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Featured And they Sing the Song of Moses . . .

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Nov 22, 2017.

  1. asterisktom

    asterisktom Well-Known Member
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    And they Sing the Song of Moses . . .
    Rev.15:3 and Deuteronomy 32

    Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, because in them the wrath of God has been completed.

    And I saw something like a glassy sea having been mixed with fire, and those who prevailed over the Beast, and over his image, and over the number of his name, standing on the glassy sea, having the harps of God.

    And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Righteous and true are Your ways, O King of the nations!
    Rev. 15:1-3

    Look at your study Bible at this passage and you will most likely be given Exodus 15 as a cross-reference, not Deuteronomy 32. Most commentaries likewise follow suit. Just to give one instance, John Gill says this (emphasis mine):

    "Revelation15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God,.... Not that in Deuteronomy 32:1 but that in Exodus 15:1 and the sense is,either that they observed the law of Moses, which he as a servant in the Lord's house faithfully delivered, and kept it distinct from the Gospel, and did not blend them together, as in the times before; or rather, that they sung a song like that of Moses, and on a like occasion. Pharaoh was the very picture of the pope of Rome; his oppression and cruel usage of the Israelites represent the tyranny and cruelty of the Romish antichrist;"

    I use Gill as a convenient example because he is a usually astute Biblical scholar in my opinion, and he quite clearly shows here the reasoning here why he - and the vast majority of other commentators - opt for Exodus 15 as the basis for Revelation's "Song of Moses".

    What is the reasoning? Futurism. Even John Gill falls into this futurist a priori assumption. Overlooking the possibility that Revelation foretold the redemption of spiritual Israel and a first-century judgment of carnal Israel (the "adulterous generation" of Jesus' teaching in the Gospels) Gill and many others look to a different application. And,following the lead of Luther, Calvin, and most of the Reformers, the majority view now is a futurist one. This view has two parts:

    1.An assumption that the judgment is worldwide, not primarily centered on Israel.

    2.An assumption that the enemy here of God's people is the Roman Catholic Church,not carnal, unrepentant Israel.

    But Scripture testifies contrary to both of these assumptions. What is the evidence for this assertion? Let’s look to the Bible, not to our inherited eschatology. Comparing the two Old Testament passages is the first step in making our case. Exodus15:1-19, the passage assumed to be the Song of Moses referred to in Rev. 15, is a recounting of the Israelites' victory over the pursuing Egyptians. The Israelites had just passed safely through the Red Sea and Pharaoh and his armies, following hard after them, were drowned to the last man. The song is a commemoration of Israel's victory of faith in God, despite the circumstances. The emphasis is not on the faith of Israel however, nor on Moses, but on the faithfulness and power of Israel's God.

    Aside from the presupposition of editors and commentators, there is absolutely nothing in this passage that specifically connects with Revelation 15.

    The only thing that links the two passages in the minds of commentators is tradition and necessity.

    Tradition: Christendom, having long since overlooked the possibility of a 1st-century fulfillment for the Book of Revelation - according to the Book itself - has for many years now seen the prophecies in that book as far in the future from the time of the original writing. The two most influential schools of thought have been prophetic Historicism (Adam Clarke, Newton) or some form of Dispensational Futurism (Darby, Scofield, Lindsey).

    Necessity: Either way 1st-century Israel is discounted as a setting for the fulfillment of this book, and as recipients of the judgments in the book. And, because of this, all the identifications of Israel in this book - and they are numerous and unmistakable - are re-applied to some other persons. Historically, the convenient application has been on the Roman Catholic Church.

    So much for the first Old Testament passage. Now let's look at passage number two, Deuteronomy 32:1-43. Actually, to get the background for this Song we need to backtrack to Deut. 31:24. This passage is much more somber than the one in Exodus, dealing as it does with the judgment of Israel herself.Moses was given this song, not as a celebration of recent victory, but a sonorous forewarning of a future catastrophe to a backsliding Israel. It is addressed to those who claim to be God's but have hardened their hearts. The passage goes on to enumerate the ways that this disobedient Israel will fail. Because they forgot God and brought in foreign gods God will hide His face from them. And He will heap upon them disaster after disaster.

    There are many parallels between this passage and the book of Revelation,convincing me that this is the real Song of Moses. Compare Deut. 32:23-24 with Rev. 6:2-8. We find here God's four special judgments for His people. See also Ezekiel 14. In both Rev. 6 and Ezek. we have the four special judgments brought on by obdurate resistance to God's Word (Rev. 6:9, Ezek. 12:2).

    Most convincing is the close correlation of Deut. 32:3-4 with Revelation 15:3-4. One is clearly a reference to the other.

    Consider first the passages around Revelation 15. Not to get into too much detail (that I will be unable to finish up on) just look at the verses just before Rev. 15.

    "And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God. And the wine-press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the wine-press, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs." Rev. 14:19-20

    The 1600 furlongs converts to about 184 miles long (according to my Thomas Nelson Bible. There are slight differences in other versions). This is basically the distance of Israel from north to south.

    (continued)
     
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  2. asterisktom

    asterisktom Well-Known Member
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    Rev. 16:14 and 16
    "For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth (lit. γῆ = "land". That is, "land of Israel") and of the whole world (lit. οἰκουμένη = "inhabited world". Very often in Scripture this is the Roman Empire), to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. ... And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon."

    This, then, is not some future worldwide showdown involving all nations. But it is the long-heralded awesome Day of Judgment against long-disobedient Israel, the people of God's Covenant. The human instruments of this judgment are not the imagined minions of a fictional Antichrist. They are the mighty forces of the Romans, along with the various auxiliary legions, especially those from the east (the "kings of the East"). The confirmatory proof for all of these identifications, apart from Scripture itself, can easily be found in Josephus, Tacitus, Gibbons, and many others.

    Other details that point to 1st century Israel as the setting for Revelation are found also in the following points:

    1.The city divided in three parts, Rev. 16:19. This should familiar to anyone who has read Josephus's accounts of the days leading up to Jerusalem's demise. The city did indeed break up into three warring factions, those in the Temple (the most belligerent), those manning the walls and outer defenses, and the unfortunate majority caught in-between.

