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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 21

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4100. A.D. 96.

Here we have,

(1,) A solemn introduction to the glorious vision of the new heaven and the new earth, with a declaration of the blessed state of those that are faithful unto death, and finally overcome their spiritual enemies, and of the misery to be inflicted on unbelieving and impious offenders, Revelation 21:1-8 .

(2,) A sublime and particular description of the splendour, glory, purity, and happiness, of the heavenly Jerusalem, Revelation 21:9-27 .

We are now come, in the course of these prophecies, to the consummation of all things. This vision stands in the prophecy, after the last attempt of the enemies of religion had been defeated; after the dead, small and great, had appeared before God’s judgment-seat, and were judged according to their works; after all the wicked were doomed to everlasting punishment, and all who were not found written in the book of life were cast into the lake of fire. This order of the prophecies seems to point out to us, that the new heavens and new earth, represented in this vision, signify that state of unchangeable perfection and heavenly happiness to which the true and faithful servants of the living God shall be advanced, when all their trials and suffering in this life shall be ended. Nothing can be more proper to the useful design of these revelations than such a conclusion of them, with so affecting a representation of the final, complete, and everlasting happiness of all the true worshippers of God and faithful servants of Jesus. This is a powerful motive to present patience, a firm foundation of present hope, a strong encouragement to zeal in the cause of true religion, and constancy in the incorrupt faith of Jesus. It is a very ancient observation, “that happiness is the reward of virtue in the end;” but here is a sure word of prophecy, which beforehand acquaints us what will be the last period and state of things. The present world for a few years, a very few in comparison of eternity, will be a state of various sorts of trials and troubles; of evils caused by wicked men, of evils wherewith the righteous Governor of the world punishes their wickedness; but the unchangeable purpose of God has appointed another state of things, when the dead shall be raised and judged according to their works. All the faithful servants of God and Christ will enjoy a state of eternal life in perfect peace and security, in complete prosperity and happiness. It is with great advantage this encouragement is given the church in such a prophecy. An observation of the faithful and punctual accomplishment of the former parts of this prophecy in times past, for several hundreds of years, serves much to confirm our faith and hope in as exact a performance of what remains. It must be owned, several interpreters of good reputation understand the following vision as a description of the happy state of the church during the thousand years in which it shall reign with Christ; or to describe the full and complete reformation of the Christian Church during the last period upon earth. But as there seems nothing in the prophetic description to confine it to this meaning, so the order of the prophecies, the chief and principal design of them, and the description itself, greatly favour the judgment of those learned writers, who understand these last visions of the future state of happiness in heaven, after the general resurrection and last judgment. Thus the seventh and last period concludes the whole plan of Providence, and finishes it in an endless sabbatism. Lowman.

Verses 1-3

Revelation 21:1-3. And I saw So it runs, Revelation 19:11; Revelation 20:1; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 20:11, in a succession. All these several visions follow one another in order, and this vision reaches into eternity; a new heaven and a new earth That is, after the foregoing visions, in which I beheld a representation of the state of the church and world to the consummation of all things, I had the final happiness of the true worshippers of God, to be enjoyed after the resurrection and the general judgment, represented to me in a new vision, in which I beheld a perfectly new state of things; the heaven and earth, in which we now live, being quite passed away, melted with fervent heat and dissolved in fire, there was a new heaven and a new earth, in which I perceived one thing very remarkable, that there was no more sea A circumstance which, whether it be effected by the means which the theorists of the earth (see Burnet’s and Whiston’s theory) have prescribed, or by any other, time, or rather eternity, must show; for it is evident from hence that this new heaven and earth are not designed to take place till after the general judgment; for at that judgment, (Revelation 20:13,) the sea gives up the dead which were in it. Many, however, understand the expression figuratively, that there shall be no troubles or commotions in the world; but it seems much more probable that it is to be understood literally. And I saw the holy city The new heaven, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem, are closely connected. This city is wholly new, belonging, not to this world, not to the millennium, but to eternity. This appears from the series of the vision, the magnificence of the description, and the opposition of this city to the second death, Revelation 20:11-12; Revelation 21:1-2; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 21:8-9; Revelation 22:5. Coming down In the very act of descending; from God Its maker and builder; out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband Prepared to meet him, with all her charms set out to the greatest advantage, and full of glory and splendour. At the commencement of the millennium it was said, (Revelation 19:7,) the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. At the conclusion of the millennium, Gog and Magog went up against the beloved city; and here it is represented as the metropolis of the new heaven and the new earth. The new Jerusalem shall be the habitation of the saints of the first resurrection, and it shall also be the habitation of the saints of the general resurrection; the church of Christ shall endure through all times and changes of this world, and shall exist eternally in the world to come. It shall be glorious upon earth during the millennium, and it shall be more glorious still in the new earth after the millennium, to all eternity. Earth shall then become as heaven, or rather it shall be heaven on earth; God dwelling visibly among men, and sin and suffering being for ever done away. For the apostle adds, I heard a great voice out of heaven A voice proceeding from the eternal Word and Son of the Father; saying, Behold the tabernacle of God with men! So it is in the original, there being nothing for the verb is; and he will dwell with them In token of his favour and great love to them; and they shall be his people Protected and governed by him; and God himself shall be with them Continually, as their Friend and Father; and he shall be their God Their supreme good and final portion, their all in all.

