Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pondering the Pearly Gates

As the 21st chapter of the Book Revelation opens, we read that God will create a new heaven and a new earth. The old earth and the old heaven have passed away after the White Throne judgment which takes place after the second coming of Christ. These events are described in chapters 19 and 20 if you would like to read about them. Toward the middle of chapter 21, the Apostle John, who is the author of the Book, provides great detail regarding the physical attributes of the New Jerusalem. He describes the gates of the city in verse 21, “The twelve gates were twelve pearls, and each individual gate was of one pearl.” I have to admit, upon first reading this verse it is hard to imagine an entire gate composed of one pearl but that is what the text says and we know nothing is impossible with God who spoke creation into existence back in Genesis. What I wanted to discuss, however, is not the physical dimensions of the gates but why God chose a pearl as the material.

The preceding verses tell us that the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones, including jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst. God could have chosen any one of these materials for the gates but he chose a pearl. Why?

Of course, the Scripture does not tell us specifically why God chose any of the jewels he did when he created this city but I heard one commentator say that he believed God selected the pearl for the gates because an oyster has to suffer affliction in order to create the pearl. He compared this process with the suffering of Christ upon the cross as the means by which believers enter heaven.

I have to confess that I always believed a pearl was formed from a grain of sand entering the oyster but this notion is false. According to Wikipedia and several other sites that I researched on this topic, a pearl is indeed formed when an oyster or mollusk is either invaded or injured, “Pearls are formed inside the shell of certain mollusks as a defense mechanism to a potentially threatening irritant such as a parasite inside its shell, or an attack from outside, injuring the mantle tissue. The mollusk creates a pearl sac to seal off the irritation. The mantle of the mollusk deposits layers of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the form of the mineral aragonite or a mixture of aragonite and calcite. The combination of aragonite and conchiolin is called nacre, which makes up mother-of-pearl. The commonly held belief that a grain of sand acts as the irritant is in fact rarely the case. Typical stimuli include organic material, parasites, or even damage that displaces mantle tissue to another part of the animal's body. These small particles or organisms enter the animal when the shell valves are open for feeding or respiration.”

This fact of biology is quite stunning in lieu of the cross. The mollusk creates one of the most precious and treasured jewels on the face of the earth when it is attacked and injured. Our Savior when falsely accused, beaten and nailed on a cross, shed his precious blood to enable the unjust to enter heaven. Heaven therefore, is attained through suffering and travail; through redemption and blood; through the anguish of the cross. A pearl is made through a little animal that is wounded. So, it stands to reason that we enter the new heaven through a gate made of pearl.

To be honest, the concept gives me chills. It just continues to underscore the fact that nothing in the Word of God is there by chance or without precise purpose. It also emphasizes the law of human nature that anything that has true value in this life and the next is only achieved through sacrifice. It is sacrifice which produces beauty, splendor and magnificence. I think this is where our comparison of the oyster and Jesus diverts. The oyster is doing what is natural to preserve its life and in the process a wonderful little treasure is created. Jesus Christ willfully gave up his body to be beaten and sacrificed to attain eternal life for anyone that puts their faith and trust in Him for the forgiveness of sin (I John 5:11-13). He sits at the right hand of the Father now making intercession for those of us that have trusted Him as our personal Savior (Romans 8:34). If you do not know Him, please get to know Him today so you can one day enter through the gates of pearl into the Holy City whose builder and maker is God.

“The best moment of a Christian's life is his last one, because it is the one that is nearest heaven.” - Charles Spurgeon

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