excerpts from

a commentary upon

the divine revelation

of the apostle and evangelist john [1]


david pareus

Professor of Divinity

University of Heidelberg

Short Bio

Translated out of the Latin into English

by Elias Arnold

1644 [2]


Prefatory Remarks

        I had thought indeed never to have set forth this Commentary upon the Revelation, which I long since expounded in the Academy in 188 Lectures, but to have left the same unto my children for their proper use, especially since I realized I had not attained to adequate knowledge of the many mysteries contained therein. Meanwhile, I thought it requisite to search out, with all diligence, the judgments of more learned Interpreters in the harder matters……

Notwithstanding, it happened of late, I know not by what providence, that at length I assented to the publishing thereof, at the earnest request of friends who judged it an unfit thing that the Church be deprived of this treasure, of whatever worth. They were convinced that this work shed new light on the mysteries of the Revelation.

Additionally, these same friends argued that the time was especially ripe for use of my Commentary by the Church because of the preponderance of publicly depraved new feigned Oracles and false Glosses, as if the Revelation did prove and authorize Romish Idolatry, and patronize Popish Tyranny. Rather than give license to the aforementioned the Revelation portends nothing but new and fashionable evils upon the Godly and most miserable calamities unto the Church, which it sets forth in lively colors, the very Kingdom of Antichrist himself, under the types of a Beast and False Prophet……

I dedicate this work unto none other, save unto my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ….

I am not the first to expound the Beast. Neither was the Apostle John the first to show Antichrist at Rome. For before him Paul testified that the son of perdition should sit in the Temple of God as God, that is, claiming the primacy in the Church; for even then the mystery of iniquity was working, though it was presently withheld by the Roman Empire, as Chrysostom, Ambrose and Jerome interpret it. That Empire was then to weaken after being translated to the East, following which time it was destroyed.

Irenæus, a most ancient writer said that the numeral name of the Beast in all likelihood should be Lateinos – Λατεινος – and as if he had been a divine Prophet foretelling the apostasy of the Latin Church, he expressly added the words: ‘but in this we will not boast.’

The Roman Pope, Gregory I, confidently affirmed that that priest should be Antichrist, or Antichrist’s forerunner, who styled himself universal, pointing as with the finger at Boniface III, his successor, for as Gregory said, ‘the king of pride is at hand and that which is not lawful to be spoken, an Army of Priests is prepared.

Many more witnesses after the time of Gregory I will be brought forth in Chapter 13, who will all affirm that Rome was to be the seat of Antichrist, and the Pope, with his double-sword, the very Antichrist himself. Wherefore Cardinal Bellarmine said, not out of ignorance, but malice, ‘that by us Protestants the Pope first began to be called Antichrist.’[3] …Wherefore thou, O Pope, hear this truth and repent before the hand of the Heavenly Conqueror lay hold on thee, and cast thee into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone…Hath not the Apostle Paul sufficiently noted that thou art he that sitteth in the Temple of God as God? Why then should you not suspect that it is you, considering what you do and all you have? Your two horns like the Lambs; the two keys and two swords in your hand; the Triple Crown on your head; the mysteries in your forehead; the image which you cause the inhabitants of the earth to worship, killing those who refuse to do it; the name and number of thy name; the Mass and Latin Liturgy; the whorish woman sitting upon Seven Mountains – now should you not suspect yourself with all these similarities to the Antichrist?....

Touching the canonical authority of the Revelation, we did not judge this book of Scripture as canonical, as that upstart Preterist Interpreter, the Jesuit Alcazar alleges, so ‘that we might abuse the dark and obscure sayings of the Book, to vomit out the venom of our malice against the Pope of Rome.’ For the reasons already set forth, and many more beside, do confirm our belief, and because by the Revelation we are manifestly taught that that son of perdition lifting himself up against whatsoever is called God, and sitting in the Temple of God, as if he were God, is no other than that Capitoline Jove, that ancient Roman god under a new cloak, the Pope of Rome, even to this day treading down all powers under his feet.

