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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Revelation 21

Verses 1-8

SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES (ADDENDUM)

Section Twentieth

The New Heaven and the New Earth. The Kingdom of glory a. Heavenly World-picture of the Consummation. (Revelation 20:11 to Revelation 21:8)

General.—We here refer to our detailed treatment of the subject in the Exeget. Notes (p. 358 sqq.).

Special.—The end of the old world, the natal hour of the new world. This truth is (1) prefigured by life in nature (out of death, life); (2) grounded in the antithesis between the old and the new life of the Christian (the dying of the old man, the rising of the new man); (3) mediated, in its realization, by the verbal prophecies of Scripture and the real prophecies of the development of the Kingdom of God (every apparent down-going, the condition of a glorious resurrection).—The end of the world, a presentiment of all creature-life.—The new world, an object of the aspiration of all the pious.—[Revelation 20:11-15.] Individual features of the end of the world: The Judge; the down-going [of the old world]; the resurrection; the judgment; the Book of Life; the lake of fire.—[ch. 20 sqq.] The new world: A consummate reality; anew Heaven and a new earth; the new Jerusalem; the new habitation of God (Revelation 20:3); the new existence (Revelation 20:4); the new creation (Revelation 20:5).—The Word of God, the foundation of the first world (John 1:1[–3]);—in the explication (and world-historic operation) of His words, the foundation of the second world.—Certainty of the new world, (1) in respect of its Founder (Revelation 20:6); (2) in respect of the heritage which it shall afford to the conquerors [Revelation 20:7]; (3) in respect of the certainty of its antithesis [the lake of fire, Revelation 20:8].—The second death? Infinitely mysterious in its nature. On the other hand, exceedingly clear as the final consequence, and hence the final punishment, of consistent sin. The second death, the last consistent result of the first beginnings of evil.—The contradiction immanent in the figure of the lake of fire, in perfect accordance with the essence of godlessness: 1. Extreme agitation and motion; 2. In perfect aimlessness; 3. Hence ethical self-consumption on the basis of physical indissolubleness.—Significant character-portrait of the lost under the superscription of the fearful. True heroic courage in the light of eternity; and its aim.

Starke: There are two lines of opinion as to the vision set forth in chs. 21 and 22. Some consider that whilst it presents, chiefly, the condition of the Church on earth during the thousand years, a picture of the glorious state of the Church in Heaven is commingled with the former view; others hold that the contents of these two chapters refer particularly to the glorious state of the Church Triumphant in Heaven.—Quesnel: (Comp. Revelation 21:4 and John 16:20.) O precious tears of penitence and grief shed by the righteous and accounted worthy to be wiped away by the hand of God Himself. (Revelation 21:6.) God will yet manifest Himself to His Church as Alpha and Omega, and prove that the promise which He gave in the beginning, He will emphatically fulfill in the end.—Quesnel [Revelation 21:8]: There is a, fearfulness which can condemn us equally with any misdoings.

Claus Harms, Die Offenb. Joh. gepredigt (Kiel, 1844; p. 183): The New Jerusalem. I. It has its name and form from that Jerusalem in Israel. II. But the glory of the new is far greater than the glory of the old. III. Greater, even, than anything the Prophets have predicted in regard to it. IV. Yes, the new Jerusalem surpasses even Heaven and eternal blessedness. V. Christians, have we this glorious city before our eyes? VI. And in our hearts?

Haken, Kosmische Bilder, Riga, 1862 (p. 190): The new Heaven and the new Earth. Psalms 102:25-26; Hebrews 1:10. In both passages the terms pass away [perish] and change are promiscuously employed; the Heavens pass away only so far as they are changed.

[From M. Henry: Revelation 20:11-15. Observe, 1. The throne and tribunal of judgment, great and white, very glorious, and perfectly just and righteous. 2. The Judges 3:0. The persons to be judged. 4. The rule of judgment settled; the books were opened. The book of God’s omniscience, and the book of the sinner’s conscience; and another book shall be opened—the book of the scriptures, the statute-book of heaven, the rule of life. This book determines matters of right; the other books give evidence of matters of fact. 5. The cause to be tried; the works of men, what they have done, and whether it be good or evil. 6. The issue of the trial and judgment; and that will be according to the evidence of fact, and rule of judgment.—Revelation 21:3. The presence of God with His people in heaven will not be interrupted as it is on earth, but He will dwell with them continually.—The covenant interest and relation that there are now between God and His people will be filled up and perfected in heaven. They shall be his people; their souls shall be assimilated to Him, filled with all the love, honor and delight in God that their relation requires; this shall be their perfect holiness, and He will be their God; His immediate presence with them, His love fully manifested to them, and His glory put upon them, will be their perfect happiness.

