Revelation Part 13: The Triumph of Almighty God (Revelation 20-22)
(New American Standard Bible, 1995):
Rev. 20:1 ¶ Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.
Rev. 20:2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;
Rev. 20:3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.
Rev. 20:4 ¶ Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
Rev. 20:5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.
Rev. 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
Rev. 20:7 ¶ When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison,
Rev. 20:8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.
Rev. 20:9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
Rev. 20:10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Rev. 20:11 ¶ Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
Rev. 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
Rev. 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
Rev. 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
Rev. 20:15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Rev. 21:1 ¶ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
Rev. 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
Rev. 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,
Rev. 21:4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
Rev. 21:5 ¶ And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He *said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."
Rev. 21:6 Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
Rev. 21:7 "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
Rev. 21:8 "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Rev. 21:9 ¶ Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
Rev. 21:10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
Rev. 21:11 having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.
Rev. 21:12 It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.
Rev. 21:13 There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west.
Rev. 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Rev. 21:15 ¶ The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall.
Rev. 21:16 The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.
Rev. 21:17 And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements.
Rev. 21:18 The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
Rev. 21:19 The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald;
Rev. 21:20 the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.
Rev. 21:21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
Rev. 21:22 ¶ I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
Rev. 21:23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.
Rev. 21:24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.
Rev. 21:25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed;
Rev. 21:26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it;
Rev. 21:27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Rev. 22:1 ¶ Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb,
Rev. 22:2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Rev. 22:3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him;
Rev. 22:4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.
Rev. 22:5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.
Rev. 22:6 ¶ And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true"; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.
Rev. 22:7 ¶ "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."
Rev. 22:8 ¶ I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
Rev. 22:9 But he *said to me, "Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God."
Rev. 22:10 ¶ And he *said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.
Rev. 22:11 "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy."
Rev. 22:12 ¶ "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
Rev. 22:13 "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
Rev. 22:14 ¶ Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
Rev. 22:15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
Rev. 22:16 ¶ "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."
Rev. 22:17 ¶ The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
Rev. 22:18 ¶ I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;
Rev. 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
Rev. 22:20 ¶ He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Rev. 22:21 ¶ The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Novum Testamentum Graece (New Testament in Greek)
Nestle-Aland, 27th Edition, prepared by Institut für neutestamentliche Testforschung Münster/Westfalen, Barbara and Kurt Aland (Editors). Copyright © 1898 and 1993 by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
Used by permission.
Morphological tagging by William D. Mounce and Rex A. Koivisto
Copyright © 2003 William D. Mounce.
Copyright © 2006 OakTree Software, Inc.
All rights reserved.
(You must have the Helena font installed in order to see the Greek text rendered correctly; it can be obtained here: http://www.accordancebible.com/)
Rev. 20:1 Ļ Kai« ei•don aŗggelon katabai÷nonta eķk touv oujranouv, e¶conta th\n klei√n thvß aÓbu/ssou kai« a‚lusin megaņlhn eķpi« th\n cei√ra aujtouv.
Rev. 20:2 kai« eķkraņthsen to\n draņkonta, oJ oŃfiß oJ aÓrcai√oß, oĘß eķstin Diaņboloß kai« ÔO Satana◊ß, kai« e¶dhsen aujto\n ci÷lia e¶th,
Rev. 20:3 kai« e¶balen aujto\n eiķß th\n aŗbusson, kai« e¶kleisen kai« eķsfraņgisen eķpaņnw aujtouv, iľna mh\ planh/shĮ e¶ti ta» e¶qnh, aŗcri telesqhĮv ta» ci÷lia e¶th: meta» tauvta dei√ luqhvnai aujto\n mikro\n cro/non.
Rev. 20:4 Kai« ei•don qro/nouß, kai« eķkaņqisan eķp∆ aujtou/ß, kai« kri÷ma eķdo/qh aujtoi√ß, kai« ta»ß yuca»ß tw◊n pepelekisme÷nwn dia» th\n marturi÷an ∆Ihsouv kai« dia» to\n lo/gon touv qeouv, kai« oiľtineß ouj proseku/nhsan to\ qhri÷on oujde« th\n eiķko/na aujtouv kai« oujk e¶labon to\ caņragma eķpi« to\ me÷twpon kai« eķpi« th\n cei√ra aujtw◊n: kai« e¶zhsan kai« eķbasi÷leusan meta» touv cristouv ci÷lia e¶th.
Rev. 20:5 oiŻ loipoi« tw◊n nekrw◊n oujk e¶zhsan aŗcri telesqhĮv ta» ci÷lia e¶th. auĘth hJ aÓnaņstasiß hJ prwņth.
Rev. 20:6 makaņrioß kai« a‚gioß oJ e¶cwn me÷roß eķn thĮv aÓnastaņsei thĮv prwņthĮ: eķpi« tou/twn oJ deu/teroß qaņnatoß oujk e¶cei eķxousi÷an, aÓll∆ e¶sontai iŻerei√ß touv qeouv kai« touv cristouv, kai« basileu/sousin met∆ aujtouv [ta»] ci÷lia e¶th.
Rev. 20:7 Kai« oĘtan telesqhĮv ta» ci÷lia e¶th, luqh/setai oJ Satana◊ß eķk thvß fulakhvß aujtouv,
Rev. 20:8 kai« eķxeleu/setai planhvsai ta» e¶qnh ta» eķn tai√ß te÷ssarsin gwni÷aiß thvß ghvß, to\n Gw»g kai« Magwņg, sunagagei√n aujtou\ß eiķß to\n po/lemon, w—n oJ aÓriqmo\ß aujtw◊n wJß hJ aŗmmoß thvß qalaņsshß.
Rev. 20:9 kai« aÓne÷bhsan eķpi« to\ plaņtoß thvß ghvß, kai« eķku/kleusan th\n parembolh\n tw◊n aJgi÷wn kai« th\n po/lin th\n hjgaphme÷nhn, kai« kate÷bh puvr eķk touv oujranouv kai« kate÷fagen aujtou/ß:
Rev. 20:10 kai« oJ diaņboloß oJ planw◊n aujtou\ß eķblh/qh eiķß th\n li÷mnhn touv puro\ß kai« qei÷ou, oĘpou kai« to\ qhri÷on kai« oJ yeudoprofh/thß, kai« basanisqh/sontai hJme÷raß kai« nukto\ß eiķß tou\ß aiķw◊naß tw◊n aiķwņnwn.
Rev. 20:11 Ļ Kai« ei•don qro/non me÷gan leuko\n kai« to\n kaqh/menon eķp∆ aujtouv, ouį aÓpo\ touv proswņpou e¶fugen hJ ghv kai« oJ oujrano/ß, kai« to/poß oujc euJre÷qh aujtoi√ß.
Rev. 20:12 kai« ei•don tou\ß nekrou/ß, tou\ß megaņlouß kai« tou\ß mikrou/ß, eŻstw◊taß eķnwņpion touv qro/nou. kai« bibli÷a hjnoi÷cqhsan: kai« aŗllo bibli÷on hjnoi÷cqh, oĘ eķstin thvß zwhvß: kai« eķkri÷qhsan oiŻ nekroi« eķk tw◊n gegramme÷nwn eķn toi√ß bibli÷oiß kata» ta» e¶rga aujtw◊n.
Rev. 20:13 kai« e¶dwken hJ qaņlassa tou\ß nekrou\ß tou\ß eķn aujthĮv, kai« oJ qaņnatoß kai« oJ aŲ‚dhß e¶dwkan tou\ß nekrou\ß tou\ß eķn aujtoi√ß, kai« eķkri÷qhsan eľkastoß kata» ta» e¶rga aujtw◊n.
Rev. 20:14 kai« oJ qaņnatoß kai« oJ aŲ‚dhß eķblh/qhsan eiķß th\n li÷mnhn touv puro/ß. ouįtoß oJ qaņnatoß oJ deu/tero/ß eķstin, hJ li÷mnh touv puro/ß.
Rev. 20:15 kai« ei¶ tiß oujc euJre÷qh eķn thĮv bi÷blwŲ thvß zwhvß gegramme÷noß eķblh/qh eiķß th\n li÷mnhn touv puro/ß.
Rev. 21:1 Kai« ei•don oujrano\n kaino\n kai« ghvn kainh/n: oJ ga»r prw◊toß oujrano\ß kai« hJ prwņth ghv aÓphvlqan, kai« hJ qaņlassa oujk e¶stin e¶ti.
Rev. 21:2 kai« th\n po/lin th\n aJgi÷an ∆Ierousalh\m kainh\n ei•don katabai÷nousan eķk touv oujranouv aÓpo\ touv qeouv, hJtoimasme÷nhn wJß nu/mfhn kekosmhme÷nhn twŲ◊ aÓndri« aujthvß.
Rev. 21:3 kai« hŃkousa fwnhvß megaņlhß eķk touv qro/nou legou/shß ∆Idou\ hJ skhnh\ touv qeouv meta» tw◊n aÓnqrwņpwn, kai« skhnwņsei met∆ aujtw◊n, kai« aujtoi« laoi« aujtouv e¶sontai, kai« aujto\ß oJ qeo\ß met∆ aujtw◊n e¶stai,
Rev. 21:4 kai« eķxalei÷yei pa◊n daņkruon eķk tw◊n ojfqalmw◊n aujtw◊n, kai« oJ qaņnatoß oujk e¶stai e¶ti: ouŃte pe÷nqoß ouŃte kraugh\ ouŃte po/noß oujk e¶stai e¶ti. ta» prw◊ta aÓphvlqan.
Rev. 21:5 kai« ei•pen oJ kaqh/menoß eķpi« twŲ◊ qro/nwŲ ∆Idou\ kaina» poiw◊ paņnta. kai« le÷gei Graņyon, oĘti ouįtoi oiŻ lo/goi pistoi« kai« aÓlhqinoi÷ eiķsin.
Rev. 21:6 kai« ei•pe÷n moi Ge÷gonan. eķgwņ to\ ŕAlfa kai« to\ ŘW, hJ aÓrch\ kai« to\ te÷loß. eķgw» twŲ◊ diyw◊nti dwņsw eķk thvß phghvß touv uĘdatoß thvß zwhvß dwreaņn.
Rev. 21:7 oJ nikw◊n klhronomh/sei tauvta, kai« e¶somai aujtwŲ◊ qeo\ß kai« aujto\ß e¶stai moi uiŻo/ß.
Rev. 21:8 toi√ß de« deiloi√ß kai« aÓpi÷stoiß kai« eķbdelugme÷noiß kai« foneuvsin kai« po/rnoiß kai« farmaņkoiß kai« eiķdwlolaņtraiß kai« pa◊sin toi√ß yeude÷sin to\ me÷roß aujtw◊n eķn thĮv li÷mnhĮ thĮv kaiome÷nhĮ puri« kai« qei÷wŲ, oĘ eķstin oJ qaņnatoß oJ deu/teroß.
Rev. 21:9 Ļ Kai« h™lqen ei–ß eķk tw◊n eŻpta» aÓgge÷lwn tw◊n eķco/ntwn ta»ß eŻpta» fiaņlaß, tw◊n gemo/ntwn tw◊n eŻpta» plhgw◊n tw◊n eķscaņtwn, kai« eķlaņlhsen met∆ eķmouv le÷gwn Deuvro, dei÷xw soi th\n nu/mfhn th\n gunai√ka touv aÓrni÷ou.
Rev. 21:10 kai« aÓph/negke÷n me eķn pneu/mati eķpi« oŃroß me÷ga kai« uJyhlo/n, kai« e¶deixe÷n moi th\n po/lin th\n aJgi÷an ∆Ierousalh\m katabai÷nousan eķk touv oujranouv aÓpo\ touv qeouv,
Rev. 21:11 e¶cousan th\n do/xan touv qeouv: oJ fwsth\r aujthvß oĘmoioß li÷qwŲ timiwtaņtwŲ, wJß li÷qwŲ iķaņspidi krustalli÷zonti:
Rev. 21:12 e¶cousa tei√coß me÷ga kai« uJyhlo/n, e¶cousa pulw◊naß dwņdeka, kai« eķpi« toi√ß pulw◊sin aÓgge÷louß dwņdeka, kai« ojno/mata eķpigegramme÷na a‚ eķstin tw◊n dwņdeka fulw◊n uiŻw◊n ∆Israh/l:
Rev. 21:13 aÓpo\ aÓnatolhvß pulw◊neß trei√ß, kai« aÓpo\ borra◊ pulw◊neß trei√ß, kai« aÓpo\ no/tou pulw◊neß trei√ß, kai« aÓpo\ dusmw◊n pulw◊neß trei√ß:
Rev. 21:14 kai« to\ tei√coß thvß po/lewß e¶cwn qemeli÷ouß dwņdeka, kai« eķp∆ aujtw◊n dwņdeka ojno/mata tw◊n dwņdeka aÓposto/lwn touv aÓrni÷ou.
Rev. 21:15 Kai« oJ lalw◊n met∆ eķmouv ei•cen me÷tron kaņlamon crusouvn, iľna metrh/shĮ th\n po/lin kai« tou\ß pulw◊naß aujthvß kai« to\ tei√coß aujthvß.
Rev. 21:16 kai« hJ po/liß tetraņgwnoß kei√tai, kai« to\ mhvkoß aujthvß oĘson to\ plaņtoß. kai« eķme÷trhsen th\n po/lin twŲ◊ kalaņmwŲ eķpi« stadi÷wn dwņdeka ciliaņdwn: to\ mhvkoß kai« to\ plaņtoß kai« to\ uĘyoß aujthvß i¶sa eķsti÷n.
Rev. 21:17 kai« eķme÷trhsen to\ tei√coß aujthvß eŻkato\n tesseraņkonta tessaņrwn phcw◊n, me÷tron aÓnqrwņpou, oĘ eķstin aÓgge÷lou.
Rev. 21:18 kai« hJ eķndwņmhsiß touv tei÷couß aujthvß i¶aspiß, kai« hJ po/liß crusi÷on kaqaro\n oĘmoion uJaņlwŲ kaqarwŲ◊:
Rev. 21:19 oiŻ qeme÷lioi touv tei÷couß thvß po/lewß panti« li÷qwŲ timi÷wŲ kekosmhme÷noi: oJ qeme÷lioß oJ prw◊toß i¶aspiß, oJ deu/teroß saņpfeiroß, oJ tri÷toß calkhdwņn, oJ te÷tartoß smaņragdoß,
Rev. 21:20 oJ pe÷mptoß sardo/nux, oJ eľktoß saņrdion, oJ eľbdomoß cruso/liqoß, oJ oŃgdooß bh/rulloß, oJ e¶natoß topaņzion, oJ de÷katoß cruso/prasoß, oJ eŻnde÷katoß uJaņkinqoß, oJ dwde÷katoß aÓme÷qustoß:
Rev. 21:21 kai« oiŻ dwņdeka pulw◊neß dwņdeka margari√tai, aÓna» ei–ß eľkastoß tw◊n pulwņnwn h™n eķx eŻno\ß margari÷tou: kai« hJ platei√a thvß po/lewß crusi÷on kaqaro\n wJß uĘaloß diaugh/ß.
Rev. 21:22 Kai« nao\n oujk ei•don eķn aujthĮv, oJ ga»r ku/rioß, oJ qeo/ß, oJ pantokraņtwr, nao\ß aujthvß eķsti÷n, kai« to\ aÓrni÷on.
Rev. 21:23 kai« hJ po/liß ouj crei÷an e¶cei touv hJli÷ou oujde« thvß selh/nhß, iľna fai÷nwsin aujthĮv, hJ ga»r do/xa touv qeouv eķfwņtisen aujth/n, kai« oJ lu/cnoß aujthvß to\ aÓrni÷on.
Rev. 21:24 kai« peripath/sousin ta» e¶qnh dia» touv fwto\ß aujthvß: kai« oiŻ basilei√ß thvß ghvß fe÷rousin th\n do/xan aujtw◊n eiķß aujth/n:
Rev. 21:25 kai« oiŻ pulw◊neß aujthvß ouj mh\ kleisqw◊sin hJme÷raß, nu\x ga»r oujk e¶stai eķkei√
Rev. 21:26 kai« oi¶sousin th\n do/xan kai« th\n timh\n tw◊n eķqnw◊n eiķß aujth/n.
Rev. 21:27 kai« ouj mh\ eiķse÷lqhĮ eiķß aujth\n pa◊n koino\n kai« [oJ] poiw◊n bde÷lugma kai« yeuvdoß, eiķ mh\ oiŻ gegramme÷noi eķn twŲ◊ bibli÷wŲ thvß zwhvß touv aÓrni÷ou.
Rev. 22:1 kai« e¶deixe÷n moi potamo\n uĘdatoß zwhvß lampro\n wJß kru/stallon, eķkporeuo/menon eķk touv qro/nou touv qeouv kai« touv aÓrni÷ou
Rev. 22:2 eķn me÷swŲ thvß platei÷aß aujthvß: kai« touv potamouv eķnteuvqen kai« eķkei√qen xu/lon zwhvß poiouvn karpou\ß dwņdeka, kata» mhvna eľkaston aÓpodidouvn to\n karpo\n aujtouv, kai« ta» fu/lla touv xu/lou eiķß qerapei÷an tw◊n eķqnw◊n.
Rev. 22:3 kai« pa◊n kataņqema oujk e¶stai e¶ti. kai« oJ qro/noß touv qeouv kai« touv aÓrni÷ou eķn aujthĮv e¶stai, kai« oiŻ douvloi aujtouv latreu/sousin aujtwŲ◊,
Rev. 22:4 kai« oŃyontai to\ pro/swpon aujtouv, kai« to\ oŃnoma aujtouv eķpi« tw◊n metwņpwn aujtw◊n.
Rev. 22:5 kai« nu\x oujk e¶stai e¶ti, kai« oujk e¶cousin crei÷an fwto\ß lu/cnou kai« fw◊ß hJli÷ou, oĘti Ku/rioß oJ qeo\ß fwti÷sei [eķp∆] aujtou/ß, kai« basileu/sousin eiķß tou\ß aiķw◊naß tw◊n aiķwņnwn.
Rev. 22:6 Ļ Kai« ei•pe÷n moi Ouįtoi oiŻ lo/goi pistoi« kai« aÓlhqinoi÷, kai« oJ ku/rioß, oJ qeo\ß tw◊n pneumaņtwn tw◊n profhtw◊n, aÓpe÷steilen to\n aŗggelon aujtouv dei√xai toi√ß dou/loiß aujtouv aĪ dei√ gene÷sqai eķn taņcei:
Rev. 22:7 kai÷ ∆Idou\ e¶rcomai tacu/: makaņrioß oJ thrw◊n tou\ß lo/gouß thvß profhtei÷aß touv bibli÷ou tou/tou.
Rev. 22:8 KaÓgw» ∆Iwaņnhß oJ aÓkou/wn kai« ble÷pwn tauvta. kai« oĘte hŃkousa kai« e¶bleya, e¶pesa proskunhvsai e¶mprosqen tw◊n podw◊n touv aÓgge÷lou touv deiknu/onto/ß moi tauvta.
Rev. 22:9 kai« le÷gei moi ›Ora mh/: su/ndoulo/ß sou/ eiķmi kai« tw◊n aÓdelfw◊n sou tw◊n profhtw◊n kai« tw◊n throu/ntwn tou\ß lo/gouß touv bibli÷ou tou/tou: twŲ◊ qewŲ◊ prosku/nhson.
Rev. 22:10 Kai« le÷gei moi Mh\ sfragi÷shĮß tou\ß lo/gouß thvß profhtei÷aß touv bibli÷ou tou/tou, oJ kairo\ß ga»r eķggu/ß eķstin.
Rev. 22:11 oJ aÓdikw◊n aÓdikhsaņtw e¶ti, kai« oJ rJuparo\ß rJupanqh/tw e¶ti, kai« oJ di÷kaioß dikaiosu/nhn poihsaņtw e¶ti, kai« oJ a‚gioß aJgiasqh/tw e¶ti. _
Rev. 22:12 ∆Idou\ e¶rcomai tacu/, kai« oJ misqo/ß mou met∆ eķmouv, aÓpodouvnai eŻkaņstwŲ wJß to\ e¶rgon eķsti«n aujtouv.
Rev. 22:13 eķgw» to\ ŕAlfa kai« to\ ŘW, oJ prw◊toß kai« oJ e¶scatoß, hJ aÓrch\ kai« to\ te÷loß. _
Rev. 22:14 Makaņrioi oiŻ plu/nonteß ta»ß stola»ß aujtw◊n, iľna e¶stai hJ eķxousi÷a aujtw◊n eķpi« to\ xu/lon thvß zwhvß kai« toi√ß pulw◊sin eiķse÷lqwsin eiķß th\n po/lin.
Rev. 22:15 e¶xw oiŻ ku/neß kai« oiŻ faņrmakoi kai« oiŻ po/rnoi kai« oiŻ fonei√ß kai« oiŻ eiķdwlolaņtrai kai« pa◊ß filw◊n kai« poiw◊n yeuvdoß.
Rev. 22:16 Ļ ∆Egw» ∆Ihsouvß e¶pemya to\n aŗggelo/n mou marturhvsai uJmi√n tauvta eķpi« tai√ß eķkklhsi÷aiß. eķgwņ eiķmi hJ rJi÷za kai« to\ ge÷noß Dauei÷d, oJ aÓsth\r oJ lampro/ß, oJ prwino/ß.
Rev. 22:17 Ļ Kai« to\ pneuvma kai« hJ nu/mfh le÷gousin ŕErcou: kai« oJ aÓkou/wn eiķpaņtw ŕErcou. kai« oJ diyw◊n eķrce÷sqw, oJ qe÷lwn labe÷tw uĘdwr zwhvß dwreaņn.
Rev. 22:18 Ļ Marturw◊ eķgw» panti« twŲ◊ aÓkou/onti tou\ß lo/gouß thvß profhtei÷aß touv bibli÷ou tou/tou: eķaņn tiß eķpiqhĮv eķp∆ aujtaņ, eķpiqh/sei oJ qeo\ß eķp∆ aujto\n ta»ß plhga»ß ta»ß gegramme÷naß eķn twŲ◊ bibli÷wŲ tou/twŲ:
Rev. 22:19 kai« eķaņn tiß aÓfe÷lhĮ aÓpo\ tw◊n lo/gwn touv bibli÷ou thvß profhtei÷aß tau/thß, aÓfelei√ oJ qeo\ß to\ me÷roß aujtouv aÓpo\ touv xu/lou thvß zwhvß kai« eķk thvß po/lewß thvß aJgi÷aß, tw◊n gegramme÷nwn eķn twŲ◊ bibli÷wŲ tou/twŲ.
Rev. 22:20 Ļ Le÷gei oJ marturw◊n tauvta Nai÷: e¶rcomai tacu/. ∆Amh/n: e¶rcou, ku/rie ∆Ihsouv.
Rev. 22:21 Ļ ÔH caņriß touv kuri÷ou ∆Ihsouv [Cristo\ß] meta» tw◊n aJgi÷wn.
VIII. The Triumph of Almighty God (17:1-22:5)
A. The Fall of Babylon (17:1-19:5)
B. The Wedding Supper of the Lamb (19:6-10)
C. The Final Battle (19:11-21)
D. The Reign of the Saints and the Final Judgment (20:1-15)
E. New Heavens and New Earth (21:1-22:5)
IX. Epilogue (22:6-21)
20:2 Another passage which has inspired countless arguments, concerning the "thousand years" period. This is known as the Millennial Reign, and there are three basic approaches to interpreting this verse: (definitions from the IVP Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, not my own):
1. Premillennial: The view that the millennium follows the return of Christ, which therefore makes his return "premillennial." In the teaching of some premillennialists the millennium will begin supernaturally and cataclysmically, preceded by signs of apostasy, worldwide preaching of the gospel, war, famine, earthquakes, the coming of the antichrist and the great tribulation. Jesus will then return and rule on the earth with his saints for one thousand years, during which time peace will reign, the natural world will no longer be cursed and evil will be suppressed. After a final rebellion, God will crush evil forever; judge the resurrected, nonbelieving dead; and establish heaven and hell.
2. Postmillennial: The view that Christ's second coming will follow the millennium; that is, his return is postmillennial. Postmillennialists assert that the millennium will come by the spiritual and moral influence of Christian preaching and teaching in the world. This will result in increased conversions, a more important role of the church in the world, earthly prosperity, the resolution of social ills and a general adoption of Christian values. Evil will diminish until the time of Christ's second coming, which will mark as well the resurrection of the dead and the last judgment.
3. Amillennial: The belief that the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 do not represent a specific period of time between Christ's first and second comings. Many amillennialists believe instead that the millennium refers to the heavenly reign of Christ and the departed saints during the Church Age. Amillennialists usually understand Revelation 20 to mean that the return of Christ will occur at the end of history and that the church presently lives in the final era of history. See also premillennialism; postmillennialism.
20:4 Who are these that have been "given authority to judge"? There is no clear consensus among all the commentators over the centuries, but the usual list of possibilities includes:
- God, Christ and the angels
- The 24 elders of Revelation 4:4
- The martyrs and those who refused to worship the beast
- All the named saints of both the Old and New Testament (the Roman Catholic Church has a variation on this, that it will be all of the saints named as such by the RCC)
However, as Robert Mounce points out, "Since the text remains silent about the occupants of the thrones, it may be wise not to go beyond suggesting that they may be a heavenly court (as in Daniel 7:26) that will assist in judgment." The Greek word used here is aujtou/ß (autous), which simply means "they."
20:5-6 The "rest of the dead" may refer to all except the tribulation saints, or it may mean only the unbelievers, who will remain asleep until the final day of judgment. There is serious divisions about this seemingly straightforward statement, all throughout the long history of Christian commentary. For the record, the two commentators I tend to rely on most heavily, John MacArthur and Robert Mounce, each have a differing view; MacArthur sees all believers reigning with Christ throughout the Millennial reign, while Mounce see this as the "reign of the martyrs," only.
20: 8-10 Yes, it is a mystery as to why Satan was bound for a thousand years and then released to torment the Earth again. No, I cannot answer this mystery.
20: 8 Gog and Magog. It is clear from the context that these are not specific names of specific countries, but a general reference to human leaders and physical nations who side with Satan against God in the final struggle.
20:11 The White Throne Judgment. There is some dispute as to who it is that sits in judgment, but John 5:22 makes it clear that this is Christ Himself. This is the same scene as described in almost identical detail in Daniel 7:9-10.
20:11 "Earth and sky fled from his presence." This is nothing less than the sudden and immediate "un-creation" of Earth and the universe, as Barnhouse writes. It is simply gone, soon to be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth, as promised in 21:1.
20:12 Depending on your interpretation of 20:5-6 is who stands before the judgment seat of Christ. This is somewhat significant for believers, as it seems to imply, again depending on your individual, Holy Spirit guided interpretation, that those who believe in and are sealed by Christ (the "real" Christians) may or may not be present for this judgment.
20:12 The "works" referred to here inspire, in part, a serious heresy, namely that works in and of themselves may bring salvation. Considering this passage, along with the similar references in Jeremiah 17:10, Romans 2:6, and 1 Peter 1:17, makes it clear that the reference is to "fruits of the spirit," e.g. the works that a true believers produce, that evidence his true conversion and submission to God.
21:8 A Jewish reference to the traditional promise that they will not have to share eternity with sinners. "Liars" in this context are the false teachers of scripture and doctrine, those whom pretend to be among the faithful, but who in fact spread the lies of Satan.
21:16 The size of the New Jerusalem will be vast, even if one takes these measurements as literal and not figurative. "12,000" is another "perfect" number, but if literal, the city will be cube shaped, 1,400 miles to each side. Most likely, with all of the references to exquisite and costly jewels and other luxuries, it is meant as a metaphoric reference to the most possibly perfect dwelling place, whose foundations are the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles, and whose light and radiance is none other than God Himself.
21: 25 Walled cities like Jerusalem were the only safe refuge in times of war and raids from hostile foreigners, the gates were shut "at night," meaning when trouble was likely or suspected. Since there will never again be war or bloodshed, there will never again be a need to hide inside a fortress.
22:2-3 The trees of life appear again, a bookend to the scriptural reference in Genesis 2:9. This time there is no curse attached to eating of their fruit, as sin and evil have been banished forever, and there is no need to prevent sinful (or potentially sinful) humans from eating of them and living forever with their sin.
22:4 God does not need to hide His face from his creations anymore, their sins have been washed away and they are pure and holy enough to be in His presence. "His name on their foreheads" refers to the fact that they now belong to Him.
22:15 "Dogs" was a common euphemism of the male prostitutes in the temples of Baal, considered the most extreme of the unregenerate sinners in the eyes of Jews.
22:20 Ancient people, including Jewish people, used curse invocations as the opposite of blessings. "Marana tha" (TEV) is an Aramaic prayer, "Come, our Lord." That the Corinthians would understand it means that it is part of common tradition carried over from the early Palestinian-Syrian church, which already recognized Jesus as "Lord" and as the one who would come (cf. Rev 22:20). (Thus Christians described his coming in the way that Jewish tradition expected God's coming for judgment.)
- This note from IVP's New Testament Commentary
20:2 Bound for a Thousand Years?
The setting is the end of the great period of persecution and the judgment of God. The war with the forces of evil has been fought and won by the rider on the white horse who is called "Faithful and True." Then comes the scene of which Revelation 20:2 is a part. What does it mean that the devil is bound for a thousand years? Why put him in prison rather than destroy him, and why for a mere thousand years? What does this time period have to do with "the millennium," and what does that term signify anyway?
This verse is another of those places in Revelation in which there appear to be two levels of conflict. In Revelation 12 we saw that there was a conflict in heaven between Michael and the dragon (Satan) and a parallel conflict on earth between the dragon and the saints. Here there is a conflict on earth in the physical realm between the exalted Christ, returning visibly as king, and the pseudo-Christ, "the beast," and his "unholy spirit," the "false prophet" (Rev 19:19–20). Both enemies have been summarily dealt with (they are tossed into the lake of fire, or hell) and their army has been destroyed by a word from Christ. All of that happens on a very physical level. But there is still the matter of the devil who inspired and embodied himself in "the beast" (Rev 13:1). Now we shift to the spiritual plane (although not to heaven, for the dragon was cast out of heaven in Rev 12).
In this prophecy Satan is taken captive by an angel, bound with a chain for one thousand years, tossed into the Abyss, the prison of evil spirits, and locked and sealed in. At the end of this period he is again released, again foments a rebellion among human beings on earth (although now in the tribes outside the Roman Empire), and in the end not only loses his army, but is himself tossed into the lake of fire, where he will remain forever (Rev 20:7–10).
"The millennium," then, refers to this thousand-year Satan-free period during which at least the martyrs are resurrected and reign with Christ on earth (Rev 20:4–6). The question that remains is how to interpret this information. There are three fundamentally different positions on the millennium. The first, the postmillennial view, interprets this passage as a look back on history. It sees the millennium as the period at the end of history that ushers in the reign of Christ. At times this is viewed as a spiritual rule of Christ through the triumph of the gospel and at times as a literal period of one thousand years characterized by the triumph of kingdom values at the end of time. The point is that the physical return of Christ comes at the end of the millennium.
The second, the amillennial view, does not really believe in no millennium (which is what "amillennial" should mean etymologically), but in a spiritual millennium. The binding of Satan has been accomplished during the lifetime of Jesus (see Mt 12:29; Lk 10:18; Jn 12:31; Col 2:15). During the age of the church Christ reigns in heaven and the power of Satan is limited in that he cannot stop the spread of the gospel. The first resurrection is the spiritual resurrection of the person's soul coming to life upon conversion. Therefore the millennial period (the thousand years being symbolic of a long time) overlaps the church age, the rebellion in Revelation 20:7–10 being essentially the same as that in Revelation 19:19–21.
The third position, the premillennial view, argues that the text should be taken at face value to indicate an actual period of time, during which Christ reigns and Satan is unable to deceive the nations. This fits with both the New Testament concept that Satan is alive and active on earth during the present age (see Lk 22:3; Acts 5:3; 2 Cor 4:3–4; 11:14; Eph 2:2; 1 Thess 2:18; 2 Tim 2:26; 1 Pet 5:8) and a common idea found in Jewish apocalyptic. For example, the pseudepigraphical book 2 Enoch mentions the idea that there are seven thousand-year periods to world history, the last being a thousand-year sabbath when God returns (2 Enoch 32:2–33:2). A similar idea is found in a passage in the Talmud (b. Sanhedrin 97b) and in the early Christian Epistle of Barnabas (Barnabas 15). Other Jewish works reveal a belief in a shorter millennium (four hundred years or even just forty years) or mention no millennium. In the rest of the New Testament only one other passage (1 Cor 15:23–28) may indicate two stages in the overcoming of evil, but of course the interpretation of this passage is also disputed. At the same time, no New Testament passage excludes this view.
In John's view the millennium consists of several elements. First, Satan is bound so that he cannot deceive the nations (Rev 20:3). Second, the martyrs are resurrected and reign with Christ (Rev 20:4–7). This means that the armies destroyed in Revelation 19:21 are in fact armies, not all the people alive. The population of the earth not destroyed in the final series of judgments remains alive and is ruled by Christ and his martyrs. Third, the end of the period is marked by the release of the devil and his renewed deception of the nations, specifically Gog and Magog, which Ezekiel 38–39 locates in the far north (Asia Minor or beyond) and the Jewish historian Josephus identifies with the Scythians, a tribe outside the Roman Empire (Antiquities 1.6.1). All of the identifications appear to indicate that the nations outside of the Empire (now ruled by Christ) gather against the rightful King. Fourth, the rebellion is ended by the destruction of the opposing armies, the consignment of the devil to the lake of fire, the resurrection of all of the dead, and the final judgment (Rev 20:8–15). This is the end of the history of the earth, for the next chapter takes up the topic of the new heaven and new earth.
One might wonder why there should be a millennium. Several reasons can be given. First, it is a reward for the martyrs (or perhaps the martyrs and those who did not worship the beast, but Rev 13:15 seems to indicate that these would all be martyrs). In their faithfulness they lost their lives. Now they are rewarded with a long life, reigning with Christ. Second, it demonstrates the victory of Christ. That he holds power for a thousand years will vindicate the rule God has given him and which now is hidden in heaven. His triumph is complete. Third, it vindicates the righteous rule of God, redeeming history. Is it possible that God could not rule this earth any better than human beings (and Satan)? The millennium points to the idea that God can rule righteously and justly from within history. He does not have to simply end history. Presumably this would be when people would experience the just rulership that the world has been rejecting (and yet longing for) since the Fall.
We might further question why the antichrist and false prophet would be destroyed and Satan preserved. It is clearly not out of any love for or mercy toward Satan! The fact is that when the embodiments of satanic power have been exposed and lost their power, God has no more use for them. Their future on earth has come to an end. On the other hand, God appears to have a use for Satan, but not in the immediate future. He is used for the final probation of human beings after God has demonstrated his just rule. Thus Satan is not kept out of hell for his own sake, but is reserved for God's own good purposes (although in his own mind he surely rejects this idea). Even to the end God remains in control, including in control of Satan.
As we saw above, the millennium is symbolic for many people. But in calling it symbolic (or in calling it literal, my own preference) we must be careful to preserve the values that John expresses. The reign of Satan is doomed. He will be (or has been) chained. Christ will reign; his victory on the cross will be consummated. His martyrs will be rewarded. And rebellion against God will meet its end. These are the essence of the millennial teaching that must be preserved by any view. The test of a view is whether it best explains the data of Scripture and whether it preserves the values that John is trying to teach.
21:1 The Earth Renewed or Destroyed?
What does it mean to have a new heaven and earth? Why not simply renew or restore the present one? Why would there not be any sea in a new earth? What is the purpose of this change?
In this text we are in the period beyond the final rebellion and the final judgment. Satan is gone forever. Salvation history has totally run its course, for the King of kings has reigned over the world for one thousand years and each person has finally received his or her just reward. Now we are entering the eternal state beyond the struggles of human history.
Within this context there must be a renewal, a new setting for the now purified human race, an earth free from the scars of the rebellion that Satan inspired. This is a need sensed throughout the New Testament. Paul says that there is a new creation in human beings who are in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), which is in tension with the oldness of their own bodies and the rest of creation (Rom 8:19–22). Because of this he can say, "We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor 4:18). Peter expresses this as "looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Pet 3:13). Now in Revelation we get a picture of that happening. As God says, "I am making everything new!" (Rev 21:5).
There are two opinions about the newness that is being described. Some scholars believe that John is only talking about a renewed heaven and earth. The old will be purified, but not destroyed. In fact, the real issue for John, they argue, is moral purification, not physical renewal, although physical restoration must also be included. This passage, then, describes a return to the goals left unrealized when humanity was driven out of Eden. To document their position, these scholars cite intertestamental literature such as 1 Enoch 45:4–5 and 2 Esdras 7:75 (compare 2 Baruch 32:6; 1Enoch 72:1; 91:16), all of which speak of a renewal of creation as the expectation of the Jewish groups that the respective writers represented.
While all scholars must agree that the central issue for John is moral purification, the removal of all of the taint of sin and rebellion, some scholars look at such terms as "the first heaven and first earth had passed away" and argue that what we are talking about in this passage is a totally new creation. This appears to fit the language of Peter, who writes, "The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. ... That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat" (2 Pet 3:10, 12). In other words, according to this view, the heavens and earth are so polluted that what is needed is something like the Genesis flood, a destruction and re- creation, but this time the destruction is done by fire, not water. This second position appears to fit the language of Revelation best. Thus while the goal is the moral purification of the world, the moral and the physical are so intertwined (which we are perhaps beginning to understand in our ecological consciousness) that this requires a major physical overhaul, one so extreme that it is called a new creation.
The heavens that are destroyed are not the abode of God (sometimes referred to as the third or seventh heaven) but the observable heavens. Genesis 1:1 describes the creation as "the heavens and the earth." Not just the planet, but all of creation has been polluted by sin. The whole will be remade. In this new creation there will be no sea. Having lived in Vancouver, Canada, I have a love for the sea, the scene of many happy holiday hours, a place of rest, but I must put aside such romantic feelings when I come to read Scripture, for that was not the Jewish view of the sea. In Scripture the sea is normally a negative image. For example, Isaiah 57:20 says, "The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud." The sea is also the chaos of water out of which the heaven and earth were originally separated in Genesis 1:2, 6–10. While it is a creation of God (Ps 104:26), the sea is also the home of the sea monster Leviathan, whom God conquers and casts on dry land (Ps 74:13–14). It is no wonder that the pseudepigraphal Jewish work The Testament of Moses 10:6 states that when God comes at the end of the age the sea will retire into the Abyss. In Revelation the sea is the source of the beast and the throne of the great prostitute (Rev 13:1; 17:1). Such a symbol of chaos and the powers of evil could not exist in a new heaven and earth.
The new heavens and new earth likewise have a new city, the new Jerusalem. While this is not the place for detailed comment, it is true that here also there is something new. In Scripture the first cities are built by evil people (Gen 4:17; 10:10; 11:1–9). The old Jerusalem was the place in which God chose to put his name, but it was also an unfaithful city, which John could call "Sodom and Egypt" (Rev 11:8). Therefore there is now a need for a fulfillment of what sinful human beings could not produce, the true city with a God-centered community in which peace and justice are actually present.
This whole passage, then, speaks of the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of humanity in the new creation. Human beings were created to live on earth, so a new earth will be their home. Human beings were created for fellowship with God, so he will dwell in their midst. Human beings were created for community, so a true city will be established. There is certainly a lot of symbolism in what is going on in this passage, yet the symbolism is symbolism of a new reality that straight prosaic description could not capture.
Whether or not the new heaven and earth are a renewal or a new creation, Revelation witnesses to the fact that the universe as we know it is temporal and "will all wear out like a garment" (Heb 1:11–12). Even should we interpret John as saying that the basic structure of the earth remains, he witnesses to a renewal so complete that human culture and creations have been wiped away. History as we know it has come to an end. God is beginning a new chapter in a new history, his eternal history. Yet at the same time human beings are not spirit. They are creatures with bodies, now resurrected and glorified. They do not live on clouds, but in a world and in a city. God provides for them what he designed them for in creation, a home on earth. It is not Eden, but a step beyond Eden, a more perfect development of what might have been, a new earth with a city with God in the midst. It answers an inner longing of the human heart, so it is fitting that John brings the narrative of his book to a close with this description of hope.
22:18–19 Protecting the Canon?
The canon of Scripture is both an emotional issue and a theological problem. It is a problem because the New Testament never speaks of such a canon (which is natural because while it was being written it was only in the process of becoming a canon). It is an emotional issue because, as the only authoritative document of the Christian faith (in Protestant eyes), anything that might add to or detract from Scripture is highly threatening. This emotion and this theology surrounds the end of Revelation. These verses come just before the close of the book. The question that they raise is, To what is John referring? Is "this book" a reference to the book of Revelation or to the Bible as a whole? Why did John write these words? What threat to "this book" would he have perceived?
The New Testament was written in a time before readily accessible libraries, communications media and printing presses. Virtually all of the teaching of that period was done orally, for few could read. For this reason John pronounces a blessing on "the one [singular] who reads" the book (out loud to the congregation) and "those [plural] who hear it and take to heart what is written in it" (Rev 1:3). This process of reading such books out loud in a house church (in which the reader might be the only one who could read) would make it very easy to leave out parts of a book being read or to add to it what one wished. It would be difficult for most church members to discover the differences.
John was not the only prophet during the New Testament period to be concerned with proper preservation of his message. Paul was concerned that his message might be falsified by people bringing another gospel (Gal 1:6–9) or a prophecy or a forged letter purporting to be from him (2 Thess 2:2). There was, then, the possibility that, besides the corruption that could be put into the text in reading it, people could deliberately add their own prophetic vision to the text or edit it according to their own perception of what the author should have said.
This type of problem was not unknown in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32 insist that the Law must be preserved without adding to it or subtracting from it. Later, according to the tradition in the Letter of Aristeas, when the Pentateuch was translated into Greek, those receiving the new translation pronounced a curse upon anyone making any alteration to the text. These verses in Revelation are also a curse, and in placing this curse John is similarly protecting the integrity of his writing and may in fact be thinking of it on a level with Scripture, although a similar curse was also reportedly used by Irenaeus in one of his writings.12
John, then, or perhaps Jesus speaking through John (since it is the revelation of Jesus Christ), places a curse to protect the document from well-intentioned or even sinister tampering. The curse itself has two parts. One protects the document from being added to on the threat of the person doing so receiving the plagues written about earlier in the book. The other protects the document from being subtracted from on the threat of the person losing his or her place in heaven, that is, their losing their place in the tree of life (the source of eternal life) and the holy city, the new Jerusalem. The curses are somewhat stylized and strong, as was the custom in the language of the day, so it would not be wise to draw theology from them (for example, as to whether one can or cannot lose one's place in the holy city). But the author intended them as real curses.
The question arises, then, as to whether these curses have to do with anything more than this one book. Do they include the whole New Testament or the whole Bible? Is this a notice closing the canon? We must answer these questions in the negative.
First, we are not certain that Revelation was the last book of the New Testament to be written. Some date Revelation as early as A.D. 68, placing other writings (such as 2 Peter, Jude, or the Gospel and Epistles of John) much later. It would be unwise to base an argument on an uncertain dating.
Second, at the time John wrote the Jews might not have been finished discussing their own canon issues. During the period between A.D. 70 and 90 some discussions about canon took place in the rabbinic center in Jamnia. While there is no evidence that the shape of the canon changed as a result of this discussion, it does show that even the Jews were in something of a state of flux on the matter and could discuss whether certain books (such as Esther) should be included.
Third, John wrote before there was any clear sense of a New Testament canon. There is no evidence that John had ever seen a written Gospel or a collection of Paul's letters. In fact, it would be at least two more centuries before a fixed selection of works would be considered the Christian canon. Some of the works that would be considered seriously and then rejected, such as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache, had not yet been written.
Finally, while in most modern versions of Scripture Revelation is the last book (even Luther had it last, although he and some of the early English translations put Hebrews, James and the Petrine literature just before it), that was not the case in the earliest period. There was a good deal of shifting in the first three centuries, some people rejecting Revelation, some putting works such as 1–2 Clement after it, and some putting it earlier in their list of canonical books. There is no reason to think that this verse would have come almost at the end of the Bible for most Christians until the fourth century.
