A new heaven, and new earth: the new Jerusalem where God dwells, and banishes all sorrow from his people. (1-8) Its heavenly origin, glory, and secure defence. (9-21) Its perfect happiness, as enlightened with the presence of God and the Lamb, and in the free access of multitudes, made holy. (22-27)
Verses 1-8 The new heaven and the new earth will not be separate from each other; the earth of the saints, their glorified, bodies, will be heavenly. The old world, with all its troubles and tumults, will have passed away. There will be no sea; this aptly represents freedom from conflicting passions, temptations, troubles, changes, and alarms; from whatever can divide or interrupt the communion of saints. This new Jerusalem is the church of God in its new and perfect state, the church triumphant. Its blessedness came wholly from God, and depends on him. The presence of God with his people in heaven, will not be interrupt as it is on earth, he will dwell with them continually. All effects of former trouble shall be done away. They have often been in tears, by reason of sin, of affliction, of the calamities of the church; but no signs, no remembrance of former sorrows shall remain. Christ makes all things new. If we are willing and desirous that the gracious Redeemer should make all things new in order hearts and nature, he will make all things new in respect of our situation, till he has brought us to enjoy complete happiness. See the certainty of the promise. God gives his titles, Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, as a pledge for the full performance. Sensual and sinful pleasures are muddy and poisoned waters; and the best earthly comforts are like the scanty supplies of a cistern; when idolized, they become broken cisterns, and yield only vexation. But the joys which Christ imparts are like waters springing from a fountain, pure, refreshing, abundant, and eternal. The sanctifying consolations of the Holy Spirit prepare for heavenly happiness; they are streams which flow for us in the wilderness. The fearful durst not meet the difficulties of religion, their slavish fear came from their unbelief; but those who were so dastardly as not to dare to take up the cross of Christ, were yet so desperate as to run into abominable wickedness. The agonies and terrors of the first death will lead to the far greater terrors and agonies of eternal death.
Verses 9-21 God has various employments for his holy angels. Sometimes they sound the trumpet of Divine Providence, and warn a careless world; sometimes they discover things of a heavenly nature of the heirs of salvation. Those who would have clear views of heaven, must get as near to heaven as they can, on the mount of meditation and faith. The subject of the vision is the church of God in a perfect, triumphant state, shining in its lustre; glorious in relation to Christ; which shows that the happiness of heaven consists in intercourse with God, and in conformity to him. The change of emblems from a bride to a city, shows that we are only to take general ideas from this description. The wall is for security. Heaven is a safe state; those who are there, are separated and secured from all evils and enemies. This city is vast; here is room for all the people of God. The foundation of the wall; the promise and power of God, and the purchase of Christ, are the strong foundations of the safety and happiness of the church. These foundations are set forth by twelve sorts of precious stones, denoting the variety and excellence of the doctrines of the gospel, or of the graces of the Holy Spirit, or the personal excellences of the Lord Jesus Christ. Heaven has gates; there is a free admission to all that are sanctified; they shall not find themselves shut out. These gates were all of pearls. Christ is the Pearl of great price, and he is our Way to God. The street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. The saints in heaven tread gold under foot. The saints are there at rest, yet it is not a state of sleep and idleness; they have communion, not only with God, but with one another. All these glories but faintly represent heaven.
Verses 22-27 Perfect and direct communion with God, will more than supply the place of gospel institutions. And what words can more full express the union and co-equality of the Son with the Father, in the Godhead? What a dismal world would this be, if it were not for the light of the sun! What is there in heaven that supplies its place? The glory of God lightens that city, and the Lamb is the Light thereof. God in Christ will be an everlasting Fountain of knowledge and joy to the saints in heaven. There is no night, therefore no need of shutting the gates; all is at peace and secure. The whole shows us that we should be more and more led to think of heaven as filled with the glory of God, and enlightened by the presence of the Lord Jesus. Nothing sinful or unclean, idolatrous, or false and deceitful, can enter. All the inhabitants are made perfect in holiness. Now the saints feel a sad mixture of corruption, which hinders them in the service of God, and interrupts their communion with him; but, at their entrance into the holy of holies, they are washed in the laver of Christ's blood, and presented to the Father without spot. None are admitted into heaven who work abominations. It is free from hypocrites, such as make lies. As nothing unclean can enter heaven, let us be stirred up by these glimpses of heavenly things, to use all diligence, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God.
