Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him.—Rev. 1.7



pon the Apocalipſe of Ieſu

Chriſt, reueiled by the angell of

the Lord: but ſeene or receiued

and written by the holy Apo-

ſtle and Euangeliſt S. Iohn.

Compiled by

Henry Bullinger, chief Pastor of the

Congregation of Zurike.

Anno.  1 5 7 3.



on the Apocalypse of Jesus

Christ, revealed by the angel of

the Lord: but seen or received

and written by the holy Apo-

stle and Evangelist John.

Compiled by

Henry Bullinger, chief Pastor of the

Congregation of Zurich.

Anno.  1 5 7 3.

Sermon Text Recording: 40 Min. 40 Sec. Editor’s Introduction.

A Sermon on the Authority and Usefulness of the Book of Revelation —

Was it ever a disappointment to you that neither Martin Luther, John Calvin, nor John Knox, those notable Reformers who so heroically exposed the Antichrist, never left us a commentary on the book of Revelation, to explain all the details of the Bible’s eschatology?  Perhaps you were looking for the right thing, but with the wrong source.  Henry Bullinger may not have come down to us through history as the most eminent of the 16th Century Reformers, but he did what others did not: published 100 sermons on the book of Revelation.  You may not find a perfect and complete answer to all of your questions on Revelation from Bullinger, but neither would you have found such a perfect system of answers from any of the other Reformers.  These are matters best known and understood as they unfold and are confirmed in the signified events.  All the same, there is much we ought to learn from the Reformers; not the least of which is the respect we should have for the book of Revelation, and its relation to the progressive events of history throughout the entire time of the Church’s mission and contendings in this world.


❧ Sermons of Henry Bullinger, upon the Apocalypse revealed to the holy Apostle and Evangelist Saint John.

Of the author of the book of Apocalypse, of the argument and parts thereof: Finally, of the sundry uses, and most profitable commodity of the same.

¶ The first Sermon.

THe Prophets of God of the old Testament, were God’s messengers to the people, expositors of Moses, or of God’s law, and even ecclesiastical preachers, which applied the doctrine revealed to them by God and taken out of the law of God, to the people and times wherein they lived, to the edifying of the congregation.  And they all with one accord have chiefly handled two things in their Sermons.  For first, they reproved the corrupt manners of all states in their time, by laying them to the rule of God’s law, exhorting all men to repentance unto God most acceptable.  And to many that were incurable they threatened all kind of plagues, which they setting forth with all beauty of speech, shewed them plainly to be seen with the eye, if haply they might so be made afraid, and healed.  Secondly, they did promise, and out of God’s own mouth set forth, the Lord Christ, the true Messias: whom also they described lively, with his holy Church, teaching the faith in Christ, and what good things are prepared for the faithful in Christ: And also what be the true duties of godliness.  Neither have they concealed such things as were needful to be known concerning Antichrist: Admonishing us most diligently that we should beware of that wolf, or rather of that most deep dungeon of all abominations, and that we should stand fast in the sincere faith of Christ.

And this is not only a Sum of all the Prophets of the old Testament: but also an abridgment of Religion, and a most perfect manner of uncorrupted doctrine, none otherwise than it was set forth even by our Lord Christ and his Apostles.  Of the Prophets there is no doubt, considering that now these 8 years together, I have expounded Daniel, {1:V} Isaiah, and the twelve Prophets in whom you have seen the same things openly.  And to the intent your minds may be established in the same truth, & that you may perceive how the doctrine of Christ and his Apostles tendeth to the same end: I have taken upon me, through the help of God and your prayers, to expound unto you the Apocalypse, which is a doctrine concerning the matters of Christ’s Church revealed from heaven by Christ in glory, a sum of all godly religion, an exposition and brief declaration of the Prophets, and consequently a Prophecy of the new Testament and story of the Church.

Howbeit, forasmuch as this book is despised of many good and well-learned men, and all men for the most part are fully persuaded that it is an unprofitable book, I will speak somewhat of the same matter.

