32) THE NUMBER TWELVE
Next, the number twelve is used repeatedly in this city. We may use electricity to illustrate the symbolic meaning of numbers used in the New Jerusalem. It is exceedingly difficult to understand electricity; we cannot isolate a little of it and take it into our hands for study. We must instead use figures to represent certain aspects of electricity. Similarly, the numbers used in the holy city teach us much concerning the city and the church life today.
The number twelve is used at least ten times in Revelation 21 and 22. There are twelve gates with twelve angels, and these gates contain the names of the twelve tribes. Then there are twelve foundations with the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. The twelve gates are twelve pearls, and the twelve foundations are twelve precious stones. The city itself is in three dimensions, and each dimension is of twelve thousand furlongs. The measurement of the city wall is one hundred and forty-four cubits, which is twelve times twelve. In addition to this, the tree of life bears twelve manner of fruits within the city.
There are many ways by which the number twelve can be composed, but, according to the record of these two chapters, it is composed of three times four or four times three. How do we know this? Because there are three gates on each of the four sides of the city. Remember, three is the number of the Triune God, and four is the number of the creatures or creation. In the early chapters of Revelation the number seven is frequently used: there are seven churches, seven lampstands, seven stars, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven vials. This number is composed either of three plus four or four plus three. The book of Revelation begins with the number seven and ends with the number twelve. At the beginning there are four living creatures plus the Triune God. But at the end everything issues from multiplication. Addition signifies an adding together, whereas multiplication signifies a mingling together. Firstly, we as creatures have God added to us; then, from the time of regeneration, God is multiplied within us. We must be so mingled with God. The entire city of the New Jerusalem is a mingling of man with God—this is why the whole city is represented by the number twelve. The church life begins with the number seven and matures to the number twelve. This is a process. The church must begin with the divine nature being added to the human nature; then each person must be mingled with God. Seven must become twelve; this is the way the church life must proceed. The maturity of the church life is the very mingling of God with man. Whatever I do in the church must involve the mingling of God with myself. Before doing anything, I must check, “Am I doing this just by myself, or am I doing this by the mingling of God with me?” The number four by itself is not good, and six is worse. We must at least equal seven, which is man plus God, or eight, which is resurrection. Then we will be in the reality of number twelve. All our work must be in the mingling of God with us.
33) THE FOUNDATION
Next we come to the foundation of the city, which we shall consider in six aspects. Ephesians 2:20 says that the church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. But in the New Jerusalem there are no prophets. We must realize that at the time of the Ephesian letter some things were still not fulfilled; hence prophecy was required. But when the New Jerusalem descends out of heaven, everything will be completed. The prophets will have to become someone else. Therefore, we should not work too hard to be a prophet. On the other hand, all the apostles abide forever, for on the twelve foundations of the city are the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb (Rev. 21:14). The apostles will abide through eternity because they represent six things:
a) The Testimony of God
Firstly, the apostles signify that this new city, which is the building of God and the testimony of Jesus, is not of man, but of God (Gal. 1:10-12). None of the apostles are of man; all are of God. This is the real testimony, and we must apply this principle to ourselves. In the church life everything must be of God; there must not be anything of man. The foundation of the church life must only be of God. If there is any human element, sooner or later that will be a weak point and will be heavily attacked by the enemy. Such an element cannot withstand the enemy’s attack. If we initiate anything which is of man rather than completely of God, the foundation will not be strong. In every city we must allow the church life to be initiated only of God, not of ourselves.
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 19, by Witness Lee)