This does not mean that it is a good thing to add to or subtract from the Scripture. Certainly, even if the proverbial "lost letter of Paul" were found, not to mention some work of a more modern time that people thought might be inspired, it would take the universal consensus of the church that it were inspired to add it to the Scripture, a most unlikely event and thus a miracle in itself.13 Nor should tampering with the present books themselves be done lightly. We do live in an age when some people wish to rewrite the Bible from their own ideological perspective. The only effect of this process is a distortion of Scripture and the production of a work that no one recognizes as canon. It would be better to write a separate work or a commentary selectively criticizing the existing Scripture, for either approach would be more honest. Even the scriptural authors themselves, when they wanted to reinterpret one another (as Daniel, for example, does to Jeremiah's seventy weeks), did not change the original but wrote their own book.
Therefore John's curse stands as a warning. Its true literal sense applies only to his own book, Revelation, but given that similar concerns were shared by Paul and others it is reasonable to argue that none of the writers of Scripture would have agreed to tampering with their works. Besides, such tampering would defeat the whole purpose of Scripture. The Scripture stands written as a witness to the revelation received in a given place and time. It is to be read, accepted (or, for some, rejected) and interpreted. To rewrite it, however, is to confuse one's own experience of God (or perhaps experience of something other than God) with that of the scriptural authors. It is to take the measuring line of Scripture (which is what canon means) and bend it to fit the wall that one is building in the present. In the end one has neither a measuring line nor a straight wall. It may not be the curse of John that one receives, but the resulting confusion will be curse enough and may in fact make one miss having a place in the holy city about which John wrote so glowingly.
12 See Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 5.20.2 for a reference to this ending of a lost letter of Irenaeus.
13 Universal consensus means just that. While we might argue about whether some Christian fringe groups (such as certain Christian groups in Africa or the remnants of ancient heretical groups) should be included in such a consensus, it must at least include the basic Protestant (that is, most Protestant denominations), Roman Catholic and Orthodox branches. Who could conceive of these groups agreeing on anything, let alone that a given book was inspired by God?
IVP-New Bible Commentary
20:1-3 The subjugation of the dragon
The description of the subjugation of the ‘dragon' (Satan) continues without a break the account of the conquest of the evil trinity which had gathered ‘the kings of the whole world ...for the battle on the great day of God Almighty' (16:14). The paragraphs should never have been separated. After the judgment on the antichrist and the false prophet and the multitudes they had deceived, the ultimate enemy is dealt with, namely the devil, who had inspired the rebellion against God. No great contest is necessary; an angel seized him, bound him with a chain, threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him —a fourfold means of ensuring that he was removed from all contact with humanity on earth (for the symbolism see Is. 24:21-22). As the text states, this was to keep him from deceiving the nations any more—until a time decreed by God when he should be released for a short period, i.e. until the thousand years were ended. The release, as the imprisonment, are for the accomplishment of God's inscrutable purpose.
Note. The thousand–year kingdom of Christ. The ‘binding' of Satan for a thousand years coincides with the ‘reign of Christ' for a thousand years (20:4). This thousand years' reign has gained for itself the name ‘millennium' (mille is Latin for 1,000), and the doctrine is called ‘chiliasm' (chilias is Greek for 1,000). The limitation of the Messiah's reign to a thousand years is not found in the OT, but the kingdom over which the Messiah rules is typically represented as a kingdom of this world, centred in Jerusalem. Is. 65:17-25 and 66:22-23 speak of the creation of new heavens and a new earth, but the description of the kingdom of God therein is wholly in terms of this world (a joyful Jerusalem, human longevity, stability in homes and farms, happy children, peaceable animals). Some apocalyptic writers emphasized this conception of new creation, so among the Jews it became common to distinguish between the reign of the Messiah in this world and the kingdom of God in the new world (though not without the Messiah). Great diversity about the length of the Messianic kingdom existed among the rabbis. Suggestions were that it would last forty years (corresponding to Israel's years in the wilderness), or 400 years (Israel's stay in Egypt), or 4,000 years (from creation to the present). Other views were that it would last 365 days (Is. 63:4 speaks of a ‘day' of vengeance and a ‘year' of redemption) or 365,000 years (Ps. 90:4 speaks of a day as a thousand years with the Lord). This latter scripture became conjoined with the idea of history as recapitulating the week of creation: as the six days of creation were followed by God's Sabbath rest, so the six days of human history would yield to the Sabbath of history, the kingdom of the Messiah, which would be followed by an eighth day without end. This view is stated in ch. 15 of the Epistle of Barnabas, a Christian work roughly contemporary with Revelation. For John the ‘thousand years' probably indicated the character of the kingdom of Christ rather than its length, i.e. it speaks of its nature as the Sabbath of human history, and so links with the teaching in Hebrews of the kingdom as the Sabbath–rest that awaits the people of God (Heb. 4). Doubtless John would have been confirmed in this interpretation by his reading of Ezk. 36-48x, where Israel's restoration to their land under the Messiah, the new David, (chs. 36-37) is followed by the rebellion of Gog (chs. 38-39) and the promise of a new Jerusalem with a new temple (chs. 40-48). The prayer Jesus taught his disciples would have been yet more important (‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven'; Mt. 6:10); and John would also have known the beatitudes (‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven... Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth'; Mt. 5:3, 5). [p. 1451] Paul's exposition of the kingdom of Christ in 1 Cor. 15:22-25 is closely related to John's exposition and indicates the likelihood of its being an established tradition in the early church. Certainly it was so in the early centuries, but it was opposed by some significant Christian leaders in favour of more extravagant interpretations. Augustine's interpretation, that the millennium is the period of the church between Christ's first and second advents, became the official teaching of both the Catholic and Reformed churches. It is exemplified in Hendriksen's commentary on Revelation (More than Conquereors, IVP, 1939); he identifies the binding of Satan (20:1-3) with his ejection from heaven (12:9), the thousand years of the church's power (20:4-6) with its time of triumphant witness (11:2-6; 12:14-15), the onset of the armies of Gog and Magog (20:7-9) with the persecution of the church by the antichrist (11:7-10; 13:7-8), the ensuing destruction of those armies (20:9) with Armageddon (19:19-21), and the last judgment (20:11-15) with the Messianic judgment (14:14-20).
This is a plausible and interesting interpretation of the text, but seems to entail insuperable difficulties. In 12:9 Satan is cast out of heaven, where he may no longer accuse the saints before God, to earth, where his war against the church intensifies, because his time is short; in 20:1-3 he is taken from earth and imprisoned in the Abyss, that he may no longer corrupt humanity. The judgment of 14:14-20 is aligned with the Messianic judgments of the last times, above all that which happens at Christ's coming (19:19-21); whereas the last judgment of 20:11-15 is of all generations of humankind. The conquest of the evil powers is described in the indivisible passage 19:19-21:3, and that takes place at Christ's advent in glory, which is followed by his thousand years' reign. Add to that the impossibility of reconciling the assumption of John, shared by the prophets generally, that the Lord may come soon (1:3; 22:20) with the notion that the thousand years' kingdom will precede his coming, one has difficulty in attibuting this scheme of interpretation to him. John well knows that the kingdom of God was established through Christ's redemption (ch. 5; 12:10-12); the kingdom that the Lord will bring at his second coming will be the triumph of that which he brought through his incarnate ministry, hence the revelation of that which has been in the world from Easter onwards.
Why, then, does God permit the release of Satan at the end of the thousand years? John would have answered, ‘It is so written'. The prophecy of Gog's attack upon Israel (Ezk. 38-39) is set after God's restoration of the people to the kingdom. Gn. 1-3 supplies much of the symbolism of the city of God in Revelation; John's meditation on those chapters could have suggested to him that as Satan was allowed to enter the Garden to expose the nature of human hearts, so he will be allowed to do the like in the final paradise, so that all hostility to God can be brought into the open and be annihilated before his reign is made absolute. Like other apocalyptists, John would have known that the fulness of God's kingdom cannot be attained within the limitations of this world, not even in a restored paradise; the goal of creation can be reached only through resurrection like that of Christ.
20:4-6 The millennium
The description of Christ's kingdom is extraordinarily brief; no word is given of the conditions of life in the thousand years, only a bare statement of who will exercise rule in it. There is reason to believe, however, that the extended description of the city of God in 21:9-22:5 applies to the kingdom in the millennial age as well as in the coming eternal age. 19:6-7 celebrates the marriage of the bride at Christ's coming; 21:9 reveals the bride to be the holy city Jerusalem. The hosts of Gog surround the camp of God's people, the city he loves (20:9), which must be the city of God, the new Jerusalem in the world. The nations walk in the light of the city and bring their glory into it; but nothing unclean enters its gates (21:24-25), and the leaves of the tree of life heal the nations (22:2). Such statements are even more appropriate to the city in the world than in the new creation. There is not a line in 21:9-22:5 that could not apply to the kingdom in this world, which suggests that it means life in history as well as in eternity.
4 Who are those seated on thrones? Dn. 7:9-14, 27 give the answer: ‘the saints, the people of the Most High', with which Rev. 5:9-20 and 19:7 agree. Of these ‘saints' John makes special mention of the martyrs and confessors of Christ, for the encouragement of all who may be called to tread the path of martyrdom.
5 The rest of the dead did not come to life almost certainly relates to the dead without Christ; John would not deny the resurrection of the church at Christ's coming (see the comments on v 4; cf. on 11:11-12; 1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thes. 4:16). 6 The fifth beatitude declares the blessedness of those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them (cf. v 14 and on 2:11), and they will be priests of God and of Christ as they reign with him. Their reign, therefore, is their service of God and humanity.
20:7-10 The last insurrection of evil
As mentioned above, John here follows Ezekiel's prophecy of the invasion of Israel's [p. 1452] land by Gog and Magog after the Messianic kingdom has been established. Whereas in Ezk. 38 ‘Gog of the land of Magog' comes from the north to invade the holy land, in John's vision Gog and Magog stand for the nations in the four corners of the earth (8). They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the city God loves—a city some 1,400 miles (2,200 km) long, wide and high (21:16)! The event is as symbolic as Armageddon and represents an attack on the manifestation of Christ's rule in the world. 9b-10 The would–be destroyers are themselves destroyed, and the devil is thrown into the fiery lake, never to trouble humanity again.
20:11-15 The last judgment
If the fleeing of heaven and earth from the face of God is to be viewed as the precursor of the new heavens and earth (cf. 2 Pet. 3:10-13), the spectacle of the great white throne as the one reality on which humankind can gaze is indeed an awesome sight. But the description is likely to be symbolic, to enhance the terrifying grandeur of the scene—the last overwhelming theophany from which creation wants to escape but cannot (cf. 6:12-17).
12 The dead, great and small, stand before the throne, i.e. all humankind is summoned to judgment. Is the church exempted from this? 20:4-6 suggests that it is, but in that case believers will have been judged earlier (cf. 3:5; 2 Cor. 5:10), but John gives no hint of this. The passage stands for the necessity of all to be judged, saints and sinners alike, and there's plenty of time for it to happen! The judgment proceeds according to two criteria: first, according to what they had done, and secondly, the testimony of the books. This latter feature is taken from Dn. 7:10, which reflects both ordinary court procedure and the habit of Persian kings to record every detail of events in their provinces. The important thing is that the joint testimony of the two criteria agrees, and the book of life will reveal it.
14-15 Death and Hades represent the fact of dying and the condition entered on after death. Both were thrown into the lake of fire, a circumstance that shows the sheer pictorial nature of the scene, including the lake of fire. Into that lake were thrown any whose name was not found written in the book of life. That lake has its origin in the Abyss, the home of the monster, the enemy of God, and traditionally the abode of evil spirits and the place where fallen angels were punished. It is the alternative to the city of God. Accordingly, John represents the same reality by the very different symbol of life outside the city (21:27) in contrast to life inside the city (21:24-26). Significantly it all begins in connection with the new creation, the work of God in Christ; we can be assured that grace and truth (Jn. 1:17) will be as truly united in the judgment as they were in the cross of Christ.
21:1-8 The new creation
The unfolding of God's dealings with humanity in Revelation reaches its climax in this passage: vs 1-4 describe a new creation in which God and people dwell together in fellowship; vs 5-8 declare the truth of that description and its implications for the readers. Its purpose is to strengthen the faith, hope and resolution of the church as it faces its ultimate trial.
1 The creation of a new heaven and new earth is taught in Is. 65:17 and 66:22 (cf. Mt. 5:18; Mk. 13:31; 2 Pet. 3:12). Jewish teachers interpreted Is. 65-66 variously; some held that God would renew creation for his kingdom, others that he would replace it by an entirely new one. John's vision is capable of either interpretation; the fact that 20:11 describes a theophany, i.e. a pictorial representation of creation's response to God's coming for judgment, may be held to favour the former view. In any case, there was no longer any sea is less concerned with water than wickedness: the devil, the antichrist and antichristian empire are all depicted as sea monsters; nothing of that order survives into the new.
2 The imagery used in the portrayal of the Holy City here and in 21:9-22:5 fluctuates between the bride–city, as the context of life in the kingdom of God, and the fellowship of the redeemed with God.
3 This latter feature appears as the first and greatest blessing of the eternal kingdom. The term for dwelling is lit. ‘tent'; it harks back to the tabernacle in the wilderness, on which the pillar of fire and cloud rested, the sign of God's presence and manifest glory. The same association of language is used in Jn. 1:14; in the new creation all that Immanuel signifies is forever fulfilled. 4 Cf. 7:17; Is. 25:8. 5 I am making everything new refers to God's action in the new creation, but it was begun in Christ's resurrection and is experienced by all believers in the present (2 Cor. 5:17). It is done echoes the cry on the cross (Jn. 19:30) and the voice from the throne (16:17). God is the Alpha and the Omega; his character guarantees the truth of this revelation. The added promise recalls Is. 55:1 (cf. also 22:17; Jn. 7:37-38).
7 A final promise is given to the Christian who overcomes: the blessings of the Holy City will be his or her inheritance.
8 In contrast to the overcomer, who inherits the kingdom, are those who preclude themselves from it. The cowardly either deny or reject God's Christ and worship the antichrist. The remaining terms describe the unbelieving, whose lives demonstrate their opposition to God.
21:9-22:5 The city of God
For the suggestion that this section portrays the city of God alike in Christ's ‘thousand years' reign and in the new creation, see the note on the millennium.
9 The revelation of the bride was anticipated in 19:7-9. Here the bridal metaphor gives way to that of a city; a similar transfer of imagery is made in Is. 54:4-8 and 11:12.
10 The language is so similar to Ezk. 40:2 that we must assume that John had it in mind; the city descends from heaven to the mountain whereon he stood. Heaven comes to earth in the kingdom of God!
11 The city's appearance is compared to that of a jasper, and so its glory is like that of the Creator (see 4:3).
12-13 The great, high wall serves the dual purpose of keeping out those who have no part in the city (21:27; 22:14-15) and of providing eternal security for those inside. Its twelve gates are inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, just as the wall's twelve foundations have on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Therein the unity of the people of the old and new covenants is seen; together they form ‘the Israel of God', expanded to embrace all nations in Christ. 14 The twelve foundations of the city's wall are not to be thought to stand on one another but as forming a continuous chain round the city, divided up by its twelve gates. The twelve apostles correspond to the twelve tribes of v 12; like the latter they denote a collective whole rather than a list of individuals. There is no need, therefore, to ask whether Paul's name is included in the twelve, and if so whose name is omitted; the question does not arise.
16 The city was laid out like a square; but as its height is the same as its breadth and length, it is a cube. One structure in the OT is mentioned as a cube in shape, namely the Most Holy place in the temple (1 Ki. 6:20); here the cubic shape indicates that the entire city is a sanctuary and partakes of the holiness of the ancient inner shrine. 12,000 stadia represents approximately 100 miles, but to translate it into modern mileage is to rob the measurement of its clear symbolism—an infinite multiple of 12. John may be saying that the city of God reaches from earth to heaven, and so unites them into one. 17 The wall was 144 cubits (216 ft), probably ‘high' rather than thick, again a perfect multiple of 12. In this context there is no need to stress the disparity between the measurements of the city and the wall; the latter is big enough to serve its purpose!
18-21 The language of symbolism continues in John's description of the materials of the city. He has already said that its sheen is like that of jasper, the appearance of God (11); he now declares that the wall is entirely built of jasper. The pure gold may recall the sanctuary of Solomon's temple, which was covered completely with gold (1 Ki. 6:20-22), or it could allude to the thought in 3:18. The list of jewels that decorate the foundations is startling. Despite some uncertainties of translation they appear to be identical with the jewels inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes on the high priest's breastplate (Ex. 28:15-21). Philo and Josephus both draw attention to the fact that those jewels also represent the twelve signs of the zodiac. On the basis of an old correlation of the jewels and the zodiac signs it appears that John's list of jewels portrays the progress of the sun through the twelve signs of the zodiac, but in reverse order! Perhaps John wished to dissociate the Holy City from pagan speculations about the city of the gods in the heavens; or it may be that the reverse is true, and John was showing that the reality for which the pagans longed is found in the revelation of God in Christ (the foundation stones have on them the names of the apostles of the Lamb—his witnesses!).
22-27 In a city modelled on the holy of holies there is no need for a temple; all is holy, and God is everywhere adored (cf. Jn. 4:20-23).
23 Is. 60:19-20 is clearly in mind. It is not that the sun or the moon have ceased to exist but that their splendour has been surpassed by the glory of God himself.
24-26 These verses reproduce the substance of Is. 60:3-11, but with a difference: there the nations bring Jewish exiles to Jerusalem and their wealth to Jews; here they bring their splendour... glory and honour to God and the Lamb, so fulfilling 15:4. The language of the whole paragraph is especially suitable to the kingdom of Christ in the millennial age, but it can also apply in a less direct sense to the kingdom of God in the new creation.
22:1-5 This conclusion of the vision of the city of God shows conscious links with the description of the paradise in Eden (Gn. 2-3).
1 The throne of God and of the Lamb is the source of the river of the water of life (cf. 7:17; 21:6; 22:17). The Garden of Eden had a river (Gn. 2:10). In Ezekiel's vision a river flowed from the temple (Ezk. 47:9; see the application of this passage to Jesus in Jn. 7:37-38). 2 The tree of life (unlike Gn. 2:9; 3:22, but as in Ezk. 47:7ff) is viewed collectively. Like the symbol of the water of life, the healing powers of the leaves are taken in a spiritual sense, possibly in the first instance for the healing of the wounds inflicted in the great distress. 3 No longer will there be any curse cites Zc. 14:11 and reverses the curse pronounced in the original paradise (Gn. 3:14-19). In the new Jerusalem the effects of that curse are completely overcome. 4 The goal of [p. 1454] redeemed humanity is here stated: They will see his face. Such a vision will involve the transformation of the beholders into the same likeness (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Jn. 3:2). For the name... on their foreheads see on 3:12 and 19:12. 5 They will reign for ever and ever expands 20:4 and is the final fulfilment of 3:21 (note that in 11:15 ‘he will reign for ever and ever' includes the millennial reign and that in the new creation).
22:6-21 The epilogue
Three themes find prominent expression in this conclusion of Revelation: the authenticity of the visions narrated (6, 7, 16, 18, 19); the imminence of Christ's coming (6, 7, 10-12, 20); and the necessity for holiness in view of the impending consummation (10-15). It is difficult to be sure of the identity of the speakers in the various utterances. vs 7, 12-13 and 20a appear to be utterances of Jesus; vs 6, 8, 14-15 the angel's; v 16 Jesus through the angel; vs 8-9, 17-19, 20b and 21 John's additions. A great deal of variation is possible, but in the last resort it matters little, for the speaker is ultimately Christ, whose messenger is the angel (9) and whose utterances John records as a prophet (10).
6-7 In the light of v 7, 19:9 and 21:5 the trustworthy and true words relate not only to the preceding context but the whole book. They concern events that must soon take place because the Lord is coming soon (cf. also v 20).
8-9 The inclusion of this passage by John does not necessarily mean that some of his readers engaged in angel worship, though the practice did have a place among the Jews, and apparently even among Christians (Col. 2:18). John's action is natural enough, and its narration needs no other explanation than its occurrence and its interest. It is not so much a polemic against angel worship as a correction of the over–exaltation of all instruments of revelation. Angels, prophets and other Christians are on one level before God.
10 The injunction is the reverse of that in Dn. 8:26; 12:4, 9 and of Jewish apocalypses generally. Whereas these prophesied of remote times, John's message was of immediate importance and was issued in his own name.
11 There is irony in this utterance. Daniel had said (Dn. 12:10) that in the last days many would be purified by their experience of trial, but the wicked would act wickedly; i.e. in the last crisis people will come out in their true colours and range themselves on God's side or against. That teaching is continually stressed in Revelation (7:1-8; 11:1-2; 12:1-14:5 etc.). Here it receives its final exposition. Since the time is near let the person who insists on clinging to evil continue therein; he will soon meet his judgment. Let the righteous and holy guard themselves, for their Lord will soon come for their deliverance. To make of this statement a doctrine of the fixity of character and destiny of people in the last times is contrary to the context and the general teaching of the book (e.g. 14:6-7; 15:4; 21:6-8; 22:17).
12 Cf. 11:18; Is. 40:10; Rom. 2:6. 13 See the note on 1:3.
14 The last of the seven beatitudes of Revelation. Those who wash their robes have had their guilt removed through the crucified and risen Saviour and so have the right to the tree of life and may enter into the city (cf. Gn. 3:22-24).
15 This verse almost repeats 21:8, but the fate of those concerned is very differently represented. The fundamental reality in common is their exlusion from the city of God. John's use of such different images to express judgment indicates the great flexibility of his symbolism.
16 Jesus as the Root and the Offspring of David fulfils Is. 11:1. As the bright Morning Star he fulfils the prophecy of Baalam in Nu. 24:17. 17 The Spirit, who is especially active in the prophets (19:10), joins the church in calling upon the Lord to Come, according to his promise (7, 12; cf. v 20). The individual hearer of the prophecy of this book, as it is read in the churches, is bidden to say Come. The repentant sinner is invited to come, and take the free gift of the water of life and so be ready to welcome the Lord when he comes.
18-19 John has been harshly judged for concluding his prophecy with these words. It was, however, customary for ancient writers to protect their works against mutilation and interpolation by adding such an anathema. John's concern was to prevent his message from being perverted through addition or removal. The same concern is seen in Dt. 4:2. The so–called canonization formula in the passage—‘not add nor take away'—has been traced back to 2450 BC in Egypt. Instead of the usual curse, John warns of judgment and loss of the kingdom of God.
20 John's response to the last promise of Revelation corresponds to the Aramaic watch–word Maranatha: ‘Come, O Lord' (see 1 Cor. 16:22). The promise is the culmination of all promises; and the response is the sum of all living hopes.
21 The benediction reminds us that Revelation is a letter, and that its lessons are to be personally appropriated. Only by the grace of the Lord Jesus can that victory be gained which will receive the recompense portrayed in this book. It behoves us to open our lives to it continually, and to add our own Amen.
George R. Beasley–Murray
The Thousand-Year Kingdom
Many Jewish texts pictured an intermediate kingdom between the present and future eternal reign. (Whether this suggests that the period is literal or figurative in Revelation—and if figurative, figurative for what—has been debated since the first few centuries of church history. "Amillennialists" like Augustine, Calvin and Luther usually have taken it as symbolic for the present age, whereas "premillennialists" like Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Isaac Newton have read the period as future and after Christ's return; "postmillennialists" like George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney have predicted a future millennial period preceding Jesus' return [this last view is generally rare today]. Those who take Revelation's millennium as in some sense future generally regard it as qualifying the absolute imminence of the final end, which might otherwise be supposed from 1:3. The structure of the narrative here [ 19:20; 20:4, 10 ] is most naturally read as referring to a future period, but some have contended that this reading does not fit other biblical passages and have appealed to the cyclical structure of the rest of Revelation. The commentary follows the narrative as it appears to stand rather than taking sides on whether it should be read literally or figuratively, what the figure means or whether it is merely an apocalyptic literary device. All three positions could use the presence of intermediate kingdoms in many ancient apocalypses to argue for their own position.)
Revelation 20 and what follows especially expound the later chapters of Ezekiel: Israel's resurrection (chap. 37), the war with Gog and Magog (chaps. 38-39) and the new Jerusalem's temple (chaps. 40-48).
20:1-3. On the dragon/serpent see comment on Revelation 12:3 and 9. Many early Jewish texts spoke of wicked angels being "bound," meaning chained and imprisoned, until a particular time, usually the day of judgment (especially 1 Enoch; cf. Tobit, Jubilees and Testament of Solomon).
Many Jewish texts include an intermediate period between the present and future ages; in some, it is an age of messianic peace, but in others it is the final tribulation, which came to be called the "messianic travail." The length of the final intermediate period varies in those ancient Jewish texts that include it, producing such diverse figures as forty years, three generations, four hundred years and nearly as many other calculations as there are opinions recorded, sometimes counted by "weeks" or jubilees of years. A few early Jewish traditions divided history into seven one-thousand-year periods, of which the final period would be an age of peace. (Plato's figure of one thousand years between death and reincarnation as the intermediate state of the Greek afterlife might have influenced this Jewish figure [cf. also the phoenix of Greek mythology, discussed by rabbis ], but this is unlikely; the apocalyptic penchant for dividing history into ages, plus the natural appeal of a round number like one thousand [cf. one hundred in Is 65:20 ], and especially the Jewish application of Ps 90:4 to the seven days of Gen 1, are sufficient to explain the length of the period on purely Jewish terms.)
20:4. The resurrection of the righteous was a standard part of Jewish hopes; the subsequent reign of God's people with him is less frequent but also appears in Jewish literature (in the Old Testament, cf., e.g., Is 60:5; Dan 7:14, 18). Roman citizens were normally executed by beheading (with axes in previous times, but with swords by the first century); they were first beaten and blindfolded and then forced to kneel.
20:5-6. The punishment of the rest of the dead after an interim period may be suggested by Isaiah 24:21-22, even though Daniel 12:2 (like a number of New Testament texts) does not distinguish the time between the resurrection of the righteous (after the tribulation Daniel mentions- Dan 12:13) and that of the damned. Jewish texts sometimes spoke of the "second death " of the wicked at the judgment. On the reigning priests see comment on Revelation 1:6.
The Folly of Gog and Magog
20:7-8. Gog, prince in the land of Magog, appears as the final enemy of Israel in Ezekiel 38-39, after Israel's regathering and perhaps the time of the resurrection (chap. 37). Although scholars dispute whom Ezekiel has in mind, they agree that the enemies are from the north (like most of Israel's enemies in that period); Josephus identified them with the Scythians. Gog and Magog thus recur often in Jewish texts as the final major enemies of Israel (rabbis, apocalyptic texts, Dead Sea Scrolls).
Many Jewish teachers expected a mass conversion of pagans to Judaism in the messianic time, to be followed by mass apostasy in the time of Gog and Magog. The army of the nations is called Belial's (Satan's) army in the Dead Sea Scrolls (although this text corresponds more to the battle of Rev 19).
20:9. Some Jewish texts portrayed a wall of fire around Jerusalem (based on Zech 2:5; cf. Ex 13:21), and some depicted fire falling from heaven to consume the enemies (the Sibylline Oracles; based on such judgments as Gen 19:24; Lev 10:2; 2 Kings 1:10); here see especially Ezekiel 39:6. In the Similitudes of Enoch, angels stir up Parthians to invade the Holy Land, but the ground opens to swallow them up. The Dead Sea Scrolls call the remnant community the "camp of the saints," a picture that also resembles Israel in the wilderness awaiting their final entrance into the Holy Land. For the gathering of the nations against God's people, see, for example, Zechariah 12:3 and 14:2; see comment on Revelation 16:13-16.
20:10. Judaism also anticipated the ultimate defeat and judgment of Satan, a position in harmony with the Old Testament view that God would reign unchallenged forever after the final day of judgment.
The Final Judgment
20:11. Although many writers also stressed a judgment of souls at death (some thoroughly Hellenized writers like Philo had little interest in a future resurrection and judgment), Judaism had much to say about the day of judgment before God's throne at the end of the age. The image of a new heaven and earth (cf. Rev 21:2) is from Isaiah 65:17.
20:12. Many early Jewish texts refer to heavenly tablets (Jubilees, 1 Enoch, 2 Enoch, 3 Enoch, Testament of Abraham), containing records of human history or God's laws; angels were continually writing down people's sins. The "opening" of the books meant that everything was about to be made known (see, e.g., also 4 Ezra). The final judgment would be a public judgment -there would be no way of hiding one's naked shame.
The image of the "book of life" appears in the Old Testament (Ex 32:32-33; Dan 12:1; Mal 3:16) and was developed in later Jewish literature (e.g., Dead Sea Scrolls, Jubilees). All would be judged according to their works (Ps 62:12; Prov 24:12; Jer 17:10; 32:19; Ezek 18:30), but former sinful works canceled by true repentance would not count against the righteous (Ezek 18:21-22).
20:13-14. Jewish texts often spoke of the final day on which the wicked would be cast into the abyss of fire (e.g., 1 Enoch). "Hades" (rendered "hell" in the KJV) was the abode of the dead (named for the Greek deity of the underworld, but not associated with him in Jewish texts), the equivalent of the Old Testament realm of the dead, Sheol. In many Jewish texts, as here, the wicked were held there under judgment until their final destruction or place of torture.
20:15. Most Jewish people believed that all normal Jews (i.e., those who followed Judaism) would be saved, along with the small percentage of the righteous among the nations (Gentiles); the rest would be damned. Israel's faith had always been exclusivistic (worshiping one supreme God; John would add here the further exclusivism that God was truly worshiped only through Christ -cf. 1 Jn 2:23), and the Old Testament prophets had proclaimed a day of judgment that would call the nations as well as Israel to account. It would be too late to repent in that time.
Promise of the World to Come
Some pagan oracles predicted a future age of bliss, but the hope for a future age of peace, ruled by God alone, is a distinctively Old Testament, Jewish and Christian hope.
21:1. Isaiah had already predicted the new heavens and new earth (Is 65:17; 66:22); the focus of attention in this new creation would be the new Jerusalem (Is 65:18). Many Jewish depictions of the age to come (e.g., in 1 Enoch, Jubilees and Pseudo-Philo) emphasized the new heavens and earth. Some Jewish texts spoke of the renewal of the first creation; others spoke of its replacement by a new creation; Revelation holds to the latter position. Many texts described the end time in terms of the beginning, as a renewal of paradise (see comment on 22:1-5); so here the new creation recalls the goodness of the first creation before sin marred it (Gen 1:1).
Predictions of the sea's evaporation (perhaps in Sibylline Oracles 5:157-59, although in 5:447-49 the drying of the seas for ships does not do away with water) were far less common for apocalypses. Some commentators point to much earlier Canaanite myths, but these would not have been sufficiently contemporary to be obvious to John's readers. The sea's disappearance here may accommodate a literal (and typically ancient Jewish) reading of Isaiah 65:17, which mentions heaven and earth but does not mention the sea; another explanation may be the sea's symbolic link with evil powers earlier in Revelation (the borders of the Roman Empire in 13:1).
21:2. Like any city, "Jerusalem" meant both the place and the people who lived there; the new Jerusalem is thus a bride because its residents are a bride (19:7). Greco-Roman encomia (praises) of cities often turned to describing them as people, and Jewish people were familiar with Old Testament personifications of Jerusalem and the Old Testament depiction of God's people as his bride. Contemporary Jewish writers (e.g., Tobit, 2 Maccabees, Ecclesiasticus, Philo and Josephus) and Jewish coins also called Jerusalem the "holy city" (in the Old Testament, cf. Neh 11:1, 18; Is 48:2; 52:1; 62:12); Jewish people (e.g., the Qumran Temple Scroll) viewed it as the holiest of cities.
Pious Jews prayed daily for God to restore Jerusalem. The new Jerusalem, an Old Testament image (Is 65:18), had become a standard Jewish hope for the future, whether as a renewed and purified Jerusalem (Tobit, Psalms of Solomon) or (as here) a new city from above (probably 4 Ezra); a city "from above" would be perfect, having been built by God himself (a hope found in some texts). In some apocalypses (2 Baruch), the righteous would dwell on high; in early Jewish literature like Jubilees, God would descend and dwell with his people.
21:3. The tabernacle had always symbolized God's dwelling among his people (Ex 25:8-9; 29:45; 1 Kings 6:12-13); God had also promised to "dwell" among his people as part of his covenant (Lev 26:11-12), especially in the sinless world to come (Ezek 37:24-28; 43:7-10; Zech 2:11).
21:4. These depictions allude especially to Isaiah 25:8, 35:10, 51:11 and 65:16-19.
21:5. On the promise of a future new creation, see comment on 21:1; for divine Wisdom spiritually "making all things new" in the present, cf. Wisdom of Solomon 7:27.
21:6. On Alpha and Omega, see comment on 1:8. The future age was portrayed as having abundant water (e.g., Is 35:1-2; Ezek 47:1-12; see comment on 22:1); for the free offer of water to the obedient, cf. Isaiah 55:1.
21:7. God had called Israel his children in the Old Testament (the language also continues in subsequent Jewish literature); those who had become his children were part of the covenant community and shared its promises for the future. God promised that his people who endured would inherit the world to come (Zech 8:12). The standard Old Testament covenant motif (also in Jubilees) is "I will be their God and they will be my people."
21:8. Part of the promise in the Old Testament (e.g., Is 66:24) and Jewish literature was that the righteous who persevered would not have to share the world to come with their oppressors. Lists of vices were common in ancient texts. "Lying" may refer to idolatry (Is 44:20; Jer 10:3) or to false teaching (1 Jn 2:22) such as characterized the imperial cult and the false prophets Revelation opposes; most other sins in the list are sins committed by the church's persecutors or by apostates.
The Glory of the New Jerusalem
Rhetoricians often showed off their epideictic (praise) skills by describing and praising magnificent cities like Rome (Aelius Aristides) or Athens (Isocrates); John here describes the greatest of cities. His encomium is on a renewed city whose prototype was also loved and praised in the Old Testament (e.g., Ps 48) and whose future glory was the hope of the prophets (e.g., Ezek 40-48). (Even the present Jerusalem's glory could be exaggerated and elaborated to conform to ancient Greek utopian schemes, as in Epistle of Aristeas 116.)
Jewish literature after Ezekiel also delighted to describe the glory of the new Jerusalem (e.g., Tobit 13:9-18; 5Q 15, a written blueprint in the Dead Sea Scrolls modeled on Ezek 40-48; rabbis), often as part of their praise to God for his coming deliverance.
Some Jewish pictures of the end emphasized a return to Israel's pastoral/agricultural beginnings, without ruling out urban existence (Sibylline Oracles 3:744-51), but the New Testament and most contemporary Jewish literature are more urban than most Old Testament depictions of the end (Amos 9:13-15). The symbolic imagery for paradise was adapted to speak most relevantly to the cultures addressed.
21:9. Given the commitment involved in ancient Jewish betrothal, a betrothed woman and thus a bride could be referred to as a wife (as in 19:7).
21:10. The description of the revelation in 21:9-10 parallels exactly that in 17:1-3. Ancient rhetoric commonly taught by means of contrasting characters, and the contrast between Babylon the harlot and new Jerusalem the bride is explicit and intentional. Those who instructed public speakers emphasized clarity and vividness in descriptions, and this description exemplifies those characteristics.
Apocalyptic texts sometimes used a mountain reaching to heaven to provide visibility (1 Enoch 17:2; cf. 18:6-8; 24:1-3; 77:4; Mt 4:8); Jerusalem was also regarded as atop a mountain (Epistle of Aristeas 83-84, 105-6; often in the Old Testament, e.g., Joel 2:1); the image here is rooted in Ezekiel 40:2.
21:11. The emphasis on the wealth of the new Jerusalem would remind older Jewish readers of the glory of the temple, whose gates had been adorned with gold and silver; John declares that the whole city will share the glory of the temple. God would set his glory among his people in the end time (e.g., Is 60:1-3; Ecclus 36:14). Jewish writers spoke of supernatural precious stones that were luminous, or light-giving, by themselves.
21:12-13. The text of 1 Enoch links the twelve gates of heaven to the twelve signs of the zodiac, but Revelation links the gates to the twelve tribes, each tribe having its own position, as they did in the Old Testament during the wilderness wanderings and the settlement in the Promised Land. In the Temple Scroll (one of the Dead Sea Scrolls), some Jewish pietists noted that the tribes would be commemorated on the twelve gates surrounding the new temple (three on each of the four sides). The image is from Ezekiel 48:31-35.
21:14. Jesus had made clear the continuity between the twelve tribes in the Old Testament and the first apostles in the New Testament by his initial numbering of those apostles (see the introduction to Acts 1:15-26); Asian Christians would easily recognize the symbolism (Eph 2:20).
21:15. The "measuring rod" comes from Ezekiel 40:3; the measurements of the city were to produce awe of God's great promises and thus repentance (Ezek 40:4; 43:10-11). The Dead Sea Scrolls also emphasize measurements of the future temple to call readers to endure for the future age.
21:16. That the dimensions are equal on all sides indicates that the city is shaped like a cube—like the holy of holies in the Old Testament temple (1 Kings 6:20), indicating that the presence of God would always be with them in its fullest intensity. Ezekiel's city was also square, although not clearly cubed (48:32-34; cf. 45:2; 48:16, 20); but the cubing illustrates the point of Ezekiel 48:35 -God's presence—all the more graphically. In some Jewish traditions, the future Jerusalem would expand in all directions (based on Is 54:2-3) and would become so tall that it would ascend to God's throne (based on Ezek 41:7). None of these descriptions is literal; if it is difficult to breathe atop the world's highest mountain (about five miles high), a city fifteen hundred miles high would not be very practical (at least under current laws of physics!). John elsewhere uses "twelve thousand" symbolically (7:4-8).
21:17. This wall is quite disproportionate with a city fifteen hundred miles high, but this point reinforces its symbolic use; important ancient cities always had walls, hence John includes one. Although John could have excluded walls (Is 60:18; Zech 2:4-5) as he does the temple (Rev 21:22), emphasizing that they were unnecessary given the lack of aggressors, he would then not have been able to include his symbolic use of gates (see comment on 21:12-14). Apocalyptic texts (2 Enoch) sometimes called angels "men," and angels often appeared in human form in the Old Testament and Jewish literature.
21:18. Jewish descriptions of the costly stones used to build the new Jerusalem included miraculous elaborations, hence absolutely pure gold that looked like clear glass would have fit the genre. Metal was used in mirrors, so it could mean that the gold gives a perfect reflection.
21:19-20. Twelve stones were normally used in the Old Testament (Ex 28:17-20; Josh 4:2-3) and Judaism (e.g., Pseudo-Philo) to signify the twelve tribes. The image is from Isaiah 54:11-12, where every part of the city (walls, foundations, gates, etc.) would be constructed with precious stones. Texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls interpret this passage in Isaiah figuratively and apply it to the righteous, who displayed God's glory (including the twelve leaders of the community). Tobit applies it literally to the future Jerusalem but includes streets that cry out praises to God.
That the Septuagint of Ezekiel 28:13 lists a variety of precious stones may inform Revelation 17:4, but the use of twelve different precious stones, each signifying a tribe of Israel, is from Exodus 28:17-20; John's list is roughly equivalent to the Hebrew one in Exodus. (Both Josephus and Philo also link the twelve stones on Aaron's breastplate with the twelve signs of the zodiac, but John characteristically avoids the astrological associations that some writers linked with the symbols he employs.)
21:21. In Tobit 13, the new Jerusalem's streets are paved with precious stones, and its walls and towers are of pure gold. Some rabbis expounded that the new Jerusalem's gates would be made of giant pearls and precious stones; in one later story, a man who ridicules a rabbi's exposition about the pearls sinks to the bottom of the sea and sees the angels working on the gates of the new temple; he then pays the price for his mockery when the rabbi disintegrates him with his eyes. But the main source for the image of precious stones in the future city is Isaiah 54:11-12. "Street" (11:8) may be functionally plural but probably refers to the main street (cf. "great street"— NIV) running through well-planned towns on the Greek model.
21:22. One of the most basic hopes of ancient Judaism, recited daily in prayer, was the restoration and renewal of the temple (a hope from Ezek 40-48 onward). But for John, the whole city is God's temple or dwelling place (see comment on Rev 21:11, 16; Zech 14:21), and God is its temple as well.
21:23. The city's light being the Lord's glory rather than the sun or moon is taken directly from Isaiah 60:19-20 (cf. the image of 24:23; 30:26). Many Jewish teachers stressed that God's light would fill the world to come.
21:24. The nations will gather to Jerusalem to worship and bring tribute in the end time (e.g., Is 60:3-22; Jer 3:17; Zech 14:16-19; cf. Tobit 13:11-12; see comment on Rev 3:9), bringing their glory into it (Is 66:12) and depending on its light (Is 60:1-3).
21:25-26. Like the gates of ancient cities, the temple's gates in the old Jerusalem were closed at night (cf. also the closing of gates in Ezek 46:1); but in the world to come, Jerusalem's gates will never need to be closed, because tribute rather than aggressors will come to them (Is 60:11). Revelation adds that the gates will also remain open because there will be no night, since the Lord will be the light (21:23; cf. Is 60:19-20). Night was also associated with sorcery, demons and robbers, and was considered a good time to stay inside. Contrast the city of wealth in Revelation 18:11-19.
21:27. Outcast groups (e.g., prostitutes) sometimes lived outside city gates, but an Old Testament allusion is in view here. There will be no more abominations in the house of God (Zech 14:21) or unbelievers in Jerusalem (Joel 3:17). The unclean had always been excluded from God's house so long as they remained in that state; this text refers to spiritual or moral uncleanness. The whole city is God's temple, or dwelling place (21:3, 16, 22).
The New Paradise
The Old Testament sometimes figuratively described Jerusalem's restoration in paradise language (Is 51:3), but it was later Jewish texts that especially developed the picture of the end time as the restoration or amplification of the original paradise. Such texts present paradise as the home of the righteous, Gehenna that of the wicked.
22:1. The rivers of paradise in Genesis 2:10 and the waters of Jerusalem (Ps 46:4) may supply some of the background for the image here; the immediate allusion, however, is to the rivers of water flowing from the new Jerusalem's temple in Ezekiel 47:1-11 (cf. Joel 3:18; Zech 14:8). (Josephus Antiquities 1.1.3, 38, employed the Greek geographical concept of Oceanus and claimed that the garden in Eden was watered by one earth-encircling river that divided into four parts: Ganges, Euphrates, Tigris and Nile. Philo naturally identified the river with virtue, flowing forth from Eden, which was wisdom- Allegorical Interpretation 1.19, 65. John might allude to the Spirit; cf. Jn 7:37-39.)
22:2. The description of the "tree of life" is from Ezekiel 47:12, which speaks of many trees bearing fruit each month (as opposed to one season a year) and leaves for healing. John modifies Ezekiel's "trees" to incorporate an allusion to paradise: although treated elsewhere in Jewish literature (e.g., 4 Ezra), the "tree of life" is from Genesis 2:9. Later Jewish traditions further expounded the figure. (Some Jewish texts spoke of twelve trees, one for each month, in a four-river paradise, weaving together features of Ezekiel and Genesis in a manner similar to Revelation. Jewish texts frequently connected the twelve months with the twelve tribes and constellations, but John avoids astrological associations here, as elsewhere.)
22:3. The removal of the curse is from Zechariah 14:11, and in this context it refers to the reversal of the curse in Eden (Gen 3:16-19).
22:4. God's once-hidden face (Ex 33:20) will now be fully disclosed to his people (cf. comment on Jn 1:14-18). For writing on the forehead, see comment on Revelation 7:3; the point is that it will be clear that God's people belong to him alone.
22:5. Jewish visions of the future sometimes included the righteous shining like the sun or stars (1 Enoch; Ecclesiasticus; 4 Ezra; rabbis; cf. Ex 34:29; Dan 12:3); for God shining on his people, see comment on 21:23. The righteous shining and also ruling in the future are combined in Wisdom of Solomon 3:7-8.
Divine revelation and exhortation could go hand in hand. For instance, in Tobit's praise to God (Tobit 13:1-18) includes both a description of the final Jerusalem (13:9-18) and a call to repentance for Israel (13:6).
22:6-7. "Faithful and true" may represent a testimony oath formula (cf. 3:14; 22:18; Jer 42:5), verifying the veracity of the revelation. "God of the spirits of all flesh" is an Old Testament title for God (Num 16:22) attested in subsequent Jewish (e.g., Jubilees; inscriptions) and Samaritan texts; "Lord of Spirits" is also a divine title (Similitudes of Enoch; cf. similar expressions in the Dead Sea Scrolls). Here John especially identifies God with the prophets.
22:8-9. Ephesians and Colossians suggest that some Jewish Christians in Asia Minor had been assigning too prominent a role to angels; if that error is at all in view here, this passage refutes it (cf. also Rev 19:10).
