Daniel and the Revelation

Chapter 21

The New Jerusalem

The burden of this chapter, commencing with verse 2, is the New Jerusalem; but before that is introduced, John tells us how the present heaven and earth and sea are to be disposed of, as follows:-- p. 702, Para. 2.

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. p. 702, Para. 3.

New Heaven and New Earth. -- By the first heaven and first earth, John unquestionably means the present heaven and earth, the heavens and the earth which are now. 2 Pet. 3:7. Some have supposed that when the Bible speaks of the third heaven, in which are paradise and the tree of life (2 Cor. 12:2: Rev. 2:7), it refers to the heaven which is yet future, and does not prove that there is a paradise and tree of life literally in existence in heaven at the present time. They base their view on the fact that Peter speaks of three heavens and earths, -- (1) those before the flood, (2) the ones which now are, and (3) the ones which are to come. But the theory is completely overturned by the first verse of Revelation 21: for John here reckons but two heavens and earths. The ones which now are he calls the first, so that the future new heavens would, according to this count, be the second, and not the third, as Peter reckons. Hence it is certain that Peter did not design to establish a numerical order, in accordance with which we should speak of one as the first, another as the second, and the last as the third. The object of his reasoning was simply to show that as a literal heaven and earth succeeded to the destruction of the earth by the flood, so a literal heaven and earth would result from the renovation of the present system by fire. There is no proof, therefore, that the Bible, when it speaks of the third heaven, refers simply to the third state of the present heavens and earth, for then all the Bible writers would uniformly have so reckoned it. Thus the arguments of those who would endeavor to disprove the idea of a literal paradise and tree of life in existence at the present time, fall to the ground. The Bible certainly recognizes three heavens in the present constitution of things: namely, the first, or atmospheric heaven, which the fowls of the air inhabit; the second, the planetary heaven, the region of the sun, moon, and stars; and the third, high above the others, where paradise and the tree of life are found (Rev. 2:7); where God has his residence and his throne (Rev. 22:1, 2); to which Paul was caught up in heavenly vision (2 Cor. 12:2); to which Christ ascended when he left the earth (Rev. 12:5); where he now, as priest-king, sits upon the throne with his Father [Zech. 6:13]; and where the glorious city stands, awaiting the saints when they enter into life. Rev. 21:2. Blessed be God that from that bright land intelligence has been brought to this far-off world of ours! and thanks be to his holy name that a way has been opened from the dark places of earth, which leads like a straight and shining path of light up to those blest abodes! p. 702, Para. 4.

The Sea No More. -- Because John says, And there was no more sea, the question is sometimes asked, Is there, then, to be no sea in the new earth? It does not certainly follow from this text that there will be none; for John is speaking only of the present heaven and earth and sea. It might be translated thus: For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and the sea was no more; that is, the old sea no longer appeared, any more than the old heaven and old earth; and yet there may be a new sea as there is a new earth. p. 703, Para. 1.

Dr. Clarke says on this passage: The sea no more appeared than did the first heaven and earth. All was made new; and probably the new sea occupied a different position, and was differently distributed, from that of the old sea. p. 703, Para. 2.

The river of life, of which we read in the following chapter, proceeding from the throne of God, and flowing through the broad street of the city, must find some place into which to discharge its waters; and what can that be but the new-earth sea? That there will be a sea or seas, in the new earth, may be inferred from the prophecy which speaks of Christ's future reign as follows: And his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. Zech. 9:10. But that three quarters of the globe will then, as now, be abandoned to a waste of waters, cannot be expected. The new world will have everything which will contribute to its utility and beauty. p. 704, Para. 1.

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. 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. p. 704, Para. 2.

The Father's House. -- In connection with the view which John has of the holy city coming down from God out of heaven, a voice is heard, saying, The tabernacle of God is with him, and he will dwell with them. The conclusion naturally follows that the tabernacle here mentioned is the city. This same city is called in John 14 the Father's house in which are many mansions. If an objection should arise in any mind that this is too permanent a place to be called a tabernacle, we reply that the word tabernacle sometimes has the signification of a permanent dwelling-place. The great God takes up his abode on this earth; but we do not suppose that God is confined to this, or any other one of the worlds of his creation. He here has a throne, and the earth enjoys so much of his presence that it may be said that he dwells among men. And why should this be thought a strange thing? God's only begotten Son is here as ruler of his special kingdom; the holy city, which is called the Father's house, and which it is natural to suppose will be the most beautiful and glorious object in the universe, will be here; and the heavenly hosts take an interest in this world probably above what they feel in any other; yea, reasoning from one of the Saviour's parables, there will be more joy in heaven over one world redeemed than over ninety and nine which have needed no redemption. p. 704, Para. 3.

