Eusebius (Lib 3. Hist. C. 31), St. Jerome (Hieron, Lib. de Scriptura, Eccles. et contra Jovin.), Tertullian (Lib. de Anim. 20), St. Augustine (Serm. 549, de Tempore), St. Isidore (Lib. de Vita et Obitu Sanct.), St. Epiphanius (Haeres, 78), maintain that St. John is dead, as well as the other Apostles. In the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (2 C. 14), Pope St. Celestine and St. John Chrysostom speak of the relics of his body, and the fact that these relics not existing now must be attributed to the evil days of the past. The text of the Gospel on which the return of St. John is based may be otherwise interpreted. Thus it is susceptible of the following signification: "I desire that he may remain as he is until I return and destroy Jerusalem." This is the interpretation given by Theophylacte.
Those words of Our Lord are also susceptible of a conditional signification similar to this: "And even when I would desire that this disciple should remain in the world until I return to judge it, what is if to you?" This is the explanation given by St. Chrysostom and St. Cyril. Finally, it is not possible that Our Saviour meant by this that St. John should live on without dying until His second coming when He should visit him. Nevertheless, such is the opinion of St. Augustine, Venerable Bede, and St. Thomas. The prophecy relative to the martyrdom of the Apostle was fulfilled the day on which he was cast into the cauldron of boiling oil in Rome. He came out of it full of life and vigor, it is true, but that was due to a great miracle. He withstood a torture capable in itself to cause death, which in the eyes of the Church and before God suffices to merit the palm of martyrdom. Hence it is that the Church in her liturgy gives him this glorious title. As to the other prophecy, it has certainly been realized during the life of St. John. After having written his Apocalypse, he preached the Gospel again in Asia Minor. Finally, to refute the plausibility of the alleged reasons, wecan say that the witnesses of the Law of Grace are so numerous and their testimony so certain and so striking, since they sealed it with their blood, that it does not appear necessary nor even useful to revoke any other proofs. And in any case, may we not cite Elias as an eye-witness of the Law of Grace since he saw the Transfiguration of the Saviour.
It is, then, more than probable, as we are led to suppose from the Apocalypse, that God has reserved only two men of the world to defend and console the Church during her last persecution.
VIII. Mission of Elias and Enoch
In the Church's infancy, St. Peter and St. Paul received, individually, a special mission, though not exclusively so; St. Peter was destined to evangelize the Jews, and St. Paul became the Apostle of the Gentiles. (Gal. 1 :16). In the latter times, two new Apostles will divide between them the work of evangelizing the world. Enoch will preach to the Gentiles, whose faith and charity he will stir up and revive (Ecclesiasticus 44:16), while Elias, Jew by birth, will be charged with the conversion of the Jews. (Ecclesiasticus 48:10).
IX. Conversion of the Jews
We here meet with the difficult task of reconciling two prophecies which are apparently in contradiction: Antichrist will be received by the Jews; Elias will convert the Jews.
Still it becomes an easy task by making use of a distinction furnished by the Sacred Scriptures. "And at that time shall thy people be saved, everyone that shall be found written in the book" of life. (Dan. 12:1). "And all that dwelled upon the earth adored him, whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb." (Apoc. 13 :8). According to these texts, a portion of the Jews will remain obstinate and will adhere to Antichrist, but the greater part will hear the voice of Elias and will be converted. This final conversion of the Jews is spoken of in various places of the Bible. The prophet Osee speaks of it (3 :4-5): "For the children of Israel shall sit many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without altar, and without ephod, and without theraphim; and after this the children of Israel will return and shall seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the last days." Moses expresses the same prediction. "After all the things aforesaid shall find thee, in the latter thou shalt return to the Lord thy God and shalt hear his voice." (Deut. 4:30). St. Paul speaks in similar terms: "Hath God cast away his people?" (Rom. 11:1). And again he adds: "That blindness in part hath happened in Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles should come in, and so all Israel should be saved, as it is written." (Rom. 11 :25-26). In light of language so clear and formal of the sacred text, St. Augustine and St. Gregory do not hesitate to affirm that this conversion of the Jews is a truth of divine faith. (Aug. 20 de Civitate, C. 39; Greg. in prim. Lib. Reg. C 2 et 20, Moral. C. 23, Super. Cant. C 6).
X. Miracles and Combats of the Two Patriarchs
In order to discharge the duties of their mission with greater efficiency, the two patriarchs willbe invested with the power of the Most High God.
St. John, speaking of them in the Apocalypse (11 :3-6), says: "I will give my power unto my two witnesses; and they will prophesy. . . clothed in sack-cloth. These are the two olive trees and two candlesticks that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire will come out of their mouths and shall devour their enemies; and if any man will hurt them, in this manner must he be slain. These have the power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with plagues as often as they will."
In virtue of this power they will be able to console the Church and diminish the evils with which she will be afflicted in those days of sorrow and desolation.
St. Peter and St. Paul were not deterred from announcing the Gospel to pagan Rome, the mistress of idolatry. In those latter times the two prophets will also come and attack with intrepidity the enemy of Christ. They will attack him at Jerusalem, the center of his empire. This assertion seems to be founded on the Apocalypse, (11:8), "And their bodies shall lie in the street." By this passage they are represented as dying in the city of Jerusalem.
XI. Duration of Their Preaching
The mission of Elias and Enoch will last for 1260 days; that is to say, three years, five months, and fifteen days; in other words, about three years and a half, which is about the length of Antichrist's reign. (Apoe. 11:3). Antichrist and these two patriarchs will very probably appear simultaneously. The Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and the Fathers all concur in corroborating this opinion.
XII. Their Martyrdom
Having fulfilled their mission, the beast will prevail over them. The career of these holy apostles will be similar to that of Our Divine Saviour, who during three years was inviolable: His enemies dispatched soldiers to take Him prisoner (In. 7:32); they endeavored to stone Him to death (In. 10:31); and they brought Him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built that they might cast Him down headlong. (Lk. 4:29). But their courage failed them, and "He passing through their midst went His way." (Lk. 4:30). But there came a time when He suffered Himself to fall into their hands. "Your hour and that of the powers of darkness has arrived." (Lk. 22:53).
Elias and Enoch will be invulnerable during 1260 days. Then God will suffer them to fall into the hands of Antichrist that they may win the crown of martyrdom - their time for working miracles having ceased while the man of sin will still perform more striking wonders. And [when] they shall have given their testimony, "The beast that ascendeth out of the abyss shall make war against them, and shall overcome them and kill them." (Apoc. 11 :7). A pious legend has it that they will be crucified like Our Divine Saviour. Their holy bodies shall lie in the great city where their Master has been crucified. This city is called mystically Sodom and Gomorrah. A great number of people of every tribe and nation will see the bodies of these martyrs during three days and a half. At this sight the people will rejoice and makemerry and shall send each other presents because these two prophets are dead who tormented them that dwelt upon the earth. (Apoc. 11:8-10).
XIII. Apogee of Antichrist's Power
Antichrist will boast and glory in his victory. He will open his mouth in blasphemy against God, cursing His holy name, the tabernacle, and the saints of heaven. (Apoc. 13:6). No reverses shall impede his action. (Dan. 8:12). His glory will surpass that of all other divinities (2 Thes. 2:4), and his language shall be that of a boaster. (Dan. 11 :36). The universal acclamations which he will receive on all sides will flatter his pride; all will exclaim, "Who is like unto the beast, who can withstand him?" (Apoc. 13:4). Finally, prosperity shall attend all his movements up to the time when the vengeance of God shall overtake him. (Dan. 11:36).