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In defense of prophecy: an appendix of patristic interpretations of prophecy

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In this article, we will provide an exhaustive list of scriptural quotations which demonstrate the basic uniformity of the interpretation of the prophecies which we adduce as proof of the truth of Christianity, such that our interpretations of these prophecies cannot be explained away as mere 'postdiction,' or reading events after the fact into the interpretation of such prophecies.

1) The preservation and continuity of the Church throughout history - Most are familiar with the Bible's prophecy of the conversion of all of the nations. I believe that the prophecies themselves are sufficiently clear, but just for the record, we have provided an exhaustive list of the interpretations of such passages by patristic writers in order to prove the legitimacy of such a prophecy, should there be any doubt.

Victorinus:

1, 2. And when the Lamb had opened one of the seven seals, I saw, and heard one of the four living creatures saying, Come and see. And, lo, a white horse, and He who sat upon him had a bow. The first seal being opened, he says that he saw a white horse, and a crowned horseman having a bow. For this was at first done by Himself. For after the Lord ascended into heaven and opened all things, He sent the Holy Spirit, whose words the preachers sent forth as arrows reaching to the human heart, that they might overcome unbelief. And the crown on the head is promised to the preachers by the Holy Spirit. The other three horses very plainly signify the wars, famines, and pestilences announced by our Lord in the Gospel. And thus he says that one of the four living creatures said (because all four are one), Come and see. Come is said to him that is invited to faith; see is said to him who saw not. Therefore the white horse is the word of preaching with the Holy Spirit sent into the world. For the Lord says, This Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world for a testimony to all nations, and then shall come the end(Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse)

Origen:

But perhaps some other one, attending with over-curious spirit to the word finished, which is assigned to things of a more mystical order, just as we say that some one delivered to those who were under his control mysteries and rites of perfecting not in a praiseworthy fashion, and another delivered the mysteries of God to those who are worthy, and rites of perfecting proportionate to such mysteries, might say that having initiated them, he made a rite of perfecting, by which perfecting the words were shown to be powerful, so that the gospel of Jesus was preached in the whole world, and by virtue of the divine perfecting gained the mastery of every soul which the Father draws to the Son, according to what is said by the Saviour, No one comes to Me except the Father which has sent Me draw him. John 6:4(Commentary on Matthew, 14)

Augustine:

This is the love that renews us, making us new men, heirs of the New Testament, singers of the new song. It was this love, brethren beloved, that renewed also those of olden time, who were then the righteous, the patriarchs and prophets, as it did afterwards the blessed apostles: it is it, too, that is now renewing the nations, and from among the universal race of man, which overspreads the whole world, is making and gathering together a new people, the body of the newly-married spouse of the only-begotten Son of God, of whom it is said in the Song of Songs, Who is she that ascends, made white? (Tractates 65, John 13:34-35)

2) The preservation, continuity, and eventually, mass conversion, of the Jewish people throughout history.

"I tell you (speaking to the inhabitants of Jerusalem), you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord'"(Lk. 13:34-35)

"Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Lk. 21:24)

http://www.salvationisfromthejews.com/endtimes.html provides an impressive and relatively exhaustive list of patristic citations, from both early and later writers, proving that the consensus of the Church throughout history, regardless of millennial positions, was that there would come a time in the future during which the Jews would be converted. The list is provided below:

St. Augustine:

City of God XX.29:

Chapter 29.-Of the Coming of Elias Before the Judgment, that the Jews May Be Converted to Christ by His Preaching and Explanation of Scripture.

After admonishing them to give heed to the law of Moses, as he foresaw that for a long time to come they would not understand it spiritually and rightly, he went on to say, "And, behold, I will send to you Elias the Tishbite before the great and signal day of the Lord come: and he shall turn the heart of the father to the son, and the heart of a man to his next of kin, lest I come and utterly smite the earth." It is a familiar theme in the conversation and heart of the faithful, that in the last days before the judgment the Jews shall believe in the true Christ, that is, our Christ, by means of this great and admirable prophet Elias who shall expound the law to them. For not without reason do we hope that before the coming of our Judge and Saviour Elias shall come, because we have good reason to believe that he is now alive; for, as Scripture most distinctly informs us, he was taken up from this life in a chariot of fire. When, therefore, he is come, he shall give a spiritual explanation of the law which the Jews at present understand carnally, and shall thus "turn the heart of the father to the son," that is, the heart of fathers to their children; for the Septuagint translators have frequently put the singular for the plural number. And the meaning is, that the sons, that is, the Jews, shall understand the law as the fathers, that is, the prophets, and among them Moses himself, understood it. For the heart of the fathers shall be turned to their children when the children understand the law as their fathers did; and the heart of the children shall be turned to their fathers when they have the same sentiments as the fathers. The Septuagint used the expression, "and the heart of a man to his next of kin," because fathers and children are eminently neighbors to one another. Another and a preferable sense can be found in the words of the Septuagint translators, who have translated Scripture with an eye to prophecy, the sense, viz., that Elias shall turn the heart of God the Father to the Son, not certainly as if he should bring about this love of the Father for the Son, but meaning that he should make it known, and that the Jews also, who had previously hated, should then love the Son who is our Christ. For so far as regards the Jews, God has His heart turned away from our Christ, this being their conception about God and Christ. But in their case the heart of God shall be turned to the Son when they themselves shall turn in heart, and learn the love of the Father towards the Son.

