If you eavesdrop on Messianics long enough, eventually you may hear a little ditty like this one (found at a Messianic site ) on the true significance of the 12 gates of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:2):
In Revelation 21, there are 12 gates to the New Jerusalem for the 12 Tribes of Israel. There are no gates for “Gentiles.” Hence, Messiah cannot marry any Gentile woman until she joins his tribe! Ruth is a prophetic “type” of the remnant in the “Gentile” Christian Church who join the House of Judah and then she was able… to marry Boaz who is a “type” of Messiah.
Those outside of the gate are “dogs” and Yahushua (sic) called the Cannanite woman a “dog” which is a nick name for a “Gentile.” So those outside of the gate are Gentiles/Dogs. You cannot inherit the Kingdom as a Gentile, you must be converted by the Jewish Messiah to become like him—-a Jew!
Yes, you heard that right. It is believed by some Hebraic believers that you cannot be saved as a Gentile but must join/become Israel to be saved. (Note: sometimes, like above, people refer to Israel as Jews or Jewish, but technically only Judah, Benjamin and Levi fit the term Jewish). They prop up this heresy (as it is labeled by Acts 15 and Galatians about gentiles being saved as is) with many side arguments. The 12 gates of the New Jerusalem is one of them. It’s based on this passage about New Jerusalem:
Revelation 21:10-12 (NIV) — 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.
It’s an interesting theory about the purpose of the twelve tribal gates. It makes sense at first until you realized there is an assumption behind it that is neither provable nor sensible.
Wrong Assumption About Why the 12 Gates Are Named
The assumption is this: that each of the twelve gates is assigned to one of the twelve tribes for the exclusive passage of only that tribe and no one else. That’s quite silly if you imagine the scene that would play out:
“What tribe are you?
Oh, well you can’t pass here, it’s Naphtali. Go through the gate to the right, please. Next!”
Instead, it’s more reasonable that the twelve gates are named for twelve tribes to *honor* them since Israel was called first. As a matter of fact, we find if we keep reading in Revelation 21 we find another similar endowment for the twelve apostles:
Revelation 21:14 (NIV) The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
In other words, each gate for each tribe is sitting a top a different foundation with the name of the assigned apostle. Obviously these are named to honor the twelve apostles, each of whom will rule one of the twelve tribes (Mt 19:28). Perhaps their name will be under the gate for the tribe they rule.
But using the logic above, only the twelve apostles can pass beyond the gate their name is written under. For that is what the naming of the of foundation must mean…exclusive access, right? Wrong.
The real problem with accepting that we all must be assigned to one of the tribes to be in the Kingdom and New Jerusalem is the many places where it is emphasized that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the Kingdom” (Gal 3:27-29). If we all must “become Israel,” then why did Paul look forward to when we are “in Christ” instead of once we are “in Israel” as Messianics teach?
Is the Olive Tree We Are Grafted Into “Israel?”
After I saw all the verses contradicting this “Become Israel for Salvation” theology, I took another look at the Romans 11 Olive Branches grafting. This is another passage often cited as proof that we must become Israel. It is believed that there is one olive tree described that we are grafted into as Gentiles and it is Israel and therefore we become Israel by being grafted there. But does it say that?
If you look closely, you find out that there is more than one olive tree. Olive branches are among them based on keeping the “holy root” tree pure and righteous; not for the purpose of making wild branches natural or Israel branches. It never says or implies that. In fact, the first olive tree we are grafted into is called the “elect” (Ro 11:7) or “righteous remnant according to grace” (Ro 11:5) by Paul, not “Israel.” If the hardened unrighteous original branches of this remnant tree are removed and the righteous wild branches from the other olive trees are added, this means we can’t have that olive tree be the “Israel tree.” It’s the righteous remnant tree, a tree of mixed olive branches; some natural to that tree, and some wild or cultivated. However, all are remnant righteous branches only “by grace” and not by nationality or being or becoming Israel. The root of the olive tree that sustains the righteous branches is Christ, not Israel (Jn 15:5).
Gentiles are not called dogs in Revelation, the unrighteous are. Gentiles do not need to live in Israel or become Israel/House of Israel/House of Judah/Jewish/etc.Â to be saved or blessed. They need to believe in the Word of God and do it just as Israelites need to (Lk 8:21; Gen 15:6). When they do, they are in Christ receiving his grace, and their Jewishness or Gentile-ness is not counted, as Paul said. In the New Jerusalem, all who have become righteous and have white clothing will be able to go through all the gates (not just “one gate” or “their own gate”).
Revelation 22:14 (NIV) “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.