Barnes’ Notes on the Bible Revelation 21
VERSES: 1 – 8
v.1] Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth – Such a heaven and earth that they might properly be called new; such transformations, and such changes in their appearance, that they seemed to be just created. He does not say that they were created now, or anew; that the old heavens and earth were annihilated; but all that he says is, that there were such changes that they seemed to be new. If the earth is to be renovated by fire, such a renovation will give an appearance to the globe as if it were created anew, and might be attended with such an apparent change in the heavens that they might be said to be new. The description here Rev 21:1 relates to scenes after the general resurrection and the judgment – for those events are detailed in the close of the previous chapter. In regard to the meaning of the language here, see the notes on 2 Peter 3:13. Compare, also, “The Religion of Geology and its Connected Sciences,” by Edward Hitchcock, D. D., LL. D., pp. 370-408.
For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away – They had passed away by being changed, and a renovated universe had taken their place. See the notes on 2 Peter 3:10.
And there was no more sea – This change struck John more forcibly, it would appear, than anything else. Now, the seas and oceans occupy about three-fourths of the surface of the globe, and, of course, to that extent prevent the world from being occupied by people – except by the comparatively small number that are mariners. There, the idea of John seems to be, the whole world will be inhabitable, and no part will be given up to the wastes of oceans. In the present state of things, these vast oceans are necessary to render the world a fit abode for human beings, as well as to give life and happiness to the numberless tribes of animals that find their homes in the waters. In the future state, it would seem, the present arrangement will be unnecessary; and if man dwells upon the earth at all, or if he visits it as a temporary abode (see the notes on 2 Peter 3:13), these vast wastes of water will be needless. It should be remembered that the earth, in its changes, according to the teachings of geology, has undergone many revolutions quite as remarkable as it would be if all the lakes, and seas, and oceans of the earth should disappear. Still, it is not certain that it was intended that this language should be understood literally as applied to the material globe. The object is to describe the future blessedness of the righteous; and the idea is, that that will be a world where there will be no such wastes as those produced by oceans.
v.2] Then I, John,1)Revelation 21:2 NU-Text and M-Text omit John. saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven – See the Analysis of the chapter. On the phrase “new Jerusalem,” see the Gal 4:26 note, and Heb 12:22 note. Here it refers to the residence of the redeemed, the heavenly world, of which Jerusalem was the type and symbol. It is here represented as “coming down from God out of heaven.” This, of course, does not mean that this great city was “literally” to descend upon the earth, and to occupy any one part of the renovated world; but it is a symbolical or figurative representation, designed to show that the abode of the righteous will be splendid and glorious.
The idea of a city literally descending from heaven, and being set upon the earth with such proportions – three hundred and seventy miles high Rev 21:16, made of gold, and with single pearls for gates, and single gems for the foundations – is absurd. No man can suppose that this is literally true, and hence this must be regarded as a figurative or emblematic description. It is a representation of the heavenly state under the image of a beautiful city, of which Jerusalem was, in many respects, a natural and striking emblem.
Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband – See the notes on Isa 49:18; Isa 61:10. The purpose here is, to represent it as exceedingly beautiful. The comparison of the church with a bride, or a wife, is common in the Scriptures. See the Rev 19:7-8 notes, and Isa 1:21 note. It is also common in the Scriptures to compare a city with a beautiful woman, and these images here seem to be combined. It is a beautiful city that seems to descend, and this city is itself compared with a richly-attired bride prepared for her husband,
v.3] And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven – As if uttered by God himself or the voice, of angels.
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men – The tabernacle, as that word is commonly used in the Scriptures, referring to the sacred “tent” erected in the wilderness, was regarded as the unique dwelling-place of God among his people – as the temple was afterward, which was also called a “tabernacle.” See the notes on Heb 9:2. The meaning here is, that God would now dwell with the redeemed, as if in a tabernacle, or in a house specially prepared for his residence among them. It is not said that this would be “on the earth,” although that may be; for it is possible that the earth, as well as other worlds, may yet become the abode of the redeemed. See the notes on 2 Peter 3:13.
And he will dwell with them – As in a tent, or tabernacle – σκηνώσει skēnōsei. This is a common idea in the Scriptures.
