the basis of relationship. A servant receives gifts and rewards, but a son receives an inheritance! An inheritance includes everything the father owns. In the Holy Spirit we receive life, light, love and truth - the very nature and life of Christ! Walking or living in truth takes us out of our old self-centered living, and brings us into spiritual maturity — into the fullness of Christ! Since God is our Father, we know that we are children of God by birth. This gives us the exalted privilege of maturing into sons who express the Father's nature and then reveal it to the world.
"But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons, and sorcerers and adulterers and all liars, their part will be the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (v. 8)
Here we have a list of those who are driven by their own lusts and desires, and therefore need God's divine correction and purification. The first on the list are the cowardly, that is, the fear-ridden ones. These are people who do not know their God. In Daniel 11:32 we read, "But the people who know their God will display strength and take action." A spirit of timidity does not come from God, for His Spirit is one of power and love and discipline.
The unbelieving do not believe what God says about Himself and what He says about us, so they are actually accusing Him of being a liar. They do not believe that God is full of mercy and grace and love. Instead of believing who God says He is, they believe their own idea of God. Their rejection of grace and mercy keeps them in their traditional laws, and every infraction of the law brings condemnation. Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ are judged because they refuse to receive the light.
The abominable are vile and disgusting and detestable. Nothing beautiful can be found in them because they are void of love and inner beauty. Murderers are full of hate, and they lack discipline. They reject God's sovereignty, and in unleashed anger they kill others in order to appease their own wrath. Instead of being filled with the love of God, they are filled with hate.
Immoral people do not have morals. They lack standards and do not conform to God's principles of right and wrong. They are lewd, unchaste, and obscene. This speaks of the natural man pursuing his own lustful desires and seeking selfish gratification. He will not submit to any standards but clings to his own selfish desires. We can only come to God in humility.
The word sorcerer comes from the Greek word PHARMACIA. A sorcerer is a manipulator of the mind. Our mind can be manipulated by drugs and by false teaching of various sorts. Only the Holy Spirit can guide us into all truth! God is warning us not to believe every wind of doctrine and all the old man-made traditions. All our thoughts, beliefs and desires have to be put under the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. Many speakers use fear and illogical statements to manipulate the minds of their hearers. The devil even quoted scripture in his effort to manipulate the mind of Jesus to obey him. Scripture quoted by an evil spirit will always have a wrong application. All who try to dominate by manipulating people's minds need to be cleansed.
Idolaters worship idols, and an idol is an image of a god used as an object of worship. Idolatry is the worship or ardent devotion or admiration of anything that takes the place of God. True worship cannot occur without a submission to the object of our worship. In many countries objects that portray man's idea of God are seen openly in public buildings and in homes. Each god has its own demands, and obedience to those demands is expected to bring blessings. Disobedience brings a curse. In America the idolatry is more subtle for it takes place in the unseen realm. Self with its lustful desires is worshiped, and God is left out of the picture. All idolatry has to be done away!
Liars do not tell the truth. The devil is a liar and "does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (Jn. 8:44) Liars exhibit the nature of the devil. To do away with this nature, liars need to be put into the lake of fire.
God's purpose for the lake that burns with fire and brimstone is to rid humanity of everything that is not of God! We have already explained that brimstone is another name for sulfur, and sulfur was used in the offerings for purification. All unrighteousness is the result of carnal thinking, and God's consuming fire does away with all that thinking! Those who do not receive Christ as their Savior will be subjected to fiery trials and difficulties in order for them to recognize the error of their ways, and their inability to save themselves. They need to recognize that lies have become their truth, and that they can only receive truth by receiving Christ as their Savior.
The teaching that God will cast people into a hell of fire, and torture them for all eternity is a misrepresentation of God's love, grace and mercy, and places limitations on His atonement. In Col. 1:20 we read, "And through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven." Since God says that He will reconcile ALL things to Himself, it follows that there are no exceptions! God is a consuming fire, and this fire will not be quenched until everything that is not of Himself is consumed!
"Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, 'Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.'" (v. 9) The angel or messenger that had the seven bowls full of the plagues, was the same messenger that showed John the bride of the Lamb. This is of great significance! The Lord wants us to understand that the difficulties, pressures and cleansings we are experiencing are necessary to bring forth the beauty of the bride! We tend to blame all our difficulties on the devil. We fail to see the blessings that come from our trials, and that we need them in order to mature. Without them we could not be overcomers!
The angel invited John to see the bride, the wife of the Lamb. What an interesting and exciting invitation! The Lamb has a bride, and the bride is also the wife. This is exemplified in Eastern culture where a betrothed woman, a bride, is also called a wife.
Why is the reference here to the Lamb, instead of to Christ? We know that the Lamb does not refer to a young sheep, but to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The word "Lamb" emphasizes the sacrificial death of Jesus, and gives understanding to the meaning of love. Ephesians 5:25 says that husbands should love their wives even as "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her." It is only through His death and resurrection, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit that the bride can become one with Him. The term, "the bride of Christ," emphasizes the oneness that is ours in the anointing.
Why did the angel invite John to a higher level in order for him to see the bride? John could not see the bride with his natural understanding, so he had to leave that understanding and get onto a higher level. The angel's invitation to "Come here," is also our invitation to leave our natural understanding of spiritual realities. Our natural understanding sees symbols as realities, and whatever it does not see or understand is relegated to the future. For example, it believes that heaven is the place we go to after we die, and that it consists of beautiful mansions and physical streets of gold; it also believes that the lake of fire is a physical fire that burns forever. It thinks that keeping external forms and rituals, such as calling certain days holy, and observing the accepted norms and traditions incorporated in religion are their sanctification.
