Gates of Pearls
(Revelation 21:21) And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. In REV 21:10-27 the apostle John was shown “...the great city, the holy Jerusalem...” which is the eternal city of God in heaven, elsewhere called “...the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem...” (HEB 12:22) and “...Jerusalem which is above...” (GAL 4:26). That place of glory is surrounded by a wall that is foursquare with three gates on each side (REV 21:12-16) and they are the only gates. Each and every gate is the same: a pearl. Thus, no matter the direction of approach, the entrance is the same. In that city is “...the throne of God and of the Lamb...” (REV 22:3), the seat of heavenly government, the kingdom of God. Jesus prophesied, “And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God” (LUK 13:29). From every direction they would come, and all enter by a gate of pearl. In nature, pearls are commonly formed by an irritant in the soft tissue of the mollusk causing a defensive reaction which covers the irritation with secretions that solidify and form the beautiful iridescent, well-rounded final product. The valuable pearl, therefore, is a mixture of trouble and of overcoming. Jesus Christ is such a pearl. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (HEB 5:8). His entrance into eternal glory where His throne awaited Him was by His sufferings: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (LUK 24:26). Thus, now “...we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour...” (HEB 2:9), made perfect (complete, thoroughly formed) through sufferings (HEB 2:10). It was in view of the final product that He went to Calvary and “...for the joy that was set before him endured the cross...” (HEB 12:2). Before the cross, His resurrection and ascension to heaven, He had “...no beauty that we should desire him” (ISA 53:2). It is in His now glorified state of majesty, prepared for by the irritation of sufferings, that the Psalmist saw Him as “...fairer than the children of men...” (PSA 45:2-7 c/w HEB 1:8-9). By faith we see Him as the victor over death and the grave reigning in heaven, “...the king in his beauty” (ISA 33:17). He is above all others a “...pearl of great price...” (MAT 13:45-46), which the wise will buy at all costs, the one truly beautiful, well-rounded Man. All are measured by Him (EPH 4:13). As all the gates of the heavenly city are the same, the picture given is that Christ is the only way into that place. He said, “...I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (JOH 14:6). There is no other portal: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep” (JOH 10:1-2), and “...Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep...” (JOH 10:7). And, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (ACT 4:12). The righteous enter His kingdom in the same fashion as He entered into His glory: by the irritation of sufferings overcome by faith: “...we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (ACT 14:22) and faith “...is the victory that overcometh the world...” (1JO 5:4). These sufferings begin with the violence of repentance by which one gains access to the kingdom in this world (MAT 11:12). The gospel's first command is “...Repent, and be baptized...” (ACT 2:38), the effect of which is to be added to the local church (ACT 2:39-41). Repentance is a mortifying of the sins of the flesh (COL 3:5), a crucifixion of the flesh with its affections and its lusts (GAL 5:24), a destroying of sinful ways and beliefs (GAL 2:18). The life of the committed believer thereafter is one of dying daily (1CO 15:31 c/w 2CO 1:8-9). The irritations may consist of the persecutions that a Christ-denying world level against the believer: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2TI 3:12). Sometimes the irritation may be “...a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet [us]...” (2CO 12:7) to save us from pride, or a deprivation of creature supplies and comforts to teach us dependence upon God and His promises (DEU 8:1-4). Sometimes the irritation may be from God's chastening (DEU 8:5), “...that we might be partakers of his holiness” (HEB 12:5-11). Godly reproofs are themselves somewhat like pearls: in MAT 7:1-5 Jesus gave disciples instruction about how to properly sit in judgment upon a brother and then went on to say, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine...” (MAT 7:6). As irritating as proper reproofs are, they are needed: “...reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (PRO 6:23), an “...excellent oil...” (PSA 141:5). Sometimes it's difficult to see the bigger picture, that the afflictions of this life for the believer “...worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2CO 4:17), but there is no other way. Those gates of pearl into the eternal city may well show us Christ Who entered there through sufferings and they may also show us believers who follow in His steps. The gate to life is not wide, it is strait (MAT 7:13-14), that is, it is narrow, difficult, rigorous, severe. “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion...” (AMO 6:1), that build their hopes on an irritation-free Christianity. By such irritants as mentioned above, God refines believers to produce over time by continued faith a well-rounded end-product beautifully iridescent and better fitted for glory. By His mercy, He covers the corrupt specks at our cores with something more lustrous than the nacre of a pearl: the fine linen of His own righteousness (REV 19:8 c/w ROM 5:19; PHIL 3:9). Curiously, all but one appearance of any form of the word pearl are in the New Testament (nine in number); the lone Old Testament appearance is in JOB 28:18. I should not want to build doctrine upon such a curiosity but this disparity seems quite appropriate since that Old Testament revelation in various ways only hinted at God's plan in Christ through its prophecies, dark sayings, shadows and types. Saints of old “...were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed” (GAL 3:23), “...the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest...” (HEB 9:8). That way was reserved unto Christ and the New Testament in His blood, the record of which has a string of goodly pearls that instruct us in His grace and our duty.