But a man might justly wonder how it is that Popish Writers do not tremble at the very sight of this Book, and how they are not afraid to explicate the Prophecy by their Commentators. But upon examining their writings the answer becomes apparent. Seeing they can neither wholly extinguish the Revelation from the canon of Scripture, nor always keep it hidden from the people, the Papists are then forced to pervert the oracles thereof by their false Interpretations. In this they labor in vain, seeing it is clear as the Sun at noon day that under the Image of the Beast and False Prophet seducing the Inhabitants of the Earth, and under the type of the whorish woman committing fornication with the Kings of the Earth, and under the type of the great City on seven hills ruling over the Kings of the Earth, is represented the Monarchy and Papal See of Rome; while under the Image of the Locusts are represented the innumerable vermin of the Clergy and Monks; and under the type of Merchants which no man, once Antichrist is discovered, shall buy anymore, are set forth Romish Indulgences and buying and selling of souls, etc.

Why the Revelation is difficult to interpret

Both Augustine and Jerome admit of the difficulties interpreting the Revelation of John. So indeed it is, for the sharpness of man’s wit is blinder than beetles in the true understanding in this Book, as it is in other Books of Scripture, unless it is enlightened by the beams of the Holy Ghost. However, the causes of this obscurity are plain.

First, the whole Book is Prophetic, touching future things,[4] not in the sense that they are altogether unknown, but being foreknown are conceived in hope, rather than in full understanding.

Second, that these future things are not declared by plain words, neither defined by notes or marks of times, places and persons, but are revealed unto John in dark and enigmatical Visions. It is true that many Visions in Scripture are literal as set before the eyes of the mind or body as the hand writing on the wall,  fiery chariots surrounding Elisha, the burning bush, the sheet coming down from heaven with four-footed beasts, or when Paul saw the Lord standing by him at night. In these there was no great difficulty. But there are other Visions whose meaning is much more intricate. This occurs when the Images or Representations signifying some secret thing are exhibited unto the minds of men, either sleeping or awake. The mysteries of these unique Visions are so obscure that unless the meaning is revealed by God, its meaning cannot be discovered by mortal man’s intellect. Such were the dreams of Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Ezekiel, Daniel and Zachariah, which may be compared to the Visions of the Revelation. But the mysteries of the Visions, although he revealed them to His servants and Prophets, yet He kept them secret from all other profane men, but the godly He stirs up to the diligent searching out of its meaning because of its obscurity.

And although we can scarcely, and that with much difficulty, come into the understanding of all the secrets of this Book, notwithstanding the difficulty, it ought not to frighten us or keep us from searching, but rather it should stir up a more diligent enquiry into the same. Besides, many things in the Book are without any shadows of dark Types, such as its speaking plainly of the punishments of the ungodly, of the blessedness of the reward of the Saints, etc., in which lies no obscurity. In many other Types the signification is also plain, the Analogy with the things signified not obscure. Such is the Analogy of the seven Candlesticks with the seven Churches; of the Lamb with Christ, of the woman with the Church, of the Dragon with Satan, with the Beast and False Prophet with Antichrist, of the Locusts with the devouring Monks, of Babylon and Great Whore with Rome, of the seven heads of the Beast with the seven hills of Rome.

The Revelation equal in dignity to the Books of Moses

The Revelation is plainly made equal with the divine Books of Moses himself, the Prince of Prophets. For just as those are the first of the Sacred Canon and confirmed with this Seal: Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, etc.[5] So this Book closing the Holy Canon is confirmed with a similar Seal: that nothing may be added to, nothing taken away from it.[6] As Moses was chief of the Prophets leading the first ranks, John was chief of the Prophets leading the last ranks. Here I willingly assent to Beza’s opinion, ‘that it seemed good to the Holy Ghost to gather into this precious book, those things which remain to be fulfilled after Christ’s coming, which were predicted by the former prophets; and also to add some things which concerned us, of importance for us to know.’ A like honorable title that worthy divine, John Oecolampadius, giveth unto this Book: It is the best interpreter of all the Prophets.

