Revelation 21.

THE ETERNAL STATE (Rev. 21:1-8)

AND THE BRIDE IN GOVERNMENTAL AND MILLENNIAL SPLENDOUR (Verses 9-27).

INTRODUCTORY.

Post-millennial, or eternal, times and events are more fully described in the first eight verses of our chapter than in any other portion of the inspired Word. The continuity of the passage with the previous chapter is self-evident. There we had the closing up of human history on earth. The unholy dead are raised, the last event in time, followed by the first recorded act of eternity — the judgment of the wicked dead. What succeeds is a new vision, in which are unfolded some of the main characteristics of the grand eternal state (vv. 1-8). The everlasting ages of God’s rest (Heb. 3:4) are the result, the force or energy of what God is in His own nature as light and love. The millennial kingdom of the Son of Man is the accomplishment of prophecy when the whole body of heavenly saints reign with Christ over the earth. The kingdom in its mediatorial character exhibits the reign of righteousness never before witnessed on earth, but that necessarily supposes contrary elements. The millennial kingdom is not a perfect condition. It is certainly an immense advance upon any previous state, and one in which immeasurable blessings are enjoyed. But perfection is only reached when righteousness dwells, when the work of repression is over. The eternal state is the grand consummation, the summit of holy desire, the goal of hope in its fullest sense.

The first eight verses of our chapter form the natural and fitting conclusion, not only to chapter 20, but to the section as a whole, which groups some of the most interesting events connected with man’s future and final destiny (Rev. 19 — 21:8). The direct references to the eternal state are few in number, the principal passages being 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, Ephesians 3:21, 2 Peter 3:13. The term “his rest” (Heb. 3 and 4) in its fullest application refers to the eternal state.

There is considerable confusion in the arrangement of the chapters.* The eighth verse of chapter 21 should have concluded chapter 20. Then verse 9 of chapter 21 should have begun that chapter and closed with verse 5 of chapter 22. The remaining sixteen verses of the Apocalypse might have formed the concluding chapter. Had this order been adopted the subjects would have been presented in order and method. The sequence of events for more than a thousand years is narrated in that section, which in importance is second to none, namely, chapters 19 — 21:8.

{*The division of the sacred books into chapters and verses has not proved an unqualified success. Cardinal Hugo in the thirteenth century gave us the chapters. The Jewish Rabbi, Nathan, divided Hugo’s chapters into verses in the Old Testament in the fifteenth century. In the sixteenth century Stephens, the celebrated French printer, put the New Testament into verses. “Our English Bibles have Hugo’s chapters throughout, the Jew’s arrangement of verses in the Old Testament, and Stephens’ verses in the New Testament. The first of English Bibles thus chaptered and versed is the Bishops’ Bible, that immediately preceding the Authorised Version,” — “Story of our English Bible,” by Walter Scott.}

May God grant reverence, sobriety of thought, and holy fear in the consideration of this sublime subject — the eternal state. Dr. Chalmers rightly observed, “While we attempt not to be wise above what is written, we should attempt, and that most studiously, to be wise up to that which is written.”

A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH.

Rev. 21:1. — The Seer relates a new vision: “I saw a new Heaven and a new earth.” Both are made new, and adapted to the vast moral and physical changes which the eternal state necessitates. The “new Heaven” is for the raised and changed saints; the “new earth” is to form the habitation of those who during the millennial reign were alive on the earth — those companies described in Rev. 7; Rev. 14:1, etc. Thus, even in eternity, the everlasting distinction is preserved between the heavenly and earthly peoples of God. However close the connection they will never be united or merged in one (see Eph. 3:15, R.V.).

The “new Heaven” in our text must not be confounded with the Heaven of Heavens, the dwelling of God. This latter subsists in moral and physical perfection, and undergoes no change.

All is new. All is according to God in His nature. All is fixed. No economic changes now. We are introduced into God’s everlasting rest, into God‘s unchanging state, one of absolute perfection. We have not here the Lamb and the fulfilment of counsel and prophecy, nor the mediatorial kingdom and the reign of righteousness, but the kingdom given up, and God all in all (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Time distinctions, geographical boundaries, and limitations as at present entirely disappear in the grand eternal state, which, whether in Heaven or earth, displays the energy of God Himself. The “new Heaven” and “new earth,” the respective spheres of all the saved, shall be brought into blessed harmony with what God is. This is the state referred to by Isaiah 66:22, and Peter's second Epistle (2 Peter 3:13), a state in which righteousness shall dwell, not reign as in millennial times. Neither enemy nor evil shall invade either of the spheres where the redeemed will for ever dwell. Every one and everything will re-echo the glad refrain, God is light and God is love.

1. — “For the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away.” The undoubted reference is to the statement in the previous chapter. “From whose face the earth and the Heaven fled away” (v. 11). This dissolution, not annihilation, is effected by fire (2 Peter 3:10). Scripture is silent as to any future act of creating material in a literal sense, and is equally silent on what some foolishly contend for, namely, annihilation or total extinction of being. Scripture knows nothing of such a baseless theory. Not an atom of matter, not a blade of grass, and surely not a sentient being in the wide universe is doomed to extinction. Our planet will be put in the crucible, altered, changed, and made new, to abide for ever. There being no sin, there can be no corruption. The new earth is eternal. The terms “first Heaven” and “first earth” are in contrast to the “new Heaven” and “new earth.”

NO MORE SEA.

1. — “And the sea is no more.” The continuity of the earth, the same in substance after the deluge and after its destruction by fire, seems evident. It exists, but as remade.* “The sea is no more.” This great, restless, destructive, and separating element of nature shall cease to exist. The sea, now essential to animal and vegetable life on earth, is not needed in God’s eternity. He is not only the source of life as He ever was and is, but is then the direct sustainer of it. The sea exists in the millennial age. There we read of nations, and seas, and rivers,** but in the eternal state these no longer exist. It is God and men, and an earth without sea, all brought into ordered subjection. The conditions of life are so different in the everlasting state that time conditions of life and happiness are no longer needed. No sea in the new and eternal earth gives, of course, an immensely extended land surface, far exceeding that which presently exists. The countless hosts of saved Jews and Gentiles on earth during the millennial reign shall then people the new earth, but not, we apprehend, in any distinctive or national sense, but simply as men in direct relation to God.