    2.The city is full of the blood of the saints, Rev. 16:6; 17:6. Christ said that "it cannot be that a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem." Luke 13:33

    3.The city is destroyed by stones of one talent, Rev. 16:21. This is exactly the weight referred to by Josephus.

    4.The city is stoned, which is the punishment of a harlot. Israel, throughout the Old Testament is spoken of as a harlot. A harlot is one who repudiates their vow of faithfulness. A judgment on the whole world - many who never made any such vow - would not fit that description. A judgment on Israel would.

    5.The city is dressed up in purple, scarlet, gold, and precious stones, Rev. 17:3-5, just like the priests of the Old Covenant.

    6.The city, just like the priests of the Old Covenant, have a name written on the forehead. In the case of Aaron and the other priests it was "Holiness to the Lord", Exodus 28:38. In the case of 1st-century Israel we have startling contrast,

    "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH"

    Having become harlots, professing faith and love toward God, in their actions they deny Him. This picture in Revelation was already predicted in Jeremiah:

    "Lift up your eyes to the high places, and see. Where have you not been lain with? By the highways you have sat for them, like the Arabian in the wilderness; and you have defiled the land with your fornications and with your wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there has been no latter rain; and you had a harlot's forehead, you refused to be ashamed." Jer. 3:2-3


    (Continued)

    Application. Why is this important?

    The identification of the Song of Moses, aside from being a litmus test of one's eschatology, has one very important application. It shows once again that the judgments of God fall first and foremost on the house of God, on those who profess in words and lie in actions.

    Preterism does not change any of this. God did not stop hating sin in 70 AD. We must all, at the end of this life, meet God. Understanding that Revelation prophesied a judgment on those who claimed to be closest to Him should be sobering for all Christians - certainly for those who, in their consciences, have the flimsiest claim to the name of Christian.

    Having a clear picture of God's judgment of others presses us toward earnest self-examination and cleansing. If we judge our selves we would not be judged. The Word of God is a two-edged sword, always achieving its most blessed results in our own lives. But rather than this self-cleansing, we focus rather on the outward edge. God's victory over those heathen armies of Pharaoh, rather than His wrath against His own covenant-claiming children.
     
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  3. David Kent

    David Kent Well-Known Member
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    Song of Moses and the Lamb?

    If 1st century Israel was intended, one would have thought that some of the Early Church Writers would have mentioned it. Most of those who I have read think the temple in Revelation referred to the Church and Jews referred to the Christians. For instance, Tertullian said that the 144,000 were Christian virgins.

    They mostly also taught that Antichrist would follow on immediately after the fall of the empire.

    I cannot see either preterism or futurism in any of their writings.
     
  4. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    Vs. 3-4 ‘They sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb, saying,
    “Great and marvellous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!
    [Psalm 111:2; 139:14]
    Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! [Psalm 145:7]
    Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? [ Jeremiah 10:7]
    For you alone are holy, for all nations shall come and worship before You, [Psalm 86:9-10]
    For Your judgements have been manifested.”’ [Psalm 98:2

    We are told that these verses are the song of Moses and the Lamb. However, there is nothing described as the ‘song of the Lamb’ in Scripture, and They bear only a passing similarity with the Song of Moses in Exodus 15, or indeed with what is called the ‘Great Song of Moses’ in Deuteronomy 32. Here in Revelation, the verses are made up from quotation from the Psalms and Jeremiah, but to worry about such things is to miss the point. This song praises God’s majesty, His power, His holiness and His works and declares them to have been manifested before all people. It is the song of God’s people of all ages, both New and Old Testaments. In this it is in line with the 24 elders of 4:4 who represent the twelve Patriarchs and the twelve Apostles, and the gates and foundations of the New Jerusalem (21:12-14). There is only one people of God, redeemed from all ages, and they sing one song. They praise God’s works and look forward to His final victory. ‘All nations shall come and worship before You’ speaks of the great crowd standing before the throne before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9).
    [From my blog]
     
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  5. asterisktom

    asterisktom Well-Known Member
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    Thank you for responding.

    I would suggest that the Bible would be of greater value as a testimony than comments from the ECF, many who so soon quickly lapsed into error in key areas. Tertullian, especially, however much we value him in some other areas, showed himself to be quite untrustworthy in eschatology.

    I do see preterism in some of the writings of the ECF - and futurism in some of the others. But that would be a different thread, one which I had shared a few years ago here.
     
  6. asterisktom

    asterisktom Well-Known Member
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    I believe you are generalizing what is meant to be specific. It is not God's general works of creation (per your citation of Psa. 139) or providence that are in view here, but His work of judgment. All we have to do is consider the immediate previous verses:


    Rev. 15:1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.

    2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands.

    3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,"


    Context is so important. This is not a general praise event from the saints of any and all ages. It is the thankful response of saints who overcame a fierce trial and "had conquered the Beast".

    And when did this happen? As I have shown in the previous post, it happened in the first century, culminating in AD70.

    If the context in Rev. 15:1-2 is not enough we can still backtrack further to the previous chapter:

    Rev. 14:19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth [εἰς τὴν γῆν - "land", not "world"] and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

    20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse's bridle, for 1,600 stadia


    As I wrote earlier, the length mentioned is roughly the length of Israel. Several times in this chapter,as well as throughout Revelation, γῆς is misleadingly translated "world" or "earth" when "land" (as in land of Israel) is meant.

    The main setting for Revelation (time, place, and persons) was Israel, it's judgment for forsaking the Covenant. The unwillingness to see this, I believe, stems from previously acquired eschatologies that need these very passages (and others like them) for their own justification.
     
    #6 asterisktom, Nov 24, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2017
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  7. David Kent

    David Kent Well-Known Member
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    Thank you brother Tom.
    I would appreciate it if you can give a reference to one of the ECF who wrote anything that can be remotely interpreted as preterism or for that matter futurism. The closest claim for futurism was Clement in his epistle to the Corinthians, was that Jesus would come to his temple. But the ECF were correct that the temple is the church as Paul said "You are the Temple of God"

    Only one that I have found who removes the 70th week of Daniel.
     