Living in the letter is living in death. To get to a higher plane we have to receive revelation of what is happening spiritually. Revelation knowledge of Jesus Christ lets us see His very essence. It takes us beyond the darkness and death of the natural mind, and causes us to see the spiritual realm and all the goodies God has for us there. It shows us the true nature of things!
"And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God." (vv.10-11a)
Imagine the excitement John must have felt as he was instantly relocated through space, and suddenly found himself standing on the top of a mountain! To his utter amazement he saw a magnificent and extraordinary city coming down out of heaven from God. This city was not built on earth, raptured up, and then brought down again. Everything in this city was formed in heaven, for it came down from God — and heaven is the government and authority of God!
This holy city, Jerusalem, is not a literal city; it is a city that symbolizes the bride or wife of the Lamb! It brings us a wonderful message of the church in her perfection - the church triumphant, without spot or wrinkle! The different parts of the city are all symbolic of spiritual realities, and should not be taken literally. They reveal the spiritual attributes present in the bride of Christ. We need to understand that the body of Christ is the temple of God - the place God inhabits in the Spirit - and that every stone of that temple is a living son of God.
We cannot have a city without people. The word, "new" tells us that this Jerusalem symbolizes a people who differ from those in the "old" Jerusalem. The present Jerusalem in Palestine is "in slavery with her children. (Gal. 4:25) She is the same in essence as the old Jerusalem that crucified Jesus and stoned the prophets; she is not a holy city. She still clings to her laws. The people still live under the guilt and condemnation that every infraction of the law brings. The new Jerusalem is different. It symbolizes a spiritual people who have been born from above. They have received the life and nature of Jesus Christ! The glory of this city cannot be imparted to the Adam man because he is anti-Christ and anti-God. It can only be imparted to the new creation humanity.
The new Jerusalem has the glory of God. The earthly glory of nations consists of power, control and material wealth, but God's glory is His goodness! (Exodus 33:19) God is completely good; everything He is, is good! He is truth, love, light and righteousness, and His righteousness opposes all unrighteousness. He has all wisdom and all knowledge, and all power! He is completely just, and His attributes are all good! These attributes are the essence of His very being, and are inherently His life, even as the different colors of the rainbow inherently are the rainbow. The emanation of all that He is, is His glory! Our transformation takes place because of His life in us. The more we participate in His life, the more of His goodness will flow out through us! The city John saw was the perfected church, the bride of Christ without spot or wrinkle!
"Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper." (v.11) The jasper stone, as we know it, is an opaque stone. However, the ancient jaspis probably included chrysoprase. Chrysos means gold, plus prason, leek, a light-green quartz. It is the ancient name of a golden-green precious stone, to which was attributed the facility to shine in the dark. Here the brilliance, the cost and the transparency of the bride are emphasized.
This city, symbolizing the bride of Christ, is sending forth a brilliant light. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world." (Matt. 5:14) We may not realize the light that is emanating from us as we do the will of God. These pictures reveal what is going on in the spiritual realm. The bride of Christ has come into perfect light. Light and truth are synonymous in the scriptures. She has come into truth and there is no impurity or lie in truth. If truth could be corrupted, it would no longer be truth. The carnality of the old mind with its lies and deception has no place in her. She is living in her new mind - the mind of Christ! Obedience to Christ is her only desire!
Our walk in truth is a costly business. We cannot maintain a self-life and walk in truth. All selfish ambition and desires, all bitterness and unforgiveness and all selfish motives have to die. Everything that fans the ego has to die. But out of this death life springs forth — a life that flows out of the knowledge of being sons of God. This is a life of humility, service, submission and obedience to Christ!
Walking in truth brings transparency. The walk and the talk are in agreement. Truth brings clear discernment between the letter and the spirit. It sees the difference between life and death; between natural understanding and spiritual understanding; between the outer forms of religion and a relationship with God! Truth is the very essence of God's nature.
God's glory shines out from the new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ. No shadows can dwell in this light! When light comes from a specific object, like the sun or a lamp, anything that stands in its way will produce a shadow. However, this brilliance is the light of Christ Himself, and He fills all things. Since no lie or deception dwells in Him, nothing can obscure that light. His light within us takes away all our wrong thinking; it takes away all the lies and deception of the carnal mind!
THE CITY WALLS
Next we have a description of the walls of this city. "It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are those of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel...And he measured its wall, 72 yards," (literally144 cubits) "according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass." (vv. 12,17-18)
A literal interpretation of the purpose of this wall does not satisfy us. If this city were in heaven, why would it need walls? What would be the purpose of a literal wall? What kind of enemies do we have there? Physical enemies, such as jet planes loaded with bombs or missiles carrying warheads? They couldn't reach that altitude. Or are the walls to protect its citizens from stepping off the edge and falling down? This wall is not for physical protection, like the wall that surrounded ancient Jerusalem. Instead, it symbolizes the defense that God's salvation and government brings us against sin. It symbolizes Christ's strength within us. He is our defense against every enemy of the spiritual life.
In the light of the Old Testament we see the beauty of this symbolism. There we read, "Violence will not be heard again in your land, nor devastation or destruction within your borders; but you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise...`For I,' declares the LORD, `will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst'...The name of the LORD is a strong tower; (literally: a walled place); the righteous runs into it and is safe." (Isaiah 60:18; Zech. 2:5; Prov. 18:10) So the wall of this city symbolizes our salvation!
