Pope Leo XIII and the Unbinding of Satan
Note: Opinions expressed are not necessarily the views of TCK
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque adoring the Sacred Heart alongside Bl. Mary of the Divine Heart
With the upcoming celebration of the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in May 2017, there is a greatly renewed interest amongst many Catholics in a famous prophetic vision purportedly granted to Pope Leo XIII, in which he came to understand that Satan would soon be granted a period of greater power. According to a number of accounts stemming from highly reputable sources in the Vatican, Pope Leo XIII received this vision near the cusp of the 20th century - a century which saw war and genocide being unleashed on an unprecedented scale, bringing about a general increase of lawlessness which eventually led to the decline of the Catholic Church. The duration of this period of Satan’s greater power was generally understood to last for 100 years, an extent of time which many came to associate with the 20th century itself. However, the crux of this prophecy lies in the fact that the period of Satan’s greater power is only finite in nature, and as soon as it elapses, we should expect the amount of evil in the world to return to normal pre-20th century levels.
As the 21st century progressed, it became evident that there was no tangible sign of the decline of Satan’s increased power at the end of the 20th century. Instead, immorality continued to rapidly slide in tandem with the decreased influence of the Church. In fact, rather than seeing a reduction of evil since the end of the 20th century, many exorcists have reported a massive spike in demonic activity in recent years, leading to calls for the training of more diocesan exorcists in order to meet with the level of demand for exorcisms.
In order to explain this apparent discrepancy, while still upholding the validity of the prophecy of Pope Leo XIII, many Catholics subsequently connected this 100-year period with the celebration of the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. So instead of beginning at the start of the 20th century itself, this period of Satan’s increased power is presumed to have been marked by the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, which directly coincided with the rise of Soviet Communism.
One of the major factors for this shift in the anchor point of this prophetic timeline lies in the fact that during an apparition of Christ to Sr. Lucia at Rianjo, Spain in 1931, Our Lord had compared the request to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary with the request given to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque concerning the consecration of the France to the Sacred Heart of Jesus – which similarly consisted of a time-frame involving a 100-year period.
Make it known to My ministers, given that they follow the example of the King of France in delaying the execution of My requests, they will follow him into misfortune. It is never too late to have recourse to Jesus and Mary.
We can find yet another reference to the request given to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words:
They did not wish to heed My request! Like the King of France they will repent of it, and they will do it, but it will be late. Russia will have already spread its errors in the world, provoking wars and persecutions against the Church. The Holy Father will have much to suffer.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was originally given this request on 17th June, 1689, and exactly 100 years later, after a series of French kings had refused to acknowledge this request, the Third Estate rose up against the Monarchy on 17th June, 1789, stripping King Louis XVI of his legislative powers, setting into motion the terrible events of the French Revolution. So the requests of consecration to the two hearts of Jesus and Mary appear to be intimately connected with a period extending over a 100-year time-span. The connection made between the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima to the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque has led many to conclude that the expiration of this 100-year period may be met with some form of terrible chastisement if no attention is paid to these requests, just as what happened with the King of France.
While the threat of chastisement always remains a possibility, the true significance of the end of the period of Satan’s greater power lies in the hope for the restoration of the Church, which can only happen once the grip of the Devil’s increased influence over world affairs is finally broken. It is this hope that was alluded to by Pope Benedict XVI while on pilgrimage to Fatima on 13th May, 2010:
We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: “Where is your brother Abel […] Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” (Gen 4:9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end… In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162).
At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations, races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the Love of God burning in her own heart. At that time it was only to three children, yet the example of their lives spread and multiplied, especially as a result of the travels of the Pilgrim Virgin, in countless groups throughout the world dedicated to the cause of fraternal solidarity. May the seven years which separate us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfilment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.
