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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Revelation 21

 

 

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Verse 1

Revelation 21:1

With this verse begins the closing passage of the book of God: the revelation of the things beyond the end. Now the veil lifts for the last time, and we behold the new universe. He who in the beginning created the heaven and the earth now reveals to the gaze of faith His second and final world. It would be idle to say that there cannot be a literal meaning to our text. Assuredly it may please the Creator to order His new universe so that there shall be there scenes which answer to our earth and no scenes which answer to our sea. But it is plain that the main purpose of the phrase is spiritual. We are to put before us as we read not so much a state in which we shall never look out on a waste of tossing waters, as a state in which the sea of the soul shall be for ever gone.

I. We read here that all tumultuous agitations and vehement changes shall be over there. Again and again in Scripture we find the sea made the picture of human agitation. In the new universe this sea shall be no more. Its waves shall be silent at last and for ever; none of the sinful agitations, none of the upswelling passions, whether of persons or of nations, shall break in through the endless duration of the new universe upon that perfect life and perfect rest of holiness and joy.

II. We read here that there shall be no more separation. In the days when God caused the Bible to be written even more than now, the sea was a separating thing. Every year in those old days, before the mariner's compass had made new paths on the deep, well nigh from Michaelmas to Easter, the sea, in the Roman term, was "shut." The fierce, dreadful waters were scarce traversed by a single sail. Land from land, friend from friend, was barred those long months by the severing sea. Here at best heart to heart is like isle to isle, with deep waters between, even when these waters are oftenest crossed; there heart to heart will make, as it were, one bright, beautiful, continuous continent of sympathy and mutual joy, together for ever with the Lord.

H. C. G. Moule, Fordington Sermons, p. 107.


I. Let us consider this great and blessed promise as the revelation of a future in which there shall be no more painful mystery. We look out upon the broad ocean, and far away it seems to blend with air and sky. Mists come up over its surface. Suddenly there rises on the verge of the horizon a white sail, that was not there a moment ago; and we wonder, as we look out from our hills, what may be beyond those mysterious waters. And to these ancient peoples there were mysteries which we do not feel. What should we see if depth and distance were annihilated, and we beheld what there is out yonder and what there is down there? And is not our life ringed round in like manner with mystery? Surely to some this ought to come as not the least noble and precious of the thoughts of what that future life is, "There shall be no more sea," and the mysteries which come from God's merciful limitation of our vision and some of the mysteries that come from God's wise and providential interposition of obstacles to our sight will have passed away.

II. The text tells us of a state that is to come when there is no more rebellious power. In the Old Testament the floods are often compared with the rage of the peoples and the rebellion of man against the will of God. Our text is a blessed promise that, in that holy state to which the apocalyptic vision carries our longing hopes, there shall be the cessation of all strife against our best Friend, of all reluctance to wear His yoke whose yoke brings rest to the soul. The opposition that lies in all our hearts shall one day be subdued.

III. The text foretells a state of things in which there will be no more disquiet and unrest. Life is a voyage over a turbulent sea; changing circumstances come rolling after each other, like the indistinguishable billows of the great ocean. On the heavenly shore stands Christ, and there is rest there. There is no more sea, but unbroken rest, unchanging blessedness, perpetual stability of joy and love in the Father's house.

A. Maclaren, Sermons in Manchester, 2nd series, p. 325.


References: Revelation 21:1.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 98; vol. xii., p. 77; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, 2nd series, No. 15; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 356; R. A. Bertram, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 136; Ibid., vol. iv., p. 332; P. W. Darton, Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 73. Revelation 21:2.—G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 179; J. B. French, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 195. Revelation 21:3.—H. P. Liddon, Ibid., p. 1.


Verse 4

Revelation 21:4

God wiping away all Tears.

The subject teaches—

I. A lesson of resignation.

II. A lesson of gratitude. The same hand which chastises will one day wipe away our tears. It will not be long that we must wait before the faithfulness of God's word will be established.

J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 443.


References: Revelation 21:4.—G. Calthrop, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 97; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 325.


Verse 6

Revelation 21:6

The Idolatry of Novelty.

