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Revelation 21:1. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For, the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, [Note: The reading ἀ?πῆ?λθον or ἀ?πῆ?λθαν , for παρῆ?λθεν has probably been derived from Revelation 21:4. Passing by in the sense of vanishing, is an Old Testament expression (עבר ), which in the Apocalypse has the advantage of originality on its side. It is found also in 1 John 2:8 and Revelation 21:17, “and the world passes away (παρά?γεται ) and the lust thereof.” This latter passage, with which also 1 Corinthians 7:31 is to be compared, perfectly accords also in meaning. From all analogies it may be presumed, that John alludes to the word of our Lord in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, (παρελεύ?σεται ),” as Peter does also in 2 Peter 3:10, rather than that the copyists had introduced the reference to that passage.] and the sea is no more. The new heaven and the new earth is first mentioned by Isaiah in Isaiah 65:17, “For, behold, I create a new heaven and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor will it come into mind”—a passage, to which Isaiah 66:22 refers, and of which we may regard what is said respecting the earth in Isaiah 11, as but the expansion. The fundamental passage in the New Testament is 2 Peter 3:13, “But we, according to his promise (in Isaiah 65:17, Isaiah 66:22) look for a new heaven and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” In substance the regeneration corresponds, or the renewing of the world in Matthew 19:28. There is a presupposition of the new heaven and the new earth in the renewing, of which the apostle speaks in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all is become new.” As the corruption began with persons, and then passed over to the other parts of creation, the renewing also must proceed in the same way. In the germ, therefore, there is to be seen the new heaven and the new earth in the first appearance of Christ, and the new powers of life brought into operation in him and conferred on the human race. The commission of his militant church for centuries has been to rear occupants for the new earth, citizens for the new Jerusalem.
The announcement of the new heaven and the new earth joins on immediately to ch. Revelation 20:11, where the destruction of the present heaven and the present earth was predicted; a connection to which the words, “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,” expressly points. In regard to the desolations which sin has effected on the old earth and heavens, comp. what was said on the passage referred to. Only these desolations vanish, the kernel remains. Berleb. Bible: “Nature will not be annihilated, but purified; all corruption shall be abolished; the work of God himself remains, and is merely set free from its dross. It will be such a change as may fitly enough be called a destruction of what previously existed. For the change shall not be a small, but an entire one.” That the subject of discourse should be simply, without any further explanation, a new heaven and a new earth, shews quite plainly how deeply the effects of sin have been imprinted on the heavens and the earth.
De Wette thinks, that “a limitation of the renewal is to be found in the circumstance, that the fiery lake of hell belonging to the old world still continues.” Züllig, however, remarks on the other hand, “that this is not a mark of incompleteness, but an eternal testimony to the divine righteousness, and for the friends of God a thought fitted to quicken their sense of deliverance and of the happier condition appointed to them.” Evil, in its state of absolute restraint, is no longer a witness against the better world. All the complaints of the righteous regarding the state of matters on the old earth. proceed not on the existence alone of evil, but on the freedom, with which it is allowed to operate. The final hell, the lake of fire, which belongs not at all to the old, but only to the new world, serves not less for the glorification of God, than the new Jerusalem. The damned weep the praise of God, as the elect sing his praise.
Vitringa and others would understand by the new heaven and the new earth “a renewal of the state of the church,” a completion of the Reformation. Against this view, however, which greatly weakens and evacuates the meaning of the words, ch. Revelation 20:11 is alone quite decisive. Bengel: “The former heaven and the former earth has passed away in flight at the last day from the presence of him, who sat upon the throne, ch. Revelation 20:11. And just as in ch. Revelation 20:15 it was unfolded, where those shall go, who were not found written in the book of life, so it is now related, where those are to be sent, who are written in that book, Revelation 21:27.”
The sea is the sea of the peoples, the wicked restless world—comp. at ch. Revelation 20:13. That passage throws light on the one before us. According to it, along with the sea, there also vanishes from the creation the Cainite spirit of brotherly hatred, which led men to kill one another (comp. ch. Revelation 6:4). By it sea and death are inseparably connected with each other. There is no longer any sea, after every one who is not written in the book of life, has been cast into the lake of fire (ch. Revelation 20:15). The sea disappears along with the wicked ( Isaiah 57:20). The vanishing of the merely natural sea, which is not referred to in any other part of Scripture, would not be in its proper place here, even if it were actually to happen. The natural sea belongs, according to Genesis 1 to creation in its original state, whereas here that alone is removed from heaven and earth, which was the effect of sin. It is the sea that most of all occupies a prominent place in the praises found in the Old Testament respecting the Creator’s greatness,—comp. for example Psalms 104:25-26.
Revelation 21:2. And the holy city, [Note: Luther (And I John saw) follows the not sufficiently supported reading: καὶ? ἐ?γὼ? Ιωά?ννης εἰ?͂?δον , which has come from ch. 22:8, and against which Bengel remarks: Textua ipse coelum novum, terram novam, Jerusalem novam arctissime connectit.] the new Jerusalem, I saw come down out of heaven, from God, [Note: Luther has, from God out of heaven. The reading here, ἀ?πὸ? τοῦ? θεοῦ? ἐ?κ τοῦ? ὀ?υρανοῦ? is a consequence of the false reading in ch. 20:9.] prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. First the new heaven and the new earth is mentioned, then the new Jerusalem. Farther, the new heaven and the new earth already stand before the internal eye, while the new Jerusalem first comes down before the eyes of the Seer. By the two it is indicated, that the former is the condition of the latter. Hence they are guilty of folly, who expect on the old earth a triumphant and glorious church. The holy city—so is the church of the future world named here and in ch. Revelation 22:19, because she shines forth in the splendour of her virtues (comp. on ch. Revelation 19:8) and of the glory lent her by God (comp. on the subject of the glory at ch. Revelation 4:8). This predicate was applied even to the old Jerusalem, the church in her militant state (comp. ch. Revelation 11:2); but it belongs to the new in so surpassing, transcendent a sense, that it is called simpliciter the holy city. In Isaiah 52:1, Jerusalem is called the holy city in the sense of the august and glorious, and in regard to its glorified state after the appearance of salvation.
The new Jerusalem. A threefold Jerusalem is peculiar to the New Testament. First, the heavenly Jerusalem ( Hebrews 12:22, comp. Revelation 11:10; Revelation 11:16, Revelation 13:14), or the Jerusalem that is above, ( Galatians 4:26) the heavenly community of the righteous. Then a Jerusalem here below, in the present life, the church in her militant state. Finally, the new Jerusalem on the glorified earth, with the introduction of which the two others vanish, which has in common with the first its heavenly character, and with the second a dwelling on the earth. Berleb. Bible, “The Jerusalem above comes down to that which is below; but that here below has become quite changed.”In the Revelation, the heavenly Zion is mentioned with its 144,000 of perfectly righteous (ch. Revelation 14:1-5); the militant church is indirectly denoted as Jerusalem (comp. on ch. Revelation 11:2); the holy city (ch. Revelation 20:9); the beloved city; but John has reserved the name Jerusalem for the new Jerusalem, of which it is used, besides here, in Revelation 21:10, and in ch. Revelation 3:12. It never once denotes the militant church, much less that lifeless corpse, the literal Jerusalem. [Note: It goes hand in hand with this, that John in the Gospel never call the literal Jerusalem Ἱ?ερουσαλή?μ , the original Old Testament, sacred form, but always Ἱ?ερουσά?λυμα , the heathenish, Grecianised form, made as it were by art (comp. ch. 1:19, 2:13, 4:45, 5:1, 2). Bengel: “It is not without a reason that John in his Gospel always writes Ἱ?ερουσά?λυμα , when referring to the ancient city; in the Apocalypse always Ἱ?ερουσαλή?μ , of the heavenly city; the latter is the Hebrew term, original and more sacred; the other, at that time common, Grecian, more polished. Paul makes the same distinction when refuting the Judaizers in Galatians 4:26, comp. with 1:17, 2:1, Hebrews 12:22, although elsewhere he speaks promiscuously, and as a mark of respect and favour uses Ἱ?ερουσαλή?μ when writing to the Romans and Corinthians.”]
The new Jerusalem, as distinguished from “the beloved city” in ch. Revelation 20:9, which is on all sides warred against and beleaguered—the militant church. That the new Jerusalem, which is as much as the glorified Jerusalem, forms the contrast to this, not to the literal Jerusalem, is evident from this simple consideration, that the latter is never mentioned in the Apocalypse, while the militant church is indirectly represented as Jerusalem in the passages already referred to. Add to this, that the new Jerusalem is mentioned for the consolation of those who groaned under the oppression of the sufferings that befel the militant church, and not because of the loss of the literal Jerusalem. The new Jerusalem, besides, is always mentioned in connection with the coming down. Never is the heavenly Jerusalem as such designated by the name of the new Jerusalem. It is the new Jerusalem only in so far as it comes in place of the old. All is not new in heaven. The new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven from God. That the city comes actually down to the earth, that it is not merely inclined toward it, in order to be more distinctly perceived by the Seer (as has been supposed in a false view of such passages as John 14:2, where the many mansions in the house of the Father are only the provisional abodes of safety for believers [Note: Also what is said in Php_3:20 , ἡ?μῶ?ν γὰ?ρ τὸ? πολίτευμα ἐ?ν οὐ ρανοῖ?ς ὑ?πάρχει is, according to the same verse and Revelation 21:21, only of temporary force. For with the change of the mortal body into the body of glory the kingdom of God comes down from heaven to the earth.] ), appears from Revelation 21:10 and the connection with the new earth, and specially the vanishing of the sea in Revelation 21:1.
