T H E
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
[FIRST. The Vision of the Holy City in General.]
nd he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem.' Having thus told us how, and with what he was qualified, he next makes relation of what he saw, which was that great city, the holy Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, in the language of the Scripture, is to be acknowledged for the church and spouse of the Lord Jesus; and is to be considered either generally or more particularly. Now as she is to be taken generally, so she is to be understood as being 'the whole family in heaven and earth,' (Eph 3:15); and as she is thus looked upon, so she is not considered with respect to this or that state and condition of the church here in the world, but simply as she is the church: therefore it is said, when at any time any are converted from Satan to God, that they 'are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in heaven; to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus, - and to the blood of sprinkling' (Heb 12:22,24).
But again, as Jerusalem is thus generally to be understood, so also she is to be considered more particularly: 1. Either as she relates to her first and purest state; or, 2. As she relates to her declined and captivated state; or, 3. With reference to her being recovered again from her apostatized and captivated condition. Thus it was with Jerusalem in the letter; which threefold state of this city shall be most exactly answered by our gospel Jerusalem, by our New Testament church. Her first state was in the days of Christ and his apostles, and answereth to Jerusalem in the days of Solomon; her second state is in the days of antichrist, and answereth to the carrying away of the Jews from their city into Babylon; and her third state is this in the text, and answereth to their return from captivity, and rebuilding their city and walls again: all which will be fully manifest in this discourse following.
[This city is the gospel church returning out of antichristian captivity.]
Besides, that this holy city that here you read of is the church, the gospel church, returning out of her long and antichristian captivity; consider,
First, She is here called a city, the very name that our primitive church went under (Eph 2:19); which name she loseth all the while of her apostatizing and captivity under antichrist; for observe, I say, all the while she is under the scourge of the dragon, beast, and the woman in scarlet, &c. (Rev 13), she goeth under the name of a woman, a woman in travail, a woman flying before the dragon, a woman flying into the wilderness, there to continue in an afflicted and tempted condition, and to be glad of wilderness nourishment, until the time of her enemies were come to an end (Rev 12).
Now the reason why she lost the title of city at her going into captivity is, because then she lost her situation and strength; she followed others than Christ, wherefore he suffered her enemies to scale her walls, to break down her battlements; he suffered, as you see here, the great red dragon, and beast with seven heads and ten horns, to get into her vineyard, who made most fearful work both with her and all her friends; her gates also were now either broken down or shut up, so that none could, according to her laws and statutes, enter into her; her charter also, even the Bible itself, was most grossly abused and corrupted, yea, sometimes burned and destroyed almost utterly; wherefore the Spirit of God doth take away from her the title of city, and leaveth her to be termed a wandering woman, as aforesaid. 'The court which is without the temple [saith the angel] leave out, and measure it not, for it is given unto the Gentiles; and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months' (Rev 11:2). 'The holy city shall they tread under foot'; that is, all the city constitutions, her forts and strength, her laws and privileges for a long time, shall be laid aside and slighted, shall become a hissing, a taunt, and a byword among the nations. And truly thus it was in the letter, in the destruction of Jerusalem by the king of Babylon and his wicked instruments, by whose hands the city was broken up, the walls pulled down, the gates burned, the houses rifled, the virgins ravished, and the children laid dead in the top of every street (2 Chron 36:17-21; Jer 52; Lam 1; 2; 3; 4). Now was Zion become a ploughed field, and Jerusalem turned to heaps; a place of briars and thorns, and of wasteness and desolation (Micah 3:12; Isa 7:23,24).
Second, The phrase also that is joined with this of city doth much concern the point; she is here called 'the new and holy city,' which words are explained by these, 'prepared as a bride and adorned for her husband.' The meaning is, that she is now got into her form, fashion, order, and privileges again; she is now ready, adorned, prepared, and put into her primitive state; mark, though she was in her state of affliction called a woman, yet she was not then either called a city or a woman adorned; but rather a woman robbed and spoiled, rent and torn among the briars and thorns of the wilderness (Isa 5:6; 42:22; 32:13,14). Wherefore this city is nothing else but the church returned out of captivity from under the reign of antichrist, as is yet farther manifest, because,
Third. We find no city to answer that which was built after the Jews' return from captivity but this; for this, and only this, is the city that you find in this prophecy that is nominated as the antitype of that second of the Jews; wherefore John hath no relation of her while towards the doom of antichrist, and no description of her in particular until antichrist is utterly overthrown; as all may see that wisely read (Rev 17-20).
[Why the church is called a city.]
'And showed me that great city.' The Holy Ghost is pleased at this time to give the church the name of a city, rather than any other name, rather than the name of spouse, woman, temple, and the like—though he giveth us her under the name of a woman also, to help us to understand what he means; but, I say, the name of a city is now the name in special, under which the church must go, and that for special reasons.