22:10. Daniel had been instructed to seal up his words until the end time (Dan 12:4, 9); some of his visions had applied only to the future (8:26; 10:14; cf. Jer 23:20; 30:24; 1 Enoch 100:6). By contrast, John's revelation is meant to be understood in his own generation as well as subsequently (which should affect how subsequent generations understand his book). On opening sealed documents see comment on 5:1.
22:11. The righteous would stand, but the wicked would continue in their wickedness (Dan 12:10). John's exhortation here resembles an ironic invitation: let those who reject God's words do so, but they will pay the consequences (Ezek 3:27; cf. Jer 44:25; Amos 4:4-5; Eccles 11:9; Sibylline Oracles 3:57-59).
22:12. The Old Testament and Judaism stressed that God was righteous and would reward his people (e.g., Gen 15:1; Ps 18:20; 19:11; Is 49:4; 4 Ezra). That God would give each person according to his or her works was also Old Testament teaching (e.g., Ps 62:12; see comment on Rev 20:12).
22:13. A literary device called inclusio was used to frame a section of text by starting and ending on the same note; most of Revelation is framed by the announcement that the Lord of history is both Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (1:8; see comment on that verse).
22:14. On washed robes, compare 3:4-5 and 7:14, and see comment on 3:4; on the tree of life see comment on 22:2.
22:15. "Dogs" probably refers to the sexually immoral, specifically unrepentant prostitutes (Deut 23:17-18). Elsewhere in Revelation the imperial cult, combined with sorcery, martyrs Christians; immorality (both literal and spiritual) characterized the lifestyle of Gentile men. See also comment on 21:8 and 27; cf. also Genesis 3:24.
22:16. "Root of David" comes from the "stem of Jesse" (David's father) in Isaiah 11:1 -the shoot that would spring up from the stump of David's lineage, after his descendants had lost the throne. Some commentators suggest that "root" reverses the image, making him David's source. The morning star is Venus, herald of the dawn (cf. Rev 2:28), which in this case probably alludes to Numbers 24:17, the star descended from Jacob (Israel) and destined to reign and crush the enemies of God's people. (The Dead Sea Scrolls also applied Num 24:17 to a conquering messiah.)
22:17. Ancient Judaism especially associated the Spirit with prophecy. Everyone who hears the invitation is to join in it, and the thirsty may come and drink freely (Is 55:1) of the water of 22:1.
22:18-19. The words of a divinely instituted covenant or book were not to be altered (Deut 4:2; 12:32; cf. Prov 30:5-6). Covenants often included curses against those who broke them; those who followed idols thus invited all the curses of Deuteronomy (29:20, 27). Such claims of completeness or inspiration of books were often made in later times (e.g., 1 Enoch; Josephus and Epistle of Aristeas made this claim for the LXX) to uphold their authority or to secure them against later editors interpolating their own ideas—a practice common in books that were not treated as sacred Scripture or other inspired writings.
22:20. "Come, Lord" translates the Marana tha prayer common in early Christianity (see comment on 1 Cor 16:22), acknowledging believers' early recognition of Jesus' deity. For the testimony of witnesses at the end of a document, see comment on John 21:24.
22:21. This was an appropriate concluding greeting, often attached to Christian letters (see comment on Rom 1:7).
Revelation 20:1-15. SATAN BOUND, AND THE FIRST-RISEN SAINTS REIGN WITH CHRIST, A THOUSAND YEARS; SATAN LOOSED, GATHERS THE NATIONS, GOG AND MAGOG, ROUND THE CAMP OF THE SAINTS, AND IS FINALLY CONSIGNED TO THE LAKE OF FIRE; THE GENERAL RESURRECTION AND LAST JUDGMENT.
1. The destruction of his representatives, the beast and the false prophet, to whom he had given his power, throne, and authority, is followed by the binding of Satan himself for a thousand years. the key of the bottomless pit — now transferred from Satan's hands, who had heretofore been permitted by God to use it in letting loose plagues on the earth; he is now to be made to feel himself the torment which he had inflicted on men, but his full torment is not until he is cast into "the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:10).
2. that old — ancient serpent (Revelation 12:9). thousand years — As seven mystically implies universality, so a thousand implies perfection, whether in good or evil [AQUINAS on ch. 11]. Thousand symbolizes that the world is perfectly leavened and pervaded by the divine; since thousand is ten, the number of the world, raised to the third power, three being the number of God [AUBERLEN]. It may denote literally also a thousand years.
3. shut him — A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and ANDREAS omit "him." set a seal upon him — Greek, "over him," that is, sealed up the door of the abyss over his head. A surer seal to keep him from getting out than his seal over Jesus in the tomb of Joseph, which was burst on the resurrection morn. Satan's binding at' this juncture is not arbitrary, but is the necessary consequence of the events (Revelation 19:20); just as Satan's being cast out of heaven, where he had previously been the accuser of the brethren, was the legitimate judgment which passed on him through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ (Revelation 12:7-10). Satan imagined that he had overcome Christ on Golgotha, and that his power was secure for ever, but the Lord in death overcame him, and by His ascension as our righteous Advocate cast out Satan, the accuser from heaven. Time was given on earth to make the beast and harlot powerful, and then to concentrate all his power in Antichrist. The Antichristian kingdom, his last effort, being utterly destroyed by Christ's mere appearing, his power on earth is at an end. He had thought to destroy God's people on earth by Antichristian persecutions (just as he had thought previously to destroy Christ); but the Church is not destroyed from the earth but is raised to rule over it, and Satan himself is shut up for a thousand years in the "abyss" (Greek for "bottomless pit"), the preparatory prison to the "lake of fire," his final doom. As before he ceased by Christ's ascension to be an accuser in heaven, so during the millennium he ceases to be the seducer and the persecutor on earth. As long as the devil rules in the darkness of the world, we live in an atmosphere impregnated with deadly elements. A mighty purification of the air will be effected by Christ's coming. Though sin will not be absolutely abolished — for men will still be in the flesh (Isaiah 65:20) — sin will no longer be a universal power, for the flesh is not any longer seduced by Satan. He will not be, as now, "the god and prince of the world" — nor will the world "lie in the wicked one" — the flesh will become ever more isolated and be overcome. Christ will reign with His transfigured saints over men in the flesh [AUBERLEN]. This will be the manifestation of "the world to come," which has been already set up invisibly in the saints, amidst "this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 2:5; 5:5). The Jewish Rabbis thought, as the world was created in six days and on the seventh God rested, so there would be six millenary periods, followed by a sabbatical millennium. Out of seven years every seventh is the year of remission, so out of the seven thousand years of the world the seventh millenary shall be the millenary of remission. A tradition in the house of Elias, A.D. 200, states that the world is to endure six thousand years; two thousand before the law, two thousand under the law, and two thousand under Messiah. Compare Note, see note on Hebrews 4:9 and Hebrews 4:9, Margin; see note on Revelation 14:13. PAPIAS, JUSTIN MARTYR, IRENAEUS, and CYPRIAN, among the earliest Fathers, all held the doctrine of a millennial kingdom on earth; not till millennial views degenerated into gross carnalism was this doctrine abandoned. that he should deceive — so A. But B reads, "that he deceive" (Greek, "plana," for "planeesee "). and — so Coptic and ANDREAS. But A, B, and Vulgate omit "and."
4, 5. they sat — the twelve apostles, and the saints in general. judgment was given unto there — (See note on Daniel 7:22). The office of judging was given to them. Though in one sense having to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yet in another sense they "do not come into judgment (Greek ), but have already passed from death unto life." souls — This term is made a plea for denying the literality of the first resurrection, as if the resurrection were the spiritual one of the souls of believers in this life; the life and reign being that of the soul raised in this life from the death of sin by vivifying faith. But "souls" expresses their disembodied state (compare Revelation 6:9) as John saw them at first; "and they lived" implies their coming to life in the body again, so as to be visible, as the phrase, Revelation 20:5, "this is the first resurrection," proves; for as surely as "the rest of the dead lived not (again) until," etc. refers to the bodily general resurrection, so must the first resurrection refer to the body. This also accords with 1 Corinthians 15:23, "They that are Christ's at His coming." Compare Psalms 49:11-15. From Revelation 6:9, I infer that "souls" is here used in the strict sense of spirits disembodied when first seen by John; though doubtless "souls" is often used in general for persons, and even for dead bodies. beheaded — literally, "smitten with an axe"; a Roman punishment, though crucifixion, casting to beasts, and burning, were the more common modes of execution. The guillotine in revolutionary France was a revival of the mode of capital punishment of pagan imperial Rome. Paul was beheaded, and no doubt shall share the first resurrection, in accordance with his prayer that he "might attain unto the resurrection from out of the rest of the dead" (Greek, "exanastasis "). The above facts may account for the specification of this particular kind of punishment. for . . . for — Greek, "for the sake of"; on account of"; "because of." and which — Greek, "and the which." And prominent among this class (the beheaded), such as did not worship the beast. So Revelation 1:7, Greek, "and the which," or "and such as," particularizes prominently among the general class those that follow in the description [TREGELLES]. The extent of the first resurrection is not spoken of here. In 1 Corinthians 15:23, 51; 1 Thessalonians 4:14 we find that all "in Christ" shall share in it. John himself was not "beheaded," yet who doubts but that he shall share in the first resurrection? The martyrs are put first, because most like Jesus in their sufferings and death, therefore nearest Him in their life and reign; for Christ indirectly affirms there are relative degrees and places of honor in His kingdom, the highest being for those who drink his cup of suffering. Next shall be those who have not bowed to the world power, but have looked to the things unseen and eternal. neither — "not yet." foreheads . . . hands — Greek, "forehead . . . hand." reigned with Christ — over the earth.
5. But — B, Coptic, and ANDREAS read, "and." A and Vulgate omit it. again — A, B, Vulgate, Coptic, and ANDREAS omit it. "Lived" is used for lived again, as in Revelation 2:8. John saw them not only when restored to life, but when in the act of reviving [BENGEL]. first resurrection — "the resurrection of the just." Earth is not yet transfigured, and cannot therefore be the meet locality for the transfigured Church; but from heaven the transfigured saints with Christ rule the earth, there being a much freer communion of the heavenly and earthly churches (a type of which state may be seen in the forty days of the risen Saviour during which He appeared to His disciples), and they know no higher joy than to lead their brethren on earth to the same salvation and glory as they share themselves. The millennial reign on earth does not rest on an isolated passage of the Apocalypse, but all Old Testament prophecy goes on the same view (compare Isaiah 4:3; 11:9; 35:8). Jesus, while opposing the carnal views of the kingdom of God prevalent among the Jews in His day, does not contradict, but confirms, the Old Testament view of a coming, earthly, Jewish kingdom of glory: beginning from within, and spreading itself now spiritually, the kingdom of God shall manifest itself outwardly at Christ's coming again. The papacy is a false anticipation of the kingdom during the Church-historical period. "When Christianity became a worldly power under Constantine, the hope of the future was weakened by the joy over present success" [BENGEL]. Becoming a harlot, the Church ceased to be a bride going to meet her Bridegroom; thus millennial hopes disappeared. The rights which Rome as a harlot usurped, shall be exercised in holiness by the Bride. They are "kings" because they are "priests" (Revelation 20:6; Revelation 1:6; 5:10); their priesthood unto God and Christ (Revelation 7:15) is the ground of their kingship in relation to man. Men will be willing subjects of the transfigured priest-kings, in the day of the Lord's power. Their power is that of attraction, winning the heart, and not counteracted by devil or beast. Church and State shall then be co-extensive. Man created "to have dominion over earth" is to rejoice over his world with unmixed, holy joy. John tells us that, instead of the devil, the transfigured Church of Christ; Daniel, that instead of the heathen beast, the holy Israel, shall rule the world [AUBERLEN].
6. Blessed — (Compare Revelation 14:13; 19:9). on such the second death hath no power — even as it has none on Christ now that He is risen. priests of God — Apostate Christendom being destroyed, and the believing Church translated at Christ's coming, there will remain Israel and the heathen world, constituting the majority of men then alive, which, from not having come into close contact with the Gospel, have not incurred the guilt of rejecting it. These will be the subjects of a general conversion (Revelation 11:15). "The veil" shall be taken off Israel first, then from off "all people." The glorious events attending Christ's appearing, the destruction of Antichrist, the transfiguration of the Church, and the binding of Satan, will prepare the nations for embracing the Gospel. As individual regeneration goes on now, so there shall be a "regeneration" of nations then. Israel, as a nation, shall be "born at once — in one day." As the Church began at Christ's ascension, so the kingdom shall begin at His second advent. This is the humiliation of the modern civilized nations, that nations which they despise most, Jews and uncivilized barbarians, the negro descendants of Ham who from the curse of Noah have been so backward, Cush and Sheba, shall supplant and surpass them as centers of the world's history (compare Deuteronomy 32:21; Romans 10:19; 11:20, etc.). The Jews are our teachers even in New Testament times. Since their rejection revelation has been silent. The whole Bible. even the New Testament, is written by Jews. If revelation is to recommence in the millennial kingdom, converted Israel must stand at the head of humanity. In a religious point of view, Jews and Gentiles stand on an equal footing as both alike needing mercy; but as regards God's instrumentalities for bringing about His kingdom on earth, Israel is His chosen people for executing His plans. The Israelite priest-kings on earth are what the transfigured priest-kings are in heaven. There shall be a blessed chain of giving and receiving — God, Christ, the transfigured Bride the Church, Israel, the world of nations. A new time of revelation will begin by the outpouring of the fulness of the Spirit. Ezekiel (the fortieth through forty-eighth chapters), himself son of a priest, sets forth the priestly character of Israel; Daniel the statesman, its kingly character; Jeremiah (Jeremiah 33:17-21), both its priestly and kingly character. In the Old Testament the whole Jewish national life was religious only in an external legal manner. The New Testament Church insists on inward renewal, but leaves its outward manifestations free. But in the millennial kingdom, all spheres of life shall be truly Christianized from within outwardly. The Mosaic ceremonial law corresponds to Israel's priestly office; the civil law to its kingly office: the Gentile Church adopts the moral law, and exercises the prophetic office by the word working inwardly. But when the royal and the priestly office shall be revived, then — the principles of the Epistle to the Hebrews remaining the same — also the ceremonial and civil law of Moses will develop its spiritual depths in the divine worship (compare Matthew 5:17-19). At present is the time of preaching; but then the time of the Liturgy of converted souls forming "the great congregation" shall come. Then shall our present defective governments give place to perfect governments in both Church and State. Whereas under the Old Testament the Jews exclusively, and in the New Testament the Gentiles exclusively, enjoy the revelation of salvation (in both cases humanity being divided and separated), in the millennium both Jews and Gentiles are united, and the whole organism of mankind under the first-born brother, Israel, walks in the light of God, and the full life of humanity is at last realized. Scripture does not view the human race as an aggregate of individuals and nationalities, but as an organic whole, laid down once for all in the first pages of revelation. (Genesis 9:25-27; 10:1, 5, 18, 25, 32; Deuteronomy 32:8 recognizes the fact that from the first the division of the nations was made with a relation to Israel). Hence arises the importance of the Old Testament to the Church now as ever. Three grand groups of nations, Hamites, Japhetites, and Shemites, correspond respectively to the three fundamental elements in man — body, soul, and spirit. The flower of Shem, the representative of spiritual life, is Israel, even as the flower of Israel is He in whom all mankind is summed up, the second Adam (Genesis 12:1-3). Thus Israel is the mediator of divine revelations for all times. Even nature and the animal world will share in the millennial blessedness. As sin loses its power, decay and death will decrease [AUBERLEN]. Earthly and heavenly glories shall be united in the twofold election. Elect Israel in the flesh shall stand at the head of the earthly, the elect spiritual Church, the Bride, in the heavenly. These twofold elections are not merely for the good of the elect themselves, but for the good of those to whom they minister. The heavenly Church is elected not merely to salvation, but to rule in love, and minister blessings over the whole earth, as king-priests. The glory of the transfigured saints shall be felt by men in the flesh with the same consciousness of blessing as on the Mount of Transfiguration the three disciples experienced in witnessing the glory of Jesus, and of Moses and Elias, when Peter exclaimed, "It is good for us to be here"; in 2 Peter 1:16-18, the Transfiguration is regarded as the earnest of Christ's coming in glory. The privilege of "our high calling in Christ" is limited to the present time of Satan's reign; when he is bound, there will be no scope for suffering for, and so afterwards reigning with, Him (Revelation 3:21; compare Note, see note on 1 Corinthians 6:2). Moreover, none can be saved in the present age and in the pale of the Christian Church who does not also reign with Christ hereafter, the necessary preliminary to which is suffering with Christ now. If we fail to lay hold of the crown, we lose all, "the gift of grace as well as the reward of service" [DE BURGH].
7. expired — Greek, "finished."
8. Gog and Magog — (Ezekiel 38:1-39:29; see note on Ezekiel 38:2). Magog is a general name for northern nations of Japheth's posterity, whose ideal head is Gog (Genesis 10:2). A has but one Greek article to "Gog and Magog," whereby the two, namely, the prince and the people, are marked as having the closest connection. B reads the second article before Magog wrongly. HILLER [Onomasticon ] explains both words as signifying "lofty," "elevated." For "quarters" the Greek is "corners." to battle — Greek, "to the war," in A and B. But ANDREAS omits "the."
9. on the breadth of the earth — so as completely to overspread it. Perhaps we ought to translate, ". . . of the [holy] land." the camp of the saints and the beloved city — the camp of the saints encircling the beloved city, Jerusalem (Ecclesiasticus 24:11). Contrast "hateful" in Babylon (Revelation 18:2; Deuteronomy 32:15, Septuagint ). Ezekiel's prophecy of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38:1-39:29) refers to the attack made by Antichrist on Israel before the millennium: but this attack is made after the millennium, so that "Gog and Magog" are mystical names representing the final adversaries led by Satan in person. Ezekiel's Gog and Magog come from the north, but those here come "from the four corners of the earth." Gog is by some connected with a Hebrew root, "covered." from God — so B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS. But A omits the words. Even during the millennium there is a separation between heaven and earth, transfigured humanity and humanity in the flesh. Hence it is possible that an apostasy should take place at its close. In the judgment on this apostasy the world of nature is destroyed and renewed, as the world of history was before the millennial kingdom; it is only then that the new heaven and new earth are realized in final perfection. The millennial new heaven and earth are but a foretaste of this everlasting state when the upper and lower congregations shall be no longer separate, though connected as in the millennium, and when new Jerusalem shall descend from God out of heaven. The inherited sinfulness of our nature shall be the only influence during the millennium to prevent the power of the transfigured Church saving all souls. When this time of grace shall end, no other shall succeed. For what can move him in whom the visible glory of the Church, while the influence of evil is restrained, evokes no longing for communion with the Church's King? As the history of the world of nations ended with the manifestation of the Church in visible glory, so that of mankind in general shall end with the great separation of the just from the wicked (Revelation 20:12) [AUBERLEN].
10. that deceived — Greek, "that deceiveth." lake of fire — his final doom: as "the bottomless pit" (Revelation 20:1) was his temporary prison. where — so Coptic. But A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "where also." the beast and the false prophet are — (Revelation 19:20). day and night — figurative for without intermission (Revelation 22:5), such as now is caused by night interposing between day and day. The same phrase is used of the external state of the blessed (Revelation 4:8). As the bliss of these is eternal, so the woe of Satan and the lost must be. As the beast and the false prophet led the former conspiracy against Christ and His people, so Satan in person heads the last conspiracy. Satan shall not be permitted to enter this Paradise regained, to show the perfect security of believers, unlike the first Adam whom Satan succeeded in robbing of Paradise; and shall, like Pharaoh at the Rod Sea, receive in this last attempt his final doom. for ever and ever — Greek, "to the ages of the ages."
11. great — in contrast to the "thrones," Revelation 20:4. white — the emblem of purity and justice. him that sat on it — the Father [ALFORD]. Rather, the Son, to whom "the Father hath committed all judgment." God in Christ, that is, the Father represented by the Son, is He before whose judgment-seat we must all stand. The Son's mediatorial reign is with a view to prepare the kingdom for the Father's acceptance. When He has done that, He shall give it up.to the Father, "that God may be all in all," coming into direct communion with His creatures, without intervention of a Mediator, for the first time since the fall. Heretofore Christ's Prophetical mediation had been prominent in His earthly ministry, His Priestly mediation is prominent now in heaven between His first and second advents, and His Kingly shall be so during the millennium and at the general judgment. earth and heaven fled away — The final conflagration, therefore, precedes the general judgment. This is followed by the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1-27).
12. the dead — "the rest of the dead" who did not share the first resurrection, and those who died during the millennium. small and great — B has "the small and the great." A, Vulgate, Syriac, and ANDREAS have "the great and the small." The wicked who had died from the time of Adam to Christ's second advent, and all the righteous and wicked who had died during and after the millennium, shall then have their eternal portion assigned to them. The godly who were transfigured and reigned with Christ during it, shall also be present, not indeed to have their portion assigned as if for the first time (for that shall have been fixed long before, John 5:24), but to have it confirmed for ever, and that God's righteousness may be vindicated in the case of both the saved and the lost, in the presence of an assembled universe. Compare "We must ALL appear," etc. Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10. The saints having been first pronounced just themselves by Christ out of "the book of life," shall sit as assessors of the Judge. Compare Matthew 25:31, 32, 40, "these My brethren." God's omniscience will not allow the most insignificant to escape unobserved, and His omnipotence will cause the mightiest to obey the summons. The living are not specially mentioned: as these all shall probably first (before the destruction of the ungodly, Revelation 20:9) be transfigured, and caught up with the saints long previously transfigured; and though present for the confirmation of their justification by the Judge, shall not then first have their eternal state assigned to them, but shall sit as assessors with the Judge. the books . . . opened — (Daniel 7:10). The books of God's remembrance, alike of the evil and the good (Psalms 56:8; 139:4; Malachi 3:16): conscience (Romans 2:15, 16), the word of Christ (John 12:48), the law (Galatians 3:10), God's eternal counsel (Psalms 139:16). book of life — (Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 21:27; Exodus 32:32, 33; Psalms 69:28; Daniel 12:1; Philippians 4:3). Besides the general book recording the works of all, there is a special book for believers in which their names are written, not for their works, but for the work of Christ for, and in, them. Therefore it is called, "the Lamb's book of life." Electing grace has singled them out from the general mass. according to their works — We are justified by faith, but judged according to (not by ) our works. For the general judgment is primarily designed for the final vindication of God's righteousness before the whole world, which in this checkered dispensation of good and evil, though really ruling the world, has been for the time less manifest. Faith is appreciable by God and the believer alone (Revelation 2:17). But works are appreciable by all. These, then, are made the evidential test to decide men's eternal state, thus showing that God's administration of judgment is altogether righteous.
13. death and hell — Greek, "Hades." The essential identity of the dying and risen body is hereby shown; for the sea and grave give up their dead. The body that sinned or served God shall, in righteous retribution, be the body also that shall suffer or be rewarded. The "sea" may have a symbolical [CLUVER from AUGUSTINE], besides the literal meaning, as, in Revelation 8:8; 12:12; 13:1; 18:17, 19; so "death" and "hell" are personifications (compare Revelation 21:1). But the literal sense need hardly be departed from: all the different regions wherein the bodies and souls of men had been, gave them up.
14. Death and Hades, as personified representatives of the enemies of Christ' and His Church, are said to be cast into the lake of fire to express the truth that Christ and His people shall never more die, or be in the state of disembodied spirits. This is the second death — "the lake of fire" is added in A, B, and ANDREAS. English Version, which omits the clause, rests on inferior manuscripts. In hell the ancient form of death, which was one of the enemies destroyed by Christ, shall not continue, but a death of a far different kind reigns there, "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord": an abiding testimony of the victory of Christ.
15. The blissful lot of the righteous is not here specially mentioned as their bliss had commenced before the final judgment. Compare, however, Matthew 25:34, 41, 46.
Revelation 21:1-27. THE NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH: NEW JERUSALEM OUT OF HEAVEN.
The remaining two chapters describe the eternal and consummated kingdom of God and the saints on the new earth. As the world of nations is to be pervaded by divine influence in the millennium, so the world of nature shall be, not annihilated, but transfigured universally in the eternal state which follows it. The earth was cursed for man's sake; but is redeemed by the second Adam. Now is the Church; in the millennium shall be the kingdom; and after that shall be the new world wherein God shall be all in all. The "day of the Lord" and the conflagration of the earth are in 2 Peter 3:10, 11 spoken of as if connected together, from which many argue against a millennial interval between His coming and the general conflagration of the old earth, preparatory to the new; but "day" is used often of a whole period comprising events intimately connected together, as are the Lord's second advent, the millennium, and the general conflagration and judgment. Compare Genesis 2:4 as to the wide use of "day." Man's soul is redeemed by regeneration through the Holy Spirit now; man's body shall be redeemed at the resurrection; man's dwelling-place, His inheritance, the earth, shall be redeemed perfectly at the creation of the new heaven and earth, which shall exceed in glory the first Paradise, as much as the second Adam exceeds in glory the first Adam before the fall, and as man regenerated in body and soul shall exceed man as he was at creation.
1. the first — that is the former. passed away — Greek, in A and B is "were departed" (Greek, "apeelthon," not as in English Version, "pareelthe "). was — Greek, "is," which graphically sets the thing before our eyes as present. no more sea — The sea is the type of perpetual unrest. Hence our Lord rebukes it as an unruly hostile troubler of His people. It symbolized the political tumults out of which "the beast" arose, Revelation 13:1. As the physical corresponds to the spiritual and moral world, so the absence of sea, after the metamorphosis of the earth by fire, answers to the unruffled state of solid peace which shall then prevail. The sea, though severing lands from one another, is now, by God's eliciting of good from evil, made the medium of communication between countries through navigation. Then man shall possess inherent powers which shall make the sea no longer necessary, but an element which would detract from a perfect state. A "river" and "water" are spoken of in Revelation 22:1, 2, probably literal (that is, with such changes of the natural properties of water, as correspond analogically to man's own transfigured body), as well as symbolical. The sea was once the element of the world's destruction, and is still the source of death to thousands, whence after the millennium, at the general judgment, it is specially said, "The sea gave up the dead . . . in it." Then it shall cease to destroy, or disturb, being removed altogether on account of its past destructions.
2. And I John — "John" is omitted in A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS; also the "I" in the Greek of these authorities is not emphatic. The insertion of "I John" in the Greek would somewhat interfere with the close connection which subsists between "the new heaven and earth," Revelation 21:1, and the "new Jerusalem" in this verse. Jerusalem . . . out of heaven — (Revelation 3:12; Galatians 4:26, "Jerusalem which is above"; Hebrews 11:10; 12:22; 13:14). The descent of the new Jerusalem out of heaven is plainly distinct from the earthly Jerusalem in which Israel in the flesh shall dwell during the millennium, and follows on the creation of the new heaven and earth. John in his Gospel always writes [Greek ] Hierosoluma of the old city; in the Apocalypse always Hierousaleem of the heavenly city (Revelation 3:12). Hierousaleem is a Hebrew name, the original and holy appellation. Hierosoluma is the common Greek term, used in a political sense. Paul observes the same distinction when refuting Judaism (Galatians 4:26; compare Galatians 1:17, 18; 2:1; Hebrews 12:22), though not so in the Epistles to Romans and Corinthians [BENGEL]. bride — made up of the blessed citizens of "the holy city." There is no longer merely a Paradise as in Eden (though there is that also, Revelation 2:7), no longer a mere garden, but now the city of God on earth, costlier, statelier, and more glorious, but at the same time the result of labor and pains such as had not to be expended by man in dressing the primitive garden of Eden. "The lively stones" were severally in time laboriously chiselled into shape, after the pattern of "the Chief corner-stone," to prepare them for the place which they shall everlastingly fill in the heavenly Jerusalem.
3. out of heaven — so ANDREAS. But A and Vulgate read, "out of the throne." the tabernacle — alluding to the tabernacle of God in the wilderness (wherein many signs of His presence were given): of which this is the antitype, having previously been in heaven: Revelation 11:19; 15:5, "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven"; also Revelation 13:6. Compare the contrast in Hebrews 9:23, 14, between "the patterns" and "the heavenly things themselves," between "the figures" and "the true." The earnest of the true and heavenly tabernacle was afforded in the Jerusalem temple described in Ezekiel 40:1-42:20, as about to be, namely, during the millennium. dwell with them — literally, "tabernacle with them"; the same Greek word as is used of the divine Son "tabernacling among us." Then He was in the weakness of the flesh: but at the new creation of heaven and earth He shall tabernacle among us in the glory of His manifested Godhead (Revelation 22:4). they — in Greek emphatic, "they" (in particular). his people — Greek, "His peoples ": "the nations of the saved" being all peculiarly His, as Israel was designed to be. So A reads. But B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "His people ": singular. God himself . . . with them — realizing fully His name Immanuel.
4. all tears — Greek, "every tear." no more death — Greek, "death shall be no more." Therefore it is not the millennium, for in the latter there is death (Isaiah 65:20; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54, "the last enemy . . . destroyed is death," Revelation 20:14, after the millennium). sorrow — Greek, "mourning." passed away — Greek, "departed," as in Revelation 21:1.
5. sat — Greek, "sitteth." all things new — not recent, but changed from the old (Greek, "kaina," not "nea "). An earnest of this regeneration and transfiguration of nature is given already in the regenerate soul. unto me — so Coptic and ANDREAS. But A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac omit. true and faithful — so ANDREAS. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic transpose, "faithful and true" (literally, "genuine").
6. It is done — the same Greek as in Revelation 16:17. "It is come to pass." So Vulgate reads with English Version. But A reads, "They (‘these words, ‘ Revelation 21:5) are come to pass." All is as sure as if it actually had been fulfilled for it rests on the word of the unchanging God. When the consummation shall be, God shall rejoice over the work of His own hands, as at the completion of the first creation God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Alpha . . . Omega — Greek in A and B, "the Alpha . . . the Omega" (Revelation 1:18). give unto . . . athirst . . . water of life — (Revelation 22:17; Isaiah 12:3; 55:1; John 4:13, 14; 7:37, 38). This is added lest any should despair of attaining to this exceeding weight of glory. In our present state we may drink of the stream, then we shall drink at the Fountain. freely — Greek, "gratuitously": the same Greek as is translated, "(They hated Me) without a cause," John 15:25. As gratuitous as was man's hatred of God, so gratuitous is God's love to man: there was every cause in Christ why man should love Him, yet man hated Him; there was every cause in man why (humanly speaking) God should have hated man, yet God loved man: the very reverse of what might be expected took place in both cases. Even in heaven our drinking at the Fountain shall be God's gratuitous gift.
7. He that overcometh — another aspect of the believer's life: a conflict with sin, Satan, and the world is needed. Thirsting for salvation is the first beginning of, and continues for ever (in the sense of an appetite and relish for divine joys) a characteristic of the believer. In a different sense, the believer "shall never thirst." inherit all things — A, B, Vulgate, and CYPRIAN read, "these things," namely, the blessings described in this whole passage. With "all things," compare 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. I will be his God — Greek, "I will be to him a God," that is, all that is implied of blessing in the name "God." he shall be my son — "He" is emphatic: He in particular and in a peculiar sense, above others: Greek, "shall be to me a son," in fullest realization of the promise made in type to Solomon, son of David, and antitypically to the divine Son of David.
8. the fearful — Greek, "the cowardly," who do not quit themselves like men so as to "overcome" in the good fight; who have the spirit of slavish "fear," not love, towards God; and who through fear of man are not bold for God, or "draw back." Compare Revelation 21:27; 22:15. unbelieving — Greek, "faithless." abominable — who have drank of the harlot's "cup of abominations." sorcerers — one of the characteristics of Antichrist's time. all liars — Greek, "all the liars": or else "all who are liars"; compare 1 Timothy 4:1, 2, where similarly lying and dealings with spirits and demons, are joined together as features of "the latter times." second death — Revelation 20:14: "everlasting destruction," 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Mark 9:44, 46, 48, "Where THEIR worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
9. The same angel who had shown John Babylon the harlot, is appropriately employed to show him in contrast new Jerusalem, the Bride (Revelation 17:1-5). The angel so employed is the one that had the last seven plagues, to show that the ultimate blessedness of the Church is one end of the divine judgments on her foes. unto me — A, B, and Vulgate omit. the Lamb's wife — in contrast to her who sat on many waters (Revelation 17:1), (that is, intrigued with many peoples and nations of the world, instead of giving her undivided affections, as the Bride does, to the Lamb.
10. The words correspond to Revelation 17:3, to heighten the contrast of the bride and harlot. mountain — Compare Ezekiel 40:2, where a similar vision is given from a high mountain. that great — omitted in A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and CYPRIAN. Translate then, "the holy city Jerusalem." descending — Even in the millennium the earth will not be a suitable abode for transfigured saints, who therefore shall then reign in heaven over the earth. But after the renewal of the earth at the close of the millennium and judgment, they shall descend from heaven to dwell on an earth assimilated to heaven itself. "From God" implies that "we (the city) are God's workmanship."
11. Having the glory of God — not merely the Shekinah-cloud, but God Himself as her glory dwelling in the midst of her. Compare the type, the earthly Jerusalem in the millennium (Zechariah 2:5; compare Revelation 21:23, below). her light — Greek, "light-giver": properly applied to the heavenly luminaries which diffuse light. Compare Note, see note on Philippians 2:15, the only other passage where it occurs. The "and" before "her light' is omitted in A, B, and Vulgate. even like — Greek, "as it were." jasper — representing watery crystalline brightness.
12. And — A and B omit. Ezekiel 48:30-35, has a similar description, which implies that the millennial Jerusalem shall have its exact antitype in the heavenly Jerusalem which shall descend on the finally regenerated earth. wall great and high — setting forth the security of the Church. Also, the exclusion of the ungodly. twelve angels — guards of the twelve gates: an additional emblem of perfect security, while the gates being never shut (Revelation 21:25) imply perfect liberty and peace. Also, angels shall be the brethren of the heavenly citizens. names of . . . twelve tribes — The inscription of the names on the gates implies that none but the spiritual Israel, God's elect, shall enter the heavenly city. As the millennium wherein literal Israel in the flesh shall be the mother Church, is the antitype to the Old Testament earthly theocracy in the Holy Land, so the heavenly new Jerusalem is the consummation antitypical to the spiritual Israel, the elect Church of Jews and Gentiles being now gathered out: as the spiritual Israel now is an advance upon the previous literal and carnal Israel, so the heavenly Jerusalem shall be much in advance of the millennial Jerusalem.
13. On the north . . . on the south — A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "And on the north and on the south." In Ezekiel, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan (for which Manasseh is substituted in Revelation 7:6), are on the east (Ezekiel 48:32); Reuben, Judah, Levi, are on the north (Ezekiel 48:31); Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, on the south (Ezekiel 48:33); Gad, Asher, Naphtali, on the west (Ezekiel 48:34). In Numbers, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun are on the east (Numbers 2:3, 5, 7). Reuben, Simeon, Gad, on the south (Numbers 2:10, 12, 14). Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, on the west (Numbers 2:18, 20, 22). Dan, Asher, Naphtali, on the north (Numbers 2:25, 27, 29).
14. twelve foundations — Joshua, the type of Jesus, chose twelve men out of the people, to carry twelve stones over the Jordan with them, as Jesus chose twelve apostles to be the twelve foundations of the heavenly city, of which He is Himself the Chief corner-stone. Peter is not the only apostolic rock on whose preaching Christ builds His Church. Christ Himself is the true foundation: the twelve are foundations only in regard to their apostolic testimony concerning Him. Though Paul was an apostle besides the twelve, yet the mystical number is retained, twelve representing the Church, namely thirty the divine number, multiplied by four, the world number. in them the names, etc. — As architects often have their names inscribed on their great works, so the names of the apostles shall be held in everlasting remembrance. Vulgate reads, "in them." But A, B, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS read, "upon them." These authorities also insert "twelve" before "names."
15. had a golden reed — so Coptic. But A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "had (as) a measure, a golden reed." In Revelation 11:2 the non-measuring of the outer courts of the temple implied its being given up to secular and heathen desecration. So here, on the contrary, the city being measured implies the entire consecration of every part, all things being brought up to the most exact standard of God's holy requirements, and also God's accurate guardianship henceforth of even the most minute parts of His holy city from all evil.
16. twelve thousand furlongs — literally, "to twelve thousand stadii ": one thousand furlongs being the space between the several twelve gates. BENGEL makes the length of each side of the city to be twelve thousand stadii. The stupendous height, length, and breadth being exactly alike, imply its faultless symmetry, transcending in glory all our most glowing conceptions.
17. hundred . . . forty . . . four cubits — twelve times twelve: the Church-number squared. The wall is far beneath the height of the city. measure of a man, that is, of the angel — The ordinary measure used by men is the measure here used by the angel, distinct from "the measure of the sanctuary." Men shall then be equal to the angels.
18. the building — "the structure" [TREGELLES], Greek, "endomeesis." gold, like . . . clear glass — Ideal gold, transparent as no gold here is [ALFORD]. Excellencies will be combined in the heavenly city which now seem incompatible.
19. And — so Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS. But A, B, and Vulgate omit. Compare Revelation 21:14 with this verse; also Isaiah 54:11. all manner of precious stones — Contrast Revelation 18:12 as to the harlot, Babylon. These precious stones constituted the "foundations." chalcedony — agate from Chalcedon: semi-opaque, sky-blue, with stripes of other colors [ALFORD].
20. sardonyx — a gem having the redness of the cornelian, and the whiteness of the onyx. sardius — (See note on Revelation 4:3). chrysolite — described by PLINY as transparent and of a golden brightness, like our topaz: different from our pale green crystallized chrysolite. beryl — of a sea-green color. topaz — PLINY [37.32], makes it green and transparent, like our chrysolite. chrysoprasus — somewhat pale, and having the purple color of the amethyst [PLINY, 37, 20, 21]. jacinth — The flashing violet brightness in the amethyst is diluted in the jacinth [PLINY, 37.41].
21. every several — Greek, "each one severally."
22. no temple . . . God . . . the temple — As God now dwells in the spiritual Church, His "temple" (Greek, "naos," "shrine"; 1 Corinthians 3:17; 6:19), so the Church when perfected shall dwell in Him as her "temple" (naos: the same Greek ). As the Church was "His sanctuary," so He is to be their sanctuary. Means of grace shall cease when the end of grace is come. Church ordinances shall give place to the God of ordinances. Uninterrupted, immediate, direct, communion with Him and the Lamb (compare John 4:23), shall supersede intervening ordinances.
23. in it — so Vulgate. But A, B, and ANDREAS read, "(shine) on it," or literally, "for her." the light — Greek, "the lamp" (Isaiah 60:19, 20). The direct light of God and the Lamb shall make the saints independent of God's creatures, the sun and moon, for light.
24. of them which are saved . . . in — A, B, Vulgate, Coptic, and ANDREAS read "(the nations shall walk) by means of her light": omitting "of them which are saved." Her brightness shall supply them with light. the kings of the earth — who once had regard only to their glory, having been converted, now in the new Jerusalem do bring their glory into it, to lay it down at the feet of their God and Lord. and honour — so B, Vulgate, and Syriac. But A omits the clause.
25. not be shut . . . by day — therefore shall never be shut: for it shall always be day. Gates are usually shut by night: but in it shall be no night. There shall be continual free ingress into it, so as that all which is blessed and glorious may continually be brought into it. So in the millennial type.
26. All that was truly glorious and excellent in the earth and its converted nations shall be gathered into it; and while all shall form one Bride, there shall be various orders among the redeemed, analogous to the divisions of nations on earth constituting the one great human family, and to the various orders of angels.
27. anything that defileth — Greek, "koinoun." A and B read [koinon, ] "anything unclean." in the Lamb's book of life — (See note on Revelation 20:12, see note on Revelation 20:15). As all the filth of the old Jerusalem was carried outside the walls and burnt there, so nothing defiled shall enter the heavenly city, but be burnt outside (compare Revelation 22:15). It is striking that the apostle of love, who shows us the glories of the heavenly city, is he also who speaks most plainly of the terrors of hell. On Revelation 21:26, 27, ALFORD writes a Note, rash in speculation, about the heathen nations, above what is written, and not at all required by the sacred text: compare Note, see note on Revelation 21:26.
Revelation 22:1-21. THE RIVER OF LIFE: THE TREE OF LIFE: THE OTHER BLESSEDNESSES OF THE REDEEMED. JOHN FORBIDDEN TO WORSHIP THE ANGEL. NEARNESS OF CHRIST'S COMING TO FIX MAN'S ETERNAL STATE. TESTIMONY OF JESUS, HIS SPIRIT, AND THE BRIDE, ANY ADDITION TO WHICH, OR SUBTRACTION FROM WHICH, SHALL BE ETERNALLY PUNISHED. CLOSING BENEDICTION.
1. pure — A, B, Vulgate, and HILARY 22, omit. water of life — infinitely superior to the typical waters in the first Paradise (Genesis 2:10-14); and even superior to those figurative ones in the millennial Jerusalem (Ezekiel 47:1, 12; Zechariah 14:8), as the matured fruit is superior to the flower. The millennial waters represent full Gospel grace; these waters of new Jerusalem represent Gospel glory perfected. Their continuous flow from God, the Fountain of life, symbolizes the uninterrupted continuance of life derived by the saints, ever fresh, from Him: life in fulness of joy, as well as perpetual vitality. Like pure crystal, it is free from every taint: compare Revelation 4:6, "before the throne a sea of glass, like crystal." clear — Greek, "bright."
2. The harmonious unity of Scripture is herein exhibited. The Fathers compared it to a ring, an unbroken circle, returning into itself. Between the events of Genesis and those at the close of the Apocalypse, at least six thousand or seven thousand years intervene; and between Moses the first writer and John the last about one thousand five hundred years. How striking it is that, as in the beginning we found Adam and Eve, his bride, in innocence m Paradise, then tempted by the serpent, and driven from the tree of life, and from the pleasant waters of Eden, yet not without a promise of a Redeemer who should crush the serpent; so at the close, the. old serpent cast out for ever by the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, who appears with His Bride, the Church, in a better Paradise, and amidst better waters (Revelation 22:1): the tree of life also is there with all its healing properties, not guarded with a flaming sword, but open to all who overcome (Revelation 2:7), and there is no more curse. street of it — that is, of the city. on either side of the river — ALFORD translates, "In the midst of the street of it (the city) and of the river, on one side and on the other" (for the second Greek, "enteuthen," A, B, and Syriac read, ekeithen: the sense is the same; compare Greek, John 19:18); thus the trees were on each side in the middle of the space between the street and the river. But from Ezekiel 47:7, I prefer English Version. The antitype exceeds the type: in the first Paradise was only one tree of life; now there are "very many trees at the bank of the river, on the one side and on the other." To make good sense, supposing there to be but one tree, we should either, as MEDE, suppose that the Greek for street is a plain washed on both sides by the river (as the first Paradise was washed on one side by the Tigris, on the other by the Euphrates), and that in the midst of the plain, which itself is in the midst of the river's branches, stood the tree: in which case we may translate, "In the midst of the street (plain) itself, and of the river (having two branches flowing) on this and on that side, was there the tree of life." Or else with DURHAM suppose, the tree was in the midst of the river, and extending its branches to both banks. But compare Ezekiel 47:12, the millennial type of the final Paradise; which shows that there are several trees of the one kind, all termed "the tree of life." Death reigns now because of sin; even in the millennial earth sin, and therefore death, though much limited, shall not altogether cease. But in the final and heavenly city on earth, sin and death shall utterly cease. yielded her fruit every month — Greek, "according to each month"; each month had its own proper fruit, just as different seasons are now marked by their own productions; only that then, unlike now, there shall be no season without its fruit, and there shall be an endless variety, answering to twelve, the number symbolical of the world-wide Church (compare Note, see note on Revelation 12:1; see note on Revelation 21:14). ARCHBISHOP WHATELY thinks that the tree of life was among the trees of which Adam freely ate (Genesis 2:9, 16, 17), and that his continuance in immortality was dependent on his continuing to eat of this tree; having forfeited it, he became liable to death; but still the effects of having eaten of it for a time showed themselves in the longevity of the patriarchs. God could undoubtedly endue a tree with special medicinal powers. But Genesis 3:22 seems to imply, man had not yet taken of the tree, and that if he had, he would have lived for ever, which in his then fallen state would have been the greatest curse. leaves . . . for . . . healing — (Ezekiel 47:9, 12). The leaves shall be the health-giving preventive securing the redeemed against, not healing them of, sicknesses, while "the fruit shall be for meat." In the millennium described in Ezekiel 47:1-23 and Revelation 20:1-15, the Church shall give the Gospel-tree to the nations outside Israel and the Church, and so shall heal their spiritual malady; but in the final and perfect new Jerusalem here described, the state of all is eternally fixed, and no saving process goes on any longer (compare Revelation 22:11). ALFORD utterly mistakes in speaking of "nations outside," and "dwelling on the renewed earth, organized under kings, and saved by the influences of the heavenly city" (!) Compare Revelation 21:2, 10-27; the "nations" mentioned (Revelation 21:24) are those which have long before, namely, in the millennium (Revelation 11:15), become the Lord's and His Christ's.
