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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 21

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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Revelation 21:1 A new heaven and a new earth.

Revelation 21:2 The new Jerusalem.

Revelation 21:3-7 The blessedness of God’s people.

Revelation 21:8 The judgment of the wicked.

Revelation 21:9-27 A description of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Chapter Introduction

This chapter begins with the vision of the new heaven and the new earth, by which all understand a new state of the church, but are divided in their opinions, whether what is spoken be to be understood of the church militant upon the earth, or of the church triumphant in heaven. Those who understand it of the church militant here upon earth, are divided in their opinions as to that period of the church which is here spoken of; some understanding it of the thousand years after the time of Constantine, for which I see no reason (nor, I believe, will any that wisely considers the state of the church in that time); others understanding it of the thousand years mentioned Revelation 20:1-3, in which (as was said) the church should enjoy great quiet and peace. I must confess I choose much rather to agree with them who judge it signifieth the church triumphant, being overcome with the reasons given by those reverend authors, a summary of which may be found in Mr. Pool’s Latin Synopsis.

1. That interpretation carrieth on the history in order; whereas, according to the other, we must say the history, Revelation 20:1-5, was interrupted by the battle with Gog and Magog, and the account of the day of judgment, Revelation 21:7,Revelation 21:15.

2. In reason, as the close of the former chapter gave us an account of the issue of the day of judgment, as to wicked men, so this should give us some account how it should fare with the saints.

3. We shall find some things in the new Jerusalem here described, which will agree to no state of the church upon earth: see Revelation 21:22,Revelation 21:23.

Verse 1

A new heaven and a new earth; a new and glorious state of things relating to the church.

For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea; for now there was an end to the world, and all the troubles that the people of God had met with in it, as well as the material earth, heaven, and sea, were passed away. This new heaven was prophesied of of old by Isaiah, and more lately by Peter, 2 Peter 3:13.

Verse 2

The holy city, new Jerusalem; that is, the whole chorus or number of the elect of God, answering God’s chosen people in Jerusalem.

Coming down from God out of heaven; not locally coming down, but who had their original from heaven, and were all persons of heavenly minds.

Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; in their best robes of glory, such as brides use to wear, when on their wedding day they adorn themselves for their bridegrooms.

Verse 3

What is said here, is applicable to the church of God in this life, yea, to every true believer, whose body is said to be the temple of the Lord, and in whom the Lord dwells, according to the phrase of the Holy Ghost in many places of the New Testament; of whom it is also true, that God is

with them, and will be their God; but more especially applicable to the church triumphant, as dwelling signifies a constancy of abode, and more full manifestation of a person. The state of the saints in glory is thus described by a being ever with the Lord, 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Verse 4

Scarce any of the passages in this verse, taken in the plain, literal sense, are applicable to any state of the church in this life: for though in the thousand years, mentioned Revelation 20:1-3, the state of the church (as it is presumed) will be very happy comparatively to what it ever was before, and free from its enemies’ molestations and persecutions; yet I think none hath asserted that in that time no members of it shall die, or be sick, or have any sorrow or pain. There must be a great allowance of figures, if we will apply this to any state of the militant church; but all will be literally true as to the church in heaven.

Verse 5

And he that sat upon the throne, that is, Christ,

said, Behold, I make all things new; behold, I will put a new face upon all things; the state of my people shall not for ever be a troubled and afflicted state.

And he said unto me, Write: because the vision is to be for an appointed time, and what I now tell thee will not be accomplished of many years, and yet the knowledge and prospect of it, and meditations upon it, are of highest importance to keep up the spirits of my people under all their sufferings, during that time of the dragon (the Romish heathen emperors) not yet run out, and the twelve hundred and sixty years of antichrist, &c., therefore write it, that all my people in all ages may know it, believe it, and suffer patiently in the hopes of it.

For these words are true and faithful; for, what I tell time is what comes from the true and faithful Witness, and shall have a certain being in its time.

Verse 6

And he said unto me, It is done; the world is at an end, and all my threatenings against my enemies, and promises to my people, are now fulfilled, in the eternal damnation of the one, and deliverance and salvation of the other.

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end: I first made the world, and I have put a period to it. I first gave out those promises and threatenings, and I have now fulfilled them.

I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely; and my people who have thirsted after my righteousness and salvation, now have it freely, and shall drink, and drink abundantly.

Verse 7

He that overcometh, shall inherit all things: God revealed this to John almost sixteen hundred years since; and how long it shall be before this glorious time shall come, God alone knows: the most of this time hath been, and will be, a time of fighting with the world, the flesh, and the devil; but whoever he be that shall fight this good fight, and come out of it a conqueror, shall inherit all the joys and happiness of heaven.

I will be his God, and he shall be my son: I will be to him all in all; I will be his God to love and glorify him, and he shall be with me as my son, to live with me for ever and ever.

Verse 8

All those who are without the church invisible, whether protime persons, (such are murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, liars), or idolaters, or unbelievers and hypocrites, shall all be cast to hell.

