‘And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold and silver and brass and stone and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk. Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.’
He foreshows and reproves, by the Spirit, the obstinance of the Papists, for they still remain in their filthiness, though the Eastern Church was brought under the judgment of God who used the four Angels, (i.e., the Muslim nations comprised of Arabians, Saracens, Tartars and Turks), to punish the Christian world for their idolatry, murders, sorceries, fornication and thefts. Their impenitence remains even unto this day, insomuch that whosoever opposes and reproves these things in them is accounted a heretic and enemy of the Church.
Their idolatry is manifest: for in all their temples, highways, porches, and street corners they set up idols, the works of men’s hands, images of God, of Christ, Mary, and the Saints. Whoever does not fall down before them to religiously worship is accounted a heretic, condemned to the fire. The Papist cannot abide to have them termed ‘idols,’ but prefer the term, ‘images,’ which they set up to worship God, Christ and the Saints. But in truth, by this they worship devils, for God will not be worshipped by images. Now whatever is worshipped in an external way is an idol, and all idol worship is done, not to God, but unto the devil. Indeed, the description here of idolaters plainly convicts them. For do they not serve idols of gold, silver, stone, etc., which can neither see, hear nor walk? All eggs resemble each other, no matter the bird, just as all idolaters resemble each other, no matter they be Papist or heathen.
And touching their murders, we need not go further then to consider the innumerable company of Martyrs put to death by them.
As for sorceries and all magical arts, to whom do these apply but to Papists? For in the Reformed Churches the impostures of the devil and his magicians have been rooted out for quite some time now.
Fornication, adultery, pollutions and sodomy are committed by the Roman Catholic clergy beyond measure. For though the Word of God declares marriage is honorable among all men, yet among themselves they do not permit it. Yet the legalizing of sodomy has been publicly debated by Johannis de Casa, Archbishop of Beneveni. And what multitudes of whores and strumpets are there at Rome? How lucrative is this whoredom to the Pope? It appears in their own records that by these whoredoms his own treasury has lately grown by forty thousand ducats!
In summary, who is ignorant of the thefts, rapines and simony of the Romanists? Or who is able to describe all of them? Their taxes and annals, which are in print, do openly show these things, so that the Papists are openly guilty of the same evils for which they of the East were destroyed. What then remains but the same punishment to befall them?
Angel with the little book open = All interpreters are agreed for the most part, with the exception of Alcazar and Ribera, that this Angel represents Christ, the Mediator and avenger of His afflicted Church. Ribera views this Angel, not as Christ, but as the same strong Angel seen in Rev. 5:2, who desired to open the book which was shut. Undoubtedly, this mighty Angel, Christ, is the same, who in Daniel 12:1 & 7 is called, Michael, standing upon the waters & swearing by the living God, from whence this part of the vision seems to be taken. Michael, the great prince standing for the people, was certainly Christ. Therefore, this Angel is either Christ Himself, or one representing Him. Besides, who can better hold the ‘book’ then He that opened it?
Little book open = Christ is holding the little book open, thereby teaching us, first, that notwithstanding the persecution of tyrants, the superstitions and lies of Antichrist by which he darkened the Gospel, yet He held forth in His hand the book of His Word. That is, Christ has continuously raised up faithful professors and teachers of the truth who maintained the same against all tyrants and Antichrists. Indeed, the books of Martyrs and other ecclesiastical histories do abundantly witness, that there have been multitudes of Christians killed, not only during the persecution of the Roman Emperors and heretics, but also these thousand years, many under Antichrist, who were condemned and cruelly put to death for heresy. Secondly, it teaches us that there will come a time when He will purge from His book the pollutions of the Locusts and dregs of Antichrist by fit witnesses of His truth whom, in the last times, in the midst of Antichrist’s kingdom, He will raise up for that purpose. For He had, during the entire time of Antichrist’s reign in the West, preserved a remnant in the midst of Popery, raising up many witnesses of His truth. In the East, He preserved some Churches who professed His name, though they were burdened with the tyranny of the Turks.
Seven thunders uttered their voices = A definite number is put for an indefinite, that is, many undaunted teachers who shall thunder out the Word of God against tyrants, heretics and Antichrist, thereby making them all inexcusable before God. The emphatic sense denotes the Spirit of God working in them, divinely commanding them to witness. For no doubt these heroic teachers who opposed Antichrist were stirred up the special instinct of the Spirit of God.
7th Trumpet = The same trump as the ‘last trump’ described in 1 Cor. 15:51, at which time the mystery of God is to be finished. This trumpet has respect to the end of the world when the dead in Christ are resurrected, those Christians living are changed into glorified bodies, and their adversaries are punished in the Day of Judgment. Thus, the sound of the 6th Trumpet will continue to sound until the end of this world. They, therefore, do err from the scope, who extend the time of the seven vials, and the visions which follow Chapter 10, beyond the 7th Trumpet.
Little book = On the outside it contained the revealed and written doctrine of the Gospel. Within it was contained the secret counsels of God touching the future events of the Church.
Take it and eat it up = a metaphor meaning that John is to carefully read and thoroughly take notice of its contents so well that he can discuss the contents with expertise. A man is said to ‘devour’ Virgil and Cicero, meaning he is fully acquainted with them, keeping them in his heart. Likewise, a ‘devourer’ of books is an insatiable reader.
So, too, are ministers of the Word taught to earnestly devour, or eat up the doctrine of salvation divinely written and received from Christ, that is, to diligently read, understand, search and meditate upon it. For only such as these can faithfully instruct the Church in the knowledge of the truth, who meditate on the law of the Lord day and night. On the other hand, the sluggishness of Bishops, Archbishops and Patriarchs of the Church is condemned, for many are little acquainted with the Scriptures of God.
And it shall make thy belly bitter = He forewarns John of the double effect of the book. Sweet things are delightful, while bitter things provoke vomiting. By ‘sweet’ He stirs up John to eat the book, and by ‘bitter’ He indicates its contents shall be troublesome. For the Word is sweet, Ps. 119:103, bringing joy to the heart, and comfort to the conscience; but by consequence it is bitter because the preaching of the Word occasions most painful stomach pangs, such as the hatred of the world, persecutions, banishments, and martyrdoms. Christ forewarned His disciples of this, John 16:2. This is foretold that they be not offended when they occur.
Thou must prophesy again before many peoples and nations and tongues and Kings = This command is directed toward the last times when prophesying shall be renewed against Antichrist. New combats shall follow, notwithstanding, Antichrist’s kingdom shall be grievously shaken. This command may not only be understood as directed toward John, but it may be applied to all the other witnesses of the truth who should prophesy against Antichrist, who live in the last times.
Prophesy again = to bring to light, purge, reform, and wholly restore to its former brightness, the doctrine of the Gospel, which the Antichrist’s Locusts have polluted with filthiness, mangled and brought to naught. Therefore, for the truth’s sake, and so that the true Church perishes not, but that Antichrist’s abominations be wholly rooted out, it was needed that prophesying be renewed. Thus, it is manifest that here it is promised a Reformation of the Church near the last times, represented in the next chapter under the symbol of the two witnesses, who shall again prophesy against Antichrist.
And there was given to me a reed like unto a rod = The rod with which the Church is measured is nothing else but the Word of God, the most perfect rule of faith and Church discipline, given by Christ, the Angel. Therefore, this reed is indeed the same ‘little book’ which Christ gave unto John to eat up. It is now given to John under the type of a ‘reed’ or ‘rule’ because of its measuring work which must now be done.