{*The earth exists after the passing away of Heaven and earth (Rev. 20:11-13). It cannot therefore signify cessation of existence, but means that in its then present condition it passes away, not that the thing itself becomes extinct, but certain time conditions cease, to give place to others of a permanent kind. A distinguished geologist has written, “I confess myself unable to find any evidence for it (extinction of our planet) in Nature, Reason, or Scripture.”

** Nations as such can have no place in the eternal state, for these were the fruit of governmental judgment (Gen. 11:1-9). The first nine verses of chapter 11 of Genesis historically precede chapter 10, and really account for the existence of the many nations mentioned in that important historical chapter. Then in the great change which Scripture refers to as “The Regeneration” (Matt. 19:28), commonly spoken of as the millennium, we read of the dead sea, or east sea (Ezek. 47). The great sea, or the Mediterranean, is also referred to in that same interesting millennial chapter. (See Zech. 14:8; Ps. 72:8; Joel 3:18, etc.).}

NEW JERUSALEM.

Rev. 21:2. — “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of the Heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The “new Heaven” and “new earth” beheld by the Seer are not described. Of their configuration, size, and appearance we can say nothing. Their adaptation for eternal use, without change, decay, or death can surely be predicated, but not more. Without doubt they will be regions of everlasting bloom and beauty.

But now a new sight greets the eye of the Seer. He not only beholds the physical platforms on which the glories of eternity are to be displayed, but “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem.” The term “holy city” occurs three times in the Apocalypse (see Rev. 11:2; Rev. 21:2; Rev. 22:19). The first of these references is to the literal Jerusalem in the coming crisis; the other two point to the holy character of the glorified Church. The “beloved city” (Rev. 20:9) is a descriptive epithet of millennial Jerusalem, the actual city of that name. The Church, the bride and wife of the Lamb, is holy in character and ways, whether during the reign (v. 10) or in the eternal state (v. 2).

But the Church is also termed “new Jerusalem” (see also Rev. 3:12). There are three Jerusalems — the heavenly (Heb. 12:22), the earthly (Rev. 11:2), and the mystical (Rev. 21:2, 10). The epithet “new Jerusalem” is in contrast to the old and literal city which has played such an important part in the world’s history. The term new is used three times — new Heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem. If the Jewish people, as such, are in the eternal state merged in the simple appellation men, then the earthly city, Jerusalem, as a distinctive seat and centre of government will have passed away. Cities and nations are connected with time, not with eternity, and as such have no place in God’s everlasting ages of unbroken rest and blessedness, in which the redeemed alone have part. The two descriptive terms “holy city” and “new Jerusalem” are both used to set forth the Church as she enters on her eternal state of blessedness, a state more deep and unchanging than even the millennial condition in which she shared in glory the rights and dignities of the Lamb. That which succeeds the public reign of the thousand years has a character peculiar to itself; in it God is all and in all.

COMING DOWN.

2. — “Coming down out of the Heaven from God.” This is verbally repeated in verse 10. Heaven is the proper home of the Church, and God the source of her being and happiness. It is not said the new Jerusalem “comes down from Heaven,” but out of it. She has been dwelling in it. She has not had a casual acquaintance with Heaven, but knows it well and intimately, and is perfectly at home in the very dwelling place of God. The Church comes “out” of it in the love and glory of the place where God dwells. It is a marvellous statement. The “coming down” in verse 2 is a thousand years after the “coming down” of verse 10. The former is in eternity; the latter is at the commencement of the millennial age. In the former the Church comes down to the eternal earth; in the latter she rests over the millennial earth.

THE BRIDE PREPARED AND ADORNED.

2. — “Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The bride is prepared in Heaven ere her public manifestation in the kingdom (v. 9), or in her descent to the earth (v. 3). The marriage was celebrated in Heaven a thousand years before the sight given us of her here. The fact is stated in Revelation 19:7, 8, to which our text clearly refers. There she had been adorned in robes of spotless white; here she is witnessed still in her bridal attire. A thousand years of love, blessedness, and companionship with her Husband and Lover are but brief. She is eternally united to Him Who died for her, and is now about to enter on a yet deeper character of blessedness in the unchanging rest and joys of eternity. She is regarded as yet wearing her bridal robes. No soil or spot, nothing to mar their lustre, and no change in her bridal affections. The term husband tells of established relationship, of satisfied affection. “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom” (John 3:29).*

{*“Where is the chronological place of the new Jerusalem? Before, or after, or contemporary with, and to continue after the thousand years? We may confidently answer that it is the last of these; . . . there can hardly be a doubt that the wife mentioned (Rev. 19:7) is the same as the bride, the wife mentioned in Revelation 21:9. The latter is distinctly identified with the holy city, new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2).” — “The Critical English Testament,” vol. 3, p. 852.

The marriage takes place in Heaven before the warrior king and his conquering armies issue forth (Rev. 19:7); then we have the binding and confinement of Satan, and the reign of Christ for a thousand years — contemporary events — at the close of the millennial era the last satanic outburst is witnessed, followed by the resurrection and judgment of the wicked; then the eternal state is entered upon after the thousand years, in which the bride is still seen in her bridal robes and beauty (Rev. 21:2). Then in verse 9 the description is retrogressive, and shows the bride, the glorified Church during the thousand years’ reign. Before the reign (Rev. 19:7), after the reign (Rev. 21:2), during the reign (Rev. 21:9).}

THE NEW JERUSALEM AND THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM.

