Q. What is the meaning of the foundation stones & dimensions of the New Jerusalem? Is it literal or symbolic?
A. The foundation stones of the New Jerusalem are described in Rev 21:
• Rev 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
• Rev 21:19-20 The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.
The twelve foundation stones represent the twelve apostles, because the Church, God’s household, is built on the foundation of the apostles & prophets:
• Eph 2:19-20 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
Some commentators tried to equate the 12 precious stones with the 12 stones on the breastpiece of the high priest:
• Ex 28:17-21 You shall mount on it four rows of stones; the first row shall be a row of ruby, topaz and emerald;
• and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond;
• and the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst;
• and the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper; they shall be set in gold filigree.
• The stones shall be according to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, according to their names; they shall be like the engravings of a seal, each according to his name for the twelve tribes.(Also Ex 39:10-14)
However, while 7 stones appear on both lists (jasper, sapphire, emerald, beryl, topaz, jacinth & amethyst), the other 5 do not match:
• in Rev: chalcedony, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite & chrysoprase;
• in Ex: ruby, turquoise, diamond, agate & onyx.
The list in Rev. is in Greek while that in Ex. is in Hebrew, & scholars cannot definitively identify one with the other. More importantly, Rev 21:14 specifically indicates the names on the 12 foundation stones are those of the 12 apostles, not the 12 sons of Israel (12 tribes). I therefore believe that it is counter-productive to equate one with the other. Suffice to say that both are precious and beautiful in God’s sight.
(To be continued)