  8. TCassidy

    TCassidy Late-Administator Emeritus
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    The decidedly non-premillennial historian, Philip Schaff, professor of church history at Andover Theological Seminary, Newton, Massachusetts (Congregationalist), then professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary, New York City, said:

    "The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age [before the council of Nicea] is the prominent chiliasm, or millennarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment." (The History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner & Company, 1884), p. 482.)

    The historical evidence indicates that chiliasm (premillennialism, as it is called today) was the predominant belief of the church of the first three centuries. "And to make few words of it," as Thomas Burnet, royal chaplain to king William III of England, said, "we will lay down this conclusion, that the Millennial kingdom of Christ was the general doctrine of the Primitive Church, from the times of the Apostles to the Nicene Council; inclusively. (Thomas Burnet, The Sacred Theory of the Earth (London: J. McGowan, 1681), 346.)

    Among those Ante-Nicene ECFs who were Chiliasts would include:

    Clement of Rome (bishop of Rome, fl. ca. 90-100)
    Polycarp (bishop of Smyrna in western Asia Minor; ca. 70-155/160)
    Papias (bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, Asia Minor, ca 70-130/155)
    Ignatius (bishop of Antioch in Syria, d. ca. 98/117)
    Author of Epistle of Barnabas (70-132)
    Justin Martyr (Samaria and Rome (ca. 100-165)
    Tatian (Assyrian, Rome, Antioch in Syria, ca. 120-180)
    Irenaeus (Asia Minor, bishop of Lyons, Gaul [France], ca 120-ca. 202)
    Hippolytus (presbyter and teacher in Rome, d. ca. 236)
    Tertullian (Carthage in Northern Africa, 150-225)
    Cyprian (bishop of Carthage, 200-258)
    Commodian (Africa, 200-270)
    Victorinus (bishop of Pettau, in Austria, 240-303)
    Nepos (230-280) (Arsinoe in Africa)
    Coracion (Egypt, 230-280)
    Lactantius (Italy, 240-330)
    Methodius (Thessalonica and Slavia, 250-311)
     
  9. David Kent

    David Kent Well-Known Member
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    The setting was the Asian churches. It was written to the church and it concerns the church.
     
  10. asterisktom

    asterisktom Well-Known Member
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    Well, yes, the seven letters were written to the churches in Asia. At the time of the writing the center of Christianity had moved from Jerusalem to Antioch and was now in Ephesus, or at least in Asia Minor.

    But the setting of the judgments to come was Judea. There are many indicators in Revelation itself, as well as the many "soon" references in the book, starting with the very opening of the book.

    Revelation certainly does concern the church. I quite agree. There are many timeless truths and promises there, just as there are in the rest of the Bible. But we are reading over first-century shoulders, so to speak.

    I guess we will disagree on this.
     
  11. David Kent

    David Kent Well-Known Member
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    E B Elliot wrote history of Apocalyptic interpretation in the 19th century you can buy a reprint on Amazon for about $20 his first subject is.

    1. As regards the Pseudo-Sibylline oracles, - poems which were written and circulated under that title, through the pious fraud of certain Christians, about the middle of the 2nd century, - my readers will already have learnt from previous citations given from them in this Book, [3] that the destruction of Rome, the Apocalyptic Babylon, [4] was one prominent subject in them; and with ideas about it evidently borrowed from the Apocalypse. In Book viii, more especially, it is the burden of the song. And this will be found to be the idea of the writer, or writers, as to events connected with it: - that the destroyer Antichrist, himself of Latin extraction, [5] would be the first author of its ruin; this Antichrist equaling himself with God, and being (as is hinted [6] ) the Emperor Nero restored to life again, and now coming back from Asia in alliance with the Jews; but that the grand and final destruction would be by direct judgment from heaven. “Descending from on high thou shalt dwell underneath the earth; with naphtha and asphalt, and sulphur and much fire, thou shalt disappear, and become as burning ashes for ever. [7] And every one who looks on thee shall hear the deep sound of thy wailing from hell, and thy gnashing of teeth.” - Then, on Rome’s end, there would follow speedily, according to our Sibyl, the world’s end: [8] and then, on the opening of the first octad, [9] another and better world.
     
  12. David Kent

    David Kent Well-Known Member
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    The second is
    2 In Justin Martyr the chief direct reference to the Apocalypse is on the millennium announced by it; which, as we have seen, [10] he interpreted literally: - how St. John prophesied that believers in Christ would reign 1000 years with Him in Jerusalem, Jerusalem having been restored, enlarged, and beautified, agreeably with the Old Testament prophecies of the latter day; after which would follow the general resurrection and judgment. Further, in regard to Antichrist, though referring for authority more directly to Daniel, [11] yet it is evident that he considered the Apocalyptic ten-horned Beast, or rather its ruling head, to be identical with Daniel’s little horn of the fourth wild Beast; [12] and each and either identical with St. Paul’s Man of Sin, and St. John’s Antichrist: also that he regarded this Antichrist as still future, though at the very doors; as destined to reign literally 3 ½ years; and as to be destroyed by Christ’s glorious advent. [13]
     
  13. David Kent

    David Kent Well-Known Member
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    The third is

    3. In Irenæus again these are the two chief Apocalyptic subjects commented on; and with just the same opinions respecting them as Justin Martyr’s. But his comments are fuller.

