Why will there be walls around the new Jerusalem?
In his vision of the New Jerusalem, John stated, "It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Revelation 21:12-14). What will be the purpose of these walls surrounding the New Jerusalem?
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While not every detail about these walls is provided, some aspects are clear. First, the walls will display the greatness of the Lord. Revelation 21:15-21 notes the enormous size of the walls, about 1,380 miles long on each side as well as in height. It measured 144 cubits, likely describing its thickness, a measurement of approximately 216 feet or 72 yards thick.
Second, the details of the walls demonstrate the unmatched riches of the Lord. Revelation 21:18-20 describes, "The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst."
Third, the walls include the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and twelve apostles, representing the New Jerusalem as the home of those who follow the Lord. The twelve tribes of Israel were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who lived by faith in the Lord. The apostles represent those who believe in Jesus as Messiah.
Fourth, the walls will also stand as a symbol of beauty. The chapter uses the analogy of the bride coming to meet the groom for the wedding. The description of the city reveals a city featuring the most beautiful of materials. Those who dwell there will enjoy the greatest surroundings, a stark contrast from the Lake of Fire where those whose names are not found in the Book of Life will dwell (Revelation 20:15).
Again, not every detail about this future city and its walls is described, but those that are provided clearly show a place very desirable for living. John's vision emphasizes the greatness of this future heavenly city where God's people will dwell with Him forever.
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