God's salvation is our protection from all evil! The physical evil that we are called upon to endure cannot harm our salvation! Christ's life within us is our strength, for Christ is our salvation! His life in us overcomes our wrong thinking and thus overcomes sin; it defeats Satan, dispels darkness and conquers death. This is the eternal salvation we have in Christ Jesus!
The wall has a measurement. The modern translation of 72 yards does not portray the intended symbolism. The original version of 144 cubits consists of two twelves - 12 is the number of God's government, and 2 is the number of witness. So the wall is a witness of God's government in our lives. The height of the wall is only important in the symbolism of its number. Changing these numbers into modern measurements does away with the symbolism, and invalidates the intent of the vision. In this vision we find the number twelve occurring over and over again. This signifies the importance of God's government in our lives. Living in self-government is sin.
Notice that the 144 cubits, according to human measurements, are the same as angelic measurements. Imbedded in this statement lies the awesome truth that God's government does not change; it is the same for us as it is for angels! This emphasizes the fact that even while we are in our earthly bodies we are governed by truth. Our standard of truth must be the same standard Christ had, for He is the truth, and there is no corruption in truth! Truth demonstrates our unity with Christ!
Walls also speak of separation and safety. Throughout this book there is a recurring theme, namely, that the devil cannot get inside the true church. The church needs to hear this! The government of God is our salvation and protection! The devil cannot touch the company of people who worship God in the holy of holies. Not only do they worship God in the holy of holies, but in Christ they have become the holy of holies - the temple of God where God dwells!
The book of Revelation cites numerous examples showing that the devil cannot touch God's people. In chapter 7 the 144,000 were sealed off - they couldn't be touched. Then in chapter 11 John was given a measuring rod to measure the temple of God and those who worship in it. The outer court that looks like the church but isn't, consists of forms and rituals; it has been given over to the Gentiles. The true church is not influenced by forms, rituals and traditions because it has been measured off or separated from the world! This protection is also emphasized in chapters 12-14 where we read about the glorious woman who was protected when the devil tried to get her. We also notice that the 144,000 remained protected while the beast was being worshiped, and people were receiving the mark of the beast. "Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mt. Zion, and with Him 144,000." Living in obedience under God's government is our protection in the midst of all satanic attacks.
The garden of Eden didn't have the protection that the new Jerusalem had. Adam and Eve were ignorant of the disaster that a rule of choice between good and evil would bring, so they could be enticed to try the attractive rule of another government - the government of self. The inhabitants of the new Jerusalem know the value of remaining in God's government. This causes faith to rise up in them, so they don't revert to the old rule. It keeps us safe, for we "are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter 1:5) The very power of God protects us from receiving the lies of Satan. In 1 John 5:18 it says, "and the evil one does not touch him."
The symbolism is very plain - the walls symbolize our salvation, and the double emphasis of the number 12 is a strong reminder that we are under God's government. Living under His government is our protection! We can rest securely in the fact that any power that would ever come against us, must first of all come against the power of God. And He has all power! Nothing can overcome His power! God has made Himself personally responsible to keep us. What a tremendous protection!
The Lord is our shepherd! A shepherd, especially in the East, made himself responsible for the life of the sheep. If one of his sheep would be attacked by a lion, the shepherd would rather die than let the lion get away with it. Christ Jesus is the great Shepherd who is personally responsible for keeping His church! This wall of salvation has nothing to do with so-called coverings, elderships, headships, fellowships, rules, regulations, laws or doctrines. There is no safety in them - if there were, we wouldn't see so much division, so many church splits, disgraced ministries, and fellowships falling apart. Our salvation reflects the glory of God and His keeping power!
If we slip out of God's government, and accept the government of our carnal mind, we'll encounter the serpent. Sometimes the serpent is camouflaged as a lamb so we won't recognize him, and sometimes as a roaring lion in order to paralyze us through fear! In whatever form he comes, he either instills fear or gives us an alternative to God's rule. He makes the alternative look attractive, easy and desirable. However, we must not veer from our submission to God's government, for only then will we be safe! There is no danger for those who are in Christ. We watch and pray that we remain in the faith; the keeping power belongs to Christ.
The walls are walls of exclusion as well as of safety. Everything that defiles is excluded. "And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." (v.27) Nothing can come into this city but that which is filled with the life of Christ - everything else must be excluded. Those who inhabit this glorious realm are separated from the filth of Babylon and the flesh pots of Egypt. They abide in union with Christ. They live out of His glorious mind and are transformed into His wonderful likeness! Inside is the glory of God; outside are the dogs. Let's enjoy the glory of God in our everyday living, and come into "the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Eph. 4:13) Dwelling within the walls of His salvation brings us into the perfection of Christ!
Now let's examine the twelve gates or entrances to this city. "_and at the gates 12 angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the 12 tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west...And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl...In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed." (vv. 12-13; 21; 25)
The number of gates corresponds to the number of tribes, and there was an entrance for each tribe. During Israel's wilderness wanderings each tribe had a special place assigned where it had to camp in relation to the tabernacle. Again we see how the Old Testament symbols are fulfilled in the life we have in Christ. Twelve symbolizes the government of God, and four signifies completeness. An entrance into God's government is provided for every direction from which the city may be approached.