    With reference more especially to the great subject of the Apocalyptic Beast, Antichrist, he directed his readers, as we saw long since, [14] to look out for the division of the Roman empire into ten kingdoms, as that which was immediately to precede, and be followed by, Antichrist’s manifestation. We saw too his jealousy that the true number of Antichrist’s name, 666, as in the most genuine manuscripts, not 616, as in certain falsified copies, should be well understood: also how he thought that, as being in some way of Roman polity or connection, (even though by birth a Jew,) Antichrist’s characteristic title, in fulfillment of the Apocalyptic enigma, might very probably be Aateinov, the Latin Man, seeing that they who then held the world’s empire were Latins; a name numerally equivalent to 666. [15] - The second lamb-like Beast Irenæus calls the first Beast’s amour-bearer; and also “the False Prophet,” as in Apoc. xix. [16] Under a notion of the Antichrist being a false Christ of Jewish origin, he fancifully suggests that the omission of Dan from those tribes of Israel out of whom an election was sealed, in Apoc. vii., might be an intimation of that being Antichrist’s tribe. [17] His idea of Antichrist sitting in the rebuilt temple of Jerusalem, and there showing himself as God, “setting aside all idols,” in order to concentrate men’s worship on himself, belongs to St. Paul’s prophecy of Antichrist, not St. John’s; and his idea of Antichrist’s 31/2 years being the half of the last of Daniel’s 70 hebdomads, not to St. John, but Daniel. [18] Again that of “Antichrist’s fulfilling the part of the unjust judge in St. Luke, by avenging the Jews of their adversaries the Romans, and transferring the empire to Jerusalem,” is altogether extra-Apocalyptic; and I must add very fanciful. Yet on this he mainly grounds his as yet peculiar opinion that Antichrist would transfer the seat of empire to Jerusalem, and there sit in the temple of God as if he were the Christ and God. [19]

    There is yet another direct point of Apocalyptic explanation to be noted in Irenæus. We find in his 4th Book a passing notice of the white horse and rider of the first Apocalyptic Seal; and explanation of it as signifying Christ born to victory, and going forth conquering and to conquer. [20] This is quite a detached comment; without any reference to the contrasted symbols of the Seals following. - I may add too that he makes the Apocalyptic altar to be that on which Christians’ prayers and praises are offered in heaven, not that of the earthly Jerusalem. [21] And so again of the Apocalyptic temple.
     
  14. David Kent

    David Kent Well-Known Member
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    Fourth
    4. Next turn we to Tertullian.

    And on the subject of Antichrist, while agreeing with Irenæus in expecting his development chronologically after the breaking up of the Roman State into ten kings, or kingdoms, all in strict accordance with the Apocalypse, I see in Tertullian no intimation of his entertaining any such idea as Irenæus’ as to this Antichrist being a Jew of the tribe of Dan; or of his fixing an abomination of desolation in the sense of his own worship, in any rebuilt temple at Jerusalem. [22] Nor again does he, like Irenæus, refer to the last of Daniel’s 70 prophetic weeks, as furnishing out the time of 31/2 years to the two witnesses, and 31/2 to Antichrist. On the contrary he in one place elaborately draws out a sketch of the chronology, from the first year of Darius to that of Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans under Titus, to show that the whole 70 weeks were then fully completed, and the whole prophecy then accomplished. [23] And indeed it is evident that he regarded the 31/2 years of the witnesses and 31/2 years of Antichrist as one and the same; for in his view the death of the former was to be the death of the latter. [24] Moreover again and again he speaks of Christians, or the Christian Church, as God’s temple; [25] and in various places of heretics, awhile within the professing Church, as Antichrists and anti-christians. [26] - Yet again he distinctly notes the 144,000 on Mount Sion with Christ in Apoc. xiv. (the same of course with the 144,000 of Apoc. vii.) as the virgins of the Christian Church; [27] and consequently the sealed ones out of the twelve tribes as not Jews, but Christians. With the same anti-Judaic view he markedly speaks of the Apocalyptic New Jerusalem (though with the twelve tribes of Israel written on its gates) as Christian, not Jewish; the Jerusalem spoken of by St. Paul to the Galatians as the mother of all Christians. [28]

    Turning to the Seals the first point that meets us is a passing notice of the rider in the first Seal; which symbol Tertullian seems to have explained like Irenæus. [29] - But by far the most interesting to my mind of has passing comments here are those on the 5th Seal’s vision of the souls under the altar, and that of the palm-bearing company, figured before the opening of the seventh Seal. [30] The martyrs of the former vision, he explains as martyrs then in course of being slain under Pagan Rome for the testimony of Christ: thereby distinctly assigning to the then passing æra that particular place in the Apocalyptic prefigurative drama. [31] The palm-bearers of the latter vision, that had to come out of the great tribulation, he identifies as that same second set of martyrs that had been predicted to the souls under the altar; - those that were to make up the martyr-complement by suffering under Antichrist, and so suffering to become triumphant, and attain Paradise. And hence chiefly he formed to himself an Apocalyptic plan, and “ordo temporum” in the prophecy: - how that before the judgment and vindication promised to the souls under the altar, the imperial harlot-city Rome was to be destroyed by the ten kings, (mark, not the ten kings and Antichrist,) after the vial-plagues had first been poured out on its empire: then the Beast Antichrist to rise, make war conjunctively with his False Prophet on the Church, and add an innumerable multitude of sufferers, during the tribulation of his tyranny, to the martyrs previously slain under Pagan Rome, Christ’s two Witnesses, Enoch and Elijah, specially inclusive: [32] then, Antichrist having been thereupon destroyed from heaven, and the Devil shut up in the abyss, the privilege of the first resurrection, and millennial reign with Christ, to be allotted to its chosen participants; and afterwards the conflagration to follow, in which fire the seven-hilled Babylon, with its persecuting princes and provincial governors, would meet their ultimate destruction and torment; [33] and the general resurrection and judgment.

    As to the Apocalyptic millennium, Tertullian’s view will have been seen by the citations in my Millennial Chapter to be precisely similar to that of the two preceding Fathers. [34]

    Altogether Tertullian’s is an eminently common-sense view of the prophecy; viz. as a prefigurative drama, in orderly succession, of the chief æras and events in the history of the Church and of the world, from Christ’s first coming, or near it, to his second. [35] Excepting his view of Enoch and Elijah as the witnesses, there seems to me little on which we might not even now join hands in concord with the venerable and sagacious expositor.
     
