THAT which the old Testament foretold of Christ himself, the Apostles could report the fulfilling thereof in the new Testament, by way of an historie, euen from his Conception to his Glorification. But of his Church, they could not doe the like: because in their time it did but begin: being to continue long after them, euen to the end of the world, and then at length to be glorified, as Christ her Spouse al-readie is. Hereupon God would haue S. Luke to report in the Actes of the Apostles the storie of the Churches beginning, and for the rest of it to the end, (that we might receiue this benefit also by the Apostles hands) he would S. Iohn to tel vs of it in this booke by way of a prophecie.
Hier. ad Paulin. Of which booke S. Hierome saith: The Apocalypse of S. Iohn hath as many sacraments or mysteries, as words. Yea more then that, In euery word there are hid manifold and sundrie senses. Therfore it is very litle that can here be noted, in respect. Yet to giue the good Catholike (whose comfort is here) some litle help, the booke may be deuided into fiue partes.
1. part. The Ca. 1. 2. 3. first (after the Proœme) conteineth seuen Epistles from Christ now in glorie, to seuen Churches of Asia, or (for, these he maketh al one) to the seuen Bishops of those Churches: meaning not to those only, but to al his Churches and Bishops through-out the world: saying therfore in euery one of them, to al in general: He that hath an eare, let him heare what the Spirit saith to the Churches. As also in euery one he exhorteth vs to fight manfully (in this spiritual warfare of ours against sinne) for the victorie, and in euery one accordingly promiseth vs a reward in Heauen. But before this, in the beginning of euery one, he partly commendeth, partly reprehendeth, and exhorteth to penance. Where this is much to be noted and feared, that among so many, he reproueth some-what in al, saue only in two, which are the second & the sixt. In the beginning also of euery one, he taketh some peece out of the apparition going before, to frame thereof his style agreably to the matter of each Epistle.
2. After Ca. 4. to the 8. this admonition to Pastours and their flocks, the second part followeth, wherein the Church and whole course thereof from the beginning to the end, is expressed in the opening of a booke in God's hand, and the seuen seales thereof, by Christ. For the which, he seeth praise sung now in Heauen and earth, not only to the Godhead, as before, but also (after a new manner) to Christ according to his Manhood. And here, when he is come to the opening of the last seale, signifying Domes-day, he letteth that matter alone for a while, and to speake more fully yet of the said course of the Church, he bringeth in another pagent (as it were) of seuen Angels with seuen Trumpets. Ca. 8. to the 12. The effect of both the Seales and Trumpets, is this: That the Church beginning and proceeding, there should be raised against it, cruel persecutions, and pestilent heresies: and at length after al heresies, a certaine most blasphemous Apostasie, being the next preparatiue to the comming of Antichrist: After al which, Antichrist himself in person shal appeare in the time of the sixt seale, and sixt trumpet, persecuting and seducing (for the short time of his reigne) more then al before him. The Church notwithstanding shal stil continue, and wade through al, because Christ her Sponse is stronger then al these aduersaries. Who also straight after the sayd sixt time, shal in the seuenth come in maiestie and iudge al.
C. 12. 13. 14. 3. Of the which iudgement, differring yet a while to speake at large, he doth first in the third part intreat more fully of the Diuels working by Antichrist and his companie against the Church, that the iustice of Christ afterward in iudging, may be more manifest.
C. 15. to the 21. 4. At length therefore in the fourth part he commeth to the seuen last plagues, the seuenth of them conteining the final damnation of the whole multitude, societie or corps of the wicked, from the beginning of the world to the end. Which multitude, in the Ghospel and first Epistle of this same S. Iohn (as also in the other Scriptures commonly) is often called Mundus, the world. and here he calleth it partly, Meretricem, a whore or harlot, because with her concupiscence she entiseth the carnal and earthly men away from God: partly, Ciuitatem Babylon, the Citie of Babylon, because it maketh warre against Hierusalem the Citie of God, and laboureth to hold God's people captiue in sinne, as it was shadowed in Nabuchodonosor and his Babylonians, leading and holding the Iewes with their Hierusalem, in captiuitie, vntil Cyrus (in figure of Christ) deliuered them. 1. Io. 2.
Apoc. 17. But whether al these seuen plagues should be vnderstood (as the seuenth) of Domes-day it-self, it is hard to define. More like it is, that the first sixe are to goe before Domes-day: but whether corporally and literally, (so as Moyses plagued Egypt) or rather spiritually, it is more hard to define. Yet it seemeth more easie, to vnderstand them corporally, as also the plagues where with Elias and his fellow shal in the time of Antichrist plague the wicked (which peraduenture shal be the same last plagues) whereof we read in this booke c. 11. v. 6. But not content to haue described thus the damnation of the whole adulterous & blouldy societie, he doth also expresly report of their three grand Captaines damnation, which are these, Antichrist, and his False-prophet, and the Diuel himself the Authour of al this michiefe.
C. 21. 22. 5. Finally, on the other side, in the fifth part he reporteth the vnspeakeable and euerlasting glorie, that the Church after al this suffering, shal by Christ her glorious Spouse be assumpted vnto. And so he concludeth the booke.