Revelation 21

The postmillennial “lake of fire,” described three times in Chapter 20, is not the same as the “lake of fire” depicted in Chapter 19:20, 21, which consumed only “the beast” and “the false prophet,” As we learned, that “lake of fire” took place during the time of the second trumpet (Revelation 8: 8, 9), leaving the remnant of the living wicked to call for “the mountains and rocks [to] fall on [them] and [hide] them from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16) at the time of the second coming that took place five trumpets and seven vials later.

In contrast, the “lake of fire” portrayed in Chapter 20 slew all “the nations which [were] in the four quarters of the earth” “the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.”  They were called “Magog” after Satan, called “Gog,” gathered “them together to battle” against God seated above “the beloved city.” Consequently, the “fire [that] came down from God out of heaven . . . devoured them” all and changed the entire earth into one molten mass. In the meantime, “the righteous . . . [who] had part in the first resurrection,” were like the passengers in Noah’s ark.  They “abode safely in the Holy City” [1] as it rode out the fiery storm.

Verse 1: And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

As the Commentary observes, the adjective “new” means “new” in quality as opposed to that which is worn or marred” and “created from the purified elements of the old . . .” [2] with the “old” depicted here as “the first heaven and the first earth” which “were passed away” or vaporized in the “lake of fire.” Obviously, being subjected to heat sufficient to convert the earth into a sea of lava, water that composed the absent “sea,” would become a vaporous cloud hanging in the atmosphere or even ejected into outer space waiting for things to cool down.

“The “sea,” that John says will be “no more,” is the one today that now “covers more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface. Since all the oceans of the world are interconnected, they can all be thought of as “one ocean” which originated when “the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered” (Genesis 7:19, 20).

Even though it receded enough to bare the 30% land mass, as we now know it, “The sea [still] divides friends. It is a barrier between us and those whom we love. Our associations are broken up by the broad, fathomless ocean. In the new earth there will be no more sea . . . Thank God, in the earth made new there will be no fierce torrents, no engulfing ocean, no restless, murmuring waves.” [3]

In reality, the world, as we know it, is really one huge ball of water, called an ocean, that is broken here and there by islands that we call continents. The ocean is so vast that you could sail across it for days without seeing land. It is also deep. “In some areas, the ocean bottom lies more than 6 miles below the surface . . . The deepest spot in all the oceans, Challenger deep, is 36,198 feet below the surface of the Pacific. If the highest mountain in the world . . . Mount Everest, were put into this spot, more than 1 mile of water would cover the mountain . . . If the Greenland and Antarctic icecaps should suddenly melt, the world ocean would rise about 200 feet. New York City would be submerged with only the tops of the tallest building above the water.” [4]

“The most-recent estimate of the average ocean depth of 3,682 meters (12,080 feet) was calculated in 2010 by scientists from NOAA and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution using satellite measurements. These measurements revealed that the seafloor is much bumpier and mountainous than previously known and resulted in an average ocean depth that is less than previously calculated.” [5] While scientists generally believe the sea has always existed as it is, taking clues from the Bible, our vast ocean originated from “the fountains of the great deep [that were] broken up” (Genesis 7:11) at the time of the great flood. The source of those “fountains,” called “the great deep,” must have been a vast, subterranean ocean that was once underground, but is now covering the major portion of the planet because those “fountains” were “broken up” by the hand of God. Thus, what was once hidden below its surface, now lies exposed above the major portion of the planet. Quite likely, God will restore the sea to its original subterranean home and it will again become the source of the original, antediluvian “fountains.”