Verses 4-5

Revelation 21:4-5. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes Though here their tears have flowed plentifully, not one shall ever be found on the face of any of them; and there shall be no more death This is a full proof that this whole description belongs to eternity and not to time. Neither shall sorrow, or crying, or pain be any more Under the former heavens, and upon the former earth, there were death and sorrow, crying and pain; all which occasioned many tears. But now pain and sorrow are fled away, and the saints have everlasting life and joy; for the former things All the mournful scenes, which were on earth so familiar to their eyes; are passed away To return no more for ever. And he that sat upon the throne said Not to St. John only; Behold, I make all things new From the first mention of him that sat upon the throne, ( Rev 5:1 ) this is the first speech which is expressly ascribed to him. He is the author of this second, as he was of the first creation; and he commands these things to be written for the edification, support, and consolation of his people, with a full assurance of their certainty and importance. And he The same person; saith to me, Write Namely, as follows: These words are true and faithful This includes all that went before. The apostle seems again to have ceased writing, being overcome with ecstasy and the voice of him that spake.

Verses 6-8

Revelation 21:6-8. And he “that sat upon the throne” said to me, It is done All that the prophets have spoken is fulfilled. This is the consummation of all things: and now all the promises of God, and the desires of his faithful servants, shall be fully accomplished I am Alpha, &c. Greek, το αλφα , και το ωμεγα , the Alpha and the Omega; the beginning and the end The latter clause explains the former; the everlasting. I will give unto him that is athirst That sincerely and earnestly desires it; of the fountain of the water of life Refreshing consolation, which shall abundantly satisfy his most enlarged desires and most exalted expectations; happiness which shall ever flow in upon him, as water from a perpetually flowing fountain; freely Δωρεαν , as a free, unmerited gift. He that overcometh To do which is much more than to thirst; shall inherit all things Which I have made: the whole creation shall be laid open to his enjoyment. And I will be his God A source of complete and everlasting blessedness to him; and he shall be my son And consequently mine heir: the inheritor of my eternal kingdom, yea, and a joint-heir with my only-begotten and well- beloved Son. But the fearful and unbelieving Who have not courage to face the difficulties which an open profession of my religion requires, and therefore do not overcome; and the abominable All who indulge themselves in abominable vices to gratify their lusts; and murderers Of the bodies, souls, or reputation of their fellow-creatures; and whoremongers, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars All who allow themselves, in their words or actions, to violate the eternal and immutable laws of truth and righteousness; shall have their part in the lake, &c. All these shall have their portion with Satan, to whose party they joined themselves, and whose will they obeyed; and shall with him undergo the punishment of the secured death. Let this therefore be recorded, that every future generation of men may carefully peruse and seriously consider it; that every sincere believer, however weak, may be encouraged, and that every obstinate sinner may be terrified, and, if possible, awakened; and that none, in the day of my final judgment, may complain that they have not been warned and cautioned, with the greatest plainness and the greatest solemnity.

