And I saw. The usual introduction to a new vision (cf. Revelation 20:11, etc.). Having described the origin and progress of evil in the world, the final overthrow of Satan and his adherents, and the judgment when every man is rewarded according to his works, the seer now completes the whole by portraying the eternal bliss of the redeemed in heaven (cf. on Revelation 20:10). The description is based upon Isaiah 60:1-22. and Ezekiel 40:1-49., et seq.; especially the latter, which follows the account of God and Magog, as does this. A new heaven and a new earth. The dispute as to whether a new creation is intended, or a revivified earth, seems to be founded on the false assumption that the dwellers in heaven must be localized in space (cf. Isaiah 65:17, "I create new heavens and a new earth;" also Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13). For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away. The Revisers follow B and others in reading ἀπῆλθον, and render it by the English perfect tense. In א, A, is read ἀπῆλθαν , while other manuscripts give ἀπῆλθεν and παρῆλθε. The first heaven and earth; that is, those now existing pass away as described in Revelation 20:11. And there was no more sea; and the sea no longer exists. The threefold division of heaven, earth, and sea represents the whole of this world (cf. Revelation 10:6). Some interpret the sea symbolically of the restless, unstable, wicked nations of the earth, which now exist no longer; others understand the absence of sea to typify the absence of instability and wickedness in the New Jerusalem.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem. "John" must be omitted, according to all the best manuscripts. "The holy city" is the Church of God (see on Revelation 11:2), now glorified and prepared for perfect communion with her Redeemer (cf. the promise in Revelation 3:12, which is now fulfilled; cf. also Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:16). Contrast this figure of the holy city with that of Babylon (see on Revelation 18:1-24.). Coming down from God out of heaven. Connect "out of heaven" with "coming down." The same words occur in Revelation 3:12 (which see). Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Here is the contrast to the "harlot" (see on Revelation 17:1). Though many of those forming the bride are rewarded according to their works (see Revelation 20:13), yet their own works are insufficient to fit them for their future life; they are prepared by God. This appearance is anticipated in Revelation 19:7 (which see).
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying. Out of the throne is read in א, A, and others; out of heaven is the reading of B, P, etc. As usual, the voice is described as a great voice (cf. Revelation 19:17, etc.). It is not stated from whom the voice proceeds, but comp. Revelation 20:11 . Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them; literally, he shall tabernacle with them. Still the seer is influenced by the language of Ezekiel: "And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them forevermore" (Ezekiel 37:28). Thus God makes his abode in his glorified Church—the New Jerusalem, among his spiritual Israel (cf. Revelation 7:15, where this vision has been already anticipated). And they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God; and they shall be his peoples, and himself shall be God with them, their God. The balance of authority is in favour of retaining the two last words, though they are omitted in א, B, and others. Evidently the same words as Ezekiel 37:27 (see above), "My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Cf. "God with them" with "Emmanuel" (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14). Now, the promise is redeemed in all its fulness. The plural "peoples" seems to point to the catholic nature of the New Jerusalem, which embraces many nations (cf. Ezekiel 37:24; also Revelation 7:9).
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; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more (Revised Version). All tears; just as in Revelation 7:17 (cf. Isaiah 25:8, "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces;" cf. also Isaiah 65:19). There is "no more death" because sin is no mere (cf. Isaiah 51:11, "Sorrow and mourning shall flee away"), For the former things are passed away. ὅτι, "for," should probably be omitted, as in A and P, and א as first written. The former state of things is the state now existing, which will then have passed away as described in Revelation 7:1.
And he that sat upon the throne said; that sitteth (cf. Revelation 20:11 and Matthew 25:31). Behold, I make all things new. As in Revelation 21:1. So in Matthew 19:28, "Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory," etc. And he said unto me, Write; and he saith, Write. Probably the angel (cf. Revelation 19:9; Revelation 14:13). The change from εἷπεν to λέγει, and the immediate return to εἷπεν, appear to indicate a change of speaker. For these words are true and faithful; faithful and true. So also in Revelation 19:9; Revelation 3:14, etc.
