THE BINDING OF SATAN
[* NOTE. The following is from an ‘abridged edition’ of Mr. Govett’s four volumes on the Apocalypse, pp. 319-375.
Published by The Voice of Deeper Truth – P.R.H.
Washington 9, D.C.
No copyright on this edition.]
“A FOREWORD” AND “PREFATORY NOTE”
“This book is an abridged edition of Govett’s four volumes on the Apocalypse, which are now totally out of print.* Govett’s excellence does not lie in his style, in his mastery of language of learned authors, but in infinitely the most important of all the qualities of a commentator, a disclosure of the exact meaning of the Holy Ghost. In all my life I have discovered no author so exactly aware of what God has said; and who is able to make it clear in plain and simple language.
[* NOTE. All four volumes have since been republished by Lewis Schoettle.]
There is no book more important to the world at
this moment than the apocalypse. It is
our Lord’s warning to both the church and the world of the awful cataclysmic
events that will crowd the closing epoch.
The Apocalypse reveals judgments simply preliminary to a never ending
Hell; and it closes with an exquisite picture of the
- D. M. PANTON.
“Mr. GOVETT’S four volumes on the Revelation, in a complete set, have long been unobtainable. It is inevitable that in this abridged edition, containing less than a fourth of the original, much critical and even essential matter has had to be omitted, together with proofs decisive on many disputed points. So also the cost of printing has made it necessary to omit his penetrating and pulverizing criticisms of all interpretations of the Apocalypse which, by taking it as a huge symbol, reduce it to the unintelligible. Scripture quotations also, most regrettably, have had to be given as references only. Nevertheless, to quote Mr, Spurgeon, ‘Mr. Govett wrote a hundred years before his time and the day will come when his works will be treasured as sifted gold’; and this exposition of the Revelation without a peer was never more vital or more urgent than in the moment when we are manifestly entering the penumbra of the last judgments.”
ADDED NOTE (1920)
On (1) Manuscripts, (2) Versions, and (3) Critical Editions of Text
“As Govett refers (not infrequently) in footnotes to Greek manuscripts of the Apocalypse, as well as to versions and “critical” editions of the text, the following remarks may be added for the benefit of those who do not know Greek.
“There are three complete, and two incomplete, “uncial” MSS. of the Apocalypse. These are all very old, and are called
uncials because written in capital letters.
Of these uncials the most important are  … (the
Sinai Codex, edited by Tischendorf in 1862),  A (the Alexanderine
Codex, now in the
“Of great critical scholars referred to by Govett, a high
place must be assigned to Tregelles
(1813-1875), whose work on the text of the New Testament is of the greatest
importance. Along with Tregelles must be
put the German scholar Tischendorf (1815-1874),
who discovered the Sinai Codex
“The Greek text of the Revised Version of the New Testament (1881) was not issued till many years after the publication of Govett’s work; its importance is not very great in itself, save in so far that it represents, more or less, the views of the late Bishop Westcott and Dr. F. J. A. Hort, whose famous edition of the Greek Text appeared in the same year. At the present time Westcott and Hort’s text (generally known as W. H.) is the text used by all scholars.”
EXPOUNDED BY SCRIPTURE
BY ROBERT GOVETT
Late Fellow of
(Abridged from the Four Volume Edition, 1864)
* * * * * * *
THE BINDING OF SATAN
Revelation 20: 1-3. “And I saw an angel coming down out of the heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain on his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and locked and sealed (it) over him, that he should not deceive the nations any more, until the thousand years were fulfilled: after that he must be loosed a little while.”
The victory over men is not sufficient. The Evil Spirit, by whose instigation the troops were collected and the battle joined, needs to be arrested. For want of this, former successes have been turned into defeats, sooner or later. New plot have been framed by the great Deceiver; and new tools found to carry them into effect. Justice then proceeds to seize the chief culprit.
The key that was lent him awhile was taken away to heaven. It is brought again to earth only to be used against him.
He is dealt with by himself: he is not a man, but a spirit. He is not found, like the others, with arms in his hands. Hence his treatment is different: an angel seizes him. He is beyond man’s power to retain. In chapter 21. Michael the archangel and his angels cast him down after a battle. Now there is no fight: but a single angel arrests him.
By the act of angels Satan was defeated on high. By an angel he is arrested on earth. This is the last act of an angel in open interference on the earth. The millennium is the time, not of angels’ rule, but of men’s.
He has “a great chain on his hand.” The key is in the angel’s hand; the chain is coiled up around it. The chain is long and heavy: for it is to bind the great and strong dragon. His jailor is duly furnished for his office.
He seizes the fallen spirit. If I mistake not, Satan when cast down to earth will appear visible: as visible as he did to Eve. The world will not receive the Holy Spirit, “because it seeth him not.” It will receive the great Adversary: will it not be, because it seeth him? To show that the same fallen being who tempted Eve in the garden is now removed from the scene of his wickedness, both the angel and the Tempter will, I suppose be seen. Good angels made themselves visible: so may evil angels. Angels ate with Abraham: why may not angels be bound? Another example of this binding of angels has previously arisen. 9: 14, 15. And in Peter and Jude like assertions are made. 2 Pet. 2.; Jude 6. Those angels who fell long after Satan, and received Jesus’ preaching, when as a spirit He entered the place of spirits, now come forth from their darkness and chains to be judged, and to be released. It is “the judgment of the great day.” Satan, after long liberty, is cast into the close durance from which they have just been delivered.
He is cast into “the bottomless pit.”
It is very remarkable how different a style of punishment overtakes Satan, from that which arrests his two coadjutors. They are cast into the lake of fire: he, into the bottomless pit. But the reason of this difference is, that his two assistants were already in the bottomless pit, ere he released them. They go, therefore, into hell proper, or the Gehenna of fire. Satan himself has not yet suffered more than ejection from heaven: imprisonment in the bottomless pit is therefore his sentence.
The angel further locks and seals the pit-door. The open pit was the signal for God’s terrible judgments on men. ’Twas the time of woe to earth: locusts tormented and the False Christ deceived. It remained open all the time of Satan’s power. The angel has not to open the pit, in order to cast Satan into it.
Now the pit is shut and locked again. Its sulphurous flames and terrible executioners shall no more be free to come forth.
What is the intent of all these actions? That Satan’s deception of the nations of the earth may no longer be carried on. Deception is his constant trade. His angels may deceive individuals: he deceives nations. The truth is against him, he is therefore driven to use falsehood. He excites false hopes. He makes promises of success in sin, which are sure to end in the destruction of his dupes. He knows from the first the wrath which will descend on himself and them: but still he goes on. His deceits prevail: the old serpent rules the old man.
But Satan must be loosed again after the thousand years are over. Why?
It were not necessary that we should be able to see the reason of this “must” on God’s part. But I think several very substantial and satisfactory ones may be assigned.
1. The great aim of God in this and in all other things is not to glorify man, but Himself. His design is to display the gulf which severs the Creator unchangeable in holiness, from the creature perpetually changing to evil, whenever he is tried, and not upheld by sovereign grace. It will probably be fancied, as it is imagined by some now, that Jesus is to appear in person, to raise the dead, to rule the earth, to give authority to His saints, to cut off His foes, and to display them burning in the fiery lake, that none will be found hardy enough to attempt to resist Him. God means, on the other hand, to discover to us, that man, placed under the most favourable circumstances, will yet fall if left to his own choice under temptation. Yes, even against Christ in person he can rebel!
2. This displays the foreknowledge of God. Ages ere they take place, God has foretold the things that shall be. The choice of men, and of Satan himself, is discerned by Him from afar. Much as Satan must desire to dishonour God, and to prove His words false, still his hatred of God will prevail, and thus will he act. God knows, too, what man is, and how he will choose. Man is unchanged in nature, wherever grace has not stepped in to heal.
3. This discovers to us Satan’s incurable wickedness, and the enduring character of sin in general. Though he foresees the coming wrath of God, he is not even restrained for awhile from open acts of rebellion against God. Sin overlaps all calculations of self interest, all past results of experience, all threatenings of God.
4. This discovers also to us the futility of the ideas of many on a point of much importance. Many will not believe God’s testimony concerning the eternity of punishment. They trust in the efficacy of penal inflictions on the sinful to restore them to a right mind. “The fire will burn out the dross from the corrupt: the gold will at length appear.” This is a false and foolish supposition. It is here negatived by the voice of prophecy. The mighty intellect of Satan knows the unchangeable holiness of God, sees that as long as God shall be holy, and himself sinful, so long God must be against him. He has experienced imprisonment a thousand years: has felt the superior might of the Most High: has learned by the slow lapse of centuries how vain are all his plans, how uniformly defeat has extinguished them. Surely, then, we should be apt to imagine, he will say to himself - “It is folly to strive with God. This heavy captivity of a thousand years has not indeed destroyed my hatred of God, but it has at least taught me prudence. I will not offend against Him openly. I will keep my enmity locked in my own bosom. I am once again at liberty: I will not do aught rebellious again to forfeit it, and to draw down final and eternal wrath.” Is such the result? Nothing of the kind. He is the tiger; while enclosed in his dungeon, his love of blood is undiminished by his captivity: and as soon as his prison doors are loosed, he is off to his jungle and his prey once more.
4. “And I saw thrones, and (men) sat upon them, and judment was given unto them: and (I saw) the souls of those that had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus, and because of the Word of God: and whoever worshipped not the Wild Beast, nor his image, nor received his mark on their forehead, or on their hand, both lived and reigned with the Christ a thousand years. 5. And the rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were fulfilled. This is the first resurrection. 6. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; over these the second death hath not authority, but they shall be priests of God and of the Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
We have now arrived at a much controverted portion of the book: may the Holy Spirit enlighten us with true conceptions of the period described!
We inquire first:-
Is the resurrection here spoken of FIGURATIVE or LITERAL?
This is the great point of controversy on this book. We think that the case is very easily decided.
We ask first - Will the literal interpretation stand here? It will. [Page 322] Does it produce absurdity to suppose that the resurrection may be of persons really slain, By no means. Then the literal interpretation is the true one.
Allegorists would have us believe that the resurrection here spoken of is a figurative and corporate one. “The party of Antichrist is put down, the Christian party (or the Church) is exalted and in power.”
Now we reply first, That if this resurrection may be explained away, so may all others. We answer next, That if the resurrection be figurative and corporate, the death which precedes it is figurative and corporate also. We forbid you, then, to assume that Christ’s cause is put down by the literal beheading and slaughter of individual believers. That is literal death, and you may not steal our weapon. There may be the figurative and corporate extinction of a party, by the dying out of the principles which created it, in the minds of its partisans. That you may take, if you will: and if you are Calvinists, you will find it a live bombshell in the camp.
We proceed, then, to apply our lever. The death which is suffered by the saints is literal and individual; such, therefore, is the resurrection. The first proposition needs no long proof. It will not be denied that Jesus calls His followers literally and individually to die for Him. Matt. 10: 21, 28, 30; 24: 9; Rev. 1: 13; 6: 11; 13: 15; Luke 12: 4, 5, etc. It will not be disputed, either, that not a few have, in obedience to our Lord’s words, simply and literally given up life for His name. As, then, the life surrendered was literal and individual, literal and individual is the life restored.
We advance. Is the second resurrection literal or figurative?
Hitherto it has been assumed almost universally, that the judgment of the dead (verses 11-15) is a literal resurrection. But if that be literal, then, as the first resurrection is related to the second, as a part to the rest of one great whole, if the second resurrection be literal, so is the first. You cannot have the real root of a figurative tree; or the figurative branch of a literal tree.
The question may be brought to a point briefly thus. On anti-Millennarian views, the present dispensation is to continue till the end of the world. More and more is the gospel to increase, and to subject at length all nations to its sway, while believers become more and more patterns of everything good and holy. Whence, then, is to come the burning up of the globe for sin? Where is the evil on man’s part, and the wrath on God’s, which are to be the causes of the world’s destruction? On this view, Christ should return, only to welcome His people, and they to receive Him with joy. What say the Scriptures about our Lord’s second advent? Joel 3.; Isa. 13., 24.; Matt. 24., etc.
“I saw thrones, and the souls of the beheaded.” (Accusative case.) “And whoever worshipped not lived.” (Nominative case.)
Three classes are named in the verse.
1. The first is indefinite. “Men sat on the thrones.”
2. The second consists of early martyrs for God’s cause.
3. The third is composed of those who struggle with the last enemy, even Antichrist.
To these three parties [the ‘first] resurrection’ and royalty are assigned.
The thrones of the twenty-four elders on high have disappeared: they are seen no more. Here are unnumbered thrones set on [this restored] earth.
What, then are the conditions of obtaining a seat on one of these thrones?
The occupants of them are here spoken of only indefinitely. They are, I believe, the same parties who descended with Christ as His army. This would appear more clearly, if we read verses 1-3 of this chapter as a parenthesis. The army of warriors who come with Christ reign with Christ. As those who fought with Joshua, with Joshua inherited the land; so those who with Christ war, with Him reign.
“Will all believers, then, reign with Christ?” By no means. The kingdom of the thousand years is never said to belong to those who only believe. There are not a few texts addressed to [regenerate] believers which declare that certain classes of them shall not enter the kingdom.
(1) Those whose (active) righteousness shall not exceed that of the Pharisees. Matt. 5: 20.
(2) Those who, while professors of Christ’s name, do not the will of His Father. Matt. 7: 21.
(3) Those guilty of strife, envy, and contention. Luke 9: 46-50; Mark 9: 33-50; Matt. 18: 1-3.
(4) Rich disciples [i.e., whose who allow their riches to “choke” “the word of the kingdom” and “they become unfruitful” (Matt. 13: 19, 22, R.V.)]. Matt. 19: 23; Luke 6: 24; 18: 24.
(5) Those who deny the millennium. Luke 18: 17; Mark 10: 15.
(6) The un-baptized. John 3: 5.
(7) See also 1 Cor. 6: 9, 10; Gal. 5: 19-21; 6: 7, 8; Matt. 10: 32, 39; 16: 26; 18: 17, 18; Luke 9: 26.
“But will only the martyrs have part in the millennial kingdom?”
This is making the gate too narrow, as the other makes it too wide. Those who suffer for Christ, even though not unto death, will reign with Christ. Rom. 8: 17; 2 Tim. 2: 11, 12.
The conquerors [i.e., the overcomers] in Christ generally will have part in it. Rev. 2: 26, 27. Those who “receive the abundance of the grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life by the one Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5: 17). (See Greek.)
But many other texts describe those [also from Old Testament times] who will partake of the first resurrection.
