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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 21

Wesley's Explanatory NotesWesley's Notes

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Verse 1

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

And I saw — So it runs, Revelation 19:11; Revelation 20:1; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 20:11, in a succession. All these several representations follow one another in order: so the vision reaches into eternity.

A new heaven and a new earth — After the resurrection and general judgment. St. John is not now describing a flourishing state of the church, but a new and eternal state of all things.

For the first heaven and the first earth — Not only the lowest part of heaven, not only the solar system, but the whole ethereal heaven, with all its host, whether of planets or fixed stars, Isaiah 34:4; Matthew 24:29. All the former things will be done away, that all may become new, verses4,5; 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12.

Are passed away — But in the fourth verse it is said, "are gone away." There the stronger word is used; for death, mourning, and sorrow go away all together: the former heaven and earth only pass away, giving place to the new heaven and the new earth.

Verse 2

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

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; Revelation 2, 5, 8, 9; Revelation 22:5.

Coming down — In the very act of descending.

Verse 3

And 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.

They shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God — So shall the covenant between God and his people be executed in the most glorious manner.

Verse 4

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And death shall be no more — This is a full proof that this whole description belongs not to time, but eternity.

Neither shall sorrow, or crying, or pain, be any more: for the former things are gone away — Under the former heaven, and upon the former earth, there was 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.

Verse 5

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

And he that sat upon the throne said — Not to St. John only. From the first mention of "him that sat upon the throne," Revelation 4:2, this is the first speech which is expressly ascribed to him.

And he — The angel.

Saith to me Write — As follows.

These sayings are faithful and true — This includes all that went before. The apostle seems again to have ceased writing, being overcome with ecstasy at the voice of him that spake.

Verse 6

And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

And he — That sat upon the throne.

Said to me, It is done — All that the prophets had spoken; all that was spoken, Revelation 4:1. We read this expression twice in this prophecy: first, Revelation 16:17, at the fulfilling of the wrath of God; and here, at the making all things new.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end — The latter explains the former: the Everlasting.

I will give to him that thirsteth — The Lamb saith the same, Revelation 22:17.

Verse 7

He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

He that overcometh — Which is more than, "he that thirsteth." Shall inherit these things - Which I have made new.

I will be his God, and he shall be my son — Both in the Hebrew and Greek language, in which the scriptures were written, what we translate shall and will are one and the same word. The only difference consists in an English translation, or in the want of knowledge in him that interprets what he does not understand.

Verse 8

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

But the fearful and unbelieving — Who, through want of courage and faith, do not overcome.

And abominable — That is, sodomites.

And whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters — These three sins generally went together; their part is in the lake.

Verse 9

And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.

And there came one of the seven angels that had the seven phials — Whereby room had been made for the kingdom of God.

Saying, Come, I will show thee the bride — The same angel had before showed him Babylon, Revelation 17:1, which is directly opposed to the new Jerusalem.

Verse 10

And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

And he carried me away in the spirit — The same expression as before, Revelation 17:3.

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 pertains thereto, xl.-xlviii. Ezekiel 40:1 -Eze 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, glorious, and heavenly than the prophet. Yet that which he describes is the same city; but as it subsisted soon after the destruction of the beast. This being observed, both the prophecies agree together and one may explain the other.

Verse 11

Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;

Having the glory of God — For her light, verse23, Revelation 21:23; Isaiah 40:1; Zec.

Her window — There was only one, which ran all round the city. The light did not come in from without through this for the glory of God is within the city. But it shines out from within to a great distance, verses23,24. Revelation 21:23-24

Verse 12

And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:

Twelve angels — Still waiting upon the heirs of salvation.

Verse 14

And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb — Figuratively showing that the inhabitants of the city had built only on that faith which the apostles once delivered to the saints.

Verse 15

And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.

And he measured the city, twelve thousand furlongs — Not in circumference, but on each of the four sides. Jerusalem was thirtythree 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. But what inconsiderable villages were all these compared to the new Jerusalem! By this measure is understood the greatness of the city, with the exact order and just proportion of every part of it; 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 everything relating to the happiness of that state was prepared with the greatest order and exactness. The city is twelve thousand furlongs high; the wall, an hundred and forty-four reeds. This is exactly the same height, only expressed in a different manner. The twelve thousand furlongs, being spoken absolutely, without any explanation, are common, human furlongs: the hundred forty-four reeds are not of common human length, but of angelic, abundantly larger than human. It is said, the measure of a man that is, of an angel because St. John saw the measuring angel in an human shape. The reed therefore was as great as was the stature of that human form in which the angel appeared. In treating of all these things a deep reverence is necessary; and so is a measure of spiritual wisdom; that we may neither understand them too literally and grossly, nor go too far from the natural force of the words. The gold, the pearls, the precious stones, the walls, foundations, gates, are undoubtedly figurative expressions; seeing the city itself is in glory, and the inhabitants of it have spiritual bodies: yet these spiritual bodies are also real bodies, and the city is an abode distinct from its inhabitants, and proportioned to them who take up a finite and a determinate space. The measures, therefore, above mentioned are real and determinate.

Verse 18

And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.

And the building of the wall was jasper — That is, the wall was built of jasper.

And the city — The houses, was of pure gold.

Verse 19

And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;

And the foundations were adorned with precious stones — That is, beautifully made of them. The precious stones on the high priest’s breastplate of judgment were a proper emblem to express the happiness of God’s church in his presence with them, and in the blessing of his protection. The like ornaments on the foundations 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. Each precious stone was not the ornament of the foundation, but the foundation itself. The colours of these are remarkably mixed. A jasper is of the colour of white marble, with a light shade of green and of red; a sapphire is of a sky-blue, speckled with gold; a chalcedony, or carbuncle, of the colour of red-hot iron; an emerald, of a grass green.

Verse 20

The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.

A sardonyx is red streaked with white; a sardius, of a deep red; a chrysolite, of a deep yellow; a beryl, sea-green; a topaz, pale yellow; a chrysoprase is greenish and transparent, with gold specks; a jacinth, of a red purple; an amethyst, violet purple.

Verse 22

And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

The Lord God and the Lamb are the temple of it — He fills the new heaven and the new earth. He surrounds the city and sanctifies it, and all that are therein. He is "all in all."

Verse 23

And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

The glory of God — Infinitely brighter than the shining of the sun.

Verse 24

And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

And the nations — The whole verse is taken from Isaiah 60:3.

Shall walk by the light thereof — Which throws itself outward from the city far and near.

And the kings of the earth — Those of them who have a part there.

Bring their glory into it — Not their old glory, which is now abolished; but such as becomes the new earth, and receives an immense addition by their entrance into the city.

Verse 26

And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.

And they shall bring the glory of the nations into it — It seems, a select part of each nation; that is, all which can contribute to make this city honourable and glorious shall be found in it; as if all that was rich and precious throughout the world was brought into one city.

Verse 27

And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Common — That is. unholy.

But those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life — True, holy, persevering believers. This blessedness is enjoyed by those only; and, as such, they are registered among them who are to inherit eternal life.

Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 21". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wen/revelation-21.html. 1765.
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