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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Revelation 20

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

The dragon is flung by an angel, not by God or messiah, into the pit of the abyss which formed his original haunt (cf. on Revelation 9:1), and there locked up, like an Arabian jin, so as to leave the earth undisturbed for the millenium. The prophet thus welds together two traditions which were originally independent. The former echoes Egyptian (E. B. D. 4, “thine enemy the serpent hath been given over to the fire, the serpent-fiend hath fallen down headlong; his arms have been bound in chains … the children of impotent revolt shall never more rise up”) and especially Parsee eschatology (Hübschmann, 227 f.) which held that one sign of the latter days was the release of the dragon Dahâka—once bound fast at mount Demavend—to corrupt the earth and eventually to be destroyed prior to the advent of the messiah and the resurrection of the dead. The Iranian view was that Fredun could not kill the serpent, whose slaughter was reserved for for Sâme (Bund. xxix. 9). But John abstains from giving any reason for the devil’s reappearance. He simply accepts the tradition and falls back (Revelation 20:3) piously upon the δεῖ of a mysterious providence. Some enigmatic hints in a late post-exilic apocalypse (Isaiah 24:21-22, the hosts on high and the kings on earth to be shut up in the prison of the pit but—after many days—to be visited, i.e., released), upon which John has already drawn, had been developed by subsequent speculation (cf. the fettering of Azazel, En. 10:4 f., 54:5 f.) into the dogma of a divine restraint placed for a time upon the evil spirit(s); see S. C. 91 f., Charles’ Eschatology, 200 f.— ἔθνη. Strictly speaking, the previous tradition (Revelation 19:18; Revelation 19:21) left no inhabitants on earth at all. Such discrepancies were inevitable in the dovetailing of disparate conceptions, but the solution of the incongruity here probably lies in the interpretation of ἔθνη as outlying nations on the fringe of the empire (8) who had not shared in the campaign of Nero-antichrist and consequently had survived the doom of the latter and his allies (cf. Revelation 18:9).


Verse 4

Revelation 20:4. θρόνους, tribunal-seats for the assessors of the divine judge (as in Daniel 7:9-10; Daniel 7:22, of which this is a replica). The unnamed occupants (saints including martyrs? as in Daniel) are allowed to manage the judicial processes (so Daniel 7:22, where the Ancient of days to τὸ κρίμα ἔδωκεν ἁγίοις ὑψίστου) which constituted a large part of Oriental government. But no stress is laid on this incidental remark, and the subjects of this sway are left undefined; they are evidently not angels (Jewish belief, shared by Paul). Such elements of vagueness suggest that John took over the trait as a detail of the traditional scenery. His real interest is in the martyrs, for whom he reserves (cf. Eus. H. E. vi. 42) the privilege assigned usually by primitive Christianity either to the apostles or to Christians in general. They are allotted the exclusive right of participating in the messianic interregnum.— πεπελεκισμένων, beheaded by the lictor’s axe, the ancient Roman method of executing criminals (cf. Introd. § 6). Under the empire citizens were usually beheaded by the sword. The archaic phrase lingered on, like our own “execution”. Here it is probably no more than a periphrasis for “put to death”. Even if καὶ οἵτινες meant a second division, it must, in the light of Revelation 11:7, Revelation 13:15, denote martyrs and confessors (who had suffered on the specific charge of refusing to worship the emperor).— χίλια ἔτη, tenfold the normal period of human life (Plato, Rep. 615), but here = the cosmic sabbath which apocalyptic and rabbinic speculation (deriving from Genesis 2:2 and Psalms 90:4) placed at the close of creation (cf. Drummond’s Jewish Messiah, 316 f.; Bacher’s Agada d. Tann.2 i. 133 f.; E. Bi. iii. 3095–3097; Encycl. of Religion and Ethics, i. 204 f., 209). John postpones the παλιγγενεσία till this period is over (contrast Matthew 19:28). He says nothing about those who were living when the millenium began, and only precarious inferences can be drawn. Does Revelation 20:6 contain the modest hope that he and other loyal Christians might participate in it? or does the second ( καὶ οἵτινες) class represent (or include) the living loyalists (so, e.g., Simcox, Weiss, Bousset)? The latter interpretation involves an awkward ambiguity in the meaning of ἔζησαν (= came to life, and also continued to live), conflicts with οἱ λ. τ. νεκρῶν (5) and ψυχὰς (4), and is therefore to be set aside, as 5–6 plainly refer to both classes of 4. A third alternative would be to suppose that all Christians were ex hypothesi dead by the time that the period of Revelation 20:1 f. arrived, the stress of persecution (cf. on Revelation 13:8 f.) having proved so severe that no loyalist could survive (cf. below, on Revelation 20:11).


