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The Explanation Of The Apocalypse

v. 1. reed. He received the office of writing the Gospel in the reed, which is not useless with a vain lustre, but is like “the rod of equity, the rod of the kingdom of God,” for it describes the eternal kingdom of Christ.

Rise. “Rise,” he said: not that John was seated, but that the hearts of all are aroused by this word to measure the writings and actions of the Gospel, for then they find what progress they each one make, and how far they agree with the divine rule.

worship. For not all they who are seen therein worship, as he “who shall confess Me.” He commands, that is, in what he says, that a part should not be reckoned.

2. without. They who in name alone are united to the Church, and who neither draw near to the altar nor the most holy place, are cast forth by the rule of the Gospel, and are joined to the nations. For “all the glory of her who is the daughter of kings is from within.”

tread. Not only are they driven from the Church, but they also fight against the Church itself, with the heathen as their allies, for three years and a-half. It is not that they only trample upon it then in the time of Antichrist; but that in that time all the body of the wicked, “in whom the ministry of iniquity already works,” is joined as it were, to its own head.

3. witnesses. That the cruelty of the bad may not alarm the hearer, he mentions, that the Church also, which of two races is made one, is to become illustrious by the gift of miracles. The Church, too, ever contemplating its head, namely Christ, teaching in the flesh, will prophesy, it is said, for two years and a-half. For the months of three years and a-half, namely, thirty times forty-two, make up two hundred and sixty days. But Daniel writes, that the days of the same period in which the abomination of desolation is to be set up are one thousand two hundred and ninety.

sackcloth. That is, who are made to stand in penance; as the prophet says, “But I clothed myself in sackcloth of hair, while they were vexatious unto me.”

4. olive trees. The Church is irradiated by the light of the two Testaments, and ever waits upon the commands of the Lord. So also the prophet Zechariah saw one candlestick with seven branches, and these two olive-trees, that is, testaments, pouring oil into the candlestick. This is the Church with its oil, which never fails, which makes it shine for the light of the world.

5. fire. If any one harms the Church, he is condemned by a retributive sentence of the same harm; and is consumed by fire. For “all they who take the sword shall perish with the sword.” And so the Chaldean flame which was prepared for the children of God, slew the ministers of ungodliness themselves. Or: he who is to be changed for the better, is spiritually consumed in a good fire, by the prayers of the mouth of the Church. “Thou wilt heap,” he says, “coals of fire upon his head.”

6. power. All power in heaven and earth is given to the Church in Christ, for the keys of binding and loosing are committed to it. But spiritually also, the heaven is shut, that it rain no rain, in order that blessing from the Church may not come down upon the barren earth. As the Lord saith of the Father to His vineyard, “I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”

waters. Not only do they make to cease the waters, but they also render those which had come down useless; and this is, to turn the waters into blood. The sweet savour of Christ, which comes with fragrance from the Church, is “to some a savour of death unto death, to others a savour of life unto life.”

7. testimony. He shews clearly, that all these things take place before the last persecution, by saying, “when they shall have finished their testimony;” namely, that which they give, until the revelation of the beast, who is to come forth from the hearts of the ungodly. It is not that they do not then strive boldly to resist the enemy by the same testimony, but that the Church, as is supposed, will then be left destitute of the gift of miracles, while the adversary is resplendent with them in the sight of all through lying wonders. For, as the Lord says, “Want shall go before his face.”

kill. He will overcome in those who shall succumb, he will kill in those who, with laudable patience, shall be slain. Or: if he shall overcome and kill spiritually, we may take it of a part of the witnesses, as the Lord says in the Gospel, “They will deliver you up to affliction, and kill you;” which Luke the Evangelist intimates to have been spoken of a part, saying, “Some of you they will kill.”

8. bodies. “If they have persecuted Me,” He says, “they will also persecute you.” It is no wonder, then, if the city of the ungodly, which feared not to crucify the Lord, has His servants also in derision, even when they are slain. And such things as these ecclesiastical history relates to have often occurred.

Sodom. That is, “silent and dark,” having forsooth neither the light of faith, nor the voice of confession. For “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” These regions, for a sign of spiritual punishment, were visibly smitten with these plagues, that is, with devouring fire, and water turned into blood.

9. see. He said not the peoples and tribes will see, but, many from among the peoples who openly deride the saints, when others believe.

tombs. He has spoken of their wish and their opposition: not that they are able to effect that the Church should not be their memorial; as it is said, “Ye neither enter in, nor suffer others to enter in,” seeing that some do enter in, although they oppose. But they will evidently effect, in respect of the bodies of the living and of the slain, that neither are the living suffered to meet together for their memory by the celebration of holy offices, nor the slain to have their names recited for their memory, nor to have their bodies buried for their memory as witnesses of God.

