This book signifies the Old Testament, which has been given into the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, who received it from the Father's judgment.
2, 3. "And I saw an angel full of strength proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no one was found worthy, neither in the earth nor under the earth, to open the book."
Now to open the book is to overcome death for man.
4. "There was none found worthy to do this."
Neither among the angels of heaven, nor among men in earth, nor among the souls of the saints in rest, save Christ the Son of God alone, whom he says that he saw as a Lamb standing as it were slain, having seven horns. What had not been then announced, and what the law had contemplated for Him by its various oblations and sacrifices, it behooved Himself to fulfill. And because He Himself was the testator, who had overcome death, it was just that Himself should be appointed the Lord's heir, that He should possess the substance of the dying man, that is, the human members.
5. "Lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, hath prevailed."
We read in Genesis that this lion of the tribe of Judas hath conquered, when the patriarch Jacob says, "Judas, thy brethren shall praise thee; thou hast lain down and slept, and hast risen up again as a lion, and as a lion's whelp." For He is called a lion for the overcoming of death; but for the suffering for men He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. But because He overcame death, and anticipated the duty of the executioner, He was called as it were slain. He therefore opens and seals again the testament, which He Himself had sealed. The legislator Moses intimating this, that it behooved Him to be sealed and concealed, even to the advent of His passion, veiled his face, and so spoke to the people; showing that the words of his announcement were veiled even to the advent of His time. For he himself, when he had read to the people, having taken the wool purpled with the blood of the calf, with water sprinkled the whole people, saying, "This is the blood of His testament who hath purified you." It should therefore be observed that the Man is accurately announced, and that all things combine into one. For it is not sufficient that that law is spoken of, but it is named as a testament.
For no law is called a testament, nor is any
thing else called a testament, save what persons make who are about to
die. And whatever is within the testament is sealed, even to the day of
the testator's death. Therefore it is with reason that it is only sealed
by the Lamb slain, who, as it were a lion, has broken death in pieces,
and has fulfilled what had been foretold; and has delivered man, that is,
the flesh, from death, and has received as a possession the substance of
the dying person, that is, of the human members; that as by one body all
men had fallen under the obligation of its death, also by one body all
believers should be born again unto life, and rise again. Reasonably, therefore,
His face is opened and unveiled to Moses; and therefore He is called Apocalypse,
Revelation. For now His book is unsealed -- now the offered victims are
perceived -- now the fabrication of the priestly chrism; moreover the testimonies
are openly understood.
8, 9. "Twenty four elders and four living creatures, having harps and phials, and singing a new song."
The proclamation of the Old Testament associated with the New, points out the Christian people singing a new song, that is, bearing their confession publicly. It is a new thing that the Son of God should become man. It is a new thing to ascend into the heavens with a body. It is a new thing to give remission of sins to men. It is a new thing for men to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. It is a new thing to receive the priesthood of sacred observance, and to look for a kingdom of unbounded promise.
The harp, and the chord stretched on its wooden
frame, signifies the flesh of Christ linked with the wood of the passion.
The phial signifies the Confession, and the race of the new Priesthood.
But it is the praise of many angels, yea, of all, the salvation of all,
and the testimony of the universal creation, bringing to our Lord thanksgiving
for the deliverance of men from the destruction of death. The unsealing
of the seals, as we have said, is the opening of the Old Testament, and
the foretelling of the preachers of things to come in the last times, which,
although the prophetic Scripture speaks by single seals, yet by all the
seals opened at once, prophecy takes its rank.
The first seal being opened, he says that he
saw a white horse, and a crowned horseman having a bow. For this
was at first done by Himself. For after the Lord ascended into heaven and
opened all things, He sent the Holy Spirit, whose words the preachers sent
forth as arrows reaching to the human heart, that they might overcome unbelief.
And the crown on the head is promised to the preachers by the Holy Spirit.
