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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 21

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Analysis Of Revelation 21:0 And Revelation 22:1-5

The whole of Revelation 21:0, and the first five verses of Revelation 22:0, relate to scenes beyond the judgment, and are descriptive of the happy and triumphant state of the redeemed church, when all its conflicts shall have ceased, and all its enemies shall have been destroyed. That happy state is depicted under the image of a beautiful city, of which Jerusalem was the emblem, and it was disclosed to John by a vision of that city - the New Jerusalem - descending from heaven. Jerusalem was regarded as the unique dwelling-place of God, and to the Hebrews it became thus the natural emblem or symbol of the heavenly world. The conception having occurred of describing the future condition of the righteous under the image of a beautiful city, all that follows is in “keeping” with that, and is merely a carrying out of the image. It is a city with beautiful walls and gates; a city that has no temple - for it is all a temple; a city that needs no light - for God is its light; a city into which nothing impure ever enters; a city filled with trees, and streams, and fountains, and fruits - the “Paradise Regained.”

The description of that blessed state comprises the following parts:

I. A vision of a new heaven and a new earth, as the final abode of the blessed, Revelation 21:1. The first heaven and the first earth passed away at the judgment Revelation 20:11-15, to be succeeded by a new heaven and earth suited to be the abode of the blessed.

II. A vision of the holy city - the New Jerusalem - descending from heaven, as the abode of the redeemed, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband - representing the fact that God would truly abide with men, Revelation 21:2-4. Now all the effects of the apostasy will cease; all tears will be wiped away, and in that blessed state there will be no more death, or sorrow, or pain. This contains the “general” statement of what will be the condition of the redeemed in the future world. God will be there; and all sorrow will cease.

III. A command to make a record of these things, Revelation 21:5.

IV. A general description of those who should dwell in that future world of blessedness, Revelation 21:6-8. It is for all who are athirst; for all who desire it, and long for it; for all who “overcome” their spiritual enemies, who maintain a steady conflict with sin, and gain a victory over it. But all who are fearful and unbelieving - all the abominable, and murderers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and liars - shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. That is, that world will be pure and holy.

V. A minute description of the city representing the happy abode of the redeemed, Revelation 21:9-26. This description embraces many particulars:

(1) Its general appearance, Revelation 21:11, Revelation 21:18, Revelation 21:21. It is bright and splendid - like a precious jasper-stone, clear as crystal, and composed of pure gold.

(2) Its walls, Revelation 21:12, Revelation 21:18. The walls are represented as “great and high,” and as composed of “jasper.”

(3) Its gates, Revelation 21:12-13, Revelation 21:21. The gates are twelve in number, three on each side; and are each composed of a single pearl.

(4) Its foundations, Revelation 21:14, Revelation 21:18-20. There are twelve foundations, corresponding to the number of the apostles of the Lamb. They are all composed of precious stones - jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprasus, jacinth, and amethyst.

(5) Its size; Revelation 21:15-17. It is square - the length being as great as the breadth, and its height the same. The extent of each dimension is twelve thousand furlongs - a length on each side and in height of three hundred and seventy-five miles. It would seem, however, that though the “city” was of that height, the “wall” was only an hundred and forty-four cubits, or about two hundred and sixteen feet high. The idea seems to be that the city - the dwellings within it - towered high above the wall that was thrown around it for protection. This is not uncommon in cities that are surrounded by walls.

(6) Its light, Revelation 21:23-24; Revelation 22:5. It has no need of the sun, or of the moon, or of a lamp Revelation 22:5 to lighten it; and yet there is no night there Revelation 22:5, for the glory of God gives light to it.

(7) It is a city without a temple, Revelation 21:22. There is no one place in it that is especially sacred, or where the worship of God will be exclusively celebrated. It will be all a temple, and the worship of God will be celebrated in all parts of it.

(8) It is always open, Revelation 21:25. There will be no need of closing it as walled cities on earth are closed to keep enemies out, and it will not be shut to prevent those who dwell there from going out and coming in when they please. The inhabitants will not be prisoners, nor will they be in danger, or be alarmed by the prospect of an attack from an enemy.