“And judgment was given unto them.”
There seems to be a direct reference to Dan. 7. “The judgment was [Page 324] set, and books were opened” (10), “The saints of the heavenlies (Heb.) shall take the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever” (18). The False Christ prevailed “Until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given unto the saints of the heavenlies: and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (22). (See also ver. 27, and 2: 44.) Thus the latter portion of the verse expounds the former. We learn that the thrones which John saw were no mere pageant of royalty; but that royal power to decide causes, and to pass sentence, and to regulate the nations, accompanied the outward ensigns of sovereignty.
This is the more observable, as contrasted with God’s previous injunctions upon His Church. Jesus forbade His disciples to act the civil magistrate, as unsuited to the present dispensation of mercy, and to their own sinful condition now. “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7: 1, 2; 5: 40). “Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come” (1 Cor. 4: 5). And the apostle blames the Corinthian believers who were already full, and rich, and “reigning as kings” while apostles were hungry, thirsty, naked, in danger of death. He desired indeed, that both might reign together. 1 Cor. 4: 8-14. But all reigning now, while our Lord is rejected, is the exercise of judgment “before the time.” There is judging indeed of those within the Church; but, as regards the world, the apostle disclaims it. “What have I to do to judge them that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God will judge”* (1 Cor. 5: 12, 13).
* So read the best MSS., and the critical editions.
Jesus Himself, when asked to decide in a civil suit, refused. “Man, who made Me a judge, or a divider over you?” (Luke 12: 14). He refused to judge, because, as He said, He came not to judge, but to save the world. John 12: 47.
But now Jesus is sent forth with power to reign, and to subdue all to His Father.
Hence now is fulfilled the word, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain unto this life?” (1 Cor. 6: 2, 3).
“And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded.” “How,” say some, “can a soul be seen?” Very easily: the [disembodied] soul or ghost - [now in the underworld of “Hades” (Lk. 16: 23; Acts 2: 27)] - resembles the body which it has left and is perfectly an object of sight, although it cannot be handled. Thus Saul saw the soul or ghost of Samuel [1 Sam. 28: 14, R.V.].
Why it is noticed so specially, that John saw the souls of “the beheaded with an axe,” it is not easy to say. It is not meant to exclude those slain by other modes of death. Else the apostle Peter would be shut out, because he was crucified; the apostle James, and John Baptist, for they were slain, not with an axe, but with a sword; and John himself, who was put into a cauldron of boiling oil, but escaped alive. So also the Two Witnesses would be excluded, for they are to be crucified; and those who have endured the more fearful death by fire. [Page 325] The beheading by axe is probably mentioned, because it was, or because it will be the more common mode of death to the saints. The Romans scourged with the lictor’s rods, and then beheaded with his axe. This view is confirmed by the word used concerning those ‘under the altar’ [Rev. 6: 9-11]: of them it is only said that they were “slain,” the mode of death being left undefined.
Here, then, the martyrs alone appear. But they are only one of three classes. And the difficulty experienced by Burgh and others with regard to the passage, as though martyrs alone would be partakers of the first resurrection - has arisen from overlooking the previous class, which is not composed exclusively of the slain for Christ. The beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, and many other passages, prove that others also shall partake in the joys of that day of glory. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”; that is, the millennial kingdom. So it is promised to the doers of God’s will (Matt. 7: 21), and the vehement [Christian] seekers after it. (11: 12.) Also the Saviour promises a recompense at “the resurrection of the righteous,” for those who make feasts not to receive a return now, but for such as cannot requite them. Luke 14: 12, 14. Jesus in the Seven Epistles promises chiefly reward to works: here consolation is held out chiefly to the sufferers for Him.
Why were these servants of God slain?
“For the witness of Jesus.” This marks them as martyrs of the New Testament. John describes himself as thus suffering for his testimony. Rev. 1: 2, 9. They “did well, and suffered for it.” This is our strange calling: quite contrasted with that of men under Moses’ law, where obedience was to win honour and present reward. Deut. 4: 6. These were slain not for sin, but for holiness. These bearers of Jesus’ flag of truce into the camp of the rebels were assassinated by those whom they came to serve. Thus they resemble Christ, and are by His Father “counted worthy” to reign [in the millennium] with Jesus. They lost their lives for Him. A thousand years requites the loss of ten or twenty for Jesus’ sake.
Behold the fulfilment here of that favourite word of Jesus, so often recorded by the Holy Ghost. “He that found his life (soul) shall lose it; and he that lost his life (soul) for My sake shall find it” Matt. 10: 39 (Greek); (16: 25, 26; Mark 8: 35-37; Luke 9: 24; 17: 33; John 12: 25). Those who gave up life for Christ receive the peculiar bliss of the thousand years: those who saved life by refusing to witness for Christ, or by denying Him, lose life - they are not [resurrected at the time of the ‘First Resurrection’ or] admitted to the glory of the thousand years.
There were others slain “for the word of God.”
This distinguishes the saints of the Old Testament. They are described in the same terms at the
fifth seal. The
The next words point out to us another group.
“And whosoever worshipped not the Wild Beast, nor his image, nor received the mark on their forehead or their hand, both lived and reigned with the Christ a thousand years.”
A new class is here presented to us: a new construction ushers it in. The False Christ is the enemy whom Jesus finds in possession of the field at His return. But there are a few, who, upheld by the spirit of God, and fearing the awful threatenings of this book, refuse to adore him. To such belongs a place in the millennial kingdom, to whatever dispensation they might have been assigned originally, whether believers in Jesus, born under the law of Moses, or dwellers in heathen lands.
While the dragon and his king rule, the mark which carries damnation is set by each on his person. But soon Satan’s king is dethroned, and he himself imprisoned, and now the heroic refusers of his image and mark live and reign. We have been introduced to this company before, in the conquerors who stand on the sea of fire. 15: 2. As they have peculiarly suffered for God, they have peculiar glory and bliss.
These three classes, then, “both lived and reigned with the Christ a thousand years.” The companies of saints named in chapters 5: 9, 10; 6: 9; 7: 9; 12: 11; 15: 2; all meet in this time of reward. All three classes consist (in general) of the dead restored to life. The Hebrew Word “lived” includes the idea of a return to life. “The soul of the child comes into him again, and he returned to life” (1 Kings 17: 22). “As they were burying a man ... when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha he revived (returned to life) and stood upon his feet” (2 Kings 13: 21; 20: 7; Isa. 38: 9). That is the sense of the Greek also, as we find in this book, 1: 18, where it is spoken of Jesus’ return to life after death.
In the faith of this lies the especial consolation of those called to suffer persecution unto death for Jesus’ sake. “If all the saved will be possessors of the same duration of glory, why should so many pass quietly through life, and I have to endure suffering, imprisonment, martyrdom? Why should I not yield for peace’ sake, and for the sake of self-preservation (the first law of nature), what is required of me.”
Here is the answer vividly given. “Because by so doing, you lose the special glory of the thousand years, and meet Christ’s face of displeasure. Surrender life, and a thousand years of joy are provided by God to recompense that small loss endured for His sake.” “Faithful is the saying, for if we died with Him, we shall live with Him. If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him, if we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2: 11, 12). The “we” who suffer, are the “we” who reign. Real as the headsman’s axe now, so real the throne to the sufferer. Can the martyr be one party, and the reward be given to one that never suffered, nor is to suffer? Is that the act of “the righteous Judge?”
They not only lived, “they reigned with the Christ.”
These favoured ones “reign” with Christ. “Life” and a “kingdom” [Page 327] are by no means necessarily
connected. This, then, communicates to
us the news of a fresh privilege. They
not only live [‘in a new
heaven and new earth’ (21: 1)] with Christ; with Him [upon this restored earth (
[* During a brief conversation with a Presbyterian Minister in Belfast, I said the reason why Abraham has not yet received God’s promise of an “inheritance” in ‘the land’ (Gen. 13: 14, R.V.), was because he has not yet been resurrected from the dead: his disembodied “soul” - unlike that of his Messiah’s - is presently with David’s soul in “Hades” (Lk. 16: 23, 30, 31; Acts 2: 27, 31, 34).
His reply to Stephen’s words - (a man described as: “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” Acts 6: 5b, R.V., who is recorder to have said: “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, Get thee out of thy land, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Haran: and from thence, when his father was dead, God removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell: and he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: and he promised he would give it to him in possession, and to his seed after him…” Acts 7: 2b-5, R.V.) – was: “the Presbyterian Church do not teach that!”
Why not? Because ‘the Presbyterian Church,’ in Northern Ireland - of which he was the Moderator at that time - would prefer to believe what most other Protestant Churches believe and teach: – that we can now ascend into Heaven, without a glorified and immortal body, and at the time of Death instead of at the time when our Lord Jesus will return to resurrect the holy dead (1 Thess. 4: 16)!
This false theology, which is so popular throughout Christendom today, is contrary to what we read throughout the Scriptures of truth; and contrary to what Christ, His prophets, and His Apostles taught! Gen. 37: 35; Num. 16: 30; 1 Sam. 28: 11-19; Psa. 139: 8b; Isa. 26: 19; 27: 6; Jer. 12: 15b; Matt. 12: 40; 16: 18; John 3: 13; 14: 3; 20: 17; 2 Tim. 2: 17, 18; Rev. 6: 9-11, etc. etc,.]
At length they reign awhile: for a thousand years, while the [present] earth lasts. Afterwards when the earth is destroyed, they reign for ever and ever. 22: 5. If the reign here be only figurative, so is the reign there.
At this point most of the year-day interpreters are inconsistent. For if a day in prophecy signify a year, then the thousand years of bliss intend a period of 365,000 years! Or if they affirm the thousand years to be only literal years, then we hold them to the inference that the thousand and odd days must be literal days. This follows, not only from the principle of consistency in computation, but also on the ground of equity. Can it be accordant with justice, that the False Christ should rule two thousand and sixty years longer than the True Christ?
5. “And the rest of the dead lived not* until the thousand years were finished.”
* So read the best MSS. and the Critical Editions.
If this be the revival of a party of holy men, it is not “the
first,” or the twentieth. “But,” it is replied, “there
was a resurrection also of dead persons before this, as Jairus’ daughter,
Lazarus, and others” (Matt. 27: 52, 53). The
Holy Spirit does not reckon those cases as the first resurrection. The resurrection is not the mere act of
rising; it includes the [millennial] glory then possessed. The time of
enjoyment and reigning with Christ ensuing
on the rising [out] from the dead, is here taken into account. The raptures of the saints occur in different
battalions. But all resurrections,
beginning to be reckoned from the thousand years, and introducing their
partakers into the [millennial]
“This is the first resurrection.” Here is a word of explanation, resembling many like passages in the book. That must be taken literally, whatever be symbolic. Then resurrection is not figurative here, but literal. The sacred writer in saying, “the first resurrection,” [unto immortality; and unlike all other previous resurrections] implies that there is a second. He implies, too, that while the resurrections differ in regard of time or order, they are of the same description in regard of their essence as resurrections.
To the overcoming saint Jesus promises a place on His throne as distinct from His Father’s, a place on that which He now occupies. 3: 21. Where is Christ’s throne seen to be distinct from the Father’s? Not in chapters 4. and 5. There Jesus is between the throne and the elders. Not in the final state of things in the city. There it is “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22: 1). It must be, then, in this chapter, 20: 4. There the throne of the Christ is set up, and favoured ones reign with Him.
The elders, when Christ takes the book, confess His worthiness, because of His death, and acknowledge those whom He has made priests and kings, and who will reign over the earth. 5: 9, 10.
This is nowhere asserted or beheld, if not fulfilled in 20: 4. For after it, the earth is wholly destroyed.
5. When the seventh trumpet sounds, “The kingdom of the world becomes that of our Lord and of His Christ” (11: 15). And the elders describe further the results which ensue. God exerts His power and reigns. The nations are wroth, and God’s wrath descends. Neither of these is the case now. ’Tis the time of mercy: the nations are indifferent. ’Tis then the time of reward to God’s people, and of destruction to the destroyers of earth. Neither of these things is going on now. ’Tis the evil day, as yet, of the combat with Satan. Eph. 6: 10-18. ’Tis not the destruction of the wicked now. But God is “reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Cor. 5: 19).
The kingdom has come to heaven, when favoured saints [at Christ’s return (1 Thess. 4: 16, 17)], awaking from the dead in
resurrection-bodies, are caught up to God’s throne, and are rapt thither that
they may rule the nations with rod of iron. 12: 5-12. They reign, after Satan is cast down, first
from heaven, and then into the pit. Neither of these things has yet been
effected. Not yet is it “Woe to earth,
because Satan has but a short time!”
Or else “woe also to the saints:” because the day of the Lord, the great
and very terrible, is upon them! Against
this the Holy Spirit comforts His watchful ones [who will “prevail to escape” (Lk. 21: 36, R.V.)]. The presence of the Lord will
gather us to itself ere the falling away [i.e. the apostasy] from Christianity takes place, and the
great apostle of Satan’s Lie appears. 2 Thess. 2:
9. Not yet has a king of
Of the resurrection of reward there are several notices.
1. Jesus advises His disciples to make feasts for those who cannot repay them, because they should be “blessed,” and be “recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14: 14). There are, then, two resurrections: one for the righteous alone.
2. Jesus, in His reply to the Sadducees, says, “They which shall be accounted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from among the dead (not, ‘from death’), neither marry, nor are given in marriage. Neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection” (Luke 20: 34-36). That resurrection into which none but persons “accounted worthy” can enter, must be a resurrection of the righteous only. It is identified with a special portion of time - “that age.” All who partake of it are God’s sons, because they partake of it. This could not be true, if the wicked and the righteous rise together. It must be, then, the resurrection of Rev. 20., for “Blessed and holy is he that has part in that.” The righteous only partake of that.
3. There is a “resurrection of life,” for those “who have done good” [Page 329] (John 5: 29). After it comes the resurrection of judgment, for those who have done evil. How clearly the two resurrections of Rev. 20. expound this!
4. In Phil. 3: 11, Paul tells us what was “the prize of his calling” towards which he pressed onward. “If by any means I might attain to the select resurrection that is from amongst the dead” (Greek). Here is a resurrection which leaves many in their graves, a select resurrection. ’Tis a resurrection of privilege, not obtained even by all believers. For was not Paul a believer when he wrote those words? Yet he was seeking for it, as a prize proposed to believers. He feared lest, “having acted the herald to others, he himself should become rejected” with regard to this prize. 1 Cor. 9: 27. (Greek).