The other three horses very plainly signify the wars, famines, and pestilence
announced by our Lord in the Gospel. And thus he says that one of the four
living creatures said (because all four are one), "Come and see".
"Come" is said to him that is invited to faith; "see" is said to him who
saw not. Therefore the white horse is the word of preaching with the
Holy Spirit sent into the world. For the Lord says, "This Gospel shall
be preached throughout the whole world
for a testimony to all nations, and then shall come the end."
Note: (The saints in the Catholic Church, according to saint Albert)
The red horse, and he that sat upon
him, having a sword, signify the coming wars, as we read in the
Gospel: "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom;
and there shall be great earthquakes in divers places." This is the ruddy
Note: (Unbelievers, according to saint Albert)
The black horse signifies famine, for the Lord says, "There shall be famines in divers places;" but the word is specially extended to the times of Antichrist, when there shall be a great famine, and when all shall be injured. Moreover, the balance in the hand is the examining scales, wherein He might show forth the merits of every individual. He then says:-
6. "Hurt not the wine and the oil."
That is, strike not the spiritual man with
thy infliction. This is the black horse.
Note: (Heretics, according to saint Albert)
For the pale horse and he who sat upon him bore the name of Death. These same things also the Lord had promised among the rest of the coming destruction -- great pestilence and deaths; since, moreover, he says:-
"And hell followed him."
That is, it was waiting for the devouring of
many unrighteous souls. This is the pale horse.
Note: Hypocrites in the Catholic Church
He relates that he saw under the altar of God, that is, under the earth, the souls of them that were slain. For both heaven and earth are called God's altar, as saith the law, commanding in the symbolical form of the truth two altars to be made, -- a golden one within, and a brazen one without. But we perceive that the golden altar is thus called heaven, by the testimony that our Lord bears to it; for He says, "When thou bringest thy gift to the altar" (assuredly our gifts are the prayers which we offer), "and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar." Assuredly prayers ascend to heaven. Therefore heaven is understood to be the golden altar which was within; for the priests also were accustomed to enter once in the year -- as they who had the anointing -- to the golden altar, the Holy Spirit signifying that Christ should do this once for all.
As the golden altar is acknowledged to be heaven, so also by the brazen altar is understood the earth, under which is the Hades, -- a region withdrawn from punishments and fires, and a place of repose for the saints, wherein indeed the righteous are seen and heard by the wicked, but they cannot be carried across to them. He who sees all things would have us to know that these saints, therefore -- that is, the souls of the slain -- are asking for vengeance for their blood, that is, of their body, from those that dwell upon the earth; but because in the last time, moreover, the reward of the saints will be perpetual, and the condemnation of the wicked shall come, it was told them to wait. And for a solace to their body, there were given unto each of them white robes. They received, says he, white robes, that is, the gift of the Holy Spirit.
12. "And I saw, when he had opened the sixth seal, there was a great earthquake."
In the sixth seal, then, was a great earthquake: this is that very last persecution.
"And the sun became black as sackcloth of hair."
The sun becomes as sackcloth; that is, the brightness of doctrine will be obscured by unbelievers.
"And the entire moon became as blood."
By the moon of blood is set forth the Church of the saints as pouring out her blood for Christ.
13. "And the stars fell to the earth."
The falling of the stars are the faithful who are troubled for Christ's sake.
"Even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs."
The fig tree, when shaken, loses its untimely figs -- when men are separated from the Church by persecution.
14. "And the heaven withdrew as a scroll that is rolled up."
For the heaven to be rolled away, that is, that the Church shall be taken away.
"And every mountain and the islands were moved from their places."
Mountains and islands removed from their places intimate that in the last persecution all men departed from their places; that is, that the good will be removed, seeking to avoid the persecution.
(Note: Description of the Warning no 14.)