The above words of Pope Benedict XVI have been used to further bolster the idea that the significance of the centenary of Fatima in 2017 is in some way related to the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the end of the period of Satan’s increased power. The theme of the horrors of the 20th century is certainly prevalent in this homily, and there appears to be a possible allusion to the prophecy of Satan’s greater power when the Holy Father states that at this moment in history humanity had succeeded in “unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end…”
Throughout the course of this article, we will attempt to further draw out the thought of Pope Benedict XVI on the significance of the centenary of Fatima in 2017 in relation to the possible fulfilment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In addition, we shall also determine if this can shed any further light on the central hypothesis I forward in my book Unveiling the Apocalypse: The Final Passover of the Church – namely that the prophecy of Pope Leo XIII should be directly identified with the unbinding of Satan foretold to take place at the end of the Millennium in the Apocalypse:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. (Rev 20:1-3)
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. (Rev 20:7-8)
In my book Unveiling the Apocalypse: The Final Passover of the Church, I show how there are a remarkable number of widely varying considerations which all indicate that Pope Leo XIII’s vision of the period of Satan’s greater power is one and the same as the unbinding of Satan mentioned in the Apocalypse. According to the amillennialist eschatology of the Church Doctor, St. Augustine of Hippo, the binding of Satan took place during Christ’s death, His descent into Hades and His Glorious Resurrection from the dead. As the Catechism points out, Christ Himself had described this unique event as the “Sign of Jonah” – a phrase which is used in the immediate context of Christ’s discourse on the binding of Satan in the Gospels:
It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood. Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life, announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the "sign of Jonah," the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day… (CCC 994)
The amillennialist interpretation of the Apocalypse provided the working basis for the historical development of several key doctrines of Catholic eschatology, such as the doctrine of purgatory and the dogma of the immediate resurrection of the soul after death during the particular judgment. In addition, it has also influenced the development of the Creed, the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh at the Last Day and the Church’s teaching on the nature of the Kingdom of God.
According to St. Augustine, there were only two possible legitimate amillennialist interpretations of the Millennium:
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself says, No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man — meaning by the strong man the devil, because he had power to take captive the human race; and meaning by his goods which he was to take, those who had been held by the devil in various sins and iniquities, but were to become believers in Himself. It was then for the binding of this strong one that the apostle saw in the Apocalypse an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a chain in his hand. And he laid hold, he says, on the dragon, that old serpent, which is called the devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,— that is, bridled and restrained his power so that he could not seduce and gain possession of those who were to be freed.
Now the thousand years may be understood in two ways, so far as occurs to me: either because these things happen in the sixth thousand of years or sixth millennium (the latter part of which is now passing), as if during the sixth day, which is to be followed by a Sabbath which has no evening, the endless rest of the saints, so that, speaking of a part under the name of the whole, he calls the last part of the millennium— the part, that is, which had yet to expire before the end of the world— a thousand years; or he used the thousand years as an equivalent for the whole duration of this world, employing the number of perfection to mark the fullness of time. (City of God XX:7)
While his first suggestion concerning the duration of the Millennium remains mostly forgotten, it actually has a considerable degree of merit in relation to the exact timing of the prophetic vision of Pope Leo XIII. Here, St. Augustine opines that the end of the “thousand years” mentioned in Rev 20 may be equated with the end of the Sabbath Millennium discussed by the Early Church Fathers. This view was subsequently largely overlooked, since many of the Church Fathers held that the Sabbath Millennium would come to an end circa AD500, at the end of a six thousand year period after the biblical date of creation determined by the chronology of the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament (the LXX). As the original various dates calculated for the end of the Sabbath Millennium circa AD500 came and went without any possible applications for this first interpretation, St. Augustine’s second proposal (that the thousand years symbolises an indefinite period extending from the time of Christ to the unbinding of Satan towards the end of the world), became the most widely accepted version of the amillennialist approach.