3. no more curse — of which the earnest shall be given in the millennium (Zechariah 14:11). God can only dwell where the curse and its cause, the cursed thing sin (Joshua 7:12), are removed. So there follows rightly, "But the throne of God and of the Lamb (who redeemed us from the curse, Galatians 3:10, 13) shall be in it." Compare in the millennium, Ezekiel 48:35. serve him — with worship (Revelation 7:15).
4. see his face — revealed in divine glory, in Christ Jesus. They shall see and know Him with intuitive knowledge of Him, even as they are known by Him (1 Corinthians 13:9-12), and face to face. Compare 1 Timothy 6:16, with John 14:9. God the Father can only be seen in Christ. in — Greek, "on their foreheads." Not only shall they personally and in secret (Revelation 3:17) know their sonship, but they shall be known as sons of God to all the citizens of the new Jerusalem, so that the free flow of mutual love among the members of Christ's family will not be checked by suspicion as here.
5. there — so ANDREAS. But A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "(there shall be no night) any longer"; Greek, "eti," for "ekei." they need — A, Vulgate, and Coptic read the future, "they shall not have need." B reads, "(and there shall be) no need." candle — Greek, "lamp." A, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic insert "light (of a candle, or lamp )." B Omits it. of the sun — so A. But B omits it. giveth . . . light — "illumines." So Vulgate and Syriac. But A reads, "shall give light." them — so B and ANDREAS. But A reads, "upon them." reign — with a glory probably transcending that of their reign in heaven with Christ over the millennial nations in the flesh described in Revelation 20:4, 6; that reign was but for a limited time, "a thousand years"; this final reign is "unto the ages of the ages."
6. These sayings are true — thrice repeated (Revelation 19:9; 21:5). For we are slow to believe that God is as good as He is. The news seems to us, habituated as we are to the misery of this fallen world, too good to be true [NANGLE]. They are no dreams of a visionary, but the realities of God's sure word. holy — so ANDREAS. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "(the Lord God of the) spirits (of the prophets)." The Lord God who with His Spirit inspired their spirits so as to be able to prophesy. There is but one Spirit, but individual prophets, according to the measure given them (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), had their own spirits [BENGEL] (1 Peter 1:11; 2 Peter 1:21). be done — Greek, "come to pass."
7. "And" is omitted in Coptic and ANDREAS with English Version, but is inserted by A, B, Vulgate and Syriac. blessed — (Revelation 1:3).
8. Both here and in Revelation 19:9, 10, the apostle's falling at the feet of the angel is preceded by a glorious promise to the Church, accompanied with the assurance, that "These are the true sayings of God," and that those are "blessed" who keep them. Rapturous emotion, gratitude, and adoration, at the prospect of the Church's future glory transport him out of himself, so as all but to fall into an unjustifiable act; contrast his opposite feeling at the prospect of the Church's deep fall [AUBERLEN], see note on Revelation 17:6; see note on Revelation 19:9, see note on Revelation 19:10. saw . . . and heard — A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac transpose these verbs. Translate literally, "I John (was he) who heard and saw these things." It is observable that in Revelation 19:10, the language is, "I fell before his feet to worship him"; but here, "I fell down to worship (God?) before the feet of the angel." It seems unlikely that John, when once reproved, would fall into the very same error again. BENGEL'S view, therefore, is probable; John had first intended to worship the angel (Revelation 19:10), but now only at his feet intends to worship (God). The angel does not even permit this.
9. Literally, "See not"; the abruptness of the phrase marking the angel's abhorrence of the thought of his being worshipped however indirectly. Contrast the fallen angel's temptation to Jesus, "Fall down and worship me" (Matthew 4:9). for — A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, ANDREAS, and CYPRIAN omit "for"; which accords with the abrupt earnestness of the angel's prohibition of an act derogatory to God. and of — "and (the fellow servant) of thy brethren."
10. Seal not — But in Daniel 12:4, 9 (compare Daniel 8:26), the command is, "Seal the book," for the vision shall be "for many days." The fulfilment of Daniel's prophecy was distant, that of John's prophecy is near. The New Testament is the time of the end and fulfilment. The Gentile Church, for which John wrote his Revelation, needs more to be impressed with the shortness of the period, as it is inclined, owing to its Gentile origin, to conform to the world and forget the coming of the Lord. The Revelation points, on the one hand, to Christ's coming as distant, for it shows the succession of the seven seals, trumpets, and vials; on the other hand, it proclaims, "Behold, I come quickly." So Christ marked many events as about to intervene before His coming, and yet He also says "Behold, I come quickly," because our right attitude is that of continual prayerful watching for His coming (Matthew 25:6, 13, 19; Mark 13:32-37 [AUBERLEN]; compare Revelation 1:3).
11. unjust — "unrighteous"; in relation to one's fellow men; opposed to "righteous," or "just" (as the Greek may be translated) below. More literally, "he that doeth unjustly, let him do unjustly still." filthy — in relation to one's own soul as unclean before God; opposed to holy," consecrated to God as pure. A omits the clause, "He which is filthy let him be filthy still." But B supports it. In the letter of the Vienne and Lyons Martyrs (in EUSEBIUS) in the second century, the reading is, "He that is lawless (Greek, ‘anomos ‘) let him be lawless; and he that is righteous let him be righteous (literally, ‘be justified') still." No manuscript is so old. A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, ANDREAS, and CYPRIAN read, "let him do righteousness" (1 John 2:29; 3:7). The punishment of sin is sin, the reward of holiness is holiness. Eternal punishment is not so much an arbitrary law, as a result necessarily following in the very nature of things, as the fruit results from the bud. No worse punishment can God lay on ungodly men than to give them up to themselves. The solemn lesson derivable from this verse is, Be converted now in the short time left (Revelation 22:10, end) before "I come" (Revelation 22:7, 12), or else you must remain unconverted for ever; sin in the eternal world will be left to its own natural consequences; holiness in germ will there develop itself into perfect holiness, which is happiness.
12. And — in none of our manuscripts. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and CYPRIAN omit it. behold, I come quickly — (Compare Revelation 22:7). my reward is with me — (Isaiah 40:10; 62:11). to give — Greek, "to render." every man — Greek, "to each." shall be — so B in MAI. But B in TISCHENDORF, and A, Syriac, read, "is."
13. I am Alpha — Greek, ". . . the Alpha and the Omega." A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, ORIGEN, and CYPRIAN transpose thus, "the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." ANDREAS supports English Version. Compare with these divine titles assumed here by the Lord Jesus, Revelation 1:8, 17; 21:6. At the winding up of the whole scheme of revelation He announces Himself as the One before whom and after whom there is no God.
14. do his commandments — so B, Syriac, Coptic, and CYPRIAN. But A, a, and Vulgate read, "(Blessed are they that) wash their robes," namely, in the blood of the Lamb (compare Revelation 7:14). This reading takes away the pretext for the notion of salvation by works. But even English Version reading is quite compatible with salvation by grace; for God's first and grand Gospel "commandment" is to believe on Jesus. Thus our "right" to (Greek, "privilege" or "lawful authority over") the tree of life is due not to our doings, but to what He has done for us. The right, or privilege, is founded, not on our merits, but on God's grace. through — Greek, "by the gates."
15. But — so Coptic. But A, B, HIPPOLYTUS, ANDREAS, and CYPRIAN omit. dogs — Greek, "the dogs"; the impure, filthy (Revelation 22:11; compare Philippians 3:2). maketh — including also "whosoever practiceth a lie" [W. KELLY].
16. mine angel — for Jesus is Lord of the angels. unto you — ministers and people in the seven representative churches, and, through you, to testify to Christians of all times and places. root . . . offspring of David — appropriate title here where assuring His Church of "the sure mercies of David," secured to Israel first, and through Israel to the Gentiles. Root of David, as being Jehovah; the offspring of David as man. David's Lord, yet David's son (Matthew 22:42-45). the morning star — that ushered in the day of grace in the beginning of this dispensation and that shall usher in the everlasting day of glory at its close.
17. Reply of the spiritual Church and John to Christ's words (Revelation 22:7, 12, 16). the Spirit — in the churches and in the prophets. the bride — not here called "wife," as that title applies to her only when the full number constituting the Church shall have been completed. The invitation, "Come," only holds good while the Church is still but an affianced Bride, and not the actually wedded wife. However, "Come" may rather be the prayer of the Spirit in the Church and in believers in reply to Christ's "I come quickly," crying, Even so, "Come" (Revelation 22:7, 12); Revelation 22:20 confirms this view. The whole question of your salvation hinges on this, that you be able to hear with joy Christ's announcement, "I come," and to reply, "Come" [BENGEL]. Come to fully glorify Thy Bride. let him that heareth — that is, let him that heareth the Spirit and Bride saying to the Lord Jesus, "Come," join the Bride as a true believer, become part of her, and so say with her to Jesus, "Come." On "heareth" means "obeyeth"; for until one has obeyed the Gospel call, he cannot pray to Jesus "Come"; so "hear" is used, Revelation 1:3; John 10:16. Let him that hears and obeys Jesus' voice (Revelation 22:16; Revelation 1:3) join in praying "Come." Compare Revelation 6:1, 10; see note on Revelation 6:1. In the other view, which makes "Come" an invitation to sinners, this clause urges those who themselves hear savingly the invitation to address the same to others, as did Andrew and Philip after they themselves had heard and obeyed Jesus' invitation, "Come." let him that is athirst come — As the Bride, the Church, prays to Jesus, "Come," so she urges all whosoever thirst for participation in the full manifestation of redemption-glory at His coming to us, to COME in the meantime and drink of the living waters, which are the earnest of "the water of life pure as crystal . . . out of the throne of God of the Lamb" (Revelation 22:1) in the regenerated heaven and earth. And — so Syriac. But A, B, Vulgate, and Coptic omit "and." whosoever will — that is, is willing and desirous. There is a descending climax; Let him that heareth effectually and savingly Christ's voice, pray individually, as the Bride, the Church, does collectively, "Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20). Let him who, though not yet having actually heard unto salvation, and so not yet able to join in the prayer, "Lord Jesus, come, "still thirsts for it, come to Christ. Whosoever is even willing, though his desires do not yet amount to positive thirsting, let him take the water of life freely, that is, gratuitously.
18. For I testify — None of our manuscripts have this. A, B, Vulgate, and ANDREAS read, "I" emphatic in the Greek. "I testify." unto these things — A, B, and ANDREAS read, "unto them." add . . . add — just retribution in kind.
19. book — None of our manuscripts read this. A, B, a, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "(take away his part, that is, portion) from the tree of life," that is, shall deprive him of participation in the tree of life. and from the things — so Vulgate. But A, B, a, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS omit "and"; then "which are written in this book" will refer to "the holy city and the tree of life." As in the beginning of this book (Revelation 1:3) a blessing was promised to the devout, obedient student of it, so now at its close a curse is denounced against those who add to, or take from, it.
20. Amen. Even so, come — The Song of Solomon (Song Of Songs 8:14) closes with the same yearning prayer for Christ's coming. A, B, and a omit "Even so," Greek, "nai ": then translate for Amen, "So be it, come, Lord Jesus"; joining the "Amen," or "So be it," not with Christ's saying (for He calls Himself the "Amen" at the beginning of sentences, rather than puts it as a confirmation at the end), but with John's reply. Christ's "I come," and John's "Come," are almost coincident in time; so truly does the believer reflect the mind of his Lord.
21. our — so Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic. But A, B, and a omit. Christ — so B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS. But A and a omit. with you all — so none of our manuscripts. B has, "with all the saints." A and Vulgate have, "with all." a has, "with the saints." This closing benediction, Paul's mark in his Epistles, was after Paul's death
taken up by John. The Old Testament ended with a "curse" in
connection with the law; the New Testament ends with a blessing in union with the Lord Jesus. Amen — so B, a, and ANDREAS. A and Vulgate Fuldensis omit it.
May the Blessed Lord who has caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, bless this humble effort to make Scripture expound itself, and make it an instrument towards the conversion of sinners and the edification of saints, to the glory of His great name and the hastening of His kingdom! Amen.
Analysis of the Chapter
THIS chapter, like chapters 16:12-21, xvii., xviii., xix., pertains to the future, and discloses things which are yet to occur. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, for the reason stated in the Notes on chap. See Note on Rev. 16:16, that much obscurity should hang over it, nor that it is difficult to explain it so as to remove all obscurity. The statement in this chapter, however, is distinct and clear in its general characteristics, and time will make all its particular statements free from ambiguity.
In the previous chapter, an account is given of the final destruction of two of the most formidable enemies of the church, and consequently the removal of two of the hindrances to the universal spread of the gospel—the beast and the false prophet—the Papal and the Mohammedan powers. But one obstacle remains to be removed—the power of Satan as concentrated and manifested in the form of Pagan power. These three powers it was said Rev. 16:13, 14 would concentrate their forces as the time of the final triumph of Christianity drew on; and with these the last great battle was to be fought. Two of these have been subdued; the conquest over the other remains, and Satan is to be arrested and bound for a thousand years. He is then to be released for a time, and afterwards finally destroyed, and at that period the end will come.
The chapter comprises the following parts:—
I. The binding of Satan, Rev. 20:1-3. An angel comes down from heaven, with the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand, and seizes upon the dragon, and casts him into the pit, that for a thousand years he should deceive the nations no more. The great enemy of God and his cause is thus made a prisoner, and is restrained from making war in any form against the church. The way is thus prepared for the peace and triumph which follow.
II. The millennium, Rev. 20:4-6. John sees thrones, and persons sitting on them; he sees the souls of those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God—those who had not worshipped the beast nor his image—living and reigning with Christ during the thousand years: the spirits of the martyrs revived, and becoming again the reigning spirit on earth. This he calls the first resurrection; and on all such he says the second death has no power. Temporal death they might experience—for such the martyrs had experienced—but over them the second death has no dominion, for they live and reign with the Saviour. This is properly the millennium—the long period when the principles of true religion will have the ascendency on the earth, as if the martyrs and confessors—the most devoted and eminent Christians of other times—should appear again upon the earth, and as if their spirit should become the reigning and pervading spirit of all who professed the Christian name.
III. The release of Satan, Rev. 20:7, 8. After the thousand years of peace and triumph shall have expired, Satan will be released from his prison, and will be permitted to go out and deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, and gather them together to battle; that is, a state of things will exist as if Satan were then released. There will be again an outbreak of sin on the earth, and a conflict with the principles of religion, as if an innumerable multitude of opposers should be marshalled for the conflict by the great author of all evil.
IV. The final subjugation of Satan, and destruction of his power on the earth, Rev. 20:9, 10. After the temporary and partial outbreak of evil (Rev. 20:7, 8,) Satan and his hosts will be entirely destroyed. The destruction will be as if fire should come down from heaven to devour the assembled hosts, (Rev. 20:9,) and as if Satan, the great leader of evil, should be cast into the same lake where the beast and false prophet are, to be tormented for ever. Then the church will be delivered from all its enemies, and religion henceforward will be triumphant. How long the interval will be between this state and that next disclosed, (Rev. 20:11-15)—the final judgment—is not stated. The eye of the seer glances from one to the other, but there is nothing to forbid the supposition, that, according to the laws of prophetic vision, there may be a long interval in which righteousness shall reign upon the earth. Comp. Intro. to Isaiah, § 7, III. (3.)—(5.)
V. The final judgment, Rev. 20:11-15. This closes the earthly scene. Henceforward (chap. xxi., xxii.) the scene is transferred to heaven—the abode of the redeemed. The last judgment is the winding up of the earthly affairs. The enemies of the church are all long since destroyed; the world has experienced, perhaps for a long series of ages, the full influence of the gospel; countless millions have been, we may suppose, brought under its power; and then at last, in the winding up of human affairs, comes the judgment of the great day, when the dead, small and great, shall stand before God; when the sea shall give up its dead; when death and hell shall give up the dead that are in them; when the records of human actions shall be opened, and all shall be judged according to their works, and when all who are not found written in the book of life shall be cast into the lake of fire. This is the earthly consummation; henceforward the saints shall reign in glory—the New Jerusalem above, chap. xxi., xxii.
In order to prepare the way for a proper understanding of this chapter, the following additional remarks may be here made:—
(a) The design of this book did not demand a minute detail of the events which would occur in the consummation of human affairs. The main purpose was to trace the history of the church to the scene of the final triumph when all its enemies would be overthrown, and when religion would be permanently established upon the earth. Hence, though in the previous chapters we have a detailed account of the persecutions that would be endured; of the enemies that would rise up against the church, and of their complete ultimate overthrow—leaving religion triumphant on the earth—yet we have no minute statement of what will occur in the millennium. A rapid view is taken of the closing scenes of the earth's history, and the general results only are stated. It would not be strange, therefore, if there should be much in this that would seem to be enigmatical and obscure—especially as it is now all in the future.
(b) There may be long intervening periods between the events thus thrown together into the final grouping. We are not to suppose necessarily that these events will succeed each other immediately, or that they will be of short duration. Between these events thus hastily sketched there may be long intervals that are not described, and whose general character is scarcely even glanced at. This results from the very nature of the prophetic vision, as described in the Intro. to Isaiah, 7, III. (3.)—(5.) This may be illustrated by the view which we have in looking at a landscape. When one is placed in a favourable situation, he can mark distinctly the order of the objects in it—the succession-the grouping. He can tell what objects appear to him to lie near to each other, and are apparently in juxtaposition. But there are objects which, in such a vision, the eye cannot take in, and which would not be exhibited by any description which might be given of the view taken. Hills in the distant view may seem to lie near each other; one may seem to rise just back of another, and to the eye they may seem to constitute parts of the same mountain, and yet between them there may be deep and fertile vales, smiling villages, running streams, beautiful gardens and waterfalls, which the eye cannot take in, and the extent of which it may be wholly impossible to conjecture; and a description of the whole scene, as it appears to the observer, would convey no idea of the actual extent of the intervals. So it is in the prophecies. Between the events which are to occur hereafter, as seen in vision, there may be long intervals, but the length of these intervals the prophet may have left us no means of determining. See these thoughts more fully illustrated in the Introduction to Isaiah as above referred to.
What is here stated may have occurred in the vision which John had of the future as described in this chapter. Time is marked in the prophetic description, until the fall of the great enemy of the church; beyond that it does not seem to have been regarded as necessary to determine the actual duration of the events referred to. Comp. Prof. Stuart, Com. ii. 353, 354.
(e) These views are sustained by the most cursory glance of the chapter before us. There is none of the detail which we have found in the previous portions of the book—for such detail was not necessary to the accomplishment of the design of the book. The grand purpose was to show that Christianity would finally triumph, and hence the detailed description is carried on until that occurs, and beyond that we have only the most general statements. Thus, in this chapter, the great events that are to occur are merely hinted at. The events of a thousand years; the invasion by Gog and Magog; the ultimate confinement and punishment of Satan; the general judgment,—are all crowded into the space of twelve verses. This shows that the distant future is only glanced at by the writer; and we should not wonder, therefore, if it should be found to be obscure, nor should we regard it as strange that much is left to be made clear by the events themselves when they shall occur.
(d) The end is triumphant and glorious. We are assured that every enemy of the church will be slain, and that there will be a long period of happiness, prosperity, and peace. "The eye of hope," says Prof. Stuart beautifully, "is directed forward, and sees the thousand years of uninterrupted prosperity; then the sudden destruction of a new and fatal enemy; and all the rest is left to joyful anticipation. When all clouds are swept from the face of the sky, why should not the sun shine forth in all his glory? I cannot, therefore, doubt that the setting sun of the church on earth is to be as a heaven of unclouded splendour. Peaceful and triumphant will be her latest age. The number of the redeemed will be augmented beyond all computation; and the promise made from the beginning, that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head," will be fulfilled in all its extent, and with a Divine plenitude of meaning. The understanding and pious reader closes the book with admiration, with wonder, with delight, with lofty anticipation of the future, and with undaunted resolution to follow on in the steps of those who through faith and patience have inherited the promises and entered into everlasting rest."—Vol, ii. pp. 354, 355.
1. And I saw an angel come down from heaven. Compare Note on Rev. 10:1.
He does not say whether this angel had appeared to him before, but the impression is rather that it was a different one. The whole character of the composition of the book leads us to suppose that different angels were employed to make these communications to John, and that in fact, in the progress of things disclosed in the book, he had intercourse with a considerable number of the heavenly inhabitants. The scene that is recorded here occurred after the destruction of the beast and the false prophet, (Rev. 19:18-21,) and therefore, according to the principles expressed in the explanation of the previous chapters, what is intended to be described here will take place after the final destruction of the Papal and Mohammedan powers.
Having the key of the bottomless pit. See Notes on Rev. 1:18; Rev. 9:1.
The fact that he has the key of that under-world is designed to denote here that he can fasten it on Satan so that it shall become his prison.
And a great chain in his hand. With which to bind the dragon, Rev. 20:2. It is called great because of the strength of him that was to be bound. The chain only appears to have been in his hand. Perhaps the key was suspended to his side.
2. And he laid hold on. Seized him by violence—ekrathse. The word denotes the employment of strength or force, and it implies that he had power superior to that of the dragon. Compare Matt. 14:3; Matt. 18:28; 21:46; 22:6; 26:4.
We can at once see the propriety of the use of this word in this connexion. The great enemy to be bound has himself mighty power, and can be overcome only by a superior. This may teach us that it is only a power from heaven that can destroy the empire of Satan in the world; and perhaps it may teach us that the interposition of angels will be employed in bringing in the glorious state of the millennium. Why should it not be?
The dragon. See Note on Rev. 12:2.
Compare Rev. 12:4, 7, 13, 16-17; Rev. 13:2, 4, 11; 16:13.
There can be no doubt as to the meaning of the word here; for it is expressly said to mean the devil, and Satan. It would seem, however, that it refers to some manifestation of the power of Satan that would exist after the beast and false prophet—that is, the Papacy and Mohammedanism—should be destroyed, and probably the main reference is to the still existing power of Paganism. Compare Notes on Rev. 16:13, Rev. 16:14.
It may include, however, all the forms of wickedness which Satan shall have kept up on the earth, and all the modes of evil by which he will endeavour to perpetuate his reign.
That old serpent. This is undoubtedly an allusion to the serpent that deceived our first parents, (Gen. 3:1, seq.,) and therefore a proof that it was Satan that, under the form of a serpent, deceived them. Compare Note on Rev. 12:3.
Which is the Devil. On the meaning of this word, See Note on Matt. 4:1.
And Satan. On the meaning of this word, See Note on Job 1:6.
In regard to the repetition of the names of that great enemy of God and the church here, Mr. Taylor, in the Fragments to Calmets Dictionary, No. 152, says that this "almost resembles a modern Old Bally indictment, in which special care is taken to identify the culprit by a sufficient number of aliases. An angel from heaven, having the key of the prison of the abyss, and a great chain to secure the prisoner, apprehended the dragon, alias the old serpent, alias the devil, alias the Satan, alias the seducer of the world, who was sentenced to a thousand years' imprisonment. The object here, however, seems to be not so much to identify the culprit by these aliases, as to show that, under whatever forms and by whatever names he had appeared, it was always the same being, and that now the author of the whole evil would be arrested. Thus the one great enemy sometimes has appeared in a form that would be best represented by a fierce and fiery dragon; at another, in a form that would be best represented by a cunning and subtle serpent; now in a form to which the word devil, or accuser, would be most appropriate; and now in a form in which the word Satan—an adversary—would be most expressive of what he does. In these various forms, and under these various names, he has ruled the fallen world; and when this one great enemy shall be seized and imprisoned, all these forms of evil will, of course, come to an end.
A thousand years. This is the period usually designated as the MILLENNIUM—for the word millennium means a thousand years. It is on this passage that the whole doctrine of the millennium as such has been founded. It is true that there are elsewhere in the Scriptures abundant promises that the gospel will ultimately spread over the world; but the notion of a millennium as such is found in this passage alone. It is, however, enough to establish the doctrine, if its meaning be correctly ascertained, for it is a just rule in interpreting the Bible that the clearly-ascertained sense of a single passage of Scripture is sufficient to establish the truth of a doctrine. The fact, however, that this passage stands alone in this respect, makes it the more important to endeavour accurately to determine its meaning. There are but three ways in which the phrase "a thousand years" can be understood here: either
(a) literally; or
(b) in the prophetic use of the term, where a day would stand for a year, thus making a period of three hundred and sixty thousand years; or
(c) figuratively, supposing that it refers to a long, but indefinite period of time. It may be impossible to determine which of these periods is intended, though the first has been generally supposed to be the true one, and hence the common notion of the millennium. There is nothing, however, in the use of the language here, as there would be nothing contrary to the common use of symbols in this book in regard to time, in the supposition that this was designed to describe the longest period here suggested, or that it is meant that the world shall enjoy a reign of peace and righteousness during the long period of three hundred and sixty thousand years. Indeed, there are some things in the arrangements of nature which look as if it were contemplated that the earth would continue under a reign of righteousness through a vastly long period in the future.
3. And east him into the bottomless pit. See Note on Rev. 9:1.
A state of peace and prosperity would exist as if Satan, the great disturber, were confined in the nether world as a prisoner.
And shut him up. Closed the massive doors of the dark prison-house upon him. Compare Notes on Job 10:21; Job 10:22.
And set a seal upon him. Or, rather, "upon it"—etanw autou. The seal was placed upon the door or gate of the prison, not because this would fasten the gate or door of itself and make it secure, for this was secured by the key, but because it prevented intrusion, or any secret opening of it without its being known. See Notes on Dan. 6:17; Matt. 27:66.
The idea here is, that every precaution was taken for absolute security.
That he should deceive the nations no more. That is, during the thousand years. Compare Note on Rev. 12:9.
Till the thousand years should be filled. That is, during that period there will be a state of things upon the earth as if Satan should be withdrawn from the world, and confined in the great prison where he is ultimately to dwell for ever.
And after that he must be loosed a little season. See Rev. 20:7-8. That is, a state of things will then exist, for a brief period, as if he were again released from his prison-house, and suffered to go abroad upon the earth. The phrase "a little season"—mikron cronon, little time—denotes properly that this would be brief as compared with the thousand years. No intimation is given as to the exact time, and it is impossible to conjecture how long it will be. All the circumstances stated, however, here and in Rev. 20:7-10, would lead us to suppose that what is referred to will be like the sudden outbreak of a rebellion in a time of general peace, but which will soon be quelled.
(a).—Condition of the world in the period referred to in Rev. 20:1-3.
It may be proper, in order to a correct understanding of this chapter, to present a brief summary under the different parts of what, according to the interpretation proposed, may be expected to be the condition of things in the time referred to.
On the portion now before us, (Rev. 20:1-3,) according to the interpretation proposed, the following suggestions may be made:—
(1.) This will be subsequent to the downfall of the Papacy and the termination of the Mohammedan power in the world. Of course, then, this lies in the future—how far in the future it is impossible to determine. The interpretation of the various portions of this book and the book of Daniel have, however, led to the conclusion that the termination of those powers cannot now be remote. If so, we are on the eve of important events in the world's history. The affairs of the world look as if things were tending to a fulfilment of the prophecies so understood.
(2.) It will be a condition of the world as if Satan were bound; that is, where his influences will be suspended, and the principles of virtue and religion will prevail. According to the interpretation of the previous chapters, it will be a state in which all that has existed, and that now exists in the Papacy to corrupt mankind, to maintain error, and to prevent the prevalence of free and liberal principles, will cease; in which all that there now is in the Mohammedan system to fetter and enslave mankind—now controlling more than one hundred and twenty millions of the race—shall have come to an end; and in which, in a great measure, all that occurs under the direct influence of Satan in causing or perpetuating slavery, war, intemperance, lust, avarice, disorder, scepticism, atheism, will be checked and stayed. It is proper to say, however, that this passage does not require us to suppose that there will be a total cessation of Satanic influence in the earth during that period. Satan will, indeed, be bound and restrained as to his former influence and power. But there will be no change in the character of man as he comes into the world. There will still be corrupt passions in the human heart. Though greatly restrained, and though there will be a general prevalence of righteousness on the earth, yet we are to remember that the race is fallen, and that even then, if restraint should be taken away, man would act out his fallen nature. This fact, if remembered, will make it appear less strange that, after this period of prevalent righteousness, Satan should be represented as loosed again, and as able once more for a time to deceive the nations.
(3.) It will be a period of long duration. On the supposition that it is to be literally a period of one thousand years, this is in itself long, and will give, especially under the circumstances, opportunity for a vast progress in human affairs. To form some idea of the length of the period, we need only place ourselves in imagination back for a thousand years—say in the middle of the ninth century—and look at the condition of the world then, and think of the vast changes in human affairs that have occurred during that period. It is to be remembered also, that if the millennial period were soon to commence, it would find the world in a far different state in reference to future progress from what it was in the ninth century, and that it would start off, so to speak, with all the advantages in the arts and sciences which have been accumulated in all the past periods of the world. Even if there were no special Divine interposition, it might be presumed that the race, in such circumstances, would make great and surprising advances in the long period of a thousand years. And here a very striking remark of Mr. Hugh Miller may be introduced as illustrating the subject. "It has been remarked by some students of the Apocalypse," says he, "that the course of predicted events at first moves slowly, as, one after one, six of seven seals are opened; that, on the opening of the seventh seal, the progress is so considerably quickened that the seventh period proves as fertile in events—represented by the sounding of the seven trumpets—as the foregoing six taken together; and that on the seventh trumpet, so great is the further acceleration, that there is an amount of incident condensed in this seventh part of the seventh period equal, as in the former case, to that of all the previous six parts in one. There are three cycles, it has been said, in the scheme—cycle within cycle—the second comprised within a seventh portion of the first, and the third within a seventh portion of the second. Be this as it may, we may, at least, see something that exceedingly resembles it in that actual economy of change and revolution manifested in English history for the last two centuries. It would seem as if events, in their downward course, had come under the influence of that law of gravitation through which falling bodies increase in speed, as they descend, according to the squares of the distance."—First Impressions of England and its People, pp. vii., viii. If to this we add the supposition which we have seen (See Note on Rev. 20:2) to be by no means improbable, that it is intended in the description of the millennium in this chapter, that the world will continue under a reign of peace and righteousness for the long period of three hundred and sixty thousand years, it is impossible to anticipate what progress will be made during that period, or to enumerate the numbers that will be saved. On this subject, see some very interesting remarks in the "Old Red Sandstone," by Hugh Miller, pp. 248-250, 258, 259. Compare Prof. Hitchcock's Religion and Geology, pp. 370—409.
(4.) What, then, will be the state of things during that long period of a thousand years?
(a) There will be a great increase in the population of the globe. Let wars cease, and intemperance cease, and slavery cease, and the numberless passions that now shorten life be stayed, and it is easy to see that there must be a vast augmentation in the number of the human species.
(b) There will be a general diffusion of intelligence on the earth. Every circumstance would be favourable to it, and the world would be in a condition to make rapid advances in knowledge, Dan. 12:4.
(c) That period will be characterized by the universal diffusion of revealed truth, Isa. 11:9; 25:7.
(d) It will be marked by unlimited subjection to the sceptre of Christ, Psa. 2:7; 22:27-29; Isa. 2:2-3; 66:23; Zech. 9:10; 14:9
Matt. 13:31-32; Rev. 11:15.
(e) There will be great progress in all that tends to promote the welfare of man. We are not to suppose that the resources of nature are exhausted. Nature gives no signs of exhaustion or decay. In the future, there is no reason to doubt that there will yet be discoveries and inventions more surprising and wonderful than the art of printing, or the use of steam, or the magnetic telegraph. There are profounder secrets of nature that may be delivered up than any of these, and the world is tending to their development.
(f) It will be a period of the universal reign of peace. The attention of mankind will be turned to the things which tend to promote the welfare of the race, and advance the best interests of society. The single fact that wars will cease will make an inconceivable difference in the aspect of the world; for if universal peace shall prevail through the long period of the millennium, and the wealth, the talent, and the science now employed in human butchery shall be devoted to the interests of agriculture, the mechanic arts, learning, and religion, it is impossible now to estimate the progress which the race will make, and the changes which will be produced on the earth. For Scripture proofs that it will be a time of universal peace, see Isa. 2:4; 11:6-9; Micah 4:3.
(g) There will be a general prevalence of evangelical religion. This is apparent in the entire description in this passage, for the two most formidable opposing powers that religion has ever known—the beast and the false prophet—will be destroyed, and Satan will be bound. In this long period, therefore, we are to suppose that the gospel will exert its fair influence on governments, on families, on individuals; in the intercourse of neighbours, and in the intercourse of nations. God will be worshipped in spirit and in truth, and not in the mere forms of devotion; and temperance, truth, liberty, social order, honesty, and love, will prevail over the world.
(h) It will be a time when the Hebrew people—the Jews—will be brought to the knowledge of the truth, and will embrace the Messiah whom their fathers crucified, Zech. 12:10; 13:1; Rom. 11:26-29.
(i) Yet we are not necessarily to suppose that all the world will be absolutely and entirely brought under the power of the gospel. There will be still on the earth the remains of wickedness in the corrupted human heart, and there will be so much tendency to sin in the human soul, that Satan, when released for a time, (Rev. 20:7-8,) will be able once more to deceive mankind, and to array a formidable force, represented by Gog and Magog, against the cause of truth and righteousness. We are not to suppose that the nature of mankind as fallen will be essentially changed, or that there may not be sin enough in the human heart to make it capable of the same opposition to the gospel of God which has thus far been evinced in all ages. From causes which are not fully stated, (Rev. 20:8-9,) Satan will be enabled once more to rouse up their enmity, and to make one more desperate effort to destroy the kingdom of the Redeemer by rallying his forces for a conflict. See these views illustrated in the work entitled Christ's Second Coming, by Rev. David Brown, of St. James's Free Church, Glasgow, pp. 398-442; New York, 1851.
4. And I saw thrones—qronouß. See Rev. 1:4; 3:21; 4:3-4.
John here simply says, that he saw in vision thrones, with persons sitting on them, but without intimating who they were that sat on them. It is not the throne of God that is now revealed, for the word is in the plural number, though the writer does not hint how many thrones there were. It is intimated, however, that these thrones were placed with some reference to pronouncing a judgment, or determining the destiny of some portion of mankind, for it is immediately added, "and judgment was given unto them." There is considerable resemblance, in many respects, between this and the statement in Daniel, (Dan. 7:9) "I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit;" or, as it should be rendered, "I beheld"—that is, I continued to look—"until the thrones were placed or set," to wit, for the purposes of judgment. See Note on Dan. 7:9
So John here sees, as the termination of human affairs approaches, thrones placed with reference to a determination of the destiny of some portion of the race, as if they were now to have a trial, and to receive a sentence of acquittal or condemnation. The persons on whom this judgment is to pass are specified, in the course of the verse, as those who were "beheaded for the witness of Jesus, who had the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast," etc. The time when this was to occur manifestly was at the beginning of the thousand years.
And they sat upon them. Who sat on them is not mentioned. The natural construction is, that judges sat on them, or that persons sat on them to whom judgment was entrusted. The language is such as would be used on the supposition either that he had mentioned the subject before, so that he would be readily understood, or that, from some other cause, it was so well understood that there was no necessity for mentioning who they were. John seems to have assumed that it would be understood who were meant. And yet to us it is not entirely clear; for John has not before this given us any such intimation that we can determine with certainty what is intended. The probable construction is, that those are referred to to whom it appropriately belonged to occupy such seats of judgment, and who they are is to be determined from other parts of the Scriptures. In Matt. 19:28, the Saviour says to his apostles, "When the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." In 1 Cor. 6:2, Paul asks the question, "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" The meaning as thus explained is, that Christians will, in some way, be employed in judging the world; that is, that they will be exalted to the right hand of the Judge, and be elevated to a station of honour, as if they were associated with the Son of God in the judgment. Something of that kind is, doubtless, referred to here; and John probably means to say that he saw the thrones placed on which those will sit who will be employed in judging the world. If the apostles are specially referred to, it was natural that John, eminent for modesty, should not particularly mention them, as he was one of them, and as the true allusion would be readily understood. And judgment was given unto them. The power of pronouncing sentence in the case referred to was conferred on them, and they proceeded to exercise that power. This was not in relation to the whole race of mankind, but to the martyrs, and to those who, amidst many temptations and trials, had kept themselves pure. The sentence which is to be passed would seem to be that in consequence of which they are to be permitted to "live and reign with Christ a thousand years." The form of this expressed approval is that of a resurrection and judgment; whether this be the literal mode is another inquiry, and will properly be considered when the exposition of the passage shall have been given.
And I saw the souls of them. This is a very important expression in regard to the meaning of the whole passage. John says he saw the souls—not the bodies. If the obvious meaning of this be the correct meaning; if he saw the souls of the martyrs, not the bodies, this would seem to exclude the notion of a literal resurrection, and consequently overturn many of the theories of a literal resurrection, and of a literal reign of the saints with Christ during the thousand years of the millennium. The doctrine of the last resurrection, as everywhere stated in the Scripture, is, that the body will be raised up, and not merely that the soul will live, (see 1 Cor. 15:1 and See Note on 1 Cor. 15:1) and consequently John must mean to refer in this place to something different from that resurrection, or to any proper resurrection of the dead as the expression is commonly understood. The doctrine which has been held, and is held, by those who maintain that there will be a literal resurrection of the saints to reign with Christ during a thousand years, can receive no support from this passage, for there is no ambiguity respecting the word souls—yucaß—as used here. By no possible construction can it mean the bodies of the saints. If John had intended to state that the saints, as such, would be raised as they will be at the last day, it is clear that he would not have used this language, but would have employed the common language of the New Testament to denote it. The language here does not express the doctrine of the resurrection of the body; and if no other language but this had been used in the New Testament, the doctrine of the resurrection, as now taught and received, could not be established. These considerations make it clear to my mind that John did not mean to teach that there would be a literal resurrection of the saints, that they might live and reign with Christ personally during the period of a thousand years. There was undoubtedly something that might be compared with the resurrection, and that might, in some proper sense, be called a resurrection, (Rev. 20:5-6,) but there is not the slightest intimation that it would be a resurrection of the body, or that it would be identical with the final resurrection. John undoubtedly intends to describe some honour conferred on the spirits or souls of the saints and martyrs during this long period, as if they were raised from the dead, or which might be represented by a resurrection from the dead. What that honour is to be, is expressed by their "living and reigning with Christ." The meaning of this will be explained in the exposition of these words; but the word used here is fatal to the notion of a literal resurrection and a personal reign with Christ on the earth.
That were beheaded. The word here used—pelekizw—occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means, to axe, that is, to hew or cut with an axe—from pelekuß, axe. Hence it means to behead with an axe. This was a common mode of execution among the Romans, and doubtless many of the Christian martyrs suffered in this manner; but "it cannot be supposed to have been the intention of the writer to confine the rewards of martyrs to those who suffered in this particular way; for this specific and ignominious method of punishment is designated merely as the symbol of any and every kind of martyrdom."—Professor Stuart.
For the witness of Jesus. As witnesses of Jesus; or bearing in this way their testimony to the truth of his religion. See Note on Rev. 1:9; compare Rev. 6:9.
And for the word of God. See Note on Rev. 1:9.
Which had not worshipped the beast. Who had remained faithful to the principles of the true religion, and had resisted all the attempts made to seduce them from the faith, even the temptations and allurements in the times of the Papacy. See this language explained in See Note on Rev. 13:4.
Neither his image. See Note on Rev. 13:14-15.
Neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands. See Note on Rev. 13:16.
And they lived. ezhsan, from zaw—to live. Very much, in the whole passage, depends on this word. The meanings given to the word by Professor Robinson (Lex.) are the following:
(a) to live, to have life, spoken of physical life and existence;
(b) to live, that is, to sustain life, to live on or by anything;
(c) to live in any way, to pass one's life in any manner;
(d) to live and prosper; to be blessed. It may be applied to those who were before dead, (Matt. 9:18; Mark 16:11; Luke 24:23; John 5:25; Acts 1:3) Acts 9:41, but it does not necessarily imply this, nor does the mere use of the word suggest it. It is the proper notion of living, or having life now, whatever was the former state—whether non-existence, death, sickness, or health. The mind, in the use of this word, is fixed on the present as a state of living. It is not necessarily in contrast with a former state as dead, but it is on the fact that they are now alive. As, however, there is reference, in the passage before us, to the fact that a portion of those mentioned had been "beheaded for the witness of Jesus," it is to be admitted that the word here refers, in some sense, to that fact. They were put to death in the body, but their "souls" were now seen to be alive. They had not ceased to be, but they lived and reigned with Christ as if they had been raised up from the dead. And when this is said of the "souls" of those who were beheaded, and who were seen to reign with Christ, it cannot mean
(a) that their souls came to life again—for there is no intimation that they had for a moment ceased to exist; nor
(b) that they then became immortal—for that was always true of them; nor
(c) that there was any literal resurrection of the body, as Professor Stuart (ii. 360, 475, 476) supposes, and as is supposed by those who hold to a literal reign of Christ on the earth, for there is no intimation of the resurrection of the body. The meaning, then, so far as the language is concerned, must be, that there would exist, at the time of the thousand years, a state of things as if the martyrs were raised up from the dead—an honouring of the martyrs as if they should live and reign with Christ. Their names would be vindicated; their principles would be revived; they would be exalted in public estimation above other men; they would be raised to the low rank in which they were held by the world in times of persecution, to a state which might well be represented by their sitting with Christ on the throne of government, and by their being made visible attendants on his glorious kingdom. This would not occur in respect to the rest of the dead—even the pious dead, (Rev. 20:5)—for their honours and rewards would be reserved for the great day when all the dead should be judged according to their deeds. In this view of the meaning of this passage, there is nothing that forbids us to suppose that the martyrs will be conscious of the honour thus done to their names, their memory, and their principles on earth, or that this consciousness will increase their joy even in heaven. This sense of the passage is thus expressed, substantially, by Archbishop Whateley, (Essays on the Future State:) "It may signify not the literal raising of dead men, but the raising up of an increased Christian zeal and holiness: the revival in the Christian church, or in some considerable portion of it, of the spirit and energy of the noble martyrs of old, (even as John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elias;) so that Christian principles shall be displayed in action throughout the world in an infinitely greater degree than ever before." This view of the signification of the word lived is sustained by its use elsewhere in the Scriptures, and by its common use among men. Thus in this very book, Rev. 11:11: "And after three days and an half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet." So in Ezekiel, in speaking of the restoration of the Jews: "Thus saith the Lord God, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live," Ezek. 27:12-14. So in Hos. 6:2: "After two days he will revive us, [cause us to live again;] in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." So in the parable of the prodigal son: "This thy brother was dead, and is alive again," Luke 15:32. So in Isa. 26:19: "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise." The following extract from D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation will show how natural it is to use the very language employed here when the idea is intended to be conveyed of reviving former principles as if the men who held them should be raised to life again. It is the language of the martyr John Huss, who, in speaking of himself in view of a remarkable dream that he had, said, "I am no dreamer, but I maintain this for certain, that the image of Christ will never be effaced. They [his enemies] have wished to destroy it, but it shall be painted afresh in all hearts by much better preachers than myself. The nation that loves Christ will rejoice at this. And I, awaking from among the dead, and rising, so to speak, from my grave, shall leap with great joy." So a Brief addressed by Pope Adrian to the Diet at Nuremberg, contains these words: "The heretics Huss and Jerome are now alive again in the person of Martin Luther." For a further illustration of the passage, see the remarks which follow
(b) on the state of things which may be expected to exist in the time referred to in Rev. 20:4-6.
And reigned with Christ. Were exalted in their principles, and in their personal happiness in heaven, as if they occupied the throne with him, and personally shared his honours and his triumphs. Who can tell, also, whether they may not be employed in special services of mercy, in administering the affairs of his government during that bright and happy period?
A thousand years. During the period when Satan will be bound, and when the true religion will have the ascendency in the earth. See Note on Rev. 20:2.
5. But the rest of the dead. In contradistinction from the beheaded martyrs, and from those who had kept themselves pure in the times of great temptation. The phrase "rest of the dead" here would most naturally refer to the same general class which was before mentioned-the pious dead. The meaning is, that the martyrs would be honoured as if they were raised up and the others not; that is, that special respect would be shown to their principles, their memory, and their character. In other words, special honour would be shown to a spirit of eminent piety during that period, above the common and ordinary piety which has been manifested in the church. The "rest of the dead"—the pious dead—would indeed be raised up and rewarded, but they would occupy comparatively humble places, as if they did not partake in the exalted triumphs when the world should be subdued to the Saviour. Their places in honour, in rank, and in reward, would be beneath that of those who in fiery times had maintained unshaken fidelity to the cause of truth.
