Revelation of John 21


The new heaven and the new earth, 1.

The new Jerusalem, 2.

God dwells with men; the happy state of his followers, 3-7.

The wretched state of the ungodly, 8.

An angel shows John the holy city, the New Jerusalem, 9, 10.

Her light, wall, gates, and foundations, described, 11-21.

God and the Lamb are the temple and light of it, 22, 23.

The nations and kings of the earth bring their glory and honour

to it; the gates shall never be shut, nor shall any defilement

enter into it, 24-27.


Verse 1. A new heaven and a new earth] See the notes on

2Pe 3:13: The ancient Jews believed that God would renew the

heavens and the earth at the end of seven thousand years. The

general supposition they founded on Isa 65:17.

There was no more sea.] The sea no more appeared than did the

first heaven and earth. All was made new; and probably the new

sea occupied a different position and was differently distributed,

from that of the old sea.

However, with respect to these subjects as they stand in this

most figurative book, I must express myself in the words of

Calmet: Vouloir dire quels seront ce nouveau ciel, et cette

nouvelle terre, quels seront leurs ornamens et leur qualite, c'est

a mon avis la plus grande de toutes les presomptions. En general,

ces manieres de parler marquent de tres grands changemens dans

l'univers. "To pretend to say what is meant by this new heaven and

new earth, and what are their ornaments and qualities, is in my

opinion the greatest of all presumptions. In general these figures

of speech point out great alternations in the universe."

Verse 2. And I John] The writer of this book; whether the

evangelist and apostle, or John the Ephesian presbyter, has been

long doubted in the Church.

New Jerusalem] See Clarke's notes on Ga 4:24-27. This doubtless

means the Christian Church in a state of great prosperity and

purity; but some think eternal blessedness is intended.

Coming down from God] It is a maxim of the ancient Jews that

both the tabernacle, and the temple, and Jerusalem itself, came

down from heaven. And in Midrash Hanaalem, Sohar Gen. fol. 69,

col. 271, Rab. Jeremias said, "The holy blessed God shall renew

the world, and build Jerusalem, and shall cause it to descend from

heaven." Their opinion is, that there is a spiritual temple, a

spiritual tabernacle, and a spiritual Jerusalem; and that none of

these can be destroyed, because they subsist in their spiritual

representatives. See Schoettgen.

Verse 3. The tabernacle of God is with men] God, in the most

especial manner, dwells among his followers, diffusing his light

and life everywhere.

Verse 4. There shall be no more death] Because there shall be a

general resurrection. And this is the inference which St Paul

makes from his doctrine of a general resurrection, 1Co 15:26,

where he says, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

But death cannot be destroyed by there being simply no farther

death; death can only be destroyed and annihilated by a general

resurrection; if there be no general resurrection, it is most

evident that death will still retain his empire. Therefore, the

fact that there shall be no more death assures the fact that there

shall be a general resurrection; and this also is a proof that,

after the resurrection, there shall be no more death. See the

whole of the note on "1Co 15:27".

Verse 5. Behold, I make all things new.] As the creation of the

world at the beginning was the work of God alone, so this new


These words are true and faithful.] Truth refers to the promise

of these changes; faithfulness, to the fulfilment of these


Verse 6. It is done.] All is determined, and shall be fulfilled

in due time. The great drama is finished, and what was intended is

now completed; referring to the period alluded to by the angel.

I am Alpha and Omega] See Clarke on Re 1:8.

The fountain of the water of life] See on Joh 4:10, 14; 7:37,


The rabbins consider the fountain of the world to come as one of

the particular blessings of a future state. In Sanhedrim, Aboth R.

Nathan, c. 31, it is said, "He will show them the excellency of

the fountain of the future world, that they may accurately see and

consider, and say, Wo to us! what good have we lost! and our race

is cut off from the face of the earth."

Verse 7. Inherit all things] Here he had no inheritance; there

he shall inherit the kingdom of heaven, and be with God and

Christ, and have every possible degree of blessedness.

Verse 8. But the fearful] δειλοις Those who, for fear of

losing life or their property, either refused to receive the

Christian religion, though convinced of its truth and importance;

or, having received it, in times of persecution fell away, not

being willing to risk their lives.

And unbelieving] Those who resist against full evidence. And

sinners, καιαμαρτωλοις, is added here by about thirty excellent

MSS., and is found in the Syrian, Arabic, some of the Slavonic,

and in Andreas and Arethas. On this evidence Griesbach has

admitted it into the text.