There were twelve angels and twelve gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. These are not the children of Jacob, the conniver, the supplanter, the cheater. After Jacob wrestled with the angel, his name was changed to Israel, meaning the prince that prevails with God. Therefore this does not refer to the natural descendants of Jacob, but to spiritual Israel — to those who prevail with God. God is dealing with the Israel of faith. The flesh cannot enter the kingdom of God. The meaning of the names of the twelve sons of Israel describes the people of God. Only those who fit that description can become the bride of Christ.
We need to be careful that we do not confuse symbolism with reality. Symbolism consists of using an object (the outward and physical) to represent or point to something abstract or spiritual. This helps us to understand that the physical tabernacle of Moses points to God's heavenly tabernacle. Things pertaining to the tabernacle of God are not of the earth, i.e. earthy. They belong to the new creation - not to the old.
The names of the 12 tribes of Israel (twelve again signifying God's government) are very meaningful to us because their meaning brings us a description of the life of God's people. They show us that it is possible to overcome and be victorious in this life here on earth. So let's look at these names and receive spiritual understanding.
The first son was REUBEN. His name means, "Behold a son." God is perfecting the spirit of sonship in His children. According to Galatians 4, sons have the mark of maturity, for they reign over the servants (the Law). The sons reign under God's government and authority.
SIMEON means "Hearing." God's children have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice." (Jn. 10:27) And in Rev. 2:7 it says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. (Rom. 10:17) There is a big difference between reading the scriptures and hearing the Spirit! When the scriptures are interpreted by the natural mind, the spiritual meaning is lost, for the natural mind is always against the Spirit. God's children have ears to hear the voice of the Spirit, and are admonished to use them; they are to believe and obey His voice.
The tribe of LEVI was the priestly tribe. It was not counted among the 12 tribes that received an earthly inheritance, because God was its provision. The name Levi means unity or joined. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) A branch that is severed from the vine dies; even so, we can only live and bear fruit when we are united with Christ. "But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him." (1 Cor.6:17) The believer has been joined to the Lord, and Christ has become his life!
JUDAH means praise. God's people are filled with praise for the great salvation that God has brought about in Christ! They are not complainers, nor do they worry and always expect the worst because they know they can trust their Father God in every situation!
DAN means a judge. The citizens of this city have received Christ. They have accepted God's judgment on their life in Adam, and have received truth and light. Without truth it is impossible to discern or judge the deceptions and lies of the devil. Without truth it is impossible to judge correctly! Truth gives them (and us)) the ability to rightly judge between truth and error.
ZEBULON means a dwelling place - a place to dwell. We have a dwelling place with God. "In whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit." (Eph.2:22) A dwelling place speaks of permanence! It is not a hotel or a guesthouse. We are residents — not guests! Since Christ is our dwelling place, dining with Him is a normal part of our life. We are always with Him, and in Him we have our being! If we do not dwell in our dwelling place, we are not possessing our possession.
ISSACHAR means a price was paid. We have been redeemed with a price - with the blood of Jesus! To whom was the price paid? Some Christians teach that it was paid to the devil, and the devil named the price - but that would be ridiculous! Nothing could be farther from the truth! That idea implies that Jesus had to obey the devil in order to redeem us - and obeying the devil is always sin.
What was the cost of our redemption? It cost Jesus Christ His glory with the Father and the humiliation of being lowered into an identity with sinful humanity. In order to redeem us He had to lower Himself into an identity with sinful humanity. As a result, He received false accusations and rejection by His own people; He had to endure a lot of spiritual and physical suffering, even the excruciating pain, shame and humiliation of death on a cross! This was the price He paid for our salvation and redemption in His obedience and submission to the will of God!
GAD means a troop or a great company. This company does not consist of only a few people. It is a great company to whom the heavens have been opened. Christ has become their wisdom so they can now understand the true nature of spiritual realities. Without a doubt this is an important prerequisite for being a part of this great city!
ASHER means happy. "The joy of the Lord is our strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) This is more than the soulish joy worked up by singing and clapping for fifteen or thirty minutes. It is more than the bubbly excitement over God's financial blessings. It is that deep, confident, abiding joy of the spirit which is undisturbed by anything that happens in the outer world of appearances. This is the kingdom attitude that is unmoved and unshaken by events; it is a fundamental quality that admits us into the inner calm and stability of the Christ!
NAPHTALI means wrestling. Rachel said, "With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and I have indeed prevailed." (Gen. 30:8) This symbolizes victory or overcoming in spiritual warfare. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high (heavenly, spiritual) places." (Eph. 6:12 KJV) Our battle is against the lies and deception that fight and oppose truth! This company of people has overcome the carnal mind, and is now living in the mind of Christ!
Jacob's first son by Rachel was Joseph, and his name means increase. Joseph received a double blessing in that his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim were each counted as a tribe. MANASSEH means forgetfulness. When Manasseh was born, Joseph said, "God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household." (Gen. 41:51) We are people who have a gloriously short memory that ends at the cross. We have forgotten the misery and affliction that we have suffered at the hands of others. This forgetfulness brings forth a ministry of reconciliation, mercy, forgiveness and blessing! God said, "For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (Heb. 8:12) Even as God does not remember our sins, so we do not remember the sins others have committed against us! Joseph named the second son EPHRAIM, "For", he said, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction." (Gen. 41:52) Fruitfulness in the lives of Christians takes place while they are dwelling on earth and are being afflicted. Their walk is in the Spirit (the new Jerusalem), and the fruit of the Spirit is evident in them.
