After John has described the size of the city, he then describes its beauty. The New Jerusalem is the greatest city both in its size and its beauty.
Johnís description of what he saw is very definite. He tells us the actual precious stones that he saw in each place. He even describes the quality of the gold. Clearly, everything was splendid, beautiful and wonderful - but this description is beyond our imagination.
We cannot, for example, imagine what he means by Ďpure gold transparent as glassí. Perhaps, however, our English word Ďtransparentí is not right there. Ancient glass was not transparent, although it did allow light to pass through it in a very beautiful manner. The gold that John saw also had that quality.
We can see how valuable pearls were from Christís story in Matthew 13:45-46. Of course, they were valuable because people considered them beautiful. Pearls form inside a sea animal called the oyster, they are always small objects. The size and beauty of the pearls that John mentions astonish us. Only God could make gates that are so beautiful as the gates of the New Jerusalem. Each gate is a single pearl.
We can understand that the light in, and round, the New Jerusalem was wonderful. John saw the colours from the precious stones. He saw the light that shone through the walls (21:11), the gates, and the streets of gold (21:21). The source of all that light was not the sun or moon, but the glory (splendid beauty) of God himself (21:23). It shone out from the city to fill the whole earth (21:24).
Israelís chief priest wore 12 precious stones over his heart (Exodus 28:15-21; Exodus 28:29). The purpose was to express Godís love for Israelís people. So perhaps also the precious stones in the New Jerusalem show how beautiful Christ considers his people to be. They are called his bride in Revelation 19:7-9.
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© 2016, Keith Simons.