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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

Revelation 21



Other Authors
Verse 1

New ( καινὸν )

See on Matthew 26:29. Compare Isaiah 65:17.

There was no more sea ( ἡ θάλασσα οὐκ ἔστιν ἔπι )

Lit., as Rev., the sea is no more. Here as in Revelation 20:13. Some explain the sea as the ungodly world. I cannot help thinking this interpretation forced. According to this explanation, the passage is in the highest degree tautological. The first earth was passed away, and the ungodly world was no more.

Verse 2

I John

Omit John.

New Jerusalem

Others join new with coming down, and render coming down new out of heaven.

A bride

Compare Isaiah 61:10; Isaiah 62:5.

Verse 3

With men

Men at large. No longer with an isolated people like Israel.

He shall dwell ( σκηνώσει )

Lit., tabernacle. Only in Revelation and John 1:14. The word “denotes much more than the mere general notion of dwelling. There lies in it one of the particulars of that identification of Christ and His people which is fundamental to the seer.” See on John 1:14. Compare Ezekiel 37:27, Ezekiel 37:28.

People ( λαοὶ )

Notice the plural, peoples (so Rev.), because many nations shall partake of the fulfillment of the promise. Compare Revelation 21:24.

And God Himself shall be with them and be their God

And be is inserted. The Greek is shall be with them their God.

Verse 4

And God shall wipe away

Omit God. Read, as Rev., and He shall wipe away.

All tears ( πᾶν δάκρυον )

Lit., every tear. Compare Isaiah 25:8.

There shall be no more death ( ὁ θάνατος οὐκ ἔσται ἔτι )

Render, as Rev., death shall be no more.

Sorrow ( πένθος )

Better, as Rev., mourning, since the word signifies manifested grief. See on Matthew 5:4; see on James 4:9. Compare Isaiah 65:19. “That soul I say,” observes Socrates, “herself invisible, departs to the invisible world - to the divine and immortal and rational: thither arriving, she is secure of bliss, and is released from the error and folly of men, their fears and wild passions, and all other human ills, and forever dwells, as they say of the initiated, in company with the gods” (Plato, “Phaedo,” 81). So Sophocles:

“Sorrow touches not the dead.”

Oedipus Coloneus,” 966

“How thrice happy those of mortals, who, having had these ends in view, depart to Hades; for to them alone is it given there to live; but to others, all things there are evil” (“Fragment”). And Euripides:

“The dead, tearless, forgets his pains.”

Troades,” 606

Verse 5

True and faithful ( ἀληθινοὶ καὶ πιστοί )

The proper order of the Greek is the reverse, as Rev., faithful and true.

Verse 6

It is done ( γέγονεν )

The correct reading is γέγοναν theyare come to pass; i.e., these words.

Alpha and Omega

Both have the article, “the alpha,” etc. See on Revelation 1:8.

Unto him that is athirst

Compare Isaiah 55:1.

Fountain ( πηγῆς )

See on John 4:6.

Of the water of life

See John 4:10, John 4:14. Compare Isaiah 12:3.

Verse 7

All things ( πάντα )

The correct reading is ταῦτα thesethings. So Rev.

His God ( αὐτῷ Θεὸς )

Lit., God unto him.

My Son ( μοι ὁ υἱός )

Lit., the Son to me. See on John 1:12. This is the only place in John's writings where υἱός sonis used of the relation of man to God.

Verse 8

The fearful ( δειλοῖς )

The dative case. Hence, as Rev., for the fearful. Only here, Matthew 8:26, and Mark 4:40.

Abominable ( ἐβδελυγμένοις )

See on abomination, Matthew 24:15. Properly, defiled with abominations.

Whoremongers ( πόρνοις )

Much better, as Rev., fornicators.


See on sorceries, Revelation 9:21.

Shall have their part ( τὸ μέρος αὐτῶν )

Lit., the whole passage reads: to the fearful, etc., their part. Shall be is supplied.

Verse 9

Unto me



Properly bowls. See on Revelation 5:8.

Verse 10

In the Spirit

See on Revelation 1:10.


Compare Ezekiel 40:2.

That great city, the holy Jerusalem

Omit great. Render the article as usual, and not as a demonstrative pronoun, and construe holy with city. So Rev., the holy city Jerusalem.

Verse 11

Glory of God

Not merely divine brightness, but the presence of the God of glory Himself. Compare Exodus 40:34.

Light ( φωστὴρ )

Strictly, luminary; that with which the city is illumined, the heavenly Lamb. See Revelation 21:23. The word occurs only here and Philemon 2:15.


