The Beautiful City of God
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Read Revelation 21:15-21 (ESV)
And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
How is this vision of the New Jerusalem different from what you may have pictured? How is it the same?
What is the biggest city you have ever visited? Many cities are considered big due to population like the Tokyo metro area which is the most populated city in the world. But the New York metro area has Tokyo beat in total land area with over 4,500 square miles! But the largest metropolitan area in the world still falls drastically short of the city of God.
In today’s verses, John sees the angel begin to measure the Holy City with a rod made of gold. He described it as perfectly even in length and width and height which likely indicates that the New Jerusalem is cube shaped. John also said that the angel’s measurement of the city comes out to be 12,000 stadia which is about 1,380 miles. So, at 1,380 miles long and 1,380 miles wide that is 1,904,400 square miles! About 2 million square miles! Drastically bigger than the New York metro area. And that isn’t even taking into account the third dimension. It is also 1,380 miles high!
The New Jerusalem, also referred to in the Bible as Zion, is a city of such massive proportions that it is difficult for us to even imagine! But it is just as beautiful as it is big. John described the wall that is built around the city as being pure gold. The foundations are pure gold, and they are decorated with multi-colored jewels. Over time, the names of the stones may have changed so it is difficult to know for sure the colors of the stones. A jasper seems to describe a diamond-like gem that is transparent, like glass. The other jewels represent every color of the rainbow—different shades of blue, green, red, yellow, orange and purple. The radiance of God’s glory will shine brilliantly, and His light will reflect and refract, flashing colorful light all around the city. And the gates will be made of solid pearls!
The theologian John Phillips had a wonderful insight about the significance of the gates into the city being made from pearls. Pearls are formed when debris or irritants enter the soft tissue of mollusks, like oysters, clams, and mussels. Being unable to get rid of the corrupting substance, they coat it with the same material that their shells are made of. This material is often called “mother of pearl” and it has a beautiful sheen to it. When a pearl is made, impurities are transformed into something beautiful.
Like pearls, we have been afflicted by impurities—sin. We aren’t able to get rid of the offending irritant of sin but through Jesus Christ, God takes away our sin and transforms us into something beautiful. We are only able to enter His gates if we have been made beautiful and pure by Him.
Friends, God’s holy city is beyond imagination. We can try but we are not able to fully fathom the enormity and the full spectrum of magnificent beauty that awaits us. The Psalmist wrote: “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth” (Psalm 50:2). And because He has made us perfect and beautiful in Jesus Christ, we can enter in.
God, I stand in awe of You. Your holy city is a testament of Your glory and majesty. It is vast and beautiful. Thank You for taking my sin and transforming me into something beautiful. In You, I went from being unworthy to pass through the pearly gates to being worthy to enter and dwell in Your glorious presence forever and ever. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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