  15. David Kent

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    5. Next comes into review on this head Hippolytus, Bishop of Portus Romanus, now well ascertained to be the modern Ostia: [36] - one who was an immediate successor of Irenæus and Tertullian, indeed it is said Irenæus’ disciple; [37] and who suffered martyrdom, probably about A.D. 235, or 250, under the Emperor Maximin, or the Emperor Decius. [38] Jerome reports that he wrote a Treatise specifically on the Apocalypse, as well as one on Antichrist. [39] If so, the former has perished. But there is still extant a short Treatise purporting to be that by him on Christ and Antichrist, and with every mark of genuineness. [40] This includes in it sundry Apocalyptic notices of much interest; and I therefore give the following brief abstract.

    After observing on God’s will that the mysteries of the future, foreshown by the ancient Prophets, or seers, should be concealed from none of his servants, he opens his subject by laying down strongly respecting the coming Antichrist, even as if his grand characteristic, (a view derived evidently in part at least from the Apocalypse, [41] ) that he would in everything affect resemblance to Christ. “The seducer will seek to appear in all things like the Son of God. As Christ a Lion, so he a lion, as Christ a King, so he a king; as Christ a Lamb, so he as a lamb, though inwardly a wolf; as Christ sent out apostles to all nations, so will he similarly send out false apostles:” [42] it being added that he would have also a similar connection with the Jewish people. [43] Then, after extracts from other Scriptures, and especially from Daniel’s two great symbolic prophecies of the quadripartite Image and the four wild Beasts, which he explains, just like the other Fathers, of the Babylonish, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman empires, and the little horn of the fourth Beast as Antichrist, he thus turns to the Apocalypse for information as to the fated end of both Antichrist himself, and his city Rome: - “Tell me, blessed John, thou apostle and disciple of the Lord, what hast thou heard and seen respecting Babylon: wake up, and speak; for it was she that exiled thee to Patmos.” [44] And then he gives in full the two Chapters, Apoc. xvii. and xviii., containing vision of her destruction. And, adding and interweaving other explanatory notices both from the Apocalypse and Daniel, he expounds the whole subject to the effect following: - that the last of Daniel’s 70 seeks, (for he insulates this last from the rest, in the manner stated below,) [45] that in which the Lord would confirm the covenant with many, and in the half of which would occur the taking away of the daily sacrifice and oblation, would fall at the end of the world: - that in the former half of it, or first 31/2 years, Enoch and Elias would preach as Christ’s two sackcloth-robed witnesses, the precursors of Christ’s second advent, as John the Baptist was the first; [46] include the rise and reign of Antichrist, his slaying of the Witnesses marking its commencement: - that of the two Apocalyptic Beasts the former, or seven-headed ten-horned Beast, [47] meant the heathen Roman empire, wounded to death by a sword; the other, or two-horned lamb-like Beast, Antichrist, inclusive of his False Prophet; who would revive as it were the image or ghost of the old empire, (such is his singular and ingenious interpretation of the giving life to the image of the Beast, and making it speak,) just as Augustus once did to it by his new laws and constitution; [48] and might thence very probably have Lateinos, the Latin Man, as his designative title, a name containing the fated number 666: [49] (the whole passage is every way most observable:) that meanwhile the Church, figured in Apoc. xii. as a travailing woman, because of daily bringing forth Christ (or Christ’s members) by her preaching in the world, [50] and clothed with the Divine Word, as the sun, and the starry crown of the twelve apostles, would, while the Antichrist established his abomination in the holy place, [51] flee to the mountains, pursued from city to city by him, and sustained only be faith in Christ crucified; his arms, extended on the cross, being like the sustaining wings of the great eagle in the Apocalyptic vision: - and that then, and thereupon, Christ’s coming would take place; Antichrist be destroyed by its brightness; and first resurrection of the saints follow; the just, welcomed by Christ, take the kingdom prepared for them (Matt. xxv.) from the world’s beginning, and, as Daniel says, shine forth in it as the sun and the stars; the judgment of the conflagration being meanwhile executed on unbelievers; and so Isaiah’s word fulfilled, “They shall go forth and look on the carcasses of the men that have sinned against me: for their worm dieth not, nor is their fire quenched; and they shall be for a spectacle to all flesh.” [52]1
     
  16. David Kent

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    6. Next the name occurs of the famous Origen, Hippolytus’ contemporary; who has however left but little in his commentaries on Apocalyptic interpretation. [53] It may be well however to mark the three notices following.

    1. Of the Apocalyptic book (Apoc. v.), “written within and without,” he explains the writing without as the obvious literal meaning; the writing within as its spiritual meaning.

    2. The 144,000, both in Apoc. vii and xiv., he explains as true Christians. [54]

    3. Regarding the Antichrist whom he evidently identifies with the Apocalyptic Beast warred against by him that sate on the white horse in Apoc. xix., “the Word of God,” he strongly expresses his opinion, just like Hippolytus, as to the hypocrisy with which he would usurpingly ascribe to himself the titles, character, and functions of the true Christ. [55]

    In passing on, the names of Dionysius and Nepos occur about A.D. 250, known in connection with the Millennarian controversy, and so with the Apocalypse and its genuiness; on which points, however, I have before spoken at the beginning of the Work. [56] Of these there is no need to speak now. - I proceed therefore,
     