Revelation 21:4. Note, 1. All the effects of former trouble shall be done away. God Himself, as their tender Father, with His kind hand, shall wipe away the tears of His children; and they would not have been without those tears when God shall come and wipe them away. 2. All the causes of future sorrow shall be forever removed; There shall be neither death nor pain; and therefore no sorrow nor crying; these are things incident to that state in which they were before, but now all former things are passed away.

Revelation 21:5-6. We may and ought to take God’s promise as present payment; if He has said, He makes all things new, it is done.—Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. As it was His glory, that He gave the rise and beginning to the world, and to His Church, it will be His glory to finish the work begun, and not to leave it imperfect.—The desires of His people toward this blessed state [Revelation 21:1-4] are another evidence of the truth and certainty of it; they thirst after a state of sinless perfection, and the uninterrupted enjoyment of God; and God has wrought in them these longing desires which cannot be satisfied with anything else, and therefore would be the torment of the soul if they were disappointed; but it would be inconsistent with God’s goodness and His love to His people to create in them holy and heavenly desires, and then deny them their proper satisfaction; and therefore they may be assured when they have overcome their present difficulties, He will give them of the fountain of the water of life freely.

Revelation 21:6-8. The greatness of this future felicity is declared and illustrated, 1. By the freeness of it. 2. The fullness of it; inherit all things. 3. By the tenure and title by which God’s people enjoy this blessedness; by right of inheritance, as the sons of God. 4. By the vastly different state of the wicked.

Revelation 21:8. Observe, 1. The sins of those who perish. The fearful lead the van in this black list; they durst not encounter the difficulties of religion, and their slavish fear proceeded from their unbelief. They, however, were yet so desperate as to run into all manner of abominable wickedness. 2. Their punishment. This misery will be their proper part and portion, and what they have prepared themselves for by their sins.—From The Comprehensive Commentary. Revelation 21:8. There is then a fearfulness which alone is sufficient to cause our condemnation, as well as the other crimes here mentioned. It is not only that fear which causes us to deny and abandon the faith; but that also which causes us to be wanting to important and essential duties, through fear of hurting our fortunes, our ease, and even our temporal and spiritual interests, and of creating ourselves enemies. True courage is, to fear nothing but God and displeasing Him. Real cowardice is, not to have courage to overcome self, nor renounce the creature, through the hope of enjoying the Creator. (Quesnel.)—From Vaughan: Revelation 21:3. To have God with us is to be perfectly safe: to have God for our God is to be perfectly happy.

Revelation 21:8. The fearful. O terrible end! O fatal compromise carried on too long and too far with sinners and with sin ! O spirit of oversensitiveness, of dislike to trouble, of dread of isolation, of inability to judge decisively and to act courageously, which has brought you, by slow stages, by easy descents, to a level so vile, and a companionship so horrible !—From Bonar: Revelation 20:12. Books are opened—books probably containing God’s history of the sinner’s life, His record of the sinner’s deeds. … The Divine version of human history how unlike all earthly annals ! Most of the leading facts the same, yet how differently told and interpreted. Alongside of these is another book, called the book of life—the register of those whose portion is life eternal.

Revelation 21:13. Judged every man according to his works. God keeps His diary of every soul’s doings and sayings and thinkings.

Revelation 21:14. Of the old prediction in Hosea (Revelation 13:14): “O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction,” John here records the awful (and glorious) fulfillment.]

Verses 9-27

SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES (ADDENDUM)

Section Twenty-First

Heavenly-Earthly Picture (Earth-Picture) of the New World. The Kingdom of Glory. (Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5.)

