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Thursday, May 30th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 21

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

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Verses 1-27



“NOW is sealed the eternal doom of the dragon, beast, false prophet, and all their followers; yea, and of all who resemble them in the temper of their hearts or the action of their lives. Nothing remains but to exhibit the glorious reward of the righteous, in the eternal world, as contrasted with the awful punishment of the wicked.”

Revelation 21:1. New heavens and new earth.—Isaiah 65:17; compare Ezekiel 40-48 and Matthew 19:28. “Heavens “here refer to the firmament regarded as the dome above the earth; it is not the abode of the righteous. No more sea.—For ancient ideas of the sea, compare Isaiah 48:18; Isaiah 57:21. “To the ancients the absence of sea seemed a pledge of security and of unfettered intercourse between all nations.”

Revelation 21:2. New Jerusalem.—An ideal city, presented under figures that represent perfection—the perfection of purity, beauty, and joy.

Revelation 21:3 Tabernacle of God.—Figure from the conception of Jehovah as resident in the old Jewish tabernacle.

Revelation 21:10. Holy Jerusalem.—Bishop Boyd Carpenter skilfully presents the leading features: “The great and holy community will be one which draws its glory from God (chaps. Revelation 21:11; Revelation 21:23, Revelation 22:5). Its blessings are not for a few, but open to all; for its gates lie open to all quarters (Revelation 21:12-13). The heavenly and the earthly will be at one; angels, apostles, and patriarchs are there (Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14). Diverse characters will find entrance there; the gates bear the names of the twelve tribes. The door of admission is alike for all, though diverse characters, from diverse quarters, will enter in (Revelation 21:21). It will be the abode of all that is fair and good, and no disproportions will mar its loveliness (Revelation 21:17-18). The ancient truths, spoken by various lips, will be found to be eternal truths, full of varied but consistent beauty (Revelation 21:14; Revelation 21:19-20). The forms and helps which were needful here will not be needful there (Revelation 21:22-23); all that the servants of God have righteously hungered and thirsted for here, will be supplied there (Revelation 21:1-2). There will be blessings, various, continuous, eternal; new fields of labour, and new possibilities of service, will be opened there.”

Revelation 21:7. Loosed from his prison.—As this is the indication of some future condition, it is impossible to explain it. Taken mystically, the binding of Satan implied restraint put upon his power of freedom and action; the loosing means the removal of those restraints. Christendom, even in its times of glorious success, is exposed to the influences of the evil one. Gog and Magog.—See Genesis 10:2; Ezekiel 38, 39. “In Rabbinical books these names were used to describe the nations that would rise against the reign of Messiah. The names are to be understood figuratively.”

Revelation 21:12. Stand before God.—This representation of the judgment is a vision, and it would be unwise to treat it as literally descriptive. Compare our Lord’s being shown, in a moment of time, “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.” Book of life.—Compare Daniel 12:1.

Revelation 21:13. Hell.—Sheol, the Hebrew equivalent of Hades. Those buried at sea are thought of as not being in the grave: a curious distinction.

Revelation 21:14. Lake of fire.—This is pure imagery; fire to burn such things as death and the grave cannot possibly be literally explained. It is to be understood as the material representation of the “second death.” “Here is a resurrection, not to life, but to a death far more terrible than that which ends this life.”

Note on theSecond DeathorLake of Fire.”—It is a death of which the first death—the physical death, now destroyed—was but a faint figure. It is a condition which needs no coarse exaggeration, or vulgar literalisation of the prophetic imagery, to heighten the horror of it. Very awful is that spiritual death which knows not and loves not God, and from which Christ has come to arouse us; more awful must be that second death, in which the spirit, no longer the sinning victim of hereditary evil, has become the victim of habitual choice of wrong, loving darkness rather than light, and choosing alienation rather than reconciliation—the busks of the swine rather than the Father’s house. Of the full meaning of the words, in their true and future force, we can have little conception. It is enough for us to remember two things: they are figurative, but they are figurative of something.—Bishop Boyd Carpenter.


