The prophet Zechariah wrote:
I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.
In Revelation 11:1-2, John gives us a similar prophecy, perhaps based on Zechariah's, but slightly altered, as the temple of God is to be measured in John's prophecy, rather than Jerusalem. John is given a reed, and is told to measure the temple, and the altar, and them that worship therein. Jerusalem, and the temple, are both metaphors of the church in the New Testament. And here in Revelation 11:2, the temple itself is distinguished from its outer court, which is not measured, and which is given to Gentiles. Then we are told the Gentiles will trample the holy city underfoot for 42 months. So the metaphor switches back to the holy city Jerusalem.
The 42 months is symbolic, as it represents the age of the church, the last half week of the 70 weeks prophcey in Daniel 9, also called "a time, times, and a half." The church is trampled by Gentiles, implying that those who are trampled are the ones who are "circumcised in heart," as Paul said in Philippians 3:3, "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
John's prophecy in Revelation 11:1-2 suggests that many of those who have governed the church, and determined its various doctrines, and controlled the thousands of sects and denominations, lack the essential spiritual qualities of believers in Christ.
Zechariah's prophecy adds some more insight into how those who are genuine believers are distinguished from the Gentiles who trample them.
And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him,
And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein:
For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.
God says He will be a "wall of fire" around the holy city Jerusalem.
Why is Jerusalem referred to as "towns without walls"? The phrase links Zechariah's prophecy and the prophecy of Ezekiel 38. Ezekiel's prophecy refers to the land of Israel, which is invaded by the hordes of Gog and Magog, as a land of "unwalled villages."
The invaders in Ezekiel 38 come against the mountains of Israel, and the prophets of Israel, and the "unwalled villages," and they seek to take a spoil. The mountains of Israel are the most prominent parts of the promised land, and so, perhaps, in Ezekiel's prophecy, mountains represent the promises of God to his saints. The invading armies are people who are unqualified, who usurp those promises of God to themselves, or to others who are unqualified.
God shows by Zechariah's prophecy that He will be a wall of fire around his people. By his Spirit, God distinguishes between those who may enter in, and who is refused entry. That is the function of a wall. It excludes those who are enemies of God's people, and the Gospel. It excludes false prophets, who destroy and divide the Church, who are like wolves that devour the sheep.
2 Timothy 2:19
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
In John's vision of the holy city in Revelation 21, the city has a great and high wall, which is the major feature of the city that John describes, along with the gates that are in the wall.
Apart from the wall and its gates, we don't find much else said about the city. There is nothing about the buildings, homes, gardens, markets, traffic control systems, garbage collection and sewage treatment plants, or things like that.
We are given the dimensions of the wall: 144 cubits. These cubits, though, are said to be angelic cubits, not necessarily human ones.
We are given the number of gates, and their composition. There are 12 gates, and each one is a single pearl. Now, either those gates must be very tiny, or there are enormous oysters somewhere, where pearls big enough to construct a gate could form--unless these pearls are metaphors. That may be the true explanation, as entering the holy city is the "pearl of great price" that Jesus talked about in his parable about the man who sold everything he had, to purchase one pearl.
Entry to the holy city is the goal Christians hope to attain. In the prophecy of Joel 2, the locust invaders "climb the wall like men of war," and "They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief." [Joel 2:7, 9]
They need to enter through the door; Jesus says he is the "door" of the sheep. Those who don't enter through the door, are called thieves.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
The false prophets are called "thieves" as they try to take a spoil, and deceive Christians, taking them captive in their delusions. Jesus himself is the "door" through whom we may enter the sheepfold.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
At each of the gates of the holy city in John's vision, there are angels, who have the names of the 12 tribes of Israel written on them. This pictures the status of those who may enter the city. They are the children of Abraham by faith, the Israel of God.
The wall has 12 foundations, with the names of the 12 apostles in them. And the foundations are garnished with precious stones.
The city that John describes is a metaphor for the church; the
dimensions are hardly those of a real city. Its width and breadth and
height are equal.
In John's description of the holy city, only one street is mentioned. It is quite obvious what street that is: "The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul." [Proverbs 16:17]
Its street is pure gold; the emphasis is on "pure," as gold is associated with our trials. Peter spoke of trials as "more precious than of gold that perisheth." He spoke of our hope for an "incorruptible inheritance:"
1 Peter 1:4-8
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
The street of the city it is also said to be like "transparent glass." Again, this indicates the prophecy is not describing literal walls, buildings, and streets, or even literal gold or glass. Both these materials are symbolic. The symbolism suggests all things are to be revealed; the true Israelite, to Jesus, was a person "in whom is no guile." [John 1:47]
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