Verses 4-6

Verse 6

An interpolated explanation of the preceding vision. ἅγιος, if a continuation of μακ., must almost be taken in its archaic sense of ‘belonging to God”. The ordinary meaning reduces the phrase to a hysteron proteron, unless the idea is that the bliss consists in holiness (so Vendidad xix. 22, “happy, happy the man who is holy with perfect holiness”). “Blessed and holy,” however, was a conventional Jewish term of praise and congratulation (cf. Jub. ii. 23).— δεύτ. θάνατος κ. τ. λ. According to the Hellenic faith recorded in Plutarch (in his essay on “the face in the moon’s orb”), the second death, which gently severs the mind from the soul, is a boon, not a punishment. But John’s view reflects the tradition underlying the Iranian belief (Brandt, 586 f., 592) that the righteous were exempt from the second death (defined as in Revelation 21:8). The clause ἀλλʼχριστοῦ refers to the permanent standing (Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10 a) of these risen martyrs not only during but after the millennium; otherwise it would be meaningless, since the danger of the second death (as the penalty inflicted on all who are condemned at the final assizes) does not emerge until the millennium is over. The subsequent clause καὶ βασιλεύσουσι κ. τ. λ. is independent, referring back to the special and temporary privilege of the first resurrection and the millennium. For this reason it is precarious to infer from ἔσονται ἱερεῖς τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ χριστοῦ (elsewhere τῷ θεῷ) that the occupation of these saints is the mediation of divine knowledge to the ἔθνη whom Satan is temporarily prevented from beguiling. The likelihood is that the phrase simply denotes as elsewhere the bliss of undisturbed access to God and of intimate fellowship. John ignores the current belief that the loyal survivors on earth would be rewarded (cf. Daniel 12:12; Ps. Sol. 17:50, etc.), which is voiced in Asc. Isa. iv. 14–16, but he reproduces independently the cognate view (Asc. Isa. iv. 16 f.) that “the saints will come with the Lord with their garments which are (now) stored up on high in the seventh heaven [cf. Revelation 6:11] … they will descend and be present in this world” (after which the Beloved executes judgment at the resurrection). He, retains, however, not only the general resurrection (12) but the variant and earlier idea (cf. 4 Ezra 7:26 f.) of a resurrection ( ἔζησαν, 4) confined to the saints. He calls this the first resurrection not because the martyrs and confessors who enjoyed it had to undergo a second in the process of their final redemption but because it preceded the only kind of resurrection with which sinners and even ordinary Christians had anything to do (Titius, 37–40; Baldensperger, 74, 79 f.).— καὶ βασιλεύσουσι, apparently on earth. This would be put beyond doubt were we to take the view of the risen martyrs’ occupation which has been set aside above. But, even apart from this, in the light of all relevant tradition and of the context, the earth must be the sphere of the millennium; Christ might of course be conceived to execute his sovereignty from heaven, but, though Revelation 20:9 denotes a different cycle of tradition from 4–6, it is put on the same plane, and the vision of 4 (cf. Revelation 20:1) is evidently this world. ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς would be more in keeping with this context than with that of Revelation 20:10, where again the refrain of Revelation 22:5 ( κ. β. εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων) would be more appropriate.— χίλια ἔτη. This enigmatic and isolated prediction has led to more unhappy fantasies of speculation and conduct than almost any other passage of the N.T. It stands severely apart from the sensuous expectations of current chiliasm (fertility of soil, longevity, a religious carnival, etc.), but even its earliest interpreters, Papias and Justin, failed to appreciate its reticence, its special object, and its semi-transcendent atmosphere. For its relevance, or rather irrelevance, to the normal Christian outlook, see Denney’s Studies in Theology, pp. 231 f., and A. Robertson’s Regnum Dei, pp. 113 f. When the millennium or messianic reign was thus abbreviated into a temporary phase of providence in the latter days, the resurrection had to be shifted from its original position prior to the messianic reign; it now became, as here, the sequel to that period.


