Chapter 3- The Consummation
ARTICLE I-DIVINE REACTION AGAINST ANTICHRIST AND HIS PARTISANS
1. Resurrection of Elias and Enoch
Three days after their death, the glorious martyrs will rise triumphant from the dead to the great wonder and consternation of their enemies. Those who rejoiced on seeing their mangled bodies lying in the street will be terror-stricken on beholding them walking again as other living beings. "And after three days and a half, the spirit of life from God entered into them. And they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon them that saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven, saying to them come up hither. And they went up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies saw them. And at that hour there was made a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell; and there were slain in the earthquake names of men seven thousand; and the rest were cast into a fear, and gave glory to the God of heaven." (Apoc. 11:11-13).
What are we to think of those events recordedin theSacred Scriptures? Is the narration an allegory, or is it historic? The most of the holy Fathers and Doctors, and notably St. Hippolytus of Antioch, Tertullian (lib. de Anima), S1. Ambrose (in Ps. 45), St. Gregory (14 Moral., C. 11), Richard of St. Victor, and St. Thomas (in 11 Apoc.) are of opinion that St. John narrates here a[n] historical fact.
One of the principal rules by which we must interpret the Sacred Scriptures is to always take the obvious and literal sense of the words unless that there is a sufficient reason for doing otherwise. And in the text cited above there is no reason why we should deviate from the literal sense to accept an allegorical meaning. On the contrary, this anticipated glorification of Elias and Enoch is in perfect harmony with the justice and goodness of God. Nothing could conduce more to reanimate the courage of the faithful who were disheartened by the death of their leaders, while it was well calculated to induce Antichrist to attempt an extravagant enterprise that would result in his destruction.
2. End of Antichrist; Destruction of his Empire
According to the hypothesis (which seems to be certain) that the man of sin will appear simultaneously on the scene with Elias and Enoch, Antichrist will survive them only thirty days, which gives Tertullian occasion to say that the impious will perish by the blood of Elias and Enoch. (lib. de Anima).
In order to destroy the good effect whichthe ascension of the two martyrs produced in the hearts of men, Antichrist will proclaim to the world his design of ascending to heaven. With a view to the carrying out of this project, he will pitch his tent on Mount Apadno, situated between the Caspian and the Persian Seas, where, according to some writers, Antiochus Epiphanes, figure of Antichrist, perished and from which, according to others. Christ ascended into heaven, it being then called Mount Olivet. (Dan. 11 :45). St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, and St. Thomas say that he will ascend from the top of this mountain into the air, as did Simon Magus at Rome. But God shall overwhelm him by the splendor of His glory and shall precipitate him to the earth by a simple puff of his breath. (2 Thes. 2 :8).
And when he shall fall, the earth will open and swallow up the beast and false prophet amidst flames of fire and sulphurous smoke, while his emissaries shall perish by the sword of him seated on the white horse. (Apoc. 19:11-21).
Thus shall vanish like smoke the power and glory of Antichrist, to whom we may very appropriately apply these words of Holy Writ: "I have seen the wicked highly exalted, and lifted up like the cedars of Lebanon, and I passed by, and 10 he was not; and I sought him and his place was not found." (Ps. 36:35-36).
ARTICLE II-DIVINE REACTION AGAINST THE WORLD WHICH DESIRED AND MERITED THE GOVERNMENT OF ANTICHRIST
1. Interval between the Death of Antichrist and the End of the World
The end of the world will take place almost immediately after the death of Antichrist. An interval of forty [-five] days, however, will be granted, in order to give many a chance to do penance. This assertion is very probably founded on the following words of Daniel the prophet: "Happy those who wait on the Lord and full of hope in his promises thus await him 1335 days." (12:12). According to the Fathers there is question here of those who await the second coming of Our Saviour during the last persecution, which will last 1290 days, (Dan. 12:11). leaving a remainder of forty-five days before His arrival. (Hieron, in Dan., etc.).
