“Pearly Gates” and “Streets of Gold”: Misinterpreted Bible Passages #2

Categories: Misinterpreted Bible Passages, New Testament

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Jason Staples Substack

*If new to this series, please see the introduction.*

And the twelve gates of the city were twelve pearls; each single gate was made from one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (Revelation 21:21)

This verse and the surrounding passage describing the New Jerusalem at the end of Revelation is generally taken as a description of “heaven,” the place where the saints will spend eternity. Heaven is understood to have jeweled walls, “pearly gates,” and streets of gold. Surely I don’t need to explain much further, because everyone out there has encountered this interpretation in some form or another.

Correction: It’s not describing heaven

The main flaw in this interpretation is (as is often the case with misinterpreted Scripture) that it ignores the context, which explains what is being described. Here is how the passage begins:

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven final plagues came and spoke with me, saying, ‘Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, like a stone of crystal-clear jasper ….” (Rev 21:9–11)

It is hard to imagine the passage being clearer in terms of what it intends to describe: “the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” This is not a description of heaven, nor of any specific tangible (or intangible) “place.” Rather, the passage is clear that it is a metaphorical description of the “bride of Christ”—that is, of the church, the assembly of God’s people.

She has a high wall (v. 12) because she must be entered by proper means and is protected from outside attack. She has twelve gates (v. 12), because this is the number of the tribes and the original number of the apostles, through whom one must enter. Those gates are on all four sides, since the Church is to come from the whole earth. The passage even explicitly says that the twelve foundation stones represent the twelve apostles (v. 14)!

And the gold streets and many precious stones? This is all well within the traditional portrayal of the virtues and virtuous people:

“The tongue of the righteous is like choice silver. (Prov 10:20)
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word rightly spoken.” (Prov 25:11)
“There is gold, and many jewels, and an abundance of utensils—the lips of knowledge.” (Prov 20:15)
“An earring of gold and an ornament of gold is a wise judge to a listening ear.” (Prov 25:12)
“Who can find an excellent wife? Far better than jewels!” (Prov 31:10)

“His head is like gold, pure gold;
His locks are like clusters of dates
And black as a raven.
“His hands are rods of gold
Set with beryl;
His abdomen is carved ivory
Inlaid with sapphires.
“His legs are pillars of alabaster
Set on pedestals of pure gold;
His appearance is like Lebanon
Choice as the cedars.” (Song of Songs 5:13–15)

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise architect I laid a foundation; another is building on it. But let each pay attention to how he builds on it. For no person can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if someone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each person’s work will be exposed; for the day will show it, since it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each one’s work. … Do you not realize that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:10–13, 16)

Perhaps even more significant is the promise in Isaiah that God has not forgotten Zion, that her enemies will become a part of her, that she will put them on “like jewels and bind them on like a bride” (one of many prophecies of Gentile incorporation in Isaiah)

“But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me.’
“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
“See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
Your walls are continually before me.
“Your builders hurry;
Your destroyers and devastators
Will depart from you.
“Lift up your eyes and look around;
All of them gather together, they come to you.
As I live,” declares the LORD,
“You will surely put on all of [your destroyers and devastators] as jewels and bind them on as a bride. (Is 49:14–18)

So it is evident that the description of the “New Jerusalem” in Revelation is intended to be a description of the people of God, not of some vision of the future abode of the saints (for that matter, recall that a new—or renewed—earth is portrayed as the future home of the saints).

Why Does It Matter?

This is admittedly not the most important issue in Christianity, but it does affect a few things. For one, it portrays a vision of eternity that focuses on money, etc.; is it really supposed to be a selling point for Christianity that there will be a lot of valuable stuff sitting around? What good would it be in that environment, anyway? Secondly, it misses the point of this part of Revelation, which intends to illustrate the true righteous qualities of God’s people—God’s people have become the very jewels of righteousness, their very essence is righteous. Thirdly, attention is taken away from the real prize of eternity as portrayed in Revelation: the presence of God is entirely in the midst of his people. Fourthly, it misses some of the intertextual connections with passages like Isaiah 49, where it connects the restoration of Israel with the incorporation of Gentile “enemies,” leading to potential misunderstandings of the eschatological message of Christianity. And finally, it’s extraordinarily irritating for those who do understand what the passage is talking about to hear discussion of the opulence of heaven.

Tags: Apocalypticism, Eschatology, Misinterpreted Bible Passages

79 Comments. Leave new

  • Stephen C. Carlson
    August 23, 2009 6:05 pm

    Well, discussing misinterpreted bible verses in Revelation is like shooting fish in a barrel.

  • Jason A. Staples
    August 23, 2009 6:30 pm

    Have to confess that drew not a small laugh from me. Unfortunately, a very true observation …

  • Coleman Glenn
    April 8, 2010 8:18 am


    Have you read Swedenborg on Revelation? He claimed that the entire book was misunderstood because people tried to understand it literally rather than spiritually. His book “Apocalypse Revealed” is about the “spiritual sense” of Revelation, and he – like you – says that the Holy City describes the people of God, not a physical place.