2. — We beg the reader’s careful attention to the distinction between the new Jerusalem of the Apocalypse, which is the glorified Church, and the heavenly Jerusalem spoken of by Paul (Heb. 12:22). This latter, unlike the former, does not refer to people, but is the city of the living God, an actual city, the location of all the heavenly saints. It is the same that is referred to in the previous chapter, for which saints and patriarchs looked (Heb. 11:10-16), a material city, built and prepared by God Himself, grand and vast beyond all telling. The city of Paul is a material one; the city of John is a mystical one.

THE TABERNACLE OF GOD WITH MEN.

Rev. 21:3. — “And I heard a loud voice out of the Heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God (is) with men, and He shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, their God.” The Revised Version reads “the throne,” so, too, W. Kelly, but other critical editors reject it, as Tregelles, Darby, Hengstenberg, and others. The latter says: “The external testimonies for the two readings are pretty nearly equal.” Were the “loud voice” heard out of the throne it would be the voice of God, as He, of course, sits thereon. But being heard out of the Heaven, as in previous announcements (Rev. 11:15; Rev. 12:10; Rev. 14:2; Rev. 19:1, 6), it maybe that of saints. The loud voice heard is an exulting one, and proclaims a fact in which is wrapped up the supreme blessing of eternity — God with men — Emmanuel (Matt. 1:23), not now with the Jewish people, but in a far more extended and comprehensive sense.

 “Behold,” attention is called to the amazing fact, “the tabernacle of God (is) with men.”* God walked in Eden and talked to Adam, He appeared to the patriarchs of Israel, He dwelt in darkness in the unseen and innermost part of the tabernacle of old, God was in Christ in the days of His flesh, He dwells in the Church by His Spirit, but the actual dwelling of God with His creatures redeemed and on earth awaits the fixed and holy eternal state. This unspeakable blessing surpasses far that of the millennial reign. In Revelation 7:15 we read: “He that sitteth on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them” (R.V.). But how different the preposition here, “He shall tabernacle with them” (R.V.). The tabernacle is the whole body of heavenly saints. The tabernacle comes down from “the Heaven,” the natural home of the saints, but God Himself descends with them, taking His place in their midst, and tabernacles with them. Why is the word tabernacle and not temple used in this connection? We would naturally have considered that the latter term would have been the fitting one, as the tabernacle of old was set up in the wilderness, and was associated with the journeys, trials, and testings of the people. The tabernacle was the expression of a temporary state of things, whereas the more solid structure of stone, the temple, was a permanent building set up in the land. The tabernacle was a movable structure; the temple was a fixed one. We gather, therefore, that the tabernacle of God with men intimates that the saints will not settle permanently on the new earth, but move to and fro, visiting other parts of God’s creation — His inheritance and ours (Eph. 1:10, 11).

{*See remarks on Rev. 7:15.}

GOD WITH MEN.

3. — “He shall tabernacle with them.” This emphatic statement is an advance on the previous one. There, we read, “The tabernacle of God is with men;” now, “He shall tabernacle with them.” In the one case it is the tabernacle; in the other it is Himself. What an amazing truth that God, the very God, the Maker and Sustainer of Heaven and earth, shall actually and really dwell with men on earth. This is no figure of speech, but a coming grand reality, the profound depth of which baffles human understanding.

3. — “They shall be His people,” that is, God shall appropriate the eternal dwellers on the new earth for Himself. Israel of old was Jehovah’s people. Now the appellation “His people” assumes a breadth and depth of blessing utterly unknown in Old Testament times.

3. — “And God Himself shall be with them, their God.” In this marvellous declaration God, so to speak, comes out of His tabernacle and personally is with His people — God Himself. Here there is no mention of anything, tabernacle or aught else, intervening between God and His people. He is “with them,” apart from any covering or external medium of communication. Then is fulfilled the Word of the Lord, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). May we not, too, give an enlarged scope to the words of the apostle quoted from the Old Testament, “God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people?” (2 Cor. 6:16).

3. — The topmost stone of blessing is reached in the closing words of this marvellous paragraph. “Their God.” Could anything be higher? Could any character of blessing be conceived morally superior to what is here stated! God in the greatness, glory, and moral excellence of His Being! God in His own infinitude is for His people then on earth! All is wrapped up in the grand creatorial Name beyond the keenest research of a finite mind to grasp or fathom. The source, absolute and independent, of everything craved for by heart and mind is treasured up in God. What He is and has is the assured and everlasting portion of men, of all men then on the earth. The Lamb is not once named, nor any economic or other change intimated. It is God, His tabernacle, and men. God all in all, and for ever more. His lifetime measures the duration of the “new Heaven” and “new earth;” the life of God Himself the measure of the life and joy of the inhabitants of these eternal regions. We sum up: (1) God’s tabernacle with men; (2) He tabernacles with them; (3) they are His people; (4) God Himself with them; (5) God, their God. In the eternal state all is fixed on a permanent basis, but measures and distinct characters of blessing there are, for even then all vessels are not of the same capacity, while all shall be filled. In these five statements we have gradation of blessing, rising up to God Himself.

EARTH’S SORROWS GONE.

Rev. 21:4. — “And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall not exist any more, nor grief, nor cry, nor distress shall exist any more, for the former things have passed away,” It is only in the eternal state that the effects of sin, physical and moral, are completely removed. The millennial era is not, as we have seen, a perfect condition, and hence even under the beneficent sway of the Lord tears will be shed on earth. The words, “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes,” is verbally repeated in Revelation 7:17. There, however, it is a millennial scene; here it is in the everlasting state. The wiping away of tears is not an action ascribed to the Lamb either here or in the earlier scene. God does this. If He wipes away every tear, then He removes every cause and occasion of sorrow. The tear-drop will never again glisten in the eye. The eye is said to be “the fountain of sorrow,” but God shall wipe it dry.

Death shall cease. The physical dead of the madly rebellious gathered under Satan covered the old earth, at least in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and the eternal inhabitants of the new earth had witnessed the awful sight (Rev. 20:7-9). But it exists no more.

“Nor grief,” the same word as in Revelation 18:15, “wailing,” or mourning, the outward expression of the heart’s deep sorrow.