General.—The Kingdom of glory is the Kingdom of consummation; of the consummate development of all the human capabilities of mankind, as born again through Christianity, together with the consummate development of the renewed cosmos of mankind; the Palingenesia of the human world, founded on the holy Birth and Resurrection of Christ—His Primogeniture from the dead—and mediated by the regeneration and resurrection of the faithful.—Relation of the human cosmos to the universe in general.—This relation is modified by the absolute priority of Christ, resting upon His Divine-human nature, the ideal perfection of His life, the holiness of His cross, the glory of His victory. The consummation itself, however, as eternal, is based upon the super-creaturely, God-related, æonic nature of humanity; upon the eternal foundation, the eternal aim, and the eternal value of the life and work of Christ; and upon the covenant-faithfulness of God and the sureness of His promises.

The promises of God, as real prophecies, in nature and in the development of life, as well as in those verbal prophecies of the Kingdom of God which hover above this life, have all aimed at that glorious consummation, at the eternalization of the Christian life and its sphere, the eternal City of God. Hence, the domain of the consummation is at the same time the domain of all fulfillments; it is both of these as the Kingdom of glory, the blessed realm of spirits, filled with the life of the Eternal Spirit.

The Kingdom of glory unfolds in three spheres, appearing (1) as the consummation and fulfillment of the Theocracy, or as the heavenly Jerusalem, the City of God (Revelation 21:9-21); (2) as the consummation and fulfillment of all the truth and all the longing contained in the religious history of mankind, or as the holy Home-City of all believing Gentiles [nations] (Revelation 21:22-27); (3) as the consummation and fulfillment of all the prophecies of nature, or as the Home-Country of all souls, the universal, new Paradise (Revelation 22:1-5).

Special.—The perfected Kingdom of God, in respect of its different designations and imports: Historic form of the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:9-21); the City of God; the heavenly Jerusalem; the Bride.—Blessed prospect of the City of God. Most glorious of all prospects. “Jerusalem, du hoch gebaute Stadt,” etc. [“Jerusalem, thou city fair and high”]. “Ich hab’ von ferne, etc.”—Procession of the City of God: 1. From Heaven to earth; 2. From earth to Heaven; 3. Back again, from Heaven to earth.—[Revelation 21:10.] The descending City of God, or perfected communication between Heaven (the starry world) and earth.—Description of the City of God (Revelation 21:11-21). Its source of light; its walls; its gates; its dimensions and fundamental forms; its fundamental materials.—Spiritual, universal form of the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:22-27). Its spiritual Temple. Its spiritual Sun. Its spiritual Church. Its spiritual liberty. Its spiritual fullness. Its spiritual purity and consecrateness.—The new Paradise (Revelation 22:1-5). The river of life: 1. Where does it appear? 2. Whence does it come? 3. Whither does it flow?—The river of life: 1. In respect of its name; 2. In respect of its beauty (like crystal); 3. In respect of its products.—The trees of life—the manifestation of highest life: 1. From the Fountain of life to the River of life; 2. From the River of life to the Trees of life; 3. From the Trees of life to their fruits; 4. From the fruits to the health-producing leaves.—The perfected, pure, consecrated creature (Revelation 22:3).—The laws of purity for creaturely life: a prophecy of the future glorification of the world.—Activity and rest in the Paradise of God (Revelation 22:3-4).—Perfect union of culture and cultus in the Paradise of God.—The service (Revelation 22:3).—The blessed rest (the beholding of God [Revelation 22:4]).—The region of eternal sunshine [Revelation 22:5].—The new world shining in the radiance of the glory of the Lord.—The glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:0), in its eternal duration and renewal.

Starke: [Revelation 21:12.] God is a fiery wall and protection to His Church (Zechariah 2:5).

Revelation 21:13. Entrance into the Church is free to all people, in all corners of the world, who will but come to the fellowship of the Church (1 Timothy 2:4).

Revelation 21:14. The one true Foundation of the Church and of eternal blessedness is Christ alone (1 Corinthians 3:11). This Foundation is laid solely through the Apostles (Ephesians 2:20). (The reconcilement of the apparent contradiction is to be found in the fact that Christ has organically unfolded His fullness in the twelve Apostles.)—On Revelation 21:23, comp. Isaiah 60:19-20.—On Revelation 21:24, comp. Isaiah 60:3; see Isaiah 49:23; Isaiah 2:2 sq.; Psalms 72:10-11; also Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 60:21; Ezekiel 44:9.—Revelation 22:2. A contrast to ancient Babylon is here presented. As the Euphrates flowed through the midst of Babylon, and as the river of Babylon dried up (Revelation 16:12), so, on the other hand, the spiritual Jerusalem has the river of the Holy Spirit, which brings water through the midst of the City and which shall never dry up.—Christ is the Tree of life, which has life in itself.—On Revelation 21:3, comp. Zechariah 14:11.

