Revelation 21

It would have been a happier division of these chapters if Revelation 21:1-8 had been made a part of the same series of events which was given in Revelation 20, following it in unbroken succession. There is a very decided termination of the chain at the close of the eighth verse of this chapter. Thence to the end, and taking in the first five verses of Revelation 22, we have another connected portion. The first eight verses refer to a totally different time from what follows. From Revelation 21:9 we have to go back again to the millennium; whereas the previous verses of the chapter are the fullest account that the word of God furnishes of the new heavens and new earth, in the proper sense of the words. This is subsequent to the thousand years’ reign, to the great white throne, and of course to the complete dissolution of the heavens and earth that now are, which were found when that throne was set up. Then, when this account of the eternal state is closed, the Spirit of God supplies a very important appendix, if I may be allowed the expression, on the state of things during the millennium, which was not given when that epoch was noticed in the historical sequence of Rev. 19, 20, 21:1-8.

But perhaps it may be asked by some objectors, What is the authority for dividing the chapters thus? Why not take the whole of Revelation 21 (as it was probably understood by those who made the division) as one and the same time? Why not suppose that the account of the New Jerusalem in verse 10 refers to the same date as the mention of it in verse 2? The answer is simple. In the eternal state God has to do with men. All time distinctions are at an end. There is no such thing then as kings and nations. Accordingly, this we do find in the first eight verses. Take for example the third verse: “And I heard a loud voice out of heaven [or the throne], saying, Behold the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, their God.” Whereas, if we look at the latter part of the chapter, we have again to do with nations and earthly kings. “And the nations shall walk by means of its light; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory,” etc. When eternity begins, God has done dealing with things according to the order of the world-kings and nations, and the like provisions of a temporal nature. All this implies government, as government supposes that there is evil which requires suppression. Consequently, in the latter part of our chapter it is not the eternal condition which we have, but a previous state, the early verses (1-5) of Revelation 22 being the continuation of this description. There a tree is described, “and the leaves of the tree [are] for healing of the nations.” That is, at the time of which the verse speaks not only are there nations, but they are not removed from the need of healing, and God supplies what they want. This must convince any unprejudiced mind that the Spirit of God in Revelation 22 does not refer to what follows the last judgment, when all that is connected with the world is entirely closed, but that He goes back to a previous state when God is still governing It will be observed also that in the portion relative to the millennium (that is, from verse 9 of Rev. 21) we have dispensational names, such as the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb; not so in Revelation 21:1-8, which discloses eternity, where God shall be all in all.

But it may help souls still further to remark, that it is the manner of God in this book to take a retrospect. I say this to show that I am not at all arguing for something without precedent, in the order in which, as I conceive, these events are arranged. Take, for instance, Revelation 14. There we had seen a regular sevenfold series of events, in the course of which the fall of Babylon occupies the third place. After that comes the judgment on the worshippers of the beast; next the Holy Ghost pronounces the blessedness of those that die in the Lord; then the Lord’s coming in judgment, presented in two ways, as reaping the harvest, and as trampling the winepress (the harvest, a judgment of discrimination, and the vintage one of pure vengeance). Babylon there has got its place assigned very clearly. But long after this in the prophecy, when the Spirit of God has given us the seven vials of God’s wrath, we have Babylon again. The fall of Babylon is under the seventh vial. And this is important: for the Holy Ghost then proceeds to describe the character and conduct of Babylon, that required such a fearful visitation from the hand of God. In this case the Holy Ghost has carried us down in Revelation 14 to events subsequent to Babylon’s fall, and even to the Lord’s coming in judgment; and then He returns to show us details about Babylon and her connection with the beast, and the kings of the earth, in Revelation 17-18.

Now it appears to me that this exactly answers to the order of the events in Revelation 21. There is a striking analogy in the way in which Babylon and the heavenly Jerusalem are introduced, and though, of course, there is the strongest and most marked contrast between the two objects themselves, still there is enough to make it manifest that the Holy Ghost had them together in His mind, as it seems to me. Thus, in Rev. 17:1, it is said, “There came one of the seven angels that had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither; I will show thee the judgment of the great harlot that sits by the many waters.” Such is the announcement, where the vision goes back to describe Babylon and her doom. Just so are we introduced to the counterpart of this vision in Rev. 21, which looks back at the bride, the Lamb’s wife. “And there came one of the seven angels that had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” As Babylon had had its place defined in the historic line of events, and then that line being completed, the Holy Ghost stopped to disclose, retrospectively and at full, those moral ways which had forced God, so to speak, to judge her; so exactly the Lamb’s wife, the New Jerusalem, had been seen in both capacities, in the final sketch of the history up to the very end. And now the Holy Ghost goes back to describe the same New Jerusalem, with reference to the millennial reign, and the kings and nations then to be on earth. We have seen the bride, the Lamb’s wife, that had made herself ready, in Revelation 19:7. We have had in Revelation 21:2 the New Jerusalem spoken of as coming down from God out of heaven, still fresh in bridal beauty, after more than a thousand years have passed away. But now in 21:9 the very important fact comes out, that the bride, the Lamb’s wife, is the holy city Jerusalem. “There came unto me one of the seven angels . . . and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me [not that great city, but] the holy city Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” John was called to see the bride, and looking, he saw the heavenly Jerusalem. Thus, if we had the bride in relation to the Lamb in Revelation 19, and as the holy city, New Jerusalem, in relation to the eternal state, verse 9 and the following verses of this chapter show us that, during the interval between the marriage of the Lamb, and the new heaven and earth in the eternal state, she has a very blessed place in the eyes of God and man. It is the church’s millennial display.