The one text exhibits to us in a lively picture the working of a great idolatry; the other text shows us the abolition of that idolatry by the satisfaction of the want of which it is the expression. Together they present to us the two sides of our subject, which is the idolatry of novelty. It cannot be denied that there is in all lives, probably not least in the busiest and the loftiest, an element of dulness. This is only to say that there must be routine in every life which is either active or useful; and that the life which is neither active nor useful is sure to have a routine of its own, a monotony of mere indolence or mere self-indulgence, of all monotonies the most irksome and the most fatiguing.

I. The Athenians were not mere gossips or newsmongers. The first sound of the words does them some injustice. Their idolatry of novelty by no means exhausted itself in inventing, or embellishing, or retailing scandalous or mischievous stories against the great men of their city, or against humbler neighbours "dwelling securely by them." Their treatment of St. Paul shows this. He was not a man of sufficient notoriety or sufficient importance to attract the attention of the mere tattler or scandalmonger. It was because he raised grave questions, going to the very root of the national and individual life, that these idolaters of novelty were attracted by him, and thought it worth while to bring him before the religious tribunal of the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new doctrine which is talked by thee is?"—"this new doctrine," because, as St. Luke adds in the text, their great interest was in the hearing and telling of "anything at all new."

II. Those Athenians might well have an open ear for the preacher of a new divinity. This was but to confess, what was no secret by this time, that their anonymous altar was still standing, and that they waited to worship till it had a name. For them the idolatry of novelty was their hope and their religion. After all these centuries, we too are left with an anonymous altar, and the worship of English hearts is offered once again at the shrine of an unknown, an avowably unknowable, God. There is not an arrival of a so-called new apostle, there is not an importation of a so-called new divinity, for which this modern Athens has not at least one of its ears open. We are told that some one has dared to say, within the Christian Church of London, that Buddha himself is second only (if second) to Jesus Christ in morals, and superior to Christ Himself in this: that he never claimed for himself Divinity.

III. The very feeling, the very want, the very sense of monotony which has made impatient man set up this paltry idol of novelty, is provided for by God Himself saying, "Behold, I make" (not a few things, but) "all things new." There are two ways of fulfilling the promise of renovation. One is by the renewal of the thing itself; the other is by the renewal of the eye that views it. If the one is the promise of the text, the other is the promise elsewhere alike of St. John and St. Paul. We have all known in ourselves how the same object—sea, sky, cloud, landscape, home itself and its inmates, the loved face, the letter from the dearest one—may look dull or look lively, look beautiful or look ugly, according to the state of the mind that views it. It looks quite different when a sin is strong in us from that which it looked when we had just risen from prayer, and the very skin of the face shone from the reflection of the King in His beauty.

"Dark and cheerless is the morn

Unaccompanied by Thee;

Cheerless is the day's return

Till Thy mercy's beams I see"—

then all is altered. Then the old commandment looks new. Then the heaven and the earth are new for me. Then He that sitteth upon the throne hath said, "Behold, I make all things new"—yea (as St. Paul interprets), the old things themselves.

C. J. Vaughan, Restful Thoughts for Restless Times, p. 272.


All Things New.

I. Consider what Holy Scripture teaches us as to our resurrection life. Let us try to learn something as to the state and place in which we hope to find ourselves hereafter. We are expressly told that there shall be a new heaven and a new earth. Our home, our bright, blessed, glorious home, is not to be in a world of sin and sorrow, not in a world which groans under the curse of God, but it will be a new home, nothing like what we see now, something quite different, something quite fresh, something altogether new: a new heaven and a new earth. "The former things"—death, sorrow, sickness, sin, temptation, misery, wretchedness; all that makes life a burden to us; all that troubles us and vexes us; all that saddens us and grieves us in this lower existence—all will have gone for ever; "the former things are passed away."

II. Not only is the place to be new, but those that inhabit the place must be new also. If no sin can enter there, if no sickness, no weariness, no weakness, if none of these things can enter that new Jerusalem, then certainly we must be new—new in body and new in soul. And so it will be: we shall be changed; we shall live under new conditions of existence. Mortality will give place to immortality. This corruptible frame of ours shall become incorruptible.