“When God had formed the earth, there were mountains, hills, and plains, and interspersed among them were rivers and bodies of water. The earth was not one extensive plain, but the monotony of the scenery was broken by hills and mountains, not high and ragged as they now are, but regular and beautiful in shape. The bare, high rocks were never seen upon them, but lay beneath the surface, answering as bones to the earth. The waters were regularly dispersed. The hills, mountains, and very beautiful plains, were adorned with plants and flowers, and tall, majestic trees of every description, which were many times larger, and much more beautiful, than trees now are. The air was pure and healthful, and the earth seemed like a noble palace. Angels beheld and rejoiced at the wonderful and beautiful works of God.” [6]

But the inhabitants of the “new earth,” as lovely as it will be, will not be confined there. Instead, “All the treasures of the universe will be open to the study of God’s redeemed. Unfettered by mortality, they wing their tireless flight to worlds afar.” [ 7]

Verse 2: And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

This scene precedes the time when “Gog and Magog . . . compassed the camp of the saints . . . the beloved city” (Revelation 20:8, 9). Here, “the beloved city,” called “new Jerusalem” is depicted in an extraordinary manner actually “coming down from God out of heaven!”

The vain attempt of Gog and Magog to capture it is not repeated in this chapter. Instead, the city’s descent from heaven, that is likened to a beautiful “bride adorned for her husband” and followed by a description of what “the new heaven and [the] new earth” will be like, is the subject of this chapter.

According to Zechariah 14:4, when the Lord’s “feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before [ancient] Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south,” evidently to provide space for the “new Jerusalem” to settle upon. [brackets supplied]

This, the “third coming” of Christ, will be the first time the Lord’s “feet” shall touch the earth since “he was taken up: and a cloud received him” (Acts 1:9) at the time of his ascension. Even though at His second coming He will come “with clouds” (Revelation 1:7) He will not set foot on the earth. Instead, the saints will be “caught up together . . . in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) after which they will reign “with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).

In the meantime, the earth will lie dormant, desolate (except for the brooding presence of Satan and his angels) and forlorn, waiting, as it were, for its eventual restoration to the Edenic likeness depicted in Verse 1 of this chapter.

While the second coming was incredibly awesome, the third coming stretches the imagination beyond the breaking point. There we see this immense “City” preceded by “Christ [as He] descends upon the Mount of Olives, whence, after His resurrection, He ascended, and where angels repeated the promise of His return . . . ‘and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof . . . and there shall be a very great valley.’ Zechariah 14:5, 4 . . . the New Jerusalem in its dazzling splendor, comes down out of heaven, it rests upon the place purified and made ready to receive it, and Christ, with His people and the angels, enters the Holy City.” [8] WOW!

Verse 3: And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

The Commentary points out that “the speaker is not identified” and “is presumably not God, for He is spoken of in the third person.” [9] However, it appears that the same “great voice from heaven” invited the “two witnesses” to “come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud” (Revelation 11:12). The “great voice” also commanded “the seven angels” to “pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth,” after which it declares: “It is done” (Revelation 16:1, 17). In this instance, the “voice” came “out of the “temple in heaven” which “was filled with smoke from the glory of God” (Revelation 15:8) after “one like unto the Son of man” had left the temple and had taken His place on the “white cloud” (Revelation 14:14). Therefore, because these scenes are all post probational and, due to the nature of these commands, it seems likely this is the voice of God the Father.

In any case, the unpleasantness depicted in Chapter 20 is over and Christ, with His people and the angels, can now look forward to a peaceful eternity. “The pure in heart live as in the visible presence of God during the time He apportions them in this world. And they will also see Him face to face in the future, immortal state, as did Adam when he walked and talked with God in Eden. ‘Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face’ (1 Corinthians 13:12).” [10]

Just after He “created man in his own image,” back in the beginning, He spoke to Adam and Eve face-to-face, inviting them to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it . . .” (Genesis 1:28). In this post millennial situation, it seems that the earth will have been sufficiently replenished with the saved people of all the ages of history, thus making procreation unnecessary. Christ Himself said that after “the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). Evidently, we will not be raising families, but will be one big happy family with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit at the head.

In that case, the immense numbers of the heavenly family will remain finite. And, since time will be infinite, eventually every member of the family will be well acquainted with each other. None will be strangers, unlike our present situation where nearly all are strangers to each other.

After Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, they “hid themselves . . . amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:8-10). Ever since that time, God has been seeking ways to “dwell among” men who cannot live in His presence. He instructed Moses to build “a sanctuary; that [He might] dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). But that “sanctuary” was just a pattern of the sanctuary in heaven, “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man” (Hebrews 8:2). When Christ died, “the veil of the [earthly] temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45) by the angel of God, signifying that the “most holy place of the earthly sanctuary is no longer sacred.” [11] Since that time, God’s people have been able to approach him one-on-one in the heavenly sanctuary without the assistance of a human priest. In fact, “Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Ephesians 3:17) and become “closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24) through the agency of the Holy Spirit, Jesus called the “Comforter,” (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) who testifies of Jesus.

But God has even greater plans in store. His object is to restore us to full fellowship, a literal dwelling with us, even as Adam had in the beginning, who, “in his innocence was granted communion, direct, free, and happy, with his Maker.” [12] Then, “the tabernacle of God [will be] with men, and he will [literally] dwell with them . . . and God himself shall [literally] be with them, and be their God.”

Verse 4: And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

This is the second and last time God will have to “wipe away all tears from their eyes.” A thousand years before, “God [had wiped] away all tears from [the] eyes” of the “great multitude” who were “arrayed in white robes.” They had just come “out of [the] great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14, 17), “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time” (Daniel 12:1). They were rescued at midnight, “the darkest period of this earth’s history” when Satan worked “with all power and ‘with all deceivableness of unrighteousness’ . . . the great apostasy [had developed] into darkness deep as midnight, impenetrable as sackcloth of hair. To God’s people it [had been] a night of trial, a night of weeping, a night of persecution for the truth’s sake.” [13] Just at the moment they were to suffer death at the hands of the wicked, “the great [metaphoric] river Euphrates [was] dried up” when the “sixth [plague bearing] angel poured out his vial” (Revelation 16:12).

But during the past thousand years, that specter of death must have long since passed from memory as “they sat upon” “thrones” and “they lived and reigned with Christ . . .” (Revelation 20:4) judging “. . . the wicked, comparing their acts with the statute book, the Bible, and deciding every case according to the deeds done in the body. Satan also and evil angels are judged by Christ and his people.” [14]

A short time after the second, post millennial, resurrection, “Jesus . . . accompanied by all the saints, again go to the City.” They heard the “bitter lamentations and wailings of the doomed wicked” [15] who would not follow them (in spite of the open gates) because of the animosity and terror they felt toward God―conclusive evidence that compelling them “into the company of the pure and holy would make them exceedingly miserable.” [16]

Nevertheless, the saints, who are still tender hearted, will have had to bid their lamenting loved ones a tearful farewell because they take no pleasure in witnessing their destruction in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14, 15). Therefore, it is little wonder “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Perhaps the saints will even have to wipe away tears from the eyes of God! “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11), even though there is no hope of their turning away from the evil of their ways. Though they fully acknowledge the justice and absolute necessity of the fearful, postmillennial, executive judgment, and while it was fearfully painful for the wicked, it was also a very painful thing for the saints to witness.

But, from that time forth “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away” forever, and ever, and ever!

Verse 5: And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

This takes us back to the “new heaven and a new earth” (Verse 1). “He that sat upon the throne” is the creator who sat on the “great white throne . . . from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away” after “fire came down from” Him “out of heaven, and devoured,” not only “Gog and Magog” but the entire earth in one vast “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:8-15). Viewed from a distance in space, this would make the earth appear as a new neighbor in the family of stars. This would be a very strange sight with a tiny, brilliantly lit orb circling around the much larger star we call the sun.  “’The elements melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein are burned up’ (Malachi 4:1; 2 Peter 3:10). The earth’s surface seems one molten mass . . .” [17]

Having subjected the globe to His celestial blast furnace, He will, as it were, pour the molten mass into the ingot of His plan to recreate the world, anew, as it was before Noah’s flood. But it will be even better than that because in the midst of the new earth will be the marvelous city called the “New Jerusalem” (Verse 2). Prior to the fire, the earth’s surface was still “broken and uneven,” [18] having been subjected to “a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great” (Revelation 16:18). No such scene will greet the eye at this point! As Paul said: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Since “God is a lover of the beautiful,” [19] His “new heaven and new earth” will surpass all that imagination can possibly conjecture as to what is splendid, exquisite, gorgeous, dazzling, or magnificent.  As unbelievable as it may seem, doubt is uncalled for because “these words” were spoken by the “Faithful and True rider of the “white horse” (Revelation 19:11).