Lived not. On the word lived, See Note on Rev. 20:4.
That is, they lived not during that period in the peculiar sense in which it is said (Rev. 20:4) that the eminent saints and martyrs lived. They did not come into remembrance; their principles were not what then characterized the church; they did not see, as the martyrs did, their principles and mode of life in the ascendency, and consequently they had not the augmented happiness and honour which the more eminent saints and martyrs had.
Until the thousand years were finished. Then all who were truly the children of God, though some might be less eminent than others had been, would come into remembrance, and would have their proper place in the rewards of heaven. The language here is not necessarily to be interpreted as meaning that they would be raised up then, or would live then, whatever may be true on that point. It is merely an emphatic mode of affirming that up to that period they would not live in the sense in which it is affirmed that the others would. But it is not affirmed that they would even then "live" immediately. A long interval might elapse before that would occur in the general resurrection of the dead.
This is the first resurrection. The resurrection of the saints and martyrs, as specified in Rev. 20:4. It is called the first resurrection in contradistinction from the second and last—the general resurrection—when all the dead will be literally raised up from their graves, and assembled for the judgment, Rev. 20:12. It is not necessary to suppose that what is called here the "first resurrection" will resemble the real and literal resurrection in every respect. All that is meant is, that there will be such a resemblance as to make it proper to call it a resurrection—a coming to life again. This will be, as explained in See Note on Rev. 20:4, in the honour done to the martyrs; in the restoration of their principles as the great actuating principles of the church; and perhaps in the increased happiness conferred on them in heaven, and in their being employed in promoting the cause of truth in the world.
6. Blessed. That is, his condition is to be regarded as a happy or a favoured one. This is designed apparently to support and encourage those who in the time of John suffered persecution, or who might suffer persecution afterwards.
And holy. That is, no one will be thus honoured who has not an established character for holiness. Holy principles will then reign, and none will be exalted to that honour who have not a character for eminent sanctity.
That hath part in the first resurrection. That participated in it; that is, who is associated with those who are thus raised up.
On such the second death hath no power. The "second death" is properly the death which the wicked will experience in the world of woe. See Rev. 20:14. The meaning here is, that all who are here referred to as having part in the first resurrection will be secure against that. It will be one of the blessed privileges of heaven that there will be absolute security against DEATH in any and every form; and when we think of what death is here, and still more when we think of "the bitter pains of the second death," we may well call that state "blessed" in which there will be eternal exemption from either.
But they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him. See Note on Rev. 1:6.
(b)—Condition of the world in the period referred to in Rev. 20:4-6.
I. It is well known that this passage is the principal one which is relied on by those who advocate the doctrine of the literal reign of Christ on the earth for a thousand years, or who hold what are called the doctrines of the "second advent." The points which are maintained by those who advocate these views are substantially,
(a) that at that period Christ will descend from heaven to reign personally upon the earth;
(b) that he will have a central place of power and authority, probably Jerusalem;
(c) that the righteous dead will then be raised, in such bodies as are to be immortal;
(d) that they will be his attendants, and will participate with him in the government of the world;
(e) that this will continue during the period of a thousand years;
(f) that the world will be subdued and converted during this period, not by moral means, but by "a new dispensation"—by the power of the Son of God; and
(g) that at the close of this period all the remaining dead will be raised, the judgment will take place, and the affairs of the earth will be consummated.
The opinion here adverted to was held substantially by Papins, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and others among the Christian Fathers, and, it need not be said, is held by many modern expositors of the Bible, and by large numbers of Christian ministers of high standing, and other Christians. See the Literalist, passim. The opinion of the Christian Fathers, with which the modern "literalists," as they are called, substantially coincide, is thus stated by Mr. Elliott: "This resurrection is to be literally that of departed saints and martyrs, then at length resuscitated in the body from death and the grave; its time to synchronize with, or follow instantly after, the destruction of the beast Antichrist, on Christ's personal second advent; the binding of Satan to be an absolute restriction of the power of hell from tempting, deceiving, or injuring mankind, throughout a literal period of a thousand years, thence calculated; the government of the earth during its continuance to be administered by Christ and the risen saints—the latter being now isaggeloi—in nature like angels; and under it, all false religion having been put down, the Jews and saved remnant of the Gentiles been converted to Christ, the earth renovated by the fire of Antichrist's destruction, and Jerusalem made the universal capital, there will be a realization on earth of the blessedness depicted in the Old Testament prophecies, as well as perhaps of that too which is associated with the New Jerusalem in the visions of the Apocalypse—until at length this millennium having ended, and Satan gone forth to deceive the nations, the final consummation will follow; the new-raised enemies of the saints, Gog and Magog, be destroyed by fire from heaven: and then the general resurrection and judgment take place, the devil and his servants be cast into the lake of fire, and the millennial reign of the saints extend itself into one of eternal duration."—Elliott on the Apocalypse, iv. 177, 178.
Mr. Elliott's own opinion, representing, it is supposed, that of the great body of the "literalists," is thus expressed: "It would seem, therefore, that in this state of things and of feeling in professing Christendom [a feeling of carnal security], all suddenly, and unexpectedly, and conspicuous over the world as the lightning that shineth from the east even unto the west, the second advent and appearing of Christ will take place; that at the accompanying voice of the archangel and trump of God, the departed saints of either dispensation will rise from their graves to meet him—alike patriarchs, and prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and confessors all at once and in the twinkling of an eye; and then instantly the saints living at the time will be also caught up to meet him in the air; these latter being separated out of the ungodly nations, as when a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats, and all, both dead and living saints, changed at the moment from corruption to incorruption, from dishonour to glory, though with very different degrees of glory; and so in a new angelic nature, to take part in the judging and ruling in this world. Meanwhile, with a tremendous earthquake accompanying, of violence unknown since the revolutions of primeval chaos, an earthquake under which the Roman world at least is to rock to and fro like a drunken man, the solid crust of this earth shall be broken, and fountains burst forth from its inner deep, not as once of water, but of liquid fire; and that the flames shall consume the Antichrist and his confederate kings, while the sword also does its work of slaughter; the risen saints being perhaps the attendants of the Lord's glory in this destruction of Antichrist, and assessors in his judgment on a guilty world. And then immediately the renovation of this our earth is to take place, its soil being purified by the very action of the fire, and the Spirit poured out from on high, in a yet better sense, the moral face of nature; the Shekinah, or personal glory of Christ amidst his saints being manifested chiefly in the Holy Land and at Jerusalem, but the whole earth partaking of the blessedness; and thus the regeneration of all things, and the world's redemption from the curse, having their accomplishment, according to the promise, at the manifestation of the sons of God," iv. 224-231. (I have slightly abridged this passage, but have retained the sense.)
To this account of the prevailing opinion of the "literalists" in interpreting the passage before us, there should be added that of Professor Stuart, who, in general, is as far as possible from "they sympathizing with this class of writers. He says in his explanation of expression lived" in Rev. 20:4, "There would seem to remain, therefore, only one meaning which can be consistently given to ezhsan, [they lived,] viz.: that they (the martyrs who renounced the beast) are now restored to life, viz., such life as implies the vivification of the body. Not to a union of the soul with a gross material body indeed, but with such an one as the saints in general will have at the final resurrection—a spiritual body, 1 Cor. 15:44. In no other way can this resurrection be ranked as correlate with the second resurrection named in the sequel," ii. 360. So again, Excursus vi., (vol. ii. p. 476,) he says, "I do not see how we can, on the ground of exegesis, fairly avoid the conclusion that John has taught in the passage before us, that there will be a resurrection of the martyr-saints, at the commencement of the period after Satan shall have been shut up in the dungeon of the great abyss." This opinion he defends at length, pp. 476-490. Professor Stuart, indeed, maintains that the martyrs thus raised up will be taken to heaven and reign with Christ there, and opposes the whole doctrine of the literal reign on the earth, ii. 480. The risen saints and martyrs are to be "enthroned with Christ; that is, they are to be where he dwells, and where he will continue to dwell, until he shall make his descent at the final judgment-day."
II. In regard to these views as expressive of the meaning of the passage under consideration, I would make the following remarks:—
(1.) There is strong presumptive evidence against this interpretation, and especially against the main point in the doctrine—that there will be a literal resurrection of the bodies of the saints at the beginning of that millennial period to live and reign with Christ on earth—from the following circumstances:
(a) It is admitted on all hands that this doctrine, if contained in the Scriptures at all, is found in this one passage only. It is not pretended that there is in any other place a direct affirmation that this will literally occur, nor would the advocates for that opinion undertake to show that it is fairly implied in any other part of the Bible. But it is strange, not to say improbable, that the doctrine of the literal resurrection of the righteous a thousand years before the wicked should be announced in one passage only. If it were so announced in plain and unambiguous language, I admit that the believer in the Divine origin of the Scriptures would be bound to receive it; but this is so contrary to the usual method of the Scriptures on all great and important doctrines, that this circumstance should lead us at least to doubt whether the passage is correctly interpreted. The resurrection of the dead is a subject on which the Saviour often dwelt in his instructions; it is a subject which the apostles discussed very frequently and at great length in their preaching, and in their writings; it is presented by them in a great variety of forms, for the consolation of Christians in time of trouble, and with reference to the condition of the world at the winding up of human affairs; and it is strange that in respect to so important a doctrine as this, if it be true, there is not elsewhere in the New Testament a hint, an intimation, an allusion, that would lead us to suppose that the righteous are to be raised in this manner.
(b) If this is a true doctrine, it would be reasonable to expect that a clear and unambiguous statement of it would be made. Certainly, if there is but one statement on the subject, that might be expected to be a perfectly clear one. It would be a statement about which there could be no diversity of opinion, concerning which those who embraced it might be expected to hold the same views. But it cannot be pretended that this is so in regard to this passage. It occurs in the book which of all the books in the Bible is most distinguished for figures and symbols; it cannot be maintained that it is directly and clearly affirmed; and it is not so taught that there is any uniformity of view among those who profess to hold it. In nothing has there been greater diversity among men than in the opinions of those who profess to hold the "literal" views respecting the personal reign of Christ on the earth. But this fact assuredly affords presumptive evidence that the doctrine of the literal resurrection of the saints a thousand years before the rest of the dead is not intended to be taught.
(c) It is presumptive proof against this, that nothing is said of the employment of those who are raised up; of the reason why they are raised; of the new circumstances of their being; and of their condition when the thousand years shall have ended. In so important a matter as this, we can hardly suppose that the whole subject would be left to a single hint in a symbolical representation—depending on the doubtful meaning of a single word, and with nothing to enable us to determine with absolute certainty that this must be the meaning.
(d) If it be meant that this is a description of the resurrection of the righteous as such—embracing all the righteous—then it is wholly unlike all the other descriptions of the resurrection of the righteous that we have in the Bible. Here the account is confined to "those that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus," and to "those who had not worshipped the beast." If the righteous as such are here referred to, why are these particular classes specified Why are not the usual general terms employed? Why is the account of the resurrection confined to these? Elsewhere in the Scriptures the account of the resurrection is given in the most general terms, (compare Matt. 25:41; John 4:54; 5:28-29; Rom 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:23; Phil. 3:20-21) (2 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 9:28; 1 John 2:28-29; 3:2; ) and if this had been the designed reference here, it is inconceivable why the statement should be limited to the martyrs, and to those who have evinced great fidelity in the midst of temptations and allurements to apostasy. These circumstances furnish strong presumptive proofs, at least, against the doctrine that there is to be a literal resurrection of all the saints at the beginning of the millennial period. Compare "Christ's Second Coming," by Rev. David Brown, p. 219, seq.
(2.) In reference to many of the views necessarily implied in the doctrine of the "Second Advent," and avowed by those who hold that doctrine, it cannot be pretended that they receive any countenance or support from this passage. In the language of Professor Stuart, (Com. ii. 479,) there is "not a word of Christ's descent to the earth at the beginning of the millennium. Nothing of the literal assembling of the Jews in Palestine; nothing of the Messiah's temporal reign on earth; nothing of the overflowing abundance of worldly peace and plenty." Indeed, in all this passage, there is not the remotest hint of the grandeur and magnificence of the reign of Christ as a literal king upon the earth; nothing of his having a splendid capital at Jerusalem or anywhere else; nothing of a new dispensation of a miraculous kind; nothing of the renovation of the earth to fit it for the abode of the risen saints. All this is the mere work of fancy, and no man can pretend that it is to be found in this passage.
(3.) Nor is there anything here of a literal resurrection of the bodies of the dead, as Professor Stuart himself supposes. It is not a little remarkable that a scholar so accurate as Professor Stuart is, and one too who has so little sympathy with the doctrines connected with a literal reign of Christ on the earth, should have lent the sanction of his name to perhaps the most objectionable of all the dogmas connected with that view—the opinion that the bodies of the saints will be raised up at the beginning of the millennial period. Of this there is not one word, one intimation, one hint, in the passage before us. John says expressly, and as if to guard the point from all possible danger of this construction, that he "saw the SOULS of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus;" he saw them "living" and "reigning" with Christ—raised to exalted honour during that period, as if they had been raised from the dead; but he nowhere mentions or intimates that they were raised up from their graves; that they were clothed with bodies; that they had their residence now literally on the earth; or that they were in any way otherwise than disembodied spirits. There is not even one word of their having "a spiritual body."
(4.) There are positive arguments, which are perfectly decisive, against the interpretation which supposes that the bodies of the saints will be raised up at the beginning of the millennial period to reign with Christ on the earth for a thousand years. Among these are the following :—
(a) If the "first resurrection" means rising from the grave in immortal and glorified bodies, we do not need the assurance (Rev. 20:6) that "on such the second death hath no power;" that is, that they would not perish for ever. That would be a matter of course, and there was no necessity for such a statement. But if it be supposed that the main idea is that the principles of the martyrs and of the most eminent saints would be revived and would live—as if the dead were raised up—and would be manifested by those who were in mortal bodies—men living on the earth—then there would be a propriety in saying that all such were exempt from the danger of the second death. Once indeed they would die; but the second death could not reach them. Compare Rev. 2:10-11.
(b) In the whole passage there are but two classes of men referred to. There are those "who have part in the first resurrection;" that is, according to the supposition, all the saints; and there are those over whom "the second death" has power. Into which of these classes are we to put the myriads of men having flesh and blood who are to people the world during the millennium? They have no part in "the first resurrection" if it be a bodily one. Are they then given over to the power of the "second death?" But if the "first resurrection" be regarded as figurative and spiritual, then the statement that those who are actuated by the spirit of the martyrs and of the eminent saints shall not experience the "second death," is seen to have meaning and pertinency.
(c) The mention of the time during which they are to reign, if it be literally understood, is contrary to the whole statement of the Bible in other places. They are to "live and reign with Christ" a thousand years. What then? Are they to live no longer? Are they to reign no longer with him? This supposition is entirely contrary to the current statement in the Scriptures, which is, that they are to live and reign with him for ever: 1 Thess. 4:17, "And so shall we ever be with the Lord." According to the views of the "literalists," the declaration that they "should live and reign with Christ," considered as the characteristic features of the millennial state, is to terminate with the thousand years—for this is the promise, according to that view, that they should thus live and reign. But it need not be said that this is wholly contrary to the current doctrine of the Bible, that they are to live and reign with him for ever.
(d) A farther objection to this view is, that the wicked part of the world—"the rest of the dead who lived not again until the thousand years were finished"—must of course be expected to "live again" in the same bodily sense when those thousand years were finished. But, so far from this, there is no mention of their living then. When the thousand years are finished, Satan is loosed for a season; then the nations are roused to opposition against God; then there is a conflict, and the hostile forces are overthrown; and then comes the final judgment. During all this time we read of no resurrection at all. The period after this is to be filled up with something besides the resurrection of "the rest of the dead." There is no intimation, as the literal construction as it is claimed would demand, that immediately after the "thousand years are finished" the "rest of the dead"—the wicked dead—would be raised up; nor is there any intimation of such a resurrection until all the dead are raised up for the final trial, Rev. 20:12. But every consideration demands, if the interpretation of the "literalists" be correct, that the "rest of the dead"—the unconverted dead—should be raised up immediately after the close of the millennial period, and be raised up as a distinct and separate class.
(e) There is no intimation in the passage itself that the righteous will be raised up as such in this period, and the proper interpretation of the passage is contrary to that supposition. There are but two classes mentioned as having part in the first resurrection. They are those who were "beheaded for the witness of Jesus," and those who "had not worshipped the beast;" that is, the martyrs, and those who had been eminent for their fidelity to the Saviour in times of great temptation and trial. There is no mention of the resurrection of the righteous as such—of the resurrection of the great body of the redeemed; and if it could be shown that this refers to a literal resurrection, it would be impossible to apply it, according to any just rules of interpretation, to any more than the two classes that are specified. By what rules of interpretation is it made to teach that all the righteous will be raised up on that occasion, and will live on the earth during that long period? In this view of the matter, the passage does not express the doctrine that the whole church of God will be raised bodily from the grave. And supposing it had been the design of the Spirit of God to teach this, is it credible, when there are so many clear expressions in regard to the resurrection of the dead, that so important a doctrine should have been reserved for one single passage so obscure, and where the great mass of the readers of the Bible in all ages have failed to perceive it? That is not the way in which, in the Scriptures, great and momentous doctrines are communicated to mankind.
(f) The fair statement in Rev. 20:11-15 is, that all the dead will then be raised up, and be judged. This is implied in the general expressions there used "the dead, small and great;" the "book of life was opened"—as if not opened before; "the dead"—all the dead—"were judged out of those things which were written in the books;" "the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hell (hades) delivered up the dead which were in them." This is entirely inconsistent with the supposition that a large part of the race—to wit, all the righteous—had been before raised up; had passed the solemn judgment; had been clothed with their immortal bodies, and had been admitted to a joint reign with the Saviour on his throne. In the last judgment, what place are they to occupy? In what sense are they to be raised up and judged? Would such a representation have been made as is found in Rev. 20:11-15, if it had been designed to teach that a large part of the race had been already raised up, and had received the approval of their judge?
(g) This representation is wholly inconsistent, not only with Rev. 20:11-15, but with the uniform language of the Scriptures that all the righteous and the wicked will be judged together, and both at the coming of Christ. On no point are the statements of the Bible more uniform and explicit than on this, and it would seem that the declarations had been of design so made that there should be no possibility of mistake. I refer for full proof on this point to the following passages of the New Testament: Matt. 10:32-33, compared with Matt. 7:21-23; 13:30, 38-43; 16:24-27; 25:10, 31-46; Mark 8:38; John 5:28-29
Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:5-16; 14:10, 12; 1 Cor. 3:12-15; 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; 2 Thess. 1:6-10
1 Tim. 5:24-25; 2 Pet. 3:7, 10, 12; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 4:17; Rev. 3:5; Rev. 20:11-15; Rev. 22:12-15. It is utterly impossible to explain these passages on any other supposition than that they are intended to teach that the righteous and the wicked will be judged together, and both at the coming of Christ. And, if this is so, it is of course impossible to explain them consistently with the view that all the righteous will have been already raised up at the beginning of the millennium in their immortal and glorified bodies, and that they have been solemnly approved by the Saviour, and admitted to a participation in his glory. Nothing could be more irreconcilable than these two views, and it seems to me, therefore, that the objections to the literal resurrection of the saints at the beginning of the millennial period are insuperable.
III. The following points, then, according to the interpretation proposed, are implied in this statement respecting the "first resurrection," and these will clearly comprise all that is stated on the subject.
(1.) There will be a reviving, and a prevalence of the spirit which actuated the saints in the best days, and a restoration of their principles as the grand principles which will control and govern the church, as if the most eminent saints were raised again from the dead, and lived and acted upon the earth.
(2.) Their memory will then be sacredly cherished, and they will be honoured on the earth with the honour which is due to their names, and which they should have received when in the land of the living. They will be no longer cast out and reproached; no longer held up to obloquy and scorn; no longer despised and forgotten, but there will be a reviving of sacred regard for their principles, as if they lived on the earth, and had the honour which was due to them.
(3.) There will be a state of things upon the earth as if they thus lived and were thus honoured. Religion will no longer be trampled under foot, but will triumph. In all parts of the earth it will have the ascendency, as if the most eminent saints of past ages lived and reigned with the Son of God in his kingdom. A spiritual kingdom will be set up with the Son of God at the head of it, which will be a kingdom of eminent holiness, as if the saints of the best days of the church should come back to the earth and dwell upon it. The ruling influence in the world will be the religion of the Son of God, and the principles which have governed the most holy of his people.
(4.) It may be implied that the saints and martyrs of other times will be employed by the Saviour in embassies of mercy; in visitations of grace to our world to carry forward the great work of salvation on earth. Nothing forbids the idea that the saints in heaven may be thus employed, and in this long period of a thousand years, it may be that they will be occupied in such messages and agencies of mercy to our world as they have never been before—as if they were raised from the dead, and were employed by the Redeemer to carry forward his purposes of mercy to mankind.
(5.) In connexion with these things, and in consequence of these things, they may be, during that period, exalted to higher happiness and honour in heaven. The restoration of their principles to the earth; the Christian remembrance of their virtues; the prevalence of those truths to establish which they laid down their lives, would in itself exalt them, and would increase their joy in heaven. All this would be well represented, in vision, by a resurrection of the dead; and admitting that this was all that was intended, the representation of John here would be in the highest degree appropriate. What could better symbolize it—and we must remember that this is a symbol—than to say that at the commencement of this period there was, as it were, a solemn preparation for a judgment, and that the departed dead seemed to stand there, and that a sentence was pronounced in their favour, and that they became associated with the Son of God in the honours of his kingdom, and that their principles were now to reign and triumph in the earth, and that the kingdom which they laboured to establish would be set up for a thousand years, and that in high purposes of mercy and benevolence during at period they would be employed in maintaining and extending the principles of religion in the world? Admitting that the Holy Spirit intended to represent these things, and these only, no more appropriate symbolical language could have been used; none that would more accord with the general style of the book of Revelation.
7. And when the thousand years are expired. See Rev. 20:2.
Satan shall be loosed out of his prison. See Rev. 20:3. That is, a state of things will then occur as if Satan should be for a time let loose again, and should be permitted to go as formerly over the world no intimation is given why or how he would be thus released from his prison. We are not, however, to infer that it would be a mere arbitrary act on the part of God. All that is necessary to be supposed is, that there would be, in certain parts of the world, a temporary outbreak of wickedness, as if Satan were for a time released from his chains.
8. And shall go out to deceive the nations. See Note on Rev. 12:9.
The meaning here is, that he would again, for a time, act in his true character, and in some way delude the nations once more. In what way this would be done is not stated. It would be, however, clearly an appeal to the wicked passions of mankind, exciting a hope that they might yet overthrow the kingdom of God on the earth.
Which are in the four quarters of the earth. Literally, corners of the earth, as if the earth were one extended square plain. The earth is usually spoken of as divided into four parts or quarters—the eastern, the western, the northern, and the southern. It is implied here that the deception or apostasy referred to would not be confined to one spot or portion of the world, but would extend afar. The idea seems to be, that during that period, though there would be a general prevalence of the gospel, and a general diffusion of its blessings, yet that the earth would not be entirely under its influence, and especially that the native character of the human heart would not be changed. Man, under powerful temptations, would be liable to be deluded by the great master spirit that has so often corrupted the race. Once more he would be permitted to make the trial, and then his power would for ever come to an end.
Gog and Magog. The name Gog occurs as the name of a prince, in Ezek. 38:2-3, 16, 18; 39:1, 11.
"He is an invader of the land of Israel, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal," Ezek. 38:2. Magog is also mentioned in Ezek. 38:2, "the land of Magog;" and in Ezek. 39:6, "I will send a fire on Magog." As the terms are used in the Old Testament, the representation would seem to be that Gog was the king of a people called Magog. The signification of the names is unknown, and consequently nothing can be determined about the meaning of this passage from that source. Nor is there much known about the people who are referred to by Ezekiel. His representation would seem to be, that a great and powerful people, dwelling in the extreme recesses of the north, (Ezek. 38:15; 39:2,) would invade the Holy Land after the return from the exile, Ezek. 38:8-12. it is commonly supposed that they were Scythians, residing between the Caspian and Euxine Seas, or in the region of Mount Caucasus. Thus Josephus (Ant. i. 6, 3) has dropped the Hebrew word Magog, and rendered it by skuqai—Scythians; and so does Jerome. Suidas renders it persai—Persians; but this does not materially vary the view, since the word Scythians among the ancient writers is a collective word to denote all the north-eastern, unknown, barbarous tribes. Among the Hebrews, the name Magog also would seem to denote all the unknown barbarous tribes about the Caucasian mountains. The fact that the names Gog and Magog are in Ezekiel associated with Meshech and Tubal seems to determine the locality of these people, for those two countries lie between the Euxine and Caspian Seas, or at the southeast extremity of the Euxine Sea.—Rosenmuller, Bib. Geog. i., p. 240. The people of that region were, it seems, a terror to Middle Asia, in the same manner as the Scythians were to the Greeks and Romans. Intercourse with such distant and savage nations was scarcely possible in ancient times; and hence, from their numbers and strength, they were regarded with great terror, just as the Scythians were regarded by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and as the Tartars were in the Middle Ages. In this manner they became an appropriate symbol of rude and savage people; of enemies fierce and warlike; of foes to be dreaded; and as such they were referred to by both Ezekiel and John. It has been made a question whether Ezekiel and John do not refer to the same period, but it is not necessary to consider that question here. All that is needful to be understood is, that John means to say that at the time referred to there would be formidable enemies of the church who might be compared with the dreaded dwellers in the land of Magog; or, that after this long period of millennial tranquillity and peace there would be a state of things which might be properly compared with the invasion of the Holy Land by the dreaded barbarians of Magog or Scythia. It is not necessary to suppose that any particular country is referred to, or that there would be any one portion of the earth which the gospel would not reach, and which would be still barbarous, heathen, and savage; all that is necessary to be supposed is, that though religion would generally prevail, human nature would remain essentially corrupt and unchanged; and that, therefore, from causes which are not stated, there might yet be a fearful apostasy, and a somewhat general prevalence of iniquity. This would be nothing more than has occurred after the most favoured times in the church, and nothing more than human nature would exhibit at any time, if all restraints were withdrawn, and men were suffered to act out their native feelings. Why this will be permitted; what causes will bring it about; what subordinate agencies will be employed, is not said, and conjecture would be vain. The reader who wishes more information in regard to Gog and Magog may consult Professor Stuart on this book, vol. ii. pp. 364-368, and the authorities there referred to. Compare especially Rosenmuller on Ezek. 38:2. See also Sale's Koran, Pre. Dis. % 4, and the Koran itself, Sura xviii. 94, and xxi. 95.
To gather them together to battle. As if to assemble them for war; that is, a state of things would exist in regard to the kingdom of God, and the prevalence of the true religion, as if distant and barbarous nations should be aroused to make war on the church of God. The meaning is, that there would be an awakened hostility against the kingdom of Christ in the earth. See Note on Rev. 16:14.
The number of whom is as the sand of the sea. A common comparison in the Scriptures to denote a great multitude, Gen. 22:17; 32:12; 41:49
1 Sam. 13:5; 1 Kings 4:20, et al.
(c.)—Condition of things in the period referred to in Rev. 20:7-8.
(1.) This will occur at the close of the millennial period—the period of the thousand years. It is not said, indeed, that it would be immediately after that; but the statement is explicit that it will be after that, or "when the thousand years are expired." There may be an interval before it shall be accomplished of an indefinite time; the alienation and corruption may be gradual; a considerable period may elapse before the apostasy shall assume an organized form, or, in the language of John, before the hosts shall "be gathered to battle," but it is to be the next marked and prominent event in the history of the world, and is to precede the final consummation of all things.
(2.) This will be a brief period. Compared with the long period of prosperity that preceded it, and perhaps compared with the long period that shall follow it before the final judgment, it will be short. Thus, in Rev. 20:3, it is said that Satan "must be loosed a little season." See Note on Rev. 20:3.
There is no way of determining the time with exactness; but we are assured that it will not be long.
(3.) What will be the exact state of things then can be only a matter of conjecture. We may say, however, that it will not be
(a) necessarily war. The language is figurative and symbolical, and it is not necessary to suppose that an actual and bloody warfare will be literally waged against the church. Nor
(b) will there be a literal invasion of the land of Palestine as the residence of the saints, and the capital of the Redeemer's visible empire; for there is not a hint of this—not a word to justify such an interpretation. Nor
(c) is it necessary to suppose that there will be literally such nations as will be then called "Gog and Magog"—for this language is figurative, and designed to characterize the foes of the church—as being in some respects formidable and terrible, as were those ancient nations.
We may thus suppose that at that time, from causes which are unexplained, there will be
(a) a revived opposition to the truths of religion;
(b) the prevalence, to a greater or less extent, of infidelity;
(c) a great spiritual declension;
(d) a combination of interests opposed to the gospel;
(e) possibly some new form of error and delusion that shall extensively prevail. Satan may set up some new form of religion, or he may breathe into those that may already exist a spirit of worldliness and vanity—some new manifestation of the religion of forms—that shall for a limited period produce a general decline and apostasy. As there is, however, no distinct specification of what will characterize the world at that time, it is impossible to determine what is referred to any more than in this general manner.
(4.) A few remarks may, however, be made on the probability of what is here affirmed—for it seems contrary to what we should suppose would be the characteristics of the dosing period of the world. The following remarks, then, may show that this anticipated state of things is not improbable:
(a) We are to remember that human nature will then be essentially the same as now. There is no intimation that man, as born into the world, will be then different from what he is now; or that any of the natural corrupt tendencies of the human heart will be changed. Men will be liable to the same outbreaks of passion; to be influenced by the same forms of temptation; to fall into the same degeneracy and corruption; to feel the same unhappy influences of success and prosperity as now—for all this appertains to a fallen nature, except as it is checked and controlled by grace. We often mistake much in regard to the millennial state by supposing that all the evils of the apostasy will be arrested, and that the nature of man will be as wholly changed as it will be in the heavenly world.
(b) The whole history of the church has shown that there is a liability to declension even in the best state, and in the condition of the the most striking manifestation of the Divine mercies; the early Christian church, and how soon it declined; the seven churches of Asia Minor, and how soon their spirituality departed; the various revivals of religion that have occurred from time to time, and how soon they have been succeeded by coldness, worldliness, and error; the fact that great religious denominations, which have begun their career with zeal and love, have so soon degenerated in spirit, and fallen into the same formality and worldliness which they have evinced who have gone before them; and the case of the individual Christian, who, from the most exalted state of love and joy, so soon often declines into a state of conformity to the world. These are sad views of human nature, even under the influence of true religion; but the past history of man has given but too much occasion for such reflections, and too much reason to apprehend that the same things may occur, for a time, even under the best forms in which religion may manifest itself in a fallen world. Man's nature will be better in heaven, and religion there in its purest and best form will be permanent; here we are not to be surprised at any outbreak of sin, or any form of declension in religion. What has often occurred in the world on a small scale, we may suppose may then occur on a larger scale. "Just as on a small scale, in some little community like that of Northampton, as described by President Edwards, after the remarkable sense of God's presence over the whole town had begun to wax feeble, the still unconverted persons of its though subdued and seemingly won over to Christ, would by little and little recover themselves, and at length venture forth in their true character; so it will be, in all probability, on a vast scale, at the close of the latter day. The unconverted portion of the world—long constrained by the religious influences everywhere surrounding them to fall in with the spirit of the day, catching apparently its holy impulses, but never coming savingly under its power—this portion of mankind, which we have reason to fear will not be small, will now be freed from these irksome restraints, no longer obliged to breathe an atmosphere uncongenial to their nature."—Brown on the Second Coming of Christ, p. 442. "No oppression is so grievous to an unsanctified heart as that which arises from the purity of Christianity. A desire to shake off this yoke is the true cause of the opposition which Christianity has met with in the world in every period, and will, it is most likely, be the chief motive to influence the followers of Gog in his time."—Fraser's Key, p. 455.
(c.) The representations of the New Testament elsewhere confirm this now in regard to the latter state of the world—the state when the Lord Jesus shall come to judgment. Luke 18:8: "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" 2 Pet. 3:3-4: "There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?" 1 Thess. 5:2-3: "The day of the Lord so cometh as the thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape." See especially Luke 17:26-30: "As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed."
9. And they went up on the breadth of the earth. They spread over the earth in extended columns. The image is that of an invading army that seems, in its march, to spread all over a land. The reference here is to the hosts assembled from the regions of Gog and Magog; that is, to the formidable enemies of the gospel that would be roused up at the close of the period properly called the millennial period—the period of the thousand years. It is not necessary to suppose that there would be literally armies of enemies of God summoned from lands that would be called lands of" Gog and Magog;" but all that is necessarily implied is, that there will be a state of hostility to the church of Christ which would be well illustrated by such a comparison with an invading host of barbarians. The expression "the breadth of the land" occurs in Hab. 1:6, in a description of the invasion of the Chaldeans, and means there the whole extent of it; that is, they would spread over the whole country.
And compassed the camp of the saints about. Besieged the camp of the saints considered as engaged in war, or as attacked by an enemy. The "camp of the saints" here seems to be supposed to be without the walls of the city; that is, the army was drawn out for defence. The fact that the foes were able to "compass this camp about," and to encircle the city at the same time, shows the greatness of the numbers of the invaders.
And the beloved city. Jerusalem—a city represented as beloved by God and by his people. The whole imagery here is derived from a supposed invasion of the land of Palestine—imagery than which nothing could be more natural to John in describing the hostility that would be aroused against the church in the latter day. But no just principle of interpretation requires us to understand this literally. Compare Heb. 12:22. Indeed, it would be absolutely impossible to give this chapter throughout a literal interpretation. What would be the literal interpretation of the very first verses? "I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand; and he laid hold on the dragon, and bound him." Can any one believe that there is to be a literal key, and a chain, and an act of seizing a serpent, and binding him? As little as it demanded that the passage before us should be taken literally; for if it is maintained that this should be, we may insist that the same principle of interpretation should be applied to every part of the chapter, and every part of the book.
And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. Consumed them—fire being represented as devouring or eating. See Note on Rev. 17:16.
The meaning is, that they would be destroyed as if fire should come down from heaven, as on Sodom and Gomorrah. But it is not necessary to understand this literally, any more than it is the portions of the chapter just referred to. What is obviously meant is, that their destruction would be sudden, certain, and entire, and that thus the last enemy of God and the church would be swept away. Nothing can be determined from this about the means by which this destruction will be effected; and that must be left for time to disclose. It is sufficient to know that the destruction of these last foes of God and the church will be certain and entire. This language, as denoting the final destruction of the enemies of God, is often employed in the Scriptures. See Psa. 11:6; Isa. 29:6; Ezek. 38:22; 39:6.
10. And the devil that deceived them. See Notes on Rev. 20:3, 8.
Was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. In Rev. 19:20, it is said of the beast and the false prophet that they were "cast alive into a lake of fire, burning with brimstone." Satan, on the other hand, instead of being doomed at once to that final ruin, was confined for a season in a dark abyss, Rev. 20:1-3. As the final punishment, however, he is appropriately represented as consigned to the same doom as the beast mad the false prophet, that those great enemies of God that had been associated and combined in deceiving the nations, might share the same appropriate punishment in the end. Compare Rev. 16:13-14.
Where the beast and the false prophet are. See Note on Rev. 19:20.
And shall be tormented day and night for ever. Compare Note on Rev. 14:11.
All the great enemies of the church are destroyed, and henceforward there is to be no array of hostile forces; no combination of malignant powers against the kingdom of God. The gospel triumphs; the way is prepared for the final consummation.
(d.)—Condition of things in the period referred to in Rev. 20:9-10.
(1.) There will be, after the release of Satan, and of course at the close of the millennial period properly so called, a state of things which may be well represented by the invasion of a country by hostile, formidable forces. This, as shown in the exposition, need not be supposed to be literal; but it is implied that there will be decided hostility against the true religion. It may be an organization and consolidation, so to speak, of infidel principles, or a decided worldly spirit, or some prevalent form of error, or some new form of depravity that shall be developed by the circumstances of that age. What it will be it is impossible now to determine; but, as shown above, (b, 4,) it is by no means improbable that this will occur even at the close of the millennium.
(2.) There will be a decided defeat of these forces thus combined, as if fire should come down from heaven to destroy an invading army. The mode in which this will be done is not indeed stated, for there is no necessity of understanding the statement in Rev. 20:9 literally, any more than the other parts of the chapter. The fair inference, however, is that it will be by a manifest Divine agency; that it will be sudden, and that the destruction will be entire. We have no reason, therefore, to suppose that the outbreak will be of long continuance, or that it will very materially disturb the settled order of human affairs on the earth—any more than a formidable invasion of a country does, when the invading army is suddenly cut off by some terrible judgment from heaven.
(3.) This overthrow of the enemies of God and of the church will be final. Satan will be "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, to be tormented day and night for ever." The beast and the false prophet are already there, (Rev. 19:20;) that is, they will have ceased long since, even before the beginning of the millennial period, (Rev. 19:20, compared with 20:1-3, ) to have opposed the progress of truth in the world, and their power will have been brought to an end. Satan now, the last enemy, win be doomed to the same hopeless woe; and all the enemies that have ever opposed the church—in all forms of Paganism, Mohammedanism, Popery, and delusion-will be destroyed for ever. The world then will have peace; the church will have rest; the great triumph will have been achieved.
(4.) It is possible that there will be a long period of continued prosperity and peace between the events stated in Rev. 20:9-10, and the final judgment, as described in Rev. 20:11-15. If so, however, the purpose of the book did not require that that should be described at length, and it must be admitted that the most obvious interpretation of the New Testament would not be favourable to such a supposition. Compare Luke 17:26-30; 1 Thess. 5:2-3; 2 Pet. 3:3-4; Luke 18:8.
The great glory of the world will be the millennial period; when religion shall have the ascendency, and the race shall have reached its highest point of progress on earth, and the blessings of liberty, intelligence, peace, and piety, shall have during that period been spread over the globe. In that long duration, who can estimate the numbers that shall be redeemed and saved? That period passed, the great purpose contemplated by the creation of the earth—the glory of God in the redemption of a fallen race, and in setting up a kingdom of righteousness in a world of apostasy, will have been accomplished, and there will be no reason why the final judgment should not then occur. "The work of redemption will now be finished. The end for which the means of grace have been instituted shall be obtained. All the effect which was intended to be accomplished by them shall now be accomplished. All the great wheels of Providence have gone round—all things are ripe for Christ's coming to judgment."—President Edwards, History of Redemption.
11. And I saw a great white throne. This verse commences the description of the final judgment, which embraces the remainder of the chapter. The first thing seen in the vision is the burning throne of the Judge. The things that are specified in regard to it are that it was great, and that it was white. The former expression means that it was high or elevated. Compare Isa. 6:1. The latter expression—white—means that it was splendid or shining. Compare 1 Kings 10:18-20. The throne here is the same which is referred to in Matt. 25:31, and called there "the throne of his glory."
And him that sat on it. The reference here, undoubtedly, is to the Lord Jesus Christ, the final Judge of mankind, (compare Matt. 25:31,) and the scene described is that which will occur at his Second Advent.
From whose face. Or, from whose presence; though the word may be used here to denote more strictly his face—as illuminated, and shining like the sun. See Rev. 1:16, "And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength."
The earth and the heaven fled away. That is, as the stars, at the rising of the sun, seem to flee to more remote regions, and vanish from human view, so when the Son of God shall descend in his glory to judge the world, the earth and all other worlds shall seem to vanish. Every one must admire the sublimity of this image; no one can contemplate it without being awed by the majesty and glory of the final Judge of mankind. Similar expressions, where the natural creation shrinks back with awe at the presence of God, frequently occur in the Bible. Compare Psa. 18:7-15; 77:16-19; 114:3-5; Hab. 3:6, 10-11.
And there was found no place for them. They seemed to flee entirely away, as if there was no place where they could find a safe retreat, or which would receive and shelter them in their flight. The image expresses in the most emphatic manner the idea that they entirely disappeared, and no language could more sublimely represent the majesty of the Judge.
12. And I saw the dead, small and great. All the dead—for this language would express that—the whole race being composed of the "small and great." Thus, in other language, the same idea might be expressed by saying the young and old; the rich and poor; the bond and free; the sick and well; the happy and the unhappy; the righteous and the wicked; for all the human family might, in these respects, be considered as thus divided. The fair meaning in this place therefore is, that all the dead would be there, and of course this would preclude the idea of a previous resurrection of any part of the dead, as of the saints, at the beginning of the millennium. There is no intimation here that it is the wicked dead that are referred to in this description of the final judgment. It is the judgment of all the dead.
Stand before God. That is, they appear thus to be judged. The word "God" here must naturally refer to the final Judge on the throne, and there can be no doubt (see Matt. 25:31)that this is the Lord Jesus. Compare 2 Cor. 5:10. None can judge the secrets of the heart; none can pronounce on the moral character of all mankind of all countries and ages, and determine their everlasting allotment, but he who is Divine.
And the books were opened. That is, the books containing the record of human deeds. The representation is, that all that men have done is recorded, and that it will be exhibited on the final trial, and win constitute the basis of the last judgment. The imagery seems to be derived from the accusations made against such as are arraigned before human courts of justice.
And another book was opened, which is the book of life. The book containing the record of the names of all who shall enter into life, or into heaven. See Note on Rev. 3:5.
The meaning here is, that John saw not only the general books opened containing the records of the deeds of men, but that he had a distinct view of the list or roll of those who were the followers of the Lamb. It would seem that in regard to the multitudes of the impenitent and the wicked, the judgment will proceed on their deeds in general; in regard to the righteous, it will turn on the fact that their names had been enrolled in the book of life. That will be sufficient to determine the nature of the sentence that is to be be passed on them. He will be safe whose name is found in the book of life; no one will be safe who is to have his eternal destiny determined by his own deeds. This passage proves particularly that the righteous dead are referred to here as being present at the final judgment; and is thus an additional argument against the supposition of a resurrection of the righteous, and a judgment on them, at the beginning of the millennium.
And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books. The records which had been made of their deeds. The final judgment will proceed on the record that has been made. It will not be arbitrary, and will not be determined by rank, condition, or profession, but it will be according to the record.
According to their works. See Note on 2 Cor. 5:10.
The fact that the name of any one was found in the book of life would seem, as above remarked, to determine the certainty of salvation; but the amount of reward would be in proportion to the service rendered to the Redeemer, and the attainments made in piety.
13. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it. All that had been buried in the depths of oceans. This number in the aggregate will be great. If we include all who were swept off by the flood, and all who have perished by shipwreck, and all who have been killed in naval battles and buried in the sea, and all who have been swept away by inundations of the ocean, and all who have peacefully died at sea, as sailors, or in the pursuits of commerce or benevolence, the number in the aggregate will be immense—a number so vast that it was proper to notice them particularly in the account of the general resurrection and the last judgment.
And death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them. That is, all the dead came, from all regions where they were scattered—on the land and in the ocean—in this world and in the invisible world. "Death and hell" are here personified, and are represented as having dominion over the dead, and as now delivering up, or surrendering those who were held under them. On the meaning of the words here used, See Notes on Rev. 1:18; Rev. 6:8.
Compare Notes on Matt. 10:23; Job 10:21; Job 10:22; Isa. 14:9.
This whole representation is entirely inconsistent with the supposition that a large part of the dead had been already raised up at the beginning of the millennial period, and had been permitted, in their glorified bodies, to reign with Christ.
And they were judged, etc. All these were judged—the righteous and the wicked; those buried at sea, and those buried on the land; the small and the great; the dead, in whatever world they may have been.
14. And death and hell were east into the lake of fire. Death and Hades (hell) are here personified, as they are in the previous verse. The declaration is equivalent to the statement in 1 Cor. 15:26, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." See Note on 1 Cor. 15:26.
The idea is, that death, considered as the separation of soul and body, with all the attendant woes, will exist no more. The righteous will live for ever, and the wicked will linger on in a state never to be terminated by death. The reign of Death and Hades, as such, would come to an end, and a new order of things would commence where this would be unknown. There might be that which would be properly called death, but it would not be death in this form; the soul would live for ever, but it would not be in that condition represented by the word adhß—hades. There would be death still, but a "second death differs from the first, in the fact that it is not a separation of the soul and body, but a state of continual agony like that which the first death inflicts—like that in intensity, but not in kind."—Professor Stuart.