He speaks of Elias the prophet, who is the precursor of the times of Antichrist, for the restoration and establishment of the churches from the great and intolerable persecution that these things are predicted in the opening of the Old and New Testament; for He says by Malachi: "Lo, I will send to you Elias the Tishbite, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, according to the time of calling, to recall the Jews to the faith of the people that succeed them." And to that end He shows, as we have said, that the number of those that shall believe, of the Jews and of the nations, is a great multitude which no man was able to number.
Moreover, we read in the Gospel that the prayers of the Church are sent from heaven by an angel, and that they are received against wrath, and that the kingdom of Antichrist is cast out and extinguished by holy angels; for He says: "Pray that ye enter not into temptation: for there shall be a great affliction, such as has not been from the beginning of the world; and except the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved." Therefore He shall send these seven great archangels to smite the kingdom of Antichrist; for He Himself also thus said: "Then the Son of man shall send His messengers; and they shall gather together His elect from the four corners of the wind, from the one end of heaven even to the other end thereof."
For, moreover, He previously says by the prophet: "Then shall there be peace for our land, when there shall arise in it seven shepherds and eight attacks of men; and they shall encircle Assur," that is, Antichrist, "in the trench of Nimrod," that is, in the nation of the devil, by the spirit of the Church. Similarly when the keepers of the house shall be moved. Moreover, the Lord Himself, in the parable to the apostles, when the laborers had come to Him and said, "Lord, did not we sow good seed in Thy field? Whence, then, hath it tares? answered them, An enemy hath done this. And they said to Him, Lord, wilt Thou, then, that we go and root them up? And He said, Nay, but let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, that they gather the tares and make bundles of them, and burn them with fire everlasting, but that they gather the wheat into my barns." The Apocalypse here shows, therefore, that these reapers, and shepherds; and laborers, are the angels. And the trumpet is the word of power. And although the same thing recurs in the phials, still it is not said as if it occurred twice, but because what is decreed by the Lord to happen shall be once for all; for this cause it is said twice. What, therefore, He said too little in the trumpets, is here found in the phials.
We must not regard the order of what is said, because frequently the Holy Spirit, when He has traversed even to the end of the last times, returns again to the same times, and fills up what He had before failed to say. Nor must we look for order in the Apocalypse; but we must follow the meaning of those things which are prophesied. Therefore in the trumpets and phials is signified either the desolation of the plagues that are sent upon the earth, or the madness of Antichrist himself, or the cutting off of the peoples, or the diversity of the plagues, or the hope in the kingdom of the saints, or the ruin of states, or the great overthrow of Babylon, that is, the Roman state.
9. "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man was able to number, of every nation, tribe, and people, and tongue, clothed with white robes."
What the great multitude out of every tribe
implies, is to show the number of the elect out of all
believers, who, being cleansed by baptism in the blood of the Lamb, have
made their robes white, keeping the grace which they have received.
Whereby is signified the beginning of everlasting rest; but it is described as partial, because the silence being interrupted, he repeats it in order. For if the silence had continued, here would be an end of his narrative.
13 "And I saw an angel flying through the midst of heaven."
By the angel flying through the midst of heaven
is signified the Holy Spirit beating witness in two of the prophets that
a great wrath of plagues was imminent. If by any means, even in the last
times, any one should be willing to be converted, any one might even still
That is, the four corners of the earth which hold the four winds.
"Which are bound in the great river Euphrates."
By the corners of the earth, or the four winds
across the river Euphrates, are meant four nations, because to every nation
is sent an angel; as said the law, "He determined them by the number of
the angels of God," until the number of the saints should be filled up.
They do not overpass their bounds, because at the last they shall come
He signifies that that mighty angel who, he says, descended from heaven, clothed with a cloud, is our Lord, as we have above narrated.
"His face was as it were the sun."
That is, with respect to the resurrection.
"Upon his head was a rainbow."
He points to the judgment which is executed by Him, or shall be.
"An open book."
A revelation of works in the future judgment, or the Apocalypse which John received.