The abominable] εβδελυγμενοις Those who are polluted with

unnatural lust.

And murderers] φονευσι Those who take away the life of man for

any cause but the murder of another, and those who hate a brother

in their heart.

And whoremongers] πορνοις Adulterers, fornicators, whores,

prostitutes, and rakes of every description.

Sorcerers] φαρμακοις Persons who, by drugs, philtres,

fumigations, &c., pretend to produce supernatural effects, chiefly

by spiritual agency.

Idolaters] ειδωλολατραις Those who offer any kind of worship or

religious reverence to any thing but God. All image worshippers

are idolaters in every sense of the word.

And all liars] καιπασιτοιςψευδεσι Every one who speaks

contrary to the truth when he knows the truth, and even he who

speaks the truth with the intention to deceive; i.e., to persuade

a person that a thing is different from what it really is, by

telling only a part of the truth, or suppressing some circumstance

which would have led the hearer to a different end to the true

conclusion. All these shall have their portion, τομερος, their

share, what belongs to them, their right, in the lake which

burneth with fire and brimstone. This is the second death, from

which there is no recovery.

Verse 9. The bride, the Lamb's wife] The pure and holy Christian


Verse 10. To a great and high mountain] That, being above this

city, he might see every street and lane of it.

The holy Jerusalem] See Clarke on Re 21:2.

Verse 11. Having the glory of God] Instead of the sun and moon,

it has the splendour of God to enlighten it.

Unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as

crystal.] Among precious stones there are some even of the same

species more valuable than others: for their value is in

proportion to their being free from flaws, and of a good water,

i.e., a uniform and brilliant transparency. A crystal is perfectly

clear, the oriental jasper is a beautiful sea-green. The stone

that is here described is represented as a perfectly transparent

jasper, being as unclouded as the brightest crystal, and

consequently the most precious of its species. Nothing can be

finer than this description: the light of this city is ever

intense, equal, and splendid; but it is tinged with this green

hue, in order to make it agreeable to the sight. Nothing is so

friendly to the eye as blue or green; all other colours fatigue;

and, if very intense, injure the eye. These are the colours of the

earth and sky, on which the eye of man is to be constantly fixed.

To these colours the structure of the eye is adapted; and the

general appearance of the earth and the sky is adapted to this


Verse 12. Had a wall great and high] An almighty defense.

Twelve gates] A gate for every tribe of Israel, in the vicinity

of which gate that tribe dwelt; so that in coming in and going out

they did not mix with each other. This description of the city is

partly taken from Eze 48:30-35.

In Synopsis Sohar, p. 115, n. 27, it is said: "In the palace of

the world to come there are twelve gates, each of which is

inscribed with one of the twelve tribes, as that of Reuben, of

Simeon, &c.: he, therefore, who is of the tribe of Reuben is

received into none of the twelve gates but his own; and so of the


Verse 13. On the east three gates] The city is here represented

as standing to the four cardinal points of heaven, and presenting

one side to each of these points.

Verse 14. The wall-had twelve foundations] Probably twelve

stones, one of which served for a foundation or threshold to each

gate; and on these were inscribed the names of the twelve

apostles, to intimate that it was by the doctrine of the apostles

that souls enter into the Church, and thence into the New


Verse 15. Had a golden reed] Several excellent MSS. add μετρον,

a measure; he had a measuring rod made of gold. This account of

measuring the city seems to be copied, with variations, from

Eze 40:3, &c.

Verse 16. The city lieth foursquare] Each side was equal,

consequently the length and breadth were equal; and its height is

here said to be equal to its length. It is hard to say how this

should be understood. It cannot mean the height of the buildings,

nor of the walls, for neither houses nor walls could be twelve

thousand furlongs in height; some think this means the distance

from the plain country to the place where the city stood. But what

need is there of attempting to determine such measures in such a

visionary representation? The quadrangular form intimates its

perfection and stability, for the square figure was a figure of

perfection among the Greeks; αντρτετραγωνος, the square or

cubical man, was, with them, a man of unsullied integrity,

perfect in all things.

Verse 17. The wall-a hundred and forty and four cubits] This

is twelve, the number of the apostles, multiplied by itself: for

twelve times twelve make one hundred and forty-four.

The measure of a man, that is, of the angel.] The cubit, so

called from cubitus, the elbow, is the measure from the tip of the

elbow to the tip of the middle finger, and is generally reckoned

at one foot and a half, or eighteen inches; though it appears,

from some measurements at the pyramids of Egypt, that the cubit

was, at least in some cases, twenty-one inches.

