The Cross and the City of God

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Gates of the City

We have seen that the Holy City, New Jerusalem, is the nature of God's own people consummated, perfected, and glorified.

He is now constituting this city through the Cross by the Eternal Spirit; shaping the individual members after His own image, the image of His Son; and for this we were ordained (Rom. 8:29). The people of God are a proclamation of Christ (2 Cor. 3 and 4).

The Gates of the City

In Revelation 21 the gates of the city are frequently mentioned as to number, measurement, position and nature; they are positioned by God the Builder and Architect of the city.

Gates throughout the Scriptures are symbolic of a spiritual feature; they stand for counsel. In ancient times the kings, rulers, and elders sat in the gate of the city and deliberated concerning the affairs of the people and the interests of the kingdom. Absalom met the leaders of the nation in the gate of the city.

Christ said, "I will build My Church and the Gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).

Wherever the Church is in power, there are active the counsels of Hades which seek to thwart, hinder and obstruct the power from going forth, but they cannot prevail against it, for the Lamb on the throne has the keys of Death and of Hades (Rev. 1:18). And He has said His church would upset all the counsels of Hell; and Hell's weapons have written on their blades, "It shall not prosper." The Lord hath decreed it.

In the Gates of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, are held the counsels of God; the administration of the Lord in the gates - the Lord united with His people in the secret counsels of His heart so these gates represent a coming into fellowship with the deep secrets of the Lord's heart. It is the Lord getting together His leaders, His elders, to discuss those inner secret things, known and understood only by those who are really one with Him in fellowship and desire; a talking over with these the affairs of citizenship and throne interests. All who will, may be included in this fellowship; it is for all who are with Him in His thought, intention and purpose. That is fellowship with the Lord in the inner things of His heart.

Trace the word "gates" through the Scriptures and you will find great richness, and as you trace out the Gates of God's House you will find spiritual elements there. "Thy gates praise" (Isa. 60:18). Always praise when there is complete fellowship with the Lord. "Lift up your heads, O ye gates and be lifted up ye everlasting doors and the King of Glory shall come in... strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle, Jehovah of Hosts, He is the King of Glory" (Ps. 24). Here is the Lord coming in through the gates of counsel, and unfolding of His glory.

Strength in the Word is also associated with gates and is there not strength in knowing the mind of the Lord? What strength there is in being in oneness with the will of God; admitted into fellowship with Him in His thought and purpose. What strength there is in that. Yes, there is strength in the gates when you know what the Lord is after; uncertainty always makes for weakness. Gates of iron and brass (Ps. 107:16) speaks of strength and resistance.

Suffering and Preciousness

Gates also speak of preciousness; "every several gate was of one pearl." How is the pearl formed? By a small piece of grit lodged in the opening of the oyster-shell. This wounds and pierces the oyster, so that it bleeds. This blood is acted upon by other elements and so the pearl is formed, but it has given its very life to make that value - a pearl.

In the Word of God, "pearl" is mentioned in terms of great endearment. He saw that in His church which was more than all the glory of heaven and He let go the glory of heaven unto suffering and death to secure His pearl, to gain His Church; He saw her as a pearl of great price, and He suffered and bled to secure her; Matt. 13:45,46; Phil. 2:1-11; Eph. 5:25-27.

So in thus sharing His secret counsels we must in measure know the fellowship of His sufferings. Every gate one pearl. Yes, there is only one way, death via the cross; but unto life triumphant over death, resurrection life.

The Lord suffered and died to get that people and bring them into fellowship with His own heart, endeared and sharing with Him His own counsels. Oh, to get to the heart of the Lord, to be endeared like that, oneness with Him in His own heart's desire; this is the strength, praise and glory of the gates of pearl.

There is only one way. Sin in the race called for something to meet the need of healing. Sin is disease, and the something to meet that is nothing less than the precious blood of the Lord Jesus; there is no other way, death to one means life to the other, the Cross is the gate of life.

The keepers of the gates, twelve angels. The Lord the Keeper, He gives charge concerning the gate of holy fellowship and counsel. He guards it.

"Open" access through grace into this fellowship; a coming into oneness with the Lord through grace. We get the openness of the gates and the exclusiveness of the walls. The gates are open, but it is a divinely guarded fellowship, nothing that defiles can enter by those gates. Sin, death, destruction cannot pass where the blood is, it has swallowed up death in victory.

Transparency in Everything

Transparency is a very prominent feature of this city -

"Jerusalem... her light clear as crystal" (Rev. 21:11).
"The city was pure gold like unto clear (transparent) glass" (Rev. 21:18).
"The street of the city pure gold, as it were transparent glass" (Rev. 21:21).
"The river of the water of life clear as crystal" (Rev. 22:1).

Yes, transparency is the very nature of this city, and it is the mark of the life of the people of God; crystal clearness, all clear, nothing dim.

Turn to Jer. 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? I the Lord search the heart."

By grace we have been brought to renounce the hidden things of darkness, and God hath shined in our hearts the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:1-6).

Mal. 3:3, "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and He will purify the sons of Levi as gold and silver." He does the refining necessary until He gets His pure gold. "The daughters of Zion... Jehovah will lay bare their secret parts" (Isa. 3:17, A.R.V.). "Jesus said, I have spoken openly in the world... in secret (under cover) I spake nothing." (John 18:20. "God shall judge the secrets of men... by Jesus Christ." (Rom. 2:16). "The secrets of his heart are made manifest." (1 Cor. 14:25). "Yea a sword shall pierce through thine own soul that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." (Luke 2:35).

