by T. Austin-Sparks
Readings: Psalm 24; Rev. 21:9-21.
We now come to consider further features of this people of God as represented in this symbolic designation, the City of God; and we are going to have before us these features and elements which are suggested by:
The Walls and the Gates.
You will have noticed in the readings from the Book of the Revelation how much is said about the walls and the gates of the City. If you will just put a mark underneath these two words "walls" and "gates," you will at once see what is the place they get and how much attention is directed to them. "Having a wall great and high, and having twelve gates and at the gates twelve angels and names written thereon which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 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 he that spoke with me had a golden reed to measure the City and the gates thereof and the walls thereof... and he measured the City with the reed twelve thousand stadia, the length and the breadth and the height thereof are equal, and he measured the wall thereof 140 cubits according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel."
Now, what is the significance of the walls and the gates, in general? I think the significance is very rich and very searching. The walls represent the bounds of the city and the bounds of the city determine and define the inclusiveness of the city. Everything is gathered within those walls; they represent all the extent and all the content of the city. Those measurements are very interesting. The tremendous size of this city! We have already said that if you were to sit down and work that out you would have something to think about, you would discover that there is not a patch in the whole of the western hemisphere of this world in which you could put that city down without it falling into the sea. It speaks of immensity, greatness, the inclusiveness is tremendous.
Now, get these thoughts together. At once you see that this city, this people of God is immense in its inclusiveness, in its content, in its embracingness. But what is the inclusiveness of the Lord's people? Oh! that I could ravish the heart of any unsaved one with a true and adequate presentation of what the Lord gives to His people. The apostle Paul found himself so taken up from time to time with this thing, he saw it so plainly that he simply cried out "Oh! the depth of the riches."
Turn back again to the Ephesian letter, chap. 3 verses 14, 16, 19: "According to the riches of His glory... that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God." Listen, "according to the riches of His glory to be filled unto all the fulness of God." That is a big city. The language of Ephesians 3 is the language of Revelation 21 - "the breadth and the length and the height and the depth!" Mighty! Extensive! It is necessary to be filled unto all the fulness of God. That wants a big vessel, a big receptacle, a very big container. "Unto all the fulness of God!" We can't contemplate that, we have no conception of that, but evidently the apostle Paul, who had been caught up into the third heaven and shown unspeakable things - "unspeakable things," he says "which it is not lawful for a man to utter" knew something of it: and so he speaks here of the fulness of God. "I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that He would give you this mighty inward strengthening in order that you may be able to apprehend with all saints the breadth and length and height and depth, to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, to be filled unto all the fulness of God." Paul had some little idea of it - some big idea of it in comparison with ours, and yet even Paul will discover more than ever he knew.
Well! the walls represent the inclusiveness: they speak to us of the greatness and fulness to which God has called us. Oh! that this might come to us in the power of a great spiritual reality, for if you take up this thought of divine fulness for the people of God you will find it everywhere.
So, then, the 12,000 stadia, the 144 cubits, the four dimensions, the fulness of God, that is our calling, beloved. That is possible of being lost, and I think that poignant eternal remorse would be the more poignant by the discovery of what was lost than by perhaps many other things. I believe this, that once a soul wakens up to discover all that it has lost, hell is begun. If hell were only recollection that could be quite enough. To have been made in order to share the divine nature, made to enter into the divine glory, made to have all the fulness of God to share with all His people, and to have lost it because you have rejected the Lord Jesus, as the door, the way, the truth, the light - surely there would be hell in that! But, beloved, we, most of us, have a better outlook than that - "and I am persuaded better things of you. " This is our calling, this is what God is seeking to bring about, this is what God is doing - "according to the riches of His glory." We must leave that and pass on quickly.
We note the next thing, that these walls represent the character of the Lord's people, inclusiveness and then character. We have said that the City is the people of God and the walls are a presentation of the character of the Lord's people. You look at them! There is the jasper, the diamond of clear lustre; the sapphire in its beauty of ethereal blue; the chalcedony, the deep dark red of the carbuncle; the emerald, clear, pure, transient green; the sardonyx, black and white merging; the sardius, which is the ruby by another name; the chrysolyte, a light yellow, golden stone; the beryl, the crystal rock; the topaz, with its richest tones of yellow; the chrysoprasus, which is the agate; the jacinth, which today is called the ligure - orange, red and purple mixed - and then the amethyst, with its tender violet tones. That is all a wonderful, beautiful presentation, but what does it say to us?
Well! It says variety at any rate, doesn't it? You can arrange the rainbow there. All the primary and secondary colours are found here - marvellous variety and beauty. There is no sameness about the work of God, there is no dullness about the work of grace, grace is many hued. Grace has many phases, grace is many-sided in its glory; and the people of God are very different, hardly two alike. There is a vast variety gathered here, yet the Lord through grace can fit the whole variety into a unity and make it one complete, beautiful, perfect whole. You may perhaps have despaired of me, I may perhaps have despaired of you; the Lord's grace is going to fit us all in, however different we are. I do not believe that, in spite of the talk about doubles, there are two people exactly alike on all points in this world, you will find a difference somewhere. That is the problem of racial relationships. Now, the Lord has got over that problem in grace. We are all here, every variety is here, oh! and shining with lustre, filled with glory; that is the character of the people of God. God doesn't despair of you! Beloved, whatever you may think of yourself, however you may feel about yourself, however depressed with your own nature and constitution and temperament and character, the Lord has His way of getting you there to His place of perfection. The Blood of the Lord Jesus is sufficient, the grace of God is sufficient. Have you despaired of someone else, who is awkward, difficult, cantankerous, hopeless? The Lord hasn't given them up! I think it is going to be one of the glories of that City if we discover what the Lord has been able to make of "rough diamonds," as we call them; that He is going to make of them jasper, a diamond of clear lustre.