The Temple of God = signifies the Church, as almost all interpreters, both ancient and modern, understand it. Indeed, the same Greek word for ‘temple’ (naos) is used here which is also used in 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; and 2 Thess.2:4, meaning the Christian Church. Even Ribera and Alcazar acknowledge that here the ‘temple’ signifies the Church of God!
Rise, and measure the temple of God = This is a general prophecy touching the restoring of the Church being declined under Antichrist. The measuring of the temple signifies the building and repairing thereof, alluding to Ezek. 40 ff., in which vision God promised the restoration of the temple destroyed by the Babylonians, not indeed materially, but spiritually, under the Gospel. For the outward temple built by Zerubbabel after their return does not at all answer to the dimensions of that vision; and therefore, the measuring was a prophecy of the future reformation of the spiritual temple by Christ. Thus, here John is representative of those who are to come later to reform, renew and build again the Church after the Western Antichrist has taken possession, wasting and oppressing it.
Hence, the Papists fiction is refuted: that the visible church can never degenerate, err or fall from her integrity. Furthermore, it is manifest that the Church dissipated by Antichrist, neither can be, nor shall be measured by any other instrument then by the reed of the Word, contained in the holy Scriptures, as being indeed the only true and infallible rule, according to the Psalmist, The scepter (or rod) of thy kingdom is a scepter of righteousness. Let us, therefore, wholly cast off all adulterate and false rules, such as human traditions, decrees of Councils and Popes, unto which the foolish builders, giving way, have destroyed the Temple of God, from whose corruptions it shall be restored, as from death to life, by the reed of God’s Word.
Measure the altar also = To better understand this we must have recourse to the structure of the old Temple. For the Spirit of God is pleased to shadow out the state and worship of the New Testament Church by the type and service of the Old Testament. It is not as if the old types were to remain under the Gospel, but because the things signified by them are fitly applied unto the new Church. To be short, we have a worthy portrait of the Temple in Ezek. 40-42 divided in four parts.
(1) The was an outermost court in which the people were conversant.
(2) A middle court for the keeping of the Levitical instruments, and making ready the sacrifices.
(3) The inner court, or court of the Priests, in which was the great brazen altar for burnt-offerings.
(4) The Temple itself; in the entry stood the golden altar of perfumes, with the golden candlestick and table; within, behind the veil, was the Ark of the Covenant. This Temple was a type of the Church, and we have shown he was commanded to measure the same. He must also measure the altar, to wit, the golden altar, from the four corners of which he heard a voice, Rev. 9:13. This was a type of Christ. But how? Is he commanded to measure Christ? Yea, verily. For under a pretence using the name of Christ, He was thrust out of His possession by Antichrist, who suppressed the faith, turning Christian liberty into miserable servitude. The Altar of Christ, therefore, shall be measured when it shall be free from the perfidiousness of Antichrist, and Christian liberty from his tyranny. The Altar may, as a synecdoche, be taken for the whole worship of God.
And them that worship therein = He means the residue of sincere worshippers in the midst of Antichristian defilements. These He commands to measure, that is, (as Ribera also expounds it), to number and sever as chosen members of the true Church, and not to be delivered unto Antichrist. He, therefore, acknowledges that God will reserve some true worshippers of Christ in the midst of Babylon, that is, the Papacy. These worshippers are the same as those, who in Rev. 7, are said to be 144,000 sealed in their foreheads, out of every tribe, nation and tongue. This serves to comfort the Godly, as well as to refute that common irksome song of the Papists: if the Papacy is not the Church, then Christ, before Luther, had neither Body nor members. It is also true that this measuring of the Temple and altar also signifies a purging of doctrine and discipline, which we have seen accomplished in our times. The faithful are said to worship in the very sanctuary of the Temple, where it was lawful for only the High Priest to worship. This is because they are true members of the Temple; yea, the Temple of God itself, as the Apostle says, Know ye not that ye are the Temple of God?, etc.
But the court which is within the temple leave out, [i.e., the middle court] and measure it not = This court is to be cut off from the Temple, meaning it is to be excluded and separated from the true Church by the reed of the Word because it does not belong there. The worshippers in the outer court differ from those worshippers inside the Temple because they do not worship Christ, but administer Antichrist’s holy things, and therefore are not to be reckoned, but accounted as out of the Church.
This middle court was that of the Priests. Popish temples imitate this court, having an inner place considered holy, and used by the singers and Mass Priests, into which the laity can hardly see due to the lattice. The meaning of the prophecy is clear: the clergy who appropriate the inward parts of the temples for themselves, shall fall away from the faith, and have their portion with Antichrist. Therefore, they are to be utterly rooted out of the true Church of Christ.
For it is given to the Gentiles = By Gentiles, we are to understand Antichristian priests, aliens from the Church of God, Antichrist and his followers. Because of pollution caused by their profane idols, though it had previously been set apart for holy use, it is to be turn into a nest of devils and den of thieves. Ribera agrees with us in this interpretation when he states, ‘It is given to the Gentiles, that is, it shall be obtained and possessed by Antichrist and his ministers because Antichrist’s army shall truly consist of heathens, worshipping not the true God, but Antichrist.’
And hence it follows that the priestly court shall therefore be cast forth out of the Church because the clergy shall become heathenish, degenerating into Paganism; though not by open profession, but by their idolatry and heathenish life. For they have turned the doctrine of faith into heathenish philosophy, teaching that men are justified by good works, having brought the idols of the heathens into the Church, changing only their names. For example, they make Juno, Venus, Pallas, Minerva, Diana, Ceres, and Isis, Queen of Heaven, types of the Virgin Mary. They make Jupiter to be God the Father; Mars has become their St. George; Mercury is Peter; Neptune is St. Nicholas, and so forth, all these idols being their tutelary gods. Their clergy shall also imitate the Gentiles in their ecclesiastical order. For the Papists also have their Archflamins, or high priests, as well as Flamins, or lesser priests, and other orders. All these forbid marriage, permitting them to wallow in whoredom. And just as the heathens celebrated their feasts of Bacchus, Ceres and Pan, so, too, do the Papists keep their Shrovetide, Rogation Days, and other festivals, altering only the names.
The holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months = Ribera again rightly understands the ‘holy city’ to be the Church, Jerusalem of old being the type. Moreover, we are to observe that the Angel, Christ, who speaks these things, alludes to His own words in Luke 12:24: Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled, predicting the besieging, taking and overthrowing of the city and temple by the Romans. And so, by the expression, ‘to tread under foot,’ we are to understand the wasting and destroying, in a hostile manner, as was done to Jerusalem, not long after, by Titus Vespasian. Now just as Jerusalem was a type of the Church, so also is the treading down of Jerusalem by the Romans a foreshadowing and type of the treading down of the Church by the same nation. For Rome shall be the calamity and destruction of the Church, just as it was for Jerusalem. Can it be said more clearly? The prophecy predicted that the Church shall be possessed, trodden down and laid waste by the Roman Antichrist and his adherents.
So then these words of the prophecy, The Roman Gentiles shall tread the holy city under foot, agree to that of the Apostle Paul: the man of sin (Antichrist) shall sit in the temple of God; that is, he shall suppress the Church by tyranny, proudly boasting himself to be as God, the head and universal monarch.
