Revelation 21:12
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:
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(12, 13) And had a wall great and high . . .—Or, better (for the construction is continued), Having a wall great and high, and having twelve gate-towers, and at the gate-towers twelve angels, and names inscribed which are (names) of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel: from the sun-rising (i.e., facing east) three gate-towers; from the north three gate-towers, from the south three gate-towers; from the sun-setting three gate-towers. On this arrangement of gates Numbers 2, Ezekiel 48, and Revelation 7 should be compared. In the encampment in the wilderness (Numbers 2) the tribes were arranged as follows: on the east, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun; on the south, Reuben, Simeon, Gad; on the west, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin; on the north, Dan, Asher, Naphtali. There is perhaps allusion in the present passage to this wilderness encampment, and to the re-adjustment of the order of the tribes in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 48); but there is more than order here: the gates lie open to all quarters; there is no refusal of admission to any people. The representatives of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, are (Revelation 7:9) in the city of Christ; in Him there is neither barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but all are one. The diversities of human nationality and character, of age and race, and climate, are brought into one communion and fellowship. (Comp. Note on Revelation 7:4.) “The wall great and high” is mentioned to assure us of the security and peace of that city where no foe “or thief approacheth” (Isaiah 26:1; Zechariah 2:5).

21:9-21 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.And had a wall great and high - Ancient cities were always surrounded with walls for protection, and John represents this as enclosed in the usual manner. The word "great" means that it was thick and strong. Its height also is particularly noticed, for it was unusual. See Revelation 21:16.

And had twelve gates - Three on each side. The number of the gates correspond to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and to the number of the apostles. The idea seems to be that there would be ample opportunity of access and egress.

And at the gates twelve angels - Stationed there as guards to the New Jerusalem. Their business seems to have been to watch the gates that nothing improper should enter; that the great enemy should not make an insidious approach to this city as he did to the earthly paradise.

And names written thereon - On the gates.

Which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel - So in the city which Ezekiel saw in vision, which John seems also to have had in his eye. See Ezekiel 48:31. The inscription in Ezekiel denoted that that was the residence of the people of God; and the same idea is denoted here. The New Jerusalem is the eternal residence of the children of God, and this is indicated at every gate. None can enter who do not belong to that people; all who are within are understood to be of their number.

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.

And had a wall, that is, this city, by which is meant the church of God,

had a wall great and high. Walls are for the protection and defence of a place; the higher and greater they are, the greater defence and protection they give. By this God is meant, who is often called his people’s Rock and Defence.

And had twelve gates: the use of the gates of a city, are to let persons in and out. The church is said to have twelve gates, because of the free liberty of access to the church while it was militant, and to signify that the church in heaven will be made up of persons come into it from all parts; or for the greater state and glory of it. Some think, because of the twelve apostles, who were the first ministers of the gospel who admitted men into this church.

And at the gates twelve angels; denoting the guard of angels about the church; unless by angels ministers be to be understood, proportioned to the several parts of the church.

And names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel; because as, of old, only the twelve tribes of God’s chosen people Israel made up the church in that period; so only God’s elect and peculiar people, typified by that Israel, come in at the gates of this church. It is very observable, how God affects the number of twelve in the affairs of his church.

And had a wall great and high,.... Not the Spirit of God, who separates, sanctifies, and preserves the saints, as Cocceius thinks, for this account respects not the church militant; nor the eternal decree of God, the unpassable gulf between heaven and hell, which everlastingly fixes the state of men; for this regards not the ultimate state of happiness: many interpreters understand it of the doctrine of the Gospel, which, as it secures the church now from heretics, and is like a wall very strong and well built, is durable and impregnable; and may be called "great", because of the great Author of it, and the great things contained in it; and "high", since it is not to be reached by carnal minds; so none but such who have embraced it shall enter into the new Jerusalem; for all liars, and forgers of doctrinal lies, and who embrace the antichristian lies, shall be without. Though rather the almighty power of God, which guards his church and people now, and will be their defence in this state, is meant; and which shows the state not to be that of the ultimate glory, which will need no wall, but this will; since an attempt will be made upon the saints in it, though it will be a foolish and fruitless one: and this wall of divine power is very great indeed, and is insuperable by men; God himself is a wall of fire about his people; though it may be best to interpret this of salvation itself, which is by Jesus Christ, if we compare with this text Isaiah 26:1 for those, and those only, who are interested in it, will dwell in the new Jerusalem; and salvation in this state will be enjoyed in its fulness; and this is very great in its author, objects, and matter, being wrought out by the great God, for great sinners, at a great expense, and including grace and glory, and not to be got over or enjoyed by those who have no interest in it.

