The New Heaven and the New Earth, with the NewJerusalemm
Rev. 21; 22:1–5
Chap. 21. We have seen, in the foregoing chapter, the end of the world and the last judgment, even that fearful issue of things described by the apostle Peter: “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up.”—But as the same apostle adds, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness;” so in this chapter, and the first five verses of the next, we find an ample description of them.
What then are we to understand by this “new heaven and new earth,” this “new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven,” and this “pure river of the water of life,” which is supposed to flow in the midst of it? Some have considered it as only a more particular account of the Millennium. But to this it is objected—First, The Millennium precedes the last judgment, whereas the new heavens and the new earth follow it. Secondly, The Millennium was for a limited time; but this is “for ever and ever,” chap. 22:5. Thirdly, Under the Millennium the dragon is only bound for a season, and afterwards loosed; but here there is no dragon nor enemy of any kind. The devil will have been cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, to be tormented day and night for ever and ever (chap. 20:10); “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,” ver. 4.
For these reasons others have considered it as no other than the heavenly state.* Yet it seems singular that the heavenly state should be introduced as a subject of prophecy. It is doubtless an object of promise, but prophecy seems rather to respect events in the world in which we dwell than in the world to come. Whatever is meant by the glorious state here described, the earth, as purified by the conflagration, is the scene of it. The whole of what is said, instead of describing the heaven of heavens, represents the glory of that state as “coming down upon the earth,” ver. 1–4. The truth appears to me to be this: it is a representation of heavenly glory in so far as that glory relates to the state of the earth on which we dwell; which, instead of being the stew of the mother of harlots, shall become the seat of “the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The earth will not be annihilated by fire any more than it was by water. It will be purified from sin, and all its effects. The generations of a corrupt race of creatures having terminated, it will become the perfect and perpetual abode of righteousness. The creation has long been subjected to the “vanity” of supplying its Creator’s enemies with the means of carrying on their rebellion against him. Under this “bondage of corruption” it has “groaned and travailed,” as it were in pain, longing to be delivered. And now the period is arrived. The liberation of the sons of God from the power of the grave shall be the signal of deliverance to the whole creation, Rom. 8:19–23.
It is not the object of the Holy Spirit to tell us what the heavenly glory is, but rather what this world shall become, in opposition to what it now is. This opposition is preserved throughout the description. We have read of Babylon; not that in Chaldea, but a new Babylon: here we read of Jerusalem; not that in Palestine, but a new Jerusalem—of a city by whose delicacies the merchants of the earth were made rich; now of another city in the light of which “the nations of them that are saved shall walk, and to which kings shall bring their glory and honour”—of a troubled “sea,” whence arose those monsters which were the plagues of the earth; now of there being “no more sea”—of the “great whore that sat upon many waters;” now of “the bride the Lamb’s wife”—of “great tribulations out of which the saints of God have had to come;” now of “all tears being wiped from their eyes, and of death, and sorrow, and crying, and pain having passed away”—finally, of “a golden cup full of abominations and filthiness;” but now of the “pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,” together with the “fruits of the tree of life, which bears twelve kinds of fruit, and yields its fruit every month.”
As the new Jerusalem is denominated “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” all that is said of her as a city, from ver. 10–27, though couched in highly figurative language, is descriptive of the church triumphant. In this, as in many other places, there is a reference to the prophecies of Ezekiel, (chap. 48:31–34,) though the events predicted are not always the same. The city in Ezekiel seems to be the church in a day of great spiritual prosperity; this in a state of immortality. Her high wall denotes her complete security; her twelve gates, on which were inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, denote that none but Israelites indeed, who have the seal of God in their foreheads, will enter into it; her twelve foundations may refer to the doctrine of the apostles on which she stands; the pearls and precious stones with which she is adorned are her spiritual riches and glory; there being “no temple, nor sun, nor moon,” denotes that there will be no need of those means of grace which we now attend upon; what we now receive mediately, we shall then receive immediately; finally, the nations of the saved walking in the light of it may allude to the interest which surrounding nations take in a metropolitan city, and denotes that the saved, who have been gathered from all nations, will rejoice in the honour that God will have bestowed upon his church.
To complete the description of the city, and to finish the phophecy, we must consider the first five verses of the twenty-second chapter in connexion with the foregoing.
Chap. 22:1–5. There is doubtless an allusion in these verses to the waters of the sanctuary, and the trees of life, described in Ezek. 47:1–12. Both Ezekiel and John make mention of a city—of a river—of trees growing upon the banks of it—and of the fruit thereof being for meat, and the leaf for medicine. Ezekiel’s waters flowed from the temple, near the altar; those of John out of “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” The city is doubtless the same in both; but I conceive at different periods. Ezekiel’s city had a temple, but that of John, as we have seen, had no temple: for “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” The former therefore describes the church in her latter-day glory; the latter, in a state of perfection—and which answers to the promise in chap. 2:7, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 297–299). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.