Forty and two months = Here is wisdom: It is manifest, by the consent of almost all interpreters, that the time of Antichrist’s persecution is hereby set forth. But what time and how long is it to continue. And what is the starting point and termination? These things are obscure, both to me and others, and is happily beyond the reach of man. For it pleases the Spirit that we should be productive in our search concerning the times themselves, rather then to knowing, with certainty, the dates and duration. Christ intimated as much with His disciples, It is not for you to know the times and seasons which the Father hath put into His own power, Acts 1:7.
Pareus refutes the Popish opinion that the 42 months are to be understood literally
Generally speaking, all the Papists today follow the principle that the 42 months are astronomical months, making 3 ½ years. From this arose the received popish opinion that Antichrist should only reign for 3 ½ years. They use Daniel 7:25, who speaks of the Little Horn, Antichrist, and Rev. 12:14 to confirm this theory because Rev. 12:6 defines the times, time and half a time to be 1260 days, or 42 months of 30 days each. They then make the 3 ½ years to be that time period which immediately precedes the end of the world, because as Bellarmine affirms, ‘Antichrist shall be slain by the Jews before the fourth year ends, and then Christ shall come in Judgment forty five days later.’
From this the Papists seek to establish two things:
(1) Antichrist is not yet come into the world.
(2) Therefore, the Pope of Rome cannot be the Antichrist.
For Bellarmine argues in his 5th Demonstration, ‘Antichrist shall only reign 3 ½ years. But the Pope has already reigned spiritually in the Church more than 1500 years, and more than 500 years temporally. Neither can any one be noted or accounted to be Antichrist unless he hath precisely reigned 3 ½ years. Therefore, the Pope is not Antichrist, and neither is he [the Pope] yet to come.’
But, (to speak nothing of the most false assumption of this ridiculous demonstration), it is certain that the Roman Bishops before Constantine were so far from reigning spiritually, much less temporally, in the Church, for on the contrary, they all suffered martyrdom for the sake of Christ. For this and other reasons, which I shall demonstrate, the Popish opinion touching the 42 literal months of Antichristian persecution is contradictory both to itself and the holy Scriptures.
The sheer impossibility and absurdity of 42 literal months comprising the reign of Antichrist
This theory is not consistent within itself because those things which they imagine their Antichrist shall effect are as impossible to be done in the space of 3 ½ years as it is for a snail to creep over the entire earth in 3 ½ days.
(1) He must sit in the Temple of Jerusalem, which for so many ages hath lain waste under a horrible destruction.
(2) He must kill the three Kings of Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia.
(3) He must subdue seven other Princes.
(5) Persecute Christianity, literally blotting it out of existence, while bringing the entire world under subjection to him.
Who, I pray you, would imagine that all these things could possibly be accomplished in less than four years, unless he was a madman? And what messengers shall Antichrist send abroad to suddenly tell and persuade the Jews, dispersed over the face of the entire earth, that their Messiah has now come? The Temple, they say, will be rebuilt in three days, but Solomon could not finish it in seven years, though he had all the materials prepared beforehand. And Zerubbabel could scarcely rebuild it in 46 years. Yea, this Antichrist, hardly of four years duration, shall expel the Turk out of Syria, the Persian out of the East, Cham (?) out of the South, and Prester John (?) out of all the North. What more frivolous can be imagined? Shall the Emperors and Christian Kings be fallen into such a dead sleep as to be altogether, in a moment, suppressed by one man? Will the Pope with his Cardinals watch no better, allowing Catholic Rome to fall to Paganism? And shall all Christians so rashly yield assistance Antichrist as soon as he manifests himself? O foolish vanities. Thus, we see this fiction inconsistent with reality.
Scriptures refute the 42 month theory
This theory is also repugnant to the holy Scriptures in divers ways.
(1) Antichrist shall not come but by a universal apostasy from the faith, 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim.4:1, the elect only excepted, who are sealed in their foreheads. But who would dare say that all Christian Bishops, with their superiors, could be led aside from the faith within less than four years?
(2) The Scripture witnesses that the day, month and year of Christ’s last Coming is hid from all creatures, known only to God. The Lord will come suddenly as a thief in the night, when the world shall say, Peace and safety. But according to the opinion of our adversaries, the day, month and year of the last Judgment will be known, for from the rising of Antichrist unto his death there should be but 3 ½ years. Then from his death unto the last Judgment there should be 45 days. This Bellarmine expressly writes, Chapter 17, On the Roman Pontiff, ‘After the death of Antichrist there shall be no more than 45 days unto the end of the world.’ Seeing, therefore, the opinion be granted, there follows a falsity, therefore the opinion itself must needs be false. This reason is so strong that it forced Ribera to forsake that same false opinion in Chapter 20 of his commentary.
(3) In Rev. 13:5, the 42 months are again repeated respecting the beast, and power was given to him to continue forty and two months. These cannot be understood as literal, astronomical months or 3 ½ literal years. For to Bellarmine, Alcazar and many others, that beast is the Roman Empire whose power (whether it be understood of the old or new Empire) continued far longer than 3 ½ years.
For these reasons, therefore, and many other absurdities, the 42 month theory cannot possibly stand. This error is to be excused in the Church Fathers (who erred concerning Antichrist is diverse ways, as Bellarmine himself has confessed) because they saw not the histories of future ages. Thus, in our day this particular opinion of theirs is not to be suffered in the least, but must be banished out of the Church as a most pernicious error. For it has brought with it a sense of false security upon the world. This error has also sustained the blindness of the Papists to this day, insomuch as they neither will nor can see and avoid Antichrist reigning in the Church, though discovered long ago by the light of the Gospel.
The 42 months may be understood as 1260 days of years
A common Reformed opinion understands these 42 months to be prophetic months, taking a month to be 30 days of years, or 30 years. Therefore, these 42 months comprise 1260 years. Both Ezek.4:5-6 and Numbers 14:34 use the principle of taking a day to represent a year. The writers of the Magdeburg Centuries understand it this way, as does the Reformer Junius, who begins the 1260 years of this treading under foot with the passion of our Lord, ending it with the creation of Boniface 8th as Pope in the year 1294.
I, personally, hold with Bullinger and Robert Abbot that the finite number of 42 months is placed for an indefinite time period; though it is definite and certain to God. The noun ‘months’ is used purposely to encourage the faithful to exercise patience because their tribulation and troubles shall not be excessively long. However, if I were to posit a literal 1260 year time period to the reign of Antichrist, I would begin it with the reign of Boniface 3rd in the year 606. Thus, the Lord would come near the time of 1866.
Pareus refutes the Papist fable as to the identity of the Two Witnesses
The Papists, taking this chapter literally, do vainly dream that when the Jews recover the city of Jerusalem through the efforts of their leader, Antichrist, then these two witnesses shall be manifest. These witnesses shall oppose the perfidious Jews and Antichrist 1260 days, that is, 3 ½ literal years. These witnesses, they claim, are Enoch and Elijah, whom they affirm to be alive and in Paradise reserved for this purpose, that they may return to earth and resist Antichrist. Once slain by him, they shall again be restored to life after 3 ½ days. The Jews, beholding this miracle shall then turn to Christ and put Antichrist to death on Mt. Olivet, at which time they will prepare themselves for Christ, who is to come 45 days after.
From this fable, Bellarmine drew his third demonstration in defense of the Pope, that he is not Antichrist, and Antichrist is yet to come. His first argument uses Scripture as his basis; his second argument the Church Fathers; the third argument is from his own logic – for why else would these two be taken up before their death?
