FROM THE FIRST CHAPTER
1. "THE Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him, and showed unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass, and signified it. Blessed are they who read and hear the words of this prophecy, and keep the things which are written."
The beginning of the book promises blessing to him that reads and hears and keeps, that he who takes pains about the reading may thence learn to do works, and may keep the precepts.
4. "Grace unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come."
He is, because He endures continually; He was, because with the Father He made all things, and has at this time taken a beginning from the Virgin; He is to come, because assuredly He will come to judgment.
"And from the seven spirits which are before His throne."
We read of a sevenfold spirit in Isaiah, -- namely, the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, of knowledge and of piety, and the spirit of the fear of the Lord.
5. "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead."
In taking upon Him manhood, He gave a testimony in the world, wherein also having suffered, He freed us by His blood from sin; and having vanquished hell, He was the first who rose from the dead and "death shall have no more dominion over Him," but by His own reign the kingdom of the world is destroyed.
6. "And He made us a kingdom and priests unto God and His Father."
That is to say, a Church of all believers; as also the Apostle Peter says: "A holy nation, a royal priesthood."
7. "Behold, He shall come with clouds, and every eye shall see Him."
For He who at first came hidden in the manhood that He had undertaken, shall after a little while come to judgment manifest in majesty and glory. And what saith He?
12. "And I turned, and saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks one like unto the Son of man."
He says that He was like Him after His victory over death, when He had ascended into the heavens, after the union in His body of the power which He received from the Father with the spirit of His glory.
13. "As it were the Son of man walking in the midst of the golden candlesticks."
He says, in the midst of the churches, as it is said in Solomon, "I will walk in the midst of the paths of the just," whose antiquity is immortality, and the fountain of majesty.
"Clothed with a garment down to the ankles."
In the long, that is, the priestly garment, these words very plainly deliver the flesh which was not corrupted in death, and has the priesthood through suffering.
"And He was girt about the paps with a golden girdle."
His paps are the two testaments, and the golden girdle is the choir of saints, as gold tried in the fire. Otherwise the golden girdle bound around His breast indicates the enlightened conscience, and the pure and spiritual apprehension that is given to the churches.
14. "And His head and His hairs were white as it were white wool, and as it were snow."
On the head the whiteness is shown; "but the head of Christ is God." in the white hairs is the multitude of abbots like to wool, in respect of simple sheep; to snow, in respect of the innumerable crowd of candidates taught from heaven.
"His eyes were as a flame of fire."
God's precepts are those which minister light to believers, but to unbelievers burning.
16. "And in His face was brightness as the sun."
That which He called brightness was the appearance of that in which He spoke to men face to face. But the glory of the sun is less than the glory of the Lord. Doubtless on account of its rising and setting, and rising again, that He was born and suffered and rose again, therefore the Scripture gave this similitude, likening His face to the glory of the sun.
15. "His feet were like unto yellow brass, as if burned in a furnace."
He calls the apostles His feet, who, being wrought by suffering, preached His word in the whole world; for He rightly named those by whose means the preaching went forth, feet. Whence also the prophet anticipated this, and said: "We will worship in the place where His feet have stood." Because where they first of all stood and confirmed the Church, that is, in Judea, all the saints shall assemble together, and will worship their Lord.
16. "And out of His mouth was issuing a sharp two edged sword."
By the twice sharpened sword going forth out of His mouth is shown, that it is He Himself who has both now declared the word of the Gospel, and previously by Moses declared the knowledge of the law to the whole world. But because from the same word, as well of the New as of the Old Testament, He will assert Himself upon the whole human race, therefore He is spoken of as two edged.
For the sword arms the soldier, the sword slays the enemy, the sword punishes the deserter. And that He might show to the apostles that He was announcing judgment, He says: "I came not to send peace, but a sword." And after He had completed His parables, He says to them: "Have ye understood all these things? And they said, We have. And He added, Therefore is every scribe instructed in the kingdom of God like unto a man that is a father of a family, bringing forth from his treasure things new and old," -- the new, the evangelical words of the apostles; the old, the precepts of the law and the prophets: and He testified that these proceeded out of His mouth. Moreover, He also says to Peter: "Go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that shall first come up; and having opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater (that is, two denarii), and thou shalt give it for me and for thee." And similarly David says by the Spirit: "God spake once, twice I have heard the same." Because God once decreed from the beginning what shall be even to the end. Finally, as He Himself is the Judge appointed by the Father. on account of His assumption of humanity, wishing to show that men shall be judged by the word that He had declared, He says: "Think ye that I will judge you at the last day? Nay, but the word," says He, "which I have spoken unto you, that shall judge you in the last day."