On the Psalms (Ps. LXXIV, para 10) (NPNF, Vol 8, pages 345-346) cites the account of Moses' hand turning white with leprosy and then being restored to health as a prefigurement of the restoration of Israel after its initial rejection of Christ.

On the Psalms (Ps. LXXXIX, para 35) (NPNF, Vol 8,pages 438-439): "After these stern penalties which have been recorded as having been inflicted upon this people and kingdom (Israel), that God might not be supposed to have fulfilled His promises in it, and so not to grant another kingdom in Christ, of which kingdom there shall be no end, the prophet addresses Him in these words, 'Lord, how long wilt Thou hid Thyself unto the end?' (v 46). For possibly it was not from them and to the end; because 'blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Genitles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved.' but in the mean while 'shall Thy wrath burn like fire.'"

St. Jerome, Comm. to the Song of Songs, Homily 1:

"Their sins occasioned the salvation of the Gentiles and again the incredulity of the Gentiles will occasion the conversion of Israel. You will find both in the Apostle (St. Paul)."

St. John Chrysostom:

Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew HOMILY LVII:

For the Scriptures speak of two advents of Christ, both this that is past, and that which is to come; and declaring these Paul said, "The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared, teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly."Behold the one, hear how he declares the other also; for having said these things, he added, "Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ."And the prophets too mention both; of the one, however, that is, of the second, they say Elias will be the forerunner. For of the first, John was forerunner; whom Christ called also Elias, not because he was Elias, but because he was fulfilling the ministry of that prophet. For as the one shall be forerunner of the second advent, so was the other too of the first. But the Scribes, confusing these things and perverting the people, made mention of that other only to the people, the second advent, and said, "If this man is the Christ, Elias ought to have come beforehand." Therefore the disciples too speak as follows, "How then say the Scribes, Elias must first come ?" Therefore also the Pharisees sent unto John, and asked him, "Art thou Elias?"making no mention anywhere of the former advent. What then is the solution, which Christ alleged? "Elias indeed cometh then, before my second advent; and now too is Elias come;" so calling John. In this sense Elias is come: but if thou wouldest seek the Tishbite, he is coming. Wherefore also He said, "Elias truly cometh, and shall restore all things."All what things? Such as the Prophet Malachi spake of; for "I will send you," saith He, "Elias the Tishbite, who shall restore the heart of father to son, lest I come and utterly smite the earth." Seest thou the accuracy of prophetical language? how, because Christ called John, Elias, by reasoning of their community of office, lest thou shouldest suppose this to be the meaning of the prophet too in this place, He added His country also, saying, "the Tishbite;"whereas John was not a Tishbite. And herewith He sets down another sign also, saying, "Lest I come and utterly smite the earth," signifying His second and dreadful advent. For in the first He came not to smite the earth. For, "I came not," saith He, "to judge the world, but to save the world." To show therefore that the Tishbite comes before that other advent, which hath the judgment, He said this. And the reason too of his coming He teaches withal. And what is this reason? That when He is come, he may persuade the Jews to believe in Christ, and that they may not all utterly perish at His coming. Wherefore He too, guiding them on to that remembrance, saith, "And he shall restore all things;" that is, shall correct the unbelief of the Jews that are then in being. Hence the extreme accuracy of his expression; in that he said not, "He will restore the heart of the son to the father," but "of the father to the son."For the Jews being fathers of the apostles, his meaning is, that he will restore to the doctrines of their sons, that is, of the apostles, the hearts of the fathers, that is, the Jewish people's mind. "But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer of them. Then they understood that He spake to them of John." And yet neither the Scribes said this, nor the Scriptures; but because now they were sharper and more attentive to His sayings, they quickly caught His meaning. And whence did the disciples know this? He had already told them, "He is Elias, which was for to come;"but here, that he hath come; and again, that "Elias cometh and will restore all things." But be not thou troubled, nor imagine that His statement wavers, though at one time He said, "he will come," at another, "he hath come." For all these things are true. Since when He saith, "Elias indeed cometh, and will restore all things," He means Elias himself, and the conversion of the Jews which is then to take place; but when He saith, "Which was for to come," He calls John, Elias, with regard to the manner of his administration. Yea, and so the prophets used to call every one of their approved kings, David; and the Jews, "rulers of Sodom,"and "sons of Ethiopians;" because of their ways. For as the other shall be forerunner of the second advent, so was this of the first.

