“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” ~ Revelation 21:1-2 ESV
In this vision that was given to John the Apostle, he saw the heavenly city. Many have attempted to paint the picture of our heavenly home, but come short of its magnificence and awe. I have always found it interesting that while John specifically describes each jewel and color of the walls, foundation, and streets, one stands out above the rest. John records, “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl…”(Revelation 21:21a ESV). Ever wonder, why a pearl?
The “Pearl of Gates,” a title that has enraptured the church for millennia, with songs, poems, and writings galore; evangelicalism adores the thought of the shiny white treasure. However, out of all of the gems that are listed in John’s collection of color and grandeur—solely, and only, stands the pearl. It’s not a stone. Nor is it mined from the ground—meaning, it should be noted as special. Women love the feel and subtle elegance of a fine strand of pearls—always noticeable and yet classy. In the revelation given to John concerning Christ and the Kingdom, I am sure that it was difficult for him to put into words the things that his eyes beheld. However, I don’t think that John was merely choosing the pearl for color, but by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was noting its character and recognized its beauty for another reason. That reason is suffering.
None of us are strangers to suffering and pain. As Jesus stated, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45 ESV). Assuredly, we would not argue that storms affect believers in the same manner as the rest of the world; one building is destroyed by typhoons and earthquakes, the same as the next. As followers of Christ, we are not without suffering, but like Job, we are allowed to enter into it to find the humility and sovereignty of God.
The pearl is quite unique because it is the only listed gem that comes from pain and suffering.A pearl begins its slow creative process from a tiny grain of sand that is slipped into an oyster’s shell; more specifically, underneath the muscle of the mollusk. The oyster endures the irritating texture by trying to coat the sand with a substance it excretes. Over time, the oyster will continue to place multiple coatings upon the tiny sand granule, in a journey of its own. The lesson—the oyster could never have produced a beautiful pearl without enduring irritable suffering. Each of us, like the oyster, endures through adversity and suffering to produce character and patience in our faith (James 1:2-3).
Entering Through Suffering
For this reason, I believe that John is given divine inspiration regarding the picture of the gates—for those that will enter into the glorious Kingdom of Christ. The pearl of gates is not just a portrait of God’s splendor, but how the Christian has joyfully endured suffering, entering into a humble union with Christ. Paul the Apostle validates this when he declares, “that I may know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10 ESV). When we share in the suffering of Christ, we enter an eternal relationship with Him and into His kingdom.
Jesus said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJV).
Does this mean that the Christian must endure pain and suffering to enter into the Kingdom—not necessarily, but the one aspect of suffering is that it brings us closer to Christ—our Savior. Suffering helps rid us of boasting and pride. Suffering removes the tough exterior and yields a vulnerable heart. So, the next time that you are facing pain and anguish, be of good cheer, Christ has overcome the world and suffered for your sin’s sake. He endured the punishment to give us peace (Isaiah 53) and one day—one day, when we walk through those pearly gates, we’ll know why they are pearl, for there is no other suitable material for the doors to Christ’s Kingdom. No servant is greater than his Master (John 15:20); however, no master is like our Master, who provides peace, content, and joy during suffering.
So, remember the oyster and the pearl, that what may be irritable and painful now, may just yield something beautiful later.