10. rejoice. As often as the righteous are afflicted, the unrighteous exult and feast, as, “while the ungodly is lifted up, the poor is consumed.”

tormented. Because of the plagues with which the human race is vexed, because of their testimony to God, even the very sight of the righteous oppresses the unrighteous; as they themselves say, “He is grievous unto us even to behold.”

11. days. Thus far the angel has spoken of the future, and now he brings in, as accomplished, that which he hears is to come to pass, namely that, after the reign of Antichrist has been destroyed, the saints have risen to glory.

fear. He has spoken of all the living, because even the righteous who shall remain alive will greatly fear at the resurrection of those who sleep.

12. cloud. This is the same that the Apostle said, “We shall be caught up in the clouds into the air, to meet the Lord.”

enemies. Here he has distinguished the unrighteous from those of whom he had said, that they feared in common with them.

13. earthquake. When the terror of the judgment comes upon them, all the city of the devil, which is built upon the sand, with all its builders, will fall to the ground. For, both ten and seven are perfect numbers. But if it were not so, the whole would be to be understood from a part.

affrighted. Who of all men will boast that he has a pure heart, when “the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”

gave glory. They are built upon a rock, who, from their own stability, glorify the Lord when others fall at the earthquake. For “the righteous will rejoice when he seeth the punishment of the wicked.” Some understand the two prophets to be Enoch and Elijah, and that they are to preach for three years and a-half, and confirm the hearts of the faithful against the perfidy of Antichrist, which is presently to follow; and that, after their death, his cruelty is to rage for the same period of time, and then, when the conflict is at length renewed by the saints, who in the protection of their hiding-places were supposed to be dead, is to be overcome. And these, because of their fellowship in one body, are said to rise as prophets themselves; and when the persecution is intensified at the sight of those who were already thought to be dead, many of those who were supposed to be worthy of the number seven, or ten, will fall. For Daniel says, “He will confirm the covenant with many for one week, and in the half of the week the oblation and sacrifice will cease, and the abomination of desolation shall be in the temple;” and the following, “and when the abomination which makes desolate shall be set up, there will be a thousand two hundred and ninety days,” which number is close upon the course of three years and a-half. Finally, Elijah of old destroyed his adversaries by fire, and was hidden for three years and a-half, and withheld the rain; and at length, when the false prophets were put to death, by means of the sacrifice which had been consumed, he turned Israel unto the Lord.

14. second. The second woe does not belong to the recapitulation, but to the battle of the horses, which was stirred up by the trumpet of the sixth angel; for the eagle had foretold three woes, from the voice of the three trumpets which was to come. But he did not utter it then, lest that which belongs to the seventh angel, and the end, should be supposed to follow immediately upon the third.

15. seventh. The six former trumpets, corresponding with the periods of the present age, announced the various conflicts of the wars of the Church. But the seventh, heralds in the eternal sabbath, and shews alone the victory and the dominion of the true King.

16. worshipped. Behold, he says, the third woe will come at the voice of the seventh angel. And when he had sounded, he only spoke of the Church as praising God and giving thanks, from which we understand that the retribution of the faithful will be nothing else than the woe of the evil ones.

17. who art. “Thou hast reigned from the age, although the ungodly are rebellious against Thee. But now that Thou art Judge, their fury will be repressed, and will cease.” For, “The Lord hath reigned, let the people be angry.”

18. dead. It agrees with the order, as we read in the Gospel, that first, indeed, all nations should be gathered together before the Judge, then that those on the right hand should be disposed in many mansions in the Kingdom of the Father, but that the ungodly should be driven out beyond the limits of the kingdom, to be burned in the accursed flames.

corrupted. This is the last woe. Therefore, concerning the seven angels sounding with the trumpet, he now recapitulates from the birth of the Lord, as about to say the same things in another manner, and more comprehensively.

19. The temple of God, which was placed aforetime on the earth, had the ark of the covenant, inclosed within the mystical veil. But now, in the Church, which is “the temple of the living God,” whose “conversation is in heaven,” the ark of His Incarnation is laid open to the whole world, as the veil of the old temple, and the middle wall of partition, have been rent asunder by the blood of the Lord. For like the heavenly manna in clean gold is the Divinity in a holy body.

lightnings. These all are the miracles of the splendour, and preaching, and wars of the Church. He had said also that these things took place in the description of the announcement of the seven angels, from the Advent of the Lord, when He stood upon the altar, but generally from the begining to the end. Then he described particularly in what manner they took place, as he also does now, that the temple of God is opened in heaven, and that conflicts follow.

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