The Millennial State.—In the latter part of chap. 20, and in chaps. 21–22:5, all Christ’s enemies are destroyed, and the happiness of the saints is perfected. Upon the millennial bliss of the redeemed, and upon the glory and happiness of the New Jerusalem, it is not possible to dwell. Suffice it to say, that we are to behold in the former a figure of the perfected and eternally secured life of those who not only die, but rise, with Christ; and that in the latter we have a bright and beautiful, as well as elevating, picture of that new condition into which the followers of Jesus are introduced, even on this side the grave, and amidst the labours and trials of their present pilgrimage. Nothing, we are persuaded, has tended more to perplex the interpretation of the Apocalypse than the idea that that holy city which St. John saw “coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” is intended to represent a glorious state into which the redeemed shall enter, sooner or later, after the close of their earthly pilgrimage, but before they obtain possession of their eternal inheritance. Taking such a view, it is impossible to interpret fairly all the expressions of the passage, while it deprives us, at the same time, of the thought of those sublime privileges which, as we are everywhere taught in Scripture, are not the future only, but the present inheritance of God’s children. It is true, indeed, that even they who are “in” Christ Jesus are still surrounded by a darkness which has no place in the heavenly Jerusalem; that they have still to shed tears which are there washed away; and that they have still to fear that they must meet that death which shall there be swallowed up of victory. Calling these things to mind, it can be no matter of surprise that many have difficulty in believing that the brightness and glory of this celestial city can, under any point of view, represent an earthly scene through which we are thankful if we may but grope our way, “fightings without, and fears within.” Yet let them remember that the Christian life has two sides, those two which are brought forward so prominently by the Apostle, when he speaks of himself and his fellow ministers “as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowing, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). Let them remember that, if the follower of Christ dies daily with his Lord, he also rises with Him daily, and ascends to the heavenly places, and is set down there, his life not maintained amidst the things of earth, but “hid with Christ in God.” Let these thoughts be ever present to their minds, and they will not have much difficulty in seeing that in the description of the new Jerusalem we have the ideal side of the Christian’s position, elevated to its highest point and illuminated with its brightest colouring, but still a side that is true to one aspect of his present state.—W. Milligan, D.D.


Revelation 21:1. A Strange Picture of the Future.—Who among us does not love the sea, and feel thankful that the Bible permits us to learn from it concerning God, and the future life? But our associations make it almost impossible for us to realise the joy of a time when “there shall be no more sea.” The landscapes of the heavenly world we cannot imagine will be beautiful without either near or far glimpses of the sea. The air of the heavenly world we can hardly think will be pure and rich and reviving if it does not blow over a restless, waving sea. There must, however, be some good reasons for putting the glory of the heavenly scenes under this figure. The meanings attaching to natural emblems differ in different times, and nations, and individuals, and when the Apostle John wrote this book of Revelation, men did not think of the “sea” as we think of it now. Indeed, throughout the Scriptures the sea is regarded as an object of fear and terror; its majesty, its greatness, its mastery, seem mostly to have impressed men then. It was not yet tamed by human skill. The compass was not known; the few vessels they had were inefficiently constructed for ocean-sailing; they seldom ventured out of sight of land. The dangers of sandbank, rock, headland, and current, were not marked on chart, or by buoy and lighthouse, and only the most adventurous spirits would risk their lives on the treacherous wave. The Jews, throughout their history, take no place as sailors; indeed, the whole sea-board of Canaan contains but one or two harbours. Scripture speaks of “the raging of the sea,” of the “raging waves of the sea”; of its “voice roaring,” of the “floods lifting up their voice,” of “the wicked being like the troubled sea,” of “those that go down to the sea in ships seeing the wonders of the Lord, and His judgments in the deep,” of the “great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable.” And even when it seems to have a gentle thought, saying, “There go the ships”; as if, like us, it loved to watch—

“The stately ships go on
To their harbour under the hill,”

at once it adds the note of power and fear—“there is that Leviathan whom thou hast made to play therein.” Only as we enter into the Bible associations of the sea shall we feel the meaning of its figure for the future world—“There shall be no more sea.” But more must be added. When John wrote down these visions he was “our companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, and was in the isle that is called Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Patmos is a rocky and bare island in the Ægean Sea, and was used by the Romans as a place of banishment, something as St. Helena has been by us. There John was separated from his fellow-Christians, and from his loved work; the sea was his divider, and we can well understand how, looking on that wide waste of pathless waters all around him, his heart would fashion this image of the life to come—“There shall be no more sea.” The common idea of the age, and the special circumstances of the apostle, help us to reach the proper suggestions of a figure so unsuitable to our own feelings. We even know that the sea—the moving, and the storms of the sea—are necessary to life and health. The air is tempered which passes over it; the wants of men are met by its provisions of food; disease is dispelled by its tempests and commotions. And yet, for all the usefulness of the sea, and all the pleasure of it, there are times when, to our hearts, the figure of the text carries its full meaning; and in the light of that meaning we can anticipate “the new heavens and earth, in which there shall be no more sea.” The sea seems to gather up for us the various forms of trouble and anxiety that come to us in this life; the various forms of trouble from which we hope to be delivered in the coming life. The troubles that arise out of Separation, Danger, Mystery, Change, and Conflict.

