Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
rev 21:1And I saw - So it runs, Rev 19:11, Rev 20:1, Rev 20:4, Rev 20:11, in a succession. All these several representations follow one another in order: so the vision reaches into eternity. A new heaven and a new earth - After the resurrection and general judgment. St. John is not now describing a flourishing state of the church, but a new and eternal state of all things. For the first heaven and the first earth - Not only the lowest part of heaven, not only the solar system, but the whole ethereal heaven, with all its host, whether of planets or fixed stars, Isa 34:4; Mat 24:29. All the former things will be done away, that all may become new, Rev 20:4-5, Pe2 3:10, Pe2 3:12. Are passed away - But in the fourth verse it is said, "are gone away." There the stronger word is used; for death, mourning, and sorrow go away all together: the former heaven and earth only pass away, giving place to the new heaven and the new earth.
rev 21:2And I saw the holy city - The new heaven, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem, are closely connected. This city is wholly new, belonging not to this world, not to the millennium, but to eternity. This appears from the series of the vision, the magnificence of the description, and the opposition of this city to the second death, Rev 20:11-12; Rev 21:1-2, Rev 21:5, Rev 21:8-9; Rev 22:5. Coming down - In the very act of descending.
rev 21:3They shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God - So shall the covenant between God and his people be executed in the most glorious manner.
rev 21:4And death shall be no more - This is a full proof that this whole description belongs not to time, but eternity. Neither shall sorrow, or crying, or pain, be any more: for the former things are gone away - Under the former heaven, and upon the former earth, there was death and sorrow, crying and pain; all which occasioned many tears: but now pain and sorrow are fled away, and the saints have everlasting life and joy.
rev 21:5And he that sat upon the throne said - Not to St. John only. From the first mention of "him that sat upon the throne," Rev 4:2, this is the first speech which is expressly ascribed to him. And he - The angel. Saith to me Write - As follows. These sayings are faithful and true - This includes all that went before. The apostle seems again to have ceased writing, being overcome with ecstasy at the voice of him that spake.
rev 21:6And he - That sat upon the throne. Said to me, It is done - All that the prophets had spoken; all that was spoken, Rev 4:1. We read this expression twice in this prophecy: first, Rev 16:17, at the fulfilling of the wrath of God; and here, at the making all things new. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end - The latter explains the former: the Everlasting. I will give to him that thirsteth - The Lamb saith the same, Rev 22:17.
rev 21:7He that overcometh - Which is more than, "he that thirsteth." Shall inherit these things - Which I have made new. I will be his God, and he shall be my son - Both in the Hebrew and Greek language, in which the scriptures were written, what we translate shall and will are one and the same word. The only difference consists in an English translation, or in the want of knowledge in him that interprets what he does not understand.
rev 21:8But the fearful and unbelieving - Who, through want of courage and faith, do not overcome. And abominable - That is, sodomites. And whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters - These three sins generally went together; their part is in the lake.
rev 21:9And there came one of the seven angels that had the seven phials - Whereby room had been made for the kingdom of God. Saying, Come, I will show thee the bride - The same angel had before showed him Babylon, Rev 17:1, which is directly opposed to the new Jerusalem.
rev 21:10And he carried me away in the spirit - The same expression as before, Rev 17:3. And showed me the holy city Jerusalem - The old city is now forgotten, so that this is no longer termed the new, but absolutely Jerusalem. O how did St. John long to enter in! but the time was not yet come. Ezekiel also describes "the holy city," and what pertains thereto, Eze. 40:1-48:35, but a city quite different from the old Jerusalem, as it was either before or after the Babylonish captivity. The descriptions of the prophet and of the apostle agree in many particulars; but in many more they differ. Ezekiel expressly describes the temple, and the worship of God therein, closely alluding to the Levitical service. But St. John saw no temple, and describes the city far more large, glorious, and heavenly than the prophet. Yet that which he describes is the same city; but as it subsisted soon after the destruction of the beast. This being observed, both the prophecies agree together and one may explain the other.
