I would like to speak with you this morning about 12 pearls. Now I don’t personally own a pearl but someday I hope to walk right through the middle of a pearl on my own two feet.
Open your Bibles to Revelation 21:10. “And He carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Verse 14 says it has 12 foundations, one for each disciple of Jesus Christ. Verse 16 says that this city is actually a cube, almost 1500 miles on each side and 1500 miles high. This is similar to the most holy place of the temple of Solomon. It was a perfect cube; 30 feet wide by 30 feet deep by 30 feet high. So these two most holy places are identical in shape. First Kings 6:20.
John says in Revelation 21:22 that he did not see a temple in it. Why is that? Because the whole city is a most holy place because God dwells in it. The wall on top of the city is 144 cubits or 200 feet high. The wall is made of solid jasper, while the entire city is made of pure gold. It’s not just the streets, but the entire city.
Verse 21. It has twelve gates, and they are twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. It is not a bunch of glued up pearls. Each gate IS a single pearl. This is the pearl I want to walk through as I enter the new Jerusalem some day soon. The gates are never shut. Once we get up to heaven, those gates will always be open. They will only be open in the daytime and they never shut. There is absolutely no danger to shut out. Sin and Satan are destroyed so there’s no evil to shut out.
Verse 27 says nothing impure will enter. That’s because there is nothing impure. All impurities are burned up. The whole world is destroyed. Sinners are gone. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will be in that city. What a wonderful city! We will be there some day. Can you picture yourself walking through that city. Through those gates.
There will be 12 angels, one at each gate. There won‘t be 12 Saint Peters. Which gate will you go in? After today’s sermon, you might realize which of those 12 gates you are going to enter. God has these gates named. Each gate is named for one of the tribes, which is the 12 sons of Jacob.
Revelation 21:12 says one gate will be named for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. In Exodus 28:15-21 it says that the breastplate worn by the high priest had 12 precious stones. Each of those 12 jewels also correspond to each of the 12 foundations of the New Jerusalem. Each foundation is named for one of the 12 apostles of Jesus.
I wonder why God would name each gate for a particular tribe? Each gate is inscribed with one of their names. Is God trying to tell us some thing here? Perhaps these 12 men of Israel were like a microcosm representing all who will someday enter that city. If you enter at the Reuben gate you might exhibit some of his same character traits.
Sister White says in The Acts of the Apostles, "In the Old Testament the 12 patriarchs stood as representatives of Israel..." [AA p19] Each one of those men represents the experience or character of all saints who will eventually inhabit the city. If we look at the life and experience of these men of old we can learn valuable spiritual lessons.
Revelation 7 contains a list of the 12 tribes. It says that these tribes come from the 144,000, so there will be 12,000 sealed from each tribe. Today, the true Israel is a true Christian. So any Christian could be included in this number, the 144,000. We see the distribution of the sealed among these 12 tribes. Notice their spiritual experience and the character traits of each of Jacob’s 12 sons.
Let’s begin with Reuben, the oldest son. Come to Genesis 49:3. Reuben, the first born. Reuben should have the rights of the oldest which was to inherit a double portion and be the priest of the family, and he would be in the lineage of Jesus Christ. However, in an unguarded moment he committed adultery with his father’s wife which excluded him from this right. Sin always has consequences doesn’t it? His double portion was given to Joseph and his priesthood was given to Levi and his brother Judah stepped into the lineage of Jesus.
Was Reuben perfect? No he wasn’t. He committed adultery. Did he have good self-control? He didn’t have good self-control. He was as unstable as water, according to Genesis 49:4. So the question is, “How can Reuben have a gate?” He’s not perfect. He’s a bad person. He should have been stoned to death because he was an adulterer, but Moses said in Deuteronomy 33:6 "Let him live and not die." So how would he be there with a gate named after him? Did you think that all those people were perfect? Do you have to be perfect to enter into a gate of heaven? I used to think that, and my goal IS to be like Jesus, but I’m never going to be perfect. None of these people were perfect, so why should I think that I’m going to have to be absolutely perfect? I will be perfect in Christ. That’s how I will be perfect.
The second son that we want to talk about is Simeon, verses 5, 6 and 7. It also discusses Levi. It throws them both in together because they both did a bad deed. Remember the Dinah disaster. Dinah was their sister. She went out with these Shechemites and they took advantage of her. Simeon and Levi came and they said if you will agree to be circumcised, then we will be your friends. So they all went and got circumcised and after the third day, they were in pain and Simeon and Levi came and killed them all. God didn’t think very much of that. Simeon, especially, was hot tempered and cruel and vindictive. He was a man of violence. He was a mass murderer. His tribe was the 3rd largest at the Exodus but a few years later his tribe was the smallest. They eventually merged with Judah, because there was hardly anybody left. Hot heads soon melt down.
