LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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THE NEW JERUSALEM, PART 4

 

 

The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. Revelation 21:18–21

 

The wall was measured according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. We saw in verse fifteen that the wall around the New Jerusalem exists to separate God’s people from all sin and unrighteousness. And in verse seventeen we saw that God charges the ministry of the end-time revival to measure that wall. The measurement is not to be a set of church doctrines or a church manual that sets out a church discipline; the measurement is the holiness of God imparted to men through the everlasting gospel.

We read that the wall is constructed from jasper. We learned that jasper is a precious stone used in the signet ring of a king. When John entered the heaven of the Revelation in chapter four he encountered the Glorified Christ sitting on the throne and we were told the appearance of Christ was like a jasper stone. The jasper of the wall is an indication that it is the holiness of Christ that surrounds the New Jerusalem, the church as Jesus built it. From this we understand that it is not any righteousness of ourselves that makes us right with God and brings us into the church, it is actually the righteousness of Christ that is imparted to us through the new birth and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The wall represents the solemn responsibility of those called by God to preach the everlasting gospel and to lift up the truth that through the gospel God actually makes people holy and morally right in his presence. We are to preach holiness and to take a clear and firm stand against sin. Why are we to take a firm stand against sin? Because Jesus died to save people from their sins and to give them eternal life. If we make any allowance for sin in our lives; if we show any tolerance for sin; if we ignore any aspect of sin we let down the wall and make a way for sin to creep in and undermine the effect of the gospel in our lives and turn us into a form of religious Babylon. The glorified Christ will not permit this.

The wall is beautiful and it draws our eyes to look upon the holy city itself. If the wall is glorious, that which is protected by the wall is even more glorious. The city is pure gold; gold so pure that it is like transparent glass. The tabernacle and temple of the Old Testament were splendidly covered in gold. In particular, there was a small golden altar in the holy place that sat at the entrance to the holy of holies where the presence of God resided on earth. This golden altar symbolized the very holiness of the eternal God. While it was used in the worship of God, the altar itself did not make the people holy; instead, it provided only a ceremonial holiness that had to be renewed continually. What we see in the holy city now is the actual holiness of God imparted to those that have received the everlasting gospel. They are cleansed from sin, given the righteousness of Christ, and have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. This gold is so pure that it is transparent, which signifies that it is God’s holiness that shines through our lives and it is not any kind of pretended or personal holiness we could try to act out.

After seeing the glory of the holy city, John’s attention is then drawn to the foundations of the wall that surrounds the city. We saw in verse fourteen that the foundations are said to contain the names of the apostles of Christ. From this it is logical to understand that these stones represent certain aspects of the everlasting gospel as it was given to the apostles by the Lord Jesus. The foundations are described as precious stones. This does not refer to any personal attributes of the original apostles themselves but more specifically to the gospel they received from Christ and passed on to the church as Jesus built it.

The first stone is a jasper. It is the same stone of which the wall is made. Since this is the first stone in the foundation it shows us that the primary foundation of the church and the experience of salvation from sin is the Lord Jesus Christ and him alone. It reflects back on what Jesus taught in Matthew 16:18, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” First, Christ is the very foundation of his church which makes it solid and unshakable in the face of all demonic opposition. And second, it tells us the materials and the workmanship that builds Christ’s church are solely his. It is through the working of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the everlasting gospel he adds souls to his church.

The second stone is a sapphire. This stone represents the personal revelation of God into life of the redeemed. We see in Exodus 24:9–10 that Moses, the priests and the elders of Israel were privileged to see the God of Israel. “Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.”

The sapphire stone represents where God stands in the personal lives of the redeemed. John’s gospel tells us in John 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” It is accepting Christ as Savior that brings the very presence of God into our lives. We do not have to see God in a physical sense to know him because he lives in our lives. His presence gives us spiritual clarity into the things of God that the world cannot comprehend.

