21:18-21 – 'And the building of the wall of it was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald. The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl; and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.' The wall of the city, we are told, was of jasper; but this cannot be a correct rendering; for our modern jasper is opaque; and, when we remember that in Rev. 4:3, the jasper was to symbolize the glory of God (which glory should also be manifest in the 'living stones'–See Rev. 21:11), we incline to the thought suggested by Bro. W. I. Mann–'A diamond' most precious and clear.' (R529:3)
The fact that the city was 'pure gold' like unto clear glass, is indicative, we believe, of the fact that the glorified Church are not only partakers of the divine nature; but resplendently so!
The description of the foundation stones, and of their being 'garnished with all manner of precious stones,' bespeaks the special glory of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb: Peter, James (the greater), John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (the lesser), Simon (Zelotes), Jude (Lebbaeus, Thaddaeus), and Paul. (Acts 1:13; 9:15) Unfortunately –
'The present science of mineralogy with its names and exact terminology is a young science coming later than physics, chemistry, astronomy, or mathematics. Mineralogy as a science certainly did not exist at the time the Bible was written. It is quite impossible to be certain in all cases that when a mineral name is used in the Bible, it is used with the same meaning as that attached in modern mineralogy. The gemstones or precious stones of the Bible are minerals with identities in a considerable state of uncertainty and confusion.' (Zondervan's Pictorial Bible Dictionary; Article: Minerals of the Bible, p. 534)
We do know, however, that most gems and precious stones are the result of a process involving heat, pressure and a special cooling period, to which the chemical elements or compounds have been subjected. Translating this into the realm of the figurative, it means that the Apostles of the Lamb–the foundations of the New Jerusalem, were developed as such into glorious characters, by way of the trials of life, the pressure of circumstances, and the special cooling to which the overruling providences of God committed them. Thus were they 'crystallized' into the precious foundation stones of the New Jerusalem, having a beauty, color, lustre and texture peculiarly their own!
'pearls'–the Ancient Worthies, 'formed' during the Ages which preceded the Gospel age, viz., the Antediluvian, the Patriarchal, and the Jewish Ages, respectively. But the 'process' was slightly different. The trials endured by them, came about by virtue of the presence in their times, of gross unrighteousness, with which, of course, their own hearts were never in sympathy. Yet, they were able to relieve their sufferings in part, by becoming 'preachers' of righteousness, through the testimony of their own lives. Nor was this easy. Therefore, did Jehovah account this to them 'for righteousness' (Heb. 11:39), considering them worthy also, of a 'better resurrection'! (Heb. 11:35) Thus were these Ancient Worthies prepared in advance for their future work:
'We find that the Ancient Worthies as a class have been prepared of God in advance to serve this very purpose; that they, rewarded with human perfection, might serve as the intermediaries between the spirit kingdom and the world of mankind. As it is written, The law shall go forth from Mount Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. The instruction will go from the spiritual kingdom to the earthly princes, its representatives, and be communicated from these princes to all the families of the earth, with full power and authority in the name of the kingdom to enforce every regulation, to reward the well-doers and to punish all who fail of obedience.' (R3462:5)
Pearls are generally of a satiny lustre, and in color, creamy or silvery white. Perhaps this is intended to reflect the fact that the actual justification of the Ancient Worthies could not take place until after Jesus' death, and their redemption from the curse. (See R4574:5)
In this connection, it might be well to note that Abraham of old was literally the progenitor of Israel: the twelve tribes were the descendants of the sons of Jacob (known also as Israel); which Jacob was the son of Isaac, who in turn was the son of Abraham. (John 8:39) But Abraham had a faith such as did not the children of Israel. In this sense Abraham was not their father! (John 8:39, 40; Rom. 2:28, 29) for he is the father of the faithful. (Rom. 5:16) And, in this sense fleshly Israel will one day have to become the seed of Abraham according to faith: and not only Israel, but the whole world of mankind also; thus, as Bro. Russell once said, 'The nations shall bless themselves in Abraham's seed by becoming through faith and consecration to God, members thereof.' (See SM596) This means that one day, and that through the special ministry of the Ancient Worthies–the 'princes in all the earth'–the whole world of mankind, Jews and Gentiles will constitute the Israel of God (as was once typified by the twelve tribes of natural Israel); all of whom will be blessed under the terms of Israel's New Covenant!