5. He confirms this in Rom. 6: 5. Speaking of those immersed upon the profession of faith in Christ, and thus buried and risen with Christ in baptism, he adds, “For if we became planted together in the likeness of His death, yea we shall be also of the resurrection” (see Greek). See to it, believer, that that “if” does not impede your entrance into the [coming millennial] kingdom!
6. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the Second Death hath not authority, but they shall be priests of God, and of the Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
The general description of the risen as “blessed and holy,” is the result of Jesus’ previous adjudication of them. The king has called His servants before Him; but some have behaved themselves unworthy of their calling as servants, and have been dismissed as unworthy to partake that reward.
Those that enter the kingdom are “blessed.” They are happy in their circumstances: they are “holy,” in relation to their state.
“Blessed” is the word continually used by our Lord to describe the lot of those partaking the millennial kingdom. “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5: 3-11; Luke 6: 20; 12: 37, 38, 43). “Thou shalt be blessed: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14: 14, 15).
Their blessedness seems to have an especial reference to their
situation, as kings; their holiness is in closest connection with their
priesthood. The world taunted them as
hypocrites in their life, despised them as fools and fanatics, that threw away
the good things and enjoyments of the world for nought. But they trusted the promises of God and are
not deceived. Their holiness is owned,
and as pure of heart they have access to God. Their suffering for Christ is
confessed, and rewarded with [an
inheritance in] the [millennial]
[* Cf. Gal. 5: 21; Eph. 5: 5, etc.]
Happiness and holiness are now wedded together, never to be
severed. Here holiness is often led into
deepest trouble, through the might of Satan, the wickedness of the world, the
weakness and struggles of the flesh.
This is the resurrection and kingdom of “the saints,” as foretold by Daniel 7: 18, 22, 27.
Those then, who, though [regenerate] believers, have displayed an unsanctified spirit and conduct, will be excluded. [Page 330] 1 Cor. 6: 8-11. “Ye are doing wrong and
defrauding, and that your brethren.
Know ye not that unrighteous persons shall
not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor
idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor Sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall
* For the corrections, see the Greek.
[** Note the words “were” which I have shown in bold type after the words “such were some of you” - a description of their behaviour before they became Christians.
The Apostle then proceeds to draw a striking comparison from their position as Christians: “but ye were washed clean, but ye were justified, but ye were sanctified,” - at the time of their conversion. But what their behaviour once was, some time after their conversion, it had ceased! They became backsliders and ungodly before God and toward each other! Hence the need of the Apostle’s severe warning against the loss of the inheritance in Messiah’s coming millennial kingdom.
The K.J.V. translation reads: “but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified.” “And hence some have read it, as if the previous assertion of their injustice and fraud were hereby contradicted. But a glance at the original destroys any such idea. The verbs are in the indefinite past (Aorist); and the apostle contrasts what they were before conversion, with what they became at conversion.” (R. Govett.)]
And he warned them to let no thought of election or conversion, or of the privileges of believers in Christ, embolden them to persevere in the way of sin, with the hope that no threats of God could apply to His elect.
Three blessed results attach to their position of trust and honour.
1. “Over these the Second Death hath no authority.”
We have first the negative advantage. No punishment is theirs. There are in the Apocalypse two Deaths, a present and a future. Both are places. The first Death, or the bottomless pit, exists now. Jesus holds its keys. 1: 18. The Second Death is ‘the lake of fire’; as the chapter teaches. Verse 14. Exemption from this latter is a promise - to the conquerors [or ‘overcomers’] of the churches.
The promise made to the conquerors of the churches during the time of their previous life is how fulfilled. “He that overcometh shall not be hurt by the second death.” These, then, are in great part the overcomers from among Christ’s churches.
This statement sounds strangely in our ears: for we are quite accustomed to forget that even those justified by faith will be recompensed according to their works. Matt. 16: 24-27; Rev. 22: 12. Here it is implied that over some greatly offending believers the Second Death may have authority.
“And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matt. 18: 34, 35).
“Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God. That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in the matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified” (1 Thess. 4: 5, 6).
The promise of escaping this was made to the angel of
“And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which, after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell [Gehenna]; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him.”
The fear of God is to overbalance the fear of man.
“Do you mean, then, to deny, with the Wesleyans, the perseverance of God’s elect?” By no means; that is a truth standing on firm grounds. But even John, who in his Gospel so strongly teaches that, as strongly asserts in the Saviour’s words, the punishment of believers who die in sin unrepented of. What says that memorable passage?
“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15: 6).
And the Saviour’s promises of the saint’s perseverance are made in a way whose force has been missed by our translators. “Verily I say unto you, If any keep my sayings, he shall not for ever see death” (John 8: 51, 52).
“I give unto them (my sheep) eternal life, and they shall not perish for ever: neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” “I am Resurrection and Life: he that believeth in me, though he die yet shall he live, and every one that liveth and believeth on me shall not die for ever” (John 11: 25, 26).
“Do you mean, then, that all those who are excluded from the millennial glory taste of death for a thousand years?” By no means. Some will be simply shut out, as unworthy of reward. But some are great offenders: some have been cut off in their sins: witness Ananias and Sapphira.
2. “But they shall be priests of God and of the Christ.”
By priests we understand those holier than others, accepted by the God they worship, admitted nearer to Him than others, and bearers of messages to and from Him. All these things belong to the favoured ones of this scene. They are holier than others, clothed in resurrection-bodies, privileged to enter the Holiest of the temple in heaven. They are intercessors for the earth in that day: they bear to God the petitions of men: they receive back from God His replies to men.
At this time there are two temples, and two sets of priests; the earthly temple and the priests of Aaron’s line, who offer sacrifices that cleanse the flesh. Heb. 9: 13. There are the risen priests also who minister in the temple of the new covenant. The temple below is but “the outer court” of the temple above. But in the temple below Jesus as the Christ takes His seat.
The life of a believer in Jesus now is intended to be a preparation for that day. He is constituted already a priest to “offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2: 5, 9; Heb. 13: 15, 16). He is directed to lift up prayer and praise for all. 1 Tim. 2: 1, 2. He is learning to discern between the good and evil. Heb. 5: 14. He [Page 332] is endeavouring to instruct others, and turn them to God. At length, if obedient to his calling, he is “accounted worthy” to exercise his priesthood in the day of Messiah’s kingdom, while yet the earth lasts; to see with Messiah of the travail of his soul unto death. The nations dispute not their priesthood, as did the Israelites that of the sons of Aaron; it is sealed, not with the token of resurrection, but in its reality.
They are priests of “God and of the Christ.”
God and Jesus as the Christ are worshipped during the millennial age, in preparation for the final adoration of “God and the Lamb.” Jesus, therefore, is God: for the priest is a minister of God. The title “the Christ” is only four times used in this book, and on all four occasions it refers to the millennial kingdom.
3. “They shall reign with him a thousand years.”
Is the promised kingdom a session with Christ on His throne, while the dead are being judged at the close of the thousand years? Nay, the kingly authority is exercised during a thousand years, previous to the judgment of the dead. And what place is there for priesthood, while the dead are judged?
The subjects of these kings are the Gentiles; the authority
over the twelve tribes of
Here is at length the lawful union of the kingly and priestly offices. Under the Law, the kings might not be priests: and no priest became a king. Under the Gospel, the saints were priests, but were forbidden to be kings. 1 Cor. 4: 8-14. Now the risen are both priests and kings. Here is the perfection of government. For the rulers are the righteous, no longer tempted by sin or Satan. With full knowledge, perfect impartiality, and love of God and man, they rule their subjects. If there be any evil, it springs from the governed, not from the governors.
But this is not the final state. ’Tis only for a thousand years. ’Tis a transition-period between the old earth and the new, partaking of the characteristics of both. Then is fulfilled the word of the elders - “They shall reign over the earth.”
THE LAST REBELLION
7-10. “And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go forth to deceive the nations that are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and encompassed the camp of the saints, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven from God, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where both the Wild Beast and the False Prophet are, and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
The Jewish prophets have in general no glimpse beyond the millennial period, in which their nation attains its distinct height of supremacy and glory.* But this book leads us far beyond into eternity, where the Jew’s distinctive position is no longer maintained.
[* How fearful is the position of all Bible Teachers who have led astray
multitudes of our Lord’s redeemed people by their so called “Covenant theology”
theology” at the Judgment Seat of Christ! By their false doctrines, they have supposedly
transferred all of God’s future blessings
to Israel, and applied them the Church; and by their spiritualizing
interpretations of God’s future and conditional promises to His Church in “the Age to come”
(Heb. 6: 5. cf. 11: 39, 40.),
have made no room in it for God’s millennial
promises to come to fruition for that nation or His Church at that time! (
Satan led our first parents to be discontented: he will thus lead the nations. But what mode will he adopt? I think we may fairly conjecture, that he will stir up the Gentiles against the Jews. It is natural to man to be jealous of a superior. The Jew during the millennium is made to take a height far above the nations or Gentiles. Isa. 60: 10-12, 14, 16; Isa. 61: 5, 6.
These words fret many Gentile souls now. How will they gall the spirits of the
unconverted then? Here, then, is fuel
which he will know how to kindle. “Gentiles! Are you poor spirited enough to submit any longer
to the Jews? that ill-favoured, money-getting, abject race, whom your fathers
despised and loathed? Whose are the
great warriors of whom history speaks? whose the mighty kings? the great in
arts? the giant discoverers of science?
Gentiles! Your fathers! Will you, then, any longer tamely bow at the
feet of these outcasts? Why should the
Jew hold the primacy? ‘The Gentile his inferior?’ It is a lie against nature and history: the
past and the present. Assert your native
superiority. Rise and wrest the sceptre
from these oppressors! Determine that
you will be free! Will it, and liberty
is yours! Go up to
Thus he deceives them. He makes them imagine it degradation to submit to God’s appointment.
All past mercies are forgotten in deep ingratitude. They will not have the holy to reign over them: they refuse Christ Himself, the Perfect King.
Satan does not now attempt to deceive
The promise of God preserves them from any further wile of his. Isa. 59: 21.
The devil goes into the four quarters of the globe on this errand, a new Peter the Hermit, preaching the crusade of many races against one. Great his encouragement. Multitudes unnumbered answer to his [Page 334] call. The nations are in the main still his seed. The seed of Satan must be purged out from among men, that in the new earth there may be a peace never disturbed. The evil generation will not have passed away ,till the‑earth itself is destroyed.
But this is a stumbling-block to some. “Whom will he find willing? Only the holy are left on the earth, after the Saviour’s sword and His judgment have severed the evil from among the good” (Rev. 19.; Matt. 25: 31-46). It is true that, at the commencement of the millennium, only the holy will be found. But are the offspring of the holy holy likewise? Must not grace step in, or the child of pious parents is only a fallen son of Adam? This, then, accounts easily for the last fearful hosts of sin. At the close of the millennium there are thousands not renewed.
Amidst the nations, or as inclusive of them, two names are given, “Gog and Magog.”
Magog is mentioned as one of the sons of Japheth. Gen. 10: 2. Gog is named, if we will trust the Septuagint, in Num. 24: 7. “His king shall be higher than Gog.” “Magog,” if I mistake not, is still found in our days, softened into “Mogul.”
Asia, north of the
The writer observes that from the east of Asia, almost as far
as the confines of
We are to understand, then, that the northern nations, especially the Tartars, Russians, and the adjacent nations, will be conspicuous in this invasion.
We must distinguish it, however, from the invasion of Gog and Magog in Ezek. 38. It is after that, that the millennial times occur. After this later inroad, the earth is burnt up.
“The number of whom is as the sand of the sea.”
Satan has now no king with him: all kings are of Christ’s appointment: they are the favoured risen. Before the devil sent out evil spirits with miracles to persuade; and had two supernatural human assistants. Now he is alone. Then he set up a false religion as the basis of the rebellion. Now, his time probably being far shorter than before, he aims only at collecting an army for battle.
At the commencement of the thousand years, but few are left alive on earth, because of the fearful destruction of the ungodly. But now, as the result of peace and plenty for a thousand years, the population of earth is enormous. In their vast numbers they put their trust: forgetful that God in former days has destroyed armies characterized by the same incalculable proportions.
It is worthy of remark, that the point for which these go up to fight against God is granted in the next dispensation, and on the new earth. In the new world, all the nations occupy the same level. Of course the rebels have no place there. But God in mercy there removes this stone of offence. And had they waited but a brief period, they would have attained the object they so unlawfully and ungratefully sought.
Satan’s last resource is war. Once he has fought in heaven; once on earth. He attempts it now for the third and last time.
But some say of this scene, - “It is incredible, if all that has preceded be literally true, that ever men should
be so frantic as to rush on
Such little know what man and Satan are. Such have little profited by the records of
the past. Its incredible that after ten
plagues supernaturally sent and confessed to be from God, Pharaoh and his hosts
should still assail the people of
Is it incredible, that after the earth had opened and swallowed up the congregation of Dathan and Abiram, and the fire of God had struck dead the two hundred and fifty presumptuous burners of incense, that the next day “all the congregaton of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaran, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord”? (Num. 16: 41). Was that a fact? So will this be.
“They went up on the breadth of the earth.”
But what is “the breadth of the earth?”
It is once used of the earth, or globe in general. Job 38: 18.
But I am inclined to think that in this place we should translate it, “on the
breadth of the land,” referring the
expression to the
seems to intend a design on their part to enclose the whole of the
Zech. 14: 16-19 teaches us that, in general, the
nations will be disinclined for the long yearly pilgrimage to
In the previous war against God, it seemed as if He had been
foolish in drying up Euphrates, and the Easterns take advantage of it to fight
In pursuance of their purpose, “they compassed the camp of the saints.”
What is meant by “the camp of the saints”? The expression, rightly understood, is full of interest.
Now, under the guidance of the greater Joshua, “the armies” of heaven have descended from on high. 19: 11. They are the camp of heaven on earth now; for the aspect of heaven towards earth is military. Though at rest, they are prepared for war.
I cannot agree with those who believe that the [resurrected] saints who reign with Christ will not be upon the earth. They can, no doubt, ascend to heaven, and to the new Jerusalem - their real centre - when they will; but Christ will be oft on earth, and surely they will be there also.
The millennium is Messiah’s “rule” “in the midst among enemies” (Ps. 110:
rod” tells of
martial law proclaimed. It is descends
to “judge and make war”
righteousness.” Against this, destruction to foes.
Earth is treated as conquered in battle.
Messiah then, as the chief obstacle to Satan’s project, their advance is
mainly directed. This body of heavenly
kings can be, on occasion, warriors also.