Verses 7-10

As Baligant, lord of the pagans, issues from the East to challenge Charlemagne and be crushed, Satan emerges from his prison for a short period (3) after the millennium, musters an enormous army of pagans to besiege the holy capital, but is decisively routed and flung into the lake of fire to share the tortures of his former agents. The tenses shift from future (Revelation 20:7-8; Revelation 20:10 b) to aorist (Revelation 20:9-10 a) the latter (cf. Revelation 11:11) being possibly due to the influence of Semitic idiom.


Verse 8

Satan’s return to encounter irretrievable defeat upon the scene of his former successes ( ἐπʼ ἐσχάτου ἐτῶν Ezekiel 38:8), is an obscure and curious feature, borrowed in part from earlier beliefs in Judaism (Gog and the Parthians both from the dreaded N. E., Ezekiel 38:4), but directly or indirectly from a legend common to Persian and Hellenic eschatology: in the former the evil spirit has a preliminary and a final defeat, while in the latter the Titans emerge from Tartarus only to be conclusively worsted (Rohde, Psyche, 410 f.). No explanation is given of how Satan gets free. In the Iranian eschatology (Brandt, 590 f.) the serpent breaks loose at the call of Angra Mainyô (God’s opponent), seduces a part of mankind and persecutes the rest, till he is overcome by the messiah, who then proceeds to raise the dead. But as John identifies the serpent with Satan, such a theory was plainly out of the question. At any rate, Satan wins adherents for this fresh attempt from those barbarian hordes who survived the downfall of the Roman empire (Revelation 19:17-21). They are called “Gog and Magog,” after the traditional opponents who were to be defeated by the redeemed Israel of the latter days, according to the faith of Judaism (Ezekiel 38-39.). Jerusalem, the navel and centre of the earth (Ezekiel 38:12) as messiah’s residence, is besieged; but, like Gog of old, the invaders are consumed by the divine fire, whilst Satan is consigned for ever to the lake of fire, where he lies writhing among his worshippers, as a punishment for seducing men. This is at once a reminiscence of the Iranian eschatology (Hübschmann, 231), where the serpent is flung into molten metal as his final doom, in order to rid earth of his presence, and also a reflection of Enoch liv. (lxvii. 7) where the four angels grip the hosts of Azazel on the last day and “cast them into a burning furnace, that the Lord of Spirits may take vengeance on them for leading astray those who dwell on earth”.