First, many mislike this book for this cause only, that it is full of visions, types, and figures.  For they suppose how this becometh not the Evangelical and Apostolical doctrine of the new Testament.  But by the same mean a good part of Daniel should be cast away; which nevertheless is commended to us of Christ himself in Matthew [ch. 24.]  The greatest matter of all, namely the calling of the Gentiles, is shewed to Peter by a vision, as appeareth in the Acts [ch. 10.]

And the Prophet Joel said also, how the people of the new Testament should see visions.  And so doth the blessed Apostle Peter, expound the same place in the Acts of the Apostles, speaking of the people of the new Testament.  And our Saviour Christ in the Gospel, propounded and declared to the people the most part of the ministeries by Parables, and in manner by feigned fables, as they call them.  And how little think you do these visions, types, and figures of John differ from the same?  Such kind of inditing doth not darken matters but enlighten them.  And it availeth very much to the setting out of the matter pithily and plainly, and to the strengthening of memory.  For by this mean, matters be not only declared with words, & heard with the ears; But also are set forth to be seen of the eye, and after a sort be fixed in the memory.  Many for this cause attribute much to painting; But I suppose that I may much more rightly attribute very much to this manner of inditing and teaching, whereby the matter is both spoken, and after a sort set forth to be looked upon, not in a colored dumb and dead picture, but as it were a living & talking image, which is set down to the {2:R} end that men should understand it well and perfectly.  Albeit therefore that this whole book in a manner consisteth of visions, figures, or types, yet shall we indeed, through the inspiration of God’s grace, shew by our exposition, that all that same maketh for the perspicuity and plainness, & not for the obscuring or darkening of those most high & godly matters.  I will bring my exposition out of the very Scriptures, by conferring them together, & by laying it to the rule of faith & charity.  I will search out the circumstances, with the things that went afore and the things that came after.  I will shew the likelihoods and the unlikelihoods: and I will add thereunto the experience of things, and the credit of histories; which manner of expounding the Scriptures, all interpreters have always granted to be sound and true.  If better things shall be revealed to others, I will gladly give place unto my betters, according to the Apostle’s advice. [1 Cor. 14.30, 1 Thess. 5.21.]  For I offer these my doings to be weighed by the godly, upon condition, that they try all things, and to that which they shall find to be good, hold fast.

Secondly, they object, that as well new men as old, of no small authority, have both doubted of this book, and of the author thereof, and also have contemned it, as full of fables, and unworthy to be reckoned canonical.  Let those that so think give me the same liberty, (I desire them,) which they usurp and think lawful for themselves.  For if the book of the Apocalypse should therefore seem worthy to be contemned, for that [because] some notable men, both old and new, have doubted of the authority thereof: why may it not recover his authority again, if I shew that the best Doctors of the Church, both old and new, have had a right good opinion of this book?  And here to the intent I dissemble not, I am not ignorant that Doctor Martin Luther, a man right notably learned, hath as it were sticked this book with a dagger, by a sharp preface set before his first Edition of the new Testament in Dutch. [German]  Howbeit good and well learned men were offended with him for this his judgment, who found therein great lack both of wit and modesty.  Therefore weighing all things more uprightly and diligently, what time he corrected his Dutch [German] Bible, and sent it again to the press in the year of [our] Lord, 1535, he set a somewhat more circumspect preface before the Apocalypse: wherein truly he leaveth the authority of the said book still in doubt, chiefly because Eusebius in the 25th chapter of his third book of church stories [history] reporteth, that the old writers doubted of it.  But {2:V} yet he addeth that he will not strive with any man that should avouch the said book to be John the Apostle’s, but leaveth free judgment to the reader.  What is to be thought of the record of Eusebius, whom he leaneth chiefly unto, I will shew anon after.  Truly Luther, in that preface of his which we spake of even now, openeth the way and sheweth the means whereby a man may attain to the profitable exposition and use of this book.  And therefore Luther’s judgment is no prejudice to this book of ours, which I have taken upon me to expound to the profit of the Church.  Also, that man of blessed fame, Doc. Huldricus Zwinglius, my worshipful master, seemeth also not to have set very much by this book, nor to have ascribed it not to John the Apostle, but to John whom they called the divine.  And no doubt but in so doing he simply followed Erasmus of Rotterdam in his Annotations upon the new Testament.  In all the Greek copies (saith he,) that I have seen, the title was not of John the Apostle, but of John the divine.  Erasmus addeth that amongst the Greeks and certain old writers, men doubted of this author, which thing he declareth by the testimonies of Eusebius and Jerome, of whose opinion shall be spoken straightways.  But the Complutensian Spanish copy which is set forth after the certainty of the most ancient and approved Greeks, exhibiteth to us such a title of this book: Αποκαλυψις τȣ ἁγίȣ ἀϖοϛολȣ καὶ ευαγγελιϛȣ Ιωαννȣ τȣ ϑεολόγȣ: That is, the Apocalypse of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the divine.  For the ancient writers say, how John the Apostle and Evangelist, for his excellent writing of the son of God, was commonly called the Divine.  Whereupon it followeth, that this title doth attribute this book to John, and not take it from him.  Certes Aretas was also a Greek author, and Bishop of Caesaria: Of the ancients, saith he, certain have plucked this Apocalypse from the tongue of the well-beloved John, ascribing it to another; but it is not so.  For the famous Gregory, who is called the Divine, as well as this John, accounteth this amongst those Scriptures which utterly want all suspicion of counterfeiting, saying: as the Apocalypse of John teacheth me.  And the same Aretas a little afore saith thus: But that this book was written by the mouth of the Holy Ghost, Basil, Cyril, Papias, and Hippolytus, fathers of the church, are meet men to be credited.  Thus saith he.  Yea, and Erasmus confesseth, that the consent of the world, and the authority of the Church, are of such force with him, that he dareth not refuse this book. {3:R}