(9) Its inhabitants will all be pure and holy, Revelation 21:27. There will in no wise enter there anything that defiles, or that works abomination, or that is false. They only shall dwell there whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

(10) its enclosures and environs, Revelation 22:1-2. A stream of water, pure as crystal, proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb. That stream flows through the city, and on its banks is the tree of life constantly bearing fruit - fruit to be partaken of freely. It is Paradise regained - a holy and beautiful abode, of which the garden of Eden was only an imperfect emblem, where there is no prohibition, as there was there, of anything that grows, and where there is no danger of falling into sin.

(11) it is a place free, consequently, from the curse that was pronounced on man when he forfeited the blessings of the first Eden, and when he was driven out from the happy abodes where God had placed him.

(12) it is a place where the righteous shall reign forever, Revelation 22:5. Death shall never enter there, and the presence and glory of God shall fill all with peace and joy.

Such is an outline of the figurative and glowing description of the future blessedness of the redeemed; the eternal abode of those who shall be saved. It is poetic and emblematical; but it is elevating, and constitutes a beautiful and appropriate close, not only of this single book, but of the whole sacred volume - for to this the saints are everywhere directed to look forward; this is the glorious termination of all the struggles and conflicts of the church; this is the result of the work of redemption in repairing the evils of the fall, and in bringing man to more than the bliss which he lost in Eden. The mind rests with delight on this glorious prospect; the Bible closes, as a revelation from heaven should, in a manner that calms down every anxious feeling; that fills the soul with peace, and that leads the child of God to look forward with bright anticipations, and to say, as John did, “Come, Lord Jesus,” Revelation 22:20.

Verse 1

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth - Such a heaven and earth that they might properly be called new; such transformations, and such changes in their appearance, that they seemed to be just created. He does not say that they were created now, or anew; that the old heavens and earth were annihilated; but all that he says is, that there were such changes that they seemed to be new. If the earth is to be renovated by fire, such a renovation will give an appearance to the globe as if it were created anew, and might be attended with such an apparent change in the heavens that they might be said to be new. The description here Revelation 21:1 relates to scenes after the general resurrection and the judgment - for those events are detailed in the close of the previous chapter. In regard to the meaning of the language here, see the notes on 2 Peter 3:13. Compare, also, “The Religion of Geology and its Connected Sciences,” by Edward Hitchcock, D. D., LL. D., pp. 370-408.

For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away - They had passed away by being changed, and a renovated universe had taken their place. See the notes on 2 Peter 3:10.

And there was no more sea - This change struck John more forcibly, it would appear, than anything else. Now, the seas and oceans occupy about three-fourths of the surface of the globe, and, of course, to that extent prevent the world from being occupied by people - except by the comparatively small number that are mariners. There, the idea of John seems to be, the whole world will be inhabitable, and no part will be given up to the wastes of oceans. In the present state of things, these vast oceans are necessary to render the world a fit abode for human beings, as well as to give life and happiness to the numberless tribes of animals that find their homes in the waters. In the future state, it would seem, the present arrangement will be unnecessary; and if man dwells upon the earth at all, or if he visits it as a temporary abode (see the notes on 2 Peter 3:13), these vast wastes of water will be needless. It should be remembered that the earth, in its changes, according to the teachings of geology, has undergone many revolutions quite as remarkable as it would be if all the lakes, and seas, and oceans of the earth should disappear. Still, it is not certain that it was intended that this language should be understood literally as applied to the material globe. The object is to describe the future blessedness of the righteous; and the idea is, that that will be a world where there will be no such wastes as those produced by oceans.

Verse 2

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven - See the Analysis of the chapter. On the phrase “new Jerusalem,” see the Galatians 4:26 note, and Hebrews 12:22 note. Here it refers to the residence of the redeemed, the heavenly world, of which Jerusalem was the type and symbol. It is here represented as “coming down from God out of heaven.” This, of course, does not mean that this great city was “literally” to descend upon the earth, and to occupy any one part of the renovated world; but it is a symbolical or figurative representation, designed to show that the abode of the righteous will be splendid and glorious. The idea of a city literally descending from heaven, and being set upon the earth with such proportions - three hundred and seventy miles high Revelation 21:16, made of gold, and with single pearls for gates, and single gems for the foundations - is absurd. No man can suppose that this is literally true, and hence this must be regarded as a figurative or emblematic description. It is a representation of the heavenly state under the image of a beautiful city, of which Jerusalem was, in many respects, a natural and striking emblem.

Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband - See the notes on Isaiah 49:18; Isaiah 61:10. The purpose here is, to represent it as exceedingly beautiful. The comparison of the church with a bride, or a wife, is common in the Scriptures. See the Revelation 19:7-8 notes, and Isaiah 1:21 note. It is also common in the Scriptures to compare a city with a beautiful woman, and these images here seem to be combined. It is a beautiful city that seems to descend, and this city is itself compared with a richly-attired bride prepared for her husband,

Verse 3

And I heard a great voice out of heaven - As if uttered by God himself or the voice, of angels.

Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men - The tabernacle, as that word is commonly used in the Scriptures, referring to the sacred “tent” erected in the wilderness, was regarded as the unique dwelling-place of God among his people - as the temple was afterward, which was also called a “tabernacle.” See the notes on Hebrews 9:2. The meaning here is, that God would now dwell with the redeemed, as if in a tabernacle, or in a house specially prepared for his residence among them. It is not said that this would be “on the earth,” although that may be; for it is possible that the earth, as well as other worlds, may yet become the abode of the redeemed. See the notes on 2 Peter 3:13.

And he will dwell with them - As in a tent, or tabernacle - σκηνώσει skēnōsei. This is a common idea in the Scriptures.

And they shall be his people - He will acknowledge them in this public way as his own, and will dwell with them as such.

And God himself shall be with them - Shall be permanently with them; shall never leave them.

And be their God - Shall manifest himself as such, in such a manner that there shall be no doubt.

Verse 4

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes - This will be one of the characteristics of that blessed state, that not a tear shall ever be shed there. How different will that be from the condition here - for who is there here who has not learned to weep? See the notes on Revelation 7:17. Compare the notes on Isaiah 25:8.

And there shall be no more death - In all that future world of glory, not one shall ever die; not a grave shall ever be dug! What a view do we begin to get of heaven, when we are told there shall be no “death” there! How different from earth, where death is so common; where it spares no one; where our best friends die; where the wise, the good, the useful, the lovely die; where fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, all die; where we habitually feel that we must die. Assuredly we have here a view of heaven most glorious and animating to those who dwell in a world like this, and to whom nothing is more common than death. In all their endless and glorious career, the redeemed will never see death again; they will never themselves die. They will never follow a friend to the tomb, nor fear that an absent friend is dead. The slow funeral procession will never be witnessed there; nor will the soil ever open its bosom to furnish a grave. See the notes on 1 Corinthians 15:55.

Neither sorrow - The word “sorrow” here - πένθος penthos - denotes sorrow or grief of any kind; sorrow for the loss of property or friends; sorrow for disappointment, persecution, or care; sorrow over our sins, or sorrow that we love God so little, and serve him so unfaithfully; sorrow that we are sick, or that we must die. How innumerable are the sources of sorrow here; how constant is it on the earth! Since the fall of man there has not been a day, an hour, a moment, in which this has not been a sorrowful world; there has not been a nation, a tribe - a city or a village - nay, not a family, where there has not been grief. There has been no individual who has been always perfectly happy. No one rises in the morning with any certainty that he may not end the day in grief; no one lies down at night with any assurance that it may not be a night of sorrow. How different would this world be if it were announced that henceforward there would be no sorrow! How different, therefore, will heaven be when we shall have the assurance that henceforward grief shall be at an end!

Nor crying - κραυγὴ kraugē.” This word properly denotes a cry, an outcry, as in giving a public notice; a cry in a tumult - a clamor, Acts 23:9; and then a cry of sorrow, or wailing. This is evidently its meaning here, and it refers to all the outbursts of grief arising from affliction, from oppression, from violence. The sense is, that as none of these causes of wailing will be known in the future state, all such wailing will cease. This, too, will make the future state vastly different from our condition here; for what a change would it produce on the earth if the cry of grief were never to be heard again!

Neither shall there be any more pain - There will be no sickness, and no calamity; and there will be no mental sorrow arising from remorse, from disappointment, or from the evil conduct of friends. And what a change would this produce - for how full of pain is the world now! How many lie on beds of languishing; how many are suffering under incurable diseases; how many are undergoing severe surgical operations; how many are pained by the loss of property or friends, or subjected to acuter anguish by the misconduct of those who are loved! How different would this world be, if all pain were to cease forever; how different, therefore, must the blessed state of the future be from the present!

