Revelation’s Utility, Difficulty, and Scope

3. Since many judge of this book less candidly and piously than Castalio, and think it, because they understand not the whole, to be entirely useless, and suppose all the studies into it to be superfluous, it will be suitable here to discuss the use and excellence of the Apocalypse in a few words.]  The utility of this book is enormous and exceptional (Pererius, Cluverus), and above (as Jerome says) all praise (Cluverus), as Revelation 1:3 and 22:7 teach (Cluverus, similarly Pererius).  No book was ever written with greater skill, with each and every word, as if in two scales, weighed (More’s Synchronistic Rationale of the Apocalyptic Visions[1] 5:15:181).  The use of this book is, either, 1.  common with the other books of Sacred Scripture, for this book prescribes and inculcates the principles and duties of the whole faith and life (Cluverus’ Apocalyptic Dawn 10), and exhibits a most perfect body of Divinity (Cotterius’ Exposition of the Apocalypse “Prolegomena” 14) [concerning which see Cotterius].  Here it is taught concerning the divine authority and excellence of the Sacred Scriptures, Revelation 1:2, 3, 11; 10:7; etc.; that God is one, and to be worshipped alone, Revelation 4:8, etc.; 5:13, etc.; but that Angels are not to be adored, Revelation 19:10; 22:9; that God is the beginning and the end, the creator and preserver, of all things, Revelation 1:8; 4:11; 5:13; etc.; that the true God is one and triune, Revelation 1:4, 5, the Father, and Christ, Revelation 1:8, 11, 17; 2:8, 23; 3:14; 17:14; 19:12, etc., and the Holy Spirit, Revelation 2:7, 11; 3:1, 6; 4:5, 8, etc.; that the Son of God is very man, Revelation 1:5; 5:5; 22:16; that all men by nature are blind, corrupt and miserable, Revelation 1:17; 3:17; 5:4; but that they are justified freely, and cleansed from sins by the blood of the Lamb, Revelation 1:5, 6; 3:18; 5:9; 7:14, etc.; that Christ is the firstborn from the dead, Revelation 1:5, living forever, Revelation 1:18, the high priest, Revelation 1:5, 6, 13, Prophet, Revelation 2:1, 16; 5:5; 19:11, King, Revelation 1:5, 13; 7:17; 19:12, 15, etc.; that the Kingdom of Christ is spiritual, Revelation 3:18, 20; 20:4-6; that God makes use of Teachers and ministers in the Church, Revelation 1:16, 20; 2:1, 18; etc.; that the duty of Magistrates and Kings is to acknowledge, etc., Christ as King, Revelation 17:16, 17; 21:24; that it is the virtue of the pious to follow Christ in all things, Revelation 14:4, 5, 7, to avoid idolatry, hypocrisy, scandals, etc., Revelation 2:14, 20; 3:1, 15; etc.; and that rewards are reserved for the pious, punishments for the impious, both of this and of the future age, Revelation 2:22; 3:10; 11:11; etc.  Or, 2.  the use is proper and singular, common with few or no books of the Scripture (Cluverus),  to describe all the progress of the Church, and nearly all the eminent situations and events, both prosperous and adverse, which were going to be in the several ages of the Church from its rising unto the setting of the same in the earth, as if to show it on a tower and in one glance:  so that out of such foresight they might have a prepared and fortified soul for suffering evils (Pererius):  so that Atheists, and Jews, and all others, while Paganism, Turkism, and Idolatry might appear to prevail in the earth, might know that nothing of these happens which, previously and clearly foreseen, was not here predicted by God; and thence they are compelled to acknowledge the Providence of God, and the fidelity and vigilance of the Messiah, over His Church (More’s Synchronistic Rationale of the Apocalyptic Visions 198).  Moreover, this book is a clear mirror in which all Christians contemplate equally the Apostasy of the Church, and the way unto its renewal; and at the same time they might learn whether they might thoroughly emerge from that Apostasy, or whether they might remain in it for a certain time, etc. (More’s Synchronistic Rationale of the Apocalyptic Visions 199).  For here the mystery of Antichristian impiety is treated clearly and fully; and the Kingdom of Antichrist, its innate character, place, subordinates and assistants, are accurately described.  Finally, in this book the Temple or Mosaic Tabernacle, and various histories, prophecies, and mysteries of the Old Testament, are studiously inculcated and skillfully explained.  We have illustrious prophecies, for example, Revelation 1:4 and 4:5, 6 concerning the seven lamps and eyes of Zechariah 3:9 and 4:2; Revelation 1:7 concerning that lamentation of Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 2:7, 14, 17 concerning Paradise and the tree of life, concerning Balaam and Balac, concerning Manna; and Revelation 3:5 concerning the book of life; and in other places of this book concerning the key of David,[2] concerning the pillars of the temple,[3] concerning the root of David,[4] concerning Michael the Archangel,[5] and concerning other things a great many:  whence it is apparent that the Apocalypse presents shining testimonies, both for itself and the rest of the Scriptures, of its divine origin (Cluverus).  [Let those who think all labor expended in the study and interpretation of this book to be poorly placed now go and judge more justly, modestly, and reverently.  But the obscurity of the book appears to hinder this study.  In the fourth place, it is to be treated concerning this matter.]  That this book is most obscure all admit, and the matter itself speaks (Pererius).  The cause of which is, 1.  the sublimity of it; 2.  that it is full of symbols and enigmas (Lapide), and its words cannot generally be taken literally, and the visions and images appear to be able to be applied agreeably to many things; 3.  