BENJAMIN means son of my right hand. Rachel named him Benoni, meaning son of my sorrow, but Jacob wouldn't accept that. Out of Rachel's sorrow came Benjamin, the son of Jacob's right hand. Christ was first the Son of sorrow, and out of that sorrow He was raised to the Father's right hand! (Acts 2:33) In Christ we are raised up to share that exalted position with Him!
These names describe the nature of those who live within these gates. This is the true Israel - the Israel of faith - those who have prevailed with God and are now submitted to Christ. These names bring us the revelation that all the foregoing characteristics must be thoroughly established in our experiences before we are qualified to share the dominion of His throne, and be a part of the government of God's kingdom!
Therefore we recognize that these gates are not literal gates, and that they do not symbolize the entry of sinners into the kingdom. They are entrances into the presence of God. They portray those precious truths that we have learned in our intimate fellowship with God, and the experiences we have had by which we grow and mature spiritually. This city symbolizes the life of Christians living out of the mind of Christ - they are the bride of Christ! King David asked, "Who may ascend to the hill of the Lord?" The answer: "He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood." (Ps. 24:3) This is the new creation man, for the righteousness of Christ is his righteousness!
Followers of Christ have been given an awesome mandate. In John 20:21 Jesus revealed His new assignment for His disciples, by saying, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you! Jesus was sent as the exact representation of the Father, and to be the way to God. In the same way that the Father sent Jesus to be His ambassador, so Jesus sends us to be His ambassadors! We are to be the exact representation of Jesus Christ on this earth and reveal Christ's nature to the world! Just as Christ overcame the world by gladly doing the will of God, even when the road was rough and the pain was almost unbearable, so we also need to overcome! As ambassadors of Christ we realize that we are to be a gateway into the presence of God by having and revealing Christ's nature of love, forgiveness, grace and mercy. Let's embrace this truth, for it brings a wonderful blessing together with its responsibility!
In the symbolism of the number 12 it is evident that only those who have received the government of God can enter this city. Everything in this city is under God's government. Only the redeemed walk there. Nothing that defiles or is unclean, nothing of the world, nothing of the flesh, and nothing of the devil can enter this wonderful relationship with the Lord. We know that no one can receive salvation except by Jesus Christ, and that no one can come into the presence of the Father but by Jesus Christ. The twelve tribes could only enter the holy of holies symbolically by having their names on the breastplate of the high priest. However, in Christ we can enter the very presence of the Father, and His presence becomes our home - our abiding place!
To enjoy the government of God we need to be submitted to Him and follow the leading of the Spirit. Our love for God will bring with it a hatred for the desires of the flesh and the things of this world. God's desires become our desires, and His wrath becomes our wrath because His nature has become our nature! Our life is hidden with Christ in God!
In Isaiah 60 we read that the gates are called praise. Praise comes from people - not from stone walls or pearly gates. Since twelve is the number of divine government, God's dominion in our lives through the Holy Spirit brings forth the praise by which He is glorified. Praise consists of more than singing and speaking words of thanksgiving; it is a life that glorifies God by our attitudes and actions! Just as Christ's life glorified God because He delighted to do the will of God, so we glorify God by doing His will! When we are led by the Holy Spirit we will be in harmony with the purpose of God, and we will reveal the nature of God.
We enter this city through gates of pearl. Each gate is one great pearl! The gates are not made of pearl; each of the gates IS one pearl! Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a merchant who sought fine pearls. When he found one pearl of great value, he sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matt. 13:45-46) We may think that we are the merchant, and we have to sell all that we have to obtain Christ - the pearl of great price. But what can we sell when we are still dead in our trespasses and sins? Can our darkness, corruption and lies buy Christ? We have nothing of value to give in exchange! We have to look for a merchant who has something to give!
Since this merchant does not symbolize the natural man, he has to symbolize Jesus Christ. It is He who left His glory with the Father, came to us in the likeness of sinful flesh, made Himself of no reputation and became obedient to death, even death on the cross! Why? That He might obtain a bride - and the true church is the bride! Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her "so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." (Eph. 5:26-27) What an awesome truth!
Christ parted with all that He had to get that pearl. The church is the pearl of great price! Notice what it says in Acts 20:28. "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with his own blood." Christ gave Himself for her, so that she could be presented to Him in perfection and completeness! She is the bride adorned for her husband!
Pearls are not ordinary gems. Other precious stones are made of minerals by pressure and heat, but genuine pearls are the result of the accidental entry of a grain of sand or a parasite into the pearl oyster. This becomes an irritant within the oyster. It immediately begins a healing response to the irritation, and secretes a fluid, called nacre, to coat the foreign substance. It covers all the rough edges and provides temporary relief. But each time the substance hardens, it again causes pain. So another layer of nacre (mother of pearl) is added. The calcareous concretion that forms around that object eventually becomes a beautiful, lustrous pearl! It is formed out of pain. And for people to obtain that pearl, the creature has to die!
It is not by chance that God made the pearl to illustrate the entrance into the presence of God. A pearl is the only gem made by a living process due to suffering, and the only one that comes from the sea. The sea symbolizes the sea of humanity that does not know God and therefore cannot rest. Christ's suffering and death came from the sea of humanity, and it has formed a beautiful gem! Because of the great salvation He fashioned and worked out for us, the church, the bride of Christ, is coming into glory! His salvation is the only way into the presence of God! Every entrance is a pearl. The government of God has decreed that there is no other way!