    I imagine you’d disagree with a lot of Swedenborg – a lot of people think of his hermeneutics as latter-day gnosticism – but as a Swedenborgian, I like to hear other people’s thoughts – especially scholars – on what he’s written. (And I realize that the idea of interpreting the Bible spiritually is an older tradition than Swedenborg – and an older tradition than the relatively recent emphasis on strict literalism – but his interpretations really ring true to me, which is why I’m a Swedenborgian).

  • Every christian does not interpret that as money or wealth or all these material things I will really speak for myself, I really see it as beauty and the splendor of GOD and His awesomeness, the bible describes it that way because our natural eyes have never seen anything so awesome. I believe it will be even greater than that, It gives us something to look forward to, just like the Israelites was promised a land flowing with milk and honey they had something to look forward to, the same as those who don’t receive Christ the place that they go to is fire and brimstone, so if it is misinterpreted it is to those who have not allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal it to them, and there also can be those babes in Christ that we as brothers and sisters have to allow them time to come into the knowledge of truth, so our prayer should be Holy Spirit reveal this to them and open up there eyes that they may see. Be blessed and I love you

  • It is the presence of God in the midst of His people! The church, the body of Christ, marries the bride, Christ! I thought this was great!!!

  • I like to think of it with a little more literal way. While Revelation is certainly full of sympolism, I come back to the old concept that if it makes sense to interpret a passage literally, then that is most likely the correct interpretation of the passage in question. If I apply that principle here, I think of the description of Heaven with streets made of gold as literal. If so, what is God trying to communicate to us? To me, it speaks to values. It is not that the streets of gold make heaven more valuable. It doesn’t. Rather, it is intended to convey to us the true value of gold and the pursuit of wealth in this world. We should not spend our lives pursuing something which God uses to pave streets with in heaven. Thanks.

    • If we want to read Revelation literally, it is important that we start with what it tells us at the beginning: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which he made known by symbolism to his servant John.” Reading the images in Revelation as though they were “literal” images is not a literal reading of Revelation.

      Secondly, the passage never says this is a “description of Heaven.” In fact, it says that we are seeing “the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven.” So it is simply wrong to read this description as though it were talking about heaven. It is talking about “the New Jerusalem,” which is different from heaven, from which it comes down. The New Jerusalem is also called, “the bride, the wife of the Lamb,” which in earliest Christianity is imagery for the church.

      So if you want to read Revelation literally, your only choice is to understand this image as a symbolic depiction of the church in its final glory at the coming of Christ.

      • Can New Jerusalem be BOTH a symbolic meaning and a physical city for the church to dwell in?
        Just as the Tabernacle and the Temple in the Old Testament were real objects which had deep spiritual meanings. Both had symbolic meanings and both were physical in appearance.

      • Oh boy. John 1:1 doesn’t announce that the book is symbolism. I agree Revelation is symbolism, but don’t use 1:1 to say what it doesn’t. “which he made known by symbolism” has to be the worst and most inaccurate translation I have ever read.

        • Brent, the word esemanen (semaino) in the Greek in verse Revelation 1:1 could be accurately rendered as symbolism.

          • Looking at nearly all English translations and the rest of the NT however, I dont find it rendered that way anywhere. I agree with Brent. While Revelation obviously contains much symbolism, translating esemanen (semaino) as “made known by symbolism” is overstatement at least. However I thought Jason’s observation about the Bride of Christ and the New Jerusalem was quite good.

          • The reason they’re not rendered that way is that it’s clunky. The Greek term carries more meaning than the various ways it tends to be rendered in formal translations, in which there is always going to be something lost just by the nature of translation itself.

      • Connie Deemer
        April 13, 2020 6:20 am

        I don’t see anything about symbolism in Revelation one my Bible read that he made it known by sending his angel to a servant John. Not symbolism.

      • Huh?

        If we want to read Revelation literally, it is important that we start with what it tells us at the beginning: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which he made known by symbolism to his servant John.”

        What are you quoting? Revelation 1:1-2 say…

        1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

        2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

        You’ve got what looks like a very abridged, paraphrase there.

        • Hi Kevin, I’m translating directly from the Greek. I left out the intervening subordinate clause, which is tangential to the larger point that the book explicitly says it was “made known by signs.”

  • Seems to me all the author’s tipped their hands when they used the repeating motifs of 7 and 12. These are neither religious or spiritual concepts.

  • Literal interpretation misleads! Ok, that city was DESCENDING FROM GOD! But most Christians are hoping to ‘fly away’ to this same city IN THE SKIES. Again, look at the ‘land flowing with milk and honey’. Did the Israelites, on arrival, find literal milk and honey flowing like rivers in that land?

    • God literally parted the Red Sea, raised people from the dead, conquered massive armies by much smaller armies, made the earth stand still one day, on and on.
      The Bible is both literal and symbolism, allegory, metaphor all together.
      Now here is one point I know you will have to deal with.
      No Human or Jesus ever made a 7 year covenant with the Jews and the nations of the world do not follow Jesus.

