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13714Contemporary signs of the End of the World

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    Feb 28, 2005
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      The outward betterment of the conditions of life alone,without first a
      moral improvement of the people themselves, would be total victory of
      evil, for such a self satisfied happiness would strenghten the hopless
      corporeal condittion of those who partake thereof, paralyzing all
      possibility for moral improvement and spiritual perfection.  Fr. Boris
      Molchanoff



      CONTEMPORARY SIGNS OF THE END OF THE WORLD
      Lecture given by Father Seraphim Rose in May 1981


      Many shall belive in antichrist ,said a certain blessed monk, and
      shall beging to glorify him as mighty god. But they that have God
      always within themselves, shall see the truth through pure faith, and
      shall recognize him. For at that time the comming of the tormentor
      shall be known to all that have knowledge of God an reason. But to
      them that have their minds ever on the things of this life and love
      earthly things , this will not be understood , for they are caught in
      things of this life . And if they hear the word of caution concerning
      antichrist, they will have no faith, but will despise them that say
      such things all the more. Holy Recluse George of Zadonsk(letters)/St.
      Ephraim the Syrian(Discourse)

      Introduction

      Christians know that when they believe in the Kingdom of Heaven and
      search for it, then the Kingdom of Heaven is already entering "inside
      them" and into the world through the Church. But if they intend to
      build a happy life of the Kingdom of God now on earth for themselves
      or even for future generations, not only will they fail to build it on
      earth, but they may lose it in Heaven as well. Fr. Michael
      Pomazansky










      Today I would like to speak on a subject which is very relevant to our
      times: the end of the world; more particularly, the signs being fulfilled
      in our times which point to the end of the world.

      There have been a number of times in the past when this subject was of
      great interest. In fact, you can even call them “apocalyptic” times. The
      Apostles themselves felt that their times were very apocalyptic. (Later I
      will present some of the statements they made in the Scriptures which
      show that they really expected the end of all things to be very close.)
      At various other times – for example, in the West, around the year 1000
      – there was a great expectation of the end. In Russia near the end of
      the 15th century, again there was a period when the end was expected
      shortly. This was because the year 1492, according to the chronology of
      the Old Testament, was the year 7000 from the creation of the world. And
      many people in our own times have this same feeling that time is running
      out, that something big is going to happen. Often this is bound up with
      the number 2,000. That is, we have come to the end of two millennia of
      Christianity; a millennium is thought of as a big thing, a whole thousand
      years, and two of them means some great crisis must be approaching; and
      many people place this in the terms of the end of the world. Of course,
      that does not necessarily mean anything, since we don’t know the day, or
      the hour, or the year when the world is going to end (Matt. 24:36). I
      will try, however, to go into what our attitude should be toward this
      expectation of the end.

      Nowadays, when you think about “apocalyptic awareness,” you think of
      Protestant sectarians of various kinds, who have definite ideas about
      what is going to happen at the end of this age. It is not only religious
      thinkers, however, but also ordinary secular philosophers who talk about
      the end of the world in a very bold way. I will give you an example, one
      who should be close to us because he is an Orthodox writer: Alexander
      Solzhenitsyn. He has been outside of Russia since 1974, and has written
      about life in the Soviet Union and especially in the Soviet labor camps,
      the infamous Gulag. He is not what one would consider a “mystical” or
      “vague” thinker, or someone who’s up in the clouds; he is very
      down-to-earth.

      Almost three years ago he gave a talk at the Harvard University
      commencement, in which he spoke boldly to the people of the West (just as
      before that he had spoken boldly to Soviet leaders), telling them that
      their civilization is collapsing and is in danger of being taken over by
      Communism, that modern humanism is not deep enough to satisfy the human
      soul, and that it is no model that can be followed by Russia if Russia
      should overthrow Communism. At the end of this address he used the
      following words to express his idea of the depth of the crisis which is
      now occurring in the world:

      “If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in
      history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the
      Renaissance.”

