The foundations of the city walls were adorned with every kind of precious stone: The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,
I. ITS FIRST CHARACTERISTIC IS HOLINESS. It is set up in the midst of evil and in opposition to it. It is holy, for it is "from God;" it is holy, for it promotes holiness in its subjects; all who pertain to it are called to be saints. Whatever is not in harmony with true ideas of holiness can have no part in the holy city.
II. ITS ORIGIN IS DIVINE. "It cometh down out of heaven from God." The true Church has its fount in him. He calls the first band out of the surrounding darkness. All is of his grace. He gives the Word which is the seed of the kingdom, he is the Father of all. The Church's grandest idea is that it is of God.
III. IT HAS ITS HIGHEST ADORNMENT IN THE MANIFESTATION OF THE DIVINE GLORY. But "the glory of God" is the symbol of God himself. We approach the true Shechinah. The glory of the Church is the presence of God. How near is that manifested glory brought to us in the Incarnation! how near in the abiding Spirit's presence! This is the true light that shineth over the city.
IV. ITS STABILITY, HARMONY, AND ORGANIC UNITY ARE REPRESENTED IN THE FIGURE OF THE CITY. Here are taught the intercourse, the fellowship, the safety, the mutual interest, of the holy ones. What is here ideally presented may not always be actually found. We deal with the patterns of the heavenly things.
V. THE FREEDOM OF ITS ACCESS TO ALL NATIONS is here declared. The gates of the city, ever open, stand to the east, the west, the north, the south. But one city; but all may enter.
VI. THE CHURCH IS BUILT UPON THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS. All the living Christianity has its basis here.
VII. THE SPLENDOUR, BEAUTY, PERFECTNESS, STRENGTH, AND GREATNESS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD - the living Christianity of ours and of every day, and the whole idea of the same - are set forth in the utmost wealth of symbolical extravagance.
VIII. THE INTIMATE ALLIANCE OF THE DIVINE SETS ASIDE THE EARTHLY AND IMPERFECT ELEMENTS. There is no visible temple. "The Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple of it." The illumination of the whole city is found in the life and grace of Christ.
IX. THE UNIVERSALLY DIFFUSED BENEFICENT INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY is declared. The nations walk in the light of it, and -
X. THEIR RECIPROCAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT is found in that they "bring their glory and honour into it."
XI. ITS IMMUNITY FROM THE CONTAMINATION AND DEFILEMENT OF EVIL is indicated. Nothing unclean, nothing untrue, nothing of evil nature, enters it. It is ideal. True. Yet no evil elements shall ultimately be found in the Church of Christ; and, as at first we stated, the earthly is lost in the heavenly, of which it is at once the beginning, the type, and the pledge. - R.G.
And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones.
I. THERE IS NOTHING BASE OR COMMON IN THIS CITY. Every part is most beautiful and every part most precious. It is this feature of the description which fills us with a sense of rapture. Now, remember we are speaking of a living city, not of mere dead walls and buildings. The meaning, then, is that every member of the glorified Church, every living stone on those living walls, is of perfect beauty, and of priceless worth, most precious in the sight of God, most precious in each other's sight. Once common dust, stained with sin, fit only to be trampled on by God and all pure angels, now wrought by a Divine alchemy into radiant pearls and precious stones, so that even the place where God puts His feet is glorious. Now every streak of imperfection has been removed, every fault repaired. In the olden time alchemists spent weary days and nights, and wore their flesh to bone and their brains to madness, in striving to change the common metals into precious gold. Of course their labour was in vain; and yet the dream had a foundation of reality. Christ, the Divine transformer, has succeeded in a far grander sense than they thought and intended. There, on the radiant walls and streets of the New Jerusalem, are the proofs of His success. The common charcoal and the brilliant diamond are, as you know, of the same material. Each of them is simply a lump of carbon, and the chemist can actually change the splendid gem into dull black charcoal. But there his power ends; he cannot change it back again. And the world and the devil can put noble souls into their crucibles and turn them out black and lustreless. Their genius suffices for that transformation, and then fails. But Christ takes these marred elements and touches them back into such vivid splendour that they shine like jasper on the heavenly walls. And the Church of the Apocalypse is a treasure-house filled with these Christ-wrought jewels. It is the communion of beautiful souls, where "the feeblest is as David and David as an angel of God," where "a man is more precious than the gold of Ophir," where "each esteems other better than himself," and where the spiritual beauty of each one is the wealth of all. This is not, as some suppose, the setting forth of a heaven of material splendour — a magnified jeweller's shop, as it has been irreverently called. It is rather the exaltation of the moral over the material. It means that the true gold and pearls of the universe are the graces of God's elect souls. "The foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones."