And Paul, speaking of Antichrist to the Thessalonians, says: "Whom the Lord Jesus will slay by the breath of His mouth." And Isaiah says: "By the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked." This, therefore, is the two edged sword issuing out of His mouth.
......15. "And His voice as it were the voice of many waters."
The many waters are understood to be many peoples, or the gift of baptism that He sent forth by the apostles, saying: "Go ye, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
16. "And He had in His right hand seven stars."
He said that in His right hand He had seven stars, because the Holy Spirit of sevenfold agency was given into His power by the Father. As Peter exclaimed to the Jews: "Being at the right hand of God exalted, He hath shed forth this Spirit received from the Father, which ye both see and hear." Moreover, John the Baptist had also anticipated this, by saying to his disciples: "For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him. The Father," says he, "loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hands." Those seven stars are the seven churches, which he names in his addresses by name, old calls them to whom he wrote epistles. Not that they are themselves the only, or even the principal churches; but what he says to one, he says to all. For they are in no respect different, that on that ground any one should prefer them to the larger number of similar small ones.
In the whole world Paul taught that all the churches are arranged by sevens, that they are called seven, and that the Catholic Church is one. And first of all, indeed, that he himself also might maintain the type of seven churches, he did not exceed that number. But he wrote to the Romans, to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Thessalonians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians; afterwards he wrote to individual persons, so as not to exceed the number of seven churches.
And abridging in a short space his announcement, he thus says to Timothy: "That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the Church of the living God." We read also that this typical number is announced by the Holy Spirit by the month of Isaiah: "Of seven women which took hold of one man." The one man is Christ, not born of seed; but the seven women are seven churches, receiving His bread, and clothed with his apparel, who ask that their reproach should be taken away, only that His name should be called upon them. The bread is the Holy Spirit, which nourishes to eternal life, promised to them, that is, by faith. And His garments wherewith they desire to be clothed are the glory of immortality, of which Paul the apostle says: "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on mortality." Moreover, they ask that their reproach may be taken away -- that is, that they may be cleansed from their sins: for the reproach is the original sin which is taken away in baptism, and they begin to be called Christian men, which is, "Let thy name be called upon us."
Therefore in these seven churches, of one Catholic
Church are believers, because it is one in seven by the quality of faith
and election. Whether writing to them who labor in the world, and live
of the frugality of their labors, and are patient, and when they see certain
men in the Church wasters, and pernicious, they hear them, lest there should
become dissension, he yet admonishes them by love, that in what respects
their faith is deficient they should repent; or to those who dwell in cruel
places among persecutors, that they should continue faithful; or to those
who, under the pretext of mercy, do unlawful sins in the Church, and make
them manifest to be done by others; or to those that are at ease in the
Church; or to those who are negligent, and Christians only in name; or
to those who are meekly instructed, that they may bravely persevere in
faith; or to those who study the Scriptures, and labor to know the mysteries
of their announcement, and are unwilling to do God's work that is mercy
and love: to all he urges penitence, to all he declares judgment.
In the first epistle He speaks thus: I know that thou sufferest and workest, I see that thou art patient; think not that I am staying long from thee.
"And that thou canst not bear them that are evil, and who say that they are Jews and are not, and thou has found them liars, and thou hast patience for My name's sake."
All these things tend to praise, and that no small praise; and it behooves such men, and such a class, and such elected persons, by all means to be admonished, that they may not be defrauded of such privileges granted to them of God. These few things He said that He had against them.
4, 5. "And thou hast left thy first love: remember whence thou hast fallen."
He who falls, falls from a height: therefore He said whence: because, even to the very last, works of love must be practiced; and this is the principal commandment. Finally, unless this is done, He threatened to remove their candlestick out of its place, that is, to disperse the congregation.
