In the previous post in this series, we looked at the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, as directed by the prophet Ezra and others. Around this same time in history, the city of Jerusalem was ruins. The Babylonians had laid siege to the city when they attacked, and when they made their way in, they destroyed more than just the Temple. They also had demolished much of the city’s walls and gates. The man put in charge of rebuilding these walls and gates was none other than Nehemiah.
My lesson attempted to link the rebuilding of these gates and the city wall as a type of the restoration occurring today in God’s Church (which began with the Reformation). Since, as I mentioned before, I want to be sure to stick to using Scripture to interpret Scripture, I’m afraid I can’t agree that this Old Testament event is a Biblical type of a New Testament event. What we can use this lesson for is a very good illustration. I’ve included the image below (borrowed from here) as a reference, so you will be able to see what I’m talking about as I discuss each gate in the city wall – click the image to view it full size.
The Levels Of Jerusalem
When the Bible talks about the city of Jerusalem, it can actually be talking about 1 of 3 different cities. These 3 levels that the “City of God” is described as are:
- The Natural Jerusalem – This is the natural, earthly city, which in some ways models the heavenly Jerusalem. (Perhaps structurally or functionally, more than righteously)
- The Heavenly Jerusalem – This is the original City, a spiritual location (but just as real), of which we become citizens at the point of our salvation.
- The New Jerusalem – In the future, God will re-create the heavens and the earth, and this new city will be at the center of everything.
These cities are compared and contrasted throughout the Bible. Often, the spiritual condition of the people in the natural Jerusalem is described by God using spiritual illustrations. The walls and gates of the city seem to be especially important in this spiritual illustrations. For example, in Ezekiel 13, God condemns false prophets by saying “You have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the LORD.” (v. 5) What God is saying is that these so-called prophets are not helping Israel by their false prophecies…they’re trying to help themselves. This was written at a time when the walls of Jerusalem were standing strong, prior to the Babylonian invasion. God continues by saying,
Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?” Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When itfalls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the LORD.
Interestingly, these walls were torn down shortly thereafter by the armies of Babylon. But on a spiritual level, God also tore down the walls that the Israelites were building for themselves, which were making them feel secure. They had given up the relationship they had with God, who was their Defender, and secured for themselves new walls – spiritual walls – that were really nothing more than flimsy, broken walls covered in whitewash.
The Gates of the City
The natural Jerusalem was surrounded by thick walls, designed to protect it against the assault of its enemies. This was the norm at this time, as most major cities were protected in this way. With walls surrounding the city, it was important that there be gates to allow for movement into and out of the city at different points. The natural Jerusalem had 12 gates, most of which had been demolished during the Babylonian attack (along with the walls). The prophet Nehemiah was put in charge of rebuilding the city’s walls and gates, and the description of the rebuilding of the walls and gates are described in Chapter 3 of the book bearing his name. Each gate had a specific purpose, and each can serve as an illustration of a significant spiritual truth, even for us today.
- The Sheep Gate (3:1) – The first gate to be restored; Led to the sheep market where lambs were sold for Temple sacrifice. This was also the gate Jesus went through as He carried His cross to Golgotha to be crucified.
Possible Illustration: The Sheep Gate represents the experience of salvation made available to the cross. The first gate to be restored is the first spiritual gate to be built in our lives – the blood of Christ on the cross is the perfect sacrifice for our sin.
- The Fish Gate (3:3) – One of the main entrances to Jerusalem; Where the fish merchants brought fish to market (often from other cities and territories)
Possible Illustration: The Fish Gate can represent our witness, the Church reaching out to the world.
- The Jeshanah (Old) Gate (3:6) – The location where the elders of the city would discuss and issue judgment on disputes
Possible Illustration: The Old Gate represents the eldership (leadership) of the Body of Christ, the Church.
- The Valley Gate (3:13) – This gate led to the Hinnom Valley, outside of the city walls. This valley is where Solomon erected high places for a foreign god (to whom children were sacrificed by fire). It was rendered ceremonially unclean by Josiah, who spread human bones over it (see 2 Kings 23). Because of this, it became the garbage dump of city. Because of its history of human sacrifice, it was given the name Gehenna, or Lake of Fire, and was used by Christ as an illustration for hell itself.
Possible Illustration: The Valley Gate represents what we’ve been taken out of: the fires of hell, by the grace of God.
- The Dung Gate (3:14) – The path where garbage was removed from the city (out into the Hinnom Valley).
Possible Illustration: The Dung Gate represents the removal of the spiritual dung in our lives – both the shame and the glory of the old life.
- The Fountain Gate (3:15-19) – The gate in most ruin; Associated with many locations inside the city (see map), but also the primary access point to the Gihon Spring, the city’s main water source.
Possible Illustration: The Gihon Spring represented the life source of God Himself, and the Fountain Gate represents our access to that spiritual spring.
- The Water Gate (3:26) – Opened up to Solomon’s Temple; Location where the people gathered to hear the Word of God read to them by Ezra.
Possible Illustration: Water often represents the Word of God. In this case, the Word of God was read at the Water Gate, and it represents the Word of God being restored and our lives being renewed by it.
- The Horse Gate (3:28) – The gate the king’s chariot passed through on its way into the city.
Possible Illustration: Horses represent discipline and war in Scripture. This gate may represent the restoration of spiritual discipline in our lives.
- The Inspection (Muster) Gate (3:31) – The Hebrew word translated Inspection or Muster, miphkad, means “appointment, mandate, designated spot, mustering, the numbering in a census”
Possible Illustration: The Miphkad was the Temple site itself – the designated spot for the Ark of the Covenant. This represents the physical church today – the appointed place of meeting together regularly.
- The Ephraim Gate – No repairs mentioned; Ephraim means “double fruitfulness.”
Possible Illustration: We are to bear much fruit (see John 15) – this “gate” is not restored in the Church, but is fulfilled.
- The Gate of the Guard – No repairs mentioned; Where special guards were placed, who were not simply recruited, but appointed in a lineage, just like the priests
Possible Illustration: The gatekeepers were those who devoted their lives to ushering others into the presence of God. Again, this isn’t a spiritual gate that needs restoration in our lives today, but that need fulfilling.
- The East Gate – No repairs mentioned; The gate that Jesus went through as he entered Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives (where He spent each night the week before His crucifixion)
Possible Illustration: This gate represents both the coming of the Lord (as He will return to the Mount of Olives from where he ascended to Heaven)
As you can see, each gate illustrates a different aspect of the finished work of the Cross of Christ, outworked in our experience through the Holy Spirit.