The third stone is the chalcedony. Chalcedony is a variety of stones that are used to make gem stones. The jasper, sardonyx and chrysoprase stones of the foundations are derivatives of the chalcedony. Hot wax does not stick to the chalcedony so it was often used to make official seals that would be pressed into wax used to seal official documents. In the foundations of the wall we first find that Christ is the foundation of his church and he reveals the presence of God in our lives. These facts produce Christ’s royal seal on the lives of the redeemed. We find in John 3:33 that “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true” (KJV). We have more than assurance that God is true; we have God’s seal of protection on our lives. In John 6:27 Jesus tells us,  “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Included in this seal is the assurance that we have eternal life. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:22 that Christ “has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” The Holy Spirit indwelling our lives is an unbreakable seal that keeps the righteousness of Christ in our hearts and the deceit of sin out. And we have the assurance of 2 Timothy 2:19, “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: The Lord knows those who are His, and, Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” The foundation of the church is solid because the redeemed are personally known and loved by God to such a degree that we are given the grace to abstain from any and all iniquity.

The next stone is the emerald. We encounter the emerald in Revelation 4:3 where it describes the rainbow that surrounds the throne of Christ. The vision of the rainbow looks back to the promise of God in Genesis 9:13, “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” This part of the foundation of Christ’s church was foreshadowed in Jeremiah 31:31 & 33, “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah . . . this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” The emerald represents God’s inviolable promise to live in the lives of people that accept the Gospel. His presence is not to be imagined, it is to be experienced in its enduring and sustainable power and grace.

The next stone is the sardonyx. The sardonyx is a variety of the onyx stone. The prefix sard indicates the color red. We find the onyx stone being used for the ephod on the garment of the high priest in Exodus 28:9, “Then you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel.” The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraved on these stones, six on each stone. The two stones were placed on the ephod and were worn on the shoulders of the high priest as he ministered in the temple. Christ is our high priest and it is his blood as shown by the color red that has made our salvation possible. The picture in this part of the foundation is that by shedding his blood Christ carries the names of all the redeemed into the presence of God so that there can be no mistake as to their acceptance with God.

The next stone is the Sardius. This is a red stone which was used extensively by engravers. Again, the color red in the foundation suggests the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin and unrighteousness in the lives of the redeemed. His blood is the ink with which our names are inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Jesus told his disciples in Luke 10:20, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven,” and in Hebrews 12:23 we find that through our names being inscribed in the Book of Life we have come “to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (KJV).

The next stone is the chrysolite. This stone is a bright crystal. We found crystal to be an important part of the revelation of the glorified Christ in the vision of the throne in Revelation 4:5–6 where we see in verse six, “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal.” We learned that the sea of glass in front of the throne is comparable to the sea of bronze in the Old Testament temple. The sea of bronze replaced the laver of the tabernacle in the temple built by Solomon. The sea and laver were used for the same purpose; it was the place where the priests washed both themselves and the sacrifices. The work of cleansing from sin is represented by the crystal clarity of the sea, and being that the sea is in front of the throne of the Glorified Christ, it can be nothing less than pure. The sea lies at the foot of the Glorified Christ showing us that the only way into the kingdom of God, the church, is by means of complete cleansing from sin in blood of Christ. The crysolite represents the cleansing from sin necessary to enter the presence of God.

The next stone is the beryl. This is a very hard stone that is green or bluish-green in color and similar to the emerald. Just a moment ago we found the emerald to represent the promise of the New Testament Covenant, Daniel saw a vision of Christ in Daniel 10:6 in which “His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.” Daniel’s vision is similar to the vision of the glorified Christ in the first chapter of the Revelation. That Daniel saw his body like beryl draws our attention to the body of Christ whose blood was shed for the remission of our sins. In this we find the truth of the incarnation. It was necessary for the Son of God to take on true human life so that he could be the innocent Lamb of God to take on the responsibility of dying for human sin.

The next stone is the topaz. The topaz is actually a stone called peridot, which is olive-green in color. The peridot was believed to have protective powers since the earliest civilizations. It was believed that this stone sharpened the mind and helped people to recognize their destiny and spiritual purpose. While not stooping to superstition, the new birth opens our spiritual perceptions far beyond what was capable in sin. This is confirmed in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new;” and 1 Corinthians 2:16, “We have the mind of Christ.” As Adam Clarke comments on this: “He has endowed us with the same disposition, being born again by his Spirit; therefore we are capable of knowing his mind and receiving the teachings of his Spirit.”

