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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 21

 

 

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Introduction

CHAP. XXI.

A new heaven and a new earth. The heavenly Jerusalem, with a full description thereof: she needeth no sun; the glory of God is her light: the kings of the earth bring their riches unto her.

Anno Domini 96.


Verse 1

Revelation 21:1.— We are now come, in the course of these prophesies, to the consummation of all things. This vision stands in the prophesy, after the last attempt of the enemies of religion had been defeated; after the dead, small and great, had appeared before God's judgment seat, and were judged according to their works; after the wicked were doomed to everlasting punishment, and all who were not found written in the book of life were cast into the lake of fire. The order of the prophesies seems to point out to us, that the new heaven and new earth represented in this vision, signify that state of unchangeable perfection and heavenly happiness, to which the true and faithful servants of the living God shall be advanced, when all their trials and sufferings in this life shall be ended. Nothing could be more proper to the useful design of these Revelations, than such a conclusion of them, with so affecting a representation of the final, complete, and everlasting happiness of all the true worshippers of God, the faithful servants of Jesus. This is a powerful motive to present and constant patience; a firm foundation of present hope; a strong encouragement to zeal in the cause of true religion, and constancy in the uncorrupt faith of Jesus. Itis a very ancient observation, "That happiness is the reward of virtue in the end;" but here is a sure word of prophesy, which beforehand acquaints us what will be the last period and state of things: the present world, for a few years,—a very few in comparison of eternity,—will be a state of various sorts of trials and troubles; of evils caused by wicked men; of evils wherewith the righteous Governor of the world punishes their wickedness; but the unchangeable purpose of God has appointed another state of things, when the dead shall be raised, and judged according to their works. All the faithful servants of God will then enjoy a state of eternal life, in perfect peace and security, in complete prosperity and happiness. It is with great advantage that this encouragement is given the church in such a prophesy: an observation of the faithful and punctual accomplishment of the former parts of this prophesy in times past, for several hundred years, serves much to confirm our faith and hope in as exact a performance of what remains. It must be owned, several interpreters of good reputation understand the following vision, as a description of the happy state of the church during the one thousand years inwhich it shall reign with Christ; or, of the full and complete reformation of the Christian church during the last period upon earth: but as there seems nothing in the prophetic description to confine it to this meaning, so the order of the prophesies, the principal design of them, and the description itself, greatly favour the judgment of those learned authors, who understand these last visions as alluding to the future state of happiness in heaven after the general resurrection and last judgment. Thus, this seventh and last period concludes the whole plan of Providence, and finishes it in an endless Sabbatism.


Verses 1-8

Revelation 21:1-8. I saw a new heaven and a new earth, &c.— A new heaven and a new earth succeed in the room of the first heaven and first earth, which passed away at the general judgment, ch. Revelation 20:11. In the new earth there is this remarkable property, that there is no more sea; which, how it is to be effected, time must discover; but it is evident from hence, that this new heaven and earth are not designed to take place, till after the general judgment; for at the general judgment, the sea gave up the dead which were in it, ch. Revelation 20:13. Many understand the expression figuratively, that there shall be no trouble or commotions in this new world. In this new world too, the new Jerusalem appears in full glory, Revelation 21:2. It is described, as coming down from God out of heaven; it is a city whose Builder and Maker is God; and is adorned as the bride of the Lamb;—the true church of Christ: and the new Jerusalem, the true church of Christ, subsists as well during the millennium, as after it. At the commencement of the millennium, it was said, The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready, (ch. Revelation 19:7.) At the conclusion of the millennium, Gog and Magog went up against the beloved city: and here it is represented as the metropolis of the new heaven and the new earth. The new Jerusalem shall be the habitation of the saints of the first resurrection, and it shall also be the habitation of the saints of the general resurrection. The church of Christ shall endure through all times and changes in this world, and likewise in the world to come; it shall be glorious upon earth during the millennium, and shall be more glorious still, in the new earth, after the millennium, to all eternity. The earth shall then become as heaven, or rather, it shall be a heaven upon earth, God dwelling visibly among men Revelation 21:3. And there shall be no more death; Revelation 21:4 which cannot come to pass, till death be totally abolished, ch. Revelation 20:14. He who sat upon the throne as a judge of the world, ch. Revelation 20:11 declares (Revelation 21:5.) Behold, I make all things new; he is the author of this second, as well as of the first creation; and he commands these things to be written for the edification and consolation of his church, with a firm assurance of their truth and certainty. In Revelation 21:6-8 he pronounces this period to be the consummation of all things, when the promises of God, and the desires of his faithful servants, shall all be fully accomplished; The righteous shall inherit all things, but the profligate and immoral shall have their portion in the lake of fire and brimstone; which is a farther confirmation that these things cannot take effect till after the general judgment.