First. To show us how great and numerous a people will then be in the church; the church may be a woman, a temple, a spouse, when she is but few, a handful, but two or three; but to be a city, and that in her glory, it bespeaks great store of members, inhabitants, and citizens; especially when she goeth under the name of a great city, as here she does. He 'showed me that great city.'
Second. She goeth rather under the name of a city, than temple or spouse, to show us also how plentifully the nations and kingdoms of men shall at that day traffic with her, and in her, for her goodly merchandize of grace and life; to show us, I say, what wonderful custom the church of God at this day shall have among all sorts of people, for her heavenly treasures. It is said of Tyrus and Babylon, that their merchandize went unto all the world, and men from all quarters under heaven came to trade and to deal with them for their wares (Eze 27; Rev 18:2,3). Why thus it will be in the latter day with the church of God; the nations shall come from far, from Tarshish, Pul, Lud, Tubal, Javan, and the isles afar off. They shall come, saith God, out of all nations upon horses and mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem. 'And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord' (Isa 66:19-23). Alas, the church at that day when she is a woman only, or a temple either, may be without that beauty, treasure, amiableness, and affecting glory that she will be endowed with when she is a prosperous city. His marvellous kindness is seen 'in a strong city' (Psa 31:21). In cities, you know, are the treasures, beauty, and glory of kingdoms; and it is thither men go that are desirous to solace themselves therewith. 'Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined' (Psa 50:2).
Third. It is called a city, rather than a woman or temple, to show us how strongly and securely it will keep its inhabitants at that day. 'In that day shall this song be sung, - We have a strong city, salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks' (Isa 26:1). And verily if the cities of the Gentiles, and the strength of their bars, and gates, and walls did so shake the hearts, yea, the very faith of the children of God themselves, how secure and safe will the inhabitants of this city be, even the inhabitants of that city which God himself will build,' &c. (Deu 9:1,2; Num 13:28).
Fourth. But lastly, and more especially, the church is called here a city, chiefly to show us that now she shall be undermost no longer. Babylon reigned, and so shall Jerusalem at that day. 'And thou, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion, the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem' (Micah 4:8). Now shall she, when she is built and complete, have a complete conquest and victory over all her enemies; she shall reign over them; the law shall go forth of her that rules them, and the governors of all the world at that day shall be Jerusalem men. 'And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath; and the captivity of Jerusalem which is in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the south. And saviours shall come up on mount Zion, to judge the mount of Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord's' (Obad 20,21). 'For the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. - And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off, and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning- hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more' (Micah 4:1-3). There brake he 'the ships of Tarshish with an east wind. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God; God will establish it for ever' (Psa 48:1-8). For observe it, Christ hath not only obtained the kingdom of heaven for those that are his, when this world is ended, but hath also, as a reward for his sufferings, the whole world given into his hand; wherefore, as all the kings, and princes, and powers of this world have had their time to reign, and have glory in this world in the face of all, so Christ will have his time at this day, to show who is 'the only Potentate - and Lord of lords' (1 Tim 6:15). At which day he will not only set up his kingdom in the midst of their kingdoms, as he doth now, but will set it up even upon the top of their kingdoms; at which day there will not be a nation in the world but must bend to Jerusalem or perish (Isa 60:12). For 'the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him' (Dan 7:27). 'And his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth' (Zech 9:10). O holiness, how shall it shine in kings and nations, when God doth this!
[This city descends out of heaven from God.]
'He showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.' In these words we are to inquire into three things. First. What he here should mean by heaven. Second. What it is for this city to descend out of it. Third. And why she is said to descend out of it from God.
First. For the word heaven, in Scripture it is variously to be understood, but generally either materially or metaphorically; now not materially here, but metaphorically; and so is generally, if not always, taken in this book.
Now that it is not to be taken for the material heavens where Christ in person is, consider, that the descending of this city is not the coming of glorified saints with their Lord; because that even after the descending, yea and building of this city, there shall be sinners converted to God; but at the coming of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his saints, the door shall be shut; that is, the door of grace, against all unbelievers (Luke 13:25; Matt 25:10).
Therefore heaven here is to be taken metaphorically, for the church; which, as I said before, is frequently so taken in this prophecy, as also in many others of the holy scriptures (Rev 11:15; 12:1-3,7,8,10,13; 13:6; 19:1,14; Jer 51:48; Matt 25:1, &c.). And observe it, though the church of Christ under the tyranny of antichrist, loseth the title of a standing city, yet in the worst of times she loseth not the title of heaven. She is heaven when the great red dragon is in her, and heaven when the third part of her stars are cast unto the earth; she is heaven also when the beast doth open his throat against her, to blaspheme her God, his tabernacle, and those that dwell in her.
