Revelation’s Time, Form and Method, and Argument

[8. It is to be inquired concerning the time of writing.]  The Apocalypse was written in the fourteenth year of the reign of Domitian;[1] when he was banished unto the island of Patmos, there he wrote it (Ribera, similarly Pererius, Lapide, Apocalyptic Harmony).  Thus Irenæus’ Against Heresies 5, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 3:18, Jerome on the life of John:[2]  Nicephorus’[3] Ecclesiastical History[4] 2:24; 3:9 (Ribera).  Indeed, John afterwards wrote the Gospel, having returned from exile on Patmos, as Jerome, Eusebius, Augustine, etc., relate; and he died two years after.  Hence it is apparent that the Apocalypse was not written before the destruction of Jerusalem, as Johannes Annius,[5] Salmeron,[6] and Hentenius[7] maintain, but a long time after that (Lapide).  [Others think otherwise:]  The Apocalypse was written, not in the time of Domitian, but of Claudius Cæsar,[8] as Epiphanius expressly says (Hammond’s Annotations upon the New Testament “Preface”):  concerning which Reverend Hammond has here many things [which things and others to the same purpose let the reader seek in the things to be Noted on Revelation 13 or 17.  9.  It is to be seen concerning the form and method of the Apocalypse.]  Indeed, the form appears Epistolary.  For it has an Epistolary ἐπιγραφὴν/ inscription and ὑπογραφὴν/outline, and it is concluded with the Epistolary prayer common to the Apostles:  also all the acts of the first vision are ἐπιστολικά/epistolary.  But what things follow after the fourth chapter, where the second vision (which is the first prophetic vision) begins, unto the end plainly have a Dramatic form:  whence the Apocalypse is truly able to be called a Prophetic Drama.  For, as in a Tragedy, to depict matters conducted through diverse scenes some persons come forth into the theatre after others, and withdraw again, likewise various choruses of musicians or singers distinguish the acts.  The same also is done here, etc.  Which those that do not observe wonder what so many hymns signify, what the so often repeated φαινόμενα/ appearances of Angels, the Beast, Babylon, the Final judgment, etc., and they contrive anticipations, recapitulations, etc. (Pareus’ Commentary upon the Divine Revelation of St. John “Proœm” 8).  Now, in the individual visions (but I speak of the six prophetic visions) there is to be a prudent discrimination between the dramatic and prophetic.  I call Dramatic both the introductory things and preparations of the visions, as in Revelation 1:9-20; 4; 5; 8:1-6; 15, and the choruses of the twenty-four elders, and of the four living creatures, and of the Angels, etc., and their prayers, hymns, ἐπινίκια, triumphal odes.  All which things properly regard decorum.  However, I call Prophetic those parts or figures of the visions, by which future events are represented (Pareus’ Commentary upon the Divine Revelation of St. John “Proœm” 10).  Indeed, all the Visions, except the first two, generally have three Acts:  1.  the Tragic ills of the Church; 2.  liberation; 3.  ἐπινίκιον, a triumphal ode, and δοξολογίαν/ doxology (Apocalyptic Harmony).  [10.  It is to be treated of the Argument, or substance, and the division or parts, of this Book.]  1.  This is a representation of future events, not likewise of past events, which are nevertheless sprinkled repeatedly among the future events, with the rationale of the visions so requiring, namely, Revelation 12:1, 2; 17:8, 10; 20.  2.  The Apocalypse is not, as it could seem, one continuous vision, but several, namely, seven distinct visions.  For it is apparent that John was seized by the Spirit several times, neither did he see all things in one place, but some on Patmos,[9] some in heaven,[10] some near the shore of the sea,[11] some in the desert,[12] some finally in a high mountain.[13]  Now, the latter visions are clearer here than the former (Pareus’ Commentary upon the Divine Revelation of St. John “Proœm” 9:36).  3.  The Apocalypsis is nothing other than a commentary on those words of Christ in Matthew 24:3-13 and in Luke 21:25-27.  And thus chapter 20 of this Book is concluded with a prophecy of the final judgment.  But the two final chapters contain the blessedness of the saints after the judgment (Ribera).  4.  The one sequential history of the Church from beginning unto end is continued in this Book (certain interpreters in Pareus’ Commentary upon the Divine Revelation of St. John 37).  That explanation is most certain, which seizes the beginning of the predicted events from the very vision of John, and then progresses by order through the ages following upon the vision unto the very end of the age.  Which thus is demonstrated:  1.  Out of Revelation 4:1, I will show to thee what things are necessary to be done hereafter.  Now, that neatly arranged structure of events is loosened, if what future things are shown to him, either already previously happened, or were not immediately connected to those present events, which had preceded, but are understood to be following finally after many years.  