This is the second death. That is, this whole process here described—the condemnation, and the final death and ruin of those whose names are "not found written in the book of life"—properly constitutes the second death. This proves that when it is said that "death and hell were cast into a lake of fire," it cannot be meant that all punishment will cease for ever, and that all will be saved, for the writer goes on to describe what he calls "the second death" as still existing. See Rev. 20:15. John describes this as the second death, not because it in all respects resembles the first death, but because it has so many points of resemblance that it may be properly called death. Death, in any form, is the penalty of law; it is attended with pain; it cuts off from hope, from friends, from enjoyment; it subjects him who dies to a much-dreaded condition, and in all these respects it was proper to call the final condition of the wicked death—though it would still be true that the soul would live. There is no evidence that John meant to affirm that the second death would imply an extinction of existence. Death never does that; the word does not naturally and properly convey that idea.
15 And whosoever. All persons, of all ranks, ages, and conditions. No word could be more comprehensive than this. The single condition here stated, as being that which would save any from being cast into the lake of fire, is, that they are "found written in the book of life." All besides these—princes, kings, nobles, philosophers, statesmen, conquerors; rich men and poor men; the bond and the free; the young and the aged; the gay, the vain, the proud, and the sober; the modest and the humble—will be doomed to the lake of fire. Unlike in all other things, they will be alike in the only thing on which their eternal destiny will depend—that they have not so lived that their names have become recorded in the book of life. As they will also be destitute of true religion, there will be a propriety that they shall share the same doom in the future world.
Written in the book of life. See Note on Rev. 3:5.
Was cast into the lake of fire. See Note on Matt. 25:41.
That is, they will be doomed to a punishment which will be well represented by their lingering in a sea of fire for ever. This is the termination of the judgment; the winding up of the affairs of men. The vision of John here rests for a moment on the doom of the wicked, and then turns to a more full contemplation of the happy lot of the righteous as detailed in the two closing chapters of the book.
(d.)—Condition of things referred to in Rev. 20:11-15.
(1.) There will be a general resurrection of the dead—of the righteous and the wicked. This is implied by the statement that the "dead, small and great," were seen to stand before God; that "the sea gave up the dead which were in it;" that "Death and Hades gave up their dead." All were there whose names were or were not written in the book of life.
(2.) There will be a solemn and impartial judgment. How long a time this will occupy is not said, and is not necessary to be known—for time is of no consequence where there is an eternity of devotion; but it is said that they will all be judged "according to their works"—that is, strictly according to their character. They will receive no arbitrary doom; they will have no sentence which will not be just. See Matt. 25:31-46.
(3.) This will be the final judgment. After this, the affairs of the race will be put on a different footing. This will be the end of the present arrangements; the end of the present dispensations; the end of human probation. The great question to be determined in regard to our, world will have been settled; what the plan of redemption was intended; to accomplish on the earth will have been accomplished; the agency of the Divine Spirit in converting sinners will have come to an end; and the means of grace, as such, will be employed no more. There is not here or elsewhere an intimation that beyond this period any of these things will exist, or that the work of redemption, as such, will extend into the world beyond the judgment. As there is no intimation that the condition of the righteous will be changed, so there is none that the condition of the wicked will be; as there is no hint that the righteous will ever be exposed to temptation, or to the danger of falling into sin, so there is none that the offers of salvation will ever again be made to the wicked. On the contrary, the whole representation is, that all beyond this will be fixed and unchangeable for ever. See Note on Rev. 22:11.
(4.) The wicked will be destroyed, in what may be properly called the second death. As remarked in the Notes, this does not mean that this death will in all respects resemble the first death, but there will be so many points of resemblance that it will be proper to call it death. It does not mean that they will be annihilated, for death never implies that. The meaning is, that this will be a cutting off from what is properly called life, from hope, from happiness, and from peace, and a subjection to pain and agony, which it will be proper to call death—death in the most fearful form; death that will continue for ever. No statements in the Bible are more clear than those which are made on this point; no affirmation of the eternal punishment of the wicked could be more explicit than those which occur in the sacred Scriptures. See Notes on Matt. 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:9.
(5.) This will be the end of the woes and calamities produced in the kingdom of God by sin. The reign of Satan and of Death, so far as the Redeemer's kingdom is concerned, will be at an end, and henceforward the church will be safe from all the arts and efforts of its foes, Religion will be triumphant, and the affairs of the universe be reduced to permanent order.
(6.) The preparation is thus made for the final triumph of the righteous—the state to which all things tend. The writer of this book has conducted the prospective history through all the times of persecution which awaited the church, and stated the principal forms of error which would prevail, and foretold the conflicts through which the church would pass, and described its eventful history to the millennial period, and to the final triumph of truth and righteousness; and now nothing remains to complete the plan of the work but to give a rapid sketch of the final condition of the redeemed. This is done in the two following chapters, and with this the work is ended.
Analysis of the Chapter
THE whole of chapter 21, and the first five verses of chapter 22, relate to scenes beyond the judgment, and are descriptive of the happy and triumphant state of the redeemed church, when all its conflicts shall have ceased, and all its enemies shall have been destroyed. That happy state is depicted under the image of a beautiful city, of which Jerusalem was the emblem, and it was disclosed to John by a vision of that city—the New Jerusalem—descending from heaven. Jerusalem was regarded as the peculiar dwelling-place of God, and to the Hebrews it became thus the natural emblem or symbol of the heavenly world. The conception having occurred of describing the future condition of the righteous under the image of a beautiful city, all that follows is in keeping with that, and is merely a carrying out of the image. It is a city with beautiful walls and gates; a city that has no temple—for it is all a temple; a city that needs no light—for God is its light; a city into which nothing impure ever enters; a city filled with trees, and streams, and fountains, and fruits—the Paradise Regained. The description of that blessed state comprises the following parts:—
I. A vision of a new heaven and a new earth, as the final abode of the blessed, Rev. 21:1. The first heaven and the first earth passed away at the judgment, Rev. 21:11-15 to be succeeded by a new heaven and earth fitted to be the abode of the blessed.
II. A vision of the holy city—the New Jerusalem—descending from heaven, as the abode of the redeemed, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband—representing the fact that God would truly abide with men, Rev. 21:2-4. Now all the effects of the apostasy will cease; all tears will be wiped away, and in that blessed state there will be no more death, or sorrow, or pain. This contains the general statement of what will be the condition of the redeemed in the future world. God will be there; and all sorrow will cease.
III. A command to make a record of these things, Rev. 21:5.
IV. A general description of those who should dwell in that future world of blessedness, Rev. 21:6-8. It is for all who are athirst; for all who desire it, and long for it; for all who "overcome" their spiritual enemies, who maintain a steady conflict with sin, and gain a victory over it. But all who are fearful and unbelieving—all the abominable, and murderers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and liars—shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. That is, that world will be pure and holy.
V. A- minute description of the city, representing the happy abode of the redeemed, Rev. 21:9-26. This description embraces many particulars:—
(1.) Its general appearance, Rev. 21:11, 18, 21.
It is bright and splendid—like a precious jasper-stone, clear as crystal, and composed of pure gold.
(2.) Its walls, Rev. 21:12, 18. The walls are represented as "great and high," and as composed of ‘jasper.'
(3.) Its gates, Rev. 21:12, 13, 21.
The gates are twelve in number, three on each side; and are each composed of a single pearl.
(4.) Its foundations, Rev. 21:14, 18-20.
There are twelve foundations, corresponding to the number of the apostles of the Lamb. They are all composed of precious stones—jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprasus, jacinth, and amethyst.
(5.) Its size, Rev. 21:15-17. It is square—the length being as great as the breadth, and its height the same. The extent of each dimension is twelve thousand furlongs—a length on each side and in height of three hundred and seventy-five miles. It would seem, however, that though the city was of that height, the wall was only an hundred and forty-four cubits, or about two hundred and sixteen feet high. The idea seems to be that the city—the dwellings within it—towered high above the wall that was thrown around it for protection. This is not uncommon in cities that are surrounded by walls.
(6.) Its light, Rev. 21:23, 24; 22:5.
It has no need of the sun, or of the moon, or of a lamp, Rev. 22:5, to enlighten it; and yet there is no night there, Rev. 22:5, for the glory of God gives light to it.
(7.) It is a city without a temple, Rev. 21:22. There is no one place in it that is peculiarly sacred, or where the worship of God will be exclusively celebrated. It will be all a temple, and the worship of God will be celebrated in all parts of it.
(8.) It is always open, Rev. 21:25. There will be no need of closing it as walled cities on earth are closed to keep enemies out, and it will not be shut to prevent those who dwell there from going out and coming in when they please. The inhabitants will not be prisoners, nor will they be in danger, or be alarmed by the prospect of an attack from an enemy.
(9.) Its inhabitants will all be pure and holy, Rev. 21:27. There will in no wise enter there anything that defiles, or that works abomination, or that is false. They only shall dwell there whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
(10.) Its enclosures and environs, Rev. 22:1, 2. A stream of water, pure as crystal, proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb. That stream flows through the city, and on its banks is the tree of life constantly bearing fruit—fruit to be partaken of freely. It is Paradise Regained—a holy and beautiful abode, of which the garden of Eden was only an imperfect emblem, where there is no prohibition, as there was there, of anything that grows, and where there is no danger of falling into sin.
(11.) It is a place free, consequently, from the curse that was pronounced on man when he forfeited the blessings of the first Eden, and when he was driven out from the happy abodes where God had placed him.
(12.) It is a place where the righteous shall reign for ever, Rev. 22:5. Death shall never enter there, and the presence and glory of God shall fill all with peace and joy.
Such is an outline of the figurative and glowing description of the future blessedness of the redeemed; the eternal abode of those who shall be saved. It is poetic and emblematical; but it is elevating, and constitutes a beautiful and appropriate close, not only of this single book, but of the whole sacred volume—for to this the saints are everywhere directed to look forward; this is the glorious termination of all the struggles and conflicts of the church; this is the result of the work of redemption in repairing the evils of the fall, and in bringing man to more than the bliss which he lost in Eden. The mind rests with delight on this glorious prospect; the Bible closes, as a revelation from heaven should, in a manner that calms down every anxious feeling; that fills the soul with peace, and that leads the child of God to look forward with bright anticipations, and to say, as John did, "Come, Lord Jesus," Rev. 22:20.
1. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. Such a heaven and earth that they might properly be called new; such transformations, and such changes in their appearance, that they seemed to be just created, He does not say that they were created now, or anew; that the old heavens and earth were annihilated;—but all that he says is that there were such changes that they seemed to be new. If the earth is to be renovated by fire, such a renovation will give an appearance to the globe as if it were created anew, and might be attended with such an apparent change in the heavens that they might be said to be new. The description here (Rev. 21:1) relates to scenes after the general resurrection and the judgment—for those events are detailed in the close of the previous chapter. In regard to the meaning of the language here, See Note on 2 Pet. 3:13.
Compare, also, "The Religion of Geology and its Connected Sciences," by Edward Hitchcock, D.D., LL.D., pp. 370-408.
For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away. They had passed away by being changed, and a renovated universe had taken their place. See Note on 2 Pet. 3:10.
And there was no more sea. This change struck John more forcibly, it would appear, than anything else. Now, the seas and oceans occupy about three-fourths of the surface of the globe, and of course to that extent prevent the world from being occupied by men—except by the comparatively small number that are mariners. There, the idea of John seems to be, the whole world will be inhabitable, and no part will be given up to the wastes of oceans. In the present state of things, these vast oceans are necessary to render the world a fit abode for human beings, as well as to give life and happiness to the numberless tribes of animals that find their homes in the waters. In the future state, it would seem, the present arrangement will be unnecessary; and if man dwells upon the earth at all, or if he visits it as a temporary abode, (See Note on 2 Pet. 3:13,) these vast wastes of water will be needless. It should be remembered that the earth, in its changes, according to the teachings of geology, has undergone many revolutions quite as remarkable as it would be if all the lakes, and seas, and oceans of the earth should disappear. Still, it is not certain that it was intended that this language should be understood literally as applied to the material globe. The object is to describe the future blessedness of the righteous; and the idea is, that that will be a world where there will be no such wastes as those produced by oceans.
2. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven. On the phrase "new Jerusalem," See Notes on Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22.
Here it refers to the residence of the redeemed, the heavenly world, of which Jerusalem was the type and symbol. It is here represented as "coming down from God out of heaven." This, of course, does not mean that this great city was literally to descend upon the earth, and to occupy any one part of the renovated world; but it is a symbolical or figurative representation, designed to show that the abode of the righteous will be splendid and glorious. The idea of a city literally descending from heaven, and being set upon the earth with such proportions—three hundred and seventy miles high, (Rev. 21:16,) made of gold, and with single pearls for gates, and single gems for the foundations—is absurd. No man can suppose that this is literally true, and hence this must be regarded as a figurative or emblematic description. It is a representation of the heavenly state under the image of a beautiful city, of which Jerusalem was, in many respects, a natural and striking emblem.
Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. See Note on Isa. 49:18 ".
The purpose here is, to represent it as exceedingly beautiful. The comparison of the church with a bride, or a wife, is common in the Scriptures. See Notes on Rev. 19:7-8; Isa. 1:21.
It is also common in the Scriptures to compare a city with a beautiful woman, and these images here seem to be combined. It is a beautiful city that seems to descend, and this city is itself compared with a richly attired bride prepared for her husband.
3. And I heard a great voice out of heaven. As if uttered by God himself, or the voice of angels.
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men. The tabernacle, as that word is commonly used in the Scriptures, referring to the sacred tent erected in the wilderness, was regarded as the peculiar dwelling-place of God among his people—as the temple was afterwards, which was also called a tabernacle. See Note on Heb. 9:2.
The meaning here is, that God would now dwell with the redeemed, as if in a tabernacle, or in a house specially prepared for his residence among them. It is not said that this would be on the earth, although that may be; for it is possible that the earth, as well as other worlds, may yet become the abode of the redeemed. See Note on 2 Pet. 3:13.
And he will dwell with them. As in a tent, or tabernacle—skhnwsei. This a common idea in the Scriptures.
And they shall be his people. He will acknowledge them in this public way as his own, and will dwell with them as such.
And God himself shall be with them. Shall be permanently with them; shall never leave them.
And be their God. Shall manifest himself as such, in such a manner that there shall be no doubt.
4. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. This will be one of the characteristics of that blessed state, that not a tear shall ever be shed there. How different will that be from the condition here—for who is there here who has not learned to weep? See Note on Rev. 7:17.
Compare Note on Isa. 25:8.
And there shall be no more death. In all that future world of glory, not one shall ever die; not a grave shall ever be dug! What a view do we begin to get of heaven, when we are told there shall be no death there! How different from earth, where death is so common; where it spares no one; where our best friends die; where the wise, the good, the useful, the lovely, die; where fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, all die; where we habitually feel that we must die. Assuredly we have here a view of heaven most glorious and animating to those who dwell in a world like this, and to whom nothing is more common than death. In all their endless and glorious career, the redeemed will never see death again; they will never themselves die. They will never follow a friend to the tomb, nor fear that an absent friend is dead. The slow funeral procession will never be witnessed there; nor will the soil ever open its bosom to furnish a grave. See Note on 1 Cor. 15:55.
Neither sorrow. The word sorrow here—penqoß—denotes sorrow or grief of any kind; sorrow for the loss of property or friends; sorrow for disappointment, persecution, or care; sorrow over our sins, or sorrow that we love God so little, and serve him so unfaithfully; sorrow that we are sick, or that we must die. How innumerable are the sources of sorrow here; how constant is it on the earth! Since the fall of man there has not been a day, an hour, a moment, in which this has not been a sorrowful world; there has not been a nation, a tribe—a city or a village—nay, not a family where there has not been grief. There has been no individual who has been always perfectly happy. No one rises in the morning with any certainty that he may not end the day in grief; no one lies down at night with any assurance that it may not be a night of sorrow. How different would this world be if it were announced that hence forward there would be no sorrow! How different, therefore, will heaven be when we shall have the assurance that henceforward grief shall be at an end!
Nor crying.—kraugh. This word properly denotes a cry, an outcry, as in giving a public notice; a cry in a tumult—a clamour, Acts 23:9; and then a cry of sorrow, or wailing. This is evidently its meaning here, and it refers to all the outbursts of grief arising from affliction, from oppression, from violence. The sense is, that as none of these causes of wailing will be known in the future state, all such wailing will cease. This, too, will make the future state vastly different from our condition here; for what a change would it produce on the earth if the cry of grief were never to be heard again!
Neither shall there be any more pain. There will be no sickness, and no calamity; and there will be no mental sorrow arising from remorse, from disappointment, or from the evil conduct of friends. And what a change would this produce—for how full of pain is the world now! How many lie on beds of languishing; how many are suffering under incurable diseases; how many are undergoing severe surgical operations; how many are pained by the loss of property or friends, or subjected to acuter anguish by the misconduct of those who are loved! How different would this world be, if all pain were to cease for ever; how different, therefore, must the future state of the blessed be from the present!
For the former things are passed away. The world as it was before the judgment.
5. And he that sat upon the throne said. Probably the Messiah, the dispenser of the rewards of heaven. See Note on Rev. 20:11.
Behold, I make all things new. A new heaven and new earth, (Rev. 21:1,) and an order of things to correspond with that new creation. The former state of things when sin and death reigned will be changed, and the change consequent on this must extend to everything.
And he said unto me, Write. Make a record of these things, for they are founded in truth, and they are adapted to bless a suffering world. Compare Note on Rev. 14:13.
See also Rev. 1:19.
For these words are true and faithful. They are founded in truth, and they are worthy to be believed. See Note on Rev. 19:9.
Compare also See Note on Dan. 12:4.
6. And he said unto me. That is, he that sat on the throne—the Messiah.
It is done. It is finished, complete; or, still more expressively, it is—gegone. An expression remarkably similar to this occurs. in John 19:30, when the Saviour on the cross said, "It is finished." The meaning in the passage before us evidently is, "the great work is accomplished; the arrangement of human affairs is complete. The redeemed are gathered in; the wicked are cut off; truth is triumphant, and all is now complete—prepared for the eternal state of things.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. This language makes it morally certain that the speaker here is the Lord Jesus, for it is the very language which he uses of himself in Rev. 1:11. See its meaning explained in See Note on Rev. 1:8.
If it is applied to him here, it proves that he is Divine, for in the following verse (Rev. 21:7) the speaker says that he would be a God to him who should "overcome." The meaning of the language as here used, regarded as spoken by the Redeemer at the consummation of all things, and as his people are about entering into the abodes of blessedness, is, "I am now indeed the Alpha and the Omega—the first and the last. The attributes implied in this language which I claimed for myself are now verified in me, and it is seen that these properly belong to me. The scheme for setting up a kingdom in the lost world began in me, and it ends in me—the glorious and triumphant king."
I will give unto him that is athirst. See Notes on Matt. 5:6; John 4:14; John 7:37.
Of the fountain of the water of life. An image often used in the Scriptures to represent salvation. It is compared with a fountain that flows in abundance where all may freely slake their thirst.
Freely. Without money and without price, (See Note on Isa. 55:1; John 7:27; ) the common representation in the Scriptures. The meaning here is not that he would do this in the future, but that he had shown that this was his character, as he had claimed, in the same way as he had shown that he was the Alpha and the Omega. The freeness and the fulness of salvation will be one of the most striking things made manifest when the immense hosts of the redeemed shall be welcomed to their eternal abodes.
7. He that overcometh. See Note on Rev. 2:7.
Shall inherit all things. Be an heir of God in all things. See Note on Rom. 8:17.
Compare Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21.
And I will be his God. That is, for ever. He would be to them all that is properly implied in the name of God; he would bestow upon them all the blessings which it was appropriate for God to bestow. See Notes on 2 Cor. 6:18; Heb. 8:10.
And he shall be my son. He shall sustain to me the relation of a son, and shall be treated as such. He would ever onward sustain this relation, and be honoured as a child of God.
8. But the fearful. Having stated, in general terms, who they were who would be admitted into that blessed world, he now states explicitly who would not. The fearful denote those who had not firmness boldly to maintain their professed principles, or who were afraid to avow themselves as the friends of God in a wicked world. They stand in contrast with those who "overcome," Rev. 21:7.
And unbelieving. Those who have not true faith; avowed infidels; infidels at heart; and all who have not the sincere faith of the gospel. See Note on Mark 16:16.
And the abominable. The verb from which this word is derived means, to excite disgust; to feel disgust at; to abominate or abhor; and hence the participle — "the abominable" — refers to all who are detestable, to wit, on account of their sins; all whose conduct is offensive to God. Thus it would include those who live in open sin; who practise detestable vices; whose conduct is fitted to excite disgust and abhorrence. These must all, of course, be excluded from a pure and holy world; and this description, alas! would embrace a lamentably large portion of the world as it has hitherto been. See Note on Rom. 1:26, seq.
And murderers. See Notes on Rom. 1:29; Gal. 5:21.
And whoremongers. See Note on Gal. 5:19.
And sorcerers. See the word here used—farmakeusi—explained in See Note on Gal. 5:19, under the word witchcraft.
And idolaters. 1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19.
And all liars. All who are false in their statements, their promises, their contracts. The word would embrace all who are false towards God, (Acts 5:1-3,) and false toward men. See Rom. 1:31.
Shall have their part in the lake which burneth, etc. See Note on Rev. 20:14.
That is, they will be excluded from heaven, and punished for ever. See Notes on 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21.
9. And there came unto me one of the seven angels, etc. See Note on Rev. 16:6-7.
Why one of these angels was employed to make this communication is not stated. It may be that as they had been engaged in bringing destruction on the enemies of the church, and securing its final triumph, there was a propriety that that triumph should be announced by one of their number.
And talked with me. That is, in regard to what he was about to show me.
I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. I will show you what represents the redeemed church now to be received into permanent union with its Lord—as a bride about to be united to her husband. See Note on Rev. 21:2.
Compare Rev. 19:7-8.
10. And he carried me away in the spirit. Gave him a vision of the city; seemed to place him where he could have a clear view of it as it came down from heaven. See Note on Rev. 1:10.
In a great and high mountain. The elevation, and the unobstructed range of view, gave him an opportunity to behold it in its glory.
And showed me that great city, etc. As it descended from heaven. See Note on Rev. 21:2.
11. Having the glory of God. A glory or splendour such as became the dwelling-place of God. The nature of that splendour is described in the following verses.
And her light. In Rev. 21:23 it is said that "the glory of God did lighten it." That is, it was made light by the visible symbol of the Deity—the Shekinah. See Notes on Luke 2:9; Acts 9:3.
The word here rendered light—fwsthr—occurs nowhere else in the New Testament except in Phil. 2:15. It means, properly, a light, a light-giver, and, in profane writers, means commonly a window. It is used here to denote the brightness or shining of the Divine glory, as supplying the place of the sun, or of a window.
Like unto a stone most precious. A stone of the richest or most costly nature.
Even like a jasper stone. On the jasper, See Note on Rev. 4:3.
It is used there for the same purpose as here, to illustrate the majesty and glory of God.
Clear as crystal. Pellucid or resplendent like crystal. There are various kinds of jasper—as red, yellow, and brown, brownish yellow, etc. The stone is essentially a quartz, and the word crystal here is used to show that the form of it referred to by John was clear and bright.
12. And had a wall great and high. Ancient cities were always surrounded with walls for protection, and John represents this as enclosed in the usual manner. The word great means that it was thick and strong. Its height also is particularly noticed, for it was unusual. See Rev. 21:16.
And had twelve gates. Three on each side. The number of the gates correspond to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and to the number of the apostles. The idea seems to be that there would be ample opportunity of access and egress.
And at the gates twelve angels. Stationed there as guards to the New Jerusalem. Their business seems to have been to watch the gates that nothing improper should enter; that the great enemy should not make an insidious approach to this city as he did to the earthly Paradise.
And names written thereon. On the gates.
Which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. So in the city which Ezekiel saw in vision, which John seems also to have had in his eye. See Ezek. 48:31. The inscription in Ezekiel denoted that that was the residence of the people of God; and the same idea is denoted here. The New Jerusalem is the eternal residence of the children of God, and this is indicated at every gate. None can enter who do not belong to that people; all who are within are understood to be of their number.
13. On the east three gates, etc. The city was square, (Rev. 21:16,) and the same number of gates is assigned to each quarter. There does not appear to be any special significancy in this fact, unless it be to denote that there is access to this city from all quarters of the world, and that they who dwell there will have come from each of the great divisions of the earth; that is, from every land.
14. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations. It is not said whether these foundations were twelve rows of stones placed one above another under the city, and extending round it, or whether they were twelve stones placed at intervals. The former would seem to be the most probable, as the latter would indicate comparative feebleness and liability to fall. Compare Note on Rev. 21:19.
And in them. In the foundation of stones. That is, the names of the apostles were cut or carved in them so as to be conspicuous.
The names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Of the Lamb of God; the Messiah. For an illustration of this passage, See Note on Eph. 2:20.
15. And he that talked with me. The angel, Rev. 21:9.
Had a golden reed to measure the city. See Note on Rev. 11:1.
The reed, or measuring rod, here, is of gold, because all about the city is of the most rich and costly materials. The rod is thus suited to the personage who uses it, and to the occasion. Compare a similar description in Ezek. 40:3-5; 43:16. The object of this measuring is to show that the city has proper architectural proportions.
And the gates thereof, etc. To measure every part of the city, and to ascertain its exact dimensions.
16. And the city lieth four-square. It was an exact square. That is, there was nothing irregular about it; there were no crooked walls; there was no jutting out, and no indentation in the walls, as if the city had been built at different times without a plan, and had been accommodated to circumstances. Most cities have been determined in their outline by the character of the ground—by hills, streams, or ravines; or have grown up by accretions, where one part has been joined to another, so that there is no regularity, and so that the original plan, if there was any, has been lost sight of. The New Jerusalem, on the contrary, had been built according to a plan of the utmost regularity, which had not been modified by the circumstances, or varied as the city grew. The idea here may be that the church, as it will appear in its state of glory, will be in accordance with an eternal plan, and that the great original design will have been fully carried out.
And the length is as large as the breadth. The height also of the city was the same—so that it was an exact square.
And he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. As eight furlongs make a mile, the extent of the walls, therefore, must have been three hundred and seventy-five miles. Of course, this must preclude all idea of there being such a city literally in Palestine. This is clearly a figurative or symbolical representation; and the idea is, that the city was on the most magnificent scale, and with the largest proportions, and the description here is adopted merely to indicate this vastness, without any idea that it would be understood literally.
The length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal. According to this representation, the height of the city, not of the walls, (compare Rev. 21:17,) would be three hundred and seventy-five miles. Of course, this cannot be understood literally; and the very idea of a literal fulfilment of this shows the absurdity of that method of interpretation. The idea intended to be conveyed by this immense height would seem to be that it would contain countless numbers of inhabitants. It is true that such a structure has not existed, and that a city of such a height may seem to be out of all proportion; but we are to remember
(a) that this is a symbol; and
(b) that, considered as one mass or pile of buildings, it may not seem to be out of proportion. It is no uncommon thing that a house should be as high as it is long or broad. The idea of vastness and of capacity is the main idea designed to be represented. The image before the mind is, that the numbers of the redeemed will be immense.
17. And he measured the wall thereof. In respect to its height. Of course, its length corresponded with the extent of the city.
An hundred and forty and four cubits. This would be, reckoning the cubit at eighteen inches, two hundred and sixteen feet. This is less than the height of the walls of Babylon, which Herodotus says were three hundred and fifty feet high. See Introduction to Isa. 13:1. As the walls of a city are designed to protect it from external foes, the height mentioned here gives all proper ideas of security; and we are to conceive of the city itself as towering immensely above the walls. Its glory, therefore, would not be obscured by the wall that was thrown around it for defence.
According to the measure of a man. The measure usually employed by men. This seems to be added in order to prevent any mistake as to the size of the city. It is an angel who makes the measurement, and without this explanation it might perhaps be supposed that he used some measure not in common use among men, so that, after all, it would be impossible to form any definite idea of the size of the city.
That is, of the angel. That is, "which is the measure employed by the angel." It was, indeed, an angel who measured the city, but the measure which he employed was that in common use among men.
18. And the building of the wall of it. The material of which the wall was composed. This means the wall above the foundation, for that was composed of twelve rows of precious stones, Rev. 21:14, 19-20.
The height of the foundation is not stated, but the entire wall above was composed of jasper.
Was of jasper. See Note on Rev. 4:3.
Of course, this cannot be taken literally; and an attempt to explain all this literally would show that that method of interpreting the Apocalypse is impracticable.
And the city was pure gold. The material of which the edifices were composed.
Like unto clear glass. The word rendered glass in this place—ualoß—occurs in the New Testament only here and in Rev. 21:21. It means, properly, "anything transparent like water;" as, for example, any transparent stone or gem, or as rock-salt, crystal, glass.—Rob. Lex. Here the meaning is, that the golden city would be so bright and burnished that it would seem to be glass reflecting the sunbeams. Would the appearance of a city as the sun is setting, when the reflection of its beams from thousands of panes of glass gives it the appearance of burnished gold, represent the idea here? If we were to suppose a city made entirely of glass, and the setting sunbeams falling on it, it might convey the idea represented here. It is certain that, as nothing could be more magnificent, so nothing could more beautifully combine the two ideas referred to here—that of gold and glass. Perhaps the reflection of the sunbeams from the "Crystal Palace," erected for the late "industrial exhibition" in London, would convey a better idea of what is intended to be represented here than anything which our world has furnished. The following description from one who was an eye-witness, drawn up by him at the time, and without any reference to this passage, and furnished at my request, will supply a better illustration of the passage before us than any description which I could give: "Seen as the morning vapours rolled around its base—its far-stretching roofs, rising one above another, and its great transept, majestically arched, soaring out of the envelope of clouds—its pillars, window-bars, and pinnacles, looked literally like a castle in the air; like some palace, such as one reads of in idle tales of Arabian enchantment, having about it all the ethereal softness of a dream. Looked at from a distance at noon, when the sunbeams came pouring upon the terraced and vaulted roof, it resembles a regal palace of silver, built for some Eastern prince; when the sun at eventide sheds on its sides his parting rays, the edifice is transformed into a temple of gold and rubies; and in the calm hours of night, when the moon walketh in her brightness, the immense surface of glass which the building presents looks like a sea, or like throwing back in flickering smile the radiant glances of the queen of heaven."
19. And the foundations of the wall of the city. See Note on Rev. 21:14.
Were garnished. Were adorned, or decorated. That is, the foundations were composed of precious stones, giving them this highly ornamented and brilliant appearance.
The first foundation. The first row, layer, or course. See Note on Rev. 21:14.
Was jasper. See Note on Rev. 4:3.
The second, sapphire. This stone is not elsewhere mentioned in the New Testament. It is a precious stone next in hardness to the diamond, usually of an azure or sky-blue colour, but of various shades.
The third, a chalcedony. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The stone referred to is an uncrystallized translucent variety of quartz, having a whitish colour, and of a lustre nearly like wax. It is found covering the sides of cavities, and is a deposit from filtrated silicious waters. When it is arranged in stripes, it constitutes agate; and if the stripes are horizontal, it is the onyx. The modern carnelian is a variety of this. The carnelian is of a deep flesh red, or reddish-white colour. The name chalcedony is from Chalcedon, a town in Asia Minor, opposite to Byzantium, or Constantinople, where this stone was probably first known.—Webster's Dic.
The fourth, an emerald. See Note on Rev. 4:3.
The emerald is green.
20. The fifth, sardonyx. This word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The name is derived from Sardis, a city in Asia Minor, (See Note on Rev. 3:1,) and onux—a nail—so named, according to Pliny, from the resemblance of its colour to the flesh and the nail. It is a silicious stone or gem, nearly allied to the onyx. The colour is a reddish yellow, nearly orange.—Webster's Dic.
The sixth, sardius. This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It is also derived from Sardis, and the name was probably given to the gem because it was found there. It is a stone of a blood-red or flesh colour, and is commonly known as a carnelian. It is the same as the sardine stone mentioned in Rev. 4:3. See Note on Rev. 4:3
The seventh, chrysolite. This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It is derived from crusoß, gold, and liqoß, stone, and means golden stone, and was applied by the ancients to all gems of a golden or yellow colour, probably designating particularly the topaz of the moderns.—Rob. Lex. But in Webster's Dic. it is said that its prevalent colour is green. It is sometimes transparent. This is the modern chrysolite. The ancients undoubtedly understood by the name a yellow gem.
The eighth, beryl. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The beryl is a mineral of great hardness, and is of a green or bluish-green colour. It is identical with the emerald, except in the colour, the emerald having a purer and richer green colour, proceeding from a trace of oxide of chrome. Prisms of beryl are sometimes found nearly two feet in diameter in the state of New Hampshire.—Webster.
The ninth, a topaz. This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. The topaz is a well-known mineral, said to be so called from Topazos, a small island in the Arabian Gulf. It is generally of a yellowish colour, and pellucid, but it is also found of greenish, bluish, or brownish shades.
The tenth, a chrysoprasus. This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It is derived from crusoß, gold, and prason, a leek, and denotes a precious stone of greenish golden colour, like a leek; that is, "apple-green passing into a grass-green."—Rob. Lex. "It is a variety of quartz. It is commonly apple-green, and often extremely beautiful. It is translucent, or sometimes semi-transparent; its hardness little inferior to flint."—Webster's Dic.
The eleventh, a jacinth. The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It is the same word as hyacinth—uakinqoß—and denotes properly the well-known flower of that name, usually of a deep purple or reddish blue. Here it denotes a gem of this colour. It is a red variety of zircon. See Webster's Dic., under the word hyacinth.
The twelfth, an amethyst. This word, also, is found only in this place in the New Testament. It denotes a gem of a deep purple or violet colour. The word is derived from a, priv., and mequw, to be intoxicated, because this gem was supposed to be an antidote against drunkenness. It is a species of quartz, and is used in jewelry.
21. And the twelve gates. Rev. 21:12.
Were twelve pearls. See Notes on Rev. 17:4; Matt. 13:46.
Every several gate was of one pearl. Each gate. Of course, this is not to be understood literally. The idea is that of ornament and beauty, and nothing could give a more striking view of the magnificence of the future abode of the saints.
And the street of the city was pure gold. Was paved with gold; that is, all the vacant space that was not occupied with buildings was of pure gold. See Note on Rev. 21:18.
22. And I saw no temple therein. No structure reared expressly for the worship of God; no particular place where he was adored. It was all temple—nothing but a temple. It was not like Jerusalem, where there was but one house reared expressly for Divine worship, and to which the inhabitants repaired to praise God; it was all one great temple reared in honour of his name, and where worship ascended from every part of it. With this explanation, this passage harmonizes with what is said in Rev. 2:12; 7:15.
For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. They are present in all parts of it in their glory; they fill it with light; and the splendour of their presence may be said to be the temple. The idea here is, that it would be a holy world—all holy. No particular portion would be set apart for purposes of public worship, but in all places God would be adored, and every portion of it devoted to the purposes of religion.
23. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it. This imagery seems to be derived from Isa. 60:19-20. See Notes on Isa. 60:19; Isa. 60:20.
No language could give a more striking or beautiful representation of the heavenly state than that which is here employed.
For the glory of God did lighten it. By the visible splendour of his glory. See Note on Rev. 21:11.
That supplied the place of the sun and the moon.
And the Lamb is the light thereof. The Son of God; the Messiah. See Notes on Rev. 5:6; Isa. 60:19.
24. And the nations of them which are saved. All the nations that are saved; or all the saved considered as nations. This imagery is doubtless derived from that in Isaiah, particularly Isa. 60:3-9. See Note on Isa. 60:3, seq.
Shall walk in the light of it. Shall enjoy its splendour, and be continually in its light.
And the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. All that they consider as constituting their glory, treasures, crowns, sceptres, robes. The idea is, that all these will be devoted to God in the future days of the church in its glory, and will be, as it were, brought and laid down at the feet of the Saviour in heaven. The language is derived, doubtless, from the description in Isa. 60:3-14. Compare Isa. 49:23.
25. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day. It shall be constantly open, allowing free ingress and egress to all who reside there. The language is derived from Isa. 60:11. See Note on Isa. 60:11.
Applied to the future state of the blessed, it would seem to mean, that while this will be their permanent abode, yet that the dwellers there will not be prisoners. The universe will be open to them. They will be permitted to go forth and visit every world, and survey the works of God in all parts of his dominions.
For there shall be no night there. It shall be all day; all unclouded splendour. When, therefore, it is said that the gates should not be "shut by day," it means that they would never be shut. When it is said that there would be no night there, it is, undoubtedly, to be taken as meaning that there would be no literal darkness, and nothing of which night is the emblem: no calamity, no sorrow, no bereavement, no darkened windows on account of the loss of friends and kindred. Compare Note on Rev. 21:4.
26. And they shall bring, etc. See Note on Rev. 21:24.
That blessed world shall be made up of all that was truly valuable and pure on the earth.
27. And there shall in no wise. On no account; by no means. This strong language denotes the absolute exclusion of all that is specified in the verse.
Anything that defileth. Literally, "anything common." See Note on Acts 10:14.
It means here that nothing will be found in that blessed abode which is unholy or sinful. It will be a pure world, 2 Pet. 3:13.
Neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie. See Note on Rev. 21:8.
But they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. Whose names are there recorded. See Note on Rev. 3:5.
Compare Note on Rev. 21:8.
1. And he showed me a pure river of water of life. In the New Jerusalem; the happy abode of the redeemed. The phrase "water of life," means living or running water, like a spring or fountain, as contrasted with a stagnant pool. See Note on John 4:14.
The allusion here is doubtless to the first Eden, where a river watered the garden, (Gen. 2:10, seq.,) and as this is a description of Eden recovered, or Paradise regained, it was natural to introduce a river of water also, yet in such a way as to accord with the general description of that future abode of the redeemed. It does not spring up, therefore, from the ground, but flows from the throne of God and the Lamb. Perhaps, also, the writer had in his eye the description in Ezek. 47:1-12, where a stream issues from under the temple, and is parted in different directions.
Clear as crystal. See Note on Rev. 4:6.
Proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. Flowing from the foot of the throne. Compare Rev. 4:6. This idea is strictly in accordance with Oriental imagery. In the East, fountains and running streams constituted an essential part of the image of enjoyment and prosperity, (See Note on Isa. 35:6,) and such fountains were common in the courts of Oriental houses. Here, the river is an emblem of peace, happiness, plenty; and the essential thought in its flowing from the throne is, that all the happiness of heaven proceeds from God.
2. In the midst of the street of it. Professor Stuart renders this, "between the street thereof and the river;" and says that "the writer conceives of the river as running through the whole city; then of streets parallel to it on either side; and then, on the banks of the river, between the water and the street, the whole stream is lined on either side with two rows of the tree of life." The more common interpretation, however, is doubtless admissible, and would give a more beautiful image; that in the street, or streets of the city, as well as on the banks of the river, the tree of life was planted. It abounded everywhere. The city had not only a river passing through it, but it was pervaded by streets, and all those streets were lined and shaded with this tree. The idea in the mind of the writer is that of Eden or Paradise; but it is not the Eden of the book of Genesis, or the Oriental or Persian Paradise: it is a picture where all is combined that in the view of the writer would constitute beauty, or contribute to happiness.
And on either side of the river. As well as in all the streets. The writer undoubtedly conceives of a single river running through the city—probably as meandering along—and that river lined on both sides with the tree of life. This gives great beauty to the imagery.
Was there the tree of life. Not a single tree, but it abounded everywhere—on the banks of the river, and in all the streets. It was the common tree in this blessed Paradise—of which all might partake, and which was everywhere the emblem of immortality. In this respect, this new Paradise stands in strong contrast with that in which Adam was placed at his creation, where there seems to have been a single tree that was designated as the tree of life, Gen. 3:22-23. In the future state of the blessed, that tree will abound, and all may freely partake of it; the emblem—the pledge of immortal life—will be constantly before the eyes, whatever part of the future abode may be traversed, and the inhabitants of that blessed world may constantly partake of it.
Which bare twelve manner of fruits. "Producing twelve fruit-harvests; not (as our version) twelve manner of fruits."—Professor Stuart. The idea is not that there are twelve kinds of fruit on the same tree, for that is not implied in the language used by John. The literal rendering is, "producing twelve fruits"—poioun karpouß dwdeka. The word "manner" has been introduced by the translators without authority. The idea is, that the tree bore every month in the year, so that there were twelve fruit-harvests. It was not like a tree that bears but once a year, or in one season only, but it constantly bore fruit—it bore every month. The idea is that of abundance, not variety. The supply never fails; the tree is never barren. As there is but a single class of trees referred to, it might have been supposed, perhaps, that, according to the common method in which fruit is produced, there would be sometimes plenty and sometimes want; but the writer says that, though there is but one kind, yet the supply is ample. The tree is everywhere; it is constantly producing fruit.
And yielded her fruit every month. The word "and" is also supplied by the translators, and introduces an idea which is not in the original, as if there was not only a sucession of harvests, which is in the text, but that each one differed from the former, which is not in the text. The proper translation is, "producing twelve fruits, yielding or rendering its fruit in each month." Thus there is indeed a succession of fruit-crops, but it is the same kind of fruit. We are not to infer, however, that there will not be variety in the occupations and the joys of the heavenly state, for there can be no doubt that there will be ample diversity in the employments, and in the sources of happiness, in heaven; but the single thought expressed here is, that the means of life will be abundant: the trees of life will be everywhere, and they will be constantly yielding fruit.
And the leaves of the tree. Not only the fruit will contribute to give life, but even the leaves will be salutary. Everything about it will contribute to sustain life.
Were for the healing. That is, they contribute to impart life and health to those who had been diseased. We are not to suppose that there will be sickness, and a healing process in heaven, for that idea is expressly excluded in Rev. 21:4; but the meaning is, that the life and health of that blessed world will have been imparted by partaking of that tree, and the writer says that, in fact, it was owing to it that they who dwell there had been healed of their spiritual maladies, and had been made to live for ever.
Of the nations. Of all the nations assembled there, Rev. 21:24. There is a close resemblance between the language here used by John and that used by Ezekiel, (Ezek. 47:12,) and it is not improbable that both these writers refer to the same thing. Compare also, in the Apocrypha, 2 Esdras 2:12; 7:52-54.
3. And there shall be no more curse. This is doubtless designed to be in strong contrast with our present abode; and it is affirmed that what now properly comes under the name of a curse, or whatever is part of the curse pronounced on man by the fall, will be there unknown. The earth will be no more cursed, and will produce no more thorns and thistles; man will be no more compelled to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow; woman will be no more doomed to bear the sufferings which she does now; and the abodes of the blessed will be no more cursed by sickness, sorrow, tears, and death.
But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it. God will reign there for ever; the principles of purity and love which the Lamb of God came to establish will pervade that blessed abode to all eternity.
And his servants shall serve him. All his servants that are there; that is, all the inhabitants of that blessed world. For the meaning of this passage, See Note on Rev. 7:15.
4. And they shall see his face. See Note on Matt. 18:10.
They would be constantly in his presence, and be permitted continually to behold his glory.
And his name shall be in their foreheads. They shall be designated as his. See Notes on Rev. 3:12; Rev. 7:3; Rev. 13:16.
5. And there shall be no night there. See Note on Rev. 21:25.
And they need no candle. No lamp; no artificial light, as in a world where there is night and darkness.
Neither light of the sun; for the Lord God, etc. See Note on Rev. 21:23.
And they shall reign for ever and ever. That is, with God; they shall be as kings. See Notes on Rev. 5:10; Rev. 20:6.
Compare Notes on Rom. 8:16; 2 Tim. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:12.
REMARKS ON CHAP. XXI., XXII. 1—5
This portion of the Apocalypse contains the most full and complete continuous description of the state of the righteous in the world of blessedness that is to be found in the Bible. It seems to be proper, therefore, to pause on it for a moment, and to state in a summary manner what will be the principal features of that blessedness. All can see that, as a description, it occupies an appropriate place, not only in regard to this book, but to the volume of revealed truth. In reference to this particular book, it is the appropriate close of the account of the conflicts, the trials, and the persecutions of the church; in reference to the whole volume of revealed truth, it is appropriate because it occurs in the last of the inspired books that was written. It was proper that a volume of revealed truth given to mankind, and designed to describe a great work of redeeming mercy, should close with a description of the state of the righteous after death. The principal features in the description are the following:—
(1.) There will be a new heaven and a new earth: a new order of things, and a world adapted to the condition of the righteous. There will be such changes produced in the earth, and such abodes fitted up for the redeemed, that it will be proper to say that they are new, Rev. 21:1.