These few prefatory remarks may clear the way, and prove that I am not assuming more than can be demonstrated in taking the first eight verses as the proper sequel of the series of events found in Revelation 19 - 20, and the rest of this chapter from verse 9, as a retrogressive description of the millennial state. There are evidently the strongest reasons for it, and indeed, any other interpretation is, I conceive, out of the question, if the context be duly weighed. It is impossible for an unbiassed and instructed person, who carefully considers the circumstances here described, to suppose that what follows the 9th verse can synchronize with the section which immediately precedes. They are, as already remarked, two irreconcileable states of things.121

What is it that the Holy Ghost shows the apostle, after the old heaven and earth had disappeared and the last judgment? “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and the sea was no more.” These words are not to be taken in a mere preparatory and moral sense. The prophet Isaiah had spoken in that way. In Isaiah 65 a new heavens and a new earth were announced: but how differently! There the language must be taken in a very qualified sense indeed. “For, behold (verse 17), I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old, but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.” Clearly this is a very bright change, but it is an earthly condition. There are infants and old men here; and though the description is purposely contrasted with anything the world has yet seen, still it is a time-state of blessedness, and not of eternity. The apostle John shows us in the Revelation the new heaven and the new earth, not in a relative sense but in the most absolute. In the Old Testament they are limited, because connected with Israel upon the earth. So it is said of the Lord, “He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” This is an Old Testament hope, though said in the New, and it means of course that He shall reign over the house of Jacob as long as it exists as such upon the earth. When the earth disappears and Israel is no longer seen as a nation, they will be blessed, no doubt, in another and better way; but there will be no reign of Christ over them as an earthly people here below; so that this kingdom, while it has no end as lone, as the earth subsists, must necessarily be, limited by the earth’s continuance. It is thus that I understand the new heavens and the new earth spoken of in Isaiah. The New Testament uses the phrase fully and absolutely, as an unending state; but in the Old Testament it is tied down to the earthly relations of which the Holy Ghost was then speaking.

What makes it still clearer is that the next verse (Isaiah 65:21) goes on to say, “And they shall build houses and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build and another inhabit . . . . mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord,” etc. Now all this is most cheering. So again, “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together . . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.” Glowing and beautiful as this picture is of what the Lord can accomplish, it is in connection with the earth and an earthly people. It is not the eternal state, but an exceedingly glorious day when death will be the exception and life the rule. I say that death will be thus rare, at least in the Holy Land, because of that verse, “The child shall die an hundred years old, but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.” The meaning is, that if a person dies at a hundred years old, he will still be comparatively a child; and that even when death occurs at that age, it is only as the result of an express curse of God. Thus will it be during the millennium.

And this seems to answer a question often asked: What will become of all the righteous people during that wonderful reign? If the first resurrection is then past, and in the second resurrection none but the wicked dead are raised, what can be the destiny of the righteous who live during the millennium? The truth is, there is no scripture proof that such die during the thousand years. What is said supposes the contrary. Therefore, if they die not during the millennium, there are no righteous to be raised at the end of it. The resurrection at the end remains consequently for the wicked dead solely. The righteous will be raised before the millennium the wicked after it. The just who live during the reign of Christ are not called to die at all, as far as scripture informs us. We may be sure that these millennial saints will be changed into the likeness of Christ; they will be transplanted into the new heavens and earth. We are not called upon to conjecture how this will be. It is sufficient for us to know that, though they are not described as dying during the millennium, and therefore do not need to be raised; yet when the new earth appears men are found upon it quite distinct from the New Jerusalem (i.e., the symbol of the glorified heavenly saints). I believe that verse 3 warrants this statement. “Behold, the tabernacle of God [or the city that descends] is with men,” etc.