Verse 9

παρεμβολή, either camp (as in O.T., e.g., Deuteronomy 23:14) or army (Hebrews 11:34), the saints being supposed to lie in a circle or leaguer round the headquarters of the messiah in Jerusalem, which—by an association common in the ancient world (e.g., Nineveh, “the beloved city” of her god Ishtar)—istermed his beloved city. The phrase is an implicit answer (cf. on Revelation 3:9) to the claim of contemporary Judaism which held to the title of “God’s beloved” as its monopoly (Apoc. Bar. Revelation 20:1, xxi. 21, cf. Sir. xxiv. 11). In the Hebrew Elias apocalypse of the 3rd century (cf. Buttenwieser, E. J. i. 681–2), where Gog and Magog also appear after the millennium to besiege Jerusalem, their annihilation is followed by the judgment and the descent of Jerusalem from heaven. This tradition of Revelation 20:4-10 therefore belongs to the cycle from which Revelation 11:1-13 (Revelation 14:14-20) was drawn; Jerusalem, freed from her foes and purified within, forms the headquarters of messiah’s temporary reign, tenanted not simply by devout worshippers but by martyrs (cf. Revelation 14:1-5, on mount Zion). Yet only a new and heavenly Jerusalem is finally adequate (21. f.); it descends after the last punishment and judgment (Revelation 11:15 f. = Revelation 20:10 f.). Wetstein cites from the Targ. Jonath. a passage which has suggested elements in this and in the preceding (Revelation 11:17-19) vision: a king rises in the last days from the land of Magog, et omnes populi obedient illi; after their rout by fire their corpses lie a prey to wild beasts and birds. Then “all the dead of Israel shall live … and receive the reward of their works”. In the highest spirit of the O.T., however, John rejects the horrible companion thought (En. lxxxix. 58, xciv. 10, xcvii. 2) that God gloats over the doom of the damned. An onset of foreign nations upon Jerusalem naturally formed a stereotyped feature in all Jewish expectations of latter-day horrors; here, however, as the city is ipso facto tenanted by holy citizens, the siege is ineffective (contrast Revelation 11:1 f.). Neither here nor in Revelation 19:21 are the rebellious victims consigned at death to eternal punishment, as are the beast, the false prophet, and Satan. The human tools of the latter die, but they are raised (Revelation 20:11 f.) for judgment (Revelation 20:15), though the result of their trial is a foregone conclusion (Revelation 13:8, Revelation 14:9-10). In En. vi., from which this passage borrows, Gog and Magog are represented by the Medes and the Parthians from whom (between 100 and 46 B.C.) a hostile league against Palestine might have been expected by contemporaries. But the destruction of the troops is there caused by civil dissensions. In our Apocalypse the means of destruction is supernatural fire, as in 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:4 Esd. 12:33, 13:38–39, Ap. Bar. xxvii. 10, Asc. Isa. iv. 18 (where fire issues from the Beloved to consume all the godless); the Parthians also appear some time before the end, in the penultimate stage when the Roman empire and its Nero-antichrist make their last attack. But the prophet is still left with the orthodox eschatological tradition of Gog and Magog, an episode (consecrated by the Ezekiel-prophecy and later belief) which he feels obliged to work in somehow. Hence his arrangement of Satan’s final recrudescence in juxtaposition with the Gog and Magog outburst (cf. on Revelation 16:16, and Klausner’s messian. Vorstellungen d. jüd. Volkes im Zeit. d. Tannaiten, pp. 61 f.). The latter, an honoured but by this time awkward survival of archaic eschatology, presented a similar difficulty to the Talmudic theology which variously put it before, or after, the messianic reign (Volz, pp. 175 f.). In his combination of messianic beliefs, John follows the tradition, accepted in Sib. Or. iii. 663 f., which postponed the irruption till after messiah s temporary period of power.

Revelation 20:11 to Revelation 22:5. The connexion of thought depends upon the traditional Jewish scheme outlined, e.g., in Apoc. Bar. xxix.–xxx. (cf. 4 Esd. 7:29, 30) where the messiah returns in glory to heaven after his reign on earth; the general resurrection follows, accompanied by the judgment. Developing his oracles along these current lines, the prophet now proceeds to depict his culminating vision of the End in three scenes: (1.) the world and its judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), (2.) the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1-8), centring round (3.) the new Jerusalem as the final seat of bliss (Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5). The last-named phase was associated in eschatology (Sib. Or. ver. 246 f., 414 f.) with the return of Nero redivivus and the downfall of Babylon which preceded the sacred city’s rise. The destruction of hostile forces, followed by the renovation of the universe, is essentially a Persian dogma (Stave, 180 f.), and is paralleled in the Babylonian mythology, where after the defeat and subjugation of Tiâmat in the primeval age creation commences. From this point until Revelation 21:9 f., Jesus is ignored entirely.


Verse 11

John hints where Isaiah is explicit (Revelation 6:1). Nothing is said about the uselessness of intercession; cf. 4 Ezra 7 :[102–115] 33: “and the Most High shall be revealed upon the judgment-seat, and compassion shall pass away, long-suffering shall be withdrawn”. Enoch xc. 20 sets up the throne near Jerusalem, and most apocalypses are spoiled by similarly puerile details. Compare with 11 b the tradition in Asc. Isa. iv. 18 where the voice of the Beloved (i.e., messiah) at the close of the millennium rebukes in wrath heaven and earth, the hills and cities, the angels of the sun and moon, “and all things wherein Beliar manifested himself and acted openly in this world”. John’s Apocalypse, however, follows (yet cf. Revelation 22:12) that tradition of Judaism which reserved the judgment for God and not for the messiah (2 Esdras 4:1-10; 2 Esdras 7:33 f. anti-Christian polemic?) although another conception (En. xlv. 3, lix. 27 etc.; Ap. Bar. 72:2–6) assigning it to the messiah had naturally found greater favour in certain Christian circles.