As we have said above, are the apostles. For that both things in sea and land are trodden under foot by Him, signifies that all things are placed under His feet. Moreover, he calls Him an angel, that is, a messenger, to wit, of the Father; for He is called the Messenger of great counsel. He says also that He cried with a loud voice. The great voice is to tell the words of the Omnipotent God of heaven to men, and to bear witness that after penitence is closed there will be no hope subsequently.
3. "Seven thunders uttered their voices."
The seven thunders uttering their voices signify, the Holy Spirit of sevenfold power, who through the prophets announced all things to come, and by His voice John gave his testimony in the world; but because he says that he was about to write the things which the thunders had uttered, that is, whatever things had been obscure in the announcements of the Old Testament; he is forbidden to write them, but he was charged to leave them sealed, because he is an apostle, nor was it fitting that the grace of the subsequent stage should be given in the first. "The time," says he, "is at hand." For the apostles, by powers, by signs, by portents, and by mighty works, have overcome unbelief. After them there is now given to the same completed Churches the comfort of having the prophetic Scriptures subsequently interpreted, for I said that after the apostles there would be interpreting prophets.
For the apostle says: "And he placed in the Church indeed, first, apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers," and the rest. And in another place he says: "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge." And he says: "Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered, dishonoureth her head" And when he says, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge," he is not speaking in respect of the Catholic prophecy of things unheard and unknown, but of things both announced and known. But let them judge whether or not the interpretation is consistent with the testimonies of the prophetic utterance. It is plain, therefore, that to John, armed as he was with superior virtue, this was not necessary, although the body of Christ, which is the Church, adorned with His members, ought to respond to its position.
10. "I took the book from the hand of the angel, and ate it up."
To take the book and eat it up, is, when exhibition of a thing is made to one, to commit it to memory.
"And it was in my mouth as sweet as honey."
To be sweet in the mouth is the reward of the preaching of the speaker, and is most pleasant to the hearers; but it is most bitter both to those that announce it, and to those that persevere in its commandments through suffering.
11. "And He says unto me, Thou must again prophesy to the peoples, and to the tongues, and to the nations, and to many kings."
He says this, because when John said these
things he was in the island of Patmos, condemned to the labor of the mines
by Caesar Domitian. There, therefore,
he saw the Apocalypse; and when grown old, he thought that he should at
length receive his quittance by suffering, Domitian being killed, all his
judgments were discharged. And John being dismissed from the mines, thus
subsequently delivered the same Apocalypse which he had received from God.
This, therefore, is what He says: Thou must again prophesy to all nations,
because thou seest the crowds of Antichrist rise up; and against them other
crowds shall stand, and they shall fall by the sword on the one side and
on the other.
A reed was shown like to a rod. This itself is the Apocalypse which he subsequently exhibited to the churches; for the Gospel of the complete faith he subsequently wrote for the sake of our salvation. For when Valentinus, and Cerinthus, and Ebion, and others of the school of Satan, were scattered abroad throughout the world, there assembled together to him from the neighboring provinces all the bishops, and compelled him himself also to draw up his testimony. Moreover, we say that the measure of God's temple is the command of God to confess the Father Almighty, and that His Son Christ was begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, and was made man in very soul and flesh, both of them having overcome misery and death; and that, when received with His body into heaven by the Father, He shed forth the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, that He was announced by the prophets, He was described by the law, He was God's hand, and the Word of the Father from God, Lord over all, and founder of the world: this is the reed and the measure of faith; and no one worships the holy altar save he who confesses this faith.
2. "The court which is within the temple leave out."
The space which is called the court is the empty altar within the walls: these being such as were not necessary, he commanded to be ejected from the Church.
"It is given to be trodden down by the Gentiles."
That is, to the men of this world, that it may be trodden under foot by the nations, or with the nations. Then he repeats about the destruction and slaughter of the last time, and says:-
3. "They shall tread the holy city down for forty and two months; and I will give to my two witnesses, and they shall predict a thousand two hundred and threescore days clothed in sackcloth."