The new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven in a double respect. First, in so far as till then the great number of its citizens, the just made perfect, had been preserved in heaven for their future inheritance upon earth. In this respect the coming down from heaven here corresponds to the ascending up to heaven in ch. Revelation 11:12 (comp. in regard to the double stage of blessedness in the Apocalypse, the first the heavenly, the second the earthly, at ch. Revelation 20:5). The descending of the new Jerusalem from heaven upon earth forms the counterpart to the removal of the ungodly out of the provisional state of misery into the final, to their being cast into the lake of fire, ch. Revelation 20:13-15. Then again it does so, in so far as the church of the future has its origin in God, who makes all things new, Revelation 21:5. There is an intentional correspondence with ch. Revelation 20:9, “and fire came down from heaven and consumed them.” That coming down out of heaven from God prepares the way for this, and is its essential pre-requisite.
Bengel: “It comes down from God, and still his throne is in the city, and he himself is with men therein, Revelation 21:3, ch. Revelation 22:3.”
The preparation refers partly to the glorious virtues with which she is adorned, and in whose lustre she shines forth (comp. on ch. Revelation 19:7-8), partly to the glorious distinctions with which she is furnished by God, as they are more fully and particularly unfolded in Revelation 21:9, sq. The “prepared,” etc., corresponds to the holy at the beginning. In Isaiah 61:10 the church says in the day of salvation, “I rejoice in the Lord, and my soul is joyful in my God. For he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, and with the robe of righteousness covered me, as a bridegroom adorned with priestly ornament, and as a bride, who bedecks herself with jewels.” There the glory of the future state is already compared to the ornamented apparel of a wedding-season.
According to ch. Revelation 22:5, “And they shall reign for ever,” there can be no doubt that this form of the church is the last. We are led also to infer the same from the glory of the description, which excludes all further advance. [Note: Bengel: “It is not the new city of the millennium, but one perfectly new and eternal, as is shewn by the series of visions, the magnificence of the description, and the contrast in regard to the second death, ch. 20:11, 12; 21:1, 2, 5, 8, 9; 22:5.”]
Ch. Revelation 21:1-8. John sees the new heaven and the new earth, Revelation 21:1; then he sees the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, Revelation 21:2. Thereupon he hears a double voice, one that of the just made perfect, the citizens of the new Jerusalem, who informed him, and through him the church, what is implied in this, and what blessed hope it presents, Revelation 21:3-4. The other voice, that of him who sits on the throne, first announces that he is going to make all things new, and then, after a testimony given respecting his supreme majesty and absolute credibility, issues the declaration that invincible faithfulness alone can attain to a participation in the benefits of the new world, while the lake of fire is appointed as the doom of apostacy. That this section has the character of an introduction, and a prelude, is rendered quite manifest from Revelation 21:10, where the prophet still, as in Revelation 21:2, sees Jerusalem coming down from heaven, whereas, if we had a continued representation before us, he would have seen it as already come down. With Revelation 21:9, begins the chief burden of the group, in which what had been briefly indicated in Revelation 21:2, is more largely unfolded, proceeding from a similar starting- point.
The introduction first shortly represents the chief matters, with which the group is occupied; then it refers to the practical point of view, out of which these are to be considered, “That we may run with patience the race that is set before us.” “I am content that I have seen the city; and without weariness will I go nearer to it, not all my life-long will I suffer its bright golden streets to disappear from my sight.” If the old Jerusalem, the militant church, is heavily tried; if severe afflictions befal her citizens; if every thing seems to invoke despair and renunciation, as was the case at the time when the Revelation was seen, there are no more effectual means for us of consolation and support, than to direct our eye continually oil the new Jerusalem, and the wells of living water, which are there opened for the thirsty.
THE SEVENTH GROUP, THE NEW JERUSALEM (Ch. Revelation 21:1-22 , Revelation 22:1-5 )
The sixth group, in Revelation 17-20 represented the judgment upon the three enemies of God, of the Lamb, and the church. It closes with the completion of their overthrow in the destruction of the chief enemy, Satan; with the last judgment on their servants, and the removal of all that has pressed in upon the creation through sin. Everything is now prepared for the entrance of the last phase of the kingdom of God, for the foundation of the new earth, on which righteousness dwells, for the erection on it of the kingdom of glory, for the solemnization of the marriage of the Lamb, to the threshold of which we were brought by the song of praise in ch. Revelation 19:6-8, that anticipated the contents of Revelation 19:11 to Revelation 20:15. This sacred closing history is the subject of the present group. A church, which has such hope, can never faint under the tribulations, which it may have to endure for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
She beholds the end and is comforted. She rejoices in her Lord, who reserves the good wine till the last. That the hope may become truly living, the object of it is vividly delineated by John to the church, and set, as it were, before her eyes. A body is prepared for it by him, that she might take up more successfully the conflict with the visible, which is apt to induce despair, as was done in former times by the prophets of the Old Testament, or rather by the Holy Spirit, who spake through them, that the minds of believers might have the glory of the future exhibited to their view in such vividness of colouring, as would be sufficient to free them from care, anxiety, and grief. So, for example, Ezekiel in Ezekiel 40-48, and Isaiah in Isaiah 9. There is an unmistakeable reference to these Old Testament representations in the description given here of the new Jerusalem. By this reference, it is intimated, that we must seek only for the beginning of their fulfilment in the first appearance of Christ, and that Christian hope is still always justified in repairing to them for strength and refreshment.
Revelation 21:3. And I heard a great voice from heaven, which said: Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them as their God. Instead of: from heaven, Luther has: from the throne. The external testimonies for the two readings are pretty nearly equal. But this reading ought to be rejected on internal grounds. The voice from the throne could only be the voice of God. But God is spoken of in the third person, otherwise than in Revelation 21:5 and Leviticus 26:11-12. Since the voice from heaven cannot be an indefinite one, the more exact determination of it is to be derived from Revelation 21:2. It must proceed from amongst the citizens of the new Jerusalem, who are coming down from heaven: “And I heard a great voice from heaven.” We might, then, think of some particular one of the perfectly righteous, or more specially of one of the elders (comp. on ch. Revelation 14:13, Revelation 7:13-14). But it is best to derive the precise limitation from ch. Revelation 19:1, where the great voice is described to be that of a multitudinous host in heaven. That the great voice belongs to the entire multitude of the just made perfect, is also confirmed by the analogy of ch. Revelation 11:15, Revelation 12:10, Revelation 14:2, Revelation 15:2-4, Revelation 19:1; Revelation 19:6.
Instead of, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, Luther has improperly a tabernacle. We are not to explain: Behold this new Jerusalem is the tabernacle; for a city cannot properly be called a tabernacle; but the tabernacle is the kernel and centre of the city (comp. the expression in Revelation 21:11, “which had the glory of God”). Therefore: behold, here it is. Instead of the whole, here only the most excellent part is taken into account. The gracious presence of God among his people had in ancient times manifested itself in the symbolical form of a tabernacle, or of a tent, in which he dwelt in the midst of his people. What is there used as a symbol occurs here as an image (Mark: Dei mansio gratiosa et gloriosa, qualis olim erat tabernaculum). For, that an external sanctuary cannot here be spoken of is evident from Revelation 21:22. Revelation 21:11 corresponds as to substance, where it is noted as the most distinguished feature of the new Jerusalem, that it has the glory of God, that God is present there in the fulness of his glory.
There is nothing absolutely new that is promised here: if it had no foundation in the past, it could have no reality. But even in Exodus 29:45 it is said, “And I dwell in the midst of the children of Israel, and shall be their God;” and in Leviticus 26:11-12, “And I give my dwelling in your midst, and my soul shall not reject you. And I walk in your midst, and shall be your God, and ye shall be my people.” And when Ezekiel, in Isaiah 37:27-28, promises, “And my dwelling shall be over you, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and the heathen shall know that I the Lord sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary in your midst is perpetual,” he certainly did not mean thereby the new Jerusalem merely of the Revelation; a prelude of the fulfilment is to be sought in the manifestations of divine grace, which were given at the return from the captivity, and still more in the personal appearance of Christ (comp. John 1:14). The word: Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, according to ch. Revelation 7:15, has been already verified for believers in the heavenly glory; nay, according to ch. Revelation 12:12, Revelation 13:6, believers even now dwell with God in his heavenly tent, though they are still in the militant church. How could it well be otherwise, since he who has the fulness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in him, has promised to be with them always to the end of the world. But in the new Jerusalem the presence of God among his people shews itself in so glorious a manner, that all earlier manifestations shall thereby be thrown into the shade. Bengel: “God had formerly a dwelling with the people of Israel, when Moses erected the tabernacle, and afterwards when Solomon built the temple. But as if neither the one nor the other had existed, it is said here as of a matter altogether new. Behold the tabernacle of God is with men; because God will there manifest himself in a much more intimate, gracious, and peculiar manner.”
There is a reference in the expression of God’s dwelling among them to John 1:14, where it is said of the Word, “he dwelt among us.” This latter is the sure foundation of the former.
On the following part of the verse Bengel remarks: “It was anciently the sum of God’s covenant with his people: I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and that covenant will attain to its highest fulfilment.” In place of: God himself—no other than he, the supreme Jehovah—will be your God, as we might expect from the fundamental passages of the books of Moses, it is said: he will be with them, or among them as their God, introducing a slight allusion to the name Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14, comp. Matthew 1:23. Berleb. Bible: “Then, after so many things Christ’s name Immanuel will find its full realization.”
Revelation 21:4. And he will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the first things are passed away. The words, “he will wipe away all tears from their eyes,” have already occurred in ch. Revelation 7:17. There it referred to the heavenly section of the church. Now at length the flow of her tears is completely and for ever stayed
After the tears death is mentioned, as that which in this vale of tears calls forth the bitterest weeping. As it had come into the world through sin ( Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12), it must again cease through the complete victory over sin ( 1 Corinthians 15:54).
As tears precede death (that they stand connected with it, appears from the fundamental passage Isaiah 25:8, where the destruction of death precedes, and the ceasing of death follows), so it is again succeeded by mourning, which is also connected with death in ch. Revelation 18:8.— The crying is not that of persons fighting, but of those oppressed, overpowered, despairing, Isaiah 65:19.