For the former things are passed away - The world as it was before the judgment.

Verse 5

And he that sat upon the throne said - Probably the Messiah, the dispenser of the rewards of heaven. See the notes on Revelation 20:11.

Behold, I make all things new - A new heaven and new earth Revelation 21:1, and an order of things to correspond with that new creation. The former state of things when sin and death reigned will be changed, and the change consequent on this must extend to everything.

And he said unto me, Write - Make a record of these things, for they are founded in truth, and they are adapted to bless a suffering world. Compare the notes on Revelation 14:13. See also Revelation 1:19.

For these words are true and faithful - They are founded in truth, and they are worthy to be believed. See the notes on Revelation 19:9. Compare also notes on Daniel 12:4.

Verse 6

And he said unto me - That is, he that sat on the throne - the Messiah.

It is done - It is finished, complete; or, still more expressively, “it is” - γέγοναν gegonan. An expression remarkably similar to this occurs in John 19:30, when the Saviour on the cross said, “It is finished.” The meaning in the passage before us evidently is, “The great work is accomplished; the arrangement of human affairs is complete. The redeemed are gathered in; the wicked are cut off; truth is triumphant, and all is now complete - prepared for the eternal state of things.”

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end - This language makes it morally certain that the speaker here is the Lord Jesus, for it is the very language which he uses of himself in Revelation 1:11. See its meaning explained in the notes on Revelation 1:8. If it is applied to him here, it proves that he is divine, for in the following verse (7) The speaker says that he would be a God to him who should “overcome.” The meaning of the language as used here, regarded as spoken by the Redeemer at the consummation of all things, and as his people are about entering into the abodes of blessedness, is, “I am now indeed the Alpha and the Omega - the first and the last. The attributes implied in this language which I claimed for myself are now verified in me, and it is seen that these properly belong to me. The scheme for setting up a kingdom in the lost world began in me, and it ends in me - the glorious and triumphant king.”

I will give unto him that is athirst - See the Matthew 5:6 note; John 4:14; John 7:37 notes.

Of the fountain of the water of life - An image often used in the Scriptures to represent salvation. It is compared with a fountain that flows in abundance, where all may freely slake their thirst.

Freely - Without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1 note; John 7:37 note); the common representation in the Scriptures. The meaning here is, not that he would do this in the future, but that he had shown that this was his character, as he had claimed, in the same way as he had shown that he was the Alpha and the Omega. The freeness and the fulness of salvation will be one of the most striking things made manifest when the immense hosts of the redeemed shall be welcomed to their eternal abodes.

Verse 7

He that overcometh - See the notes on Revelation 2:7.

Shall inherit all things - Be an heir of God in all things. See the notes on Romans 8:17. Compare Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:12, Revelation 3:21.

And I will be his God - That is, forever. He would be to them all that is properly implied in the name of God; he would bestow upon them all the blessings which it was appropriate for God to bestow. See the 2 Corinthians 6:18 note; Hebrews 8:10 note.

And he shall be my son - He shall sustain to me the relation of a son, and shall be treated as such. He would ever onward sustain this relation, and be honored as a child of God.

Verse 8

But the fearful - Having stated, in general terms, who they were who would be admitted into that blessed world, he now states explicitly who would not. The “fearful” denote those who had not firmness boldly to maintain their professed principles, or who were afraid to avow themselves as the friends of God in a wicked world. They stand in contrast with those who “overcome,” Revelation 21:7.

And unbelieving - Those who have not true faith; avowed infidels; infidels at heart; and all who have not the sincere faith of the gospel. See the notes on Mark 16:16.

And the abominable - The verb from which this word is derived means to excite disgust; to feel disgust at; to abominate or abhor; and hence the participle - “the abominable” - refers to all who are detestable, to wit, on account of their sins; all whose conduct is offensive to God. Thus it would include those who live in open sin; who practice detestable vices; whose conduct is suited to excite disgust and abhorrence. These must all, of course, be excluded from a pure and holy world; and this description, alas! would embrace a lamentably large portion of the world as it has hitherto been. See the notes on Romans 1:26 ff.