Verse 6: And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

Jesus, the “Alpha and Omega” (Revelation 1:8, 11), declares what “a great voice out of the temple of heaven” said, a “thousand years before” when “the seventh [plague bearing] angel poured out his vial into the air” ― “It is done” (Revelation 16:17). That was God the Father who remained in the “temple” (Revelation 15:8) while “one . . . like unto the Son of man” took His place on the great “white cloud . . . having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle” (Revelation 14:14).

What was “done” then was the completion of the pre-millennial executive judgment, followed by the second coming (Revelation 6:14-17). What is “done” here is the completion of the post millennial executive judgment after the third coming. [20] Jesus takes John back into the probationary time of the Investigative Judgment when “the water of life” is “freely” offered to anyone who is thirsty. Those who avail themselves of this opportunity will, at last, “hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them into living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16, 17).

Verse 7: He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

“He that overcometh” is one who “continually conquers, or habitually conquers.” [21] The overcomer is represented by the “white horse” who “went fourth conquering, and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2). He “shall inherit all things” including the right “to eat of the tree of life” (Revelation 2:7) and avoid “the second death” (Revelation 2:11), obtain nourishment from “the hidden manna” and receive “a new name” (Revelation 2:17), gain “power over the nations” (Revelation 2:26), be made “a pillar in the temple” in heaven (Revelation 3:12), and be given a seat in God’s throne where Jesus sits because He “overcame” even as we also must “overcome” (Revelation 3:21).

Best of all, “The inhabitants of unfallen worlds cannot be closer to God and Christ than will be the redeemed sinner.” [22] Then: “The work of redemption will be complete. In the place where sin abounded, God’s grace much more abounds. The earth itself, the very field that Satan claims as his, is to be not only ransomed but exalted. Our little world, under the curse of sin the one dark blot in His glorious creation, will be honored above all other worlds in the universe of God. Here, where the Son of God tabernacled in humanity; where the King of glory lived and suffered and died, ―here, when He shall make all things new, the tabernacle of God shall be with men, ‘and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.’ And through endless ages as the redeemed walk in the light of the Lord, they will praise Him for His unspeakable Gift . . .” [23]

Verse 8: But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

This verse catalogues the things “he that overcometh” (Verse 7) conquered during his lifetime. But “the fearful, and unbelieving” does not refer to those who are naturally “timid” while “conscientious in the performance of . . . duty” or who are “retiring” even “silent” choosing to work in the background and possessing little “self-esteem and self-confidence.” They are believers in spite of their timidity. Therefore, though having “many fears,” they do “not come under the head of the fearful and unbelieving, who will find no place in the kingdom of God.  Those outside of the city are among the most confident, boastful, and apparently zealous ones who love in word, but not in deed and in truth. Their hearts are not right with God. His fear is not before them. The fearful and unbelieving, who are punished with the second death, are of that class who are ashamed of Christ in this world. They are afraid to do right and follow Christ, lest they should meet with pecuniary loss. They neglect their duty, to avoid reproach and trials, and to escape dangers. Those who dare not do right because they will thus expose themselves to trials, persecution, loss, and suffering are cowards, and, with idolaters, liars, and all sinners, they are ripening for the second death.” [24]

While unbelief runs rampant in the world, anyone willing to use their eyes and ears can readily grasp “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world” because they are “understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse . . .” (Romans 1:20).