An unblemished pearl is one of the most ancient symbols of perfection, and was among the most precious of gems. It has tremendous worth! The value of a pearl measuring more than an inch in diameter is fabulous. The world's largest natural pearl found anywhere (recorded by Guinness) turned up in a giant killer clam off the coast of the Philippine Islands. It weighed a little more than 14 pounds. The pearl is baroque (irregular) in shape, a little bigger than a man's head, and was valued at $4,080,000 some years ago. Just think of the value of each pearl that forms the entrance to the new Jerusalem! Twelve matched pearls! This is beyond our imagination!
A worldly evaluation of pearls reads that in ancient times pearls were regarded as a symbol of perfection. This came about because of their pure color - predominantly white with some rose, pinks, lavenders, delicate purples, greens and tones of gold. Their appearance was also regarded as softer, more feminine, than that of mineral gems such as diamonds and emeralds. Because they are softer and vulnerable to scratches, pearls need gentle treatment.
Isn't it remarkable that long ago the Holy Spirit used the pearl as a symbol of entrance into this glorious city! The bride of the Lamb is prepared and perfected through suffering to be beautiful and glorious. Individually, it portrays the transformation that takes place in us through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. Corporately, the feminine qualities of God are formed in a people who are united to Him.
The pearl illustrates how God uses our sufferings to produce something beautiful! As we partake of God's grace to ease the pain, it becomes our pearly nacre; Christ's nature is being formed in us, and we become a beautiful lustrous pearl! It has been pointed out that pearls can be found anywhere in the world, even in waters that are somewhat shallow, but the best quality pearls are those which were formed in the depths of the sea - in the deep work of God in our lives! A pearl is one of His wonders in the deep.
Does God want us to suffer? Was it God's will for Christ to suffer? We know that a pearl cannot be produced without suffering in the oyster. In Heb. 5:8 we read that Jesus 'learned obedience by the things which He suffered' The Greek word in this passage is PASCHO, which means to experience a sensation or impression." Heb. 2:10 says that Jesus was made perfect through suffering. Here the Greek word PATHEMA is used, and it means something undergone, like hardship or pain. All the experiences that Jesus had, perfected Him because He remained obedient to the will of God. The depth of His obedience to the will of God was revealed by the most horrendous sufferings He endured. His absolute obedience qualified Him to receive a name that is above every name! (Phil. 2:9)
God's will for us is that we become conformed to the image of Christ! Sufferings are necessary for this to take place! The difficult experiences of life correspond to the irritants that invade the oyster! The sufferings in themselves do not produce the beauty, but our drawing upon God's grace and His divine life of love, builds layer upon layer of pearl-like beauty in us. The grace of God is present for us to deal with suffering and tribulation in obedience to His will. These sufferings are nothing in comparison to "the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18) The beauty of His nature and character is being formed in us!
It is interesting to note that this symbolism can be applied both to Jesus Christ and to the church. All the beauty and glory comes to us by faith in Christ! Jesus declared that we are one with Him even as He is one with the Father! The life of Christ in us transforms us into His likeness!
"The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. And the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles (actually, 12,000 stadia; and a stadion was approximately 600 ft.); its length and width and height are equal." (vv.15-16)
A gold rod was given to him to measure the city. Again we note the beautiful symbolism! Gold, total divine purity, is the standard of measurement. Everything is measured according to Christ who is the truth! No lie can enter in! No unbelieving and immoral person, no sorcerers and idolaters can enter in.
The translation of 12,000 stadia into 1500 miles does away with the symbolism. Again, the length is not important, but the number is. We are back to 12, the number of divine government, and 10 cubed - the number of completion - a completion, therefore nothing more can be added. Again, the number 12,000 signifies that the new Jerusalem is completely governed by God. There is no room for fleshly thinking and self-effort; only the will of God is done here! This is the church in the glory of God - delighting to do the will of God even as Christ did!
This city is a perfect cube; all its sides are equal. The only other cube found in the Bible is the holy of holies in the tabernacle of Moses, so we know that the holy of holies symbolizes this city. This reveals that the church is the holy of holies among men, and therefore the fulfillment of the holy of holies. Thus we see that it is the expression of perfection and fullness that can only be ours in God. What an awesome revelation to find that the holy of holies finds its fulfillment in the bride of the Lamb!
The holy of holies represents the dwelling place of God! Verse 3 plainly states: "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them." In 1 Cor. 6:19 Paul tells us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Where does God dwell in us? He dwells in our spirit, in the innermost part of us.
Israel could only enter the innermost part of the temple in the high priest as he carried the name of each tribe on his breast. Only in our High Priest, Jesus Christ, can we enter the New Jerusalem - the very presence of God! The holy of holies is no longer a geographical location. It is in fact a company of people in whom the glory of God dwells. The new Jerusalem, the perfect cube, the bride of Christ, is the ultimate holy of holies!
The veil between the holy of holies and the holy place had cherubim woven into it, symbolically guarding the way into the holy of holies. This symbolism dates back to the garden of Eden. After man had sinned, cherubim guarded the way to the tree of life. The cherubim were to make sure that no one could make his way to the tree of life by self-effort. Only by passing through the flaming sword could he get there. When Jesus died, this veil was torn from the top to the bottom, signifying that the way into the holy of holies is now open to all who are in Christ!
God has provided a way into the holiest through faith in Christ. The way to the tree of life is now wide open - not by self-effort but by faith in the finished work of Christ. Not only can we enter the holy of holies, but we can actually become the holy of holies!