  17. David Kent

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    Seventh part1
    7thly, to Victorinus; the author, as before observed, of the earliest profest and continuous Apocalyptic Commentary now extant; and who died by martyrdom under the persecution of Diocletian. His Commentary is noticed by Jerome, who speaks of it as one of millennarian views. [57] And hence has arisen a doubt as to the genuineness of the Treatise still extant, that goes under the name of Victorinus’ Treatise on the Apocalypse; containing as it does, at its conclusion, a distinct anti-millennarian declaration. [58] But the objection vanishes on examination; for various indubitable millennarian intimations occur in the body of the Commentary: [59] and the anti-millennarian passage is an evident interpolation by another hand, probably Jerome’s own; [60] as well as one or two shorter passages elsewhere. [61] Moreover in Ambrose Ansbert I have observed a reference to the true Victorinus’ statement on a rather singular point; which precise statement we find in the extant Commentary. [62] - In the edition given in the Bibliotheca Patrum Maxima, now before me, there is the farther disadvantage of transposition of various parts of the Comment from their right places. But the Apocalypse itself makes the rectification of this easy, as Victorinus’ is evidently an orderly Comment on it. - I have only further to premise, that the work is very short, occupying but seven folio pages, or fourteen columns in the Bibliotheca, Vol. iii. pp. 414-421. Of these fourteen columns, three and a half are devoted to the Apocalyptic introductory Vision and Epistles to the Seven Churches; three more to the Apocalyptic scenery; four to the Seals, Trumpets, and Witnesses; two to the Vision of the Dragon and the two Beasts; and one only to all the rest: herein well agreeing with what Cassiodorus says of it, that it only explained the more difficult passages. [63] - I now proceed to give an abstract of it: and this somewhat at large, as due to its chronological interest.

    At Its opening Victorinus dwells on the particulars of Christ’s first appearance to St. John: - his head and hair white marking the antiquity of the Ancient of Days, for the head of Christ is God; and perhaps with reference, in the wool that it is compared with, to the sheep his members, in the snow to the multitude of baptismal candidates, white as snow-flakes from heaven: his face as the sun serving not only to express his glory, but the fact of his having risen, and set, and risen again in life on this world; his long priestly robe marking his priesthood; his zone the golden choir of the saints; his breasts the two Testaments, whence his people’s nourishment; and the sword from his mouth his preached word, by which men shall be judged and Antichrist slain: his voice being likened to many waters with reference not only to its power, as that of many people, but perhaps too to the baptismal waters of salvation issuing from him; and his feet to brass glowing from the furnace, in reference to the apostles purified in the furnace of affliction, by whom he walks as it were in his preached gospel through the world. - Then, after a short notice of the Epistles to the Seven Churches, (which seven he explains as representatives of the Church Universal, [64] ) he proceeds to the second series of visions, on the door being opened in heaven, and John called up thither: the heaven once shut having by Christ’s satisfaction been opened; and in St. John’s person, originally of the circumcision, but now a preacher of the New Testament, it being apparent that alike the faithful of either dispensation were now invited. [65] In the heavenly scene presented to John’s view, the throne was that of Divine royalty and judgment; its jasper color, as of water, signifying God’s earlier judgment by the waters of the deluge; its fiery sardine color that to come by fire; and the sea before the throne the gift of baptism, and offer of salvation through it, previous to judgment. The twenty-four elders he explains as the twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles, seated on thrones of judgment: agreeably to the patriarchal privilege, “Dan shall judge his people,” and the apostolic, “Ye shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel;” - while the four living creatures typified the four evangelists, and their preaching of the gospel: the eyes within signifying the insight of that preaching into man’s heart; and the six wings of each (twenty-four in all) having reference to the twenty-four books of the Old Testament, because it is only by help of the previous testimonies of those books that the Gospel can fly abroad. - The voices and thunderings from the throne meant God’s preachings, and threats, and notices of Christ’s coming to judgment; the seven torches of fire the Spirit, granted to men in virtue of Christ’s crucifixion. - As to the seven-sealed book, it was the book of the Old Testament; a book, with its prophecies of things to occur in the last times, [66] opened by none but Christ: who alone, as the lamb that was slain, could fulfill its types and prophecies; alone as a lion, and through death, conquer death for man. Also the saints’ new song of thanksgiving had reference to the new salvation and new blessings, now imparted to believers, especially of the glorious promised kingdom. Even if the opening of the Seals were simultaneous, (?) yet did the arrangement of them indicate order; the first Seal indicating what took place first, [67] the foreshadowing of things that were to be in the last times.
     
  18. David Kent

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    Seventh Part 2
    Arrived thus at the opening of the Seals, Victorinus explains the four horses and riders of the first four Seals as indicating respectively the triumphant progress of the Gospel, begun from after Christ’s ascension, [68] and the wars, famines, [69] and pestilences, [70] which Christ said would precede his second coming: also the fifth Seal’s souls under the altar, as marking the continuous persecutions and martyrdoms of Christ’s saints; for whose consolation, till the last great day of retribution, white robes, or joys of the Holy Spirit, are given: the region under the brazen altar of vision figuring the place under-ground where the separate spirits rest; [71] while the place of the golden altar (as being that to which our offerings of prayer and praise are brought) [72] typified heaven. Further, the earthquake of the sixth Seal he makes to be the last persecution: [73] that wherein the darkening of the true doctrine to the unfaithful would answer to the eclipsed sun in the vision, and the bloodshed of martyr-saints to the moon like blood: the falling away of vain professors from the Church, under force of persecution, fulfilling the symbol of the falling stars from heaven; and the removal of the Church itself from public sight that of the rolling away of the figured firmament. [74] - In the sealing vision, Apoc. vii., next following, the four angels of the winds (the same as the four winds of Apoc. ix. 14, bound in the Euphrates [75] signified four nations, (nations being ruled over by angels,) who were not to transgress their limits till they should come in the last æra with the Antichrist; the Angel from the East meaning Elias; who would anticipate the times of Antichrist, turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, (i.e. of the Jews to the Gentile believers,) and convert to the faith both many of Israel, [76] and a great multitude of Gentiles: of all whom, now united in one as God’s elect, the white robes signified their washing in the blood of the Lamb, and subsequent preservation of the grace then given. [77] - In Apoc. viii. the half-hour’s silence figured the beginning of eternal rest; one half-hour only being mentioned, to signify the subject’s then breaking off. For chronological order is not followed in the Apocalypse: [78] but the Holy Spirit, when he has come to the chronological end, returns often, and repeats, by the way of supplement.