I. If the sea be to us the symbol of separation, and so of those earthly troubles that come by separations, we shall see meaning and force in this promise for the future—“There shall be no more sea.”—True the ocean is now the pathway of nations. In all the interchanges of commerce, and friendship, and travel, we make well-defined tracks over the waters, and knit land to land more easily than when mountain ranges divide kingdoms. Let but any one watch in the Downs, and see the thousand ships passing in picturesque procession to and from the Thames, and he will feel it very hard to call the sea a divider. Think but of the ropes that pass beneath the wave, and carry lightning messages to the ends of the earth, and it seems strange to speak of the sea as a separator. Yet in no day has it been such a breaker-up of families and homes as in these emigrating days of ours. Few of us are without dear friends settled in distant lands, severed from us by the great wave. Many a mother, many a father, many a lover, feels most keenly that the sea is only a little less a separator than the grave. Why those tears wrung out of the agonies of parting, save that to human feeling every mile of ocean seems to lift up a higher, and at last impassable, barrier between us and them? How many a friend has watched the ship fading in the distance that bore the beloved away, and turned back to life with all the agony of desolation, feeling as if divided from them for ever!

“How hard to follow, with lips that quiver,
That moving speck on the far-off side!
Farther, farther—I see it—know it;
My eyes brim over. It melts away.
Only my heart to my heart shall show it,
As I walk desolate, day by day.”

Jean Ingelow.

That, indeed, is only separation of space. Across the dividing sea, heart may beat true to heart, and fellowship be kept. There are worse dividers than the sea. Envies, and suspicions, and jealousies, come breaking up our life-unions and our friendships, and some of the sorest of human sorrows belong to these failing friendships and wounded trusts. Gather them all, then, into the symbol of the wounded trusts. Gather them all, then, into the symbol of the sea. Let it remind you of all the woes that have come out of separations, all through your life; even let it recall how the great separator death again and again sets his wide, rolling river between you and those you loved. Yes, even think how those dear to you, part of the host, have crossed the great flood, and are now divided by the sea of death from you. And then turn to our text; let thought and heart fill its pictures of the future with tenderness, and peaceful resting to your soul. No ship shall sail out from the heavenly harbours, bearing away from you your boys. No rolling waves of mistrust shall toss between you and your friend. No night-moaning sea of death shall bear away on its bosom your beloved. “There shall be no more sea.” “They go no more out for ever.”

“Here we suffer grief and pain,
Here we meet to part again:
In Heaven we part no more.”

II. If the sea be to us the emblem of danger, reminding us of the perils to which our daily life is exposed, we shall feel the force of the text. Those dangers do, indeed, meet us everywhere: on road and rail, at home and abroad. “In the midst of life we are in death.” But we get the largest and most affecting impressions of danger from the records of the sea. Shipwreck is a most familiar word—so familiar that if there be not special circumstances of horror, it passes almost unheeded by us. The sea is the most masterful thing with which a man has to do. He does, at best, but hold his own with it, and that only by watching it, and fitting himself to its moods. Step on deck, knowing that, for days together, you will lose all sight of land, and scarcely meet another sail, and who can wonder that the sense of danger makes you lift your heart to God? But those only feel how the sea symbolises danger who have lost a friend at sea. Its peril then has come right home to them. Down in her solitary depths their loved one made a grave; and the heart almost shudders now to look upon the dreadful sea that devoured him. Had we a sailor’s widow here, how much her heart could tell us of the perils of the deep! Is your heart sensitive and sympathising enough to hear her moan?

“My boat, you shall find none fairer afloat,

In river or port.