However, writing in the 8th century, the Church Doctor St. Bede the Venerable noted that the reckoning of the biblical chronology yields a vastly different result when using the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible, differing by a period of around 1,500 years from the date of creation (Anno Mundi). St. Bede proposed that this version of biblical chronology, which he used to revise the date of creation to circa 3952BC, was the most accurate, since it was derived from the “Hebrew truth” of the original Jewish Bible, rather than its Greek counterpart. St. Bede’s method for determining the chronology of the Hebrew Bible was further refined by the Anglican Archbishop James Ussher, who working from the various genealogies given in the Bible, established the date of creation to 4004BC.
If we view the primary value of this date to be prophetic in nature (rather than providing us with a literal date for creation), this revised version of the biblical chronology has enormous implications for St. Augustine’s first suggestion concerning the meaning of the end of the “thousand years” in Rev 20 and how this ties into the patristic idea of a Sabbath Millennium. It puts the period of the unbinding of Satan at the end of the “thousand years” directly within the scope of Pope Leo XIII’s vision of the Devil being granted a time of greater power in order to test the Church.
Given the fact that St. Bede the Venerable was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII at the turn of the 20th century on Nov 13th, 1899, it invites us to ponder whether this action was linked in any way to this saint’s influence on the revision of the Anno Mundi calendar. The prophetic implications of Bede’s chronology cannot be overstated. Not only did it recalibrate the timing of the conclusion of the Sabbath Millennium to the modern era, but once combined with St. Augustine’s thesis presented above, it could also be used to indicate that the period of the unbinding of Satan would begin to unfold in the present age. Is it possible that Pope Leo XIII was aware of these implications? If we can find any evidence that the Holy Father had interpreted his famous vision within the context of the period of the unbinding of Satan at the end of the thousand years in Rev 20, we could conclude that his raising of St. Bede to the status of Church Doctor on the very eve of the 20th century was a deliberate action intended to reflect his influence on determining the prophetic significance of the Sabbath Millennium.
Thanks to the research of academics such as Kevin Symonds (the author of the excellent book Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael), we now be fully confident that the Holy Father did in fact experience this event, and that it was also accompanied by a vision which directly parallels the scene of the encirclement of the camp of the saints described in Rev 20. Symonds notes that in his Pastoral Letters for Lent, published in 1946, Cardinal Giovanni Nasalli Rocca di Corneliano related how the origins of the Prayer to St. Michael were explained to him by the private secretary of Pope Leo XIII, Msgr. Rinaldo Angeli:
It wasn’t for naught that the most wise Pontiff, Pope Leo XIII, whose superior intelligence and certainly not narrow-minded or small spirit, himself wrote that beautiful and powerful prayer, and then ordered its recitation by all priests after the celebration of the Holy Mass…
And that part of the prayer – “who prowl about the world” – has an historical explanation, which has been shared numerous times by the Holy Father’s most faithful Secretary, who was very close to him throughout most of his pontificate, Msgr. Rinaldo Angeli. Pope Leo XIII truly had a vision of demonic spirits, who were gathering on the Eternal City (Rome). From that experience – which he shared with the Prelate and certainly with others in confidentiality – comes the prayer which he wanted the whole Church to recite. This was the prayer which he recited (we heard this many times in the Vatican Basilica) with a strong, powerful voice, which resonated in an unforgettable way in the universal silence beneath the vaults of the most important temple of Christianity. Not only that, but he wrote a special exorcism, which is found in the Rituale Romanum (c.3, Tit.XI) with the title “Exorcismus in Satanam et angelos apostaticos”. The Pontiff recommended to the Bishops and Priests that these exorcisms be recited often in their Dioceses and in their parishes, by the priests who had received the proper faculties from their Ordinaries. However, to set a good example, he recited it himself frequently throughout the day. In fact, another Prelate familiar with the Pontiff used to tell us that even on his walks through the Vatican Gardens, he would take out a small book – worn with much use – from his pocket and repeated his exorcism with fervent piety and deep devotion.