THE FOUNDATION STONES
"And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb...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; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst." (vv.14;19-20)
Notice that the gates have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve foundation stones have the names of the twelve apostles inscribed on them. The stones of this city are all living stones. In Eph. 2:20 we read that believers have Jesus Christ as the chief corner stone in their foundation. "Having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief corner stone." A corner stone was laid in such a way that it gave strength to the two walls to which it was connected. The chief corner stone denotes the most important stone - the one according to which the rest of the building was fashioned.
Since Christ Jesus is the chief corner stone of this city, He is foundational to everything we are and do! He is our life, He is our righteousness, He is all that we are! He is the foundation and support of all that we are and of all that is raised up in our lives. He is our victory in all the difficulties, trials and challenges of everyday living! He is "the Apostle and High Priest of our confession!" (Heb. 3:1)
The church is built upon twelve foundations. These 12 foundations are laid one upon the other, giving perfect and full support to the whole structure. Again, the number 12 symbolizes the government of God, so His government is foundational in everything we do. Jesus only did what the Father showed Him to do, and we only do what the Spirit shows us to do. Obedience to the Spirit keeps us in truth. Our experiences, ministries, and characteristics have to be in harmony with truth.
Notice that these foundations are adorned with every kind of precious stone, thus showing how priceless this foundation is! Costly gems would be wasted if they were put in an unseen realm. John saw the foundation, so it was not under the earth, but under a heavenly city - the new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ. The foundations are visible!
The brilliancy of jewels catches the eye. They do not have light in themselves, but they send forth the light that strikes them. The light that seems to be coming from them is an optical illusion, because no jewel possesses light within itself. So it is with the saints of God. The gifts and graces in which we function have been conferred on us. Apart from Christ we are nothing - even as the brilliance of the jewel darkens and dies when removed from the light.
Although we may not be familiar with all the jewels mentioned, we can visualize the beauty to some extent from those we do know. We see the cool green of the emerald, the heavenly blue of the sapphire, the variously colored chalcedony with its wax-like appearance, the green or yellow hues of the chrysolite, the yellow of the topaz, the reddish orange of the jacinth, and the regal purple of an amethyst! They all reflect the same light in gloriously different hues, none detracting from the other, but all complementing and enhancing the beauty of the whole.
These stones symbolize the various gifts and qualities of God that are exemplified in His people. They illustrate the beauty that He has formed in them. Just as the different stones reflect light differently, His people reflect the light of Jesus Christ differently. Each one adds to the beauty and glory of the whole. Each one of us experiences God's grace in a unique way, and it shines through us in a distinctive manner! This variety and individuality brings greater glory to God, and shows His infinite wisdom and ability! We all express the image of God differently, and we are all being perfected in His image!
"_and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." Apostleship is associated with new things. The apostles proclaimed the new order, the new covenant that Christ brought us. They established churches and went to places that had not been reached with the gospel. Paul built where no other man had built. A true apostolic ministry does not rest on traditions - observing customs and rituals instituted by human organization. So the foundation of this city speaks of newness - the newness that we have in Christ. It does away with the old covenant completely!
In contrast to Moses who brought in a new order that depended upon self-effort, the apostles brought in a new order that did not depend upon self-effort - it rested on the finished work of Jesus Christ! He is the Apostle of our confession! The apostles established this new order of grace and truth in Christ!
"...and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass." (v.21) The Greek word, PLATEIA, means a wide open place, a broad way or open square, an open place where two streets meet. The Concordant Literal translation reflects this concept, for it reads, "and the square of the city is gold." In oriental countries an open square is the center for community activities, such as marketing, trading, public gatherings, etc. These centers can be used for either good or evil intent.
Those who think they will walk on literal streets of gold have no idea of the wonderful truth God is revealing in this symbolic city. They do not realize that our spiritual dwelling place is in Christ, and that the spiritual man does not need streets of gold and beautiful physical mansions. Our attraction to natural gold and grandeur reveals our carnality. God uses these symbols to present spiritual realities to us.
The square of this city is of gold, clear as translucent glass. In the scriptures gold symbolizes the divine nature of God - and His nature cannot be tarnished or corrupted. A square symbolizes our interaction with others; it is a place of fellowship, business transactions, unity and relaxation. Our walk in the Spirit is compared to the center or square that is made of pure gold - according to the pure nature of Christ. All our activities, including all our business dealings, all our interactions with others, and all our times of leisure, mirror the nature of God. Everything is in Christ!
The fact that the square of this city consists of pure gold reveals that our walk in God's government is according to His nature. It is one of truth and love - in perfect purity and perfect holiness! Living in God's divine government frees us from the reign of our carnal mind and from the limitations and darkness of natural thinking with its self-centeredness, hatred, bitterness, evil, and desire for revenge.
Living in this heavenly city is for now! We have been raised up with Christ; we have been seated with Him in the heavenly places. This is our placement in Christ Jesus! (Eph. 2:6) Read Eph. 4:17-32 and Col. 3:1-17 to discover what this walk is all about! Basically it is a walk in perfect love! Coming into the awareness and knowledge of the greatness of Christ's perfect love fills us up to the fullness of God, for He is love! (Eph. 3:19)
THE LIGHT OF THIS CITY
"I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." (v. 22) In the old Jerusalem the temple was the central part of the city. In this vision of the new Jerusalem, John was surprised that it lacked a temple! The Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb are its temple, for the light of this city is spiritual; it cannot be seen with our natural eyes. The whole city, the perfect cube, is filled with the same glory of God that filled the holy of holies in the tabernacle!