  • again, look at this: Rev 21:24 “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.” How would the kings OF THE EARTH bring their glory and honor INTO heaven in the skies? By special flights? Rather, this explains it: Isa 60:1 “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
    2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
    3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
    When the Church (the Body or Bride of Christ) arises in her true beauty, clothed with the pure white linen of righteousness, gentiles and kings shall be attracted to that “city of God”

  • Great read! Just a thought the bible says a street of gold not streets so it would make no sense to have a literal 12 gates it is symbolic.

  • Gold represents God and street represents your walk in Christ. Heaven is your conscious and is not outward somewhere. It is in your inner being and we will wake up to that. If we are walking in the divine life you are walking in the street of gold

  • Greetings, Jason. I agree with you completely on this. Just wanted to share a couple of additional pieces to the puzzle. There is no temple in the New Jerusalem. (Rev 21:22) There IS a temple in Heaven. (Rev 7:15, 11:19, 14:17, 15:5-6) So they can’t be the same place. The New Jerusalem is coming OUT of Heaven so it can’t BE Heaven. (Rev 21:2, 10) When Jesus says He is preparing many mansions John 14:2 it’s the same word as 14:23 and simply means home or dwelling. “Mansion” seems to push the Greek pretty far. (though I’m no Greek scholar)

  • I love this !!! I have read my Bible many times and wondered if anyone sees it the way I do…….so many sermons I have heard that left me thinking I must be the only one who thinks differently …….. thank you !!!!!!!!!

  • Glenn Wright The scriptures are all about relationship and marriage, two becoming one . the new Jerusalem is a verbal picture of Gods completed work , our relationship with Jesus , two becoming one. The most beautiful thing that a human could describe, The new Jerusalem , a new creation in Jesus dwelling among men, God is a lot bigger than OUR three dimensional world and nothing is out of proportion. Thank you for sharing the truth.

  • I’m going to stir up a different theology. I simply disagree with your interpretation. I’m not going to make a big fiasco about it, because as you said it is not a salvation issue, not hardly. We will ALL find out soon enough the actual reality and then there will be no more theorizing.
    I just got through reading Rev. 21 again. In the earlier chapters John describes his visitation of Jesus Christ and an angel. He describes them both quite simply and there is clearly no symbolism in the appearance of Jesus Christ. He painted a description, not a symbolic representation.
    Your theory would hold some ground if Rev. 21:27 was not included in John’s vision. Rev. 21:27 says But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes[o] an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
    If the New Jerusalem was the Bride of Christ then it would be unusual for her to be called an “it”. Even more unusual is this “there shall be no sinners who enter into it but only those who are written into the Lamb’s Book of Life.” How can a sinner (or a liar, as the verse states) enter into a Person (the Bride)? The most important piece that tells us that the New Jerusalem is indeed a physical structure is the very last of that verse. “Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” can enter into it. We see then that in “it” abides all the people who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. This language greatly implies that “it” is a place, not a person.
    Lets get into Revelation 22 now. “Blessed are those who do His commandments,[g] that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may ENTER through the gates into the CITY. (Capitalization for emphasis) Bingo! Rev. 22:14 Jesus clearly states that that which was described in great detail in Rev. 21 is indeed a “city.”
    You see, if we take the New Jerusalem as being the Bride then we have to as well believe that the tree of life is going to be inside of us and the Throne of God and of the Lamb will be inside us also. This is quite peculiar theology that has not been implied anywhere in the Bible. And really, we don’t need to theorize on that, since Jesus states simply that the New Jerusalem is a “city.” I say let the Scripture interpret itself for you. I’ve perhaps given you some things to think about. Do what you will with it.
    God bless!

    • This is one of the dangers of reading in English, which is not a gendered language in the way Greek is. The “it” you’re referring to is in the feminine gender (“she”) in Greek since its antecedent is feminine. Think about how ships are often referred to as “she” or “her” in English and you’ll get how Greek tends to work across the entire language. But because English doesn’t tend to work that way overall, most Bible translators use “it” in these cases.

      The whole point is precisely that the throne of God and of the Lamb will be inside his people. That is indeed a theological principle found throughout both the prophets and the New Testament. God’s people are his holy city, they are his holy temple “not made with hands” (cf. Isa 66).

  • So we may actually see starry nights on the new earth??

  • Dennis Gillig
    April 6, 2016 11:08 am

    It must be literal. any other way and you have whatever you want it to be. As with much of scripture, unless you are told it is LIKE or a PARABLE, it is literal. Read DeHaan.

    • That has nothing to do with the subject of this blog post. I’m still a bit puzzled as to why you’re bringing it up here.

      For what it’s worth, it is also patently false that anything without the words “like,” “as,” or “parable” cannot be figurative. Like all literature, the Bible contains numerous metaphors; the biblical authors did not limit themselves to similes. Song of Songs 4:1, for example, says, “Your eyes are doves behind your veil.” It is an absolute certainty that the woman’s eyes are not literally doves. Similarly, Song of Songs 4:12 says, “A garden locked is my sister, my bride.” We can be certain that the woman being addressed is not literally a locked garden. There are hundreds of other examples throughout the Bible, regardless of what DeHaan says.