Another proof that Isaiah does not speak of the eternal state described here is this: When the new heavens and earth are seen by the New Testament prophet, the old are said to be passed away, and the sea no longer exists. Not so in Isaiah’s prophecy. There it was rather the spirit or pledge of the new that came into the old; a shadow of what was to be, and not the very image or accomplishment of the thing. They are said prophetically to be “new,” because of the great joy and blessing that God will give to His people Israel in their land. In the Revelation “there was no more sea.” In the Old Testament, on the contrary, “the abundance of the sea (it is said) shall be converted unto thee . . . . Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first.” (Isaiah 60.) There can be no just doubt that this chapter speaks of the same time as Isaiah 65. “For thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” This and other passages prove that there is still to be sea at the time spoken of by Isaiah: the isles and ships necessarily suppose it; and “the isles afar off” are introduced between the two statements of the new heavens and new earth in Isaiah 65 and Isaiah 66.

Here in Revelation not merely the present dispensation but the present heaven and earth have passed away, and give place to “all things made new.” Doubtless the new heaven and earth will be made out of the old. Just as the resurrection-body will be formed out of the present body of humiliation by the power of God, so are the present earth and heavens destined to a kindred transformation. After the dissolution they will reappear in the form of the new heavens and earth. “No more sea” would be impossible without a miracle, as long as life in its present condition has to be maintained. The sea, as my reader knows, is absolutely necessary to animated nature as it is. Man could not exist without it; and so with regard to every animal and even vegetable upon the face of the earth, not to speak of the vast world of waters. But when time is done — when there is no longer the natural life that is sustained by God — when the millennium shall have yielded the brightest witness to this as well as to every other fruit of His wisdom and goodness and power — a new state of things altogether will ensue, and this perfect and everlasting. There will be new heavens and a new earth; for the first heavens and first earth are passed away; and there is no more sea. Perfection is come for the universe.

But that is not all — Into this dwelling-place and scene of order that God will have made, so remarkably distinguished from all that has been before, and even from that which accompanies the reign of His own Messiah, John sees “the holy city, New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice out of heaven, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, their God” (verses 2, 3). I apprehend that the New Jerusalem is the tabernacle of God. It is where He abides in a very special sense. And this tabernacle of God descends out of heaven to be with men. The heavenly saints compose the tabernacle of God; while those that are found upon the new earth are simply described as “men.” They are no longer Jews and Gentiles then, as in the millennium; this will have all passed away with “the first or former things.” Every distinction which had to do with time is at an end. When a saint is risen or changed, he is no longer a Jew or a Greek; he is a man, though bearing the image of the heavenly. So here God has to do with men, and “he shall dwell with them and they shall be his people; and God himself shall be with them, their God.” Instead of regarding it from a distance, God will not merely come to visit the scene that His hand has made for man as of old in the garden of Eden; but He will dwell eternally in their midst. “And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; and no sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, shall any more be; for the first things are passed away” (verse 4). Unquestionably the figures that are used to describe this state of things are derived from Isaiah — figures which the Spirit of God had applied primarily to millennial blessedness. Isaiah predicts a glorious but earthly condition, which God will make true of the just during the millennium. Blessedness will then be the rule, sorrow the exception. Similar terms, but with striking differences, the Holy Ghost now takes up and applies in a far deeper and really unqualified sense.

And if we look for a moment at 2 Peter 3 we shall find, I think, a link between Isaiah and Revelation. It, is written in 2 Peter 3:10, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. . . . The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” Now it appears to me plain that this is what takes place at the epoch of the great white throne. For the moment the Lord is on that throne, the earth and heaven flee from before His face, and there is found no place for them. It is a part of “the day of the Lord.” which day comprehends the whole time from the Lord’s interference to judge the world, taking His great power and reigning, until He delivers up the kingdom, after the millennium and the subsequent judgments are over.122 “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness; looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

Now this is the state described, with fuller details of time and character, by the apostle John. The new heaven and earth are what we find in the beginning of Revelation 21. These are the new heavens and earth, “wherein dwelleth righteousness.” Righteousness is at home there, because there God dwells, and this can only be because righteousness is the pervading feature. It is plain that the Holy Spirit in St. Peter refers to the passage of Isaiah, as it is said, “We according to his promise.” But still He gives it a larger and deeper meaning. And St. John, the last of the New Testament writers, takes up the same thought, and puts each truth in its place. He shows us that while the millennium may be a partial fulfilment of it, the full force of the expression will not appear till the millennium is over; and then, when all is according to divine thought and purpose, God will rest, and men — not Israel only, but redeemed and glorified men — shall be His people, and He their God.