6. "This thou hast also, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes."
But because thou thyself hatedst those who hold the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes, thou expectest praise. Moreover, to hate the works of the Nicolaitanes, which He Himself also hated, this tends to praise. But the works of the Nicolaitanes were in that time false and troublesome men, who, as ministers under the name of Nicolaus, had made for themselves a heresy, to the effect that what had been offered to idols might be exorcised and eaten, and that whoever should have committed fornication might receive peace on the eighth day. Therefore He extols those to whom He is writing; and to these men, being such and so great, He promised the tree of life, which is in the paradise of His God.
The following epistle unfolds the mode of life and habit of another order which follows. He proceeds to say:-
9. "I know thy tribulation and thy poverty, but thou art rich."
For He knows that with such men there are riches hidden with Him, and that they deny the blasphemy of the Jews, who say that they are Jews and are not; but they are the synagogue of Satan, since they are gathered together by Antichrist; and to them He says:-
10. "Be thou faithful unto death."
That they should continue to be faithful even unto death.
11. "He that shall overcome, shall not be hurt by the second death."
That is, he shalt not be chastised in hell.The third order of the saints shows that they are men who are strong in faith, and who are not afraid of persecution; but because even among them there are some who are inclined to unlawful associations, He says:-
14-16. "Thou hast there some who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught in the case of Balak that he should put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat and to commit fornication. So also hast thou them who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes; but I will fight with them with the sword of my mouth."
That is, I will say what I shall command, and I will tell you what you shall do. For Balaam, with his doctrine, taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the eyes of the children of Israel, to eat what was sacrificed to idols, and to 3 commit fornication, -- a thing which is known to have happened of old. For he gave this advice to the king of the Moabites, and they caused stumbling to the people. Thus, says He, ye have among you those who hold such doctrine; and under the pretext of mercy, you would corrupt others.
17. "To him that overcometh I will give the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone."
The hidden manna is immortality; the white gem is adoption to be the son of God; the new name written on the stone is "Christian."
The fourth class intimates the nobility of the faithful, who labor daily, and do greater works. But even among them also He shows that there are men of an easy disposition to grant unlawful peace, and to listen to new forms of prophesying; and He reproves and warns the others to whom this is not pleasing, who know the wickedness opposed to them: for which evils He purposes to bring upon the head of the faithful both sorrows and dangers; and therefore He says:-
24. "I will not put upon you any other burden."
That is, I have not given you laws, observances, and duties, which is another burden.
25, 26. "But that which ye have, hold fast until I come; and he that overcometh, to him will I give power over all peoples."
That is, him I will appoint as judge among the rest of the saints.
28. "And I will give him the morning star."
To wit, the first resurrection. He promised the morning star, which drives away the night, and announces the light, that is, the beginning of day.
2. "Be watchful, and strengthen the other things which were ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before God."
For it is not enough for a tree to live and to have no fruit, even as it is not enough to be called a Christian and to confess Christ, but not to have Himself in our work, that is, not to do His precepts. The sixth class is the mode of life of the best election. The habit of saints is set forth; of those, to wit, who are lowly in the world, and unskilled in the Scriptures, and who hold the faith immovably, and are not at all broken down by any chance, or withdrawn from the faith by any fear. Therefore He says to them:-
8. "I have set before thee an open door, because thou hast kept the word of my patience."
In such little strength.
10. "And I will keep thee from the hour of temptation."
That they may know His glory to be of this kind, that they are not indeed permitted to be given over to temptation.
12. "He that overcometh shall be made a pillar in the temple of God."
For even as a pillar is an ornament of the building, so he who perseveres shall obtain a nobility in the Church. Moreover, the seventh association of the Church declares that they are rich men placed in positions of dignity, but believing that they are rich, among whom indeed the Scriptures are discussed in their bedchamber, while the faithful are outside; and they are understood by none, although they boast themselves, and say that they know all things, -- endowed with the confidence of learning, but ceasing from its labor. And thus He says:-
15. "That they are neither cold nor hot."