On the expression “no more,” Bengel says, “therefore till now it had not wholly ceased.” A memorial for those who would ascribe more to the thousand years’ reign, than what may be found in the period already past! It belongs to the first department of things, which through manifold stages still remains the same in all that is essential; respecting which in every stage it may still be said, “This world is aye a vale of tears, Full of pain, distress, and tears,” and “Poor worms we are upon the earth, Struggling with guilt and woe and death.”
Revelation 21:5. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold I make all things new. And he says: [Note: The to me, which Luther adds, ought to be deleted, according to the best authorities.] Write, for these words are certain and true. He that sat upon the throne, is God in the undistinguished unity of his being (comp. on ch. Revelation 20:11). On the words: “Behold I make all things new,” Bengel remarks, “This renewal comprises much more in it than that which is described in 2 Corinthians 5:7, though this also is glorious, and indeed is the ground of that.” Berleb. Bible, “This is a great word, which should lead us to nurse our strength, that we may become fresh and vigorous, and may not sell our birthright, like Esau, committing fornication with the world, and seeking all good there.”
And he says, etc. The change of tense—he says between the double said—and the similarity of the matter to ch. Revelation 19:9 (in both passages, the command to write, and the assurance of truth and credibility) shew, that here, as well as there, the angel is the speaker.
In regard to the call to write, which points to the high importance of the word spoken, see at ch. Revelation 14:13.
The declaration, “Behold I make all things new,” is indeed a great word, and hard to be believed. Where really all must be made new, there it will be difficult for the natural mind to understand, how a change should take place, especially difficult for one on whom the old order of things lies with an oppressive load like a huge mountain, as was the case with the church at the time, when John saw the Revelation. Therefore, the angel adds to the call to write the reason, for these words are certain and true. What is not so, does not deserve to be written, however fine it may sound. The ground of confidence here lies in the fact, that these are the words of God, (comp. ch. Revelation 19:9). The angel cannot by his authority lend support to the words of God; he can only point to the circumstance, that as God’s words they deserve the fullest confidence, since he is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent, whose authority alone is sufficient to render the most incredible things true and worthy of confidence. [Note: Bengel expounds differently, “Write, was said to John in respect to what follows, namely, these words are certain and true.” Comp. the ὁ?̀?τι recitativum in ch. 3:17. But the call to write in the Revelation elsewhere has respect to the revealed truths themselves; (comp. ch. 1:11, 14:13, 10:4), and does not occur in respect to asservations of truthfulness. Accordingly, we must expound, Write what thou hearest (comp. the, Write what thou seest in ch. 1:11), or, Write the words, Behold I make all things new.]
Revelation 21:6. And he said to me, It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. After the interruption by the angel the discourse is again resumed of him, who sits on the throne. He said to me. What was said by him that sat on the throne in Revelation 21:5, was also spoken for John. The express addition of the to me here is explained by the hortatory character of the termination of the discourse in Revelation 21:7-8. In John the church is addressed.
Bengel: “Twice it is said in this book, It is done. First at the completion of the wrath of God in ch. Revelation 16:17, and here again at the making of all things new.” The more exact import is here, as in ch. Revelation 16:17, furnished by the connection, which shows that the subject here discussed has respect to the world’s regeneration, according to which nothing more remains to be wished for by believers, and which is the completion of the whole work of God. What as to the reality was still future is spoken of as already done in respect to the vision, which addresses itself to the spiritual eye, and in which the future appears as immediately present. The new heaven and the new earth are spoken of as already come at Revelation 21:1, and in Revelation 21:2, Jerusalem is seen coming down. The Alpha and the Omega indicate, that in the beginning God made the heaven and the earth, as in ch. Revelation 14:7, also, reference is made to the creation. The Omega and the end are to be accented, as being what is chiefly respected here, (comp. at ch. Revelation 1:8). Not merely so as, but also because God is the Alpha and the beginning, he is also the Omega and the end; and that he really is so, is made manifest by this corresponding renewal of creation. It is done (it was so), was the word uttered in the beginning after every creative act; and the same, It is done, is repeated now at the end, in regard to the work of renewal. Daring the intermediate space it often appears, as if God’s purpose were frustrated, as if he had departed from it. But the end reverts to the beginning. And this being the case, the servants of God must not faint. The middle should not vex those, who are sure in respect to the end. God is himself called the beginning and the end, because, as the beginning, so also the end yields him unconditional obedience, his decrees are assuredly carried into effect, on all the seal of his nature is impressed, all bears witness to his glory. There is a corresponding passage in 1 Corinthians 15:28, where, with like meaning, it is said, God will at last be all in all. Vitringa gives the meaning wrong, thus: God will in the end glorionsly fulfil the promises which he gave to his church at the beginning. In that case, God himself could not be called the beginning and the end. The words, “I will give to him that is athirst,” etc., find their explanation in what has been remarked on ch. Revelation 7:17, comp. also Revelation 22:17. The thirsting are those who are in need of salvation; the water of life denotes salvation. The freely, without his own doing and labouring, is from Isaiah 55:1, where it is said, in reference to the Messiah’s salvation, the final accomplishment of which is brought in here, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Jesus himself alludes to that passage of Isaiah in the Gospel of John, John 7:37, “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink,” a declaration which, as already remarked by Vitringa, shall find its most glorious fulfilment at the time here referred to. All that is here said to ennoble the period, when God makes all things new, is at the same time an evidence of poverty in respect to the thousand years’ reign, which belongs to the old world. In it still the thirsty did not drink to satisfaction from the fountain of the water of life. Sadness and longing continue even in it to be the inseparable accompaniments of the state of believers.
Revelation 21:7. He that overcomes shall inherit these things (Luther, all things ); and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. The practical aim of this whole group, of the representation of the “regeneration,” and of the new Jerusalem, quite plainly meets us in this verse. It is this, to impart strength to the church groaning under the cross, so that from regard to the coming glory she may stand fast amid temptations. The quintessence is contained in Romans 8:18, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Strong emphasis is to be laid on the he that overcomes (comp. at ch. Revelation 2:7). Victory must be wrung from all opponents, who are many. The contrast to the persons overcoming is formed by all who are mentioned in Revelation 21:8. But that at the time of the Seer the chief enemy that then plied hardest against Christianity was fear for the persecuting world, appears from this consideration, that there the fearful are the first to be named. The fundamental passage is Matthew 19:29, Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, etc., for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Every one that overcomes shall inherit the whole of the promise. Berleb. Bible, “When people go to take a walk together, each one has the whole sun for his enjoyment; one cannot say, I have this here, and thou hast that other there.”
The fundamental passage for what follows is 2 Samuel 7:14, “I shall be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a son.” The words in 2 Samuel 7:15, “My favour will I not take from him,” serve as an explanation (see the remarks on the sonship of God, at Psalms 2:7). In place of Father there, God is put here; comp. 2 Samuel 7:24, “And thou, Lord, art God to them.”
Revelation 21:8. But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake, that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is to be compared. The characters named form four pairs—the four, the signature of the earth, to which belong these different tendencies of those, who live in the world ( Colossians 2:20).
The series commences with the fearful, the faint-hearted, who shrank from the danger and the cross, which is sure to meet those, who abide in the truth and remain stedfast to Christ. We are thus given to understand, that we have nothing to be so much afraid of as fear—comp. the Old Testament warning given respecting it in Deuteronomy 20:1-8, “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, he not afraid of them; for the Lord thy God is with thee, who brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,” &c. Allusion, it would seem, is made to Matthew 8:26, where our Lord said to the disciples, who called upon him to save them, as the ship was covered with the waves, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” comp. Mark 4:40, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have not faith?” The word δειλό?ς occurs only in these three passages. We may the more readily suppose an allusion, as there also the fearful stands connected with a little faith or none; and also because that earlier occurrence has manifestly a symbolical meaning. The word of our Lord on the occasion itself points back to Deuteronomy 20, comp. John 14:27.
With fearfulness unbelief is united into a pair, as its inseparable companion. Where there is no faith there is no courage, for the foundation of courage is confidence in God’s help; and where no courage is, there is no faith; for faith must necessarily manifest itself in a spirit of invincible strength. Bengel: “Unbelievers are not precisely (rather, not alone) those, who have heard or understood nothing whatever of the Gospel; but also such as have not proved faithful unto death, and in their hearts have apostatised from the living God. Commonly it is not considered, that timidity has so much evil in it, if there be but a good inclination, as they say; yet here the fearful, who allow their courage to sink, and the unbelieving, are declared to be characters that the Lord has no pleasure in.” The transition from the first class to the second is not so abrupt, as might at first sight appear. When the light of faith is extinguished, a frightful darkness arises, in which all sins have their being. Berleb. Bible, “People, who withdraw from the conflict, are capable of becoming abominable characters, murderers, whoremongers,” etc. The abominable are those, who give themselves to actions of an abominable kind, comp. at ch. Revelation 17:4-5. Murder is a particular species of abominable conduct. Murderers stand related to the abominable much as idolaters do to liars. Several understand by the abominable those who abuse themselves with mankind, referring to Leviticus 18:22, where the practices of such persons are expressly called abominations. But the notion of what is abominable is of a much more comprehensive nature in the law, (comp. Leviticus 18:26-27), and if this crime were meant, it would certainly have been more specifically described. Besides, according to 1 John 3:15, brotherly hatred even is of the same nature with murder, as being this in its germ and root.
Whoremongers and sorcerers have this in common, that their attempts on the well-being of a neighbour, unlike those of the murderer, are made covertly. Sorcery appears also in ch. Revelation 9:21, as the means of hurting one’s neighbour thus, and especially in regard to his life (comp. also ch. Revelation 18:23). Fornication is in the law presented under the aspect of injury done to a neighbour, and so also here in ch. Revelation 9:21.