Verses 11-15

The moral dignity and reticence with which this sublime vision of the last assize is drawn, show how the primitive Christian conscience could rise above its inheritance from Jewish eschatology. The latter spoke more definitely upon the beginning of the end than upon the end itself (cf. Harnack’s History of Dogma, i. 174).


Verse 12

The books opened in God’s court contain the deeds of men, whose fate is determined by the evidence of these “vouchers for the book of life” (Alford); the latter volume forms as it were a register of those predestinated to eternal life (cf. Gfrörer ii. 121 f., and below on Revelation 20:15). The figure of books containing a record of man’s career was a realistic expression of Jewish belief in moral retribution, which prevailed especially in eschatological literature (e.g., Jubil. xxx.; Enoch. lxxxix.–xc.; Daniel 7:10, etc.) after the exile. “And in these days I saw the Head of days, when he had seated himself upon the throne of his glory, and the books of the living were opened before him” (Enoch xlvii. 3; cf. Driver’s Daniel, p. 86). It is obvious, from Revelation 20:15, that the resurrection is general (as Daniel 7:20; Daniel 4 Esd. 6:20, 7:32; Test. Judges 1:25; Test. Benj. 10; Apoc. Bar. 7, etc.; cf. Gfrörer, ii. 277 f.; and Charles’s Eschatology, 340 f.), in opposition to the primitive and still prevalent belief which confined it to the righteous (E. Bi. 1390). Hence the books contain not the good deeds alone of the saints (the prevalent Jewish idea, cf. Charles on En. 51:1; Malachi 3:16; Jub. xxx.; Psalms 56:8, etc.), nor bad deeds alone (Isaiah 65:6; En. lxxxi. 4; cf. En. xl. 20; Apoc. Bar. xxiv. 1) but good and bad deeds alike (as Daniel 7:10; Asc. Isa. ix. 20 f.). This again tallies with the Iranian faith (Hübschmann, 229), according to which, at the command of Ormuzd, the righteous and the wicked alike were raised for their recompense. Here the tribunal is a throne, before which the king’s subjects have to answer for their conduct; rebels are punished and the loyal get the reward of good service (cf. Revelation 22:12, etc.). γεγραμμ., by whom? Jewish speculation conjectured Raphael as the recording angel (En. xx. 3) or a band of angels (Slav. En. xix. 5); but the Jewish idea of the heavenly tables ( πλάκες τοῦ οὐρανοῦ) is omitted in the Apoc., nor is there the slightest mention of those living at the era of judgment. Did John mean that none would survive (cf. Revelation 20:5)? Or were any survivors to be taken directly to heaven at the coming of Christ, as in Paul’s primitive outlook (see on 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)?


Verse 13

See Pirke Aboth, iv. 32: “Let not thine imagination assure thee that the grave is an asylum” (for, like birth and life and death, judgment is appointed before the King of the kings of kings). “And the earth shall restore those that are asleep in her, and so shall the dust those that dwell therein in silence, and the secret chambers shall deliver up those souls (of the righteous, iv. 35) that were committed unto them,” 4 Esd. 7:32—reproducing, as here, Enoch li. 1, “and in those days will the earth also give back those who are treasured up within it, and Sheol also will give back that which it has received, and hell will give back that which it owes”. Also En. lxi. 5 where the restoration includes “those who have been destroyed by the desert, or devoured by the fish of the sea and by the beasts”. Evidently drowned people are supposed not to be in Hades; they wander about or drift in the ocean (Achill. Tat. ver 313), μηδὲ εἰς ᾅδου καταβαίνειν ὅλως. According to the prophet’s conception (cf. Revelation 13:8; Revelation 13:14.f.) the fate of pagans must have been a foregone conclusion, when the Imperial cultus was made the test of character; in which case “the scene before the white throne is rather a final statement of judgment than a statement of final judgment” (Gilbert). But the broader allusioni to works here shows that the prophet is thinking of the general ethical judgment, which embraced issues wider than the particular historical test of the Emperor-worship.— ᾅδης κ. τ. λ., cf. Plutarch’s (de Iside, 29) derivation of Amenthes, the Egyptian name for Hades, as “that which receives and gives”. As in Slav. En. lxv. 6 and the later Iranian Bundehesh (S. B. E. ver 123 f.), the resurrection of the body is not mentioned, though it is probably implied (cf. En. li. 1, lxii. 14 and Matthew 27:52 f.).