Homily XIX on Rom. 11, Ver 12 (NPNF Vol 11, page 489):

"Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness?...' For if when they stumbled, he says, so many enjoyed salvation, and when they were case out so many were called, just consider what will be the case when they return. ....Now, he does not say, 'how much more their'return, or their altering, or their well-doing, but 'how much more their fulness', that is, when they are all about coming in."

Homily XIX on Rom. 11, Ver 15 (NPNF Vol 11, page 490):

"'For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?' ....But see also even in his favors to them, how he solaces them in words only. 'For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world,' (and what is this to the Jews?) 'what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?' Yet even this was no boon to them, unless they had been received. But what he means is to this effect: If in anger with them He gave other men so great gifts, when He is reconciled to them what will He not give?'"

Homily XIX on Rom. 11 ver. 27:
“For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins”. Not when they are circumcised….but when theey attain to the forgiveness of sins. If then this hath been promised, but has never yet happened in their case, nor have they ever enoyed the remission of sins by baptism, certainly it will come to pass.

St. John Damascene:

De Fide Orthodoxa (IV, 26, "Concerning the Antichrist"):

It should be known that the Antichrist is bound to come. Every one, therefore, who confesses not that the Son of God came in the flesh and is perfect God and became perfect man, after being God, is Antichrist. But in a peculiar and special sense he who comes at the consummation of the age is called Antichrist. First, then, it is requisite that the Gospel should be preached among all nations, as the Lord said, and then he will come to refute the impious Jews…
But Enoch and Elias the Thesbite shall be sent and shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, that is, the synagogue to our Lord Jesus Christ and the preaching of the apostles: and they will be destroyed by him. And the Lord shall come out of heaven, just as the holy apostles beheld Him going into heaven, perfect God and perfect man, with glory and power, and will destroy the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, with the breath of His mouth. Let no one, therefore, look for the Lord to come from earth, but out of Heaven, as He himself has made sure.

Pope St. Gregory the Great:

Moralia in Iob (Preface, X, 20):
"After the loss of Job's possessions, after all his bereavements, after all the suffering of his wounds, after all his angry debates, it is good that he is consoled by twofold repayment. In just this way does the holy church, while it is still in this world, receive twofold reward for the trials it sustains, when all the gentile nations have been brought into its midst, at the end of time, and the church converts even the hearts of the Jews to its cause. Thus it is written, 'Until the fulness of nations enters and so all Israel is saved.'"

Homilia 22 in Evangelia:
Dearly beloved brethren, the portion of the Holy Gospel which hath just now been read in your ears, is exceeding simple on the face of it, which is its historical sense ; but the mystic sense, which underlieth that other, requireth from us a little searching. Mary Magdalene came unto the Sepulchre when it was yet dark. The historic sense telleth us what was the hour of the day ; the mystic sense, the state of her understanding who sought. Mary Magdalene sought for him, by whom all things were made, and whom she had seen die, as concerning the flesh ; she sought for him, I say, in the grave, and finding him not, she believed that he had been stolen away. Yea, it was yet dark, when she came unto the sepulchre. Then she ran and told the disciples, but they who had loved him most, namely Peter and John, did outrun the others.
So they ran both together, but John did outrun Peter, and came first to the Sepulchre, but yet took he not upon himself to go in first. Then cometh Peter following him, and went in. What, my brethren, what did the racing of these Apostles signify? Can we believe that the description given by the deepest of the Evangelists is without a mystic interpretation? By no means. John had never told how that he did outrun Peter, and yet went not into the Sepulchre, if he had not believed that his hesitation veiled some mystery. What signifieth John but the Synagogue? or Peter, but the Church?
Neither must ye take it as strange that the elder Apostle should represent the Church, and younger the Synagogue : for although the Synagogue was first to worship God, yet the herd of Gentiles is in the world older than the Synagogue, as witnesseth Paul where he saith : That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural. By Peter, then, who was the elder, is signified the Church of the Gentiles ; and by John, who was the younger, the Synagogue of the Jews. They run both of them together, for from the time of her birth until now (and so will it be until the end), the Church of the Gentiles hath run in a parallel road and manywise a common road with the Synagogue, albeit not with equal understandings. The Synagogue came first to the Sepulchre, but she hath not yet entered in ; for, though she hath received the commandments of the law, and hath heard the Prophets tell of the Incarnation and Passion of the Lord, she will not believe in him who died for her.

Theodoret:

"Paul insists that only a part of Israel has been hardened, for many of them believe. He thus encourages them not to despair that others will be saved as well. After the Gentiles accepted the gospel, the Jews would believe, when the great Elijah would come to them and bring them the doctrine of the faith. The Lord himself said as much: 'Elijah will come and will restore all things.'"

Later Saints:

The Venerable Bede:

in his Explanation of the Apocalypse, "it is well believed that the wicked Jews will be deceived as well as deceive, but that others will understand the law spiritually through the instruction of the great prophet Elijah, and will be incorporated among the members of the Church, and bravely overcome the enemy."

