In the photo above, I’ve included pictures of the modern gates around the Old City of Jerusalem. Over the centuries, every time the walls of the city were expanded outward, the appropriate gate would simply follow the wall, yet, each gate remained in the same general proximity as the earlier gate that it replaced.
However, in the days of King David, Jerusalem was a much smaller compound, with walls and gates much closer together.
Four hundred years later the Babylonian army destroyed the city and left the walls and gates in ruins. The Book of Nehemiah records the rebuilding of the city around 445 B.C. In chapter three, repairs were made to ten gates. They are listed in the order of their locations, beginning with the Sheep Gate near the northeastern reaches of the wall corresponding to the general proximity of the modern Herod’s Gate. Each gate is listed as Nehemiah names them in a counter-clockwise rotation.
- Sheep Gate (Neh. 3:1)
- Fish Gate (v.3)
- Old Gate (v.6)
- Valley Gate (v.13)
- Dung Gate (v.13)
- Fountain Gate (v.15)
- Water Gate (v.26)
- Horse Gate (v. 28)
- East Gate (v. 29)
- Miphkad or Inspection Gate (v.31)
What is so remarkable about these gates, as given in their particular order, is that they tell the story of the Gospel during the future dispensation of Grace. When I first heard this taught by Dr. Ralph Speas, president of Meridian University, I knew immediately that he had something that theologians had overlooked for centuries! With his permission, I want to share it with you. Let us begin with…
The Sheep Gate
It is here at the Sheep gate that our story begins. The good news of eternal life has to begin with the sacrificial lamb. John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “The Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). The Apostle John reminds us of the “Lamb” throughout His Gospel and in the book of Revelation. Jesus is the Lamb!
The Sheep Gate was located near the historic sheep market, which is still in business to this very day. Herod’s Gate is located in the same general area as the ancient Sheep Gate. Who knows, maybe Jesus exited through this gate on the route to Calvary. Rather than bearing His cross through the street known today as the Via Delorosa. If Gordon’s Calvary is the correct site of the crucifixion, then it was not necessary that Jesus exit at the Damascus Gate. The Sheep Gate would certainly have been more appropriate.
The Fish Gate
Directly west of Herod’s Gate, along the northern wall, is the modern Damascus Gate. It stands at the approximate location of the ancient Fish Gate.
Once we leave the story of the sacrificial lamb, we are reminded that our Savior told His disciples that He would make them to become “fishers of men”(Matthew 4:19). In fact, a fish became the symbol of New Testament Christianity.
The Fish Gate represents the publication of the Gospel of eternal life. Beginning with the Apostles, until this very day, we have been fulfilling the prophecy set forth in the Fish Gate.
Moving further west along Jerusalem’s walls, we come to Nehemiah’s Old Gate. It is remarkable that today’s modern gate that stands in the same proximity is called, New Gate!
The prophecy in the Old Gate seems to be that men are plagued with a sin nature inherited from Adam. The unregenerate man is known in Paul’s writings as the “old”man:
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6).
Paul used the term again in Ephesians 4:22 and Colossians 3:9. The Old Gate sets forth the concept that sinful man needs to hear the Gospel of the Lamb. Those who tell the story are called “fishers” of men. Next, we come to…
The Valley Gate
Today’s Jaffa Gate seems to have taken the place of the ancient Valley Gate, though the western portion of the city wall lies much further west than it did in the city of David and Nehemiah. The Jaffa Gate (called Jaffa after the highway that led to the seacoast town of Joppa) overlooks the valley of Gehenna; but the ancient Valley Gate overlooked the Valley of the Cheese makers (Tyropeon Valley).
The prophecy apparent in the Valley Gate is that the sinner must be brought down into the valley of humility and conviction before he can call upon the Lord for salvation.
This is a necessary step in the process of conversion. This leads the sinner to the next gate at the far south end of the city wall, overlooking the Gehenna Valley.
The Dung Gate
Isaiah wrote that our righteousness is as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). We must come to the place of repentance where we turn from sin. This is the message of the Dung Gate.
This continues the process in which, as the Apostle Paul taught, “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”(II Corinthians 5:17).
The modern Dung Gate lies just southwest of the Western Wall, near the southern wall of the Temple Mount. However, in David’s day, it was located about as far south as the ancient wall would take you – right at the bottom of the hill where the Valley of the Cheese makers meets the dump ground that is known as the Gehenna Valley. In like manner, a person must spiritually become about as far down as one can get. We must come to the place where we are willing to turn the corner, so to speak, and begin the journey back toward the house of God (the Temple).
Once we turn the corner of the lowest and southernmost place of Jerusalem’s wall, we come to the…
Nehemiah’s “gate of the fountain” (Nehemiah 3:15) is located at the entrance of the Pool of Soloam. This is the place where Jesus sent the man who had been born blind (John 9:7), the pool that meant “Sent.” In Bible days, a large pool with several porches served those who wanted to be spiritually clean before entering the Temple compound.
This pool tells us about the work of regeneration in the convert who has come all the way south and has turned the corner from sin to redemption in order to head up the Eastern Wall toward the Eastern Gate that entered directly into the Court of the Temple. The work of regeneration is done by the “Sent” One – the Holy Spirit who was promised to the disciples before the death of God’s Lamb.