III. But our text tells us how this is to be. It explains how all this is to be accomplished: "And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new." All this must be God's work, God's work in our hearts. The work is a gradual work: it has its beginning, and its middle, and its end. The work will be finished in heaven, but it must begin here on earth. Here it is imperfect and incomplete; here it is a painful work, a work of toil and difficulty. In heaven it shall be finished, quite perfect, quite complete; for we shall be like Him, like Him for ever.

E. V. Hall, The Waiting Saviour, p. 103.


A New Creation.

A religion which professes to claim the attention and the allegiance of man must show itself to be a religion fitted for man. It must be capable of satisfying his legitimate and innocent instincts. It is perfectly true that the very idea of a religion is this: that it is to repress man's vices and to educate within him holier desires; but it is also true that if religion appears at all, it must appear capable of satisfying his legitimate and his innocent instincts. And one of the features of the Christian faith is pre-eminently this. It is not merely one which sets itself in utter and irreconcilable antagonism to all that savours of sin or of vice in man, but it does not seek to distort human nature; it does not seek to turn man from what is natural to him. It is not merely antagonistic to evil, but it is also capable of developing good, because it comes to man, and dealing with man as he is, it proclaims to him the duty of an entire self-control.

I. There are several instincts which, as intimated in the text, the Christian religion will satisfy. What are these instincts? It has been often said that we are creatures of the present; that is, that our life is bounded by that little moment which we call "now." The past—that has slipped from our grasp; the future—it is not yet ours; and all of that which we can call life, which is really in our possession, is simply the present moment of time. This is perfectly true if by it we understand that our opportunities are limited to the present; but it is utterly untrue if it means that man can be for ever isolated from the past, or ever removed in anticipation from the future. We are bound to the past by the law of reminiscence; we are bound to the future by the law of hope. Though memory may be stronger in age, and hope may be stronger in youth, yet the two instincts of hope and memory walk side by side with us from the very cradle to the grave; and no religion which is worthy of the name can dare to come before man unless it satisfies these two instincts. The religion of the Master satisfies both. The words of the text seem to incorporate that which will satisfy both our longing after the past and our glorious anticipation of the future, when One who, sitting upon the throne of the universe, cries out to men who are sinking under the agony of despair as they find things withering at their touch, "Behold, I make all things new." It satisfies the instinct of hope.

II. But is this all? There is the other instinct. It is the love of the things old. It is that which memory so constantly pleads for; and do the words which seem to speak of newness satisfy that also? Christ does not say, "Behold, I make all things utterly unlike what they are; I make you a new heaven and a new earth." He surely never means that He does violence to the instinct which makes us cling to the things old. He means that He will put back the freshness of youth without robbing us of the love of memory; He means that He will give us back the suppleness and the power of the old early days, but He will not rob us of that which is dear and familiar to us. One of the grandest things in the whole of this book of Revelation is the way in which it preserves, so to speak, the contact of Christian minds with the past.

Bishop Boyd-Carpenter, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 1037.

References: Revelation 21:5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1816; G. W. McCree, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 168. Revelation 21:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1549; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. i., p. 107; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 50; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 113; H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 353.


Verses 6-8

Revelation 21:6-8

This chapter speaks of the winding up of God's dealings with the world, and of the final outcome of that process of trial and discipline which has been going on throughout the long ages of human history. Consider—

I. The promise: "He that overcometh shall inherit all things." Those who long for the knowledge of God and for the enjoyment of God, those who consider God the highest good, to be obtained at all risks and at any cost, will be of necessity involved in a contest with the forces of this world. Their longing makes them warriors; their determination to find their way into their proper spiritual element, which is God, compels them to encounter and to overcome the intervening obstacles which lie between them and the object of their desire. Self wishes to be lord, and forbids Christ to be Lord. We have to resist self. We have conflict, too, with the outer world, with the society in which we move; conflict with the devil, with many a misgiving about God, with many a perverted thought about the Gospel, with many a dark surmising, all of which have their origination with the father of lies.