Revelation 21:1-27 . THE NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH: NEW JERUSALEM OUT OF HEAVEN.
The remaining two chapters describe the eternal and consummated kingdom of God and the saints on the new earth. As the world of nations is to be pervaded by divine influence in the millennium, so the world of nature shall be, not annihilated, but transfigured universally in the eternal state which follows it. The earth was cursed for man's sake; but is redeemed by the second Adam. Now is the Church; in the millennium shall be the kingdom; and after that shall be the new world wherein God shall be all in all. The "day of the Lord" and the conflagration of the earth are in 2 Peter 3:10 2 Peter 3:11 spoken of as if connected together, from which many argue against a millennial interval between His coming and the general conflagration of the old earth, preparatory to the new; but "day" is used often of a whole period comprising events intimately connected together, as are the Lord's second advent, the millennium, and the general conflagration and judgment. Compare Genesis 2:4 as to the wide use of "day." Man's soul is redeemed by regeneration through the Holy Spirit now; man's body shall be redeemed at the resurrection; man's dwelling-place, His inheritance, the earth, shall be redeemed perfectly at the creation of the new heaven and earth, which shall exceed in glory the first Paradise, as much as the second Adam exceeds in glory the first Adam before the fall, and as man regenerated in body and soul shall exceed man as he was at creation.
1. the first--that is the former.
passed away--Greek, in A and B is "were departed" (Greek, "apeelthon," not as in English Version, "pareelthe").
was--Greek, "is," which graphically sets the thing before our eyes as present.
no more sea--The sea is the type of perpetual unrest. Hence our Lord rebukes it as an unruly hostile troubler of His people. It symbolized the political tumults out of which "the beast" arose, Revelation 13:1 . As the physical corresponds to the spiritual and moral world, so the absence of sea, after the metamorphosis of the earth by fire, answers to the unruffled state of solid peace which shall then prevail. The sea, though severing lands from one another, is now, by God's eliciting of good from evil, made the medium of communication between countries through navigation. Then man shall possess inherent powers which shall make the sea no longer necessary, but an element which would detract from a perfect state. A "river" and "water" are spoken of in Revelation 22:1 Revelation 22:2 , probably literal (that is, with such changes of the natural properties of water, as correspond analogically to man's own transfigured body), as well as symbolical. The sea was once the element of the world's destruction, and is still the source of death to thousands, whence after the millennium, at the general judgment, it is specially said, "The sea gave up the dead . . . in it." Then it shall cease to destroy, or disturb, being removed altogether on account of its past destructions.
2. And I John--"John" is omitted in A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS; also the "I" in the Greek of these authorities is not emphatic. The insertion of "I John" in the Greek would somewhat interfere with the close connection which subsists between "the new heaven and earth," Revelation 21:1 , and the "new Jerusalem" in this verse.
Jerusalem . . . out of heaven--( Revelation 3:12 , Galatians 4:26 , "Jerusalem which is above"; Hebrews 11:10 , 12:22 , 13:14 ). The descent of the new Jerusalem out of heaven is plainly distinct from the earthly Jerusalem in which Israel in the flesh shall dwell during the millennium, and follows on the creation of the new heaven and earth. John in his Gospel always writes [Greek] Hierosoluma of the old city; in the Apocalypse always Hierousaleem of the heavenly city ( Revelation 3:12 ). Hierousaleem is a Hebrew name, the original and holy appellation. Hierosoluma is the common Greek term, used in a political sense. Paul observes the same distinction when refuting Judaism ( Galatians 4:26 ; compare Galatians 1:17 Galatians 1:18 , 2:1 , Hebrews 12:22 ), though not so in the Epistles to Romans and Corinthians [BENGEL].
bride--made up of the blessed citizens of "the holy city." There is no longer merely a Paradise as in Eden (though there is that also, Revelation 2:7 ), no longer a mere garden, but now the city of God on earth, costlier, statelier, and more glorious, but at the same time the result of labor and pains such as had not to be expended by man in dressing the primitive garden of Eden. "The lively stones" were severally in time laboriously chiselled into shape, after the pattern of "the Chief corner-stone," to prepare them for the place which they shall everlastingly fill in the heavenly Jerusalem.