      But again, those coming out of the great tribulation have nothing to do with the subject matter of this blog post, so it’s unclear why you’re bringing it up at all here.

    • Rob Johnson
      June 20, 2019 5:30 am

      Take it further and look at the measurements of the city wall and tell me if that should be taken literally. The wall would measure 216’ High to protect a city that is 1500 miles High. That would be like having a 1’ high wall protecting a city 7 miles in height. It’s all symbolic language.

  • Frank Boston
    August 3, 2016 2:08 am

    Since almost 2 people die every second now, I think it’s unfair that god has only a half a second to judge us. Does he still take Sundays off? If so, I would hate to die on a Sun. morning. Just think how pissed he would be coming into work with the huge backup line of souls waiting for judgement Mon. morning. He’d be like You! hell, you hell, you hell, you hell, ok, you’re hot, heaven, you hell. Giggity. The only reason I want in heaven is to tell god he’s a prick for letting 25,000 babies die every f****** day.

    • This comment is so ridiculous that I decided not to block it despite its trolling content. As if God were beholden to time! And of course everyone dies; should we be angry about this?

    • Frank, God didn’t take Sunday’s off. Sunday is the first day of the week and Saturday is the 7th day, so God rested on the Sabbath ~ the 7th day.

  • What if it’s a semiconductor with pearl optocouplers and golden conductors with crystal insulator levels?

  • “She” will be an artifical intelligence?

  • Jason, I love your webpage. I am no bible scholar but the Word is hidden in my heart. May I share my thoughts with you. You may be saying the same thing so please let me know. Jesus said, I go to prepare a place for you that where I am ye may be also. [John 14:3] Emphasis on “place”. It has rooms!!! [John 14:2] I do believe that the description of the “New Jerusalem” in Revelation is intended to be a description of the people of God, not of some vision of the future abode of the saints. The scriptures teach us that there will be a new heaven and a new earth!!! I believe these are both very real and tangible places that we will have access to in the Kingdom to come!!!!! Revelation 21:1-2 say….And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; ..And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. It sounds like New Jerusalem and Heaven are two different things. I think there is going to be a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Holy City Jerusalem where Jesus will sit on the thrown of David and reign forever and ever!!!!! Luke 1:32. I think as believers we should remember…..we only know things in part. Also…..1 Corinthians 2:9 King James Version (KJV) “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

    God bless you!!!

  • …although I greatly wish to know, understand, and see the next phase of existence, yet aside of the disagreements concerning symbolism and literal content, I think I will convey the most important reality, which Paul stated, which in many times is forgotten or tucked away, yet is the crux of life, love, mercy, and grace… 1 Corinthians 2:2
    “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

    Peace and love, even so come quickly Lord Jesus.

  • The accounts revealed to the Apostle John were said to signify, “signified it by his angel unto his servant John” Revelation 1:1. This means that no one will ever truly know until the time comes. What we do know is that as born- again believer in Jesus Christ, through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit,
    is that we are the habitation of God, we are His temple and Christ will have eternally dwell among His people. Our destiny is not so much to a place, but unto a person, Christ Jesus. Believer’s are made heirs of God, and joint- heirs with His Son. Nothing else surpasses such a relationship of preeminence and sublime splendor as we are made to be like Him. The Lamb of God, and God Himself is what makes heaven, heaven.

    • Of course, at the end of Revelation, the Lamb of God and God himself make their habitation with human beings on earth. So that makes the assertion that they make heaven heaven a bit problematic.

  • Not a regular reader, so this pertains to a much earlier post. In April, Jason, you quoted the first verse of The Revelation as follows: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which he made known by symbolism to his servant John.” Of 25 translations on the biblehub site, only one, the Aramaic Bible in Plain English, uses any reference to symbology, and it is not nearly as clear as you characterize it by your rendition of the verse. What translation are you quoting? Don’t you think this is somehow distorting the premise of the book and thus artificially propping up the foundation of your main point?

    • I’m not quoting a commercial translation. I translate everything myself—that’s part of what I do for a living.

      And no, translating the first line that way doesn’t distort the premise of the book. It instead pulls out something that a Greek reader would have immediately recognized that many English readers can’t.

      • Hi Jason, Thanks for your fascinating articles! I’ve read a number of them and they’ve really cut through a lot of fog. I will be going over the rest soonest – and no doubt asking more questions! :). This interpretation of New Jerusalem being an alternate or extended metaphor for the bride aka church certainly does seem to rise from the text.

        One question I had though was the same as Ken’s. I understand that word references may lose the sense of a word but nowhere can I find anyone who gives the meaning as having any “symbolic” sense, All the study tools I can find give the sense of showing forth or revealing, bring to light. Basically just “show”. And since it is “bringing to light” a “revelation”, it certainly seems an appropriate word to use here.. Are you pulling in a “symbolic” sense because symbolic language is being used elsewhere or is there actual textural evidence for translating it that way?