Verses 9-14

Revelation 21:9-14. And there came unto me one of the seven angels Most probably the same who had (Revelation 17:1, &c.) showed John the mystic Babylon and her destruction, and now shows him, by way of contrast, the new Jerusalem and her glory. And he carried me away in the Spirit The same expression as is used before, Revelation 17:3; to a great and high mountain Thus Ezekiel 40:2, was brought in the visions of God, and set on a very high mountain: and showed me the holy city Jerusalem The old city is now forgotten, so that this is no longer termed the new, but absolutely, Jerusalem. O how did St. John long to enter in! But the time was not yet come. Ezekiel also describes the holy city, and what belongs to it, (chap. 40.-xlviii.,) but a city quite different from the old Jerusalem, as it was either before or after the Babylonish captivity. The descriptions of the prophet and of the apostle agree in many particulars; but in many more they differ. Ezekiel expressly describes the temple and the worship of God therein, closely alluding to the Levitical service. But St. John saw no temple, and describes the city far more large, and glorious, and heavenly, than the prophet. His description, indeed, is an assemblage of the sublimest, richest imagery, not only of Ezekiel, but of other ancient prophets. Having the glory of God For her light, Revelation 21:23; Isaiah 60:1-2; Zechariah 2:5; and her light Or the lustre thereof, as ο φωστηρ αυτης may be rendered; was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper For brightness; clear as crystal The divine shechinah illuminating the whole city, which, as it was represented to St. John pendant in the air, shone with an elegant and amazing lustre, expressive of the perfect illumination, purity, and holiness of its happy inhabitants. And had a wall great and high To show its strength and security under the almighty protection of its founder and preserver; and had twelve gates With angels for guards, still waiting upon the heirs of salvation; and names written thereon On the gates; of the twelve tribes of Israel To signify that it was the dwelling of the Israel of God, and that such as had been faithful members of the true church had a right to be admitted, and to show also the great glory of that city, where angels were appointed to keep guard; an honour properly due only to the majesty of God’s presence, and to the seat of it. On the east, north, south, and west, three gates To show that people of all climates and nations may have access to it. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles Figuratively showing how great dependance the church had on their testimony, what an influence the gospel which they preached had had on raising this divine structure, and that the inhabitants of it had built only on that faith which the apostles once delivered to the saints.

Verses 15-16

Revelation 21:15-16. And he that talked with me had Like the angel who appeared in vision to Ezekiel; a golden reed, &c. A measuring-rod, with this circumstance of illustrious distinction, that it was golden; to measure the city, &c. In the several parts thereof; by which measure was signified the greatness and extent of the city, with the exact order and just proportion of every part: to show figuratively that this city was prepared for a great number of inhabitants, how small soever the number of real Christians may sometimes appear to be; and that every thing relating to the happiness of this heavenly state was prepared with the greatest care and exactness. And the city lieth four-square Upon measuring it appeared that the city was an exact square, of equal length and breadth, and of a very large extent. For it appeared on measure to be twelve thousand furlongs Or one thousand five hundred miles, not, it seems, in circumference, but on each of the four sides. Jerusalem was thirty-three furlongs in circumference; Alexandria thirty in length, ten in breadth; Nineveh is reported to have been four hundred furlongs round, Babylon four hundred and eighty. The length, and the breadth, and the height of it That is, says Bishop Newton, of its walls and buildings; are equal Are everywhere of the same beauty, strength, and proportion. For this equality, as Grotius observes, seems to belong to the walls and buildings compared with each other, not with the length and breadth of the city. For to understand the height of the city, whether of its walls or buildings, to be equal to the length or breadth of it, would make its houses and walls to be out of all proportion. For how large soever men may conceive the extent of the city, and of the contiguous buildings, houses twelve thousand furlongs high are beyond all propriety in the boldest figures. Or, if the twelve thousand furlongs be understood of the whole circumference of the city, the length of each of its four sides (it being an exact square) would be three hundred and seventy-five miles; and houses even of such a height would be out of all due proportion. Some interpreters, to avoid this difficulty, have included the height of the mountain on which the city is supposed to stand; but it is not said that the city itself was situated on a mountain, but only that John was called up to a mountain to view the model of it. Nor is it easy to say what end could be answered by making the height of the buildings so enormous, unless to render the city a perfect cube, for which no reason can be assigned; a perfect square rendering the emblem full as perfect. The truth is, the numbers themselves are evidently typical, taken from twelve, the number of the apostles, multiplied by one thousand. For as before, the number of the members of the Christian Church was represented by one hundred and forty-four thousand, the square number of twelve multiplied by one thousand; so this manner of numbering will very properly signify a city, of which true Christians are to be the happy citizens and settled inhabitants; a city which shall have incomparably greater extent, and more strength and beauty, than ancient Babylon, Rome, or any other seat of empire ever known in this world.

