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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Revelation 21

 

 

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Verse 1

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

Ver. 1. And I saw a new heaven] New for form and state, but the same as before for matter and substance; as an old garment translated is called a new one; and as whoso is in Christ is a new creature.

Passed away] i.e. Were purged from their vanity and defilements.

And there was no more sea] i.e. Trouble and tumult. The sea is of itself restless, and often tossed with storms and tempests, Isaiah 57:20. As for the element of water, it shall remain, probably, as earth, air, and fire do. Andreas thinks there shall be no more sea.


Verse 2

2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Ver. 2. The holy city] The Church in glory, saith Diodate. The Church wayfaring and warfaring, saith Brightman, whose interpretation of this text, Nitur coniectura optabili magis quam opinabili, saith Pareus, is more to be wished than imagined. The glory of Christ’s bride is fitter to be believed than possible to be discoursed, saith Prosper. The Italians have this proverb among them, He that hath not seen Venice, believes not the bravery of it; and he that hath not lived somewhile there, understandeth it not. This is much more true of Uranople, the New Jerusalem. St John’s New Jerusalem, and Ezekiel’s city and temple, from Ezekiel 40:1-49 to the end, are contemporary (say some), and signify one and the same thing. (Haffen refferus.)

As a bride adorned, &c.] Bishop Ridley, the night before he suffered, invited his hostess and the rest at table to his marriage; for, said he, tomorrow I must be married. Some other martyrs went as merrily to die as ever they did to dine.


Verse 3

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

Ver. 3. And I heard a great voice] To confirm the vision, lest it should be thought a delusion.

Behold, the tabernacle] His special presence both of grace and glory is with his elect. See Ezekiel 37:7; Ezekiel 37:28.

He will dwell with them] He will indwell in them, 2 Corinthians 6:16. {See Trapp on "2 Corinthians 6:16"} The enjoyment of God is heaven itself, therefore God is called heaven; "I have sinned against heaven."


Verse 4

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Ver. 4. And God shall wipe away] As mothers do their children’s tears. "Sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Baca shall be turned into Berachah, sighing into singing, misery into majesty; as Queen Elizabeth was exalted from a prisoner to a princess; and as our Henry IV was crowned the very same day that, the year before, he had been banished the realm. (Daniel.)

No more death] For mortality shall be swallowed up of life.

Neither sorrow] πενθος. Properly for loss of friends; for we shall inseparably and everlastingly enjoy them. We shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have communion with them; not only as godly men, but as such and such godly men. And if with them, why not with others whom we have known and loved in the body?

Nor crying] κραυγη. Qualis est in tragoediis, saith Aretius.

Nor any more pain] πονος. Or, hard labour for a livelihood, to be gotten with the sweat either of brow or brain.

For the former things, &c.] The Latins call prosperous things Res secundas, because they are to be had hereafter; they are not the first things.


Verse 5

5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

Ver. 5. Write; for these words are faithful] Though few men will believe them; for if they did, what would they not do or forego to get heaven? Cleombrotus reading Plato’s book of the immortality of the soul, was so ravished with the conceit thereof, that he cast himself headlong into the sea. But how many reading this better book of heaven’s happiness, are no whit wrought upon thereby, or in the least measure moved to affect those things above, that run parallel with the life of God and line of eternity!


Verse 6

6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

Ver. 6. It is done] As the punishment of the wicked, Revelation 16:17; {See Trapp on "Revelation 16:17"} so the reward of the righteous is performed and accomplished.

I will give unto him] Whereas some good soul might say, I would it were once done. Have patience (saith God), I will shortly give unto him that is athirst to drink of that torrent of pleasure, that runs at my right hand, without any either let or loathing.

" Clitorio quicunque sitim de fonte levarit,

Vina fugit, gaudetque meris abstemius undis."

Ovid. Metam.

Of the water of life, freely] But merit mongers will not have it freely; therefore they shall go without it. Caelum gratis non accipiam, I will not accept heaven for nothing, saith Vega.