3. out of heaven--so ANDREAS. But A and Vulgate read, "out of the throne."
the tabernacle--alluding to the tabernacle of God in the wilderness (wherein many signs of His presence were given): of which this is the antitype, having previously been in heaven: Revelation 11:19:15:5 , "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven"; also Revelation 13:6 . Compare the contrast in Hebrews 9:23 Hebrews 9:14 , between "the patterns" and "the heavenly things themselves," between "the figures" and "the true." The earnest of the true and heavenly tabernacle was afforded in the Jerusalem temple described in Ezekiel 40:1-42:20', as about to be, namely, during the millennium.
dwell with them--literally, "tabernacle with them"; the same Greek word as is used of the divine Son "tabernacling among us." Then He was in the weakness of the flesh: but at the new creation of heaven and earth He shall tabernacle among us in the glory of His manifested Godhead ( Revelation 22:4 ).
they--in Greek emphatic, "they" (in particular).
his people--Greek, "His peoples": "the nations of the saved" being all peculiarly His, as Israel was designed to be. So A reads. But B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "His people": singular.
God himself . . . with them--realizing fully His name Immanuel.
4. all tears--Greek, "every tear."
no more death--Greek, "death shall be no more." Therefore it is not the millennium, for in the latter there is death ( Isaiah 65:20 , 1 Corinthians 15:26 1 Corinthians 15:54 , "the last enemy . . . destroyed is death," Revelation 20:14 , after the millennium).
passed away--Greek, "departed," as in Revelation 21:1 .
5. sat--Greek, "sitteth."
all things new--not recent, but changed from the old (Greek, "kaina," not "nea"). An earnest of this regeneration and transfiguration of nature is given already in the regenerate soul.
unto me--so Coptic and ANDREAS. But A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac omit.
true and faithful--so ANDREAS. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic transpose, "faithful and true" (literally, "genuine").
6. It is done--the same Greek as in Revelation 16:17 . "It is come to pass." So Vulgate reads with English Version. But A reads, "They ('these words,' Revelation 21:5 ) are come to pass." All is as sure as if it actually had been fulfilled for it rests on the word of the unchanging God. When the consummation shall be, God shall rejoice over the work of His own hands, as at the completion of the first creation God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good ( Genesis 1:31 ).
Alpha . . . Omega--Greek in A and B, "the Alpha . . . the Omega" ( Revelation 1:18 ).
give unto . . . athirst . . . water of life--( Revelation 22:17 , Isaiah 12:3 , 55:1 , John 4:13 John 4:14 , John 7:37 John 7:38 ). This is added lest any should despair of attaining to this exceeding weight of glory. In our present state we may drink of the stream, then we shall drink at the Fountain.
freely--Greek, "gratuitously": the same Greek as is translated, "(They hated Me) without a cause," John 15:25 . As gratuitous as was man's hatred of God, so gratuitous is God's love to man: there was every cause in Christ why man should love Him, yet man hated Him; there was every cause in man why (humanly speaking) God should have hated man, yet God loved man: the very reverse of what might be expected took place in both cases. Even in heaven our drinking at the Fountain shall be God's gratuitous gift.
7. He that overcometh--another aspect of the believer's life: a conflict with sin, Satan, and the world is needed. Thirsting for salvation is the first beginning of, and continues for ever (in the sense of an appetite and relish for divine joys) a characteristic of the believer. In a different sense, the believer "shall never thirst."
inherit all things--A, B, Vulgate, and CYPRIAN read, "these things," namely, the blessings described in this whole passage. With "all things," compare 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 .
I will be his God--Greek, "I will be to him a God," that is, all that is implied of blessing in the name "God."
he shall be my son--"He" is emphatic: He in particular and in a peculiar sense, above others: Greek, "shall be to me a son," in fullest realization of the promise made in type to Solomon, son of David, and antitypically to the divine Son of David.
8. the fearful--Greek, "the cowardly," who do not quit themselves like men so as to "overcome" in the good fight; who have the spirit of slavish "fear," not love, towards God; and who through fear of man are not bold for God, or "draw back." Compare Revelation 21:27 , 22:15 .
abominable--who have drank of the harlot's "cup of abominations."
sorcerers--one of the characteristics of Antichrist's time.
all liars--Greek, "all the liars": or else "all who are liars"; compare 1 Timothy 4:1 1 Timothy 4:2 , where similarly lying and dealings with spirits and demons, are joined together as features of "the latter times."
second death-- Revelation 20:14 : "everlasting destruction," 2 Thessalonians 1:9 , Mark 9:44 Mark 9:46 Mark 9:48 , "Where THEIR worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
9. The same angel who had shown John Babylon the harlot, is appropriately employed to show him in contrast new Jerusalem, the Bride ( Revelation 17:1-5 ). The angel so employed is the one that had the last seven plagues, to show that the ultimate blessedness of the Church is one end of the divine judgments on her foes.
unto me--A, B, and Vulgate omit.
the Lamb's wife--in contrast to her who sat on many waters ( Revelation 17:1 ), (that is, intrigued with many peoples and nations of the world, instead of giving her undivided affections, as the Bride does, to the Lamb.