A place in heaven would be torture for “the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers [25], and idolaters, and all liars.” Sorcerers are “’practicers of magical arts.’ Basically, the root refers to magic, enchantment, sorcery, and to the use of drugs [26] to produce a stupefied condition. A modern counterpart of the ancient practice of sorcery is spiritism.” [27] All, clinging [28] to the fashions depicted in these categories, would be extremely unhappy in heaven. Our God of mercy, even as we speak, is trying to change us “fearful, unbelieving, abominable, murderous, whoremonger, sorcerer, idolatrous and lying” people to be courageous, believing, pure, kind, upright and faithful to God, worshipping Him in truth. Then we will be very happy in heaven! [29]

Verse 9: And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.

This same angel, just a short time before, came to John “saying . . . Come hither, I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore . . .” (Revelation 17:1), that judgment having taken place at the time of the second trumpet (Revelation 8:8,9) ―not during the “third woe” or seven last plagues (Chapter 16).

Here, even though having “the seven vials full of the seven last plagues” he comes to show John Jesus’ “bride” called “the Lamb’s wife,” also called “the camp of the saints . . . the beloved city” (Revelation 20:9) which had been the home of the saints for the previous “thousand years,” after the “seven last plagues” had been poured out.

Verse 10: And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

Previously, this same angel “carried” him “away in the spirit into the wilderness” (Revelation 17:3), representing a desolate portion of the earth. Here he is “carried . . . to a great and high mountain,” possibly one of the “mountains” that “trembled, and all the hills moved lightly” (Jeremiah 4:24) when the earth was subjected to “a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great” (Revelation 16:18).

But such a literal understanding should be taken in context with what being “carried . . . away in the spirit” means, because John mentions being “in the spirit” four times. Right at the start of his vision he “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” when he “heard . . . a great voice as of a trumpet” behind him (Revelation 1:10). A little later he “was in the spirit” beholding “a throne . . . set in heaven” where God the Father sat (Revelation 4:2). Then, as mentioned already, he was carried away “into the wilderness” (Revelation 17:3). Therefore, John was in vision, and it might be going too far to consider the “great and high mountain,” he was placed upon, as being literal. Nevertheless, the “great city, the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God” IS undeniably literal. So, why not the “great and high mountain?”

While “they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast . . .” (Revelation 17:8), none of them will be alive to “behold” this scene because it precedes the second resurrection. [30] The saints, on the other hand, will have already been living in the city for the past “thousand years.” But, even to them, it will be a most beautiful and unusual sight to see the city “descending out of heaven from God.” Perhaps we, with John, who already witnessed this scene in vision, will also stand on the top of this same “great and high mountain” to observe the spectacle in actuality!

Verses 11 to 13: Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.

All three of these verses make up one sentence suggesting John could barely contain himself while exuberantly writing out the details of what he saw. Not much can be added to this lovely picture, except to say that precious stones, valued for their unparalleled beauty, come the closest to depicting the extraordinary beauty of the holy city. And, no wonder, the architect is God who loves beauty. As the city descends from the sky it sparkles with every color of the rainbow like a multicolored, transparent jewel.

Since “the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” are “written” on its “twelve gates,” we wonder if only one name is given to each gate or if all twelve are written on each of them. If they were, they would total 144 names, with each being repeated twelve times, perhaps as a commemoration of the 144,000 (Revelation 7 and 14).

Note also its four walls, facing “east . . . north . . . south . . . and . . . west . . .” ― “the four quarters of the earth” from which “Gog and Magog” gather themselves “together to battle: the number whom is as the sand of the sea” (Revelation 20:8). Although the gates had remained open during the time they were preparing for war, when “the order to advance is given” by Gog, “By the command of Jesus, the gates of the New Jerusalem are closed, and the armies of Satan surround the city, and make ready for the onset.” [31] That is the only time the “gates” will ever be closed.