II. The imagery of our text suggests INFINITE VARIETY. "All manner of precious stones." The apostle enumerates twelve of them, but these twelve are only representative of the greater number. Similarly the twelve gates of the city are pearls, but no two alike, for each several gate is of one distinct pearl. Further on, the tree of life, growing in the midst of the city, yields twelve manner of fruit: and so it is everywhere. There is only one feature of general likeness. Every part shines with the radiance of the jasper. The apostles of Christ were just as diverse in mind, manner, and disposition as any twelve men could be. James was a thorough conservative, Paul as thorough a radical. Peter was bold and enterprising, Andrew timid and retiring. John was imaginative and sanguine, Thomas prosaic and despondent. Yet they were all vessels made meet for the Master's service; all alike sanctified; all alike filled with the Divine Spirit; and now they are built up in the New Jerusalem, each one with his individuality preserved, each one a precious stone beautiful and glorious after its own kind. This living city has room for all manner of souls. See how Christ gathered them in. Fishermen and sailors, rude in speech and uncultured in mind; publicans, inclined to cautiousness and calculation; scribes, full of book-learning, exact and formal; Pharisees, in whom ritualism was ingrained; Roman centurions, soldierly and imperious; physicians, like Luke. An endless variety, indeed, whose peculiarities Christ's service would not remove, but only purify and deepen. Now they shine all manner of precious stones in the Holy City, making heaven's intercourse delightful. How significant are the words which follow our text! "The kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour unto it"; and further on, "They shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it." "The kings of the earth"; that is, not the Caesars, and Constantines, and Charlemagnes, but the more royal souls who are kings by the imposition of a Divine hand. And "the glory and honour of the nations," the most faithful of the Israelites, the noblest of the Greeks, the purest Romans, the most brilliant of Frenchmen, the most artistic of Italians, the strongest among German and Anglo-Saxon thinkers — all of them, with the fine qualities which distinguished them as nations, preserved and sanctified in Christ. The most gifted minds, the sweetest singers, the sublimest poets, the rarest geniuses, the bravest soldiers, the noblest patriots and statesmen — all the glory and honour of the nations. Christ claims the best of every kind to garnish the living walls. Chrysostom and Augustine its orators, Pascal and Malebranche its philosophers, Newton and Kepler its scientists, Dante and Milton its poets, Michael Angelo and Titian its artists. Men who were as devout in faith as they were gigantic in intellect, and these, and thousands of others as noble as they, have brought their honour and glory into the city. Oh, what a building that will be when it is completed! What a society of elect and choice souls when every variety of human disposition, every manner of gift purified and immortalised, are gathered together in one redeemed company! "The foundation of the wall of the city was garnished with all manner of precious stones."
III. The imagery of our text suggests THE MODE OF CHRISTIAN GROWTH. The apostle enumerates singly and in their proper order the twelve foundation stones. He must have had some distinct meaning in this. The precious stones rising one above the other would represent, if we could only interpret them correctly, the growth, the upbuilding of the Holy City — the Church. And as the Church is built up exactly after the manner of the individual believer, we have also Christian growth represented in the picture. Now look for a moment at the twelve rows. There is first, as we might expect, the jasper, which represents Christ. All living, growing faith starts from that as foundation. There can be no enduring building on any other base. Next comes the sapphire, a rich blue stone, like the azure of the sky — that blue sky which is the everlasting type of calmness and peace. So this sapphire represents the second stage of Christian growth, the indescribable peace and calm which come from resting on Christ, and from the sense of forgiveness. The third is the chalcedony, white, and yet not unmixed white. It is the first purity of the Christian life, the purity of the young fervent disciple, not perfect, not altogether unselfish — for the beginnings of religious life are always too self-regarding — and yet very fair to look upon. The fourth is the emerald, a flashing green pearl, the colour which all poets of all nations have chosen as the symbol of hope, and so indicative of the hope which glows in the disciple's breast, enduing him for trial, and spurring him on to all his endeavours. Then comes the sardonyx, a stone with a white surface on a dark ground. See what that means — the fervour of the first love is gone, and the time of temptation and partial backsliding has come. The dark ground, the old nature, which was deemed dead, reappears, thrusting itself up under the Christian purity. Then follows the deep blood-red sardius, the type of suffering and patience and death — the type pre-eminently of Christ; for you remember, "He that sat upon the throne