Revelation 21:21
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, with each gate consisting of a single pearl. The main street of the city was pure gold, as pure as transparent glass.
Sermons
Gates of PearlC. A. Dickinson, M. A.Revelation 21:21
The Gates of PearlH. Macmillan, D. D.Revelation 21:21
The Spiritual Commonwealth of the GoodD. Thomas Revelation 21:9-21
The New JerusalemR. Green Revelation 21:9-27


We must see in this a portrayal of that holy community which is "the bride, the wife of the Lamb." It is the ideal representation of vital Christianity - Christianity as a system, but as a system embodied in the lives of men. The descriptions are of a glorious character. What can exceed the essential glory of the true Christendom, the true Church, the true bride, the veritable "wife of the Lamb"? It must not be separated from the heavenly, the final Jerusalem, the happy home of every weary pilgrim, the final abode of every spiritual citizen, the final resting place whither the feet of all humble, holy souls tend. But the heavenly begins on earth. And in this vision we must see the heavenly or, the earth. The ornate language suits its heavenly character and its heavenly prototype. Babylon was the scat of the beast; this is the city of the great King. It may be practically impossible to decipher the symbolical writing, especially in its details, and it may be as unwise to attempt it as it is impracticable to accomplish it; but the main features of the symbolical teaching, considered in the light of our previous interpretations, may doubtless be traced. Not without fear that our prepossessions may mislead us, we will attempt to find in the words of this section a setting forth of the essential glories of the true and actual Christianity, however ideally considered.

I. ITS FIRST CHARACTERISTIC IS HOLINESS. It is set up in the midst of evil and in opposition to it. It is holy, for it is "from God;" it is holy, for it promotes holiness in its subjects; all who pertain to it are called to be saints. Whatever is not in harmony with true ideas of holiness can have no part in the holy city.

II. ITS ORIGIN IS DIVINE. "It cometh down out of heaven from God." The true Church has its fount in him. He calls the first band out of the surrounding darkness. All is of his grace. He gives the Word which is the seed of the kingdom, he is the Father of all. The Church's grandest idea is that it is of God.

III. IT HAS ITS HIGHEST ADORNMENT IN THE MANIFESTATION OF THE DIVINE GLORY. But "the glory of God" is the symbol of God himself. We approach the true Shechinah. The glory of the Church is the presence of God. How near is that manifested glory brought to us in the Incarnation! how near in the abiding Spirit's presence! This is the true light that shineth over the city.

IV. ITS STABILITY, HARMONY, AND ORGANIC UNITY ARE REPRESENTED IN THE FIGURE OF THE CITY. Here are taught the intercourse, the fellowship, the safety, the mutual interest, of the holy ones. What is here ideally presented may not always be actually found. We deal with the patterns of the heavenly things.

V. THE FREEDOM OF ITS ACCESS TO ALL NATIONS is here declared. The gates of the city, ever open, stand to the east, the west, the north, the south. But one city; but all may enter.

VI. THE CHURCH IS BUILT UPON THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS. All the living Christianity has its basis here.

VII. THE SPLENDOUR, BEAUTY, PERFECTNESS, STRENGTH, AND GREATNESS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD - the living Christianity of ours and of every day, and the whole idea of the same - are set forth in the utmost wealth of symbolical extravagance.

VIII. THE INTIMATE ALLIANCE OF THE DIVINE SETS ASIDE THE EARTHLY AND IMPERFECT ELEMENTS. There is no visible temple. "The Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple of it." The illumination of the whole city is found in the life and grace of Christ.

IX. THE UNIVERSALLY DIFFUSED BENEFICENT INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY is declared. The nations walk in the light of it, and -

X. THEIR RECIPROCAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT is found in that they "bring their glory and honour into it."

XI. ITS IMMUNITY FROM THE CONTAMINATION AND DEFILEMENT OF EVIL is indicated. Nothing unclean, nothing untrue, nothing of evil nature, enters it. It is ideal. True. Yet no evil elements shall ultimately be found in the Church of Christ; and, as at first we stated, the earthly is lost in the heavenly, of which it is at once the beginning, the type, and the pledge. - R.G.







And the twelve gates were twelve pearls.
It was no fantastic vision separated from all earthly associations that the seer of Patmos beheld. On the contrary, it was linked to all that was dear and sacred to himself and to his race. The forms were the same, but the materials were changed. The materials of the earthly city were substances that faded and decayed, for they had only a temporary purpose to serve; those of the heavenly were unchangeable and indestructible, matter in its most sublime and enduring form connected with the unceasing service of bodies and spirits of just men made perfect. Not from his recollections of his own old home could the unique feature of the gates of pearl have been derived. It must have been suggested by the circumstances of his island home, as Peter's vision on the housetop at Joppa took shape from the hunger of his body and the occupation of the tanner with whom he lodged. There was nothing to remind him of the gates of pearl in the earthly Jerusalem.