In the last pair the idolaters are the species, liars the genus: and generally all liars. Idolaters are liars, since they change God’s truth into a lie, and have given glory and worship to the creature along with the Creator, who is blessed for ever ( Romans 1:25; and on the idea of a lie, see on ch. Revelation 14:5). In respect to the idolaters it is indifferent, whether they worship what are more commonly called idols, or mammon and their belly ( Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5; Php_3:19 ).
Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5. After the introduction we have now the main theme of the group, the lengthened description of the new Jerusalem. The consolation for weary pilgrims will be the more complete, the more vividly it is portrayed before their eyes. After St John had, in Revelation 21:9-10, been transferred to the immediate neighbourhood of the new Jerusalem, he begins his description, in Revelation 21:11, with its highest ornament, the glory of God, which illuminates it. On this follows its greatness and lofty walls, its twelve gates, and the twelve foundations of the gates, in Revelation 21:12-14. In Revelation 21:15-17, he gives us the measurement of the city and of the walls. In Revelation 21:18-21 the grandeur and glory of the city, as appearing in its material, in the walls, in the buildings, in the foundations of the walls, in the gates, and finally in the streets. In Revelation 21:22-27 we have an account of the glory of the city in regard to its inhabitants; first of all, the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb, Revelation 21:22-23; then, coming down to the human inhabitants, the elect portion of the heathen world with its kings, Revelation 21:24-26; finally, in Revelation 21:27, the negative element, the exclusion of all those, whose presence would darken its bright splendour. In ch. Revelation 22:1-5, the Seer unfolds the blessedness of the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem, and the glorious privileges they enjoy—the water of life, and the tree of life, their glorious and never interrupted fellowship with the Lord, their reigning for ever and ever.
Revelation 21:9. And there came one of the seven angels, who have the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and spake with me and said, Come, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. The reason why the function of shewing should be given to one of the angels, who had the seven vials, may be seen at ch. Revelation 17:1.
The prefixed epithet, “the bride,” serves to determine more exactly what follows, “the Lamb’s wife;” it shews, that we are to understand thereby the betrothed (comp. at ch. Revelation 19:7). That the bride of the Lamb is here spoken of (in allusion to the Song, comp. ch. Revelation 3:20 [Note: Vitringa: Phrasis haec est cantici Solomonis, ch. 4:8 9, 5:1, qua teneritudo amoris Christi erga ecclesiam depingitur.] ), shews that the glory of the church is here beheld in its becoming and beginning; and corresponds to the circumstance of the prophet seeing, in Revelation 21:10, as in Revelation 21:2, the new Jerusalem coming down. The coming down is in a manner the bridal procession.
Revelation 21:10. And he brought me in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and shelved me the city [Note: Luther: The great city, according to the rending πό?λιν τὴ?ν μεγά?λην .] the holy Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. That the mountain great and high is destined for the site of the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven, which was denied in their perplexity by those who would transfer the new Jerusalem to heaven (by such the mountain was considered only as a watch-tower, like the Pisgah from which Moses beheld the land of Canaan), appears first from the consideration advanced by Bengel, “In the wilderness, whither John himself had been carried, was the whore herself, therefore, also on the great and high mountain, to which he is now borne, is the city itself. Being there it stands in the view of all the nations, Revelation 21:16, Matthew 5:14.” The same thing is further manifest from the Old Testament fundamental passages. Ezekiel, according to Ezekiel 40:2, after the overthrow of the city and temple, was led in the visions of God into the land of Israel, and placed there upon a very high mountain, “whereon there was like the building of a city toward the south.” He was brought there, that he might be quite near the city, and get a close view of it. In Ezekiel 17:22-23 also a high and lofty mountain is spoken of in respect to the future glorification of the kingdom of God: The Zion, which even in the times of the Old Testament, when viewed with the eyes of the Spirit, appeared very high (comp. Psalms 148:3-4, “Beautiful through its height, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion in the extreme north, the city of the great king,” Psalms 68:16), grows in the future to a measureless elevation (comp. Ezekiel 20:40). The last fundamental passage is Micah 4:1 (comp. Isaiah 2:2), where the future surpassing glory of the church is represented under the symbol of Zion’s elevation above all mountains.
The old Jerusalem is so little thought of in respect to the new, that the latter is here simply called Jerusalem.
Bengel remarks, “The angel said, he would shew John the bride; and now he shews him a city; even as before he had said, he would shew him the great whore, and shewed him the city Babylon. It is, therefore, pre-eminently the inhabitants of Babylon and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that are respectively meant.” Ch. Revelation 19:7-8, plainly shews, that by the bride is primarily intended the church in respect to its members. In the city also the inhabitants hold the most important place. But the body, the outward state, in which the soul resides, comes also into consideration, as well as the soul itself. The bride and the city would be but imperfectly seen, if the persons alone, apart from the accompanying circumstances, were presented to view.
Revelation 21:11. Which had the glory of God: her light like to the most precious stone, like a chrystal-clear jasper stone. The description of the city begins with the most glorious element belonging to it, the presence of God. “The name of the city henceforth is: Jehovah therein”—he is present in it in the entire fulness of his glory, protection, and favour; such was the statement with which Ezekiel had concluded his whole delineation of the new temple and the new Jerusalem. What he ended with is here made the beginning. God is present—this was the noblest ornament even of the church of the Old Testament, its most glorious privilege, its fundamental distinction from the heathen world. The rendering of this presence efficient was the highest privilege of the church of the New Testament during the present life. But in the new Jerusalem the presence of God shall manifest itself in a way hitherto unknown. Of the glory of God and Christ John speaks in the Gospel and the Apocalypse with great frequency (comp. at ch. Revelation 18:1). The glory of the Lord is always only there, where the Lord himself is; it is the Lord in his glory. It is said here, in Revelation 21:22, “the Lord God the Almighty is its temple;” in ch. Revelation 22:5, “God the Lord will shine upon them.” These passages stand related to the one before us, as Isaiah 9:19, “And the Lord will be to it for an eternal light,” to Isaiah 9:1, “the glory of the Lord rises over thee.” In John 12:41 it is said, “This spake Isaiah, when he saw his glory.” According to Isaiah 6:1 Isaiah had seen the Lord sitting upon his throne high and lifted up. Cocceius already remarks correctly on our verse, “God was there present with all his riches, and with all splendour.”
What the city had in respect to the glory of God, is denoted in the words: her light, etc. There can be no doubt that the light is not diverse from the glory of the Lord; and the meaning is, that this glory is its light. That such is the case is plain from the circumstance that the glory can only be seen as light; and also from Revelation 21:23, “the glory of the Lord enlightened it,” where John comes back upon the glory; finally from ch. Revelation 4:3, where the Lord himself, on account of his glory, is compared to the jasper-stone. In the designation of the glory of the Lord as light, allusion is not made to the lamps of the temple, but to the great lights of heaven. This appears from the language itself, in which the word employed is the one specially appropriated to the lights of heaven, [Note: Comp. Genesis 1:14 in the LXX.: Καὶ? εἶ πεν ὁ? θεός Γενηθήτωσαν φωστῆ ρες ἐ?ν τῷ? στερεώματι τοῦ? οὐ ρανοῦ? εἰ?ς φαῦ σιν τῆ?ς γῆ?ς ; ver.16; Wisdom, ch. 13:2, φωστῆ ρας οὐ ρανοῦ? ; Sir. ch. 43:7, where φωστὴ?ρ is used of the moon; Php_2:15 , where it is applied to Christians as the lights of the world, analogous to those natural lights. See also what is said of Christ in John 9:5.] and also from the manifest allusion of the parallel passage, Revelation 21:23, to Genesis 1:14, sq. Several expositors put splendour in place of light: And her splendour, that of the new Jerusalem, was, in consequence of her illumination by the glory of the Lord, like, etc. But this explanation is against Revelation 21:23, and the signification is arbitrarily put on the word. It never properly means splendour; in the Hellenistic and New Testament usage it always bears the sense of light. This latter fact is also against Bengel’s supposition, according to which the word here must denote window: “The glory of God is itself the splendour, which makes the holy city light, and this splendour, which fills the city from within, shines forth through the clear window.” Add to this, that the window, if it might otherwise be thought of, cannot ut any rate be referred to here; that the illuminating property of the glory of the Lord is not mentioned, nor is it said that the supposed window owes its lighting property to the glory of the Lord; finally, that a city of 12,000 stadia in length and breadth cannot have a single window. [Note: Quite correctly was the meaning of the verse given by Vitringa: Urbem hanc observatam Johanni magno splendore et clariate illustratam quipped cujus φωστὴ?ρ , luminare, quod Jaspidem referret, esset deus ipse, auae gloriae radii seam illumnaus.]
With St John the jasper is the noblest of precious stones; as is evident from ch. Revelation 4:3, and of this chapter Revelation 21:18-19. It is possible that he had idealized it, in particular lent it the character of transparency and of bright splendour; possible, too, that afterwards the usage had changed. Dioscorides and Psellus also speak of a chrystal kind of jasper.
Revelation 21:12. It had a wall great and high, it had twelve gates, and upon the gates twelve angels, and names written thereupon, which are the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. The chief object of walls around a city is every where to give security to the city. A wall is therefore often employed in the Old Testament as an image of protection and safety—comp., for example, 1 Samuel 25:16; Proverbs 18:11; Ezekiel 22:30; Zechariah 2:5, “I will be a wall of fire to her round about,” Isaiah 26:1. This being the one grand object of city walls, no other view of them can be brought into notice here. If any other had been contemplated, it would certainly have been indicated as one, not naturally presenting itself. The predicates great and high strengthen this view; the former referring to the length, thickness, and height, and the latter, the height, being besides specially noticed, as a point that was peculiarly prominent in them. Viewed in respect to their protecting quality, walls are of importance chiefly on account of their greatness and height. So that by the walls here great and high is represented the security of the new Jerusalem, against all hostile assaults, with which the old Jerusalem, the militant church, was so sorely beset in the latter days (comp ch. Revelation 20:9); or the idea is exhibited of the divine protection, on which the church’s security rests. The old Jerusalem had wanted walls great and high—comp. Ezekiel 38:11, where Gog and Magog come up against those “who dwell without walls, and have neither bars nor gates.” The dangers, besides, against which the walls great and high protect, could be no real, but only conceivable and possible ones. For, no enemies any longer exist by whom the city could be assailed. These have all been cast for ever into the lake of fire.
