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bear testimony to Jesus Christ. There he finds new instruments fit for his purpose, the barbarous heathen kings of that country, whom he soon excites with fury against the woman's seed.
A most horrible persecution was set on foot by the cruel tyrant, Sapor II., which raged during forty years without intermission, from the year 340 to his death in 380. St. Maruthas, bishop of Tagrit in Mesopotamia, near the borders of Persia, compiled the acts of many of the martyrs who suffered in this persecution; and the historian Sozomen, speaking of them, says: “It would be difficult to give an exact account of them, to specify their names, their countries, their torments, and the new invented cruelties exercised upon them. I shall only say, it is assured that sixteen thousand men and women suffered, whose names were known, and so many others, that their number could not be ascertained.” Lib. ii. 14. Forty years after, viz. in 420, the persecution was recommenced by king Isdegerdes, and continued under his successors for thir. ty years. The brutal inhumanity used in torturing the martyrs at this time, is thus described by the historian Theodoret : « Some had the skin torn off their hands, others off their backs, and others from their forehead down to the chin. Some had split reeds tied round them very fast, which being plucked away with violence brought the skin along with them, and occasioned exquisite torment. Sometimes the persecutors dug holes in the earth, which they stored with rats and mice, then shut up the Christians in them after tying their hands and feet, and left them to be devoured by the vermin. The enemy of God and man suggested to them several other more barbarous kinds of torture which they employed upon the holy men, but none could shake their constancy." Lib. v. c. 39.
Chosroes II. king of Persia, was also a bitter enemy to Christianity. When his army took and plundered Jerusalem in the year 614, many thousands of clerks, monks, nuns, and virgins, were cruelly massacred, ninety thousands Christians were sold for slaves to the Jews, and afterwards many of them were tortured and slain. In the beginning of the year 628, the king ordered sixty-nine Christians to be strangled in one day. But this idolatrous king and tyrant was defeated in several battles by Heraclius, emperor of Constantinople, to whom he had before refused peace, unless the emperor would renounce Jesus Christ, and adore the sun. Chosroes was afterwards put to death in 628 by his own son Siroes, who stopped all persecution, and made peace with Heraclius : and within the space of a few years Persia was conquered by the Saracens.
The machinations of Satan, the indefatigable supporter of idolatry against the Christian Church of Persia were now quashed, and no room was there left for further attempts by the means of idolatrous princes.' Resolving therefore to leave that country, Satan steps to the confines of it.
V. 18. “ And he stood upon the sand of the sea."* He stops upon the shore of the Persian sea, probably meditating a flight into some new country, where he may still prosecute his implacable hatred against the woman's seed. But behold,
Apoc. chap. xx. 1. “And I saw," says St. John, “an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand.
V. 2." And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
Y. 3. “And he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he shuold no more seduce the nations, till the thousand years be finished. And after that he must be loosed for a time.”
An angel descends from heaven, who seizes the dragon, or Satan, upon the sea shore where he stood, binds him with a chain, casts him into the abyss or bottomless pit of hell, and shuts him up there for a thousand years; not precisely for that number of years, but for the whole period of his confinement, here expressed in the round number of a thousand years : which confinement is to last to the time of Antichrist, in the latter days of the world, when Satan will again be let loose for a little time.
Here then the Almighty is pleased to put a stop to Satan's power. This happened in the seventh century. His reign had been of long duration, and infinite mischief he had done. He is the dragon that drew down with him the third part of the stars of heaven, or was the chief of the angels that fell, and is their prince in the infernal kingdom. He is here also styled the old serpent, as being the same that seduced Eve in Paradise, and consequently a murderer from the beginning. This inveterate enemy of God and man seduces the whole world, and had done it, by withdrawing the greatest part of
* In the common Greek text, “And I stood,” &c. but the reading of the Vulgate is confirmed by the Alexandrian manuscript, by the Syriac and Arabic versions, by Tichonius, and the edition of Aldas.
mankind from their obedience and duty to God, and bringing them over to himself, by setting up the banner of idolatry. This abominable worship of the devil had subsisted a long time, but was at last to be suppressed by Him who came to enlighten the world, and said : “ Now shall the prince of this world, Satan, be cast out." John xii. 31. At the rise therefore of Christianity, Satan perceiving his kingdom shaken, set all engines to work for the support of idolatry, and to stop the progress of the gospel : and in this attempt he caused to be spilt an ocean of Christian blood. He had been suffered to proceed so far; but now the term decreed by the Alinighty is come, and Satan is chained up in prison. From the time of his confinement, idolatry, of which he is the parent and chief supporter, fell, and the Church was freed from those extreme severities, of persecution it felt before, and experienced less opposition in extending its faith and doctrine. This may be seen in the history of the church. From the time even that Satan was forced to retreat from the Roman empire into Persia, the Christian religion made rapid progress in all the provinces of that empire, and stretched gradually into many countries beyond them; till at last its growth became stupendous, and the church shone, like a bright sun, over the most part of the known world.
