THE FINAL REGENERATION.—ALL THINGS NEW: NEW HEAVENS; NEW EARTH; NEW JERUSALEM (Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5).
THE NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH.
(1) And I saw a new heaven . . .—The hope of the renewal and restitution of all things had been long cherished. Earlier prophets had sanctioned the hope: Isaiah had told of new heavens and new earth (Isaiah 65:17); Ezekiel had closed his prophecy with the splendid vision of a renewed land of promise (Ezekiel 40-48); Christ Himself had spoken of the era which He inaugurated as the regeneration (Matthew 19:28); His followers soon caught the truth that the outcome of the gospel age would be the realisation of all those marvellous visions with which prophets had sustained the fainting hopes of the people of God. The hope was not to be for ever receding as new height after height was surmounted. It will not always be said, “The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth” (Ezekiel 12:22). The fulfilment may seem to tarry; the unbelieving might doubt or scoff (Matthew 24:43; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:4); but those who felt that the gospel was a power of spiritual regeneration, making all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17), learned to look forward to the widest and fullest restoration, and to expect new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). The characteristic word which runs throughout the description is the word “new.” All things are to be made new: the heavens and earth are new; the Jerusalem is new. There are two words which are translated new in our English version: one of these (neos) relates to time; the other (kainos) relates to quality. The one would be applied to what had recently come into existence; the other to what showed fresh features. The tomb, for example, in which our Lord’s body was laid was new, not in the sense that it had been recently hewn out of the rock, but in the sense that it had never been used before; it may have been long made, but it was one wherein never man was yet laid. To describe it the second word (kainos) is used (Matthew 27:60 and John 19:41). In the same way, the wine-skins (called “bottles” in our English version) required for the new wine were not necessarily wine-skins only just prepared for service, but they were skins which had not grown withered, but retained their freshness and elasticity. Here, again, the second word (kainos) is employed to describe them. Now, it is this latter word which is used throughout this chapter, and, indeed, throughout the book of Revelation. The newness which is pictured is the newness of freshness: the old, decaying, enfeebling, and corrupting elements are swept away. The aspects and features which will surround the inhabitants of that new earth will be full of novelty to satisfy the progressive instincts of our nature; but the imagery no less conveys the assurance that the conservative instinct, which clings to what is old, and finds sanctity in the past, will not be disregarded. All things may be new, full of fresh and fair beauty; but all things will not be strange; there must be some correspondency between the old and the new, when the new things are called new heavens, new earth, new Jerusalem. The description is figurative, but the spirit of it implies that in the restitution age the sweetness of things loved and familiar will blend with the charm of all that is fresh and new.
And there was no more sea.—Or, better, And the sea is (exists) not any more. Among the more detailed features of the new earth, this obliteration of the sea stands first. It is strange that so many commentators should vacillate between literal and figurative interpretations of the chapter; the ornaments and decorations of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10-21) are treated as symbolical; the annihilation of the sea is considered as literal. It is wiser to leave the literal meaning to the future, and to grasp the spiritual teachings, which are of infinite and present interest, The sea has played an important part in the symbolism of the book: out of the sea rose the wild beast (Revelation 13:1); the purple-clad Babylon sat enthroned upon many waters (Revelation 17:1); the restless, tumultuous ocean, now discordant with its clamorous waves, now flooding the earth in confederate force; the troubled sea of evil, which cannot rest, and casts up but mire and dirt (Isaiah 57:21), is no more to be found on the face of that earth, or near that city whose peace is as a river, and whose righteousness as the waves of the sea (Isaiah 48:18), and whose inhabitants are delivered from “the waves of this troublesome world.”
(3) And I heard a great voice out of heaven. . . .—According to the best MSS. the voice now heard was heard “out of the throne,” saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will tabernacle with them. Here, as in Revelation 7:15, the translation, “shall dwell,” weakens the force of the allusion. The tent, or tabernacle, is in the seer’s mind. There is a difference in the prepositions used here and in Revelation 7 : in the latter, God was spoken of as tabernacling over them; here He tabernacles with them. He not only stretches His cloud-shelter over them, but He is with them. They shall be His people, and He shall be God with them, their God. The introduction of the words in italics (“and be”) in our version is a weakness; the force of the thought is spoiled. They are God’s people, and He is their Emmanuel—God with them, their God. The prophet Ezekiel supplies parallel thoughts (Ezekiel 37:27-28; comp. also Leviticus 26:11-12).
“Time with a gift of tears,
Grief with a glass that ran,”
together with “travail and heavy sorrow,” shall be no more. On the whole passage, comp. Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 65:19.
(5) And he that sat upon the throne . . .—Better, And he who sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I am making all things new. And he saith (the words “unto me” should be omitted) write; because these words are faithful and true. It is the Throned one, the One who rules over all things from the beginning, and who has presided over all the changing scenes of earth’s history, who speaks; it is He who makes even the wrath of man to praise Him, and who causes all things to work together for good to them that love Him, who gives this heart-helping assurance. “I am making all things new.” In spite of the moral disorder, the pain and grief, the dark shadows of life and history, the new creation is being prepared, and will rise, like the early creation, out of chaos. The analogy between the old and new creation is the reason why the first chapter of Genesis and the earlier verses of this chapter are appointed as the morning lessons for Septuagesima Sunday; as out of an earth without form and void rose the world of order and beauty, which God pronounced very good, so out of the world, so full of distress and tears, and overshadowed by so many clouds of sin, will emerge the glad new world, wherein dwelleth righteousness. The closing words of the verse, perhaps an instruction from the angel, but more probably still the voice of Him that sits on the throne, adds the further assurance, “These words are true and faithful.”