(Cardinal Nasalli, cited in Symonds, K. Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael pp25-26)
This vision of demonic spirits converging upon the city of Rome is clearly intended to symbolise the encirclement of the camp of the saints by the forces of Satan at the end of the Millennium described in the Apocalypse:
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city... (Rev 20:7-9)
As St. Augustine elaborates, the camp of the saints represents the Church itself, which is beset by the forces of Satan during the period of his unbinding:
The words, And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and encompassed the camp of the saints and the beloved city, do not mean that they have come, or shall come, to one place, as if the camp of the saints and the beloved city should be in some one place; for this camp is nothing else than the Church of Christ extending over the whole world. And consequently wherever the Church shall be—and it shall be in all nations, as is signified by the breadth of the earth,— there also shall be the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and there it shall be encompassed by the savage persecution of all its enemies... (City of God, XX:11)
Given how closely Pope Leo’s vision parallels this portion of the Apocalypse, it is entirely feasible that the Holy Father had also made this connection in light of his mystical experience, and related it to the encirclement of the camp of the saints at the end of the Millennium. The historical circumstances that the Church was facing at the time the Prayer to St. Michael was composed was indeed strongly evocative of the encirclement of the camp of the saints at the end of the thousand years. Ever since the Italian Army had reached the Aurelian Walls on 19th Sept 1870 (the feast of Our Lady of La Salette), placing the city of Rome under a state of siege, the forces of Satan (inspired by the principles of Freemasonry) had quite literally encircled the camp of the saints. So again, it is not entirely unreasonable that Pope Leo XIII would have interpreted the contemporary problems facing the Church in line with the scene described at the end of the thousand years in Rev 20.
Some of the primary figures involved in the Italian nationalist movement, such as Giuseppe Garibaldi, were prominent Freemasons, and within the Vatican hierarchy itself, it was widely believed that the annexation of the Papal States was part of a wider Masonic plot to destroy the Catholic Church. Pope Leo himself had vigorously condemned Freemasonry in his 1884 encyclical Humanum Genus, wherein he specifically compared the binary opposite entities of the Church and Freemasonry as the two cities described by St. Augustine - the City of God and the city of the Devil:
The race of man, after its miserable fall from God, the Creator and the Giver of heavenly gifts, "through the envy of the devil," separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ; and those who desire from their heart to be united with it, so as to gain salvation, must of necessity serve God and His only-begotten Son with their whole mind and with an entire will. The other is the kingdom of Satan, in whose possession and control are all whosoever follow the fatal example of their leader and of our first parents, those who refuse to obey the divine and eternal law, and who have many aims of their own in contempt of God, and many aims also against God.
This twofold kingdom St. Augustine keenly discerned and described after the manner of two cities, contrary in their laws because striving for contrary objects; and with a subtle brevity he expressed the efficient cause of each in these words: "Two loves formed two cities: the love of self, reaching even to contempt of God, an earthly city; and the love of God, reaching to contempt of self, a heavenly one."(1) At every period of time each has been in conflict with the other, with a variety and multiplicity of weapons and of warfare, although not always with equal ardour and assault. At this period, however, the partisans of evil seems to be combining together, and to be struggling with united vehemence, led on or assisted by that strongly organized and widespread association called the Freemasons. No longer making any secret of their purposes, they are now boldly rising up against God Himself. They are planning the destruction of holy Church publicly and openly, and this with the set purpose of utterly despoiling the nations of Christendom, if it were possible, of the blessings obtained for us through Jesus Christ our Saviour. (Pope Leo XIII, Humanum Genus)
According to St. Augustine himself, the two cities would only come into such open confrontation at the end of the thousand years, during the unbinding of Satan, when “Gog and Magog” set out to assemble the nations of the earth for war:
And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed from his prison, and shall go out to seduce the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, and shall draw them to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. This then, is his purpose in seducing them, to draw them to this battle. For even before this he was wont to use as many and various seductions as he could continue. And the words he shall go out mean, he shall burst forth from lurking hatred into open persecution. For this persecution, occurring while the final judgment is imminent, shall be the last which shall be endured by the holy Church throughout the world, the whole city of Christ being assailed by the whole city of the devil, as each exists on earth. (City of God XX:11)
In my book, I attempt to show how the appearance of “Gog and Magog” at the end of the thousand years should be identified with the figures of the False Prophet and Antichrist, rather than being four separate eschatological antagonists who bookend the Millennium (as is proposed in the millennialist interpretations of the Apocalypse).