Verses 17-18

Revelation 21:17-18. And he measured the wall thereof That is, Lowman thinks, the height of the wall; one hundred and forty-four cubits The square of twelve: about seventy-two yards high, according to the lesser cubit, or about eighty-six yards according to the greater, a height sufficient to express the most perfect security against all attempts of any surprise by an enemy. Doddridge understands these cubits of the thickness of the wall, with the same view, namely, to signify the great strength of the city, and that it might defy all assailants. According to the measure of a man A measure common among men; that is, of the angel For such was the measuring-rod, made use of by the angel. And the building of the wall was of jasper The wall appeared to be built with unparalleled strength and magnificence, not of brick, or squared and polished stones, but of some precious stone, as solid, firm, and beautiful as a jasper. And the city was of pure gold Namely, its houses and other buildings, separate from the wall; like unto clear glass Or crystal. It seems it is the city in general, and not the gold, which is represented as shining like glass or crystal. It is not easy to understand how pure gold should shine like crystal: but a city adorned with crystal, set in gold, may easily be supposed to shine in that manner.

Verses 19-20

Revelation 21:19-20. And the foundations of the wall That is, the lower parts of it; were garnished with all manner of precious stones Were inlaid quite round, and beautified with a great variety of them; or were beautifully formed of them. The precious stones on the high-priest’s breast-plate of judgment were a proper emblem to express the happiness of God’s church in his presence, and in the blessing of his protection. The like ornaments on the foundation of the walls of this city may express the perfect glory and happiness of all the inhabitants of it, from the most glorious presence and protection of God. The colours of these are remarkably mixed. A jasper A precious stone as hard as marble, and of various colours, as of green, yellow, red, violet; a sapphire Of a sky-blue, speckled with gold; a chalcedony Or carbuncle, an elegant gem, whose colour is deep red: with an admixture of scarlet; an emerald Of a bright green; a sardonyx Red, streaked with white; a sardius Or sardine -stone, of a deep red; a chrysolite Of a gold colour, as the word signifies; a beryl Sea- green; a topaz A mixture of green and yellow; a chrysoprasus A beautiful mixture of gold and green; a jacinth Of a red purple; an amethyst A violet purple. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls Each one being a pearl, entire and undivided, with all their beautiful pillars, arches, mouldings, and cornices. And the street was pure gold And yet transparent, reflecting the light that shone upon it with a lustre equal to that which is the most highly polished.

Verses 22-27

Revelation 21:22-27. And I saw no temple therein The whole city being, properly speaking, a temple; the Lord God and the Lamb surrounding, filling, and sanctifying the whole, and being more intimately present in every part of it, and with every individual, saint or angel, than had ever been known on earth. And the city had no need of the sun To give light to its inhabitants; for the glory of God Infinitely brighter than the shining of the sun; did lighten it The illustrious manifestation of his presence rendered every other light unnecessary. It seems the whole city appeared to St. John like a luminous object, sending out rays on every side, which he knew to be the consequence of God’s dwelling there in a peculiar sense. And the nations of them which are saved From the guilt and pollution of sin before they leave this world; shall walk in the light of it In a higher degree than they could possibly do on earth: for they shall no longer see through a glass darkly, but face to face; shall no longer know in part, but shall know as they are known. And the kings of the earth Those of them who have a part there; do bring their glory and honour into it Not their old glory, which is now supposed to be abolished, but such as becomes the new earth, and receives an immense addition by their entrance into this city. Or the sense may be, as Doddridge thinks, “If you were to conceive all the monarchs upon earth uniting all their treasures to adorn one single place, they could produce nothing comparable to the glory of this city.” And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day That is, shall never be shut; for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory, &c., of the nations into it Whatever is most desirable among all nations seemed to meet together to adorn that place, where good men of all nations shall dwell and reign with God for ever. Or all that can contribute to make any city honourable and glorious shall be found in it; as if all that was rich and precious throughout the world was brought into one place. And there shall in nowise enter any thing that defileth Greek, κοινον , common; that is, unholy; or that worketh abomination That is impure or vicious; or maketh a lie Is chargeable with hypocrisy, falsehood, or deceit; but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life Namely, true, holy, persevering believers. This blessedness is enjoyed only by such, and such as these only are registered among them who are to inherit eternal life.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 21". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/revelation-21.html. 1857.
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