Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/667

This page needs to be proofread.




loopiinl. llie third beast of Daniel (vii, 6); it had feet like a bear, the secoiul beast of Daniel (vii, r>); and teeth like a lion, the first beast of Daniel (vii, 4). The great dragon gives full power unto the beiust, where- upon all the world worship it (viz. those whose names are not contained in the book of the lamb). The followers of the beast have its mark on their head and hand. The beast from the land luus two horns like a ram. Its power lies in its art of deceiving by means of token.s and miracles. Throughout the re- mainder of the book it is called the false prophet. Its office is to;i,ssist the beast from the sea, and to induce men to adore its image. The first act of the drama concludes with a promise of victory over the beast by the lamb of Clod.

Second Act. Chaps, xv, xvi. The seven vials. Tliey are the seven plagues preceding the destruc- tion of the great city, Babylon. Tliey were for the freater part suggested by the Egj'ptian plagues. he first vial is pouretl out on the earth. Men and bea.sts arc sniitten with ulcers (Ex., ix. 9, 10). The second and tliird vial upon the seas and rivers. They become blood (Kx., vii, 17-21). The fourth vial upon the sun. It burns men to death. The fifth vial Uf)on the throne of the beiist. It causes great tlark- ness (Ex., x, 11-29). The sixtli vial upon the ICu- phrates. Its waters are dried up and form a pa-ssage for the kings of the East (Ex., xiv). The seventh upon the air. Storm and earthquake destroy Baby- lon.

Third Act. Chaps, xvii, xviii. The great harlot. She is seated upon the scarlet beast with the seven heads aiul ten horns. She is robed in scarlet and decked with gold. On her head is written: Mystery, Babylon the great. The kings of the earth commit fornication with her. But the day of her visitation has come. She is made a desolate place, the habita- tion of unclean animals (Is., xiii, 21, 22). Her fall is lamented by the rulers and merchants of the earth.

Fourth Act. Cliaps. xix, xx. — The victory over the beast ami the great dragon. A knight appears mounted on a white horse. Ilis name is "The word of God". He defeats the bea-st and the false jirophet. They are cast alive in the ]>ool of fire. Their defeat is foUoweti by the first resurrection and the reign of Christ for a thousand years. The martyrs rise to life and partake with Christ in glory anil hapjiiness. During these thousand years the great dragon is held in cliains. At their completion he is once more set at large to torment the earth. He deceives the na- tions Gog and Magog. These two names are taken from Ezech., chaps, xxviii, xxxix, where, however, Gog is the king of Magog. .\t last he also is cast for all eternity in the pool of fire. Hereupon the general judgment and the resurrection take place.

Fifth Act. Chaps, xxi, xxii. The new Jerusalem (cf. Ez., xl-xlviii). God dwells in the midst of His saints who enjoy complete happiness. The new Je- nisalem is the spouse of the lamb. The names of the Twelve Tribes and the Twelve Apostles are written on its gates. God and the lamb are the sanctuary in tills new city.

Epilogue. Verses 18-21. The prophecy of the book is soon to be fulfilled. The Seer warns the reatler not to add anything to it or take away from it under pain of forfeiting his share in the heavenly city.

PunPOSE OF THK BooK. — From this cursory pe- rusal of the book, it is evident that the Seer was in- fluenced by the prophecies of Daniel more than by any other book. Daniel was written with the object of comforting the Jews under the cruel persecution of .■\ntiochus Epiphanes. The Seer in the .Vixicalypse had a similar purpose. The Christians were fiercely persecuted in the reign of Domitian. The danger of apostacy was great. False prophets went about, trying to seduce the people to conform to the hea-

then practices and to take part in the Crcsar-worship, The Seer urges his Christians to remain true to their faith and to bear their troubles with fortitude. He encourages them with the promise of an ample and speedy reward. He assures them that Christ's tri- umphant coming is at hand. Both in the beginning anil at the end of his book the Seer is most emphatic in telling his peoi)le that the hour of victory is nigh. He begins, saying: "Blessed is he that . . . keepeth those things which are written in it; for the time is at hand " (i, 3). He closes his visions with the pathetic words: "He that giveth testimony of these things saitli. Surely I come ((uickly: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus". With the coming of Christ the woes of the Christians will be avenged. Their oppressors will be given up to the judgment and the everlasting tor- ments. The martyrs that have fallen will be raised to life, that they may share the pleasures of Christ's kingdom, the millennium. Yet this is but a prelude to the everlasting beatitude which follows after the general resurrection. It is an article of faith that Clirist will return at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. But the time of His second a<lvent is unknown. " But of that day and hour no one knowelh, no, not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone" (Matt., xxiv, 36). It would af>- pear, and is so liekl by many, that the Christians of the Apostolic age expected that Christ would return during their own lifetime or generation. This seems to be the more obvious meaning of several passages both in the Epistles and Gost)els (cf. John, xxi, 21- 23; Thess., iv, 1.3-18). The Christians of Asia Minor, and the Seer with them, appear to have shared this fallacious expectation. Their mistaken hope, how- ever, did not alTect the soundness of their belief in the part of the dogma. Their views of a millennial perioti of corporal hai)piness were equally erroneous. The Church has wiiolly cast aside the doctrine of a millenium previous to the resurrection. St. .\ugustine has perhaps more than any one else helped to free the Church from all crude fancies as regards its pleasures. He explained the millennium allegorically and applieil it to the Church of Christ on earth. With the foundation of the Church the millennium began. The first resurrection is the spir- itual resurrection of the soul from sin (De Civ. Dei, Lib. XX). Thus the number 1,000 is to be taken indefinitely.

Stuuctl're of the Book and its Literary Com- position. — The subject-matter of the Apocalypse re- quired a threefold division. The first part comprises the seven exhortatory letters. The leading idea in the second part is the wisdom of Christ. It is syni- bolizcd by the book with seven seals. In it are writ- ten the eternal decrees of God touching the end of the world, and the final victory of good over evil. No one except Jesus, the lamb slain for the sins of the world, is worthy to break the seals and read its contents. The third part tiescribes the power of Christ over Satan and his kingilom. The lamb de- feats the dragon anti the beast. This idea is devel- oped in a drama of five acts. In five successive scenes we see before us the struggle, the fall of Baby- lon the harlot, the victory, and final beatitude. The third part is not only the most important, but also the most successful from a literary point of view. The drama of the lamb contains several beautiful thoughts of lasting value. The lamb, symboHzing gentleness and purity, conquers the, the per- sonification of lust ami cruelty. The harlot signifies idolatrj'. The fornication which the rulers ami the natiims of the earth commit with her signifies the worship they pay to the images of Ca'sar and the tokens of his power. The second part is inferior in literary beauty. It contains much that is taken from the old Testament, and it is full of extravagant imagery. The Seer shows a fanciful taste for::]]