Wednesday, December 14, 2011

God’s Architecture (Revelation 21:18)

Of what material is the wall constructed in the Holy City? Jasper (Revelation 21:18)

Near the conclusion of Revelation, John records a vision of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-27). He paints a picture of an opulent metropolis. Among the vivid details he provides is a city wall made of jasper.

The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. (Revelation 21:18 NASB)
Jasper is a compact translucent variety of quartz of the type called chalcedony. The name means “spotted (or speckled) stone”. Though commonly associated with shades of red, jasper is an opaque rock that can reflect virtually any color depending upon the mineral content of its original source. The ancient term “jasper” was not as precise as modern nomenclature. George Eldon Ladd (1911-1982) explains, “The word for ‘jasper’ in antiquity was not limited to the type of stone we call jasper, but could designate any transparent precious stone (Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, 281).”

There is some debate as to the extent that jasper was used in the composition of the Holy City’s wall. Leon Morris (1914-2006) analyzed a Greek word (used only in Revelation 21:18) and concluded that “the word endōmēsis is unusual, but apparently means that of which the wall was built. In that case, it did not simply have jasper built into it but was built of jasper (Morris, Revelation (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), 244).”

Robert H. Mounce (b. 1921) counters, writing that “because in the following verse the first of the city’s twelve foundations is made of jasper (Revelation 22:19), it would be well to understand this reference as indicating some sort of inlay of precious stone rather than solid jasper as a building material...In either case it is the splendor and worth of the wall that is so graphically reported (Mounce, The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) , 393).”

The building materials of the Holy city are like no human city. Human walls are not built with jasper. In addition to not being cost effective, the mineral breaks with a smooth surface, and as such is used for ornamentation or as a gemstone. Jasper is not used as a primary building material but rather to augment for aesthetic reasons. The wall is indicative of the Holy City’s other worldly quality.

Have you ever seen or heard of any edifice made of jasper? If you could construct your home from any material, what would it be? Why was the Holy City’s wall made of jasper?

This is not the first time that jasper is mentioned in Revelation. More than half of the Bible’s seven jasper references are in it’s final book (Exodus 28:20, 39:19; Ezekiel 28:13; Revelation 4:3, 21:11, 18, 19). The Holy City’s wall harkens back to the heavenly throne room where the One upon the throne appears like jasper (Revelation 4:3) and “before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal” (Revelation 4:6 NASB). As such, jasper is representative of God’s glory and the city exudes the glory of its maker and ruler.

The Holy City’s wall is of God and reveals God. Brian K. Blount (b. 1956) summarizes, “The same glory is symbolically embedded in the city’s very architectural essence (Blount, Revelation: A Commentary (New Testament Library), 390).”

As Satan has been vanquished (Revelation 20:10) and city walls were designed to protect, why does the Holy City need a wall? Why is jasper associated with God? Have you ever met anyone whose house suited them? In what ways does your home project your essence?

“Architecture is basically a container of something. I hope they will enjoy not so much the teacup, but the tea.” - renowned architect Yoshio Taniguchi (b. 1937)

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