But verily, Luke 16:29 plainly contradicts this fable, for Abraham shows that none are to be expected to come from Heaven and preach unto the world, but rather we are to hear Moses and the Prophets, who have already spoken. Also, how unlikely is it that those two holy men, who were taken up into Heaven to live with God, should again return to this mortal life to be cruelly murdered by the beast? And how is it possible that their carcasses, lying in the streets of the great city, should be seen of all peoples, nations, tribes and tongues in the space of 3 ½ days? Shall all the world fly like eagles to Jerusalem in so short a time in order to behold two carcasses? And how shall they rejoice and send gifts to one another in three days time? How can only two men, within 42 months, torment the inhabitants of the world by their prophecy? Certainly, we are not to interpret this section of Scripture literally according to the Letter!
In respect to Bellarmine’s first argument, citing Malachi, the Prophet speaks not of the return of Elijah from Paradise, but of John the Baptist, who was to preach in his power and spirit, Luke 1:17 and Matt. 11:14. Furthermore, the great and terrible Day of the Lord spoken in Malachi 4:5 is not of necessity to be understood of the last day of Judgment. The first Coming of Christ was also ‘great’ by virtue of the mystery of His incarnation and miracles. It was ‘terrible’ to the wicked, as witnessed by Herod and the Jews trembling. However, if we grant that Elijah will come before the last day, nowhere does Malachi specify precisely 3 ½ years before the Judgment!
It was the opinion of the Scribes that Elijah the Tishbite should come before the advent of the Messiah. But Christ, in Matt. 11:14, declares the falsehood of their opinion because it was not the literal Elijah the Tishbite, but John the Baptist, who was prophesied by Malachi. But our opponents ask, ‘How can John the Baptist be the fulfillment when he did not restore all things?’ I answer: Yea, but he did restore all things according to the limitation of Malachi and the Angel in Luke 1:17. For he prepared the way of the Lord and turned the hearts of the fathers unto the children, etc.
The opinion of the Fathers without Scripture proves nothing. Also, they do not agree as to the identity of the two witnesses. Some say Elijah and Enoch, some Elijah and Elisha, others Elijah and Moses, and Elijah and Aaron.
As to the reason for Elijah and Enoch’s translations only being understood by what Bellarmine expounds – to be the two witnesses in Rev. 11 - I can easily show another logical and valid reason for their translation. They were taken up alive that they might be examples to the world, showing (1) how important the Lord views godliness; and (2) that there is another life prepared for the faithful in Heaven. The Lord allowed them this privilege because He was well pleased with them above others.
Furthermore, it is impossible to prove the fiction that Enoch and Elijah are yet alive in mortal flesh. Besides, Scripture plainly teaches, in Luke 16:26, there is no going forth or returning from either Paradise or Torments.
Some able interpreters view the two witnesses as the Old and New Testaments
In Augustine’s notes, attributed to Tyconius, the two witnesses are said to be the Old and New testaments, which Bede and Brightman follow, as well as some of our Reformers. They understand the sense to be thus: notwithstanding Antichrist’s treading down the Scripture, yet God would give it power to prophesy, that is, reprove his tyranny and instruct the faithful, who secretly mourn under the cross, in the way of life eternal. For the Scriptures are God’s witnesses in the world against the wicked, as Christ saith, Search the Scriptures for they testify of me. Now thus far, indeed, the interpretation holds true. But I see not how the following attributes (except it be by a harsh allegory) can be applied unto the Scriptures, in that the witnesses are said to be clothed in sackcloth, killed by the beast, their carcasses thrown in the streets, restored to life, and ascend into Heaven.
Pareus prefers the interpretation of Bullinger
Seeing the Lord for the present has not given me any unique insight into the matter, I will follow the opinion of Bullinger and our other best prophetic interpreters who understand the two witnesses indefinitely as diverse reformers of the Christian religion in Antichrist’s times.
The Papists, indeed, imagine that there are strictly two witnesses and no more. But it is not credible that Christ would raise up only two witnesses to oppose the infinite Locusts Antichrist sends out of the smoke of Hell into the Church. Besides, as we have already proved, it is impossible that the things spoken of in verses 9 & 10 should be effected by two persons alone.
Therefore, we do indefinitely understand by these two witnesses a succession of certain maintainers of evangelical truths against Antichrist. They are said to be the definite number of ‘two,’ (1) because they are few in comparison to the Locusts who fill the Christian world; and (2) because in all matters of judgment two suffice to confirm a testimony. By these we should neither be deceived by the applause of the multitude of Locusts, nor offended at the paucity of sincere teachers wherewith Antichrist upbraids us. And (3) as of old the Lord was pleased to use two witnesses as instruments in His hand for special deliverances of the Church. Thus, He sent two, viz., Moses and Aaron unto Pharaoh for the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt; Joshua and Caleb to search the promised land; Zerubbabel and Jeshua to bring back the people from Babylon, of whom are alluded in Rev. 11:4. For as these two witnesses sufficed to deliver the people of God out of the first Babylonish corporal captivity, so also ‘two,’ that is, few prophesying witnesses, shall suffice to deliver the Church from the second Babylonish spiritual captivity.
They shall prophesy = By the term ‘prophesy’ we are not strictly to understand a prediction of things to come. Rather, it suggests a larger sense, as the preaching of prophetic and apostolic doctrines which were darkened, yea, though trodden down by Antichrist, yet again renewed by their faith preaching unto the Church. For Christ will give this to them, that is, arm them with an heroic spirit and qualifications which enables them to vigorously oppose and shake Antichrist’s kingdom, though it seems to be an invincible fortress established throughout the world.
One thousand two hundred and sixty days = The time of the treading down of the Church and the witnesses prophesying is the same because 42 months (each containing 30 days) is equivalent to 1260 days. From this we are to understand that while Antichrist treads the Church underfoot the two witnesses shall prophesy. During Antichrist’s reign Christ shall never be without two witnesses, lest He might seem to be overcome, thrust out of His possession.
Pareus uses Huss and Jerome as types of the Two Witnesses
A little before the Council of Constance, A. D. 1409, the holy city, the Church, was most miserably trodden down by the Roman Beast, at which time three Anti-Popes laid claim to the Papacy, possessing the Antichristian chair by tyranny. These were Gregory 12th, Benedict 13th, and Alexander 5th. After his death came John 23rd, who denied Hell and the resurrection of the flesh.
The Antichristian Church was a horrible three-headed monster during this schism which lasted more than 70 years. Then Christ raised up two witnesses in Bohemia to prophesy against those Beasts: John Huss and Jerome of Prague. They were called before the Council (Sigismund the Emperor having sworn safe conduct unto them) to give their testimony before the assembly of Locusts, where they condemned the Antichristian tyranny of the Popes. It was here that the prophecy of which we speak was fulfilled in them. For the Beast overcame and slew them. Huss was cruelly burnt July 8, 1415, while Jerome was burnt June 3, 1416.
Now Huss began to teach publicly in Prague in 1400, though it wasn’t until 1412 that he first began to maintain the doctrines of Wycliffe, opposing the Beast in the year 1412. From this date until his martyrdom were precisely 42 months or 1260 days. It would thus seem that the prophecy was fulfilled according to the letter in these two witnesses.
