NUMBER OF THE SEALED
angels. That is, four principal kingdoms,
namely, of the Assyrians, and Persians, and Greeks, and Romans.
And as in the former seals, after the manifold conflicts of the
Church, he saw the joys of triumphant souls, so now, also, he is
to prove by examples the victory over the preceding kingdoms of
the world, who have now submitted to the Church of Christ, which
is to follow the reign of Antichrist.
For greater matters must of necessity be confirmed by greater proofs.
in a manner, stifled all things by their might, and suffered no
one to breathe of his own free-will. In "the earth" is
signified the variety of provinces, in "the sea" of islands,
in "the trees" the different quality and condition of
men. Otherwise: by the four angels are to be understood four winds,
according to the prophecy of Daniel who says,
"Behold the four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea,
and four beasts came up from the sea."
The Lord incarnate, Who is the Angel of the great counsel, that
is, the Messenger of His Father's will, has visited us, "the
day-spring from on high,"
bearing the ensign of the cross, with which to seal His own in
The "loud voice of the Lord" is the cry which is lifted
up on high,
"Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
From the time that the Lord suffered, not only was the dominion
of the enemy who opposed Him destroyed, but that of worldly power
too, as we both see with our eyes, and read of in the image which
the stone from the mountain "broke in pieces."
For to this end was the empire of the nations broken up, that
the face of the saints might be freely marked with the seal of
faith, which these had resisted. For, again, the figure of the
cross itself represents the kingdom of the Lord extending everywhere,
as the old saying proves:-
the world four-square, in parts distinct,
To shew the realm of faith possessing all."
not in vain was the sacred Name of the Lord, of four letters,
written on the forehead of the High Priest, inasmuch as this is
the sign on the forehead of the faithful, of which it is also
sung in the Psalm
"for the winefats," "O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful
is Thy Name in all the earth?" and the rest, until he says,
"That thou mayest destroy the enemy and the defender."
By this definite number is signified the innumerable multitude of
the whole Church, which is descended from the patriarchs either
by the lineage of nature, or the imitation of faith. For, he says,
"if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed." And it
tends to additional completeness, that the twelve also should be
multiplied by twelve, and brought to a sum of thousands, which is
the cube of the number ten, by which is represented the enduring
life of the Church. And for this reason, too, it is often denoted
by the number twelve, because throughout the foursquare world it
subsists by faith in the Holy Trinity, for three times four are
ten and two. Finally, also, when the Apostles were to preach the
same faith to the whole world, twelve were chosen, as signifying
by their number the mystery of their work.
REUBEN, GAD, ASHER, NEPTHALI, MANASSEH, SIMEON, LEVI, ISSACHAR,
ZABULON, JOSEPH AND BENJAMIN
With good reason, he begins with Judah, from which tribe our Lord
sprang; and has omitted Dan, from whom, as it is said, Antichrist
is to be born; for it is written,
"Let Dan become an adder in the way, a horned
serpent in the path, biting the horse-hoofs, that his rider may
fall." For he has not proposed to set forth the order of
earthly generation, but according to the interpretation of the
names the powers of the Church, which from present confession
and praise is hastening to the right hand of eternal life. For
this is the meaning of the name of Judah, who is placed first,
and of Benjamin, who comes last. So, then, Judah is placed first,
who is interpreted "confession," or "praise;"
for before the first step of confession no one reaches the height
of good works, and unless we renounce evil deeds by confession,
we are not fashioned in such as are good.
second is Reuben, who is interpreted, "seeing the son."
That works are denoted in "sons," the Psalmist testifies,
when among the benedictions of the man who is blessed he says
with the rest, "Thy sons like olive-plants;" and below,
"That thou mayest see thy son's sons." For it is not,
that he who fears the Lord cannot be blessed, unless he has begotten
sons, and raised up grandsons, since a better reward awaits the
faithful virgins; but in "sons," he designates works,
and in "son's sons" the fruits of works, namely, an
eternal reward. Accordingly, after Judah there follows Reuben,
that is, after the commencement of divine confession and praise,
the perfection of action.