Second. Now, then, to show you what we are to understand by this, that she is said to descend out of heaven; for indeed to speak properly, Jerusalem is always in the Scriptures set in the highest ground, and men are said to descend, when they go down from her, but to ascend, or go up when they are going thitherwards (Eze 3:1; Neh 12:1; Matt 20:17,18; Luke 19:28; 10:30). But yet though this be true, there must also be something significant in this word descending; wherefore when he saith, he saw this city to descend out of heaven, he would have us understand,
1. That though the church under antichrist be never so low, yet out of her loins shall they come that yet shall be a reigning city (Heb 7:6,13,14). Generation is a descending from the loins of our friends; he therefore speaks of the generation of the church. Wherefore the meaning is, That out of the church that is now in captivity, there shall come a complete city, so exact in all things, according to the laws and liberties, privileges and riches of a city, that she shall lie level with the great charter of heaven. Thus it was in the type, the city after the captivity was builded, even by those that once were in captivity, especially by their seed and offspring (Isa 45); and thus it shall be in our New Testament New Jerusalem; 'They that shall be of thee,' saith the prophet, that is, of the church of affliction, they 'shall build the old waste places; thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in' (Isa 58:12); and again, they that sometimes had ashes for gladness, and the spirit of heaviness instead of the garment of praise, 'they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations; for your shame ye shall have double, and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion,' &c. (Isa 61:3,4,7). Thus therefore by descending we may understand that the church's generation shall be this holy city, and shall build up themselves the tower of the flock (Micah 4:8).
2. When he saith, This holy city descended out of heaven, he would have us understand also what a blessing and happiness this city at her rebuilding will be to the whole world. Never were kind and seasonable showers more profitable to the tender new-mown grass than will this city at this day be, to the inhabitants of the world; they will come as a blessing from heaven upon them. As the prophet saith, 'The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people, as a dew from the Lord; as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men' (Micah 5:7). O the grace, the light and glory that will strike with spangling beams from this city, as from a sun, into the farthest parts of the world! 'Thus saith the Lord, as the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sake, that I may not destroy them all: I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my' holy 'mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there. And Sharon [where the sweet roses grew, (Cant 2:1)], shall be a fold for flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me' (Isa 65:8-10). 'In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land' (Isa 19:24). 'And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong' (Zech 8:13). 'As the dew of Hermon that descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore' (Psa 133:3).
Third. And now for the third particular, namely, What it is to descend out of heaven from God.
1. To descend out of heaven, that is, out of the church in captivity, 'from God,' is this: The church is the place in which God doth beget all those that are the children of him; wherefore in that they are said to descend out of heaven 'from God,' it is as if he had said, the children of the church are heaven-born, begotten of God, and brought forth in the church of Christ. For 'Jerusalem which is above is the mother of us all' (Gal 4:26). 'The Lord shall count when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there' (Psa 87:5,6).
2. When he saith he saw this Jerusalem come out of heaven from God, he means that those of the church in captivity that shall build this city, they shall be a people peculiarly fitted and qualified for this work of God. It was not all the children of Israel that had their hand in building Jerusalem after the captivity of old; 'their nobles put not their necks to the work of the Lord' (Neh 3:5). Also there were many of Judah that were sworn to Tobiah, the arch-opposer of the building of the city, because of some kindred and relation that then was between them and him (Neh 6:17-19). And as it was then, so we do expect it will be now; some will be even at the beginning of this work, in Babylon, at that time also some will be cowardly and fearful, yea, and even men hired to hinder the work (Neh 6:10-12). Wherefore I say, those of the church that at that day builded the city, they were men of a particular and peculiar spirit, which also will so be at the building of New Jerusalem. They whose light breaks forth as the morning, they that are mighty for a spirit of prayer, they that take away the yoke, and speaking vanity, and that draw out their soul to the hungry; they that the Lord shall guide continually, that shall have fat bones, and that shall be as a watered garden, whose waters fail not, &c. (Isa 58:8-14). Of them shall they be that build the old wastes, and that raise up the foundations of many generations, &c. It was thus in all ages, in every work of God, some of his people, some of his saints in special in all ages, have been used to promote, and advance, and perfect the work of their generations.
3. This city descends or comes out of heaven from God, that is, by his special working and bringing to pass; it was God that gave them the pattern even when they were in Babylon; it was God that put it into their hearts while there, to pray for deliverance; it was God that put it into the hearts of the kings of the Medes and Persians to give them liberty to return and build; and it was God that quailed the hearts of those that by opposing did endeavour to hinder the bringing the work to perfection ; yea, it was God that did indeed bring the work to perfection; wherefore she may well be said to descend 'out of heaven from God': as he also saith himself by the prophet, I will cause the captivity of Judah, and the captivity of Israel to return, and I will build them as at the first (Ezra 4:1-4; 7:27; Neh 2:8-18; 4:15; 6:15,16; Jer 33:7; 32:44; Eze 36:33-37; 37:11-15; Amos 9:11).
