ST.JOHN TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES
1 The revelation of Jesus Christ. The progress with which the Church that had been founded by the Apostles was to be extended, or the end with which it was to be perfected, had need to be revealed, in order to strengthen the preachers of the faith against the opposition of the world. And John, in his own manner, refers the glory of the Son to the Father, and testifies that Jesus Christ has received from God.
shortly. That is, which are to happen to the Church in the present time.
signified. He wrapped up this revelation in mystical words, that it might not be manifested to all, and become lightly esteemed.
angel. For an angel appeared to John in the form of Christ, as will be seen more clearly in that which follows.
John. That through John He might lay open to all His servants the things which he, by the privilege of a peculiar chastity, obtained above all others to behold.
2 testimony. That thou mayest not doubt of the person of John, he is the same who gave testimony to the eternal Word of God incarnate, according as he saw, saying, "Whose glory we saw , the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father."
3 Blessed. Teachers and hearers are therefore blessed, because they who keep the Word of God find that a short time of labour is followed by everlasting joys.
4 seven. By these seven churches he writes to every church, for universality is wont to be denoted by the number seven, in that all the time of this age is evolved from seven days.
Grace. Grace he desires for us, and peace from God, the eternal Father, and from the sevenfold Spirit, and from Jesus Christ, Who gave testimony to the Father in His Incarnation. He names the Son in the third place, as he was to speak further of Him. He names Him also the last in order, as He is the first and the last; for He had already named Him in the Father by saying, "Who was to come."
5 the first-begotten. This is the same that the Apostle says , "We have seen Jesus Christ for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour." And in another place, in setting forth the reproach of the cross, he added , "Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and gave Him the Name which is above every name."
6 priests. Because the King of kings and heavenly Priest united us unto His own body by offering Himself for us, there is not one of the saints who has not spiritually the office of priesthood, in that he is a member of the eternal Priest.
7 cometh. He Who was concealed, when at the first He came to be judged, will be manifested at the time when He shall come to judge. He mentions this, that the Church which is now oppressed by enemies, but is then to reign with Christ, may be strengthened for the endurance of sufferings.
pierced. When they see Him as a Judge with power, in the same form in which they pierced Him as the least of all, they will mourn for themselves with a repentance that is too late.
Amen. By interposing an Amen, he confirms that without doubt that will happen, which, by the revelation of God, he knows most surely is to come to pass.
8 and . He is the beginning Whom no one precedes, the end Whom no one succeeds in His kingdom.
Who is. He had said this same thing of the Father, for God the Father came, as He also is to come, in the Son.
9 I John. He indicates the person, the place, and the reason of the vision; and he also testifies that he saw this in the spirit, lest he should be supposed to have been deluded by fleshly apparition.
Patmos. It is a well-known story that John was banished to this island by the Emperor Domitian for the Gospel's sake, and it was fitly given him to penetrate the secrets of heaven, at a time when it was denied him to go beyond a certain spot on earth.
10 the Lord's day. He indicates also a fit time for a spiritual vision, for Scripture is wont to express the reason of things in terms, as, frequently, of the place, or the body, or the air, and in like manner, the time. The Angels, namely, visit Abraham at noon , Sodom in the evening ; Adam after midday was afraid at the voice of the Lord, walking up and down; and Solomon received at night the wisdom which it was not to be his to retain.
heard. He is first admonished by a voice, that he may direct his attention to the vision.
11 seven churches. The Church of Christ was not at the time in these places alone, but all fulness is comprised in the number seven. Asia, which is interpreted elevation, denotes the proud exaltation of the world in which the Church is sojourning, and, as is the method of the divine mystery, the genus is contained in the species. For the Apostle Paul also writes to seven churches, but not to the same as St. John. And although these seven churches are a sevenfold figure of the whole Church, still the things which he blames, or praises, came to pass in them one by one.
12 turned. Here the figure of the Church is beautifully represented, as holding forth the light of divine love in the brightness of a chaste breast, according to that which the Lord saith , "Let your loins be girt, and your lamps burning." And he denotes its perfection within and without by the two parts of the number seven; and the individual members of it, consisting of the four qualities of the body, "love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength."
THE VISION OF THE SON OF MAN
13 Son of Man. He means that he is like the Son of man when He had overcome death, and had ascended into heaven. For "Although we knew Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know we Him no more ." And it is well said, "in the midst," for "All", he says , "who are round about Him shall offer gifts."
garment. "Proderis," which is called in Latin, "tunica talaris," and is a sacerdotal vestment, shews the priesthood of Christ, by which He offered Himself for us, as a victim to the Father, upon the altar of the cross.
girdle. By the "paps" he here means the two Testaments, with which He feeds the body of the saints in communion with Himself. For the golden girdle is the choir of saints, which cleaves to the Lord in harmonious love, and embraces the Testaments, "keeping," as the Apostle says , "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
14 white. The antiquity and eternity of majesty are represented by whiteness on the head, to which all the chief ones adhere, as hairs, who, because of the sheep which are to be on the right hand are white, like wool, and because of the innumerable multitude of the white-robed and the elect, who come forth from heaven, are glistering like snow.
eyes. The eyes of the Lord are preachers, who, with spiritual fire, bring light to the faithful, and to the unbelieving a consuming flame.
15 feet. By the "fiery feet" he means the Church of the last time, which is to be searched and proved by severe afflictions. For orichalcum is brass, which by much fire and various ingredients, is brought to the colour of gold. Another translation , which renders it, "like orichalcum of Lebanon," signifies that in Judæa, of which Lebanon is a mountain, the Church will be persecuted, and especially at the last. The temple also frequently received the name of Lebanon, as there is said to it , "Open, O Lebanon, thy gates, and let the fire devour thy cedars."
voice. The voice of confession, and preaching, and praise does not resound in Judæa alone, but among many peoples.
16 right hand. In the right hand of Christ is the spiritual Church. "On Thy right hand," he says , "stood the queen in a vesture of gold." And as it stands on His right hand, He saith , "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom."
mouth. He, the Judge of all things visible and invisible, "after He has killed , has power to cast into hell fire."
countenance. Such as the Lord appeared on the Mount, will He appear after the judgement to all the saints, for at the judgement the ungodly will behold Him Whom they pierced. But all this appearance of the Son of Man belongs also to the Church, for He Himself was made the Christ in the same nature with it, and He gives to it a sacerdotal dignity and a judicial power, and to "shine as the sun in the kingdom of His Father ."
17 I fell. As a man, he trembles at the spiritual vision, but his human fear is banished by the clemency of the Lord.
the first. He is the first, because "by Him were all things made ;" the last, because in Him are all things restored .
18 keys. Not only, He saith, have I conquered death by resurrection, but I have dominion also over death itself. And this He also bestowed upon the Church by breathing upon it the Holy Spirit, saying, "Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them ," and the rest.
19 Write. Reveal to all the things which thou alone hast seen, that is, the various labours of the Church, and that the evil are to be mingled in it with the good unto the end of the world.
20 stars. That is, the rulers of the Church. For the priest, as Malachi says , is "the angel of the Lord of hosts."