By the cubit of a man we may here understand the ordinary cubit,

and that this was the angel's cubit who appeared in the form of a

man. Or suppose we understand the height of the man as being here

intended, and that this was the length of the measuring rod. Now

allowing this height and rod to be six feet, and that this was

intended to have some kind of symbolical reference to the twelve

tribes, mentioned Re 21:12, represented by the twelve gates; and

to the twelve apostles, represented by the twelve thresholds or

foundations; then twenty-four, the number of the tribes and

apostles, multiplied by six, make precisely the number one hundred

and forty-four.

Verse 18. The building of the wall of it was of jasper] The

oriental jasper is exceedingly hard, and almost indestructible.

Pillars made of this stone have lasted some thousands of years,

and appear to have suffered scarcely any thing from the tooth of


Pure gold, like unto clear glass.] Does not this imply that the

walls were made of some beautifully bright yellow stone, very

highly polished? This description has been most injudiciously

applied to heaven; and in some public discourses, for the comfort

and edification of the pious, we hear of heaven with its golden

walls, golden pavements, gates of pearl, &c., &c., not considering

that nothing of this description was ever intended to be literally

understood; and that gold and jewels can have no place in the

spiritual and eternal world. But do not such descriptions as these

tend to keep up a fondness for gold and ornaments? In symbols they

are proper; but construed into realities, they are very improper.

The ancient Jews teach that "when Jerusalem and the temple shall

be built, they will be all of precious stones, and pearls, and

sapphire, and with every species of jewels."-Sepher Rasiel

Haggadol, fol. 24, 1.

The same authors divide paradise into seven parts or houses; the

third they describe thus: "The third house is built of gold and

pure silver, and all kinds of jewels and pearls. It is very

spacious, and in it all kinds of the good things, either in heaven

or earth, are to be found. All kinds of precious things, perfumes,

and spiritual virtues, are there planted. In the midst of it is

the tree of life, the height of which is five hundred years;

(i.e., it is equal in height to the journey which a man might

perform in five hundred years,) and under it dwell Abraham, Isaac,

Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, and all that came out of Egypt, and

died in the wilderness. Over these Moses and Aaron preside, and

teach them the law," &c.-Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 13, 4. In the same

tract, fol. 182, 1, we find these words: "Know that we have a

tradition, that when the Messiah, with the collected captivity,

shall come to the land of Israel, in that day the dead in Israel

shall rise again; and in that day the fiery walls of the city of

Jerusalem shall descend from heaven, and in that day the temple

shall be builded of jewels and pearls."

Verse 19. The foundations of the wall] Does not this mean the

foundations or thresholds of the gates? The gates represented the

twelve tribes, Re 21:12; and these foundations or thresholds, the

twelve apostles, Re 21:14. There was no entrance into the city

but through those gates, and none through the gates but over these

thresholds. The whole of the Mosaic dispensation was the

preparation of the Gospel system: without it the Gospel would have

no original; without the Gospel, it would have no reference nor

proper object. Every part of the Gospel necessarily supposes the

law and the prophets. They are the gates, it is the threshold;

without the Gospel no person could enter through those gates. The

doctrine of Christ crucified, preached by the apostles, gives a

solid foundation to stand on; and we have an entrance into the

holiest by the blood of Jesus, Heb 10:19, &c. And in reference to

this we are said to be built on the FOUNDATION of the APOSTLES and

prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone,

Eph 2:20.

The first foundation was jasper] A stone very hard, some species

of which are of a sea-green colour; but it is generally a bright

reddish brown.

The second, sapphire] This is a stone of a fine blue colour,

next in hardness to the diamond.

The third, a chalcedony] A genus of the semipellucid gems, of

which there are four species:-

1. A bluish white; this is the most common sort.

2. The dull milky veined; this is of little worth.

3. The brownish black; the least beautiful of all.

4. The yellow and red; the most beautiful, as it is the most

valuable of all. Hitherto this has been found only in the East


The fourth, an emerald] This is of a bright green colour without

any mixture, and is one of the most beautiful of all the gems, The

true oriental emerald as very scarce, and said to be found only in

the kingdom of Cambay.

Verse 20. The fifth, sardonyx] The onyx is an accidental variety

of the agate kind; it is of a dark horny colour, in which is a

plate of a bluish white, and sometimes of red. When on one or both

sides of the white there happens to lie also a plate of a reddish

colour, the jewellers call the stone a sardonyx.

