The Street of Gold

The proportions of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22 are beyond human scale. The city is a cube with its length, width, and height being 1,380 miles (12,000 stadia). Within thist description is the statement: “the street of the city was pure gold” (Revelation 21:21). Noting that street is singular, the question is raised: does the city have only one street? Several approaches to this question have been taken by interpreters of Revelation.

First, many view the singular noun generically or collectively: singular in form, but plural in meaning. As one commentator noted this collective sense could also be seen in Revelation 22:2 where you have a mention of “the tree of life” singular, and yet the locations of the tree would suggest a plural number of them. The fourth verse of “When We All Get to Heaven” reads: “we shall tread the streets of gold.” I’m not going to object to hymns that speak of “streets of gold.” Understanding the singular as a collective is a popular approach.

Second, the word translated street is plateia which means broad or wide. Some see this as a reference to the main street of the city. A description of the main street of the city does not rule out other streets. Several modern translations take this approach. “The main street of the city is pure gold…” (Revelation 21:21, NET). See also “The great street” (NIV), “the broad street” (HCSB), and “the main street” (NLT).

Third, some commentators think that plateia refers not to a street but to the main square of the city. Young’s Literal Translation may be hinting at this: “the broad-place of the city is pure gold.” This kind of meaning for plateia is seen in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Passages with this meaning are Genesis 19:2, Judges 19:17, 20, 2 Chronicles 32:6, Ezra 10:9, Nehemiah 8:16. Although the KJV will use street in all of these passages, most modern translations including the NKJV will speak of the square of the city.

Finally, Homer Hailey writes, “Probably the streets from each gate are joined together to make up one street. Since the vision is of a great symbol, whatever the view or explanation one may hold, we can accept the idea of unity; all portals admit and lead to Him who is the central figure.”1 In other words, he sees the singular street being a symbol of unity.

The vision of Revelation 21-22 is worth our pondering. But it doesn’t leave me worried about traffic jams in heaven if there is only one street. I suspect that what John describes is beyond describing in human language. The descriptions do not give me a blueprint but are there to spur my yearning. Faithfulness is worth it. This is the place of perfect fellowship, protection, provision, and joy!

1Homer Hailey, Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary,(Baker Book House), pp. 416-417.

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