1. Revelation 21:18 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

How are we to understand the words “the city was pure gold”?

Revelation 21:18 (ESV)

18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass.

Inside a city’s walls is the city itself, that is, its houses and offices and so much more that characterizes the life of the multitudes who live in the city. These buildings were made of “pure gold” (Revelation 21:21 will add that the streets too were “pure gold”). Gold was the most expensive metal known to the ancient world and so it appears in the Bible to provide a fitting dwelling place for God Most High. So the ark and cherubim in the tabernacle’s Most Holy Place were plated with gold, as was the entire Most Holy Place in Solomon’s temple (and indeed the whole temple, 1 Kings 6:20–22). John had earlier written that items belonging in (or originating from) God’s presence were made of gold (Revelation 1:13; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 5:8, and so on). The addition of the adjective “pure” underscores the absence of any impurity in the gold. To portray this city, then, as pure gold is to say that this city was a fitting place for God’s personal presence (Revelation 21:3). Given her identity as Bride to the great Bridegroom, it can of course not be otherwise. Its inhabitants, then, were daily seeing and interacting with the presence of God himself in their midst (as the scene described in Revelation 21:22–23 will draw out in more detail).