See on Revelation 4:3.

Clear as crystal ( κρυσταλλίζοντι )

Lit., shining like crystal.

Verse 12

And had ( ἔχουσάν τε )

Rev., more simply and literally, having.

Gates ( πυλῶνας )

Properly large gates. See on Luke 16:20; see on Acts 12:13. Compare Ezekiel 48:30sqq.

Verse 13

East ( ἀνατολῆς )

See on Matthew 2:2, and see on day-spring, Luke 1:78. See the tribes arranged by gates in Ezekiel 48:31-34.

West ( δυσμῶν )

Lit., the goings down or settings.

Verse 14

Foundations ( θεμελίους )

See on the kindred verb θεμελιώσει shaltsettle, 1 Peter 5:10.

In them the names ( ἐν αὐτοῖς ὀνόματα )

The correct reading is ἐπ ' αὐτῶν δώδεκα ὀνόματα, onthem twelve names.

Verse 15

A golden reed

Add μέτρον as a measure. See Revelation 11:1. Compare Ezekiel 40:5.

Verse 16

Four square ( τετράγωνος )

From τέτρα fourand γωνία anangle. Only here in the New Testament. Compare Ezekiel 48:16, Ezekiel 48:20. Twelve-thousand furlongs ( ἐπὶ σταδίων δώδεκα χιλιάδων ). Strictly, to the length of ( ἐπί ) twelve, etc. For the collective term χιλιάδες thousandssee on Revelation 5:11. For furlongs see on Revelation 14:20. The twelve-thousand furlongs would be 1378.97 English miles. Interpretations vary hopelessly. The description seems to be that of a vast cube, which may have been suggested by the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle, which was of that shape. But opinions differ as to whether the twelve thousand furlongs are the measure of the four sides of the city taken together, in which case each side will measure three thousand furlongs; or whether the twelve-thousand furlongs are intended to represent the length of each side. The former explanation is prompted by the desire to reduce the vast dimensions of the city. Another difficulty is raised about the height. Düsterdieck, for example, maintains that the houses were three-thousand stadia in height. The question arises whether the vertical surface of the cube includes the hill or rock on which the city was placed, a view to which Alford inclines. These are enough to show how utterly futile are attempts to reduce these symbolic visions to mathematical statement. Professor Milligan aptly remarks: “Nor is it of the smallest moment to reduce the enormous dimensions spoken of. No reduction brings them within the bounds of verisimilitude; and no effort in that direction is required. The idea is alone to be thought of.”

Verse 17

Cubits ( πηχῶν )

The word originally means that part of the arm between the hand and the elbow-joint, the forearm. Hence a cubit or ell, a measure of the distance from the joint of the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, i.e., about a foot and a half. The precise length, however, is disputed. Cubit is from the Latin cubitus the elbow, on which one reclines (cubat ). Some take the one hundred and forty-four cubits as representing the height of the wall; others the thickness. If the height, then they must be interpreted as equal to the twelve thousand furlongs, since the length and the breadth and the height of the city are equal (Revelation 21:16). It is to be noted, however, that there is a distinction between the measure of the city and the measure of the wall. “The most inconsiderable wall” remarks Düsterdieck, “is sufficient to exclude all that is impure.”

The measure of a man, that is, of the angel

“It is to be the dwelling-place of men; and even, therefore, when an angel measures it, he measures it according to the measure of a man” (Milligan).

Verse 18

The building ( ἐνδόμησις )

Only here in the New Testament. From ἐν inand δωμάω tobuild. Lit., that which is built in. Hence the building of the wall is the material built into the wall; of which the wall was composed.

Glass ( ὑάλῳ )

Only here and Revelation 21:21. For the kindred adjective ὑάλινος ofglass, see on Revelation 4:6.

Verse 19

All manner of precious stones

Compare Isaiah href="/desk/?q=isa+12:1-6&sr=1">Isaiah 12:1-6; 1 Chronicles 29:2.

Sapphire ( σάπφειρος )

Compare Isaiah 54:11; Ezekiel 1:26. Probably lapis lazuli. Our sapphire is supposed to be represented by the jacinth in Revelation 21:20. Pliny describes the σάπφειρος as opaque and sprinkled with specks of gold, and states that it came from Media (i.e. Persia and Bokhara) whence the supply is brought to this day. King (“Precious Stones and Gems,” cited by Lee), says: “Before the true precious stones were introduced from India, the lapis lazuli held the highest place in the estimation of the primitive nations of Asia and Greece; in fact it was almost the only stone known to them having beauty of color to recommend it.”

