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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. The apostle is ordered to measure the temple. Two prophets are promised, to teach mankind. They are put to death, and in three days and a half after they are raised to life, and ascend to heaven. A great earthquake follows. The seventh Angel sounds the trumpet. The elders give thanks to God. — Measure the temple, &c. This is to signify that the divine Providence would always protect his faithful servants, who are called the temple of God; (1 Cor. iii. 17. and 2 Cor. vi. 16.) but by the outward court not to be measured, because it is given to the Gentiles, &c. (v. 2) is commonly understood idolaters, infidels, heretics, who are not in the temple of God, nor in his Church. It is an allusion to the Jewish temple, and the different divisions of it, the Gentiles not being permitted to enter into the temple itself, but only into that outward part called the court of the Gentiles. Wi. — The churches consecrated to the true God, are so much diminished in number, that they are represented by S. John as one church; its ministers officiate at one altar; and all the true faithful are so few, with respect to the bulk of mankind, that the evangelist sees them assembled in one temple, to pay their adorations to the Most High. Pastorini.
Ver. 2. The holy city they shall tread under foot forty-two months. That is, Gentiles and Jews shall be permitted to persecute the Church and the faithful servants of God; but only for a short time, expressed by forty-two months, as elsewhere by twelve hundred and sixty days, and also by a time, and times, and half a time, which, as S. Jerom observes, is for a year, and two years, and half a year, which three different ways of speaking by years, by months, and by days, are only to signify that God never permits his faithful to be under any violent persecution for any long time. Wi.
Ver. 3. My two witnesses . . . . shall prophesy twelve hundred and sixty days. It is a very common interpretation, that by these two witnesses must be understood Henoch and Elias, who are to come before the end of the world. It is true this is what we read in several of the ancient Fathers, insomuch, that Dr. Wells, in his paraphrase, calls it the "consent of the primitive fathers," and in his notes says, it is of "unexceptionable authority." This opinion (at least as to Elias) is grounded on those words of the prophet Malachy, (C. iv. 5.) behold, I will send you Elias, the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and also on the words of our Saviour, Christ, (Matt. xvii. 11.) where he tells his disciples: Elias indeed shall come, and restore all things. But I cannot say that the consent of the fathers is so unanimous as to Henoch: for we find by S. Hilary, that some thought Jeremy was to come with Elias, and he himself thought that with Elias would come Moses. See his commentary on Matt. p. 710, Nov. edit. Secondly, allowing it a received opinion that Henoch and Elias are again to come before the day of judgment, yet it is not the constant doctrine of the ancient fathers, that by these two witnesses in this place of the Apocalypse, must be understood Henoch and Elias. S. Cyprian expounds it of two sorts of martyrs for the Catholic faith; to wit, they who suffer death, and others who only suffered imprisonment, loss of goods, and the like. Others expound it of the testimonies concerning Christ and his Church, of which some are in the Old Testament, some in the New. To these we must join all those interpreters who expound all the visions and predictions in the Apocalypse, till the 20th chapter, of the persecutions raised by the Jews: or by the heathens against the Church, which have already happened. Of these, both as to ancient fathers and later interpreters, see Alcazar in his Prologomena, note 6, p. 33, and note 12, p. 48. Wi. — Two witnesses. It is commonly understood of Henoch and Elias. Ch.
Ver. 4. These are the two olive-trees, flourishing with works of piety and mercy, and the two candlesticks shining with faith and good works. Wi.
Ver. 5. And if any man would hurt them, &c. These two verses seem to signify both the miracles which God many times wrought by the prayers of his martyrs, as he had done formerly in the time of Elias, and the exemplary punishments with which from time to time he chastised those by whom they were persecuted, and that he will do the like by Henoch and Elias, when they shall come. Wi. — In this and the following verse are expressed the miraculous powers with which the two witnesses will be invested. These powers will be necessary to enable them to prove the truth of their doctrine. Every messenger who appears with a commission from God, is always furnished with means to prove it. Thus our Saviour and his apostles worked miracles in testimony of the Christian religion. And in the Old Testament, Elias convicted the false prophets by a miracle. See 3 K. xviii. Every new teacher consequently, who comes destitute of this sanction, can claim no credit, but is only to be considered as an imposter. Past.
Ver. 7. The beast, &c. God, for the greater good and glory of his servants, permits the devil by antichrist, and such like instruments, to torment them, and put them to death; and yet by dying they conquer, to the eternal confusion of their persecutors, who shall behold them going up to heaven, to be there happy with God in his kingdom for ever. Wi. — Antichrist, impelled by Satan, shall kill them. Past.
Ver. 8. Their bodies shall lie in the streets. It is what has often happened to the bodies of the martyrs, and may happen to Henoch and Elias, for three days and a half, for a short time. — The great city. Some understand any city where Christians are persecuted. Others by the following words, where also their Lord was crucified, will needs have to be understood Jerusalem, which they hold shall be rebuilt in the time of antichrist, and where by him shall be put to death Henoch and Elias. But others think it may be expounded of heathen Rome, which in a mystical sense might be called Sodom for its infamous crimes, and Egypt for its idolatries and superstitions, where Christ might be said to be crucified, not as to himself, but in his members, according to what he himself said, Mat. xxv. 40. "inasmuch as you did it to one of these, my least brethren, you did it to me." Wi. — City; Jerusalem, which it is supposed will be the residence of antichrist, and filled with a great concourse of people. Menochius.
Ver. 10. The inhabitants of the earth shall rejoice, &c. The persecutors rejoice and make merry for a while, when they seem to get the better of the Christians. Dioclesian caused pillars to be erected to him, as if he had destroyed the Christian religion; and when, by his cruelties he saw the faith of Christ, still increase more and more, he fell into a kind of madness, and laid down his empire. See Baron. ad an. Dni. 304, p. 771. Wi.
Ver. 11. The spirit of life from God entered into them, &c. It is an allusion to a vision in the prophet Ezechiel, c. xxxvii. Wi.
Ver. 13. A great earthquake. By which may be signified the consternation that fell upon the persecutors of Christians, when by God's visible chastisements, seven thousand (i.e. many of them) perished miserably; others were struck with fear, others converted. Wi.
Ver. 14. These visions belonged to the second wo, and the third wo is at hand. Wi. — Second wo; the persecution of antichrist. — Third wo, or the day of judgment, is near at hand. Past.
Ver. 15. The seventh Angel, &c. The saints and blessed spirits in heaven are represented praising God with loud voices, at the approaching of the kingdom of God; some understand at the end and consummation of the wicked world, after the destruction of antichrist, when the blessed shall reign in heaven: but others expound this of the triumph of the Christian faith and Church, when the providence of God putting an end to the persecutions against the Christian religion, by the miserable end of Dioclesian, Maximian, Maxentius, &c., made the kingdom of this world (the powerful Roman empire) become the kingdom of our Lord, by his raising Constantine the great to the empire, and under him making the faith of Christ triumph over all its persecutors and adversaries. Wi.
Ver. 19. The temple of God was opened . . . the ark of his testament was seen; which P. Alleman applies to the cross that appeared in the air to Constantine. Such applications may be probable, but cannot be called certain. Wi.