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The Explanation Of The Apocalypse


2. trumpets. The Church, which is often presented under the number seven, is commended to the office of preaching. And here the first trumpet denotes the common destruction of the ungodly in the fire and hail; the second, the expulsion of the devil from the Church for the fiercer burning of the sea of the world; the third, the falling away of heretics from the Church, and their corruption of the streams of Holy Scripture; the fourth, the defection of false brethren in the darkening of the stars; the fifth, the greater hostility of heretics, the precursors of the time of Antichrist; the sixth, the open war of Antichrist and his own against the Church, and the destruction of the same enemy interposed by a recapitulation from the advent of the Lord; the seventh, the day of judgment, in which the Lord is to render to His own their reward, and to exterminate those who have corrupted the earth.

3. came He says not, came afterwards; but on announcing that the angels have received trumpets, he returns to explain in what manner they have received them. For although the Church preached before the coming of the Lord, it was not in every place, until it was strengthened by His Spirit.

stood before. stood before. He appeared, that is, in the sight of the Church, Himself made the censer from which God received the odour of a sweet savour, and was propitiated towards the world. Another version has, “upon the altar;” because on the altar of the cross, He offered to the Father for us His own golden censer, that is, His own immaculate body, conceived by the Holy Spirit.

incense. He offered incense from the prayers of the saints. For the Church entrusted to Him her prayers, saying, “Let my prayer be directed before Thee, as incense.” The same is said both to have taken of the prayers of the saints and to have offered, because the prayers of all can come with a sweet savour to the Father by Him.

4. smoke. When Christ the Lord offered Himself a sacrifice of a sweet savour, the compunction of heart in the saints was made acceptable, for this arises from fire within, and like smoke is accustomed to excite tears.

5. censer. He fitly introduces a censer filled with fire, for “God giveth not the Spirit by measure.” And this we know to have been specially fulfilled in respect of the Incarnation of Christ, “for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”

earth. So also the Lord in the Gospel says, “I am come to send fire upon the earth.

earthquake. He shook the earth by the thunder of divine threatening, and the voice of exhortation, and the lightning of miracles, when some persecuted and some followed; when the latter said, “He is a good man,” and the former, “Nay, but He deceiveth the people.”

6. to sound. The Church, inflamed by the sevenfold Spirit, prepared herself to preach with confidence, so as to throw down the glory of the world like the walls of Jericho with heavenly trumpets. For that compassing about for seven days also suggests the whole time of the Church.

7. first. The announcement of the plagues is rightly compared to a trumpet, which is the signal of battle. For he saith, “Lift up thy voice as a trumpet, and declare unto My people their iniquities;” and in another place, “Let there be a trumpet in thy mouth, as an eagle upon the house of the Lord,” that is, proclaim with a loud voice that Nebuchadnezzar will come for the destruction of the temple.

hail. That the punishment of hell is due to works of blood is announced by the voice of preachers, who say, “they shall pass from snow-water to excessive heat.” The spiritual death of the soul may also be understood under the name of blood. Tichonius explains the verse in this way: “There followed the wrath of God, upon which the death of many should ensue.”

burnt up. The life of the good is found in doctors and hearers. For, “Blessed,” he says, “is he who reads, and he who hears the words of the prophecy.” But the third part of the bad has neither of these. For, “the earth, which brings forth fruit in patience, receives blessing from the Lord; but the bad produces thorns and thistles, whose end is for burning.” So also the Father, Who is the husbandman, cultivates the fruitful, but cuts down the barren tree, and delivers it as fuel to the fire.

grass. The grass is all flesh, which is now pampered with the softness of luxury, but which, when the sun of judgment is hot, loses the flower of beauty, and as the Lord says, “To-day is in the field, and to-morrow is cast into the oven.” Tichonius speaks in this way of the third part in this place: “By the third he means intestine foes.” But whatever is without the Church is called a third part, and the Church is a third which is to fight against a twofold evil.

8. mountain. As the Christian religion increased, the devil, swollen with pride and burning with the fire of his rage, was cast into the sea of the world, for that the Lord says, “If ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and cast thyself into the sea, it shall be done.” Not that he was not there before, but that when he was cast out from the Church, he began to rage with greater madness against his own, while through the pride of carnal knowledge he wrought in them spiritual death; for, “To be carnally minded is death.” But flesh and blood taught not the Apostles, but the Father who is in heaven, for they directed the ship of faith in that sea, which yielded itself to be trodden by the feet of the Lord.

9. life. He said, “Which have lives,” to represent the living, as spiritually dead; as the Apostle says of the widow who is living in pleasure, “she is dead, while she liveth.”

were destroyed. Another version, by saying, “and they destroyed the third part of the ships,” signifies that the third part which was dead killed another third, namely, that which came next to itself, by an injurious tradition, and following of unprofitable doctrine.

10. star. Heretics, who are called by the Apostle Jude, “stars of seduction,” fall from the height of the Church, and by the flame of their own wickedness they endeavour to corrupt the fountains of the divine Scripture, not the sense of which alone, but also the words, they dare to falsify. These are worthy of the name of Wormwood, for a slight admixture of it is wont to make bitter much sweetness.

11. died. For “many,” as the Apostle says, “follow their own luxuries, through whom the way of truth is evil spoken of.” By the people of God, however, as Moses teaches, every kind of water can be drunk.

12. moon. The glory of the Church, which shines like a star, is often obscured through false brethren, who, either in the prosperity or adversity of the age, cause it to shine less brightly by their defection.

shone not. Another version has this, “And that the third part of the day might appear, and of the night likewise.” That is, it was smitten for tins end, that the third part of the day and the third of the night might appear either to be Christ’s or the devil’s. To this end, I say, it was smitten, that is, was given up to its own desires, that as its sins became more abundant and more flagrant, it might in its own time be revealed.

13. eagle. The voice of this eagle daily flies through the mouths of eminent doctors in the Church, when they announce that the cruelty of Antichrist and the day of judgment will come with all severity to those who are lovers of the earth; while they say, “In the last days perilous times will be at hand, and men will be lovers of themselves;” and below, “men corrupt in mind, reprobate concerning the faith;” and in another place, “Then will the wicked one be revealed, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or is worshipped;” and again, “The day of the Lord will so come, as a thief in the night; for when they shall say, peace and security, then sudden destruction come upon them.”

three. Not that the trumpets of the angels bring the plagues upon the world, but that each of them in his own time announces such as are coming, or are to come.

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