In a letter to his Abbot Eusebius about his Explanatio:"He has foretold that the Jews are to be made subject to the Church, and that there is to be a trial of the world at large, and that He Himself will come quickly."

The 10th century French Abbot Adso:

"Lest the Antichrist come suddenly and without warning and deceive and destroy the whole human race by his error, before his arrival the two great prophets Enoch and Elijah will be sent into the world. They will defend God's faithful against the attack of the Antichrist with divine arms and will instruct, comfort, and prepare the elect for battle with three and a half years teaching and preaching. These two very great prophets and teachers will convert the sons of Israel who will live in that time to the faith, and they will make their belief unconquerable among the elect in the face of the affliction of so great a storm. At that time what scripture says will be fulfilled 'If the number of sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, their remnant will be saved'."

St. Thomas Aquinas in Commentary on Epistle to the Romans:

"The blindness of the Jews will endure until the fullness of the gentiles have accepted the faith. And this is in accord with what the Apostle says below about the salvation of the Jews, namely, that after the fullness of the nations have entered, 'all Israel will be saved', not individually as at present, but universally." ...

"What, I say, will such an admission effectuate, if not that it bring the Gentiles back to life? The Gentiles would be the believers whose faith has grown cold, or even that the totality, deceived by the Antichrist, fall and are restored to their pristine fervor by the admission of the Jews."

St. Robert Bellarmine in De Summo Pontifice (I, 3):

"the coming of Enoch and Elias, who live even now and shall live until they come to oppose Antichrist himself, and to preserve the elect in the faith of Christ, and in the end shall convert the Jews, and it is certain that this is not yet fulfilled."

Pope Innocent III in Regi Francorum (a letter about the Jews to the Kings of France and Germany):

“not displeasing to the Lord, but rather, acceptable to Him that the Dispersion of the Jews should live and do service under Catholic Kings and Christian princes – the remnants of which then will finally be saved (Romans 9:3-24), since in those days Judah will be saved (Jeremiah 33:6-26) and Israel will dwell in mutual trust.”

Pope Martin V, Declaration on the Protection of the Jews, 1419:

“Whereas the Jews are made to the image of God, and a remnant of them will one day be saved, and whereas they have sought our protection: following in the footsteps of our predecessors We command that they be not molested in their synagogues; that their laws, rights and customs be not assailed; that they be not baptized by force, constrained to observe Christian festivals, nor to wear new badges, and that they be not hindered in their business relations with Christians.”

Reference Works:

The Glossa Ordinaria, (the primary medieval source book for Scriptural interpretation reflecting the consensus of Western Church Fathers) says of Romans 11:27: “This is the prediction that in the end Elias and Enoch will convert the Jews, as Malachi says, ‘I will send you Elias the Tishbite who will convert the hearts of the father to the sons and the sons to the father, (Mal. IV)”

The great Catholic exegete Cornelius a Lapide:

in his commentary on Matthew 17:11-12 ("Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands.") states that Elias will: "Restore all things: that is, convert the Jews to Christ as the Messiah promised to themselves and there forefathers."

on Matthew 23:37-39 ("O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"): "It is possible that this passage may be understood of the Jews, who about the end of the world shall be converted to Christ by the preaching of Elias, and who, when He shall presently come to judgment, will acknowledge Him to be the Messiah, the Blessed of the Lord."

The 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia:

(B) Universal and Cosmic Eschatology.- 6) Notwhithstanding Christ's express refusal to specify the time of the end (Mrak xiii, 32, Acts i, 6 sq) it was a common belief among early Christians that the end of the world was near. This seemed to have some support in certain sayings of Christ in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, which are set down in the Gospels side by side with the prophecies relating to the end (Matt 24, Luke 21), and in certain passages of the Apostolic writings, which might, not unnaturally, have been so understood (but see II Thes, ii, s2 sqq) where St. Paul corrects this impression.) On the other hand, Christ had clearly stated that the Gospel was to be preached to all the nations before the end (Matt 24:14) and St. Paul looked forward to the ultimate conversion of the Jewish people as a remote event to be preceded by the conversion of the Gentiles (Rom xi, 25 sqq).

The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia (article on the "General Judgment"):

"Conversion of the Jews: According to the interpretation of the Fathers, the conversion of the Jews towards the end of the world is foretold by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (11:25-26): 'For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery, . . . that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles should come in. And so all Israel should be saved as it is written: There shall come out of Sion, he that shall deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.'"

Ludwig Ott in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, lists "the conversion of the Jews" as one of the "Signs of the Second Coming" (pp. 486-487), citing Romans 11:25-32.

The Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, edited by Dom Bernard Orchard, 1953, says of Romans 11:25-32:
"From the present, (verses) 1-24, St. Paul turns his attention to the future. The time will come when the present problem of Israel's exclusion from the salvation of the Messias will cease to exist because of her conversion, which will follow the conversion of the Gentiles. The final conversion of Israel could not be known to St. Paul from any natural source."

