Revelation of John 21
A new heaven and a new earth ( ουρανον καινον κα γην καινην ). This new vision ( ειδον ) is the picture of the bliss of the saints.
The first heaven and the first earth ( ο πρωτος ουρανος κα η πρωτη γη )
are passed away ( απηλθαν, went away, second aorist active indicative of απερχομα ). "Fled away" ( εφυγεν ) in 20:11.
And the sea is no more ( κα η θαλασσα ουκ εστιν ετ ). The sea had given up its dead (20:13). There were great risks on the sea (18:17ff.). The old physical world is gone in this vision. It is not a picture of renovation of this earth, but of the disappearance of this earth and sky (not heaven where God dwells). It is a glorious picture here in 21:1-8 in sharp contrast to the lake of fire in 20:11-15. The symbolism in neither case is to be pressed too literally, but a stern and a glorious reality exists behind it all.
The holy city, new Jerusalem ( την πολιν την αγιαν Ιερουσαλημ καινην ). "The New Earth must have a new metropolis, not another Babylon, but another and greater Jerusalem" (Swete), and not the old Jerusalem which was destroyed A.D. 70. It was called the Holy City in a conventional way (Mt 4:5; 27:53), but now in reality because it is new and fresh ( καινην ), this heavenly Jerusalem of hope (Heb 12:22), this Jerusalem above (Ga 4:26ff.) where our real citizenship is (Php 3:20).
Coming down out of heaven from God ( καταβαινουσαν εκ του ουρανου απο του θεου ). Glorious picture caught by John and repeated from 3:12 and again in 21:10. But Charles distinguishes this new city of God from that in 21:9-22:2 because there is no tree of life in this one. But one shrinks from too much manipulation of this symbolism. It is better to see the glorious picture with John and let it tell its own story.
Made ready ( ητοιμασμενην ). Perfect passive participle of ετοιμαζω as in 19:7. The Wife of the Lamb made herself ready in her bridal attire.
As a bride adorned ( ως νυμφην κεκοσμημενην ). Perfect passive participle of κοσμεω, old verb (from κοσμος ornament like our cosmetics), as in 21:19. Only here the figure of bride is not the people of God as in 19:7, but the abode of the people of God (the New Jerusalem).
For her husband ( τω ανδρ αυτης ). Dative case of personal interest.
The tabernacle of God is with men ( η σκηνη του θεου μετα των ανθρωπων ). It is one of the angels of the Presence (16:17; 19:5) speaking.
And he shall dwell with them ( κα σκηνωσε μετ' αυτων ). Future active of σκηνοω, already in 7:15 from Eze 37:27; Zec 2:10; 8:8 and used of the Incarnate Christ on earth by John (Joh 1:14), now a blessed reality of the Father. The metaphor stands for the Shekinah Glory of God in the old tabernacle (7:15; 13:6; 15:5), the true tabernacle of which it was a picture (Heb 8:2; 9:11). God is now Immanuel in fact, as was true of Christ (Mt 1:23).
Shall wipe away every tear from their eyes ( εξαλειψε παν δακρυον εκ των οφθαλμων αυτων ). More exactly, "shall wipe out every tear out of their eyes" (repetition of εξ ) like a tender mother as in 7:17 (Isa 25:8). There is no more that ought to cause a tear, for death ( θανατος ) is no more, mourning ( πενθος ), associated with death and crying ( κραυγη, wailing), and pain ( πονος as in 16:10) are all gone. There is peace and bliss.
Behold, I make all things new ( Ιδου καινα ποιω παντα ). The first time since 1:8 that God has been represented as speaking directly, though voices have come out of the throne before (21:3) and out of the sanctuary (16:1,17), which may be from God himself, though more likely from one of the angels of the Presence. This message is not addressed to John (7:14; 17:7; 21:6; 22:6), but to the entire world of the blessed. See Isa 43:18f. for the words ( Ιδου εγω ποιω καινα ). The idea of a new heaven and a new earth is in Isa 65:17; 66:22; Ps 102:25f. For the locative here with επ ( επ τω θρονω ) see 7:10; 19:4 (genitive more usual, 4:9f.; 5:1,7,13, etc.). See 20:11 for the picture.