How can a gate be named for this imperfect man? Because he gave up that life. You don’t have to continue being the same hot-head. You don’t have to die a hot-head. You can die a warm-heart. You can die like Jesus wants you to die. He allowed God to change his heart. Only unforgiven sinners will be lost. Each person who goes in through those gates will be a forgiven sinner.
Let’s go to the third son, Levi. Except for Levi’s involvement in the Dinah disaster, he’s perfect. He’s faithful. The Bible calls him faithful. He lived to honor God. The sons of Levi were rewarded with the priesthood. They were the pastors. You want your pastors to be godly people. You want to look up to your pastors. You want men and women of integrity to be the leaders. Your ministers should emulate Jesus. Churches deserve leaders of character, integrity and Christlike gentleness, and that’s what Levi became.
The fourth son is Judah. He is listed first in Revelation 7 because he was the progenitor of Jesus Christ. Was Judah perfect? Well look at Genesis 49:9,10. You can see there all the qualities of his life. Jeremiah 35 implies that he was an alcoholic. Had a problem with wine. You know that alcohol is not for leaders. Proverbs 31:4,5. But evidently he overcame this curse and became a better person. Judah did well in the same area in which Reuben failed. He was a leader. Jesus was the Lion from the tribe of Judah.
Let’s go to number 5. Zebulun is found here in verse 13. “Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships. His border will extend towards Sidon.” Doesn’t tell you much about Zebulun. Actually, Zebulun was a fine son of Jacob. He was Leah's youngest son. Zebulun was a remarkable, nice man. He lived in peace at the port of commerce on the Mediterranean sea. He provided a haven of safety for everybody wanting to enter the port. They were the helpers. You may identify. You may say, “Well, I like to help people.“ That’s the type of a person that he was. You might walk in through his gate of Heaven. They were writers, according to Judges 5:14. Literary, artistic people. Willing to be true to God in trouble. They jeopardized their lives for God, according to Judges 5:18. God and His cause were more important than their very life. They really put their lives on the line. First Chronicles 12:33 says they were not of a double heart but were rather a people who God could trust. These were really great people, these Zebulunites. These people went around helping others. Judges 5:19.
Number 6, Issachar. Genesis 49:14 says Issachar is a raw-boned donkey. How would you like that? It says he’s lying down between 2 saddle-bags. What is a donkey doing between 2 saddle-bags? He’s a bearer of burdens. He was a hard working person. Worked hard all of his life. He bears many burdens. He has a meek and quiet spirit. He stayed at home and did the work. Live a contented, faithful, settled life. First Chronicles 12:32 says they were men of understanding. They understood the times and knew what Israel ought to do. They took up responsibilities in God's work. These are ones who work around the church and keep things going. The are sacrificial. Many do soul winning work. Issachar toiled for God. He worked hard in the field. Eventually he became well to do, but only because of his hard work and God's blessing.
Number 7 is Dan. Genesis 49:16-18. You don’t want to be of the tribe of Dan because if you look at Revelation 7, they don’t even have a gate. Dan is excluded. What’s the matter with Dan? They were idol worshipers. Here is the lost tribe. Ephraim was absorbed as part of Joseph and Manasseh took Dan's place. He was the older of Joseph's two sons and was a good worker and faithful. Dan was similar to Judas. The Bible says that Dan was a serpent. He was given over to Idolatry. Dan was a backbiter, a critic. He always looked for the defects and evil in anything or anybody. There is no gate for criticizers. You say, “Well, I’m a critical person.” Well there’s no gate for you. Not going to go in. These faultfinders that love to point out the defects of the church. Danites set up a calf of gold. They led out in the idol worship. They intermarried with the heathen. The accusers of the brethren. There won’t be a gate for those kind of people.
Number 8 is Gad. Genesis 49:19. It says he will be attacked by a band of raiders but he will attack them at their heels. Not much said about this man. Who were these people? The word “Gad“ means "company". Where there was company, there was Gad. Loved popularity. Subject to peer pressure. Gad was a fun lover but a backslider. He was overcome by many worldly temptations. But it says in verse 19 that he will overcome at the last. He returned to God and that’s why there’s a gate named Gad.
