15 April 2014 by Dr Yeo Teck Thiam –
Easter is round the corner. For the Christian, this is a joyful occasion because it brings the good news of what Jesus had done for mankind, in the hope for everlasting life. So I think also about what God has prepared for us in Heaven.
It is possible to have an idea of Heaven and the Kingdom of God because it has been given in Scripture to us, so that anyone who hopes to get there will not be disappointed.
Nevertheless, this is given in symbolic language and in visions. So it is still necessary for the Lord to open our eyes to know what He has revealed.
However, rather than put together many of these things in Scripture here, I have taken the choice to see the City of God as described in John’s visions in Revelation. It is about God’s home for us in Heaven, and in His Kingdom.
John described a city that borders on the fantasy, in the literal sense. There is hence little value for a literal meaning, if that were all that one wants to know. Heaven is a spiritual place, so a physical perspective gives very little blessing for us.
However, if we accept a vision is seen in the Spirit, we are likely to be edified through the spiritual context. It is in this hope that this discussion on the City of God is taken up.
To begin here, we read from Revelation 21: 10,
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain, great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.
14 The walls of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there is no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
I will not find many wonderful places that fit this description. None exists on earth. It is not that no-one tries to find — it is that none is able.
The Pearly Gates are not shut
For one thing, John described the entrance to the City of God are gates of pearls.
I take this is meant to be seen spiritually, because this is a vision. So I do not suppose the gates are real giant pearls, as massive as city gates of ancient days were. It will not do because I do not know where to find oysters big enough to produce such pearls.
And why should these gates be made of pearls? How are such gates going to be opened, or shut? After all, the City is paved with “gold”. I would think golden gates seem an easier choice!
We are also told these gates are never shut. Yet, I think this will not because it is difficult to open and shut the pearly gates! So, if I look at this city, I know there is an important reason that it is not necessary to shut the gates.
Scripture says it is because there will be no crooks, criminals, sinners and the unclean in Heaven. So there is no place to do evil, and no place to hide evil — everything is seen, open like the gates. Hence there is no need to shut the gates, to keep out evil men.
Nothing impure will enter through the gates. So the gates are pearly also because these are pure. Nothing impure will ever pass through the city gates.
There is No Night
Another thing I am told is that there is no night in this place. I do not know of such a place on earth!
It is because in our universe, the earth rotates round the sun, and this gives us day and night. So I am sure that this City of God cannot be found on a place like earth.
Thus I understand the meaning of “night” is about the darkness of evil. And in similar context, the meaning of “day” is about the presence and light of God’s glory. As the City of God, light comes from God’s glory. That is why there is no night.
The Welcome to the City
John said that there are twelve angels at these gates, one for each gate. But I do not imagine these angels are guarding the City gates in the sense that they must defend the city. These gates are opened and never shut!
What a contrast I find this City to an earthly paradise! There are no cherubim flashing swords as in the Garden of Eden to keep Adam and Eve, and sinners away.
However, I can imagine that these angels are welcoming those who are going there. After all, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are engraved on the gates. The names refer to God’s chosen people.
Therefore I understand that the City of God is for those who believe in Jesus because the Lord has redeemed them and made them pure.
Thus John said that only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life shall enter. So for those who believed in Jesus, they are among those whom God has chosen to be His people. This is for the faithful who call God our Heavenly Father.
Peter and the Keys to the Kingdom
I also do not think Peter need to be there to check the roll call for Christians. Peter need not use the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to let us in because the gates of the New Jerusalem are never shut!
So I think also Jesus definitely has a different purpose in what He said to Peter about the keys to the Kingdom, when the disciples were with the Lord in the restful retreat at Caesarea Philippi, as told in Matthew 16:19.
The Foundations of the City Wall
In Revelation 21:14, John tells us that the Apostles’ names are on the twelve foundations of the city wall. As foundation “stones” in the city wall, we can see that this has a symbolic meaning for Peter, James, John and the Apostles.
However, it is necessary to note carefully that this foundation is about the City Wall. It is specifically related to, and with reference to the gates for people to enter Heaven.
John did not describe the Apostles as the foundation of the City. This is very important to note. The Holy City is built on Christ the rock of our salvation. For no foundation can anyone lay, except the one already laid, which is Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11
So we have a better idea also in what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18, that on this “rock” He would build His church. The foundation rocks of the City wall are a testimony to Peter and the disciples for their witness and faith in Jesus. This “rock” is about the Gospel truth that the disciples had testified, and the faith in Jesus for salvation.
So also, the keys given to Peter and the disciples show that people who believe in Jesus will have the keys to enter Heaven through the pearly gates.
The Glory and Honor of Nations
We see that the symbolic meanings in the City are more significant than a literal meaning. So I shall also see the descriptions for God’s people that come in this vision.
Now in the Holy City, the redeemed people who enter through the gates are the faithful in Jesus. The people who are there — are the redeemed people of the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus. They have been purified by His blood and are clothed in His righteousness.
When the faithful enter the Holy City, the glory and honor of the nations shall be brought into it. But I cannot think of the glory from conquests, empires, or civilizations. This is because those achievements are fading glories, for temporal purposes in man’s wisdom. And not many came about in Godly ways, either.
So then, glory and honor do not include these things. But there is glory and honor in those who do good, walk uprightly, and witness faithfully. These are the people who do not do shameful things, or are deceitful. Godly people therefore have glory and honor to show in God’s City.
This glory and honor of nations also do not refer to the glory of God. Whereas the glory of God gives light to the City, the nations’ glory is only a display of the splendor in the victory over sin.
It is then possible also to speak of pearly gates, for the best pearls are pure white and perfect. Each gate is a single pearl of purity and perfection for we are entering the pure, perfect city of God.
Coming From Heaven
Some may possibly conclude that when John saw the Holy City come down, he was on a high mountain, and hence he saw all these visions to be on earth. Therefore, the Holy City shall be coming to earth.
This is not a correct assumption.
John was taken up in the Spirit. He did get to see these things, but not in a physical reality.
In Revelation 21:1, 2, John already said:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming out of heaven.”
The earth for men and creatures had passed away in the vision, as given in Revelation 21:1. It is not possible for the Holy City to come to a non existing earth in Revelation 21:10!
If this were truly from “on a high mountain”, then we also have to accept that the Holy City was hanging in the air by some means, high above Earth’s mountain where John stood. On our earth, it is just as well that we do not have such anti-gravitational places. The City of God is not a place hanging in the sky of the earth or about to land on earth.
John was given the privilege to see it as a vision. And it was shown spiritually to John in this way — coming out of heaven!
God does not make earth as the place for the City of God. The City is already in Heaven and coming out of Heaven to be seen. It is already in a perfect place in Heaven — so why come down to earth?
Heaven is where God dwells. So I also wonder why I want to go to Heaven — if God’s City is going to be on earth!
God’s City was described in spiritual perspectives. Heaven is God’s throne and earth is only God’s footstool! Hence the Holy City coming down from Heaven does not mean it is going to be placed on earth!
It makes no sense, if this City is to be on earth, or this is the vision’s intention. God is not putting an eternal place from Heaven on a temporal earth. God’s City has been there before the creation of the earth, or of man. It is eternal.
So it is written in Hebrew 12:25-27, in regard to the prophecy given in Haggai 2:6:
At that time, his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”
The words “Once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken — that is, created things —- so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful.
So praise the Lord!
Note: Mr Yeo Teck Thiam is a retireer who used to work as a chemical engineer, specializing in food and perfume chemistry for an international food company and perfumer. His other main interest is astronomy and other mathematical matters, relating to the Biblical passages.
References for pictures