And he saith ( κα λεγε ). Probably this means a change of speakers, made plain by μο (to me) in many MSS. An angel apparently (as in 14:13; 19:9f.) assures John and urges him to write ( γραψον as in 1:11; 2:1,8,12,18; 3:1,7,14; 14:3). The reason given ( οτ, for) is precisely the saying in 22:6 and he uses the two adjectives ( πιστο κα αληθινο ) employed in 19:11 about God himself, and 3:14 about Christ. In 19:9 αληθινο occurs also about "the words of God" as here. They are reliable and genuine.
They are come to pass ( Γεγοναν ). Second perfect active indicative of γινομα with -αν for -ασ. See 16:17 for a like use of γεγονεν, "They have come to pass." Here again it is the voice of God because, as in 1:8, He says:
I am the Alpha and the Omega ( Εγω το Αλφα κα το Ο ) with the addition "the beginning and the end" ( η αρχη κα το τελος ), the whole used in 22:13 of Christ. In Isa 44:6 there is something like the addition, and in Col 1:18; Re 3:14 η αρχη is applied to Christ, while here God is the First Cause ( αρχη ) and the Finality ( τελος ) as in Ro 11:36; Eph 4:6. But God works through Christ (Joh 1:3; Heb 1:2f.; Col 1:12-20). God is the bountiful Giver (Jas 1:5,17) of the Water of Life. See 7:17; 22:1,17 for this metaphor, which is based on Isa 55:1. It is God's own promise ( Εγω δωσω ), "I will give."
Of the fountain ( εκ της πηγης ). For this partitive use of εκ see Mt 25:8, without εκ Re 2:17.
Freely ( δωρεαν ). See Mt 10:8; Joh 4:10; Ro 3:24; Ac 8:20; Re 22:17.
He that overcometh ( ο νικων ). Recalls the promises at the close of each of the Seven Letters in chapters 2 and 3.
Shall inherit ( κληρονομησε ). Future active of κληρονομεω, word with great history (Mr 10:17; 1Pe 1:4; Ga 4:7; Ro 8:17), here interpreted for the benefit of these who share in Christ's victory.
I will be his God ( Εσομα αυτω θεος ). Repeated Old Testament promise (first to Abraham, Ge 17:7f.). Cf. Re 21:3.
He shall be my son ( αυτος εστα μο υιος ). Made first of Solomon (2Sa 7:14) and applied to David later in Ps 89:26f.
Their part shall be ( το μερος αυτων ). In contrast to the state of the blessed (verses 3-7) the state of "those who have disfranchised themselves from the Kingdom of God" (Charles) is given. They are with Satan and the two beasts, and are the same with those not in the book of life (20:15) in the lake of fire and brimstone (19:20; 20:10,14f.), that is the second death (2:11; 20:6,14). See also 14:10. There are eight epithets here used which apply to various sections of this direful list of the doomed and the damned, all in the dative (case of personal interest).
For the fearful ( τοις δειλοις ). Old word (from δειδω, to fear) for the cowardly, who recanted under persecution, in N.T. only here, Mt 8:26; Mr 4:40.
Unbelieving ( απιστοις ). "Faithless," "untrustworthy," in contrast with Christ " ο πιστος " (1:5). Cf. 2:10,13; 3:14; 17:14. Disloyalty is close kin to cowardice.
Abominable ( εβδελυγμενοις ). Perfect passive participle of βδελυσσω, old verb, in N.T. only here and Ro 2:22, common in LXX, to pollute (Ex 5:21). Those who have become defiled by the impurities of emperor-worship (7:4f.; 21:27; Ro 2:22; Tit 1:16).
Murderers ( φονευσιν ). As a matter of course and all too common always (Mr 7:21; Ro 1:29; Re 9:21).
Fornicators ( πορνοις ). Again all too common always, then and now (1Co 5:10; 1Ti 1:9f.). These two crimes often go together.
Sorcerers ( φαρμακοις ). Old word, in N.T. only here and 22:15. Closely connected with idolatry and magic (9:21; 13:13f.).
Idolaters ( ειδωλολατραις ). See 1Co 5:10f.; 10:7; Eph 5:5; Re 22:15. With a powerful grip on men's lives then and now.