We recall that our Savior said, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you”(John 16:7).
The water in the Pool of Soloam is symbolic of the work of the Holy Spirit, as well of typical of life in general. Running water in Judaism is referred to as “living” water.
It seems, therefore, that the Pool of Soloam represents the place where the repentant sinner, who has been convicted of sin, now receives the “water of life” from which he will never thirst again. From there, the new convert moves north to the next gate.
In Bible days, the Water Gate was located in the Eastern Wall of the lower city, near the Gihon Spring, and just above the Kidron Valley. It was about halfway between the Pool of Soloam and the Pinnacle of the Temple (the southeastern corner of the Temple fortress).
The Water Gate also represents cleansing, but not for the purpose of regeneration or conversion. That took place at the Fountain Gate. The Water Gate and its attending Gihon Spring seems to represent a life of fellowship – of worship that keeps us spiritually attuned to God’s will for our lives. Just above the Water Gate, in the Ophel area of the southern Temple wall, several mikvahs (baptismal pools) have been uncovered by Israel’s top archeologists. That is likely the place where 3,000 people were baptized on the day of Pentecost.
Nehemiah and Ezra gathered all the people at the Water Gate and read the Law of Moses. We are told that the people spent several hours standing to hear the precious Word. Revival broke out. Therefore, the Water Gate became the place of gathering, of teaching, of fellowship. I would liken that to the local church. The new convert should unite with other believers in worship and service to God who loves and cares for us. But, that is not all that a believer needs. Thus, the next gate lies very near to the Water Gate. It is called…
The Horse Gate
In David’s day, this gate was used for an entrance to horse stables. Though the area of Solomon’s stables was misnamed, being within the Temple compound, it is likely that stables were nearby. Over the centuries, the underground area just inside the Temple’s southern wall, took on the name of Solomon’s stables because of this gate.
The horse was one of the principle means of transportation – a worker in the service of mankind. Likewise, the spiritual significance in this gate teaches that we are to serve mankind. At the Water Gate, we worship God and at the Horse Gate, we serve humanity.
Our conversion at the Fountain Gate prepares us for the high calling of worship and service as seen in the Water Gate and Horse Gate. This is where we show our faith by our works. This is where we lay up treasures in heaven. These gates represent a lifetime of good works, for which we will be glad when we get to heaven. And that brings us to the most exciting gate of all…
The Eastern Gate
This might have been the “Gate Beautiful” referred to in Acts 3:2. The Eastern Gate was certainly the most ornate and important of all the gates. This is the gate that leads into the Temple courtyard, and represents our entrance into heaven’s glory at the end of our earthly life.
As we approach the Eastern Gate, the Kidron Valley, with all of its sorrows, lies behind us. The Mount of Olives and Gethsemane, with its cemeteries are behind us. As we enter, we notice that it is a double gate. Unlike the others, this gate welcomes us into the presence of God.
It is said that Israel’s long-looked-for Messiah will enter through this gate when He comes. What Judaism does not understand, is that their Messiah has already done that. He rode a donkey from the Mount of Olives up to that gate. Historically, that is called the “Triumphal Entry.” Well, I want you to know that when we die, our entrance into heaven’s Eastern Gate will be a triumphal entry for us.
Sometimes heaven’s entrance has been called the “Pearly Gates,” when actually, those are the gates to the New Jerusalem. There are twelve of those! Around David and Nehemiah’s Jerusalem, there were only ten, but what a wonderful message they bring to us!
It is said that the double entrance stands for justice and mercy – justice for those who refused the message of the Gospel and mercy for those who accepted it.
We love to sing songs about the Eastern Gate. We delight in relishing the day when we are reunited with our friends and relatives. However, the Eastern Gate is not the final gate. Once we leave this life, we will encounter one more gate. Nehemiah called it…
The Inspection Gate
The Hebrew term “Miphkad” (Nehemiah 3:31) refers to the Inspection Gate. This is the final gate. Today, the Lion’s Gate (sometimes misnamed the Sheep Gate) stands where the Inspection Gate was located. For believers, it could represent the Judgment Seat of Christ – a time when we will be called upon to give an account of our lives. How well did we serve the Lord? How much treasure did we send on ahead?
Were we “fishers of men?”
The Apostle Paul said:
Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire”
(I Corinthians 3:13-15).
The author of Hebrews 9:27 said, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.”
For the unsaved, there awaits the Great White Throne Judgment. This is the place where every Christ-rejecting soul will be cast into the “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14).
After the receiving the Lamb as our Savior (at the Fountain Gate), we began a journey that will take us from the lowest part of the city overlooking the Valley of Gehenna (a place that represents the torments of hell); past the Water Gate (a place of worship); and past the Horse Gate (a place of service). On this journey, we should be mindful that we will someday enter heaven’s Eastern Gate and be inspected at the Inspection Gate.
We should so live our lives with a humbleness of spirit; with an integrity of heart and mind; and with a boldness for our Lord; that when we get to heaven, we will be glad to be there.
Finally, heaven will not be heaven because of what is there, but because of who is there. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to lead our families to serve our Lord.
The Gates of Jerusalem have a wonderful prophetic story to tell, having been named 1,000 years before the Lamb came.
From the archives of J.R. Church – Written June 2006