2.  Otherwise the evidence and certitude of the sense will be imperiled.  For if the first alteration, which followed the vision of the Apostle, remarkable and singular among the events of the Church or of the world, God did not foretell, whence will it be apparent that the second or third has been foretold?  3.  The context itself argues an ordered series of times, and of events succeeding themselves.  First, the seals are opened in order, which open the more general oracles about to come upon the entire world.  Next, with the last seal opened, seven Trumpet Angels come forth, proclaiming certain singular judgments of Christ, and remarkable alterations of the Church and world; and under each the plagues are made worse and worse.  And they are nowhere called the last plagues, except finally in Revelation 15 and 16 under the seven vials, which are comprehended in the space of the blast of the seventh trumpet, since during it the end is predicted to be, Revelation 10:6.  Finally, particles of order are inserted repeatedly into the Book. Hereafter, afterwards, finally…I saw, etc., and one vision is always brought out from the other.  Therefore, the visions are not to be mixed, as if the same things were contained in the first and last visions, or what things were previously completed were related later.  Yet I desire not all repetitions and explications to be removed.  For in Revelation 11, 12, and 20, where new visions are begun, certain succinct recapitulations are inserted, by which, on account of the necessary perspicuity of the sense, the occasion and preparation for those things to be done, which properly ought to be explained by the visions, is set down before, and is recalled out of the preceding age (Cluverus’ Apocalyptic Dawn 2:3:22).  There are those that maintain that the first ages of the Church, and the war of the Church with the Synagogue and Paganism are treated separately, and think that the triumph over both enemies is treated, at least from Revelation 5 to 20.  Thus Alcasar[14] (Cluverus’ Apocalyptic Dawn 28, similarly Lapide) [whose opinion Cluverus in this place refutes, which nevertheless some others follow, as we shall hereafter see in its own place.]  From Revelation 6 to 12, they maintain that the abrogation of the Synagogue and Judaism is treated:  from there unto Revelation 20, the ruin of Paganism and the reign of the Church.  Thus Salmeron and Alcasar.  But this opinion, 1.  is new and singular; 2.  makes history out of prophecy, and supposes that John wished to describe an event which happened twenty-five years earlier and was well-known, namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, and that by an obscure and continual enigma; 3.  wrests a great many passages of the Apocalypse, which most clearly speak of most recent times (Lapide).  [Others, therefore, think otherwise:]  The general argument of the Apocalypse consists in two things.  It forewarns the Church concerning approaching calamities, and fortifies it against those with consolations.  The individual visions treat the same (Pareus Commentary upon the Divine Revelation of St. John “Proœm” 10:40).  Now, all the visions represent the same period of the Church and of Ecclesiastical history, as the description of the final judgment, so often repeated, clearly demonstrates.  Yet not all represent the whole; but some the whole, others certain definite intervals.  Also they represent the same period, but now in one way and now in another, according to more eminent histories, now one and now another, and that with various and clearer figures.  The universal visions, or those representing the whole, are four, concerning the seven seals; concerning the seven trumpets; concerning the woman in labor; concerning the Dragon bound and loosed, etc.  But the particular visions, whether they shadow forth later intervals of the whole period, or the tragedy, advance and ruin of Antichrist, are two:  concerning the seven vials; and concerning the judgment of the great harlot, the ruin of Babylon and Antichrist (Pareus’ Commentary upon the Divine Revelation of St. John “Proœm” 9:37).  But that all the visions are ended with the type of the final judgment, which Pareus maintains, I utterly deny.  For, if it be so, what use was it to reserve the figure of that judgment unto the end of the Book?  And if the third Woe includes the eternal punishments of the impious, why in Revelation 15 and 16 are they in the end commemorated as the final plagues, since there are none later than the last plagues of gehenna?  Then, if an undoubted figure of the final judgment will appear to close the vision, this will be done in Revelation 6:12, etc., which nevertheless Pareus explains otherwise.  And why would he not do the same in the individual ones (Cluverus’ Apocalyptic Dawn 23)?  Others:  The Apocalypse is an uninterrupted order of speech describing what things were done thence from the time of the Apostles, and will be done onward unto the end of the world.  He confirms this, 1.  