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ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily
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from the fifth chapter.

1. “And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne, a book written within and without, sealed with seven seals.”] This book signifies the Old Testament, which has been given into the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, who received from the Father judgment.  

2, 3. “And I saw an angel full of strength proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no one was found worthy, neither in the earth nor under the earth, to open the book.”] Now to open the book is to overcome death for man.  

4. “There was none found worthy to do this.”] Neither among the angels of heaven, nor among men in earth, nor among the souls of the saints in rest, save Christ the Son of God alone, whom he says that he saw as a Lamb standing as it were slain, having seven horns. What had not been then announced, and what the law had contemplated for Him by its various oblations and sacrifices, it behoved Himself to fulfil. And because He Himself was the testator, who had overcome death, it was just that Himself should be appointed the Lord’s heir, that He should possess the substance of the dying man, that is, the human members.  

5. “Lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, hath prevailed.”] We read in Genesis that this lion of the tribe of Judah hath conquered, when the patriarch Jacob says, “Judah, thy brethren shall praise thee; thou hast lain down and slept, and hast risen up again as a lion, and as a lion’s whelp.”22732273     Gen. xlix. 8, 9.   For He is called a lion for the overcoming of death; but for the suffering for men He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. But because He overcame death, and anticipated the duty of the executioner, He was called as it were slain. He therefore opens and seals again the testament, which He Himself had sealed. The legislator Moses intimating this, that it behoved Him to be sealed and concealed, even to the advent of His passion, veiled his face, and so spoke to the people; showing that the words of his announcement were veiled even to the advent of His time. For he himself, when he had read to the people, having taken the wool purpled with the blood of the calf, with water sprinkled the whole people, saying, “This is the blood of His testament who hath purified you.”22742274     Ex. xxiv. 7, 8.   It should therefore be observed that the Man is accurately announced, and that all things combine into one. For it is not sufficient that that law is spoken of, but it is named as a testament. For no law is called a testament, nor is any thing else called a testament, save what persons make who are about to die. And whatever is within the testament is sealed, even to the day of the testator’s death. Therefore it is with reason that it is only sealed by the Lamb slain, who, as it were a lion, has broken death in pieces, and has fulfilled what had been foretold; and has delivered man, that is, the flesh, from death, and has received as a possession the substance of the dying person, that is, of the human members; that as by one body all men had fallen under the obligation of its death, also by one body all believers should be born again unto life, and rise again. Reasonably, therefore, His face is opened and unveiled to Moses; and therefore He is called Apocalypse, Revelation. For now His book is unsealed—now the offered victims are perceived—now the fabrication of the priestly chrism; moreover the testimonies are openly understood.  

8, 9. “Twenty-four elders and four living creatures, having harps and phials, and singing a new song.”] The proclamation of the Old Testament associated with the New, points out the Christian people singing a new song, that is, bearing their confession publicly. It is a new thing that the Son of God should become man. It is a new thing to ascend into the heavens with a body. It is a new thing to give remission of sins to men. It is a new thing for men to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. It is a new thing to receive the priesthood of sacred observance, and to look for a kingdom of unbounded promise. The harp, and the chord stretched on its wooden frame, signifies the flesh of Christ linked with the wood of the passion. The phial signifies the Confession,22752275     [The Creed and the evangelical priests. Vol. ii. note 4, p. 173.]   and the race of the new Priesthood. But it is the praise of many angels, yea, of all, the salvation of all, and the testimony of the universal creation, bringing to our Lord thanksgiving for the deliverance of men from the destruction of death. The unsealing of the seals, as we have said, is the opening of the Old Testament, and the foretelling of the preachers of things to come in the last times, which, although the prophetic Scripture speaks by single seals, yet by all the seals opened at once, prophecy takes its rank.  


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