Saturday, February 7, 2009

Pearly Gates and Streets of Gold

What about the pearly gates and the streets of gold?

First, the pearls: John is referencing Isaiah. The word in question is the Hebrew word eqdah meaning fiery glow or sparkle. But is it a pearl? No English translation I could find translates eqdah as pearls. It’s often translated as carbuncles:

NAB Isaiah 54:12 I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of carbuncles (eqdah), and all your walls of precious stones.

Carbuncle is a red gemstone that is smoothly rounded and polished. Other English versions of the Bible translate eqdah as graven stones, shining stones, beryl, sparkling jewels, firestone, precious stones, or crystal. The first Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, translated eqdah as krustallos {pronounced kroos’-tal-los} meaning crystal.

John the Revelator, however, interpreted Isaiah’s Hebrew word differently. He called it margarites {mar-gar-ee’-tace} meaning pearls, which is not at all the same. Why did he do that? I don’t know, unless it has to do with Jesus’ kingdom of heaven parable about a pearl of ultimate value:

Matthew 13:45-46 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls (margarites); 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

I like this connection. The kingdom of heaven is the pearl of greatest value, and in Revelation the gates of the New Jerusalem are giant pearls. Who is the kingdom of heaven? Jesus is. Who is both the New Jerusalem and the Bride of the Lamb? The church is. It’s about Jesus and his followers. Is it so strange then that the gateway to the New Jerusalem, the Lamb’s Bride, is a great pearl representing the presence of the kingdom of heaven and Jesus himself? To enter the New Jerusalem is to enter the kingdom of heaven. To enter the kingdom of heaven is to be the Bride, is to enter into marital union with the Lamb who is Jesus himself, is to possess the pearl of all pearls. But there’s more. There are twelve pearl gates bearing the names of the twelve tribes of the ancient kingdom of Israel. The New Jerusalem that is the Bride of the Lamb is also the church, the new people of God, the consummated Israel. The marriage is consummated. Jesus and his people are one body. And the gates of pearl, John says, are forever open. (21:25)

So what about the streets of gold? The word is plateia {pronounced plat-i’-ah}. It’s not plural. It’s one street (singular), not streets. (21:21 and 22:2) John is showing us the main street that traverses the length of the city. But guess where the river of Life is. It runs all the way through the city, through the middle of the street (plateia). (22:2) The river flows from the throne of God and the Lamb. (21:1) The tree of Life, we should note, grows on both banks of the river, and therefore on both sides of the street. (22:2) No temple is needed in the city, for the temple is the presence of the Lord and the Lamb. Their presence fills the city. (21:22) There is free access to the street (the way of life), the river (the spring of life), and the tree (bearing the fruit of the spirit) because the twelve Gates are forever open. (21:25) There’s no darkness of any kind because the Lamb is also the Lamp. (21:23-25) He’s the light to all nations, his tree’s leaves heal the nations, he’s the temple where all the nations come to worship. (21:24-26 and 22:2-3) This holy city is international.

Like the gates of pearl, the street of transparent gold is a feature of the New Jerusalem according to John’s vision. But remember that the New Jerusalem is the Bride of the Lamb. And the Bride is the church. And the church is the people. So if the Lamb is the husband of these people, then he lives in them and has union with them and they live in him. To live in him and he in you is to be truly alive, pure and rich as streets of transparent gold running the length of your marriage. We’re talking about his richness and purity of heart inside of you, living water welling up inside of you, fruits of the spirit emanating from inside of you. The relationship between Jesus and his believers is one of pure clear gold and pure clean water and ripe and luscious ever-producing fruit. We’re talking about a marriage, a deep and abiding relationship, a relationship of such spiritual richness and joy that it satisfies all desire. John’s New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb, symbolizes everlasting rest and peace in the Bridegroom. This is resurrection Life in him, now and forever.

Today there is much fascination with, fear of, even obsession with the “when” and “where” of The End. John does not share in this. He’s interested in the “who” of The End. He’s interested in the one who said, I AM The End.

Revelation 22:13 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

For more on the Book of Revelation see my blogs 666Rapture InterruptedThe Giant Flying CubeThe MillenniumNames In the Book of Life, and The Lake of Fire Defined.

Pearly Gates and Streets of Gold
Adapted from Chapter 9: Biblical Heaven and the Book of Revelation from © 2009 Heaven For Skeptics by Bert Gary for FaithWalk Publishing