10. The words correspond to Revelation 17:3 , to heighten the contrast of the bride and harlot.
mountain--Compare Ezekiel 40:2 , where a similar vision is given from a high mountain.
that great--omitted in A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and CYPRIAN. Translate then, "the holy city Jerusalem."
descending--Even in the millennium the earth will not be a suitable abode for transfigured saints, who therefore shall then reign in heaven over the earth. But after the renewal of the earth at the close of the millennium and judgment, they shall descend from heaven to dwell on an earth assimilated to heaven itself. "From God" implies that "we (the city) are God's workmanship."
11. Having the glory of God--not merely the Shekinah-cloud, but God Himself as her glory dwelling in the midst of her. Compare the type, the earthly Jerusalem in the millennium ( Zechariah 2:5 ; compare Revelation 21:23 , below).
her light--Greek, "light-giver": properly applied to the heavenly luminaries which diffuse light. Compare Note, the only other passage where it occurs. The "and" before "her light' is omitted in A, B, and Vulgate.
even like--Greek, "as it were."
jasper--representing watery crystalline brightness.
12. And--A and B omit. Ezekiel 48:30-35 , has a similar description, which implies that the millennial Jerusalem shall have its exact antitype in the heavenly Jerusalem which shall descend on the finally regenerated earth.
wall great and high--setting forth the security of the Church. Also, the exclusion of the ungodly.
twelve angels--guards of the twelve gates: an additional emblem of perfect security, while the gates being never shut ( Revelation 21:25 ) imply perfect liberty and peace. Also, angels shall be the brethren of the heavenly citizens.
names of . . . twelve tribes--The inscription of the names on the gates implies that none but the spiritual Israel, God's elect, shall enter the heavenly city. As the millennium wherein literal Israel in the flesh shall be the mother Church, is the antitype to the Old Testament earthly theocracy in the Holy Land, so the heavenly new Jerusalem is the consummation antitypical to the spiritual Israel, the elect Church of Jews and Gentiles being now gathered out: as the spiritual Israel now is an advance upon the previous literal and carnal Israel, so the heavenly Jerusalem shall be much in advance of the millennial Jerusalem.
13. On the north . . . on the south--A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "And on the north and on the south." In Ezekiel, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan (for which Manasseh is substituted in Revelation 7:6 ), are on the east ( Ezekiel 48:32 ); Reuben, Judah, Levi, are on the north ( Ezekiel 48:31 ); Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, on the south ( Ezekiel 48:33 ); Gad, Asher, Naphtali, on the west ( Ezekiel 48:34 ). In Numbers, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun are on the east ( Numbers 2:3 Numbers 2:5 Numbers 2:7 ). Reuben, Simeon, Gad, on the south ( Numbers 2:10 Numbers 2:12 Numbers 2:14 ). Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, on the west ( Numbers 2:18 Numbers 2:20 Numbers 2:22 ). Dan, Asher, Naphtali, on the north ( Numbers 2:25 Numbers 2:27 Numbers 2:29 ).
14. twelve foundations--Joshua, the type of Jesus, chose twelve men out of the people, to carry twelve stones over the Jordan with them, as Jesus chose twelve apostles to be the twelve foundations of the heavenly city, of which He is Himself the Chief corner-stone. Peter is not the only apostolic rock on whose preaching Christ builds His Church. Christ Himself is the true foundation: the twelve are foundations only in regard to their apostolic testimony concerning Him. Though Paul was an apostle besides the twelve, yet the mystical number is retained, twelve representing the Church, namely thirty the divine number, multiplied by four, the world number.
in them the names, &c.--As architects often have their names inscribed on their great works, so the names of the apostles shall be held in everlasting remembrance. Vulgate reads, "in them." But A, B, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS read, "upon them." These authorities also insert "twelve" before "names."