II. But it is not enough to be engaged in this conflict: we must be victorious in it. The promises are to him that overcomes. We must not fight and be beaten; we must fight and overcome. Our thirsting for God must make God everything to us. To serve Him, to please Him, to be like Him, must be our paramount desire, overriding every other feeling and carrying us triumphantly through all the opposition that stands in the way. It is something to find at last, when all is over, when the life-task is completed, that we have achieved a success. Such is the statement of the passage. We have not missed our aim; we have not made a great miscalculation. There is a result, and a great and magnificent one, to the course upon which we have entered. We have aimed at the possession of God, and have gained it. "I will be his God, and he shall be My son."

III. We pass on now to consider the opposite side of the picture. Look at those who lead the van of this black company. In the forefront we notice persons whom perhaps we should not have expected to find there: the "fearful" and the "unbelieving." The saved are the men of courage. They have feared nothing but God, and displeasing God. The fearful are the moral cowards, who have shrunk from what is displeasing to flesh and blood, and who have not been willing to take up the cross to follow Christ. The one class were athirst for God; they longed for God, for the possession and enjoyment of God, and this strong, irrepressible longing led them into conflict with the forces of evil, and in the end brought them triumphantly through. But the others cared nothing about the possession of God. The world, in some shape or other, was what they really were anxious to secure, and so they had no more strength to sustain them in the controversy with evil; and hence, instead of overcoming, they were overcome: instead of being courageous on the side of God, they were fearful, and fell under the power of evil. And notice into what fearful companionship their moral cowardice has brought them. They are linked with the bloodthirsty, and unclean, and impure, and false, and cast with them into the pool which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

G. Calthrop, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 987.

Reference: Revelation 21:7.—P. Brooks, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 1.



Verse 10

Revelation 21:10

The Heavenly Jerusalem.

There is no subject dearer to the Christian heart than that of the heavenly city, the city of Christian poetry and of Christian hope. Let us take up two or three points in the inspired description of the city in this chapter, and consider what they really mean.

I. Consider what is said in the thirteenth verse: "on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates"—twelve gates, that is to say, and three on each side. Of course this is not to be understood literally, because walls and gates are to keep the enemy out and to keep the citizens in; but who can suppose that there will be any need either of defences or of restraints in the heavenly city? What do these twelve gates mean, then, three on each side? What, save that the city lieth open and accessible to all quarters, and to all quarters alike? Therefore take courage, O traveller Zionwards; if only thy face be set towards the holy city, thou too shalt surely find a gate open to admit thee, from whatever direction thou shalt come.

II. Consider what is written about the city in the sixteenth verse: that it lieth four-square, and the length is as large as the breadth; the length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal. If anything were needed to show us that these descriptions are not to be literally understood, but are purely spiritual, this single sentence would be enough. The city of the vision lieth as a solid cube, which is manifestly impossible. Yet the signification of this parable is as plain as it is blessed; what does it mean save the perfect and complete proportions of heavenly happiness and glory? How great and striking is the contrast between this and any human happiness, any earthly good, so unequal, so incomplete, as that always is.

III. Consider how it is written in the eighteenth verse that "the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass." We shall remember at once that no gold on earth is like this, for it is one of the qualities of gold to be opaque, however thin it may be beaten out; even gold-leaf is not transparent; the beauties of pure gold and of clear glass are never combined in this world. Nor if they were would the result be at all desirable for building purposes. But what does this universal transparency signify in heaven save that there will be nothing to hide, nothing to keep secret, but that all will be open to all, because nothing will be shameful and nothing selfish? The city was of pure gold, precious, costly, thrice refined, of pure gold like clear glass, open, transparent, unconcealing. What a marvel is this to think upon as we look forward to that pure glory! What mysteries of joy and hope lie hid for us beneath the seemingly fantastic imagery of the Scriptures!

R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 352.


Reference: Revelation 21:10-21.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 119.



