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And the twelve gates were twelve

pearls, each gate

a single pearl, and

the street of the city

was pure gold, like transparent glass.  (See comment below.)


And all the guarded access points to God’s people are extremely precious, each guarded access point

is special in a unique way; and the way the people go about their activities is holy,

as pure as pure can be.   (See comment below.)

The Street was Pure Gold Like Transparent Glass

There are many things in Revelation that are said to be made of gold, often of gold that was clear as glass. This too was symbolism. The point was not that God is rich; why would God care about gold? He owns everything that He created; just because something is valuable to us does not mean that He values it more than His other created things. The focus is on purity. That is often what gold symbolized in ancient times, in fact, one of the Hebrew words for gold meant “pure.”

Have you ever wondered about the description in Revelation of gold being clear, or transparent? If we purify gold it does not become transparent; it keeps its color. If we somehow made it clear it would no longer be gold. So what is going on? The word translated “transparent” was another symbol which also meant “pure.” When the two symbols, gold and clear, were used together, it meant “doubly pure.”

But that’s not all, it was compared to glass. Glass in those days was not defect-free like ours is today, but as a word picture it conveyed the idea of transparency which in turn meant “pure.” So here is yet another layer of symbolism which means the same thing as the others in this sentence—purity! On top of that the simple adjective “pure” is used to describe all three of these word pictures. That makes four layers piled on top of each other, all meaning the same thing, “pure!”

Most of the time the word pictures of street(s) of gold and pearly gates are applied to heaven, but we must remember that the angel is showing John what the bride of the lamb looks like—this is a description of God’s holy people, His faithful followers, not a description of heaven. The lesson we can learn from this passage is that it is indeed possible to have a purified heart while living here on this earth—that is the reason that Jesus shed His blood.

I struggle to find words to adequately convey the power of these three word pictures and one adjective when put together. “Pure gold,” means “doubly pure.” “Transparent glass,” means “doubly pure.” This amounts to a quadrupling of the word “pure.” It is saying that the way the people of God conducted their lives was pure, pure, pure, pure!

Using word pictures was a much more eloquent way of communicating it. To the original audience the word pictures were not only more eloquent than the repetition of the word “pure,” but tended to magnify the meaning and power of the message. I cannot image a more powerful way to communicate the concept of purity!

Take note of the difference in the two methods of interpretation. One says this passage refers to heaven and informs us that in that place even the streets will be made of a shiny metal substance that is worth lots of money here on earth. The other method says it is a picture of the people of God who set purity as a high priority and expend every ounce of effort and self-discipline, combined with complete trust in God, to achieve it. The one can easily become self-centered, while the other must remain focused on God’s holy standard and His help in living up to that standard. In my opinion, the one has no spiritual message for us at all, the other is a tight little package containing one of the most powerful messages the Christian will ever hear.

We should strive to enter that city. We see in Revelation the admonition to be sure you are one who enters that city (the people of God), and not one of those excluded from the people of God. This is one of the few exhortations that appears in the full message on the scroll that Jesus reads in 22:12-16. What qualifies us to be considered part of the people of God? It is Purity. We do not make ourselves pure; only the blood of Jesus can do that. But we do play a part in maintaining that purity on a daily basis by depending on the Holy Spirit and rejecting evil.