To one other scripture I must refer, in order to connect the various passages which bear on the eternal state. In 1 Cor. 15:23 we read that every one is to be raised in his own order: “Christ the first-fruits [who is raised already]; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then cometh the end, when he delivers up [which is the true reading] the kingdom to God, even the Father, when he shall put down all rule and all authority and power.” This is the task of Christ during the millennium: He will abolish all opposing rule, subjecting to Himself every adversary and all things unto the glory of God the Father; for such is the ultimate object of His exaltation, as we see from Phil. 2. “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” This exactly harmonizes with Rev. 20 - 21, where we find, first the reign of Christ, then death destroyed, and after that the new heaven and earth, which is the time when Christ is said in 1 Cor. 15:24 to deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father. Not that Christ will cease to reign divinely: but the special human reign of Christ will terminate — that is His reigning for a given period over an earthly people, and the world at large, which the heavenly saints in glory will share along with Him. This will end. All the righteous will at last be in a risen or changed condition, all the wicked dead cast into the lake of fire, and the kingdom closes. Its surrender to God the Father in no way touches the personal glory of the Lord Jesus. The kingdom that Christ has during the millennium is not what He has as God, but as the risen man — as the One who was humbled, but has been exalted. This He delivers up to God, even the Father (Himself also as man taking the place of subjection in glory, as of old He did in grace on the earth), that God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — may be all in all — God as such having the place of supremacy throughout eternity. But although the human or mediatorial kingdom of Christ will terminate, not so the divine kingdom; and therefore we, being made partakers of the divine nature, are said to reign for ever and ever. (Rev. 22.) So in Romans 5 it is said, “We shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” Of course, partaking of the divine nature does not touch the incommunicable glory of the Godhead. But it remains true that we have an eternal life, and that its endless character flows from the fact that it is given to us by One who, though truly man, is a divine person, by Him who is the living One and was dead, and, behold, is alive for evermore. “We shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ” — a reign which is not limited in time any more than sphere.

You will observe that it is God who is prominent through this portion, exactly answering to what we saw in 1 Cor. 15:28. “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith [to me], Write; for these words are true and faithful” (verse 5). He speaks that sits on the throne. We do not get the Lamb mentioned. It is the glory of God in the fullest possible sense that we have here. “And he said to me, They are done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” No doubt Christ is the Alpha and the Omega too, as we find in Revelation 22:13; but it is not the Lord as such that acts and speaks here, but God. “I will give him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be a God to him, and he shall be a son to me” (verses 6, 7). Nothing can be plainer than that it is God as such who is speaking all through. “But for the cowardly, and unbelievers, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers and idolaters, and all the false, their part [shall be] in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (verse 8). A most awful word of warning, and especially as used here! For mark the force of it. It is then God shall be all in all — God who is love. But He is not merely love, which is a false and infidel thought; He is light as well as love. It as much appertains to God to be holy as to be gracious; and the very same portion of His word teaches us both these truths. And here is the final proof of it. In love He comes down to be with His people. They may be men, but they are no longer in weakness and sorrow; for God Himself has wiped away every tear from their eyes. But He is light, and therefore in presence of all things new, where righteousness dwells in peace, when there is no evil or sin, but separation from it for ever by the power of God; even then the portion of the wicked is in the lake burning with fire and brimstone. Note well that this is the eternal state. Remember that in the eternal state there is the doom, the never-ending doom, of those who have rejected Christ and taken their stand on their own miserable self. Here is the award from God Himself. Their part is the second death, where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched, as the Lord Jesus so touchingly expresses it No declaration can be more solemn than that of Rev. 21:8, not only because of its character, but because of its place. When God will have rest in the new heavens and earth — when He will come down to abide among men, because there will no longer be any evil to check — His dwelling with them — then it is that the awful scene presents itself of evil and its hopeless unending torment. This is what God teaches us in His picture of the eternal world. There is not only the bright side, but none the less the lake of fire, which has its course; nor does a word intimate that its horrors will ever come to an end.

But now the Holy Ghost, having brought us to “the end” in the most absolute sense, leads us back again. We have seen the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, when this eternal condition begins. But what is its relation to the millennial earth? If we had only the previous revelations, we could not have answered this clearly. The bride, the Lamb’s wife, has had her joy consummated in heaven; then as the New Jerusalem, after the millennium, she has taken her place as regards the new heavens and earth; but what is her relation to those here below during the millennium? This is now made plain. “There came one of the seven angels that had, etc. . . . and talked to me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Its lustre [was] like a stone most precious, as a jasper stone crystal-clear.” It appears to me that this account of the city’s bright lustre like a jasper has a very close connection with what had just before been said of it, as having the “glory of God.” For when God Himself was seen on the throne in Revelation 4, He was in appearance like a jasper and a sardis. Here the New Jerusalem has God’s glory, and its lustre is jasper-like. But this is not all. “It had a wall great and high,” and after this we are told in the 18th verse that “the building of its wall was of jasper.” Hence it is plain that this is peculiarly the stone which is used to describe the glory of God, as far as it can be seen by a creature — not the glory of God which the creature cannot see. For God has a glory which no man eau approach unto. But He is pleased also to display His glory suitably to the capacity of a creature; and the precious stone used to set this forth is in the book of Revelation the jasper.