Long I looked out for the lad she bore,

On the open, desolate sea,

And I think he sailed to the heavenly shore,

For he came not back to me—

Ah me!”

Jean Ingelow.

But these are only dangers to the body. May we rise to the higher dangers that put the soul’s life in peril; dangers hovering round our moral life, putting in peril character and virtue? And then, taking the sea as our emblem of both, does not the text begin to glow with meaning, as it promises the peace of established, settled, untempted goodness for ever?—“he that is righteous, righteous still; and he that is holy, holy still.” Watch and guard no more, as now, our first duty, and done at cost of weariness and pain. But rejoicing, resting, safety, the peace of God, about us for ever; no more treacherous, perilous, storm-tossed seas. We shall hear that “blessedest, best sound, the boat-keel grazing on the strand,” as we enter, once and for ever, the safe, quiet harbour of our God. Safe home at last.

III. If we deeply feel how the sea symbolises the mystery of our present life, we shall put meaning into the promise of our text. Have you ever done thinking about the sea? Ever done asking insoluble questions about it? Ever done watching its various moods? Ever seen all its possible colourings? Ever heard all its many sounding voices? One of the greatest indications that God Himself is a sublimer mystery than even the sea, lies in this statement: “He ruleth the seas”; He “holdeth the waters in the hollow of His hand.” It may well symbolise for us the mysteries, often so distressing, so agonising, with which we are surrounded. Mysteries of life, of truth, of duty, of ourselves, of God, and of eternity. How passionately we dash against some of these encircling walls!—as if we would force nature and truth to yield us their secrets. The day is coming when we shall win the open vision. Many of us anticipate heaven with unbounded enthusiasm, because then we shall see, then we shall know; shut doors, at which here we vainly hammered, shall be open; dark things, that puzzled us sorely, shall shine in the light of God. There shall be no more sea of mystery. In comparison with present limitations, our mind and soul shall feel free; and for ennobled faculties all the glory of God shall be open to research. For some, at least, the prospect makes heaven infinitely attractive. The Lamb is the light thereof, and “we shall know hereafter.”

IV. If we regard the sea as the emblem of change, we shall see the meaning of our text. It is well called the troubled, restless sea; and this we feel quite as truly in summer calm, when only gentle winds blow across it, as in winter conflicts, when wild winds raise high its tides. We feel it quite as much when we watch the varying waves fling themselves on the rocks, and cast up showers of spray in ever-differing forms, as when, journeying on the waters, we see them swirl past the vessel, and all around us heave and toss. Nothing can so well illustrate that sense of the changefulness of life which oppresses us when years of memory lengthen. The “fashion of this world is ever passing away.” What chequered, varying lives ours all have been! Indeed, we never set ourselves down anywhere now, to say “Here I shall stay,” or, looking around us, say, “All this I shall keep.” “Here we have no continuing city.” But when the heart in us pines for something to hold, something to keep, something that is unchangeable, Bible figure points us on; not now, not here, it seems to say. The sea is all about you now. A time is coming when there shall be no more change, “no more sea.” No more change as we have felt its bitterness here. “Therefore lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.” Changes are good, while we are struggling with sin, and after holiness; but through changes we are reaching the unchanging rest of God, and the sea of the future is the calm, ever-resting sea of glass, mingled with fire.

V. If we think of the sea as the emblem of conflict, we shall add meaning to the text. It may not have been your lot to watch a storm at sea. It is the most sublime illustration of conflict that I know. The lightning flash, that for a moment relieves the darkness, shows the seething, boiling waters, in a tumult of war, and the ship hardly straining and steadying itself, and keeping its prow well facing wind and wave. Such a storm I saw in early life, and its impressions can never be effaced. In half agony one thought, Could even the rocks withstand these waters when thus they lifted up their majesty? What could the little ships do amid forces so tremendous as these?—the loud thunder answering back to the deep baying of the troubled waves. It may well represent that conflict which is the law now for us in all conditions of life. We must fight. Everything in the world—the family, or the Church—that is worth having, must be won in a battle-field. Like wind, and wave, and storm, are “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” and sometimes they unite to beat upon, and strive to overcome, our soul-ships, as they voyage on to God. Is it oppressing you to-day that life is a conflict? Are you weary with it? Can you understand David saying, “Oh that I had wings like a dove, then would I flee away and be at rest”! God stills your heart to rest by the message He sends you to-day, and the promise He gives. A little while, only a little while, and then there shall be no more sea—

“Not a wave of trouble roll

Across thy peaceful breast.”
“What hath be at last?