And murderers - See the Romans 1:29 note; Galatians 5:21 note.

And whoremongers - See the notes on Galatians 5:19.

And sorcerers - See the word used here - φαρμακεῦσι pharmakeusi - explained in the notes on Galatians 5:19, under the word “witchcraft.”

And idolaters - 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19.

And all liars - All who are false in their statements, their promises, their contracts. The word would embrace all who are false toward God Acts 5:1-3, and false toward human beings. See Romans 1:31.

Shall have their part in the lake which burneth, ... - notes on Revelation 20:14. That is, they will be excluded from heaven, and punished for ever. See the 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 notes; Galatians 5:19-21 notes.

Verse 9

And there came unto me one of the seven angels ... - See the notes on Revelation 16:6-7. Why one of these angels was employed to make this communication is not stated. It may be that as they had been engaged in bringing destruction on the enemies of the church, and securing its final triumph, there was a propriety that that triumph should be announced by one of their number.

And talked with me - That is, in regard to what he was about to show me.

I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife - I will show you what represents the redeemed church now to be received into permanent union with its Lord - as a bride about to be united to her husband. See the notes on ver. 2. Compare Revelation 19:7-8.

Verse 10

And he carried me away in the spirit - Gave him a vision of the city; seemed to place him where he could have a clear view of it as it came down from heaven. See the notes on Revelation 1:10.

To a great and high mountain - The elevation, and the unobstructed range of view, gave him an opportunity to behold it in its glory.

And showed me that great city, ... - As it descended from heaven. See the notes on Revelation 21:2.

Verse 11

Having the glory of God - A glory or splendor such as became the dwelling place of God. The nature of that splendor is described in the following verses.

And her light - In Revelation 21:23 it is said that “the glory of God did lighten it.” That is, it was made light by the visible symbol of the Deity - the “Shekinah.” See the Luke 2:9 note; Acts 9:3 note. The word here rendered “light” - φωστὴρ phōstēr - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament except in Philippians 2:15. It means, properly, a light, a lightgiver, and, in profane writers, means commonly a “window.” It is used here to denote the brightness or shining of the divine glory, as supplying the place of the sun, or of a window.

Like unto a stone most precious - A stone of the richest or most costly nature.

Even like a jasper stone - On the jasper, see the notes on Revelation 4:3. It is used there for the same purpose as here, to illustrate the majesty and glory of God.

Clear as crystal - Pellucid or resplendent like crystal. There are various kinds of jasper - as red, yellow, and brown, brownish yellow, etc. The stone is essentially a quartz, and the word “crystal” here is used to show that the form of it referred to by John was clear and bright.

Verse 12

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.

Verse 13

On the east three gates ... - The city was square Revelation 21:16, and the same number of gates is assigned to each quarter. There does not appear to be any special significancy in this fact, unless it be to denote that there is access to this city from all quarters of the world, and that they who dwell there will have come from each of the great divisions of the earth - that is, from every land,

Verse 14

And the wall of the city had twelve foundations - It is not said whether these foundations were twelve rows of stones placed one above another under the city, and extending round it, or whether they were twelve stones placed at intervals. The former would seem to be the most probable, as the latter would indicate comparative feebleness and liability to fall. Compare the notes on Revelation 21:19.

And in them - In the foundation of stones. That is, the names of the apostles were cut or carved in them so as to be conspicuous.

The names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb - Of the Lamb of God; the Messiah. For an illustration of this passage, see the notes on Ephesians 2:20.

Verse 15

And he that talked with me - The angel, Revelation 21:9.

Had a golden reed to measure the city - See the notes on Revelation 11:1. The reed, or measuring rod, here, is of gold, because all about the city is of the most rich and costly materials. The rod is thus suited to the personage who uses it, and to the occasion. Compare a similar description in Ezekiel 40:3-5; Ezekiel 43:16. The object of this measuring is to show that the city has proper architectural proportions.

And the gates thereof, ... - To measure every part of the city, and to ascertain its exact dimensions.