Let us hear now the judgment of that most excellent and very good man, D. John Oecolampadius (that faithful pastor of the Church of Basil, excellently learned in the prophetical and in all the Canonical Scriptures) which he hath left written concerning this book, in the 2nd book of his Commentaries, upon the 12th chapter of Daniel: “But John the Paraphrast or expositor of the Prophets,” saith he, (see how much he doth attribute to this our author,) “whom I marvel, why certain with so rash a judgment do reject, as a dreamer & frantic & an unprofitable writer of the Church; where nevertheless” (like as also the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews doth) “he laith forth very many of the most secret and hid things of the old Testament and the Prophets.  But those great men do bewray, what an over-weening they have of themselves; whose worldly judgments I would verily despise, rather than I would cast away such a treasure.”  I could here bring forth goodly testimonies of other new writers, but that I make haste to the judgments of the ancient fathers.

The eldest of all after the Apostles, whose writings as yet remain, namely Justin and Irenaeus, the noble Martyrs of Christ, ascribe this book to John the Apostle.  For Eusebius in the 17th chapter of the 4th book of the Ecclesiastical History, affirmeth that Justin maketh mention of the Apocalypse of John, saying plainly that it is the Apostle’s.  Jerome also, in the life of the blessed Justin, writeth, that Justin expounded the Apocalypse of John, but the same exposition remaineth not so far forth as I know.  The same author writeth that Irenaeus did set forth the Apocalypse of John, with a Commentary, which also is not to be had.  He himself, who is read to have lived about the year of our Lord 160, witnesseth plainly in his 5th book against the Valentinians, that this revelation was exhibited to John the Apostle a little before his days.  We allege certain words of his in the 13th Chapter of this book.  Tertullian, who lived about the year of our Lord two hundred and twenty, in the fourth book against Marcion, albeit (saith he) that Marcion refuseth the Apocalypse of John, yet will the order of Bishops reckoned up to the very beginning, avow John to be the author thereof.  In grave matters, and in reasoning against heretics, he useth gladly the testimonies of this book.

The same things are also recited by the blessed Martyr Cyprian, under the title of John the Apostle in his Epistles, treatises, and Sermons.  Eusebius also in the 18th chapter of the {3:V} fifth book of his Ecclesiastical History, sheweth that Appollonius, a most ancient writer, useth the testimonies of the Apocalypse of John; And likewise Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, which thing he affirmeth in the 24th chapter of the 4th book of the Ecclesiastical story.  Also, Origen, a great man in God’s Church, (as the same Eusebius reporteth in the 25th chapter of his 6th book,) hath these words, He that rested upon the Lord’s breast did also write the Apocalypse, etc.

