Out of the most difficult times have come the foundations of my faith. Without the strife of infertility, I might still be second guessing whether God exists. Without all-nighters nebulizing my asthmatic child, I might not believe prayer effective. You could say that these troublesome experiences were the fires that burnt away doubt, as the refining of precious stones. Through each adversity, I have gained some amount of patience, compassion, benevolence, or peace. Galations 5 calls these attributes “fruits of the spirit”…but the description of the gemstones in heaven, as mentioned in the book of Revelation, has me wondering if I dare draw lines between spiritual refinement and the glory that is awaiting those who persevere in faith.
Care to peak at something shiny?
A VISION OF BEAUTY
I preface this with the disclaimer…the scriptures I have read have led me to wondering what if and not to a factual conclusion…for I have not been to heaven nor do I understand all the magnificent facets of God. I share the following because it gives me hope and paints a beautiful image. I encourage your feedback here!
Chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation paint a glorious visual of what many people call heaven or “The New Jerusalem” as my Bible version entitles it. The Apostle John describes with this book a revelational encounter he had with an angel from God. I encourage reading the book in its entirety as I will not quote it all in this post.
Chapter 21 tells of a structure with great, high walls and gates that are adorned with all sorts of gemstones.
“The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” -Rev 21:19-21
I’m not familiar with all those types of jewels. The closest I come to being able to envision something like this is seeing the amazing artisan stonework inlay still practiced in India. Jeff and I traveled to India just prior to the Covid pandemic in 2020 and purchased a piece of this artwork. I see it in a different light now.
More impressive to me than a bedazzled wall and pearl gates, however, are the inscriptions on those structures….
“It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates of the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed…And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” -Rev 21:12&14 ESV
As a long time believer, I am familiar with the phrase “Christ the cornerstone” which is written in the prophetic Old Testament book of Isaiah.
“…therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation” -Isaiah 28:16 ESV
And repeated through the Apostle Paul’s teachings to the Ephesians in the New Testament:
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” -Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV
I am less familiar with the placards of names on the gates and foundations of the New Jerusalem. Twelve men…heads of Israel’s tribes…and another twelve men…apostles of Jesus…who have their names carved into the framework of eternal life.
Can you imagine the Apostle John, who writes the words of Revelation, running his hand over the tribute to his own life?!! How could he even have words? In that moment, I can’t help but think, he got the connection between the suffering of this life and the glory of the next!
So, back to the suffering developing perfection in people (James 1:4). In me and in you. Back to the refinement of faith (1Peter 1:7) being “more precious than gold.” What if the greatest challenges to our lives produce the very gems imbedded in the edifice of heaven? Run your hand over the deep scarlet hues of jasper. Is it smooth because of the rough and tumble it’s endured on the road to polishing? Touch the navy blue sapphire. Does it shimmer like the tears you’ve shed? Is this your contribution to the glory of the Kingdom? Not the pain, but the change it’s made to your spirit.
TRUST THE PROCESS FOR ITS RESULT
We are being built into a holy temple by the refinement of our spirits. The best we can do is remain malleable, teachable and sensitive to the ways of the King and allow its result. The word sanctification means “the process of being made holy resulting in a changed life-style.” This life is the process. My gemstones of patience, compassion, benevolence, and peace are the result. It helps me to endure the pain when I see the beauty of the end result.
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4 ESV
I do not know if my what if interpretation can be taken literally. But I do know that God continues to reveal Himself through the squeezes of challenge. And I look forward to experiencing and understanding the connection between my pain today and its glory eternally.