So, then, the stones speak to us of variety which God has blended into a unity and made whole. I go back over the old dispensation and read the story of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, and for the most part it is a sorry story. I remember a very, very dark page in the story about Benjamin, one of the most awful stories in the whole range of the Bible; one of those stories that today the ethical people desire to leave out as not fit to be read. Oh! why put it there then? Does the Lord think it fit to be read? Why, Benjamin is here, in the City glorified, that dark thing is here glorified. If God can do that, what can't He do!
Go through the tribes and follow their history, and you will often wonder why God doesn't blot out this whole lot. Why is He so forbearing and long-suffering with wayward Israel? He will not allow Balaam to curse. Oh! what cannot grace do. The names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel are here shining with the lustre of eternal glory, and the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. I must confess that ofttimes I should have washed my hands of those twelve in the old days. They are very disappointing, they are always saying the wrong thing and doing the wrong thing. "Lord, wilt Thou that we call down fire from heaven and consume them?" The Master says "you know not what spirit you are of." "Lord, send her away, she crieth after us." Here is the woman who is distressed about her daughter - and the idea of Christian disciples is, "send her away." That is not the Spirit of Christ. "Lord, we have left all for Thy sake, what shall we have?" You see the avaricious spirit coming into the realm of devotion to the Lord. There is no disinterested service there - what are we going to get? Well, none of us like that spirit however it may be in us; and then Peter denies with oaths and curses at the end, and they all forsook Him and fled. And that is not the whole story by a long way.
They are all here in the walls, shining with their lustre God-given; diversity, variety, but all in glory through grace. These names of the twelve tribes and these names of the twelve apostles represent something, they represent the whole company in two dispensations of the redeemed. Saved, sanctified, glorified - through the Blood of His Cross. And what a humanity it represents apart from grace. You, I know, have had those problems of the scripture - why is Jacob given the place that he is. How we despise Jacob, the supplanter, the man who was so mean, the disreputable man, all that about Jacob that we hate. Why is he given such a place? To glorify the grace of God. There is hope for us all! "I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." It is the sinner who glorifies the grace of God; and yet there are none righteous, no, not one, in the eyes of God. So these names represent a very poor humanity saved and lifted by grace.
Those walls not only represent the inclusiveness and comprehensiveness of the divine fulness in the Lord's people, they not only represent the character of that redeemed company, but they represent exclusiveness. There at once has to be, has there not, the note of warning? For it is distinctly said here certain things about what is outside, and what shall not come in. "There shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie, but only they that are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, for without are the dogs, the sorcerers, the fornicators and the murderers, the idolaters and everyone that maketh a lie." Indeed, those are strong terms. That is very strong language and you may say that surely relates to a very, very bad type, but if you would take the scriptures you would discover that those are also symbolical terms - fornicators, idolators. You say you are not that! Sure? What is that in the scripture? It is those who are called to be the chaste bride of the Lord Jesus, according to the eternal will of God, who have given others the place that He ought to have. That is all. He is the Bridegroom in the purpose of God!
Paul saw that his ministry and his mission was to present this Church a chaste virgin to Christ to be His bride and we are called for that according to the eternal will of God before the world was. Called for that, created for that, and then after the Son has come in He has redeemed us for that, and it is by His precious blood that this Church is secured to be His bride. The Word says so, and those who were created for that were redeemed for that, for Christ died unto that end. Giving something else His place - that is idolatry, that is fornication! Oh! Well, that brings it down to every one of us. What is taking the place of the Lord Jesus in our hearts? What is it that is having our love in His place? That may exclude us from the City of God. Fornication is spiritual, it is giving the place to something else, that the Lord Jesus ought to have. That is all.
Murderers! Oh! Listen to the Lord Jesus. You have not got to do the deed, you have only got to be angry with your brother and it is there. It is the sin of the spirit, beloved, not only the sin of the flesh that God is reckoning with. You see, this people in finality is a people whose spirit has been sanctified, whose spirit is sanctified, and murder is not the slaying literally of another, it is the spirit of hatred toward another. That is murder in the eyes of God. God sees the end of that, if it were unrestrained. God sees how that very thing has worked out all the way down the ages. Cain was angry with his brother first and then he killed him. He was guilty of murder before ever he struck his brother, it was in his heart. You see, it is the heart, and therefore this people is the people whose heart has been cleansed by the blood of the Lord Jesus, and nothing contrary than that can come in here. Oh, then there is an exclusiveness about this which forbids anything which is contrary to the nature of God. "He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself." He must be pure. "I saw the Holy City." "Be ye holy for I am holy, saith the Lord." "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." But wherein lies our confidence, our strength, our hope? He hath sent forth His Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts to do it, for God does not leave it to us.