Given that Pope Leo XIII appears to have interpreted contemporary events in light of St. Augustine’s meditations on the final confrontation between the two opposing cities at the end of the Millennium, it would follow that he would have personally understood his prophetic vision to be related to the period of the unbinding of Satan described in the Apocalypse.
We can find further evidence that the Holy Father made such a connection in the later 1890 “Exorcismus” prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII, which demonstrates that he had perceived that Satan had now “risen up terribly” during this particular moment in history. A phrase which is certainly highly suggestive of the unbinding of Satan at the end of the thousand years:
Behold the ancient enemy and murderer has risen up terribly! Transformed as an angel of light he goes about at large with a whole troop of wicked spirits and attacks the earth, there to blot out the Name of God and of His Christ, and to steal souls destined for a crown of eternal glory, that he might afflict and destroy them in everlasting death.
(Pope Leo XIII “Exorcism against Satan and the Apostate Angels”, cited in Symonds, K Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael, p63)
This particular portion of the exorcism prayer was obviously directly influenced by the vision recounted to Cardinal Nasalli by Msgr. Angelli. Only now we are presented with the additional insight that Satan had “risen up terribly” against the Church. Given the fact that Pope Leo had most likely understood his prophetic vision as being explicitly related to the short time granted to Satan described in the Apocalypse, it is quite possible that his elevation of St. Bede to the status of Church Doctor on the very eve of the 20th century was an intentional act, aimed to highlight the prophetic importance of the patristic idea of the Sabbath Millennium. This would be doubly significant if he was aware of how St. Augustine had originally proposed that the unbinding of Satan would take place towards the end of the Sabbath Millennium, and how the significance of St. Bede’s recalibration of the Anno Mundi calendar reapplied the interpretation of this prophecy to the modern age.
It is surely beyond coincidence then that Pope Leo XIII chose to issue his encyclical Annum Sacrum announcing the consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on 25th May, 1899 – the feast day of St. Bede the Venerable. Given the fact that the Holy Father was preparing to proclaim St. Bede a Doctor of the Church just a few months later, it would seem that his choice of this saint’s feast day to announce the consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was quite deliberate. If not, it was a striking coincidence that still augurs a level of prophetic significance. However, once we take into consideration that one of St. Bede’s most lasting contributions to Western culture was in the area of biblical chronology (indeed it was due to his influence that we use the Anno Domini calendar today), it is quite likely that this was an intentional act, since it accords with the central theme of his encyclical Annum Sacrum (which means “Holy Year”), pertaining to the significance of the turn of the century.
Pope Leo had called the consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus “the greatest act of my pontificate”, and it appears that he viewed this solemn action as a way of providing a counterbalance to the grave perils that awaited the Church in the following century. As we have already seen, the 100-year period alluded to by Sr. Lucia was itself rooted in a request for a consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, when Christ had appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. If Pope Leo had understood his vision to be related to a similar 100-year period, it is quite likely that his choice of the feast day of St. Bede for announcing the consecration of the world to the Sacred of Heart was yet another deliberate act, intended to nod towards St. Augustine’s teaching on the Sabbath Millennium.