        (I checked tools like biblehub.com/greek/1166.htm, en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%B4%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BA%CE%BD%CF%85%CE%BC%CE%B9 )

        Thanks for making all this work available to us!

        • My translation simply brings out the basic meaning of the Greek word σημαίνω (sēmainō), which is the word in Rev 1:1 usually translated “communicated” or “made known,” though it’s sometimes translated “signified.” There’s no need for pulling from anywhere else, because the Greek word itself means “signify” or “indicate,” with the nuance of symbolism inherent to the term.

      • Lynn Comstock
        April 23, 2020 3:56 am

        This Greek word occurs 3 times in the Gospel of John, 2 times in Acts, and once in Rev. 1.1.
        The 3 occurrences in John are clearly “signs” or symbolic. (John 12:33, 18:32 and 21:19) This is especially meaningful if you believe that the same John is the author of Revelation.

  • The saved are the BODY of Christ, NOT the BRIDE of Christ. The “bride of Christ” is the New Jerusalem. If the Church were “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” then the angel in Revelation 21:9-10 would have shown “the Church,” not the Holy Jerusalem. Christians are repeatedly called “sons of God,” “the body of Christ,” and “the church” throughout the New Testament but are NEVER called “the bride of Christ.” .

    • You might want to read Ephesians 5:22–33 again.

      • Lol! I don’t know why, but your quip just tickled me. I love how people will use such declaratives like “never” (in all caps).

        Reminds me of a friend who had a classmate in grad school tell his professor… “There is NO WAY I could EVER believe that…” His professor replied, “Well, what about this…” and gave a one sentence rebuttal.

        The student looked up and said, “Oh.”

  • Cheryl Bennett
    January 26, 2018 9:22 am

    I’m not a bible scholar, just a housewife who has been studying Revelation for a while and praying for God to give me revelation on the things I am reading. I read 21 this morning and came to the same conclusion as you as evidenced by the wording in verses 1 and 2 as well as 9 and 10. I enjoyed reading your comments on this as well as other people’s responses to this post. I will continue to pray for revelation on the matter, but it was interesting to see that a bible scholar came to the same conclusion as I did.

  • But it gave physical measurements of the city in stadia and cubits. That does not sound like symbolism.

  • Carisa R. Murillo
    May 28, 2018 5:51 pm

    Hi Jason,
    I teach two year olds, and was going to show them a version of the “wordless book” – That’s more their interest level, but I wanted to first see where in the Bible that refers to Heaven as a place with a street of gold – but the book refers to the New Jerusalem, with that description -not Heaven… What do you suggest I tell them as for why yellow stands for Heaven?

  • Angela Foster
    March 20, 2019 5:20 am

    I personally don’t “care” or rather it doesn’t mean anything to me what heaven will “look” like when we get there… I’m only interested in my maker and creator, and the one who gave His life for me so I can praise and sing my praises to Him forevermore!!!! Am I alone on this point???!!! If so, that’s fine… More time with Him for me!!! ????

  • Eric Breaux
    May 5, 2019 11:43 am

    Would you dissagree with the author of this article that the original creation was not God’s eternal ideal and that whats described in revelation is literal fundamental differences from it? https://objectivechristianworldview.weebly.com/blog-posts/a-distinction-between-eden-and-the-new-earth-a-problem-for-young-earth-creationism

    • I agree with you Eric that New Jerusalem is literal. I believe the gates are made from one pearl or equivalent, as I found that the Greek word means Margarites which is a genus of sea snails, marine gastropod mollusks in the family Turbinidae, the turban snails..Oops! not pearl. One that is in question is called ‘Margarites pupillus’. Also known as the Stomatella Limpet, Little Margarite, and Pearl or Pearly Topped Snail, turban-shaped. .This one is a beautiful dark pearly blue colour and so can you imagine what the gates would look like? these were also used to make jewellery. A bit like how NZ Paua shells are used..

  • Stephen Daniell
    September 15, 2019 12:10 pm

    Jason, you are correct that this is not talking about heaven, where God currently dwells. This is a new place, where God will dwell with His people (v3), not His people dwelling with Him. This place, however, can surely not be the church. If this is a vision, a revelation, then why would God give John, in about AD85, a revelation of something that already happened at Pentecost 50 years earlier?
    The context, in v.1 states that the first heaven and first earth passed away. When did that happen? Did I miss it?
    This surely is a future abode of the saints after this earth has passed away (2 Pet. 3:10). Not a new physical earth, but a new spiritual earth.

  • Obviously noticed that Revelations is highly illustrative. And only those that are seeking God’s wisdom will get understanding of such symbolism. First we must start by recognizing who he is.
    10. What is denoted by the fact that the city is constructed of jasper, gold, and “every sort of precious stone”?