And he said unto me, It is done; and he said unto me, They are come to pass (Revised Version). It is uncertain what is the nominative intended. It may be the "words" just mentioned; or the incidents described in Revelation 21:1-5; or the Divine promises and judgments in general. The analogy of Revelation 16:17 supports the last, but it is not conclusive. I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End; the Alpha and the Omega. As the book opens, so it closes, with the solemn assurance of the certainty and unchangeableness of God's eternal promises (cf. Revelation 1:8; Revelation 22:13). The second clause interprets the first; a third form of expressing the same idea occurs in Revelation 22:13, "the First and the Last." I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. The same ideas are repeated in Revelation 22:13-17. Again the symbolism of the prophet (cf. Revelation 22:3). There is also another reminiscence of Revelation 7:17 (cf. also Revelation 7:4 of this chapter). In exactly the same sense the words, "living water," are used in John 4:10 (cf. also Matthew 5:6, "thirst after righteousness").
He that overcometh shall inherit all things. The correct reading makes the sense plain: He that overcometh shall inherit these things, i.e. the promises just enumerated. These words show the reason for the words of Revelation 21:6; and may be called the text on which the Apocalypse is based (cf. Revelation 2:1-29.); for, though the words themselves do not often recur, yet the spirit of them is constantly appearing (cf. Revelation 12:11; see also John 16:33). And I will be his God, and he shall be my son (cf. Le 26:12, "And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people"). Some have thought that these words prove the Speaker to be God the Father; but it is impossible to separate the Persons of the Blessed Trinity in these chapters. This promise, first made to David concerning Solomon (2 Samuel 7:14), received its mystical fulfilment in Christ (Hebrews 1:5), and is now fulfilled in the members of Christ (Alford).
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death; but for the fearful, etc. The construction is changed in the middle of the verse. The fearful are those who, through cowardice, have not overcome (cf. Revelation 21:7). Abominable; those defiled with abominations (cf. Revelation 17:4). And murderers, and fornicators (cf. Revelation 14:4; Revelation 17:1, Revelation 17:2). And sorcerers (cf. Revelation 9:21; Revelation 18:23); those who deceived the heathen. And idolaters; the heathen who were deceived by them. All liars; all who are false in any way. Their part is in the lake, etc. (see on Revelation 20:10). These took no part in the first, spiritual, resurrection (Revelation 20:6); they now, therefore, inherit "the second death."
And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues. Omit "unto me." "Full of" must be connected with "angels." Just as these angels had carried out God's judgments upon the ungodly, and one of them had exhibited the judgment of the harlot (Revelation 17:1), so now one of them shows the picture of the bliss of the faithful—the bride of the Lamb. And talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife; hither (omitting "come"). The wording of this verse (except the last phrase) is almost identical with Revelation 17:1. The last phrase is the great contrast to the former chapter. In Revelation 17:1-18. I was seen a picture of a harlot, the unfaithful part of Christ's Church; here we have a description of those who have been "faithful unto death" (Revelation 2:10), and whose purity and faithfulness are symbolized under the figure of the "wife of the Lamb" (see on Revelation 17:1).
And he carried me away in the Spirit (so also in Revelation 17:3; cf. Revelation 1:10) to a great and high mountain. From which a clear view of "the city" might be obtained (cf. Ezekiel 40:2). The preposition ἐπί implies "on to." And showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God; showed me the holy city Jerusalem; not great, which is the title of Babylon (cf. Revelation 16:19). Just as the harlot, signifying faithless Christians, was identified with Babylon, the world city (see on Revelation 18:1-24.), so the bride, the faithful portion of Christ's flock, is merged in Jerusalem, the heavenly city. Coming down, etc. (cf. Revelation 21:2).
Having the glory of God. That is, the abiding presence of God, as the Shechinah (cf. Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:11. Cf. also 1 Kings 8:3, supra). And her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; as it were a jasper stone (Revised Version). This light is again alluded to in Revelation 21:23. The jasper probably represents the modern diamond (see on Revelation 4:3). The brilliant light which illumines the city is the characteristic of "him that sat on the throne" (Revelation 4:3).