Furthermore, while Huss was in the fire, he foretold that ‘his adversaries would give an account to God and to him after 100 years.’ This also came to pass. For one hundred years later, the Lord stirred up other pairs of witnesses against the Beast. In Saxony, Luther and Melanchthon; at Argentine, Bucer and Cariton; in Helvetia, Zwingli and Oecolampadius; in France, Farel and Calvin, who being divinely armed with the spirit and power of Elijah began to measure the temple with the reed of the holy Scriptures, thereby reforming the Church, purging errors from the Gospel, and casting out the court of priests. When these witnesses died the Lord raised up other maintainers of the truth in diverse Kingdoms, Provinces, Commonwealths, Churches, and Academies of Europe, who unto this day, both by writing and by word having strongly opposed the Beast who treads the holy city under his foot.
Clothed in sackcloth = The description of the witnesses now follow, about whom we are to observe in a general way that they share many of the qualities attributed to the Prophets and chief servants of God. They are clothed in sackcloth as was the Prophet Daniel, chap. 9:13. They are the two olive trees before God as were Zerubbabel and Jehoshua, Zach. 4:11. Fire proceeds out of their mouth as out of the mouth of Jeremiah, chap. 5:14. With it they shall devour their enemies as did Elijah, 2 Kings 1. They shall shut heaven that it rain not as did Elijah, 1 Kings 17. They shall turn waters into blood and smite the earth with plagues as often as they will as did Moses and Aaron, Exod. 4-10.
By these descriptions we may more clearly perceive the following points:
(1) The two witnesses are not Enoch and Elijah. No mention is made of anything pertaining to Enoch in these passages. It is true that a few of the miracles attributed to Elijah are also attributed to the them. However, there are miracles mentioned which are also attributed to Moses, Aaron, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc., so why can the two witnesses not be two of them?
(2) These descriptions are not to be taken literally, but spiritually, yet the effects caused by the two witnesses have a certain similitude to those literal miracles performed by the Old Testament Prophets. We can prove the spiritual application to be true because in verse 8 the Apostle John applies to Rome, the seat of Antichrist, the names of Sodom, Egypt and Jerusalem in a spiritual sense. Therefore, to remain consistent, as the seat of the Beast is to be taken spiritually, so, too, are the acts of the two witnesses to be understood spiritually. Besides, if one were to take a literal interpretation their acts would be either absurd or miraculous. But God will not work new miracles because He hath foretold us that new miracles shall be the marks of Antichrist.
Thus, by the expression clothed in sackcloth the Holy Spirit declares their contemptible condition in the eyes of worldly men. Sackcloth was the clothing of mourners, as the Ninevites and Daniel are said to have mourned in sackcloth. Christ spoke of those in Tyre and Sidon as repenting in sackcloth and ashes under certain conditions. Sackcloth was the garment of the prophets, and today it is worn by poor and despised men.
Some interpreters understand ‘sackcloth’ to symbolically represent the mourning owed by the world to God for its sin, the witnesses calling men to repentance. Others interpret it of their own personal mourning, the sackcloth representing their bitterness and grief due to the destruction of the Church and blindness of the world. Such bitterness of spirit was common among the prophets of old. Both interpretations are, in my opinion, valid. Notwithstanding, I rather take it of the neglected condition of the ministers of the Gospel. For by ‘sackcloth’ we see the undoubted contrast with the pomp and luxury of Antichrist and his Locusts, those glorious Prelates who, with their soft, silken embroidered garments of gold and silver, bewitch the world. Contrarily, the witnesses shall be vile and despised, barely having enough means to live and clothe themselves. And, indeed, almost all the servants of Christ who hitherto have waged war with the Beast have been abject, poor and despised in the eyes of the world.
Bellarmine upbraids our interpretation of the two witnesses as men who come from our side. Instead, he views our interpretation as proof for the falsity of our religion. He says, “The Patrons of our religion have been great and worthy men, followed by the whole world. But Berengarius was a deacon, a man neglected, and having for followers a few poor scholars.” But for our part we must not be offended at this accusation. But no matter how contemptuously the world judges us, the Lord’s opinion of the excellence of His Elect we shall hear soon enough when standing before God.
And neither is Bellarmine’s taunting worth the answering when he says, “he has never seen any minister of the Gospel clothed in sackcloth.” For the two witnesses shall no more literally be clothed in sackcloth than they will be two literal Olive trees, or breathe out of their mouth literal fire to devour their enemies.
These are those two olive trees = This description characterizes their dignity despite their contemptible condition. They shall not be neglected by God because the world despises them. For they are two olive trees and candlesticks, whereby mystically the dignity of the ministry of the Word is noted, as serving in the place of olive trees and candlesticks unto the Church. An olive tree is always green, bringing forth most wholesome fruit. A candlestick bears the light by which darkness is expelled and the whole house enlightened. Therefore, we are to understand that the ministry of the witnesses shall be alive and efficacious because by the oil and anointing of the Spirit is the Elect empowered. It is commonly known that the grace of the Spirit is often compared to oil, especially by John. These witnesses shall be olive trees bringing forth spiritual oil by their prophesying. That is, they shall be profitable instruments for the salvation of true believers. They shall also be candlesticks by holding forth the light of God’s Word, by which they shall drive away Antichristian darkness, kindling once again the lost light of the Gospel in the Church. They are restorers of the Church from under the bondage and yoke of Antichrist, pre-figured by the olive trees spoken of by Zech. 4:14 when Israel was under the Babylonian Captivity. Like their Old Testament types, the two witnesses of the Revelation rebuild and repair the Church, pre-figured by the Temple in Jerusalem.
Standing before the God of the earth = This is a quote from Zechariah which also reflects the dignity of the witnesses. In the eyes of the world their sackcloth is vile and contemptible, but with God they are held in great esteem as are most sweet olive trees and golden candlesticks. Also, their fidelity is noted as they perform their ministry faithfully and with great constancy in the sight of God, whom no man can deceive. Though Antichrist enjoys the favors and support of the great men and princes of the earth, the two witnesses enjoy the favor and blessed presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Fire proceeds out of their mouth = This third characteristic sets forth the power and effect of their ministry upon their adversaries, whereas previously the Holy Spirit described their dignity and efficacy in respect to the Elect. This phrase is an allusion, partly to Jeremiah and partly to Moses and Elijah. Those who would understand this passage as literal are more absurd than the vain imaginings of Polydorus, who believes that the cattle have been infected by a fire-breathing monster. It is impossible that a man can spit out literal fire without being himself hurt, unless he is a fire-eating circus performer who feigns breathing fire.
Thus, the ‘fire’ spoken of is to be understood spiritually as the Word of God proceeding out of the mouths of the witnesses, as is clear by the Scriptures which describe Jeremiah’s similar exploits. Again, we must refer back to verse 8 which explains the need to interpret this and other verses SPIRITUALLY. But against whom shall the fire proceed? Against them that will hurt them; that is, against their adversaries called enemies, namely the Beast with the Locusts who come forth out of the infernal smoke of the bottomless pit, along with their accomplices, favorites and adherents. These enemies will hurt them by opposing their preaching, by both sophist disputations and cruel proscriptions. But it shall in vain. For the fire proceeding out of their mouth shall devour them.
But you will argue, “The Beast destroys the witnesses. It is he who kills and devours them.” Again, we must understand this passage spiritually. For the witnesses do not kill their adversaries corporally (though in this literal sense the two witnesses shall themselves be killed), but rather spiritually because by the fire of the Word they shall lay open to the world the abomination and impostures of Antichrist, confound his idols and refute his lies, by which his kingdom shall greatly diminish. This fire is nothing less than the Spirit of Christ’s mouth, 2 Thess. 2:8, by which (as the Apostle foretold) Antichrist shall be consumed because the preaching of the Gospel shall utterly consume Antichristian lies as fire consumes stubble.