15. had a golden reed--so Coptic. But A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "had (as) a measure, a golden reed." In Revelation 11:2 the non-measuring of the outer courts of the temple implied its being given up to secular and heathen desecration. So here, on the contrary, the city being measured implies the entire consecration of every part, all things being brought up to the most exact standard of God's holy requirements, and also God's accurate guardianship henceforth of even the most minute parts of His holy city from all evil.
16. twelve thousand furlongs--literally, "to twelve thousand stadii": one thousand furlongs being the space between the several twelve gates. BENGEL makes the length of each side of the city to be twelve thousand stadii. The stupendous height, length, and breadth being exactly alike, imply its faultless symmetry, transcending in glory all our most glowing conceptions.
17. hundred . . . forty . . . four cubits--twelve times twelve: the Church-number squared. The wall is far beneath the height of the city.
measure of a man, that is, of the angel--The ordinary measure used by men is the measure here used by the angel, distinct from "the measure of the sanctuary." Men shall then be equal to the angels.
18. the building--"the structure" [TREGELLES], Greek, "endomeesis."
gold, like . . . clear glass--Ideal gold, transparent as no gold here is [ALFORD]. Excellencies will be combined in the heavenly city which now seem incompatible.
19. And--so Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS. But A, B, and Vulgate omit. Compare Revelation 21:14 with this verse; also Isaiah 54:11 .
all manner of precious stones--Contrast Revelation 18:12 as to the harlot, Babylon. These precious stones constituted the "foundations."
chalcedony--agate from Chalcedon: semi-opaque, sky-blue, with stripes of other colors [ALFORD].
20. sardonyx--a gem having the redness of the cornelian, and the whiteness of the onyx.
chrysolite--described by PLINY as transparent and of a golden brightness, like our topaz: different from our pale green crystallized chrysolite.
beryl--of a sea-green color.
topaz--PLINY [37.32], makes it green and transparent, like our chrysolite.
chrysoprasus--somewhat pale, and having the purple color of the amethyst [PLINY, 37, 20, 21].
jacinth--The flashing violet brightness in the amethyst is diluted in the jacinth [PLINY, 37.41].
21. every several--Greek, "each one severally."
22. no temple . . . God . . . the temple--As God now dwells in the spiritual Church, His "temple" (Greek, "naos," "shrine"; 1 Corinthians 3:17 , 6:19 ), so the Church when perfected shall dwell in Him as her "temple" (naos: the same Greek). As the Church was "His sanctuary," so He is to be their sanctuary. Means of grace shall cease when the end of grace is come. Church ordinances shall give place to the God of ordinances. Uninterrupted, immediate, direct, communion with Him and the Lamb (compare John 4:23 ), shall supersede intervening ordinances.
23. in it--so Vulgate. But A, B, and ANDREAS read, "(shine) on it," or literally, "for her."
the light--Greek, "the lamp" ( Isaiah 60:19 Isaiah 60:20 ). The direct light of God and the Lamb shall make the saints independent of God's creatures, the sun and moon, for light.
24. of them which are saved . . . in--A, B, Vulgate, Coptic, and ANDREAS read "(the nations shall walk) by means of her light": omitting "of them which are saved." Her brightness shall supply them with light.
the kings of the earth--who once had regard only to their glory, having been converted, now in the new Jerusalem do bring their glory into it, to lay it down at the feet of their God and Lord.
and honour--so B, Vulgate, and Syriac. But A omits the clause.
25. not be shut . . . by day--therefore shall never be shut: for it shall always be day. Gates are usually shut by night: but in it shall be no night. There shall be continual free ingress into it, so as that all which is blessed and glorious may continually be brought into it. So in the millennial type.
26. All that was truly glorious and excellent in the earth and its converted nations shall be gathered into it; and while all shall form one Bride, there shall be various orders among the redeemed, analogous to the divisions of nations on earth constituting the one great human family, and to the various orders of angels.
27. anything that defileth--Greek, "koinoun." A and B read [koinon,] "anything unclean."
in the Lamb's book of of the old Jerusalem was carried outside the walls and burnt there, so nothing defiled shall enter the heavenly city, but be burnt outside (compare Revelation 22:15 ). It is striking that the apostle of love, who shows us the glories of the heavenly city, is he also who speaks most plainly of the terrors of hell. On Revelation 21:26 Revelation 21:27 , ALFORD writes a Note, rash in speculation, about the heathen nations, above what is written, and not at all required by the sacred text: compare Note,