Verse 14

Death as Sin’s ally must be destroyed along with Sin, while Hades, the grim receptacle of Death’s prey (the intermediate rendezvous for the dead, except for martyrs, cf. Revelation 6:10), naturally ceases to have any function. This was the cherished hope of early Christianity as of Judaism (Isaiah 25:8). John’s idea of the second death is much more realistic and severe than the Hellenic or the Philonic (cf. de Proem, et Poen. §12, etc.).


Verse 15

In Enoch (xxxviii. 5, xlviii. 9) the wicked are handed over by God to the saints, before whom they burn like straw in fire and sink like lead in water. The milder spirit of the Christian prophet abstains from making the saints thus punish or witness the punishment of the doomed (cf. on Revelation 14:10). In Apoc. Pet. 25 the souls of the murdered gaze on the torture of their former persecutors, crying θεὸς, δικαία σου κρίσις. These features, together with those of torturing angels (Dieterich, 60 f.) and Dantesque gradations of punishment (Dieterich, 206 f.), are conspicuous by their absence from John’s Apocalypse. There is a stern simplicity about the whole description, and just enough pictorial detail is given to make the passage morally suggestive. As gehenna, like paradise (4 Ezra 3:4), was created before the world, according to rabbinic belief (Gfrörer, ii. 42–46), it naturally survived the collapse of the latter (Revelation 20:11). Contrast with this passage the relentless spirit of 4. Esd. 7:49 f. (“I will not mourn over the multitude of the perishing … they are set on fire and burn hotly and are quenched”). If John betrays no pity for the doomed, he exhibits no callous scorn for their fate. The order of Revelation 20:13-15 and Revelation 21:1 f. is the same as in the haggadic pseudo-Philonic De Biblic. Anti-quitatibus (after 70 A.D.) where the judgment (“reddet infernus debitum suum et perditio restituet paratecen suam, ut reddam unicuique secundum opera sua”) is followed by the renewal of all things (“et exstinguetur mors et infernus claudet os suum … et erit terra alia et caelum aliud habitaculum sempiternum”).