(2.) The locality of that abode is not determined. No particular place is revealed as constituting heaven; nor is it intimated that there would be such a place. For anything that appears, the universe at large will be heaven—the earth and all worlds; and we are left free to suppose that the redeemed will yet occupy any position of the universe, and be permitted to behold the peculiar glories of the Divine character that are manifested in each of the worlds that he has made. Comp. Note on 1 Pet. 1:12.
That there may be some one place in the universe that will be their permanent home, and that will be more properly called heaven, where the glory of their God and Saviour will be peculiarly manifested, is not improbable; but still there is nothing to prevent the hope and the belief that in the infinite duration that awaits them they will be permitted to visit all the worlds that God has made, and to learn in each, and from each, all that he has peculiarly manifested of his own character and glory there.
(3.) That future state will be entirely and for ever free from all the consequences of the apostasy as now seen on the earth. There will be neither tears, nor sorrow, nor death, nor crying, nor pain, nor curse, Rev. 21:4; 22:3. It will, therefore, be a perfectly happy abode.
(4.) It will be pure and holy. Nothing will ever enter there that shall contaminate and defile, Rev. 21:8, 27. On this account, also, it will be a happy world, for
(a) all real happiness has its foundation in holiness; and
(b) the source of all the misery that the universe has experienced is sin. Let that be removed, and the earth would be happy; let it be extinguished from any world, and its happiness will be secure.
(5.) It will be a world of perfect light, Rev. 21:22-25; 22:6. There will be
(a) literally no night there;
(b) spiritually and morally there will be no darkness—no error, no sin. Light will be cast on a thousand subjects now obscure; and on numerous points pertaining to the Divine government and dealings which now perplex the mind there will be poured the splendour of perfect day. All the darkness that exists here will be dissipated there; all that is now obscure will be made light. And in view of this fact, we may well submit for a little time to the mysteries which hang over the Divine dealings here. The Christian is destined to live for ever and ever. He is capable of an eternal progression in knowledge. He is soon to be ushered into the splendours of that eternal abode where there is no need of the light of the sun or the moon, and where there is no night. In a little time—a few weeks or days—by removal to that higher state of being, he will have made a degree of progress in true knowledge compared with which all that can be learned here is a nameless trifle. In that future abode he will be permitted to know all that is to be known in those worlds that shine upon his path by day or by night; all that is to be known in the character of their Maker, and the principles of his government; all that is to be known of the glorious plan of redemption; all that is to be known of the reasons why sin and woe were permitted to enter this beautiful world. There, too, he will be permitted to enjoy all that there is to be enjoyed in a world without a cloud and without a tear; all that is beatific in the friendship of God the Father, of the Ascended Redeemer, of the Sacred Spirit; all that is blessed in the goodly fellowship of the angels, of the apostles, of the prophets; all that is rapturous in reunion with those that were loved on the earth. Well, then, may he bear with the darkness and endure the trials of this state a little longer.
(6.) It will be a world of surpassing splendour. This is manifest by the description of it in chap. xx., as a gorgeous city, with ample dimensions, with most brilliant colours, set with gems, and composed of pure gold. The writer, in the description of that abode, has accumulated all that is gorgeous and magnificent, and doubtless felt that even this was a very imperfect representation of that glorious world.
(7.) That future world will be all abode of the highest conceivable happiness. This is manifest, not only from the fact stated that there will be no pain or sorrow here, but from the positive description in Rev. 22:1, 2. It was, undoubtedly, the design of the writer, under the image of a Paradise, to describe the future abode of the redeemed. as one of the highest happiness—where there would be an ample and a constant supply of every want, and where the highest ideas of enjoyment would be realized. And,
(8.) All this will be eternal. The universe, so vast and so wonderful, seems to have been made to be fitted to the eternal contemplation of created minds, and in this universe there is an adaptation for the employment of mind for ever and ever.
If it be asked now why John, in the account which he has given of the heavenly state, adopted this figurative and emblematic mode of representation, and why it did not please God to reveal any more respecting the nature of the employments and enjoyments of the heavenly world, it may be replied,
(a) that this method is eminently in accordance with the general character of the book, as a book of symbols and emblems.
(b) He has stated enough to give us a general and a most attractive view of that blessed state.
(c) It is not certain that we would have appreciated it, or could have comprehended it, if a more minute and literal description had been given. That state may be so unlike this that it is doubtful whether we could have comprehended any literal description that could have been given. How little of the future and the unseen can ever be known by a mere description; how faint and imperfect a view can we ever obtain of anything by the mere use of words, and especially of objects which have no resemblance to anything which we have seen! Whoever obtained any adequate idea of Niagara by a mere description? To what Greek or Roman mind, however cultivated, could there have been conveyed the idea of a printing-press, of a locomotive engine, of the magnetic telegraph, by mere description? Who can convey to one born blind an idea of the prismatic colours; or to the deaf an idea of sounds? If we may imagine the world of insect tribes to be endowed with the power of language and thought, how could the gay and gilded butterfly that to-day plays in the sun. beam impart to its companions of yesterday—low and grovelling worms many adequate idea of that new condition of being into which it had emerged? And how do we know that we could comprehend any description of that world where the righteous dwell, or of employments and enjoyments so unlike our own?
I cannot more appropriately close this brief notice of the revelations of the heavenly state than by introducing an ancient poem, which seems to be founded on this portion of the Apocalypse, and which is the original of one of the most touching and beautiful hymns now used in Protestant places of worship—the well-known hymn which begins, "Jerusalem! my happy home." This hymn is deservedly a great favourite, and is an eminently beautiful composition. It is, however, of Roman Catholic origin. It is found in a small volume of miscellaneous poetry, sold at Mr. Bright's sale of manuscripts in 1844, which has been placed in the British Museum, and now forms the additional MS. 15,225. It is referred, by the lettering on the book, to the age of Elizabeth, but it is supposed to belong to the subsequent reign. The volume seems tb have been formed by or for some Roman Catholic, and contains many devotional songs or hymns, interspersed with others of a more general character. See Littell's Living Age, vol. xxviii, pp. 333—336. The hymn is as follows :
A SONG MADE BY F. B. P.
To the tune of" Diana."
Jerusalem! my happy home !
When shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end—
Thy joys when shall I see?
O happy harbour of the saints-
O sweet and pleasant soil!
In thee no sorrow may be found,
No grief, no care, no toil.
In thee no sickness may be seen,
No hurt, no ache, no sore;
There is no death, no ugly deil*, [*devil]
There's life for evermore.
No dampish mist is seen in thee,
No cold nor darksome night;
There every soul shines as the sun,
There God himself gives light.
There lust and lucre cannot dwell,
There envy bears no sway;
There is no hunger, heat, nor cold,
But pleasure every way.
Jerusalem ! Jerusalem!
God grant I once may see
The endless joys, and of the same
Partaker aye to be.
The walls are made of precious stones,
Thy bulwarks diamonds square:
Thy gates are of right orient pearl,
Exceeding rich and rare.
Thy turrets and thy pinnacles
With carbuncles do shine;
Thy very streets are paved with gold,
Surpassing clear and fine.
Thy houses are of ivory.
Thy windows crystal clear-
Thy tiles are made of, beaten gold—
O God, that I were there!
Within thy gates no thing doth come
That is not passing clean;
No spider's web, no dirt, no dust,
No filth may there be seen.
Ah, my sweet home, Jerusalem!
Would God I were in thee;
Would God, my woes were at an end.
Thy joys that I might see!
Thy saints are crown'd with glory great,
They see God face to face;
They triumph still, they still rejoice—
Most happy is their case.
We that are here in banishment
Continually do moan;
We sigh and sob, we weep and wail,
Perpetually we groan.
Our sweet is mixed with bitter gall,
Our pleasure is but pain;
Our joys scarce last the looking on,
Our sorrows still remain.
But there they live in such delight,
Such pleasure, and such play.
that to them a thousand years
Doth seem as yesterday.
Thy vineyards and thy orchards are
Most beautiful and fair;
Full furnished with trees and fruits,
Most wonderful and rare.
Thy gardens and thy gallant walks
Continually are green;
There grow such sweet and pleasant flowers
As nowhere else are seen.
There's pectar and ambrosia made,
There's musk and civet sweet;
There many a fair and dainty drug
Are trodden under feet.
There cinnamon, there sugar grows.
There nard and balm abound;
What tongue can tell, or heart conceive.
The joys that there are found?
Quite through the streets, with silver sound,
The flood of life doth flow;
Upon whose banks, on every side,
The wood of life doth grow.
There trees for evermore bear fruit,
And evermore do spring'
There evermore the angels Sit,
And evermore do sing.
There David stands with harp in hand,
As master of the quire;
Ten thousand times that man were blest
That might this music hear.
Our Lady sings Magnificat,
With tune surpassing sweet;
And all the virgins bear their parts.
Sitting above her feet.
The Deum doth Saint Ambrose sing,
Saint Austin doth the like:
Old Simeon and Zachary
Have not their song to seek.
There Magdalene hath left her moan,
And cheerfully doth sing
With blessed saints, whose harmony
In every street doth ring.
Jerusalem, my happy home!
Would God I were in thee;
Would God my woes were at an end,
Thy joys that I might see!
Analysis of the Chapter
THIS portion of the book of Revelation is properly the epilogue, or conclusion. The main purposes of the vision are accomplished; the enemies of the church are quelled; the church is triumphant; the affairs of the world are wound up; the redeemed are received to their blissful, eternal abode; the wicked are cut off; the earth is purified, and the affairs of the universe are fixed on their permanent foundation. A few miscellaneous matters, therefore, dose the book.
(1.) A solemn affirmation on the part of him who had made these revelations, that they are true, and that they will be speedily accomplished, and that he will be blessed or happy who shall keep the sayings of the book, Rev. 22:6, 7.
(2.) The effect of all these things on John himself, leading him, as in a former case, Rev. 19:10 to a disposition to worship him who had been the medium in making to him such extraordinary communications, Rev. 22:8, 9.
(3.) A command not to seal up what had been revealed, since the time was near. These things would soon have their fulfilment, and it was proper that the prophecies should be unsealed, or open, both that the events might be compared with the predictions, and that a persecuted church might be able to see what would be the result of all these things, and to find consolation in the assurance of the final triumph of the Son of God, Rev. 22:10.
(4.) The fixed and unchangeable state of the righteous and the wicked, Rev. 22:11-13.
(5.) The blessedness of those who keep the commandments of God, and who enter into the New Jerusalem, Rev. 22:14, 15.
(6.) Jesus, the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star, proclaims himself to be the Author of all these revelations by the instrumentality of an angel, Rev. 22:16.
(7.) The universal invitation of the gospel—the language of Jesus himself—giving utterance to his strong desire for the salvation of men, Rev. 22:17.
(8.) A solemn command not to change anything that had been revealed in this book, either by adding to it or by taking from it, Rev. 22:18, 19.
(9.) The assurance that he who had made these revelations would come quickly, and the joyous assent of John to this, and prayer that his advent might soon occur, Rev. 22:20.
(10.) The benediction, Rev. 22:21.
6. And he said unto me. The angel-interpreter, who had showed John the vision of the New Jerusalem, Rev. 21:9-10. As these visions axe now at an end, the angel comes to John directly, and assures him that all these things are true—that there has been no deception of the senses in these visions, but that they were really Divine disclosures of what would soon and certainly occur.
These sayings are faithful and true. These communications; all that has been disclosed to you by symbols, or in direct language. See Note on Rev. 21:5.
And the Lord God of the holy prophets. The same God who inspired the ancient prophets.
Sent his angel. See Note on Rev. 1:1.
To show unto his servants. To all his servants, that is, to all his people, by the instrumentality of John. The revelation was made to him, and he was to record it for the good of the whole church.
The things which must shortly be done. The beginning of which must soon occur—though the series of events extended into distant ages, and even into eternity. See Note on Rev. 1:1-3.
7. Behold, I come quickly. See Note on Rev. 1:3.
The words here used are undoubtedly the words of the Redeemer, although they are apparently repeated by the angel. The meaning is, that they were used by the angel as the words of the Redeemer. See Rev. 22:12, 20.
Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. That receives them as a Divine communication; that makes use of them to comfort himself in the days of darkness, persecution, and trial; and that is obedient to the precepts here enjoined. See Note on Rev. 1:3.
8. And I John saw these things, and heard them. That is, I saw the parts that were disclosed by pictures, visions and symbols; I heard the parts that were communicated by direct revelation.
And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel, etc. As he had done on a former occasion. See Note on Rev. 19:10.
John appears to have been entirely overcome by the extraordinary nature of the revelations made to him, and not improbably entertained some suspicion that it was the Redeemer himself who had manifested himself to him in this remarkable manner.
9. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not. See Note on Rev. 19:10.
For I am thy fellow-servant. See Note on Rev. 19:10.
And of thy brethren the prophets. In Rev. 19:10, it is, "of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus." Here the angel says that, in the capacity in which he appeared to John, he belonged to the general rank of the prophets, and was no more entitled to worship than any of the prophets had been. Like them, he had merely been employed to disclose important truths in regard to the future; but as the prophets, even the most eminent of them, were not regarded as entitled to worship on account of the communications which they had made, no more was he.
And of them which keep the sayings of this book. "I am a mere creature of God. I, like men, am under law, and am bound to observe the law of God." The "sayings of this book" which he says he kept, must be understood to mean those great principles of religion which it enjoined, and which are of equal obligation on men and angels.
Worship God. Worship God only. See Note on Rev. 19:10.
10. And he saith unto me. The angel.
Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book. That is, seal not the book itself, for it may be regarded altogether as a prophetic book. On the sealing of a book, See Note on Rev. 5:1.
Isaiah (Isa. 8:16; 30:8) and Daniel (Dan. 8:26; 12:4, 9) were commanded to seal up their prophecies. Their prophecies related to far-distant times, and the idea in their being commanded to seal them was, that they should make the record sure and unchangeable; that they should finish it, and lay it up for future ages; so that, in far-distant times, the events an might be compared with the prophecy, and it might be seen that there was exact correspondence between the prophecy and the fulfilment. Their prophecies would not be immediately demanded for the use of persecuted saints, but would pertain to future ages. On the other hand, the events which John had predicted, though in their ultimate development they were to extend to the end of the world, and even into eternity, were about to begin to be fulfilled, and were to be of immediate use in consoling a persecuted Church. John, therefore, was directed not to seal up his predictions; not to lay them away to be opened, as it were, in distant ages; but to leave them open, so that a persecuted church might have access to them, and might in times of persecution and trial have the assurance that the principles of their religion would finally triumph. See Note on Rev. 10:2.
For the time is at hand. That is, they are soon to commence. It is not implied that they would be soon completed. The idea is, that as the scenes of persecution were soon to open upon the church, it was important that the church should have access to these prophecies of the final triumph of religion, to sustain it in its trials. Compare Notes on Rev. 1:1, 3.
11. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still. This must refer to the scenes beyond the judgment, and must be intended to affirm an important truth in regard to the condition of men in the future state. It cannot refer to the condition of men this side the grave, for there is no fixed and unchangeable condition in this world. At the close of this book, and at the close of the whole volume of revealed truth, it was proper to declare, in the most solemn manner, that when these events were consummated everything would be fixed and unchanging; that all who were then found to be righteous would remain so for ever; and that none who were impenitent, impure, and wicked, would ever change their character or condition. That this is the meaning here seems to me to be plain; and this sentiment accords with all that is said in the Bible of the final condition of the righteous and the wicked. See Matt. 25:46; Rom. 2:6-9; 1 Thess. 1:7-10; Dan. 12:2; Eccles. 11:3.
Every assurance is held out in the Bible that the righteous will be secure in holiness and happiness, and that there will be no danger—no possibility—that they will fall into sin, and sink to woe; and by the same kind of arguments by which it is proved that their condition will be unchanging, is it demonstrated that the condition of the wicked will be unchanging also. The argument for the eternal punishment of the wicked is as strong as that for the eternal happiness of the righteous; and if the one is open to doubt, there is no security for the permanence of the other. The word unjust here is a general term for an unrighteous or wicked man. The meaning is, that he to whom that character properly belongs, or of whom it is properly descriptive, will remain so for ever. The design of this seems to be, to let the ungodly and the wicked know that there is no change beyond the grave, and by this solemn consideration to warn them now to flee from the wrath to come. And assuredly no more solemn consideration can ever be presented to the human mind than this.
And he which is filthy, let him be filthy still. The word filthy here is, of course, used with reference to moral defilement or pollution. It refers to the sensual, the corrupt, the profane; and the meaning is, that their condition will be fixed, and that they will remain in this state of pollution for ever. There is nothing more awful than the idea that a polluted soul will be always polluted; that a heart corrupt will be always corrupt; that the defiled will be put for ever beyond the possibility of being cleansed from sin.
And he that is righteous, let him be righteous still. The just, the upright man—in contradistinction from the unjust mentioned in the first part of the verse.
And he that is holy, let him be holy still. He that is pure, in contradistinction from the filthy mentioned in the former part of the verse. The righteous and the holy will be confirmed in their character and condition, as well as the wicked. The affirmation that their condition will be fixed is as strong as that that of the wicked will be be—and no stronger; the entire representation is, that all beyond the judgment will unchanging for ever. Could any more solemn thought be brought before the mind of man?
12. And behold, I come quickly. See Notes on Rev. 1:1, 3.
These are undoubtedly the words of the Redeemer; and the meaning is, that the period when the unchanging sentence would be passed on each individual—on the unjust, the filthy, the righteous, and the holy—would not be remote. The design of this seems to be to impress on the mind the solemnity of the truth that the condition hereafter will soon be fixed, and to lead men to prepare for it. In reference to each individual, the period is near when it is to be determined whether he will be holy or sinful to all eternity. What thought could there be more adapted to impress on the mind the importance of giving immediate attention to the concerns of the soul?
And my reward is with me. I bring it with me to give to every man: either life or death; heaven or hell; the crown or the curse. He will be prepared immediately to execute the sentence. Compare Matt. 25:31-46.
To give every man according as his work shall be. See Notes on Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10.
13. I am Alpha and Omega, etc. See Notes on Rev. 1:8, 11.
The idea here is, that he will thus show that he is the first and the and last—the beginning and the end. He originated the whole plan of salvation, he will determine its close; he formed the world, and he will wind up its affairs. In the beginning, the continuance, and the end, he will be recognised as the same being presiding over and controlling all.
14. Blessed are they that do his commandments. See Notes on Rev. 1:3; Rev. 22:7.
That they may have right. That they may be entitled to approach the tree of life; that this privilege may be granted to them. It is not a right in the sense that they have merited it, but in the sense that the privilege is conferred on them as one of the rewards of God, and that, in virtue of the Divine arrangements, they will be entitled to this honour. So the word here used—exousia—means in John 1:12, rendered power. The reason why this right or privilege is conferred is not implied in the use of the word. In this case it is by grace, and all the right which they have to the tree of life is founded on the fact that God has been pleased graciously to confer it on them.
To the tree of life. See Note on Rev. 22:2.
They would not be forbidden to approach that tree as Adam was, but would be permitted always to partake of it, and would live for ever.
And may enter in through the gates into the city. The New Jerusalem, Rev. 21:2. They would have free access there; they would be permitted to abide there for ever.
15. For without are dogs. The wicked, the depraved, the vile: for of such characters the dogs, an unclean animal among the Jews, was regarded as a symbol, Deut. 23:18. On the meaning of the expression, See Note on Phil. 3:2.
The word "without" means that they would not be admitted into the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, Rev. 21:8, 27.
And sorcerers, etc. All these characters are specified in Rev. 21:8, as excluded from heaven. See Note on Rev. 21:8.
The only change is, that those who "love and make a lie" are added to the list; that is, who delight in lies, or that which is false.
16. I Jesus. Here the Saviour appears expressly as the speaker—ratifying and confirming all that had been communicated by the instrumentality of the angel.
Have sent mine angel. See Note on Rev. 1:1.
To testify unto you. That is, to be a witness for me in communicating these things to you.
In the churches. Directly and immediately to the seven churches in Asia Minor, (chapters 2 and 3) remotely and ultimately to all churches to the end of time. Compare Note on Rev. 1:11.
I am the root. Not the root in the sense that David sprang from him, as a tree does from a root, but in the sense that he was the "root-shoot" of David, or that he himself sprang from him, as a sprout starts up from a decayed and fallen tree—as of the oak, the willow, the chesnut, etc. See Note on Isa. 11:1.
The meaning then is, not that he was the ancestor of David, or that David sprang from him, but that he was the offspring of David, according to the promise in the Scripture, that the Messiah should be descended from him. No argument then, can be derived from this passage in proof of the pre-existence, or the divinity of Christ.
And the offspring. The descendant; the progeny of David: "the seed of David according to the flesh." See Note on Rom. 1:3.
It is not unusual to employ two words in close connexion to express the same idea with some slight shade of difference.
And the bright and morning star. See Note on Rev. 2:28.
It is not uncommon to compare a prince, a leader, a teacher, with that bright and beautiful star which at some seasons of the year precedes the rising of the sun, and leads on the day. Compare Note on Isa. 14:12.
The reference here is to that star as the harbinger of day; and the meaning of the Saviour is, that he sustains a relation to a dark world similar to this beautiful star. At one time he is indeed compared with the sun itself in giving light to the world; here he is compared with that morning star rather with reference to its beauty than its light. May it not also have been one object in this comparison to lead us, when we look on that star, to think of the Saviour? It is perhaps the most beautiful object in nature; it succeeds the darkness of the night; it brings on the day—and as it mingles with the first rays of the morning, it seems to be so joyous, cheerful, exulting, bright, that nothing can be better adapted to remind us of Him who came to lead on eternal day. Its place—the first thing that arrests the eye in the morning—might serve to remind us that the Saviour should be the first object that should draw the eye and the heart on the return of each day. In each trial—each scene of sorrow—let us think of the bright star of the morning as it rises on the darkness of the night—emblem of the Saviour rising on our sorrow and our gloom.
17. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. That is, come to the Saviour; come and partake of the blessings of the gospel; come and be saved. The construction demands this interpretation, as the latter part of the verse shows. The design of this whole verse is, evidently, to show the freeness of the offers of the gospel; to condense in a summary manner all the invitations of mercy to mankind; and to leave on the mind at the close of the book a deep impression of the ample provision which has been made for the salvation of a fallen race. Nothing, it is clear, could be more appropriate at the close of this book, and at the close of the whole volume of revealed truth, than to announce, in the most clear and attracting form, that salvation is free to all, and that whosoever will may be saved.
The Spirit. The Holy Spirit. He intreats all to come. This he does
(a) in all the recorded invitations in the Bible—for it is by the inspiration of that Spirit that these invitations are recorded;
(b) by all his influences on the understandings, the consciences, and the hearts of men;
(c) by all the proclamations of mercy made by the preaching of the gospel, and by the appeal which friend makes to friend, and neighbour to neighbour, and stranger to stranger—for all these are methods in which the Spirit invites men to come to the Saviour.
And the bride. The church. See Notes on Rev. 21:2, Rev. 21:9.
That is, the church invites all to come and be saved. This it does
(a) by its ministers, whose main business it is to extend this invitation to mankind;
(b) by its ordinances—constantly setting forth the freeness of the gospel;
(c) by the lives of its consistent members—showing the excellency and the desirableness of true religion;
(d) by all its efforts to do good in the world;
(e) by the example of those who are brought into the church—showing that all, whatever may have been their former character, may be saved; and
(f) by the direct appeals of its individual members. Thus a Christian parent invites his children; a brother invites a sister, and a sister invites a brother; a neighbour invites his neighbour, and a stranger a stranger; the master invites his servant, and the servant his master. The church on earth and the church in heaven unite in the invitation, saying, Come. The living father, pastor, friend, invites—and the voice of the departed father, pastor, friend, now in heaven, is heard re-echoing the invitation. The once-loved mother that has gone to the skies still invites her children to come; and the sweet-smiling babe that has been taken up to the Saviour stretches out its arms from heaven, and says to its mother—Come.
Say, Come. That is, come to the Saviour; come into the church; come to heaven.
And let him that heareth say, Come. Whoever hears the gospel, let him go and invite others to come, Nothing could more strikingly set forth the freeness of the invitation of the gospel than this. The authority to make the invitation is not limited to the ministers of religion; it is not even confined to those who accept it themselves. All persons, even though they should not accept of it, are authorized to tell others that they may be saved. One impenitent sinner may go and tell another impenitent sinner that if he will he may find mercy and enter heaven. How could the offer of salvation be made more freely to mankind?
And let him that is athirst come. Whoever desires salvation, as the weary pilgrim desires a cooling fountain to allay his thirst, let him come as freely to the gospel as that thirsty man would stoop down at the fountain and drink. See Note on Isa. 55:1.
Compare Notes on Matt. 5:6; John 7:37; Rev. 21:6.
And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Rev. 21:6. Every one that is disposed to come, that has any sincere wish to be saved, is assured that he may live. No matter how unworthy he is; no matter what his past life has been; no matter how old or how young, how rich or how poor; no matter whether sick or well, a freeman or a slave; no matter whether educated or ignorant; no matter whether clothed in purple or in rags—riding in state or laid at the gate of a rich man full of sores, the invitation is freely made to all to come and be saved. With what more appropriate truth could a revelation from heaven be closed?
18. For I testify. The writer does not specify who is meant by the word "I" in this place. The most natural construction is to refer it to the writer himself, and not to the angel, or the Saviour. The meaning is, "I bear this solemn witness, or make this solemn affirmation, in conclusion." The object is to guard his book against being corrupted by any interpolation or change. It would seem not improbable, from this, that as early as the time of John books were liable to be corrupted by additions or omissions, or that at least there was felt to be great danger that mistakes might be made by the carelessness of transcribers. Against this danger, John would guard this book in the most solemn manner. Perhaps he felt, too, that as this book would be necessarily regarded as obscure from the fact that symbols were so much used, there was great danger that changes would be made by well-meaning persons with a view to make it appear more plain.
Unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book. The word "heareth" seems here to be used in a very general sense. Perhaps in most cases persons would be made acquainted with the contents of the book by hearing it read in the churches; but still the spirit of the declaration must include all methods of becoming acquainted with it.
If any man shall add unto these things. With a view to furnish a more full and complete revelation; or with a profession that new truth had been communicated by inspiration. The reference here is to the book of Revelation only—for at that time the books that now constitute what we call the Bible were not collected into a single volume. This passage, therefore, should not be adduced as referring to the whole of the sacred Scriptures. Still, the principle is one that is thus applicable; for it is obvious that no one has a right to change any part of a revelation which God makes to man; to presume to add to it, or to take from it, or in any way to modify it. Compare Note on 2 Tim. 3:16.
God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. Th se "plagues" refer to the numerous methods described in this book as those in which God would bring severe judgment upon the persecutors of the church, and the corrupters of religion. The meaning is, that such a person would be regarded as an enemy of his religion, and would share the fearful doom of all such enemies.
19. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy. If he shall reject the book altogether; if he shall, in transcribing it, designedly strike any part of it out. It is conceivable that, from the remarkable nature of the communications made in this book, and the fact that they seemed to be unintelligible, John supposed there might be those who would be inclined to omit some portions as improbable, or that he apprehended that when the portions which describe Antichrist were fulfilled in distant ages, those to whom those portions applied would be disposed to strike them from the sacred volume, or to corrupt them. He thought proper to guard against this by this solemn declaration of the consequence which would follow such an act. The whole book was to be received—with all its fearful truths—as a revelation from God; and however obscure it might seem, in due time it would be made plain; however faithfully it might depict a fearful apostasy, it was important, both to show the truth of Divine inspiration and to save the church, that these disclosures should be in their native purity in the possession of the people of God.
God shall take away his part out of the book of life. Perhaps there is here an intimation that this would be most likely to be done by those who professed to be Christians, and who supposed that their names were in the book of life. In fact, most of the corruptions of the sacred Scriptures have been attempted by those who have professed some form of Christianity. Infidels have but little interest in attempting such changes, and but little influence to make them received by the church. It is most convenient for them, as it is most agreeable to their feelings, to reject the Bible altogether. When it said here that "God would take away his part out of the book of life," the meaning is not that his name had been written in that book, but that he would take away the part which he might have had, or which he professed to have in that book. Such corruption of the Divine oracles would show that they had no true religion, and would be excluded from heaven. On the phrase "book of life," See Note on Rev. 3:5.
And out of the holy city. Described in chapter 21. He would not be permitted to enter that city; he would have no part among the redeemed.
And from the things which are written in this book. The promises that are made; the glories that are described.
20. He which testifieth these things. The Lord Jesus; for he it was that had, through the instrumentality of the angel, borne this solemn witness to the truth of these things, and this book was to be regarded as his revelation to mankind. See Note on Rev. 1:1.
He here speaks of himself, and vouches for the truth and reality of these things by saying that he "testifies" of them, or bears witness to them. Compare John 18:37. The fact that Jesus himself vouches for the truth of what is here revealed, shows the propriety of what John had said in the previous verses about adding to it, or taking from it.
Saith, Surely I come quickly. That is, the development of these events will soon begin—though their consummation may extend into far-distant ages, or into eternity. See Notes on Rev. 1:1, 3; Rev. 22:7, Rev. 22:10.
Amen. A word of solemn affirmation or assent. See Note on Matt. 10:13.
Here it is to be regarded as the expression of John, signifying his solemn and cheerful assent to what the Saviour had said, that he would come quickly. It is the utterance of a strong desire that it might be so. He longed for his appearing.
Even so. These, too, are the words of John, and are a response to what the Saviour had just said. In the original, it is a response in the same language which the Saviour had used, and the beauty of the passage is marred by the translation "Even so." The original is, "He which testifieth to these things saith, Yea—nai—I come quickly. Amen. Yea—nai—come, Lord Jesus." It is the utterance of desire in the precise language which the Saviour had used—heart responding to heart.
Come, Lord Jesus. That is, as here intended, "Come in the manner and for the objects referred to in this book." The language, however, is expressive of the feeling of piety in a more extended sense, and may be used to denote a desire that the Lord Jesus would come in any and every manner; that he would come to impart to us the tokens of his presence; that he would come to bless his truth and to revive his work in the churches; that he would come to convert sinners, and to build up his people in holiness; that he would come to sustain us in affliction, and to defend us in temptation; that he would come to put a period to idolatry, superstition, and error, and to extend the knowledge of his truth in the world; that he would come to set up his kingdom on the earth, and to rule in the hearts of men; that he would come to receive us to his presence, and to gather his redeemed people into his everlasting kingdom. It was appropriate to the aged John, suffering exile in a lonely island, to pray that the Lord Jesus would speed fly come to take him to himself; and there could have been no more suitable close of this marvellous book than the utterance of such a desire. And it is appropriate for us as we finish its contemplation, disclosing so much of the glories of the heavenly world, and the blessedness of the redeemed in their final state, when we think of the earth, with its sorrows, trials, and cares, to respond to the prayer, and to say, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." For that glorious coming of the Son of God, when he shall gather his redeemed people to himself, may all who read these Notes be finally prepared. Amen.
21. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. The usual benediction of the sacred writers. See Note on Rom. 16:20.
Jewish New Testament Commentary
Now that Satan's front-men have been taken care of (19:21), the Messiah attends to Satan himself.
An angel... who had the key to the Abyss. See 9:1N.
A thousand years, the Millennium. Depending on their overall approach to the book of Revelation (see 1:1N), interpreters are divided over whether this period is symbolic (Amillennialists) or historical; and if historical, possibly present (Postmillennialists) or definitely future (Premillennialists); and if future, literally 1,000 years (most Dispensationalists) or not. Amillennialism sees Chapter 20 as recapitulating the events described in earlier chapters, rather than describing a chronologically later period. Postmillennialism understands the Millennium as the present historical age, with the Body of the Messiah establishing righteousness on earth in increasing measure (in which case Chapter 19 does not speak of the Messiah's victorious return, but of the triumph of good over evil at the end of the age). Premillennialism alone expects a future Millennium in which the Messiah himself will rule on earth, and I share this opinion. But I also agree with Lance Lambert, a Messianic Jew living in Jerusalem, who writes:
"It is my belief that there will be a millennium. It would not alter my faith or joy in the Lord if there were no such period. I find myself unable to hold such a conviction in an argumentative or hotly dogmatic spirit. If we are honest, both views present us with problems which are not easily answered. The vital need is to be ready for the Lord's coming and for all that will follow it." (Till the Day Dawns, Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications, 1982, p. 160)
For more on the different eschatological positions, including the varieties of Premil-lennialism, see 4:1N, 1 Th 4:15-17&N.
A millennium of sorts appears in the lengthy collection of opinions about Messianic times found in Chapter 11 of Babylonian Talmud tractate Sanhedrin:
"Rav Kattina said, ‘The world will exist for six thousand years, then for one thousand years it will lie desolate....'"(Sanhedrin 97a)
This passage and a related one are quoted fully and discussed in 2 Ke 3:3-9&N.
Likewise, although the events leading up to the Messianic Age are described differently in the Zohar (the central text of Jewish mysticism compiled in the 13th century), it tells us:
"Happy are those left alive at the end of the sixth millennium to enter into [the millennium of] the Shabbat." (Zohar 1:119a)
With this compare MJ 4:1-11&NN.
Traditional Judaism has other views of how long the "Days of the Messiah" will last. In the following passage ellipses stand for the Scripture verses the rabbis bring in support of their estimates.
"It was taught: Rabbi Eli‘ezer said: ‘The days of the Messiah will be forty years....' Rabbi El‘azar ben-‘Azaryah said: ‘Seventy years....' Rabbi [Y'hudah the Prince] said: ‘Three generations....' ...
"Another taught: Rabbi Eli‘ezer said: ‘The days of the Messiah will be forty years....' Rabbi Dosa said: ‘Four hundred years....' Rabbi said: ‘Three hundred sixty-five years, like the days of the solar year....' Abimi ben-Rabbi Abbahu taught: ‘The days of Israel's Messiah will be seven thousand years....' Rav Y'hudah said in Shmu'el's name, ‘The days of the Messiah will last as long as from the Creation until now....' Rav Nachman ben-Yitzchak said, ‘As long as from Noach's days until our own.'"(Sanhedrin 99a)
This chapter of Revelation portrays the Millennium and the events at its close as distinct from the period following, when there will be "a new heaven and a new earth" (Chapters 21-22); a similar differentiation is found in the Tanakh in Ezekiel 36-48 (see v. 8N below). Likewise, traditional Judaism sometimes makes a distinction between the Days of the Messiah and the ‘olam haba ("the world to come"):
"Rabbi Chiyya ben-Abba said in Rabbi Yochanan's name: ‘All the prophets prophesied [the good things] only for the Days of the Messiah; but as for the ‘olam ha-ba, "no eye but yours, God, has seen what He has prepared for him who waits for Him" (Isaiah 64:3(4)).'"(Sanhedrin 99a; similarly B'rakhot 34b)
However, in the following passage specifying the length of the Messianic Era, eschatological events which the New Testament assigns to different periods are conflated. This excerpt from a first-century C. E. Jewish book pseudepigraphically attributed to Ezra the Scribe is remarkable for the sheer quantity of ideas similar to those elaborated in the New Testament: it refers to the Messiah as the Son of God (Mt 3:17), speaks of his death (Mt 27:50), mentions "those with him" (whether angels or saints returning to rule, v. 6 below; and see 19:14N), and alludes to the New Jerusalem (21:1-2), resurrection (vv. 4-6, 12 below), the doing away with what is corruptible (1C 15:42-54), the throne of judgment (vv. 11-15), judgment on the basis of deeds (vv. 14-15; Mt 25:34-46), the Abyss (9:1, 2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; vv. 1-3 above), torment and Gey-Hinnom (14:10, 19:20, vv. 9-15 below, 21:8; Mt 5:22, 5:29-30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, 23:33; Mk 9:44-47), the final Paradise (21:1-22:9), and a seven-year period (Daniel 9:24-27; also compare above, 12:14, with Daniel 7:25, 12:7).
"Ezra, ...the time will come when the signs I have told you about will come to pass, that the city now unseen will appear and the land now concealed be revealed. Everyone delivered from the predicted evils will see My wonders. My Son the Messiah will be disclosed, along with those who are with him, and he will gladden the survivors four hundred years [variant readings: 1,000 years, 30 years (close to the length of Yeshua's life)]. After those years My Son the Messiah will die, and all in whom there is human breath. Then the world will be turned into the primeval silence for seven days, as it was at the first beginnings, so that no one is left.
"After seven days the age not yet awake will be roused, and what is corruptible will perish. The earth will restore those who sleep in her, and the dust will restore those who rest in it. The Most High will be revealed upon the throne of judgment, and then comes the End. Compassion will pass away, pity be distant, longsuffering withdrawn; only judgment will remain, truth stand, faithfulness triumph. Recompense will follow, the reward will be made manifest. Acts of righteousness will awake and acts of iniquity not sleep. Then the Abyss of torment will appear, and in contrast the place of refreshment; the furnace of Gey-Hinnom will be manifested, and in contrast the Paradise of delight.
"Then the Most High will say to the nations that have been raised [from the dead]: ‘Look now and consider whom you have denied, whom you have not served, whose commandments you have despised! Look, now, before you: here delight and refreshment, there fire and torments!' Thus will he speak to them in the Day of Judgment. For thus shall the Day of Judgment be: a day on which there is no sun, moon, stars; no clouds, thunder, lightning, wind, rainstorm, cloud-rack; no darkness, evening, morning; no summer, fall, winter; no heat, frost, cold, hail, rain, dew; no noon, night, dawn, shining, brightness or light — except for the splendor of the brightness of the Most High, whereby all shall be destined to see what has been determined for them. And its duration shall be, as it were, a week of years. Such is my Judgment and its prescribed order; I have shown these things only to you." (4 Ezra 7:25-44)
The dragon, that ancient serpent, etc. (see 12:9-10N) must be chained, his powers severely limited for a period; afterwards he "must be set free for a little while" (vv. 3, 7) to deceive the nations (vv. 3, 8) and Israel (v. 9a) before his final defeat and eternal punishment (vv. 9b-10). The ideas of binding demonic beings and of punishing them with eternal fire are also found in the Jewish apocrypha (Tobit 8:3) and pseude- pigrapha (1 Enoch 10:4-17, 18:12-19:2, 21:1-6, 54:4-6; Testament of Levi 18:12; Jubilees 48:15-16), and in Christian apocrypha (Acts of Pilate 22:2). See also 2 Ke 2:4&N, which quotes 1 Enoch 10:4-6.
Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them received authority to judge.... They came to life and ruled with the Messiah for a thousand years. Compare Daniel's prophecy:
"As I looked, thrones were placed,... and millions... sat in judgment.... And the time came when the holy ones possessed the kingdom." (Daniel 7:9-10, 22)
According to G. E. Ladd,
"[Revelation 20:4-6] is the only passage in the entire Bible which teaches a temporal millennial kingdom, and there is only one other passage in the New Testament which may envisage a temporal reign of Christ between his parousia [coming] and the telos [consummation, final goal]: I Cor. 15:23-24." (Revelation, p. 267)
But elsewhere Yeshua promises to share his rulership with believers (2:26-28, 3:21, 5:9-10; Mt 19:28; 1C 6:2).
Also those who had not worshipped the beast.... Greek kai could mean not "also" but "in other words," in which case there is only one group ruling with the Messiah, not two.
The first resurrection is the coming to life of God's holy people, as described in vv. 4 and 6. The second resurrection is not mentioned as such; it is implied by the parenthetical remark that the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over (see v. 12), at which time they are alive only long enough to experience the second death (see v. 14N, 2:11), which has no power over the believers.
They will be cohanim, "priests," of God and of the Messiah. "You [the people of Israel] shall be for me [God] a kingdom of cohanim and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). "You [believers in Yeshua] are... the King's cohanim" (1 Ke 2:9, alluding to Exodus 19:6, Isaiah 61:6). These promises reach their fulfillment here.
To deceive the nations in the four quarters of the earth, God and Magog, to gather them for battle. Compare the structure of Ezekiel 36-48 with Revelation 20-22. Ezekiel 36-37 speaks of Israel's salvation, with David ruling over them (compare this chapter, vv. 1-6). In Ezekiel 38-39 Gog from Magog interrupts this rule with an eschatological battle, in which the nations come against the Kingdom (compare this chapter, vv. 7-10). The final order is described in Ezekiel 40-48 in terms of a rebuilt temple in a new Jerusalem (compare Revelation 21-22). In both places a temporal kingdom is followed by an eternal kingdom after a final war.
Ezekiel writes that Gog, from the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshekh and Tuval, will come with armies from a number of other places against the Jewish people regathered into the Land of Israel from the other nations and living at peace in unwalled towns. Those nations are the same in Ezekiel 38 as in Ezekiel 27, in the lament against the king of Tyre, who is, as is clearest from Ezekiel 28:11-19, a stand-in for Satan.
Fire came down from heaven. Compare Ezekiel 38:22, 39:6.
This is the final event in the long and wicked history of the one who originated rebellion against God. Already at the beginning, after enticing Adam and Eve to commit the first human sin, God knew and said what the end would be:
"I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman [Eve], and between your seed [all who sin and rejoice in the sin of others, whether angelic (Ep 6:10-13) or human (Ro 1:32)] and her seed [her descendants, i.e., humanity; but more particularly, the unique "seed" spoken of in Ga 3:16&N, Yeshua]; he [the Hebrew is singular, referring to Yeshua, not plural] will bruise [or: crush] your head, and you will bruise their heel [the Hebrew is plural; humanity can be injured, Yeshua cannot]." (Genesis 3:15)
This prediction of Satan's ultimate downfall is fulfilled in stages. Thus when Yeshua said, "Now is the time for this world to be judged, now the ruler of this world will be expelled" (Yn 12:31), he was speaking of how his death on the execution-stake would defeat the Adversary (compare Revelation 12). The Messianic Community also has a part in causing Satan's ruin, as Sha'ul writes, "God, the source of shalom, will soon crush the Adversary under your feet" (Ro 16:20). In vv. 1-3 above that Adversary is chained in the Abyss, and here he is hurled into the lake of fire and sulfur (on this see v. 15N) to be tormented forever and ever.
Everyone is to face God's judgment. Although God is a God of mercy, he is also a God of judgment. This is taught equally by the Tanakh, the New Testament, and Jewish tradition.
The Prophets speak of this judgment as the Day of YHVH; see Isaiah 2:12, 13:6-13 (a verse of which is alluded to in Mt 24:29); Ezekiel 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1, 3:4(2:31) (quoted at Ac 2:20), 4:14 3:14); Amos 5:18-20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:17-18; Zechariah 14:1-9 and Malachi 4:5(3:23) (alluded to at Mt 17:10-11).
"The prominent feature of these passages is a dramatic sense of doom, underlined by a few characteristic motives, such as a darkness and wailing.... The warning is given that the Day of the Lord is near.... The wicked will be punished, justice established, mankind confounded, and its destiny somehow definitely changed.... God will... act — suddenly, decisively, and directly, in a single day, with vehemence and terror." (Encyclopedia Judaica 5:1387-8)
In the New Testament can be found the terms "Day of God" (2 Ke 3:12), "Great Day of Adonai-Tzva'ot" (16:14 (above), Day of the Messiah Yeshua (Pp 1:6, 10; 2:16), and the ambiguous phrase, "Day of the Lord," which can mean either "Day of YHVH" or "Day of the Lord [Yeshua the Messiah]" (1C 1:8, 5:5; 2C 1:14; 1 Th 5:2-3; 2 Th 2:1-2; 2 Ke 3:10). (Also see 1:10&N, where the Greek expression is unique, making my rendering, "Day of the Lord," controversial.)
Moreover, God judges not only outward deeds, but the inner man. In the New Testament we see this when Yeshua confronts the P'rushim (Lk 12:1-5, Mt 23:23-28) and in the whole tenor of his Sermon on the Mount (Mattityahu 5-7); also compare Yn 2:23-25; Ro 2:16; MJ 4:13, 10:30. The Tanakh too speaks of secret deeds and motives when it says: "God will bring every work into judgment, concerning every hidden thing, whether it be good or evil " (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Compare also Psalm 139. The Oral Torah affirms this:
"Rabbi [Y'hudah HaNasi, 135–219 C.E.] said, ‘... Pay attention to three things and you will not come under the power of transgression: know what is above you — an all-seeing eye, an all-hearing ear, and all your deeds recorded in a book'"(Avot 2:1)
So there is no room either for the common misunderstanding on the part of both Christians and Jews that the Old Testament portrays God as stern, judgmental and lacking mercy, with the New Testament picturing him as so merciful that he overlooks judgment and even justice; or for the opposite mistake of thinking that the New Testament, with its talk of hellfire, focuses on judgment more than the Tanakh.