That is, neither unbelieving nor believing, for they are all things to all men. And because he who is neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm, gives nausea, He says:-
16. "I will vomit thee out of My mouth."
Although nausea is hateful, still it hurts no one; so also is it with men of this kind when they have been cast forth. But because there is time of repentance, He says:-
18. "I persuade thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire."
That is, that in whatever manner you can, you should suffer for the Lord's name tribulations and passions.
"And anoint thine eyes with eye salve."
That what you gladly know by the Scripture,
you should strive also to do the work of the same. And because, if in these
ways men return out of great destruction to great repentance, they are
not only useful to themselves, but they are able also to be of advantage
to many, He promised them no small reward, -- to sit, namely, on the throne
The new testament is announced as an open door in heaven.
"And the first voice which I heard was, as it were, of a trumpet talking with me, saying, Come up hither."
Since the door is shown to be opened, it is manifest that previously it had been closed to men. And it was sufficiently and fully laid open when Christ ascended with His body to the Father into heaven. Moreover, the first voice which he had heard when he says that it spoke with him, without contradiction condemns those who say that one spoke in the prophets, another in the Gospel; since it is rather He Himself who comes, that is the same who spoke in the prophets. For John was of the circumcision, and all that people which had heard the announcement of the Old Testament was edified with his word.
"That very same voice," said he, "that I had heard, that said unto me, Come up hither."
That is the Spirit, whom a little before he confesses that he had seen walking as the Son of man in the midst of the golden candlesticks. And he now gathers from Him what had been foretold in similitude by the law, and associates with this scripture all the former prophets, and opens up the Scriptures. And because our Lord invited in His own name all believers into heaven, He forthwith poured out the Holy Spirit, who should bring them to heaven. He says:-
2. "Immediately I was in the Spirit."
And since the mind of the faithful is opened by the Holy Spirit, and that is manifested to them which was also foretold to the fathers, he distinctly says:-
"And, behold, a throne was set in heaven."
The throne set: what is it but the throne of judgment and of the King?
3. "And He that sat upon the throne was, to look upon, like a jasper and a sardine stone."
Upon the throne he says that he saw the likeness of a jasper and a sardine stone. The jasper is of the color of water, the sardine of fire. These two are thence manifested to be placed as judgments upon God's tribunal until the consummation of the world, of which judgments one is already completed in the deluge of water, and the other shall be completed by fire.
"And there was a rainbow about the throne."
Moreover, the rainbow round about the throne has the same colors. The rainbow is called a bow from what the Lord spake to Noah and to his sons, that they should not fear any further deluge in the generation of God, but fire. For thus He says: I will place my bow in the clouds, that ye may now no longer fear water, but fire.
6. "And before the throne there was, as it were, a sea of glass like to crystal."
That is the gift of baptism which He sheds forth through His Son in time of repentance, before He executes judgment. It is therefore before the throne, that is, the judgment. And when he says a sea of glass like to crystal, he shows that it is pure water, smooth, not agitated by the wind, not flowing down as on a slope, but given to be immovable as the house of God.
"And round about the throne were four living creatures."
The four living creatures are the four Gospels.
7-10. "The first living creature was like to a lion, and the second was like to a calf, and the third had a face like to a man, and the fourth was like to a flying eagle; and they had six wings, and round about and within they were full of eyes; and they had no rest, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord Omnipotent. And the four and twenty elders, failing down before the throne, adored God."
The four and twenty elders are the twenty four books of the prophets and of the law, which give testimonies of the judgment. Moreover, also, they are the twenty four fathers -- twelve apostles and twelve patriarchs.
And in that the living creatures are different
in appearance, this is the reason:
the living creature like to a lion designates Mark, in whom is heard the voice of the lion roaring in the desert.
And in the figure of a man, Matthew strives to declare to us the genealogy of Mary, from whom Christ took flesh. Therefore, in enumerating from Abraham to David, and thence to Joseph, he spoke of Him as if of a man: therefore his announcement sets forth the image of a man.
Luke, in narrating the priesthood of Zacharias as he offers a sacrifice for the people, and the angel that appears to him with respect of the priesthood, and the victim in the same description bore the likeness of a calf.
