Blog / Book of the Month / "Through Pearly Gates" Sermon / Revelation 21:9–14, 21–27 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday May 26th 2019 / Season Of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

"Through Pearly Gates" Sermon / Revelation 21:9–14, 21–27 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday May 26th 2019 / Season Of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

"Through Pearly Gates" Sermon / Revelation 21:9–14, 21–27 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday May 26th 2019 / Season Of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday May 26th 2019: Season of Easter / Revelation 21:9–14, 21–27 "Through Pearly Gates"

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.”

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. A Canadian man Abraham Reyes is the proud owner of the world's largest pearl. He inherited the pearl from his aunt in the Philippines. And how big is the the world's largest natural pearl? It weighs 27-kilograms (That’s almost 60 pounds) and what would such a pearl be worth? As of 2019 the pearl is estimated to be worth between $60 million and $90 million.[1] That’s certainly a precious thing but even a 60 pound pearl is not nearly large enough to make a gate out of like we hear in our Epistle reading from Revelation chapter 21, “And the twelve gates [of the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God] were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl,” and how big must the twelve oyster be to make such tremendous peals? Did God the Father and Christ Jesus His Son, the very Word of God, speak those oysters into existence like He did all of creation, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”[2] Were these massive pearls started from a single little grain of sand like the pearls we know in this life? And think, to get a pearl the oyster is shucked, the shell is pried open and the oyster dies. The pear then is a kind of symbol of Sacrifice; it doesn’t come to you without a death. These Pearly Gates are depicted as the gates to eternal life in the New Jerusalem with Christ Jesus.

When we think of eternal life and let our minds wander a bit we will have many questions. Think of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, how vast, how deep, how wide they are; filled to the brim with water and yet just a little splash of water by comparison is used to baptize a Christian. Yet that small splash commanded by Christ is used with the Word of God by His command to produce something more lasting than the Oceans of the world which will burn up in the fire of The Last Day and vanish where the one baptized into Christ will carry on into eternity[3] with a body transform by Jesus to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.[4] The things of this world will wither, wear out, and fade away, “but the Word of our God will stand forever.”[5] And by that Word, the command of God and the water we are made part of “the holy city Jerusalem,” as St. Paul says “But our citizenship [as Baptized Christians with our faith in Jesus] is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,”[6] the one who will be revealed on The Last Day.

Now a gate has a purpose. You close the gate to keep some out and you open the gate to let some in. If you’re an invading army you must storm the gate, and use a battering ram to try and break them down. The kind of gate John is speaking of here is not a garden or fence gate but a massive gate like you would find in a walled city. In the Old Testament the Gate of the City was also the legislative assembly and court room where disputes and contract law would be settled, where guilt and innocence would be determined and St. John in his vision from God talks of these twelve gates having twelve angle affixed to them, each gate with a guardian. One who lets a person in or would keep a person out. This is necessary because as John writes, the “gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into [this New Jerusalem, the very Bride of Christ] the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.”

So now a question emerges, “How do I get through the pearly gates of the New Jerusalem?” “Do I get in by living a life where I have abstained from everything that is detestable or false: A life without sin? If that’s the case why twelve gates there wouldn’t anyone to walk through them since we know from Scripture that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”[7] this excludes me if it’s based on my own personal merit and faithfulness to keeping the law of God that would mark me clean by my own actions. Maybe then I would have to fight my way in, like I said storm the gates by force! That should be to hard the gates aren’t even closed they stand open … well even if the gate stands open there is still an angle there guarding each pearly gate. So truly I would need to be clean from sin to enter in? We’ve already talked about how baptism makes us a citizen of the New Jerusalem, like a passport it gives you access, makes you able to enter where others cannot entre in.

This connection to baptism and heaven is likewise found in another spot of the book of Revelation were St. John says, “I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” … Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”[8] So it is that it is the baptized with faith in Christ who will pass through the Pearly Gates and enter into the New Jerusalem.