Evidence proving the Revelation was written in A. D. 96

The Revelation is the last Book of the New Testament, not because it is the last in dignity, but in time. For Jerome writes that Domitian raised the second persecution after Nero, and John wrote the Revelation in the 14th year of his reign in the Isle called Patmos.[7] Irenaeus doth agree, affirming that John saw the Revelation not long before Irenaeus’ time, ‘but almost in our age, towards the end of Domitian’s Empire.’ [8]

Wherefore the Revelation was written in the 96th year of Christ, after all the other Books of the New Testament were written. For John outlived all the Apostles and Canonical Writers, living until the 3rd year of Trajan, (as Sophronius records), which from Christ’s birth was the year 102, and from His passion was 68 years, (as Jerome records), and from the destruction of Jerusalem it was 25 years. 

The Revelation confirms orthodox doctrine, such as Election, the true Gospel, as well as the eternal Deity of Christ

This Book doth excellently shine forth in point of doctrine, for it truly teaches the Prophetic and Apostolic faith, with many illustrations of the articles of the Gospel, or common places. In particular, it proves the eternal Deity of Christ, with such weighty arguments that are scarcely to be found elsewhere in Scripture, absolutely ascribing attributes to Christ which are only proper to Jehovah; viz., that He is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the Almighty; that the Lamb standing in the Throne of the Deity, equal in majesty with the Father, is worshipped by all the Heavenly inhabitants, that he judges the adversaries, rules the Nations with an iron rod, that He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, etc.

It plainly also maintains the doctrine of Christ’s Mediatorship, and work of our redemption through His blood, calling him the faithful witness, the first-begotten from the dead, the Prince of the kings of the earth, the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, who hath washed us in His blood from our sins and made us priests and kings to God  and the Father, etc.

The Revelation foretells the state of the Church through the Ages, both true and false

It sets forth the afflicted state and condition of the Church in this life, especially in the latter times, by evident types, viz., that the woman bringing forth a Man-Child, the Ruler of the Nations, shall be driven into the Wilderness by the  Dragon and the Beast, where she shall remain hid from the sight of men, when the two witnesses prophesy against the Dragon and the Beast, and shall indeed be slain, but being again raised to life, they shall be taken up into Heaven, etc. By which it is truly manifest that by this nothing else may be signified but that the Church in Antichrist’s reign shall be obscure and secretly hidden in the Wilderness, yet being oppressed in Babylon itself, which is the seat of Antichrist.

The cavil of the Papists which asks, ‘Where was your Church before Luther’s time, if the Papacy is not the true Church?’, is easily answered by the Revelation. The Papacy indeed is proved to be the Apostate Church, Babylon, having nothing but the bare name of a Christian Church, while the true Church lay hid, captive and oppressed by the Church of Rome, not appearing visible in the world, as is seen in the analogy of the woman hiding in the wilderness. Similarly, the 7,000 in Israel that bowed not the knee to Baal, makes the same point – God’s people are not always visible in the world. The two witnesses who oppose Antichrist, however, are evidence that God’s people do not always remain hidden and obscure forever. Christ, therefore, was not without a Church, though the Papists were not His.

The Revelation foretells the bishops deserting the orthodox faith and the study of divine things, encumbering themselves with worldly affairs. They are seen in the types of Stars falling from heaven into the earth, with their nature plotting against the godly. No other man since the Apostle Paul[9] has set forth a more lively portraiture of the rising, person, reign, tyranny, seat, manifestation and destruction of Antichrist then we have in this prophecy. And lastly, it most clearly prophesies of many things concerning the comforts of the Church under the cross; of her deliverance, victory and glorification, with the punishments of tyrants and all other adversaries. For these reasons this Book is worthy to be continually read in the Church and meditated upon, for it contains doctrine both profitable and necessary in this last age.