The fearful, who, through fear of losing their reputation, estates, honours, or lives, deny me, or shall not dare to own me.

And unbelieving; such as will not agree to the proposition of my gospel; or will not come to me that they might have life.

The abominable; sodomites, and such as live in beastly lusts.

Murderers; such as, without any warrant from God, take away men’s lives wilfully,

Whoremongers; such as defile their neighbours’ wives.

Sorcerers; such as exercise witchcraft, consult the devil, and trade with familiar spirits.

Idolaters; whether they commit the idolatry of Ahab, giving Divine adoration to the creatures, as the term of their worship; or the idolatry of Jeroboam, worshipping the true God by images.

And all liars; and all such as are liars with their tongues, speaking what they know to be false; or liars in practice, that is, hypocrites, seeming to be what they are not.

Shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death: all these, and all such like, shall be eternally damned.

Verse 9

One of the seven angels; one of those mentioned Revelation 15:6.

I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife; I will show thee the whole church, (invisible heretofore), the glorious state of the church triumphant, under the representation of a great city.

Verse 10

And he carried me away in the spirit; in a trance or ecstasy, as before.

To a great and high mountain; from whence men use to have the best prospect of cities, or other places.

And showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God; there he caused me to see the whole triumphant church, answering as the antitype to Jerusalem, but more holy; being not of the earth, earthly, but from heaven, heavenly; founded, built up, and adorned by God.

Verse 11

Having the glory of God; a most excellent glory, received from God.

And her light, that is, (as some interpret it), that which gave her light, (as the sun is called the light of the earth), or her enlightener,

was like unto a stone most precious, was Christ himself, who is a stone most precious: Revelation 21:23,

The Lamb is the light thereof.

Like a jasper stone: see Revelation 4:3. God is there compared to a jasper stone; here, to a

jasper stone, clear as crystal. They say of the jasper stone, that it is very glorious to the eye, precious and pure; so it is very fit to resemble in part a pure and glorious God.

Verse 12

And had a wall, that is, this city, by which is meant the church of God,

had a wall great and high. Walls are for the protection and defence of a place; the higher and greater they are, the greater defence and protection they give. By this God is meant, who is often called his people’s Rock and Defence.

And had twelve gates: the use of the gates of a city, are to let persons in and out. The church is said to have twelve gates, because of the free liberty of access to the church while it was militant, and to signify that the church in heaven will be made up of persons come into it from all parts; or for the greater state and glory of it. Some think, because of the twelve apostles, who were the first ministers of the gospel who admitted men into this church.

And at the gates twelve angels; denoting the guard of angels about the church; unless by angels ministers be to be understood, proportioned to the several parts of the church.

And names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel; because as, of old, only the twelve tribes of God’s chosen people Israel made up the church in that period; so only God’s elect and peculiar people, typified by that Israel, come in at the gates of this church. It is very observable, how God affects the number of twelve in the affairs of his church.

Verse 13

To signify it was made up of persons from all parts of the world. This agreeth with Ezekiel’s vision, Ezekiel 48:31-34. The triumphant church will be a collection of believers, who from all nations have come into it.

Verse 14

And the wall of the city had twelve foundations; the ancient church of God was founded in twelve patriarchs, and twelve tribes; the gospel church in twelve apostles; Christ is the only foundation of both, 1 Corinthians 3:11, but he is the foundation upon which the church: is built. The twelve apostles are called the foundations per quoe or per quos, by which the gospel church had its beginning.

And in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; as workmen sometimes set their names upon foundation stones, by which it is made known who were they that builded the wall.

Verse 15

This seemeth to signify the transcendency of the state of the church now, to what it was before; it was then measured by a man, Revelation 11:1-19, now by an angel; then by an ordinary reed, now by a golden reed.

Verse 16

The church militant, measured by the reed of the word, is unequal in its parts; some parts of it are purer than others; but in the new Jerusalem all parts shall be equal in perfection and purity, as all the sides of a thing four square are equal.

Verse 17

This could not be the measure of the compass, (it was for that much too little), nor of the height or breadth, (for either of them it was much too great), from whence Dr. Potter concluded, it must be the square measure; so as the height and breadth of it was twelve cubits, for twelve times twelve make one hundred and forty-four.

According to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel; as men use to measure, and as this angel measured, who appeared as a man in this action.

Verse 18

And the building of the wall of it was of jasper; strong and impregnable, not subject to impressions from enemies, as it is said of the jasper, that no hammer will break it.

And the city was pure gold; all that make up this city are perfect and noble.

Like unto clear glass; pure, without spots.

Verse 19

And the foundations of the wall of the city, by which, we noted before, are to be understood the apostles, who, building upon the one foundation, Christ Jesus, by their holy doctrine laid the beginnings of the gospel churches, the first stones, (upon the Rock Christ), which were afterwards multiplied, others being builded upon them, till the whole church was perfected.