      Here he speaks seriously of the possibility of the “end of the world,”
      based on his observations that it is impossible for men to live long
      without deep spiritual roots, which have been uprooted in the East by
      Communism and in the West by worldly humanism.

      In his other writings, Solzhenitsyn, like many realistic thinkers today,
      speaks of specific reasons, quite apart from the spiritual ones, why he
      thinks that such a period of great crisis is facing humanity. He
      mentions things that you will find in any serious analysis of today’s
      news: namely, such things as the nearness of the exhaustion of the
      earth’s resources (if they are used at the present rates); the
      disastrous pollution of air and water and soil (which is much worse in
      Russia than in America); the overpopulation of the world and the
      approaching disastrous shortage of food which seems to be coming; and,
      of course, the development of weapons in the last few decades, which
      makes the virtual annihilation of human life possible.

      All this relates to the physical signs of an approaching great crisis,
      the end of the modern age, and perhaps the end of the world itself. But
      much more remarkable than these are the spiritual signs that are
      multiplying in our times. This is what I would like to mostly talk
      about.






      What should be the attitude of a committed Orthodox Christian toward this
      whole idea of the end of the world, and toward the signs which are
      preparing for it? Should we dismiss all this as some kind of superstition,
      hysteria, and so forth?


      No, we should not. We have, first of all, the answer given by our Lord
      Jesus Christ Himself in the Gospel. Just two days before He was to go to
      His Passion, His disciples came to Him on the Mount of Olives and asked
      Him: “Tell us, when shall these things be?” – that is, the destruction of
      the temple, which He had just mentioned. Then they asked Him: “And what
      shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt.
      24:3). Our Saviour at that moment did not reject the question, as He did
      at other times when the disciples asked things they should not be asking,
      such as when James and John asked if they would be able to sit next to Him
      in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 10:37). On the contrary, He allowed them to
      ask the questions, and He answered them. These answers take up the entire
      twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of St. Matthew (where the historical
      events before the end of the world are set forth), and the twenty-fifth
      chapter (where He teaches most fully on the coming Judgment and on how to
      prepare for His coming). In a shorter form, these are also set forth in
      the Gospels of Mark and Luke. Some of these prophecies refer directly to
      the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which happened several
      decades after the Crucifixion, but the rest refer to the end of the whole
      world.

      In His answer, our Lord gives the following main points. First of all,
      beware of deception, of following false Christs. Then there will be
      various signs, such as wars, famines, earthquakes – and all these are not
      the end but rather the beginning of the tribulation. Then there will be
      the moral signs: the persecutions of Christians; the increase of evil; the
      growing coldness of love, which is one of the main signs that Christianity
      is dying, because the sign of a Christian, as our Lord told us, is that he
      has love for others. Then another sign is that the Gospel is to be
      preached to the whole world, after which the end will come. Another sign
      is that there will be a terrible tribulation, i.e. apart even from all the
      things He has mentioned already: wars, famines, earthquakes. And “the
      abomination of desolation will be in the holy place” (we must understand
      this according to the interpretation handed down by the Holy Fathers,
      which I will speak about); and “the days will be shortened… for the sake
      of the elect” (Matt. 24:15, 22).

      Then again He warns about false Christs and false prophets, and about
      “great signs and wonders” which, “if possible, will lead astray even the
      elect,” i.e. not only will terrible physical events happen, but there will
      also be deceptions which are so subtle that even the elect themselves
      might be fooled.

      Then the sign of the coming of Christ: it will be sudden, from above, and
      not like His first coming. The signs of the very end are that “the sun
      shall be darkened, the moon shall not give its light, the stars will fall
      from heaven”; and then Christ Himself will appear in the heavens with the
      sign of the Cross.

      But He tells us that the day and hour of His coming are not for us to know.
      Nonetheless, we should pay attention. He gives us the parable of the fig
      tree: when we see its branches putting forth leaves, we know that summer
      is nigh; and, likewise, when we watch the signs and see these things
      beginning to happen, then we know that the times are ripe, that the end is
      drawing near.