According to Revelation 21:17, the height of the walls is immensely less than that of the city. But the height of the walls is to be viewed in respect to their design. A wall 144 cubits high is as high as a wall generally can be from its design: any further height would be altogether superfluous.
The walls around the temple of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 40:5, are not to be compared. These had another design, as we learn from Ezekiel 42:20, in conformity with which they were not, like these, great and high.
The walls great and high embody the promise given in Isaiah 54:14, “Thou shalt be far from oppression, for thou shalt not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near thee.”
The signification of the gates is plain from ch. Revelation 22:14. They serve for an entrance to the citizens into the new Jerusalem. Bengel: “The number twelve occurs in this verse thrice, and frequently afterwards, Revelation 21:14; Revelation 21:16; Revelation 21:21, Revelation 22:2.”
As the employment of the angels on the gates is not distinctly stated, they could only be brought into notice here with reference to their main business, the protection of the righteous (comp. Psalms 91:11; Matthew 18:10; Luke 16:22; Hebrews 1:14). This is strengthened by the manifest parallelism of the angels on the gates with the walls great and high. The gates stand constantly open, according to Revelation 21:25. Twelve points are given in them, where the protection of the walls great and high ceases, and where protection of another kind must enter, so that nothing of a hostile nature might pass into the city. The angels, accordingly, like the walls, are a symbol of the divine protection against all enemies, such namely as the fancy, filled with terrors originating in the militant state of the church, might figure to itself: for real enemies are no longer to be found in the new Jerusalem.
Isaiah 62:6 cannot be compared. For there the watchmen, whom the prophet represents as placed on the walls of Jerusalem, are not angels, but the ideal representatives of believers, with whom he associates himself in prayer for their salvation.
According to Ezekiel 48:31-34, the new Jerusalem has twelve gates, according to the names of the children of Israel, three on each side. The same object, which is served in Ezekiel by the correspondence between the gates and the tribes, is served here by the names of the twelve tribes on the gates of the city. It indicates, that the new Jerusalem is “a great unity having its root in God,” the last form of the holy catholic church, the union of the head with all his true members; and therefore meets the narrow-mindedness which now in the militant church would single out some particular part and set it forth as the true church of Christ, reproves the envy of Ephraim against Judah, and the hatred of Judah against Ephraim ( Isaiah 11:13). That this thought should be expressed here in the particular form it bears, that the church in all its parts should be denoted by the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, who are naturally spoken of, not in a Jewish, but in an Israelitish-Christian sense, points to the venerable continuity of the church, and is a decisive proof against the modern idea of the antagonism between Judaism and Christianity. Bengel: “The names of the twelve tribes were formerly engraven on the precious stones worn on the high-priests’ breast; but here the names of the apostles are upon the precious stones or foundations of the city, and the names of the twelve tribes upon the gates themselves, Ezekiel 48:31.” The names of the twelve apostles guard against the misapprehension of the twelve tribes of Israel, and shew that these are spoken of not in the Jewish, but in the Israelitish-Christian sense. For, the apostles were Christ’s ambassadors to all nations, Matthew 28:19.
Revelation 21:13. On the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The gates serve as avenues through which the chosen go into the city; comp. on Revelation 21:12 and Revelation 21:25, according to which they constantly stand open for this purpose. Their being directed to all the quarters of heaven, points to the oecumenical character of the new Jerusalem. [Note: Vitringa: Fore ut populis, qui ex omnibus terrae oris, secundum coeli climata et plagas divisis accessuri se aggregare vellent civitati huic coelesti, ubique commoda obtingat ejus adeundae occasio.] That the east should be first in order (while in Ezekiel, Ezekiel 48:31, sq., it is the north) and the west last, is to be explained by means of a reference to the word of the Lord in Matthew 8:11, “But I say unto yon, that many shall come from the east and from the west; and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Also in the word in Isaiah 43:5-6, “I will bring thy seed from the east and gather them from the west. I will say to the north, give up; and to the south, keep not back; bring my sons from far and my daughters from the ends of the earth,” to which the Lord alludes, the east forms the beginning, and the north precedes the south; comp. Luke 13:29. [Note: Properly as here: from the risings and from the settings. The fundamental passage shews, that the rending ἀ?νατολῶ?ν (see on the plural at ch. 16:12), is here the correct form, and that ἀ?νατολῆ?ς is to be rejected. In ch. 16:12 also an attempt boa been made to supplant ἀ?νατολῶ?ν .]
Revelation 21:14. And the walls of the city had twelve foundations, and upon them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The relation of the foundations to the walls is made out in the most probable way with De Wette, thus: “Every twelfth part of the walls between the several gates had a foundation-stone stretching along the whole length, which was exposed to view.”
The first point is, that the walls generally have foundations. This marks their immoveable stedfastness, according to Hebrews 11:10, “For, he looked for a city, which has foundations.” The second is, that upon the foundations stand the names of the twelve apostles. This indicates, that the twelve apostles by their immoveable stedfastness hold the foremost place, that they are the noblest bulwark of the church, the main channel through which she derives the protecting grace of God. If still in the new Jerusalem they are the foundation, upon which the security of the church rests as to all conceivable dangers, they must also be through every age of the militant church the bulwark, by which all real assaults are driven back. Berleb. Bible, “This, then, should make the apostolic word acceptable to us.” It lets us know, whither we should turn ourselves, if we have not yet come to know it. This passage, and Matthew 19:28, where the twelve apostles appear as the heads of the church in the regeneration, which is all one with the new Jerusalem, alone suffice against those, who maintain that the apostleship was to be a perpetual office, and who expect the deliverance of the church by her submission to the pretended new apostles. The Lord himself, and the disciple whom he loved, knew only of twelve apostles . The twelve apostles for ever, this is the solution with which we meet them on the basis of these passages. The fundamental passage here is Ephesians 2:20, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone. [Note: We can with the less reason deny a reference to the fundamental passages in Paul, since the figure of the foundation-stone is one of which he is particularly fond; θεμέ?λιος occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in his writings; θεμέ?λιον is found only in Luke and Paul.] In this passage the apostles themselves are distinctly called the foundation stones of the church, proving that their names here also stand on the foundations only because on them in a quite peculiar manner rests the security and stedfastness of the church. The prophets being named along with the apostles, is only an apparent deviation. For, that by the prophets are meant, not those of the Old, but those of the New Testament, that they are personally identical with the apostles, is evident from the parallel passages, ch. Revelation 3:5, Revelation 4:11, and from the considerations formerly advanced on ch. Revelation 1:1 [Note: See also Stier’s investigations in his Comm. on Ephesians 2:20.] . That the apostles in Ephesians 2:20 are no other than the twelve apostles, might have been established from the passage before us, if it had not been otherwise certain. The fundamental passage in Ephesians again points back to Matthew 16:18.
It has been thought, that as only twelve apostles are here spoken of, Paul must have been left out, and efforts have been made to account for this omission. But that the author of the Revelation reckoned Matthias, and not Paul among the apostles, can be imagined by no one, who has perceived the relation in which the Revelation stands to St Paul—comp. at ch. Revelation 1:4, Revelation 1:5, Revelation 3:14, Revelation 17:14, and many other passages, and the remarks made in vol. i., p. 42. This passage, however, itself rests on a Pauline foundation. The appointment of Matthias was indeed made according to the will of God, but it was only a provisional one, as is clear alone from the way in which it took place, and likewise from the external qualifications, which, according to Acts 1:21-22, were alone taken into account, while the internal conditions were uniformly held to be indispensable toward an ultimate appointment. It is clear, too, from the object in view, as declared in Acts 1:22, The more John elevates the prophetical side of the apostolical calling, the farther must it have been from him to regard that appointment as a final one. It stood in force only till the Lord himself should be pleased, by his own immediate choice, to fill up the vacant ground. Matthias is never mentioned again in the history. That what is here attributed to the apostles, does not trench too closely on the honour of Christ, is plain from the simple consideration, that they are designated apostles, messengers, of the Lamb—so Christ is here called on account of the atonement by blood, through which he founded his church (ch. Revelation 19:7). In this way the honour, which is bestowed on them, reverts unconditionally to him; precisely as in Matthew 16:18 the word addressed to Peter as the representative of the apostles, “on this rock will I build my church,” was said on the ground of his confession to Christ as the Son of the living God; and as Paul, in Ephesians 2:20, still expressly points to Christ as the proper corner-stone.
Ewald maintains, that every one who is not destitute of all sense of what is proper and becoming, must admit, that the contents of this verse do not consist with “apostolical discretion,” and hence that the Apocalypse could not be written by the apostle John. But this objection is sufficiently disposed of by the reference alone to the fundamental passage in the epistle to the Ephesians, and it is not worth while to adduce any farther proof of the point, that the apostles everywhere discover themselves to have been deeply penetrated by a consciousness of the dignity of their office, and that in the Gospel of John also they appear as the spiritual foundation of the whole Christian community (John 17). Such adverse judgments could only be arrived at by men transferring their own doubts regarding the truly divine mission of the apostles to these apostles themselves.
Revelation 21:15. And he that spake with me had as a measure a golden reed, that he might measure the city, and its gates and its walls. Bengel: “The angel continues to show the city by measuring it.” Allusion is made to the angel with the measuring-rod in his hand, in Ezekiel 40:3. The reed is of gold on account of the glory of what was to be measured. The measure of the gates is not expressly given afterwards. They must be understood to be of the same height with the walls.
