THE GOLD OF HEAVEN based on Rev. 21:9-21
By Glenn Pease
On our vacation in South Dakota, we stopped in the small town of Keystone. Almost every store in town had a variety of Black Hills Gold on display. Seeing all this gold made me want to study gold in the Bible. The streets of the New Jerusalem are to be made of pure gold, and that means gold will be a part of the eternal environment.
There are at least 367 references to gold in God's Word. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states, "No metal has been more frequently mentioned in Old Testament writings than gold, and none with more terms applied to it." There are about a dozen different words for gold in the Bible. In the New Testament gold is mentioned 41 times, with 21 of them in the book of Revelation. 16 of the 21 are very positive, with only 2 negative, and 3 are neutral.
The first reference to gold is in Gen. 2:11-12. The first river that flowed from Eden wound it's way through the land of Havilah, where there is gold, and the gold of that land is good. The first reference to gold in the Bible, and the last, refer to it as a good thing. It is the first and last precious metal mentioned in the Bible, and all through the Bible gold is a symbol of glory and wealth.
Every major kingdom in history, in an out of the Bible, was noted for it's abundance of gold. This is why the final kingdom of God's people is pictured as one of pure gold, for that has been the test of the glory of all the kingdoms in history. If God's people are to have the best in the end, then gold streets are a necessity to make their city the greatest ever.
In Athens, the most renowned sculptor of Greece, Pheidias, made a 38 foot ivory and gold statue of Athene, the patron goddess. It was completed in 438 B. C., and looked out over the city from the Parthenon, high on the Acropolis. More than a ton of gold was in robes alone. Next, he made a 60 foot statue of Zeus, which sat on a throne of gold, and wore a golden crown, held a golden sceptre, and wore golden sandals.
Alexander the Great conquered the world in search of gold. He first conquered Egypt, with it's vast wealth of gold. Then he marched to Babylon, where gold was so abundant their chariots were trimmed with gold. The Bible always pictured Babylon as a city full of gold, but where it was greatly abused, and worshipped as an idol. Gold was the god of Babylon. The great image that Nebuchadnezzar sit up was a gold image 90 foot high and 9 foot wide, according to Dan. 3:1. The only negative references to gold in the book of Revelation are those dealing with the idolatry of Babylon. Alexander captured all this gold, and most of the gold of the rest of the world, but he died at 33 in Babylon, and was buried in a gold coffin.
Rome was the next gold hungry empire, and Caesar soon had the gold of the world flowing into Rome. Augustus Caesar had so much gold he decided to sit up a mint, and make coins of it. The mint was set up in the temple erected to Juno Moneta, and the coins made there became known as "money." When Nero came to power, he was a gold fanatic, and built himself a palace called The Golden House. At the entrance he had a statue of himself complete with golden curls 120 ft. high. It was so heavy that it took 24 elephants to drag it away, when a later emperor wanted it removed. The Golden House had over 100 rooms and gardens, and a pool so large it was more like a sea. Guests washed heir hands in water that flowed from golden taps.
The point of all this is to show that the world of the early Christians was full of public gold. If John would have had a vision of the eternal city that was less impressive then that created by scoundrels like Nero. The Christian message would have lost it's credibility. If God can not create a richer, more beautiful environment than the emperor, why should people give up emperor worship to follow Jesus?
We need to see the golden city of Revelation as a legitimate appeal to the materialistic heart of man. Man is a gold hungry creature. He desires wealth and luxury, and all the beauty and glory that comes with gold. This is not a bad thing, for if it was, God would not appeal to this desire by giving us this description of beauty beyond our imagination. The gold, the jewels, the beautiful garden fruit trees, and the clear flowing stream from the throne of God, are all a part of the final paradise. Peace and prosperity forever is just what man most craves. That is what the search for gold has always meant to people. To get enough gold, so as to have complete security in a fallen world, is the hunger of every human being. That is why the lottery is so popular.
The Gospel is the good news that this hunger can be satisfied through Jesus Christ. He is God's gold that will make you rich forever, and guarantee you a place in the eternal city of gold. This Gospel in gold is not my idea, but comes from the very lips of the Lord to the church in Laodicea. In Revelation 3:17 Jesus rebukes these Christians by saying, "You say, I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." Jesus is saying even good Christians can be blinded by the wrong kind of wealth. My godly grandmother had a plaque on her wall for years that impressed me as a child. It said, "all is not gold that glitters." She was never wealthy in this world's gold, but grandma had the riches of Christ.
Bob Ricker, the president of the Baptist General Conference, spoke at an annual meeting, and he said his father made a statement that he never forgot. He said, "I'm so glad I didn't waste my life making money." He did, as we all do, spend a lot of his life making money, but that was not the primary value for which he lived. There is greater treasure in life and the Laodaceans were missing it. Listen to what Jesus says to them in verse 18, "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich." Gold refined in the fire is pure gold. All the impurities are removed by the fire. Jesus is the greatest gold dealer in the world, and he has a monopoly on this absolutely pure gold that makes you rich forever.
The point of Jesus is that these Christians has riches, but they were not the real thing. They had fools gold. We saw all kinds of this is the Black Hills. You could buy chunks of it for 30 cents. It glittered and was shining and attractive, but it was of no value. Early gold miners were fooled into filling ships with this stuff, and sailing back to Europe only to be told they were not rich, but poorer than ever, for all they had to pay to transport this worthless rock. Jesus is saying, all the wealth of the world is fools gold. It is not the way to true riches. Only the gold He can give will make you rich forever.