All liars ( πασ τοις ψευδεσιν ). Repeated in 22:15 and stigmatized often (2:2; 3:9; 14:5; 21:8,27; 22:15). Not a "light" sin.
One of the seven angels ( εις εκ των επτα αγγελων ). As in 17:1 with the same introduction when the angel made the announcement about the harlot city (Babylon), so here the description of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, is given by one of the same group of angels who had the seven bowls. Thus the νυμφη (Bride) is placed in sharp contrast with the πορνη (Harlot). The New Jerusalem was briefly presented in verse 2, but now is pictured at length (21:9-22:5) in a nearer and clearer vision.
The bride the wife of the Lamb ( την νυμφην την γυναικα του αρνιου ). Twice already the metaphor of the Bride has been used (19:7; 21:2), here termed "wife" ( γυναικα ), mentioned proleptically as in 19:7 if the marriage is not yet a reality. For the use of the same metaphor elsewhere in the N.T. see on 19:7.
He carried me away in the Spirit ( απηνεγκεν με εν πνευματ ). See same language in 17:7 when John received a vision of the Harlot City in a wilderness. Here it is "to a mountain great and high" ( επ ορος μεγα κα υψηλον ). So it was with Ezekiel (Eze 40:2) and so the devil took Jesus (Mt 4:8). It was apparently not Mount Zion (14:1), for the New Jerusalem is seen from this mountain. "The Seer is carried thither 'in spirit' (cf. 1:10; 4:1); the Angel's δευρο is a sursum cor to which his spirit under the influence of the 'Spirit of revelation' (Eph 1:17) at once responds" (Swete).
And he shewed me ( κα εδειξεν μο ). First aorist active indicative of δεικνυμ, just as he had said he would do in verse 9 ( δειξω σο, I will shew thee). Precisely the same words about Jerusalem as in verse 2, save the absence of καινην (New).
Having the glory of God ( εχουσαν την δοξαν του θεου ). Syntactically this clause goes with verse 10, the feminine accusative singular participle εχουσαν agreeing with πολιν, the radiance of the dazzling splendour of God as seen in Isa 60:1; Eze 43:5. God's very presence is in the Holy City (the Bride).
Light ( φωστηρ ). "Luminary," late word (in LXX, papyri), in N.T. only here and Php 2:15. Christ is the light ( φως ) of the world (Joh 8:12) and so are Christians (Mt 5:14) who have received the illumination ( φωτισμος ) of God in the face of Christ (2Co 4:6) and who radiate it to men (Php 2:15). See both words in Ge 1:3,14. "The 'luminary' of the Holy City is her witness to Christ" (Swete).
Like unto a stone most precious ( ομοιος λιθω τιμιωτατω ). Associative instrumental case after ομοιος. Τιμιωτατω is the elative superlative.
As it were a jasper stone ( ως λιθω ιασπιδ ). As in 4:3, which see.
Clear as crystal ( κρυσταλλιζοντ ). Verb not found elsewhere from κρυσταλλος (old word, 4:6; 22:1), "of crystalline brightness and transparency" (Thayer), "transparent and gleaming as rock-crystal" (Moffatt).
Having a wall great and high ( εχουσα τειχος μεγα κα υψηλον ). John returns, after the parenthesis in verse 11, to the structure in verse 10, only to use the accusative εχουσαν as before to agree with πολιν, but the nominative εχουσα as again with "twelve gates" ( πυλωνας δωδεκα ). Πυλων is an old word (from πυλη gate) for a large gate as in Lu 16:20 and six times in Rev. for the gate tower of a city wall (Re 21:12,13,15,21,25; 22:14) as in 1Ki 17:10; Ac 14:13. See Eze 48:31ff. for these twelve gates, one for each tribe (cf. Re 7:1-8).
At the gates ( επ τοις πυλωσιν ). "Upon the gate towers."
Twelve angels ( αγγελους δωδεκα ). As πυλωρο or φυλακες according to Isa 62:6; 2Ch 8:14.
Names written thereon ( ονοματα επιγεγραμμενα ). Perfect passive participle of επιγραφω.
Which are the names ( α εστιν ). Just as in Ezekiel's vision (48:31ff.), so here the names of the twelve tribes of Israel appear, one on each gate.