Pope Leo XIII had performed the consecration of the world to the Sacred of Jesus in direct response to his correspondence with Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart, who had received several apparitions of Our Lord while staying at the Covenant of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Porto, Portugal. During these apparitions, Christ had instructed Blessed Mary to send a letter to Pope Leo XIII to request the consecration of the entire world to His Sacred Heart, which was sent by her confessor on 10th June, 1898. Pope Leo was sceptical at first, and initially refused to pay heed to this request, apparently due to the theological difficulty presented by consecrating non-Christians. Undeterred, Blessed Mary sent the Holy Father a second letter, this time mentioning a serious illness the pope was suffering, and assured him that he would live to perform the consecration. The fact that Leo XIII was subsequently healed from his illness had a profound impact upon the pontiff, who made sure to include mention of it in his encyclical:
"There is one further reason that urges us to realize our design; We do not want it to pass by unnoticed. It is personal in nature but just as important: God the author of all Good has saved us by healing us recently from a dangerous disease."
(Pope Leo XIII, Annum Sacrum, 25th May, 1899)
Pope Leo established a theological commission into the apparitions of Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart, and quickly set about preparing to meet Our Lord’s demands concerning the consecration. Blessed Mary died on the vigil of the Feast of the Sacred Heart on June 8th, 1899, at the age of 35, just three days before Pope Leo eventually carried out the consecration on June 11th.
We are left to ponder why the unbinding of Satan would occur at the beginning of the 20th century, rather than at the end of the Sabbath Millennium itself (circa 2000 according to Ussher’s chronology, or 2047 using St. Bede’s methodology)? According to St. Augustine, the period of the unbinding of Satan would occur at the very end of the “thousand years” during which Christ reigns with the saints, and should be included within this timeframe itself, rather than occurring immediately after it. St. Augustine pointed out that if the unbinding of Satan took place after the “thousand years” were over, this would suggest that Christ’s reign was finite in nature, and would effectively cease at the close of the Millennium during the appearance of “Gog and Magog”. We should take note here however that St. Augustine himself believed that the short time of Satan would only last for the duration of the reign of the Antichrist, for the vastly reduced period of three and a half years. He most likely would have baulked at the suggestion that the short time of Satan would in reality be substantially longer than three and half years, since he knew full well the dangers that would be presented to the Faith during this time.
“Though this time is brief, yet not without reason is it questioned whether it is comprehended in the thousand years in which the devil is bound and the saints reign with Christ, or whether this little season should be added over and above to these years. For if we say that they are included in the thousand years, then the saints reign with Christ during a more protracted period than the devil is bound. For they shall reign with their King and Conqueror mightily even in that crowning persecution when the devil shall now be unbound and shall rage against them with all his might…
But assuredly the victorious souls of the glorious martyrs having overcome and finished all griefs and toils, and having laid down their mortal members, have reigned and do reign with Christ till the thousand years are finished, that they may afterwards reign with Him when they have received their immortal bodies. And therefore during these three years and a half the souls of those who were slain for His testimony, both those which formerly passed from the body and those which shall pass in that last persecution, shall reign with Him till the mortal world come to an end, and pass into that kingdom in which there shall be no death. And thus the reign of the saints with Christ shall last longer than the bonds and imprisonment of the devil, because they shall reign with their King the Son of God for these three years and a half during which the devil is no longer bound. It remains, therefore, that when we read that the priests of God and of Christ shall reign with Him a thousand years; and when the thousand years are finished, the devil shall be loosed from his imprisonment, that we understand either that the thousand years of the reign of the saints does not terminate, though the imprisonment of the devil does—so that both parties have their thousand years, that is, their complete time, yet each with a different actual duration approriate to itself, the kingdom of the saints being longer, the imprisonment of the devil shorter. (City of God XX:13)
St. Augustine’s reckoning of the duration of the short time of Satan failed to take into account Christ’s words in the Olivet Discourse that before the appearance of the Antichrist there would be a succession of “wars and rumours of wars” leading to a departure from the Faith, after which the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth would take place. It is only after the Gospel has been preached to the all nations during the renovation of the Church by the Two Witnesses that the Antichrist appears.