So were they at first: so are they seen at last. This confirms our inference, that the armies
who come from heaven become the [immortal, resurrected and raptured] kings enthroned in 20: 4.
They watch over
That “the camp of the saints” refers to the army of the risen who [Page 337] come with Christ, seems to be corroborated by the immediately precedent occurrences of the word “saints.” They are those especially holy before God. “Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye saints.” “The fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (18: 20; 19: 8). “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection” (20: 6).
It is probable that this attack of the nations is made at the time of the feast of Tabernacles, when less suspicion would attend the gathering of such vast multitudes, and when most of Israel would be gone up to the temple. This would be the time, too, at which the Gentiles’ subjection to the Jews would be felt most sorely, and when the nations might be most easily collected; that being the time when the autumnal fruits had been gathered in.
Lest any should imagine that the wickedness of earth is owing to a corrupt form of government, and should say (as many might be apt to do, from a view of the forms of wickedness in the last days), “Ah, you see these evils spring from kings. Again and again Scripture traces the latter-day transgressions to them. The people are always sound-hearted for Christ in the main; but for the influence of corrupted kings they would never have been leagued against the Lord Jesus, as we see, at His coming.” Scripture shows us that when there are no kings of earth but the perfect governors of Christ’s appointing, the people go astray. Satan deceives the nations, even when the weight of government is all against him. No! no! the mischief lies deeper far than any form of government.
They assail also “the beloved city.”
Their encompassing at once the camp and the city, and filling
the breadth of the land, shows something of their immense multitudes. For the
It is not named
“Fire came down out of the heaven from God, and devoured them.”
For the offence of not coming up to
Here, as in the former case, the dupes of Satan are first dealt with, then Satan himself. As the incorrigible Deceiver, who loves and makes a lie, his career is finished in woe: fire falls on them, and kills them. [Page 338] But he is cast “into the lake of fire and brimstone.” That awful abode of the lost was kindled as soon as the millennium began. It now receives him, for whom and for whose angels it is destined. Matt. 25: 41. For Satan is not consumed by the fire from above, as men are. He is not in flesh, as are the hosts whom he leads. He is to dwell visibly in eternal fire, as before he was shut up in the bottomless pit, away from sight.
In that awful pool of woe the Wild Beast and the False Prophet have lain all the thousand years. These are the two whom Satan for awhile delivered from the bottomless pit, by means of the key granted him. After their increased wickedness displayed during the time they were at liberty, they were consigned to a more fearful place still.
Satan has now sinned after judgment tasted and mercy experienced, even as those two had. He is therefore smitten as they have been, and are. All three are evidently persons. For a thousand years the two sons of men punished more severely than he, because more mercy had been shown to them. For before both of them had the good news of a Saviour been brought, and rejected. Paul stood before Nero to make his defence (2 Tim. 4: 17), and was at last slain by him, together with unnumbered other Christians.
As the thousand years are a period of peculiar glory to the saints who wrought on behalf of God’s [coming] kingdom, so is it a time of especial woe to these its most inveterate enemies.
Thus we trace God’s general appointment. At death the souls of the lost go into the pit* [i.e., a section of ‘hades’]. Out of it they come to be tried; and after being sentenced as risen men [from the place of the dead “in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12: 40)], they are cast into hell, or the lake of fire.
[* NOTE. “‘Hades,’ in this book, is used in a stricter sense than
ordinary, to define that portion of the
underground world, where the souls of the righteous are in God’s keeping;
His jewels, soon to be made up in resurrection.
This place is also called ‘
“Death is also, in this book, the name of a place. The death of the body introduces the soul of the wicked to a new region, which is also called ‘Death.’ ’Tis the place of the spiritually dead. ’Tis called in the Old Testament, ‘Abaddon,’ or ‘Destruction;’ because the lost suffer there the law’s penalty of endless death, and destruction already begun. ‘Hades is naked before him’ (God) says Job, ‘and Destruction hath no covering’ (Job 36: 6) ‘Hades and Destruction are never full,’ says Solomon (Prov. 27: 20), again showing they are places.
“This fearful place is called, also, the Abyss, or ‘Bottomless Pit.’ ’Tis a place of fire; for when it is opened, smoke, and creatures that torment, come forth. Rev. 9. Into this, as a place of punishment, Satan is cast for a thousand years. In it was the rich man of the parable fixed. The nearness of ‘Hades’ and of ‘Death’ is clearly implied in that parable: for Dives and Abraham can converse together across the great gulf.
“But after the world is destroyed, the first ‘Death,’ or place of punishment for the souls of the wicked, gives place to Gehenna, or the lake of fire eternal, which is the ‘Second death.’ The sinner’s body and soul have been re-knot, and the sentence of endless woe has been passed. Jesus has the keys of both Hades and Death, and summons the departed thence, at the Great Judgment of the dead (Rev. 20.) after which the old prisons, ‘Death and Hades,’ are broken up.” - R. Govett, on Rev. 1: 18.]
In that lake they and the three specially mentioned “shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” No further exit, for these firebrands, into God’s universe! Eternally they shall suffer. It is no marvel, if in our day the awful doctrine of eternal punishment is frequently attacked: but the evidence for it is overwhelming.
Here the difference between temporary and eternal punishment comes directly into view. We are set at the close of the temporary vengeance: and there the Holy Spirit traces for us the line of future wrath. It is not millennial wrath alone that the wicked are to endure. After that period is over, we are instructed that onward, without a break, torment is to continue. It is not annihilation, and relative punishment, in consequence of transgressors being blotted out of conscious existence. It is life and conscious life in misery - “Tormented For Ever And Ever.”
THE FINAL JUDGMENT
11-15. “And I saw a great white throne, and the Sitter on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled: and place was not found for them. 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 out of the things written in the books according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it: and Death and Hades, gave up the dead that were in them: and they were judged according to their works. And Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the Second Death, the lake of fire. And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.”
* So Tregelles.
In the Holy Spirit’s words we have the scene which is usually called “the Judgment Day.” It is also frequently called, “the General Judgment.” It is supposed to be ushered in by trumpet-sound: whereas the last or seventh trumpet sounded a thousand years previously, and then ushered in Messiah’s [millennial] kingdom, and the [out] resurrection of the [“accounted worthy”*] righteous. Not then is the time of the rising again, and judgment of all men. The saints have been judged long before,** in the presence of Christ seated on The Judgment Seat, not on The Throne.
[* See Luke 20: 35. cf. Phil. 3: 11.
** That is, before the time of the “First Resurrection.” “… it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment” (Heb. 9: 27, R.V.). Judgment must occur before Resurrection. This judgment will determine who will be “accounted worthy to attain to that age, and the resurrection out from the dead:” (Luke 20: 35, Lit. Greek).]
“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.* For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14: 10-12).
* For “Christ” the critical editions read “God.”
“We must all be manifested before the judgment seat of the Christ that each may receive the things done by the body, according to the things he did, whether (the issue) be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5: 10).
This throne is a different one from that which appears in the
That was set for judgment on the living, while the earth lasted; and the
rainbow was round it: for there were promises of mercy still encircling
The thousand years being now finished, the dead judged are “the rest of the dead.”* And as those happy ones of the first resurrection were not in danger of the second death, these on the contrary are. This is “the resurrection of judgment,” for those who have done evil [and have not repented].
[* That is, all the remaining dead must be included - regenerate and unregenerate alike. This event occurs after the “the First Resurrection” and the Millennium; and, since “Resurrection” unites both the unredeemed “body” (Rom. 8: 23) and the disembodied “soul” (Acts 2: 27), these remaining disembodied “souls” have been in ‘Hades’ / ‘Sheol,’ the place of the dead “in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12: 40), up to the time of this last Resurrection and Judgment at God’s “Great White Throne” (20: 11, R.V.).]
It is a “great throne.” Great is the occasion on which it appears: great the final winding up of affairs of the earth. ’Tis the supreme throne, self-poised in air. The inferior ones, on which the saints sat [Page 340] who reigned with the Christ, do not appear beside it. But One, the monarch of all, sits thereon.
It is a “white” throne. That is the colour of pure justice. It will judge the earth in righteousness. Alone in its spotless purity, the orbs of the sky removed from before it, it attracts and fixes every eye. It is set to adjudicate the cases of all the [remaining] dead. The question of eternal life and eternal death is the one it decides.
Most things belonging to Christ in this book are white. His hair, His horse, the clouds on which He sits, are of this colour.
John notices next the person of the Judge who took His seat thereon. He is not described; but it seems certain that it must be Jesus. For the Father committed all judgment to the Son. John 5: 22, 27. He is “appointed of God to be judge of dead and living” (Acts 10: 42; 17: 31; Rom. 2: 6; 1 Pet. 4: 5; 2 Tim. 4: 1). It is not the throne of the Father and the Son.
His awful aspect and wondrous power are sublimely described by their effects. Earth and heaven both fled away from before Him. This is doubtless the moment described by Peter. 2 Peter 3: 10, 7, 12. It is the conclusion of the Great Day of God. Those who make the conflagration to take place at the commencement of the day, and before the millennium, are involved in wholly needless difficulties. “The Day of God” is of a thousand years’ duration, as Peter, in the same chapter tells us. verse 8. “But it is more than a thousand years,” say objectors. “There is the little time of Satan’s last rebellion beside.” Be it so. Do any think that such an expression must be construed as strictly as the commercial truth - that “sixteen ounces make a pound?” Probably, too, there is a double beginning of the thousand years; so that it is possible that, computed from another starting-point, it may be exactly the period.
How is the earth burned up? No doubt by the “fire which came down out of heaven from God.” Of the force of that, the history of Elijah supplies evidence. At the prayer of the prophet, “The fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Kings 18: 38). Then its fierceness wrought no evil to the globe: for the sacrifice drew off its terrors. But now it falls on the earth unbroken by an accepted victim: it sets fire to earth itself. The gases of the sea become combustible, and the earth is one sheet of fire rolling away out of its orbit to destruction.
Men stand self-poised in air before the throne. No longer do bodies of clay fasten them to the soil of earth. Risen from the dead, they await the sentence of the judge.
“But does not this make a third coming of Christ necessary?” Strange, that the objection should ever have been made. The Saviour is already on the earth; and when the earth speeds away He is seated on the throne which occupies the place of the lost globe.
No word is dropped here of the Saviour’s coming from heaven to [Page 341] earth to judge, as the anti-millenarian theory supposes. He has come long before (chap. 19: 11), and now that His reign is past, the earth, the scene of it, departs.
Many will not accept the Scripture doctrine of the utter destruction and disappearance of the old globe. What is the reason is perhaps hard to say. But most will with earnestness contend that the fire will only purge the world, not destroy it. Perhaps this is owing to the felt connection between the entire destruction of man’s abode and the eternal suffering of the wicked. With some it arises from fancied scientific reasons. “Matter cannot be annihilated.” True, man cannot annihilate it; but cannot God? Did He not bring it into existence out of nothing? Can He not hurl it again into nothingness? This answer often brings out into view the fact that many do not believe in creation. Their God did not make all things out of nought. He only framed them out of pre-existent matter. Such are indeed consistent: but they are opposed to the glory of God, and to the testimony of His word. Gen. 1: 1; Heb. 11: 3. Moreover, the apostle argues that the prophecy in Haggai foretells a final shaking of heaven and earth preparatory to their entire removal: in order that the new creation may supersede them. Heb. 12: 26-28.
Such is also the testimony of that type of Moses’ day - the leprous house. Lev. 14: 34. If the leprosy broke out in a house, the priest was to bid them empty it.
Does not this emptying of the suspected house answer to the
carrying away of
The plague is spread indeed, when the angel from on high descends. Chap. 10. Jesus has foretold that it will be. The evil spirit with seven others worse than himself has entered and defiles the house.
Then comes the change and restoration of earth after its fall, which the millennial visit and reign of Christ introduce. The wicked are removed from among the living and cast into Tophet, while those risen from the dead take their place, and earth wears a new face under the new generation of men. “But,” it was commanded, “if the leprosy breaks out anew in spite of this restoration of the house, it should be pronounced unclean.” “He shall break down the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the mortar of the house: and he shall carry them forth of the city into an unclean place” (Lev. 14: 45). [Page 342] The house is utterly destroyed then: its unclean stones, timbers, and dust are used no more,
See also Ps. 102: 26, 27; Matt. 24: 35; Heb. 1: 10-12.
But if any further proof were needed, the words of this passage are evidently designed to furnish it. The result of the passing away of the heaven and the earth is, that “Place was not found for them.” How this can consist with their atoms being remoulded, and constituting the place in which the redeemed shall live, would puzzle the acutest to discover. And when next the subject is treated of, the passing away of the heavens and earth is declared to be followed by the appearing of new ones. 21: 1.
The apostle then “saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne.”
“The books” are principally the voluminous records of sins committed. An impartial biography of all the lost bears witness of continual transgressions. But another book of a different character appears, “The Book of Life.” Those books stand charged with death to offenders. This brings life. The books which speak against men are many, for they record their many evil deeds, and they occupy a large space. But the Book of Life, we may well suppose, contains the names only, and not the deeds, of the saved.
Why is it opened?
Most reply - that it affects the judgment negatively only. It is presented, only to discover that none of the names of the culprits before the throne are found in it. I am persuaded that this is a mistake arising from an error with regard to the millennium - that it embraces all believers - all the saved of every age.
That that is a mistaken view, evidence has been given. If a part in the millennium flow from faith, all believers will have part in it. If it be a “reward” “according to works,” a prize of the race set before the Christian, then some will be “accounted worthy” of it; some will not.
If the deeds of any stand recorded against them, and they have not forgiveness, will not that suffice to condemn? Need there be any inquiry – “But are they in the Book of Life?” Can they be in the Book of Life, while their deeds of evil in that hour stand against them un-cancelled? And if written in the Book of Life, can their deeds still be standing against them? This is the hour of simple justification, or the entrance on eternal life through grace.
The book is opened, therefore, as positively affecting the scene before us. Some of God’s elect are there. The book decides the lot of some, both of the dead, and of the living. Who are to enter into the city is settled by the Lamb’s book of life. 21: 27. There is proof of its positive employment.