“Nor cry,” the voice of hopeless misery (Isa. 65:19).

“Nor distress,” or pain within, no internal trouble or weariness, no pain from without or from within. These things which together make up the volume of human misery exist no more, neither does that which caused them — sin. All have passed away. “The former things,” of which those mentioned are part, “have passed away.”

GOD ON HIS THRONE SPEAKS.

Rev. 21:5-7. — “And He that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He says (to me), Write, for these words are true and faithful. And He said to me, It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that thirsts of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be to him God, and he shall be to Me son.” It is remarkable how often God by name or pronoun is referred to as the source of all blessing and action in the everlasting state. The Lamb is there as the husband and eternal companion of the Church, but as such He does not appear in the verses before us, save in one passing reference (Rev. 21:2). The kingdom has been delivered up to God, not that Christ ever ceases to reign, nor that He ever ceases to be man, but the reign of righteousness in putting down all opposing authority and rule having been accomplished we witness new triumphs of another character. God in the energy of His nature produces a scene according to what He is. It is not a question of subduing foes, but of God delighting Himself in forming a people and things according to Himself. God Himself is the actor in this scene of intense and thrilling interest.

5. — The Sitter on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” God on the throne of omnipotence, of absolute sovereignty, declares His will — all things new. The old order of things is not improved, nor in anywise imported into the eternal state, for that condition demands a state of things in keeping with it; and God is the measure and source of the whole eternal state, whether of persons or things. Nothing short of what becomes God can appear in the unchanging state; hence, “I make all things new.”

Then the Seer is called to write as in Revelation 19:9. Only the earlier command is given by an angel; here by God Himself. Special communications of deep import were directed to be written (Luke 10:20; John 20:31; Hab. 2:2; Rev. 3:12; Rev. 14:13, etc.). What are the words which the Seer was commanded to write? Those just uttered by God on His throne “Behold, I make all things new.”

In this sentence is fixed the character of the eternal state. Grand words surely, and worth recording! God, too, authenticates His own magnificent declaration by adding, “for these words are true and faithful.” He demands our attention, and claims our hearty and unqualified assent. “Behold, I make all things new.” “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” This is not promise, but the divine assertion of that which is fact when the moment comes for its realisation.

Rev. 21:6. — “And He said to me, It is done.” Note the change of tense. In verses 5 and 6 the word said occurs three times, but in the second instance it reads saith or says (R.V.). The two emphatic declarations — all things new, and it is done — are just what one would expect. The first is God’s decree; the second its accomplishment.

“It is done” is verbally repeated in Revelation 16:17. The connection, however, is different. In the earlier reference the wrath of God is completed; in our text it is the permanent settlement of the eternal state that is in question; in the former, too, an angel is the speaker; here it is the voice of God that is heard.

GREATNESS OF THE SPEAKER.

6. — “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”* The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, followed by the explanatory phrase, “the beginning and the end,” intimates that all testimony on earth had its origin in God, as its end is His glory. Creation, providence, promise, history, prediction, prophecy, testimony, love, and grace have each their source in God and in Him their end. Nothing really on the divine side ends in failure. God is seen to triumph at the end. The administration of these things on earth shows, as was the divine intention, the weakness and imperfection of the creature; but that in no wise hinders or thwarts the ultimate purpose of God. The manifestation of Himself in moral glory is the end.

{*In Rev. 1:8 Jehovah, the Almighty, is “The Alpha and the Omega,” in Rev. 21:6 it is God simply as such, no dispensational reference as in the earlier quotation, while in Rev. 22:13 it is Christ Who is “The Alpha and the Omega.” In each case the divine Being uses the title of Himself. In Rev. 1:11 the words should be deleted.}

I GIVE.

6. — We greatly love the sentence which follows: “I will give to him that thirsts of the fountain of the water of life freely.” This is present; not future. Neither hunger nor thirst shall be felt in the “new Heaven” and “new earth.” The “splendid array of negatives” (v. 4) forbids the thought of thirsty ones in the eternal state, save in the lake of fire. The heart of God overflows in pity and tenderness towards the needy and unsatisfied sons and daughters of men. The “fountain,” the source of life itself, is promised to the thirsty. It is God’s gift, and freely given, as are all His gifts (Isa. 55:1).

OVERCOMERS

Rev. 21:7. — Then we have a word of wondrous cheer and strength to the tired and weary disciple, “faint yet pursuing.” The promises to the overcomer in the early part of the book (Rev. 2 and 3) respect special circumstances, and are in view of special rewards. But here the encouragement to persevere to the end in the general battle of life is more ample, as the rewards are more full than those mentioned in the early portion. “He that overcomes shall inherit these things,” those just named. But there is even yet a deeper and richer blessing in store for the overcomer, one of a personal kind, “I will be to him God.” He gives Himself to the conqueror over life’s sorrows. In our judgment this truly remarkable statement even outstrips the triumphant words of Paul, “The Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Every statement of Scripture is perfect in its place, but there are some of profounder depth than others, and that in our text is such. But the tale of grace is not exhausted, for we read, “He shall be to Me son.” Sonship, therefore, is an eternal relationship. The overcomer has God, and God has the overcomer as son. Press on, wearied disciple, the end is near! The promises are full enough to tide you over every trial and every difficulty.

EIGHT CLASSES OF SINNERS

Rev. 21:8. — “But the fearful (or cowardly), and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, 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.” God here, as in the previous utterances, is the Speaker. As another has said, “We ought to notice how much of these eight verses is made up of direct utterances of our God.” In the previous declarations God as love speaks, but in the final statement of eternity He speaks as light. God never foregoes His character as Judge of evil. The lake of fire is an actual and eternal place of punishment. In what part of the universe it is situated we know not. The current denial of eternal punishment finds no support, but absolute condemnation in the solemn passage before us. The eighth verse is as distinctly eternal as the first or second. We can introduce no measurements nor limitations within these eight verses. In them is embraced God’s eternity and man’s eternity, whether in Heaven, earth, or the lake of fire. There are eight classes specified:

(1) The fearful, or cowardly, refers to those who were afraid to confess Christ or identify themselves with the Gospel.