      Therefore, we are to watch not for a specific day or time, but rather for
      the signs of the end so that we can be prepared. We are especially to be
      prepared against deception, which is involved with one of the great events
      to happen at the end of the world: the coming of Antichrist, which we will
      discuss shortly.

      As I mentioned earlier, the age of the Apostles – the first century – was
      full of the expectation that Christ would soon return. Today it is a little
      difficult for us even to imagine how the Apostles could be so filled with
      fervor for Christ that they could go to all the ends of the world; but
      they literally did. The Apostle Thomas went to India, and some say even as
      far as China; St. Andrew went north to Scythia, which is now Russia; St.
      Aristobulus and others went to England; St. Matthew and others went south
      to Abyssinia. The whole civilized world at that time was covered by the
      Apostles, because they had the idea that the world was coming soon to an
      end and that they were to go out to all the lands and preach the Gospel.
      Already by the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D.
      70, the Gospel had been preached to virtually all the known inhabited
      world. From that time on began the bringing forth of fruits in all those
      countries in which the seed of the Gospel had been planted.

      And we see, if we take any one particular country that received the Gospel,
      how over the centuries it brought forth fruits. It had saints, the lives of
      people were completely changed, and there was a total difference between
      the time that country was pagan and the time it accepted Orthodox
      Christianity. If you take any country in the West, such as Britain or
      France, or in the East, such as Byzantium or Syria or Russia, you will see
      that this is the case.

      There are a number of Scriptural passages in which the Apostles mention the
      coming of the end. For example, in Philippians 4:4-5, St. Paul writes:
      “Rejoice in the Lord always… The Lord is at hand.” St John mentions in 1
      John 2:18: “Little children, it is the last hour.” The Apostle Peter says
      in 1 Peter 4:7: “The end of all things is at hand.” Elsewhere, answering
      those who said that the end was a long time in coming, St. Peter says in
      his famous statement that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,
      and a thousand years is one day, and that the Lord is only being patient
      with us until we repent (II Peter 3:8-9). And then, immediately after
      that, he gives us a full description of the actual end of the world by
      fire (3:10-13).

      So, from that very time, those who were fervent Christians had a definite
      idea: the world is soon coming to an end. Of course, nineteen centuries
      have passed since that time. Does that mean that the Apostles were
      mistaken? Or that anyone else who thinks so is also mistaken, and we
      should put away all ideas that the end of the world is at hand, that
      Christ is coming soon? No, it does not mean this. It means that we are to
      understand this in the right way, and the right way is the spiritual way.
      If we ourselves are leading a conscious spiritual life, conducting the
      unseen warfare against our own fallen nature and against the demons who
      are against us, then we will be constantly expecting the coming of Christ
      into our soul.

      The only danger is if you go overboard and begin to try to place dates, to
      calculate exactly when it is going to happen, to be too concerned about
      specific events which are occurring and too quick to place them in
      categories so that they fit into chapters of the Apocalypse.

      Of course, the big mistake made by the people who go overboard in these
      details occurs when they fall into the heresy of chiliasm: the expectation
      of Christ coming to earth for a thousand years. Chiliasm, a heresy fought
      by the early Fathers of the Church, constantly comes up again in sectarian
      circles, especially in times of historical uncertainty and crisis. It is
      the teaching of a reign of Christ on earth before the end of the world: a
      reign of peace and prosperity under Christ, Who will reign with His elect
      in Jerusalem and conquer all foes. This troublesome heresy was widespread
      even in the early history of the Church and was condemned by the Second
      Ecumenical Council in A.D.381. That was when the phrase was put in the
      Creed: “…and His Kingdom shall have no end.” This phrase was introduced
      into the Creed with the specific intention of countering the chiliastic
      teaching of the heretic Apollinarius.

      The idea of chiliasm arose out of a misinterpretation of Apocalypse chapter
      20, which says the devil was bound for a thousand years and Christ came and
      reigned with His saints. If you just read the text straight through without
      stopping and interpreting it according to what the Holy Fathers have said
      about it, you can get the idea that there is to be a period of a thousand
      years between two future comings of Christ. This means you have to have
      two different Judgments. In fact, the Protestants do: they have a “Great
      White Throne Judgment,” and some other kind of Judgment. This confuses the
      whole picture of Christian eschatology.

