Heaven’s streets of gold are often referenced in song and poetry, but harder to find in the Bible. In fact, there is only one passage of Scripture that references streets of gold and that is in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem: “The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass” (Revelation 21:21). So does this verse tell us that there will literally be streets of gold in heaven? And, if so, what is the importance or significance of literal streets of gold?
The Greek word translated “gold” is chrusion, which can mean “gold, gold jewelry, or overlay.” So to translate it “gold” makes complete and perfect sense. In fact, struggles of interpretation often come up when people attempt to determine which parts of the Bible to take literally and which parts to take figuratively. A good rule of thumb when studying the Bible is to take everything literally, unless it doesn’t make sense to do so. And in this chapter of Revelation, John isn’t just throwing out random descriptive terms. In the early parts of Revelation 21, he is given a rod to measure out the city (verse15), and he specifically describes the wall of heaven as being composed of jasper and the city itself also of gold (verse18). He also describes the foundations of the city walls being comprised of many specific precious stones and jewels (verses19–20). So with these specifics in mind, the description of golden streets makes perfect sense in comparison to the rest of John’s eyewitness description.
So, if heaven’s streets are made of gold, what is the point? First, notice the condition of the gold. When gold is uncovered on earth, it is not in the desirable condition that jewelers are looking for. The gold must be smelted in order that impurities float to the top for removal, leaving only the pure gold behind. The gold that John saw in heaven was of such quality that it appears to be transparent in order to reflect the pure light of God’s blazing glory. And God’s ability to purify is not confined only to gold; God has purified all who will enter His heaven through the blood of Jesus Christ. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Not only is God’s holy city one of purity by His design, so are the citizens of that city.
As we investigate this idea of golden streets further, there are some teachers and scholars who do not hold to the idea that heaven’s golden streets are literal. However, by looking simply at the text God has given us within the context of the entirety of John’s revelation, there seems to be no reason to doubt it. However, our attention in eternity will hardly be focused on earthly treasures. While man pursues treasures like gold on earth, one day it will simply be no more than a source of pavement for the believer in heaven. No matter how many precious jewels or materials make up the physical construction of heaven, nothing will ever be of greater value than the God who loves us and died to save us.