Verses 9-27

Revelation 21:9-27. There came unto me one of the seven angels, &c.— A more particular description is now given of the new Jerusalem. One of the seven angels (and most probably the same who had, ch. Revelation 17:1, &c. shewed John the mystic Babylon and her destruction,) now sheweth, by way of contrast, the new Jerusalem and her glory. For this purpose, he carried him away in the Spirit, &c. (Revelation 21:10.) in the same manner as the prophet was brought in the visions of God, Ezekiel 40:2 . to see the frame of the city and temple: and this description of the new Jerusalem is an assemblage of the sublimest and richest imagery of Ezekiel and other ancient prophets. The glory of God, or the divine Shechinah, illuminates the city, Revelation 21:11. It has a wall great and high, to shew its strength and security; and twelve gates with angels for guards, three on the east, three on the north, three on the south, and three on the west, (Revelation 21:12-13.) to shew that people of all climates and nations may have access to it. On the twelve gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, as on the twelve foundations are inscribed the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, (Revelation 21:14.) to signify, that the Jewish and the Christian church are now united, and built upon the foundation of the apostles, &c. Ephesians 2:20 . The angel has a measuring reed, (Revelation 21:15.) as the angel had likewise, Ezekiel 40:3 . and the measures of the city and walls are formed by the multiplication of twelve,—the number of the apostles, Revelation 21:17.—The city lieth four-square, the length as large as the breadth, Revelation 21:16. according to the pattern of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 48:16 . and the length, and breadth, and height of the walls and buildings, are every way of the same beauty, strength, and proportion. It is built and garnished with precious stones, Revelation 21:18-21. as the richest emblems of Eastern wealth and magnificence; the stones resembling those on Aaron's breast-plate, to denote that the Urim and Thummim, the light and perfection of God's oracles are there. It has one remarkable peculiarity, Revelation 21:22. that there is no temple therein, for the whole is the temple of God and the Lamb. The glory of God and the Lamb shines in it, Revelation 21:23. with a lustre far superior to the sun. And all they who are saved, walk continually in the light of it; for the gates are never shut, and no night is there, Revelation 21:24-27. It is the centre of glory and honour; all the wicked are excluded, and only the faithful saints are admitted.

Inferences.—Who can conceive the immense felicity and glory of the church triumphant in heaven! All the images of light, beauty, honour, and grandeur, and of riches, safety, and delight, which we are acquainted with, are but faint representations of it. It is all new and surpassing every thing that can be found, or imagined, in the present frame of the universe. It is the holy city of the living God, shining in all his glory; a city built on Christ, who was laid, as its only foundation, by the ministry of the twelve apostles; and its inhabitants consist of the whole number of the faithful saints as collected together, and brought into it from all nations of the earth; its gates being open to them, who were typified by the twelve tribes of Israel. It is a state of complete and immortal bliss, absolutely secure and free from all darkness, pain, and uneasiness of every kind, and from death itself; those former things being passed away: and it is enlivened with all the joys and honours of a public solemnization of Christ's marriage with his church: it is inexpressibly more glorious than the most splendid city of beautiful, strong, and lofty walls, erected on solid foundations, and all embellished as with the most precious glittering stones; and magnificently adorned, as with gates of the most costly pearl, at which angels stand, like officers of state; and as if its streets were all over paved with the finest polished gold. All the riches and grandeur of the greater monarchs, and of all nations of the earth, are so far exceeded by it, swallowed up in it, and cheerfully resigned for it, as not worthy to be compared with its heavenly treasures. It is illuminated, honoured, and blessed with the immediate presence of God and the Lamb, as shining with amiable and divine majesty on their throne of glory, and as the beginners and perfecters of its happiness; insomuch that it needs no creature-enjoyments, like the sun and moon; nor any ordinances, like the temple at Jerusalem, to assist its heavenly entertainments: for God in Christ will be their God, and the everlasting fountain of all that is great and good; and they shall inherit all things, to the utmost of their wishes, as the gift of his free grace; and shall live together in holy, harmonious, and transporting fellowship with God, and Christ, and one another, in its ever-shining and unclouded light. But, alas! all that are ashamed of, or afraid to own the Lord, and every unbeliever and liar, with all other impenitent sinners who are abominable in god's sight, shall be utterly excluded from the heavenly state, and have their portion in everlasting burnings, which is the second death. These are the true and faithful sayings of God, which shall certainly have their full accomplishment, to the insupportable misery of impenitent sinners, and the consummate joy of the saints, for ever and ever.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The last glorious period now commences, of the heavenly felicity of God's saints; if that may be so called, which, though it has a beginning, never will have an end.