No Cause for Tears. -- And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. He does not literally wipe away tears from the eyes of his people; for there will be no tears in that kingdom to be thus wiped away; but he wipes away tears by removing all causes of tears. p. 705, Para. 1.

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. 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. p. 705, Para. 2.

The New Creation. -- He that sits upon the throne is the same being that is mentioned in verses 11, 12 of the preceding chapter. He says, I make all things new; not, I make all new things. The earth is not destroyed, annihilated, and a new one created, but all things are made over new. Let us rejoice that these words are true and faithful. And when this is accomplished, all will be ready for the utterance of that sublime sentence, It is done. The dark shadow of sin has then forever passed off from the universe. The wicked, root and branch (Mal. 4:1), are wiped out of the land of the living, and the universal anthem of praise and thanksgiving (Rev. 5:13) goes up from a redeemed world and a clean universe to a covenant-keeping God. p. 705, Para. 3.

VERSE 7. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 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. p. 705, Para. 4.

The Great Inheritance. -- The overcomers are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal. 3:29. The promise embraces the world (Rom. 4:13); and the saints will go forth upon the new earth, not as servants or aliens, but as lawful heirs to the heavenly estate and proprietors of the soil. p. 705, Para. 5.

The Fear that Hath Torment. -- But the fearful and unbelieving have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. The word fearful has been a trouble to some conscientious ones, who have had fears more or less in all their Christian experience. It may be well, therefore, to inquire what kind of fear is here meant. It is not fear of our own weakness, or of the power of the tempter; it is not fear of sinning, or of falling out by the way, or of coming short at last. Such fear will be very apt to drive us to the Lord. But it is a fear connected with unbelief; a fear of the ridicule and opposition of the world; a fear to trust God, and venture out upon his promises; a fear that he will not fulfil what he has declared, and that consequently we shall be left to shame and loss for believing on him. Cherishing such fear, one can be only half-hearted in his service. This is most dishonoring to God. This is the fear which we are commanded not to have. Isa. 51:7. This is the fear which brings into condemnation here, and will finally bring all who are controlled by it into the lake of fire, which is the second death. p. 706, Para. 1.

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 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. p. 706, Para. 2.

The Bride, the Lamb's Wife. -- This testimony is positive that the New Jerusalem is the bride, the Lamb's wife. The angel told John distinctly that he would show him the bride, the Lamb's wife; and we may be sure that he did not practice upon him a piece of deception, but fulfilled his promise to the very letter; but all that he did show him was the New Jerusalem. It would be unnecessary to offer a word of proof that this city is not the church, where it not that popular theology has so mystified the Scriptures as to give it this application. This city, then, cannot be the church, because it would be absurd to speak of the church as having a wall great and high, and having twelve gates, three on each side toward the four points of the compass. Indeed, the whole description of the city which is given in this chapter would be more or less an absurdity if applied to the church. p. 706, Para. 3.

Again: Paul, to the Galatians, speaks of the same city and says that it is the mother of us all, referring to the church. The church, then, is not the city itself, but the children of the city. And verse 24 of the chapter under comment, speaks of the nations of the saved, who walk in the light of this city. These nations who are the saved, and on earth constitute the church, are distinct from the city, in the light of which they walk. It follows that the city is a literal city, built of all the precious materials here described. p. 707, Para. 1.

But how can it then be the bride, the Lamb's wife? Answer: Inspiration has seen fit to speak of it under this figure, and with every believer in the Bible, that should be sufficient. The figure is first introduced in Isaiah 54. The new-covenant city is there brought to view. It is represented as being desolate while the old covenant was in force, and the Jews and old Jerusalem were the special objects of God's care; but it is said to her that children of the desolate shall be many more than the children of the married wife. It is further said to her, Thy Maker is thy husband; and the closing promise of the Lord to this city contains a very similar description to the one which we have her in Revelation; namely, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires; and I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord. It is this very promise to which Paul refers, and upon which he comments in his epistle to the Galatians, when he says, But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all (Gal. 4:26); for he quotes in the next verse, this very prophecy from the book of Isaiah to sustain this declaration. Here, then, Paul makes an inspired application of Isaiah's prophecy which cannot be mistaken; and in this he shows that under the figure of a woman, a wife whose children were to be multiplied, the Lord by the prophet speaks of the New Jerusalem, the city above, as contrasted with the earthly Jerusalem in the land of Palestine; and of this city the Lord calls himself the husband. In addition to this, we have the positive testimony of the twenty-first chapter of Revelation to the same facts. p. 707, Para. 2.