    Next comes the vision of the incense-offering Angel. Victorinus supposes this incense-offering to depict the prayers of saints: (specially, on Antichrist’s reign approaching, the prayer that they may not enter into temptation:) the Angel being figured, because Angels offer the prayers of the Church, as well as pour out wrath on Antichrist’s kingdom; which wrath was signified alike in the seven trumpets and seven vials, the one set of symbolizations supplying what was omitted in the other. [79] - As to the particular subjects of these Trumpets and Vials, he does not unfold it in detail. He only generally says of them, that they depict “either the ravages of plagues sent on the world, or the madness of Antichrist, or a diminishing of the peoples, or the variety and difference of the plagues, [80] or the hope of the saints’ kingdom, or the ruin of states, or the destruction of the great city, Babylon, - i.e. the Roman.” And just expounding, as he passes, the warning cry of the eagle flying in mid-heaven, after the fourth trumpet-woe, to mean the Holy Spirit’s warning voice to men by the mouth of the two prophets, against the wrath to come in the impending plagues, he so proceeds to the Angel vision of Apoc. x.

    The first part of which vision he makes refer, as a parenthesis, to St. John personally. The Angel is explained to be Christ; the open book in his hand the Apocalypse revealed to John; his lion-like voice, that declaring that now only is the time of repentance and hope; the seven thunders the mysteries of the future spoken through the prophets by the divine septiform Spirit; which voices John was not to write, because, as an apostle, of higher functions than that of interpreting Scripture mysteries; an office this latter belonging rather to Church subordinate functionaries afterwards. [81] Further, the charge to eat the book, and preach again to peoples and tongues, Victorinus explains of St. John’s returning personally on Domitian’s death to Ephesus, and publishing the Apocalypse; [82] also his taking the measuring reed with which to measure the Apocalyptic temple and altar, of St. John’s further publishing his Gospel: [83] whereby, and by the creed laid down in it, [84] the orthodox and faithful were marked out and defined as true Church-worshippers; and heretics, like Valentinus, Ebion, and Cerinthus, as to be excluded from the Church.

    On the two Apocalyptic Witnesses Victorinus supposes a passing, in the resumed figurations of the future, into the last hebdomad of the last times; [85] during the former 31/2 years of which Christ’s two witnesses, Elijah and Jeremiah, [86] would prophesy: - these witnesses to be killed in Jerusalem (called Sodom and Egypt) by the Beast from the abyss, Antichrist, at the commencement of his 31/2 years’ reign next succeeding, after many plagues inflicted on the world, answering to the fire out of the mouths in the symbol: but to rise again on the fourth day after; the fourth, not the third, so as not to equal Christ.
     
  19. David Kent

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    Seventh part 3

    So he comes to the vision of the Dragon and Woman, Apoc. xii.; or rather to the concluding verse of Apoc. xi., about the temple appearing opened, and the ark appearing, which he connects with it: to the chronological retrogression in which, from the last times previously depicted, he calls especial notice. [87] For he construes the Woman to signify the Judæo-Christian Church of the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles, [88] (like the sun glorious in hope of the resurrection, like the moon bright even when to man’s sight dark in death, and only waning to grow again,) travailing with desire of Christ’s birth out of the Jews’ nation, according to the promise. Then in Christ’s birth, resurrection, and ascension, in spite of the Dragon or Devil, he sees fulfilled the mystic child’s rapture to God’s throne: the Dragon’s color red being explained as that of a murderer from the beginning; the third of stars swept by his tail, as the third part of men, or rather of angels, seduced by him; and his seven heads and ten hors, as of the same significancy with the Beast’s seven heads and ten horns, of which more presently. - Then the time changes. [89] The woman fleeing into the desert is the Church, made up or inclusive of the 144,000, [90] now in simply Christian guise: being forced by the Dragon’s flood-like armies of persecution into mountains and deserts; and upheld in her flight by the two wings of the two witnesses. [91] The Dragon’s fall from heaven, or interdiction from there appearing as before, [92] is explained as following Elias’ 31/2 years of witnessing. [93] and being the beginning of Antichrist. - For he (the Dragon) then stood on the sand of the sea, [94] as if to evoke him: the Antichrist, accordantly with St. Paul’s prophecy to the Thessalonians, having to rise from hell. [95] As regarded the Beast, or Antichrist, his likeness to the leopard signified the variety of nations that would be in the kingdom; his seven heads both Rome’s seven hills, and also seven Roman Emperors; [96] viz. Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, (which five had fallen at the time of the Apocalypse,) the sixth Domitian then reigning, the seventh Nerva, who was to continue but a short time, (for he reigned but one year and four months,) and the eighth Nero; who as a previous Roman Emperor, might be called one of (or of the same body with) the seven. [97] Of this Nero St. Paul spoke, when he said, “The mystery of iniquity doth already work,” for Nero was then reigning: and, having had his throat cut, and so his head wounded to death, he was to revive and re-appear as Antichrist. - Victorinus notes his Jewish as well as Roman connection. He would appear both under a different name, and in a different character from before. Professing before the Jews to be the Christ, with a view to gain them, and instead of patronizing idolatry, now inculcating the religion of the circumcision, he would by them be received as Christ: (a king and a Christ worthy of them!) moreover, whereas once most impure, now renouncing all desire of women, and so fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy. [98] - His number 666 is explained as some name of Greek numerals to that amount; and two solutions offered, veiled in a corrupt text, yet not I think undecipherable: [99] one, antemov, perhaps Victorinus’ own; the other, genshrikov, interpolated by some later copyist. [100] - Of his ally the False Prophet the two horns like a lamb’s signified his assuming the form of a just man; the fire from heaven that same which sorcerers seem to men’s eyes even now to evoke; the Beast’s image a golden statue of Antichrist: which image the False Prophet would get placed in the temple of Jerusalem, and from which Satan will utter oracles. - So will there be the abomination of desolation in the worship of idols instead of himself, and the introduction of heresy into Churches; [101] the desolation, because many men, previously stable, will by these false signs and portents be turned from the faith. - As to the ten kings, Victorinus says that they would have already received royal power, when Antichrist should either have set out from the East Romewards, or from Rome Eastwards; [102] and three of them would be eradicated by him, and the other seven become his subjects, and also the haters and burners of the harlot city, Rome.