But he alludes (as I said) to the two histories of Moses and Elijah. For at the prayer of Moses there came out a fire from Jehovah and consumed 250 sworn rebels. At the prayer of Elijah fire fell from Heaven, consuming the captains with their fifties sent to take the prophet. After their example these witnesses shall devour their enemies by the fire of their mouth, not by any external, literal miracle which the disciples, in a preposterous zeal to imitate were reproved for it by Christ, but by a spiritual effect, not unlike the others because the fiery preaching of the Gospel shall prevail against the enemies who labor by all means to hinder it.
For if any man shall hurt them = This verse confirms the efficacy of that which was spoken earlier. Many shall rise against the Gospel. Antichrist, indeed, shall endeavor to suppress the witnesses, but to his own destruction.
He must thus be killed = The particle ‘thus’ limits the destruction of the enemies. He shall not be killed by the sword or outward force so that he ceases to hurt others, but he shall be consumed by the fire of God’s Word, in so much that his opposition to the Gospel shall be in vain. What, I pray you, can be spoken more plainly concerning the events of our age? God raised up His two witnesses, Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, Musculus, and a few other weak Monks, out of whose mouths the fire of God’s Word hath so devoured their opposition that they could not resist them by any forces, plots, thunderings or punishments. For the Gospel spread over diverse kingdoms and provinces in the Christian world directly proportional to the cruel oppression of the Gospel by their enemies.
These have power to shut = Their fourth characteristic is a description of their power to shut heaven that it rain not in the days of their prophecy. This is an obvious allusion to the history of Elijah who shut the heavens by his prayer that it rained not on Ahab’s kingdom for 3 ½ years. From this arose a grievous famine by which God punished the wickedness of the Israelites. From this fact we may also disprove the literal interpretation of 42 months and 1260 days commonly attributed to Antichrist’s reign. For then Heaven should be shut during the whole time of his kingdom according to the literal interpretation of this prophecy. Is this not a false and absurd interpretation according to the literal sense? How, I ask, shall Antichrist, in so great and continuous a famine, lead such mighty armies and obtain so many great victories over the most powerful of Monarchs?
Again, this passage must be understood spiritually, not literally. They shall shut Heaven by the power of the keys so that the grace of God shall not rain upon those who contemn the Gospel, calling their preaching a most pestilent heresy. The heavenly rain which moistens the dry hearts shall not fall upon them, for they shall not be any whit the better by the preaching of the Gospel, but shall seek for eternal life by their own merits, Popish pardons, penal satisfactions, and whatever else they shall vainly imagine against Christ and His free grace.
And they have power over the waters = The fifth characteristic is their power of turning the waters into blood and smiting the earth with plagues as often as they will. This is an obvious allusion to the history of Moses and Aaron who turned the Egyptian waters into blood and smote Egypt with ten plagues until Pharaoh drowned in the sea, the Israelites then brought out of the house of bondage. In a spiritual sense the same holds true of the Church under bondage to the Roman Pharaoh. For when the Church sighs to God because of her oppression, then shall the two witnesses come as types of Moses and Aaron; that is, God will raise up one or more faithful teachers of the Gospel, who by the preaching of Christ’s free grace, shall endeavor to set free the Church from bondage. But Pharaoh shall not hear them, therefore they shall turn the waters into blood and smite the adversaries with plagues as often as they will; that is, not once, but many times, just as Moses smote Egypt ten times. Now this the two witnesses shall do by threatening plagues against the spiritual Egyptians, on whom God will take vengeance because of their contemning the Gospel, by sending wars, seditions, droughts, famines, pestilence and other similar evils. This the Christian world has experienced since the rising of the Gospel, as the complaints of the common people do testify when they impute the cause of their miseries to the doctrine of the Gospel. However, they do not realize that these plagues are not caused by the Word itself, but because of their contempt of the Word and the idolatry of Antichrist.
When they have finished their testimony = Previously we have spoken of the power and ministry of the two witnesses. Now follows their martyrdom. For Antichrist shall not sit still while they prophesy, but will prepare himself to war against them, overcoming and killing them. He shall cast their carcasses into the street with contempt, rejoicing with his followers over the slain. But although the witnesses shall be put to death, prophecy shall not be extinguished. This Antichrist, the Beast who ascends out of the pit, is the self same Angel of the bottomless pit, Abaddon, King of the Locusts, spoken of previously in Rev. 9:11. This truth Ribera also acknowledges. For this Beast has his seat in the great city Babylon Rome, as shall appear in Chap. 17:9 & 18. In the verses which follow it is spiritually called Sodom, Egypt, and Jerusalem.
Earlier the term ‘prophecy’ was used, but now the word ‘testimony.’ By this John speaks of the Gospel. In spiritual terms, the sense of this passage is thus: The Beast, indeed, shall raise up war as soon as the two witnesses begin to prophesy, yet he shall not overcome them before they shall have finished their testimony according to the will of God. This truth serves to comfort the witnesses. For just as the High Priests could not hurt Christ before His hour was come, although they never ceased to lay in wait for His life, so likewise Antichrist shall not be able to overcome Christ’s witnesses before the course of their ministry is finished. Thus, though Antichrist’s rage will remain unabated throughout the course of their testimony, he shall not be able to overcome and kill them before they have finished it. They shall accomplish their testimony, and so it is said, the preaching of the Gospel shall endure unto the end. And so we see who is the Beast and the time of his appearance.
He shall make war against them = Antichrist will not sit still and suffer his kingdom to be destroyed, but will fight for it with all his power. Therefore, as soon as the witnesses begin to prophesy against his kingdom, he will prepare himself to war against them. According to the success of their prophesying, it will determine the greater or lesser degree of war used against them. But of what manner shall this war and victory consist?
Rupertus, a Catholic Commentator, says, “such as is usually between truth and falsehood.” With this we agree. The war shall be both ecclesiastical and civil, and as such, shall reflect a similar victory. His ecclesiastical war shall be fought three ways:
1. By the seditious sermons of the Locusts, their venomous writings and sophist disputations on behalf of Apollyon against the witnesses of Christ, falsely branding them as pestilent heretics. They shall preach with great applause to the multitude claiming the Beast is the Head of the Church, Christ’s Vicar, armed with the key of Peter, the sword of Paul and Caesar, as they cry aloud that his kingdom is the Catholic Church.
2. Through the Councils of Locusts, by whose decrees the Beast shall establish his kingdom and anathematize, as heretical, the truth of Christ.
3. Through the Bulls and Excommunications of the Romish Court, by which the Antichrist shall condemn Christ’s witnesses and testimony as heretical, and deliver them over to the secular power, destroying them by fire and sword because they are deemed unworthy to breathe or exist any longer. Moreover, the Beast shall raise up civil wars and by his subtlety cause the kingdoms and provinces of the Christian world to fight against the Gospel, so that the witnesses of Christ maybe overcome and killed. Therefore, it follows that:
The beast shall overcome and kill them = This essential truth sufficiently shows that these witnesses cannot be understood literally of Enoch or Elijah. For what godly man will believe that those holy prophets whom the Scriptures testify to have been translated from death to eternal life should once more return unto the earth to be cruelly killed by Antichrist? Furthermore, the Beast shall kill the witnesses in the same manner as he overcame them: partly by ecclesiastical censure and partly by the secular sword. Thus, it will not be a victory won by the goodness of Antichrist’s cause, nor by the holy Scriptures (for by these the witnesses shall overcome and consume Antichrist) but he shall overcome them by outward force and tyranny, by the authority of Councils, by thundering out his Bulls, by cruel war and hangmen. And so, I say, he wars against the Saints, overcomes and kills them, not by arguments and Scriptures, but by sword, fire and excommunications.