And had a wall great and high; having a wall. Omit each introductory "and." The wall is a type of the absolute security of the heavenly city; not that any further assault is expected. In Ezekiel 38:11 Gog and Magog prey upon the unwalled villages. 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 (cf. the description in Ezekiel 48:1-35.). Twelve; as signifying completeness (cf. Revelation 4:9; Revelation 7:4-8), and as being the number of the tribes of Israel, which are the type of the spiritual Israel of God. Gates; rather, portals. The picture of the angels placed at the portals, still fulfilling their mission as guardians of men, shows the absolute security of the city. The names are written thereon: as on the stones of the ephod (Exodus 28:9) and breastplate (Exodus 39:14). Contrast the names of blasphemy (Revelation 18:3).
On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. The following are the dispositions of the tribes in the Old Testament:—
Order in Numbers 2:1-34.
Order in Ezekiel 49:30.
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; and on them twelve names, etc. (cf. Ephesians 2:20). The imagery is, of course, symbolical, and there can, therefore, be no question as to individual names of apostles, e.g. whether St. Matthias or St. Paul is the twelfth. Some writers have, without sufficient reason, brought forward this verse as indicating that the writer of the Apocalypse was not an apostle.
And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof; had for a measure a golden reed to measure, etc. "He that spake" is the angel of Revelation 21:9 (cf. the action of Revelation 11:1; and Ezekiel 40:3, Ezekiel 40:5; Ezekiel 42:15, et seq.). Here the measuring is evidently to indicate the large extent of the city (see on Revelation 11:1). The reed is golden, as being the typical heavenly material.
And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth. The shape is doubtless typical of that which is complete and symmetrical, to which nothing is wanting to render the shape perfect. The word τετράγωνος, "foursquare," is thus used by Greek philosophic writers. And he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. That is, in each direction. (On στάδιον, "furlong," see Revelation 14:20.) The number twelve thousand, which is the number of the sealed in each tribe (Revelation 7:1-17.), is typical of
There seems to be in this description a designed reference to the literal Babylon (see Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' art. "Babylon"). The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. The plain meaning seems to be that the city forms a vast cube, and this is typical of its perfect nature. The account given is that of a vision, and not of a reality, and therefore there is no need to attempt to reduce the enormous dimensions given here, as is done by some writers. The holy of holies was thus cubical in shape (1 Kings 6:20).
And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits. (For the signification of the number, see on Revelation 7:4.) The parallel between the shape of the city as just related and the holy of holies (vide supra) almost seems to have insensibly suggested the transition from stadia to cubits. The discrepancy between the height of the city, which is twelve thousand furlongs (Revelation 21:16), and the height of the wall, which is a hundred and forty-four cubits, has led to the suggestion that in the height of the city is included the hill on which it stands (Alford). Others understand that the wall is purposely described as of small height, because the writer wishes to indicate that "the most inconsiderable wall is sufficient to exclude all that is impure" (Dusterdieck). According to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel; of an angel. That is, the measure here used by the angel is that used by men (cf. "the number of a man," Revelation 13:18).
And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass; pure glass. The exceeding brightness and purity is the idea contained in both expressions—the light of Revelation 21:11, which is there associated with jasper and crystal. (On "jasper," see on Revelation 21:11 and Revelation 4:3.) The whole description is, of course, typical, not literal.
And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. Omit "and" (cf. Isaiah 54:12, "All thy borders of pleasant stones"). Foundations (cf. Revelation 21:14). The first foundation was jasper. Probably the diamond (see on Revelation 4:3). The second, sapphire. Thought to be the modern lapis lazuli. It was of a clear blue colour (Exodus 24:10), and very precious (Job 28:16). The third, a chalcedony. Not the modern stone of that name, but a green carbonate of copper, found in the mines of Chalcedon. It was, therefore, a kind of inferior emerald. The fourth, an emerald. The same as the modern stone (cf. Revelation 4:3).
The fifth, sardonyx. A variety of agate—a kind of onyx, valued for its use in engraving into cameos. The name onyx appears to be owing to the resemblance in colour to the fingernails. The sixth, sardius. Probably the modern carnelian (see on Revelation 4:3). The seventh, chrysolyte. A variety of the gem of which that called topaz (the ninth stone) is another kind. This species contained a considerable amount of yellow colour, whence the name "golden stone." It has been suggested that it is identical with the modern jacinth or amber. The eighth, beryl. A variety of emerald, of less decided green shade than the pure emerald. The ninth, a topaz. Not the modern topaz, but a variety of chrysolite (see the seventh stone, supra), of a yellowish-green colour, the latter predominating. The tenth, a chrysoprasus. The name "golden leek green" appears to point to a species of beryl, and the modern aquamarine. It is thus probably a variety of emerald, being of a yellowish pale green hue. The eleventh, a jacinth. "A red variety of zircon, which is found in square prisms, of a white, grey, red, reddish brown, yellow, or pale green colour" (Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible'). "The sapphire of the moderns" (King). The twelfth, an amethyst. A purple stone, possibly the common amethyst.
