Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
Re 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 2Pe 3:10, 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 Ge 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, Re 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 Re 22:1, 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.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
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," Re 21:1, and the "new Jerusalem" in this verse.
Jerusalem … out of heaven—(Re 3:12; Ga 4:26, "Jerusalem which is above"; Heb 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 (Re 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 (Ga 4:26; compare Ga 1:17, 18; 2:1; Heb 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, Re 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.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
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: Re 11:19; 15:5, "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven"; also Re 13:6. Compare the contrast in Heb 9:23, 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 Eze 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 (Re 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.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
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 (Isa 65:20; 1Co 15:26, 54, "the last enemy … destroyed is death," Re 20:14, after the millennium).
passed away—Greek, "departed," as in Re 21:1.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
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").
And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
6. It is done—the same Greek as in Re 16:17. "It is come to pass." So Vulgate reads with English Version. But A reads, "They ('these words,' Re 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 (Ge 1:31).
Alpha … Omega—Greek in A and B, "the Alpha … the Omega" (Re 1:18).
give unto … athirst … water of life—(Re 22:17; Isa 12:3; 55:1; Joh 4:13, 14; 7:37, 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," Joh 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.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
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 1Co 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.
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
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 Re 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 1Ti 4:1, 2, where similarly lying and dealings with spirits and demons, are joined together as features of "the latter times."
second death—Re 20:14: "everlasting destruction," 2Th 1:9; Mr 9:44, 46, 48, "Where THEIR worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.
9. The same angel who had shown John Babylon the harlot, is appropriately employed to show him in contrast new Jerusalem, the Bride (Re 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 (Re 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.
And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
10. The words correspond to Re 17:3, to heighten the contrast of the bride and harlot.
mountain—Compare Eze 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."
Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
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 (Zec 2:5; compare Re 21:23, below).
her light—Greek, "light-giver": properly applied to the heavenly luminaries which diffuse light. Compare Note, see on Php 2:15, 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.
And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
12. And—A and B omit. Eze 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 (Re 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.
On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
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 Re 7:6), are on the east (Eze 48:32); Reuben, Judah, Levi, are on the north (Eze 48:31); Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, on the south (Eze 48:33); Gad, Asher, Naphtali, on the west (Eze 48:34). In Numbers, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun are on the east (Nu 2:3, 5, 7). Reuben, Simeon, Gad, on the south (Nu 2:10, 12, 14). Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, on the west (Nu 2:18, 20, 22). Dan, Asher, Naphtali, on the north (Nu 2:25, 27, 29).
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
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."
And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
15. had a golden reed—so Coptic. But A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "had (as) a measure, a golden reed." In Re 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.
And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.
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.
And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.
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.
And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
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.
And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
19. And—so Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas. But A, B, and Vulgate omit. Compare Re 21:14 with this verse; also Isa 54:11.
all manner of precious stones—Contrast Re 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].
The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
20. sardonyx—a gem having the redness of the cornelian, and the whiteness of the onyx.
sardius—(See on Re 4:3).
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].
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
21. every several—Greek, "each one severally."
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
22. no temple … God … the temple—As God now dwells in the spiritual Church, His "temple" (Greek, "naos," "shrine"; 1Co 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 Joh 4:23), shall supersede intervening ordinances.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
23. in it—so Vulgate. But A, B, and Andreas read, "(shine) on it," or literally, "for her."
the light—Greek, "the lamp" (Isa 60:19, 20). The direct light of God and the Lamb shall make the saints independent of God's creatures, the sun and moon, for light.
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
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.
And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
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.
And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
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.
And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.
27. anything that defileth—Greek, "koinoun." A and B read [koinon,] "anything unclean."
in the Lamb's book of life—(See on Re 20:12; Re 20:15). As all the filth 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 Re 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 Re 21:26, 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, see on Re 21:26.