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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Writings

Revelation 21

Verses 1-27

19 The Eternal State (Rev 21:1-8)

While in these mortal bodies it is difficult for us, if not impossible, to conceive of the conditions and full blessedness of the eternal state. It may be for this reason that the references to this state are few and brief,2 Peter 3, in one brief verse leads our thoughts to the eternal state, when he writes, "We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth." The context clearly shows that these words have no reference to the millennium. In this passage the apostle speaks of three worlds: Firstly, in verse 6, looking back to the days before the flood, he speaks of "the world that then was," and reminds us that, "being overflowed with water," it perished. Secondly, in verse 7, he speaks of "the heavens and the earth, which are now." Of this present earth he says it is "reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." And he tells us, in that day, "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." Thirdly, he reminds us, in verse 13, that "we" - believers - on the assurance of God's promise, "look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." During millennial days, we read that "A king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment" (Isa 32:1). In the eternal state, righteousness will dwell. Ruling supposes there is evil to be repressed. In the eternal state there will be no sin to mar the new heavens and the new earth. There everyone will be in right relations with God and with one another, so that it can be truly said righteousness will dwell.

Moreover, the Apostle Paul, in one brief verse - 1Co 15:28 - looks on to the eternal state. In that passage he shows how Christ must rule until He has put all enemies under His feet. Then, when He shall have put down all rule, all authority, all power, and every enemy, including that last great enemy death, and the great purpose of the millennial reign is accomplished, He will deliver up the kingdom to God even the Father, and we pass to the eternal state when God will be "All in all." God will be all as an Object to fill and satisfy the heart, and will be "in all" that we may perfectly enjoy our relations with God.

Two great truths as to the eternal state are pressed by the apostle: Firstly, before we enter that state every opposing power, every enemy - even death itself - will have been annulled. So that in the eternal state there will be no fear of the intrusion of an enemy, no fear that death will ever cast its blighting shadow over that fair scene. Secondly, we learn that in the eternal state, Christ, Himself, will be subject to God. Having brought all into subjection to God, He delivers up the kingdom to God, though He, Himself, remains subject to God. Does this not tell us that for all eternity Christ will never cease to be Man, while it is equally true He will never cease to be God - a Divine Person? Even as on earth He was a true Man, and yet one with the Father, so throughout eternity He will be a Man, though never ceasing to be the Son, one with the Father. It was Jesus, Himself, that stood in the midst of His own on the resurrection day; it is Jesus, Himself, that by faith we see at the present moment crowned with glory and honour; and it will be JESUS, HIMSELF, that we shall see face to face, and be with for all eternity. Rev 21:1-8, we have the testimony of the Apostle John to the eternal state. John has seen "all enemies" put under Christ's feet; the final doom of the devil, and "the last enemy" - death - cast into the lake of fire. Every enemy having been annulled, there rises up before him this glorious vision of "a new heaven and a new earth." The new heavens and a new earth, that Peter can say "we look for," John can speak of as having seen, though truly it was but in a vision. In this vision he tells us "there was no more sea." The sea speaks of separation, and how often separation means marred love, blighted hopes, and broken hearts. On earth, sin separates, circumstances separate, age separates, time separates, and above all death is the great separator. So it comes to pass, too often, on earth that the dearest friends are parted, closest relations are divided, families are broken up, and the saints of God scattered. Of all this separation the sea is the symbol. Little wonder that Jeremiah can say there is "sorrow on the sea." But if at times we have to part with loved ones down here we can look on to the blessedness of the eternal state, where there will be no more separations, for there will be "NO MORE SEA."

(V. 2) Then John is permitted to see the special place of the church in the eternal state. At the beginning of the Revelation John had seen the church in its failure on earth. Later, he had seen the church, under the figure of a bride, presented to the Lamb in heaven, all glorious, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Then, carried in spirit beyond the thousand years' reign of Christ, he sees the church coming down from heaven. Eph 2:22).

It has ever been God's great purpose to dwell with men. This great desire came out in the Garden of Eden, when the Lord God came down to the Garden in the cool of the evening. Alas! sin had defiled that fair Garden and God could no longer dwell with man. Then, on the ground of redemption, God dwelt in a tabernacle in the midst of Israel. Alas! Israel entirely failed to walk in consistency with the presence of God. The nation fell into idolatry, finally rejected Christ, and the Lord has to say, "Your house is left unto you desolate." But God does not give up His great purpose, for the church is called out to be the house of God. Alas! as in every other age, the church breaks down, and the breakdown is all the more terrible because of the greater light and privileges granted to the church. At last that which professes to be the church becomes so utterly corrupt that instead of being "an habitation of God through the Spirit," it becomes "the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird" (Rev 18:2). But how good to learn that no breakdown on the part of man can thwart God in carrying out His purpose, for looking on to the new heaven and the new earth we see, such is the manifold wisdom and power of God that, in spite of all our failure, at last the purpose of God will be fulfilled in a scene where there will never be any breakdown. Three times we read that God will be with men.

"The tabernacle of God is with men." Rev 20:14). And, therefore, never till now shall 'all tears' be wiped away" (S. Rutherford).

Then we read "the former things are passed away," and He that sat upon the throne said, "Behold I make all things new." To-day, the men of the world are trying to get rid of "the former things," and seeking to "make all things new." They can break hearts and fill the earth with death, sorrow, crying, and distress, but they cannot end the sorrows of the world, nor can they "make all things new," or bring in a new order, as they vainly dream.Rev 21:9-27; Rev 22:1-5)

From Rev 19:2 we have had an unfolding of great future events that will be introduced by the appearing of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, and carry us on through millennial days to the eternal state.

In the course of the Revelation it is seen now and again that the record of events is interrupted in order to bring before us deeply important truths as to certain persons and events. So in this closing portion, having seen the fulfilment of all God's purpose in the eternal state, we are carried back in thought to learn important details as to the blessedness of the church in relation to the world during millennial days.2Co 11:2), but the church is not complete until the rapture, followed by that great day of which it is said, "The marriage of the Lamb is come." Following the day of the marriage, the church will be displayed in all the comeliness that Christ has put upon her as "the bride, the Lamb's wife."

We know from Scripture that God's earthly people Israel are viewed in relation to Christ under the figure of a bride, but, as such, they are the bride of the King the church is the bride of the Lamb. All saints, earthly or heavenly, will be in relation to Christ on the ground of His death; but the earthly bride will be presented as "the Queen in gold of Ophir" to Christ the King, when through judgment, He will have reached His earthly throne (Ps. 45). To secure His heavenly bride, Christ must indeed take the path of suffering as the Lamb, who "loved the church, and gave Himself for it." Having taken the way of the cross to secure His bride, and having dealt in judgment with the false woman, the church is presented to Christ a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The marriage of the Lamb takes place before Christ comes forth as King of kings, and Lord of lords to take His earthly throne.

In the beginning of the Revelation we see the church in its utter failure as the responsible witness for Christ on earth. Moreover, we learn that the root of the failure was the loss of bridal affection for Christ. It should have been "like a bride adorned for her husband" waiting for the marriage day. But it failed in affection for Christ, and the Lord has to utter those sad words, "Thou hast left thy first love." The church should have been attached to Christ by "love" and shining before the world as "light." Marked by "love" and "light" it would have been a true witness for Christ. Failing in love to Christ, the Lord has to say, "Repent . . . or else I will come unto thee, and will remove thy candlestick." Having left first love to Christ, the church lost its light before men.Joh 3:13). Then, He can say, "I proceeded forth and came from God" (Joh 8:42). Further we read of "The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2Co 4:6). He too is described as the light that "shineth in darkness" (Joh 1:5).

The very terms that are used to describe the loveliness of Christ are here applied to the church in glory. The church that has so grievously failed to represent Christ in the day of His absence, will at last be displayed in all the beauty of Christ in the day of glory. It will be seen to be "holy" in nature; "heavenly" in character; "of God" as to its origin; setting forth "the glory of God;" and "shining" as a stone most precious to reflect the glory of Christ.Jer 1:15). So it came to pass, for we read that the enemy came in and "sat in the middle gate," and "brake down the walls of Jerusalem" (Jer 39:3-8).