Besides this, we are told it had “twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names inscribed, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.” The number “twelve” is particularly mentioned throughout the account of the New Jerusalem. It was just before said that the city had the glory of God, in the hope of which we rejoice. (Rom. 5:2.) Here we find that this hope, for which we wait and in which we rejoice, is enjoyed. But God is pleased to remember that He is dealing with people on the earth, and the New Jerusalem has a very special relation to men during the millennium. Accordingly, there are twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written upon them. At the gates stand twelve angels, showing their subordination. In this day of glory the angel is happy to be a porter at the gate of the heavenly city — happy, if he do not enter, to have his work and mission outside. “Unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” (Heb. 2.) “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? . . . . Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6.) “And the wall of the city hath twelve foundations, and on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (verse 14:). Eph. 2:20 gives us, I think, the force of the symbol. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the. saints . . . . and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” No doubt the whole building is growing up into an holy temple in the Lord. But we are built upon “the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” both of the New Testament. If Old Testament prophets had been meant, they would naturally, to avoid mistake, have been set before apostles; but the expression as it stands seems purposely framed to guard against such a misconception. The prophets of the Old Testament were the filling up of the law, besides testifying future things, judgments, the new covenant, etc. The law and the prophets, as it is said, were until John. (See also Matt. 5:17.) Their authority never can be destroyed. But when Messiah was rejected by Israel, and redemption was accomplished on the cross, there was a new foundation laid for a new work of God, entirely distinct from what the law or the prophets, or even John the Baptist, contemplated. It is the foundation of the [New Testament] apostles and prophets, and it is upon this that the New Jerusalem is built. Now God has brought out His full mind as a foundation of truth.

Certain things were yet reserved in Old Testament times. Look at Deuteronomy (Deut. 29:29). “The secret things,” says Moses there, “belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever, that we may do all the works of this law.” Revealed things here have to do with the law and its consequences, for the purpose of enforcing obedience. But the secret things, which then belonged to God, are themselves now revealed — the resources of grace, when all was ruin under the law. And this is what the apostle Paul lays such stress on, while he tells us how that by revelation God made known to him the mystery or secret, “whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ; which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” And so Col. 1:26. The Holy Ghost had brought out what had been a secret thing in the days of old. The mystery is revealed. This full revelation of truth appears to be called the foundation of the apostles and prophets on which the Church is built. Therefore it is said in 1 Tim. 3:13, that the Church is “the pillar and ground of the truth.” The truth has come out, and God has as it were no secrets now. All that He chose to reveal. all that would be of service to the creature, and to the glory of His own Son, God has brought out; so that, in this sense and in every other, it may be said, that “the darkness passeth, and the true light now shineth.” So then upon this broad and deep foundation — where not merely the dealings of God with individuals, or a people connected with His promises or His government are shown out; but where all that can be known of God by the creature has been revealed in His Son — upon this foundation the Church is built. And this is now made manifest to His saints, which was hidden but is now revealed. “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” They were the instruments of this revelation.

“And he that talked with me had a golden reed as a measure, that he might measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth quadrangular, and the length is as great as the breadth. . . . The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal” (verses 15, 17). It was the image of the perfection of a city “whose builder and maker is God.” I do not mean that this description is to be taken as if it were of a literal city. I conceive that it is a purely symbolical picture as to certain relations of the bride, the Lamb’s wife. The scripture itself most positively says that it is (not the dwelling-place of the redeemed, but) the bride herself described as a city. Just as the apostate church, the vast idolatrous ecclesiastical system so often spoken of in this book, was symbolized as the great city Babylon; so here the glorified Church is characterized as the bride, the Lamb’s wife, in contrast with the great harlot, and as the holy city descending out of heaven from God, in contrast with the great city which rules over the rulers of the earth. When we read, then, of the city forming a quadrangle, of equal length, breadth, and height, it is simply to be understood as figurative of its perfectness. At the same time these symbols must not be run into one another. For immediately after it is said, “he measured the wall thereof, of an hundred and forty-four cubits, — a man’s measure, that is, of an angel” (verse 17). Now the city’s height was previously given as equal to the length and breadth, i.e., twelve thousand furlongs. This of course is enormously greater than a hundred and forty-four cubits, which is expressly made to refer to the height of the wall First, we have the general idea of a city which is every way square, a cube in fact; then, when we come to the details of the wall, a height is given which shows that we are not to look for mere literal consistency as if it were a portrait. The number twelve keeps up the idea of a perfection in reference to man.