(2) Unbelievers, the most numerous class of any, and found amongst all classes and ranks of men.

(3) The abominable should be understood here in its widest sense as denoting all that is morally, religiously, and physically filthy (Rev. 17:4, 5; Rev. 21:27; Titus 1:16).

(4) Murderers as a class are greatly on the increase. It is a solemn thing to meddle with that which peculiarly belongs to God — human life.

(5) Fornicators point to a sin which is awfully prevalent. The ruin of female virtue is regarded lightly, and fornicators are received into society in the knowledge of the fact, while the poor victims are outcasts from respectability. But God here reverses the judgment of man, and fornicators shall be consigned by the God of righteousness to the lake of fire.

(6) Sorcerers are those who profess intercourse with spirits. Death was the appointed penalty under the law for those who practised spiritualism in those days (Deut. 18:10-12). The lake of fire is God’s appointed doom for all who practise witchcraft, spiritualism, devil worship, and other forms of sorcery.

(7) Idolaters. All worshippers of other gods. The countless millions of heathen in the past, in the present, and notably in the future are, where God has been given up and idols turned to, given over to eternal judgment.

(8) All liars of every degree, kind, and character have their avenging answer in that eternal abode of misery to which everything and every one contrary to the character of God is consigned.

The “lake” burneth. Its fire is never exhausted. “Fire and brimstone” symbolise torment and agony of a fearful character (Isa. 30:33). The expression “the lake of fire” occurs five times in the Apocalypse. It is remarkable that when the devil and the awful sinners mentioned in our text are in question “fire and brimstone” are added. “Which is the second death.” The first death is the separation of soul and body, but not cessation of existence, nor unconsciousness, as many dream. Luke 16:19-31, which is not said to be a parable, and Revelation 6:9-11 shows consciousness and activity of spirit in the separate state. The lake of fire in its never-ending agony is the second death. There are three lists of sinners which it would be profitable to compare: 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, Revelation 21:8, 22:15. In the third list the last five named answer to the last five in the passage we have been considering.

The last notice of eternity is the never-ceasing wail of anguish in the lake of fire.

THE BRIDE IN GOVERNMENTAL AND MILLENNIAL SPLENDOUR

(Rev. 21:9-27).

THE ETERNAL AND MILLENNIAL STATES.

The history of the race and of the ways of God with men is finally closed. The first eight verses of our chapter present some of the characteristics of the unchanging state, both in positive and negative statements, the latter more especially. The eternal blessing of the saved and the eternal doom of the wicked are set in sharp contrast. In the eternal state all is fixed. God Himself has irrevocably settled the condition of every human being. The volume of history is closed. In the scene just described the Lamb is not once named nor witnessed. God is all. God in the activity of His nature brings about an eternal calm and a deep profound sense of holy repose.

Righteousness dwells in the everlasting regions made new. But in the millennial kingdom Christ as Lamb of God and Son of Man arrests the gaze and captivates the heart. It is the shining forth of His glory. It is the sceptre in His hand. It is many diadems on His head. It is the overwhelming splendour of His reign. It is the munificent blessings He scatters in blest profusion throughout the earth. It is Christ thus and in a thousand other and varied ways and actions which makes the millennial state so magnificently grand. It is the Lord Jesus taking up the broken threads of history and weaving them all into a perfect whole. Neither Adam, Moses, Solomon, Israel, nor the Church has maintained the testimony committed to them. Every steward of grace, law, or government has proved unfaithful; every vessel of testimony has broken down. But it will be seen in the millennial kingdom that Christ, the vessel of God’s glory, is the only ONE Who has ever been faithful. He receives the kingdom from God (Luke 19:12), and after its administration for a thousand years He delivers it up to God (1 Cor. 15:24), not only in the perfection in which it was received, but in enhanced glory.

The Church is the result of God’s counsel in eternity and of His creation in time. The Church is both millennial and eternal in destiny (Eph. 3:21), and essentially heavenly in character. The Church, next to God and to the Lamb, is the most distinguished object both in the eternal and millennial states. The Church is the bride and wife of the Lamb, and is displayed as such when Christ takes His throne and reigns. She shares His glory and throne. Her relationship as wife is an eternal one (Rev. 21:2). But in the eternal state the relation of the Church and saints to God as His tabernacle is the prominent thought in the first eight verses of the chapter. In it He dwells. The eternal state is, of course, the more profound of the two.

A MILLENNIAL SIGHT OF THE BRIDE.

9, 10. — “And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and spoke with me, saying, Come here, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in (the) Spirit, (and set me) on a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of the Heaven from God.” After a passing allusion to the millennial reign of Christ and His heavenly saints (Rev. 20:4-6) we are brought back from the consideration of the eternal state to a lengthened description of the bride, the Lamb’s wife, in her millennial relation to Israel and to the world at large. In this, the last prophetic section of the book, we see the true union of Church and state. The turning back to fill in the details of the general statement contained in chapter 20:4-6 is by no means an arbitrary arrangement. We have several examples of a similar character in previous parts of the book. Besides, let our readers trace the sequence of events from the fall of Babylon celebrated in Heaven (Rev. 19. 1-3) on till the eternal state (Rev. 21. 1-8), and further carefully examine those eight verses, comparing them with what is said of the millennial state of things, and we are satisfied that they will see the suitability and scriptural arrangement thus indicated.

The place of the Church in her millennial association with Christ is not only in accordance with the purpose of God (Eph. 1:22, 23), but is His answer to her reproach and contemptuous treatment on earth.