was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone." The sardius after the sardonyx — suffering to correct impurity. For when the Church has lost the fervour of its faith and the glow of its love, and the dark world spirit is reappearing under its white professions, then nothing can avail but a new baptism in Christ, a fresh draught of His cup of martyrdom, fellowship in His sufferings, and conformity to His death. Trial, affliction, tears, are denoted by the blood-red sardius. Next is the chrysolyte, washed with gold, radiant with the colour of gold, showing how the Church and the single believer come forth from their baptism of suffering refined and glorious, like gold. Then the beryl, blue again, to represent God's heavenly calm, but a richer, deeper and clearer blue than the sapphire, because that second peace which results from renewed baptism with Christ and a share in His sufferings is deeper and more enduring. The ninth is the topaz, where the green tints mingle with the gold. It is the exquisite commingling of joys realised and joys yet expected — a large measure of heaven now and a confident waiting for more. The tenth is the chyrsoprasus, gold and blue. The riches of God's love, the wealth of increasing graces, and the peace which passeth all understanding. All through the colours are becoming purer and deeper and more refined. Last are the jacinth and the amethyst, the darker and the lighter purple, the colour which in all ages has done service as the emblem of victory and triumph, the colour into which the rainbow refines itself at last — for violet is the topmost of the rainbow's bands, and points upward to the deep heavens' hinting at far-off glories. So the Church has grown, through its long, wayward, distracted, man-vexed, God-guided history. Now pure and fervent and full of unspeakable calm; and now falling from its first faith and love, and needing to be crucified with Christ again and purified afresh by baptisms of martyrdom and pain; but ever rising to clearer knowledge, to larger charity, to purer faith, and to the still far-off hills of triumph. And thus do we rise from glory to glory. And yet that is not the last. For above the amethyst is the jasper again — "the superstructure of the wall is of jasper." That means like Christ at last.
(J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
The street of the city was pure gold
1. The ideal city is here presented as possessing lower and higher ranges of life. Looking at the "city of human life" as it is in actual existence at present, the "street" must correspond with what we call in an emphatic way the earthly relations of life, of which the human body is the typical medium and symbol. The lowest rung of life is that which has to do with the necessities and cravings of our physical existence. These constitute an influence that ever tends to drag us downward, to lower our ideals, to narrow our vision, and to dwarf our action. This antagonism between the higher and the lower, between the "foundations" and the "street," is forcibly brought out in our Saviour's injunction: "Do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Yet these earthly needs are ever with us, and the battle and struggle for earthly things fills a large place in human life. Though we cannot live by bread alone, we cannot yet live without bread. The "street" problem in our cities is one of vast proportions. The earthly side of life looms large, and threatens to overwhelm the others. It is in the corresponding relation in the ideal city that we must look for the street of gold. It is not to be supposed, then, that these earthly relations are in themselves an evil. On the contrary, they are a valuable addition to the sum of human life, just as the street is to the city. The evil consists in the abuse of them, in their degradation through sin and selfishness, or in giving them a position of false pre-eminence. The "walls " must not be flung down in order that the "street" may be seen. Yet without its street the city would be mutilated. Leaving the metaphors into which John's picture so strongly tempts us, let us remember that the total of human life is greatly enriched by its earthly side. The wider the range of desire, sensibility, and consciousness, the nobler are the possibilities of power. A life without higher and lower elements in it would be a dull monotony, a stagnant simplicity, like the same note struck for ever on the same string. To make the rich music of harmony you must have higher and lower notes. The secret of the wonder of our human lives is found in the great ranges of higher and lower, of which they are composed. St. John's symbols tell us that the life of the ideal city will be analogous to the present in this, that it will range all the way from the heavenly to the earthly, from the spiritual to the corporeal. There will still be earthly interests to attract, earthly tasks to perform, earthly pleasures to enjoy, and earthly ends to gain. The life of earth, in as far as it is innocent and pure, will be there in all its completeness. If the ideal city can in any sense be realised before the coming of Christ, it can only be as a smaller society within the larger whole of human life. For nothing appears to be clearer in the New Testament than that there will be ungodliness in the world at the time of His coming, and even ungodliness of a gross, arrogant, and powerful kind.
