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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
7. He that overcometh shall inherit all things: and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Vs. 1-7,—It is unquestionable that the phrase “new heavens and a new earth” is to be understood sometimes as descriptive of moral renovation in the world. As the moral change effected by grace in the character of an individual sinner, is called a new creation, and is in truth no less, so in respect to a community. The analogy in this case is the same as between a revolution and an earthquake. Thus, we must understand Is. lxv. 17, lxvi. 22, of that great moral change which will characterize the millennium. But the “new heaven and the new earth” are here contrasted with the “first heaven and the first earth which were passed away,” (Ch. xx. 11.) The apostle Peter describes the very same grand and glorious change. Mingling the important facts of authentic history with the future facts of prophecy, he tells us that the “heavens and the earth which are now . . . are reserved unto fire.”—He speaks obviously of the visible heavens and earth. These “heavens shall pass away . . . . and “the earth also, shall be burnt up.” He adds,—“We look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (2 Pet. iii. 7, 13.) “There was no more sea,” no more disorderly passions, animosities arising from human depravity, to interrupt the delightful harmony and fellowship of saints in glory. It is estimated that about two thirds of this world are occupied by water. In that, happy place occupied by the people of God, there is no sea; consequently, “yet there is room,” many mansions, room enough for all the redeemed. “The holy city,” compared to a “bride,” two very incongruous emblems, shows the poverty of symbols, their inadequacy to represent the church triumphant: how then shall created objects furnish suitable emblems of the glorious and glorified Bridegroom? In vision the city seemed to the apostle as if suspended in the air on the same plane with himself; for now he stood neither on “the sand of the sea,” (Ch. xiii. 1,) for “there was no more sea,” nor upon the earth, for it was “passed away.” No intervening object could obstruct his view.—He heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he, will dwell with them,” as his reconciled and beloved people. As a tender Father, he will “wipe away all tears from their eyes.” “There shall be no more death,” either of themselves or their beloved friends, to open the fountain of tears any more for ever. But death is the last enemy to be destroyed; (1 Cor. xv. 26;) how then can these words apply to any state short of immortality in heaven? “Neither sorrow nor crying,”—for sin or suffering; “neither shall there be · any more pain, causing tears or cries: and what is this but heaven? Yes, “the former things are passed away.” Now “he that hath the bride is the bridegroom,” and she shall never be false to her marriage covenant any more.—“He that sat on the throne,” denotes the Father most frequently in this book, as he is distinguished from the Son; but the Son “is set down with his Father in his throne,” (Ch. iii. 21;) and the Son is to be viewed as the person on the throne here, as the following words, compared with the twentieth chapter, verse eleventh, make evident.—He it is who “makes all things new.” He left his disciples as to his bodily presence, and went to “prepare a place for them,” (John xiv. 2;) and now he has come again and received them to himself, in fulfilment of his promise. Having sent the Holy Spirit to create them anew and to carry on to completion their sanctification; he now sees of the travail of his soul, the Father has given him his heart’s desire, and hath not withholden the request of his lips. Now, all his ransomed ones are with him, in answer to his prayer, and also their own prayers, that they may behold his glory which the Father gave him. (Ps. xxi. 2; John xvii. 24; Phil. i. 23.)—The Lord Christ said to John, “Write; for these words are true and faithful.” And what has sustained the spirits, animated the hopes, and filled with exulting joy, the confessors, witnesses and martyrs of Jesus, but faith’s realizing views of the King in his beauty, and the glories of Immanuel’s land? For this peculiarity the disciples of Christ have been as speckled birds, men wondered at, in all generations. “It is done,” so he said at the pouring out of the seventh vial, (Ch. xvi. 17;) when the final stroke was given to the antichristian enemies: but now these words import the completion of the whole counsel of the will of God, as carried into effect by the Captain of salvation, in bringing the beloved and adopted sons and daughters of the Father home to glory. (Heb. ii. 10.) He who is the “Alpha and Omega,” is the “author and finisher of their faith.”. Although the Lord Jesus has made of sinners “new creatures,” prepared them as “vessels of mercy unto glory,” and introduced them into heaven, they are creatures still, and necessarily dependent. They thirst for refreshment suited to their holy nature; and accordingly he gives of the “fountain of the water of life freely,” for the streams of which they thirsted, “as the heart panteth for the water brooks,” while they sojourned in a dry and parched land, far from their Father’s house. Man’s sin consisted in forsaking this “Fountain of living waters,” and his recovery and felicity must arise from his returning from his own “broken cisterns” to the original spring. The water of life was purchased at infinite cost by Christ; but he offers it to the thirsty without price. (Is. lxv. 1, 2.)—Those who are refreshed by the streams of the water of life, have many enemies to encounter in their militant state, but all who overcome are encouraged in their warfare by the animating promise, that they shall “inherit all things.” (1 Cor. iii. 21.)—“He shall be my son,” and “if a son, then an heir of God, and joint heir with Christ?