I have hitherto recited the opinions of the most ancient Martyrs and Doctors of the Christian Church, touching the Apocalypse, I mean of Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Appolonius, Theophilus Bishop of Antioch, & Origen the son [of] Adamantius: Anon I will bring yet more judgments both of the Greek and Latin writers, of most authority in the Church, agreeing with the minds of them that we have alleged already: Howbeit I will first touch briefly such things as Dionisius of Alexandria left written of the same book in the 25th chapter of the 7th book of Eusebius, whom I suppose they have almost all followed, as many as after him have spoken against this book.  He saith how divers that were his predecessors, did utterly reprove and reject this book.  Neither hideth he the cause, why they so did, but saith it was for that the kingdom of Christ is affirmed therein to be earthly.  Whereunto doubtless they referred that City of precious stones, and the rest which under terrestrial shapes, figured spiritual things, which when we shall in the treating thereof have dissolved, declaring this book not to build unto Christ an earthly kingdom, but a spiritual and heavenly kingdom: no man I trow, [suppose,] will reject a good and godly book, although some men abusing the testimonies thereof have given unto it a wrong sense.

Heretics have wrested very many places of the Scripture, to the defence of their errour: should therefore the authority of the Scripture itself be brought in doubt?  John favoureth nothing at all the Chiliasts or Millenaries in this book: He giveth them no weapons.

Eusebius saith very well in the end of his 3rd book, speaking of Papias, the first author of the Millenaries: He thought, (saith he) that after the resurrection, Christ should reign here corporally with his, a thousand years on earth.  Which I suppose he thought for that he understood not well the Apostle’s words, neither considered well those things that were spoken under figures, because he was endued with small judgment. {4:R}

But in the meantime, I (saith Dionysius himself) dare not reject this book.  Yet notwithstanding, he addeth by and by, that he thinketh it not to be the book of John the Apostle, but of some other, howbeit that he knew not who that should be.  He gathereth also by certain conjectures, as by the phrase of speech, by the handling of the book, and by the unlikeness of disposition, that this book should be another man’s than his that wrote the Gospel, and the Epistle.  But seeing that the arguments of the story and Epistle be so diverse, so as neither of them both is like other, and the argument of the book of this Revelation is most diverse of all: why should it seem strange, that it agreeth not with them in all things?

This can no man deny, but that in consent of doctrine there is singular agreement in these three books.  It hath seemed unto many, that the Epistle to the Hebrews, doth in the 6th and 10th chapters of it, favour the Novatians or Catharites.  Also there was noted in it a diversity of style differing from the rest of Paul’s Epistles.  But if we should so judge of holy scriptures, I know not what should be firm and sure enough.  Leaving therefore this disputation in suspense, I will now proceed to bring forth the judgments of other old writers concerning this book.

Eusebius surnamed Pamphilus, Bishop of Caesarea, living in the time of great Constantine the Emperour, and being a most diligent reader of old writers (whom many suppose to favour them in diminishing the authority of this book) expressly reproving the tyranny of Domitian in the 18th chapter of his 3rd book of histories, affirmed that John was banished into Pathmos, and wrote this Revelation there.

And whereas all other Historiographers do the same: He again in the 24th chapter of the 3rd book saith, that concerning the Apocalypse, the opinion of men is diverse, some allowing, and othersome disallowing the same.  Again when he should bring forth his opinion touching the Canon of the New Testament in the 25th chapter, He joineth the Apocalypse with the books undoubted; although he dissembleth not, that he will shew in another place what other men think thereof.  When he cometh to the performing of it, he recounteth many more and better, which judgeth the Apocalypse to be [of] John the Apostle, and which embraced it as a most godly book, than which denied or reproved the same.