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl. The pearl was known to the ancients from the earliest times, and was always held in high honour by them (cf. Revelation 17:4). And the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass (cf. Revelation 21:18). The brilliancy was so far beyond ordinary gold as to make it apparently transparent like glass. "The street" is not merely one street, but the whole collective material of which the streets are composed.
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. No ναός, "inner shrine," or "sanctuary" (cf. Revelation 7:15). The whole city is now the ναός (cf. on Revelation 21:16, Revelation 21:17, where the shape of the city is that of the holy of holies). The presence of God pervades all the city (cf. Revelation 21:11); all the redeemed are within the sanctuary, all are now priests (cf. Revelation 20:6). There is, therefore, no ναός, or "temple," within the city, for the whole city itself is the temple. The Object of all worship and the great Sacrifice are there (Alford).
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; hath no need. So Isaiah 60:19, Isaiah 60:20, "The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting Light, and thy God thy Glory." For the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the Light thereof. The glory of God (cf. Isaiah 60:11). No distinction is to be made between God and the Lamb; both are the Light (cf. John 1:5).
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it; and the nations shall walk by means of her light. Omit "of them which are saved." The description, following that of Isaiah, makes use of earthly symbolism; but it is not, therefore, to be supposed (as Afford) that there will be hereafter a real earth with inhabitants. "The nations" are the redeemed, described in this way on account of their selection from every "kindred, and nation, and tribe, and tongue" (Revelation 7:9): not the wicked nations of Revelation 16:19. Though the Authorized Version is probably incorrect in inserting "of them which are saved," yet these words appear to give the correct sense of the passage. The description is evidently still founded on the prophetical writings, "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isaiah 60:3). And the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. Omit "and honour," according to א, A, P, and others. Not that there are literal kings and earth. The language is intended to convey an idea of God's supreme glory and unquestioned authority. There are now no kings to dispute his sway. Instead, all join in promoting his glory.
And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. The Revised Version correctly places the last clause in parentheses. The meaning is: The gates shall never be shut, either by day or night; but it is superfluous to say, "by night," for there is no night there. Some commentators think the open gates are a sign of perfect security; others, that they are open to admit the nations, as described in the following verse. Both ideas may well be understood.
And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it; that is, the glory and the honour of the nations shall be brought into it. The verb is used impersonally, as in Revelation 10:11 and many other places. A repetition of verse 24 (vide supra).
And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; anything unclean, or he that doeth an abomination, and a lie. It is thus evident that "the nations" of Revelation 21:24 are among the redeemed (cf. Isaiah 52:1, "O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean"). The lot of such as are here described is the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8); cf. the "abomination" of the harlot (Revelation 17:4, Revelation 17:5). (On "lie," cf. Revelation 2:2; Revelation 3:9. "Unclean, cf. Revelation 3:4; Revelation 14:4.) But they which are written in the Lamb's book of life; but only they, etc. (cf. Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15).
Verse 1-Rev 22:5
The holy city; or, the Church triumphant.
Whether by intuition or otherwise, we know not, but certain it is that Plato seized hold of and expressed a profound truth when, in his 'Phaedo,' he maintains that "things are the passage to their opposites." The seven angels with the seven last plagues having set before the vision of the apostle scenes of awe and terror, he is now carried forward to the vision that lies beyond them all—even to the glory that is yet to be revealed. When the warrior hath done with fighting, it must be pleasant for him to lay aside his armour; when the mariner has been often tempest tossed, he must be glad to reach the desired haven. So it is here. In going through the homiletic exposition of the plan of this book, we have found ourselves, as it were, in incessant conflict; and if one struggle passed, it was but followed by another and another still. But now "the war is over." The harlot is judged. The dragon is defeated. The first and second beasts are cast into the lake of fire. Hades and death are no more. The resurrection is past. The judgment is ended. The award is made. And now a voice is heard from the throne, "Behold, I make all things new." In the twenty-first chapter, and in the first five verses of the twenty-second, we have a glowing picture of the new state of purity and bliss which awaits the redeemed from among men. We will try and indicate in outline—for this is all we can do—the features of the new state and the new place. Let us "look" in by faith now, and, by and by, the Lord grant that we may go in! We have set before us—a new sphere of life, a new abode of life, and new conditions of life. Undoubtedly there is a very large amount of symbolism in the three sketches; but the symbolism is such as to indicate an unspeakable measure of glory.
