There is a cultural notion within christianity that, when one dies, he will either go to hell, or he will go to heaven, but to get into heaven, he will pass through some pearly gates. The idea is so universally accepted as fact that the term “pearly gates” has become synonymous with heaven itself in most of christianity.
But, is that idea actually true? Are there gates of pearl through which one passes to get into heaven? Some have even attached the goofy fairytale that it is the apostle Peter who stands at the pearly gates to determine who gets into heaven and who does not.
Just as most christians’ understanding of Satan and hell are based not on scriptural fact, but on literary works and wives’ tales, so too is the notion of pearly gates leading into heaven a work of fiction that most christians largely believe.
So, what are the “gates of pearl” that are associated with heaven?
Well, in Revelation 21:21, we definitely see gates of pearl described: “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the several gates was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.”
But (and this is vital), that is not describing heaven, but the New Jerusalem, which is IN heaven. We’re told in Rev. 21:2 exactly WHO the New Jerusalem is: “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a BRIDE adorned for her husband.”
The New Jerusalem is the bride, and we know that the bride will be in a “one flesh union” with the Bridegroom (husband and wife), so the New Jerusalem is the union of the Lamb and His bride, and it is indwelt by the glory of the Father. It hovers above the new earth, which is where the rest of the inhabitants of heaven will dwell.
The bride was foreshadowed on earth by the temple in Jerusalem. The temple housed the covenant, which was located in the Holy of Holies. Paul explained the spiritual real substance that was foreshadowed by the temple in 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from Yah, and that you are not your own?”
Under the old covenant, which was a physical foreshadow, the reason that worship was mandated at the temple is because that is where the covenant was (the Ten Commandments within the Ark of the Covenant). But, as Messiah Yahoshua explained to the Samaritan woman in John 4, there was coming a time when the spiritual real substance of the covenant would be placed within people (the bride), and then worship would be WHEREVER they were (worship is not an event, but is the practical lifestyles of those who possess the covenant).
So, we see the union of the Bridegroom Yahoshua and His bride Y’isra-el, and that union is indwelt by the glory of the Father. THAT is the New Jerusalem, which hovers above the new earth. It was foreshadowed by Abraham (Father Yah), Isaac (Son Yahoshua), and Jacob (the bride Y’isra-el, indwelt by the covenant, the seal of the Holy Spirit).
It is also represented by the matzah tash in the Seder, which is a three-pouched linen cloth, into which are placed three loaves of unleavened bread. The middle loaf is removed and broken in two, and the larger of the two pieces is hidden in the house for the children to search out, find, and present back to the father for a reward, and the smaller piece is placed back into the matzah tash. It symbolizes the fact that Messiah Yahoshua was more human than divine while He was on the earth (He was made a little lower than the angels—Psalm 8:5, Hebrews 2:7).
The twelve gates of pearl are part of the New Jerusalem, they do not lead into heaven, but into the sanctuary within the New Jerusalem. The Holy of Holies in the sanctuary is the wedding chamber (chuppah).
Again, the friends of the Bridegroom (OT saints), friends of the bride (tribulation saints), and the wedding guests (millennial saints) will dwell on the new earth, but it is Messiah’s bride Y’isra-el who is the New Jerusalem that hovers above the new earth. And, the New Jerusalem is the eternal dwelling place of the Father—it is the kingdom of God (Yah).
And, we’re told that those members of the bride who do not strive to deny their flesh and its sins will not inherit the kingdom of Yah. That means they will not have entrance through those gates of pearl into the sanctuary. And, as the entirety of the New Jerusalem is the sanctuary, and those gates of pearl lead into it, those who do not sacrifice their flesh will not be in the New Jerusalem.
Those who have been made righteous by the seal of the Holy Spirit (covenant) will be in heaven, but if they chose to feed their flesh rather than their spirit while they were on earth (Romans 7), they will remain “outside the gates” of the New Jerusalem, which means they will dwell on the new earth with the rest of heaven’s inhabitants.
It is only those members of the bride who sacrifice their flesh (deny the flesh and its sins) that will be in the New Jerusalem to experience the glory of Yah firsthand, and who rule and reign in marital union with Messiah for all eternity. But, most of those who will be in heaven will dwell on the new earth. Those who are Messiah’s bride are a much smaller number than the rest of the wedding party and the wedding guests.
So, “passing through the pearly gates” is not the same as “going to heaven,” but is reserved only for Messiah’s bride who denied their flesh. The bride will not be revealed until the wedding feast, according to the wedding traditions, and that is what we see in Revelation 21:2. The wedding feast is eternity, which begins with the new heaven and new earth, after Messiah’s millennial earthly reign, and after the final judgment, when Satan, his demons, and all the unbelievers are cast into the lake of fire forever.
Revelation 22:11 tells us of four kinds of people in eternity: the unjust, the filthy, the righteous, and the holy. The first two groups are in hell, the other two are in heaven. But, verses 14 & 15 show us the difference between those who sacrificed their flesh (verse 14), and those who didn’t (verse 15)–the difference between the holy and the righteous. The holy are the righteous who crucified their flesh (they obeyed the Father’s words, “Be holy for I am holy”).
To reiterate, there is no gate into heaven, as heaven is actually comprised of the new heaven and new earth. The pearly gates do not lead into heaven, but into the sanctuary within the New Jerusalem. So, the meme that has circulated on social media about heaven having a gate (comparing it to the illegal immigration problem at our southern border) is blatantly false, and shows one of the many scriptural misunderstandings that pervade christianity.
For more information: Do Sinners Go to Heaven?