as the genius of the other Scriptures, which all proceed from the beginning, through the middle, unto the end:  2.  because the fourth part of the Earth is injured, Revelation 6:8; the third part, Revelation 8; the whole body, Revelation 16.  Who does not see the order?  3.  The mention of the last plague, Revelation 15:1.  Therefore, what things precede in the book, also precede in time.  This observation is of the greatest utility.  If this be true, on what basis are the vials of Revelation 16 confused with the trumpets of Revelation 8 and 9?  Let us approach closer to the matter.  The Apocalypse begins, Revelation 1.  It is written to the Churches, Revelation 2 and 3.  The Old Testament, Revelation 4.  The New Testament, Revelation 5.  The events begin, Revelation 6 and 7.  They proceed, Revelation 8-11.  The same things are related more extensively, Revelation 12-14.  The Apocalypse is moved forward, Revelation 15 and 16.  With the argument repeated more profusely, Revelation 17, 18, and the first part of 19.  Thence unto Revelation 22 all things are reconsidered.  You see a continuous series.  Moreover, the Apocalypse (strange but true, let me say) is twofold at least, as the twofold epilogue or conclusion relates; indeed threefold, 1.  Expanded, which embraces all things, and concerning them explains most plainly, which, beginning with chapter 4, extends unto Revelation 19:9.  2.  Contracted, which repeats those things more concisely and compactly, in the remaining part of Revelation 19.  3.  Restricted, of which the argument is narrower, and the narrowest, Revelation 21 and part of 22.  In these individuals, moreover, there are classes.  I call a class a series of events, conjoined by the order of succession, and limited by a certain, perfect number.  We have acknowledged classes in the seals, trumpets, vials:  which, therefore, were revealed so that from them we might be led unto others.  Therefore, whatever is contained in chapter 4, and thence unto chapter 22, either is part of a class, or pertains to a class; either, 1.  in the place of a prelude, as in the vials, which begin in chapter 16, although you have παρασκευαστικῶς, by way of preparation, concerning them in chapter 15, and in chapter 16, where before the seventh poured vial we are advised, verse 15, concerning the last day, which will soon be revealed:  or, 2.  in the place of an appendix, as in Revelation 16:14, 16 and 19:9 (Cotterius’ Exposition of the Apocalypse 20, etc.).  Others:  There are those that interpret the Apocalypse to no purpose, as if the events everywhere succeed each other in the same order and series as the Visions.  For here there are many Synchronisms (Mede’s The Key of Revelation in his Works 2:536).  [Concerning which it is here briefly to be explained.]  Those things are synchronous which, beginning from the same time, and thence continuing in unbroken succession, end at the same time.  Now, it is much to be observed that the beginnings and endings of the Synchronous Visions do not require to be understood precisely and Mathematically, so that they might be circumscribed on the hour, day, or year; but are to be taken with greater latitude and are to be defined according to the nature of the Vision out of the circumstances of the Histories.  Thus the beginning or Epoch of the Beast, which was and was not and yet is, coincides with that time in which the ten Kings begin their reign, Revelation 17:12, which was done by degrees, and extended unto a succession of several years (More’s Synchronistic Rationale of the Apocalyptic Visions 1).  Now, the principal thread of the Series and Order of the Apocalyptic Visions is to be established without controversy as the Vision of the seven Seals, which advances directly and plainly from the beginning unto the end of the Apocalyptic course.  For it is apparent that the Vision of Revelation 6:1 is the beginning of the events to be foretold, and that the rest of the Seals follow in their own order.  And hence, since immediately after the opening of the seventh Seal, in Revelation 8:1, the Vision of the seven trumpet Angels is exhibited, it is plain that that very Vision is the Vision of the seventh Seal, and that space of time of the seventh Seal is divided in this manner into seven parts, which are able to be called the times or intervals of the seven Trumpets.  Moreover, the seventh Trumpet (the time of which no one doubted to extend all the way to the end of the World, especially if one rightly understands that passage in Revelation 10:5) is divided into the intervals of the seven Thunders, for these are commemorated as if immediately following the sixth Trumpet.  Whence this manifest Tripartition of this entire, Principal thread of the Apocalyptic Visions arises, namely, in the first six Seals, in the first six Trumpets, and in the seven Thunders (More’s Synchronistic Rationale of the Apocalyptic Visions 2:18).  Now, the Thunders are able to have this use among others, that they are distinct Intervals, to which as many Principal Antisynchronous Visions in the Prophecy of the open Book, might correspond; this I think that hardly anyone will doubt; namely, if as many Visions, advancing in one series from the Beginning of this Interval unto the end, are able to be found in this Prophecy also.  