The blessedness of this heavenly state is described under the most august representations.

1. A new heaven and a new earth arise, where there is no sea; all storms, calamities, and troubles, being at an end, and an eternal rest remaining for the people of God.

2. A glorious city appears in view, such as earth never beheld, the new Jerusalem, whose maker and builder is God, beautiful as a bride adorned to meet the bridegroom, the emblem of the church of the faithful, who will then be consummately perfect in holiness and happiness for ever.

3. The unutterable felicity of God's saints is described by a voice from heaven, declaring, (1.) The residence of God in the midst of his people, admitting them into the nearest relation with his blessed Self, taking them for his own, and offering himself as their eternal portion. (2.) He will for ever banish sin, sorrow, and death from the celestial mansions; the former imperfect state is passed away, and that of perfect happiness is come.

4. The certainty of this bliss and blessedness is confirmed by the word of him that sitteth on the throne, Behold, I make all things new. And again he said, Write, for these words are true and faithful. And he added, It is done, the work of redemption is completely finished. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the Author and Finisher both of the old and new worlds, and of the happiness of my faithful saints; and am unchangeably existent, from eternity to eternity the same. I will give unto him that is athirst, of the fountain of the water of life freely; I open the springs, and they shall flow in abundance; and let every humble soul that desires it, freely come and quench his thirst.

5. The dreadful ruin of the wicked shall be as sure as the happiness of the saints: they are described as fearful, ashamed of the cross of Christ, and dreading the sufferings of his service; unbelieving, distrustful of his promises, and rejecting his word; abominable, the slaves of corrupt affections: all these, as well as murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, are doomed to suffer endless torment in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Woe to those on whom these sins are found; they are assuredly brands for the burning.

2dly, One of the ministering spirits who had lately been employed in pouring out the vials of wrath, leads the enraptured John to a nearer view from a neighbouring mountain, of the glorious city, the emblem of the church, the Lamb's wife, which he saw descending from heaven.

The glory of God, the divine Shechinah, was visible in the midst of her, affording her the brightest light, Jesus the Sun of righteousness shining upon her. A vast high wall encompassed her: and angelic guards waited at her gates, which were inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes: all of which denoted her invincible defence and security. The gates flood three on each side, looking to the four quarters of the heavens, open for the faithful who should come from all lands. The twelve foundations of the walls bore the names of the apostles on whom the church is built, Jesus Christ himself being the chief Cornerstone. The city being measured, appeared four-square, to signify the perfection, stability, and uniformity of the church above: it was fifteen hundred miles on each side, intimating the vast extent; and the height of the walls proportionable to its length and breadth, even one hundred and forty-four cubits: the building of the wall of it was of jasper; and the city was of pure gold like crystal, denoting its magnificence, durability, and glory; and the foundations were garnished with every precious stone, far brighter than those which glittered in the high-priest's breast-plate (Exodus 28:15-21 .): and the gates were each of one massy pearl; and the street of the city was of burnished gold, polished like crystal. Every thing excellent and dazzling in the sight of mortals, is here heaped together with amazing profusion; and yet how faintly can all these images convey the delights, blessedness, and perfection of the heavenly state, where such good things are prepared as pass man's understanding!

3dly,

1. No temple was found in this celestial city, immediate communion with the eternal God being here enjoyed, which renders needless all the present ordinances of approach to God.

2. No sun nor moon was wanted, where the uncreated Light himself abode: the glory of God and the Lamb, one in essential union with the Father and Spirit, is the light thereof.

3. There all the nations, saved through the atoning blood of Jesus, walk in the light of the Lord; and the potentates, who through grace partake of his salvation, bring thither their glory and honour, counting that they reign indeed when made kings and priests unto God in this eternal state of blessedness.

4. The gates stand open continually by day, and there is no night there, nor fear of invading foes. All that has ever appeared valuable and glorious among the nations here, is found there with infinitely surpassing excellence; and every thing defiling is forbidden admission: no liar, no idolater, can enter there, but only those whose names are written in the book of life of the Lamb. Note; Into the present church upon earth, hypocrites will insinuate themselves; but in heaven nothing unholy or impure can possibly be admitted

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 21:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/revelation-21.html. 1801-1803.

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