Father Augustin Lemann cites the following references to the end-times conversion of the Jews:

Venerable Bede, Commentary on Psalm 58, etc.
St. Anselm, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Chap. II ;
St. Peter Damian, Sermon 66.
St. Bernard, Letter 363
St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Chapter XI, 4
Suarez, Sermon 66
Tertullian, L. V, contra Marcion, Chap.IX ;
Origen, Sixth Homily on the Book of Numbers, towards the end.
St. Hilary, Commentary on Psalm 58 ;
St. Ambrose, Book about the Patriarch Joseph.
St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Chap. XI;
St. Jerome, Commentary on Micheas, Chap. II; Commentary on Malachias, Chap. III, etc.;
St Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Genesis, Book, V, etc.;
St. Prosper of Aquitaine, The Calling of the Gentiles, Book I, Chap. XXI. Cassiodorus, Commentary on Psalm 102;
Preniasius, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Chap.XI.
St. Gregory the Great, Liber Moralium, lib. II, etc.;
St. Isidore, Book about the Calling of the Gentiles, Chap. V.

3) That the seat of the man of lawlessness/"Antichrist"/Beast would be in imperial Rome, and that the Antichrist would rise following the Fall of Rome in the form of a revived Roman Empire:

In the words of Michael Scheifler:

The testimony is clear, the early church fathers quoted above generally expected the Antichrist to rise to power very soon after the fall of pagan Rome as prophesied in the book of Daniel, chapter 7. At the time that Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, the Caesars ruled, and until they were removed they restrained the Antichrist from rising to prominence and exercising his power. This is why Paul could not speak openly about the restrainer in his letter, because he did not want to invite unnecessary persecution by identifying Rome openly and predicting its demise. Pagan Rome's rule ended in 476 A.D., so the above fathers were writing, in some cases, hundreds of years before the event, demonstrating that they understood prophecy, at least on that point.

Scheifler provides us with an impressive list of patristic citations which prove that this was indeed the view of the early church writers. His list of citations is provided below:

St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-165)
DIALOGUE WITH TRYPHO
CHAPTER XXXII -- TRYPHO OBJECTING THAT CHRIST IS DESCRIBED AS GLORIOUS BY DANIEL, JUSTIN DISTINGUISHES TWO ADVENTS.

... and he whom Daniel foretells would have dominion for a time, and times, and an half, is even already at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High. ...

Source: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0128.htm

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-202)
Adversus haereses (inter A.D. 180/199)
Book V, Chapter 26

John and Daniel have predicted the dissolution and desolation of the Roman Empire, which shall precede the end of the world and the eternal Kingdom of Christ. The Gnostics are refuted, those tools of Satan, who invent another Father different from the Creator.

1. In a still clearer light has John, in the Apocalypse, indicated to the Lord's disciples what shall happen in the last times, and concerning the ten kings who shall then arise, among whom the empire which now rules [the earth] shall be partitioned. He teaches us what the ten horns shall be which were seen by Daniel, ...

Source: http://newadvent.org/fathers/0103526.htm

Book V, Chapter 30

Moreover, another danger, by no means trifling, shall overtake those who falsely presume that they know the name of Antichrist. For if these men assume one [number], when this [Antichrist] shall come having another, they will be easily led away by him, as supposing him not to be the expected one, who must be guarded against.

2. These men, therefore, ought to learn [what really is the state of the case], and go back to the true number of the name, that they be not reckoned among false prophets. But, knowing the sure number declared by Scripture, that is, six hundred sixty and six, let them await, in the first place, the division of the kingdom into ten; then, in the next place, when these kings are reigning, and beginning to set their affairs in order, and advance their kingdom, [let them learn] to acknowledge that he who shall come claiming the kingdom for himself, and shall terrify those men of whom we have been speaking, having a name containing the aforesaid number, is truly the abomination of desolation. ...

3. It is therefore more certain, and less hazardous, to await the fulfillment of the prophecy, than to be making surmises, and casting about for any names that may present themselves, inasmuch as many names can be found possessing the number mentioned; and the same question will, after all, remain unsolved. For if there are many names found possessing this number, it will be asked which among them shall the coming man bear. It is not through a want of names containing the number of that name that I say this, but on account of the fear of God, and zeal for the truth: for the name Evanthas (EUAN QAS) contains the required number, but I make no allegation regarding it. Then also Lateinos (LATEINOS) has the number six hundred and sixty-six; and it is a very probable [solution], this being the name of the last kingdom [of the four seen by Daniel]. For the Latins are they who at present bear rule: ...

Source: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103530.htm

Tertullian (2nd-3rd Century)

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now hinders must hinder, until he be taken out of the way." What obstacle is there but the Roman state, the falling away of which, by being scattered into ten kingdoms, shall introduce Antichrist upon (its own ruins)? "And then shall be revealed the wicked one, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish."

Source: http://newadvent.org/fathers/0301.htm

CHAP. XXXII.