It is probably during this interval that the accomplishment of the prophecy of St. Paul shall be realized in the conversion of the Jews who were followers of Antichrist. ("All Israel shall be saved.") There are many commentators especially among those of recent date who hold an opinion diametrically opposed to ours. According to them, the Church should represent the different phases of the life of Our Blessed Lord. And in studying the history of the Church, they presume to have found the following analogy. They say that the first 300 years of the persecution of the Church is an image of the persecution of Jesus during His childhood. During the interval between the fourth and sixteenth centuries, she was comparatively at peace - figure of the Saviour's life at Nazareth. From that period the Church had to contend with many and serious obstacles on the part of various governments; still, she constantly preached the Gospel and evangelized the poor - figure of the public life of Our Lord. Finally, the hour of darkness is approaching; the passion of the Church will commence with the advent of Antichrist. But soon again the Church, spouse of Jesus Christ, shall rise from her chains more resplendent and glorious than ever - figure of the days passed by Our Saviour with His Apostles after His resurrection, before His ascension into heaven. During those days of universal regeneration, the Church, according to some, shall be governed by Pontiffs risen from the dead. The "Angelic Pastor" of the prophecy of Malachy, will commence the glorious series.
All this reasoning is very fine and quite plausible. But withal, we must confess that it is nothing more than a fine hypothesis which seems to be in contradiction with the words of Our Saviour representing the wicked as having been taken by surprise by the final destruction of all things, which shall be in punishment of the unheard of crimes committed during the time of Antichrist.
Hence, notwithstanding the opportunity given to do penance (Thorn. in Apoc. Acosta, lib. 3), the greater part will continue to lead disorderly lives, just like those who lived in the time of Noe. (Mat. 24: 38; Lk. 17:27). They shall continue to indulge in all kinds of excesses of intemperance and luxury until they will be surprised by the deluge of fire that will envelope and devour them. (2 Pet. 3:7-12; Apoc. 22:11). But the faithful friends of Jesus will patiently await His coming. They will say with the beloved Apostle, "Come, Lord Jesus." (Apoc. 22:20).
It is probable that our resurrection will take place on Easter Sunday; such is the opinion of Lactance(lib. 7, C.19) and of St. Anselm (Elucid.). If there will be an interval of forty-five days between the death of Antichrist and our resurrection, the death of Antichrist must take place during the days of debauchery which precede the holy time of Lent.
2. Signs that Will Appear in Inanimate Things and Which are Forerunners of the End of the World
The events which we shall now briefly set forth disclose the tragic end of the great drama of humanity, the destruction of the city of wickedness, whose principal representative on earth will be Antichrist [and] the definite and eternal triumph of the City of God, of which Jesus Christ is King.
As St. Augustine remarks (lib. 20, de Civit., C. 30), the events pertaining to the end of the world will happen in the manner they have been foretold, but as to their accidental circumstances, God alone knows the order in which they will take place. He has revealed nothing explicitly on this point, and consequently, our knowledge of them is confined to mere conjecture, possessing a greater or less degree of probability. Experience alone will put us in possession of the desired information.
The general run of events will most probably occur in the following order: First, great signs and wonders in the heavens and upon earth shall precede the coming of Jesus Christ. Second, the resurrection of the dead. Third, the General Judgment. Fourth, the renewal of heaven and earth. Many signs that are forerunners of the end of the world have already appeared; others shall follow, such as the Gospel preached to all nations, the reign of Antichrist, the conversion of the Jews - partially accomplished by Elias and finally completed by the death of Antichrist. But other revelations are expected before the end comes.
The evil genius will, to all appearance, hold in check the power of Christ for a long time. But the hour of Divine justice and retribution shall come. An angel will appear in the heavens and swear by Him that liveth forever and ever that time shall be no more. (Apoc. 10:6). The Lord, like a warrior, "will put on justice as a breastplate" and "will take equity for an invincible shield." (Wis. 5 :19-20). He advances at the head of His army, "for His armies are exceeding great; His warriors are strong, and execute His word; for the day of the Lord is great, and very terrible, and who can stand it?" (Joel 2:11). "And he will arm the creature for the revenge of His enemies." (Wis. 5:18).
The beautiful order that now governs the whole universe shall give place to wild confusion. "The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be moved." (Mat. 24:29). On the day of the Lord, "the heavens shall pass with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it shall be burned up." (2 Pet. 3:10) "The heavens departed as a book folded up." (Apoc. 6:14). these passages, according to St. Augustine and all the other Fathers and theologians, must not be taken in their mystical sense, but intheir literal meaning. (St. Augustine, 18 de Civit. D., C. 23)