Lastly, When he saith he saw her descend from God out of heaven, he may refer to her glory, which at her declining departed from her, and ascended to God, as the sap returns into the root at the fall of the leaf; which glory doth again at her return descend, or come into the church, and branches of the same, as the sap doth arise at the spring of the year, for indeed the church's beauty is from heaven, and it either goeth up thither from her, or else comes from thence to her, according to the natures of both fall and spring (Cant 2).Thus you see what this heaven is, and what it is for this city to descend out of it; also what it is for this city to descend out of it from God.
[This city has the glory of God.]
Ver. 11. 'Having the glory of God.' These last words do put the whole matter out of doubt, and do most clearly show unto us that the descending of this city is the perfect return of the church out of captivity; the church, when she began at first to go into captivity, her glory began to depart from her; and now she is returning again, she receiveth therewith her former glory, 'having the glory of God.' Thus it was in the type, when Jerusalem went into captivity under the King of Babylon, which was a figure of the captivity of our New Testament church under Antichrist, it is said that then the glory of God departed from them, and went, by degrees, first out of the temple to the threshold of the house, and from thence with the cherubims of glory, for that time, quite away from the city (Eze 10:4-18; 11:22,23 &c.).
Again, As the glory of God departed from this city at her going into captivity, so when she returned again, she had also then returned to her the glory of God; whereupon this very prophet that saw the glory of God go from her at her going into captivity, did see it, the very same; and that according as it departed, so return at her deliverance. 'He brought me to the gate,' saith he—that is, when by a vision he saw all the frame and patterns of the city and temple, in the state in which it was to be after the captivity. 'He brought me to the gate - that looketh toward the east, and behold the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east'—the very same way that it went when it was departed from the city (Eze 11:23). 'His voice was like a noise of many waters, and the earth shined with is glory. It was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision which I saw when I came to destroy the city, and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face, and the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east; so the Spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house' (Eze 43:1-5).
Thus you see it was in the destruction and restoration of the Jews' Jerusalem, by which God doth plainly show us how things will be in our gospel church; she was to decline and lose her glory, she was to be trampled—as she was a city— for a long time under the feet of the unconverted and wicked world. Again, she was after this to be builded, and to be put into her former glory; at which time she was to have her glory, her former glory, even the glory of God, returned to her again. 'He showed me,' saith John, 'that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.' As he saith by the prophet, 'I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies, my house shall be built in it' (Zech 1:16). And again, 'I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem' (Zech 8:3).
'Having the glory of God.' There is the grace of God, and the glory of that grace; there is the power of God, and the glory of that power; and there is the majesty of God, and the glory of that majesty (Eph 1:6; 2 Thess 1:9; Isa 2:19).
It is true God doth not leave his people in some sense, even in the worst of times, and in their most forlorn condition (John 14:18), as he showeth by his being with them in their sad state in Egypt and Babylon, and other of their states of calamity (Dan 3:25). As he saith, 'Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come' (Eze 2:16). God is with his church, even in her greatest adversity, both to limit, bound, measure, and to point out to her quantity and quality, her beginning and duration of distress and temptation (Isa 27:7-9; Rev 2:10). But yet I say the glory of God, in the notion of Ezekiel and John, when they speak of the restoration of this city, that is not always upon his people, though always they are beloved and counted for his peculiar treasure. She may then have his grace, but not at the same time the glory of his grace; his power, but not the glory of his power; she may also have his majesty, but not the glory thereof; God may be with his church, even then when the glory is departed from Israel.
The difference that is between her having his grace, power, and majesty, and the glory of each, is manifest in these following particulars;—grace, power, and majesty, when they are in the church in their own proper acts, only as we are considered saints before God, so they're invisible, and that not only altogether to the world, but often to the very children of God themselves; but now when the glory of these do rest upon the church, according to Ezekiel and John; why then it will be visible and apparent to all beholders. 'When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall APPEAR in his glory' (Psa 102:16), as he saith also in another place, 'The Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee' (Isa 60:1-2).
Now, then, to speak a word or two, in particular to the glory of God, that at this day will be found to settle upon this city.
First. Therefore, at her returning, she shall not only have his grace upon her, but the very glory of his grace shall be seen upon her; the glory of pardoning grace shall now shine in her own soul, and grace in the glory of it shall appear in all her doings. Now shall both our inward and outward man be most famously adorned and beautified with salvation; the golden pipes that are on the head of the golden candlestick, shall at this day convey, with all freeness, the golden oil thereout, into our golden hearts and lamps (Zech 4:2). Our wine shall be mixed with gall no longer, we shall now drink the pure blood of the grape; the glory of pardoning and forgiving mercy shall so show itself at this day in this city, and shall so visibly abide there in the eyes of all spectators, that all shall be enflamed with it. 'For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name' (Isa 62:1,2). And again, 'The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God' (Isa 52:10; Psa 98:2).