2. So we are led to another thought — namely, that in the ideal city there shall be nothing commonplace even in life's lowest range. I think most will instinctively feel at this point in our exposition that there is beautiful appropriateness in the selection of gold to describe the lowest element in the life of the holy city. So in this city there is nothing common or unclean. The street of the city of our life is at present full of commonplace. Very frequently it is but wood, hay, and stubble. And there are unfortunate moments when we even trample it into mire and clay. The dead level of earthly cares and interests seems often to mock the dignity of the spirit within us, and many of life's tasks and experiences seem trivial and mean. But in the holy city the lowest interests and powers shall be exalted into dignity. All the stubble of our daily life shall disappear. The street of the city shall be of pure gold. There are two or three ways in which this may be achieved. In the full glory of the ideal city there will, without doubt, be a considerable elevation in our earthly faculties and earthly relations. The children of the resurrection shall stand together upon a higher plane of life. Those things in our present earthly existence that are most gross and incidental shall disappear entirely, while all that is essential in the earthly and corporeal part of our nature shall be preserved and greatly exalted. A great elevation of earthly relations will also be secured by their due subordination. It is almost a truism, although a paradox, that the undue exaltation of earthly things effects their degradation. What is beautiful and appropriate in its due place becomes hideous and repulsive when it is exalted beyond its measure. By this means many earthly relations that in their due place add to the symmetry and beauty of human life are so used as to make life a hollow and distorted thing. Thus the gold is perverted into dross, and the precious becomes injurious. So, when all things shall be subordinated according to their measure, the whole of life will rise in value, and that which is lowliest shall become exceeding precious. "The street shall be of pure gold." Further, the lowest relations of life will be raised by the Diviner spirit that shall be infused into them. Much of our life is common and trivial, because we exercise it in a common and trivial spirit. If we partake of the common meal in the spirit of holiness and love, it is no more common. It also becomes a sacrament, a holy thing, and a means of grace to the soul. In this way shall the lower ranges of life in the ideal city become greatly exalted.
3. Further, in this description of the street of the city there is a distinct indication of a special process of purification having been performed. In the eighteenth verse the word "pure" is used twice, so as to give it special emphasis. "Pure gold" is constantly used in the Scriptures to symbolise that which has been purified, and especially by fire. The application of this part of the symbol is obvious and striking. The lower ranges of life are preeminently those in which wood, hay, and stubble appear. But, as a kind of compensation for this, it is in this lower region of life that the fires of purification burn most frequently and effectively. The great discipline of men is carried on amid the sorrows, the disappointments, and the crosses of daily life. The great fires of a purifying Providence sweep through the streets of the city, burn up the dross, and purify the gold.
4. In the last place, John's symbol teaches us that in the ideal city the lowest range of life will be a mirror of the highest. The "street of the city" was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. Leaving the language of symbol, all the lowest interests of the holy city will reveal the presence and the power of the higher. In every corporeal activity, in every earthly function, even in the lowliest tastes, the spiritual grandeur of the soul will be seen, and the spiritual ends of the life will be revealed. To raise the earthly that it may become the mirror of the heavenly should be our constant aim.
(John Thomas, M. A.)
TopicsAdorned, Chalcedony, City's, Decorated, Emerald, Foundation, Foundations, Fourth, Jasper, Kind, Kinds, Precious, Sapphire, Stone, Stones, Third, Wall, Walls
Outline1. A new heaven and a new earth.
10. The heavenly Jerusalem, with a full description thereof.
23. She needs no sun, the glory of God being her light.
24. The kings of the earth bring their riches unto her.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesRevelation 21:19
LibraryNovember 18. "And He that Sat Upon the Throne Said, it is Done" (Rev. xxi. 5, 6).
"And He that sat upon the throne said, It is done" (Rev. xxi. 5, 6). Great is the difference between action and transaction. We may be constantly acting without accomplishing anything, but a transaction is action that passes beyond the point of return, and becomes a permanent committal. Salvation is a transaction between the soul and Christ in which the matter passes beyond recall. Sanctification is a great transaction in which we are utterly surrendered, irrevocably consecrated and wholly committed …
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31ST DAY. The Vision and Fruition of God.
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The City that Hath Foundations
The Land of Rest
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Whether God Always Loves More the Better Things?
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Christ's Finished and Unfinished Work
All Fulness in Christ
A Word for the Persecuted
Why they Leave Us
An Impossibility Made Possible
Departed Saints Fellowservants with those yet on Earth.
Greeks Seek Jesus. He Foretells that He Shall Draw all Men unto Him.
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