Verses 10-23

Revelation 21:10-23

We feel instinctively the beauty and the grandeur of this passage descriptive of the Church of Christ when she shall have passed through the successive stages of her earthly warfare and shall once more have her Lord reigning peaceably and triumphantly in her midst, all enemies subdued, all hindrances surmounted, all stains cleansed and purged away. For it is the purpose of her great Head, as St. Paul witnesses in his epistle to the Ephesians, to make His Church a glorious Church and to present her to His Father without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she shall be holy and without blemish. God Almighty, though distributing His gifts and ordering His providence at sundry times and in divers manners, has yet had one unchanging purpose from beginning to end. The patriarchal dispensation was preparatory to the Mosaic, the Mosaic to the Christian, and the Christian to that yet fuller development of the wealth of God's loving-kindness when redeemed humanity—all redeemed, even though they know it not, by the one and self-same precious blood—shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God.

I. There are two main ideas that seem to me to stand out amidst all this figurative language, and with these two I propose mainly, if not exclusively, to deal. They are the idea of brightness and the idea of proportion. The city was full of light, not the light of the sun, nor the moon, nor of candles, nor any artificial illumination; the Lord God was its light. "The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the Light thereof." Christ is the Light of the world. He came to scatter away the clouds of darkness; He came to make the whole body of the individual man and the whole body of the Church full of light, and in no part dark. Where the power of Christ's Gospel has penetrated, there, in the fullest and broadest sense of the term, should be light. And light implies joyousness and brightness. And so we must remember we have to preach a "Gospel," not a gloomy message. The great feature of Christianity is hope. Heathen religions fostered despair. Any one who has read the poems of Lucretius knows the sad tone that runs through them; and even the brighter-eyed Virgil would say, "We see all things rushing backward by a sort of inevitable destiny." The Romans thought society was wretched because the world's prospects were so dark before them, but not so with us who live in the sunshine of the Gospel. No doubt there is, and must be, an element of sadness in our worship when we think how unworthy we are of the manifold mercies which God our Father has so bountifully provided for us; and yet even when we think of our unworthiness there will be an overmastering element of confidence and even of joy.

II. And now to pass on to the other thought: the thought of proportion. The whole of this great city was of a certain proportion. It was all measured out with a measuring rod, and every part fitted to the other; and the length, and the breadth, and the height of it were equal. You will notice that this one idea of proportion runs through the visions both of Ezekiel and John. And so in the spiritual Church of Christ, to which you and I belong, and of whose glories these visions were but faint images; proportion is the great law of Christ's gospel, both in its dogmatic and its practical aspects. If any man prophesy, says Paul, let him prophesy according to the proportion, the analogy, of faith. I have heard it said of Dr. Chalmers that it was one of his rules to a young minister that he should unfold the whole plan of salvation in every sermon, and his reason for it was this: that it might happen that in the congregation there was one man who had never heard that whole plan before, and might not again, and, therefore, for his sake the whole plan was to be unfolded. I do not know whether he who gave the precept acted upon it; but if most of us were to do so, we should very soon empty our churches. St. Paul wisely drew the distinction between milk for babes and strong meat for men.

Bishop Fraser, Church Sermons, vol. ii., p. 65.



Verse 13

Revelation 21:13

The Gates of the Church.

I. The Church stands in a very definite and imperative relation to the Churches and the whole community about it. There can be no more thorough reversal of the idea of the Church than that its life, and work, and relations are within itself. It is indeed right that a Church should be well knit together, a body fitly joined and compacted, every part working effectually, increasing its body, and edifying itself in love. It has a life of its own, a work within itself, a growth from within to secure, a witness to bear by its own harmonious and righteous order. But when this is done, the Church is simply on the threshold of its larger duties and relations; it has so far only made itself effective for that distinctively Christian work that belongs to it. For of all institutions in the world the Church is an institution that stands in vital and binding relations to what is outside of it. It may lie four-square and have all harmony of proportion within itself, but it must also have gates open on all sides, or it is no heavenly city.

II. The Church links the community to the nation. No Church fulfils its idea that does not do this. Every conception of the Church that can be drawn from Holy Scripture points to an identification of the Church and the nation. Such was the Church at the beginning, and such it will be in the end: a holy city, in whose light the nations of the saved shall walk, and into which they will bring their glory and honour. The relation may never again be formal, but more and more will it become real. The only reason why in the unfolding of society Church and State may be formally separate is because the State is becoming moral and is working out those principles of righteousness, and mercy, and humanity for which the Church stands, separate, but coming under the same eternal laws and labouring for the same ends.

