Revelation 22:13-17 is the description of the new Jerusalem and those who will enter it. To understand the gates, we will refer to Ezekiel’s Temple because in the Old Testament the description of the heavenly temple is given to us through Ezekiel’s Temple just as in the New Testament the heavenly temple is described through the new Jerusalem. Therefore Ezekiel’s Temple and the new Jerusalem are similar and are speaking about the same thing, the heavenly city, heavenly temple. Every part of Ezekiel’s Temple is not just about building up parts of the temple, but every part describes people or persons. Just as Apostle Paul said that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the different parts of Ezekiel’s Temple are describing different aspects that we need to have. Therefore Ezekiel has shown 25 places that are measured and that means we need to have those 25 aspects of our lives and our faith and ourselves in order to have the right to enter. We need to be measured in 25 aspects of our faith.
The first thing God showed to Ezekiel was the wall all around, the second was the gate. The new Jerusalem is also compared to a person in Revelation 21:10-11.
Apostle John the author of Revelation began the chapter describing the new Jerusalem as a bride coming out of heaven. Now he continues to describe the new city of New Jerusalem as “her” as a bride who is beautiful and brilliant with precious stones and the blessings of God.
1. The significance of the gates
City gates usually represent the entire city, especially in the bible the gate represents what is inside. Therefore the temple gates represent what is inside the temple. Gates are places of connection, for example, You meet at the gate whether you come from outside or inside the gate. It is where connection, communication takes place. Gates represent what comes out and what goes in. Gates also play the role of separating and dividing, bringing in and leading out. When closed, the gates divide. Gates are a part of the wall. It is an opening on the wall which gives privilege to those who are allowed to come in. Psalm 87:2. Is God only loving the door? When He says I love the gates of Zion He is not only talking about the doors or gates but speaking of the transactions and activities.
Genesis 22:17 means you will prevail over your enemy, you will gain authority over that city.
Malachi 1:10 – God says I wish somebody will shut the gates to My temple so that you may not come in. Gates represent the entire city, entire people, also represents the act of worship here. It is through the gates that people of God enter to worship God, and where the good news goes out to the world.
2. Two layers of gates in Ezekiel’s Temple
Gates to the outer court, and gates to the inner court.
There are 3 outer gates, 3 inner gates and 1 door to the sanctuary. each gate has steps in front. This means the sanctuary is not on a plain level, you have to climb up to get into the outer court and climb up to get into the inner court, and climb up again to get into the Holy Place. Ezekiel 40:22, Ezekiel 40:26. 7 steps into the outer gate, 8 steps into the inner gate, 10 steps into the Holy Place. Ezekiel 40:31, Ezekiel 40:34, Ezekiel 40:37, Ezekiel 40:49 There are 3 different levels so altogether 25 steps into the Holy of Holies where the Tree of Life is supposed to be. God’s presence and source of life are there. The 25 places God showed to Ezekiel are all measured until Ezekiel can enter in all the way. Likewise 25 steps here. These represent the different levels of faith that we need to climb, and God lifts us and exalts us to allow us to enter in. 7 steps to complete salvation, 8 steps into the needed world, 10 steps into the fullness of God’s presence. Ephesians 4:13, Hebrews 5:12-14
There gates are 6 gates + 1 door to the sanctuary. 6 + 1 = 7
6 of the gates face the altar in the centre, all lead into the altar of the burnt offering which represents the cross of Jesus Christ. From the altar you go into the sanctuary, the ultimate purpose is to go through the altar through the cross into the sanctuary, the Holy Place, the Holy of Holies. 6 + 1.
In Ezekiel’s Temple, he uses the long cubits. The difference between regular and long cubit is 1 handbreadth. Long cubit = 6 + 1 handbreadth. It is like the 6 days of creation + 1 Sabbath Day. 6 jars + 1 extra jar. 6000 years + 1000. 6 + 1 completes the 7, which is the fullness.
Ezekiel’s Temple’s sanctuary and description speak of God’s redemptive history. The function of the gates is for worship and offering. As we think of the functions let us realise how we can enter through the gates.
(i) They were entrance and they exist for those who come to serve and worship God
Ezekiel 46:9. Enter through the north gate and exit through the south gate. Vice versa. Only those who fulfil this task of worshipping, only those who want to worship, and are qualified to worship can enter through the gates.
(ii) They were places to prepare the offering sacrifice.
Ezekiel 40:38-43. It is at the gate where the offerings were slaughtered and rinsed (cleansed). It is a place where offerings are prepared. That means we need to become the offering to enter through that gate.
(iii) There were also places for singers and priests who served God
Ezekiel 40:44-46. There are chambers and places for singers and those who minister to the Lord (take care of the altar). Blessed be those who serve in worshipping God. This again tells us that only those who have praises in their lives, not just songs or foremost singings or required anthems, but true praise of their heart in their lives.
c. Those who serve and sing before the Lord
The gates in Ezekiel’s Temple and new Jerusalem represent the boundary between this physical world and the spiritual world of heaven.
Ezekiel’s temple gates and new Jerusalem’s gates represent the gates into the kingdom of heaven. There are also gates to hell: Isaiah 38:10, Job 38:17, Ezekiel 9:3, Ezekiel 10:18
Who is the gate? What is the gate?
(i) Jesus Christ is the gate
John 10:1. It is those who enter through the gate/door that are the sheep of the Lord’s, those are the people of God. Similarly in John 10:7-9, John 14:6. He is the gate who will lead us to the Father. The truth is that gate. Acts 4:12, John 10:3.
It is those who can hear His voice who will enter through the gate. Can you distinguish and hear the Word of God? When we follow His voice we will enter through the gate.
(ii) The church is the gate to heaven
Genesis 28:16-17. The place we are worshipping is the gate of heaven. The house of God, the church, is the gate to the kingdom of heaven. It is through the Word, the Word is what opens the door and will invite you into the door. Psalm 24:7-9
(iii) God’s messengers are gates
Revelation 22:16, Matthew 22:13, Revelation 21:12
Angels = angelos (Greek): means messengers. At the 12 gates, there are 12 angels, names written on them. I pray we are the spiritual 12 tribes of the church, and the angels are the ones who will open the door for those who need to come in. Let us pray that people’s eyes will be opened, their spiritual world will be opened through the Word.
(iv) The cherubim are the gates to the Tree of Life
Genesis 3:24. I pray you and I will take on that duty, may we receive the privilege and right to enter through the gates and eat from the Tree of Life.