We have no angelic ministrations in the scene of eternity; here they are prominent. It is one of the Vial angels who shows the bride to John, as it was one of the same angels who showed him the harlot and her doom (compare Rev. 17:1-3 with Rev. 21:9, 10). The bride and the harlot are also respectively spoken of as a city, the former as Jerusalem, the latter as Babylon. It must be borne in mind, however, that the term city in this connection is but a symbol. Jerusalem (Rev. 21) and Babylon (Rev. 17) respectively represent a religious body of persons. The idea of city conveys the thought of an organised system of social life and activity of government, of united interests, of mutual goodwill; this and more characterise the church city of millennial and eternal days.

From verse 9 we gather that there are two indispensable conditions ere one is competent to view things or objects as God presents them. John was carried away in the Spirit and set on “a great and high mountain.” His natural powers were held in abeyance while dominated and controlled by the Spirit. Then the point of view must be in keeping with the grand sight. Similarly the Spirit, and not the natural mind, was the supernatural power and capacity by which he beheld the harlot according to the thoughts of God, and most fittingly in a wilderness, for while decked out in the world’s tinsel and glory it was all a desert to God, and, of course, to every spiritual mind (compare with Rev. 4:1, 2).

What the Seer beheld was “the holy city, Jerusalem,* coming down out of the Heaven from God.” Twice she is said to come down. Her first descent (v. 9) is to tabernacle over the earth, her second to the new earth (vv. 2, 3), a thousand years subsequently. She comes from “the Heaven,” her home, and “from God,” the source of her being and happiness.

{*“Jerusalem” simply, the epithet new is added when the eternal state is in question (v. 2).}

THE CITY: ITS GLORY.

Rev. 21:11. — “Having the glory of God.” What in Romans 5:2 is presented as a matter of hope has here become a reality. What God can communicate of moral and external glory is beheld covering the city. She is not only the vessel of God’s glory, but is the reflector of it to the world. The city bride as a glorious canopy of light and unfading beauty and brightness over the millennial scene will be the grandest sight ever beheld, and will continue to elicit for a thousand years the admiration of the world. In a lesser degree Israel will reflect the glory of Jehovah to the surrounding nations and peoples (Isa. 60). The Church will be a bright witness of God’s glory and moral likeness.

THE CITY: ITS LIGHT.

11. — “Her light* (was) like a most precious stone, as a crystal-like jasper stone.” In the glory of God the city shines, that glory is her light. The harlot shone in the glory of man. The bride stands out in the glory of God. In herself she is destitute of beauty. She shines only in the glory of Another. Her shining, or light, is compared to “a crystal-like jasper stone.”

{* Light shining, or luminary, is only elsewhere employed in the New Testament and that to set forth the Church as a light-bearer in this world (Phil. 2:15).}

Amongst precious stones the jasper and sardius are remarkable for their brilliancy. These hard and indestructible gems are fit emblems of incorruption in the glorified state (1 Cor. 15:50). The blue “wavy colours of the rainbow” in the one, and the red of the other, are flashed out in wondrous beauty. Both stones are employed to set forth the glory and majesty of God on His throne (Rev. 4:3). The jasper is solid, transparent, and brilliant as crystal, which is a native production.* There are three lists of precious stones which respectively set forth the communicable glory of God: In creation (Ezek. 28:13), in which the jasper is named sixth in the list; in grace (Ex. 28:17-20), the jasper is last mentioned; in government (Rev. 21:19, 20), the jasper is first named. The jasper is also mentioned three times in the detailed description of the heavenly city; first, as her light (v. 11); second, as her security (v. 18); third, as the first foundation of the wall (v. 19). Thus the glory of God is the light, the security, and the foundation of the glorified Church.

{*See remarks on Rev. 4:2, and on Rev. 21:14 for further remarks on these precious stones; also on Rev. 4:6, on the distinction between glass and crystal symbolically employed.}

THE CITY: ITS WALL.

Rev. 21:12. — “Having a great and high wall.” The wall is a solid, massive, and brilliant structure. It is made of jasper (v. 18). It cannot, therefore, be broken down, nor can it be scaled, as its height forbids — 144 cubits, or 216 feet (v. 17). The wall round about the city, enclosing it on all sides, denotes the most ample security (Isa. 26:1; Zech. 2:5). It guards and separates God’s glory; guards the city and separates it from all outside. God Himself is the defence and safety of His Church. He stands between it and every hostile power, moral and physical.

The glorious wall which reflects the splendour of the city inside, telling of divine protection and absolute safety, reposes on twelve foundations (vv. 19, 20), each foundation being one stone, solid, immense, and precious. Each foundation stone is of rarest value, of priceless worth, of incomparable beauty, and of unfading lustre; the twelve together forming a magnificent combination of varied and brilliant hue and tint. No building on earth can be for a moment compared to this for weight, size, and splendour. “The Builder and Maker is God.” The great and high wall not only bespeaks the security of those within, but guards the city from the intrusion of those without (v. 27).

THE CITY: ITS GATES.

12. — “Having twelve gates.” The administrative number twelve enters largely into this description. Thus there are twelve gates, twelve angels, twelve names of Israel, twelve names of the apostles, twelve foundations, twelve pearls, while the measurements of the wall and city are multiples of twelve. The millennial Jerusalem on earth has its twelve gates (Ezek. 48:31-34). Twelve signifies the perfection of government on or towards the earth. No symbolic or other numbers are spoken of in any reference to the eternal state, because earthly government, as such, is then over. Righteousness dwells, not reigns. On the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes, and at the gates stand twelve angels (v. 12). The administration of Israel proceeds from the heavenly city, and this, we judge, will be in the hands of the Lord’s twelve apostles — the fulfilment of Matthew 19:28, “Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” This they will do from their seat and place on high. The saints in general shall judge the world and angels (1 Cor. 6:2, 3), but the judgment of Israel seems special and apostolic. The angels at the gates, but not inside, are servants in waiting. The perfection of angelic position is to serve. In the old economy the angels were the administrators; here it is the glorified saints (Heb. 2:5). The angels are stationed at the gates so as to carry out the behests issued from the city. The gate was the place of public assembly. As to the location of the gates, east, north, south, and west (v. 13), the east is first named in the enumeration of the tribes surrounding the tabernacle; while in Ezekiel 48, in the millennial arrangement of the tribes, the north is first mentioned. Dan, from whom it is thought that the Antichrist will proceed, is omitted in the sealing of the tribes for millennial preservation (Rev. 7), is, however, first named of the tribes when the land is parcelled out (Ezek. 48:1, 2); but while the idolatrous Dan is remembered in grace, yet he is farthest off from the millennial temple. The order in which the seed of Israel is restored is east, west, north, and south (Isa. 43:5, 6). The specification in our chapter does not agree with any of the foregoing. There are no doubt divine reasons for these variations of the geographical locations in the different passages.