And had twelve gates; though, strictly speaking, there is but one gate, and that a strait one, which is the Lord Jesus Christ, his person, blood, righteousness, regenerating and sanctifying grace; for as he is the only door into the sheepfold, the church, in its present state, or he only that has faith in him has a right to enter there, and is the only way to heaven and eternal happiness; so he is the only gate into the new Jerusalem, or such only will be admitted there, who are interested in him: but these gates are said to be twelve, in allusion to the twelve apostles, who pointed out to men the way of salvation by Christ; and to the twelve tribes of Israel, who represent all the elect of God, who enter in thereat; and to the twelve gates of Ezekiel's city, Ezekiel 48:31.

And at the gates twelve angels; meaning either the ministering spirits, in allusion to the cherubim in Genesis 3:24 who are watchers, and encamp about the saints now, and will, as it were, stand sentinels in this camp of the saints, as it is called, Revelation 20:8 and besides, will be made use of in gathering the saints from the several parts of the world, and introducing them into this state; or else the apostles and ministers of the word, often called angels in this book, who will shine with peculiar lustre now, and will appear at the head of the several companies they have been useful to, and bring them as their joy and crown of rejoicing into this glorious state: this clause is wanting in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Syriac version. The Jews speak of "princes", being appointed over the gates of heaven, east, west, north, and south, with the keys in their hands, whose names they give us (f).

And names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel; not literal, but mystical Israel, whom God has chosen to salvation, Christ has redeemed by his blood, and the Spirit calls by his grace; denoting that all, and each of these, have a right to enter into the new Jerusalem, and will be admitted there, and none but they. In like manner the Jews (g) make mention of a court of the Lord,

"which has twelve gates, according to the computation of the tribes of Israel; on one gate is written Reuben, on another is written Simeon; and so all the tribes of Israel are written on those gates; in the time they go up to appear before the Lord of the world, whoever goes up to this gate, (on which the tribe of Reuben is written,) if he is of the tribe of Reuben they open to him, (and receive him,) if not they cast him without; and so of all whom they do not receive; they open to none but to him who is of that tribe, or whose name is written on the gate.''

(f) Raziel, fol. 35. 2.((g) Zohar in Numb. fol. 70. 4.

{9} And had a wall great and high, and had {10} twelve gates, and at the gates {11} twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:

(9) A particular description of the celestial Church, first, by its essential parts, compared to a city down to verse 22, Re 21:12-22. Secondly, from the outside, to the end of the chapter Re 21:23-27. Thirdly, by the effects, in the beginning of the next chapter, the essential parts are noted the matter and the form in the whole work: of these the superstructure and foundation of the wall are entire parts (as they use to be called) which parts are first described in figure, to the 14th verse afterwards more exactly.

(10) According to the number of the tribes. For here the outward part is attributed to the Old Testament, and the foundation of the New Testament.

(11) He means the prophets, who are the messengers of God, and watchmen of the Church.

Revelation 21:12-21. The wall and the gates of the city. The harmonious proportions are given,[4297] according to the holy number twelve of the O. T. people of God.

ἈΓΓΈΛΟΥς ΔΏΔΕΚΑ. Correctly, Bengel: “They keep watch, and serve as an ornament. More definite references dare not be sought; as soon as we reflect that the new Jerusalem is no longer threatened by enemies, and therefore needs no watchmen of its gates, explanations result like that of Hengstenb., viz., that these angels symbolize the Divine protection against enemies “which could be conceived of only by an imagination filled with terrors, proceeding from the Church militant.”

ὈΝΌΜΑΤΑ ἘΠΙΓΕΓΡΑΜΜΈΝΑ, Κ.Τ.Λ. It does not follow that John wanted this idea, based upon Ezekiel 48:31 sqq., to be understood as it occurs in Jewish theology,[4298] viz., that members of one tribe could make use of only one door.

As the walls on all four sides have each three gates (Revelation 21:13), it follows (Revelation 21:14) that there are twelve sections of the wall, each of which is supported by a ΘΕΜΈΛΙΟς; four of these are to be regarded as massive corner-stones, since these support the corner-pieces which extend from the third gate of the one side to the first gate of the following side. The twelve corner-stones lie open to view, at least so far that their splendor can be perceived,[4299] and the inscriptions found thereon, viz., the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, can be read. In explanation of the latter idea, Calov., etc., have properly appealed to Ephesians 2:20. [See Note XCV., p. 485.]