“And the building of its wall was of jasper; and the city [was] pure gold, like clear glass” (verse 18). We have already found the meaning of these two figures, the gold and the glass, in an earlier part of the book The Lord counselled the Laodicean church in its fallen state to buy of Him “gold tried in the fire.” It is invariably the figure of divine righteousness — of righteousness that can stand the searching fire of God’s judgment. Human righteousness could not bear it, and so is never represented by gold, but rather by white linen. God could cleanse this and leave it without spot or slain. But fire would be destruction to it; whereas, with regard to the gold, it would only bring out its perfection. Accordingly this city is of pure gold, “like clear glass.” Holiness, now fixed and without flaw, also marks the city. With regard to our need of holiness, the means of it are represented under the figure of water, because it is a question of cleansing from defilement in a practical way. In the Revelation this is not the case; for from the fourth chapter the saints who are put in connection with holiness are risen saints, and consequently are beyond the means of cleansing. They are therefore represented, as also in the case of that body of saints mentioned in Revelation 15, as on a sea of glass, because it is purity and this in a fixed unalterable condition. Their state is no longer that which might need to be cleansed. It is holiness that repels everything defiling. So here the city is of pure gold, like unto clear glass. In Rev. 15 it is remarkable that the sea of glass is said to be mingled with fire, which was not the case in Rev. 4; and this because the saints spoken of there had not only gone through this complete purging, and were now in a state of unalterable purity, but they had gone through the last terrible tribulation, of which fire is the known figure. From this tribulation the raptured saints of Rev. 4 had been exempt. Thus then we have the city of pure gold, like clear glass; that is, divine righteousness has its full way now, and holiness beyond nature that nothing can touch.

“And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones: the first foundation jasper, etc. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one severally of the gates was out of one pearl:123 and the street of the city was pure gold, as transparent glass” (verse 19-21). Without pretending to give the spiritual meaning of the various precious stones, we may learn thence that in every variety of beauty will God array His people in that day of glory. There will be different rays of His glory reflected through them, set forth by these different precious stones. In God’s own case it is not so. His essential glory is not described after this fashion. It is full concentrated light. It is not what is broken up into a variety of hues, if we may so say, as in the case of the glory He confers on the church. God is light, and He dwells in light which no man can approach unto. The rainbow of many colours was the sign by which God showed His covenant with creation, and His various ways with poor man. But when it is the lustre of the saints in heavenly glory, and the way in which God will display the beauty of His people, — for He does see beauty in them, — these precious stones are the emblems employed.

“And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one severally of the gates was of one pearl.” Such they appeared to men outside: something quite beyond nature. It is a description that alludes to the earthly Jerusalem; but in the latter city, what is really found existing in nature will be brought to adorn it. Here the beauty of the church is set forth by a supernatural imagery: each one of the gates was made out of one pearl. They are symbols which set forth the perfect and divine beauty that God will put upon His people. This is already true of them in Christ, but actually and personally will they thus shine in that day. Each gate being of one pearl would show I suppose, the special likeness of Christ and fellowship with Christ, which God will grant to His people — to the church. In Matthew 13 we have, as I conceive, the Lord Jesus as a merchantman in quest of goodly pearls; who, when He had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that He had and bought it. It is the beauty of the church, as viewed in God’s mind, which if one may say it, fascinated the Lord Jesus, so that He parted with all His earthly glory to get that pearl: a strong expression indeed, but not too strong to convey His appreciation of the church. But we know that if the Lord saw any beauty in the church, it was all derived from Himself. He saw the church as she was in the mind and purpose of God, and sells all that He might purchase this pearl of great price, which after all is but the reflection of His own beauty. So here, the spotless pearl, the perfection of moral beauty that had been so precious in the eyes of Christ, is the figure of what, even at the entrance, will appear in the eyes of men and angels.

“And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God, the Almighty, is its temple, and the Lamb” (verse 22). This is very important For perhaps some one may say, What has all this to do with the saint now? I answer, The world must wait for the day of glory to see the beauty of the church. And we, like the world, are so often unbelieving, that we are apt to see only the dark painful circumstances of the church, if we escape the delusive dream of an improving Christendom. Which of us carries habitually constantly in our hearts the delight of the Lord Jesus in opening out what the church is going to be — nay, what it is in His eye and to His heart? Our unbelief as to this is one main secret source of our murmuring and rebellious spirit. I do not say that we ought not to feel the failure of God’s church as things are on earth: God forbid such a thought! But we might feel it more lovingly and more keenly too had we a deeper sense of its nearness to Christ and the glory it is soon to shine in. A good deal of what we feel, when evil is seen in the children of God, is because self is touched. We are all inclined to deal hardly enough with a person’s vanity, pride, or things of the kind. Why? Is it not too frequently because it wounds us? We have possibly not had the share of respect and importance to which we fancied ourselves entitled, and we are readily sore about it. But this is not according to Christ. Not that we should be insensible to the ways of the flesh and the world, but we should feel all with Christ and not for ourselves. What can enable us? Nothing but the heart filled with Christ and the exceedingly blessed place in which He puts us. We are called to exhibit the Lord Jesus now. It is not merely that we are to be members of His flesh, and of His bones, but that so we are now; and therefore love and desire for God’s glory would lead us to seek ways answering to this in the church and before men. What God will show to the whole universe by and by, He would have. us to look for in His people now.

