Will heaven have literal streets of gold?
One aspect of heaven often mentioned in art and popular culture is that the streets will be made of gold. Is this true?
Revelation 21:21 speaks of the new heavenly Jerusalem, saying, "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass." The question, then, is whether this reference is to be understood as referring to a literal golden street. Since no indication is given that the verse is merely symbolic, it is likely that the future heavenly city will have a literal street covered with gold.
One detail to note is that this "street" is singular, likely referring to a main street in the main part of the city. The Greek plateia is used; it is the word generally used of the main street of an ancient city or town. While all streets in the heavenly Jerusalem could be made of gold, here only one main street is specifically mentioned.
What is the importance of a golden street in heaven? In ancient culture, similar to today, gold was the precious stone of highest value or worth. In the future heavenly city, what is most valuable on earth is in abundant supply. Even the streets, generally consisting of dirt or rock in biblical times, will be made of gold.
In addition to a street of gold, in John's vision the city was measured with a golden rod (Revelation 21:15) and "the city was pure gold, like clear glass" (Revelation 21:18). How could there be so much gold involved? Revelation 21:10-11 reveal "the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal." This was not a city made by people; it was a holy city coming down from the sky and radiating with the glory of God.
Revelation 21 also emphasizes the quality of the gold involved. The highest quality of gold is mentioned in verse 18, a pure gold, like clear glass that is transparent or nearly transparent in nature. The idea is perhaps to reflect God's great glory that will be on full display at this time.
Keep in mind, this is just the heavenly city. Revelation also discusses a new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21—22). The contrast between life on earth now and what ultimately awaits God's people is vast. Believers will rejoice both in God's presence and in the abundant beauty of the surrounding area.
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