But because "we must through many tribulations enter into
the kingdom of God,"
after Reuben follows Gad, who is interpreted "temptation,"
or, "girt." For after the beginning of a good work,
it is needful that a man should be proved by greater temptations,
and be girt about for greater conflicts, that the strength of
his faith may be approved. And so Solomon says,
"My son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in
righteousness and fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation;"
and the Psalmist also, "Thou hast girded me with strength
unto the battle."
And because "we esteem the blessed who have maintained sufferance,"
for this reason, after Gad is placed Asher, that is, "the
blessed," an order which is not unsuitable. For "blessed
is he who endures temptation, for when he has been proved, he
will receive the crown of life."
But, inasmuch as they who rely upon the sure promise of this blessedness,
are not straitened, but "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation,"
sing with the author of the Psalm,
"In tribulation Thou hast enlarged me," and also
"I ran in the way of Thy commandments, while Thou didst enlarge
my heart;" and say, exultingly, with the mother of the blessed
"My heart is enlarged above mine enemies, because I rejoiced
in Thy salvation;" therefore, Nepthali succeeds, that is,
"enlargement." Moreover, he is followed by Manasseh,
who is interpreted "forgetting," or, "necessity."
And by the mystery of this name we are admonished, that being
taught by the anguish of the present temptations, and "forgetting
the things which are behind," we should so "reach forward,"
as the Apostle says,
"to the things which are before," as "not to make
provision for the flesh in lust,"
but as compelled by the necessity of human nature alone. And concerning
this the Psalmist prayed,
when sighing for better things, "Deliver me out of my necessities."
Next to him is placed Simeon, that is, "he heard of sorrow,"
or, "the name of his habitation;" in order that, by
the character of this name also, he might more plainly inculcate
both what is to be possessed here, and what is to be profitably
expected. For the joy of the heavenly habitation will be given
to those whose mind is here made sorrowful by a fruitful repentance;
to whom it is also said,
"Your sorrow shall be turned into joy."
In the next place follows Levi, that is, "added," in
whom we either understand those who by temporal obtain eternal
things; as Solomon says,
"The ransom of a man's life are his riches;" or those
who, by following the counsel of God,"receive in this world
a hundredfold with tribulations, but in the world to come, eternal
." And to these, also belongs this that is written,
"He who adds knowledge, adds grief." For to this end
also the bitterness of tribulation was added to the blessed Job,
that having been proved, he might receive a greater recompense
of reward. And so, not without reason, there succeeds him in direct
order, Issachar, who is interpreted "reward," because,
as the Apostle teaches,
"The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be
compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us,"
inasmuch as we fight with better success when there is hope of
a sure reward. But God operates and perfects this in the habitation
of strength, which Zabulon means, when "strength is made
perfect in weakness."
So that the body, which is considered weak by its enemies, and
through the material substance of which they also strive to bring
destruction to the soul, is found to be invincible through God
Who strengthens it; and there succeeds a happy increase in this.
This is also denoted by the word Joseph, for it signifies, gifts
and graces to be added, whether thou understand the increase of
spiritual gain from the double return of the talents, or whether
thou take it in respect of the offerings which are made to God
the Redeemer by the devotion of the faithful.
Now, in order that thou mayest perceive that all these, who both
by the succession and interpretation of the names are shewn not
to be placed without significance, will be at the right hand of
Christ, the eternal King, in the judgement to come; Benjamin,
that is, "the son of the right hand," is set last, as
said before, as the end of the line. For, after the last enemy,
death, has been destroyed,
the bliss of the eternal inheritance will be given to the elect.
And this, whether each one of the faithful is rightly called the
son of the right hand, or the whole assembly of the Church, of
which it is sung: "Upon Thy right hand stood the queen, in
a vesture of gold, clothed in variety."
So, then, from each tribe are sealed ten thousand. For in whatsoever
virtues each one of the faithful has made progress, he must needs
be ever strengthened by the faith, and instructed by the examples
of the fathers of old. And it is most certain that frequently
the body of doctors, frequently that of the whole Church, is designated
by the number twelve, because of the sum of the Apostles, or patriarchs.