    10 The city’s construction is truly resplendent. Instead of mundane, earthly building materials like clay or stone, we read of jasper, refined gold, and “every sort of precious stone.” How fittingly these portray celestial building materials! Nothing could be more magnificent. The ancient ark of the covenant was overlaid with pure gold, and in the Bible this element often represents things that are good and valuable. (Exodus 25:11; Proverbs 25:11; Isaiah 60:6, 17) But the entire New Jerusalem, and even its broad way, are constructed of “pure gold like clear glass,” portraying a beauty and intrinsic value that stagger the imagination.

    11. What ensures that those who make up New Jerusalem will be aglow with the highest excellence of spiritual purity?

    11 No human smelter could produce gold of such purity. But Jehovah is the Master Refiner. He sits “as a refiner and cleanser of silver,” and he refines the individual, faithful members of spiritual Israel “like gold and like silver,” removing from them all impurities. Only individuals who have truly been refined and cleansed will finally make up New Jerusalem, and in this way Jehovah builds the city with living building materials that are aglow with the highest excellence of spiritual purity.​—Malachi 3:3, 4.

  • 14, 15. (a) Who is the Head of that bride-wife? (b) Because of what heirdom of the members thereof is the station of the bride-wife elevated, and what does Peter state is the station of her Husband?

    14 As a husband, the Lamb Jesus Christ is the head of his bride-wife, New Jerusalem: “a husband is head of his wife.” (Ephesians 5:23) Nevertheless, the bride-wife is made up of spirit-begotten sons of God, who are not only ‘heirs of God,’ but also “joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:16-18) Such heirdom elevates the station of the bride-wife, and she shares with her husband in his glory and honor in the heavens. What, then, is the heavenly station of her “husband,” the Lamb Jesus Christ? Peter, one of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb,” says of him:

    15 “Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones, that he might lead you to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit. . . . through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is at God’s right hand, for he went his way to heaven; and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him.”​—1 Peter 3:18, 21, 22.

    16. How does Paul, at Philippians 2:5-11, go into greater detail as to the present station of the bride-wife’s Husband?

    16 To other “joint heirs with Christ,” the apostle Paul writes in even greater detail, saying: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake. For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”​—Philippians 2:5-11.

    17. (a) In what position did such elevation of God’s Son put him, and how did God create a capital “organization”? (b) As to priesthood, what relative positions do Jesus Christ and those of his bride-wife hold?

    17 No creature could get any higher than to the “right hand of God,” and the “superior position” to which God exalted him was to that right-hand position. (Psalm 110:1; Acts 2:34-36; Hebrews 1:3, 13; 8:1, 2; 10:12, 13; 12:2) This put the Lamb Jesus Christ in the capital position over all the rest of God’s creation. Of course, the Lamb Jesus Christ is not an “organization” in himself. But since Jehovah God gives him a bride-wife, namely, the congregation of 144,000 joint heirs, the Most High God creates a capital organization over all his holy universal organization. In this capital organization that the Supreme Being establishes, Jesus Christ is His High Priest and the bride-wife class are 144,000 underpriests, “a royal priesthood.” (1 Peter 2:9) Scripturally, then, beyond all contradiction, the Most High God Jehovah now has a capital organization through which he deals with all the rest of his universal organization.

  • The name New Jerusalem indicates that it would be a capital organization, resembling Jerusalem in the days of King David and of his son King Solomon. But what is there to show that the New Jerusalem of 144,000 spiritual Israelites would be the capital organization over all of Jehovah’s realm of creation? It is this: The New Jerusalem is called “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” (Revelation 21:2, 9; 22:17) To this figurative Lamb, it is said: “You were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.” (Revelation 5:9, 10) This once slaughtered Lamb is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Jehovah God. In agreement with that fact, one of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb” wrote to his fellow Christians and said:

    13 “It was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, that you were delivered from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers. But it was with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s.”​—1 Peter 1:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 5:7.

    14, 15. (a) Who is the Head of that bride-wife? (b) Because of what heirdom of the members thereof is the station of the bride-wife elevated, and what does Peter state is the station of her Husband?

    14 As a husband, the Lamb Jesus Christ is the head of his bride-wife, New Jerusalem: “a husband is head of his wife.” (Ephesians 5:23) Nevertheless, the bride-wife is made up of spirit-begotten sons of God, who are not only ‘heirs of God,’ but also “joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:16-18) Such heirdom elevates the station of the bride-wife, and she shares with her husband in his glory and honor in the heavens. What, then, is the heavenly station of her “husband,” the Lamb Jesus Christ? Peter, one of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb,” says of him:

    15 “Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones, that he might lead you to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit. . . . through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is at God’s right hand, for he went his way to heaven; and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him.”​—1 Peter 3:18, 21, 22.


