In Revelation 21:10-12 the Revelator was carried away by an angel to “a great and high mountain.” At that mountain the angel showed John “the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” John depicted this holy city as “having the glory of God,” and he remarked that its “brilliance was like a very costly stone . . . a stone of crystal-clear jasper.” John then noted that this holy city “had a great and high wall, with twelve gates.” This past week I asked our Publicity Committee to put the following message on our sign located street-side on McMullen-Booth Road: “Heaven has a wall, a gate and extreme vetting.” Not surprisingly, there have been those who have not only excoriated the message but also Countryside Baptist and her members.
I will get back to the sign in a moment, but first, allow me to say that Jesus often utilized shocking statements for the purpose of provoking thought, that is, He started with an outrageous statement as an attention-grabbing mechanism and then sought to move His audience to the awe of the truth represented by the statement. For example, in Luke 14:26 Jesus said: "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters . . . he cannot be My disciple." Wow! Can you imagine the public outcry if those words were placed on our church sign? Another example is found in Luke 14:33 in which Jesus said: “None of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” Can you imagine the public outcry if those words were placed on our church sign? Or, what about Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Consider also the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:30, “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Can you imagine the public outcry if those verses from the Sermon on the Mount were placed on our church sign?
Note the words of Jesus in John 6:53-54, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life." How does that grab you for a sign-board? In John 6:63 Jesus attempted to explain that He was speaking of spiritual things: “It is the spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” However, rather than accept His explanation many of His listeners stopped following Him altogether. John 6:66 says: “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” The reason for their withdrawal is stated in verse 60: "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" One translation sets forth verse 60 like this: “This is more than we can stomach! Why listen to such words?”
Now, as then, there are those who stumble over the shock of seemingly outrageous statements and miss the meaning of the message entirely, even to the degree of abandoning Jesus. Let’s get back to the depiction of heaven in Revelation 21 as having “a great high wall.” In the ancient world, walls were common. Many cities had walls, and those that did were considered to be fortunate. The first city encountered by Israel in the conquest of Canaan was Jericho, a municipality surrounded by a wall. Joshua 6:1 refers to Jericho as being “tightly shut because of the sons of Israel.” No one could go out, and certainly, no one could go in. That wall was meant to be an instrument of security for those who lived within. Jerusalem, and many of the cities against which the Israelis fought, had walls. In verses 20-21 of 2 Samuel 11, King David’s general, Joab, set forth several questions during Israel’s battle against Rabbah: “Why did you go so near to the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? Who struck down Abimelech . . . ? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?” Following David’s defeat of the Philistines, King David penned a song of praise that included the following line: “By my God I can leap over a wall.” (See 2 Samuel 22:30.) Walls were significant in the ancient world as a means of security. The entire book of Nehemiah is centered on the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem following the years of Israeli exile in Babylon. Enemies were pouring in from all sides. Nehemiah led the Israelis to correct that problem. In Ezekiel 22 the prophet used the terrific illustration that pointed to a reach in Israel’s moral and spiritual wall. Ezekiel said that God had been searching “for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.” (See verse 30)
Revelation 21:12 says that heaven has "a great and high wall," which is meant to depict the utmost security for those who reside within. Heaven will be absolutely secure – no death, no sorrow, no mourning, no crying, no pain. (See Revelation 21:4) No one or no thing that is anti-God or anti-Jesus will be present. (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Revelation 20:10) Revelation 21:12 also tells us that heaven has 12 gates, and a gate is a means of controlled access. The number twelve, in Scripture, represents the government of God. Thus, those who enter those gates are those in whose hearts the Lord has reigned and ruled. However, there’s more. Jesus is the gatekeeper. In fact, He, Himself, is the gate. In John 14:6 Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me," that is, Jesus alone controls who enters those gates. I n John 10:1 Jesus said: "I say to you, he who does not enter by the door . . . but climbs up some other way is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door . . . 3 To him the doorkeeper opens." In John 10:9 Jesus reiterated what He set forth in verses 1-3: "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved."
These words are indicative of what may be referred to as “extreme vetting,” a process by which a person or issue is appraised, verified, or checked for accuracy, authenticity and validity. In order to be verified as authentic or fit for heaven one must have been “born again,” as Jesus said in John 3:3 & 5, or as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21, a person must be wearing the righteousness (perfection) that belongs to Christ. Revelation 20:15 says: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” To say that a person won’t make heaven without Jesus is considered to be an extreme idea by secular society and even by some beneath the “Christian” umbrella. Thus, the idea of extreme vetting is appropriate. When we stand before the judgment at the throne of God, His vetting will not entail generalized questions such as: “Were you a good person? Did you do more good than bad? Were your intentions sincere?” No, only those whose name appears in the book of life will get in, and only through putting one’s trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ will anyone’s name be found there. What a terrific conversation starter for those who know the truth of the Bible and are willing to engage those who have questions about it. Now, as then, there are those who stumble over the shock of such statements and miss meaning of the message entirely.
Jesus moved from what people knew to what He wanted them to consider, more precisely, He most often moved from some reality in the physical realm to a reality in the spiritual realm. The question is: "Do you get it?"