The Jesuits pervert the true meaning of the Revelation

The Jesuits, Antichrist’s chief soldiers, are very ingenuous to corrupt and wrest the plain Oracles of this Prophecy into a contrary meaning, as if they were not only not to be applied to the Papacy, but they also attempt to interpret the Revelation so as to give divine justification for the Papacy! Therefore, it is our duty to labor diligently in order that the Revelation be familiar to all Christians, that they may know to distinguish between its true and false expositions, lest they be deceived by the flights of Antichrist, or that by our carelessness we suffer others to be ensnared by pernicious errors.

The principle purpose of the Revelation explained

 Now we shall the more easily attain to this end if we always have the principle purpose of this Book before our eyes, as Mariners have the stars before their eyes to safely direct their course in the vast sea.

(1) In general, this Book forewarns the Church of her future condition after the time of the Apostles even unto the end of the world in which she will not be promised perpetual delight and ease unto herself, but instead must needs be prepared to manfully sustain the battles at hand.

(2) Specifically, this Prophecy is written so that the Godly ought not be offended and discouraged by its many persecutions, knowing that these things come to pass because the Lord had revealed, beforehand, to His servant John, that it should be so. Besides, this Book gives the Church the certainty, hope and comfort of a happy ending, despite all their calamities. For this cause Christ in the Gospel forewarned His disciples of the cross and their future sorrow, that when it came they might remember that it had been foretold them.

(3) Forasmuch as not long after the Roman persecutions Satan was to erect the Antichrist’s throne in the Temple of God through the lascivious living, ambition and contention of the Bishops of the Churches, the Holy Ghost would have Antichrist’s unique form, nature, reign and tyranny be set forth, as it were, in lively colors unto us, that we might the better know him, and by knowing, take heed and resist him.

Moreover, He would have the destruction and punishment of Antichrist and all other adversaries to be plainly described, as well as the victory and future glorification of the [true] Church, lest we should either envy the present prosperity of the adversaries, or fear their tyranny too much. Also, the Lord desires we might be patient under the cross and constant in our combats, retaining an assured hope of victory, deliverance and future glory, even unto the end.

The Preterist Jesuit Alcazar rebuked by Pareus

That upstart inquirer into the Revelation, the Jesuit Alcazar, would labor to wrest this Prophecy for the purpose of teaching that ancient Rome, the head of Pagan idolatry, by an allegedly admirable change of condition, was to be changed into the Metropolis of the Catholic Church, and that the Roman Church was to gloriously triumph in respect to both the city of Rome and the Roman Empire, and that the sovereign authority of the Romish Pope should always remain in the height of honor. Alcazar’s exposition of the Revelation is such a filthy and impudent depravation of this most sacred Prophecy that even the Devil himself ought to blush at it. And I should wonder if these considerable frivolous trifles do not cause laughter or shame to the Court of Rome itself!

I know not whether this new stratagem of interpretation devised by Alcazar is for currying favor with the Pope or to harden him the more to his destruction. But it is certain that he strays from the scope of this Prophecy in his hypothesis by forging new Oracles concerning the Church and Monarchy of the Pope of Rome, and if I may speak bluntly, he foully depraves the true arguments of the Revelation. His hypotheses or positions are principally four; one general, three specific.

(1) His general hypothesis is one which describes the purpose of the Revelation, ‘that it describes a two-fold war of the Church: one with the Synagogue, the other with Paganism, and a two-fold victory and triumph over both adversaries.’

(2) Of his specific hypotheses, the first is one which teaches that in the first eleven chapters is represented the rejection of the Jewish nation, including the desolation of Jerusalem by the Romans.

(3) The second hypothesis states that the nine chapters which follow portend the Empire of the Roman Church dominant over Rome and the whole world, the overthrow of Paganism. The horrible judgment of the Great Whore and destruction of Babylon is effected by Constantine the Great and his successors.

(4) The third teaches that in the last two chapters the glorious and triumphant state of the Roman Church in Heaven seen under the types of the Lamb’s bride and the city of New Jerusalem.

This new fiction of Alcazar is even abundantly refuted by the judgment of the Jesuits Ribera and Bellarmine!

Pareus outlines basic rules for interpreting the Revelation

 The Revelation contains many dark things to exercise the mind of the reader, though some of the things contained therein are to be taken literally. It must be observed that frequently the same things are being spoken of, but under different types and in diverse manners, making it appear at first glance that different subjects are being discussed.