Epiphanius Bishop of Salamis in Cypress, a Greek author {4:V} also, doth manifestly ascribe this book to John the Apostle.  Read that which he hath left written against the Alogians in the 15th heresy. And Jerome attributeth very much to this Epiphanius.  And Jerome himself ascribeth this book to John the Apostle.  The Apocalypse of John, (saith he in his Epistle to Paulinus) hath so many sacraments, [mysteries,] as it hath words.  Moreover, Philastrius, Bishop of Brixia, whom Augustine saith he saw with Ambrose at Milan, accounteth them for hereticks, that reject the Apocalypse of John, and say it was not written by John the Apostle, but by Cerinthus an heretick.  Verily Ambrose himself, in his books, allegeth the testimonies of the Apocalypse, under the name of John the Apostle.

Augustine embraced this book as Apostolical, and read the same to his Church, leaving certain treatises upon the same.  Primasius also, Bishop of Utica in Africa, expounded the same as Apostolical.  Of Bede and the residue of that sort, I speak nothing, since his opinion is known to all men.  Andreas also, Bishop of Caesarea, wrote upon this book: As Aretas reporteth in his commentaries, whose opinion I declared before.

Me thinketh I have sufficiently confirmed the authority of this book, against them that diminish the same.  But the strongest reason of all seemeth to be this, that the thing itself, and the handling thereof, proveth it to have proceeded from the Apostle: which thing we shall prove in the treatise itself.  But if those blessed fathers in their time did expound the Apocalypse to their Churches: why should it not be lawful for us also to expound it in our time, and to our men upon whom the ends of the world be come, since all things are more fully accomplished now, than they were then?  Nay rather, these things serve most chiefly for us and for our time, inasmuch as we travail and be exercised under Antichrist.

In vain therefore do many prattle, that this book is obscure and cannot be understood, and therefore that the Church can reap no profit or commodity by reading of it.

For to omit how nothing is set forth in Holy Scripture, which hath not an excellent fruit, and that we must not by-and-by despair of the true understanding, although at the first sight, the Holy Scripture be obscure, which is opened by God himself, and not to be opened, but obtained by prayers and godly exercises; Certainly we are not ignorant that many had rather nothing were spoken of Antichrist, to the intent he might reign here more carelessly, and they themselves be less {5:R} subject to perils.  But Christ commandeth us to trouble him.  Let us therefore go forward in the work of the Lord.

And whereas it offendeth them, that John maketh little mention or none of Christ, where notwithstanding the manner of the Apostles is always to imitate Christ, and the grace of redemption: I say that if this book be wisely looked into, it proveth the flat contrary.  Whose argument now I will recite.

The Prophet Zachariah in his 3rd chapter layeth forth the whole mystery of Christ to all men’s eyes in a most evident figure to be seen.  For he seeth Jesus the high Priest, apparelled in foul garments, and suffering much resistance at Satan’s hand, like a brand that is taken out of the fire: and anon after stripped out of his unclean clothing, and apparelled in white raiment, and glorified and proclaimed King and Priest and Saviour of all men.

This figure the Apostle and Evangelist John expoundeth: And first of all he describeth Christ in foul apparel at the first setting forth of the Gospel, shewing how great crying out there was made against him when the wicked had taken him, and how at the length he was nailed to the cross.  There also he toucheth his glory: The which he setteth forth more fully by adding a revelation unto it, wherein he presenteth him unto us in white and glorious apparel, giving us to understand, how that after his abasement, he is exalted and hath obtained a name above all names, [Phil. 2.9]: And how that he now being in glory, worketh nevertheless in his Church, and is the Savior of all the faithful in the Church.  In his Epistle he commendeth this whole mystery of Religion and beateth it into all men.

For the whole book is divided into six parts.

  1. For first is set the title with the beginning and some of the work, and with a brief narration: And all this in the first part of the first chapter.

  2. Secondly from the midst of the first chapter to the 4th chapter, Christ is described reigning in glory, on the right hand of the Father, and there is declared, how he is conversant in the Church by his Spirit, and by the ministry of the word: what thing he teacheth from heaven, and which is the sincere doctrine of the Church: what is also the repairing of churches that are fallen, and the preservation of the same.

  3. Then from the 4th chapter to the 12th, Christ still admonisheth his Church diligently by Seven Seals, and Seven Trumpets, {5:V} what things shall happen to the Church, all the which are most justly governed of God himself by the lamb Christ.