And they shall be his people – He will acknowledge them in this public way as his own, and will dwell with them as such.
And God himself shall be with them – Shall be permanently with them; shall never leave them.
And be their God – Shall manifest himself as such, in such a manner that there shall be no doubt.
v.4] And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes – This will be one of the characteristics of that blessed state, that not a tear shall ever be shed there. How different will that be from the condition here – for who is there here who has not learned to weep? See the notes on Rev 7:17. Compare the notes on Isa 25:8.
And there shall be no more death – In all that future world of glory, not one shall ever die; not a grave shall ever be dug! What a view do we begin to get of heaven, when we are told there shall be no “death” there! How different from earth, where death is so common; where it spares no one; where our best friends die; where the wise, the good, the useful, the lovely die; where fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, all die; where we habitually feel that we must die. Assuredly we have here a view of heaven most glorious and animating to those who dwell in a world like this, and to whom nothing is more common than death. In all their endless and glorious career, the redeemed will never see death again; they will never themselves die. They will never follow a friend to the tomb, nor fear that an absent friend is dead. The slow funeral procession will never be witnessed there; nor will the soil ever open its bosom to furnish a grave. See the notes on 1 Corinthians 15:55.
Neither sorrow – The word “sorrow” here – πένθος penthos – denotes sorrow or grief of any kind; sorrow for the loss of property or friends; sorrow for disappointment, persecution, or care; sorrow over our sins, or sorrow that we love God so little, and serve him so unfaithfully; sorrow that we are sick, or that we must die. How innumerable are the sources of sorrow here; how constant is it on the earth! Since the fall of man there has not been a day, an hour, a moment, in which this has not been a sorrowful world; there has not been a nation, a tribe – a city or a village – nay, not a family, where there has not been grief. There has been no individual who has been always perfectly happy. No one rises in the morning with any certainty that he may not end the day in grief; no one lies down at night with any assurance that it may not be a night of sorrow. How different would this world be if it were announced that henceforward there would be no sorrow! How different, therefore, will heaven be when we shall have the assurance that henceforward grief shall be at an end!
Nor crying – κραυγὴ kraugē.” This word properly denotes a cry, an outcry, as in giving a public notice; a cry in a tumult – a clamor, Act 23:9; and then a cry of sorrow, or wailing. This is evidently its meaning here, and it refers to all the outbursts of grief arising from affliction, from oppression, from violence. The sense is, that as none of these causes of wailing will be known in the future state, all such wailing will cease. This, too, will make the future state vastly different from our condition here; for what a change would it produce on the earth if the cry of grief were never to be heard again!
Neither shall there be any more pain – There will be no sickness, and no calamity; and there will be no mental sorrow arising from remorse, from disappointment, or from the evil conduct of friends. And what a change would this produce – for how full of pain is the world now! How many lie on beds of languishing; how many are suffering under incurable diseases; how many are undergoing severe surgical operations; how many are pained by the loss of property or friends, or subjected to acuter anguish by the misconduct of those who are loved! How different would this world be, if all pain were to cease forever; how different, therefore, must the blessed state of the future be from the present!
For the former things are passed away – The world as it was before the judgment.
v.5] Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,[a] “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
And he that sat upon the throne said – Probably the Messiah, the dispenser of the rewards of heaven. See the notes on Rev 20:11.
Behold, I make all things new – A new heaven and new earth Rev 21:1, and an order of things to correspond with that new creation. The former state of things when sin and death reigned will be changed, and the change consequent on this must extend to everything.
And he said unto me, Write – Make a record of these things, for they are founded in truth, and they are adapted to bless a suffering world. Compare the notes on Rev 14:13. See also Rev 1:19.
For these words are true and faithful – They are founded in truth, and they are worthy to be believed. See the notes on Rev 19:9. Compare also notes on Dan 12:4.
v.6] And He said to me, “It is done!2)Revelation 21:2 NU-Text and M-Text omit John. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
And he said unto me – That is, he that sat on the throne – the Messiah.
It is done – It is finished, complete; or, still more expressively, “it is” – γέγοναν gegonan. An expression remarkably similar to this occurs in John 19:30, when the Saviour on the cross said, “It is finished.” The meaning in the passage before us evidently is, “The great work is accomplished; the arrangement of human affairs is complete. The redeemed are gathered in; the wicked are cut off; truth is triumphant, and all is now complete – prepared for the eternal state of things.”