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Once we take into consideration that the period of the unbinding of Satan would encompass all of the events described in the Olivet Discourse, rather than being confined to the reign of the Antichrist, a much longer period of time is required. This would thus explain why the unbinding of Satan would have taken place around 100 years before the proposed date for the Sabbath Millennium had transpired, rather than occurring after the “thousand years” had elapsed – since the period of Satan’s unbinding takes place within the Millennium itself – at its very climax.
In my book Unveiling the Apocalypse: The Final Passover of the Church, I attempt to show how the unbinding of Satan at the end of the Millennium recapitulates the opening of the scroll sealed with seven seals at the beginning of the Book of Revelation, when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are sent out to gather the nations of the world for war. This means that it is all of the events described in the Apocalypse and Olivet Discourse that should be incorporated into the span of the short time of Satan, rather than just the time of the Antichrist.
With this combined evidence, it thus appears quite likely that Pope Leo had interpreted his prophetic vision in light of the unbinding of Satan described in the Apocalypse. But what exactly occurs at the end of the short time of Satan? And should it be linked with the celebration of the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima later this year? There definitely appears to be some sort of sensus fidelium that has developed concerning the significance of this centenary year. Many Catholics are fearful that this year will bring some form of chastisement. While this is always possible, the words of Christ in the Olivet Discourse gives us the best sense of how this period will end.
Even though Jesus had warned the disciples that the love of many would grow cold due to the increase of lawlessness during this period, He also offered a sense of hope, in that the one who endured to the end would be saved, when the Gospel would be proclaimed to all nations before the end of the world. St. Augustine himself thought that the end of the period of the unbinding of Satan would see his powers to inhibit the spread of the Gospel once again restrained.
For in accordance with this true saying that order is observed— the strong one first bound, and then his goods spoiled; for the Church is so increased by the weak and strong from all nations far and near, that by its most robust faith in things divinely predicted and accomplished, it shall be able to spoil the goods of even the unbound devil. For as we must own that, when iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold, Matthew 24:12 and that those who have not been written in the book of life shall in large numbers yield to the severe and unprecedented persecutions and stratagems of the devil now loosed, so we cannot but think that not only those whom that time shall find sound in the faith, but also some who till then shall be without, shall become firm in the faith they have hitherto rejected and mighty to conquer the devil even though unbound, God's grace aiding them to understand the Scriptures, in which, among other things, there is foretold that very end which they themselves see to be arriving. And if this shall be so, his binding is to be spoken of as preceding, that there might follow a spoiling of him both bound and loosed; for it is of this it is said, Who shall enter into the house of the strong one to spoil his goods, unless he shall first have bound the strong one? (City of God XX:8)
For St. Augustine, the whole purpose of the binding of Satan by Christ during His Sacrifice on the Cross was in order to allow the spread of the Gospel:
The devil, then, is bound and shut up in the abyss that he may not seduce the nations from which the Church is gathered, and which he formerly seduced before the Church existed. For it is not said that he should not seduce any man, but that he should not seduce the nations— meaning, no doubt, those among which the Church exists— till the thousand years should be fulfilled,— i.e., either what remains of the sixth day which consists of a thousand years, or all the years which are to elapse till the end of the world…
Now the devil was thus bound not only when the Church began to be more and more widely extended among the nations beyond Judea, but is now and shall be bound till the end of the world, when he is to be loosed. Because even now men are, and doubtless to the end of the world shall be, converted to the faith from the unbelief in which he held them. (City of God XX:7-8)
The fact that Satan appears to have now retrieved his ability to blind the minds of unbelievers to the truth of the Gospel, bringing about the decline of the influence of the Church, is perhaps the best witness to the possibility that we are currently enduring the period of Satan’s unbinding at the end of the world. When Pope Benedict XVI further clarified his now famous prayer concerning the year 2017 in an interview with Peter Seewald, he further emphasized that his hope was that forces of evil would once again be restrained at this time:
I said that the “triumph” will draw closer. This is equivalent in meaning to our praying for the coming of God’s Kingdom. This statement was not intended—I may be too rationalistic for that—to express any expectation on my part that there is going to be a huge turnaround and that history will suddenly take a totally different course. The point was rather that the power of evil is restrained again and again, that again and again the power of God himself is shown in the Mother’s power and keeps it alive.