rev 21:11Having the glory of God - For her light, Rev 21:23, Isa 40:1-2, Zac 2:5. Her window - There was only one, which ran all round the city. The light did not come in from without through this for the glory of God is within the city. But it shines out from within to a great distance, Rev 21:23-24.
rev 21:12Twelve angels - Still waiting upon the heirs of salvation.
rev 21:14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb - Figuratively showing that the inhabitants of the city had built only on that faith which the apostles once delivered to the saints.
rev 21:15And he measured the city, twelve thousand furlongs - Not in circumference, but on each of the four sides. Jerusalem was thirtythree furlongs in circumference; Alexandria thirty in length, ten in breadth. Nineveh is reported to have been four hundred furlongs round; Babylon four hundred and eighty. But what inconsiderable villages were all these compared to the new Jerusalem! By this measure is understood the greatness of the city, with the exact order and just proportion of every part of it; to show, figuratively, that this city was prepared for a great number of inhabitants, how small soever the number of real Christians may sometimes appear to be; and that everything relating to the happiness of that state was prepared with the greatest order and exactness.
The city is twelve thousand furlongs high; the wall, an hundred and forty - four reeds. This is exactly the same height, only expressed in a different manner. The twelve thousand furlongs, being spoken absolutely, without any explanation, are common, human furlongs: the hundred forty - four reeds are not of common human length, but of angelic, abundantly larger than human. It is said, the measure of a man that is, of an angel because St. John saw the measuring angel in an human shape. The reed therefore was as great as was the stature of that human form in which the angel appeared. In treating of all these things a deep reverence is necessary; and so is a measure of spiritual wisdom; that we may neither understand them too literally and grossly, nor go too far from the natural force of the words. The gold, the pearls, the precious stones, the walls, foundations, gates, are undoubtedly figurative expressions; seeing the city itself is in glory, and the inhabitants of it have spiritual bodies: yet these spiritual bodies are also real bodies, and the city is an abode distinct from its inhabitants, and proportioned to them who take up a finite and a determinate space. The measures, therefore, above mentioned are real and determinate.
rev 21:18And the building of the wall was jasper - That is, the wall was built of jasper. And the city - The houses, was of pure gold.
rev 21:19And the foundations were adorned with precious stones - That is, beautifully made of them. The precious stones on the high priest's breastplate of judgment were a proper emblem to express the happiness of God's church in his presence with them, and in the blessing of his protection. The like ornaments on the foundations of the walls of this city may express the perfect glory and happiness of all the inhabitants of it from the most glorious presence and protection of God. Each precious stone was not the ornament of the foundation, but the foundation itself. The colours of these are remarkably mixed. A jasper is of the colour of white marble, with a light shade of green and of red; a sapphire is of a sky - blue, speckled with gold; a chalcedony, or carbuncle, of the colour of red - hot iron; an emerald, of a grass green.
rev 21:20A sardonyx is red streaked with white; a sardius, of a deep red; a chrysolite, of a deep yellow; a beryl, sea - green; a topaz, pale yellow; a chrysoprase is greenish and transparent, with gold specks; a jacinth, of a red purple; an amethyst, violet purple.
rev 21:22The Lord God and the Lamb are the temple of it - He fills the new heaven and the new earth. He surrounds the city and sanctifies it, and all that are therein. He is "all in all."
rev 21:23The glory of God - Infinitely brighter than the shining of the sun.
rev 21:24And the nations - The whole verse is taken from Isa 60:3. Shall walk by the light thereof - Which throws itself outward from the city far and near. And the kings of the earth - Those of them who have a part there. Bring their glory into it - Not their old glory, which is now abolished; but such as becomes the new earth, and receives an immense addition by their entrance into the city.
rev 21:26And they shall bring the glory of the nations into it - It seems, a select part of each nation; that is, all which can contribute to make this city honourable and glorious shall be found in it; as if all that was rich and precious throughout the world was brought into one city.
rev 21:27Common - That is. unholy. But those who are written in the Lamb's book of life - True, holy, persevering believers. This blessedness is enjoyed by those only; and, as such, they are registered among them who are to inherit eternal life.