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end – This language makes it morally certain that the speaker here is the Lord Jesus, for it is the very language which he uses of himself in Rev 1:11. See its meaning explained in the notes on Rev 1:8. If it is applied to him here, it proves that he is divine, for in the following verse (7) the speaker says that he would be a God to him who should “overcome.” The meaning of the language as used here, regarded as spoken by the Redeemer at the consummation of all things, and as his people are about entering into the abodes of blessedness, is, “I am now indeed the Alpha and the Omega – the first and the last. The attributes implied in this language which I claimed for myself are now verified in me, and it is seen that these properly belong to me. The scheme for setting up a kingdom in the lost world began in me, and it ends in me – the glorious and triumphant king.”
I will give unto him that is athirst – See the Matthew 5:6 note; John 4:14; John 7:37 notes.
Of the fountain of the water of life – An image often used in the Scriptures to represent salvation. It is compared with a fountain that flows in abundance, where all may freely slake their thirst.
Freely – Without money and without price (Isa 55:1 note; John 7:37 note); the common representation in the Scriptures. The meaning here is, not that he would do this in the future, but that he had shown that this was his character, as he had claimed, in the same way as he had shown that he was the Alpha and the Omega. The freeness and the fulness of salvation will be one of the most striking things made manifest when the immense hosts of the redeemed shall be welcomed to their eternal abodes.
v.7] He who overcomes shall inherit all things,3)Revelation 21:2 NU-Text and M-Text omit John. and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
He that overcometh – See the notes on Rev 2:7.
Shall inherit all things – Be an heir of God in all things. See the notes on Rom 8:17. Compare Rev 2:7, Rev 2:11, Rev 2:17,Rev 2:26; Rev 3:5, Rev 3:12, Rev 3:21.
And I will be his God – That is, forever. He would be to them all that is properly implied in the name of God; he would bestow upon them all the blessings which it was appropriate for God to bestow. See the 2Co 6:18 note; Heb 8:10 note.
And he shall be my son – He shall sustain to me the relation of a son, and shall be treated as such. He would ever onward sustain this relation, and be honored as a child of God.
v.8] But the cowardly, unbelieving,4)Revelation 21:2 NU-Text and M-Text omit John. abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
But the fearful – Having stated, in general terms, who they were who would be admitted into that blessed world, he now states explicitly who would not. The “fearful” denote those who had not firmness boldly to maintain their professed principles, or who were afraid to avow themselves as the friends of God in a wicked world. They stand in contrast with those who “overcome,”Rev 21:7.
And unbelieving – Those who have not true faith; avowed infidels; infidels at heart; and all who have not the sincere faith of the gospel. See the notes on Mark 16:16.
And the abominable – The verb from which this word is derived means to excite disgust; to feel disgust at; to abominate or abhor; and hence the participle – “the abominable” – refers to all who are detestable, to wit, on account of their sins; all whose conduct is offensive to God. Thus it would include those who live in open sin; who practice detestable vices; whose conduct is suited to excite disgust and abhorrence. These must all, of course, be excluded from a pure and holy world; and this description, alas! would embrace a lamentably large portion of the world as it has hitherto been. See the notes on Rom 1:26 ff.
And murderers – See the Rom 1:29 note; Gal 5:21 note.
And whoremongers – See the notes on Gal 5:19.
And sorcerers – See the word used here – φαρμακεῦσι pharmakeusi – explained in the notes on Gal 5:19, under the word “witchcraft.”
And idolaters – Co1 6:9; Gal 5:19.
And all liars – All who are false in their statements, their promises, their contracts. The word would embrace all who are false toward God Act 5:1-3, and false toward human beings. See Rom 1:31.
Shall have their part in the lake which burneth, … – notes on Rev 20:14. That is, they will be excluded from heaven, and punished for ever. See the Co1 6:9-10 notes; Gal 5:19-21 notes.
http://dailybread.com.au/7000/200/090-05-01.html New Jerusalem Barnes’ Notes on the Bible vs. 1 – 8