Sorrow vanquished, conflict ended,

Jordan past.”

Does it seem to you that these thoughts have been somewhat melancholy in tone? I have wanted them to lead on to the brightness and joy of a large and blessed hope. We must be sometimes reminding you how full our present life is of trying and sorrowful scenes; but we never do so in hopeless spirits—never to help you brood over the large share of trouble put into your lot—never to make you miserable, and give ground for those who plead that our religion clouds our human life with gloom. We want to produce and keep alive a profound and affecting dissatisfaction with present scenes; to sever hearts from too close clinging to the world, and the things of the world. We do want to make you feel that this is not your rest; to lift your eyes right up, and set them looking right away from the hills and vales of earth to the hills of God, whence only cometh our help. We do want to kindle in your souls that great, glorious, blessed hope of eternal life with God, which will shine on present scenes so as to make them appear insignificant and worthless. We would so fill your souls with visions of the future that you could each one say to his heart, “Go up, heart, into a little higher fighting, a little longer waiting and bearing. Be brave unto shadows; soon the shadows will flee away. Be strong in the battle-field; soon the archangel’s trump shall stop the conflict, and call the victors to their crown. Be patient in the darkness: day is breaking, even the day of God. Bear nobly even heart-breaking separations: the time is coming when there shall be no more dividing; heart shall beat with heart in the communion of heaven for ever.” “I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, 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, and be their God.” Out of the depths, then, let us lift our eyes to-day. Our redemption draweth nigh. Over the restless ocean of life we journey now; but with Christ in the vessel there is safe guiding, and one day the abundant entrance into the kingdom of heaven. The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. And well we know we scarce shall win our welcome ere we cast our crowns at the enthroned Redeemer’s feet, saying, “Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” I have but another word. Reverse our text and make it a vision of the future for those who love not Christ, and do not serve God in the gospel of His Son. Conceive what an awful future is suggested by these words: “it shall be all sea”; all wide, wild wastes of midnight, howling, storm-tossed, wintry waters; never dropping into calm; never lit by the summer sunshine; full of separation, danger, mystery, suffering, conflict. I cannot image it to you. The soul shudders at the awful picture of the future awaiting those who love not God, and refuse the gospel of His Son. “Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.”

No More Sea.—What is meant by this symbol is best ascertained by remembering how the sea appears in the Old Testament. The Jew was not a sailor. In the Old Testament it is a symbol of mystery, of rebellious power, and of perpetual unrest.

1. The revelation of a future in which there shall be no more painful mystery.
2. The text tells of a state that is to come, when there shall be no more rebellious power. God lets people work against His kingdom in this world. It is not to be always so.
3. The text forete’ls a state of things in which there is no more disquiet and unrest. Life is a voyage over a turbulent sea. Changing circumstances come rolling after each other, like the undistinguishable billows of the great ocean. Tempests and storms rise. That is life. But there is an end to it some day, and it is worth while for us to think about our “island home, far, far beyond the sea.”—A. Maclaren, D.D.

Revelation 21:3-4. God’s Tabernacle with Men.

I. The sentiments of which this proclamation is expressive.—We perceive in it—

1. The exultation of joyous discovery.
2. The rapture of sacred astonishment.
3. The eagerness of solemn expectation.
4. The expression of the force of a benevolent interest in all that pertains to the welfare and destiny of man.
5. The satisfaction of devout intelligence, beholding, in the events which it contemplates, fresh attestations of the stability and fulness of its own eternal welfare, as dependent on the Divine counsels and character.
6. Preparation for instant and cheerful concurrence in the effecting of God’s purposes, and the advancement of His glory.

II. The events by which it is called forth.—

1. The wonders of providence, as exhibiting God’s concern, and individual, as well as constant regard for human welfare.
2. The sublimer wonders of redemption.
3. The mysteries of the sanctifying influence.
4. The final revelations of the Divine power and greatness through all time and eternity.

III. The manner wherein it teaches us to reflect both on our privileges and duties.—We should meditate:

(1) with mingled gratitude and wonder;
(2) with united watchfulness and diligence;
(3) a corresponding appreciation of every ordinance which confirms it;
(4) a sacred ambition and ardour to diffuse its knowledge among thoe yet destitute of it;
(5) a holy desire for the final manifestation of God.—R. S. McAll.