The next stone is the chrysoprase. This stone is cryptocrystalline, which means that it is made of crystals that are so small that they cannot be seen as separate particles under normal magnification. This is a critical feature of the foundation of the New Jerusalem that makes it a solid unit. This stone represents the unity of those who are in Christ. Paul describes this dense unity in Ephesians 4:16, Speaking of Christ as the head “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (KJV). Barnes describes this unity for us: “The body, whose members are properly united so as to produce the most beauty and rigour. Each member is in the best place, and is properly united to the other members.”

The next stone is the jacinth. This stone is commonly called the hyacinth. This stone represents authority. An ancient Greek myth tells the story of a young man named Hyacinth who was killed by a disk thrown by Apollo. The drops of blood that fell from his head fell to the ground and turned into hyacinth flowers and eventually turned into jewels. One foundation of the New Jerusalem is the authority of Christ as Jesus said in Matthew 28:18–20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth; and under his authority the church is commanded to Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

And the final stone in the foundation is the amethyst. The Greek name for this stone suggests that it prevents drunkenness if it is worn at a feast. As the church as Jesus built it we are told in Ephesians 5:18, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” Notwithstanding the negative commandment about drunkenness, what applies to the foundation of the New Jerusalem is being filled with the Holy Spirit. The authority of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the redeemed is the strength of the church as Jesus built it.

The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with all kinds of precious stones. While it is said there are foundations, the foundation of the wall has to be one united structure so that it can withstand all forces that come against it. However, of necessity this one wall has twelve elements that together make it one impregnable structure.

Having looked at each of these elements, we see that the wall that protects the New Jerusalem, the church as Jesus built has Christ as its foundation, the presence of God living in each of the redeemed giving them the assurance of salvation through the atonement in Christ made possible by his shed blood and their names being written in the Lamb’s Book of Life because they have been cleansed from sin under the new covenant promised by God that gives us the mind of Christ making us united in Christ under the authority of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.

John goes on to describe for us the last things about the construction of the New Jerusalem. There are twelve gates to the city each made of pearl. Jesus told the story of the pearl of great price in Matthew 13:45–46. “Again, 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.” The gospel is the pearl of great price. There are many religions in the world that promise some kind of afterlife. In a sense those are like common pearls one can find in any oyster. However, the gospel is not just any pearl; it is not just any promise for the afterlife. The gospel reveals what separates mankind from God and our responsibility for that separation because of our sin. False and apostate religions promise heaven but do not provide any cleansing from the sin that stands between us and God. The everlasting gospel is the only solution because in it the blood of Christ has been shed and is the only means by which we can be saved and cleansed from the sin that separates us from God. It is called the pearl of great price for two reasons: First, the price paid for our salvation is the blood of Christ. In Christ’s atoning death God took the responsibility for our sin and paid the price demanded by his own justice. And second, it will cost us giving up all our sin and consecrating our lives to the will of God. This is the only way anyone can enter the holy city, the church that is truly the body of Christ.

And finally, the street is pure gold, like transparent glass. Notice there is only one street—the highway of holiness. Isaiah gave us a glimpse of this highway in Isaiah 35:8, “A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray.” This is not some dirt-path or asphalt lane; this is a major thoroughfare paved with the holiness of God. All who walk on this one street will not go astray because the highway leads them in the holiness of God; there are no side streets. The word fool is not to be taken as an insult; it is used to show us that God’s holiness is imparted to us and is not dependent on our personal comprehension or understanding of his holiness. God’s holiness is clear as crystal; it is transparent, meaning that his holiness shines through our lives so that it is seen only as his holiness and not any holiness of our own.

The New Jerusalem is seen to be a beautiful place with all the glory and perfection of the Glorified Christ. This is the church that is produced through the everlasting gospel as it reaches out to the world in the end-time revival. The question for us is, “Are we that church?” Looking around on what professes to be Christianity, the New Jerusalem is not clearly visible. There may be a sparkle here and a sparkle there but not a clear vision of the holy city. What does that say about us? What do we need to do to be the church of this glorious vision?