Verse 14: And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Interestingly, while the names of Dan and Ephriam are likely missing on the gates, very likely, Judas’ name will also be lacking on the foundations. (See comments on Revelation 7:5-8)

The names of the “twelve tribes” (Verse 12), representing the 144,000 (Revelation 7:4-8), on the gates and “the names of the twelve apostles” on the foundations, suggests a symbiotic, or cooperative relationship between them. While the “twelve apostles” laid the groundwork of the gospel, the 144,000 carried it forth to completion. In spite of two thousand years separating them, we can see that Christ’s apostles established the foundation of the Christian church, while Jesus, through the instrumentality of the 144,000, finished the work. They had opened the “gates,” as it were, of the holy city to the “great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people and tongues” (Revelation 7:9) “which came out of,” or survived, the “great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14) represented by the seven-trumpet scenario.

In effect, the 144,000 became the “stone” that God “cut out of the mountain . . . and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold” (Daniel 2:45) of the great image Daniel and the king saw in the dream God gave them more than 4,000 years before.

Verse 15: And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.

This is the second time a “reed” is referred to. In Revelation 11:1 it is a figurative representation of God’s law to measure the character of His church depicted as “the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.” [32] Here, because of the real numbers called out in the next two verses, the “reed” should be understood literally. Perhaps John was having trouble believing his eyes. Thus, the angel sought to substantiate the reality of what he saw.

That was not just John’s problem. We, too, are tempted to doubt what we read here. “A fear of making the future inheritance seem too material has led many to spiritualize away the very truths which lead us to look upon it as our home. Christ assured his disciples that he went to prepare mansions for them in the Father’s house. Those who accept the teachings of God’s Word will not be wholly ignorant concerning the heavenly abode. And yet, ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’ 1 Corinthians 2:9. Human language is inadequate to describe the reward of the righteous. It will be known only to those who behold it. No finite mind can comprehend the glory of the Paradise of God.” [33] Nevertheless, we can be certain that it is real!

Verse 16: And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

This is the only time in the New Testament the word “foursquare” is used. It is from “tetragonos” meaning “quadrangular” or “square.” [34] Since the “length, breadth” and “height . . . are equal,” many conclude the city is cubical. The “twelve thousand furlongs” is equivalent to approximately 1,378 miles! [35] A quarter of that figure for each side is about 344 miles, making its base “roughly the size of New Mexico.” [36] Since its “height” is “equal” to its sides, 344 miles is higher than the altitude of the international space station that now orbits the earth with an altitude of some 250 miles!

A cube of such gargantuan proportion would be utterly spectacular, and rather bizarre. However, it is unnecessary to conclude it is cubical. It seems far more likely the city will assume the general shape of a mountain. There are many references in the Bible to “the mountain of the Lord’s house; the mountain of his holiness; the mountain of the Lord; my holy mountain; the mountain of God.” [37] Therefore, it is wholly consistent with scripture to picture the holy city in that manner with its summit, extending into what we call “space,” being much smaller than its square base.

Verse 17: And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.

This “measure,” “by human measurements, which the angel was using” (NEB), is equal to “two hundred and eighty-five feet” (TNTC) [38] which is probably its height, far less than the height of the city.

Verses 18, 19, 20: And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.

The whole city, being made of “pure gold, like unto clear glass,” with its walls composed of jasper, what to us is rare but ordinary in heaven, suggests openness coupled with a degree of beauty such as is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine. There will be nothing to hide in heaven, consequently, there will be no shame. All will live comfortably in houses with transparent walls.  None will look suspiciously on his neighbor, neither will envy nor covetousness be found there. None will fear the loss of property, and nobody will need to lock their doors.

Nevertheless, because there are “many mansions” (John 14:2) and “houses” that the redeemed themselves “shall build . . . and inhabit” (Isaiah 65:21) with roofs and walls and rooms―enclosures suggesting that personal privacy will still exist throughout eternity in spite of the unprecedented degree of transparency.

Verse 21: And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

Most of us picture gates to be flat and generally rectangular. But “pearls” are generally spherical, causing us to wonder how a spherical article can function as a gate! But, with God, there is no limit to His power. He could use a sphere for a gate and it would be very beautiful as well as functional. He could also create a flat gate out of pearl material if He so chose. He is not dependent on oysters to produce them!