III. The Church stands in a vital relation to the past of its own history.

IV. The Church stands in near and definite relation to the Church of all ages.

V. The Church is linked to the Christian ages, to the true line of progress and to the truth that is worked out by the ages.

VI. The Church has a still higher relation. It is linked to the Churches and the community about it, to the nation, to its own past history, to the Church in all ages, and to the whole course of human society behind and forward. The abiding and all-determining relation of the Church is its relation to God and eternity.

T. T. Munger, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 1.


Reference: Revelation 21:14.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 534.



Verse 16

Revelation 21:16

"The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal." There are then three directions or dimensions of human life to which we may fitly give these three names: length, and breadth, and height. The length of a life, in this meaning of it, is, of course, not its duration. It is rather the reaching on and out of a man in the line of activity, and thought, and self-development, which is indicated and prophesied by the character which is natural to him, by the special ambitions which spring up out of his special powers. It is the push of a life forward to its own personal ends and ambitions. The breadth of a life, on the other hand, is its outreach laterally, if we may say so. It is the constantly diffusive tendency which is always drawing a man outward into sympathy with other men. And the height of a life is its reach upward towards God; its sense of childhood; its consciousness of the Divine life over it, with which it tries to live in love, communion, and obedience. These are the three dimensions of a life,—its length, and breadth, and height,—without the due development of all of which no life becomes complete.

I. Consider the length of life in this understanding of the word. Here is a man who, as he comes to self-consciousness, recognises in himself a certain nature. He cannot be mistaken. Other men have their special powers and dispositions. As this young man studies himself he finds that he has his. That nature which he has discovered in himself decides for him his career. He says to himself, "Whatever I am to do in the world must be done in this direction." It is a fascinating discovery. It is an ever-memorable time for a man when he first makes it. It is almost as if a star woke to some subtle knowledge of itself, and felt within its shining frame the forces which decided what its orbit was to be. Because it is the star it is, that track through space must be its track. Out on that track it looks; along that line which sweeps through the great host of stars it sends out all its hopes; and all the rest of space is merely the field through which that track is flung: all the great host of stars is but the audience which waits to hear it as it goes singing on its way. So starts the young life which has come to self-discovery and found out what it has to do by finding out what it is. It starts to do that destined thing, to run out that appointed course. Nay, the man when he arrives at this self-discovery finds that his nature has not waited for him to recognise himself. What he is, even before he knows it, has decided what he does. It may be late in life before he learns to say of himself, "This is what I am." But then he looks back and discerns that, even without his knowing himself enough to have found it out, his life has run out in a line which had the promise and potency of its direction in the nature which his birth and education gave him. But if he does know it, the course is yet more definite and clear. Every act that he does is a new section of that line which runs between his nature and his appointed work. Just in proportion to the definiteness with which he has measured and understood himself is the sharpness of that line, which every thought, and act, and word is projecting a little further, through the host of human lives, towards the purpose of his living, towards the thing which he believes that he is sent into the world to do.

II. Look at the second dimension of life, which we call breadth. I have ventured to call this quality of breadth in a man's life its outreach laterally. When that tendency of which I have just been talking, the tendency of a man's career, the more loftily it is pursued, to bring him into sympathy and relationship with other men—when that tendency, I say, is consciously and deliberately acknowledged, and a man comes to value his own personal career because of the way in which it relates him to his brethren and the help which it permits him to offer them, then his life has distinctly begun to open in this new direction, and to its length it has added breadth. When a man has length and breadth together, we feel at once how the two help each other. Length without breadth is narrow and hard; breadth without length, sympathy with others in a man who has no intense and clear direction for himself, is soft and weak. The man whom the work! delights to find is the man who has evidently conceived some strong and distinct purpose for himself, from which he will allow nothing to turn his feet aside, who means to be something with all his soul, and yet who finds in his own earnest effort to fill out his own career the interpretation of the careers of other men, and also finds in sympathy with other men the transfiguration and sustainment of his own appointed struggle.