THE CITY: ITS PEARLS.

21. — “The twelve gates (were) twelve pearls, every several gate was of one pearl.” The pearl denotes unity, purity, beauty, and preciousness. Those gates of pearl remind us of the Lord’s thoughts of love and beauty towards the Church. The cost of the one beautiful pearl of great value (Matt. 13:45, 46) is beyond all telling. The Lord sold all that He had and bought it. But the pearl must have a setting worthy of its value, and so the gates of pearl are enclosed in the jasper wall, emblematic of the divine glory. They are also set in the four sides of the wall, so that in all parts of the earth the beauty of the Church will attract the gaze and win the admiration of the world. Its “gates shall not be shut at all by day, for night shall not be there” (v. 25). The ever-opened gates speak of perfect freedom.* It is usual to close the gates of a city at night lest an enemy steal a march unawares. But the gates of the heavenly city are never closed, for night’s shadows never rest upon it.

{*The gates always open and facing the four quarters of the earth would also intimate direct intercourse between the heavens and the earth, between the heavenly and the earthly Jerusalem. It is not said of any of the heavenly saints that they shall stand on the earth in millennial times, but that is not necessary; they may go to it without actually placing their feet upon its defiled surface.}

THE CITY: FOUNDATIONS OF THE WALL.

Rev. 21:14. — “The wall of the city had twelve foundations.” These are enumerated in verses 19 and 20. Each one of these stones is of vast size, of marvellous solidity, and of surpassing splendour. On the gates are the names of the tribes, while on the foundations are the names of the apostles. This latter fact recalls to mind the words of the apostle, “built upon the foundation of the apostles” (Eph. 2:20). Both the gates and foundations have the administrative number twelve. In the structure of the city the apostles are named. Israel has no part in this. But in the power and governmental actions of the city going out through the gates Israel is prominent. “The roads leading from a city are not called after the city itself, but after the places* to which they lead, and often the gates are named in the same manner, so it is here. The city is in communication with Israel, as those who rule with Christ must be, but it is distinct from Israel, and built on a foundation which exclusively characterises the Church.”**

{*Thus in modern Jerusalem the west gate is the Jaffa gate, though Jaffa is forty miles away; the north gate the Damascus gate, though Damascus is one hundred miles away. No doubt these gates, through the attendant angels, did administrating with the tribes whose names they bear.

**“The Lord’s Coming, Israel, and the Church,” p. 289. — T. B. Baines.}

The foundations were garnished, or adorned, with precious stones (v. 19), the same words used to describe the bride made ready for her husband (v. 2). Bengel justly remarks: “Not only did each precious stone form an ornament in the foundation, but it constituted the foundation itself.” Each of the twelve foundation stones reflected some particular aspect of the divine glory. Combined they present God in the glory of His nature and Being, as constituting one foundation of incomparable strength and grandeur. One stands amazed at the moral truth conveyed: God Himself in the greatness and diversified glory of His Being, the foundation of the Church in the blessed day about to dawn. There is but one stone used in the building of the wall, jasper, probably the most valuable and brilliant of all. The jasper is the first foundation stone. “The colour of the sapphire, which is the second foundation, is a pure blue or deep azure; the third, chalcedony, is a grey colour, with purple, blue, and yellow; the fourth, the emerald, is green. This was the appearance of the rainbow which John saw around the throne of God. It is a fit emblem of the peace and benignity of the saving grace of God. The fifth is sardonyx, it is bluish white, or it is the onyx, with red veins, called the sardonyx, as if it were a mixture of the sardius and onyx. The sixth, sardius, is blood red; the seventh, chrysolite, blood [bottle?] green or golden colour; the eighth, the beryl, transparent, bluish green; the ninth, the topaz, a pale green or golden colour; the tenth, chrysoprasus, of bluish hue, a beautiful green mingled with yellow; the eleventh, a jacinth, violet or red with a mixture of yellow; twelfth, amethyst, of purple colour, or a mixture of strong blue and deep red.* These massive stones of divers colours sustain the wall. Thus are portrayed the varied glories of God throughout.

{*“The Cherubim and the Apocalypse,” p. 385. — Alexander Macleod.}

THE CITY: ITS MEASUREMENTS.

Rev. 21:15. — “And he that spoke with me had a golden reed (as) a measure, that he might measure the city and its gates, and its wall.” In Revelation 11:1, 2 the temple, altar, and worshippers (all on earth) are measured, signifying that they are His, they belong to God. But here the measuring of the heavenly city is above. In the former the Seer measured; in our text the angel measures. The measuring reeds, too, are different. The millennial Jerusalem on earth with its temple, courts, etc., is measured with a line of flax (Ezek. 40:3). The city of gold is fittingly measured with a golden reed.

The city, wall, and gates were to be measured, but the result as to the latter is not stated, only that of the city and wall. The gold signifies divine righteousness, as the jasper divine glory. What the gold is amongst metals, the most valuable, so is the jasper amongst stones the most precious. The city measured by the standard of divine righteousness answers to it. It is a cube showing its perfectness on all sides, four-square. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. In whichever way it is viewed it is perfect and complete. The unity, perfection, and divine symmetry of the Church in glory are assured. Every part is perfect, all is harmony. One has said, “It is described as being a cube, and thus presenting a square in every direction. And by this is signified that it is the ne plus ultra of perfection in the symmetry of its construction.” The measurement of the city, “twelve thousand furlongs” — 1500 miles — in length, breadth, and height, is of such vast dimensions that in size and peculiarity of structure it leaves every earthly city far, far behind. “It is alike vast and perfect, and all measured and owned of God.” The wall is measured separately, but its size is quite disproportionate to that of the city (v. 17); that we can understand: it is “a man’s measure.” The wall of jasper, signifying the divine glory as the defence of the city, does not need to be of gigantic size.