Revelation 21:5. The Renewal of All Things.

I. The need of a complete moral renewal. All visions of a political or economic millennium wreck themselves upon the obstinate fact of human depravity. With this, legislators, philosophers, and moralists, have been found powerless to deal. The gospel alone builds its hope upon a complete moral renewal of humanity, making “all things new”—chief among them the heart of man.

II. An adequate power.—“He that sitteth on the throne.” At this point, too, the best human systems of morality fail. But He who created the human soul can renew it. The hardest heart can be broken, the worst disposition changed, when Omnipotence rises up to work. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus, or of the three thousand in a day, come with infinite ease within the sweep of His power.

III. The wonder of regeneration.—For this stupendous thing we ask whenever we pray for the conversion of a soul: that the omnipotent Jehovah will reach down from the heaven of heavens and mould all the powers and activities of that soul to His own Divine image—in that soul “make all things new.”

IV. The secret of “holding out.”—If conversion is not a varnish put on the outside, not a mere “good resolution” of man, but a renewal of “all things”—purposes, desires, ambitions, loves and hates—by Divine power, that renewed soul will “walk in newness of life.”

V. The great need of the Church: a regenerate membership.—No more proud, covetous, envious, hot-tempered unscrupulous Church members, excusing these inconsistencies as “natural,” but, in the glory of the renewed nature, “growing up into Him in all things who is the head, even Christ.” Such a Church is the ideal of Christianity, and the hope of the world.

VI. The ultimate renewal of all outward things: nations, nature.—“The kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ”; “the creation also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God”—“new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”—I. C. Fernald.

Revelation 21:17. Wherewith to Measure Life.—The measure of a man is here identified with the measure of an angel. Here is a Divine scale of measurement, and one which, if we would apply it to our lives, would make them sublime indeed!

I. It is the curse of our race that, though God made our souls, like our bodies, upright, and fitted to gaze on heaven, we walk like Mammon, with earthward eyes.—Jesus contemned the offer of the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. Men will be lofty or low, according to the office to which they direct their souls. If their ideal be dwarfed and miserable, their lives, too, will be small and mean.

II. You may judge of this by large as well as by small examples.—Take in your hands the great works of history, and see how grievously nations have suffered when their multitudes have been misled by false admirations.

III. But perhaps we may be misled if we make our deductions too broad.—Look, then, at sections and phases of Society only. Any class of society is degraded when it acquiesces in, much more when it admires, immoral favourites.

IV. To each of us individually—to our nation, to our Church—it is of supreme importance that we lift our eyes to the galaxy of great examples, and reflect the luminous virtue of heavenly ideals—The sole hope of humanity is in its good and holy men. All earth’s purest and noblest come and lay garlands at the feet of these statues, but the crowd of the vulgar clamber up the pedestal, with no other object than to injure and to deface. How can a man have any light or sweetness left in him who delights to feed himself on calumny and falsehood until the devil has drawn down his soul into incurable littleness, as the worm “draws in the withered leaf, and makes it earth”?

V. I have faith in manhood when I see men choosing lofty ideals, turning with scorn from all that is frivolous, leaving things base to perish of their own natural corruption, claiming their affinity with all things worthy, and measuring their lives with the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.—Such thoughts produce pure and high-souled men.

VI. Can one ask, without a sigh, whether it is a common thing for men thus to measure their lives with the measure of a man—that, is, of an angel?—

1. To what multitudes among us is not the love of money a root of all kinds of evils? How insignificant a fraction of their means do some men spare for the needs of their Church, the glory of their God, and the good of their fellow-men! The worshipper of Mammon—by what does he measure his life? Is it not by the measure of the wretchedest spirit that fell?

2. Others measure their life by the measure of a fiend. A drunkard—the helpless bondslave of a dead poison, sinking into penury and rags, or in some drunken orgy becoming a felon, or even a murderer.

3. Do not others measure life with the measure of a beast? The selfish, the unclean, the greedy, the immoral, do this.

4. Others by the measure of the world. We must learn one great Divine lesson in two aspects. Respect for human nature in ourselves; and also in others. In our faith in the Incarnation lies the very heart and essence of Christianity. Angels are but ministering spirits. “All angels worship Him.”—Canon F. W. Farrar, D.D.