because all Prophecy, says Irenæus, is an enigma before it is fulfilled,[6] as it is evident in the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning Messiah, etc.; but God willed that these prophecies remain hidden until the time of fulfillment, either because it was not fitting that holy things be given to dogs, etc., or because it was not expedient for them to be understood; namely, lest those, against whom many things are predicted in them, be exceedingly provoked, and rage more violently against the people of God (Pererius); or, so that by this method He might stir diligence of attention and examination (Gomar).  God wraps these mysteries in the obscure enigmas of types, 1.  because the mysteries, oracles and Prophecies, for the sake of authority and reverence, ought to be handled mystically:  2.  because with respect to such they were both delighted and accustomed, as the Jews from the style of the Prophets, so also the Gentiles, who also have their own mysteries, oracles, bipods, cauldrons, etc., lest they should think that the Church of Christ to be destitute of all oracles:  3.  because He willed to look after our hunger, so that there might always be something for us to learn, lest we slight the material, despising its ease (Apocalyptic Harmony):  4.  lest these things be disclosed to those other than the servants of God, so that strangers from the covenant, hearing all things in similitudes, might not hear, etc., Mark 4:12 (Cotterius).  Yet this obscurity of the book ought to acquire for it, not contempt, but rather veneration:  and concerning this it could aptly be said what Socrates said concerning the book of Heraclitus,[7] Those things which I understood appeared to me very noble and illustrious, but I believe that what things I did not understand are most excellent.[8]  Knowingly, prudently, and piously Dionysius says, Therefore, I do not reject the Apocalypse because I do not understand it, but I admire it all the more, and suppose that there is a certain more recondite meaning in the words, etc. (Pererius).  Moreover, there are certain things, scattered throughout the entire context, spoken most clearly, and others things intelligible through repetition, from which those abstruse things are able to be searched out, in such a way that to the reader, not obstinate, but candid, it would suffice (Cluverus):  certain things are explained here with sufficient clarity (Gomar), and it is not very difficult to explain many things (Pererius).  And, in general, this prophecy is not inexplicable (Cluverus, similarly Pererius, More’s Works 37), as it is easily proven, 1.  from the promise to the readers, etc., and the blessing, Revelation 1:3:  2.  from the repeated exhortations to consider it, etc., as in Revelation 13:9, 18; 17:9; etc.:  3.  because God did not will that it should be hidden from mortals, but He commanded it to be promulgated and disclosed, Revelation 1:11; 10:11; and He prohibited its sealing, Revelation 22:10.  John received from the Angel the little book no longer sealed, but already opened by the Lamb, Revelation 5:5, 9; 10:2, 8.  For as a book is said to be sealed which is not able to be understood, as in Isaiah 29:11, 12; Daniel 8:26; 12:4, 9; so also on the other hand unsealed, the sentence of which is able to be observed.  4.  From the end of the Divine counsel, which is by no means frustrated.  This was that coming things might be revealed to His servants, Revelation 1:1; 22:6, 16 (Cluverus’ Apocalyptic Dawn 20).  And that the intelligibility of the Apocalyptic prophecies was open and undeniable, it is able to be demonstrated from matters most well known and generally admitted (More’s Works 37).  [Now, you will see the demonstration in the Reverend Author, chapter 7.]  Neither are supports wanting, with which we enter upon the understanding of the more obscure figures, which sort are, as history and experience, so also especially the prophetic Scriptures; so that we might compare the Apocalyptic types with the visions and phrases of the old Prophets, etc. (Pareus).  [The remaining things will be evident from things to be said.  These things concerning the fourth question.  5.  It is to be inquired concerning the scope or end of this book.]  It was, partly, 1.  Prophetic, concerning those things which were going to happen after the advent of Christ, whether only a few ages, or unto the second advent of Christ (Apocalyptic Harmony); so that He might reveal beforehand all the progress of the Church from its beginning unto the completion of the same in the earth, or unto the end of the world (Pererius):  partly, 2.  διδακτικὸς/ didactic, and consolatory, so that by these visions John himself, the Asiatic Churches and all others, are refreshed, and are not terrified by the evils about to come upon the world, and are roused unto perseverance and patience; and so that they would not promise to themselves a worldly kingdom, but would rather prepare themselves for the cross (Apocalyptic Harmony), and by the hope of a blessed immortality would rightly undertake life, etc. (Cotterius’ Exposition of the Apocalypse 35).

[1] Visionum Apocalypticarum Ratio Synchronistica.

[2] Revelation 3:7.

[3] Revelation 3:12.

[4] Revelation 5:5; 22:16.

[5] Revelation 12:7.

[6] Against Heresies 4:26:1.

[7] Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535-475) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher.  At the root of his philosophy is the doctrine of the ceaseless change of the universe; however, this constant flux is governed by law, or logos (the reason in things).  Among the ancients, he was known for his obscurity of expression.  It is said that his book, On Nature, was deposited in the great temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

[8] Diogenes Lærtius’ Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers 2:22.

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