    Another Jerusalem mentioned in the Scriptures is the “New Jerusalem.” In the book of Revelation no Jerusalem is spoken of but New Jerusalem. (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10) She is the “wife” of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in much the same organizational sense that the heavenly universal organization of holy spirit creatures is the wife or “woman” of Jehovah God. That is why the apostle Paul could write: “I personally promised you [spirit-begotten disciples of Christ] in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:2) In keeping with this figure of speech the apostle John tells: “I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2, 10) Further helping us to identify this New Jerusalem is the fact that it has twelve gates on which are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israel​—not meaning, however, the tribes of ancient Israel, but the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel mentioned at Revelation 7:4-8. Clinching the matter is the fact that this New Jerusalem has twelve foundation stones on which are inscribed the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.​—Rev. 21:12-14.

    In the Scriptures literal Mount Zion is time and again associated with literal Jerusalem and so we find it in regard to spiritual Israel. At times, it appears to refer to a location rather than to a city or an organization. Thus John writes: “I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.” In other words, the New Jerusalem, the 144,000 spiritual Israelites, are pictured as standing with their Bridegroom on Mount Zion.​—Rev. 14:1.

    Pertinent here are the words addressed to Christianized Jews at Hebrews 12:22, 23: “You have approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, and myriads of angels, in general assembly, and the congregation of the firstborn who have been enrolled in the heavens, and God the Judge of all, and the spiritual lives of righteous ones who have been made perfect.”

    How are we to understand this text? The understanding is as follows: The “city of the living God” and “heavenly Jerusalem” with its “myriads of angels” appear to have reference to the “Jerusalem above,” Jehovah’s universal organization, the antitypical Sarah. The 144,000 members of the bride of Christ are what is referred to by the “congregation of the firstborn who have been enrolled in the heavens.” They are part of the inhabitants of the “city of the living God.” Similarly, the words “the spiritual lives of righteous ones who have been made perfect” is another way of speaking of the 144,000, including the remnant thereof still on earth who have been declared righteous and have attained to spiritual maturity.

    It is written in Luke 21:24: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” This prophecy is not fulfilled upon Jerusalem, the capital of the Republic of Israel. Throwing light on this text is Ezekiel 21:27 in which Jehovah God foretold the overthrowing of the last Judean king and that “it will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.” In view of this prophecy it is plain that the Jerusalem that was trampled underfoot until the appointed times of the Gentiles or nations are fulfilled must be not just the earthly city Jerusalem. Rather, it represents the right to the Messianic kingship that reposed in the royal line of David according to the covenant Jehovah made with him. That covenant assured King David that his royal dynasty would continue forever, which, in fact, was why Jesus had to be David’s direct descendant. This right to the Messianic kingship began to be trampled on in 607 B.C.E. with the overthrow of earthly Jerusalem and the deposing of her king, Zedekiah. This trampling by the nations continued until when? Until he came whose right it is, Jesus Christ. Fulfillment of such prophecies as Revelation 11:15 to 12:10 shows that Christ in heaven began to exercise this right in 1914. It was at that time that Jehovah commanded him to go subduing in the midst of his enemies.​—Ps. 2:7, 8; 110:1, 2.

    The foregoing is enlightening indeed. We see that Jerusalem was the name of the literal city itself, and that at times it stood for the nation of Israel, or for the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. It also typifies unfaithful Christendom, even as ancient Jerusalem became unfaithful. Further, the name is applied to Jehovah’s universal organization, and at times to the “bride” of Christ as a New Jerusalem, and also “Jerusalem” may refer to the right of the Messianic kingship.

    Let us bear in mind that the foregoing is not only interesting but also of the greatest importance to us. Jehovah God has caused his prophecies regarding the restoration of Jerusalem, which applied to the Jews returning to their homeland in 537 B.C.E., to have a greater and grander fulfillment in the restoration of those today who represent “heavenly Jerusalem,” the remnant of the body of Christ still on earth. These, together with their companions, the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” are enjoying a spiritual paradise today. It is the privilege and duty of all sincere worshipers of the Creator, Jehovah God, to associate and cooperate with the “remnant,” representing ‘Jerusalem which is above,’ in rendering sacred service to God.​—John 10:16; Rev. 7:9, 15.

  • Psalms 119:33-37,69,

  • John 17:3,17.

  • Quintessential Queen
    December 6, 2019 12:29 am

    Powerful read!

  • I think it’s both a metaphor and an actual description. If it’s not about a physical city why include the dimensions? If it’s about money why isn’t money mentioned anywhere in connection to heaven other than where to lay up your treasure which is talking about rewards to be laid at Christ’s feet? It’s about VALUE. It’s how much He values his creation the He has redeemed from the earth. ” how shall he not give us all things”

  • yves despeghel
    July 22, 2020 2:11 pm

    Amazing, no more need of the lamp as we will now the morningstar in or harts. We will draw light from the essence, christ in us. No more head knowledge but abiding in Him. It’s all in us, we are waking up to its reality.
    And what a reality he is !!!! It took me 28 years to get out of the clutches of types and shadows (Milk) to the reality of the meat, the incarnation in me.
    What a decadence of goodness, there are no words for such a Glory !!