Revelation 21:10. The New Jerusalem.—Josiah Conder, in his work on “The Harmony of History with Prophecy,” remarks, on the above passage: “In its general plan, the symbolical city presents a striking resemblance to the description of Ecbatana, furnished by the Father of secular history. ‘Of this city, one wall encompassed another, and each rose by the height of its battlements above the one beyond it. The ground, which was a circular hill, favoured this construction, but it owed still more to the labours bestowed upon the work. The orbicular walls were seven in number: within the last stood the royal palace and the treasuries. The largest of the walls nearly equalled the circumference of Athens. The battlements of this outer wall were white; those of the second, black; of the third, purple; of the fourth, blue; of the fifth, orange; all the battlements being thus covered with a pigment. Of the last two walls, the battlements of the one were plated with silver, those of the other with gold.’ Thus the Median city consisted of seven circular terraces, each distinguished by the colour of its wall, whereas the Apocalyptic city is described as a quadrangle of twelve stages or foundations; but the points of coincidence are highly illustrative of the emblematic description. The precious stones of which the walls of the holy city appeared to consist, whatever mystical or symbolical significance may attach to them, are obviously intended to describe the colour of each resplendent elevation; and, although the colouis do not occur in the precise prismatic order, the combination would have the general effect of a double rainbow.”

Revelation 21:18. Gold as Compared with Glass.—“Gold comes into consideration here on account of its splendour. ‘The white jasper,’ says Bengel, ‘and the yellow gold harmonise well together.’ The point of comparison between the gold and the glass is expressly intimated. It stands simply in the purity; the transparency, noticed in Revelation 21:21, is that of the glass, not of the gold, and taken into account merely as the symbol of purity. All gold is not pure; glass, considered generally, is so, and therefore, what is pure only exceptionally is compared with it” (Hengstenberg). Though coloured glass and opaque glass were known as far back as the early Egyptian era, it was only in the reign of Nero that clear, transparent glass came into fashion. A great demand sprang up at once for it. Hence John, in speaking of it, uses it as we would the railway or telegraph etc., and by so doing shows that his book was written after Nero’s reign. Possibly some other allusions of the same kind may exist.”

Revelation 21:19-20. Precious Stones.—“When quartz or flint is found uncrystallised, and more opaque, of various colours, from white to black, it constitutes chalcedony” (Greek, chalkedon). Of this there are several varieties; the onyx and sardonyx, the sardius, or carnelian; and the chrysoprase; and the Oriental jasper already noticed. The colour of chalcedony is either bluish or milky grey. The chrysoprase is of of an apple-green colour. The former has a wavy appearance, somewhat resembling agate, and is said to have been originally found at Chalcedon, in Bithynia, whence its name The best carnelians are obtained from the East Indies, Japan, and Surat. It is also found in Europe and America. The word carnelian is derived from the Latin carnis, flesh, on account of its fleshy colour. Its Hebrew name has also relerence to its colour. “When first found these stones are of a dark olive colour, and obtain the lighter red or white hue by exposure to the air, or by being baked, it is said, in ovens. It takes a beautiful polish, and is used for seals and ornaments. It was among the precious things of Tyre. In a mountain near Damar is found a stone which the Arabs call ayek yemani, and which they hold in the highest estimation. It is of a red or rather light brown colour, and seems to be a carnelian. The natives set it in rings or bracelets, and ascribe to it the talismanic virtue of healing wounds, and stanching blood when instantly applied.” Moses, the most ancient and inspired historian, tells us that the land of Havilah abounded in the onyxstone (Hebrew, shehem; Greek, onuchion). The Hebrew word is variously translated by learned men; but it is certain, from the testimony of both the sacred and profane writers, that Arabia abounded in precious stones. Pliny says it was common in the mountains of Arabia; and Niebuhr says that he “saw quantities of the stones in the road, as he journeyed from Mount Taœs to Mount Sumara.” Another writer tells us that “not only was the onyx plentiful in Arabia, but they adorned their walls with it” (Revelation 21:19-20). And the prophet Ezekiel also speaks of the precious stones from Sheba and Raamah, in which the Arabians traded with Tyre (Ezekiel 27:22). The onyx and sardonyx (so called from its resemblance to the sardius in colour) are both of a flinty texture, composed of layers of chalcedony of different colours. “Some antique cameos were made from these stones, by having the figure, or head, in the whiter stratum, while the background was cut down to that which is darker coloured.” Miss Sedgwick says that in the room of gems in the Museo Borbonico, Naples, was an onyx, considered the finest cameo in Europe. It was as large as a plate. On one side was represented the “Nile and its fertility,” and on the other Medusa’s head. These stones are all referred to in the beautiful picture which the apostle gives of the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city; and this description was quite in accordance with the splendour of Eastern palaces. “The first object that attracts attention,” says Franklin, in his History of Shah Allum, “is the public hall of audience.… It is adorned with excessive magnificence. I judge the building to be a hundred and fifty feet in length. The roof is flat, supported by numerous columns of fine white marble, which have been richly ornamented with inlaid flower work of carnelian and different coloured stones.… The inside of the wall, about two-thirds of the way up, is lined with marble, having beautiful borders of flowers, worked in carnelians and other stones, executed with much taste.… It is evident the apostle drew his magnificent description of the walls of the holy city from these pictures of gorgeous splendour. The coarser materials of brick and mud, of which the walls in many royal gardens of the East are composed, are entirely hid by the brilliant and dazzling profusion of gems that everywhere sparkle along the whole length of walls. But how far superior the holy city!