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end . . .—The definite article must be placed before Alpha and Omega. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Alpha and Omega, whose words are faithful and true, and He is the beginning and the end, who is before all things and by whom all things consist (Colossians 1:17; John 1:1). He finishes as well as begins. He who begins the good work will perform it (Philippians 1:6; Colossians 1:20); all grace flows from Him; and all love flows back to Him, who is Love, who is the cause and end of all, who first makes us, and lastly makes us rest in Him. All the unsatisfied yearnings of the heart may find satisfaction in Him. Hence, perhaps, this promise, I to him that thirsteth will give out of the spring of the water of life freely. No promise shall fail—the needy and thirsty so often invited to Him may find fresh springs of life in Him. (Comp. Isaiah 55:1; John 4:10-14; John 7:37-38.) The blessing is promised freely, as an unbought gift, without money and without price. This is the genius of the good news of God—the gift is free to all. He who understands this will not be afraid to say, “Nothing in my hand I bring;” and he who says this will be he who will also say, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ,” so that he who brings everything brings nothing; and he who brings nothing brings everything, knowing that all is nothing.
(9) And there came unto me one of the seven angels . . .—The words “unto me” should be omitted. One of the seven angels which had the seven vials of wrath had shown to the seer the scarlet-clad harlot, the great and guilty Babylon: so here does one of the same company of angels show him the pure Bride of the Lamb, the new and holy Jerusalem.
Revelation 21:15And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.THE MEASUREMENT OF THE CITY.
(15) And he that talked with me . . .—Or, better, And he who was talking with me had a golden reed . . . The allusion here is to the angel mentioned in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 15:3); the reed, or measuring rod, is of gold, that used in Revelation 11:1 was not said to be of gold; the measurement there was the symbol of preservation amid impending danger; the measuring here is more glorious—it is measuring which exhibits the beauty and proportion of the city which is now dwelling at peace. Gold is one of the features of the city; the street is gold (Revelation 21:18; Revelation 21:21); it may stand, as a token of the wealth (Psalm 72:15; 1 Kings 10:14-21) of the royal city; but the wealth of that city is love. (Comp. Note on Revelation 3:18.)
Revelation 21:18And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.THE BUILDING OR MATERIAL OF THE CITY.
(18) And the building of the wall . . .—Or, And the building-work (or, the masonry, so Alford) of the wall of it was jasper, and the city was pure gold, like pure glass. The general aspect of the city was jasperlike, because the material of the wall was of the jasper stone. On this stone, see Note on Revelation 4:3, and on Revelation 21:11 above. The city was gold. On the meaning of the gold see Note on Revelation 21:15 and on Revelation 3:18. To what has been said may be added the following:—“Gold has an inalienable reference to the sun itself, consequently, to the symbol of the face of God, or Christ, i.e., to the manifestation of God’s love” (Lange).
The wealth of heaven is love; love is the circulating medium of all holy activity and of all holy work: all who dwell within the heavenly city are encompassed by it; all who tread the streets of that city move along the ways of love; no dimness or obscuring motives of self-interest mar its lustre—the gold is clear as pure glass.
The foundation are various. There were in the foundation of the Church diversities of gifts and administrations, but the same Lord and the same spirit. In the heavenly city we have harmony, not monotony; variety, not sameness; unity, not uniformity. The stones are not arranged in the order of the high priest’s breastplate, but according to their various shades of colour, beginning from the foundation.
1.Jaspis, dark opaque green.
2.Sapphirus, Lapis-lazuli, opaque blue.
3.Chalcedon, an Emerald of a greenish hue.
4.Smaragdus, bright transparent green.
5.Sardonyx, white and red.
6.Sardius, bright red.
7.Chrysolite, our Topaz, bright yellow.
8.Beryl, bluish green.
9.Topazion, or Peridot, yellowish green.
10.Chrysoprasus, a darker shade of the same colour.
11.Hyacinthus, Sapphire, sky blue.
“Chrysoprasus is probably an error for Chrysopaston, a dark blue stone, studded with gold, by which substitution all the shades of blue will follow each other.” (See King, On Gems.)
With this blended harmony of colour the foundation-stones would encircle the heavenly city as with a rainbow belt. In the seer’s view the light of the heavenly city would shine with hues that betoken the advent of the morning. The varying tints would glow like pledges of a dayspring from on high.
“Along the tingling desert of the sky,
Beyond the circle of the conscious hills
Were laid in jasper-stone as clear as glass
The first foundations of that new, near Day,
Which should be builded out of heaven to God.
Jasper first, I said;
And second, sapphire; third, chalcedony;
The rest in order;-last, an amethyst.”
The foundation-stones are twelve. “As twelve, they indicate their numerical completeness (Revelation 7, 14); as shining with a common lustre, their unity; as stones of different hues, their manifoldness; as brilliant stones, the glorification of this earthly life through the light of Heaven” (Lange).