In prophetic writings the gates to Jerusalem/heaven are stated to be made of pearls. Thus the oft quoted term "the pearly gates".

What is the significance/symbolism of the gates being Pearl ?


Revelation 21:21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl

  • You might find the answer in Rev:21-25. . On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
    – Bagpipes
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 0:18

2 Answers 2


They are not 'pearly gates' in the sense of gates made of many pearls or gates made of material made from pearl. Each gate is a pearl.

Thus it is symbolic and visionary for, in the nature of mollusks, pearls can only be small objects but a gate needs to be large enough for humans to pass through.

Pearl occurs not because, as is commonly supposed, a grain of sand irritates the creature and it produces a protective material : the process actually involves an 'intruder' :

It is thought that natural pearls form under a set of accidental conditions when a microscopic intruder or parasite enters a bivalve mollusk and settles inside the shell. Pearl - Wikipedia

Thus the formation of pearl is a matter of another life form within the animal which produces a structure that is harder than bone, as strong as tooth enamel.

I see, myself, in this scenario that the way into the city is by way of a new life forming inside. And the new life forms a structure that is strong and is very valuable : extremely precious for its great beauty.

I see in this what Paul describes in his epistle to the Galatians :

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you ... [Galatians 4:19 KJV]

By a baptism of repentance whereby they are filled with the water of word until such a time as they are utterly filled and the water becomes wine and is a satisfying experience for the Governor of the feast, the archetricline the 'chief of three who reclines' - by a birth that is 'again', or 'anew' or 'of God' or 'from above' or 'of water and of Spirit' - is Christ himself formed within in a structured way that will last for ever and is a thing of beauty within, that is without price.

This is the way to enter into the holy city, New Jerusalem.

The whole of this is fully described in a freely downloadable book 'The Gates of Pearl' available on my website.


The safest and simplest explanation for the symbolism of pearls [μαργαρίτης margarites] is its regular and consistent usage in the NT. Apart from a literal use in 1 Tim 2:9, the pearl is used in the New Testament as a symbol of Jesus and His saving power of the Gospel:

  • Matt 7:6 - “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
  • Matt 13:45, 46 - Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went away and sold all he had and bought it.

This is evidently the case in Revelation:

  • 17:4 Babylon the great prostitute is dressed in pearls, which presumably represents spiritual heresies and a false gospel.
  • 18:12 Pearls are one of Babylon's precious cargoes – she trades in spiritual heresies and false salvation as negotiable tender.
  • 18:16 Babylon clothed in pearls – see on 17:4 above.
  • 21:21 (x2) The holy city, New Jerusalem has 12 gates which are 12 pearls. Thus the redeemed must enter the holy city via Jesus and the truth of the Gospel alone.

Further, the fact that there are 12 such pearls at the 12 gates has an obvious significance (Rev 21:10-14):

  • 12 foundations of 12 precious stones with the apostles' names is an allusion to the 12 stones on the breastplate of the OT high priest (V18-20) and that the city is founded on the teaching of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20)
  • Similarly, the 12 pearls suggests that the city is only entered by those who have the accepted the truth about Jesus via the message of the Gospel as taught by the 12 apostles.

Note the text of Eph 2:19-22 -

Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in His Spirit.

In this way, the New Jerusalem can be seen as a continuation and extension of the the metaphor of God's household as shown here.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. Your response makes me consider the term ... Pearls of wisdom. If the pearls of Jerusalem symbolize the wisdom of the teaching of the Bible and gospel - I guess the pearls of Babylon would represent the "wisdom of the world" which is usually contrary to biblical wisdom. Spiritual heresies and "man's thinking" on what's right and wrong.
    – Marshall
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 17:00

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