This text should create a Christian gold rush, for Jesus is telling His church the way to get gold that will provide for eternal luxury. We need to get as excited about this gold as men get about the gold of earth. The gold rushes of history have made people willing to risk everything for what gold could provide. When the great 1849 gold rush to California started, the laborer in the East was making about a dollar a day. No wonder they left by the thousands. 35,000 choose to sail around South America to get there. This 18,000 mile journey took 5 months. Others crossed the Isthmus of Panama and risked tropical fevers and poisonous snakes. 50,000 chose the overland route, and faced the mud of the prairies, and waterless deserts, steep mountains, and Indians. The routes were littered with abandoned wagons, the carcasses of animals, and rough crosses, marking the graves of those who did not make it. They were often the fortunate ones, for those who made it did not find paradise, but a purgatory.
The towns were crowded, and the prices were sky high. The average family could only afford to eat flapjacks. One egg cost a dollar, and a candle for light at night sold for 3 dollars. A comb to comb your hair would set you back 6 dollars. The 49'ers were a very unhealthy lot, and most of them died poor. If they worked from sunup to sundown, they could average 12 to 16 dollars worth of gold a day. It was just enough to survive. The stories of the few who made it big, spread, and kept the myth alive that brought a steady stream of people from all over the world to California.
In 1897, when the rush to the Klondike in Alaska began, men faced temperatures so cold that many died. Others lost limbs, and others went blind, but gold motivated them to take any risk. 3000 horses and mules died trying to get men to the Klondike. Still, 33,000 people made it because of the powerful lust for gold. The stories of suffering and sacrifice to get gold are almost endless. Then, of course, there are others that are remarkable for the ease with which some got rich.
On Feb.15, 1869, John Deason and Richard Oats were returning to their cabin with a cart load of provisions. They got stuck in a mud hole, and cursed their rotten luck. In digging out they hit a rock that glittered like gold, and to their amazement, it was the largest nugget ever discovered-200 lbs. It was so heavy it broke down their cart. This happened in the gold rush in Australia. But this was a rare story. Many paid with their lives and their health to find this precious ore.
By 1939, the U. S. had more than half of the world's gold stock--17 billion dollars worth. That is why they had decided to build Fort Knox 30 miles south of Louisville, Kentucky to house and protect all this gold. It was completed in 1936. The vault door weighs over 20 tons, and to open it takes several people with combinations known only to them. If there is any tampering the door releases poisonous gas.
The largest storage of gold, however, is five stories beneath the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Here, the gold of other nations is stored. It is protected by a 90 ton revolving steel door. By 1949 the U. S. had three quarters of all the world's gold stock. The hoarding of gold is not just the practice of governments, however, for in much of the world, gold is the only security for the individual.
Women are loaded with gold jewelry, because if their husband dies they have no social security, no medical coverage, and no savings account. She has only a legal right to her own jewelry, and this is what she will need to save her and her children from starvation. It is a paradox, but the poor of the world are the great hoarder of gold. Their stock pile of just a few hundred dollars each accounts for over 13 billion dollars of the world's gold.
The more we understand the history of gold, the more we will impressed by the New Jerusalem being a city of gold, with streets of solid gold. God is saying, the best of this world's values will be commonplace for God's people. They will be rich with values that go beyond literal gold, for gold will be to them as abundant as dirt is in time.
It is of interest that Jesus says I command you to buy gold from me. His salvation is free, but for his gold their is a fee. Jesus not only wants you saved, He wants you rich. But there is a price to pay to be rich. He paid it all for you to be saved, but you have to pay to be rich. The cost is obviously not money, or only those already rich could afford it. This text is like Is. 55:1-2, which says, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters: And you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." This is a parallel to our text. Buy the best and be rich. The best is to listen to God, and eat His Word. That is just what Jesus is saying. In verse 20 He says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me." That is the way we buy His gold-not with money, but with a willingness to listen to His voice and let Him into our lives. The richest people in the world are not those who eat in swanky restaurants, but those who eat with Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The gold of Jesus is communion with Jesus. It is sharing with Him in consuming the Word of Life. Everywhere, God's Word is considered to be better than gold. It is God's gold that will last forever, when heaven and earth have passed away. Ps.19:7-11 says,
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statues of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple,
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure
and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
then much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.
By then is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Love for the Word of God does not just happen. It costs time, effort, and commitment. There is a price to pay to buy this gold, but the payoff is you build what will be lasting riches. Ps.119:72 says, "The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold." The real gold with eternal and infinite value is found in the wisdom of God's Word. In Prov. 8:10-11 wisdom says, "Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." Then, in verses 17 and 18 she says, "I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity."
This is what Jesus is urging us to do-get rich forever by paying the price to enrich your life by consuming the wisdom of God. Every Christian who wants to be rich needs to be in some kind of Bible study. This is the essence of what it is to be buying gold from Jesus. All the wisdom you gather from the Word will be the gold you take into eternity, and this will determine the role you play in God's eternal kingdom. This gold will be your reward. May God motivate us to get involved in the gold rush to obtain the gold of heaven.