John the evangelist, like to an eagle hastening on uplifted wings to greater heights, argues about the Word of God.
Mark, therefore, as an evangelist thus beginning,
"The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet; " The voice of one crying in the wilderness,"-- has the effigy of a lion.
"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham:" this is the form of a man.
But Luke said,
"There was a priest, by name Zachariah, of the course of Abia, and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron:"
this is the likeness of a calf.
But John, when he begins,
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,"
sets forth the likeness of a flying eagle.
Moreover, not only do the evangelists express their four similitude in their respective openings of the Gospels, but also the Word itself of God the Father Omnipotent, which is His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, bears the same likeness in the time of His advent. When He preaches to us, He is, as it were, a lion and a lion's whelp.
And when for man's salvation He was made man to overcome death, and to set all men free, and that He offered Himself a victim to the Father on our behalf, He was called a calf.
And that He overcame death and ascended into the heavens, extending His wings and protecting His people, He was named a flying eagle.
Therefore these announcements, although they are four, yet are one, because it proceeded from one mouth. Even as the river in paradise, although it is one, was divided into four heads. Moreover, that for the announcement of the New Testament those bring creatures had eyes within and without, shows the spiritual providence which both looks into the secrets of the heart, and beholds the things which are coming after that are within and without.
8. "Six wings."
These are the testimonies of the books of the Old Testament. Thus, twenty and four make as many as there are elders sitting upon the thrones. But as an animal cannot fly unless it have wings, so, too, the announcement of the New Testament gains no faith unless it have the fore announced testimonies of the Old Testament, by which it is lifted from the earth, and flies.
For in every case, what has been told before, and is afterwards found to have happened, that begets an undoubting faith. Again, also, if wings be not attached to the living creatures, they have nothing whence they may draw their life. For unless what the prophets foretold had been consummated in Christ, their preaching was vain. For the Catholic Church holds those things which were both before predicted and afterwards accomplished. And it flies, because the living animal is reasonably lifted up from the earth.
But to heretics who do not avail themselves of the prophetic testimony, to them also there are present living creatures; but they do not fly, because they are of the earth.
And to the Jews who do not receive the announcement of the New Testament there are present wings; but they do not fly, that is, they bring a vain prophesying to men, not adjusting facts to their words. And the books of the Old Testament that are received are twenty four, which you will find in the epitomes of Theodore.
But, moreover (as we have said), four and twenty elders, patriarchs and apostles, are to judge His people. For to the apostles, when they asked, saying, "We have forsaken all that we had, and followed Thee: what shall we have?" our Lord replied, "When the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." But of the fathers also who should judge, says the patriarch Jacob, "Dan also himself shall judge his people among his brethren, even as one of the tribes in lsrael."
5. "And from the throne proceeded lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and seven torches of fire burning."
And the lightnings, and voices, and thunders proceeding from the throne of God, and the seven torches of fire burning, signify announcements, and promises of adoption, and threatening. For lightnings signify the Lord's advent, and the voices the announcements of the New Testament, and the thunders, that the words are from heaven. The burning torches of fire signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, that it is given by the wood of the passion. And when these things were doing, he says that all the elders fell down and adored the Lord; while the living creatures -- that is, of course, the actions recorded in the Gospels and the teaching of the Lord -- gave Him glory and honor. In that they had fulfilled the word that had been previously foretold by them, they worthily and with reason exult, feeling that they have ministered the mysteries and the word of the Lord. Finally, also, because He had come who should remove death, and who alone was worthy to take the crown of immortality, all for the glory of His most excellent doing had crowns.
10. "And they cast their crowns under His feet."
That is, on account of the eminent glory of
Christ's victory, they cast all their victories under His feet. This is
what in the Gospel the Holy Spirit consummated by showing, For when about
finally to suffer, our Lord had come to Jerusalem, and the people had gone
forth to meet Him, some strewed the road with palm branches cut down, others
threw down their garments, doubtless these were setting forth two peoples
-- the one of the patriarchs, the other of the prophets; that is to say,
of the great men who had any kind of palms of their victories against sin,
and cast them under the feet of Christ, the victor of all. And the palm
and the crown signify the same things, and these are not given save to
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