1. Some, then, of the elect are among the dead. They were not counted worthy of reward. As dealt with according to their own works, they could but be excluded. Many never confessed Christ, [Page 343] but were secret disciples. Such Christ would not confess at His coming. Matt. 10: 32, 33; 7: 21. Some for sin were excluded from the churches of the saints, died unrepentant, and were never restored to their places. But that binding on earth bound also in heaven. Matt. 18: 15-18. Jesus reaffirmed the sentence of the Church. Not all accounted worthy of a place in the Church by their fellow-disciples will enter. But all justly accounted unworthy to sit down with the saints on earth will assuredly be shut out from the kingdom of heaven. There are many other classes of the excluded, which the reader would do well to search out for himself.
There will probably also be some of those both during the patriarchal ages, and under the Law, who will be saved while not enjoying reward.
2. Multitudes of the living are in the Book of Life. It is with regard to them principally, if I mistake not, that it is presented. The hosts of Satan were consumed by the fire of God. But not all the world joined that impious expedition. There was one nation at least, not one of whom was found in its ranks. Israel is all righteous.
What becomes, then, of the living of mankind when the earth is burnt up? They do not appear among the dead. We learn only inferentially. They appear on the new earth as “the nations.” They are transferred, therefore, alive from the old world to the new. But before they enter that world, it is decided whether they are of the serpent’s seed or not. This is the moment at which the great separation takes place: all the non-elect are excluded from the new heavens and new earth wherein righteousness dwells. How is the lot of the children and the females, who never joined the army of the rebels, decided? By the Book of Life!
If not found there, their lives would be only sinful, and
their influence disastrous. The Book of
Life, therefore, admits all written in its pages, and excludes all not
mentioned there. According to its
entries is it determined, whether the individual enter the lake of fire or is
admitted to the new earth and the city of
But next we have the reward as given against the culprits of the dead. They were “judged out of the things written in the (first-named) books.” That evidence alone was sufficient; no moral testimony, as in our courts, was needed. No erroneous statement was there, no offence overlooked. The memory of each, supernaturally enlarged, and cleared in resurrection, perfectly corresponded with the accusing records of the books of human deeds. By these they “were judged.”
They were judged “according to their works.” This is the principle of justice: they received their deserts. The principle takes two applications.
1. First as to the quality of the works. Were they good or evil? Evil is requited for evil done.
2. Secondly as to the quantity, or the degree. The decent worldly [Page 344] man will not be so heavily doomed as the pirate, the murderer, the blasphemer, the adulterer. The heathen sinner will not be so heavily sentenced as the refuser of Gospel light. The youth cut off at fifteen, will not have so heavy a load to bear as the aged sinner of fourscore. Here is the doom of the dead in relation to the throne, and the records of its courts. All are doomed for evident acts of sin committed. Each is adjudged to the intensity of torment which his deeds deserve.
Of course the saints who have previously reigned with Christ and dispensed judgment, are not now set as foes at the bar, to take their trial for life or death.
We have next a notice given of the places whence the dead come forth. They are three: the sea, Hades, Death. This gives us the disposal of the dead in relation to their places of custody. The subordinate spaces of the globe surrender their dead. At this General Assize all the places of custody deliver up their prisoners.
Why the sea is named, I am unable to say.
It is not said, “The earth gave up the living on it,” or “the sea gave up the dead under it.”
The other two places keep the souls of men. Surely the sea does not. It holds the bodies, and the mouldering bones of the drowned: but must not their souls go into the two places afterward specified? I am not ashamed to confess myself at a loss here.
The sea is not cast into the lake of fire, and it does not appear in the new earth. It flees away, then, with the heavens and earth. The sea is reckoned one of the unclean parts of the earth, as being the abode of the dead.
Death and Hades next gives up the souls they detain. Both are names of places. Jesus has the key of both. Where both are mentioned, as distinguished from each other, Hades signifies the place of the righteous dead. “Death,” is that of the souls of the lost.
“Death” is put before Hades in this place. Ordinarily the reversed order obtains. Job 26: 6; Prov. 15: 11; 27: 20. But here the prominent topic is the condemnation of the lost, and therefore the place of lost spirits in both cases occupies the conspicuous position.
The thousand years are over: this is the second resurrection. But it is not said, “Cursed and unholy is he who hath part therein; over these the Second Death hath power, and they shall dwell with the False Christ, and False Prophet, and Satan, and be tormented for ever and ever.”
From this again it follows, that there are some of [Page 345] the saved who stand before the judge. All those whose souls issue from the place of the righteous dead, of course, are saved. At death the souls of the saved and lost are separated, as we learn by our Lord’s parable of Dives and Lazarus.
Of those who came up it is again recorded that “they were judged each according to their works.” This is the great principle which the Holy Ghost would impress on us. Impartial justice presided. By their works, as good or evil fruit, was the character of the tree decided. According to their works, in number and heinousness, was the measure of damnation awarded. For every seed of sin sown, appears the answering thistle in the day of reaping. “The wages of sin is death.”
There is no word of reward now. It is, Life Eternal, or Eternal Death! - which?
The next announcement cannot be understood by those who suppose that the “Death” here named is a spiritual thing. But understand both to be spoken of places, and the sentiment is easily intelligible. These old prisons are no longer needed.
Why are they cast away? Because there is now no intermediate state. They were employed once in detaining the souls of the righteous and of the wicked, till the judgment reunited body and soul. But now they merge into the eternal place of the lost. There are only those risen from the dead: and Hades defiled by the dead belongs not to heaven. It is therefore cast, with the First Death, into the second, or the lake of fire.
And then follows a notice, that the Second Death is another name for hell, “the lake of fire.” The lake of fire is a real place, no less than the others. The fire and brimstone are real, as truly as the resurrection bodies of the condemned.
“And if any was not found written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the lake of fire.”
But there was another class, whose places could not be adjusted by their actions. There were infants, cut down in earliest youth, who had not begun to act. There were those living upon the earth when the throne is set. The award to these is given, if I am not mistaken, by the Book of Life. After the effects of the books of human deeds to condemn, comes the agency of the Book of Life in saving. “If any” - it is not added “of the dead:” and hence I conclude that it refers in its full sweep to both the living and the dead.
The books stand connected with the prison-delivery of the jails. Their sentence was for death. Here is sovereignty, rejoicing to save without deeds, or against desert.
Its aspect is here stated only negatively, and in reference to the place of punishment, “the lake of fire.” If not in that book, the person cast into the lake. Its positive aspect as introducing into the city of life does not appear, till that city has been shown us. serpent, they are only evil, and would discover their enmity by deeds of sin, as before. Hence they are excluded from the place of [Page 346] the holy, shut up amidst the children of the Wicked One, their kin. There are finally but two states, heaven and hell. The “lake of fire” is [often mistakenly called] hell or, “Gehenna of fire.”
Thrice the words “the lake of fire” close the adjoining sentence at the conclusion of the chapter. The Holy Spirit would have the awful sound dwell on our ears, and sink into our hearts. It is the consummation of the altar and the laver in the temple. The laver was the place of water for washing that which was unclean. The altar was the place of fire to consume the victim. The place of the lost, then, unites these points. ’Tis the place of the permanently unclean; ’tis a lake. ’Tis the place of the victims of divine wrath;
As, then, the places of all the tenants of earth have been decided for ever, and none but the elect enter the new earth, the final state must be stable.
None, then, of these will ever fall. God undertakes their upholding. The new covenant rests entirely on God’s power, not on man’s.
* * *
1. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth passed away: and the sea exists no more.”
There will be a “new heaven.” From this it would appear that a new atmosphere and new stars will surround the new world. The former stars have fallen, the former atmosphere departed.
Here begins another epoch. There is a new creation in honour of the second Adam; just as there was a creation prepared for the first. As a fresh surface of earth greeted Noah after his coming forth out of the ark, so after the last deluge of fire the escaped come forth upon a new world. Its physical and moral standings are altered.
As Hengstenberg observes, the corruption of the creation began with persons, and then it seized on material things; so God restores first the fallen persons, and then the creation.
The earth is new. Two promises of new heavens and earth are found in Isaiah.
1. The first is given just after the Most High discovers to us the last form of evil on the earth, and declares the contrasted portions of His friends and His foes. “For behold I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isa. 65: 17).
2. Again the Holy Spirit promises them, in the midst of one of
the clearest prophecies of millennial bliss:
the nation of
This is a promise reiterated and expanded by Peter. 2 Pet. 3:
5-13. It is a promise common to both the Jew and the
In the Jewish prophets the millennial season is the one fully developed and greatly insisted on: of the final state [and a new creation] scarce a glimpse is afforded. In this book, on the contrary, which gives the far fuller mind of God, the millennial day appears but as a brief episode; and the eternal arrangement of the Most High take the prominent place which becomes them. What are a thousand years to eternity?
“The sea exists no more.”
This feature of the new globe would especially strike an eye accustomed to the old, and more particularly that of John, the fisherman accustomed to sail over the sea in quest of subsistence. The sea now occupies about three parts of the globe: but then the whole world will be habitable.
God of old brought the ocean upon the earth to destroy its inhabitants.
He uses it to plague the guilty in the
latter day. But on the
new earth there shall be no waters of barrenness and of death; only waters of
life. The new earth is not to be
the field of commerce and its deceits, or of war and its strifes. Military and naval greatness depart with
The sea occurs frequently in the Old
Testament descriptions of the millennial
day. The Saviour’s dominion is to be
from sea to sea. Zech. 9: 10. The abundance of the sea shall be converted to
This forms a great feature of distinction between the covenant with Noah, and the new covenant. The covenant with Noah specially regarded the sea as the instrument of God’s wrath, and set bounds to it, “while the earth remained.” The inhabitants of the sea were not taken into covenant with God on that occasion. Hence they do not appear among the four “living creatures:” though fish are mentioned as among the animals given up into the hands of the patriarch and his sons. Gen. 9: 2.
2. “And (I saw) the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of the heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3. And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will tabernacle with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God. 4. And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor scream, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things passed away.”
John sees it “descending out of the heaven from God.” It is no part of that creation which is to be shaken, and therefore to pass away. It belongs to a new creation, and therefore is to abide for ever. Heb. 12.
In the Hebrews,
the apostle speaks not of the
There are two descents of the city. The first from its invisible abode to visibility. This takes place before the millennium. 19: 7-9. During the millennium it appears to be suspended over, the earth, the top of the ladder which unites the earth and heaven. The second is its descent to the new earth, there to abide for ever, after the millennium is past.
Even thus there are two descents of our Lord. The first into the air, the second into the earth. Thus, too, He rose first to the level of the earth, remained there forty days, and then ascended on high.
John beholds the city descending at the proper point of time, just as he sees the throne being set, as the new dispensation begins. He beholds its first entrance on the earth, and is taught, in the words which follow, the great results which flow from this new move of God.
“Behold the tabernacle of God is with men.”
It is not any longer the Most High taking a people from among the rest of mankind to be His, leaving all others at a distance from Himself and unclean: but all men, or all “the nations,” constitute the people of God.
Blessings were dispensed to
The city [during the millennium] descends to earth, as I suppose, with all its priests and kings complete; yea, God Himself is there, and finds men on the earth. “The tabernacle of God is with MEN.”
But now [in God’s new creation] each individual man is elect, never more to fall. Hence the nations are holy for ever. The standing given to [the nation of]
That which God promises to
There exists, however, a great distinction between the priests and kings, the dwellers in
the tabernacle, and the nations outside
it. This obtained in millennial times.
Why is it called “the tabernacle?” Why not “the temple?” If I mistake not, it is in order to throw back our eye to the time of God’s first taking up His abode with His people in the wilderness. Then the tabernacle stood in the midst, the great centre of unity to all twelve tribes. They were all marshalled in orderly array around the abode of God, who dwelt with them in the camp. Now [after the millennium, and during God’s new creation,] the city [and Messiah’s temple] is the tabernacle, and is the nations’ great centre. They are gathered around it, as I conclude from the arrangements of the three gates on each of the four sides of the city. The priests were to pitch tent in an inner circle around the tabernacle. The sketch is now filled up by the entire cleansing of the priests of the new covenant. They are able to abide in God’s tabernacle, to dwell in His holy hill. The flesh, in its weakness or its sin, interferes no more.
These words teach us that we
are not engaged now with any millennial arrangements of the old [sin cursed] earth. For during the millennium
It was the surprised observation of Solomon, when he looked at the temple he had built, “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee, how much less this house which I have built!” (2 Chron. 6: 18). Now, ’tis [literally] fulfilled. Fulfilled far more widely and gloriously than Solomon dreamed of [after Messiah’s First and Second Advents*].
[* See Mark 11: 17. cf. Jer. 7: 11; Isa. 56: 7.]
The tabernacle of God is no empty pageant, the God of the tabernacle is there. Nor does He enter it to leave it again, there He dwells for ever.*
[* That is, for as long as this creation will remain, before it will be replaced at the end of the thousand years reign, by “a new heaven and a new earth,” (Rev. 21: 1).]
Men “shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them as their God.”
This promise implies that the heart of mankind shall be opened
to love and obey God. And in turn it is
implied that God’s bounties shall flow forth unimpeded to them. This is seen in Jer. 24:
7; Ezek. 11: 18-20. Mankind in the flesh
occupy the place of millennial
“God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
All had shed tears before: now past sorrows shall be healed and forgot. Sorrow, tears, cries, were the consequences of the fall. Gen. 3: 16, 17. Now those consequences are blotted out.
This happy portion was granted long ago to the Great Multitude rapt to the throne of God in resurrection. Rev. 7: 17.
“Death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor scream.”
Death occurs during the thousand years (Isa. 65: 20; 60: 7) both on man and beast. The offender is cut off at once in his sin. Jer. 31: 30; [Page 351] Ezek. 44: 25-27. Hence it is now said, “Death shall be no more.” It has existed till that time.
But, then, as sin and the sinful have passed away for ever, so have death and sorrow no entrance on the new earth. The word translated “crying” in the Authorized Version appears to mean the loud cry of suffering from any cause, from pain, or oppression, or God’s vengeance. Exod. 11: 6; 12: 30; 1 Sam. 4: 14; Gen. 27: 34; Isa. 5: 7.
The following passage will vividly illustrate this word.
“As we passed through the streets, loud screams, as of a person frantic with rage and grief, drew our attention toward a miserable hovel, whence we perceived a woman issuing hastily with a cradle containing an infant. Having placed the child upon the area before her dwelling she as quickly ran back again: we then perceived her beating something violently, all the while filling the air with the most piercing shrieks. Running to see what was the cause of her cries, we observed an enormous serpent, which she had found near her infant, and had completely, despatched before our arrival. Never were maternal feelings more strikingly portrayed than in the countenance of this woman. Not satisfied with having killed the animal she continued her blows, until she had reduced it to atoms, unheeding anything that was said to her, and only abstracting her attention from its mangled body to cast occasionally a wild and momentary glance toward her child” (Dr. E. Clarke’s Travels, ii, 439).