For whether each one is counted worthy of praise from confession,
as in Judah; or is illustrious from the progeny of works, in Reuben;
or is strong from the discipline of temptations, in Gad; or is
happy from victory in conflicts, in Asher; or is enlarged by abundant
works of mercy, in Napthali; or is forgetful of the things which
are behind, in Manasseh; or is still sorrowful, as in the valley
of tears, but always rejoicing in the name of his habitation,
while sighing for the heavenly Jerusalem, in Simeon; or is rejoicing
together in the promises of the life that now is, and of that
which is to come, resting upon temporal good things, added to
the eternal good, in Levi; or is strengthened by the contemplation
of the future reward, in Issachar; or is laying down his life
for Christ, in Zabulon; or is labouring earnestly for an increase
of spiritual substance, and offering something more beyond the
commands of God, either in virginity, or from the abundance of
his means, in Joseph; or is expecting the right hand of eternal
bliss, with unwearied prayer, in Benjamin; it is fitting that
each should be sealed in his own profession by the rule of the
preceding fathers, as by the number twelve, and that from the
merits of individuals, should the most perfect beauty of the Church,
as the sum of a hundred and forty-four thousand, be made up.
FROM THE GREAT TRIBULATION
On the conclusion of the recapitulation, which had been interposed
for the sake of example, he returns to the previous order, and
announces the glory of those who are to overcome the wickedness
of the last persecution. And that which follows, "From all
nations, and tribes, and peoples and tongues," may also be
thus understood, that, after enumerating the tribes of Israel,
to whom the Gospel was first preached, he desires to make mention
of the salvation of the Gentiles as well.
"robes" he signifies baptism, by "palms" the
triumph of the Cross, and he intimates that in Christ they have
overcome the world. But robes may also double the glory which
is given by the Holy Spirit.
They proclaim with a loud voice, that is, with great devotion, an
unceasing praise, that on the throne, namely, in the Church, there
reign the Father and the Son; the Holy Spirit, nevertheless, reigning
together with them. For it is said, "To Him Who sitteth upon
the throne, and to the Lamb;" in the same manner as it is said
in the Gospel,
"And may know Thee, the true and only God, and Jesus Christ,
Whom Thou hast sent;" in which place, "may know the only
and true God" is understood.
In all the angels he has represented the
persons of the great multitude worshipping the Lord. "All
they," he says,
"who are round about Him will offer gifts."
In this passage he relates, that neither the multitude, nor the
living creatures, nor the elders worshipped, but the angels alone.
For these are the multitude, these the living creatures and the
elders. But it may also be understood of the angelic spirits themselves,
of whom, as rejoicing together at the salvation of the Gentiles,
it is said,
"Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people," and , "Let
all the angels of God worship Him."
The Church offers the sevenfold praise of excellence unto the Lord,
and in each of its members confesses to have received this from
He asks for this end, that he may teach.
"Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom
but who knows not that the tribulation of Antichrist
will be greater than all the rest?
He speaks not of martyrs alone. They are washed in their own blood.
But the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, cleanses the whole Church
from all sin, therefore are they before the throne of God. For
they are accounted worthy to stand there together in the service
of God, who in the midst of adverse things are faithful confessors
of His Name.
and night. He speaks after our manner, and
The saints are the throne of God, above whom and among whom the
Lord for ever dwells.
This it is which the Lord Himself promised, saying, "I am
the bread of life: he who cometh to Me shall never hunger; and
he who believeth in Me shall never thirst."
Yea, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they shall be filled."
"We passed," he says, "through fire and water,
and thou broughtest us out into a place of refreshment."
Lamb. He says, that the Lamb is in the midst
of the throne, in that he had said above,
that "the Lamb received the book from Him Who sitteth upon
the throne;" and teaches that the Church is one throne for
the Father and the Son, in which one God, the undivided Trinity,
dwells through faith.
That is to say, to the company of the saints, who are the fountains
of heavenly doctrine. The vision of God itself may also be signified,
"in Whom are hidden the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;"
according to this that David says,
"As the hart longeth for the fountains of waters, so longeth
my soul after Thee, O God."
When the fulness of immortal bliss is gained, all sorrow will
be at once consigned to forgetfulness. For, "Blessed are
they who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
The vision of the white-robed multitude may also be understood
of the present time, when "we are saved in hope,"
and "hoping for that which we see not, in patience wait for