With this in mind we may proceed to our next point, the object of the Prophecy. The types of the Revelation do not represent the future history of the Jewish Church, but rather the future state of the New Church. The Revelation shadows out the whole time period of the Church, not just a few centuries after the time of John, nor is it limited to the last times and tragedies of Antichrist alone.

Thus, it is plain that the stars are the ministers of the Church; the great stars are renowned Teachers. From this it is not difficult to discern what is meant by the great stars falling from Heaven.[10] Moreover, it is also plain that in Scripture a whorish woman denotes the apostate Church. From this it is clear that the woman clothed with the Sun signifies the true Church; her flight into the wilderness signifies her being out of sight, [invisible to the world]. In contrast, the adulterous and domineering Church of Rome is signified by the woman riding on the Beast, sitting upon seven hills.

It is also plain that most of the visions end with the last Judgment. Hence, it is manifest that the periods of the Church are often ended and not one continuous period throughout the whole Revelation.[11] For by the seven seals and seven trumpets it would seem that different things are signified, whereas, in fact, the same things are treated of, but only in a different manner. Thus, the Beasts appear to be diverse, whereas notwithstanding they are but one. Also, the rupture and ruin of Babylon is diversely set forth, and yet it always comes to but one and the same thing.

And this truth did Nicolaus Collado also observe in his Exposition on the Revelation in the school of Lausanne, published in 1584. In it he follows Augustine’s similar observation, saying that it pleased the Lord to show a thing unto His servants in visions, not once, but twice, yea, sometimes thrice, the more to confirm a thing. For example, in Acts 10, when God would show Peter that he should not refuse to go to a heathen man, it is said that he saw a sheet set down thrice to the Earth from Heaven and received up again.[12] In like manner, the Revelation exhibits the future calamities and changes of the Church to John not once, but again and again in diverse visions, and, indeed, in such a manner, that by a certain gradation, the latter visions do always add more weight and clarity to the former.

To complicate things further, we must also take into consideration that some of the visions mix the historical past with the prophetic future. The first place in which we see this done is in Chapter 12, touching the woman in travail with the Man-Child, etc., where the beginning or origin of the Christian Church is plainly figured out by the type of Christ’s nativity and ascension. The second place is in Chapter 17, where the Beast on which the whore sitteth is said to have been in the five kings before the Revelation was written.

Pareus divides the Revelation into four distinct time periods of Church history

   The first period consists of the Church flourishing and groaning under the Roman tyrants, until peace is brought in by Constantine.[13] The second period consists of the Church reigning and rioting under Christian Emperors, until the rising of the Western Antichrist in Boniface III, Pope of Rome, and the Eastern Antichrist in Mohammed six years later. The third period consists of the Church trodden upon and oppressed by Antichrist, especially the Western, until the measuring of the Temple, which began to be effected by the two witnesses, John Huss and Jerome of Prague, who were slain by the Beast in the Council of Constance, 1414, and thence until Luther, by whose ministry the measuring of the Temple (previously broken off, or hindered through the tyranny of the Popes) continued once more in 1517.

Lastly, the fourth period consists of the Church reformed from Popery, and of the declining of the Papacy, which is to endure until the end. For the Beast goes into destruction, no matter what the Gates of Hell attempt to the contrary. Even Cardinal Bellarmine, their Prophet, admits, ‘From the time that the Pope began to be Antichrist, according to you Protestants, his Empire hath been so far from increasing, it is now always more and more decreasing.’

Pareus’ last prefatory remarks

        The Revelation forewarns the Church of her condition and sorrows at hand, arming her with comfort against the same. We see this in every vision, for they all foretell future evils, as well as showing the Godly the remedies thereof. Yet all the visions do not show the same exact thing, nor show them in the same manner. For some visions prefigure all the battles of the Church, that is, both the first and second battles. By first battles I mean ‘universal,’ while by the second battles I mean ‘particular.’ Other visions prefigure only the second, or ‘particular’ battles. By the first or ‘universal’ battles of the Church I mean the combats she had with tyrants and Roman adversaries, who oppugn the testimony of Jesus, as well as the battles with the heretics who diversely deprave the word of God. By the second and ‘particular’ battles of the Church I mean her combats with the Eastern and Western Antichrists.

