All of my life I have heard talk about streets of gold and a mansion in Heaven that is waiting for us after we die and I believe God’s perspective on eternity is so much bigger and better than that. If we want to take the symbolism of God’s promises literally; we need to do in consistently and that would lead to some seriously confused theology.
After having studied this symbolism for years and asking the Lord about it; I don’t claim to understand the depths of the details but, some things are clear. We are not going to live in a golden cube built on 12 foundation stones of the 12 Apostles with 12 gates of the 12 Tribes. Here’s how I can say this with certainty~
Jesus IS the Cornerstone. The “House” being built is not by hands but by the Spirit of God and the foundations are the Apostles and prophets. (Eph.2:19-22)
In Revelation 21 we see the Golden Cube (which probably does represent God’s triune/equal/divinity) has no “Cornerstone!” GASP! No, it’s not a contradiction because it’s simply a symbolic picture of how we are God’s dwelling place and we are founded on Christ but we build on all of the apostles and prophets. In this “City, Jesus is shown as the Lamp because He is the light of life to us now! Yes, we are established on Him as the Rock of Salvation but, He is within us as the light that reveals God’s will in our life!
Consider that the church was being spread abroad Asia, Italy, Greece, Israel and even Africa when John received “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” and even in Corinth; they had division about being “from Paul”, “from Apollos”, “from Peter” and the point is that Christ is the absolute perfect “foundation” or basis for our faith and everything is “built” or progresses upon understanding of who Jesus is through the teachings of the Apostles and prophets.
Maybe the 12 gates represented by 12 tribes just describes that we build upon even the Apostles insight with the Old Testament writings and enter into deeper insight of Jesus!
Remember that all of these places in early New Testament times were only able to connect over hundreds of miles by very long journeys and letters. (You think snail mail is slow!? It probably took months for them to send one letter.) Since Jesus emphasis was that the world would know the Father through the unity that Jesus gave the disciples (John 17:23);the church needed this prophetic picture of what she was going to look like so that they could grow up into Christ in all things. Not so they could lazily sit back and wistfully dream of having a golden mansion on fluffy clouds after they die. That idea had no place in Jesus’ or any of the Apostles teachings. ~ Selah
The point is the completion of God’s dwelling. It’s us. It’s a symbolic picture of what Jesus’ finished church looks like united in faith and selfless love of God….and for each other.
We are not literally “living stones” just like we are not “living letters” and will not be “Pillars that never go out of the Temple”. These are all symbolic descriptions of us “being conformed to the image of Christ”, carrying the Gospel and “abiding in Christ”.
We have a much better future than being stuck in an awkward golden cube for all eternity because we have a promise of better things than the O.T. ways “like gold and silver which are perishable” and it’s not just after we die but; here and now!