The resplendency of the “city” is augmented by its streets of pure, transparent gold, a material that, even in its opaque form, is of enormous value to us and would never be considered for use as pavement, of all things! But, with God, there is no limit to that which is precious.

Verse 22: And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

In other words, the “temple” will be personalized. God counseled Moses to build “me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). But, that is not good enough for God because He is looking forward to the time He Himself “shall dwell among them” (Revelation 7:15) without the necessity of four opaque walls between them.

Nevertheless, according to White, a “temple” will be there even though John failed to see it. In vision she saw “Mount Zion was just before us, and on the Mount was a glorious temple, and about it were seven other mountains, on which grew roses and lilies. And I saw the little ones climb, or if they chose, use their little wings and fly to the top of the mountains, and pluck the never fading flowers. ―There were all kinds of trees around the temple to beautify the place; the box, the pine, the fir, the oil, the myrtle, the pomegranate and the fig tree bowed down with the weight of its timely figs, that made the place all over glorious. And as we were about to enter the holy temple, Jesus raised his lovely voice and said, Only the 144,000 enter this place, and we shouted Alleluia.” [39]

“Why were they [the 144,000] so specially singled out? Because they had to stand with a wonderful truth right before the whole world, and receive their opposition, and while receiving this opposition they were to remember that they were sons and daughters of God, that they must have Christ formed within them the hope of glory.” [40] They had to stand with their message throughout the turmoil of the fifth, sixth and seventh seals!

Verse 23: And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

Of course, God the Father and God the Son created the “sun” and the “moon.” They are the source of what we call “light.” Nevertheless, these words should not be taken to mean that the “sun” and “moon” cease to exist, they will simply be eclipsed by the glory emanating from God. In fact, “In the city of God ‘there shall be no night.’ None will need or desire repose. There will be no weariness in doing the will of God and offering praise to his name. We shall ever feel the freshness of the morning and shall ever be far from its close. ‘And they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light.’ Revelation 22:5. The light of the sun will be superseded by a radiance which is not painfully dazzling, yet which immeasurably surpasses the brightness of our noontide. The glory of God and the Lamb floods the holy city with unfading light. The redeemed walk in the sunless glory of perpetual day.” [41]

Verses 24 to 27: And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.  And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Only once, when “Gog and Magog” gathered themselves “together to battle . . . and compassed the camp of the saints about” (Revelation 20:8, 9) were “the gates of it . . . shut.” [42] Therefore, the names Gog and Magog include all those who “defileth . . . worketh abomination” and make up lies.

Summary of Chapter 21: This chapter is clearly sequential with Chapter 20 which ended with the post millennial lake of fire. Following that global cataclysm, we are then introduced to the earth made new after the cleansing fire has completed its work and the announcement is made that God will, from that point on, personally dwell with His people throughout eternity, during which life will be unimaginably joyful with all sin and suffering having ceased. Then John does a little back tracking when he is taken up to the top of a high mountain to witness the descent of the holy city from heaven, followed by the angel giving its enormous dimensions, as if to reassure all that this city is literal. Its beauty, garnished with all manner of precious stonework, coupled with its basic structure of pure, transparent gold, exceeds the power of imagination to visualize. Thus, with such a description, all are invited to be there by having our names “written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

[1] see Great Controversy by E.G. White, page 673

[2] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, page 889 (left column under “1. New.”)

[3] Ibid, page 988 (bracket supplied)

[4] World Book, Vol. 14, page 490


[6] Spiritual Gifts by E.G. White, Vol. 3, page 33

[7] The Great Controversy by E.G. White, page 677

[8] Ibid, pages 662-663 (brackets & ellipses supplied)

[9] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, page 890 (left column under “3. Great voice.”)