Chalcedony ( χαλκηδών )

From Chalcedon, where the stone was found in the neighboring copper mines. It was probably an inferior species of emerald, as crystal of carbonate of copper, which is still popularly called “the copper emerald.” Pliny describes it as small and brittle, changing its color when moved about, like the green feathers in the necks of peacocks and pigeons.


See on Revelation 4:3.

Verse 20

Sardonyx ( σαρδόνυξ )

The most beautiful and rarest variety of onyx. Pliny defines it as originally signifying a white mark in a sard, like the human nail ( ὄνυξ ) placed upon flesh, and both of them transparent. Onyx is called from the resemblance of its white and yellow veins to the shades in the human finger-nail. The early Greeks make no distinction between the onyx and the sardonyx.


See on Revelation 4:3.

Chrysolite ( χρυσόλιθος )

From χρυσός goldand λίθος stoneLit., gold-stone. Identified by some with our topaz, by others with amber. Pliny describes it as “translucent with golden luster.”

Beryl ( βήρυλλος )

Pliny says that it resembled the greenness of the pure sea. It has been supposed to be of the same or similar nature with the emerald.

Topaz ( τοπάζιον )

Compare Job 28:19. The name was derived from an island in the Red Sea where the gem was first discovered. The stone is our peridot. The Roman lapidaries distinguished the two varieties, the chrysopteron, our chrysolite, and the prasoides, our peridot. The former is much harder, and the yellow color predominates over the green. The modern topaz was entirely unknown to the ancients.


Rev., chrysoprase. From χρυσός goldand πράσον a leek; the color being a translucent, golden green, like that of a leek. According to Pliny it was a variety of the beryl.

Jacinth ( ὑάκινθος )

See on Revelation 9:17.

Amethyst ( ἀμέθυστος )

From ἀ notand μεθύω tobe drunken in wine, the stone being supposed to avert intoxication. Pliny distinguishes it from the jacinth, in that, in the latter, the violet hue of the amethyst is diluted. The stone is the amethystine quartz, or rock-crystal, colored purple by manganese of iron.

Verse 21

Pearls ( μαργαρίται )

The pearl seems to have been known from the earliest times to the Asiatic Greeks, in consequence of their intercourse with the Persians. Among the motives which impelled Caesar to attempt the conquest of Britain, was the fame of its pearl-fisheries. Pearls held the highest rank among precious stones. The Latin term unio (unity ) was applied to the pearl because no two were found exactly alike; but the word became in time restricted to the fine, spherical pearls, while the generic name was margarita. Shakespeare uses union for pearl in Hamlet, Act v., Sc. 2.

“The king shall drink to Hamlet's better health:

And in the cup an union shall he throw

Richer than that which four successive kings

In Denmark's crown have worn.”

And again:

“Drink of this potion: is thy union here?”

Every several gate ( ἀνὰ εἷς ἕκαστος τῶν πυλώνων )

Rev., each one of the several gates, thus bringing out the force of the genitive πυλώνων ofgates. The idea several is conveyed by ἀνά , as Luke 9:3, ἀνὰ δύο χιτῶνας “two coats apiece:” John 2:6, ἀνὰ μετρητὰξ δύο ἣ τρεῖς “two or three firkins apiece.”

Street ( πλατεῖα )

See on Luke 14:21. From πλατύς broadHence the broadway.

Verse 22

No temple

The entire city is now one holy temple of God. See on Revelation 1:6.

Verse 23

The glory of God did lighten it

Compare Isaiah 60:19, Isaiah 60:20.

The light ( ὁ λύχνος )

Rev., better, lamp. See on John 5:35.

Verse 24

Of them which are saved


In the light ( ἐν τῷ φωτὶ )

Read διὰ τοῦ φωτὸς amidst the light” or “by the light.”

Do bring ( φέρουσιν )

The present tense, denoting habit.

Glory and honor

Omit and honor. Compare Isaiah 60:3.

Verse 27

That defileth ( κοινοῦν )

The participle. But the correct reading is the adjective κοινὸν commonhence unhallowed. Rev., unclean.

Worketh ( ποιοῦν )

Lit., maketh or doeth.

“In this present life, I reckon that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we have the least possible communion or fellowship with the body, and are not infected with the bodily nature, but remain pure until the hour when God himself is pleased to release us. And then the foolishness of the body will be cleared away, and we shall be pure and hold converse with other pure souls, and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere, which is no other than the light of truth. For no impure thing is allowed to approach the pure” (Plato, “Phaedo,” 67).



Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 21:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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