At that day, the prophet tells us, there shall be holiness upon the very horses' bridles, and that the pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the altar, and every pot in Jerusalem shall be holiness unto the Lord (Zech 14:20,21). The meaning of all these places is, that in the day that the Lord doth turn his church and people into the frame and fashion of a city, and when he shall build them up to answer the first state of the church, there will such grace and plenty of mercy be extended unto her, begetting such faith and holiness and grace in her soul, and all her actions, that she shall convince all that are about her that she is the city, the beloved city, the city that the Lord hath chosen; for after that he had said before, he would return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem (Zech 8:3), he saith, moreover, that Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain. 'And all the people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of thee' (Deu 28:10).
Second. As the glory of the grace of God will, at this day, be wonderfully manifest in and over his city; so also at that day will be seen the glory of his power. 'O my people,' saith God, 'that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian; he shall smite thee with a rock, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt,' that is, shall persecute and afflict thee, as Pharaoh served thy friends of old; but be not afraid, 'For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction: and the Lord of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him, according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt' (Isa 7; 10:24-26). The sum is, God will, at the day of his rebuilding the New Jerusalem, so visibly make bare his arm, and be so exalted before all by his power towards his people, that no people shall dare to oppose—or stand, if they do make the least attempt to hinder—the stability of this city. 'I will surely [gather, or] assemble, O Jacob, all of thee,' saith God: 'I will surely gather the remnant of Israel - as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of the fold; they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men. The breaker is come up before them, they have broken up [the antichristian siege that hath been laid against them], they have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it, and their king shall pass before them, and the Lord on the head of them' (Micah 2:12,13).
'Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds are called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion, and for the hill thereof' (Isa 31:4). 'The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war; he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies' (Isa 42:13). But 'not by might, nor yet by power,' that is, the power and arm of flesh, but by the power of the Word and Spirit of God, which will prevail, and must prevail, to quash and overturn all opposition (Zech 12:8; Zeph 3:8; Joel 3:16; Zech 4:6).
Third. [The glory of his majesty.] When God hath thus appeared in the glory of his grace, and the glory of his power, to deliver his chosen, then shall the implacable enemies of God shrink and creep into holes like the locusts and frogs of the hedges, at the appearance of the glory of the majesty of God. Now the high ones, lofty ones, haughty ones, and the proud, shall see so evidently the hand of the Lord towards his servants, and his indignation towards his enemies, that 'they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, - and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for the fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth' (Isa 2:19,21).
Where the presence of the Lord doth so appear upon a people, that those that are spectators perceive and understand it, it must need work on those spectators one of these two things;—either first a trembling and astonishment, and quailing of heart, as it doth among the implacable enemies (Josh 2:8-13), or else a buckling and bending of heart, and submission to his people and ways (Josh 9:22-25). As saith the prophet, 'The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee, and all they that despised thee shall fall down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee The city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel' (Isa 60:14). As Moses said to the children of Israel, 'The Lord your God shall lay the fear of you, and the dread of you, upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as he hath said unto you' (Deu 11:25).
At this day the footsteps of the Lord will be so apparent and visible in all his actions and dispensations in and towards his people, this holy city, that all shall see, as I have said, how gracious, loving, kind, and good the Lord is now towards his own children; such glory, I say, will be over them, and upon them, that they all will shine before the world; and such tender bowels in God towards them, that no sooner can an adversary peep, or lift up his head against his servants, but his hand will be in the neck of them; so that in short time he will have brought his church into that safety, and her neighbours into that fear and submission, that they shall not again so much as dare to hold up a hand against her, no, not for a thousand years (Rev 20:3). 'Thus saith the Lord, Behold I will bring again the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwelling-places; and the city shall be builded on her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof. And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving, and the voice of them that make merry; and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; and I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small: Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them' (Jer 30:18-20).
[The light of this city.]
Having the glory of God. 'And her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.' Having thus told us of her glory, even of 'the glory of God,' how it at this day will rest upon this city, he now comes to touch a second thing, to wit, 'her light,' and that in which she descends, and by which, as with the light of the sun, she seeth before her, and behind her, and on every side. This therefore is another branch of her duty; she in her descending hath 'the glory of God,' and also 'the light of a stone most precious.'