Verse 7

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

Ver. 7. He that overcometh] Gr. "He that is overcoming," or not yielding, though he hath not yet overcome; if he be but doing at it, and do not yield up the bucklers, ο νικων, quasi μη εικων.

Shall inherit all things] Tanquam haeres ex asse. All God’s servants are sons, and every son an heir.


Verse 8

8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Ver. 8. But the fearful] Cowardly recreants, white livered milk sops, that pull in their horns for every pile of grass that toucheth them, that are afraid of every new step, saying as Caesar at Rubicon, "Yet we may go back;" that follow Christ afar off, as Peter; that tremble after him, as the people did after Saul, 1 Samuel 13:7, and the next news is, "They were scattered from him," 1 Samuel 13:11. These lead the ring dance of this rout of reprobates; and are so hated of Christ, that he will not employ them so far as to break a pitcher, or to bear a torch, 7:3-7.

And unbelieving] Therefore fearful, because unbelieving, for faith fears no fray bugs; {a} but why do ye fear, ye little faiths? saith our Saviour.

{a} An object of fear; a bogy, spectre. ŒD


Verse 9

9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.

Ver. 9. One of the seven angels] The same, likely, that, Revelation 17:1, had showed him the damnation of the whore. So studious and officious are the angels to serve the saints, Hebrews 1:14.

The bride, the Lamb’s wife] Uxor fulget radiis mariti, saith the civilian; so is it here.


Verse 10

10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

Ver. 10. To a great and high mountain] As Moses was carried up into Mount Nebo that from thence he might view the promised land. He that would contemplate heaven must soar aloft, fly a high pitch, &c. Take a turn with Christ in Mount Tabor, and be transfigured.


Verse 11

11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;

Ver. 11. Having the glory, of God] Who putteth upon her his own comeliness, Ezekiel 16:9-13, as Rachel was decked with Isaac’s jewels.

Even like a jasper] And so, like God himself, who is set out by a jasper, Revelation 4:3.

Clear as crystal] There is no such jasper in nature as is thus clear; but such a one must here be imagined. Nec Christus, nec caelum patitur hyberbolen. In speaking of Christ or heaven it is hard to hyperbolize. Christ’s blood (the true Pactolus) ρει τον πλουτον, floweth with riches. Uranople (the New Jerusalem) hath its foundation garnished with all manner of precious stones, to signify as well the durableness as the excellency of it. See Revelation 21:19-20.


Verse 12

12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:

Ver. 12. And had a wall] Far better than that of Babylon. Indeed this celestial China needs no wall to divide it from the Tartars; this is Arabia Felix, the people whereof live in security, and fear no enemy. They are in a far happier condition than the people of Tombutum in Africa, which are said to spend their whole time in singing and dancing.

And had twelve gates] Thebes had a hundred gates, and was therefore called εκατομτυλος, but nothing so well set and so commodious for passengers as this city with twelve gates.

Twelve angels] As porters to let in, not as swordsmen to keep out, as the angel that stood sentinel at the porch of Paradise, Genesis 3:24.


Verse 13

13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.

Ver. 13. On the east three gates] The Church is collected and heaven filled from all quarters of the earth. Hence it is by one compared to the Samaritan’s inn ( πανδοχειον), because it recciveth and lodgeth all strangers that come. In the synagogue there was not lodging for all; the Ammonites and the Moabites were excluded the congregation of Israel. But Christ was born in an inn, to signify that in his kingdom all may be entertained. He is called the second Adam; the Greek letters of which name (as Cyprian noteth) do severally signify all the quarters of the earth. {a} His garments were divided into four parts, because out of what coast or part soever we come (saith a divine) Christ hath garments to clothe us, and room to receive us. There are those who have observed that the name of God in all the chief languages consisteth of four letters (as יהוה θεος, Deus, Dieu, Gott, & c.), to intimate that he hath his people in all the four quarters of the earth, out of all countries, nations, and languages.

{a} α ανατολη, δ δυσις, α αρκτος, ΄ μεσηυβρια.