Natural light only illumines a certain area; whenever an object stands in its way, shadows and darkness remain. However, in this city the Lord God and the Lamb are the light of it, and they fill everything with light, for God is omnipresent. So there is no darkness and no shadow anywhere!
"And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb." (v.23) The light of the new Jerusalem is the glory of God. His glory is His goodness, and His goodness is the sum total of everything He is and everything that He does! His glory never diminishes; it is always the same! Natural light is darkness compared with His brilliance! Just as jewels reflect light in glorious brilliance, so we reflect God's glory as we receive His nature! This enables His glory to shine forth through us!
The sun and the moon symbolize natural light or knowledge. In the bright light of spiritual knowledge we recognize that natural understanding is darkness. This is the meaning of "The sun will be turned into darkness." (Acts 2:20) Natural light or knowledge calls this a literal city, and names it heaven. It cannot understand that this is a spiritual city that symbolizes the nature of the bride of Christ! God wants us to see that natural understanding of spiritual realities has no place in this city. The true church functions in the light and revelation that God gives her!
"And the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. And in the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it." (vv.24-26)
"The nations will walk by its light!" In Psalm 2:8 it says, "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession." This promise will surely come to pass! All who walk by the light of God, walk in His righteousness. Nothing unclean can enter this city! Only the glory that comes from Christ can enter it! So we see that these nations have been conquered by God! This is their glory and honor! They are no longer walking in rebellion and in the darkness of the carnal mind - the darkness in which we all walked at one time! The light and truth of God have revealed the lie, and the we are now walking in truth. Walking in light is walking in truth!
This city cannot be compared to the garden of Eden, for the serpent was able to enter the garden and find minds that were willing to receive its lies and deception. This resulted in spiritual death for Adam and Eve, expulsion from the garden, and later, physical death. However, the bride of Christ cannot be corrupted, for she has been born of an incorruptible seed, and that seed will not receive any lies and deception.
God's day is always. He is light, and there is no darkness in Him! His day is eternal; it does not begin when time ends. Eternity has no beginning and no end. God's day runs parallel to our time of day and night. To enter His eternal day we have to be born of the Spirit and receive His life - the life that has no beginning and no end. For example, when an electrical appliance is switched on, it makes use of the electricity that was already present. When we are born again, we receive the life that has always been and always will be!
THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE
"And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." !v. 27) Death, corruption, lying, deceitfulness, uncleanness and abominations are not allowed to enter this city. In other words, the natural man - the man of sin - cannot enter. The only credential for entering this city is, that our name is written in the Lamb's book of life! How can we get our names registered in this book?
This is not a book like the ones we find in the libraries of today, for they were unknown at the time John received this vision. Paul explained that we are the epistles upon which God writes. What do you suppose God wrote on Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God? God testified of Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, saying, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him." (Mk. 9:7) As we listen to Him, we hear Him say, "I am the way, the truth and the life_I am the resurrection..I am the door_I am the good shepherd_the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. (Jn. 14:6; 11;25; 10:9,11; 6:63) This tells us who Christ is; it describes His nature. He is a life-giving spirit; He is truth and life! The name, "Lamb", identifies Him as the one supreme sacrifice through whom all can receive life.
Throughout this vision we have seen that the word "name" does not refer to an earthly identification of the human family we belong to; it does not refer to names like John or Mary Smith. The word "name" refers to our nature. Overcomers receive a new name (Rev. 2:17), for they have received a new nature - one that has been formed by life, and therefore corresponds to the nature of Christ. So we see that the one criterion for becoming citizens of this city is that they have the nature of Christ!
The Lamb's book of life is a description of the nature that is the product of life. In order to have that nature, we must first receive the life of the Lamb through faith in the Lamb's death and resurrection. Christ's life in us produces His nature in us. He is the way, the gate or the entrance into the presence of God! All the citizens of this city have the life of the Lamb, that is, they have all received the Lamb's life, and His life in them has built His nature in them. Christ brings us into total submission to God's government and into the very glory of God! In our union with Christ, we enter the presence of God, and we also become the way or the gate into the presence of God for others.
We are always amazed at the way Jesus emphasized our oneness with Him, and His joy in this identification. Here are a few quotes to illustrate this precious truth. "In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you...If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him_They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world...That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us...as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." (John 14:20,23; 17:16,21; 20:21) As the Father sent Christ to be the exact representation of His invisible being, so Christ sends us to be an exact representation of His invisible being!
In summing up, we have seen that the gates of pearl symbolize Jesus Christ in His humiliation, death and resurrection, as well as those who have learned obedience to Christ through their sufferings. Corporately, they are the bride of the Lamb! She lives in intimate union with her bridegroom, and He finds His delight in His bride! She gives Him the love and intimacy that He desires! She has the capacity to fulfill His desire for love, companionship and fellowship. The Lamb, the bridegroom, has given His life for her that she would flow with Him in love, devotion, fellowship and purpose. What a high calling is ours in union with the Lamb and His purpose for us, and for the reconciliation of all humanity! (Col. 1:20)
We have been impressed with the description of the bride of Christ, and the portrayal of the beauty that is produced and manifested by God's government in His people. In Matthew 5:34 Jesus said that heaven is the throne of God. The throne of God represents God's government, and God governs us from within. So heaven is not a far-away place in the sky, but a life that is submitted to the will of God! God is resident within His people, and Christ in God is the source and essence of this government. Those who are governed by God have heaven in their hearts. Oh what glory is ours in Christ!