“Neither shall there be any more pain.”
The Greek word used may describe both the toil of man inflicted by the fall, and the sorrows laid on the woman. Sin shall not enter, nor any of its black-robed train.
“For the former things passed away.”
The old dispensations are passed: the old earth, with its
scenes and its materials, is no more. Here are more than
THE JUDGMENT OF THE SAVED AND LOST
5-8. “And the Sitter on the throne said, ‘Behold I make all things new.’ And he saith, ‘Write: for these sayings are faithful and true.’ And he said to me, ‘They are done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give him that is athirst out of the fountain of the water of life without cost. He that overcometh shall inherit these things,* and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the cowardly, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the false shall have their portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the Second Death.”
* This is the true reading, as the critical editions agree.
This passage refers to the lot of those to
whom “the prophecy of this book” shall come. We have heard of the lot of “the nations” of [Page 352] the new earth. But
there is a far higher position, the portion of the citizens of the
As our path now is beset with greater difficulty and enlightened with peculiar light, so will our station hereafter be loftier.
All is new. This is in contradistinction from the millennium, for that is the day of the restoration of the old things. God says not, “I purge the old materials,” but “I make all things new.”
However hard to realize, these words express God’s will; and His power will assuredly execute them. Therefore they are literally to be taken.
“And He said unto me, They are done.”
Those words “It is done” imply that this new creation shall certainly come to pass, and shall abide [for ever and ever]. God speaks of the things that be not, as though they were. It is to abide. Who shall make it undone? The end returns to the beginning. God’s plan, which often seemed broken by the malice of Satan, and the faults of men, is at last complete. God, who began creation in Genesis, takes not leave of it till Revelation, when it is complete beyond possible overthrow.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”
This, I suppose, is designed to assure us that the whole scheme of things from Genesis to Revelation, in spite of the different phases of things, and many contrasts, really proceeds from one Designer. The Creator of the first world creates also the second.
The present world is the wilderness - the place of drought, as
of old. 2
Sam. 17: 29; Deut. 8: 7, 15; 11: 11. But the
Christian is not to murmur, lest, like the disobedient Israelites, his carcase
fall in the wilderness. He is bound to
fight, he is clothed with the armour of God, he is called
to overcome. To
This promise of God is addressed to men now alive, in order to
affect their conduct. The Sitter on the
throne adjudges the place of each who hears. Either his thirst is to be quenched in the
fountains of waters in the
“He that overcometh shall obtain these things.”
What is to become of the saints who reigned a thousand years with Christ, after those years are past? Where are those saints to be placed, who do not attain to the reward of the kingdom? This passage, I believe, informs us.
Here are unfolded God’s principles of judgment in reference to
the citizens. The former verses stated
the unconditional blessings enjoyed
by the dwellers on the new earth. Now we
have the condition of the citizen’s entrance into the
The conqueror is to enjoy these things. The reference primarily is to the saints of the Church, as the concluding words of each of the Seven Epistles to the Churches prove. [chapters] 2., 3. But the reference seems to be not to them solely. There are those who fight against and overcome the Antichrist. There are also the saved under the Law.
And probably there may be two aspects of overcoming: overcoming so as to be awarded, and then partaking in millennial glory; and overcoming as compared with the total unbelief of the worldly. “This is the victory which overcometh the world - even our faith,” and the final entry into eternal life in the city of the risen.
The nations outside are not conquerors. They were never called to wrestle as we are, with the world and Satan. They lived in millennial joy.
The conqueror shall “inherit” these things.
We mean by “inherit” something different from that which the Hebrew and the Greek of the New Testament intend. It does not mean to have a claim to an estate by virtue of birth. It means only “to obtain a lot,” or “portion;” as the next verse shows. “The cowardly shall have their portion in the lake.”
“And I will be his God, and he shall be My son.”
This sentiment resembles greatly that expressed above (in verse 3) concerning the men of the new earth in general. But more closely examined, the differences are very great. In the former case men are dealt with in the mass. “God will be with them.” “They shall be His people.” Here the application is individual. “His God.” “He shall be my son.” And how greatly does the being God’s “son” exceed the being one of His “people” only!
God’s omnipotence is in favour both of “the nations” and the risen: but the one live on God’s land, the other in His house. What will sonship be, when not the spirit alone is redeemed, but the body also in resurrection?
But what shall be the lot of those overcome in this war? The dread alternative is now presented to us. They are distributed into eight [Page 354] classes. They are described in plain terms; not, as the saved are, in figurative words.
1. The first named are the “cowardly.” This does not refer to the timid, doubting believer, but to those who refuse to receive Christ, or who give up their faith in Him through fear of men. These are the first and great contrast to the victors. Luke 14: 26. These, then, are not afraid of God, but of men; not of sin, but of holiness.
2. “And unbelieving.” These fear not God’s threats, and do not trust or desire His [CONDITIONAL] promises.* The two things are closely connected. What can become of those who will not trust God? who declare by their lives that Truth is unworthy of confidence? Men are angry if we will not trust them. How much greater reason has God to smite those who will not put confidence in Him? “This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5: 4).
[* See Matt. 5: 20; 7: 21; 13: 21, 22, etc.]
3. “And abominable.” This seems to refer, to persons guilty of
unnatural crime. Lev. 18: 22, 26, 27; Eph. 5: 5. Of such sins
4. “And murderers.” Noah’s covenant inflicted death on such persons.
The covenant with
5. “And whoremongers.” God’s displeasure against this sin was
manifested in the wilderness, when
6. “And sorcerers.” Commerce with evil spirits is a sad reality. It is one of the lusts of the flesh, and to it man has been ever prone. Gal. 5: 19, 20. Moses threatened the sin with death temporal: but this shows its final doom. In Antichrist’s day Satan’s self is worshipped.
The word here used includes the use of drugs for poisoning. These two classes of sin often went together. How greatly in our day is poisoning extending itself!
7. “And idolaters.” Strictly taken, idolatry seems to mean the worship of dead images fashioned by man. But the worship of any gods but the True God, or polytheism, seems to be included. God will grant no dwelling with Himself to those who give His due to others.
8. “And all the false.” The article precedes this class. Does it not include more sins then merely those of lying? Satan was the first liar, and his place, as we have seen, is in the lake of fire. The greatest of lies is that of the Antichrist, who denies the Father and the Son. 1 John 2: 22.
All these classes are to find their eternal inheritance in the lake of fire and brimstone. The theory of the final salvation of man and devils [Page 355] finds no place in Scripture. Damnation, as well as salvation, is part of the Gospel message. It says not that the wicked are to suffer a thousand years, and after that to be brought forth purified. The door shuts on a view of their sin and their endless punishment, after [their resurrection from “Hades” - the place of the dead, and] the new heavens and earth are presented to us.
The place of final punishment is not a prison, but a lake. This is not according to human ideas. It is the awful contrast to the portion of the blest. Fire stands opposed to water; a pool to a fountain, life to death. The one quenches the thirst: the other heats it to intolerable fury. The rich man, [in “Hades”] as a separate spirit,* asked a drop of water to cool his tongue. His thirst and anguish will be increased, when his body is resumed at the judgment day.
[* That is, as a disembodied “soul,” awaiting the time of resurrection, (Luke 16: 23, 30, 31. cf. Acts 2: 27, 34, R.V.).]
The Dead Sea, memorial of
It is a place of “brimstone” as well as fire. How suffocating the fumes of sulphur! Always to be stifled in such an atmosphere, how, terrible!
“It is the Second Death.” To the saved no more death: to the lost no more life! Their abode is not the “Shadow of Death,” but ’tis now the Second Death in its full reality.
THE GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE CITY
9-14. “And there came one of the seven angels that had the seven
bowls that were full off the seven last plagues,
and talked with me, saying, ‘Come hither, I will show thee
the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me
away in spirit to a mountain great and lofty,
and showed me
The New Jerusalem is called “the Bride.”
This is a name probably not to continue for ever. It is a title given
to one newly married. The Law recognized
this peculiarity. “When a man
hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to
war, neither, shall he be charged with any
business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken” (Deut. 24: 5). The Old
By the title “the Lamb’s wife,” this city is identified with the one which is mentioned before the millennium. 19: 7.
Messiah, like Abraham, has two wives: one the earthly
That John may see the city, he is
taken, not bodily, but “in spirit to a mountain great and lofty.” Around
Highly illustrative of this is
This its elevation is increased just before
the millennium by the great earthquake, while all the adjacent country is made
a plain around it. Isa. 2.;
Zech. 14. Thus God gives intimations of His final
purpose of making His city to be set on a lofty mountain. The nations and
That is not a blessed state of the Church mystically described, is clear from many considerations. The Church is swept away, as we have seen, before the prophetic parts can begin. If mystically to be taken, it were no revelation. The state of the Church is described in literal terms in this very book. That is revelation: this were an enigma.
The city is part of the Church’s [millennial] hope. It begins to be exhibited to her while militant (Rev. 3: 12), she enjoys it after the battle is past.
Why should it not be a real city, literally taken?
If all the saved who rise from the dead are to be congregated into one city, must it not be stupendous in its dimensions?
We have seen that two other cities are named in this book -
Was not the temple realised in wood, and stone, and gold, under God’s direction; If magnificence so great and material attended the old covenant, which was to be done away, how much more shall a like glory attend the better covenant!
To those who imagine that at death the believer at once enters heaven, and enjoys, as a “glorified spirit” (an idea unknown to Scripture), the bliss of God’s presence it is no wonder if the expectation of a material world and city seems absurd; but that is only because they have so long left out of sight the resurrection of the body - that cardinal and peculiar doctrine of Christianity. Philosophers could dispute about the immortality of the soul; but Jesus, by His resurrection, brought to light the final incorruptibility of the body.
Another question of much interest may here be noticed.
In the ideas of many, the description of the New Jerusalem
which [Page 358] follows is millennial. For, myself, I am persuaded that we have in
the verses which follow an account of the eternal relations of the city of
1. That the eternal standing of the city is in question I gather from 22: 3, “There shall be no more curse.” Now at the close of the millennium comes the most fearful sin and wrath of God, with the Second Death.
2. I infer the same conclusion from 21: 24-26. “The kings (and the nations) bring their glory into it.” Accordingly, the gates are allowed to stand open all day to permit their entrance. But none are allowed to go in save those written in the Lamb’s book of life. Now entrance into the heavenly city would not be possible during the millennium: for then the city is only suspended over the earth: it does not come down upon it. To meet this difficulty the holders of the opposite view translate verses 24 and 26 – “bring their glory unto it,” not “into it.”
To this I make two replies:-
1. Who are the kings of the earth during the millennium? They are the sons of God risen [out] from the dead. Do they, then, go no further than the gates of the city? I suppose it will be granted that they go in. So, then, do the nations, of whom the same phrase is used.
2. But secondly, the proposed amendment of the translation is unfounded. Whenever a verb of motion capable of signifying penetration or entrance into a penetrable subject - such as a river, house, etc., is followed by the preposition (eis) “into” - there entrance is affirmed.
Where it is supposed that the person stops outside of the enclosed or penetrable space, there another expression is employed.
Every language must possess and recognize this distinction, which is of the utmost consequence to men in their communications one with the other.
But this is not all the evidence. The context were of itself enough to settle the question. Why are the gates to be left open, but for the entrance of the kings and nations?
But against this view there is one strong objection - one so strong that from it, no doubt, has sprung the idea I am now combating.
1 “The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” “What make you of that? Does not that prove that sin and death are abroad still? And if so what time but the millennial can be the one supposed?”
I do not think that the expression used implies either sin or death. It is certain from 21: 4, that in the new earth there shall be neither death nor pain. But may there not be infirmity? I mean, in the case of those still in bodies of flesh. I suppose there may. As age creeps on there may he decay of strength, needing the leaves of the tree of life to be applied, in order to the restoration of full vigour. There are other cases of infirmity which may be suggested. The removal of such in cases of infirmity which may be suggested. The removal of such in - [Page 359] “Come, I will show thee the Bride.” Here is the mystic name. “And he showed me the holy city.” Here is the literal reality, described by the previous name, because of its connections with the past actions of God.
At the former notice of its descent, it was spoken of as a “bride prepared for her husband.” Here a still higher glory is discovered to us. She descends, being in everlasting possession of “the glory of God.”
Ezekiel was privileged to see this glory (often called “the Shekinah”) depart from the temple, the city, and the earth. To him, too, it was given to behold the vision of its restoration to the earth and the temple. Ezek. 43.
But then it was called “the glory of the Lord,” “the glory of the God
The Jew shall have all his promises, and far more than his deserts; but he shall not enjoy them alone.
The glory before had to tarry till man had completed his workmanship of the tabernacle and the temple. Here the building descends all complete, and the glory is there already. The glory was compelled to leave the temple, because of sin. But now it abides for ever: for sin is put away. This is the first time that the glory of God is named in this book. Jehovah has been represented before; but His glory has not yet appeared, because it was the time of indignation. His avenging of blood is not the time of the full display of His glory.
The city occupies the place of the temple of old.
“Her luminary was like a stone most precious, as a crystal jasper.”
Is this luminary the same as “the glory of God?” I suppose not. Besides the brightness of God’s presence there
is a visible orb of light overhanging the city. It is a local luminary like the star of
The tabernacle of old had two centres of light. The sanctuary was lit by the seven lamps of the candlestick. The Holiest was lighted by the glory of God’s presence.
So in the temple in heaven - we have (1) seven lamps in the Sanctuary: and (2) seven torches in the Holiest. Chap. 4.
Our luminaries are opaque bodies, diffusing light from a luminous surface, but the luminary at last is crystal.
The New Jerusalem, considered as the temple, has “the glory of God.”
Regarded as the city, it has a luminary of it own. It diffuses, not [Page 360] white light, like that of the sun, but coloured rays, like those of some of the stars. Its luminary is like jasper, in respect of its colour: it is superior to jasper, in that that is opaque quartz, but this is a transparent crystal. What the colour of the light is cannot be said, from our ignorance of the exact kind of stone designed by the writer.
The city besides has a “wall great and high.”
The wall is high, as related to the mansions inside the city; but it is low, in comparison with the vast height of the twelve foundations.
The New Jerusalem has “twelve gates.”