When that day comes there will be no hindrances; but the action of the Holy Ghost is to make good in us what will be perfectly manifest then, and what is true in principle now. If there is a spot upon another who is to shine alone, with Christ then, this stirs up our affections that the evil may be removed in God’s way and for His glory. And this it is which so increases our sense of shame that such blots should be upon ourselves. It is evident to me that the Holy Ghost reveals the description of the divine glory that is to be in the church, in order to act with great practical power on our souls now, the word being mixed with faith in them that hear it. The real reason why it so little profits us is that we are such unbelieving believers. We are believers; but is it not humiliating that we can pass over such precious fruits of Christ’s love, such bright visions of assured glory, as if we did not need them now, or as if they were not the faithful and true words of God? We shall be in glory by and by, and know as we are known; but it is revealed to those who are not in it yet, that their souls may be full of the joy of it now, and that the effects of it may be manifest even to the world that despises them. The Holy Spirit is the earnest of the inheritance, as well as the seal of redemption.

But this is true not of the beauty only in which the church is to shine then; there is another thing, which ought to have a mighty influence upon us now. There is an immediate relation to God in the way of worship: and what then? The symbol here used is that of a city, and therefore we are not described as priests. If we were spoken of as persons, we should be described as brought near to God, that is, as priests; and so we are in Rev. 20:6. But here it is a city — and a city in which there is no temple: not because there was no special seat of the presence of God there, but because His presence filled it all and equally. The access to God is immediate. But this also is a truth applicable now. (Hebrews 10.) Here below there is no temple nor priests now between us and God. Undoubtedly we have above the great and faithful High Priest — a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. But there will be below, during the future kingdom, for those on earth that need Him, when “He shall sit as a Priest upon his throne.” Thus, to the Christian there is neither temple nor priest on earth now. We stand, as to our faith, in the immediate presence of God, with His perfect favour shining on us. If persons do not feel this, it is because they do not believe it. We must always believe a. thing on God’s word first; and the more simply we believe, the more shall we enjoy the comfort, strength, and fruits of the truth.

“And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God, the Almighty, is the temple, and the Lamb. And the city hath no need of the sun, nor of the moon, that they should shine on it.” No earthly nor even heavenly lights of the old creation are. wanted there. “For the glory of God lightened it, and the light [literally, lamp] thereof is the Lamb” (verse 23). How wonderfully all this description falls in with a few words in John 17, to which I must refer before going farther.

In His astonishing prayer (if we can call that a prayer, which is more like the Son unbosoming Himself to the Father) the Lord says, “The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them.” It was divine, but not His Godhead glory, for this never can be given, belonging to God, and none else. The Lord Jesus had Godhead glory, but not given to Him, because He had it essentially; He had it in His own right, as being God, from all eternity. But what the Father gave to Him as man, He gave to His disciples: “that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Now this exactly corresponds with what we have in the Revelation, for the holy city is seen there descending out of heaven from God: and the Lamb is in it, and the Lord God makes Himself known, so to speak, specially in Him; for the Lamb is not merely the light, but the vessel of it, or light-bearer. We may consider the light diffused, as it is said, “the glory of God had lightened it;” but if we want to see the light concentrated, where are we to look? The Lamb is that light. Thus does God make Himself to shine through all the glorious city: the Lamb is the great concentrating object, diffusing light over the whole scene. This, then, is the order of it — “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know,”124 etc. The Lamb makes God known to them, as they make Him known to all others. This is what appears in the Revelation. “The nations shall walk by means of its light.” not in the light of the Lamb immediately, but by means of the light of the heavenly city: precisely what we find in John 17; “that they may be made perfect in one; that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” There is, I apprehend, what answers to the nations walking by means of the light of the city. Through these nations the church had passed in the days of her pilgrimage, and been despised because of her fellowship with Christ. (1 John 3: l.) For, as He had been there and unknown, “therefore the world knoweth us not.” But now, when the bright day shines, when Jesus, long absent and rejected, the blessed and exalted man, the Lord from heaven, comes in His glory, Himself the faithful witness and accomplishment of the glory of God, as indeed He is the brightness of it, He will not be seen apart from His bride.