The sixth, sardius] The sardius, sardel, or sardine stone, is

a precious stone of a blood-red colour.

The seventh, chrysolite] The gold stone. It is of a dusky green

with a cast of yellow. It is a species of the topaz.

The eighth, beryl] This is a pellucid gem of a bluish green


The ninth, a topaz] A pale dead green, with a mixture of yellow.

It is considered by the mineralogists as a variety of the


The tenth, a chrysoprasus] A variety of the chrysolite, called

by some the yellowish green and cloudy topaz. It differs from the

chrysolite only in having a bluish hue.

The eleventh, a jacinth] A precious stone of a dead red colour,

with a mixture of yellow. It is the same as the hyacenet or

cinnamon stone.

The twelfth, an amethyst.] A gem generally of a purple or violet

colour, composed of a strong blue and deep red.

These stones are nearly the same with those on the breastplate

of the high priest, Ex 28:17, &c., and probably were intended to

express the meaning of the Hebrew words there used. See the notes

on the above passages, where these gems are particularly explained.

Verse 21. The twelve gates were twelve pearls] This must be

merely figurative, for it is out of all the order of nature to

produce a pearl large enough to make a gate to such an immense

city. But St. John may refer to some relations of this nature

among his countrymen, who talk much of most prodigious pearls. I

shall give an example: "When Rabbi Juchanan (John) once taught

that God would provide jewels and pearls, thirty cubits every way,

ten of which should exceed in height twenty cubits, and would

place them in the gates of Jerusalem, according to what is said

Isa 54:12,

I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles,

one of his disciples ridiculed him, saying, Where can such be

found, since at present there is none so large as a pigeon's egg?

Afterwards, being at sea in a ship, he saw the ministering angels

cutting gems and pearls; and he asked them for what purpose they

were preparing those. They answered, to place them in the gates of

Jerusalem. On his return he found Rabbi Juchanan teaching as

usual; to whom he said, Explain, master, what I have seen. He

answered, Thou knave, unless thou hadst seen, thou wouldst not

have believed; wilt thou not receive the saying of the wise men?

At that moment he fixed his eyes upon him, and he was reduced into

a heap of bones."-Bava bathra, fol. 77, 1, and Sanhedrim, fol.

100, 1, page 393. Edit. Cocceii. See Schoettgen.

Verse 22. I saw no temple] There was no need of a temple where

God and the Lamb were manifestly present.

Verse 23. No need of the sun] This is also one of the traditions

of the ancient Jews, that "in the world to come the Israelites

shall have no need of the sun by day, nor the moon by

night."-Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 7, 3. God's light shines in this

city, and in the Lamb that light is concentrated, and from him

everywhere diffused.

Verse 24. The nations of them which are saved] This is an

illusion to the promise that the Gentiles should bring their

riches, glory, and excellence, to the temple at Jerusalem, after

it should be rebuilt. See Re 21:26.

Verse 25. The gates of it shall not be shut at all] The

Christian Church shall ever stand open to receive sinners of all

sorts, degrees, and nations.

There shall be no night there.] No more idolatry, no

intellectual darkness; the Scriptures shall be everywhere read,

the pure word everywhere preached, and the Spirit of God shall

shine and work in every heart.

Verse 26. The glory and honour of the nations into it.] Still

alluding to the declarations of the prophets, (see the passages in

the margin, Re 21:24, &c.,) that the Gentiles would be led to

contribute to the riches and glory of the temple by their gifts,


Verse 27. There shall in nowise enter into it any thing that

defileth] See Isa 35:8; 52:1. Neither an

impure person-he who turns the grace of God into lasciviousness,

nor a liar-he that holds and propagates false doctrines.

But they which are written] The acknowledged persevering members

of the true Church of Christ shall enter into heaven, and only

those who are saved from their sins shall have a place in the

Church militant.

ALL Christians are bound by their baptism to renounce the devil

and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world,

and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; to keep God's holy word and

commandments; and to walk in the same all the days of their life.

This is the generation of them that seek thy face, O God of Jacob!

Reader, art thou of this number? Or art thou expecting an eternal

glory while living in sin? If so, thou wilt be fearfully

disappointed. Presuming on the mercy of God is as ruinous as

despairing of his grace. Where God gives power both to will and to

do, the individual should work out his salvation with fear and


Copyright information for Clarke