“Its walls all precious stones combine;

Its gates their leaves of pearl unfold;

Its holy mansions far outshine

Transparent glass and burnished gold.

In that bright city I would dwell,

With that blest Church the Saviour praise;

And, safe redeemed from death and hell,

Sit at His feet through endless days.”

H. H.

Revelation 21:20. Chrysolite: Topaz.—(Hebrew, pitdah, topaz; Greek, topazion.)—Chrysolite really means the golden stone, and is a general term for stones having a golden hue. The colours of what we call chrysolite are a green, sometimes yellowish or brownish, with a white streak. It is bright and transparent, but is seldom larger than a pin’s head, and is used in jewellery. It is obtained chiefly from the Levant. There is a variety of this stone called olivine, on account of its colour, which is found in basalt in Bohemia, Hungary, and on the banks of the Rhine. The chrysolite of this verse was probably what we now call topaz. The topaz is a very beautiful gem, sometimes nearly transparent, and of different sizes, forms, and colours. Its general colour is bright yellow, tinged with red, orange, or green, and it is found in some countries of a blue green, or yellow colour. The Brazilian species is often as transparent as a piece of ice when the surface is melting. It is embedded in granite and other rocks in every part of the world, chiefly in veins of tin. It is either in crystal or in rounded masses, sometimes weighing several ounces. In Scotland, the topaz is found at Cairngorm, and receives its name from that place. The Oriental topazes were highly esteemed. Those of Ethiopia were celebrated for their wonderful lustre. Pliny says the topaz belonged to Arabia, and derived its name from the island Topazos.

Revelation 21:23. The Glory of Heaven.—How transcendent the glory of that world where there shall be no more sin nor imperfection—where all shall unite in the song, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” I “The glory of the Lord (doth) lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” The idolatrous temple of Diana was so bright and splendid that the door-keeper always cried to them that entered in, “Take heed to your eyes.” But what faculties of vision must we have to behold the glory of the temple above! If it is said that the righteous themselves shall shine forth as the sun, what will be the splendour of the Eternal Throne? What a delightful change, from this world of darkness and imperfection to that where all shall be light and glory!

Revelation 21:27. The “Holy” City.—Without holiness there can be no such heaven as the New Testament reveals. There may be scenery of surpassing grandeur—mountains, woods, rivers, and skies, most charming; but they do not make a heaven, else a heaven might be found in Wales or Cumberland. There may be a capital full of palaces and temples; but they do not make a heaven, else a heaven might have been found in Delhi. There may be buildings of marbles and precious stones; but they do not make a heaven, else a heaven might have been in Rome or Venice. There may be health, and ease, and luxury, and festivities; but they do not make a heaven, else one would have been met with in Belshazzar’s halls. There may be education, philosophy, poetry, literature, art; but that will not make a heaven, else the Greeks would have had one in Athens, in the grove, and in the porch. Holiness is that without which no heaven could exist.—Rev. John Stoughton.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Revelation 21". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/revelation-21.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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