' . . . note the critical translation of my text which I have given. According to the Hebrew, the nations are to bless themselves in the Seed of Abraham. In other words, after the establishment of Messiah's Kingdom, when your nation shall have been reorganized and brought into favor with God under the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34), and when the princes of all the earth under Messiah's direction shall be Israelitish–Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the holy Prophets–then the door of opportunity, first to the Jew, will stand open to all nations, that they may come in, under the gracious terms of that New Covenant, as servants of God, become in this adopted sense the children of Abraham. This is the significance of the words of our text. The nations shall bless themselves in Abraham's seed–by becoming through faith and consecration to God, members thereof.' (SM596)
The figure 12 is symbolic, even as are the 12 stones of the breastplate of the ancient High Priest of Israel. And as far as ancient Israel was concerned, those 12 stones represented their 12 tribes; for weren't their very names upon them? (Exod. 28:21)
However, in Rev. 21:21, where reference is made to the 12 'gates' to the New Jerusalem's earthly phase of the Millennial Kingdom, it is the ancient worthies that are represented by these 12 gates, because they will be the earthly representatives of the antitypical Israel, consisting of 12 tribes also–thus, of the glorified Church. (See Rev. 7:4-8)
'We find the ancient worthies as a class have been prepared of God in advance to serve this very purpose; that they, rewarded with human perfection, might serve as the intermediaries between the spirit kingdom and the world of mankind. As it is written, The law shall go forth from Mount Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. The instruction will go from the spiritual kingdom to the earthly princes, its representatives, and be communicated from these princes to all the families of the earth with full power and authority in the name of the kingdom to enforce every regulation, to reward the well-doers and to punish all who fail of obedience.' (R3462:5)
Heb. 11:34-38 – ' . . . out of weakness . . . made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of aliens . . . were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection; had trial . . . of mockings and scourgings, bonds and imprisonment; were stoned, sawn asunder . . . tempted, slain with the sword, wandered in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented (of whom the world was unworthy) wandered in deserts . . . mountains . . . dens and caves of the earth.'
'Most of the shells of the oyster are pearly in the interior; and as the true pearls are merely morbid growths, they may all produce pearls of various qualities. The formation of pearls is caused by the introduction of irritating substances, such as grains of sand, between the mantle and the shell. The irritation causes the animal to cover the obnoxious object with layers of pearl, which generally attach the foreign body to the interior of the shell.
'When we look at a pearl, we look at an annoyance which has been ennobled. The oyster by itself is of merely nominal value. But the result of the oyster's own treatment of its irritation–the pearl'is something of great price. Apart from its pecuniary worth this gem has a moral significance. It suggests that troubles may be made beautiful, and reminds us that amongst mankind some martyrs are more remembered for the glory with which they invested their sorrows than for any other portion of their lives. Biography has its moral pearls, which are treasures long after the creators of them have perished, just as material pearls are valued long years after the oysters have been discarded.' (R1756:2)
Surely, the 'pearl of great price' (character) was evidenced in the lives of those Ancient Worthies, who when passing through 'the valley of Baca' (weeping and sorrow) made it a well of refreshment for others.
Psa. 84:5, 6 – 'Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.'
'The better resurrection for which the Apostle tells us the ancient worthies hoped, will not be the First Resurrection, which is limited to those called during the Gospel age–Christ the Head and the Church his body. The better resurrection which these ancient worthies will receive, superior to that of their fellow creatures, will consist in its being an instantaneous resurrection to human perfection, at the beginning of the Millennial age, instead of a gradual resurrection by judgments during that age. This will permit them to be the honored servants of the Christ, the servants of the Kingdom, during the Millennium, and, as perfect men, to be made princes (chiefs) in all the earth. (Psa. 45:16) It will be the privilege of these worthies to administer the laws of the Kingdom, as the agents and representatives of the spiritual Christ, unseen of men.' F707)
'Not until Abraham had shown his absolute heart-loyalty could he be counted of God as worthy of a better resurrection than the remainder of mankind–resurrection to human perfection–actual justification, actual rightness or righteousness. Even when Abraham's tests were all passed satisfactorily he could not still be actually justified or made actually perfect; because he needed to be redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. As a member of Adam's family, he was under a death sentence which must be annulled before he could be actually justified to perfection of human life.' (R4574:2)