There is also another and a greater necessity for our offering prayer in behalf of the emperors, nay, for the complete stability of the empire, and for Roman interests in general. For we know that a mighty shock im (43) pending over the whole earth--in fact, the very end of all things threatening dreadful woes---is only retarded by the continued existence of the Roman empire. We have no desire, then, to be overtaken by these dire events; and in praying that their coming may be delayed, we are lending our aid to Rome's duration.

Source: http://newadvent.org/fathers/0301.htm

Hippolytus (3rd Century)
TREATISE ON CHRIST AND ANTICHRIST.

25. Then he says: "A fourth beast, dreadful and terrible; it had iron teeth and claws of brass." And who are these but the Romans? which (kingdom) is meant by the iron--the kingdom which is now established; for the legs of that (image) were of iron. And after this, what remains, beloved, but the toes of the feet of the image, in which part is iron and part clay, mixed together?

And mystically by the toes of the feet he meant the kings who are to arise from among them; as Daniel also says (in the words), "I considered the beast, and lo there were ten horns behind it, among which shall rise another (horn), an offshoot, and shall pluck up by the roots the three (that were) before it."

And under this was signified none other than Antichrist, who is also himself to raise the kingdom of the Jews. He says that three horns are plucked up by the root by him, viz., the three kings of Egypt, and Libya, and Ethiopia, whom he cuts off in the array of battle. And he, after gaining terrible power over all, being nevertheless a tyrant, shall stir up tribulation and persecution against men, exalting himself against them. For Daniel says: "I considered the horn, and behold that horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, till the beast was slain and perished, and its body was given to the burning of fire."

26. ...

27. As these things, then, are in the future, and as the ten toes of the image are equivalent to (so many) democracies, and the ten horns of the fourth beast are distributed over ten kingdoms, let us look at the subject a little more closely, and consider these matters as in the clear light of a personal survey.

28. The golden head of the image and the lioness denoted the Babylonians; the shoulders and arms of silver, and the bear, represented the Persians and Medes; the belly and thighs of brass, and the leopard, meant the Greeks, who held the sovereignty from Alexander's time; the legs of iron, and the beast dreadful and terrible, expressed the Romans, who hold the sovereignty at present; the toes of the feet which were part clay and part iron, and the ten horns, were emblems of the kingdoms that are yet to rise; the other little horn that grows up among them meant the Antichrist in their midst; the stone that smites the earth and brings judgment upon the world was Christ.

Source: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0516.htm

St. Cyprian of Carthage (3rd Century)
TREATISE XI.
EXHORTATION TO MARTYRDOM, ADDRESSED TO FORTUNATUS.

PREFACE.
1. You have desired, beloved Fortunatus that, l since the burden of persecutions and afflictions is lying heavy upon us, and in the ending and completion of the world the hateful time of Antichrist is already beginning to draw near, I would collect from the sacred Scriptures some exhortations for preparing and strengthening the minds of the brethren, whereby I might animate the soldiers of Christ for the heavenly and spiritual contest.

Source: http://newadvent.org/fathers/0507.htm

Lactantius Firminianous (4th Century)

Divine Institutions (Divinae Institutiones)
Book VII, Chapter 25, OF THE LAST TIMES, AND OF THE CITY OF ROME:

These are the things which are spoken of by the prophets as about to happen hereafter: ... The subject itself declares that the fall and ruin of the world will shortly take place; except that while the city of Rome remains it appears that nothing of this kind is to be feared. But when that capital of the world shall have fallen, and shall have begun to be a street, which the Sibyls say shall come to pass, who can doubt that the end has now arrived to the affairs of men and the whole world? It is that city, that only, which still sustains all things; and the God of heaven is to be entreated by us and implored -- if, indeed, His arrangements and decrees can be delayed -- lest, sooner than we think for, that detestable tyrant should come who will trader-take so great a deed, and dig out that eye, by the destruction of which the world itself is about to fall.

Source: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/07017.htm

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386) Doctor of the Church
Catechetical Lectures
LECTURE XV.
ON THE CLAUSE, AND SHALL COME IN GLORY TO JUDGE THE QUICK AND THE DEAD; OF WHOSE KINGDOM THERE SHALL BE NO END, DANIEL vii. 9--14.

12. But this aforesaid Antichrist is to come when the times of the Roman empire shall have been fulfilled, and the end of the world is now drawing near. There shall rise up together ten kings of the Romans, reigning in different parts perhaps, but all about the same time; and after these an eleventh, the Antichrist, who by his magical craft shall seize upon the Roman power; and of the kings who reigned before him, three he shall humble, and the remaining seven he shall keep in subjection to himself. At first indeed he will put on a show of mildness (as though he were a learned and discreet person), and of soberness and benevolence: and by the lying [108] signs and wonders of his magical deceit a having beguiled the Jews, as though he were the expected Christ, he shall afterwards be characterized by all kinds of crimes of inhumanity and lawlessness, so as to outdo all unrighteous and ungodly men who have gone before him displaying against all men, but especially against us Christians, a spirit murderous and most cruel, merciless and crafty. And after perpetrating such things for three years and six months only, he shall be destroyed by the glorious second advent from heaven of the only-begotten Son of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus, the true Christ, who shall slay Antichrist with the breath of His mouth, and shall deliver him over to the fire of hell.