Verse 20

I cannot tell what to make of these precious stones, with which they are said to be garnished, unless it be their spiritual gifts and habits of grace; the various manifestations of the Holy Spirit given to the apostles to profit the church withal, with which they adorned the doctrine of the gospel, and won upon the pagan world, making themselves admirable in the eyes of men and women. Nor were it hard to descant upon these several sorts of stones, and to show of what graces they may be types: the jasper, of steadiness and constancy; the sapphire, of heavenly mindedness (it being a stone of the colour of the heavens); the chalcedony, of zeal; the emerald of vigour and liveliness; the sardonyx, (a stone of various colours), of various gifts and graces; the sardius, of courage and fortitude, and a readiness to shed their blood for Christ; the chrysolyte, of love, or wisdom, and knowledge; the beryl, of a quickness of sight and understanding; the topaz, of searching out Divine mysteries; the chrysoprasus, of gravity and severity; the jacinth, of spiritual joy, calmness, and serenity of mind; the amethyst, of sobriety and temperence. But it seems to me too great curiosity to philosophize so far upon the nature of these stones; take them together, they probably signify all the gifts and graces of the blessed apostles, by which the religion of the gospel was first commended, and made to appear lovely to the world.

Verse 21

I am not willing to descant further in particulars, conjecturing (for it is no more) what each metaphorical term signifies in this unusual description of a city. I do think the scope of the whole is no more, than to let us know that the mansions of heaven will be most glorious places, giving the souls of those to whom God shall give to enter into them, an infinite satisfaction, beyond what the most rich and glorious things in the world can give our outward senses.

Verse 22

And I saw no temple therein: I cannot take temple so strictly here, as those who understand all this but as a description of the blessed state of the militant church, during the thousand years; but understand it of all such worship and ordinances as we serve God in, and by, in this life.

For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it; the immediate fruition of God shall there supply all, God shall be all in all, 1 Corinthians 15:28. Ordinances are but perspectives, of use in this life to see God at a distance; means, whereby we know in part: there we shall see God face to face, and know him as we are known. The saints there shall want nothing, and therefore shall not need a house of prayer; they shall know perfectly, and therefore will not need any to teach them; they shall always see Christ, and so will need no sacraments whereby to remember him.

Verse 23

The sun and the moon are the two great luminaries of the world, which God hath made, the one to rule the day, the other to rule the night; in heaven there will be no need of any of these.

Light, in Scripture, (in its metaphorical notion), signifies knowledge or comfort; there will in heaven be no need of any created beings, to help us to either of these; God and Christ shall there fill the souls of his saints with knowledge and joy not to be expressed.

Verse 24

And the nations of them, which are saved shall walk in the light of it; all that go to heaven shall be thus happy.

And the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it; and such kings of the earth as shall come into heaven, shall see all their honour and glory swallowed up in the glory and honour of that place and state; and confess that all their crowns are infinitely short of this blessed and glorious crown, all their thrones nothing to these thrones.

Verse 25

And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: the reason of shutting a city’s gates, is either to shut out enemies, or to keep in such as are within: there will be no need of shutting these gates on either of these accounts; there will be no enemies to fear, and those that are within this city will have no need nor desire to go out.

For there shall be no night there: we do not ordinarily shut our city gates by day, but there shall be nothing but day, no night in a natural or metaphorical sense.

Verse 26

Whatsoever is excellent or desirable in the world, shall be supplied to the souls of those that are in heaven, by good of another make, but which shall be equally (nay, infinitely more) satisfactory to the soul.

Verse 27

And there shall in no wise enter into it: in the Greek there are two negative particles, which though in the Latin they make an affirmative, yet in the Greek make a stronger negative, which we translate in no wise, or by no means.

Any thing that defileth: this strongly denying particle is brought to make the bar excluding all unclean persons from heaven evident. And alas! How often had this need be denied, to make men and women, mad of their lusts, believe it! The word translated, that defileth, signifieth, what is common; nothing, no person that hath not by a holy life separated himself from the world, and all sin and wickedness, and dedicated himself to God.

Neither whatsoever worketh abomination; no profane or lewd person.

Or maketh a lie; nor any false or lying hypocrites, nor any idolaters, for idols are lies.

But they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life; none but those whose names are written in the book of life, predetermined to salvation, and redeemed with the blood of Christ. Some am not pleased with this sense; but what other thing can be meant? This is, at least, the sixth time we have met with this phrase in this book, Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12,Revelation 20:15. It is also mentioned, Philippians 4:3. And what else can be meant in Moses’s prayer, Exodus 32:32? It is twice {Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8} said, that names were written in it from the foundation of the world. God hath a particular, certain, infallible knowledge who are his, and had it from eternity; and whence he should know it, without willing of it, is very hard to conceive. It is called the Lamb’s book, to let us know, that the act of redemption by Christ bears proportion to the counsels of election.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 21". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/revelation-21.html. 1685.
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