I. THERE WILL BE FOR THE GLORIFIED CHURCH A NEW SPHERE OF LIFE. "A new heaven and a new earth" is a phrase which certainly conveys the idea of locality; of a place for the righteous, in which and on which their inheritance finds its ground. To the meaning of the phrase, "a new heaven," we have scarcely any clue. Often heaven means the surrounding atmosphere. The rabbis taught that there were three heavens—the first, where the birds fly; the second, where the stars are; the third, where God is. Here it signifies apparently the surrounding atmosphere of the new earth on which the righteous dwell; or, it may mean, that there shall be new spiritual environments to correspond with changed physical conditions. This latter phrase, "the new earth," seems to mean this earth renovated and purified by the fires of the last day; retouched and beautified by the hand that built it first. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the same earth, which was the theatre on which the Saviour suffered, should be also the scene of his final triumph. How far the expression, "the sea shall no longer be," is to be taken literally, we cannot tell. As the definite article is used, the phrase may be equivalent to "that sea," i.e. the tossing, restless sea of former days. Even then it may also be symbolical, and may thus mean that the restless tossing to and fro of this world's surging strife shall be no more. Certainly the more we let the literal and material sink into the background, and the more that which is spiritual comes into fuller prominence, the more power and glory will this vision have for us. For whatever interest—and it is not slight—the question of place has for us in reference to the next life, the question of state is so immeasurably greater, that, compared with it, the other is of no consequence at all. If men are but free from sin, and forever with the Lord, what matters it where God appoints their abode? All space is his; and in any section of it he can prepare a heaven for the glorified.
II. IN THESE REALMS THERE IS A NEW ABODE OF LIFE. Within the new heaven and on the new earth there is "the holy city." Let us gather up one by one the features which mark it.
1. Its name. It is called "New Jerusalem." Before the apostle was prisoner under Domitian, the Jerusalem of olden time had fallen. And many a devout Jew would be almost heartbroken to think that the sacred walls, and the still holier lane enclosed therein, for him existed no more. And, with a wondrous touch of tenderness, the apostle points them far ahead to a new Jerusalem, in which all that was precious in the past shall be reproduced and exceeded—a Jerusalem which should indeed be "holy," which should be free from an alien's tread, and which should endure forever. For whatever the olden city might have of the glory of the Lord, the new Jerusalem shall have the Lord in his glory.
2. Its wall. The city of the saints is safe against all assault.
3. Its entrance gates. Here there are two remarkable features. Where the protection of the walls ceases—at the gates—there is another guard, even "at the gates twelve angels," so that none can enter with hostile aims. And not only so, but on the several gates the name of a tribe of Israel is found. None but Israelites enter there.
4. Its foundations. (Revelation 22:14.)
5. Its citizens. These are from "the nations," but not as of earthly nationality. This is past. They are the nations of the saved (verse 24, Authorized Version). We have brief hints as to their character (Revelation 21:6, Revelation 21:7; Revelation 22:14, Revised Version). Brief as these expressions are, they are enough; specially when we read the list of the excluded ones (Revelation 22:8, 27). Only holy ones are in the holy city. The separation from the unholy is complete and final.
6. Its magnitude. It is measured. The measuring reed was a golden one, and showed its size—12,000 stadia in length. Alexandria, according to Josephus, was 30 stadia by 10; Jerusalem was, in circuit, 33 stadia; Thebes, 43; Nineveh, 400; Babylon, 480; the holy city, 48,000! How puny are the measurements of earth's great cities compared with those of the great city of God! There will be room in the holy city for men from every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue. None of the artificial divisions or nomenclatures of ecclesiastical boundaries will count for anything there. Only love and life will enter there.