Verse 14

14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Ver. 14. And the wall] A wall the Church hath about it, and a well within it, Revelation 21:6; "A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse a spring shut up, a fountain sealed," Song of Solomon 4:12. This wall of the Church hath twelve foundations, that is, Christ the only foundation, 1 Corinthians 3:11, laid by the twelve apostles; in whose names also the sum of Christian faith is made up in those twelve articles of the creed. Discessuri ab invicem Apostoli normam praedicationis in commune constituunt, saith Cyprian. (De Symbol. Apostol.) The apostles being to be severed into various countries to preach the gospel, agreed upon this as the sum and substance of their sermons. It was called Symbolum, a sign or badge, to distinguish Christians from unbelievers.

Had twelve foundations] Foundation is taken either for Christ, 1 Corinthians 3:11; Matthew 16:16, or for the doctrine of the apostles teaching salvation only by Jesus Christ, as Ephesians 2:20, and here. The Papists have lately added twelve new articles raised out of the Council of Trent, to be believed by as many as shall be saved; as above hath been noted.


Verse 15

15 And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.

Ver. 15. Had a golden reed] Not those twelve Trent articles, or any human invention, but the word, as Revelation 11:1, wherewith is measured not the temple only, as there, but the city, gates, and wall, as Ezekiel 40:1-49.


Verse 16

16 And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

Ver. 16. And the city lieth four square] So was Babylon of old (as Herodotus describeth it), which yet was taken by Cyrus, Alexander, and various other enemies. Heaven also is taken, but by another kind of violence than by force of arms. The solid square whereby it is here set forth commends it to us: 1. For stable and unshaken, Hebrews 12:28. Immota manet, as it is said of Venice, which yet stands in the sea, and hath but one street that is not daily overflowed (the Venetian motto is, Nec fluctu nec flatu movetur). 2. For such as looketh every way to the four corners of the earth, as Constantinople did; which is therefore said to be a city fatally founded to command.

Twelve thousand furlongs] About 300 Dutch miles. Nineveh was nothing to this city for its large size; no more is Alcair, Scanderoon or Cambalu, which yet is said to be 28 miles in circuit, being the imperial seat of the great Cham of Tartary. Quinsay, in the same kingdom, is said to be of all cities in the world the greatest; in circuit a hundred miles about, as Paulus Venetus writeth, who himself dwelt therein about the year 1260. But our New Jerusalem is far larger; 12,000 furlongs (according to some) make 1500 miles; and yet he that shall imagine heaven to be no larger than so, shall be more worthy to be blamed than the workmen were that built Westminster Hall; which King William II, the founder, found great fault with, for being too little; saying it was fitter for a chamber than for a hall of a king of England; and therefore took a plot for one far more spacious to be added unto it. (Dan. Chron.)


Verse 17

17 And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.

Ver. 17. An hundred and twenty four cubits] A cubit is six handfuls.

That is, of the angel] That appeared as a man, but bigger and higher than ordinary; now because this holy city is thus measured, and that with the measure of a man, some think it to be of the Church militant. But some other passages in this and the following chapters cannot be otherwise taken according to the letter, than of the state of full perfection. They do best, in my opinion, that take in both.


Verse 18

18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.

Ver. 18. Was of jasper] A stone of great worth and glory, the beauty whereof, saith one, it is easier to admire than to declare. It hath a variety of sweetness in it; such as none of the most cunning wits and sharpest eyes are able to distinguish. Heaven (we are sure) is such as eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, &c. Sermo non valet exprimere, experimento opus est. Words are too weak to utter its happiness; get to it once, and you will say so. (Chrysost.)

Pure gold] A metal that shineth in the fire wasteth not in the use, rusteth not with long lying, rotteth not though cast into brine or vinegar (as Pliny noteth), to show that this city is incorruptible, invincible.

Like unto clear glass] Glittering gold, such as this world affords not. No, not those two islands in India called Chryse and Arger, for the abundance of gold and silver there found, as Soline telleth us.