III. The height of life is its reach upward towards something distinctly greater than humanity. The height of life, its reach toward God, must be coextensive with, must be part of the one same symmetrical whole with, the length of life, or its reach towards its personal ambition, and the breadth of life, or its reach towards the sympathy of brother-lives. It is when a man begins to know the ambition of his life not simply as the choice of his own will, but as the wise assignment of God's love, and to know his relations to his brethren not simply as the result of his own impulsive affections, but as the seeking of his soul for their souls because they all belong to the great Father-soul—it is then that life for that man begins to lift itself all over, and to grow towards completion upward, through all its length and breadth. That is a noble time, a bewildering and exalting time, in any of our lives, when into everything that we are doing enters the Spirit of God; and thenceforth moving ever up towards the God to whom it belongs, that Spirit, dwelling in our life, carries our life up with it, not separating our life from the earth, but making every part of it while it still keeps its hold on earth soar up and have to do with heaven, so completing life in its height by making it Divine.

Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 110.


References: Revelation 21:16.—J. B. Heard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 22; R. Collyer, Ibid., vol. xxiv., p. 184; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 138, Revelation 21:21.—Talmage, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 280; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 79. Revelation 21:22.—H. Wonnacott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 129; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 401.


Verse 23

Revelation 21:23

Christ the Light of all Scripture.

I. Consider how far the Christian conception of Christ accounts for the structure of Scripture prophecy. Deliverance from all evil, by means of the Son of man, who yet should suffer in delivering men—this was the idea of the first prophecy and the substance of the first hope. Already, then, we see faintly sketched the outline which all subsequent prophecy only filled up more clearly; already the Spirit of God was testifying to holy men of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. But along with this promise of a Deliverer, and necessarily springing out of it, another idea must have arisen in the minds of those who heard it: the idea of a Judge and an Avenger. The promise of Him who was to crush the serpent's head implied ere long a warning prophecy of Him who should crush the serpent's brood; and thus the very idea of salvation and deliverance gave rise in a world of impenitent and hardened sinners to that of judgment and retribution. And in this idea of the Christ that was to be, we have the keynote of all the prophecy that foretold Him.

II. But Scripture is history as well as prophecy. Is the Lamb the Light of this also? Does the idea of Christ account for the structure of the historical parts of Scripture? Now, in the first place, it is clear that from the moment that first prophecy to which we have referred was uttered it must have made for itself a history, the history of those that believed it as distinguished from the history of those that believed it not. All righteous men in God's kingdom of old, so far as they were righteous, were truly types of the Son of man yet to be revealed. As we peruse the history of God's kingdom among men, we see throughout it all, side by side with the idea of humanity ever tending, struggling upward towards God, the idea of Deity ever condescending to, ever allying itself with, man. Thus already does the great mystery of godliness, the union of the two natures, God manifest in the flesh, take almost visible shape and form before us, and thus the lines of mystery, like the lines of prophecy, are seen all to lead up to, and converge in, the God-Man, the incarnate Christ.

III. The Lamb is the Light of the law of Scripture. Either the ritual of the Jews was a Divine prophecy of the Atonement, or it was not Divine at all. For view the Jewish ritual apart from any thought of a future atonement to be represented in it, look on it only as a system of worship appointed for men by God, and is it conceivable that the God we worship could have ever given it? We do not hesitate to say that, thus viewed, the ceremonial law of the Jews, with its blood-stained altars, its ruthless waste of innocent life, its burdensome ritual of minute and useless ceremonies, its vexatious and wanton restrictions, its severe and awful penalties for the slightest infraction of its many rules, is one of the most unmeaning, the most repulsive, the most childish of all human superstitions. But view it as a revelation in type and symbol of the atonement hereafter to be effected by the sacrifice of Christ, and it becomes a picture so minutely accurate, a prophecy so extensively and yet so entirely true of all those good things to come, "a pattern of heavenly things" so exquisitely perfect, that it cannot have been given by any save by Him who from everlasting had designed alike the true and heavenly tabernacle and this its earthly and prophetic shadow.

W. C. Magee, Christ the Light of all Scripture, p. 1.


References: Revelation 21:23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 583; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 355. Revelation 21:27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1590; J. Aldis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 257. Revelation 22:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1233; W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 46; G. W. McCree, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 410.



 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Revelation 21:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/revelation-21.html.

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