Revelation 21:16. And the city lies foursquare, and its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand stadia. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. The purpose to measure the city forms the kernel of this verse, according to the connection with the preceding verse: there, that he might measure; here, he measured. But it is first announced, that the city is foursquare, and that its length is as great as its breadth. Bengel: “This is not mentioned in vain, for it might have been foursquare (four-cornered), and yet have been more in length than in breadth.” Being a complete square, the whole circuit was ascertained, whenever one side was measured. But because the height also was of importance, it is added, that the dimensions here were equal to those already given concerning the length and breadth.
A square of a similar kind is formed also by the new city of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 48:16, Ezekiel 48:20. The square was regarded among the ancients as the symbol of the complete, the perfect. [Note: Comp. Heyne, Opuso. I. p. 161: Pythagoraei divinam naturam omninoque omnem perfectionem et absolutionem quadrate adumbant. Simonides, with Plato in the Patagoras, calls the perfect man χερσί?τε καὶ? ποσὶ? καὶ? νό?ῳ? τετρά?γωνον , and explains this by ἁ?́?νεν ψύ?γου τετυγμέ?νον ; comp. besides Arist. Eth. I. 10; Rhet. III. 11.] It has respect also to the oecumenical character of the new Jerusalem, indicating that an equal right to it was presented to all the four quarters of the earth.
The length of each side was 12,000 stadia: the twelve, the signature of the church, here multiplied by a thousand, in Revelation 21:17 by itself (see at ch. Revelation 7:4). As the immense extent of the new Jerusalem—300 geographical miles—points to the vast multitude of members belonging to the triumphant church, rendering “many mansions” absolutely necessary, so does the enormous height point to its glory.
People have often been at a loss to comprehend the reason for such vast dimensions—12,000 stadia in length, breadth, and height—and hence have gone about to lessen the measurements. Thus it has been supposed, that the 12,000 stadia announced belong to the circumference of the whole city, and that each side is only to be regarded as extending to 3000 stadia. But it is against this view, that in Ezekiel 48:16, the sides of the city were each measured. Some, again, would understand the height, not of the houses, but of the mountain—of which, however, no mention is made in this connection. Others, still again, would refer what is said of the height to the circumstance, that all the buildings were equally high. But the height is manifestly made equal to the length and the breadth, and the relation of the houses one to another is not the subject of discourse. Then, according to this view, the height of the city would be left indeterminate. Yet we naturally expect a determination respecting this point, as the height of the walls is announced in the next verse. That with the height of the walls that of the city also is announced, is a groundless supposition. Nor can we understand, how in a description, which everywhere rises above the common, any one should think of constraining the particular parts into ordinary bounds.
Revelation 21:17. And he measured its walls an hundred and four and forty cubits, man’s measure, which is angel’s measure. Several conceive, that here the thickness of the wall is what is measured. But Bengel has justly remarked against that idea, “In all descriptions of cities we are wont to remark much more upon the height and length of the walls, which also strike the eye more readily, than upon their thickness, Deuteronomy 3:5, Deuteronomy 28:52. The height is often mentioned without the thickness, but the thickness never without the height.” It also confirms this view, that in the words immediately preceding it was precisely the height of the city that was spoken of.
The expression, “man’s measure, which is angel’s measure,” may be explained from what has already been remarked at ch. Revelation 13:8. When an angel measures, we might suppose that he would do so after some measurement unknown to us. The remark is intended to meet this idea. Because angels, when they measure, do it only for men, man’s measure is at the same time angel’s measure, and the 144 cubits are common cubits. We must not expound: according to man’s measure, which is here, in this case, angel’s measure.
Revelation 21:18 . And the building of its wall was jasper, and the city was pure gold like to pure glass. The subject of Revelation 21:18-21 is, the glory and splendour of the new Jerusalem. First here, the wall and city as the two great objects which attract the eye, the city projecting high above the walls; then, as the eye glances downwards, the foundations of the walls and gates; lastly, the streets of the city. The fundamental passage for Revelation 21:18-21 is Isaiah 54:11-12, where the glory of the Jerusalem that was to be is thus described, “Behold I lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I make thy battlements of rubies, and thy gates of precious stones, and all thy borders of select stones”
The building here forms the contrast to the foundation, in Revelation 21:19, and denotes what is built on it. [Note: The word, ἐ?νδό?μησις , properly in-building, occurs only here, it seems, and in Josephus, Ant. XV. 9, 6, where it is used of a mole in a harbor. The building on, in respect to its firm and close connection with the foundation, might be called an in-building.] The building consists only of one material. The most glorious among stones is chosen, the jasper (see at Revelation 21:11). A great variety, however, is found, in respect to the foundations. There the jasper takes the first place. It may seem strange, that the jasper, to which the glory of God is compared in Revelation 21:11, should appear here as material for building. But if the author, out of respect to Revelation 21:11, had chosen an inferior stone, another wall of a more glorious description might then have been conceived of. But this must be regarded as the most glorious imaginable.
The city, as distinguished from the wall here, and the street in Revelation 21:21, can only denote its mass of houses. These, however, are not believers themselves, but their places of abode.
The gold (Bengel: “the white jasper-colour and the yellow gold suit admirably together”) comes into consideration here, as in ch. Revelation 17:4, in respect to its splendour. From the connection it denotes, not “the purity and excellence of faith in the elect,” but the glory, with which they shall be crowned by God in reward of their fidelity. The point of comparison between the gold and the glass is expressly intimated; it stands simply in the purity; the transparency, which is noticed in Revelation 21:21, of the glass, not of the gold, is taken into account merely as a symbol of purity. The gold by the predicate of purity is distinguished from other gold, which is not pure; in the glass, on the other hand, the predicate of purity serves to distinguish it from other objects, which are not pure. Glass, considered generally, is pure, and on this account, what is pure only exceptionally is compared with it. The subject here is not transparent gold. Not its splendour, not its transparency, but its absolute purity and homogeneity are the qualities regarded. [Note: Mill.: Est enim aurum, cui comparatur haec civitas, simile vilrn, non omnifariam ac quoad διαφανί?ς ac τὸ? ὁ?μογενέ?ς partium.]
Revelation 21:19. [Note: The and, which is prefixed by Luther, is wanting in the best authorities.] The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with all precious stones. The first foundation a jasper, the second a sapphire, the third a chalcedony, the fourth an emerald. Revelation 21:20. The fifth a sardonyx, the sixth a sardius, the seventh a chrysolite, the eighth a beryll, the ninth a topaz, the tenth a chrysopras, the eleventh a hyacinth, the twelth an amethyst. Bengel: “Not only did each precious stone form an ornament in the foundation, but it constituted the foundation itself.” It could not otherwise be said, the first foundation was a jasper, etc. That the precious stones here are taken into account merely as precious stones, appears from the expression, “with all precious stones,” which distinctly brings out the point that is here to be kept in view; the entire contents of Revelation 21:18-21, the subject of which throughout is the glory of the new Jerusalem; the comparison of ch. Revelation 17:4, where the gold, the precious stones and the pearls, with which Babylon was adorned, precisely as here the Jerusalem of the future, which is to inherit the glory of the world, serves to indicate its splendour; so also the comparison of Ezekiel 28:13, where precious stones are employed along with gold to adorn the king of Tyre; finally, the comparison of the passages, presently to be referred to, in the books of Moses. For, that the precious stones in these, on which the names of the tribes of the children of Israel were engraved, were intended merely to symbolize the glory of the people of God, is evident from the single consideration, that this is the most natural meaning that is attached to precious stones (comp. 1 Kings 10:2, 1 Kings 10:10-11; Tob. 13:20; Isaiah 54:11-12); any other can only be taken into account, if it is expressly mentioned. There can scarcely be a doubt, that the precious stones, which form the foundations, have respect to the apostles. This is implied in Revelation 21:14, according to which the names of the twelve apostles are engraved on the foundations. It may also be inferred from the analogy of the precious stones in the books of Moses, on every one of which was engraved the name of one of the tribes of Israel. But it has, without any proper warrant, been supposed, that a precious stone has here been assigned to every individual apostle, whose peculiar gifts were imaged by the distinctive properties of the stone; and hence pains have been taken to point out the correspondence between the precious stones mentioned and the different apostles. In that case, the order of the apostles would have required to be a quite settled one, which it by no means is, (see the survey taken of the variations in Bengel’s Gnomon on the verse). So, too, the symbolical meaning of the different precious stones would require to be distinctly marked, and by other passages of Scripture firmly established. We are never in this book thrown on an uncertain conjecture. Then, it is opposed by the analogy of the twelve precious stones on the breastplate of the high-priest. That the order of the tribes was neither directly nor indirectly determined by these, [Note: Bähr has found such an indirect determination in the analogy of the two precious stones, through which the ephod was bound together above on the shoulders. As upon this, so also on the breast-plate are the names to he regarded as written according to the respective ages. But the supposition, that the order of age was followed in the inscriptions on those two precious stones, rests on a wrong exposition of תולדותם in Exodus 28:10, which was certainly rendered by the Vulgate: Juxta ordinem nativitatis eorum, and to the same effect also by Jonathan. Grammatically it can only mean: according to their generations; and what it indicates is, that the children of Israel come into consideration here, not as individuals, but in regard to the tribes sprung from them; comp. Genesis 49:28; Genesis 25:13.] shews, that no importance was attached to the matter, that the glory denoted by the precious stones belonged to the individuals, not as such, but only as parts of the whole; precisely as also in the blessings pronounced by Jacob and Moses that, speaking generally, is only individually applied to the particular tribes, which belongs to the whole. So that we must here rest in the conclusion, that by the variety in the precious stones is symbolized the richness of the glorious gifts of God, which unfolded themselves in the apostles. [Note: So already Mark: Praestantissimos lapides collegit, ut insigne et vere incomprehensibile coelestia civitatis decus, uno aliquot emblemate nentiquam exprimendum, vivide magis repraesentaret.] In the first stone alone, the jasper, one might perhaps suppose a special allusion to Peter, as not only did he uniformly take the first place among the apostles, but also in Matthew 10:2, he is expressly and emphatically marked as the first. In so far as the foundations represent the apostles, the precious stones denoted not so much the glorious gifts, with which they were even in this life endowed by God, (as Bengel remarks: “Whatever is beautiful in the natural colours, is to be found united in the twelve precious stones, and among the twelve apostles each one has a distinctive spiritual character, so that together they exhibit much more fully, than each one could do alone, the glorious image of Christ”), as rather the glory which they enjoy in the new Jerusalem. Daniel 12:3 is therefore to be compared, “The teachers shall shine as the brightness of heaven, and they, who turn many to righteousness, as stars for ever and ever.” So also is 1 Corinthians 15:41. The expression itself seems to indicate as much: the already existing foundations are now adorned. And the entire contents of Revelation 21:18-21, point in the same direction, since throughout it the new glory of the new Jerusalem is described as what the militant church had in prospect. In Isaiah 54:11-12, also, the splendour of the precious stones is promised to the church in her misery as a consolation, while the heavy storms of life were passing over her. But the variety of precious gifts, with which the apostles were endowed in this life, certainly forms the basis of the diversified glory with which they shall shine forth in the new Jerusalem. We remarked already, that the passage of Isaiah just referred to, is the general fundamental passage for Revelation 21:18-21. But the special fundamental passage here is Exodus 28:17-20 (comp. the repetition in Exodus 39:10-13), according to which the breastplate of the high-priest was composed of twelve precious stones set in gold, with the names engraved on them of the twelve tribes of Israel. In support of the reference to this, there is not only the similarity of the number twelve, but also the circumstance, that the stones, so far as we can with certainty determine them, are the same. Bellerman, in his work on the Urim and Thummim, p. 91, remarks in this respect: “In the Revelation of St John, ch. Revelation 21:19, where the twelve stones are introduced, they have all a different position. Otherwise, with one exception, they are the same, as given in the LXX., and Ezekiel, Josephus, Epiphanius, the Italic. The chrysopras alone is new here, which was formerly placed on the vacant part of the anthrax, although anthrax and chrysopras are different. There is, however, a red chrysopras, which approaches in colour to the anthrax.” Add to this the agreement as to matter. The glory of the people of God, symbolized by the Mosaic precious stones, finds in the precious stones of the Revelation its last and fullest realization. The latter primarily, indeed, symbolize the glory of the apostles. But the distinction is very nearly removed by the circumstance, that the apostles are the heads of the church, and in them this is honoured and glorified.
