I pointed out some time ago that the overthrow of the antichrist and the end of the world are not necessarily simultaneous events.  Commenting on 1 Thess. 5:3, St Thomas remarks that impious men may in the future feel themselves to be in peace and security, “when they see that the world is not immediately consummated after the death of the antichrist, as they had expected” (IV Sent. 48, 1, 4, 1 ad 1).

In fact, that there will be some interval between the two things appears to be directly revealed, given Dan. 12: 11-12:

From the time when the continual sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination unto desolation shall be set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waits and comes unto a thousand three hundred and thirty-five days (Dan. 12:11-12).

That interval of forty-five days suggests Lent.  If day 1290 were Ash Wednesday, day 1335 would be Holy Saturday (that doesn’t mean that day 1335 is the Second Coming; it could just be the end of a mopping-up operation.)

I wonder if some of the words of our Lady at La Salette could be relevant here:

Twenty-five years of plentiful harvests will make them forget that the sins of men are the cause of all the troubles on this earth.

This suggests a relatively short period of spiritual abundance after the victory, eventually leading to complacency and the end.

St Irenaeus may have interpreted too literally the teaching which he received from the priests who had heard St John, but it certainly looks from Apocalypse 18-20 that there is some great restoration within history after the overthrow of the false prophet.

The elders who saw John, the disciple of the Lord, related that they had heard from him how the Lord used to teach in regard to these times, and say: ‘The days will come, in which vines shall grow, each having ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in each one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will give five and twenty metretes of wine. And when any one of the saints shall lay hold of a cluster, another shall cry out, I am a better cluster, take me; bless the Lord through me.’ In like manner, that a grain of wheat would produce ten thousand ears, and that every ear should have ten thousand grains, and every grain would yield ten pounds of clear, pure, fine flour; and that all other fruit-bearing trees, and seeds and grass, would produce in similar proportions; and that all animals feeding on the productions of the earth, should become peaceful and harmonious among each other, and be in perfect subjection to man.

And these things are borne witness to in writing by Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp, in his fourth book; for there were five books compiled by him. And he says in addition, Now these things are credible to believers. And he says that, when the traitor Judas did not give credit to them, and put the question, ‘How then can things about to bring forth so abundantly be wrought by the Lord?,’ the Lord declared, ‘They who shall come to these shall see’  (St Irenaeus, ‘Against heresies’, V.33).

St Irenaeus seems quite confident that the antichrist will appear after six thousand years of human history.  He doesn’t explicitly say that he has received this from apostolic tradition, true.  But nor does he say that it is a conjecture of his own.  Given that his whole purpose in the Adversus Haereses is to pass on what he has received, against the false teachings of the gnostics, it seems very likely, at least, that he has received this from some of the disciples of the apostle St John. “In as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded” (Adv. haer. V.28).  The number of the beast he takes not only to be the numerical value of a man’s name or title, but also to allude to apostasy (indicated by the 600 years of Noah’s age when the flood occurred), and persecution (indicated by the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, which was 60 cubits high and 6 broad).

The six hundred years of Noah, in whose time the deluge occurred because of the apostasy, and the number of the cubits of the image for which these just men were sent into the fiery furnace, do indicate the number of the name of that man in whom is concentrated the whole apostasy of six thousand years, and unrighteousness, and wickedness, and false prophecy, and deception (Adv. haer. V.29).

According to Cornelius a Lapide, most meticulous of exegetes, Adam was created in 3950 BC. Adding six thousand years to that we come to AD 2050.  If we were to guess that the lawless one will be about thirty years old when he makes his appearance, that would mean that he is due to be born about now.

In a chilling twist on the apparently obvious interpretation of the parable of the Unjust Judge, St Irenaeus says that this judge who fears neither God nor man is the antichrist, and that the widow woman who cries to him day and night for vindication against her enemy is not the Church, but unbelieving Jewry.  Seeking some Messiah who would not be Jesus of Nazareth, she has been calling upon the antichrist in ignorance for near two thousand years.  It may be that her long wait will soon be over.