on Revelation 21 :18
The building of the wall of it was of jasper - The oriental jasper is exceedingly hard, and almost indestructible. Pillars made of this stone have lasted some thousands of years, and appear to have suffered scarcely any thing from the tooth of time.
Pure gold, like unto clear glass - Does not this imply that the walls were made of some beautifully bright yellow stone, very highly polished? This description has been most injudiciously applied to heaven; and in some public discourses, for the comfort and edification of the pious, we hear of heaven with its golden walls, golden pavements, gates of pearl, etc., etc., not considering that nothing of this description was ever intended to be literally understood; and that gold and jewels can have no place in the spiritual and eternal world. But do not such descriptions as these tend to keep up a fondness for gold and ornaments? In symbols they are proper; but construed into realities, they are very improper.
The ancient Jews teach that "when Jerusalem and the temple shall be built, they will be all of precious stones, and pearls, and sapphire, and with every species of jewels." - Sepher Rasiel Haggadol, fol. 24, 1.
The same authors divide paradise into seven parts or houses; the third they describe thus: "The third house is built of gold and pure silver, and all kinds of jewels and pearls. It is very spacious, and in it all kinds of the good things, either in heaven or earth, are to be found. All kinds of precious things, perfumes, and spiritual virtues, are there planted. In the midst of it is the tree of life, the height of which is five hundred years; (i.e., it is equal in height to the journey which a man might perform in five hundred years), and under it dwell Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, and all that came out of Egypt, and died in the wilderness. Over these Moses and Aaron preside, and teach them the law," etc. - Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 13, 4. In the same tract, fol. 182, 1, we find these words: "Know that we have a tradition, that when the Messiah, with the collected captivity, shall come to the land of Israel, in that day the dead in Israel shall rise again; and in that day the fiery walls of the city of Jerusalem shall descend from heaven, and in that day the temple shall be builded of jewels and pearls."
on Revelation 21 :18
And the building of the wall of it - The material of which the wall was composed. This means the wall above the foundation, for that was composed of twelve rows of precious stones, Revelation 21:14, Revelation 21:19-20. The height of the foundation is not stated, but the entire wall above was composed of jasper.
Was of jasper - See the notes on Revelation 4:3. Of course, this cannot be taken literally; and an attempt to explain all this literally would show that that method of interpreting the Apocalypse is impracticable.
And the city was pure gold - The material of which the edifices were composed.
Like unto clear glass - The word rendered "glass" in this place - ὕαλος hualos - occurs in the New Testament only here and in Revelation 21:21. It means, properly, "anything transparent like water"; as, for example, any transparent stone or gem, or as rock-salt, crystal, glass (Robinson, Lexicon). Here the meaning is, that the golden city would be so bright and burnished that it would seem to be glass reflecting the sunbeams. Would the appearance of a city, as the sun is setting, when the reflection of its beams from thousands of panes of glass gives it the appearance of burnished gold, represent the idea here? If we were to suppose a city made entirely of glass, and the setting sunbeams falling on it, it might convey the idea represented here. It is certain that, as nothing could be more magnificent, so nothing could more beautifully combine the two ideas referred to here - that of "gold and glass."
Perhaps the reflection of the sunbeams from the "Crystal Palace," erected for the late "industrial exhibition" in London, would convey a better idea of what is intended to be represented here than anything which our world has furnished. The following description from one who was an eyewitness, drawn up by him at the time, and without any reference to this passage, and furnished at my request, will supply a better illustration of the passage before us than any description which I could give: "Seen as the morning vapors rolled around its base - its far-stretching roofs rising one above another, and its great transept, majestically arched, soaring out of the envelope of clouds - its pillars, window-bars, and pinnacles, looked literally like a castle in the air; like some palace, such as one reads of in idle tales of Arabian enchantment, having about it all the ethereal softness of a dream. Looked at from a distance at noon, when the sunbeams came pouring upon the terraced and vaulted roof, it resembles a regal palace of silver, built for some Eastern prince; 'when the sun at eventide sheds on its sides his parting rays, the edifice is transformed into a temple of gold and rubies;' and in the calm hours of night, when the moon walketh in her brightness, the immense surface of glass which the building presents looks like a sea, or like throwing back, in flickering smile, the radiant glances of the queen of heaven."
on Revelation 21 :18
21:18 And the building of the wall was jasper - That is, the wall was built of jasper. And the city - The houses, was of pure gold.