Thursday, June 25, 2020

Adult Ed, June 25th - Catholic Commentary on the Apocalypse, Session 4, The Four Living Creatures and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Revelation 4-7 (Part 4 of 9, Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

Outline of Session 4:  Commentary on Revelation chapters 4-7. The Heavenly Liturgy is opened before St John, the meaning of the Four Living Creatures and what the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse symbolize.  The Scroll with Seven Seals. 

Listen online [here]!


Catholic Commentary on the Apocalypse
Studying the most perplexing book of the Bible with the great Catholic Scholars
Session 4 – The Four Living Creatures and
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Revelation 4-7

Outline of Session 4:  Commentary on Revelation chapters 4-7. The Heavenly Liturgy is opened before St John, the meaning of the Four Living Creatures and what the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse symbolize.  The Scroll with Seven Seals.

I. Review of last week: The Seven Churches
A. The Book of Revelation as a communication of the knowledge infused to Christ in his humanity to St John and then to all of us. All supernatural revelation comes through Christ Jesus in his humanity. But Jesus is not only man, he is truly God – the Alpha and the Omega. Revelation shows the perfect Divinity and the perfect Humanity of Jesus
B. The Seven Churches and the Seven Angels: The Churches symbolize all the Churches of the world, but also real historical communities that were under the guidance and authority of St John.  The Seven Angels are the seven bishops over each community – these men were disciples of St John, including perhaps St Timothy and St Polycarp, and a reference to St Antipas.

II.  The Heavenly Liturgy
4:1  “After these things I looked, and behold a door was opened in heaven […] Come up hither” – St John is brought up into the heavenly liturgy. The visions he will now see are, as it were, from heaven looking down.
4:2 “And upon the throne one sitting” – God the Father, in his majesty and power
4:3 “There was a rainbow round about the throne” – God gave the rainbow as a sign to Noah after the flood, that he would never again destroy all men. This sign is a consolation as the Day of Judgment begins.
4:4 “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats; and upon the seats, four and twenty ancients sitting, clothed in white garments, and on their heads were crowns of gold.” – 24 is 12x2, which calls to mind both the Old and New Testaments.  Also, these are “presbyters” which means “priests” and they are wearing liturgical vestments.
4:5 “The seven spirits of God” – Could refer to the Seven Archangels, or perhaps to the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

III. The Four Living Creatures
4:6-7 “Four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind […] a lion […] a calf […] a man […] an eagle flying.” These recall the figures revealed to Ezekiel (though slightly differences, as each of the four had all four faces before). These can be taken to symbolize the four Evangelists, though before St John had written his Gospel – The lion is Mark, the calf is Luke, the man is Matthew, the eagle is John. Or again, the four Prophets of the Old Testament – The lion is Isaiah in royal dignity, the calf is Jeremiah as priest and victim, the man is Ezekiel whom God called son of man, the eagle is Daniel who sores to the heavens with his high oracles.
4:8 “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty” – The triple repetition of “holy” to signify “most holy.” This Hebraic form will be important to keep in mind.

IV. The Scroll with Seven Seals
5:5 “Weep not; behold the lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” – This emphasizes that Salvation is only through Jesus
5:6 “A Lamb standing as it were slain, having seven horns and seven eyes” – The “lion” is the “Lamb once slain,” Christ is victorious in his sacrifice. Notice the use of the image of Christ as the “Lamb” which is so prevalent throughout Revelation, and is found in St John’s Gospel “Behold the Lamb of God.”
5:8 “The prayers of the saints” – Notice throughout Revelation, the union of the saints in heaven with the servants of God on earth. The saints are interceding in our behalf, as the Church teaches.
5:10 “[Thou] has made us to our God a kingdom and priests” – The priesthood of the baptized.
5:11-14 The Lamb receives the worship and praise of all creation before he judges the earth. This is a book of praise and adoration of God, not a book of gloom!

A. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Note that the first six seals are opened in rapid succession, all in chapter 6. The seventh seal begins the seven trumpets and continues through till chapter 11. The first four seals are the four horsemen.
6:2 “And behold a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow, and there was a crown given him, and he went forth conquering that he might conquer.” – Many think this could be Jesus himself.
6:4 “Another horse that was red […] take peace from the earth […] a great sword was given him.” –The Second Horseman is War.
6:5 “A black horse […] a pair of scales” – The third represents famine. Money can’t buy enough food.
6:8 “And behold a pale horse, and he that sat upon him, his name was Death, and hell followed him.” Primarily represents plague and pestilence.
Note that these Four Horsemen fulfill what actually occurred in the Roman Empire during the time of the persecution of the early Church. Christ and his disciples went forth preaching the Gospel (symbolized by the bow), but the Roman powers did not accept them. Thus, Rome was afflicted with many wars and unrest, as well as with famines and plagues, until finally Rome should fall and then be converted to Christianity.
6:9ff The Fifth Seal is the protection and consolation of the saints who suffered martyrdom.
6:12ff The Sixth Seal is the terrible events prior to judgement: “there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair: and the whole moon became as blood: and the stars from heaven fell upon the earth…”  But this terror is for those who rejected the Savior, not for the saints.
*some expound this also as the darkening of the pastors of the Church.

B. The 144,000
7:4 “And I heard the number of them that were signed, an hundred forty-four thousand were signed, of every tribe of the children of Israel.”  Notice that the “seal” takes on a new meaning, for before the seals were opened to bring about judgment, but now the saints are “sealed” with the sign of salvation. The seal is the sign of the Cross, which is traced upon us at our baptism. Catholics make frequent use of the sign of the Cross, but protestants do not. 144 is 12x12, and 1,000 signifies a vast multitude.
This destruction of all those who have not received the sign of God calls to mind Ezekiel 9.

The book of Revelation tells the story of the triumph of the faithful over the evils of the world which seems much more powerful but in fact will pass away as quickly as a dream passes upon waking.
7:16-17 “They shall no more hunger nor thirst, neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall rule them, and shall lead them to the fountains of the waters of life, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

The seventh seal opens the seven trumpets and continues from chapter 8 through 11.


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