I. THE NUMBER OF THE GATES. There were twelve of these gates; three on the east, three on the north, three on the south, and three on the west. What a contrast does this feature of the heavenly city present to the narrowness and exclusiveness of the old Jewish polity! The Jews were the hermits of the human race. They were kept apart from all other nations on the high plateau which had walls of mountain, desert, river-trench, and stormy sea hemming them in on every side. It was considered unlawful for a Jew to keep company with or come in to one of another nation. The people prided themselves on their exclusive privileges as the favourites of heaven, and pushed to an extreme the restrictions of their religion. Even St. John himself could not altogether divest his mind of his Jewish prejudices. He could hardly yet realise the idea that the world was greater in God's eyes than Judaea. Unlike the little Jewish capital, type of its narrow creed, the heavenly city was vast as the largest thought or hope could compass, a perfect cube of twelve thousand furlongs, capable of containing all the cities of the world within its circuit. Through the earthly Jerusalem no river ran, no highway passed. Its gates were shut for safety and security in its mountain fastness. But through the heavenly Jerusalem the broad full river of life flowed; and through its gates or up the river the nations brought their wealth into it. Through its gates, open to the four quarters of the globe, a multitude which no man could number of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues had entered in. If there was one thing especially opposed to the whole tenor of Jewish thought, it was Christ's command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And to us in the Christian Church, who have been placed on a more elevated standing-point, and have been educated by eighteen centuries of Christian experience, the range of the Divine regard seems as limited as ever. We are accustomed to hear about the strait gate and the narrow way and the few who find it; and we make out of the saying a straitened faith and a narrow gospel. We need, indeed, the vision of the vast heavenly city — with its twelve gates pointing to every part of the compass, and its multitude, which no man can number, out of every nation — to correct our narrow, selfish judgments of men, and to enlarge our hopes of the destiny of the race. That vision is the highest illustration of the teaching of Scripture by precept and example, that God is no respecter of persons. But while there are many modes of entrance into the heavenly city corresponding to the varying conditions and circumstances of men, there is only one way of salvation. The gates of the New Jerusalem, although twelve in number and placed on different sides, are nevertheless composed of the same material. Every several gate is of one pearl. It is the one Cross that draws all men to the Saviour. It is by the rugged, tear-stained path to Calvary that the Good Shepherd finds every lost sheep straying in the wilderness and brings it back to the fold. We are told that the gates are not shut day or night. They are not needed for defence or security like those of the earthly city, for the inhabitants dwell in a peaceful habitation, and in a sure dwelling and in a quiet resting-place. Like the broken sword laid in the grave are the gates of the celestial city. Their existence reminds the inhabitants of a former condition of warfare and insecurity, while their open state shows the contrast between the old guarded fortress, exposed to continual alarms, and the present freedom and enlargement of the quiet habitation, defended only by the glory of God, as the wide border of Canaan was guarded by angel sentinels during the keeping of the solemn feasts. For beauty therefore, not for use, the heavenly city has its twelve gates. All that might cause fear or a feeling of insecurity will be gone for ever; but all that will remind the redeemed of the way by which they had been led in the past, all that will enhance the value of the Saviour's love and serve to deepen their own peace, will be kept before their minds by everlasting memorials.