All these passages emphasise an essential element in spiritual progress; for there can be no growth without absolute transparency. The entire history of spiritual things is the contrast of the state of light with darkness; truth with falsehood; purity with mixture; clearness with cloudiness; openness with secretiveness; reality with pretence; genuineness with imitation; sincerity with deceit; these two things are over against each other all the way through spiritual history.

Transparency on the one hand is utter, and has no degrees; there are no degrees of truth, only degrees of approach to truth and some go further than others in approach to truth, but truth is utter and final. So with transparency, it is not transparent if there is the most minute mixture in it, you get varied degrees of shades of approach to transparency but one shade of darkness, then all is not light. One little cloud (earth born) dims transparency; and these shades and clouds come from another realm than the realm of the glory of the divine nature.

God's purpose is to have a thing without the suggestion of cloudiness or mixture; and in order to build His City He must get rid of all that which is not transparent. Hence the necessity for the inworking of the Cross.

The measure of a man is what he is before God, and only that measure counts before the Lord. We may have measurements of one another in varying degrees, and we find something unsuspected that shocks us. The only measure is not our measurement of one another, but the Lord's measurement in that light which no man approacheth unto. If we would but adjust ourselves to that, we should find our rest there before the Lord. What is true in God's sight, that is finality. All the dealings of God with us are related to this transparency of character, and His purpose of securing a people unto Himself of utter transparency, pure gold, clear as crystal, partakers of the divine nature.

See Jacob and how God dealt with him. Why was it necessary for God to so deal with him? Was it not because he was bound up with the testimony of the Lord, and must he not therefore be transparent?

Jacob's scheming ways must give place to the Lord's openness. If Jacob deceives he will surely be deceived. "God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." It is a law. His purpose is to have a pure thing, and He will smite us to the ground with that thing within us; yes, that thing within us which is not transparent will be the very trap by which we fall. There is no secretiveness with God; all must come into the open before Him.

Delay, arrest, confusion, deadlock, these are all due to some secretiveness, some ulterior motive, something in the background not clear; that dark thing, that doubtful thing which is like a cloud or mist. That is the thing which is bringing the arrest, the confusion; that something that is not absolutely true, some secret thing that is not of God, not out from Him, but comes from the realm of our flesh and from the pit.

Progress is Hindered by Secretiveness

The city cannot proceed with anything like that. From the river at the centre to the walls on the circumference, all has to be utter transparency. All these thicknesses of our natural life, our soulish elements, arrest and confuse. There must be absolute transparency of spirit. Fogs come because we are not outright clear before God and man. Christian fellowships are wrecked upon this thing. Failure to apprehend spiritual truth is due to this. Lack of transparency prevents Divine revelation because there is not an open heaven.

Have you noticed the emphasis the Word puts on confession before God? There is no getting through with the Lord until there is confession. Why? He demands it; because it is a yielding up of that dark thing, an acknowledgement, a bringing of it into God's light for judgment and putting away. You will never get liberty before there has been confession before the Lord; it is a principle.

Fog is unredeemable and does not absorb one ray of heaven's radiant light; nothing can redeem spiritual fog but confession to the Lord, and cleansing by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. It is a law of spiritual growth that we have nothing hidden, nothing not clear and true.

This flesh of ours is a vaporous gaseous cesspool, and these exhalations of flesh blot out the face of God, put it in a mist, a fog, and there is no clear, strong going on in the way. Pride has robbed many of the Lord's children of fulness of life and light, and spiritual pride is pride in its worst form, there is nothing more blinding than pride.

Anger, a measure of the flesh rising up and pulling us earthward. Can you be angry and keep your flesh out of it? How often fellowships are spoiled by the uprising of this fleshly anger! Anger white and holy is a high altitude; but the cesspool of our flesh is behind much of our anger.

Unbelief, suspicions, blind spiritual eyes and doubt breaks fellowship; all these mists come from our flesh and blind us to the glory of God, and prevent that transparency which is essential for a clear witness. Transparency is the pre-eminent and predominant feature of God's people when He has them where He wishes to have them.

In the city there is only one street. "The street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass" (Rev. 21:21). Does this not speak of the fellowship of the Lord's people? The one way of fellowship... see in the Word how streets represent fellowship.

"The river of the water of life, clear as crystal" (Rev. 22:1) witness of an absolute transparent life; transparency begins within, then naturally flows out as such.

"Commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor.. 4:2).
"If we walk in the light as He is in the light and then we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7, A.R.V.).
"Whosoever believeth on Me may not abide in darkness" (John 12:46, A.R.V.).

The Lord is compelling us to a plane of clearness; and the Holy Spirit has come to lead us into all truth. Only He knows the dark things in us, and He will convict of that thing in us which is not of God, and apply the Cross to all forms of self life, so that we may confess the evil thing and have it put away by the precious Blood.

See what God has in view for us; fellowship and service in the City of God: to be a people for His own possession: "Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love having fore-ordained us unto adoption as sons through Christ Jesus unto Himself" (Eph. 1:4-5, A.R.V.).

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