Quoting Hosea 10:8, which depicts how the inhabitants of Samaria will feel when God judges them by having Assyria carry them away, Yeshua warns that the Day of God's judgment will be fearful: " Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!' and to the hills, ‘Cover us!'"(Lk 23:30).
The Bible gives a symmetrical picture of salvation history. In its first two chapters, at the beginning of history, a sinless world is described; and at the beginning of the third chapter (Genesis 3:1-7) Satan the serpent (see above, v. 2) entices Eve and Adam into sin, resulting in damage both to humanity and to the world (Ro 8:19-22). God's plan from the very beginning was to remedy this damage through the death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah, the slaughtered Lamb (5:6, 9; 13:8; Ep 1:4-7; Yn 1:29); 1,256 chapters of the Bible deal with the outworking of this plan. Now, at the end of history, here in the third-to-last chapter of the Bible, sin is judged, with Satan (v. 10) and the wicked (v. 15) condemned to the lake of fire; while the final two chapters of Revelation present a newly created world and a humanity restored to Eden-like sinlessness. This is what is meant when God says (21:6), "I am the ‘A' and the ‘Z,' the Beginning and the End." There is but one asymmetry: Satan and the first man, Adam, cause sin at the beginning; while God the Father and the second man, Yeshua, cause sinlessness at the end (1C 15:45-49, Ro 5:12-21).
The One sitting on the throne is Yeshua. Although he shares the throne with God the Father (3:21), it is through Yeshua alone that God renders the final judgment (see also v. 12aN). According to Yochanan's Gospel,
"The Father does not judge anyone, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.... [The Father] has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Don't be surprised at this; because the time is coming when all who are in the grave will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to a resurrection of life and those who have done evil to a resurrection of judgment." (Yn 5:22, 27-29)
What the Gospel calls the "resurrection of life" is in this chapter called the first resurrection, for believers only; while the "resurrection of judgment" applies to "the rest of the dead" (v. 5), who experience the second death (v. 14). See Yn 5:22N and compare Ac 17:31.
Earth and heaven fled from his presence and no place was found for them, because they are corrupted by sin, unholy and impure (Ro 8:19-22). Although in the present age the impure defiles the pure, when God himself appears in glory his purity banishes the impure, for his holiness cannot abide that which is corrupted by sin (see Mt 9:20&N). The only remedy is "a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had passed away" (21:1).
I saw the dead, both great and small, standing in front of the throne.
"All of us will stand before God's judgment seat.... For we must all appear before the Messiah's court of judgment, where everyone will receive the good or bad consequences of what he did while he was in the body... on a day when God passes judgment on people's inmost secrets. (According to the Good News as I proclaim it, he does this through the Messiah Yeshua.)" (Ro 14:10, 2C 5:10, Ro 2:16)
12b Books... another book, the Book of Life. There seem to be two elements in the Final Judgment. First, there is judgment for eternal salvation (v. 5) or damnation (vv. 14-15) on the basis of being written in the Book of Life. Second, there is judgment according to works from what was written in the books (plural); this concept appears in the Tanakh at Daniel 7:9-10. From these books God judges all our deeds (see Ro 2:6&N), both public and secret, and even our innermost thoughts (see vv. 11-15N, v. 12aN). For the saved this judgment determines rewards (1C 3:8-15&N), while for the lost it determines degrees of punishment (Lk 12:47-48). But third, in traditional Judaism there is yet another meaning to these books — they determine what a person will experience in this world, not in the world to come.
The Hebrew term "sefer-chayim" ("book of life," "book of the living") appears in the Tanakh only at Psalms 69:28-29(27-28),
"Add iniquity to their iniquity,
don't let them come into Your righteousness.
Let them be blotted out of the book of life
And not be written with the righteous."
(Incidentally, this is a continuation of the passage quoted at Ro 11:9-10.)
The first reference to such a book is in Exodus 33:32-33. After the Israelites made the golden calf, Moses prayed that God would forgive them for this great sin, "and if not, then I pray that you blot me out of your book which you have written" (compare what Sha'ul writes at Ro 9:2-4a&N). Adonai's response to Moses was, "Whoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book."
Other places in the Tanakh referring to a book containing individual destinies in the ‘olam haba are Malachi 3:16 ("a book of remembrance was opened") and Daniel 12:1 ("every one whose name shall be found written in the book"); while Psalm 139:16 ("your book") seems to refer to the ‘olam hazeh. In the New Testament the term "Book of Life" appears at Pp 4:3 and MJ 12:23 (and compare Lk 10:20), as well as six times in Revelation (3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27), always signifying eternal salvation. There are other references in the Pseudepigrapha (Jubilees 30:22, which mentions a second book, the book of those who will be destroyed, with the possibility of having one's name transferred to it from the Book of Life; 1 Enoch 104:7; 108:3, 7; 1 Baruch 24:1) and in early Christian literature (Vision of Hermas 1:24, Similitude 2:12). In the Mishna it is spoken of in Pirkey-Avot 2:1 (quoted above in vv. 11-15N), 3:17.
From God's answer to Moses in Exodus, together with 3:1-5 above, we learn that it is possible to fall from grace, to have one's eternal destiny changed from salvation to condemnation, in consequence of unrepented sin in one's life, even though such passages as Ep 1:3-14 and 1 Ke 2:9 suggest that salvation is predestined. One way to deal with this antinomy is to suppose that everyone's name is initially written in the Book of Life — babies who die before the age of responsibility go to heaven. But upon reaching the age of responsibility, everyone sins (Ro 3:23); and only those who turn to God through Yeshua the Messiah (Yn 14:6) can know that they are saved. A name is not removed from the Book of Life unless the person has committed the unpardonable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit, of finally and definitively rejecting God and his Son Yeshua (Mt 12:32&N).
The term "book of life" finds a prominent place in the liturgy for the High Holy Days. Thus the final blessing of the ‘Amidah is expanded so as to conclude:
"May we and all your people, the house of Israel, be remembered and inscribed in the book of life, blessing, peace and prosperity, so that we will have a life of goodness and peace. Blessed are you, Adonai, the maker of peace."
Some Messianic Jews take exception to the customary greetings for Rosh- HaShanah — "Shanah tovah tikatevu" ("May you be inscribed [in the book of life] for a good year") — and Yom-Kippur — "Chatimah tovah" ("[May you have] a good sealing [of your destiny in the book of life]") — on the ground that as believers in Yeshua our names are already written in the Book of Life. This is unnecessary scrupulousness, for here the "book of life" is not concerned with eternal salvation but with life in this world. The tradition is that on Rosh-HaShanah God opens the heavenly books and judges people according to their works, writing in them who will die and what kind of life the living will enjoy during the coming year. The Ten Days of Penitence, Rosh-HaShanah through Yom- Kippur, are thought of as offering an opportunity for repentance that will influence God to change these fates for the better. But on Yom-Kippur these fates are fixed or "sealed." All of this is portrayed most clearly in the important High Holy Days prayer Un'tanneh Tokef (literally, "Let us recount the authority" of this day), quoted in full at MJ 9:22N.
All the dead who have not participated in the first resurrection are now resurrected and judged (see vv. 5-6N above). There is no longer any need for Sh'ol, where the dead are held for judgment, since this is the judgment. Nor is there need for death, the punishment for sin, since sin is now being banished from the universe, as foretold by Sha'ul at 1C 15:54-55. Likewise the sea, a biblical metaphor for death, destruction and turmoil (see Isaiah 57:20, Ezekiel 28:8, Psalm 107:25-28), harboring fearsome, Satanic creatures such as Leviathan (Isaiah 27:1, Psalm 104:27, Job 40:25-41:26(41:1-34)) and the beast of 12:18-13:8 above, releases its dead for judgment, so that, having served its purpose, it too disappears (21:1).
This is the event foretold by the parable of the sheep and the goats in Mt 25:31-46:
"Then he will also speak to those on his left, saying, ‘Get away from me, you who are cursed! Go off into the fire prepared for the Adversary and his angels!' ... They will go off to eternal punishment, but those who have done what God wants will go to eternal life." (Mt 25:41, 46)
The "eternal life" spoken of is depicted in 22:1-22:5.
It is possible that the lake of fire is meant literally, to the degree that the wicked, in resurrected physical bodies, will experience physically the torment of burning and stench forever. Or it may be a metaphor for the eternal pain of knowing that one is forever to be denied the bliss of being present with the God of the universe and must be separated from him, to burn forever with frustration, anger and regret; Jean-Paul Sartre's play, "No Exit," is one man's expression of this understanding. For more on the lake of fire, see 19:20N.
Anyone whose name was not found written in the Book of Life was hurled into the lake of fire. (On "Book of Life" see v. 12bN.) This is the climactic moment for the wicked. Yet it is not God who has determined their fate, but they themselves, by their deeds that fall short of God's holiness, and by their lack of trusting Him for salvation through Yeshua the Messiah. "The Lord... is patient with you; for it is not his purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that everyone should turn from his sins" (2 Ke 3:9). And compare Ro 2:1-8, especially vv. 5b-6: "...by your unrepentant heart you are storing up anger for yourself on the Day of Anger, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed; for he will pay back each one according to his deeds," as taught in Psalm 62:13 12) and Proverbs 24:12. God's desire is that the wicked should turn from his evil ways.
"Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says Adonai, God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says Adonai, God; so turn, and live!" (Ezekiel 18:30-32)
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through him, the world might be saved. Those who trust in him are not judged; those who do not trust have been judged already, in that they have not trusted in the one who is God's only Son." (Yn 3:16-18)
The Judaism of today tends to finesse or minimize the punishment to be meted out to the wicked. Orthodox Judaism speaks of a probationary period (like the Roman Catholic purgatory) of not more than eleven months for members of the House of Israel. In this sense Judaism does not take sin seriously, in terms of its consequences to the individual sinner.
To those who cannot relate to vv. 11-15 because they find the doctrine of eternal punishment for the wicked too fearsome, or because they cannot accept that God would be "so mean — it's against his loving nature," the Tanakh replies, "The fear of Adonai is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10). Justice and mercy, holiness and love are qualities which God balances in his own way, which may not be the way we would choose.
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, says Adonai,
and my ways are not your ways.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)
"There is a way which seems right to a man,
but at its end are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12).
The judgment of Chapter 20 is one side of a coin; this is the other. The sinless conditions of the Garden of Eden are restored (see last paragraph of 20:11-15N). It is the time when "the creation," which "has been groaning as with the pains of childbirth," will be "set free from its bondage to decay" to "enjoy the freedom accompanying the glory that God's children will have" (Ro 8:19-23). It is the restoration spoken of in Ac 3:21, in which Yeshua "has to remain in heaven until the time comes for restoring everything, as God said long ago, when he spoke through the holy prophets." It is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy:
"Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.
Rather, you will be glad, you will rejoice forever over what I create,
for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy;
and I will rejoice in Jerusalem and take joy in my people —
no longer shall there be heard in her the sound of weeping or crying."
The interconnection between new creation and judgment is even clearer in the words of Isaiah 66:22-24:
"For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, are to remain before me, says Adonai, so will your seed and your name remain. And it will come to pass that every new moon and every Shabbat all flesh will come to worship before me, says Adonai. And they will go out and look at the carcasses of the people who rebelled against me, for their worm will not die, and their fire will not be quenched, and all flesh will regard them with disgrace."
The sea was no longer there. See 20:13-14&N. Early JNT editions have "There was no longer any sea." The change reflects my conclusion that the author, whose viewpoint is the Land of Israel, is not saying that there will no longer be oceans on the earth but that the Mediterranean Sea will no longer be the Land's western boundary. (Is my being a surfer influencing my exegesis?)
The Bible depicts creation as war. Light conquers darkness (Genesis 1:1-5, Yn 1:1-5), but the sea is allied with the darkness. (This metaphor does not require our text to refer to all the oceans; the Mediterranean suffices.) Therefore the sea has to be contained, limited — this is done on the second day of creation (Genesis 1:6-10; see also Job 38:8-11, Isaiah 27:1, and possibly Isaiah 51:9-52:12). The sea is active in bringing destruction and death through the flood of Noach, an event mentioned five times in the New Testament (Mt 24:37-38, Lk 17:26-27, MJ 11:7, 1 Ke 3:20, 2 Ke 2:5). But the sea is under God's control, as seen most clearly in the Exodus, where God's "strong hand and outstretched arm" turn the Red Sea into a means of salvation for the Israelites, though a means of destruction for the Egyptians. God has promised never again to use water as a means of universal destruction (Genesis 9:11), but equally he has promised that he will use fire for that purpose (2 Ke 3:10-12). The Lake of Fire (20:15) is a fiery sea of eternal destruction; it conquers finally and universally what the Red Sea conquered temporally and locally — namely, sin. Water is powerful, but fire is more powerful; hence Yochanan the Immerser says he immerses in water but another is coming, Yeshua, who will immerse in the Holy Spirit and in fire (Lk 3:16-17).
The holy city, New Yerushalayim, "the Jerusalem above" which "is our mother" (Ga 4:26), "the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God" (MJ 11:10, 16), "the city of the living God, heavenly Yerushalayim" (MJ 12:22&N), the permanent city to come (MJ 13:14), is seen coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband, as described in 21:9-22:5 below. The wedding imagery here, at v. 9 and at 22:17 identifies the New Jerusalem with God's people (compare 19:7-9; also in the New Testament Mt 9:15, 25:1-13; Yn 3:27-30; 2C 11:2; Ep 5:21-33; and in the Tanakh Isaiah 54:1-8; Jeremiah 3:1, 20; Hosea 1-2). Contrast "the great whore,... Babylon" (17:1, 5).
This important verse tells the final fulfillment of one of the most frequently repeated covenant promises in the Tanakh, that God will dwell with his people and be their God, with full fellowship restored as in the Garden of Eden. See Genesis 17:7; Exodus 6:7, 29:45; Leviticus 26:11-12 (which is particularly related to this verse); Numbers 15:41; Deuteronomy 29:12(13); 2 Samuel 7:24; Jeremiah 7:23, 11:4, 24:7, 30:22, 31:33(34), 32:38; Ezekiel 11:20, 34:24, 36:28, 37:23, 27; Zechariah 8:8; MJ 8:10; and v. 7 below.
"Sh'khinah" and "he will live" translate the Greek words "skźnź " ("tent, tabernacle, lodging") and "skźnôsei " ("he will dwell"); and both are related to the Hebrew word "shakhan" ("to dwell"), from which is derived "Sh'khinah," referring to the glorious manifesting presence of God who can dwell among men (see 7:15N). Thus God will dwell with them, be the Sh'khinah and the Tabernacle with them, be the glory (kavod = Sh'khinah) in the midst of them (Zechariah 2:9(10)). "But will God indeed dwell with man on earth?" (2 Chronicles 6:18). Yes, he will.
Peoples or "people"; the manuscripts vary. Here are Bruce M. Metzger's remarks on this:
"It is extremely difficult to decide between the reading laoi [peoples], which is supported by [several very important early manuscripts], and the reading laos [people], which is supported by [a larger number of mostly less important sources]. Has the author followed the prophetic Scriptures that consistently speak of the one people of God (e.g., Jeremiah 31:32(33), Ezekiel 37:27, Zechariah 8:8)? In that case, laoi was introduced by copyists who pedantically conformed the word to the preceding autoi [they]. Or [on the other hand], did the author deliberately modify the traditional concept, substituting ‘the many peoples of redeemed humanity for the single elect nation, the world for Israel' (Swete)? In that case, laos betrays the hand of the emendator, who conformed the reading to the imagery of the Old Testament. Chiefly on the basis of what was taken to be very slightly superior manuscript evidence a majority of the Committee [who put together the UBS edition of the Greek New Testament] preferred laoi." (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, London & New York: United Bible Societies, 1975, p. 763)
If the correct reading is "peoples," it confirms not only that God "made every nation living on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the limits of their territory and the periods when they would flourish" (Ac 17:26), but that God will save entire non-Jewish peoples, corporately; compare Isaiah 19:25.
God-with-them. This phrase tells us of the consummation of Isaiah 7:14, which foresees that the Messiah is to be called Immanu'el ("God with us"); see Mt 1:23&N.
Wipe away every tear... no longer any death, as written at Isaiah 25:8.
I am the "A" and the "Z," the Beginning and the End, here and at 22:13. See 1:8N and the last paragraph of 20:11-15N. Compare Ro 11:36&N.
Beginning, Greek archź, "beginning, ruler, initiator, beginner," that is, he who stands above and beyond time, who created and rules everything (see 3:14N).
To anyone who is thirsty I myself will give water free of charge from the Fountain of Life. Thirst represents spiritual need, water spiritual satisfaction. Compare Psalm 36:9 ("For with you is the fountain of life"); Proverbs 13:14 ("The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life"), 14:27 ("The fear of Adonai is a fountain of life"); Mt 5:6, 10:42; Yn 4:5-14, 7:37-39; and especially Rv 7:17; 22:1, 17.
He who wins the victory. The phrase occurs seven times in Chapters 2-3; see 2:7N, 3:21&N. "They defeated him," won the victory over the dragon, "because of the Lamb's blood and because of the message of their witness" (12:11).
See 9:21N and 22:15N.
The vision of the new Yerushalayim resembles that of Ezekiel 40-48. Compare v. 10 with Ezekiel 40:2, v. 11 with Ezekiel 43:2, vv. 12-13 with Ezekiel 48:31-34, v. 15 with Ezekiel 40:3, 5, v. 27 with Ezekiel 44:9, 22:1 with Ezekiel 47:1, 22:2 with Ezekiel 47:12. See vv. 1-8N above.
The bride, the wife of the Lamb,... the New Yerushalayim. See v. 2&N.
Inscribed on the gates were the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.... twelve foundation-stones, and on these were the twelve names of the twelve emissaries of the Lamb (compare Ep 2:20). The twelve tribes of Israel are mentioned in the New Testament at Mt 19:28 and Lk 22:30, where the emissaries are to judge them; at Ac 26:7 as a synonym for the entire Jewish people; at Ya 1:1 in the greeting; and at 7:4-8 above (by name). The twenty-four elders of 4:4 may represent the tribes plus the emissaries. See notes in all these places. Conclusion: there is no Church apart from the Jewish people and no Israel apart from the New Covenant. See related discussions in Ro 11:26aN, Ga 6:16N, and Ep 2:11-13&NN.
A cubical city 1500 miles on a side — can one imagine it projecting so far from the earth without setting up gravitational and other forces that would destroy it? Gold resembling glass — whatever can that mean? A wall of diamond 216 feet high? On the one hand, the world's largest cut diamond weighs less than 5 ounces; on the other, this wall is minuscule in relation to the city. Each gate made of a single pearl — from what size oyster? It is all a dramatic way of saying that the new heaven and earth and the New Jerusalem are beautiful, valuable, wondrous and glorious beyond anything we can know or imagine.
Compare the judgment breastplate of the cohen hagadol, which also had twelve different stones. They represented the twelve tribes of Israel, whose judgment Aaron was to "bear on his heart before Adonai continually" (Exodus 28:15-21, 29-30). Also see Isaiah 54:11-12.
This section draws on the imagery of Isaiah 60:
"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of Adonai has risen upon you.... Nations will walk at your light, and kings at the brightness of your rising.... The wealth of the nations will come to you.... Your gates will be open continually — day and night they will not be shut, so that people can bring you the wealth of the nations, and their kings in procession.... The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the moon give light to you for brightness, but Adonai will be for you an everlasting light, and your God your glory." (Isaiah 60:1-5, 11, 16, 19-20)
The nations (or "Gentiles") will walk by its light. There are not unregenerate nations living outside the city. Rather, as George E. Ladd says in his comment on this verse,
"In the divine consummation, the redeemed will consist of peoples from every nation and tribe and people and tongue (7:9) who will not lose their national identity. John's language means no more than the statements of the prophets: ‘and many peoples shall come and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob"' (Isaiah 2:3).... This is the affirmation of the universality of the knowledge of God, as promised in Jeremiah's presentation of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:30-33(31-34))." (Revelation, p. 284)
See 20:12bN, 22:15N.
The river of the water of life..., flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb. "There is a river, whose streams make glad the city of God, the holiest dwelling-place of the Most High. God is in the midst of her...." (Psalm 46:5-6; compare Zechariah 14:8-9). See also 3:21N.
The Tree of Life was in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9), but after sinning, Adam and Eve had to be kept from it (Genesis 3:22) and the way to it guarded by a keruv ("cherub," Genesis 3:24). Here in restored Eden, the tree of life too is restored. Like the other phenomena of the new creation (see 21:14-21N) it is unlike anything we now know, producing twelve kinds of fruit, a different kind every month. Moreover, the leaves of the tree are for healing the nations — no longer will there be any curses. Here "healing" seems to mean "making whole." The "curses" are evils that come upon nations — both Israel and the Gentile nations — due to their continued and unrepented sins; most of the biblical prophets pronounced curses at one time or another.
The central theme of existence in the redeemed world will be worship of God and of the Lamb Yeshua the Messiah, who share the throne. His servants will be fully focused and completely satisfied when they worship him (which is not always the case today!), because (1) having unimpeded fellowship with God, they will see his face, and (2) his name will be on their foreheads, meaning that God will have made them fully his own (see also 7:2-3&N, 13:16-17a&N, 14:1&N, 17:5). Night, with its darkness symbolizing God's absence (Yn 1:5-9, 3:19-21; 1 Yn 1:5-7, 2:7-11), will no longer exist,... because Adonai, God, will shine upon them. Moreover, the physical and the spiritual will be intimately interconnected, since God's immediate presence will make them need neither the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun. And, as promised at 3:21 and 1C 6:2-3, they will reign over the universe with the Messiah and with God as kings forever and ever.
This is the epilogue to the Book of Revelation.
Revelation 22:6, 7, 10, 12 Soon... very soon... near... soon. See 1:1N on "what must happen very soon." The repetition adds to the urgency.
Contrast these verses with Daniel 12:9-10, where the prophet was told, "Daniel, go your way, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end." (See also Isaiah 8:16; Daniel 8:26, 12:4). Here Yochanan is told, "Don't seal up the words of the prophecy in this book, because the time of their fulfillment is near." Moreover, in Daniel 12:10 Daniel is told, "Many will purify themselves." But here, "Whoever keeps acting wickedly, let him go on acting wickedly," because he is past the point of being able to repent (see Yn 12:39&N); yet compare v. 17 below, still an invitation to repent.
My rewards are with me to give to each person according to what he has done. See first paragraph of 20:12bN.
I am the "A" and the "Z" ("the Alpha and the Omega"; see 1:8&N), the Beginning and the End. Repeated from 21:6; see 3:14N.
The First and the Last. Quoted from Isaiah 44:6, where Adonai says it:
"Thus says Adonai, the King of Israel, and its redeemer Adonai of Hosts [heavenly armies]: I am the first, and I am the last, and beside me there is no God."
By applying this text to himself Yeshua once again identifies himself as Adonai.
These verses may be the words of Yeshua (as this version has it), or of Yochanan.
Those who wash their robes, who obtain forgiveness for their sins. How? "With the blood of the lamb" (7:14), that is, through the atoning work of Yeshua the Messiah, so that their robes are "white" (7:14 ; see also 3:4, 19:7-8, Isaiah 1:18).
To eat from the Tree of Life and go through the gates into the city is to enjoy eternal life in fellowship with God.
Outside, in the lake of fire (20:12 b, 21:8, 21:27), are unrepentant sinners. They are outside not only in the future, but outside even now, to the extent that the Kingdom of God has broken through into this world in the hearts and lives of the saved.
Homosexuals, Greek kunes ("dogs"). One can imagine literal wild dogs slavering over the wicked excluded from the city (compare Mt 15:26&N, Lk 16:21). But Deuteronomy 23:18-19 illustrates the figurative use of the word "dog" in the Bible to mean "male (homosexual) prostitute":
"No daughter of Israel is to be a female prostitute (k'deshah), nor is a son of Israel to be a male prostitute (kadesh). You are to bring neither the wages of a female prostitute (zonah) nor the wages of a dog (kelev) into the house of Adonai your God in payment of any vow; both of them are an abomination to Adonai your God."
On the New Testament's attitude toward homosexuality see Ro 1:24-28&N.
Those who misuse drugs in connection with the occult. See 9:21N.
I, Yeshua, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the Messianic communities, as stated in 1:1-2.
The Root and Offspring of David. King David sprang from this Root, because Yeshua pre-existed David (Micah 5:1(2), Yn 8:58), and through Yeshua everything, including David's ancestor Adam, was made (Yn 1:1-2, 14). But Yeshua is also David's offspring; in particular, he is the promised Son of David who would be the Messiah (see Mt 1:1&N). Yeshua's Davidic ancestry is referred to in the rest of the New Testament also at Mt 1:6, 9:27, 15:22, 21:9; Lk 1:32, 2:4, 3:31; Ro 1:3; 2 Ti 2:8. In Revelation the term "Root of David" is found also at 5:5&N.
The bright Morning Star. See 2:28&N, 2 Ke 1:19&N.
As in vv. 14-15, either Yeshua or Yochanan may be speaking here. No matter which, both the Holy Spirit and the Bride, the Messianic Community, identified also with the New Jerusalem (21:2 &N), agree with Yeshua in reiterating his call to the thirsty to take the water of life free of charge (see 21:6&N).
The warning of either Yeshua or Yochanan follows the form of Deuteronomy 4:2, which reads:
"Don't add anything to the word which I am commanding you, and don't take anything away from it, so that you may keep the mitzvot of Adonai your God which I am commanding you."
Yochanan's warning refers to the Book of Revelation, not to the whole Bible. However, it is a warning which I or anyone who deals with the Word of God must keep in mind at all times. It is my fervent hope that both my translation and my commentary have not distorted what God meant us to know, for work of this kind mediates eternal destinies. My prayer is that the eternal destinies of the readers of this commentary will be with God and his son Yeshua, and that my work has not distanced anyone from him but brought people closer.
The congregation is instructed to say "Amen" (Ro 9:5&N) at the close of the public reading of the book (1:3). The two final sentences, one for heaven and one for earth, set the tone for those inspired to do the Lord's will. So I echo the words of Yochanan: Come, Lord Yeshua, and May the grace of the Lord Yeshua be with all.
Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament
1. Of the bottomless pit. See on ch. 9:1. This is to be distinguished from the lake of fire. Compare ver. 10.
Chain (a‚lusin). See on Mark 5:4. Only here in John's writings.
In his hand (eķpi÷). Lit., upon: resting on or hanging upon.
2. He laid hold (eķkraņthsen). See on Mark 8:3; Acts 3:11.
The dragon (to\n draņkonta). See on ch. 12:3. The word is commonly derived from e¶drakon, the second aorist tense of de÷rkomai to see clearly, in allusion to the sharp sight of the fabled dragon.
Old (aÓrcai√on). See on 1 John 2:7.
The Devil. Note the three epithets: the Old Serpent, the Devil, Satan. See on Matthew 4:1; Luke 10:18.
3. Sealed. See on John 3:33.
Must (dei√). According to God's purpose. See on Matthew 16:21; Luke 2:49; 24:26.
4. Thrones. See on ch. 2:13.
They sat. All the faithful members of Christ's Church. Compare they reigned with Christ.
Beheaded (pepelekisme÷nwn). From pe÷lekuß an ax. Only here in the New Testament.
They lived. Equivalent to lived again. Compare ver. 5.
5. Lived — again (aÓne÷zhsan). Read e¶zhsan lived, as in ver. 4
6. Hath part (e¶cwn me÷roß). A phrase peculiar to John as referring to a person. Compare John 13:8.
Second death. See on ch. 2:11.
8. Gog and Magog. See Ezekiel 38, 39. Compare Genesis 10:2. where Magog appears as a son of Japhet. Magog is a general name for the northern nations, and, according to Ezekiel, Gog is their prince. Josephus says that the descendants of Magog were the Scythians.
9. On the breadth (eķpi« to\ plaņtoß). Lit., over (eķpi÷). As distinguished from the "four corners" of ver. 8. They overspread the earth.
The camp (th\n parembolh\n). See on castle, Acts 21:34. Encompassing and defending the city. Compare Psalm 78:7.
The beloved city. Compare Psalm 78:68.
From God. Omit.
12. Before God. Read qro/nou throne for Qeouv God. So Rev., before the throne.
The books (bibli÷a). No article. Read books. Compare Daniel 7:10.
Book of life. See on ch. 3:5.
13. The sea. As commonly understood, the sea means the literal sea, and the passage signifies that the dead contained in it shall rise. So Alford. Other interpreters, however, say that it cannot mean the literal sea. Thus Milligan argues that the symbols of the Apocalypse must always be interpreted in the same way. "Symbols," he says, "are a form of speech, and therefore subject to the rules that regulate the interpretation of all speech. ... The power of that convention which links a certain sense to a certain sound in ordinary terms, is not less binding in the presence than in the absence of metaphor of any kind whatever. Thus when we read in the Apocalypse of ‘the sea' as an emblem of the troubled and sinful nations of the earth, we are bound, unless forbidden by the context, to carry that interpretation through, and to understand the sea of the troubled and sinful world."
Hell (oj a‚Ųdhß). Rev., Hades. See on Matthew 16:18.
14. This is the second death. Add even the lake of fire.
15. And whosoever (ei¶ tiß). Lit., if any. So Rev.
1. New (kaino\n). See on Matthew 26:29. Compare Isaiah 65:17.
There was no more sea (hj qaņlassa oujk e¶stin e¶pi). Lit., as Rev., the sea is no more. Here as in 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.
2. I John. Omit John.
New Jerusalem. Others join new with coming down, and render corning down new out of heaven.
A bride. Compare Isaiah 61:10; 62:5.
3. With men. Men at large. No longer with an isolated people like Israel.
He shall dwell (skhnwņsei). 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, 28.
People (laoi«). Notice the plural, peoples (so Rev.), because many nations shall partake of the fulfillment of the promise. Compare ver. 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.
4. And God shall wipe away. Omit God. Read, as Rev., and He shall wipe away.
All tears (pa◊n daņkruon). Lit., every tear. Compare Isaiah 25:8.
There shall be no more death (oj qaņnatoß oujk e¶stai e¶ti). Render, as Rev., death shall be no more.
Sorrow (pe÷nqoß). Better, as Rev., mourning, since the word signifies manifested grief. See on Matthew 5:4; 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."
5. True and faithful (aÓlhqinoi« kai« pistoi÷). The proper order of the Greek is the reverse, as Rev., faithful and true.
6. It is done (ge÷gonen). The correct reading is ge÷gonan they are come to pass; i.e., these words.
Alpha and Omega. Both have the article, "the alpha," etc. See on ch. 1:8.
Unto him that is athirst. Compare Isaiah 55:1.
Fountain (phghvß). See on John 4:6.
Of the water of life. See John 4:10, 14. Compare Isaiah 12:3.
7. All things (paņnta). The correct reading is tauvta these things. So Rev.
His God (aujtw◊Ų Qeo\ß). Lit., God unto him.
My Son (moi oj uiŻo/ß). Lit., the Son to me. See on John 1:12. This is the only place in John's writings where uiŻo/ß son is used of the relation of man to God.
8. The fearful (deiloi√ß). The dative case. Hence, as Rev., for the fearful. Only here, Matthew 8:26, and Mark 4:40.
Abominable (eķbdelugme÷noiß). See on abomination, Matthew 24:15. Properly, defiled with abominations.
Whoremongers (po/rnoiß). Much better, as Rev., fornicators.
Sorcerers. See on sorceries, ch. 9:21.
Shall have their part (to\ me÷roß aujtw◊n). Lit., the whole passage reads: to the fearful, etc., their part. shall be is supplied.
9. Unto me. Omit.
Vials. Properly bowls. See on ch. 5:8.
10. In the Spirit. See on ch. 1:10.
Mountain. 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.
11. Glory of God. Not merely divine brightness, but the presence of the God of glory Himself. Compare Exodus 40:34.
Light (fwsth\r). Strictly, luminary; that with which the city is illumined, tlle heavenly Lamb. See ver. 23. The word occurs only here and Philip. 2:15.
Jasper. See on ch. 4:3.
Clear as crystal (krustalli÷zonti). Lit., shining like crystal.
12. And had (e¶cousaņn te). Rev., more simply and literally, having.
Gates (pulw◊naß). Properly large gates. See on Luke 16:20; Acts 12:13. Compare Ezekiel 48:30 sqq.
13. East (aÓnatolhvß). See on Matthew 2:2, and on day-spring, Luke 1:78. See the tribes arranged by gates in Ezekiel 48:31–34.
West (dusmw◊n). Lit., the goings down or settings.
14. Foundations (qemeli÷ouß). See on the kindred verb qemeliwņsei shalt settle, 1 Peter 5:10.
In them the names (eķn aujtoi√ß ojno/mata). The correct reading is eķp∆ aujtw◊n dwņdeka ojno/mata, on them twelve names.
15. A golden reed. Add me÷tron as a measure. See ch. 11:1. Compare Ezekiel 40:5.
16. Four square (tetraņgwnoß). From te÷tra four and gwni÷a an angle. Only here in the New Testament. Compare Ezekiel 48:16, 20.
Twelve-thousand furlongs (eķpi« stadi÷wn dwņdeka ciliaņdwn). Strictly, to the length of (eķpi÷) twelve, etc. For the collective term ciliaņdeß thousands, see on ch. 5:11. For furlongs see on ch. 15:20. 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. [Note: This cubical plan, applied not only to the Tabernacle, but to the Ark of the Flood, the Temple of Solomon and the "Kings House," is minutely worked out in "The Holy Houses" by Dr. Timothy Otis Paine; a book full of curious erudition. in which the Tabernacle, the Ark of Noah, the Temple, and the Capitol or King's House, are treated as developments from a common type; but which proceeds on the utterly untenable hypothesis that the temple of Ezekiel's vision was Solomon's; and that, accordingly, from the two books of Kings and the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel all the data are furnished for a complete restoration of the Temple; the prophetic vision of Ezekiel supplying the details omitted in the historic record of Kings.] But opinions differ as to whether the twelve thousand furlongs are the measure of the four sides of the city taken together, in which ease 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. Dusterdieck, 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."
17. Cubits (phcw◊n). 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 (ver. 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 Dusterdieck, "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).
18. The building (eķndo/mhsiß). Only here in the New Testament. From eķn in and dwmaņw to build. 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 (uJaņlwŲ). Only here and ver. 21. For the kindred adjective uJaņlinoß of glass, see on ch. 4:6.
19. All manner of precious stones. Compare Isaiah 54:11, 12; 1 Chronicles 29:2.
Sapphire (saņpfeiroß). Compare Isaiah 54:11; Ezekiel 1:26. Probably lapis lazuli. Our sapphire is supposed to be represented by the jacinth in ver. 20. Pliny describes the saņpfeiroß 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 (calkhdwņn). 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.
Emerald. See on ch. 4:3.
20. Sardonyx (sardo/nux). The most beautiful and rarest variety of onyx. Pliny defines it as originally signifying a white mark in a sard, like the human nail (oŃnux) 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.
Sardius. See on ch. 4:3.
Chrysolite (cruso/liqoß). From cruso/ß gold and li÷qoß stone. Lit., gold-stone. Identified by some with our topaz, by others with amber. Pliny describes it as "translucent with golden luster."
Beryl (bh/rulloß). 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 (topaņzion). 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.
Chrysoprasus. Rev., chrysoprase. From cruso/ß gold and praņson 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 (uJaņkinqoß). See on ch. 9:17.
Amethyst (aÓme÷qustoß). From aÓ not and mequ/w to be 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.
21. Pearls (margari÷tai). 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."
"Drink of this potion: is thy union here?"
Every several gate (aÓna» ei–ß eľkastoß tw◊n pulwņnwn). Rev., each one of the several gates, thus bringing out the force of the genitive pulwņnwn of gates. The idea several is conveyed by aÓnaņ, as Luke 9:3, aÓna» du/o citw◊naß "two coats apiece:" John 2:6, aÓna» metrhta»ß du/o h§ trei√ß "two or three firkins apiece."
Street (platei√a). See on Luke adv. 21. From platu/ß broad. Hence the broadway.
22. No temple. The entire city is now one holy temple of God. See on ch. 1:6.
23. The glory of God did lighten it. Compare Isaiah 60:19, 20.
The light (oj lu/cnoß). Rev., better, lamp. See on John 5:35.
24. Of them which are saved. Omit.
In the light (eķn tw◊Ų fwti«). Read dia» touv fwto\ß "amidst the light" or "by the light."
Do bring (fe÷rousin). The present tense, denoting habit.
Glory and honor. Omit and honor. Compare Isaiah 60:3.
27. That defileth (koinouvn). The participle. But the correct reading is the adjective koino\n common, hence unhallowed. Rev., unclean.
Worketh (poiouvn). 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).
1. Pure. Omit.
Clear (lampro\n). See on Luke 23:11. Rev., bright.
2. In the midst of the street thereof. Some connect these words with the preceding. So Rev.
On either side (eķnteuvqen kai« eķnteuvqen). For the latter eķnteuvqen read eķkei√qen, as render, as Rev., on this side and on that.
Tree (xu/lon). See on Luke 23:31, and Revelation 2:7.
Twelve manner of fruits (karpou\ß dwņdeka). Lit., twelve fruits. Some render crops or harvests of fruit. On these two verses compare Ezekiel 47:1–12; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 14:8.
3. Shall serve (latreu/sousin). See on Luke 1:74. Rev., do Him service. The word originally means to serve for hire. In the New Testament, of the worship or service of God in the use of the rites intended for His worship. It came to be used by the Jews in a very special sense, to denote the service rendered to Jehovah by the Israelites as His peculiar people. See Romans 9:4; Acts 26:7; Hebrews 9:1, 6. Hence the significant application of the term to Christian service by Paul in Philippians 3:3.
4. See His face. Compare 1 John 3:2; Matthew 5:8; Exodus 33:20; Psalm 17:15.
5. No night there (eķkei√). Substitute e¶ti any more. Rev., there shall be night no more.
6. The Lord God (Ku/rioß oj Qeo\ß). Rather, as Rev., the Lord, the God.
Of the holy prophets (tw◊n aJgi÷wn profhtw◊n). For aJgi÷wn holy substitute pneumaņtwn spirits, and render, as Rev., the God of the spirits of the prophets.
Be done (gene÷sqai). Better, as Rev., come to pass.
7. Keepeth (thrw◊n). A favorite word with John, occurring in his writings more frequently than in all the rest of the New Testament together. See on reserved 1 Peter 1:4.
Book (bibli÷ou). Diminutive, properly a little book or scroll. See on writing, Matthew 19:7; bill, Mark 10:2; book, Luke 4:17.
8. I John saw (eķgw» ∆Iwaņnnhß oj ble÷pwn). The A.V. overlooks the article with the participle — the one seeing. Hence Rev., correctly, I John am he that heard and saw.
Had heard and seen (hŃkousa kai« e¶bleya). Aorist tense. There is no need of rendering it as a pluperfect. Rev., rightly, I heard and saw. The appeal to hearing and seeing is common to all John's writings. See John 1:14; 19:35; 21:14; I John 1:1, 2; 4:14.
9. See thou do it not (oĘra mh/). Lit., see not.
Thy brethren the prophets. The spiritual brotherhood of John with the prophets is exhibited in Revelation.
10. Seal (sfragi÷shĮß). Rev., seal up. This word occurs eighteen times in Revelation and twice in the Gospel, and only five times elsewhere in the New Testament. It means to confirm or attest (John 3:33); to close up for security (Matthew 27:66; Revelation 20:3); to hide or keep secret (Revelation 10:4; 22:10); to mark a person or thing (Revelation 7:3; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30)
Time (kairo\ß). See on Matthew 12:1.
11. Unjust (aÓdikw◊n). Rev., better, unrighteous.
Let him be unjust (aÓdikhsaņtw). The verb means to do wickedly. Hence Rev., correctly, let him do unrighteousness.
He which is filthy (oj rJupw◊n). Only here in the New Testament. On the kindred noun rJu/poß filth, see on 1 Peter 3:21. RJupari÷a filthiness occurs only in James 1:21; and the adjective rJuparo/ß filthy only in James 2:2.
Let him be filthy (rJupwsaņtw). The best texts read rJupanqh/tw let him be made filthy. So Rev.
Let him be righteous (dikaiwqh/tw). Read dikaiosu/nhn poihsaņtw let him do righteousness. So Rev.
Let him be holy (aJgiasqh/tw). Rev., giving literally the force of the passive voice, let him be made holy.
12. My reward is with me (oj misqo/ß mou met∆ eķmouv). Misqo/ß reward is strictly wages. Compare Isaiah 40:10; 62:11. See on 2 Peter 2:13.
To give (aÓpodouvnai). Lit., to give back or in return for, thus appropriate to misqo/ß reward. Hence Rev., better, render. See on give an account, Luke 16:2; and gave, Acts 4:33.
Shall be (e¶stai). Read eķstin is.
14. That do His commandments (oiŻ poiouvnteß ta»ß eķntola»ß aujtouv). Read oiŻ plu/nonteß ta»ß stola»ß aujtw◊n they that wash their robes. Compare ch. 7:14.
That they may have right to the tree of life (iľna e¶stai hj eķxousi÷a aujtw◊n eķpi« to\ xu/lon thvß zwhvß). Lit., in order that theirs shall be authority over the tree of life. For eķxousi÷a right, authority, see on John 1:12. ∆Epi÷ may be the preposition of direction: "may have right to come to" (so Rev.) or may be rendered over.
15. Dogs (oiŻ ku/neß). The A.V. omits the article "the dogs." Compare Philippians 3:2. This was the term of reproach with which the Judaizers stigmatized the Gentiles as impure. In the Mosaic law the word is used to denounce the moral profligacies of heathen worship (Deuteronomy 23:18). Compare Matthew 15:26. Here the word is used of those whose moral impurity excludes them from the New Jerusalem. "As a term of reproach, the word on the lips of a Jew, signified chiefly impurity; of a Greek, impudence. The herds of dogs which prowl about Eastern cities, without a home and without an owner, feeding on the refuse and filth of the streets, quarreling among themselves, and attacking the passer-by, explain both applications of the image" (Lightfoot, on Philippians 3:2).
Sorcerers. See on ch. 9:21, and compare ch. 21:8.
Whoremongers (po/rnoi). Rev., better, fornicators.
Maketh (poiw◊n). Or doeth. Compare doeth the truth, John 3:21; 1 John 1:6. See on John 3:21.
16. The root. Compare Isaiah 11:1,10. See on Nazarene, Matthew 2:23.
The morning-star. See on ch. 2:28.
17. The Spirit. In the Church.
The Bride. The Church.
Heareth. The voice of the Spirit and the Bride.
19. The Book of Life. Read touv xu/lou the tree. So Rev.
20. Even so (nai«). Omit.
21. Our Lord (hJmw◊n). Omit.
With you all (meta» paņntwn uJmw◊n). The readings differ. Some read meta» paņntwn with all, omitting you. Others, meta» tw◊n aJgi÷wn with the saints.
Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 52a: Revelation 1-5, Volume 52b: Revelation 6-16 & Volume 52c: Revelation 17-22, David E. Aune
Barnes' Notes on the New Testament: Revelation of St. John the Divine, Albert Barnes
The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24 and The Book of Ezekiel: Chapter 25-48: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Damiel I. Block
An Introduction to the New Testament, D. A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo
Dr. Constable's Notes on Revelation, Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Dallas Theological Seminary (his class notes)
Revelation: Four Views. A Parallel Commentary, Steve Gregg
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871 Edition, Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown
Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, Dennis E. Johnson
Revelation Unveiled, Tim LaHaye
Macarthur New Testament Commentary Series: Revelation 1-11, Revelation 12-22, John MacArthur
The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation, Robert H. Mounce
The Preacher's Commentary: 1,2 & 3 John/Revelation, Earl F. Palmer
Exploring Revelation: Am Expository Commentary, John Phillips
The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, Vern S. Poythress
"Behold, He Cometh": A Verse-by-Verse Commentary on the Book of Revelation, John R. Rice
Jewish New Testament Commentary, David H. Stern
Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary and Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary, Robert L. Thomas,
Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Marvin R. Vincent
The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Revelation, Michael Wilcock
IVP Pocket Dictionaries:
Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzke and Cherith Fee
Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies, Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta -
Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of
Religion, Stephen Evans -
Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament
Greek, Matthew S. DeMoss Intervarsity Press' New Testament Commentary Intervarsity Press' New Bible Commentary Intervarsity Press' Hard Sayings of the Bible
IVP Pocket Dictionaries:
- Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzke and Cherith Fee Nordling
- Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies, Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta
- Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion, Stephen Evans
- Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek, Matthew S. DeMoss
Intervarsity Press' New Testament Commentary
Intervarsity Press' New Bible Commentary
Intervarsity Press' Hard Sayings of the Bible
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