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general persecution of Antichrist, as the four winds join to compose one general wind. But this persecution is withheid for a while by a divine command, which is carried by an angel ascending from the East, as coming from Him who ascended above the Heaven of Heavens to the East, Psaim lxvii. 34. The wind of persecution will hurt the earth and the sea, that is, will fall upon the Christian people, wherever they are, and the trees, or their pastors and clergy. But this alarming disaster is suspended, till the angel has marked the servants of God in their foreheads with the sign of the living God, that is, with the sign of the cross of Christ, who having died upon it, rose again to life. But who those servants of God are, we are told in the next verse.
V. 4. And I heard the number of them that were signed; an hundred forty four thousand were signed, of every tribe of the children of Israel. No sooner almost have the Jews tasted the comfort of having recovered the favour of their God by embracing Christianity, but behold! 144,000 of them are marked out and destined to be immolated to Christ by martyrdom, and are therefore signed on the forehead by the ministers of the Church with the sign of the cross, or confirmed in faith and fortitude, as the sacrament of confirmation is always conferred with making the sign of the cross on the forehead. Thus then this great number of converted Jews are prepared to grace Christianity by their triumph over torments and death. But as we learn from St. Paul, that all Israel will be saved, Rom. xi. 26, it is plain that, considering the vast body of the Jewish people, the number of martyrs here mentioned must fall much short of the number of converted Jews. The rest therefore will remain to reflect honour on the Christian religion, by their zeal in promoting it, and their exemplary lives. This select number of 144,000 champions, or twelve times twelve thousand, is made up by culling twelve thousand out of each tribe, as follows:
V. 5. Of the tribe of Juda were twelve thousand signed. Of the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand signed. Of the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand signed.
V. 6. Of the tribe of Aser, twelve thousand signed. Of the tribe of Nepthalia, twelve thousand signed. Of the tribe of Manasses, twelve thousand signed.
V.7. Of the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand signed. Of the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand signed. Of the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand signed.
V. 8. Of the tribe of Zabulon, twelve thousand signed. Of the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand signed. Of the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand signed.
The Continuation of the History of the Sixth Age.
THE Almighty having prepared his faithful servants
for the terrible conflict he proposes to subject them to, he announces the great persecution and terrible war, and exhibits the states of the Church at the time they begin, in the following manner:
Chap. xi. v. 1. And there was given me, says St. John, a reed like unto a rod: and it was said to me*: arise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that adore therein.
V. 2. But the court, which is without the temple, cast out, and measure it not because it is given unto the Gentiles †, and the holy city they shall tread under foot two and forty months. The Churches consecrated to the true service of God, at this time, so far diminished in number, or so little filled, on account of the general apostacy and degeneracy of mankind, that all these Churches are here represented to St. John as reduced into one single Church or temple. The faithful ministers of God are also become so few, as to be represented as officiating at one altar in this Church; and all the good and zealous Christians make up so small a number, with respect to the whole bulk of mankind, that they are shown to St. John as collected in this one temple, paying their adoration to God. There is therefore given to St. John a reed, or a small slender measuring rod, as sufficient for the few inconsiderable measures he has to take, and he is told to measure the temple of God,
In the Greek, and the Angel stood, saying.
In the Greek, the punctuation stands thus; and measure it not, because it is given unto the Gentiles, and the holy city, &c,
and the altar, and them that adore therein, that the small size of both temple and altar may appear, and the little compass in which they are comprised, those who are there adoring God.
But for the court which is without the temple, that is, the great multitude of those who, for want of the spirit of religion, enter not the temple, but stand in the court without the temple, St. John is told not to measure them, but to cast them out, or to banish them from the neighbourhood of the temple, because it, the court, is given to the Gentiles, because God delivers this wicked multitude to be punished and destroyed by the Gentiles, that is, by Antichrist and his cruel and barbarous troops. The execution of this divine judgment commences very soon. For now Antichrist, mad with fury, declares war against the whole world, resolves to be sole master, to spare neither those that resist him, nor those who have given him any provocation, or against whom he has conceived an ill-will. Actuated by Satan, he feels no more sense of humanity, and breathes only blood and destruction. In this situation he is in some measure pictured by Nabuchodonosor, that haughty king of Assyria, who in the pride of his heart proclaimed that his thoughts were to bring all the earth under his empire, Judith ii. 3, and gave orders to the general of his armies: Go out against all the kingdoms of the west, and against them especially that despised my commandment. Thy eye shall not spare any kingdom, and the strong cities thou shalt bring under my yoke. Ibid. v. 5, 6. This war of Antichrist, the most bloody of all wars since the existence of the world, as in it are killed the third part of men, Apoc. ix. 15, will last three years and a half, as observed before from St. John: and power was given him to do* two and forty months, xiii. 5.
But furthermore, in our present text, it is added: And the holy city they shall tread under foot two and forty months. No sooner has the haughty monarch, Antichrist, declared war against mankind, but with the same breath he proclaims a general persecution, which he
* In the Greek, to make war.
himself intends to carry on, and dispatches his orders to have the same executed in every part of the earth. For it is now allowed to him and his bloody agents to tread under foot the holy city, that is, the whole body of the holy Christians, for forty two months, or three years and a half. This space of time Christ has set apart, to purify his Church, and to try his servants, and for that purpose allows them to fall under the power of this merciless tyrant: And it was given unto him, says St. John, to make war with the Saints, and to overcome them, Apoc. xiii. 7. We are admonished of the same by the prophet Daniel: I beheld, says he, and lo that horn, Antichrist, made war against the Saints, and prevailed over them, vii. 21. And again: And he shall speak words against the most High, and shall crush the Saints of the most High.......And they shall be delivered into his hand until a time, and times, and half a time, ibid. v. 25. The period of the persecution Daniel here expresses by a time, and times, and half a time, that is, a year, two years, and half a year, or three years and a half, the same with St. John.
Antichrist being at this time in Jerusalem, and implacably irritated against the Jews, who had deserted from him, looked upon him with abomination, and had espoused the Christian religion, which he hates, he resolves to begin his bloody persecution and massacre with them. He therefore sacrifices to his rage the abovementioned multitude of an hundred forty four thousand; but in what manner we are not told. On this striking catastrophe and deluge of blood, how justly may the body of converted Jews that remain, send up to heaven their lamentations and cries in those pathetic strains which their forefathers used, upon the destruction and havoc made by Nabuchodonosor, a figure of what Antichrist would one day do. O God, the heathens are come into thy inheritance; they have defiled thy holy temple; they have made Jerusalem as a place to keep fruit.
They have given the dead bodies of thy servants to be meat for the fowls of the air, the flesh of thy saints for the beasts of the earth.