The Church is always called upon to do what God asked of Abraham, which is to see to it that there are enough righteous men to repress evil and destruction. I understood my words as a prayer that the energies of the good might regain their vigor. So you could say the triumphs of God, the triumphs of Mary, are quiet, but they are real nonetheless. (Light of the World, pp165-166).
So while we may reasonably expect that the power of Satan will once again be restrained after the period of his unbinding, there will always remain a significant level of evil in the world, just as evil continued to exist after the Devil was defeated by Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary. As Pope Benedict XVI pointed out during his pilgrimage to Fatima in 2010: "The Lord told us that the Church would constantly be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world." Here, the Holy Father attempted to pre-empt against any millenarian misinterpretation of his words concerning the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary by alluding to Christ's parable of the wheat and tares, which the Lord stated must exist side-by-side until the Last Judgement at the end of the world (Matt 13):
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” (Matt 13:25-30)
The binding of Satan takes place to allow the spread of the Gospel, rather than to allow for the creation of a millenarian-style earthly utopia, as is advanced by certain fringe groups within Catholicism, spearheaded by Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi. As the Catechism states, the pilgrim Church on earth must suffer the travails of the present age until the end of the world:
"Though already present in his Church, Christ's reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled "with power and great glory" by the King's return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ's Passover. Until everything is subject to him, "until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God." (CCC 671)
While we can certainly hope that the Gospel will once again be effectively proclaimed to all nations to allow the restoration of the Church, the end of the world will immediately follow on from this event after the appearance of the Antichrist, as was affirmed by Christ in the Olivet Discourse. To distort the promises of Our Lady of Fatima into a future millenary “era of peace” is to venture into the heresy of millenarianism.
The Apocalypse tells us that towards the end of his period of power, the Devil is then thrown down to earth with a third of the angelic host, after being defeated in heaven by the Archangel Michael. Scripture informs us that this event is accompanied by the appearance of the Signs in Heaven. As I explain at some detail in my book Unveiling the Apocalypse: The Final Passover of the Church, all of these signs occurred at the turn of the millennium in order to mark the moment Satan is cast down to earth with his army of fallen angels. This event explains the incredible rise in demonic activity in recent years noted by several prominent Catholic exorcists. It also helps us to understand that the flood issued forth from the mouth of the Dragon in an attempt to sweep the Woman away is actually false prophecy issued through false demonic apparitions and manifestations described by St. Paul:
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their actions. (2Cor 13:14)
The fact that the idea of a millenary “era of peace” on earth during a period of blissful harmony is a staple of these false apparitions leads us to conclude this flood poured forth from the Dragon is related to this false prophecy; and it is intended to prevent the Catholic faithful from fully understanding the truth contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Instead, the Devil wants to present the faithful with the temptation of a millenarian utopia – an idea which the Catechism rejects as the deception of the Antichrist:
Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism. (CCC 675-676)
But this flood will now soon be swallowed up by the earth, when the Woman Adorned with the Sun will finally be given the two wings of a great eagle (representing the Two Witnesses), to flee to a place in the wilderness:
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle to fly from the presence of the serpent to her place in the wilderness, where she was nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. Then from the mouth of the serpent spewed water like a river to overtake the woman and sweep her away in the torrent. But the earth helped the woman and opened its mouth to swallow up the river that had poured from the dragon’s mouth. And the dragon was enraged at the woman, and went to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Rev 12:13-17)