THE CITY: ITS GOLD.

Rev. 21:18. — “The city was pure gold like unto pure glass.” The city itself is the display of divine righteousness. We have divine righteousness now in our complete justification; it is also wrought in us so that the new nature may practically express it in a scene of contrariety, but the city itself, from its centre to its circumference and utmost bounds, is all “pure gold,” transparent, too, like “pure glass.” The Church, not angels, is the answer to the divine nature. All is according to Him in righteous character. In the eternal earth righteousness dwells, but the Church itself is that — is the living, glorified expression of divine righteousness. Oh, with what glory is the Church invested! the reflex of the nature of God. Marvellous truths are these! “The street (not streets) of the city pure gold, as transparent glass” (Rev. 21:21). Not only will the Church itself reflect the glory of divine righteousness, but her walk and ways will agree therewith. Righteousness is now upon us (Rom. 3:22), also wrought in us (Eph. 4:24); we are in glory the display of it (Rev. 21:18), while it is that on which we walk (v. 21). The street, like the city of pure gold, signifies that in all our walk holiness and righteousness characterise it, ennoble it, beautify it. “As transparent glass” means that the righteous walk and ways of the Church will reflect the glory of what she is, not only in God’s sight, but actually in display and expression — the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

THE CITY: NO TEMPLE.

Rev. 21:22. — “And I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” A temple necessarily confines the presence of God and introduces the thought of near and more distant worshippers. “No temple” signifies that full and free access to God is equally granted to all. Immediate access to God without the intervention of priest or mediator is open to every one. Jehovah is the expression of moral relationship; God, El, the mighty One, the creatorial Name of power and sovereignty; the Almighty, omnipotent in all circumstances and over all opposing authority, and the Lamb added to these divine names and titles, form the temple. If God is in the city, and the Lamb Who has made good His glory, and in Whom the Godhead dwells (Col. 1:19), and by Whom God is expressed (John 17:23), a Scripture which has its application at the time contemplated in our text: What need of a temple? God in the greatness of His Being, and as the One Who has acted and ruled of old, is now revealed in glory by the Lamb. The divine presence is equally diffused. God and the Lamb make themselves known throughout every part of the vast city of gold.

THE CITY: NO CREATED LIGHT.

Rev. 21:23. — “And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof (is) the Lamb.” No independent yet created light as the sun, nor borrowed light as the moon, is required in the heavenly city. God is the source of her light, and the Lamb Who died for us is the lamp of the divine glory. It is He who diffuses the light throughout every part of the city. It is concentrated in God, it is made known by the Lamb, the remembrance of whose sacrifice is eternal.

THE CITY: ITS RELATION TO NATIONS AND KINGS.

Rev. 21:24. — “And the nations shall walk by its light; and the kings of the earth bring their glory to it.”* It is the Lamb Who scatters the rays of light and reveals the glory of God in the midst of and to the glorified Church, but the Church is the medium of light to the world outside. By its light the nations walk. Then kings and nations pay court and homage to the heavenly city; they bring their glory and honour to it (vv. 24-26). The rule of the heavens is acknowledged. The seat of government is in the midst of the city, and millennial kings and nations, then basking in the bright light and sunshine of the ever-glorious city, gladly bring the tribute of their grateful hearts to it. But enter it they never shall. The Church is the light and the dispenser of blessing to the world, the capital seat of all rule and government over the earth at large.

{*The Authorised reads: “The nations [of] them which are saved shall walk in the light of it.” The words we have italicised should be deleted; also in verses 24, 26, “into it” should read “to it.”}

THE CITY: NO NIGHT.

Rev. 21:25. — “Night shall not be there.” The city itself shall be one great body of light and glory, without and within, a light which shall never wane, and a glory which shall never fade. One perpetual high noon. No cloud shall ever cross its sky, no shadow ever rest upon it. No night with its darkness, its fears, its terrors. The long, dark night of the Church is past. She has now entered upon an eternal day which for her knows no setting sun.

THE CITY: NO DEFILEMENT.

Rev. 21:27. — “And nothing common, nor that maketh an abomination and a lie, shall at all enter into it; but those only who (are) written in the book of life of the Lamb.” Sin in every phase and form is excluded from the holy city. The least spot or taint of evil could not stand the glare of the divine glory. Those who enter in and share in the heavenly blessedness are those only who are written in the book of life of the Lamb. The Church is in view in all this intensely beautiful description, that is, the complement of saints from Pentecost (Acts 2) till the Rapture (1 Thess. 4). Is there not in these closing words an intimation that other heavenly saints shall enter into the city? The Church is formed and complete, and, in fact, measured by God as such, so that no addition to its numbers can be thought of. Its unity and perfection as a whole are amply secured before those named in verse 27 enter into it. We judge, therefore, that Old Testament saints and the martyrs of the coming crisis shall enter into the city, that is, while not forming part of it, shall yet enter into its blessedness and glory, and share with the Church association with Christ in His universal rule and government — all constituting God’s tabernacle (v. 3).

The Church has been viewed and described under the symbol of a city, but it is the bride, the Lamb’s wife, which has been pictured in vision. That magnificent chapter, Isaiah 60, the finest literary production ever penned, is the correlative in many respects of the heavenly city, Jerusalem. The description of Israel’s future in her land, in restored Jerusalem, and gathered on both sides of her millennial temple, etc., supplies much of the imagery employed in our chapter, and in the first few verses of the concluding one.