So much for the doomed. The bliss of saints occupies the closing vision (Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5). From the smoke and pain and heat it is a relief to pass into the clear, clean atmosphere of the eternal morning where the breath of heaven is sweet and the vast city of God sparkles like a diamond in the radiance of his presence. The dominant idea of the passage is that surroundings must be in keeping with character and prospects; consequently, as the old universe has been hopelessly sullied by sin, a new order of things must be formed, once the old scene of trial and failure is swept aside. This hope of the post-exilic Judaism (cf. Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22) was originally derived from the Persian religion, in which the renovation of the universe was a cardinal tenet; it is strongly developed in Enoch (xci. 16, civ. 2, new heaven only) and 4 Esd. 4:27 f. (“if the place where the evil is sown pass not away, there cannot come the field where the good is sown”). The expectation (cf on Romans 8:28 f.) that the loss sustained at the fall of Adam would now be made good, is handly the same as this eschatological transformation; the latter prevailed whenever the stern exigencies of the age seemed to demand a clean sweep of the universe, and the apocalyptic attitude towards nature seldom had anything of the tenderness and pathos, e.g., of 4 Esd. 8:42–48 (cf. 7:31). The sequence of Revelation 20:11 f. and Revelation 21:1 f. therefore follows the general eschatological programme, as e.g. in Apoc. Bar. xxi. 23 f., where, after death is ended (very mildly), the new world promised by God appears as the dwelling-place of the saints (cf. also 32:1 f.). The earthly Jerusalem is good enough for the millennium but not for the final bliss; the new order (Revelation 21:5) of latter (cf. above) coincides, as in Oriental religion (Jeremiah , 45 f.), with the new year (i.e., spring) festival of the god’s final victory.—The literary problem is more intricate. With Revelation 21:1-8, which is evidently the prophet’s own composition, the Apocalypse really closes. The rest of the vision, down to Revelation 22:5, is little more than a poetical repetition and elaboration ol Revelation 21:1-8, to which Revelation 22:6 f. forms the appropriate conclusion, just as the doublet Revelation 19:9 b, 10 (in its present position) does to Revelation 19:1-8. When Revelation 19:9 b, 10 is transferred to the end of 17 (see above), the parallelism becomes even closer. Both 17 (the vision of the harlot-Babylon, with her evil influence on the world, and her transient empire) and Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5 (the vision of the Lamb’s pure bride, with her endless empire) are introduced alike (cf. Revelation 17:1, Revelation 21:9) and ended alike, though Revelation 22:6-8 has been slightly expanded in view of its special position as a climax to the entire Apocalypse. As 17. represents John’s revision of an earlier source, this suggests, but does not prove, a similar origin for Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5. He might have sketched the latter as an antithesis to the former; certainly the “editorial” brushwork in Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5 is not nearly so obvious and abrupt as, e.g., in 18. Upon the other hand there are touches and traits which have been held to imply the revision of a source or sources, especially of a. Jewish character (so variously Vischer, Weyland, Ménégoz, Spitta, Sabatier, Briggs, Schmidt, S. Davidson, von Soden, de Faye, Kohler, Baljon, J. Weiss, and Forbes), delineating the new Jerusalem (cf. Revelation 21:1-2). In this event the Christian editor’s hand would be visible, not necessarily in Revelation 21:22 (see note), but in the ἀρνίον-allusions, in Revelation 21:14 b, 23 (cf. Revelation 22:5), 25 b (= Revelation 22:5 a), and 27 (= Revelation 20:15, Revelation 21:8, Revelation 22:3 a). Another set of features (Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:16; Revelation 21:24-27 a, Revelation 22:2 c, 3 a, 5) is explicable apart from the hypothesis of a Jewish source, or indeed of any source at all. Literally taken, they are incongruous. But since Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5 may be equivalent not so much to a Jewish ideal conceived sub specie Christiana as to a Christian ideal expressed in the imaginative terms of a Jewish tradition which originally depicted an earthly Jerusalem surrounded by the respectful nations of the world, a number of traits in the latter sketch would obviously be inapplicable in the new setting to which they were transferred. These are retained, however, not only for the sake of their archaic associations but in order to lend pictorial completeness to the description of the eternal city. The author, in short, is a religious poet, not a theologian or a historian. But while these archaic details need not involve the use of a Jewish source (so rightly Schön and Wellhausen), much less a reference of the whole vision to the millennial Jerusalem (Zahn), or the ascription of it to Cerinthus (Völter) or a chiliastic Jewish Christian editor (Bruston), may not the repetitions and parallelisms, especially in view of Revelation 22:6 f., indicate a composite Christian origin, as is suggested, e.g., by Erbes (A = Revelation 21:1-4, Revelation 22:3-17; Revelation 22:20-21, (920) = Revelation 21:5-27, Revelation 22:1-2; Revelation 22:18-19) and Selwyn (Revelation 22:16-21, the conclusion of (921) = Revelation 21:2, Revelation 22:3-5, Revelation 21:3-6 a, Revelation 22:7, Revelation 21:6 b–8, or of (922) = Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:2, Revelation 22:6; Revelation 22:8-15)? Some dislocation of the original autograph or scribal additions may be conjectured with reason in Revelation 22:6-21 (see below), at least. But the reiterations are intelligible enough as the work of a single writer, whose aim is to impress an audience rather than to produce a piece of literature. The likelihood is that John composed Revelation 21:9 f. as an antithesis to the description of the evil city which he had reproduced from a source in 17, and that he repeated the incident of Revelation 22:8-9 (as Revelation 19:9-10 at the end of 17), adapting it to its position at the close of the whole book as well as of the immediately preceding oracle.

 


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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/revelation-20.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, May 20th, 2019
the Fifth Week after Easter
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