Three gates ( πυλωνες τρεις ) on each of the four sides as in Eze 42:16ff.; "on the east" ( απο ανατολης, as in 16:12, starting from the east), "on the north" ( απο βορρα, from the north, as in Lu 13:29), "on the south" ( απο νοτου, from the south, as in Lu 13:29), "on the west" ( απο δυσμων, from the west, as in Mt 8:11).
Had ( εχων ). Masculine present active participle of εχω instead of εχον (neuter like to τειχος ), and the participle occurs independently as if a principal verb ( ειχεν ) as often in this book.
Twelve foundations ( θεμελιους δωδεκα ). Foundation stones, old adjective (from θεμα, from τιθημ ), here as in 1Co 3:11ff.; 2Ti 2:19, with λιθους (stones understood), though often neuter substantive to θεμελιον (Lu 6:48f.; Ac 16:26). See Isa 28:16; Heb 11:10. Twelve because of the twelve apostles as foundation stones (Eph 2:20).
On them ( επ' αυτων ). On the twelve foundation stones.
Names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb ( ονοματα των δωδεκα αποστολων του αρνιου ). Jesus had spoken of twelve thrones for the apostles (Mt 19:28); names of all twelve are here written, not just that of Peter, as some would argue from Mt 16:18. As a matter of fact, Christ is the corner stone or ακρογωνιαιον (1Pe 2:6; 1Co 3:10; Eph 2:20), though rejected by the Sanhedrin (Mt 21:42ff.). One may wonder if the name of Judas is on that stone or that of Matthias.
Had ( ειχεν ). Regular imperfect here, no longer εχων.
For a measure a golden reed ( μετρον καλαμον χρυσουν ). See 11:1 for καλαμος (reed). Μετρον is an old word, kin to μητηρ (mother, moulder, manager), an instrument for measuring ( μετρεω ) as in Mt 7:2, here in the predicate accusative.
To measure ( ινα μετρηση ). Purpose clause with ινα and the first aorist active subjunctive of μετρεω. The rod of gold was in keeping with the dignity of the service of God (1:12; 5:8; 8:3; 9:13; 15:7).
Lieth foursquare ( τετραγωνος κειτα ). Present middle indicative of κειμα. The predicate adjective is from τετρα (Aeolic for τεσσαρες four) and γωνος ( γωνια corner, Mt 6:5) here only in N.T. As in Eze 48:16,20. It is a tetragon or quadrilateral quadrangle (21:12f.).
The length thereof is as great as the breadth ( το μηκος αυτης οσον το πλατος ). It is rectangular, both walls and city within. Babylon, according to Herodotus, was a square, each side being 120 stadia. Diodorus Siculus says that Nineveh was also foursquare.
With the reed ( τω καλαμω ). Instrumental case (cf. verse 15 for καλαμος ) and for μετρεω (aorist active indicative here)
Twelve thousand furlongs ( επ σταδιων δωδεκα χιλιαδων ). This use of the genitive σταδιων with επ is probably correct (reading of Aleph P), though A Q have σταδιους (more usual, but confusing here with χιλιαδων ). Thucydides and Xenophon use επ with the genitive in a like idiom (in the matter of). It is not clear whether the 1500 miles (12,000 furlongs) is the measurement of each of the four sides or the sum total. Some of the rabbis argued that the walls of the New Jerusalem of Ezekiel would reach to Damascus and the height would be 1500 miles high.
Equal ( ισα ). That is, it is a perfect cube like the Holy of Holies in Solomon's temple (1Ki 6:19f.). This same measurement ( πλατοσ, μηκοσ, υψος ) is applied to Christ's love in Eph 3:18, with βαθος (depth) added. It is useless to try to reduce the measurements or to put literal interpretations upon this highly wrought symbolic language. Surely the meaning is that heaven will be large enough for all, as Jesus said (Joh 14:1ff.) without insisting on the materialistic measurement of a gorgeous apartment house full of inside rooms.
A hundred and forty and four cubits ( εκατον τεσσερακοντα τεσσαρων πηχων ). Another multiple of 12 (12x12=144) as in 7:4; 14:1. It is not clear whether it is the height or the breadth of the wall that is meant, though υψος (height) comes just before. That would be 216 feet high (cf. verse 12), not enormous in comparison with the 7,000,000 feet (1500 miles) height of the city.