With this view, all is harmony. Christ is called the Father of his people (Isa. 9:6); the Jerusalem above is called our mother, and we are called the children; and, carrying out the figure of a marriage, Christ is represented as the Bridegroom, the city as the bride, and we, the church, as the guests. There is no confusion of parties here. But the popular view, which makes the city the church, and the church the bride, exhibits the inexcusable confusion off making the church at the same time both mother and children, both bride and guests. p. 708, Para. 1.

The view that the marriage of the Lamb is the inauguration of Christ as King upon the throne of David, and that the parables of Matt. 22:1-14; 25:1-13; Luke 12:35-37; 19:12, 13, etc., apply to that event, is further confirmed by a well-known ancient custom. It is said that when a person took his position as ruler over the people, and was invested with that power, it was called a marriage, and the usually accompanying feast was called a marriage supper. Dr. Clarke, in his note on Matt. 22:2, thus speaks of it:-- p. 708, Para. 2.

A marriage for his son.] A marriage feast, so the word properly means. Or a feast of inauguration, when his son was put in possession of the government, and thus he and his new subjects became married together. Many eminent critics so understand this parable as indicating the Father's induction of his Son into his Messianic kingdom. (See 1 Kings 1:5- 9, 19, 25, etc., where such a feast is mentioned.) p. 708, Para. 3.

A Christian City. -- The names of the twelve apostles in the foundations of the city, show it to be a Christian and not a Jewish city; while the names of the twelve tribes on the gates, show that all the saved, from this dispensation as well as from the former, are reckoned as belonging to some one of the twelve tribes; for all must enter the city through some one of these twelve gates. It is this fact which explains those instances in which Christians are called Israel, and are addressed as the twelve tribes, as in Rom. 2:28, 29; 9:6-8; Gal. 3:29; Eph. 2:12, 13; James 1:1; Rev. 7:4. p. 709, Para. 1.

VERSE 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 foursquare, 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, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. 18. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. p. 709, Para. 2.

The City's Dimensions. -- According to this testimony the city is laid out in a perfect square, measuring equally on all sides. The measure of the city, John declares, was twelve thousand furlongs. Twelve thousand furlongs, eight furlongs to a mile, equal fifteen hundred English miles. It may be understood that this measure is the measure of the whole circumference of the city, and not merely of one side. This appears, from Kitto, to have been the ancient method of measuring cities. The whole circumference was taken, and that was said to be the measure of the city. According to this rule, the New Jerusalem will be three hundred and seventy-five miles on each side. The length, breadth, and height of it are equal. From this language, the question has arisen whether the city was as high as it was long and broad. The word rendered equal is [isos]; and from the definitions given by Liddell and Scott, we learn that it may be used to convey the idea of proportion: the height was proportionate to the length and breadth. And this idea is strengthened by the fact that the wall was only a hundred and forty-four cubits high. Taking the cubit at about twenty-two inches, the length which is most commonly assigned to the ancient cubit, it would give only two hundred and sixty-four feet as the height of the wall. Now, if the city is just as high as it is long and broad, that is, three hundred and seventy-five miles, this wall of less than three hundred feet would be, in comparison, a most insignificant affair. Probably, therefore, the height of the buildings of the city is to be judged of by the height of the wall, which is distinctly given. p. 709, Para. 3.

The following criticisms on verse 16, the verse which gives the dimensions of the heavenly city, are undoubtedly correct:-- p. 710, Para. 1.