  4. Moreover from the 12th chapter to the 15th is more fully described the conflict of the Church with the old serpent, and with the old and new beast; where also the Romish tyranny both old and new, and very Antichrist himself is trimly painted forth in his colors: Notwithstanding that afterward also these things are more plainly declared again.

  5. And from the 15th chapter to the 22nd chapter, are recited the pains and torments of Antichrist, and Antichristians, and the destruction of the same, and the condemnation of all the wicked.  Also the judge Christ is set forth, and the process of the last judgment is figured.  There is also rehearsed the triumph, joy, and reward of the Saints, where also heaven itself is opened to be seen with our eyes, that now we may by faith look into the same.  The depth of hell is opened, that we may look into it also, and take good heed that we be not thrown headlong thither.

  6. Finally, about the end of the 22nd chapter, there followeth the conclusion, and commendation of the work, with the sealing up of the same.

And here I will not hide another division of this work, not to be contemned, which I see expositors have in manner followed.  For first they rehearse the title and beginning.  After they annex the whole work itself, divided by seven visions.  And indeed the seventh number is most frequent, and as it were peculiar to this book.  Finally they add to the conclusion of the work in a manner comprised in the last chapter.  And these visions be compassed within their limits.

In the first three Chapters the first vision is expounded, which exhibiteth Christ unto us reigning in glory, governing, ordering, correcting, and preserving his Church.

The second vision beginneth in the 4th chapter, and reacheth to the 8th, and it setteth forth God himself and his Christ to be looked upon, whose most just government of all things in the world it commendeth, and openeth the seven Seals.

The third vision hath seven Angels sounding seven trumpets, which treatise stretcheth to the 12th chapter.

The fourth vision sheweth the fight of the woman with the Serpent, and setteth forth to us the old seven-headed, and the new two-horned beast to be seen, which is the description of Antichrist: and is this in the 12th, 13th, and 14th chapters.

In the fifth vision, seven Angels pour out seven viols of {6:R} God’s wrath, unto the 17th chapter.

From thence beginneth the sixth vision, and extendeth to the 21st chapter, intreating of God’s most just judgment against Babylon, the whore of Babylon, and the Antichristians, and finally against all wicked and impenitent persons.

The seventh and last vision setteth forth to the eyes of all the faithful, the glory and bliss everlasting of Saints.  And verily this division of the work hath a great grace and affinity with the rest of the things, which in this book are all in a manner treated by the seventh number: Let the reader follow which he will.

Now by these things every man may perceive that this book is altogether Apostolical, and exceeding profitable to us all, especially whom the ends of the world have overtaken.  And this book will be the easier to us, because that all things are now in a manner accomplished.

Daniel was thought to have told of stark dreams, when he prophesied of the Monarchies, before the Monarchies were.  But after those things were accomplished which he prophesied, he seemed unto many to have compiled an history.  The self same, I am sure, thou wilt judge also of this present book of John.  Of many profits which it containeth, we will recite but a few.

First, we have in this book a full description of Christ reigning in glory;—our King I say, and Bishop; And how he governeth the Church, and is the Saviour of all the faithful.  We have also a most excellent description of Christ’s Church, and how the same is builded, repaired, and maintained.  Afterward we have a perfect description of Antichrist and of his members, and of his Synagogue, counsels, his crafty devices, kingdom, and cruelty, and of the destructions of the same, whereof it biddeth us beware.  Moreover we have an abridgement of histories from Christ’s time, unto the world’s end.

Finally, we have an absolute and assured prophecy of things to come, so as we need not the prophecies of Methodius, Cyril, Merlin, Briget, Nolhard and certain other triflers.

Furthermore, we have a great consolation and comfort of the Church in adversity, when we see that the Lamb openeth the Seals, and all things are done by God’s providence, and that all evils and miseries shall come to an end; And that the Church shall continue evermore, in despite of all the devils in hell.  Lastly, we have a most plentiful and sure {6:R} doctrine concerning the judge and last judgment, and concerning pains and rewards.  All these things I say, shall the treatise itself shew plainly to our edifying through Jesus Christ our Lord.