Verse 16

And the city lieth four-square - It was an exact square. That is, there was nothing irregular about it; there were no crooked walls; there was no jutting out, and no indentation in the walls, as if the city had been built at different times without a plan, and had been accommodated to circumstances. Most cities have been determined in their outline by the character of the ground - by hills, streams, or ravines; or have grown up by accretions, where one part has been joined to another, so that there is no regularity, and so that the original plan, if there was any, has been lost sight of. The New Jerusalem, on the contrary, had been built according to a plan of the utmost regularity, which had not been modified by the circumstances, or varied as the city grew. The idea here may be, that the church, as it will appear in its state of glory, will be in accordance with an eternal plan, and that the great original design will have been fully carried out.

And the length is as large as the breadth - The height also of the city was the same - so that it was an exact square.

And he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs - As eight furlongs make a mile, the extent of the walls, therefore, must have been three hundred and seventy-five miles. Of course, this must preclude all idea of there being such a city literally in Palestine. This is clearly a figurative or symbolical representation; and the idea is, that the city was on the most magnificent scale, and with the largest proportions, and the description here is adopted merely to indicate this vastness, without any idea that it would be understood “literally.”

The length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal - According to this representation, the height of the city, not of the walls (compare Revelation 21:17), would be three hundred and seventy-five miles. Of course, this cannot be understood literally, and the very idea of a literal fulfillment of this shows the absurdity of that method of interpretation. The idea intended to be conveyed by this immense height would seem to be that it would contain countless numbers of inhabitants. It is true that such a structure has not existed, and that a city of such a height may seem to be out of all proportion; but we are to remember:

(a)That this is a “symbol”; and,

(b)That, considered as one mass or pile of buildings, it may not seem to be out of proportion. It is no uncommon thing that a house should be as high as it is long or broad.

The idea of vastness and of capacity is the main idea designed to be represented. The image before the mind is, that the numbers of the redeemed will be immense.

Verse 17

And he measured the wall thereof - In respect to its “height.” Of course, its length corresponded with the extent of the city.

An hundred and forty and four cubits - This would be, reckoning the cubit at eighteen inches, two hundred and sixteen feet. This is less than the height of the walls of Babylon, which Herodotus says were three hundred and fifty feet high. See the introduction to chapter 13 of Isaiah. As the walls of a city are designed to protect it from external foes, the height mentioned here gives all proper ideas of security; and we are to conceive of the city itself as towering immensely above the walls. Its glory, therefore, would not be obscured by the wall that was thrown around it for defense.

According to the measure of a man - The measure usually employed by men. This seems to be added in order to prevent any mistake as to the size of the city. It is an “angel” who makes the measurement, and without this explanation it might perhaps be supposed that he used some measure not in common use among people, so that, after all, it would be impossible to form any definite idea of the size of the city.

That is, of the angel - That is, “which is the measure employed by the angel.” It was, indeed, an angel who measured the city, but the measure which he employed was that in common use among people.

Verse 18

And the building of the wall of it - The material of which the wall was composed. This means the wall above the foundation, for that was composed of twelve rows of precious stones, Revelation 21:14, Revelation 21:19-20. The height of the foundation is not stated, but the entire wall above was composed of jasper.

Was of jasper - See the notes on Revelation 4:3. Of course, this cannot be taken literally; and an attempt to explain all this literally would show that that method of interpreting the Apocalypse is impracticable.

And the city was pure gold - The material of which the edifices were composed.

Like unto clear glass - The word rendered “glass” in this place - ὕαλος hualos - occurs in the New Testament only here and in Revelation 21:21. It means, properly, “anything transparent like water”; as, for example, any transparent stone or gem, or as rock-salt, crystal, glass (Robinson, Lexicon). Here the meaning is, that the golden city would be so bright and burnished that it would seem to be glass reflecting the sunbeams. Would the appearance of a city, as the sun is setting, when the reflection of its beams from thousands of panes of glass gives it the appearance of burnished gold, represent the idea here? If we were to suppose a city made entirely of glass, and the setting sunbeams falling on it, it might convey the idea represented here. It is certain that, as nothing could be more magnificent, so nothing could more beautifully combine the two ideas referred to here - that of “gold and glass.”

