Every sparkling, colorful gem stone you can imagine, every precious metal in its purest form, dazzling light and life, protection, provision and purity… we can’t begin to wrap our heads around these descriptions! As our study of Revelation with Bible Study Fellowship reaches a thrilling conclusion, we are learning about the amazing, truly mind-boggling details of God’s holy city, the new Jerusalem.
One of the questions in our lesson this week asked which particular aspect of the holy city is the most striking? Goodness! How could I even choose? But one detail does capture my attention – 12 gates, each one made from a single pearl!
“and I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven…it was filled with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious gem… its walls were broad and high with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels… the twelve gates were made of pearl – each gate from a single pearl!” – Revelation 21:2, 11-12, 21
The statement rolls by so quickly, I almost miss it… like the account of creation in Genesis when, in the midst of the mind-blowing power displayed by Creator God, there is this phrase, “and He made the stars also.” Oh, by the way, just as a little added touch, He made the stars also. What?! Do I really pause to think about how stunning that statement really is? He made the STARS! Each and every one of them! He named each one and personally hung them in their place. Wow. Just wow.
My mouth gapes open again as I imagine a heavenly gate (you know it’s got to be big!) made of one single pearl! Whoa! In our discussion time, I was delighted to hear that I was not alone in my amazement. My BSF friends met my wide eyes with stunned glances of their own and those knowing nods of the head that say, “I know! Isn’t that just incredible? How can that be?!”
We all agreed that this is Almighty Creator God we are talking about. He can certainly speak a HUGE single pearl into existence by the Word of His Power and fashion a heavenly gate from that pearl. But the whole idea had us wondering… could there be a clam shell that large? Could an actual pearl be created in the same way we see on earth for each one of those 12 gates? I don’t know. But God has definitely used this vision of those single-pearl gates to get my attention! These questions made me curious to see if there might be some interesting tidbits or significance about the gates of God’s holy city being made of a single pearl.
So I went digging. I always tell my kids, “If you don’t know, look it up!” Bible, Dictionary, Thesaurus, Concordance… and now that Google has replaced our good old-fashioned Encyclopedia Britannica, we can search for just about anything and learn interesting facts – and find other Bible verses to broaden our understanding!
I learned some things about pearls from the American Museum of Natural History:
“when an irritant [foreign matter, wayward particle] finds its way into the mollusk, a fluid is used to coat the irritant… layer upon layer of this coating is deposited until a lustrous pearl is formed” … “the mantle covers the irritant with layers of the same substance that is used to create the shell” … “a pearl is a hard object [firm, solid, resistant to pressure, unbreakable, strong] produced within soft tissue”
The Lord Jesus also used a single pearl in one of His parables:
“the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” – Matthew 13:45-46
With each new word picture, my mind wanders in new and wonderful directions. No analogy is ever perfect, and I certainly do not want to be guilty of getting wound up about details that detract from the main themes in our study of the holy city. But I honestly think some of these possible connections are pretty amazing. So indulge me a little?
In our sinful state, we are foreign, worse than an irritant to holy God. But if we find our way to Him, He will cover our sin with the blood of His Son. Our Savior will wrap us in His righteousness, clothe us in the garments of salvation, and begin a transforming process. Layer upon layer, growth upon growth, we become more and more like Him until… one day in glorified bodies we will be like Him entirely! We will be completely remade, fashioned with the same material as the Original!
This amazing process will take place between the “soft tissue” of God’s heart and the “soft tissue” of our hearts. The “pearl” that is formed in each of us will be solid, unbreakable, and strong because it will be anchored in the safe embrace of our Father, Almighty God!
One of my Bible study friends wondered out loud, “could there be some significance to the pearl being the gate?” And as soon as she posed the question, she offered a possible answer: “ooh, maybe it is because Jesus covering us with His blood, wrapping us in a robe of His righteousness is the means by which we can enter God’s presence!” I love that thought! The work Christ has done to redeem our sinful selves, to cover our sin with His blood, is exactly what makes us acceptable and righteous before holy God. Because of Jesus, that door to heaven now stands open to us!
My mind drifted back to Jesus’ parable about the kingdom of heaven, the merchant seeking beautiful pearls. He is the Merchant that sees each one of us, His created children, as pearls of great value. He gave everything He had, His very life, to rescue us from the power of sin, to buy us back to Himself. He loves us so much that He went to great lengths to be able to fling open those pearly gates to welcome us home!
“He the pearly gates will open so that I may enter in
For He purchased my redemption, and forgave me all my sin!”
Frederick A. Blom (1917)
Pearls have always been a favorite of mine. I wore my grandmother’s pearls on my wedding day. One of the first pieces of jewelry I spent my own money to purchase was a pearl ring, which I still treasure. As I ponder these little lessons I have renewed appreciation.
I am the pearl of great price my Savior gave everything to redeem. He takes my sinful self and covers me with layer upon layer of His righteousness, His character, making me strong and lustrous, reflecting His glory. One day, with wonder and amazement, my wide eyes will see those single-pearl gates, standing open to welcome me Home!
And I will have no more questions – just a knowing that this was God’s true desire from the very beginning. His dwelling place will be with us, His people. He will be our God and we will His happy citizens, the beautiful bride of the Lamb, dressed in white linen, lavished with the brilliance of His glorious presence!
Read more here! – Genesis 1:1-2:4 (God’s original creation) – Revelation 21:1-22:6 (God makes all things new – His new creation!)
Robed in righteousness not my own
I’m redeemed by the blood of Christ alone
My Savior claims me as His bride
One day He’ll call me to His side
He’ll dress me in purest linen white
Because I no longer need to fight
Through a gate of pearl He’ll welcome me in
His brilliant Presence nothing will dim
We’ll sing with hearts overwhelmed with delight
In that place with no sorrow, sighing or night
All praise to the Lamb, the Victorious One
Our unending song has only begun!