W. Hoffmann, Maranatha (Ruf zum Herrn, Vol. VIII. Sermon on 2 Peter 3:13-14. P. 180). We shall speak of the new world of the redeemed, as described in our text in the following words: “But we wait for a new Heaven and a new earth.” For the first word of revelation from God’s mouth runs: “In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth,” and the last word of prophecy is that which we have just read. Thus, between the first coming into existence of Heaven and earth and the last everlasting being of Heaven and earth, all the Divine economy moves.

[From M. Henry: Revelation 21:10. They who would have clear views of heaven must get as near heaven as they can, into the mount of vision, the mount of meditation and faith, from whence, as from the top of Pisgah, they may behold the goodly land of the heavenly Canaan.

Revelation 21:11. Having the glory of God; glorious in her relation to Christ, in His image now perfected in her, and in His favor shining upon her.

Revelation 21:12. Note, 1. The wall. Heaven is a safe state. 2. The gates. It is accessible to all those that are sanctified.

Revelation 21:22. There the saints are above the need of ordinances, which were the means of their preparation for heaven. Perfect and immediate communion with God will more than supply the place of gospel-institutions.

Revelation 21:23. God in Christ will be an everlasting Fountain of knowledge and joy to the saints in heaven.

Revelation 21:27. The saints shall have (1) no impure thing remain in them, (2) no impure persons admitted among them.

Revelation 22:1. All our springs of grace, comfort and glory are in God; and all our streams from Him, through the mediation of the Lamb.

Revelation 22:3. And there shall be no more curse. Here is the great excellency of this paradise—the Devil has nothing to do there; he cannot draw the saints from serving God to be subject to himself, as he did our first parents, nor can he so much as disturb them in the service of God.

Revelation 22:4-5. Note, 1. There the saints shall see the face of God; there enjoy the beatific vision. 2. God will own them, as having His seal and name on their foreheads. 3. They shall reign with Him forever; their service shall be not only freedom, but honor and dominion. 4. They shall be full of wisdom and comfort, continually walking in the light of the Lord.—From The Comprehensive Commentary. Revelation 21:9-27. “Glorious things are” indeed here “spoken of the City of God” (Psalms 87:3); and the whole is well suited to raise our expectations and enlarge our conceptions of its security, peace, splendor, purity and felicity; but, in proportion to our spirituality, we shall be more and more led to contemplate heaven as filled with “the glory of God,” and enlightened by the presence of the Lord Jesus, “the Sun of righteousness,” and the Redeemer of lost sinners, knowing that “in His presence is fullness of joy, and pleasures at His right hand for evermore.” (Scott.)—As nothing unclean can enter thither, let us be stirred up, by these glimpses of heavenly things, in giving diligence to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God;” that we may be approved as “Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile,” and have a sure evidence that we are “written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Scott.)—Revelation 22:5. In that world of light and glory there will “be no night,” no affliction, or dejection, no intermission of service and enjoyments; they will “need no candle;” no diversions or pleasures of man’s devising will there be at all wanted; and even the outward comforts which God has provided, suited to our state in this world, will no longer be requisite. (Scott.)—From Vaughan: Revelation 21:22. The Lord God and the Lamb are the Temple of it. The worship of heaven is offered directly, not only to God, but in God. It is as if God Himself were the shrine in which man will then adore Him. The blessed will be so included in God that even when they worship, He will be their temple.—If we would hereafter worship in that temple which is God Himself, Christ Himself, we must know God now by faith; we must have life now in Christ.—Revelation 22:3. If in heaven we would serve God, we must begin to be His servants here.—From Bonar: Chs. 20, 21. What a termination to the long, long desert-journey of the Church of God, calling forth from us the exulting shout which broke from the lips of the Crusaders, when first from the neighboring height they caught sight of the holy city: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem!”]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 21". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/revelation-21.html. 1857-84.