II. THE MATERIAL OF WHICH THE GATES WERE COMPOSED. Every several gate was of one pearl. What a beautiful symbol this is! Death is the gate by which every one must enter the heavenly city. And what a dark and gloomy appearance does it present to us on this earthly side! Sin has done everything possible to make the gate unsightly to poor creatures of sense. But how different is the entrance into the heavenly life! We pass through the iron gate of death, and looking back from the other side, from the golden street of the celestial city, we see it transformed into a gate of pearl. All its gloom has disappeared; all its relics of mortality have vanished. It is a triumphal arch for the passage of those who have been made more than conquerors through Him that loved them. How strange will be the transition to many of God's timid saints who are in bondage all their lifetime to the fear of death, who dread every allusion to it, and keep every object and association connected with it away from their eye and their mind! Through darkness into light, through pain and weeping into everlasting joy, through fear and dread into a bright and blessed assurance for evermore; the gate of iron changed into a gate of pearl; that which was an object of the utmost abhorrence into an object of admiration unbounded! How much do these gates of pearl say to the redeemed souls that have passed through them! To the inner ear these gates of pearl, set up where there is no more sea, speak of the far-off vanished seas of earth, through whose dangers the redeemed escaped safe to land. None, too, can gaze upon the gates of pearl without being reminded of their wonderful deliverances, when the Lord " drew them out of great waters" and cheered them with a precious promise like a pearl found in the depth — "When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee." They cannot think of the storm without thinking of Him who came through the storm to their help, and said to the waves within and without, "Peace. be still." How were these gates of pearl formed? The walls of the heavenly city are formed of jewels, each of which was crystallised in the dark depths of the mine, under the pressure of rocks, by igneous or aqueous agency. From sand and clay and coal, and other worthless or repulsive substances, they were sublimed into their present beautiful forms and hues, as the blossoms of the mineral kingdom. But the truth that what is fairest and most precious is obtained only through sore and long-continued struggle, which the jewelled walls witness to, is attested in a more tender and touching way by the gates of pearl. This substance is not of mineral but of animal formation. A pearl is caused by the irritation of a minute parasite, or by the presence of a particle of sand or other extraneous matter accidentally introduced between the mantle and the shell of a species of mussel. The creature cannot get rid of it, and therefore to allay the irritation, covers it over with a series of layers of nacre or pearly matter. This smooth, round shining object, which feels so soft and pleasant to the touch, which reflects the light in a tender way like snow or moonlight, which is so precious that it is deemed worthy of a place in the crown of a monarch, is caused by a struggle with difficulties, an effort to overcome a trial; subliming by a wonderful alchemy, by the victorious power of life, into enduring patience a source of irritation, turning a worthless grain of sand into a pearl. The fact therefore that the heavenly gates are made of a substance with such a remarkable history as this, irresistibly suggests the trials by which those who pass through them are made meet for their abundant entrance into the city. That gate speaks of temptations vanquished, of degree of excellence reached through suffering, of a Divine beauty destined to supersede every mark of sorrow and be eternal. Who would have thought that out of the rough, broken, coarse-looking shell, as it appears on the outside, and by the labours and sufferings of a creature almost at the lowest point in the scale of life, whose structure is as simple as it can well be, without beauty of form or hue to attract, the glistening loveliness and preciousness of the oriental pearl could be produced! And who could have thought that out of the dark and sorrowful experiences of earth, purified by suffering, could have come the great white-robed multitude within the gates of pearl!

(H. Macmillan, D. D.)