Source: http://newadvent.org/fathers/310115.htm

St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407) Doctor of the Church
Homilies on Second Thessalonians
HOMILY IV. 2 THESSALONIANS ii. 6--9.

"And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of His coming: even he whose coming is according to the working of Satan."

ONE may naturally enquire, what is that which withholdeth, and after that would know, why Paul expresses it so obscurely. What then is it that withholdeth, that is, hindereth him from being revealed? Some indeed say, the grace of the Spirit, but others the Roman empire, to whom I most of all accede. Wherefore? Because if he meant to say the Spirit, he would not have spoken obscurely, but plainly, that even now the grace of the Spirit, that is the gifts, withhold him. And otherwise he ought now to have come, if he was about to come when the gifts ceased; for they have long since ceased. But because he said this of the Roman empire, he naturally glanced at it, and speaks covertly and darkly. For he did not wish to bring upon himself superfluous enmities, and useless dangers. ... And he did not say that it will be quickly, although he is always saying it--but what? "that he may be revealed in his own season," he says, "For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work." He speaks here of Nero, as if he were the type of Antichrist. For he too wished to be thought a god. And he has well said, "the mystery"; that is, it worketh not openly, as the other, nor without shame. For if there was found a man before that time, he means, who was not much behind Antichrist in wickedness, what wonder, if there shall now be one? But he did not also wish to point him out plainly: and this not from cowardice, but instructing us not to bring upon ourselves unnecessary enmities, when there is noting to call for it. So indeed he also says here. "Only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way," that is, when the Roman empire is taken out of the way, then he shall come. And naturally. For as long as the fear of this empire lasts, no one will willingly exit himself, but when that is dissolved, he will attack the anarchy, and endeavor to seize upon the government both of man and of God. For as the kingdoms before this were destroyed, for example, that of the Medes by the Babylonians, that of the Babylonians by the Persians, that of the Persians by the Macedonians, that of the Macedonians by the Romans: so will this also be by the Antichrist, and he by Christ, and it will no longer withhold. And these things Daniel delivered to us with great clearness.

"And then," he says, "shall be revealed the lawless one." And what after this? The consolation is at hand. "Whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of His coming, even he whose coming is according to the working of Satan."

Source: http://newadvent.org/fathers/23054.htm

St. Jerome (c. 340-420) Doctor of the Church
Commentary on Daniel, Chapter 7, Verse 8:

"... We should therefore concur with the traditional interpretation of all the commentators of the Christian Church, that at the end of the world, when the Roman Empire is to be destroyed, there shall be ten kings who will partition the Roman world amongst themselves. Then an insignificant eleventh king will arise, who will overcome three of the ten kings, ..."

Source: http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/jerome_daniel_02_text.htm

Letter CXXIII
TO AGERUCHIA (409)

16. But what am I doing? Whilst I talk about the cargo, the vessel itself founders. He that letteth is taken out of the way, and yet we do not realize that Antichrist is near. Yes, Antichrist is near whom the Lord Jesus Christ "shall consume with the spirit of his mouth." "Woe unto them," he cries, "that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days." ...

17. ... For thirty years the barbarians burst the barrier of the Danube and fought in the heart of the Roman Empire. Long use dried our tears. For all but a few old people had been born either in captivity or during a blockade, and consequently they did not miss a liberty which they had never known. Yet who will hereafter credit the fact or what histories will seriously discuss it, that Rome has to fight within her own borders not for glory but for bare life; ...

Source: http://newadvent.org/fathers/3001123.htm

St. Augustine of Hippo (345 - 430) Doctor of the Church
City of God, Book XX, Chapter 19

For what does he [Paul] mean by "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now holdeth, let him hold until he be taken out of the way: and then shall the wicked be revealed?" [2 Thess 2] I frankly confess I do not know what he means. ... However, it is not absurd to believe that these words of the apostle, "Only he who now holdeth, let him hold until he be taken out of the way," refer to the Roman empire, as if it were said, "Only he who now reigneth, let him reign until he be taken out of the way." "And then shall the wicked be revealed:" no one doubts that this means Antichrist.

Source: http://newadvent.org/fathers/120120.htm

He concludes this list with a very telling quotations from Pope Pius IX (1846-1878). One would do well to examine the following quotation which Scheifler provides in light of Daniel 7, particularly in light of the patristic interpretations of it listed above:

La Chiesa Cattolica fondata e istituita da Cristo Signore per provvedere alla salvezza eterna degli uomini, avendo conseguito, in forza della sua divina istituzione, la forma di società perfetta, deve godere, nell’esercizio del suo sacro ministero, di quella libertà che la sottrae alla soggezione di qualsivoglia potere civile.