Perhaps the reflection of the sunbeams from the “Crystal Palace,” erected for the late “industrial exhibition” in London, would convey a better idea of what is intended to be represented here than anything which our world has furnished. The following description from one who was an eyewitness, drawn up by him at the time, and without any reference to this passage, and furnished at my request, will supply a better illustration of the passage before us than any description which I could give: “Seen as the morning vapors rolled around its base - its far-stretching roofs rising one above another, and its great transept, majestically arched, soaring out of the envelope of clouds - its pillars, window-bars, and pinnacles, looked literally like a castle in the air; like some palace, such as one reads of in idle tales of Arabian enchantment, having about it all the ethereal softness of a dream. Looked at from a distance at noon, when the sunbeams came pouring upon the terraced and vaulted roof, it resembles a regal palace of silver, built for some Eastern prince; ‘when the sun at eventide sheds on its sides his parting rays, the edifice is transformed into a temple of gold and rubies;’ and in the calm hours of night, when the moon walketh in her brightness, the immense surface of glass which the building presents looks like a sea, or like throwing back, in flickering smile, the radiant glances of the queen of heaven.”

Verse 19

And the foundations of the wall of the city - notes on Revelation 21:14.

Were garnished - Were adorned, or decorated. That is, the foundations were composed of precious stones, giving them this highly ornamented and brilliant appearance.

The first foundation - The first “row, layer, or course.” notes on Revelation 21:14.

Was jasper - See the notes on Revelation 4:3.

The second, sapphire - This stone is not elsewhere mentioned in the New Testament. It is a precious stone, next in hardness to the diamond, usually of an azure or sky-blue color, but of various shades.

The third, a chalcedony - This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The stone referred to is an uncrystallized translucent variety of quartz, having a whitish color, and of a luster nearly like wax. It is found covering the sides of cavities, and is a deposit from filtrated silicious waters. When it is arranged in “stripes,” it constitutes “agate”; and if the stripes are horizontal, it is the “onyx.” The modern “carnelian” is a variety of this. The carnelian is of a deep flesh red, or reddishwhite color. The name chalcedony is from “Chalcedon,” a town in Asia Minor, opposite to Byzantium, or Constantinople, where this stone was probably first known (Webster’s Dictionary).

The fourth, an emerald - See the notes on Revelation 4:3. The emerald is green.

Verse 20

The fifth, sardonyx - This word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The “name” is derived from “Sardis,” a city in Asia Minor (notes on Revelation 3:1), and ὄνυξ onux, a nail - so named, according to Pliny, from the resemblance of its color to the flesh and the nail. It is a silicious stone or gem, nearly allied to the onyx. The color is a reddish yellow, nearly orange (Webster, Dictionary).

The sixth, sardius - This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It is also derived from “Sardis,” and the name was probably given to the gem because it was found there. It is a stone of a blood-red or flesh color, and is commonly known as a “carnelian.” It is the same as the sardine stone mentioned in Revelation 4:3. See the notes on that place.

The seventh, chrysolite - This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It is derived from χρυσὸς chrusos, “gold,” and λίθος lithos, “stone,” and means “golden stone,” and was applied by the ancients to all gems of a golden or yellow color, probably designating particularly the topaz of the moderns (Robinson, Lexicon). But in Webster’s Dictionary it is said that its prevalent color is green. It is sometimes transparent. This is the “modern” chrysolite. The ancients undoubtedly understood by the name a “yellow” gem.

The eighth, beryl - This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The beryl is a mineral of great hardness, and is of a green or bluish-green color. It is identical with the emerald, except in the color, the emerald having a purer and richer green color, proceeding from a trace of oxide of chrome. Prisms of beryl are sometimes found nearly two feet in diameter in the state of New Hampshire (Webster).

The ninth, a topaz - This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. The topaz is a well-known mineral, said to be so called from “Topazos,” a small island in the Arabian Gulf. It is generally of a yellowish color, and pellucid, but it is also found of greenish, bluish, or brownish shades.

The tenth, a chrysoprasus - This word χρυσόπρασος chrusoprasos does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It is derived from χρυσὸς chrusos, “gold,” and πράσον prason, “a leek,” and denotes a precious stone of greenish golden color, like a leek; that is, “apple-green passing into a grass-green” (Robinson, Lexicon). “It is a variety of quartz. It is commonly apple-green, and often extremely beautiful. It is translucent, or sometimes semi-transparent; its hardness little inferior to flint” (Webster, Dictionary).

