It’s an awesome picture – “A great and high wall with twelve gates.” Here, John, the Revelator presents a rather strange picture of the Heavenly City, one which both repels and invites, all at the same time. First we’re told that there is a great, high wall that separates the city from those on the outside. Then we’re told that there are twelve gates in that wall that allow entrance into the city. It’s almost as if the city really had no desire to repel anyone.
So, here’s the question: is it hard to become a Christian or is it easy? Well, from this picture, we obviously have to consider both aspects. The Revelator tells us unequivocally that there is a high wall, so that definitely suggests a separation – a struggle, a battle even. However, he goes on to explain in great detail the twelve gates that surround, and actually give easy entrance into the city.
First there is a barrier of surrender that separates this city from every other city – the great and high wall. Then there is an infinite amount of diversity in that surrender which is represented by the gates. Now, to be sure, those who dwell within the Heavenly City have all washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb – that is the one requirement of all – but they haven’t all washed the same robes.
There is no way that Nathanael and Paul would have ever gone in by the same gate. Each had to surrender and come into the city through one of the gates designed by the city’s Architect. In that sense, they came by the same Way (John 14:6) and ultimately through the same Door (John 10:7). But in His mercy, the city’s Builder made access available to weary travelers coming from different directions in life.
Paul had a stubborn, strong soul, so it was no doubt a great and prolonged struggle for Paul to surrender his will. His old life did not die easily or suddenly. Nathanael was born under a fig tree in a day. His soul was not capable of a storm, so he surrendered with not much more than a sigh. Was their experience the same? Of course not. There’s no way that it could have been. They were two totally different men, and once within the wall they will no doubt tell of vastly different worlds. Paul will no doubt tell of the long road to Damascus and his trouble with the goads while Nathanael will surely tell of his short time under a fig tree.
Don’t misunderstand, one can only become a resident of that great city through the Ruler of that city-the Lord Jesus. But I, for one, am thankful that the Lord, knowing how distinctly different we are as men, has seen fit to bring us into His city through these diverse and different entrances. You can see it so clearly. Christ’s Holy City has gates, doors, entrances on every side. Some of the gates open to the harsh north to show us that some come in by way of trouble. Some come in through the sunny south – evidence of a quiet, peaceful path. Others find entrance from the east picturing the hope that comes from the dawning of a new day. Still others enter with lanterns to light their way in the shadows of a setting sun.
Not all have walked the same path, and not all have been moved by the same thought. It is not the same thing that has stirred their soul or softened their will. Bethlehem, Samaria, Calvary, Olivet, – His differing places speak to our distinct personalities and how He has worked in each of our lives to bring us to Himself. What a powerful picture of an individual entry into His Heavenly City.