  • Your last sentence in the last paragraph really resonated with me “it is extraordinarily irritating…”. This notion of golden streets and mansions has been a bone of contention with me for many years. I think there are primarily two sources for this misunderstanding. The first is poorly educated clergy. Many fundamentalist “full gospel” denominations promoted from within based on the “calling of God rather than a academic preparation”. The second is the roots of the early laity in the southern United States. Many of these were poor and sometimes illiterate people living in rural areas working farms on dusty dirt roads. To hear a preacher say that when they die they are going to have a mansion on a golden avenue, that had to be heaven. Thanks for your exegesis on this topic.
    PS: I see in your CV that you are quite familiar with Prof. Bart Ehrman, of my theological mentors.

  • The church is not the bride of Christ. The church is the body of Christ. The word of God never says that. In Ephesians 5 :21 – 25 it speaks of man being the head of his wife even as Christ is the head of the church and he is the savior of the body. Christ here giving examples of our submission to him in the fear of the Lord. Men to love their wives as their own body. So does Christ love the church and his own body. Vs 27-30. For we are members of his body. The bride of Christ has to go through a preparation like Esther did before she was chosen as queen. There are jewels and precious stones in heaven. The new Jerusalem is not the church she is a bride adorn for her husband coming out of heaven. Jerusalem is a place of peace. And she coming out of heaven that is she has to be there before all others to be coming out of heaven and being one with Father God and Jesus Christ as the bride. The church is not going to heaven everything will be here on earth. The Lord’s prayers gave the example of what is to come. Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus Christ is coming back to rule and reign here on earth as it will be His kingdom. Repent for the kingdom of God is near. The message of Jesus Christ.

  • Brian Bekken
    June 28, 2021 2:34 am

    I still think there are literal parts to revelations, and it refers that section as the new earth. Right before the pearly gates and streets of gold it was talking about the 144,000 going to the new heavens, then the writings tell about the new earth and how beautiful it was. The new earth aka the Holy city, new Jerusalem where there is no more pain, and no more darkness because gods glory will light up everything. People who think that they may be smarter than others, because they use bigger words are in for a rude awakening come judgement day. I don’t see how a Christian scholar can be so extraordinarily irritated by someone who would read the passage and take it literal. Really?! That’s not what god is trying to instill in us.you could be a bit more loving and teach with compassion and maybe then you’ll gain that wisdom you’re seeking. I’ll pray for you.

  • Israel Reinhard
    August 8, 2021 3:23 pm

    That is your flawed opinion, with all due respects, Sir! Heaven is beautiful, and it’s streets are made of gold; and I am looking forward to it as My Groom returns.
    You will also argue with Jesus then that there are no mansions in heaven. I saw a glimpse of one of those beautiful mansions while I was worshiping some day, and two days later, my mom left the earth.. I believe Abba Father showed me a glimpse of her mansion to signal her departure.
    If mere mortals can have mansions and gold spread in them, why then does it need to be figurative for the One who owns the silver and gold, and created the earth?
    One must not just know the letter of the Bible, but have revelation to understand it.
    Beloved readers, do not let anyone dissuade you of you are certain. Figuratively or not, heaven is the ultimate beauty, look forward to it. Choose to believe Yahweh than the assumption of men.

  • I just discovered your website, and am enjoying reading your material. I have often found myself a bit frustrated at feeling like an outsider for sometimes questioning “accepted interpretation” with what the bible appears to “actually say” (what words were actually used, what was the context, etc.) – now I’m wondering if you are saying that ALL of the book of Revelation is symbolic or just parts of it? Specifically, I’m wondering about the letters to the churches. Those churches actually existed, so it seems that those were to be taken literally (though I realize that there’s a transcendent, “if the shoe fits, wear it” quality to them). As for the “mark of the beast”, I assume that even if it were referring to a literal, physical mark, it would be a symbolic mark long before that (the reference to the head and the hand implying thoughts/attitudes and actions).

    • I think it’s likely that the letters to the seven churches function both as letters to those churches and as circular letters to make a larger point to other churches as well. The language of them is also highly symbolic (“Balaam,” “Jezebel,” etc.), so it’s a bit of a mix there.

  • I’m interested in hearing your take on the coronation happening this weekend? The british monarchs claim to descend from King David and tick all the right boxes. The service has been changed this time so heads of all the major religions are included and everyone watching has been asked to swear allegiance to Charles during the service which has never been done before. The oil being used is coming from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem rather than the usual anglican priest in the UK. The whole world will be watching, as the event will be televised at the same time around the globe.

    For the record, I don’t believe most of the other theories out there about the royals and Covid. Although I do understand why people are quick to point out the link between the corona (or crown) virus and the coronation and all of the celestial events happening the night before the ceremony. As well as the jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer starting on the following Monday evening (which ironically co-commemorates the end of another plague). If Charles is not the antichrist of Revelation declaring himself world ruler, he is the best candidate yet and the event should be watched/studied as a version of what might happen and how easily people are roped into worshipping human rulers.

    • If it was possible for the coronation to have less than zero relevance to any of this, I’d say that. But since that’s not an option, I’ll just say that it’s not what any of that is about, and Charles is not the antichrist.


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