And their carcasses lie in the street = This verse is to be taken spiritually, not literally, as mentioned before. By this phrase the cruelty of the Beast against the witnesses falsely condemned for heresy is hereby noted. Forasmuch as Antichrist and his Locusts shall not be satiated by simply cursing and putting the witnesses to death they shall also contumely insult them after their death! Furthermore, by this phrase is noted all kinds of inhumane treatment because to hinder the carcasses from being buried (contrary to the law of all nations) shows a degree of scorn and contempt of the most depraved kind.
The ‘carcasses’ of the witnesses are not only their bodies, unto which these things do frequently happen according to the letter literally (for the Beast will not suffer any heretic to have ‘Christian’ burial, as they call it), but it also refers to their names whom he curses, and their body of work - their books - which he prohibits to be read or sold, causing them to be burnt. And lastly, it also refers to their families whom he seeks to suppress and make infamous in the eyes of all men, so then ‘to lie in the streets’ is to be exposed to the public scorn of all men. But where shall these things be done?
In the streets of the great city = It is questioned what ‘great city’ is that of which is here spoken. Jerome take it to be the world. Ribera refutes him and will have it be Jerusalem, and for which thing Alcazar also pleads. But this is refuted by the text itself which demands a spiritual interpretation. This is also true of Rev. 17:18 where the woman is viewed as that great city who reigns over the kings of the earth. Now by ‘that great city’ is understood Rome which the Jesuits themselves confess. It is certain that in both verses the same ‘great city’ is meant.
In the streets of this great city the carcasses of the witnesses shall be exposed to the scorn of the multitude, both literally and figuratively. First, literally because the witnesses shall suffer the contumely slanders here described in the public places, courts, palaces, temples, theaters and streets of the Roman city. For the lightenings and thunders of excommunications, the martyrdoms, punishments and wars against the testimony of Jesus Christ, are all forged in the ‘shop’ of Rome, and from thence sent abroad over the entire Christian world. Now by a synecdoche the great city is to be understood as that whole jurisdiction of the Pope, extending itself over all Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Hungary, etc., as all were but one city, in whose streets and princely palaces, courts, marketplaces, ports, theater, etc., the martyrs of Christ are reproachfully defamed, cursed and condemned. Even the Jesuit Stapleton has not long ago published that by ‘the greatness of the city’ is meant the Church of Rome!
Which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt where also our Lord was crucified = By three titles this great city, the seat of the Beast, is marked out so that we may better understand its shameful filthiness, horrible idolatry, blindness, cruelty and detestable impiety.
First, Rome is called ‘Sodom,’ not literally (for Sodom was long ago consumed by fire from Heaven) but spiritually, or mystically, that is, allegorically, in a certain similitude. For the word ‘spiritually’ is not placed here in a theological sense, but a rhetorical sense. This is obvious because in a theological sense there is nothing spiritual in this city except its bare name when the Papists call it the ‘holy city,’ seat of the Roman ‘Catholic Church.’ Therefore, it is called ‘Sodom’ in a spiritual sense, metaphorically, because it is another Sodom due to the filthiness and Sodomite lust which reigns in this great city. And hence it is called the ‘Mother of Fornicators,’ in Rev. 17:5. The abominations of the Sodomites are known to us by the holy Scriptures, and the same evil was practiced by the Romans in the times of the Apostles. But John is not referring to these people. For he prophesies of a future time from his when Rome would be the seat of the Beast, afterward called ‘a woman of whoredoms.’ Therefore, she is called ‘Sodom’ since she will become most infamous for her Sodomite beastliness.
Now let us look upon the great city of the Papacy. What is it but an abominable warehouse of all spiritual and corporal fornications? In the city itself, in which is located the seat of the Beast, filthy lusts not to be named are commonly and freely committed, nourished and commended, from which monetary profit is made. If anyone doubts this, let him read histories or go to Rome himself. He shall find out the truth of the matter, the same truth about which Petrarch complained: ‘deflowering, ravishing, incests and adulteries are now but as sport to the Pontifical lasciviousness.’
There have been some authors who have even published books by the Popes’ authority which commend the unnatural villainy of Roman buggerers, though I have not seen them myself (for which I am glad). O WICKEDNESS. O SODOM.
Egypt, on the other hand, was no city, but a kingdom. From this we may infer that this great city may be understood as including the Beast’s entire kingdom. For allegorically it is ‘Egypt,’ that is, similar in many respects to Egypt - specifically, in respect to Egypt’s idolatry, blindness and cruelty. The historian, Herodotus, witnesses to the extreme superstitions of the Egyptians, worshipping oxen, cows, doves, onions, garlic and other herbs. Also, the writer, Juvenal, tells us the Egyptians were so depraved of understanding that they worshipped crocodiles, the Ibis, monkeys, fish, dogs, hogs, and onions. He is quoted as saying, “O holy nations who have their Gods growing in gardens!”
The great city of the Beast, papal Rome, commits similar depraved worship. For there is nothing which the Priests, after the example of the Egyptians, do not give religious adoration unto by their consecrations. Yea, the Beast’s idolatry is worse because of the honor given wood, stone, brass and gold, together with his breaden god, whereas the Egyptians for the most part worshipped that which breathed and was alive. Thus, the great city and seat of the Beast is ‘Egypt,’ that is, similar to Egypt by its wicked idolatry.
But it is also similar to Egypt due to its miserable blindness. For we read that the Lord on the obstinate Egyptians such darkness that for three days they groped at noonday like blind men. So the city of the Beast is a kingdom of darkness wherein miserable blindness and ignorance of the Scriptures, yea, and of God and Christ, doth extremely abound. Luther writes well, “Italy is cast into the gross darkness of Egypt, insomuch as all of them are become altogether ignorant of Christ and of the things pertaining to him.”
Briefly then, regarding the third Egyptian mark of cruelty: as ancient Egypt most cruelly oppressed the Old Testament Church, Israel, by a lamentable bondage for 225 years, even so hath the New Testament Church of long duration been burdened; yea, and yet still groans under the yoke of Antichrist and kingdom of the Beast. So therefore, this great city is properly called ‘Egypt’ because of her cruelty.
Jesuit Futurists view ‘the great city’ as Jerusalem, not Rome
Ribera and Bellarmine do pretend that the great city or seat of Antichrist is Jerusalem, not Rome. For they say, “in what city was our Lord crucified, but in Jerusalem?” But this is a vain shift, for as before the seat of Antichrist is called Sodom and Egypt not literally, but spiritually, so here it is called the city where also our Lord was crucified, that is, Jerusalem in a spiritual sense. This then is the third title of the great city.
Jerome and others dispute how it is that Christ was crucified in Egypt and how Jerusalem is called Sodom, but this is way off the mark because semantically speaking, the Greek words, ‘where also,’ refer not to Egypt, but to the ‘great city.’ So then the meaning is, ‘the great city is also called that city where our Lord was crucified, that is, Jerusalem.’