According to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel ( μετρον ανθρωπου, ο εστιν αγγελου ). No preposition for "according to," just the accusative case of general reference in apposition with the verb εμετρησεν. Though measured by an angel, a human standard was employed, man's measure which is angel's (Bengel).
The building of the wall ( η ενδωμησις του τειχους ). Or ενδομησις, elsewhere so far only in Josephus (Ant. XV. 9. 6, a mole or breakwater) and in an inscription (Syll. 583 31), apparently from ενδομεω, to build in, and so the fact of building in. The wall had jasper (verse 11) built into it.
Was pure gold ( χρυσιον καθαρον ). No copula ην (was) expressed. The city shone like a mass of gold in contrast with the jasper lustre of the wall.
Pure glass ( υαλω καθαρω ). Associative instrumental case after ομοιον. Hυαλος (apparently from υε, it rains, and so raindrop) in N.T. only Re 21:18,21.
Were adorned ( κεκοσμημενο ). Perfect passive participle of κοσμεω as in verse 2, but without the copula ησαν (were), followed by instrumental case λιθω (stone).
With all manner of precious stones ( παντ λιθω τιμιω ). "With every precious stone." The list of the twelve stones in verses 19,20 has no necessary mystical meaning. "The writer is simply trying to convey the impression of a radiant and superb structure" (Moffatt). The twelve gems do correspond closely (only eight in common) with the twelve stones on the high priest's breastplate (Ex 28:17-20; 39:10ff.; Eze 28:13; Isa 54:11f.). Charles identifies them with the signs of zodiac in reverse order, a needless performance here. See the stones in Re 4:3. These foundation stones are visible. For jasper ( ιασπις ) see 4:3; 21:11,18; Isa 54:12; sapphire ( σαπφειρος ) see Ex 24:10;. Isa 54:11 (possibly the λαπις λαζυλ of Turkestan); chalcedony ( χαλκηδων ) we have no other reference in N.T. or LXX (described by Pliny, H.N. XXXIII.21), possibly a green silicate of copper from near Chalcedon; emerald ( σμαραγδος ) here only in N.T., see 4:3 σμαραγδινος, and like it a green stone.
Sardonyx ( σαρδονυξ ), here only in N.T., white with layers of red, from sardion (red carnelian) and onyx (white); for sardius ( σαρδιον ) see 4:3; chrysolite ( χρυσολιθος ), here only in N.T. (Ex 28:20), stone of a golden colour like our topaz or amber or a yellow beryl or golden jasper; beryl ( βηρυλλος ), again here only in N.T. (Ex 28:20), note the difficulty of identification, much like the emerald according to Pliny; for topaz ( τοπαζιον ), here only in N.T. (Ex 28:17), a golden-greenish stolle; chrysoprase (chrusoprasos), here only in N.T. (not in LXX), in colour like a teek, translucent golden-green; jacinth ( υακινθος ), of the colour of the hyacinth, a violet colour (Pliny), already in 9:17 like blue smoke, like achates in LXX; amethyst ( αμεθυστος ), only here in N.T. (Ex 28:19), of a violet and purple colour, more brilliant than the υακινθος. Swete sums up the colours thus: blue (sapphire, jacinth, amethyst), green (jasper, chalcedony, emerald, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase), red (sardonyx, sardius), yellow (chrysolite). But even so there is great variety in hue and brilliancy and in the reaction on each other. Clement of Alexandria argues that this variety illustrates the variety of gifts and graces in the twelve apostles. Possibly so.
Twelve pearls ( δωδεκα μαργαριτα ). These gate towers ( πυλωνες ) were mentioned in verses 12f. Each of these (cf. Isa 54:12) is a pearl, one of the commonest of jewels (Mt 7:6; 13:46; 1Ti 2:9).
Each one ( ανα εις εκαστος ). Distributive use of ανα, but with the nominative (used as adverb, not preposition) rather than the accusative (as a preposition) as appears also in Mr 14:19; Joh 8:9; with κατα in Ro 12:5, "a barbaric construction" according to Charles.
Street ( πλατεια ). For which word (broad way, οδος understood) see Mt 6:5, here the singular, but includes all the streets.
Transparent ( διαυγης ). Old word (from δια, through, αυγη, ray, shining through), here alone in N.T.