It has been inferred from the above text that the New Jerusalem city is to be as high as it is long, and that its length will be twelve thousand furlongs, or fifteen hundred miles. It seems to us entirely unnecessary to place such a construction upon the language. The word equal does not always mean the same as to dimensions or position; it is frequently used in the sense of proportion. If we were to say that the length and the breadth and the height of the city were in proportion, we should not violate the language. This view is taken by Jas. Du Pui, A.M., in his Exposition of the Apocalypse. The following from Thomas Wicks, author of Lectures on the Apocalypse, presents the same idea: The language, however, will bear another meaning, which is far more natural. It is not that the length and breadth and height were severally equal to each other, but equal with themselves; that is, the length was everywhere the same, and the breadth everywhere the same, and the height the same. It was perfect and symmetrical in all its proportions. This is confirmed by the fact distinctly stated, that the wall was one hundred and forty-four cubits high, or two hundred and sixteen feet, a proper height for a wall; while it is said that "the length is as large as the breadth.' This writer allows but eighteen inches to the cubit. p. 710, Para. 2.

It would appear, therefore, that the height of the city was proportionate to its length and breadth, and not that it was as high as it was long. The text certainly admits of this interpretation; and this frees the language from all ambiguity, and the city from all disproportion, and shows perfect harmony in the general description. p. 711, Para. 1.

The building of the wall was of jasper. Jasper is a precious stone usually described as of a beautiful green color, sometimes clouded with white or spotted with yellow. This we understand to be the material of the main body of the wall built upon the twelve foundations hereafter described. And let it be remembered that this jasper wall was clear as crystal (verse 11), revealing all the glories within. p. 711, Para. 2.

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; 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. p. 711, Para. 3.

A Literal City. -- If we consider this description exclusively metaphorical, as is done by the great mass of those who profess to be Bible teachers, and spiritualize away this city into aerial nothingness, how unmeaning, yea, even bordering upon folly, do these minute descriptions appear; but if we take it, as it is evidently designed to be understood, in its natural and obvious signification, and look upon the city as the Revelator evidently designed we should look upon it, as a literal and tangible abode, our glorious inheritance, the beauties of which we are to look upon with our own eyes, how is the glory of the scene enhanced! p. 711, Para. 4.

It is in this light -- though it is not for mortal man, of himself, to conceive of the grandeur of those things which God has prepared for those that love him -- that men may delight to contemplate the glories of their future abode. We love to dwell upon those descriptions which convey to our minds, as well as language can do it, an idea of the loveliness and beauty which shall characterize our eternal home. And as we become absorbed in the contemplation of an inheritance tangible and sure, courage springs up anew, hope revives, faith plumes her wings; and with feelings of thanksgiving to God that he has placed it within our power to gain an entrance to the mansions of the redeemed, we resolve anew, despite the world and all its obstacles, that we will be among the sharers in the proffered joy. Let us, then, look at the precious foundation stones of that great city, through whose gates of pearl God's people may hope soon to enter. p. 711, Para. 5.

The Glorious Foundation. -- The word adorned (garnished), says Stuart, may raise a doubt here whether the writer means to say that into the various courses of the foundation ornamental precious stones were only here and there inserted; but taking the whole description together, I do not apprehend this to have been his meaning. p. 712, Para. 1.

Jasper, as we have seen above, is usually a stone of green, transparent color, with red veins; but there are many varieties. p. 712, Para. 2.

Sapphire is a beautiful azure, or sky-blue, color, almost as transparent and glittering as a diamond. p. 712, Para. 3.

Chalcedony seems to be a species of agate, or more properly the onyx. The onyx of the ancients was probably of a bluish white, and semipellucid. p. 712, Para. 4.

The emerald was of a vivid green, and next to the ruby in hardness. p. 712, Para. 5.

Sardonyx is a mixture of chalcedony and carnelian, which last is of a flesh-color. p. 712, Para. 6.

Sardius is probably the carnelian. Sometimes, however, the red is quite vivid. p. 712, Para. 7.

Chrysolite, as its name imports, is of a yellow or gold color, and is pellucid. From this was probably taken the conception of the pellucid gold which constitutes the material of the city. p. 712, Para. 8.

Beryl is of a sea-green color. p. 712, Para. 9.

The topaz of the present day seems to be reckoned as yellow: but that of the ancients appears to have been pale green. p. 713, Para. 1.

Chrysoprasus, of a pale yellow and greenish color, like a scallion; sometimes it is classed at the present day under topaz. p. 713, Para. 2.

Hyacinth [jacinth], of a deep red or violet color. p. 713, Para. 3.