Ezekiel tells us, that in the vision which he saw when he came to destroy the city—which vision was the very same that he saw again at the restoring of it—he saith, I say, that in this vision, among many other wonders, he saw a fire enfolding itself, and a brightness about it, and that 'the fire also was bright, and that out of it went forth lightning'; that 'the likeness of the firmament upon the - living creatures, was as the colour of the terrible crystal'; that the throne also, upon which was placed the likeness of a man, was like, or 'as the appearance of a sapphire-stone' (Eze 1:4,13,14,22,26). All which words, with the nature of their light and colour, the Holy Ghost doth in the vision of John comprise, and placeth within the colour of the jasper and the crystal-stone. And indeed, though the vision of John and Ezekiel, touching the end of the matter, be but one and the same, yet they do very much vary and differ in terms and manner of language; Ezekiel tells us that the man that he saw come to measure the city and temple, had in his hand 'a line of flax' (40:3), which line John calls a golden reed; Ezekiel tells us that the river came out of, or 'from under the threshold of the house' (47:1); but John saith it came out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. Ezekiel tells us that on either side of this river grew ALL trees for food (v 12); John calls these ALL trees but ONE tree, and tells us that it stood on both sides of this river.
The like might also be showed you in many other particulars; as here you see they differ as touching the terms of the light and brightness that appears upon this city at her rebuilding, which the Holy Ghost represents to John under the light and glory of the jasper and crystal-stone; for indeed the end of Ezekiel's vision was to show us, that as when the glory of God departed from the city, it signified that he would take away from them the light of his Word, and their clearness of worship, suffering them to mourn for the loss of the one, and to grope for the want of the other; so at his return again he would give them both their former light of truth, and also the clearness of spirit to understand it, which also John doth show us shall last for ever.
'...And her light was like unto a stone most precious...' This stone it is to represent unto us the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose light and clearness this city comes out of Babylon; for, as he saith, she hath the glory of God, that is, his visible hand of grace, power, and majesty, to bring her forth; so she comes in the light of this precious stone, which terms, I say, both the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Peter do apply to the Lord Jesus, and none else; the one calling him 'a precious corner-stone,' the other calling him the 'chief corner-stone, elect and precious' (Isa 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6). Now then when he saith this city hath the light of this stone to descend in, he means that she comes in the shining wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and influences of Christ, out of her afflicted and captivated state; and observe it, she is rather said to descend in the light of this stone, than in the light of God, though both be true, because it is the man Christ, the stone which the builders rejected, 'in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,' of whose fulness we do all receive, and grace for grace; 'for it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell' (Col 2:3; John 1:16; Col 1:19. See also Acts 2:33 and Eph 4:10-13).
This showeth us, then, these two things—
First. That the time of the return of the saints to build the ruinous city is near, yea, very near, when the light of the Lord Jesus begins to shine unto perfect day in her. God will not bring forth his people out of Babylon, especially those that are to be the chief in the building of this city, without their own judgments. 'They shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion' (Isa 52:8). As he saith also in another place, 'The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and health the stroke of their wound' (Isa 30:26). 'And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly' (Isa 32:3,4). The Lord shall be now exalted, and be very high, for he will fill Zion with judgment and righteousness, and wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times (Isa 33:5,6). When Israel went out of Egypt, they wanted much of this, they went out blindfolded, as it were, they went they knew not whither; wherefore they went not in the glory of that which this city descendeth in; as Moses said, 'The Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear, unto this day' (Deu 29:4). But these shall see every step they take; they shall be like the beasts that had eyes both before and behind: they shall see how far they are come out of Antichrist, and shall see also how far yet they have to go, to the complete rebuilding and finishing of this city.
Second. This showeth us how sweet and pleasant the way of this church will be at this day before them. Light, knowledge, and judgment in God's matters doth not only give men to see and behold all the things with which they are concerned, but the things themselves being good, they do also by this means convey very great sweetness and pleasantness into the hearts of those that have the knowledge of them. Every step, I say, that now they take, it shall be as it were in honey and butter. 'The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy [see v 2] upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away' (Isa 35:10). As he saith, 'Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built; O virgin of Israel, thou shalt again be adorned with tabrets, and shall go forth in the dances of them that make merry.—For thus saith the Lord, Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child, and her that travaileth with child together; a great company shall return thither' (Jer 31:4,7,8).
By these words, the blind and the lame, the woman with child, and her that travaileth, he would have us understand thus much—
1. That the way of God shall, by the illuminating grace of Christ, be made so pleasant, so sweet, and so beautiful in the souls of all at that day, that even the blindest shall not stumble therein, neither shall the lame refuse it for fear of hurt; yea, the blind, the lame, the woman with child, and her that travaileth shall, though they be of all in most evil case to travel, and go the journey, yet, at this day, by reason of the glorious light and sweetness that now will possess them, even forget their impediments, and dance, as after musical tabrets.
