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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 eleventh chapter.

1. “And there was shown unto me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.”] A reed was shown like to a rod. This itself is the Apocalypse which he subsequently exhibited to the churches; for the Gospel of the complete faith he subsequently wrote for the sake of our salvation. For when Valentinus, and Cerinthus, and Ebion, and others of the school of Satan, were scattered abroad throughout the world, there assembled together to him from the neighbouring provinces all the bishops, and compelled him himself also to draw up his testimony. Moreover, we say that the measure of God’s temple is the command of God to confess the Father Almighty, and that His Son Christ was begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, and was made man in very soul and flesh, both of them having overcome misery and death; and that, when received with His body into heaven by the Father, He shed forth the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, that He was announced by the prophets, He was described by the law, He was God’s hand, and the Word of the Father from God, Lord over all, and founder of the world: this is the reed and the measure of faith; and no one worships the holy altar save he who confesses this faith.  

2. “The court which is within the temple leave out.”] The space which is called the court is the empty altar within the walls: these being such as were not necessary, he commanded to be ejected from the Church.  

“It is given to be trodden down by the Gentiles.”] That is, to the men of this world, that it may be trodden under foot by the nations, or with the nations. Then he repeats about the destruction and slaughter of the last time, and says:—  

3. “They shall tread the holy city down for forty and two months; and I will give to my two witnesses, and they shall predict a thousand two hundred and threescore days clothed in sackcloth.”] That is, three years and six months: these make forty-two months. Therefore their preaching is three years and six months, and the kingdom of Antichrist as much again.  

5. “If any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies.”] That fire proceedeth out of the mouth of those prophets against the adversaries, bespeaks the power of the world. For all afflictions, however many there are, shall be sent by their messengers in their word. Many think that there is Elisha, or Moses, with Elijah; but both of these died; while the death of Elijah is not heard of, with whom all our ancients have believed that it was Jeremiah. For even the very word spoken to him testifies to him, saying, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”22912291     Jer i. 5.   But he was not a prophet unto the nations; and thus the truthful word of God makes it necessary, which it has promised to set forth, that he should be a prophet to the nations.  

4. “These are the two candlesticks standing before the Lord of the earth.”] These two candlesticks and two olive trees He has to this end spoken of, and admonished you that if, when you have read of them elsewhere, you have not understood, you may understand here. For in Zechariah, one of the twelve prophets, it is thus written: “These are the two olive trees and two candlesticks which stand in the presence of the Lord of the earth;”22922292     Zech. iv. 14.   that is, they are in paradise. Also, in another sense, standing in the presence of the lord of the earth, that is, in the presence of Antichrist. Therefore they must be slain by Antichrist.  

7. “And the beast which ascendeth from the abyss.”] After many plagues completed in the world, in the end he says that a beast ascended from the abyss. But that he shall ascend from the abyss is proved by many testimonies; for he says in the thirty-first chapter of Ezekiel: “Behold, Assur was a cypress in Mount Lebanon.” Assur, deeply rooted, was a lofty and branching cypress—that is, a numerous people—in Mount Lebanon, in the kingdom of kingdoms, that is, of the Romans. Moreover, that he says he was beautiful in offshoots, he says he was strong in armies. The water, he says, shall nourish him, that is, the many thousands of men which were subjected to him; and the abyss increased him, that is, belched him forth. For even Isaiah speaks almost in the same words; moreover, that he was in the kingdom of the Romans, and that he was among the Cæsars. The Apostle Paul also bears witness, for he says to the Thessalonians: “Let him who now restraineth restrain, until he be taken out of the way; and then shall appear that Wicked One, even he whose coming is after the working of Satan, with signs and lying wonders.”22932293     2 Thess. ii. 7, 8, 9.   And that they might know that he should come who then was the prince, he added: “He already endeavours after the secret of mischief”22942294     2 Thess. ii. 10.  —that is, the mischief which he is about to do he strives to do secretly; but he is not raised up by his own power, nor by that of his father, but by command of God, of which thing Paul says in the same passage: “For this cause, because they have not received the love of God, He will send upon them a spirit of error, that they all may be persuaded of a lie, who have not been persuaded of the truth.”22952295     2 Thess. ii. 11.   And Isaiah saith: “While they waited for the light, darkness arose upon them.”22962296     Isa. lix. 9.   Therefore the Apocalypse sets forth that these prophets are killed by the same, and on the fourth day rise again, that none might be found equal to God.  

8. “And their dead bodies shall lie in the streets of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt.”] But He calls Jerusalem Sodom and Egypt, since it had become the heaping up of the persecuting people. Therefore it behooves us diligently, and with the utmost care, to follow the prophetic announcement, and to understand what the Spirit from the Father both announces and anticipates, and how, when He has gone forward to the last times, He again repeats the former ones. And now, what He will do once for all, He sometimes sets forth as if it were done; and unless you understand this, as sometimes done, and sometimes as about to be done, you will fall into a great confusion. Therefore the interpretation of the following sayings has shown therein, that not the order of the reading, but the order of the discourse, must be understood.  

19. “And the temple of God was opened which is in heaven.”] The temple opened is a manifestation of our Lord. For the temple of God is the Son, as He Himself says: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And when the Jews said, “Forty and six years was this temple in building,” the evangelist says, “He spake of the temple of His body.”22972297     John ii. 19, 20, 21    

“And there was seen in His temple the ark of the Lord’s testament.”] The preaching of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins, and all the gifts whatever that came with Him, he says, appeared therein.  


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