Even a casual glance at this wonderful city shows us how completely the number twelve runs through it. The number which has been prominent up to this point is seven; but henceforth it is discarded. Five is the number of nature: four plus one, or the world and God regarded as one. Seven is the number of dispensational perfection. But every successive dispensation ended in failure. Here is the eternal and unfailing scheme. The two numbers seven and twelve are beautifully related one to the other, so as to be significant of this sentiment. Seven is subdivided, as we have often observed, into four and three. Four indicates the creatures; three, the Creator. Seven consists of four and three in juxtaposition, and represents God and the creatures in contact. But twelve consists of four into three, and represents the Creator and the creature in intimate and perpetual union.
Six, or one less than seven, and but half the sacred twelve,
is the number of the False Christ. To
the city of man belong seven mountains,
on which the Harlot reposes. But the New
Jerusalem has twelve foundations.
The Usurper has ten kings, who
uphold his cause:
Ten is the number which in general characterizes the
arrangements of the tabernacle, and still more the
Twelve gates will not be too many for entrance into, and exit
from, so vast a city. The tabernacle had
but one entrance: it was not thrown open to all the
world. Access to God was guarded, and
granted only to the peculiarly-cleansed officials of the king. In the
At the gates are “twelve angels.” We understand at once the reason of this. They are “ministering spirits,” set as sentinels; for nothing that defiles may enter the city. Angels do not rule then: they serve.
It is remarkable that this is the only notice we have of angels’ presence near the city. They are no longer enthroned, but doorkeepers; they answer to the porters, chosen from among the Levites, who kept the entrances into the temple. 1 Chron. 9: 24.
Something more than a mere “gate” is understood by the word. It signifies a porch or a structure enclosing the gate, probably containing chambers.
The evil city was “the Mother of the Harlots of the
The city does not now belong to one tribe, nor is it included in the lot of Judah or Benjamin: it is the focus of all the nations. It is a neutral city, like the book before us. It owns all previous dispensations. ’Tis built as the dwelling-place of the men of faith, whether of the Old Testament or of the New. In this light it is exhibited by the apostle in the Hebrews 11.; 13: 14. It is mother of all.
The arrangement of the gates is symmetrical. The city is an exact square; hence the need of access to each quarter is the same. It is not erected, like most of the cities of men, at different times and by various builders; hence one plan reigns throughout.
The wall has twelve foundations. These are the great peculiarity of the city. In other cities, foundations are slight compared with this. They are covered up from sight. Here they underlie the whole city, elevate it to a wondrous height, and are its chief and most striking adornment. They represent it as the settled city, never to be moved. The Old Jerusalem was shaken by earthquake. The cities of the Gentiles, just before the Saviour appears, are laid in ruins by shocks destroying their foundations. But this abides unshaken.
On the foundations are engraved “the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” The God of the city is author both of the Law and of the Gospel. Jehovah is the God of Justice, evidenced by the Law and its tribes: and of mercy, as witnessed by the apostles and their testimony.
Apostles are witnesses of grace: on them, as foundations spiritually, the Church rested. Eph. 2: 20. As foundations are more important than gates, to them is assigned the nobler position. They inscribed not their own names thereon, but God glorifies them, when the names of the conquerors and monarchs of earth are forgot.
The names are those of “the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” There were many other apostles beside the twelve originally chosen. The New Testament notices at least twelve others. Acts 14: 4, 14, etc. But the twelve original ones were chosen by Jesus in the flesh.
THE DIMENSIONS OF THE CITY
5-17. “And he that talked with me had a golden measuring reed, that he might measure the city, and its portals, and its walls. And the city lieth foursquare, and its length is as large as its breadth, and he measured the city with the reed for twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth, and the height of it are equal. And he measured its wall a hundred and forty-four cubits, (according to) the measure of a man, that is of an angel.”
But two measures are named: first the general measure which runs through the great dimensions of the city, and then the height of the wall. It is remarkable how little of detail is given here, when compared with the accounts of the tabernacle and the temples of Solomon and of Ezekiel.
The city portals are named, but, their dimensions are not given. It is not a little remarkable, that while this is the city of our mansions, no individual habitation of the saints is described.
Doubtless the great reason of this want of detail is, that God builds this structure, and man the others. Man needs exact details. In the New Jerusalem we shall enjoy the results of God’s completed architecture.
But what a prodigious height! How can this be literally understood? By a consideration of the height to which the foundations rose. That height is not given; save in the very general description, that the city’s base was a great and lofty mountain. If we suppose that the height of the foundations was two-thirds of the whole 12,000 furlongs, we shall, I think, get a far more feasible view of the city than on any other conjecture.
The height of the wall above the foundations is only 144 cubits.
But what is the measure of the cubit? In Ezekiel the cubit was peculiar: it was larger than the ordinary cubit by a hand-breadth. Ezek 40: 5; 43: 13.
The cubit used by the angel was an ordinary one. The angel’s size was not gigantic: it was a man’s ordinary height: and the cubit is a measure taken from a man’s stature. Does not this prove the description to be literal?
The city, as I suppose, towers above the walls on every side, street above street, and terrace above terrace, till its highest point is attained in the great square in which stands the throne of God and the tree of life.
THE CITY’S MATERIALS
18-21. “And the superstructure of the wall of it was jasper; and the city was clear gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every precious stone. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprasus; the eleventh, hyacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.”
The wall is considered as consisting of two
parts - its superstructure and its foundations. The part rising above the lowest level of the
city was of jasper; the foundations of the wall in their twelve stages are then
given. In Hebrews,
the apostle speaks of the foundations of the city. The Holy Spirit here speaks of the foundations
of the wall. The same precious stones
were foundations of both. The false city
rested on seven mountains: the
The material of the city in general is gold, the most costly
and beautiful metal known to man. The
house of Solomon was framed of wood and stone, plated over with gold. This city is built of solid gold. In
The Harlot-city was “gilded with gold, precious stones, and pearls” (17: 4). The Bridal-city is built of solid gold, precious stones, and pearls.
Concerning the twelve precious stones, but little that is certain can be said. Little is known by the learned in general with regard to the precious stones now in use. Less seems to be known concerning the precious stones of old, and what stones of modern times answer to the names of old.
There were twelve stones in the High Priest’s breastplate. I give their names as found in the Greek of the Seventy. Exod. 28: 15.
1. Sardius. 2. Topaz. 3. Emerald. 4. Ruby. 5. Sapphire. 6. Jasper.
7. Ligure. 8. Agate. 9. Amethyst. 10. Chrysolite. 11. Beryl. 12. Onyx.
I will now just make a few remarks on the stones here named.
1. The first is Jasper. This, as known to the moderns, is believed to be a species of quartz, opaque, of various colours: green clouded with yellow, blue, brown and white. Some imagine that a diamond of a blue colour may be meant (Notes to Pictorial Bible).
B. Taylor, in his Travels in
2. Sapphire. By this is meant a precious stone of a blue deeper than lapis lazuli, with veins of white, or spots of gold. It is very translucent, azure or sky-blue. The largest known weighs 133 carats of four grains each (Mawe on Precious Stones) .
3. Chalcedony. This is usually of one uniform colour throughout, usually a light brown, and often nearly white; but other shades of colour are not infrequent - such as grey, yellow, green, and blue (Kitto’s Cyclop.).
4. The Emerald is a precious stone of a deep
green. The largest known of old was sent
5. Sardonyx. “A precious stone, exhibiting a milk-white variety of the onyx or chalcedony, intermixed with shades or stripes of the sardian or carnation: hence the compound name of sardonyx” (Kitto).
6. Sardius. This is generally believed to be the cornelian of a flesh colour.
7. Chrysolite. “The prevailing colour is yellowish green and pistachio-green of every variety and degree of shade, but always with a yellow and gold lustre” (Kitto). With this Mawe seems to agree. The Greek means “golden stone.”
8. Beryl is a stone of a sea-green colour, probably the one now known
as aquamarine. In
9. The Topaz is a precious stone, whose “prevailing colour is a wine-yellow of every degree of shade” (Kitto). Some suppose it to be the stone which moderns call chrysolite. “That of the ancients appears to have been pale green” (Stuart). “Its colour is pistachio-green, with other shades” (Pictorial Bible).
10. Chrysoprasus is “either of an apple or a leek-green colour.” From its golden-green, like that of the leek, its name seems to have been derived. The Greek means “green as a leek.”
11. The Jacinth, or Hyacinth. The Pictorial Bible describes it as “a violet-coloured gem, probably a variety of amethyst, differing only in colour from that beautiful gem.”
12. The Amethyst is “of colour which seems composed of a strong blue and deep red; and, according as either of these prevails, exhibits different tinges of purple, sometimes approaching to violet, and sometimes declining even to a rose-colour” (Kitto). With this Mawe pretty nearly agrees.
Since there are such difficulties in the way of identifying the stones, and of defining their colours, it is hard to speculate on the combined effect of colour presented to the apostle’s eye. Here is that stated by M. Stuart: “In looking over these various classes, we find the first four to be of a green or bluish cast; the fifth and sixth, of a red or scarlet; the seventh, yellow; the eighth, ninth, and tenth, of different shades of the lighter green; and the eleventh and twelfth, of a scarlet or splendid red. There is classification, therefore, in this arrangement: a mixture not dissimilar to the arrangement in the rainbow, with the exception that it is more complex.”
In that word - “the rainbow” - is supplied, as I suppose, the key to this wonderful structure.
In the rainbow science discovers seven colours; three primary ones, red, yellow, blue: and four derived ones, orange, green, indigo, violet.
Now if we compare the colours of the foundation stones with those of the rainbow we shall find, I believe, a designed resemblance though, from our ignorance in regard of the precious stones, we cannot come to any very close or satisfactory conclusion. The stones, then, with their colours, and the tints of the rainbow, are as
1. Jasper, greenish? yellow?
2. Sapphire, azure.
THE RAINBOW. 3. Chalcedony, doubtful, green and blue.
1. Red 4. Emerald, green.
2. Orange 5. Sardius, red.
3. Yellow 6. Sardonyx, red and white.
4. Green 7. Chrysolite, yellow.
5. Blue 8. Beryl, sea-green.
6. Indigo 9. Topaz, yellow.
7. Violet (lake) 10. Chrysoprasus, golden‑green.
11. Jacinth, violet.
12. Amethyst, rose‑red.
If we omit the first four of the stones we may trace a very considerable resemblance between the two series of colours.
It should be observed that each colour in the spectrum does not take up exactly the same space, but some occupy a much larger interval than others. The following statement is taken from Dr. Lardner’s work:-
If the spectrum be divided into 360 equal parts, the proportion of each will be as follows:-
Violet . . . . . . 56
Indigo . . . . . . 27
Blue . . . . . . . 27
Green . . . . . . 46
Yellow . . . . . 48
Red . . . . . . . 109
Answerably to this we may find in the foundations one colour occupying a greater space than another, because two foundations may be of similar hues, even though each precious foundation be of the [Page 366] same altitude. It will be noticed that the colours which in the present world are seven, as suited to its passing away; in the future world are twelve, which is in harmony with the abiding nature of the new World’s city.
If we will make choice of a colour for some of these stones which are of various hues, we arrive at a regular arrangement of them in this manner.
But we inquire into the spiritual significance of this. Why should the rainbow be the basis of the
Because of its connection with the history of the covenant with Noah. We saw in chapter 4. how much that covenant was in the mind of God. The covenant in its first aspect has been accomplished. The throne foretold in it has made inquisition for blood; but the ark and the going forth thence was typical of things yet to come.
A deluge of fire has swept the old world, and destroyed it: but some of the inhabitants and of its creatures have been transferred in a new ark to a new world, under the conduct of a greater than Noah. When the patriarch came forth from the ark, he built an altar, and offered sacrifices thereon. “The Lamb” of God is the one sacrifice now; and if God smelled a “savour of rest” (marg.) in Noah’s sacrifice, how much more must eternal security be based on the blood-shedding of the Lamb of God! If God could say that He would no more curse the ground for man’s sake, because he was evil wholly, how much more shall He send only blessing, because man thenceforth is good? The seasons were then to keep their rounds while earth remained: much more on the new earth in which righteousness alone dwells. If the Lord could pronounce blessing on the creatures and man then, much more now! Then animals might be slain for food: we do not read of this in the new earth; but only of the fruits of the tree. Man was then to execute judgment on the murderer; but at this period God Himself has passed the eternal sentence on the assassin, and he lies in the lake of fire. Then the Most High declared His covenant between Himself and four, sets of creatures, that no more should a flood destroy the earth. And of this promise the rainbow was to be a token and memorial.
But the new world is established on better and more solid promises. Hence the rainbow, which was before a passing sight, has become solid. There is no cloud now to be brought in wrath over the earth: the bow abides in perpetual light. But indeed it is no more a bow, a weapon of wrath; ’tis the city’s foundation. In Ezekiel and in Rev. 4. the rainbow is seen as the attendant of the throne: but the bow is of a single colour only. Now, the throne is established on the top of the memorial of the covenant, and the abode of the risen is with God there. That which in Noah’s covenant was transient, is now perpetual, and God’s better priesthood, fixed in resurrection on the footing of the [Lord Jesus our] Great High Priest, abides.
It seems very probable, indeed almost certain, that the
general aspect of the city is pyramidical. The lowest foundation would far exceed the
topmost one in breadth. I suppose, too,
that round the upper surface of each of the foundations runs a broad ledge, on
which the pilgrim nations will rest and encamp while travelling into the city. This idea of terrace above terrace in the
foundations and in the city itself, seems confirmed
not only by the great buildings in
The twelve gates are twelve pearls. How precious these gems are is known to most! Job sets the pearl side by side with gold and
precious stones. Job 28: 15-19. The Saviour speaks of all a merchant’s
property being sold to purchase one pearl of peculiar value. Pearls form the suitable ornaments of the most wealthy monarchs. But how small the largest! With mortal men they are for ornament, not
use. They are to be cautiously handled,
because easily broken. In the city of
The pearl is used by our Lord in His parable to signify righteousness. The Jew was sent to seek righteousness by the Law. But as soon as the true Jew found Messiah’s precious [imputed] righteousness, he surrendered his own to obtain it. Phil. 3.
The foundations of the city speak of mercy: the gates of righteousness.
It was not possible to engrave names on pearls as found in this world: they are too frail and too thin to bear the tool of steel. Even thus man’s righteousness is too frail and imperfect to bear the pressure of God’s demands of perfection: but the righteousness of God is capable of every perfection.
As no pearl could be engraved, onyxes,
which are precious stones bearing the nearest resemblance to pearl in their
colour, were chosen [Page 368] by God to foreshadow the gates of
pearl of His future city. There were but two
onyxes, each containing six names of the tribes of
There is no entrance into the heavenly city by our works, but by the righteousness of Messiah.