That St John in his enumeration of the precious stones intentionally departs from the order of Moses, is plain from the fact, that he sets the jasper in the very first place, which there holds the last—a thing that can scarcely be accidental. The simplest reason that can be given is, that he would thereby teach us to seek for no mystery in the arrangement, and to regard it as in Moses also a matter of indifference (see similar indications in ch. Revelation 13:18, and here Revelation 21:17). Those, who assign other reasons, involve themselves in artificial hypotheses, which must be quite far-fetched in an exposition of the Apocalypse. The one most generally received is that given in the Berleb. Bible: “The last on the breastplate of Aaron and the first here is one, and unites together the Alpha and the Omega, ends the Old and begins the New.” But this is refuted by the consideration, that the jasper cannot have a reason assigned for it separate and apart from the other changes introduced into the arrangement.
Bengel remarks: “Because the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are upon the twelve gates, it is to be supposed, that each particular gate and each foundation was connected separately with some one tribe and some one apostle. It may, therefore, be asked, how we are to combine and associate them with each other?” But that there is no solid foundation for such a combination, is evident from the necessity of drawing on one’s imagination to make it out.
Along with this reference to the precious stones of the tribes of Israel, a polemical connection is found to have place in respect to the precious stones, whereby in Ezekiel 28:13, in allusion to Exodus 28, [Note: That we must not press the reference into particulars is evident from three of the precious stones being left out of the middle. In place of the number twelve, ten is put, while gold is added.] the proud splendour of the king of Tyre is denoted, which seemed to be a matter-of-fact irony on the promises imparted to Israel; and a reference also to ch. Revelation 17:4 of this book, where the woman appears as bespangled with gold and precious stones and pearls, the same number three that occurs here in Revelation 21:18-21. The world may possibly for a time carry itself proudly, it may have a transient glory granted to it; but the church can look on with a quiet and composed spirit, for she knows that it must soon come to an end.
Revelation 21:21. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, every several gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. That the description of the new Jerusalem is not to be taken in a realistic sense, that its glory is only represented under images derived from what is most glorious on the earth as it now is, is evident especially from the expression: each of one pearl, with which prosaic expositors, like J. D. Michaelis, have found themselves so much embarrassed. The street, in contrast to the city in Revelation 21:18, stands here, as in ch. Revelation 11:8, Revelation 22:2, for the streets. The whole of the streets are thrown together into one ideal street. It is not to be conceived, that a city of such compass should have only one street. Had such been the case, it would have been expressly said. The transparency of glass is mentioned as a sign of its purity, and it is the purity of gold, which alone is taken into account, (comp. at Revelation 21:18).
Revelation 21:22. And I saw no temple therein. For, the Lord God, the Almighty, is its temple, and the Lamb. The temple is contemplated here entirely after its specific Old Testament character. The temple was the brightest ornament of the typical Jerusalem, comp. Psalms 122:1; Jeremiah 7:4. To dwell spiritually in it, was deemed by godly persons the greatest boon they could enjoy in life, their highest privilege—comp. Psalms 23:6, “I dwell in the house of the Lord for ever,” Psalms 27:4; “One thing sought I of the Lord, that do I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate thereon in his sanctuary,” Psalms 84:3. The foundation of this view of the temple lies in this, that in it God had given a pledge to his people of his gracious fellowship with them. Whoever sought him under the old covenant, could find him only in the temple, in which God confirmed his word spoken in Exodus 25:8, “They shall make me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in the midst of them,” comp. Exodus 29:40, Exodus 29:46, “and I dwell in the midst of the children of Israel.” The name itself of the temple in its first form, Ohel Moed, the tent of meeting, characterizes it as the place where God was to meet with his people, entered into communion with them, (comp. my Beitr. Th. III. p. 628, sq). But what was the highest privilege of the Old Covenant, that was not the highest, which God could, and was designed, to give to his people. Union with God, the eternal good and source of all good, as it was represented by the temple, was only a provisional, an imperfect one. The privilege of the Old Testament was at the same time its defect. How imperfectly the fellowship of God with his people was represented by the temple, appears from the longing eye directed toward the future by those who enjoyed it, especially the liveliness of their hope toward the Messiah. All Messianic hope was a proof of poverty in respect to the temple. But because in the kingdom of God the imperfect is a prophecy of the perfect, the temple pointed forwards to a real union between God and his people. This took place in Christ. If the union of God with his people formed the kernel of the sanctuary, the manifestation of Christ must stand related to it as the body to the shadow. By means of it God truly dwelt among his people. He took from them and among them flesh and blood. To this typical relationship, in which the tabernacle and temple stand to the manifestation of Christ, John alludes in John 1:14. In John 2:19, also, Christ appears as the antitype to the temple, (see the Beitr. Th. III. p. 634 ) A similar indication is found also in Colossians 2:9, “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” where Christ is referred to as the true tabernacle—comp. besides Colossians 1:19. With the personal manifestation of God in Christ, however, we must combine his dwelling among his people by his Holy Spirit, which stands related to the former as a stream to its source, (comp. Matthew 28:20, and especially 1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Corinthians 6:16). Because in the militant church the presence of God is still not perfectly realized, from the bodily presence of the Lord having been soon withdrawn from it again (comp. ch. Revelation 12:5), and from the agency of his Spirit being subjected to manifold restraints, it is only the triumphant church that is to be regarded as the full antitype of the Old Testament type. There only the words, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men,” and “I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God the Almighty is its temple and the Lamb,” however they may be verified even during the period of the church’s warfare, will find their complete and perfect realization. We have an Old Testament parallel passage in Jeremiah 3:16-17, “It will then no more be said, The ark of the covenant of the Lord! neither shall it come to mind, neither shall they remember it; neither shall they miss it, nor shall another be made. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, and all the heathen shall be gathered to it, because the name of the Lord is at Jerusalem.” The ark of the covenant was the heart of the temple, the kernel and centre of the Old Covenant, “How infinitely great must be the compensation that was to be given for it, if this were to make the desire after it to cease, and itself to be forgotten, as belonging to the beggarly elements, to the image and shadow. We have here the announcement of an entire annihilation of the earlier form of God’s kingdom, but of such an annihilation of the form, as is, at the same time, the highest perfectionment of the substance, a dissolution like that of the seed-corn, which dies only that it may bring forth much fruit, or of the body, which is sown in corruption, that it may be raised up in incorruption.” In so far as the temple generally was the symbol of the church, it cannot be wanting in the new Jerusalem; it must be there as certainly as the church also is in heaven, (comp. ch. Revelation 7:15, Revelation 11:19, Revelation 14:15). That the temple once existed, is a pledge of its everlasting continuance. No truly divine institution can be of a merely temporal nature, ( Matthew 5:17). That the temple is only in a certain sense wanting in the new Jerusalem, is evident even from the assertion here. For, the temple is not simply denied to it; it is accorded as well as denied. The designation of God: The Lord God the Almighty, points to the glory of the compensation. Where he is in the whole glory of his being, with the whole fulness of his gifts, there the loss of the poor temple with its imperfect manifestation of God’s presence is to be considered real gain. Along with the Almighty God the Lamb is named. Bengel: “Thus are the same glorious properties ascribed to God and the Lamb, Revelation 21:23, ch. Revelation 22:1; Revelation 22:3, Revelation 7:10.” Comp. Revelation 5:13, Revelation 6:16, Revelation 7:10. It is precisely through the Lamb, that the Almighty God has become for the church the reality of the temple. Till John knew the Lamb the temple was to him his one and all. From the entire cast of his mind we may be sure he clung to it with the most profound regard. That the Lamb still did not exist, was the cause of the old temple’s poverty, of the imperfect manner in which it displayed God’s presence. Immanuel! so was it proclaimed at the moment of Christ’s appearance in the flesh; so still more loudly was it proclaimed when he finished the atonement; and so yet again, most gloriously of all, will it be proclaimed in the new Jerusalem.