2. This city, upon the time of her rebuilding, shall have her blind men see, her halt and lame made strong; she also that is with child, and her that travaileth, shall jointly see the city-work that at this day will be on foot, and put into form and order, yet before the end. 'Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee,' saith the Lord to his people, 'and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out, and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you, for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord' (Zeph 3:19,20).
'And her light was like unto a stone most precious.' In that he saith her light is like unto 'A STONE MOST PRECIOUS,' he showeth us how welcome, and with what eagerness of spirit this light will at this day be embraced by the Lord's people. 'Truly the light is sweet,' saith Solomon, 'and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun' (Eccl 11:7). And if so, then how beautiful, desirable, and precious will that light be, that is not only heavenly, and from Christ, but that will be universal among all saints, to show them the same thing, and to direct them to and in the same work. The want of this hath, to this day, been one great reason of that crossness of judgment and persuasion that hath been found among the saints, and that hath caused that lingering and disputing about the glorious state of the church in the latter days; some being for its excellency to consist chiefly in outward glory; and others, swerving on the other side, conclude she shall not have any of this: some conceiving that this city will not be built until the Lord comes from heaven in person; others again concluding that when he comes, then there shall be no longer tarrying here, but that all shall forthwith, even all the godly, be taken up into heaven: with divers other opinions in these matters. And thus many 'run to and fro,' but yet, God be thanked, knowledge does increase, though the vision will be sealed, even to the time of the end (Dan 12:4). But now, I say, at the time of the end, the Spirit shall be poured down upon us from on high (Isa 32:15); now 'they also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding' (Isa 29;24); the city shall descend in the light of a stone most precious. The sun will be risen upon the earth, when Lot goeth from Sodom unto Zoar (Gen 19:23).
Now there shall be an oneness of judgment and understanding in the hearts of all saints; they shall be now no more two, but one in the Lord's hand (Eze 37:19-21). Alas! the saints are yet but as an army routed, and are apt sometimes through fear, and sometimes through forgetfulness, to mistake the word of their captain-general, the Son of God, and are also too prone to shoot and kill even their very right-hand man; but at that day all such doing shall be laid aside, for the knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isa 11:9,13). Which knowledge shall then strike through the heart and liver of all swerving and unsound opinions in Christ's matters; for then shall every one of the Christians call upon the name of the Lord, and that with one pure lip or language, 'to serve him with one consent' (Zeph 3:9). It is darkness, and not light, that keepeth God's people from knowing one another, both in their faith and language; and it is darkness that makes them stand at so great a distance both in judgment and affections, as in these and other days they have done. But then, saith God, 'I will plant in the wilderness,' that is, in the church that is now bewildered, 'the cedar, the shittah tree, the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, the pine, and the box tree together; that they may see and know, and consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the holy One of Israel hath created it' (Isa 41:19,20). And again, 'The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, and the pine tree, and the box together,' to beautify the house of my glory, and to 'make the place of my feet glorious' (Isa 60:13).
Never was fair weather after foul—nor warm weather after cold—nor a sweet and beautiful spring after a heavy, and nipping, and terrible winter, so comfortable, sweet, desirable, and welcome to the poor birds and beasts of the field, as this day will be to the church of God. Darkness! it was the plague of Egypt: it is an empty, forlorn, desolate, solitary, and discomforting state; wherefore light, even the illuminating grace of God, especially in the measure that it shall be communicated unto us at this day, it must needs be precious. In light there is warmth and pleasure; it is by the light of the sun that the whole universe appears unto us distinctly, and it is by the heat thereof that everything groweth and flourisheth; all which will now be gloriously and spiritually answered in this holy and new Jerusalem (2 Thess 2). O how clearly will all the spiders, and dragons, and owls, and foul spirits of Antichrist at that day be discovered by the light hereof! (Rev 18:1-4). Now also will all the pretty robins and little birds in the Lord's field most sweetly send forth their pleasant notes, and all the flowers and herbs of his garden spring. Then will it be said to the church by her Husband and Saviour, 'Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away; for lo, the winter is past the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell' (Cant 2:10-13). You know how pleasant this is, even to be fulfilled in the letter of it, not only to birds and beasts, but men; especially it is pleasant to such men that have for several years been held in the chains of affliction. It must needs, therefore, be most pleasant and desirable to the afflicted church of Christ, who hath lain now in the dungeon of Antichrist for above a thousand years. But, Lord, how will this lady, when she gets her liberty, and when she is returned to her own city, how will she then take pleasure in the warm and spangling beams of thy shining grace! and solace herself with thee in the garden, among the nuts and the pomegranates, among the lilies and flowers, and all the chief spices (Cant 7:11-13).