Which indeed I doubt not at all that I have found.  Now, they are, 1.  The pouring out of the seven Vials, five or six of which some gather under the sixth Trumpet, but I would prefer that all be gathered within the seventh Trumpet.  2.  The descent of the New Jerusalem from heaven.  3.  The Millennial Kingdom of Christ on the earth, etc.  4.  The loosing of Satan.  5.  The siege of the beloved city by Gog and Magog.  6.  The advent of Christ unto judgment.  7.  The burning of the earth.  These are the seven principal Antisynchronisms directly corresponding by a reasonable step to the seven Thunders (More’s Synchronistic Rationale of the Apocalyptic Visions 5).  [As far as the special Synchronisms, concerning which the Reverend Mede here treats in his Key, and More in his Synchronistic Rationale of the Apocalyptic Visions, those I cast back to the proper places of each.]  It is a matter most worthy of observation, that the entire Apocalypse from the fourth chapter forward is divided into two Principal Prophecies, each of which proceeds from the same Epoch and beginnings, as it were, and arrives at the same end.  The first is of the Seals, and in those the Trumpets; for the seventh Seal is the Seal of the Trumpets, because the seven trumpet Angels follow the opening of that.  The other Prophecy (or if you prefer, System of Prophetic Visions) is τοῦ βιβλαριδίου, of the little roll, or of the open Book, which Prophecy, commencing from the same beginning, reviews the times of the former Prophecy, which is of the Seals, from Revelation 10:8 unto the end of the Book.  And this repetition of the Prophecy is indicated by that Transition in Revelation 10:11.  Moreover, near the individual beginnings of both of these, likewise also of the first Vision of all concerning the seven Churches, as if of three entire Prophecies, a voice as of a Trumpet is raised, namely, of the first, Revelation 1:10, of the second, Revelation 4:1, of the third, Revelation 10:8, as if the Holy Spirit desired to distinguish by this sign from the rest of the Prophecies, the portions of these principal Prophecies, in which you will see no such thing done (Mede’s The Key of Revelation 528).  Some are amazed that no certain Epoch (as in the Prophecy of Daniel 9:24) is appointed by the Holy Spirit to the Apocalyptic Prophecies; but that it is uncertain whence it is to be begun, whether from the Nativity of Christ, or from His Passion in 33 AD, or indeed from the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, or finally from the time of this Revelation made to John, suppose 94 AD.  But to me the Holy Spirit appears to have prefixed the Epoch, and that especially agreeable to the matters, and expecially suitable to the place (More’s Synchronistic Rationale of the Apocalyptic Visions 6:34), namely, Revelation 17 (More, similarly Mede’s The Key of Revelation 537), which contains the key, as it were, of this whole structure of Prophecies (More’s Synchronistic Rationale of the Apocalyptic Visions 6:34):  which alone of all the Visions the Angel interprets contrary to his custom, so that by it an entrance might be opened to the rest (Mede’s The Key of Revelation 537).  This Epoch is very useful, for it denotes those time in which the Church begins to apostatize unto Idolatrous and Pagan Rites, concerning which times it was of especial interest that Christians be warned.  Now, this Epoch has a sufficiently wide latitude, for this Apostasy gradually came on and emerged, namely, during the space in which the ten Kings took their kingdoms, as it is plainly signified in Revelation 17:12, which began in 365 AD, that ominous year and extraordinary on account of the great earthquake, etc., and ended in 455 AD (More).

[1] Circa 95 AD.

[2] In De Viris Illustribus, the ninth chapter of which treats the life of John.

[3] Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos was a fourteenth century Greek ecclesiastical historian.

[4] Historia Ecclesiastica.

[5] Johannes Annius of Viterbo (c. 1432-1502) was an Italian Dominican theologian, who served as papal theologian.  He was the author of Antiquitates, a collection of historical texts, some of which were forged.  He published Glosa super Apocalypsim.

[6] Alfonso Salmeron (1515-1585) was a Spanish Jesuit and biblical scholar.  He wrote Præludia in Apocalypsin.

[7] Johannes Hentenius (1499-1566) was a Flemish Dominican and biblical scholar.  He produces a Latin edition of Arethas’ Commentary on the Apocalypse.

[8] Claudius (10 BC-54 AD) reigned from 41 to 54.

[9] Revelation 1:9.

[10] Revelation 4:1.

[11] Revelation 13:1.

[12] Revelation 17:3.

[13] Revelation 21:10.

[14] Luis de Alcasar (1554-1613) is said to be the forerunner of modern preterism.  He spent forty years writing Vestigatio Arcani Sensus in Apocalypsi, a massive, nine hundred page commentary on Revelation.

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