Revelation 21:23. And the city needs not the sun and the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God did lighten it, and its light is the Lamb. In the preceding verse it was represented how the glory of God, streaming forth from the Lamb, threw into the shade the earthly temple; here it is represented how that glory darkens the natural light. The fundamental passage is Isaiah 60:19-20, “The sun shall no more shine to thee by day, and the brightness of the moon shall not give light to thee; but the Lord will be thy eternal light, and thy God thy ornament. Thy sun shall no more go down, nor thy moon lose her shining; for the Lord will be thy eternal light, and the days of thy mourning are at an end.” We may compare besides Isaiah 24:23, “And the moon is ashamed, and the sun is confounded, for the Lord of Hosts reigns on Mount Zion, and at Jerusalem, and before his elders is honour.” The sun and moon are ashamed there, because they are outshone by the uncreated light. We have no reason to suppose, that the illuminating glory of the Lord specially corresponds to the sun, and the Lamb serving as a light specially to the moon; the less so, as in the history of the work of creation the sun not less than the moon is denoted a light. In the fundamental passage of Isaiah the Lord forms the contrast to both the sun and moon. So are we here also to explain; for instead of the sun and the moon the glory of the Lord enlightens it, and instead of the sun and moon the Lamb is its light. The glory of God and the Lamb are most intimately connected together. The city has the glory of God only because, and in so far as it has the Lamb. That the moon receives her light from the sun, is never taken into account in Scripture, but very often the smallness of her light and its inferior lustre as compared with the sun’s. If we, then, should connect the glory of God with the sun, and regard the Lamb as specially corresponding with the moon, the Lamb, who is here represented as “in the midst of the throne,” (ch. Revelation 7:17), who “has a name written that no one knows but himself,” (ch. Revelation 19:12), “whose name is called the Word of God,”(ch. Revelation 19:13), would be presented in a lower attitude than accords with the main representations of the Apocalypse and of St John generally, and in one also that might well prove a stumbling- block to a Christian mind. It would be good Arianism, but bad doctrine according to John and the church. Bengel: “Whoever has the hope of entering into this holy city, may peacefully shut his eyes at the end of his pilgrimage, and withdraw himself from the delights of a present world.”
Revelation 21:24. And the heathen shall walk through its light, [Note: Luther’s translation, “and the heathen, that are saved, walk in the light of it,” follows the less supported reading, καὶ? τὰ? ἐ?́?θνη τῶ?ν σωζουμέ?νων , ἐ?ν τῳ?͂? φωτὶ? αὐ?τῆ?ς περιπατή?σουσι .] and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it. The fundamental passage is Isaiah 9:3, “And the heathen walk in thy light (not: to thy light), and kings in the brightness which goes forth on thee.” And the preceding verse: “The Lord goes forth over thee, and his honour appears upon thee.” The light here, as in Isaiah, is the glory of the Lord manifesting itself in the church, which is to shine forth in the new Jerusalem with the fullest and most cloudless splendour. The light irradiates the way so much for the heathen, that they walk, as it were, through it; though the through is substantially the same as by.—Ἐ?́?θνη in the usage of the Revelation are not nations generally, but always heathen nations, in their natural or christianized state; comp. at ch. Revelation 20:3. That we are to think here only of converted heathen, is clear as day. No room for conversion can be found on the further side of ch. Revelation 20:15; for every one, who had not been found written in the book of life, has already been cast into the lake of fire. But the designation was the more natural, as at the time when John saw the Apocalypse, they still actually were heathens. The heathen, besides, are not to be conceived of as without the city; but being within the city they shall be illuminated by its light, according to the representation in the immediately following verse, and in the whole of Isaiah 9. The situations of the several parties here are altogether of an absolute kind. All are either in the new Jerusalem, or in the lake of fire ( Revelation 21:8). There is no third position.
The kings of the earth bring their glory into the new Jerusalem. The bringing belongs only to the symbolical style of the delineation. He sees them as it were coming in procession; as also in ch. Revelation 22:14, mention is made of the entrance of all true citizens into the gates of the city. The expression is merely an embodiment of the thought, that the kings with their glory shall participate in it. This implies, that they had formerly brought their glory into the kingdom of grace (comp. ch. Revelation 15:4, Revelation 17:14). Then, it is quite manifest, that the glory can be brought into the new Jerusalem only in so far as it is capable of being glorified; that all false glitter and earthly pomp must disappear. But in the kingdom of glory there reigns no levelling equality. It would otherwise stand below the kingdom of grace, and be like the land of shadows, “where there is no order,” Job 10:22. As among the angels there are distinctions of rank and order (comp. at ch. Revelation 8:2), so shall there be among glorified men. If all were ruled according to a bare democratic uniformity, the teachers could not have the position that is assigned them in Daniel, nor the apostles the position indicated respecting them in Revelation 21:14; Revelation 21:19. It is contrary to all sound feeling, that a David, that a Charles the great should there be lost without distinction among the general mass. Bengel remarks, “when the heathen in the world yield themselves to Christ, their earthly glory will elevate them, and will be changed into a heavenly glory, so that they shall be brought with it into the holy Jerusalem. So is it with other natural and worldly distinctions, such as wisdom, skill, strength, accomplishments, ability, and the like. Whosoever consecrates what he has in these to God and Christ, instead of desecrating it, like others, by the love of self and the world, will thereby be ennobled in the holy city. It does not mean, that all kings of the earth with their earthly glory shall come into the holy city. Very many fail in respect to it. But what is really glorious among the kings of the earth, and is sanctified through faith in Jesus Christ, that will be regarded as an acceptable present, and as a becoming addition to the fulness of the holy city. As it is in respect to kings, so is it also proportionately in respect to their subjects.” Mark also says, “As the most glorious kings here have a share in grace, so shall they ultimately have in glory, and this will be a source of glory to the heavenly commonwealth; as cities are wont to be held in highest estimation, which have the most illustrious inhabitants.” The heathen and kings are brought into view here as an ornament of the new Jerusalem. The kingdom of God should, according to its idea, be universal in its dominion. But this idea was very imperfectly realized during the Old Testament; and still also in the militant church much is wanting for its realization; indeed, in St John’s time it had scarcely so much as begun. The worldly power stood then in all its pomp and glory looking with indifference on the kingdom of God, or even manifesting hostility towards it. This contrast between the idea and the reality must, if it were to be regarded as a permanent one, shake faith. St John meets here the ground of offence thence arising. In the new world the bearers of the worldly power shall either have become impotent, and have been consigned to eternal misery, or they shall have entered with their peoples into the kingdom of God. From this investigation, also, it becomes obvious, why it is that only the heathen with their kings are mentioned among the citizens of the new Jerusalem, and not also the elect portion of the Jews. The latter did not require any special mention.
Revelation 21:25. And its gates shall not be shut by day; for there shall be no night there. Revelation 21:26. And they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it. The words, for there shall be no night there,” intimate the reason why the day merely is spoken of, since commonly the gates of a city are to be shut during night. The words, “and they shall bring,” &c. give the reason why the gates stand continually open, that the glory and honour of the heathen may find entrance into the new Jerusalem, which in St John’s time was so hard a matter for faith. The fundamental passage is Isaiah 9:11, “And thy gates stand open continually, day and night they shall not be shut, to bring to thee the riches of the heathen, and their kings shall be led.” Neither here, nor in the passage before us, is any respect had to rest and security, as the reason for the gates standing open. Day and night in Isaiah is as much as continually. The night, in the sense in which it is here said to have ceased, is there also brought to an end, Revelation 21:20. The difference between the two passages is merely in the letter. Revelation 21:7 is to be supplied from Revelation 21:20.
There will be no night there, namely, because the glory of the Lord shall constantly enlighten it—comp. Revelation 21:11; Revelation 21:23, Revelation 22:5, where we learn that the reason of there being no night in it, arises from the constant shining of the Lord on it. Night denotes a state destitute of blessing, such as always enters when the gracious presence of the Lord is withheld. The militant church is in this respect subjected to a continual alternation. The sad word, “and it was night,” John 13:30, is often quite overlooked both in regard to the church as a whole, and to individual believers. Allusion is made to Isaiah 9:10, “Thy sun shall no more go down, and thy moon shall not withdraw herself, for the Lord will be to thee for an everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.”
Revelation 21:27. And there shall not enter into thee any thing whatever common, and which does abomination and lies; but only those that are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Instead of “anything whatever common,” it is properly, “all general.” By Adam’s fall human nature has become wholly corrupt. So that the general has at the same time become the common, the unclean. Separation is needed, if one would not live with the world, and be judged with the world ( 2 Corinthians 6:17). The Pharisees derived their name from this separation. What they sought after in the flesh, must be sought after by Christians in the Spirit. Bengel: “By right holiness should be the common thing, but the great apostacy has unfortunately intervened, and hence that cannot be common which properly belongs to God.”
Abomination, which is similarly mentioned in ch. Revelation 21:8, Revelation 22:15, comp. also at ch. Revelation 17:4-5. In regard to the notion of lie as meant by John, see at ch. Revelation 14:5, Revelation 21:8. In regard to the Lamb’s book of life, see at ch. Revelation 13:8. It is implied that all who are not written in the Lamb’s book of life, have been addicted to the previously mentioned sins; while such as have been atoned for by the blood of the Lamb, and have accordingly been written in his book of life, are free from them.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 21". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany