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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 21

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-27

Revelation 21:1 . I saw a new heaven and a new earth. This was a welcome sight, for this old earth is wearing out. Subterranean fires are burning and wasting it beneath our feet, fires everfeeding on lime, and iron, and sulpher. Geologists have counted two hundred craters which ventilate the earth, and send their fires to the skies. The animal kingdom is gradually becoming extinct. When we survey the organic remains of a former world, we ask, where do their successors live, the terrific megaleonix, the huge mastodon, and monsters of the deep? Where are now the survivors of shells in ancient conchology? Cuvier finds but sixteen out of sixteen hundred fossil shells, which have identity of character with the same species of recent shells. I have an ancient and a recent turbinate, whose characters are well defined. The solar ensis, or rasor fish, is common. Our ancient plants are in the same deficient state as the shells. Above all, the human kind, and especially in great cities, are becoming degenerate in stature and strength. When the saints shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, he will then either restore this earth for our abode, or what is more probable, take the church to a far more happy and high abode. It doth not appear what we shall be, but we shall be for ever with the Lord.

Revelation 21:2-4 . And 1 John saw the holy city, of which Paul spake in Hebrews 12:22, now descending as a bride for the consummation, in the accession of a gentile world of converts, that Zion might hear the promised voice: Jehovah thy maker is thy husband. John heard great voices, swelled with songs of nuptial joy, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them for ever. His glory shall never remove, nor shall they wander as in the desert. God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. All the natural and moral evils of the present state, the curse and death, shall be swallowed up of life, causing the recollection of past evils to make heaven sweeter to us than even to the angels.

Revelation 21:5-7 . He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. The light, the life, the love of God shining out in new forms of grace and glory. As soon as he had said this, the voice rejoined, it is done. Oh believer, seeing this glory, and hearing these reviving words, take hold of his strength, and overcome, that you may drink of the waters of life from the celestial fountain, the throne of God and the Lamb.

Revelation 21:8 . But the fearful and unbelieving, rolling their baleful eyes for the murder of the saints, are ever pursued with a guilty conscience, for having rejected the word of God. Several other classes of culprits, whom we need not again describe, are under the same condemnation. Galatians 5:19. Romans 1:22. All these shall go to the lake, and be exposed to the double anguish of seeing the righteous enjoy the beatific vision of supreme delight, and themselves clothed with darkness and eternal shame.

Revelation 21:9 . One of the seven angels which had the seven vials, an angel under whom the others were seen to act, the angel of the great council, talked with me, saying, come up hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. This angel is Christ the Lord, for who can introduce us to the bride but the bridegroom himself. This bride is the church, the elect of God, who have kept the faith in all the wars with the great antichristian empire.

Revelation 21:10 . And he showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem. The old Jerusalem had perished; the new heavens and the new earth, or the glorious state of the church in the latter day, had now received its consummation. But here is the holy Jerusalem, where neither sin, nor curse, nor death can enter. This city is built of living stones, of beauteous gems, and enlightened with the glory of the Lord. Many of the old divines have thought, that this shall be the state of the glorious church on earth, after this terrestrial globe shall have been renewed, and that Christ, after a time, will take the saints to a yet higher state of grace and glory.

Revelation 21:12 . The city had a wall great and high, which neither Assyrian nor Roman could throw down. It also had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, watchers and defenders, which will suffer no unregenerate person to enter. And this city, being four-square, had three gates on each side; gates not shut by day, and there is no night there. Here we have proofs that the holy Jerusalem is yet in her evangelical state, augmenting by armies of converts, who enter at every gate; and that the Bridegroom has not as yet conducted her entirely to the great mountain, where all her crystal glories shall be revealed.

Revelation 21:15-17 . He that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city. The measurements denote the perfection of the church in all the beauties of symmetry, and confer honour on the old tabernacle, as a figure of the true tabernacle, which is in heaven. The cubical structure, as well as the disposition of its parts, portend the light and grace of God as shining out to all nations, and that no man is debarred from entering into the holy city, provided he leave his sins behind. When Ezekiel saw the measurements of this city, his views were not so clear as John’s; the nuances of the ritual law, for a time, cast a shade on vision; but John saw the city from the high mountain.

Revelation 21:19-21 . The foundations were garnished with all manner of precious stones, valued for their configurations, their tints, their brilliancy and beauty; for as gems decorate crowns, so the apostles are the glory of Christ. I have translated HaĆ¼y on gems, in Exodus 28:19. But we now have many gems not mentioned here; as the garnet of North America, which occurs disseminated on rocks, but often in pairs.

Revelation 21:22 . And I saw no temple therein, for the reason here assigned, the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple. Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord? Besides me there is no God. I know not any. Christ is not another God, but one with Jehovah himself. Besides, the nations that enter into that holy temple, have no more need of an atoning altar, or of the mercyseat sprinkled with blood.

Revelation 21:23 . The city had no need of the sun, as had in effect been promised by the prophet of old. The light of the sun shall be sevenfold. Isaiah 30:26. The spiritual Zion requires a spiritual sun, a light pure, refreshing, hallowing, and divine.

Revelation 21:24 . The kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. As already intimated, this holy city of gems and gold, and uncreated glory, is still in progress: the vision joins in one the church below and the church above. She is waiting here the last, the final word, “Behold, I come quickly:” Revelation 22:12. Therefore in this vision, “the things that are not are seen as though they were.”

Revelation 21:27 . There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth. No evil concupiscence, no abomination connected with idol worship, nor any false teacher who deceives by doctrine, or makes an idol, for an idol is vanity and a lie. Therefore he who worships idols, after the true light is come, excludes himself from the holy city. It is a city of free men and priests, whose names are registered in the municipal records, in the book of life.


Isaiah has described the new heavens and the new earth, in sublime strains of prophecy: chap. 65., and the application is to the prosperity of the church in the latter day. But the new heaven and new earth of St. Peter and St. John, seem to be the heaven and everlasting abode of the saints. Any expression of the nations and kings bringing their glory and honour to it, and the nations walking in the light of the city, import that this city is now forming in heaven, and that she shall descend as a bride, when the Lord shall have prepared her a pure and perfect abode. The church is therefore God’s tabernacle and city composed of living stones, and he will dwell with them for ever. The curse, and tears, and death shall be no more.

As soon as God spake it was done. He is Alpha and Omega. He opens the fountain of life to his people, and he will give the victorious soul the inheritance of all things with himself. But the fearful, who confess not the truth, with every other class of sinners, shall inherit with their master also a portion in the lake of fire.

Turning away our eyes now from the wicked, and our eyes shall never more be afflicted with the sight of the unregenerate, we are next invited to see the saints in the perfection of glory, and in the fruition of the Father’s love. While mortals grovel as worms in the dust, we see the church built up into a glorious city of God. This city is of a cubical form to denote perfection. It contains no temple, for the whole place is a temple, and all nature is impoverished to borrow figures to express its worth. The foundation is the gold of eternal truth, and believers are the precious stones. The holy apostles are peculiarly so, and twelve in number. These are of inconceivable value, for the saints are dearer to God than diamonds are to kings.

They are as beautiful as they are valuable. The pectoral of the highpriest would reflect the solar rays as the prism, and give a spectrum of light and colour. The jasper is tinted with green, the sapphire is a sky blue, the chalcedony resembles a faint candle, the emerald is a high coloured green, the sardonyx is tinted with black, white and red; the sardius is of a blood colour, the chrysolyte is streaked with gold, the beryl reflects the solar rays like water, the topaz is very precious, of gold and purple tints; the chrysoprasus is green streaked with gold, the jacinth is dim in foul weather, and the amethyst is red as a rose, and sparkles in the night. But how much brighter than all these stones will the saints shine, when they reflect the glory of the Lord. Then, oh my soul, put away sin, for nothing that is defiled shall enter that holy city, and see that thou have virtues more precious than these costly ornaments.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 21". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/revelation-21.html. 1835.
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