I saw no temple therein ( ναον ουκ ειδον εν αυτη ). "Temple I did not see in it." The whole city is a temple in one sense (verse 16), but it is something more than a temple even with its sanctuary and Shekinah Glory in the Holy of Holies.
For the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb are the temple thereof ( ο γαρ Κυριος ο θεος ο παντοκρατωρ, ναος αυτης εστιν κα το αρνιον ). "For the Lord God, the Almighty, is the sanctuary of it and the Lamb." The Eternal Presence is the Shekinah Glory of God (verse 3). In 2Co 6:16 we are the sanctuary of God here, but now God is our Sanctuary, and so is the Lamb as in chapters Re 4; 5. See 1:8 and often for the description of God here.
To shine upon it ( ινα φαινωσιν αυτη ). Purpose clause with ινα and the present active subjunctive of φαινω, to keep on shining. Light is always a problem in our cities. See Isa 60:19ff.
Did lighten it ( εφωτισεν αυτην ). First aorist active indicative of φωτιζω, to illumine, old verb from φως (Lu 11:36). If the sun and moon did shine, they would give no added light in the presence of the Shekinah Glory of God. See verse 11 for "the glory of God." Cf. 18:1; 21:3. "Their splendour is simply put to shame by the glory of God Himself" (Charles).
And the lamp thereof is the Lamb ( κα ο λυχνος αυτης το αρνιον ). Charles takes ο λυχνος as predicate, "and the Lamb is the lamp thereof." Bousset thinks that John means to compare Christ to the moon the lesser light (Ge 1:16), but that contrast is not necessary. Swete sees Christ as the one lamp for all in contrast with the many λυχνια of the churches on earth (1:12,20). "No words could more clearly demonstrate the purely spiritual character of St. John's conception of the New Jerusalem" (Swete).
Amidst the light thereof ( δια του φωτος αυτης ). Rather "by the light thereof." From Isa 60:3,11,20. All the moral and spiritual progress of moderns is due to Christ, and the nations of earth will be represented, including "the kings" ( ο βασιλεις ), mentioned also in Isa 60:3, "do bring their glory into it" ( φερουσιν την δοξαν αυτων εις αυτην ). Present active indicative of φερω. Swete is uncertain whether this is a picture of heaven itself or "some gracious purpose of God towards humanity which has not yet been revealed" and he cites 22:2 in illustration. The picture is beautiful and glorious even if not realized here, but only in heaven.
Shall in no wise be shut ( ου μη κλεισθωσιν ). Double negative with the first aorist passive subjunctive of κλειω.
By day ( ημερας ). Genitive of time. Mentioned alone without νυκτος (by night), "for there shall be no night there" ( νυξ γαρ ουκ εστα εκε ). This looks like a continued picture of heaven.
They shall bring ( οισουσιν ). Future active indicative of φερω. Rome gathered the merchandise of the world (18:11ff.). The City of God will have the best of all the nations (Isa 60:5,11), an expansion of verse 24.
There shall in no wise enter into it ( ου μη εισελθη εις αυτην ). Double negative again with the second aorist active subjunctive of εισερχομα with εις repeated. Like Isa 52:1; Eze 44:9.
Anything unclean ( παν κοινον ). Common use of παν with negative like ουδεν, and the use of κοινος for defiled or profane as in Mr 7:2; Ac 10:14, not just what is common to all (Tit 1:4).
Or he that ( κα ο ). "And he that."
Maketh an abomination and a lie ( ποιων βδελυγμα κα ψευδος ). Like Babylon (17:4 which see for βδελυγμα ) and 21:8 for those in the lake of fire and brimstone, and 22:15 for "every one loving and doing a lie." These recurrent glimpses of pagan life on earth and of hell in contrast to heaven in this picture raise the question already mentioned whether John is just running parallel pictures of heaven and hell after the judgment or whether, as Charles says: "The unclean and the abominable and the liars are still on earth, but, though the gates are open day and night, they cannot enter." In apocalyptic writing literalism and chronology cannot be insisted on as in ordinary books. The series of panoramas continue to the end.
But only they which are written ( ε μη ο γεγραμμενο ). "Except those written." For "the book of life" see 3:5; 13:8; 20:15. Cf. Da 12:1.
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