'Even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.' These words are the metaphor by which the Holy Ghost is pleased to illustrate the whole business. Indeed similitudes, if fitly spoke and applied, do much set off and out any point that either in the doctrines of faith or manners, is handled in the churches. Wherefore, because he would illustrate, as well as affirm, the glory of this Jerusalem to the life, therefore he concludes his general description of this city with these comparisons:—I saw, saith he, the holy city, the Lamb's wife; I saw her in her spangles, and in all her adorning, but verily she was most excellent. She was shining as the jasper, and as pure and clear as crystal. The jasper, it seems, is a very beautiful and costly stone, inasmuch as that, above all the precious stones, is made use of by the Holy Ghost to show us the glory and shining virtues of the Lord Jesus in this New Jerusalem; and yet, behold, the jasper is too short and slender to do the business, there must another stone be added, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Yea, saith the Lord Jesus, her checks are like rows of jewels, and so are the joints of her thighs; even like the jewels that are 'the work of the hands of a cunning workman' (Cant 1:9,10; 7:1).
The crystal is a stone so clear and spotless, that even her greatest adversaries, in the midst of all their rage, are not able justly to charge her with the least mote or spot imaginable; wherefore when he saith, that this city in her descending is even like the jasper for light, and like the crystal for clearness; he would have us further learn, that at the day of the descending of this Jerusalem, she shall be every way so accomplished with innocency, sincerity, and clearness in all her actions, that none shall have from her, or her ways, any just occasion given unto them to slight, contemn, or oppose her. For,
First, As she descends, she meddleth not with any man's matters but her own; she comes all along by the King's highway; that is, alone by the rules that her Lord hath prescribed for her in his testament. The governors of this world need not at all to fear a disturbance from her, or a diminishing of ought they have. She will not meddle with their fields nor vineyards, neither will she drink of the water of their wells: only let her go by the King's highway, and she will not turn to the right hand or to the left, until she hath passed all their borders (Num 20:18,19: 21:22). It is a false report then that the governors of the nations have received against the city, this New Jerusalem, if they believe, that according to the tale that is told them, she is and hath been of old a rebellious city, and destructive to kings, and a diminisher of their revenues. I say, these things are lying words, and forged even in the heart of 'Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions' (Eze 4:7). For verily this city, in her descending, is clear from such things, even as clear as crystal. She is not for meddling with anything that is theirs, from a thread even to a shoe-latchet. Her glory is spiritual and heavenly, and she is satisfied with what is her own. It is true, the kings and nations of this world shall one day bring their glory and honour to this city; but yet not by outward force or compulsion; none shall constrain them but the love of Christ and the beauty of this city. 'The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising' (Isa 60:3). The light and beauty of this city, that only shall engage their hearts and overcome them. Indeed, if any shall, out of mistrust or enmity against this city and her prosperity, bend themselves to disappoint the designs of the eternal God concerning her building and glory, then they must take what followeth. Her God in the midst of her is mighty, he will rest in his love, and rejoice over her with singing, and will UNDO all that afflict her (Zeph 3:17-19). Wherefore, 'associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught; speak the word and it shall not stand; for God is with us' (Isa 8:9,10).
What work did he make with Og the king of Bashan, and with Sihon, king of the Amorites, for refusing to let his people go peaceably by them, when they were going to their own inheritance (Num 21:22-35). God is harmless, gentle, and pitiful; but woe be to that people that shall oppose or gainsay him. He is gentle, yet a lion; he is loth to hurt, yet he will not be crossed; 'Fury is not in me,' saith he; yet if you set the briars and thorns against him, He 'will go through them, and burn them together' (Isa 27:4). Jerusalem also, this beloved city, it will be beautiful and profitable to them that love her; but a cup of trembling, and a burthensome stone to all that burden themselves with her; 'all that burthen themselves with it, shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against her' (Zech 12:2,3).
Again, she will be clear as crystal in the observation of all her turns and stops, in her journeying from Egypt to Canaan, from Babylon to this Jerusalem state. She will, I say, observe both time and order, and will go only as her God doth go before her; now one step in this truth, and then another in that, according to the dispensation of God, and the light of day she lives in. As the cloud goes, so will she; and when the cloud stays, so will she (Rev 14:4; Exo 40:36-38). She comes in perfect rank and file, 'terrible as an army with banners' (Cant 6:10). No Balaam can enchant her; she comes 'out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all spices of the merchants' (Cant 3:6). Still 'leaning upon her beloved' (Cant 8:5). The return of Zion from under the tyranny of her afflictors, and her recovery to her primitive purity, is no headstrong brain-sick rashness of her own, but the gracious and merciful hand and goodness of God unto her, therefrom to give her deliverance. 'For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon [that is, the time of the reign of Antichrist, and his tyranny over his church] I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place' (Jer 29:10). 'Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for [spiritual] wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd; and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all' (Isa 57:11; Jer 31:12).