7. Its glory. Revelation 22:11, "Her light is like unto a stone most precious;" "The glory of God cloth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." We could almost say, with Payson, "Lord, withhold thy hand, and show us no more, or we shall be overpowered by the splendour of the vision!"
III. IN THIS HOLY CITY THERE ARE NEW CONDITIONS OF LIFE. Here, too, we can but analyze and arrange the description before us, dropping a hint or two as we advance.
1. There is one comprehensive, all-embracing condition which covers the whole ground. Revelation 22:3, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with [the] men," etc., i.e. with the sanctified men who are in this holy city. The home of God is there. Their spirits are at home in God. The work of redemption is perfected. The communion is entire and complete; never to be interrupted for a moment, nor to be marred by one sin. The revelations of the past secured an approximation to this. The earthly worship was an earnest of it; Ephesians 2:22). These passages are but specimens of many more which show that the whole drift and aim of the gospel redemption has been to bring together God and man in sublimest fellowship. The perfection of this is realized in "the holy city;" and it is the one condition of blessedness which includes all else.
2. There is a double set of detailed conditions of life, which follow on the complete realization of this full redemption.
(a) No more death. When the redemption in Christ has done its work on the body at the resurrection, there can be no more dying. No element of perishableness will exist in the "spiritual body." It is "incorruptible." Death will have been swallowed up in victory.
(b) No mourning nor crying. No physical distress nor spiritual ill shall grieve. Joy shall have no shade. The day of eternity will know no cloud.
(c) No pain; no tension from excessive exertion; no aching from disease; no disappointment at the failure to realize our ideal; no cutting off of work ere it can be completed.
(d) No more curse. No condemnation will press on the conscience, nor will any sin pollute the soul.
(e) No alien. "There shall enter nothing that defileth." There will be no intrusion of aught that is evil within or without.
(f) No night there. No pause in the activities of life, because no weariness will ever be felt. There will be constant work and constant worship.
(g) No temple. Not only will hindrances which existed here be banished there, but helps which were precious here will not be needed there. If, as one has said, the most exquisitely tender text in the Bible is, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes," surely the most far reaching text given through an inspired pen is, "I saw no temple therein." No forms will be wanted when the ideal of worship is perfect and permanent. No place for worship, when every spot is holy ground. No day for worship, when every moment is sanctified. No external acts of worship, when every act is "holiness to the Lord." Many a thinker is yearning for the pure thing in itself without form. Here it is. Their yearnings were anticipated eighteen hundred years ago. And to it we are pressing on by stages.
(h) No light of the sun. No lamp. No artificial light kindled by man, nor even the present forms of light created by God. "The city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the Lord God giveth them light," etc. What meaneth this? Surely nothing less than that created media will not be needed to intervene between us and God. We shall need no borrowed light when we see face to face the Light! We shall see him as he is! What life is this! No moon, no sun, no night, no temple, no curse, no pain, no tears, no sorrows, no death! All these things will have passed away. Happy state, even if known only by such negatives as these!
(a) The river (Revelation 22:1). In Eden was a fertilizing stream. Israel drank of the river which followed them. "There is a river, the streams of which make glad the city of God." The good Shepherd now leads his flock beside still waters. And in the heavenly world he leads them still by the fountains of the Water of life. The water of life shall no more have its purity marred by coming through earthen channels. There we shall be at the fountainhead.
(b) The tree (or trees) of life. In Eden the tree of life would have counteracted the tendency to decay and death. But from this man was debarred when he fell. Christ has restored it to us. And he will himself give it to the victor. Full supplies of heavenly food ensuring immortality will be given by Christ's own hand.
(c) The throne of God is there. Another symbol to indicate the immediateness of relations to God in the heavenly state. No intervening authority of priest or king; but close and absolute allegiance to the Eternal.
(d) The service (Revelation 22:3). Service in the sense of worship. "They serve him day and night in his temple."
(e) The sight (Revelation 22:4). "They shall see his face" (cf. 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). This sight will have transforming power.