As in the days of old, so to-day, professing Christendom has become so corrupt that it is unable to exclude evil, and is no longer a testimony to the world. The walls and the gates are broken down. And with those who seek to answer to the truth in a day of ruin, it will be found that the unceasing attack of the enemy is upon the "walls" and the "gates." How well the enemy knows that if we let down the barriers against that which is contrary to the word, and let in that which is unsuited to Christ, we shall be drawn back into the corruptions of Christendom and cease to be any testimony to the Lord. Psa 34:7; Act 12:7-10). Then they are used in executing governmental judgment upon the wicked, as in the case of Herod, of whom we read, "The angel of the Lord smote him" (Act 12:23). Further, angels are used as the messengers of the Lord between earth and heaven, as the Lord can say, "Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man" (Joh 1:51).

So in the millennial day the angels will have a subordinate position in relation to the church, but will still be found at the gates in their guardian character, and ready to act as the messengers of God.Eph 3:5). Therefore, though the names of the tribes of Israel may be found in the gates, they are not in the foundations. The witness of the church may flow out to the twelve tribes, but the revelation of the church was made to the twelve apostles. So the Apostle Paul can say, "Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ, Himself, being the chief corner stone" (Eph 2:20). The unique character of the church may be entirely lost in corrupt professing Christendom, but it will be clearly set forth in the day of glory.

(Vv. 15-17) The measurements of the city follow and prove that the city lieth foursquare. Thus the city is tested, for not only are measurements given, but it is "measured," with the result that all is found to be in perfect proportion. To-day, alas, one truth may be presented and another neglected. In the day to come every truth will be set forth in the church in perfect relation to every other truth and thus the church will be perfectly fitted to present Christ before the world. Rev 4:3). Now we read that the wall, that excludes all evil, is of jasper and so is a witness to the glory of God. Nothing that comes short of that glory will have part in the glorified church. The church, or company of believers, that ceases to exclude evil will cease to be a witness to God.

"The city was pure gold like unto glass." The gold speaks of the divine righteousness in which every believer has part. At present, alas, the practical display of this righteousness is often hindered by the dross of the flesh. In the day of glory there will be only "pure gold." No hidden unworthy motives will ever mar our practice or lurk beneath our words. Nothing will dim the fine gold, it will be "like unto clear glass."Mat 13:46). Thus, when we read that "every several gate was of one pearl" we are assured that in the day of glory there will be the setting forth, to every quarter of the world, the unity of the church as well as the preciousness of the church in the eyes of Christ.

Moreover, the street of pure gold reminds us that in the church in glory there will be nothing to defile our walk, and therefore no need for the girded loins. Further, there will be nothing to hide from one another, for the street will not only be pure gold but it will be "as it were transparent glass."Ps. 19); but in the church in glory the everlasting witness to the glory of God will be found in the Lamb.

(Vv. 24-27) From these verses we learn the relation of the church in glory to the millennial earth. The church was left in this world to shine as a light for Christ in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Alas! failing in its bridal affection for Christ, it has ceased to set Him forth before the world. The love failed and the light went out. But when this day of glory dawns the church is seen in its bridal affection for Christ, and as a light before the world. The Lamb who is the light of the city will shine through the church before the world. Christ will be glorified in the saints. Moreover, the church will be the witness of the riches of God's grace according to that word, "That in the ages to come, He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:7). Learning of Christ and of the grace of God through the light of the city, the kings of the earth will bring their glory to it, thus doing homage to the One who is the light of the city.

Moreover, the blessing that will stream through the city to the nations will be unceasing, for the gates will not be shut at all by day; and no shade of darkness will ever obscure the light, for there will be no night there. Further, if light and blessing pass through the gates to the world, we are assured that "there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth." Today, under the plea of carrying blessing to the world, we may become defiled by the world. In the day of glory the world will receive blessing through the church, and the church will be unsullied by the world.

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Revelation 21". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/revelation-21.html. 1832.