Let it be here also observed, that, notwithstanding the imprisonment of Satan, prince of the bad angels, we must not conclude that all the devil's power was then superseded. Many of his chief subjects were probably shut up with him, but many also, though of inferior power, were permitted to remain on earth to tempt mankind and to exercise their virtue. - St. John proceeds,
V. 4. “And I saw seats: and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them, and the souls of them that were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and who had not adored the beast, nor his image, nor received his character on their foreheads, or in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
.V. 5. “ The rest of the dead lived not,* till the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.”
St. John sees seats given to the souls of those who had been beheaded or suffered martyrdom for the testimony they had given to Jesus and to his holy religion, and for the word of God, or for the observance of the law of God. Seats are also given to those, who had not adored the beast, nor, his
In the Greek text, “revived not.”
image, that is, who had not given into idolatry or heresy, see page 46: likewise to those, who had not received the beast's character on their foreheads or in their hands, that is, who did not bear any particular mark or office appertaining to idolaters or heretics, nor used any contrivance to make themselves pass for such. For it must be observed that, in the heat of persecution, many Christians, to shelter themselves, would basely buy from the heathen magistrates certificates of their having sacrificed to idols, when they had not done it ; others would eat of the meats that had been offered to idols ; others delivered up the holy scriptures, &c. St. John sees the souls of all the above-mentioned faithful and courageous Christian's seated in dignity, and allowed power of judging; which means that they sit as judges with Christ by a participation of his power, which he graciously communicates to them, according to his promise : “To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me in my throne,” Apoc. iii. 21. And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years, that is, their souls immediately on leaving their bodies were admitted to heavenly bliss, and reign with Christ for a thousand years, or for that period of time which is counted from their departure out of this world to the general judgment, when their bodies will be reunited to them. And this admission of their souls into glory without their bodies is called the first resurrection. But the souls of the others, who were guilty of any of the above-named crimes, lived not the life of the. before-mentioned happy souls, but were condemned to hell-flames which is the first death. Nor will they revive or recover life till the thousand years be finished at the general resurrection, when they will indeed be drawn for a moment out of the infernal pit and be reunited to their bodies, but to be replunged together into eternal damnation, which is the second death. In like manner, when at the last day the bodies of the just are made partners with their souls in bliss, that may be termed the second resurrection. We see here inculcated that known maxim of the Christian religion; that the souls of the just who die in the Lord, enter into heavenly glory, though their bodies do not participate of it till after the general resurrection: and the same holds with regard to the punishment of the souls of the wicked.
V. 6. “ Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection. In these, the second death hath no power : but they shall be priests of God and of Christ : and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
Here, all those are pronounced blessed and holy, who have part in the first resurrection, or whose souls are admitted to bliss after their decease, because in them the second death hath no power, that is, because they are in no danger of damnation or second death at the last judgment. Their souls, from the moment of their admission into heaven, become priests of God and of Christ, by being empowered to offer before the throne of God and Christ their pure sacrifices of homage, praise, and thanksgiving, and will reign with him, God, and Christ, for a thousand years, that is, as St. Austin says, “ for all the years to the end of the world,” De Civit. xx. 7.; at which time their bodies will be joined with them in the same beatitude.
From the above passages of the Apocalypse misunderstood, some ancients inferred that the saints will rise again to life a thousand years before the rest of mankind, and in their souls and bodies will reign with Christ upon earth during that space of time, in the enjoyment of all lawful sensual pleasures. This opinion is called the Millenarian system; which, instead of having any foundation in the present text, is refuted by it. For St. John here speaks of the happiness of the souls only, of those who were beheaded, &c. without hinting the least at the state of their bodies. Whence it appears, that by the first resurrection the apostle understands the glory of heaven, into which the just enter after their death, and which they will enjoy for a thousand years, that is, during the whole course of time to the general resurrection. Besides, the notion of two resurrections of the flesh, or of body and soul, is fully disproved by our Saviour's words: “ The hour cometh, wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment,” John, v. 28, 23. Here Christ expresse's very clearly but one general resurrection of the good and the wicked together. Hence it is no wonder, that the Millenarian opinion fell early into disrepute, and has been long exploded. But as some moderns have endeavoured to revive it, it may be worth while to read the following brief account of its original rise, progress, and decline, in the learned Dr. Calmet's comment on this chapter of the Apocalypse.
“ The system of the Millenarians owes its origin to the Jews. They expected to reign a thousand years with the Messiah on earth, as appears from the fourth book of Esdras, and from the works of some of their most famous rabbins, as