Now the image of St. Peter at the pearly gates comes up over and over again in cartoons and in jokes and stories but why? 1) Jesus says to His disciples in the Gospel of Matthew 19, “Truly, I say to you, in the New World, when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”[9] So when you remember how it was in the Old Testament that the gate of the city was also the legislative assembly and court room where disputes and contract law would be settled and you also remember how Revelation 21 says that on the “twelve foundations [of the city] were the twelve names of the twelve apostles” this makes better sense. And 2) only the baptized with faith in Christ will enter through the gates so it stands to reason that St. Peter, being one who was tasked with the work of going out to make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, as commanded by Christ at His Ascension, and likewise given by Jesus the task of teaching the baptized to observe all that Jesus had commanded His disciple,[10] would then be appointed a place at one of the Pearly Gates. I’ve never heard a joke about someone coming up to the Pearly Gates to be greeted by St. Thomas.

I started out talking about the most expensive and largest known pearl which weighs around 60 pounds valued between $60 million and $90 million. And the Pearly Gates describe by St. John are much larger and of more value, and yet every person who enters by those gates does so with a much more precious gift in their procession, they do so as Baptized children of God with their faith in Christ a gift which is worth more than even the largest pearl. Martin Luther doesn’t use pearls to talk about this precious gift he uses the example of a cake to talk about our life as Baptized children of God.

So I mentioned and expansive pearl how about an expensive cake? What is the most expensive cake in the world? Apparently there is a cake baked by a British-born designer Debbie Wingham encrusted with diamonds and an exorbitant price tag of $75 million dollars.[11] But even a $75 million dollar cake with Malagasy vanilla beans and mascarpone cream, strawberry conserve and triple Belgium chocolate with chocolate ganache and chocolate truffle cream is not worth more than your baptism in to Christ Jesus. Luther describes your baptism like a cake saying we are, “baked into Christ. His death and resurrection are in me and I am in His death and His resurrection. Wherever His death and resurrection are, I am there to.”[12] So I ask you “once the cake is baked can you get the flour out again? Can you remove the sugar?” No they are baked together. And where we in this life, even as Christians, are not faithful, where we still do detestable and false things the purity and truth and faithfulness of Christ remains and it is this within our Baptism which makes us able to walk into the New Jerusalem through the Pearly Gates past St. Peter and the other disciples and the angels that guard the way. Nothing is worth more than that.

(The image of the pearl is also a great picture of forgiveness and the righteousness of Christ Jesus: Think of your sin like the rough edged sand and then comes Christ with His forgiveness to cover over it with the white smooth calcium carbonate enamel of His righteousness given to in your baptism and once covered the grain of sand, your sin, can no longer be seen, only the white enamel)  

In your life if you have counted other things in your procession as having more value than your baptism repent. If you count your time as more precious so you sleep in Sunday mornings or use it for other activities that don’t involve gathering together with your fellow Christians to worship Christ Jesus, Father and Holy Spirit in sincerity and truth then repent and turn back to God for His forgiveness. If your camper or boat, or sports team commitment or some such thing is causing you to devalue your baptism repent and turn to God for forgiveness. If you do not value the name of Christ into whom you have been baptised and you live your life like a pagan or heathen behaving like a wild animal then repent and return to the Lord your God remembering that He “is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”[13]

So whether you are at the beginning of your baptismal life in Christ Jesus as Rachel Sophie Hans Albrecht is today or whether you are 80 + years into it you have the most precious gift, the very Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross His death in your place, His forgiveness for all your sin, His eternal life is now yours a gift worth more than anything else in all creation; a ransom from the futile ways of the world, bought not with perishable things such as silver or gold [or even the largest pearl in the world], but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.[14] In your Baptism and by His blood you are “written in the Lamb's book of life.” And by this gift you enter the New Jerusalem in Him not by your own merit or worth. Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] The world's largest pearl
[2] John 1:1–3
[3] 2 Peter 3:10–13, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
[4] Philippians 3:21
[5] Isaiah 40:8
[6] Philippians 3:20
[7] Romans 3:23
[8] Revelation 7:9–10, 13-14
[9] Matthew 19:28
[10] Matthew 28:19–20
[11] Worlds most expensive cake 
[12] Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms, by Albrecht Peters, Concordia Publishing House 2012, Pg 114
[13] Psalm 145:8
[14] 1 Peter 1:18–19