That is, three years and six months: these make forty two months. Therefore their preaching is three years and six months, and the kingdom of Antichrist as much again.
5. "If any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies."
That fire proceedeth out of the mouth of those prophets against the adversaries, bespeaks the power of the world. For all afflictions, however many there are, shall be sent by their messengers in their word. Many think that there is Elisha, or Moses, with Elijah; but both of these died; while the death of Elijah is not heard of, with whom all our ancients have believed that it was Jeremiah. For even the very word spoken to him testifies to him, saying, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." But he was not a prophet unto the nations; and thus the truthful word of God makes it necessary, which it has promised to set forth, that he should be a prophet to the nations.
4. "These are the two candlesticks standing before the Lord of the earth."
These two candlesticks and two olive trees He has to this end spoken of, and admonished you that if, when you have read of them elsewhere, you have not understood, you may understand here. For in Zechariah, one of the twelve prophets, it is thus written: "These are the two olive trees and two candlesticks which stand in the presence of the Lord of the earth;" that is, they are in paradise.
Also, in another sense, standing in the presence of the lord of the earth, that is, in the presence of Antichrist. Therefore they must be slain by Antichrist.
7. "And the beast which ascendeth from the abyss."
After many plagues completed in the world, in the end he says that a beast ascended from the abyss. But that he shall ascend from the abyss is proved by many testimonies; for he says in the thirty first chapter of Ezekiel: "Behold, Assur was a cypress in Mount Lebanon." Assur, deeply rooted, was a lofty and branching cypress -- that is, a numerous people -- in Mount Lebanon, in the kingdom of kingdoms, that is, of the Romans. Moreover, that he says he was beautiful in offshoots, he says he was strong in armies. The water, he says, shall nourish him, that is, the many thousands of men which were subjected to him; and the abyss increased him, that is, belched him forth. For even Isaiah speaks almost in the same words; moreover, that he was in the kingdom of the Romans, and that he was among the Caesars.
The Apostle Paul also bears witness, for he says to the Thessalonians: "Let him who now restraineth restrain, until he be taken out of the way; and then shall appear that Wicked One, even he whose coining is after the working of Satan, with signs and lying wonders." And that they might know that he should come who then was the prince, he added: "He already endeavors after the secret of mischief" -- that is, the mischief which he is about to do he strives to do secretly; but he is not raised up by his own power, nor by that of his father, but by command of God, of which thing Paul says in the same passage: "For this cause, because they have not received the love of God, He will send upon them a spirit of error, that they all may be persuaded of a lie, who have not been persuaded of the truth." And Isaiah saith: "While they waited for the light, darkness arose upon them."
Therefore the Apocalypse sets forth that these prophets are killed by the same, and on the fourth day rise again, that none might be found equal to God.
8. "And their dead bodies shall lie in the streets of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt."
But He calls Jerusalem Sodom and Egypt, since it had become the heaping up of the persecuting people. Therefore it behooves us diligently, and with the utmost care, to follow the prophetic announcement, and to understand what the Spirit from the Father both announces and anticipates, and how, when He has gone forward to the last times, He again repeats the former ones. And now, what He will do once for all, He sometimes sets forth as if it were done; and unless you understand this, as sometimes done, and sometimes as about to be done, you will fall into a great confusion. Therefore the interpretation of the following sayings has shown therein, that not the order of the reading, but the order of the discourse, must be understood.
19. "And the temple of God was opened which is in heaven."
The temple opened is a manifestation of our Lord. For the temple of God is the Son, as He Himself says: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." And when the Jews said, "Forty and six years was this temple in building," the evangelist says, "He spake of the temple of His body."
"And there was seen in His temple the ark of the Lord's testament."
The preaching of the Gospel and the forgiveness
of sins, and all the gifts whatever that came with Him, he says, appeared
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