SUMMARY.--The New Heaven and New Earth. The Bride, the Lamb's Wife. The City Coming Down out of Heaven. Its Walls, Gates, Foundation. The City of Gold and Gates of Pearl. The Light of the City. Its Holiness.
The last verses of the last chapter have portrayed the terrors of the eternal judgment and the fate of those who have not served God. There ends the history of the godless world. As far as inspiration has revealed the future state the godless disappear forever from the history of the Universe in the prison house called the Lake of Fire. If the prophet's eyes had not been opened to see beyond these scenes, dark would seem the fate of our race. After a thousand years of purity and triumph history would seem to end in the terror of the judgment day and the darkness of the second death. But our Lord has mercifully lifted the curtain beyond and revealed to us the glorious final destiny of man. After a long and weary struggle, and a history full of dark and eventful episodes, mankind will reach a goal of happiness and splendor that it is vain to attempt to describe or even conceive. When the last battle is ended and the author of evil with all his works, the curses that he has wrought, and the servants that have promoted his ends, are cast into the eternal prison house, and their power to do evil forever broken, then will dawn the bright morning of eternal bliss and glory. This chapter describes the eternal home of the saints.
1-4. I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The scriptures both of the Old and New Testaments point to the destruction of the old earth when the Lord comes to judgment. See 2 Pet. 3:10. It is to undergo a purification and a renewal to fit it for the home of the saints in glory. The "old heavens and earth," which I understand to comprehend the old world and its order, so sadly out of joint, pass away at the time of the great judgment, and the old state of things shall be succeeded by a new order, both physical and moral. And the sea is no more. Whether this is to be understood literally, or whether it means that there shall be no barriers between the peoples, such as the sea interposes, is not certain. 2. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem. The glorified and heavenly Church, pure and beautiful as a bride prepared for the bridegroom. This chapter presents a vision of the final condition of the redeemed and triumphant church. This vision points out the contrast between the beginning and the final condition of our race. The career of man began in a garden, the fitting home of a race few in numbers. It ends, as revealed by the prophet, in a city, the home where multitudes gather. Of this city Jerusalem was a type. The redeemed and holy Church, washed by the Savior's blood, and obedient to his will as a faithful bride to her husband, is the new Jerusalem. 3. Behold the tabernacle of God is with men. Of old the Shekinah, the emblem of God's presence, dwelt in the tabernacle between the Cherubim. In this glorious city of the future, God shall make his tabernacle and dwell with men. They shall recognize his presence, his protection, his fatherly and omnipotent care over them. 4. And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes. No sorrow or travail of any kind shall ever enter within the walls of the city. The cry of anguish shall never be uttered, hearts shall never be broken, no tear shall ever dim the eye, and, most glorious of all, death shall be unknown. Death began his sway when man was expelled from Paradise; he ends it when the final judgment condemns Satan, death and hades to enter the lake of fire. The new Jerusalem will be painless, tearless, deathless, because it will be a sinless city. "The former things have passed away."
5-8. Behold, I make all things new. See note on verse 1. Write. This is the third time in this book, in addition to the epistles to the churches in chapters 2 and 3, where John receives the special command to "write." The other examples are in 14:13 and 19:9. See also 1:11. 6. It is done. All things are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega. See notes on 1:8. This shows that the speaker is Christ. 7. He that overcometh. Here for the first time, after the close of the seven epistles of chapters 2 and 3, do we have the promise to him who overcomes. 8. But the fearful and unbelieving. Those wedded to sin have no place in the glorious home prepared for the saints. "The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars," have undergone the second death, the death that has no resurrection, and can never enter or disturb the holy peace of the glorious city.
9-14. There came unto me one, etc. This is one of the angels of the vials of the wrath of God. See chap. 16. They did their work as wrath angels before the judgment, and are now seen engaged in other work. I will shew thee the Bride, the Lamb's wife. The glorified church henceforth to be united with her Lord. 10. He carried me away in the spirit. He seemed to be stationed on a high mountain and there to see a mighty city descending out of heaven. The angel said, "I will show thee the Bride," and he showed him a beautiful city. The harlot of chapter 17 was a great, wicked city, "Mystery, Babylon the Great," while the Bride is a great city also, the "holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven." 11. Having the glory of God. Lighted by the divine presence and glory. We cannot follow all the details of its splendor, but they are designed to show that it exhibited a splendor such as mortal eye has never seen. The walls are of jasper, the gates of pearl, the foundations of precious stones and the streets paved with gold. The dimensions are immense, beyond even human conception, and its gates stand open night and day. The names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are written upon its foundations, and of the tribes of Israel upon its gates. 12. Twelve gates. As many as there were tribes and apostles. Twelve angels. As gate-keepers to prevent the unclean from entrance. Names written thereon. The names of the twelve tribes of Israel. These were typical of the true Israel, the saints, and shows that all who belong to the true Israel will enter. 14. The wall of the city had twelve foundations. The twelve apostles of the Lamb are foundations of the Church, Jesus Christ being the chief corner-stone.
15-21. And he . . . had a golden reed to measure the city. The reed is a divine measure and the city is to correspond to the measure. In chapter 11 the church is measured with a reed. Both the earthly and the heavenly church must agree with the divine plan. 16. And the city lieth foursquare. It is regular and symmetrical. Twelve thousand furlongs. I suppose that these vast dimensions, a number twelve times one thousand, both favorite Hebrew numbers, are intended to indicate the vastness of the city, rather than its exact size. 17. The wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits. Again we have twelve times twelve, the square of a favorite and sacred number. The city has twelve gates, twelve angels, twelve foundations, and a wall twelve times twelve cubits high. That is, of the angel. The measure of a man and of an angel will be the same in the New Jerusalem. 18. The wall of it was of jasper. A brightly radiant stone. See verse 11. The city was pure gold. The symbols indicate that the city is beautiful and rich beyond conception. The costliest materials known to mortals are named in order to give us some idea.
19, 20. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished. They were adorned with precious stones. The twelve apostolic foundations present every spiritual grace and beauty. The various stones named are among the most precious known to the ancients. 21. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls. Each gate composed of a single pearl. And the street of the city. The streets were paved with pure gold. As it were transparent. Transparency is the symbol of purity.
22-27. And I saw no temple therein. John saw no temple in the city, such as at Jerusalem. It was all temple. God and the Lamb were present in it everywhere and every spot was holy. Wherever the knee was bowed the Lord was present to see and hear. The whole of the New Jerusalem will be an abode of praise. 23. And the city had no need of the sun. Night never settles down to shut out its splendor, and eternal light, springing from the brightness of God and the Lamb, precludes the need of a sun or moon. 24. And the nations . . . walk in the light of it. The redeemed of all nations enjoy the light of the city. The kings. The idea is that all who have earthly dignities and honors shall make them offerings to the New Jerusalem. 25. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day. The gates were never shut. This implies, first, that the city has no fear of any foes. These have all been conquered and subdued. The struggles have been ended forever and no enemies remain to invade its happy precincts. It implies, in the second place, that "the nations of the saved" can always enter. There is always admittance freely to those "who have the right to enter in through the gate into the city." 26. They shall bring the glory and the honour. All nations are represented as contributing to increase its glory, as the nations pay tribute to an earthly capital. 27. There shall in no wise enter. Nothing sinful or unclean shall ever enter, "neither whatever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they that are written in the Lamb's book of life."