Thoreau thinks that he can trace the leaf pattern throughout all the kingdoms of nature, and he declares that the Creator, in making this earth, but patented a leaf. One who follows the building art through the centuries, from its first rudimentary principles to its consummate blossom in the medieeval cathedral, is impressed with the idea that the architect has but patented a door. A habitation without some way of getting into it was of course useless. The way of ingress and egress being the most important feature of the domicile, it naturally called forth the first exercise of that architectural skill which distinguishes man from the beaver or bird. This skill was shown by placing a horizontal stick or stone upon two perpendicular posts, and forming what is called a door lintel. This simple principle, multiplied and extended, gives us the common frame building or stone building, with windows and a fiat roof. It is the principle which, under the touch of Grecian genius, resulted in that matchless gem of architecture, the Athenian Parthenon. It has been suggested that this simple door lintel, at some time or other, broke under the heavy weight which was placed upon it, and that the broken halves were set up against each other upon the doorposts in an inclined position. The transition from this arrangement to three or more wedge-shaped stones fitted together, was easy, and thus, in time, the arch sprang into being, out of which have grown the wonders of mediaeval and modern architecture. The entrance way being thus, in a sense, the germ of the building, it is not strange that it should, in time, become the gem of the building. Being a conspicuous feature, and the first to attract critical inspection, it was natural that the architect should employ his subtlest skill in adorning it. Carrying our thought over into another realm, we are reminded that it is a rule of literature to be mindful of beginnings — to beautify the gateway. A preface is the most difficult part of the book to write. If well written, it is the most important part, for it predisposes the reader to a favourable acceptance of what is to follow. The same is true of introductions to speeches and lectures. "The success of a discourse," says Gaichies, "often depends upon the beginning. From first impressions, whether good or bad, we do not easily recover." And I am tempted to add that the same is true of people. From our first impressions of them we do not easily recover. Everything depends upon the gateways of life, and the reason, I think, has been made obvious, because at the portals we get our first impressions of the structure. Now I might turn this truth before you in a great many lights, and apply it in many ways, but I must confine myself to two of them. And, first, I think of the youth-time as the portal which opens into the realities of life, and I think how important it is to make of it a gate of pearl, that the young spirit which passes through may receive only wholesome impressions. What book lies upon the table? What words fall from the lips of parents and friends? Do they possess the pearl quality? Do they foreshadow to the child the grand, true man which he may be? Do they inspire him to be that man? I am just here reminded of three gateways and the impressions which they give of what lies beyond them. Should you take a drive or a walk upon a certain suburban road, you would pass all three of them. At the first you would find a rickety gate swinging askew upon a single hinge, as though making a vain attempt to obtain a bill of divorcement from the tottering post to which it is attached. Beyond the dilapidated gateway you picture to yourself a dilapidated farm, a dilapidated house, and a dilapidated family. The country proverb,"A farmer is known by his fences," comes to you, and you pass on, saying, "The owner of that place is a thriftless man." You may be mistaken, of course, but that is your first impression. A weary, heart-broken wife and mother, hinged to a thriftless, unfeeling, and perhaps drunken husband, surrounded with the weeds, the nettles, and the briars of domestic infelicities. Scowls and oaths, blows and recriminations, envy, impatience, irreligion — these are the influences through which thousands of the children of the land are looking into the untried future. It is the only gateway to life which they know. Is it any wonder that they make life a cruel, thriftless thing? But this suburban road will bring you to another gateway, an imposing structure, with massive stone posts, and two strong iron gates, which are closed Over them is written, "These are private grounds; visitors not allowed. All trespassers will be promptly prosecuted." A magnificent estate evidently — broad, winding avenues, luxuriant shrubbery, and beyond, probably, acres of velvet lawn, with flowers from every clime, and a mansion wherein wealth and taste find rendezvous. But that frowning wall and that inhospitable gate! Strange, you say, that the owner should create so much beauty, and then wall it in to his family and a few friends. How many homes we find like this gateway, beautiful, thrifty homes, but seclusive and exclusive, in the sense of being closed to the outgoing and incoming sympathies and charities of life; homes in which children receive the impression that the great world which lies before them is a selfish world, and that their own lives, to be successful, must be devoted to selfish getting and selfish enjoying! But if you go far enough on that suburban road, you will find a third gateway, as imposing as the second, but it stands open, and from either side of it, around the broad acres, extends a low, rustic fence. Near the entrance is a sign bearing the words, "Visitors will kindly refrain from injuring the shrubbery." You notice the inviting seats and vine-covered arbours. As you look upon this vision of beauty, you feel very much as the good woman did, who, dewing her wealthy neighbour's well-kept grounds from her humble chamber, exclaimed, "How good the Lord is to give me the enjoyment of this paradise without the trouble of taking care of it!" You may be wrong in your estimate of the man who owns this estate, but you cannot avoid the impression that he is an open-hearted, public-spirited citizen, one who, in seeking enjoyment himself, is willing that the others should share it. And so you point another moral: Homes there are, yes, thousands of them, which to the young are like this last open gateway, suggesting and opening into a large, unselfish, beneficent life; homes where the young are inspired by Christian example to live Christian lives. But, taking this last thought with us, I am prompted to lead you still farther along the line of our text. There is a material life and there is a moral and spiritual life; two realms adjoining; and there are ways which take us from the one to the other. I suppose there is no experience more familiar to many of us than that of finding in some strong, true character the example and the instruction which leads us to noble striving. Hood, in speaking of Cromwell, says, "An age cannot move without its great men. They inspire it, they urge it forward. They are its priests and its prophets and its monarchs." All of which is but saying that the great man is the portal of promise and opportunity to the ago in which he lives. His superior character furnishes the model, his superior genius provides the opportunity, for the development and advancement of the race. The progress of humanity has been continuously through these gates of pearl — these massive, resplendent lives which have sprung, clean-out and beautiful, out of the conditions of their times. Even the unbeliever is one with us here. He admits the power of example, and the influence of the stronger soul. He says, "Yes, these are the gateways of character, these strong men and women standing all around us, and they help us to live better lives." Is it not strange that one who can believe all this does not go a step farther, does not stand in loving faith before Him who alone can give us entrance into the highest possible life, who hath said, "I am the door; by Me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved." Here is the gate of pearl which, swinging back upon its hinges reveals to us, and admits us to a lifo which the world knew nothing of before the Advent. The direct agency of God in bringing a soul through the portal of the new life we cannot explain. Regeneration is a Divine mystery, but it is none the less a Divine fact. But the going through the door, the passing into a higher manhood and womanhood through Jesus Christ, the Elder Brother and Saviour, is something which we can understand. It is through Him that we are made meet for the kingdom of heaven.

(C. A. Dickinson, M. A.)

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