Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blessed,
Beneath thy contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed.
I know not, O I know not, what joys await us there,
What radiance of glory, what bliss beyond compare!
They stand, those halls of Zion, all jubilant with song.
And bright with many an angel and all the martyr throng;
The Prince is ever with them; the daylight is serene;
The pastures of the blessed are decked in glorious sheen.
There is the throne of David, and there, from care released,
The shout of them that triumph, the song of them that feast;
And they who, with their Leader, have conquered in the fight,
For ever and for ever are clad in robes of white.
Strive, man, to win that glory; toil, man, to gain that light;
Send hope before to grasp it, till hope be lost in sight.
Exult, O dust and ashes, the Lord shall be Thy part;
His only, His for ever thou shalt be and thou art.
Oh, sweet and blessed country, the home of God’s elect!
Oh, sweet and blessed country, that eager hearts expect!
Jesus, in mercy bring us to that dear land of rest,
Who art, with God the Father, and Spirit, ever blest.
Written in Latin by Bernard of Cluny, translated by John Mason Neale, 1818 – 1866. Bernard of Morlaix was a Benedictine monk of the order of Cluny who flourished around 1140
“The street of the City was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.” (Rev.21:21)
A few minutes investigating the word “street” will be well repaid. Greek is PLATEIA. It comes from PLATUS, which means broad, wide. We have met with PLATOS already, where it was used of the “breadth” of the City. See Luke 13:26 “You have taught in our streets.“ No dark constricted alleyways! In other words, we must allow our minds to think in terms of broad concourses, like our present shopping malls, where people can gather, sit around, and chat. Furthermore, we are told in Rev.22:2 that “in the midst of the street . . . there was the tree of life.” This broad, open plaza is a meeting place, and one could sit beneath the spreading tree of life, and enjoy conversation with others, pass the time of day, have cool refreshing drinks, and have no sense of hurry.
But the street was made of pure gold. “Pure” doesn’t exactly reflect the Greek word KATHAROS, which means “clean.” There is nothing defiled about this gold. It doesn’t contain any alloy, and perhaps in that sense it may be classed as “pure”. Also it is as “transparent as glass.” That is not our experience of gold, but something that must occupy our attention here.
So much for the “nuts and bolts” of the verse, now for the meaning of the symbolism. First of all, we remember that the City is essentially people rather than a structure, so if the City has a broad plaza, it must represent the interaction between those who constitute the City. It is therefore a symbol of fellowship between the members of the City. Just as the thought of a large open space, with the shade of trees, and a perfect climate, and many friends old and new, is very pleasant to us on an earthly level, so we must transfer our thoughts to the City of God and realise that something similar takes place, but on a higher plane.
There are two things that distinguish the heavenly from the earthly symbolism. First of all, gold. What are we to understand by this? Streets, or plazas of solid gold might occupy the thoughts of billionaires, wanting to show off their splendour, but the gold of the Holy City bears quite a different connotation. In the Bible gold has always represented something that is incapable of being tarnished, something that is bright and glorious, and so we are not surprised to find that the interior of Solomon’s temple was covered in gold. Gold is a symbol of God’s righteousness, His holiness, His character. Therefore the fellowship between members of the City will also be untarnished. Whereas here on earth the best fellowship is often tarnished because of our fallen natures, in the City there will never again be the sadness of broken fellowship. Why is this? Because those who comprise the City are now in their resurrection bodies. All things are new. The former state has passed away.
But there is another part of this symbolism. Why is the gold like transparent glass? If the gold represents fellowship, then we are being told there is absolute transparency between those who share together. Nothing will be hidden. There will be no ulterior motive, no dissembling, no half truths, no excessive praise, all will be honest, straightforward, and open. No one will have any fear of being misunderstood. No one will want to show off. These are the delights that await all those called by the Lord to become members of His Holy City. At present “all the saints who from their labours rest” share together “in spirit”, they are the “spirits of the just, made perfect” but the day of resurrection has not yet arrived. They have to wait until the very last member finds his or her place before that event can transpire. But their fellowship together is nonetheless characterised by “transparent gold.”