(f) The royalty. "They shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 22:5). This "reigning" is not the preliminary and limited one referred to in Revelation 20:4; but the final, the complete one, to which no ending is assigned (cf. Revelation 3:21). Well may we say with one, "I am content that I have seen the city, and without weariness will I go nearer to it; not all my life long will I suffer its bright golden gates to disappear from my sight" (Hengstenberg).
IV. THE GLORY OF THIS CITY LIGHTS UP WITH ITS BRIGHTNESS THE LIFE THAT NOW IS. At any rate, it ought to have this effect, for most assuredly this is the intent of the disclosures. We shall do our God a wrong, and ourselves too, if we pursue our course here as if it were meant to end in gloom, or as if we were left in uncertainty as to what lies beyond it, or whether there is anything at all. Note:
1. Let us recognize the glory of life's goal, if properly spent, as the working out of Divine grace, love, and faithfulness.
2. If we are indeed the children of God, we have even now the earnest of the Spirit, and are being wrought for that selfsame thing.
3. Let us bless God for the progressiveness of revelation and of redemption. The whole of the sacred Word is threaded by one infallible clue. It opens by showing us "Paradise lost." It closes by showing us "Paradise regained." And the intervening stages, taken chronologically, show us the Divine advance on the first, and the Divine preparation for the last.
4. If even now we have a vision so glorious of the holy city, let us go in the strength of it to work, to toil, to suffer, and to die, pressing forward to the glory yet to be revealed.
5. Seeing that in that future home nothing can enter that defileth, let us ever swear eternal enmity to sin, cultivating all the graces of the Spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, for only so can we have any reasonable hope of finding our place at last in the inheritance of the saints in light.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The new heavens and earth.
The retribution of God has fallen on the enemies of Christ and his Church. Death and hell, Satan, the beast, and the false prophet, have been cast into the lake of fire. The thunders of God's vengeance are hushed; the manifestations of his love to his redeemed now only remain to be told. And here their ultimate and eternal blessedness is shown to us. Their abode and condition are described as "new heavens and a new earth." Let us inquire—
I. WHEREFORE ARE THEY CALLED "NEW"? The heaven, the earth, the holy city, are each called "new." Now, this may be because, in part, they are:
1. Physically new. We do not think this earth will be "burnt up," nor the elements "melt with fervent heat," nor that there shall be, literally, "a new heaven and a new earth;" all such representations we regard as metaphorical, and as telling only of great moral and spiritual changes that shall take place. But in so far as this earth has been marred and defiled, injured and degraded, by man's sin—as it has been—in that respect and degree will it be made new. The thorns and briars, the poisonous and hurtful herbs, and all else that is significant, and the result of sin, will disappear; the pestilence will no longer walk in darkness, nor destruction waste at noonday. So far will it be new. There will be:
2. A new manner of dealing with us on the part of God. This may be intended by the expression on which we are commenting. For "heaven and earth" is an expression used in Scripture to denote the dispensations of God. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth" (Haggai 2:6). The prophet is telling of the whole Jewish economy, which was to disappear and to give place to another and better. So it had been in the past; the patriarchal gave way to the Mosaic, and that was to give way to the Christian; and that, in its turn, will give way to the new heavens and new earth—a new order of things between God and man.
3. And, assuredly, it will seem new. For "no truth is more clear than this, that the world is to a man according to the state of his mind." To the voluptuary, it is a scene of animal gratification; to the worlding, it is a scene for barter; to the poet, it is beauty; to the philosopher, it is science; to the saint, it is a temple. Change a sinner's mind, and you change the world to him. He feels, and. sometimes says, "The world is a new thing to me"—"a new heaven and anew earth." And may we not, therefore, be sure that, to the new, regenerated, and perfect nature, all things will wear another aspect, the heaven and the earth will be as new?
II. WHEREIN WILL THE NEWNESS APPEAR? There will be, according to these verses:
1. A newness of absence. Much that we have known here we shall not know there, for they will no longer be. See the things of which it is here said they shall be no more.
2. And there will be newness in what is present. Take only these opening verses as proof. They assure us of:
"No more sea."
We must remember that, to the ancient Jews, the sea was an object of almost unmixed terror. Nearly all the allusions to it in the Bible tell of its destructive power and of its peril. The Jews were never a seafaring people. They dreaded the sea. An added element of terror is given to the solemn warning addressed to them (