[10] Reflecting Christ by E.G. White, page 378

[11] Desire of Ages by E.G. White, page 756

[12] Signs of the Times 1-30-79

[13] Reflecting Christ by E.G. White, page 211 (brackets supplied)

[14] The Southern Watchman 3-14-05

[15] Spiritual Gifts by E.G. White, Vol. 1, page 215

[16] Early Writings by E.G. White, page 221 (bracket supplied)

[17] Great Controversy by E.G. White, page 672 (brackets supplied)

[18] Ibid, page 664

[19] Manuscript Releases by E.G. White, Vol. 5, page 19

[20] Remember, the “pre-millennial executive judgment” is represented by the seven trumpets of Revelation 8:7-9:21; 11:7-19; 15:1, 5-8; 16:1-21. The “post millennial executive judgment” (Revelation 20) comes after the “thousand years” have expired.

[21] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, pages 890, 891 (right column under “7. Overcometh.”)

[22] Ibid, page 891 (left column under “His God . . . my son.”)

[23] Desire of Ages by E.G. White, page 26

[24] see Testimonies for the Church by E.G. White, Vol. 2 pages 630, 631.

[25] The word “sorcerers” is from “pharmakeus” (Strong’s #5332) “one who prepares or used magical remedies.” A nearly identical word “pharmakeus” in Revelation 22:15 is also translated from “pharmakeus” but it is given the number “5333” instead of “5332.” Those are the only two places the word is found in the New Testament. The “sorcerer” of Acts 13:6, 8 is from “magos.” In the Old Testament, “sorcerers” in Exodus 7:11 is from “kashaph” (Strong’s #3784); in Jeremiah 27:9 from “kashshaph” (Strong’s #3786); in Daniel 2:2; Malachi 3:4 from “kashaph” (Strong’s #3784). They all refer to the same thing, the practice of magical arts inclusive of the compounding of mind-altering drugs which is probably one of the greatest scourges of modern society, as well as the ancient, with alcohol being the number one intoxicant.

[26] White frequently speaks against the use “drugs.” For example, they “always have a tendency to break down and destroy vital forces, and nature becomes so crippled . . . that the invalid dies . . . because nature was outraged.” (Paulson Collection page 23) Careful study will show that some of those drugs should never be used at all, while others have their place when nothing else is available . . . in other words, as a last resort. The use of quinine, which was often administered in excessive amounts and for irrational reasons, is one example. (see Selected Messages Book 2 page 281)

[27] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, page 891 (bottom left to top of right column under “Sorcerers.”)

[28] Note that all the overcomers (Verse 7) have to wrestle with all of these things. Nobody is immune from the temptations in any of these categories.

[29] This is not “brain washing” or forced change on an unwilling subject.

[30] The second resurrection is called “the second death” (Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14 and 21:8). There could not be a “second death” without a “second resurrection,” even though John does allude to the “first resurrection” (Revelation 20;5, 6) which implies a “second resurrection.” He alludes to “the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29) which is clearly the “second resurrection.”

[31] Spirit of Prophecy by E.G. White, Vol. 4, page 479

[32] “In vision on the Isle of Patmos John said: ‘And there was given me a reed like unto a rod, and the angel stood, saying, Arise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.’ This solemn work is to be done upon the earth. Look and see how stands your measurement of character as compared with God’s standard of righteousness, his holy law. The worshipers are to pass under the measuring line of God. Who will bear the test?” (The Youth’s Instructor, 8-25-86)

[33] The Great Controversy by E.G. White, page 674

[34] See Strong’s #5068

[35] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, page 892 (bottom left column to top of right)

[36] see “God Cares” by C. Mervyn Maxwell, Vol. 2, page 530.

[37] For example, see Exodus 19:3; Ps.48:1; Isaiah 2:2; 30:29; 56:7; 57:13; 65:11; 65:25; Ezekiel 28:14, 16; Daniel 9:20; Joel 3:17; Obadiah 1:16; Micah 4:1, 2; Zephaniah 3:11; Zechariah 8:3.

[38] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, page 893 suggests 210 feet.

[39] see Review and Herald 7-21-1851 (italics supplied)

[40] Sermons and Talks by E.G. White, Vol. 1 pages 72, 73

[41] The Great Controversy by E.G. White, page 676

[42] see The Great Controversy by E.G. White, page  664

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