Furthermore, it will clearly appear in Chapter 17 that this great city, the seat of Antichrist, is not literally Jerusalem, for there the great city is said to have ‘seven mountains’ and to ‘reign over the kings of the earth,’ neither of which agrees literally to Jerusalem, but rather to Rome. Jerusalem has only three hills: Zion, Moriah, and Mount Calvary. Besides, it has never held a world Empire as has Rome. And it has never absolutely been called the ‘city’ or the ‘great city’ as has Rome. Thus, the Jesuits do falsely and with guile send us to Jerusalem that we might not seek Antichrist at Rome.
Furthermore, though Jerusalem crucified our Lord literally, Rome does so spiritually. Admittedly, there is nothing more cruel or ungodly then to crucify the Lord of life, but it is also an act of unmitigated cruelty to crucify Christ spiritually in His witnesses whom they killed literally. And therefore, the seat of the Beast is called ‘Jerusalem’ because of their unheard cruelty and impiety, killing the Prophets and witnesses of Christ against all right and reason; yea, not satiated with their death they have exercised all manner of contumely slanders upon their dead bodies.
Beside, they not once, but daily sacrifice, destroy, crucify and kill Christ Himself in their daily sacrifice of the Mass. Now let the Roman Locusts try to deny Rome to be spiritual Jerusalem and themselves to be crucifiers who daily crucify the Lord of life!
And after three days and a half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet = Ribera and the Papists interpret this as the miraculous restoration and glorification of the two witnesses, Enoch and Elijah. Now it is true that the vivification of the witnesses shall literally come to pass at the end of the world, yet this is not to what the Spirit refers. Instead, by this vivification is signified a perpetual restoring of witnesses unto the Church militant, i.e., that in the stead and place of those whom Antichrist puts to death, the Lord will raise up others to hold forth the testimony of Christ, who strongly oppose the Beast’s kingdom. For when Antichrist shall think that all Christ’s witnesses are suppressed, then others restored to life shall renew the battle against him. Therefore, just as Elijah was said to have lived again in John the Baptist, not by transmigration of the soul from one body into another, but in respect to the nature of his calling and office. For John came in the power and spirit of Elijah, preparing the way for Christ, as do the two witnesses.
A prime example of the fulfillment of this prophecy may be seen in the martyrdoms of John Huss and Jerome of Prague, both killed by the Beast. They lived again after 3 ½ days in the likes of Luther, Melanchthon, John Calvin, Peter Martyr and others. At the stake Huss is quoted as prophesying, “At the end of one hundred years ye shall answer to God and to me. Now indeed ye burn a Goose, but out of his ashes shall arise a swan which ye shall not be able to roast.” Foretelling that which afterward came to pass, it was one hundred years later that Luther began to oppose the Popish pardons, which was the beginning of the Reformation and the bringing down of Popery.
This restoring of the witnesses to live again serves for the consolation of the Church militant, seeing there shall always (notwithstanding all Antichristian persecution) be some faithful professors of the truth who shall strongly fight for the glory of Christ. Thus, if Antichrist kills the two witnesses, God will again revive them, making them to stand upon their feet, by raising up others in their place.
The fact that the witnesses are glorified serves also to comfort us. For to whom Antichrist shall deny the fellowship of men, God will vouchsafe a heavenly fellowship. And as many witnesses as Antichrist shall exclude out of the world, God will receive into Paradise. Those whom Antichrist will not admit to be honorably buried, those God will crown with the glory of everlasting life.
And they ascended up into heaven in a cloud = This is said after Christ’s example, who also ascended to Heaven in a cloud. ‘Clouds’ are often called ‘God’s chariots.’ This glorification of the martyrs serves for their honor and credit. For the Lord will wonderfully preserve their doctrine, though condemned as heretical by Antichrist, propagating it far and near, despite the power of the adversary to the contrary. Thus, the world shall know that they were no deceivers, but the true witnesses of Jesus Christ. Here we see the Spirit animate the professors of the Gospel, lest being terrified by the tyranny of Antichrist they should be remiss in their prophesying.
And the seventh angel sounded = John Foxe, Bullinger, Marlorate and the rest of our Reformed interpreters (with only a few exceptions) acknowledge that the seventh trumpet is the messenger of the last day in which the kingdoms of the adversaries are overthrown and abolished, Christ restores His Kingdom, casts the wicked into eternal punishment, while receiving the elect into endless glory. This exposition appears to be correct when compared with Rev. 10:7, where we see Christ, the strong angel, expressly swearing that when the seventh angel begins to sound the mystery of God would be finished. Then shall be the time of God’s wrath and the judgment of the dead, when the martyrs, Prophets and servants of Christ may receive an eternal reward for their labors, and the wicked, who destroyed the earth, perish forever and ever. Many of the ancient commentators such as Andreas, Bede, Primasius, and others, follow this opinion.
The ‘third woe’ then contains God’s horrible judgments which, in the last day, shall be universally poured out upon all wicked men, adversaries, tyrants, heretics, hypocrites, as well as Antichrist and his Locusts. The seventh angel is none other than the Archangel, the publisher of Christ’s coming with a shout and great voice. The seventh trumpet is that last trumpet of God with which Christ shall descend from Heaven, calling both living and dead to judgment, 1 Thess.4:16; 1 Cor. 15:52.
 Pareus believed he lived in the age of the 5th and 6th Trumpets, the times of Antichrist’s reign in the professing Church.
 Pareus prefers the reading ‘within,’ but acknowledges other manuscripts read it as ‘without,’ including the Latin Vulgate and Rheims New Testament. However, he says regarding the reading ‘within,’ ‘The most exact copies, both greater and lesser of Robert Stephanus imprinted at Paris have it, and so Luther also renders it.’ [Ed. note: Tyndale reads it ‘within.’ The Geneva Bible reads it ‘without.’]
 The three days preceding Ash Wednesday.
 The three days before Ascension Day, which commemorates Christ’s ascension.
 I.e., Dan. 7:7-8.
 I.e., Dan. 7:20.
 I.e., Rev. 17:16.
 I.e., Rev. 17:9.
 I.e., Rev. 13:3-4.
 An allusion, perhaps, to John 2:19; or, perhaps, to the last half of the 70th week of Daniel; or, perhaps, it is a typo and should be rendered as ‘years.’
 Perhaps the ‘secret’ Rapture theory was devised as a way to eliminate the unlikelihood of Christians being seduced by the Antichrist.
 1 Thess. 5:1-3.
 Pareus uses universal laws of logic.
 Bullinger and others felt the 42 months was impossible to define, and so left the time of Antichrist’s reign an open question. He began the reign of Antichrist at the year 666, but would not hold firm to his demise 1260 years later because that would mean we could calculate a date for the Lord’s Second Advent, which is not scriptural.
 Wisely, Pareus was correct in not being dogmatic with his theory because nearly 150 years has since transpired and Christ has not yet returned to destroy the Antichrist.
 Hal Lindsey claims that TV has the capability of bringing the event to the world.
 A Roman Catholic who denied transubstantiation, called the Papacy the ‘seat of Satan,’ and is viewed a heretic by his Church. Reformer Flacius Illyricus viewed him as a Witness for the Truth in his Catalogue.
 Jeremiah 5:14 and 23:29.
 Numbers 16:35.
 2 Kings 1:9.
 Luke 9:54.
 1 Kings 17:1.
 I.e., the dead in Christ who will rise at Christ’s Second Coming, receiving at that time their glorified bodies.
 Meaning a relatively short period of time in God’s view, though it was literally one hundred years later that Luther arose.
 The name ‘Huss’ translates to ‘goose’ in his native language.
 Indulgences whereby for money pardons for sins could be bought.