Verse 19

19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;

Ver. 19. And the foundations] The apostles and their faithful successors, who were puriores caelo, saith Chrysostom, clearer than the sky, the very stars of the world and flowers of the Churches, as Basil calleth them. The twelve patriarchs have, Exodus 28:15-21, each of them his precious stone inscribed with his name in the breastplate of judgment: a symbol of the Church under the law. Levi hath the chalcedony, Judah the smaragd. But here in the foundation of the New Jerusalem, the Church under the gospel, Levi hath the smaragd, and Judah the chalcedony (the tribes have their stones in Aaron’s breastplate, according to their birth). Our Savionr’s chalcedony in Levi’s place tells us (saith Mr Sarson) that he hath put an end to legal sacrifices, and that he is both king and priest of his Churches.


Verse 20

20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.

Ver. 20. The fifth, sardonyx] Search is here made through all the bowels of the earth for something of worth to shadow out the saints’ happiness; which if it could be fully known (as it cannot) it would be no strange thing or thankworthy for the most horrible Belialist to become presently the holiest saint, or the world’s greatest minion the most mortified man. He that desires to know the natures and virtues of these precious stones, may read Epiphanius, Philo, Franciseus, Rurus, and others, De gemmis; Josephus also in the third book of his Jewish Antiquities. That was an odd conceit, and scarce worth relating, held by Anaxagoras, Caelum ex lapidibus constare, et aliquando collapsurum, that heaven was made up of stones, and would one day fall upon men’s heads. That other saying of his is much more memorable, when being asked, Wherefore he was born? He answered, Ut caelum contemplar, that I might busy my thoughts about heaven.


Verse 21

21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

Ver. 21. And the twelve gates] i.e. Gatekeepers, preachers of the righteousness that is by faith.

Were twelve pearls] All which do receive their lustre and worth from Christ, that pearl of price, Matthew 13:45-46, like as the pearl by being often beaten upon by the sunbeams, becometh radiant as the sun.

Was pure gold] Which no dirty dog may ever trample upon.


Verse 22

22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

Ver. 22. No temple] No need of external worships and ordinances; for they are all taught of God; they see his face and hear his voice. Now we see but in part, because we prophesy but in part, 1 Corinthians 13:9. They that understand it of the Church on earth, say, there is no temple in opposition to the Jewish temple, but a gospel temple. But, Revelation 21:25; "There shall be no night there," as here no temple. Now we shall not be above ordinances till above sin; which will not be in this world.


Verse 23

23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

Ver. 23. And the city had no need] He saith not there shall be no sun or moon, but there shall be no such need of them as is now; for the Lamb shall outshine them, shine they never so gloriously, as they shall in that new heaven, Isaiah 30:26.


Verse 24

24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

Ver. 24. And the nations] See Isaiah 9:3; and that he speaketh of the life to come, see Revelation 21:11; Revelation 21:18-19; Revelation 21:21.

Do bring their glory] Despise and cast away all for heaven. Canutus set his crown upon the crucifix; which, according to the course of those times, was held greatest devotion. King Edward VI assured the Popish rebels of Devonshire, that he would rather lose his crown than not maintain the cause of God he had taken in hand to defend. Nazianzen rejoiced that he had something of value (viz. his Athenian learning) to part with for Christ, &c.


Verse 25

25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.

Ver. 25. For there shall be no night there] And so no need to fear a sudden surprise by the enemy watching his opportunity. Their day above is ανεσπερος ημερα, a nightless day, as a Father calls it.


Verse 26

26 And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.

Ver. 26. And they] i.e. The kings, as Revelation 21:24.


Verse 27

27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Ver. 27. And there shall in no wise] Though the serpent could wind himself into paradise, yet no unclean person can come into this holy city. Tertullian called Pompey’s theatre (which was the greatest ornament of old Rome) arcem omnium turpitudinum, the sty of all uncleanness. Heaven is none such.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 21:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/revelation-21.html. 1865-1868.

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