1 How to translate the Greek word rendered by the English
Version “street” is difficult. There
must be many “streets” in so vast a city with twelve gates of entrance. But there is one “square”
or “broad space.” It seems that it must be in the centre of the
city, and at its highest point, where the throne of God is set, and the tree of
life planted. To this, as to a common
centre, all the streets of the city tend. This is an arrangement much adopted in some
parts of the world, as in
The streets of the world’s cities,
however magnificent, are disfigured by mud, which soils the feet and garments
of the passengers and citizens. Ps. 18:
42; Isa. 10:
6. The streets of the
RELATION OF THE CITY TO THE DWELLERS OUTSIDE IT
22-27. “And no temple saw I in it; for the Lord God of Hosts is its temple, and the Lamb. And the city hath no need of the sun nor of the moon, that they should shine for it: for the glory of God enlightened it, and its lamp was the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by means of its light: and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it. And her portals shall not be shut by day: for the night shall not be there. And they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it. And nothing common shall enter into it, nor any one who makes abomination or a lie: but those (only) who have been written in the Lamb’s book of Life.”
In the New Jerusalem John saw no temple. This constitutes one of the great differences between it and the Old Jerusalem under the old covenant. The temple of old was the proof of sin’s presence. The God of holiness must keep the godless and sinful at a distance. Atonement must be made daily; lest the presence of Jehovah should destroy the people among whom He dwelt.
But then sin is past away. Atonement the most complete has been [Page 369] made. Man sins no more. Nothing, therefore, now shuts off God from the eye and feet of His saved ones.
There is, therefore, no one fenced spot where alone God is - that
being holy, while the rest of the city is profane: it is now “the
From this we can be sure that the present passage does not describe millennial times.
There is a temple,
partly on earth, partly in heaven, distinct from the two cities. Sin
is not at an end. God still dwells in His heavenly temple: the Christ dwells in the
temple below. But when “the outer court” of the heavenly temple passes away
with the burning earth, the temple, too (it would appear), is set aside.
Thenceforth we see only one city, and that city is also the one
At first the city is discovered to us as related to Jesus alone: it is His “Bride.” Now we have the city as related to both the Father and the Son. It is a point I am not able to account for, that we have no notice of the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in the city or the new earth.
“The Lamb” is no name of a passing dispensation merely. Jesus’ aspect as the Sacrifice and Priest endures for ever. And if the temple of any god be the place where the Deity resides, then Jesus, in unity with the Father is the Deity of the New Jerusalem.
Verse 23 answers an important question affecting the city considered as a temple – “How is it lit?” Its standing is peculiar. The earth is then lit by two great luminaries, as of old - the one ruler of the day, the other of the night. The earth is mainly dependent on them for the supply of light; but the city is independent of both. “The city hath no need of the sun, nor of the moon, that they should shine for it.” It has two sources of illumination - the glory of God, and the Lamb’s light.
“And its lamp is the Lamb.”
Jesus appears not now as King of kings - such as He was exhibited in chapter 20. - but as the object of worship and giver of light. Jesus, at His appearing on the old earth, was the giver of moral light to the world. John 1: 5-9; 8: 12; 9: 5. Now from His blessed person stream rays of perpetual day to the dwellers in the city. On the top of the Mount of Transfiguration His face shone awhile as the sun; but now His glory abides.
In the Holiest of the heavenly temple the Holy Spirit was the lamp. “There are seven torches of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (4: 5). This renders the absence of any notice of the Sacred Spirit, in the description of the eternal city, the more remarkable.
Where the city is spoken of, Jesus is twice named
separately from the Father; but when
“And the nations shall walk by means of her light.”
The reading, “the nations of them that are saved,” is not genuine. It arose from erroneously regarding all the saved as consisting of but one body - instead of perceiving that the nations are one mass, the citizens another: and these words, once introduced, have kept up the error.
This twofold division of mankind obtains throughout eternity. There are “the nations” still on the new earth. The word intends men in the flesh; just as it does now, and during the millennium. But the risen from the dead form another and nobler body. They dwell within the city; the nations outside. The nations have lands appointed to them, as on the old earth. The distinct bodies of different races abide still.
The nations “walk” by means of its light.
This is nearly equivalent to “travel;”
walking being the ordinary mode of travelling in
These words teach us that while the city is independent of the earth’s sources of light, the nations are not independent of the city: at least when they go up to appear before God. They need no guide to the city, for its luminaries form a constant beacon. Even by day, the nearer they approach the more do the beams of its glory enlighten them. But especially by night, and when there is no moonlight, they find the benefit of its beams. Very lofty indeed is the city, and its luminaries being more exalted still, its light is diffused very widely.
The New Jerusalem is the centre of the new earth and its nations,
as the Old Jerusalem was the metropolis of the twelve tribes. The number twelve found in
Pilgrimage is a portion of the plans of the Most High for the new earth also. Only the differences are very worthy of notice. No laws are given concerning the frequency of the going up: no penalties are set. The laws of the Creator are now written on the heart, and observed freely: for all are God’s elect, and all taught of Him.
Behold in this city’s position, too, another reference to Jesus’ words concerning His disciples. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under the bushel, but on the lampstand, and it giveth light to all the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Greek) (Matt. 5: 14-16). That which Jesus’ disciples were to be to the old world, in a spiritual point of view, they are now, both morally [Page 371] and physically. They are one; one in heart, one in their abode. The world believes that God has sent Jesus.
“The kings of the earth bring their glory into it.”
By “the kings of the earth” are meant the kings of the nations. As the nations are now transferred to the new world, so have they kings. Subordination of ranks is a part of God’s abiding scheme for eternity. They are called “kings of the earth,” to distinguish them from the kings of the city. For there are two classes of kings: those made kings and priests to God by Jesus’ blood, who are risen from the dead and dwell with God; and those who are men in the flesh, and live among the nations outside the metropolis. For the citizens are kings of kings, “and they shall reign for ever and ever” (22: 5).
The kings of the nations, then, sensible of their inferiority, and desirous to appear before God and His risen servants, bring presents.
By their “glory” seems to be intended whatever is peculiarly precious and beautiful in their countries. Gen. 31: 1; Esther 1: 4.
Thus the light of the city as internal, or related to the citizens, is presented to us in ver. 23. The eternal light, or its relation to the dwellers without, is discovered to us in ver. 24. On their journey to or from the city, they are enlightened and guided by it, even as were the Magi of old by the star. For the pilgrimage to it is a long journey. And even when its foundations are reached, a long ascent lies before them.
Is there any connection between the fifteen “Songs of Ascent,” and the fifteen hundred miles of the city’s height?
“And her portals shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.”
I believe that this paragraph gives peculiarly the city’s relations to those without. Day and night still exist for the world at large. Five times are “day and night” named in this book.
When the old earth is just about to be burned up, and Satan is cast into the lake of fire, it is said that he and his two coadjutors are to be “tormented day and night for ever and ever” (20: 10). This proves that day and night take their turns for ever.
Night still exists for the nations. This we have inferred from their travelling by the light of the city. Then the word “day” refers to them too. The gates of the city are not shut, while the world’s sun is above the horizon. That shines for the nations of the earth and their kings. They need darkness and its attendant sleep still, as men in the flesh.
And this is very interesting, as connected with the twenty-four hours of our day. The two twelves of day and night, here also it would seem, are to abide: and to be divided as they are now.
When, then, it is said - “They are not closed by day” - it is implied that “they are closed by night.” And this accounts for the [Page 372] introduction of the next clause, “for there shall be no night there.” As though John had said – “Against the pilgrim-nations they are shut; for they have the alternations of day and night. But I do not mean to contradict what I have said of the city’s independence of earth’s sources of light. ‘There is no night there.’ I refer to the world at large.” The citizens, I suppose, possess the privilege to enter at all times.
Her inhabitants do not sleep: they need not rest, for they are men of resurrection. Nor is this reason assigned for the shutting of the gates. It seems implied that it is to keep out for awhile the nations who have come on pilgrimage to her. It may be connected with meetings of the citizens among themselves: the day may be the time of receiving the nations who come from a distance. Certainly the pilgrim nations will need sleep; and the night will be the fitting time for them to repose, ere they enter the city.
The power to enter at night would be a superior privilege of the risen. This, too, would give especial force to some passages of the New Testament.
Christians are called “children of light, and of the day,” now, in a spiritual sense. “We are not of the night, nor of darkness.” When fully redeemed at length, it is true of them literally also. They are children of light, and sons of the day, for they live in one unbroken noon of brightness. 1 Thess. 5: 5-8; Luke 16: 8; John 12: 36; Eph. 5: 8-14; 2 Cor. 6: 14, 15.
“And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.”
Why is it not said more simply and
naturally - “The nations shall bring their glory into
it”? I believe it is implied that
the nations, are introduced by the citizens. The citizens are the priests of the new
temple, the wardens of the
Some examination of the enterers is implied, I believe, in the next verse. It seems supposed, to, in the angels standing as sentinels at each of the gates.
“They shall bring” implies that parties accompany the nations. So in the 45th Psalm., 14, 15.
As the nations at last take the place of
I read in these words, that the different countries of the new
earth will have different and special products, and that it will be their delight
to bring with them presents of whatever is accounted most valuable in their
land. The prophecies of millennial times
will confirm this. “All they from
They bring “the nations’ ” glory. Before, the kings of the nations [Page 373] brought their presents. Now the nations that attend their kings, do so. The nations are never called “dwellers on the earth:” which seems to show that the phrase was used in the former part by way of blame. The risen are not “nations;” they are not in the flesh, not set in families, they are a selection out of all nations.
Notice, also, that the fourfold division of men on the old earth is gone. We read no more of “tongues and kindreds, tribes and peoples.” But one tongue, I suppose, is now found on earth.
They not only bring their presents to its gates, but they are
introduced within its walls. “A man’s
Solomon, “maketh room for him and bringeth him before great men”
(Prov. 18: 16). This word “bring” shows that they habitually dwell outside it, but are admitted
within upon special occasions. Again it
proves that the context is speaking of the times after the millennium. During the millennium there is a gulf between
the old earth and the
The harder cases of controversy which their judges,
and kings cannot decide are brought up to this metropolis to be solved. Advice of similar kind was given to Moses, and
accepted by him. Exod. 18. Thus it was commanded to
But this is no command now, and no threat. The law is written within the heart.
But, perhaps, some may be startled and inquire, “What cases in a redeemed and holy world can there be, which will call for adjudication?” It is true that they will be few comparatively, after the blinding effect of men’s evil lusts is removed: yet it is easy, by looking back at the past, to see that many questions may arise concerning the division of heritages, and other things, which will call for no little wisdom. The question of the daughters of Zelophehad was one of that kind. Moses could not solve it; it needed to be referred to God. It did not spring, as far as we can see, from any wrong spirit: and the wisdom of God met it.
They bring to the city of their wealth: in it are the waters of life, and from it they carry away the leaves of the tree of life, which grow there for their healing. Kings and nations now come up not in selfish cupidity, but in love to God and His glorified servants.
If the nations go up into the New Jerusalem, it would seem probable that they will be received into the mansions of the citizens during their stay: unless we assume that they bivouac in the city.
Is it not with a view to the final arrangement of God that we read, as part of the Christian character, the precept, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers” (Heb. 13: 2). “Given to hospitality” (Rom. 12: 13). “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (Peter 4: 9). This virtue is peculiarly enforced on church officers. 1 Tim. 3: 2; Titus 1: 8.
“And there shall not enter into it any thing common, nor whoever maketh an abomination, or a lie; but those who have been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb.”
Naught “common,” only the sacred, splendid, excellent articles of gifts, may be borne within the city. Then it runs on in strict accordance with the former verse: ver. 26 describes the aspect of that which is admissible: this, of that which is not allowed to be carried in.
Or are we to take it in a stronger sense, as including certain ceremonial uncleannesses, which may for a time exclude from the walls of the city? Mark 7: 20. Either way it proves that we are dealing with the flesh. This word applies only to the nations, and their admittance. The risen are not mortals in the flesh. The question of their entrance, and its turning on moral qualities, was already stated. Verses 6-8.
“Nor whosoever maketh an abomination or a lie.”
Here the gender changes: it refers evidently to persons. Moral qualities are now in question.
The expression in the Greek, “maketh abomination,” has two senses, both of which, I think, are included here.
1. It signifies - “making an idol.” “Shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? Shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?” (Isa. 1: 9-18; 45: 16; 46: 6).
2. It means also the commission of any grievous act of
immorality. After speaking of various
unlawful lusts, the Lord says to
Another form of sin is specified - or maketh “a lie.”
This would seem to be taken generally and extensively for every form of a lie.
None of these shall enter: God dwells within.
But while the negative aspect has been treated, the positive has yet to be stated - Who may enter?
“Those written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
This refers to all, whether citizens, or individuals of the nations. All who enter, whether as inhabitants or pilgrims, enter as elect. This is the only certain and permanent basis for eternal life. God’s decree and power make the final fall of His elect impossible. Here is personal election: not election to the use of means; but to the enjoyment of bliss eternal.
The words are designed to lead us back to the final judgment. Then the book of life was displayed for the first time. 20: 15. It was there used with regard to the escape from wrath: those found in it were not cast into the lake of fire. And they were of two classes.
1. Those who were dead before the Lord’s appearing, but not accounted worthy to receive the reward of the thousand years. Those who were accounted worthy to obtain a part in the reign of Christ entered the heavenly city during the millennium. But many will enter the city of grace, as men of faith and saved by God’s election, who will not enjoy reward. 1 Cor. 3: 15. It is not said that all who are written in the Lamb’s book of life enjoy the [millennial] reign of Messiah. But they do enter the city in its final state. Here lies the distinction between eternal life, God’s free gift to every believer, and the kingdom of heaven, the reward to the doers of good. Matt. 7: 21.
And in the words now under consideration appears the positive
side of the book of life. It not only
delivers from the Second Death: it admits into the eternal city of
2. The other class was the men living in the flesh on the earth, who were not guilty of the final rebellion. Were they to be permitted to dwell on the new earth, and to enter as pilgrims, the holy city? That is decided by the sovereignty of God. The dead are judged according to their works. Of the living the question is - “Are they of the serpent’s seed? or of the Woman’s?” That is decided by God’s knowledge and election.
It is “the Lambs” book. The names written therein are those given to Him by the Father. They are redeemed by His blood and righteousness. The city is His bride: the enterers in are her children. The throne belongs to God and the Lamb.