Number 9, Asher in verse 20 means “Happy". He was very prosperous. Blessed of God. You can see a description of all these people in Deuteronomy 33. This is where we get a lot of information. About Asher it says, "Most blessed of sons is Asher; let him be favored by his brothers, and let him bathe his feet in oil.” This oil is the Holy Spirit. Asher was blessed because He was daily led by the Holy Spirit. He had a deep experience with God. Deuteronomy 33:25 says, “The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days.” Quite a man.
Number 10 is Naphtali. Genesis 49:21 The King James says, “He liveth a good life and giveth goodly words." He was a word-smith, good with words. The tribe of Naphtali lived in southern Galilee which is the very location where Jesus spoke most of His parables and sermons. Most of the disciples who ended up being writers of the Bible and preachers came from southern Galilee, from this tribe, and they had the gift of words.
Number 11, Joseph. Joseph has a whole section here in the Bible. A lot of words about Joseph. In fact, he has more about him by his dad Jacob, than any of these 12 brothers. Not one fault is mentioned of Joseph. Joseph is about as Christ-like as any person that you will find in the Bible. For his 110 years there is no record of any defect. Here is a saint. There will be a gate for the saints, and you know some saints. He was true to God. He died with a firm faith awaiting the call of the Life-Giver on Resurrection morning. Jacob blessed Joseph with the longest blessing of any of his 12 sons. Joseph was fruitful and faithful. He saved the Egyptians. He saved his brothers. He saved his people. He represented Jesus Christ. There‘s something interesting here in Genesis 49:24,25. Jacob uses 5 titles of God showing how connected with God Joseph really was. With a deep Godly character. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh came under Joseph.
And the last of these 12 people. Who was the last one? This would be Benjamin. Genesis 49:27 says Benjamin was a wolf. There’s going to be a wolf gate. Will wolves be in heaven? Ravenous wolves? He was the baby of the family. A self willed child, indulged and petted. Benjaminites could sling a stone with either hand and not miss! They were the best marksmen in the whole area, according to First Chronicles 12:1,2. But the Benjaminites changed over the years. Moses said about Benjamin in Deuteronomy 33:12, "Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders." So the Benjaminites turned our to be pretty nice. Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin. He also used to be a ravening wolf. But his wolf-like character was changed on the Damascus road. He experienced the new birth and was given a new lamb-like heart, and God will do the same for you.
Most of these 12 leaders were flawed. Most of them had serious problems. Mass-murders. Adulterers. Alcoholics. You name it. Yet as they allowed God to work in their life, they became such that they would have a gate named after them. They changed. We need to pray that God will change us and help us to be like this.
Are you going to enter one of those gates? I think you will. We’re all going to walk through a gate. How do we know that? The Bible tells us that in the last chapter. It says, “Blessed are those who do His commandments that they will have the right to the tree of life and that they will enter in through the gates into the city.” It isn’t the keeping of the commandments that saves you. You keep them because you ARE saved, because you love the Lord. Every person passing through a gate will be a forgiven sinner. There won’t be anybody there who hasn’t been a sinner, because we’ve all sinned. We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.
Actually, what is the gate? It’s more than one of the 12 tribes. Jesus is the Pearl of Great Price. Jesus said, “I am the way. He is the gate! If you enter into the new Jerusalem, you will be there courtesy of the forgiving blood of Jesus covering your sins. It will be Jesus that is your ticket to heaven. He’s your passport. He’s your gate. Jesus, our Redeemer shines out through each gate.
Let’s go back to Revelation 21. Verse 16 says the New Jerusalem is a perfect cube 6000 miles in circumference. The city contains 3 billion 375 million cubic miles. If each person is given ˝ of a cubic mile to live in, the city could contain every person who has ever lived from Adam and Eve to our day. Is there room for you? There is! You don’t even own that much land here on earth, but there you have all of that. So there’s room for you. There’s room for Adam and Eve. There’s room for everybody who’s ever lived. So it’s really up to you if you’re going to be there. Will you be there? Are you going to walk through those gates? You will, if you know Jesus now, if you’ve committed your life to Jesus, there’s room for you. You will be there because Jesus paid the ticket. He paid the full price for your entrance into heaven. Accept Him as your Saviour and love Him for ever more.
Dear Father in heaven. We’re thankful that the new Jerusalem has one gate, and that gate is Jesus. Help us to get acquainted with our Gate, the way to life. May each of us be faithful Christians. Save us, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hymn of Praise: #60, Blessed Jesus, At Thy Word Scripture: Psalm 89:14-16 Hymn of Response: #426, I Shall See The King Sermon Notes: Sermon notes available as PDF
Return to McDonald Road Sermons Index
Return to McDonald Road SDA Church Home Page
McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 3/24/10