The eleventh, a jacinth - The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It is the same word as “hyacinth” - ὑάκινθος huakinthos - and denotes properly the well-known flower of that name, usually of a deep purple or reddish blue. Here it denotes a gem of this color. It is a red variety of “zircon.” See Webster’s Dictionary under the word “hyacinth.”

The twelfth, an amethyst - This word, also, is found only in this place in the New Testament. It denotes a gem of a deep purple or violet color. The word is derived from α a, the alpha privative (“not”), and μεθύω methuō, to be intoxicated, because this gem was supposed to be an antidote against drunkenness. It is a species of quartz, and is used in jewelry.

Verse 21

And the twelve gates - Revelation 21:12.

Were twelve pearls - See the Revelation 17:4 note; Matthew 13:46 note.

Every several gate was of one pearl - Each gate. Of course, this is not to be understood literally. The idea is that of ornament and beauty, and nothing could give a more striking view of the magnificence of the future abode of the saints.

And the street of the city was pure gold - Was paved with gold; that is, all the vacant space that was not occupied with buildings was of pure gold. See the notes on Revelation 21:18.

Verse 22

And I saw no temple therein - No structure reared expressly for the worship of God; no particular place where he was adored. It was all temple - nothing but a temple. It was not like Jerusalem, where there was but one house reared expressly for divine worship, and to which the inhabitants repaired to praise God; it was all one great temple reared in honor of his name, and where worship ascended from every part of it. With this explanation, this passage harmonizes with what is said in Revelation 2:12; Revelation 7:15.

For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it - They are present in all parts of it in their glory; they fill it with light; and the splendor of their presence may be said to be the temple. The idea here is, that it would be a holy world - all holy. No particular portion would be set apart for purposes of public worship, but in all places God would be adored, and every portion of it devoted to the purposes of religion.

Verse 23

And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it - This imagery seems to be derived from Isaiah 9:19-20. See notes on those verses. No language could give a more striking or beautiful representation of the heavenly state than what is here employed.

For the glory of God did lighten it - By the visible splendor of his glory. See the notes on Revelation 21:11. That supplied the place of the sun and the moon.

And the Lamb is the light thereof - The Son of God; the Messiah. See the Revelation 5:6 note; Isaiah 60:19 note.

Verse 24

And the nations of them which are saved - All the nations that are saved; or all the saved considered as nations. This imagery is doubtless derived from that in Isaiah, particularly Isaiah 60:3-9. See the notes on that passage.

Shall walk in the light of it - Shall enjoy its splendor, and be continually in its light.

And the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it - All that they consider as constituting their glory, treasures, crowns, scepters, robes. The idea is, that all these will be devoted to God in the future days of the church in its glory, and will be, as it were, brought and laid down at the feet of the Saviour in heaven. The language is derived, doubtless, from the description in Isaiah 60:3-14. Compare Isaiah 49:23.

Verse 25

And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day - It shall be constantly open, allowing free ingress and egress to all who reside there. The language is derived from Isaiah 60:11. See the notes on that place. Applied to the future state of the blessed, it would seem to mean, that while this will be their permanent abode, yet that the dwellers there will not be prisoners. The universe will be open to them. They will be permitted to go forth and visit every world, and survey the works of God in all parts of his dominions.

For there shall be no night there - It shall be all day; all unclouded splendor. When, therefore, it is said that the gates should not be “shut by day,” it means that they would never be shut. When it is said that there would be no night there, it is, undoubtedly, to be taken as meaning that there would be no literal darkness, and nothing of which night is the emblem: no calamity, no sorrow, no bereavement, no darkened windows on account of the loss of friends and kindred. Compare the notes on Revelation 21:4.

Verse 26

And they shall bring ... - See the notes on Revelation 21:24. That blessed world shall be made up of all that was truly valuable and pure on the earth.

Verse 27

And there shall in no wise - On no account; by no means. This strong language denotes the absolute exclusion of all that is specified in the verse.

Anything that defileth - Literally, anything “common.” See the notes on Acts 10:14. It means here that nothing will be found in that blessed abode which is unholy or sinful. It will be a pure world, 2 Peter 3:13.

Neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie - See the notes on Revelation 21:8.

But they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life - Whose names are there recorded. See the notes on Revelation 3:5. Compare the notes on Revelation 21:8.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 21". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/revelation-21.html. 1870.
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