City on a Hill

John is carried away in the Spirit "to a great and high mountain" (Rev. 21:10) to see the beauty of this consummate Paradise, which glows with the glory of God. The twelve gates of the City have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel inscribed on them, and on the twelve foundation stones are the names of the twelve Apostles (Rev. 21:12-14). Is this symbolism difficult to understand? This clearly represents the fact that the City of God contains the whole Church, the entire people of God, comprising both Old Testament and New Testament believers - which, as Paul wrote, is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph.2:20).

The absurdity of the "literalist" misinterpretation is painfully evident when they attempt to deal with the measurements John gives of the City (Rev. 21:15-17). John says that the City is a pyramid (or cube), 12,000 "furlongs" on each side, with a wall 144 "cubits" high. The numbers are obviously symbolic, the multiples of twelve being a reference to the majesty, vastness, and perfection of the Church. But the "literalist" feels compelled to translate those numbers into modern measurements, resulting in a wall 1,500 miles long and 216 feet high. John's clear symbols are erased, and the unfortunate Bible reader is left with just a jumble of meaningless numbers. The "literalists" find themselves in the ridiculous position of deleting the literal numbers of God's Word and replacing them with meaningless symbolsl

John goes onto describe the City in terms of jewelry: each of the foundation stones is adorned with precious stones, each of the gates is "a single pearl," the wall is made of jasper, and the City and the street are "pure gold, like transparent glass" (Rev.

From our study of the minerals connected with the Garden of Eden, we understand that this, again, is symbolic language, speaking of the restoration and fulfillment of Paradise in salvation. Eight hundred years earlier, Isaiah had described the coming salvation in terms of a City adorned with jewels:

O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,

Behold, I will set your stones in fair colors,

And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.

Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies,

And your gates of sparkling jewels,

And your entire wall of precious stones. (Isa. 54:11-12)

It is interesting that the word translated fair colors is, in Hebrew, eye shadow. This sounds crazy, doesn't it? Walls are intended for protection; this wall is merely decorative. Who would build a wall out of je wels, using cosmetics for "mortar"? Someone fabulously wealthy, and supremely confident against attack. This, Isaiah says, is the future of the Church, the City of God. She will be rich and secure from enemies, as the rest of the passage explains:

And all your sons will be taught of the Lord; And the well-being of your sons will be great. In righteousness you will be established;

You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear;

And from terror, for it will not come near you. . . .

No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper;

And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.

This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,

And their vindication is from Me, declares the Lord.

John saw that in this new City of God there is no Temple, "for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its Temple. And the City has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (Rev. 21:22-23). This is also based on Isaiah (see Isa. 60:1-3, 19-20), emphasizing that the Church is lighted by the Glory of God, indwelled by the Cloud, shining with the original Light. This is the City on the Hill (Matt.5:14-16), the light of the world, shining before men so that they will glorify God the Father. Drawing from the same passage in Isaiah (Isa. 60:4-18), John tells of the City's influence in the nations of the world:

And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it. And in the Daytime (for there shall be no Night there) its gates shall never be closed; and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life (Rev. 21:24-27; cf. Ps. 22:27; 66:4; 86:9; Isa. 27:6; 42:4; 45:22-23; 49:5-13; Hag. 2:7-8).

This is written of a time when the nations still exist as nations; yet the nations are all converted, flowing into the City and bringing their treasures into it. As the light of the gospel shines through the Church to the world, the world is converted, the nations are discipled, and the wealth of the sinners becomes inherited by the just. This is a basic promise of Scripture from beginning to end. This is the pattern of history, the direction in which the world is moving. This is our future, the heritage of generations to come.

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