        Furthermore, the universal battles seen in the visions comprise four distinct scopes:

        (1) First, is the foretelling of the calamities with which the Church shall be assaulted by Pagans and heretics until Antichrist’s rising.

        (2) Second, it prefigures comforts to the Godly in stark contrast with the calamities they undergo.

        (3) Third, either shadowed out in an amplification of the calamities, or by new and glorious combats of the Church under Antichrist.

        (4) Lastly, the fourth parallels the third, showing the catastrophe of all evils, viz., the declining of Antichrist’s kingdom, and the casting of all adversaries into the Lake of Fire. Contrariwise, is seen the Church’s victory and eternal glory.

        The ‘particular’ battles represent Antichrist’s tragedy, rage, declining and destruction, as seen in the seven vials and whore riding on the Beast.

        Unquestionably, the reader must always seek out the meaning of the more obscure and dark prophecies in this Book by using the clearer prophecies as his guide. I do claim to have understanding of all the mysteries contained therein. In fact, I come short in many areas, not venturing beyond the bounds of which a wise man will not go. For here is wisdom.

        Many types of future things remain secret and known to God only, until they be fulfilled. The whole final and fourth act of the Revelation with its accomplishment is secret because the seventh trumpet hath not yet sounded; neither is the seventh vial poured forth into the air. A great part of the third act  is also reserved unto posterity, which in time shall see the full gathering together of the Kings of the Earth into Armageddon, the devouring and burning of the whorish woman, the desolation of Babylon, and the war of Gog and Magog. At present we only see the beginning of these events.

        It is the duty of the faithful interpreter of this Book not to draw the readers away from its primary purpose and scope, neither to misdirect them away from those things which are done at home before their very eyes, as do all the Jesuits in their Commentaries, lest happily Antichrist should be found to be alive and well in the mountains of Rome. It is expressly for the discovery of Antichrist’s true identity that the greater part of the Revelation was revealed from ancient times, circumscribed with such obvious oracles which find their fulfillment in history and the experience of so many ages, that we may justly question whether it were a greater blindness in the Jews not to believe in Christ, then for these to deny the Pope of Rome to be Antichrist.

        So far as God has enabled me, with this work I pray I have lit a candle, shedding light on some of this Prophecy’s dark sayings, and that other Godly Divines which follow after me will dive even more deeply into its hidden mysteries. By so doing, may we all point more clearly to that Son of Perdition sitting in the Temple of God as god, exalting himself above all that is worshipped, showing himself that he is God. And they shall say, ‘This is he: O Romanist, beware of him.’



[1] This commentary grew out of a series of University lectures begun in A. D. 1608, after 30 years study.

[2] [Amsterdam: Printed by C. P., 1644.] Slight alterations in original text by this present editor are for clarity purposes only.

[3] Pareus later proves that for centuries earlier the Pope was called Antichrist.

[4] Future from John’s time, but not 2,000 years or more in the future as the Futurists claim.

[5] Deut. 4:2; 12:32.

[6] Rev. 22:18-19.

[7] In Vita Iohannis.

[8] Lib. 3. c. 25.

[9] II Thess. 2:3ff.

[10] I.e., they have apostatized, falling away from the true divine faith.

[11] I.e., the Revelation reiterates the same particular time period and events which concern the Church, but in several different ways. Pareus places the thousand year binding of Satan in the past, although it occurs at the end of the Revelation, thus making it necessary for him to refute the theory of the Revelation as continuous, and in sequence, Church history. This present editor views the binding of Satan as a yet future event, having at his disposal knowledge of 400 years of history which Pareus did not foresee.

[12] Verse 16.

[13] Pareus viewed Constantine the Great as a true Christian, as did many, if not all, of the Reformers.