“The wall of the city had twelve foundations.” – Revelation 21:14
The Bible is a book of prophecy. Men have turned to it to find out what the future holds in respect to the spiritual state of the world. For the Word itself shows that during all the time of its formation one of the chief things held before the people was the state of the church about to follow.
Some think that those times have gone by. There have always been some who would not believe. There were those among the Israelites who did not believe that Moses could lead them out of Egypt. There were those who did not believe that the Promised Land could ever be secured. And when Jerusalem was in its glory, powerful in wisdom and wealth, there were some that did not believe that sin could undermine her massive walls and fell her towers. When her gates had given way to the triumphant armies of Babylon and the captive train looked back to the plundered city and smoking embers, they believed that its glory had gone out forever.
When again Jerusalem was rebuilt, its people were deaf to the warnings of the prophets and again would not believe that its walls would crumble before the Roman battering rams, that their sons would make glad a Roman holiday in the arena, and the glory of the sacred city come to an end. This they did not believe because they did not receive the prophecies of the Word.
But at the time when our text was given, the old Jerusalem as a dwelling place of Jehovah, where God was known in her palaces and His voice heard in her sanctuary, had passed away forever. The old Jerusalem had served its purpose as a representative character. John’s eyes were opened in vision and he “saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.” And in place of the old there was revealed that which the old Jerusalem represented. “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.”
This is a prophecy for the church of today. If the children of Israel had believed their prophets and kept in heart and life the revelation given to them, they would not look back to the old Jerusalem. Rather, knowing what it foreshadowed, they would with rejoicing look forward to the New Jerusalem, the Holy City not built up out of the earth but descending from God out of heaven.
There has always been, under the providence of the Lord, something definite ahead to which the world could look and work. Now it is not a material land of corn and wine, milk of kine and honey. In process of time the Lord came into the world in fulfillment of prophecy and said that He would send the Comforter unto us who should lead us to all truth.
He has made this second coming, not as the world expected – it has never expected rightly – but in the form of a new revelation of truth, whereby we can see Him in His Word and commune with Him there.
And though His Second Coming is fulfilled, a great future event is still set for the world to look forward to – the descent of the Holy City. The Holy City descending from God out of heaven is the new state of mankind on earth made spiritually intelligent through the deeper understanding of the Word.
The city is described as having twelve foundations for its walls. In building walls in ancient times for the defence of cities it was the custom to lay secure foundations first so that the walls could not easily be breached.
The twelve foundations for the wall of the Holy City perform the same office in preserving life as did the foundations of the walls of the material city in defending its citizens. All states of life rest upon foundations. The different Christian denominations have walls resting upon foundations. They have the Word; and its literal sense, which they use to confirm their belief, is the wall.
The foundations of the wall of the Holy City New Jerusalem are its doctrines whereby it interprets the Word, for upon those doctrines it is founded.
Two things were essential for a city’s protection, the wall and the foundation on which it rested. Two things are essential to the protection of the life within the Holy City, the letter of the Word and the doctrine upon which its interpretation rests.
Twelve stands for all. So there were twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles, twelve manner of fruits, twelve months in the year, twelve gates to the city, twelve foundations.
The truly successful life must have its foundations. You may have known some person, generous, kind, helpful, but intemperate, so that his life was ruined. He did not have the twelve foundations. Or you may have known one who said he believed in living a good life and doing the best he knew how, but his life lacked quality and strength because he neglected to study the life of the Lord and accept Him as the standard. Or you may have known an upright, good citizen, law-abiding and honest, but without any religion. The enemy found where the wall was weak and destroyed the peace of life within. It was not, therefore, an exemplary life, a truly successful life, a complete life.
The foundations were of precious stones. Precious stones in reference to the Word signify Divine truth in the literal sense of the Word translucent from the Divine truth in the spiritual sense, and these stones, being twelve in number, represent all the truths of doctrine which are to be applied to life.
There is no one who cannot apply this text to his life in some particular. Sometimes one comes into temptation. He becomes discouraged with life and thinks that the Lord has abandoned him. He would not so think if he were established on the twelve foundations. If he believes as he then feels, if he takes appearances for the fact, it is because he has forgotten the doctrine which teaches that the Lord is with him always, and even closer in temptation than at other times. No softening light relieves his darkness, no ray of cheer reaches him. He is not yet established upon the twelve foundations, for he yet lacks the doctrine that temptation is but the birth-pain of a new life and deeper joy.
The wall of the city preserves life and peace within, and if one is established upon the twelve foundations, he will be able to understand the philosophy of temptation and repel the destroyer at every point by the power of the Word.
The Lord Himself so used the letter of the Word. After the forty days’ fast in the wilderness, the devil commanded Him to turn stones into bread. He replied by using the letter of the Word: “It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Tempted three times, He fortified Himself with the letter of the Word. Then the tempter left Him, and angels came and ministered unto Him. He made a wall about Himself of the letter of the Word. No enemy could break through this wall to defeat His life’s mission or destroy His peace, or diminish His glory. He met and overcame every form of evil. His is the complete life, established upon the twelve foundations – the doctrine that interprets the Word and applies it to every state of life.
The Holy City New Jerusalem is a system of doctrine complete, giving us a defense against every form of falsity and evil. There is within the New Jerusalem the power to minister to all the demands of human life. The supreme mission of the New Church is the ministry to mankind’s spiritual needs. Skepticism with its doubts can be banished in a flood of light that convinces the reason. Those who are broken in spirit from the seeming injustice of their lot may be made happy in seeing that there is a Divine providence over them which knows the end from the beginning and shapes each little thing to our highest good in the eternal life. It takes away all fear of death, transforming this dreaded event in a wonderful way, enabling us to say with joy, “Thy will be done.”
The purpose of the church is to bring men into the knowledge of the Lord and of His ways and His purposes for us, that we may dwell in security and peace. It is to show men that the Word is an instrument from which the Lord flashes – as from the Urim and Thummim – Divine counsel, and by which He is present and will forever lead and teach men, and also give them the means to enter now into the peace and joy of the Lord.
Just as an individual does, the church will pass through trial and temptation. The enemies, fear and doubt as to her growth, will assail. Still such experiences are only attacks on the outer wall. Because of her twelve foundations she can interpret her experiences, overcome in temptation, and enter into intelligent, peaceful life, which it is her mission to proclaim and to offer to all who seek it.