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.
V. 8.—“But the fearful,” who dread suffering or reproach for the cause of Christ,—not the self—diffident who loves his Captain, but the coward or deserter, who “turns back in the day of battle,” who fears the enemy more than his Captain:—”and unbelieving,” not the misbelieving as Thomas; nor the weak. in faith, but such as have no faith,—infidels;—”the abominable,” defiling the flesh as Sodomites:—“murderers,” suicides, duelists, assassins, burglars, etc., “whoremongers,” adulterers, fornicators:—“sorcerers,” necromancers, spiritualists, who are the devil’s prophets, pretending to new revelations, “and all liars,” perjured persons, deceivers, hypocrites, false teachers, who handle the word of the Lord deceitfully, for filthy lucre’s sake,—all such shall have their part in the lake, with the devil, the beast, and the false prophet. (l Cor. vi. 9, 10; Gal. v. 19-21; Eph. v. 5, 6; 2 Cor. xi. 13.)
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 show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.
10. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
11. Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper—stone, clear as crystal;
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.
13. On the east, three gates; on the north, three gates; on the south, three gates; and on the west, three gates.
14. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Vs. 9-14.—This “angel” is probably the same who had shown John the mystic Babylon and her destruction, (Ch. xvii. 1;) and who now proposes to show him the “bride of the Lamb” by way of contrast.—Under the influence of the Spirit, who has access to the soul without the use of the bodily organs, (2 Cor. xii. 2,)—John was “carried to a great and high mountain,” where the prospect might be sufficiently enlarged. When the angel proposed to show him the “scarlet whore,” he “carried him into the wilderness,” intimating that such is the only position in which the “mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her,” can be clearly seen or perfectly understood, (2 Pet. i. 9.) Great indeed is the contrast. Both objects are complex, and the combination of symbols, wholly incongruous in nature, admonishes the sober interpreter to beware of indulging his vain fancy by attempting to trace analogies in detail, where none are intended by the Holy Spirit. The true church of Christ is compared to a virtuous and fruitful woman, (Ch. xii 5;) and the apostate church is symbolized by a fruitful but profligate woman, (Ch. xvii. 5.) Then both are also represented by two cities, which are equally contrasted. As the women differ in their outward adornment, (Chs. xix. 87 xvii. 4,) so do the cities in the quality of population, commerce and employment, (Ch. xviii. 4; xxii. 14.)—The nuptials being consummated between the Lamb and his bride, and she being now “made perfect in holiness;” under the emblem of a city, she is illuminated with “the glory of God,” made “comely through his comeliness put upon her,” rendered beautiful and illustrious beyond conception or expression: for the happiness of heaven results from conformity to the God—man, communion with him and communications from him. (1 John iii. 2.)—“Her light” resembled the “jasper; clear as crystal.” The knowledge of saints in heaven will be intuitive: they will no longer “see through a glass darkly,” by word and sacraments; nor shall the glorious Bridegroom show himself as formerly “through the lattice;” (Song ii. 9;) but they “shall see him as he is.” (1 John iii. 2.)—“A wall great and high” denotes the security of this city, which can never be scaled by an enemy. The “twelve gates” are to admit the twelve tribes of God’s spiritual Israel, the sealed ones, (Ch. vii. 5—8;) who “shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.” (Luke xiii. 29.)—At the gates were “twelve angels,” as guards and porters. The “foundations” of the wall, named after the “twelve apostles,” denote that all who enter the city, gained admission by “belief of the truth” as taught by the apostles,—had “continued steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,” in the face of reproach, persecution and apostacy. They were “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,”—Old and New Testament believers saved by the blood of the Lamb: for the twelve tribes, multiplied by the twelve apostles, make a hundred and forty—four; and these again, multiplied by a .thousand, make the whole number who appeared with the Lamb on Mount Zion, (Ch. xiv. 1;) the public witnesses of Christ, in the church militant during the great apostacy.
15. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
16. And the city lieth four square, and the length is as large as the breadth. And he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs: the length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal.
17. And he measured the wall thereof, a hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.
Vs. 15-17.—The apostle borrows the symbols and language of preceding prophets, especially those of Ezek. (xl. 8,) and Zech. (ii. 1.) The “furlongs,” measured by the “reed,” indicate a city of vast dimensions; and being “four square,” each side would be about fifteen hundred miles! And as the “length and breadth and height of it are equal,” we are hereby taught that no gross conceptions are to be formed in our imaginations, since a city fifteen hundred miles high, is utterly inconceivable. The instruction intended to be conveyed to us by the vast dimensions, and precious materials of this city may be, the in—comprehensible nature and transcendent glory of heaven. (1 Cor. ii. 9.) A cubit, as the word signifies, “is the measure of a man” from his elbow to the end of his middle finger. The measure of the wall, in height or breadth, was a hundred and forty—four cubits, or the twelve tribes, as before, multiplied by the twelve apostles; for the idea of a cube, as the most perfect symbol of symmetrical form, seems to be intended.
18. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass:
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 chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
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.
21. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
Vs. 18-21.—The “jasper, gold and glass,” are here all combined, though their natural properties and chemical elements are so different. Glass is clear, transparent, but brittle; gold is solid and shining, but opaque. In heaven, the saints shall know more than we can now imagine. The glass will be all gold. As the eye sees an object through glass at a glance, so the saints in heaven will perceive truth without the tedious process of comparison and reasoning. The gold will be all glass. All these symbols are intended to show to the devout reader, that the antichristian harlot is incomparably eclipsed by the glory of the Lamb’s bride,—having “no glory, by reason of the glory that excelleth.”—The twelve “precious stones” which “garnished the foundations of the wall of the city,” are an allusion to those of Aaron’s breastplate of judgment. (Exod. xxviii. 17-20;) indicating that the Urim and Thummim, the light and perfection of glory, shall be there, superseding the oracle and Shekinah: for one thing is peculiar to this city by which it is distinguished from the old Jerusalem,—no temple.
22, And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple of it.
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.
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.
25. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day; for there shall be no night there.
26. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
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.
Vs. 22-27.—There was “no temple therein.” As there was a temple in the city which Ezekiel saw in vision, (Ch. xli. 1,) and this fact determines the point, that his prophecy relates to the church militant; so, the absence of even the semblance of such a structure here, proves that this is a description of the church triumphant. In heaven there is no need of external, material, visible symbols of God’s presence. As the ceremonial “law had a shadow of good things to come,” but “vanished away” when Christ appeared, (Heb. x. 1,) so will it be in heaven; no ordinances will be used to act upon either sense or faith, these having issued in vision.
The glorious presence of “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb” having superseded the necessity of a temple, the light of the sun and moon shall be no longer needed. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,” (1 John i. 5;) and “as long as Christ was in the world, he was the light of the world.” (John ix. 5.) We have seen that other suns and moons which were symbolical, have been darkened or blotted out of existence by the omnipotent Mediator; but now these natural luminaries are totally and for ever obscured by the ineffable effulgence of uncreated light,—the manifested and immediate presence of the Father and the Son.—All the redeemed shall “walk in the light of the Lord;” and all the glory of “the kings of the earth,” concentrated in one place, would bear no comparison with the splendor of this “holy city.” The gates are not to be shut during the “day” of eternity; and since the “excellent ones of the earth” shall all enter the twelve open gates from every part of the world, it may be truly said “they bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.” What a delightful scene of a holy, happy, safe and harmonious fellowship!—It is observable that the apostle altogether drops personalities here. He seizes only upon properties or qualities,—“any thing,”—so holy is the place, and so holy the inhabitants; yea, so safe and secure, that no creature,—no “beast of the field which the Lord God has made,” shall ever gain an entrance into this heavenly Paradise: but only those whose names are “written in the Lamb’s book of life;” who, despite of the Serpent, brings all his spiritual seed safe to glory.