“We shall appear with Him in glory;” and the nations shall walk by means of the light of the glorified whom they had so long cast out. Even their kings bring their glory to it.125 It is necessary to state this, lest persons should imagine that there was a communication of a direct kind between the inhabitants of the earth and the heavenly city. But though the city was seen to come down from heaven, it is not here said to come down to the earth, so as to be with men, as it does when the new heaven and earth are come. Here its glory is over the earth; accordingly the kings and the nations bring their glory and honour unto it, in the way of homage, I suppose, to Him who dwells there. “And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day; for there shall be no night there.” No danger threatens the city; on the contrary, “They shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations to it.” Of course, it is in the same sense as in verse 24. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing unclean, or one that works abomination and a lie: but those that are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Thus, the fullest scope is given to the holiness of God, and the impure and abominable and false excluded from His presence, as indeed they are morally and altogether unfit for it; but withal His sovereignty is maintained intact. None enter there, except those enrolled in the book of life of the Lamb.

It has been already remarked that the first five verses of Rev. 22 are necessary to complete the vision: but I think it better to reserve them for my next lecture, when the conclusion of the book will also be shown in due order.

121 Had Mr. Elliott sufficiently weighed these considerations, I cannot think that he would have left the readers of the Horae Apoc. (vol. iv. pp. 210-218) in such perplexity as to the chronological place of these visions of the New Jerusalem. The reason why “such strong arguments,” as he confesses, “press antagonistically” for the millennial and the post-millennial reference is, because each aide has a measure of truth left out of the account by the ether. On the one hand, it is not only the cursory but the most careful reader who is compelled to allow that Revelation 21:1-8, fairly interpreted, is post-millennial. On the. other hand, the internal evidence from verse 9 is equally conclusive that, with this new vision of the Seer, we begin a retrospective glance at the same city during the millennium, though of come its own intrinsic blessedness and glory will abide for ever.

122 My friend Dr. Brown will forgive me for thinking that the argument, even in its amended shape (Second Advent, p. 289), which he “believes it to be impossible to answer,” is a complete and obvious fallacy. I deny that the day of the Lord, as St. Peter uses it, is the mere epoch of the Lord’s coming, but rather the entire period covered by His reign and judgment. Hence the millennium, as well as the final dissolution of the actual heaven and earth, may and do occur within the compass of His day, while His coming may precede them both. His mistake lies in identifying the day with the coming of the Lord.

123 Some readers will be astonished to hear that a man of Michaelis’ reputation should adduce this as an instance of “false translation.” (Int. N. T., vol. iv. p. 507.) It is not uninstructive to mark the process of mind it betrays — the very same which leads many to reject the Bible, and this writer himself to asperse the Apocalypse. “A pearl, whether we consider the rotundity of the figure, or the softness of its mass, is very ill-qualified to become the gate of a city, even if that city exists only in poetical description.” But what if it be morally didactic in a symbolic prophecy? “The word used in the Greek is margarith”, and that ought to be rendered precious stone! for this is the meaning ascribed to the word in Chaldee . . . M. is used perhaps in the same sense, Matt. 13:45, 46.” To refute this seems to me quite needless. Every one can see how definite is the Seer’s description of the various precious stones, and the spiritual man will feel the blank created by the absence of the “pearl.”

124 It is very evident that the author of the H. A. (vol. iv. pp. 184, 196) does not understand this passage, which he justly conceives to be too often misapprehended and misapplied. For while he rightly affirms that verses 22, 23, apply to the time of glorification, the only time of perfect and displayed unity, it is a mistake to confound this with the unity prayed for in verses 20, 21, which is as clearly a question of grace and testimony to the world, as the other will be of glory and the world’s knowledge. The truth is that unity is asked. for in three forms. There is, first, that which is absolute and in the twelve apostles, in verse 11, “that they may be one, as we.” Secondly, there is that which should embrace those who were to believe through the apostles’ word, “that they all” (whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free) “should be one” (not by virtue of the law of Jehovah and the enforced rites and ordinances of the Levitical system, but by the revelation of the Father and the Son); “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe” (not yet know, but believe) “that thou hast sent me.” Such a testimony the gathered saints were while they walked in heavenly unity here below. Then comes the third and crowning form, which it is impossible for the world to deny, when they behold the saints appearing in the same glory with Christ; and therefore it is added, “that the world may know that thou hast sent me,” but this is not all, “and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” How gainsay it, when Christ and the church burst upon their astonished eyes in a community of glory? But this does not interfere with the preceding truth, which ought not to be weakened, that the Lord desired the present unity of all His disciples, as a means and powerful witness to the world that they might believe in His mission from the Father. In fact, this abides an important part of practical responsibility, and it is not wise to turn from it. because it is grossly perverted to purposes of earthly power and pride by the world-church in all its varieties. In the Acts of the Apostles we are shown the facts, while the Epistles demonstrate the importance of the doctrine.

125 Not into, but unto, for which in Greek there is but one word, εἰς.