[4297] Cf. Ezekiel 48:30 sqq.

[4298] Cf. De Wette.

[4299] Cf. Revelation 21:19 sq.


XCV. Revelation 21:14. ὀνόματα τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων

Calov.: “The apostles, who, by their living voice and literary records, founded the Church, and upon whose doctrine and writings it rests as on an immovable foundation.” Hengstenberg: “The twelve apostles are the most noble bulwark of the Church, the chief channel through which the preserving grace of God flows forth to it. If, even in the new Jerusalem, they are the foundation on which the security of the Church against all conceivable dangers depends, they must also be the bulwark through all periods of the Church militant. But this passage, and that of Matthew 19:28, where the twelve apostles appear in the ‘regeneration,’—the new Jerusalem,—as the heads of the Church, are a sufficient answer to those who maintain that the apostolate is a continuous institution, and expect salvation for the Church by subjection to pretended new apostles. The Lord himself, and the disciple whom he loved, knew only of twelve apostles. The twelve apostles are forever. That in the corner-stone, besides the apostles, there are also prophets, is only a seeming variation. For that the prophets are not those of the O. T., but of the N. T., and personally identical with the apostles, is clear from the parallel passages Revelation 3:5, Revelation 4:11.”

ἔχουσα. The constr. becomes still more irregular, the participles agreeing with an imaginary nominative, ἡ πόλις, sugg. by ὁ φωστήρ. The inscribed names denote the catholicity of the church and its continuity with the ancient people of God. A writer who could compose, or incorporate, or retain (as we choose to put it), passages like Revelation 5:9 and Revelation 14:4, is not to be suspected of particularism here. Even on the score of poetic congruity, the new Jerusalem implied such an archaic and traditional allusion to the twelve tribes. The angelic guardians of the gates are an Isaianic trait added to the Ezekiel picture.

12. and had] Lit. having; but there is a break in the construction, at least as marked as that given by the A. V.

a wall great and high] Its exact height is stated in Revelation 21:17.

twelve gates … Israel] So Ezekiel 48:31-34. Probably the order of the names on the gates would be the same as there; but the order can hardly be pressed as important, since it is quite different from that of the foursquare encampment in the wilderness, Numbers 2. The 12 gates of heaven in Enoch xxxiii–xxxv. do not really present a very close parallel to these.

twelve angels] As porters and sentinels. Such officers are in keeping with the image of a well-ordered city, though in fact neither they, nor walls and gates, are practically needed in this City of Peace.

Revelation 21:12. Ἔχουσα) Respecting the nominative case see Apparat. p. 778.[230]—ΤΕῖΧΟςΠΥΛῶΝΑς, a wallgates) An inverted Chiasmus: comp. Revelation 21:12-13 with Revelation 21:14.—ἐπὶ) Here it is said ἘΠῚ ΠΥΛῶΣΙΝ ὈΝΌΜΑΤΑ But Ezekiel 48:31, ΑἹ ΠΎΛΑΙ ἘΠʼ ὈΝΌΜΑΣΙ ΤῶΝ ΦΥΛῶΝ ΤΟῦ ἸΣΡΑΉΛ. ἘΠῚ (עַל) has a variety of meaning; it does not mean a higher place only.

[230] AB have ἔχουσα: Rec. Text, ἔχουσαν τε, without good authority. So in the case of the 2d ἔχουσα, which Vulg. also supports, besides AB.—E.

Verse 12. - And had a wall great and high; having a wall. Omit each introductory "and." The wall is a type of the absolute security of the heavenly city; not that any further assault is expected. In Ezekiel 38:11 Gog and Magog prey upon the unwalled villages. 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 (cf. the description in Ezekiel 48.). Twelve; as signifying completeness (cf. Revelation 4:9; Revelation 7:4-8), and as being the number of the tribes of Israel, which are the type of the spiritual Israel of God. Gates; rather, portals. The picture of the angels placed at the portals, still fulfilling their mission as guardians of men, shows the absolute security of the city. The names are written thereon: as on the stones of the ephod (Exodus 28:9) and breastplate (Exodus 39:14). Contrast the names of blasphemy (Revelation 18:3). Revelation 21:12And had (ἔχουσάν τε)

Rev., more simply and literally, having.

Gates (πυλῶνας)

Properly large gates. See on Luke 16:20; see on Acts 12:13. Compare Ezekiel 48:30 sqq.

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