Poiché per operare liberamente, come era necessario, doveva fruire di quei supporti che rispondevano alle condizioni e alle esigenze dei tempi, per una speciale disposizione della divina Provvidenza avvenne che, quando l’Impero Romano si dissolse e fu diviso in vari regni, il Romano Pontefice, costituito da Cristo capo e centro di tutta la Chiesa, ottenne un Principato civile.

Questo fu disposto con somma sapienza da Dio stesso, perché in mezzo ad una tale moltitudine e varietà di sovrani temporali, il Sommo Pontefice disponesse di quella libertà politica che era indispensabile per esercitare, senza alcun impedimento, il suo potere spirituale, la sua autorità e la sua giurisdizione sul mondo intero. − Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Cum Catholica Ecclesia, March 26, 1860.

The Catholic Church which was founded and instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ to procure the eternal salvation of men, has, by reason of this divine institution, the form of a perfect society. Therefore, she must possess liberty such that she cannot be subject to any civil power in the execution of her sacred ministry.

To act with freedom, as it is just she should, she has always needed the assistance which was suitable to the conditions and the necessities of the age. It is, therefore, by a particular decree of Divine Providence that, at the fall of the Roman Empire and its partition into separate kingdoms, the Roman Pontiff, whom Christ made the head and center of his entire Church, acquired civil power.

Certainly, it was by a most wise design of God Himself that in the midst of so great a multitude and variety of temporal princes, the Sovereign Pontiff enjoyed political liberty, which is so necessary for him to exercise his spiritual power, his authority, and his jurisdiction over the whole world.

Source: Papal Teachings: The Church, selected and arranged by the Benedictine Monks of Solesmes, translated by Mother E. O'Gorman, R.S.C.J., Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart, St. Paul Editions, Boston, © 1980, 1962 by Daughters of St. Paul, Library of Congress catalog card number 62-12454, par. #225, page 160.

4) That the seat of this man of lawlessness would not only be in Rome, but as ostensible head of the visible Church itself:

When John of Constantinople accepted the title of "Ecumenical" or "Universal" Patriarch from Emperor Maurice, Gregory the Great warned that anyone who earrogated to himself such a title was a precursor to the Antichrist. As Dan Graves pointed out, a North African council in 217 had even forbidden such a title.

“Whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of antichrist.”
Gregory the Great (ca. 540–604)

No one can doubt that he wrote this of Antichrist and of the day of judgment, which he here calls the day of the Lord, nor that he declared that this day should not come unless he first came who is called the apostate — apostate, to wit, from the Lord God. And if this may justly be said of all the ungodly, how much more of him? But it is uncertain in what temple he shall sit, whether in that ruin of the temple which was built by Solomon, or in the Church; for the apostle would not call the temple of any idol or demon the temple of God. And on this account some think that in this passage Antichrist means not the prince himself alone, but his whole body, that is, the mass of men who adhere to him, along with him their prince; and they also think that we should render the Greek more exactly were we to read, not in the temple of God, but for or as the temple of God, as if he himself were the temple of God, the Church(St. Augustine, City of God, Book 20, Chapter 19)

Augustine here entertains the possibility that the Antichrist would make himself out to be god in the Church itself, and discusses an ongoing dispute in his time concerning the possibility of such an interpretation.

4) Increase in decadence -

"False accusers," that is, slanderers. For those who are conscious that they have no good in themselves, whilst they commit many sins and offenses, find consolation in defaming the characters of others.

"Incontinent," with respect both to their tongue and their appetite, and everything else.

"Fierce," hence their inhumanity and cruelty, when any one is covetous, selfish, ungrateful, licentious.

"Despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady." "Traitors," betrayers of friendship; "heady," having no steadiness; "high-minded," filled with arrogance. "Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God"(Chrysostom, Homilies on 2 Timothy)

Also, John Owen:

"They are blind that cannot read vanity, folly, uncleanness, luxury, in the attire the world putteth upon itself. The declension of professors in imitating the ways of the world in their habits and garb, makes a season perilous; it is a mixture wherein we learn their manners; and the judgments of God will ensue upon it. In this, likewise, we are grown like the world, that upon all occasions we are as regardless of the sins of the world, and as little troubled with them, as others are. Lot lived in Sodom, but "his righteous soul was vexed with their ungodly deeds and speeches." Live we where we will, when are our souls vexed, (so) that we do not pass through the things of the world, the greatest abominations, with the frame of spirit that the world itself doth? Not to speak of voluptuousness of living, and other things that attend this woeful mixture with the world that professors have made in the days wherein we live - corrupt communication, gaiety of attire, senselessness of the sins and abominations of the world round about us, are almost as much upon professors as upon the world. We have mixed ourselves with the people, and have learned their manners(John Owen, Perilous Times: 2 Timothy 3:1)

So also Johann Gerhard: "These are incontinentes, “uncontrolled,” people who give themselves up to carnal pleasures. Luther has unkeusch, “unchaste.” The Vulgate has intemperantes, “immoderate.”"

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