I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
Creative Commons License
The posts in this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. In other words, you can copy and use this material, as long as you aren't making money from it, and as long as you give me credit.

Monday, June 11, 2012

BIG pearls: Revelation 21:21

Some time ago, I heard a devotional. The speaker said that Revelation 21:21 says that the holy city, after the end of things, will have twelve gates, each one made from a single pearl. I checked this, and found complete agreement among several versions of the Bible. They all say that each gate will be made from one pearl!

The idea is astonishing. So is the agreement among translators! I know that Revelation uses figurative language, and that we should be very careful in taking it literally. But, anyway, I want to muse about the idea of gates of pearl for a bit. (There is an expression, pearly gates, that refers to the gates of heaven.)

A pearl is an object produced by a clam, mussel, or similar mollusc. Layers of Calcium Carbonate are deposited around a foreign object in the mantle of the mollusc. Natural pearls, which develop spontaneously, are considered very valuable, at least if they are spherical in shape. A quick on-line search turned up a necklace, with 25 natural pearls, probably not very large, in gold, selling for more than $18,000. Cultured pearls are produced by inserting a foreign object into the mantle of a mollusc. Different types of material are used.  There are also imitation pearls, which are manufactured, with no help from a mollusc.

Why do oysters produce pearls? Scientists don't seem to be sure, but it is probably a type of immune response -- sequestering a foreign object.

How could there be a gate made from a single pearl? I don't know. The God who made the universe from nothing could certainly prepare a mollusc large enough to produce such a pearl, or He could make pearls with no molluscs at all. Why pearl? My guess is because of their value.

Jesus warned about throwing pearls to pigs. (Matthew 7:6) I suppose that He meant to be careful to value things as God sees them, and not to reject the life with Christ, the most valuable thing. Jesus also talked about a pearl of great price, so desirable that a man sold all that he had to obtain it. He was talking about life with Christ, again. (Matthew 13:45-6)

Thanks for reading. 


atlibertytosay said...

Not to be picky but it says every several gates will be made of pearl not each of the twelve.

'Made from' can also be translated in modern times - regardless of translation - "made mostly from" or "appearing to be made from" (as in coated with)

I'd lean more toward your analysis though, our God probably has some awesome pearls in store for decoration or could snap one a large pearl into existence.

I'd also lean towards the description saying each gate was priceless - much as we say "pearl of wisdom"

Job 28:18b

“And the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls."

The streets of gold will also have to be an impressive amount of gold as well.

Rev 21:21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold.

i am Grateful... Kerry i am. said...

This post, as usual, is a pearl to me. Thanks for the inspiration.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Kerry i am.

Thanks, atlibertytosay. Yes, the final city apparently will be lavishly decorated!

"every several gate" appears to be an archaic way of putting it, used by the King James, and one other version. (See the first link, which gives several translations of that verse.) The New King James, and the other translations, say "each gate."