Amethyst, a gem of great hardness and brilliancy, of a violet color, and usually found in India. p. 713, Para. 4.

In looking over these various classes, we find the first four to be of a green or bluish cast; the fifth and sixth, of a red or scarlet; the seventh, yellow; the eighth, ninth, and tenth, of different shades of the lighter green; the eleventh and twelfth of a scarlet or splendid red. There is a classification, therefore, in this arrangement; a mixture not dissimilar to the arrangement in the rainbow, with the exception that it is more complex. Plin., 38, 8, Bellermann. Urim et Thummim, p. 37. p. 713, Para. 5.

VERSE 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. p. 713, Para. 6.

The Gates of Pearl. -- Whether we understand that these gates were of solid pearl, or whether composed of pearls thickly set in a framework of some other precious material, does not materially affect the testimony. If it should be objected that it would be contrary to the nature of things to have a pearl large enough for a gate, we reply that God is able to produce it; the objection simply limits the power of God. But in either case the gates would outwardly have the appearance of pearl, and in ordinary language would be described as gates of pearl. p. 713, Para. 7.

The Streets of Burnished Gold. -- In this verse, as also in verse 18, the city is spoken of as built of gold, pure, like unto clear glass, or, as it were, transparent glass. It is not necessary to conclude from this language that the gold is of itself transparent. Take that, for instance, which composes the street. If it were really transparent, it would simply permit us to look through and behold whatever was beneath the city, -- the substratum upon which it rested, -- a view which cannot be anticipated as specially pleasing. But let us suppose the golden pavement of the street to be so highly polished as to possess perfect powers of reflection, like the truest mirror, and we can see at once that the effect would be grand and striking in the extreme. Think for a moment what the appearance of a street so paved would be. The gorgeous palaces on either side would be reflected beneath, and the boundless expanse of the heavens above would also appear below; so that to the person walking those golden streets it would appear that both himself and the city were suspended between the infinite heights above and the unfathomable depths below, while the mansions on either side of the street, having equal powers of reflection, would marvelously multiply both palaces and people, and conspire to render the whole scene novel, pleasing, beautiful, and grand beyond conception. p. 713, Para. 8.

VERSE 22. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. p. 714, Para. 1.

The Living Temple. -- With the temple is connected the idea of sacrifices and a mediatorial work; but when the city is located upon the earth, there will be no such work to be performed. Sacrifices and offerings, and all mediatorial work based thereon, will be forever past; hence there will be no need of the outward symbol of such work. But the temple in old Jerusalem, besides being a place for sacrificial worship, was the beauty and glory of the place; and as if to anticipate the question that might arise as to what would constitute the ornament and glory of the new city if there was to be no temple therein, the prophet answers, The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. It appears that there is now a temple in the city. Chapter 16:17. What becomes of that temple when the city comes down, revelation does not inform us. Possibly it is removed from the city, or it may be put to such a different use as to cease to be the temple of God. p. 714, Para. 2.

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. 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 honor 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 honor of the nations into it. 27. And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. p. 714, Para. 3.

No Night There. -- It is in the city alone, probably, that there is no night. There will of course be days and nights in the new earth, but they will be days and nights of surpassing glory. The prophet, speaking of this time, says, Moreover, the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound. Isa. 30:26. But if the light of the moon in that state is as the light of the sun, how can there be said to be night there? Answer: The light of the sun shall be sevenfold, so that although the night is as our day, the day will be sevenfold brighter, making the contrast between day and night there as marked, perhaps as at the present time; but both will be surpassingly glorious. p. 715, Para. 1.

Verse 24 speaks of nations and kings. The nations are the nations of the saved; and we are all kings, in a certain sense, in the new-earth state. We possess a kingdom, and are to reign forever and ever. p. 715, Para. 2.

But it appears from some of our Saviour's parables, as in Matt. 25:21, 23, that some will occupy a special sense the position of rulers, and may thus be spoken of as kings of the earth in connection with the nations of the saved. These bring their glory and honor into the city, when on the Sabbaths and new moons they there come up to worship before God. Isa. 66:23. p. 715, Para. 3.

Reader, do you want a part in the unspeakable and eternal glories of this heavenly city? See to it, then, that your name is written in the Lamb's book of life; for those only whose names are on that heavenly roll of honor can enter there. p. 715, Para. 4.

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