    The Commentary now hurries to a conclusion. Of the three angels of Apoc. xiv., flying in mid-heaven, the first (the same as in Apoc. vii.) is Elias, anticipating Antichrist by his preaching; the other two, other prophets associated with him. The earth’s harvest and vintage are meant of the nations destined to perish at Christ’s coming: the blood shed to the extent of 1600 (= 4 x 400) stadia, bloodshed in all the four parts of the world. The seven vials are the same seven judgments before signified under the Trumpets; and poured out on the contumacious, [insubordinates], after the Church’s retirement from the scene into the wilderness. [103] Standing on the glassy sea signifies standing firm in baptismal faith. The Woman sitting on many waters, and borne by the seven-headed ten-horned Beast, is the Babylon alike of the Apocalypse, Isaiah, and Ezekiel; viz. the city ROME seated on the Devil, as before explained, of Rome red with the blood of saints: her wickedness having been consummated by a Decree of the Senate, [104] and extending to the prohibition of all preaching of the gospel in all nations. Then Christ (answering to him that was figured on the White Horse with his armies) will come and take the kingdom; a kingdom extending from the river even to the world’s end: the greater part of the earth being cleansed introductorily to it; the millennium itself not ending it. All souls of the nations will next, and finally, be called to judgment. [105]
     
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    7. In the “Virginal Banquet” of Methodius, Bishop of Tyre, who like Victorinus suffered martyrdom in the Diocletianic persecution, we find here and there an Apocalyptic expository notice that may be worth our observation: - more especially his application of the Judaic emblems of the Apocalypse to the Christian Church. Thus he expounds the 144,000 sealed ones in Apoc. vii. and xiv., “out of all the tribes of Israel,” not as an election out of the literal Israel, but as a certain select company of the Christian Church, viz. its company of virgins; the palm-bearers in the same vision of Apoc. vii. being the general body of the faithful in Christ. [106] On the same principle he explains also Mount Zion and the temple to mean the Christian Church: [107] and again in Apoc. xii. makes the sun-clothed woman that brought forth the man-child to be the faithful Christian Church, bringing forth sons by regeneration in baptism. For, argues Methodius, this symbol cannot mean Christ’s own birth into the world; seeing that John’s commission in the Apocalypse was to see and record not things past, but things present and things to come. [108] Connected with which last-mentioned vision Methodius broaches a very original idea as to the desert into which the woman fled for refuge from the dragon. It is the Church’s appointed sojourning place or state in the world: a scene and state deserted of the evil, and in which many pleasant fruits and flowers grow for her use, as a in a garden of spices: [109] the 1260 days assigned for this meaning the whole times to come. [110] - With regard to which blessed times Methodius follows the generality of the Fathers before him in explaining them as the world’s seventh sabbath millennary, beginning with the 6000th year from Creation, after the type of the six days of creation, and seventh day of sabbath: “the first resurrection” being the literal resurrection of the saints to partake of it; [111] but the body’s change to an angelic substance not occurring till the end of the millennary. [112] He also speaks of the conflagration as that by which the world is not to be annihilated but purified. [113]

    8. Last in this my first period let me notice Lactantius; a writer who, in his famous work on the “Divine Institutions,” formed a kind of connecting link between that period and the Constantinian æra, when the establishment of Christianity took place in the Roman Empire: for his work was nearly all written before the end of the Diocletianic persecution; though dedicated to Constantine in one of the closing Chapters. [114] The time of his writing the Book determines me to place him in the first period, rather than the second. His sketch, towards the conclusion of his Treatise, of the ending of the great mundane drama, involved necessarily certain Apocalyptic notices. Of these the following are I think the chief; being however partly mixed up with ideas derived from the prophecies of Daniel, partly with others of mere imaginary origin.

    He states, then, that the first grand preliminary to the consummation was the breaking up of the Roman empire; [115] an event to be hastened by the multiplication of emperors ruling it, with civil wars consequent, till at length ten kings should arise: whereupon an enemy from the extreme North should come against them, [116] overthrow the three Asiatic dynasties of the ten, be received and submitted to by the rest as their head, change the name and transfer the seat of the empire from West to East, and by his cruelties introduce a time of grievous calamity, especially to persecuted Christians; [117] portents on earth and in the sky accompanying, and plagues such as once in Egypt: [118] - that then, the consummation drawing on, a great prophet (Elias) [119] would be sent by God, with power of working miracles, shutting up heaven, turning water into blood, and by fire from his mouth killing such as would injure him; by whose preaching and miracles many would be turned to God: - which done, that another king would rise from Syria, begotten of an evil spirit; and, after destroying that former evil one, (the king of the North?) would conquer and kill God’s prophet afore-mentioned, his work having been completed; [120] whose corpse, however, left unburied, would on the third day be reanimated, and rapt before the enemies’ eyes to heaven: - that the king his murderer would be prophet too, but a prophet of lies; and with the miraculous power of evoking fire from heaven, arresting the sun in its course, and making an image speak: whereby he would make multitudes of adherents; branding them like cattle with his mark, and requiring worship from them as God and the Son of God: for that this would be in fact the ANTICHRIST; falsely claiming to be Christ, [121] but fighting against the real Christ, overthrowing his temple the Church, [122] and persecuting unto the death his saints and true Israel: [123] - that the fated time, the saints having fled in a last extremity to the mountains, the heaven would be opened for their deliverance; [124] and Christ himself intervene to save them, and destroy this Antichrist and his allied kings. After which the saints, raised from the grave, would reign with Christ through the world’s seventh chiliad; a period to commence, Lactantius judged, in about 200 years at furthest: [125] the Lord alone being thenceforth worshipped on a renovated world; its still living inhabitants multiplying incalculably in a state of terrestrial felicity; and the resurrection-saints, during this commencement of an eternal kingdom, in a nature like the angelic, reigning over them. [126]
     
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