      In the universal interpretation of the Orthodox Holy Fathers, however,
      there is no mystery about this. The reign of Christ with His saints is
      occurring now. This is the Church. This is the life of grace in the Church
      with the Sacraments, which Protestants, not having, do not understand. The
      life in the Church is such a blessed state – because we are with Christ,
      we have His grace, we have His Body and Blood within us – that this is
      like Paradise. And this is what people call the millennium. The “thousand
      years” means a whole period. One thousand is a round number: 10x10x10 in
      symbolical language means the fullness of time between the First Coming
      and the Second Coming of Christ.

      Expectation of a chiliastic coming of Christ (i.e. of Christ reigning as an
      earthly ruler for a thousand years) has led to fantasies and bloodshed,
      from the time of the Middle Ages to now: “charismatic” leaders persuade
      their followers either that they are Christ, or that they are preparing
      for Him. This is an exact fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy of fake Christs
      who will not come from the heavens at the end of the world. In recent
      times, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, and many other
      sectarian groups have preached this doctrine, often predicting the exact
      year and day of the end of the world – which never comes on schedule – or
      preparing for a great “world leader” who will bring peace on earth. This
      “world leader” will be the Antichrist, about whom the Scriptures prophesy
      exactly. Fantasies of the coming “millennium” are one of the chief ways
      mankind is preparing for the Antichrist.

      Our times are full of this chiliasm or millenarianism. This is the basis of
      the Communist ideology of the perfect state on earth that will come when
      the “dictatorship of the proletariat” finally ends. Such fantasies always
      result in tyranny in the name of a religious or philosophical ideal,

      Chiliastic views themselves are not a particular sign of the end. They
      existed in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and in more modern times; but
      they have never been more widespread than today, not merely among small
      groups of sectarians, but among political and religious leaders of
      humanity. This I will talk about a little later as one of the signs of the
      end.

      Now let us turn to some of the spiritual signs of the end. Most of these
      signs are bound up with the figure of Antichrist, the world ruler at the
      end of time, the last great enemy of Christ. Many people have a very
      superficial idea about him: Luther thought it was the Pope, others have a
      caricatural idea of him as simply a vicious dictator. We must go deeper
      than this, and especially distinguish between the general spirit of
      Antichrist, the many lesser antichrists who have this spirit to some
      degree, and the Antichrist himself, who will come only at the very end of
      time and rule the whole world. St. John says (1 John 2:18): “As ye have
      heard that Antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come;
      therefore we know that it is the last hour.” That is, just because we have
      seen many with the spirit of Antichrist in the past – those who have
      fought against Christ, like some Roman emperors, and especially those who
      have tried to deceive Christians by means of some fake teaching and seeming
      miracles – this does not mean there will not be a single Antichrist at the
      end of the world. These many small antichrists should prepare us for the
      coming of the great Antichrist.Apostasy



      St. Paul himself, who was very filled with awareness of the coming end
      of the world and the second coming of Christ, warns Christians even in
      his time not to be excited about the end of the world. He says in II
      Thessalonians 2:2-3: “Be not quickly shaken in mind or troubled… as
      though the day of the Lord is just at hand. Let no one deceive you: that
      day will not come except the falling away come first and the man of
      lawlessness be revealed, the son of perdition.”

      This is a very important sign of the end: the falling away or apostasy
      and the coming of the man of lawlessness, which is Antichrist. On this
      subject I would like focus quite a bit of our attention. This concept of
      apostasy is a key one with which to understand the events of our times.
      It is too big of a topic to go into completely now. But briefly: a
      student of history, looking at the whole past two thousand years of
      history, especially Western history, can see a continuous thread of
      development. And in these last nine hundred or thousand years, you can
      see the various strands which go to make up our modern history and
      modern civilization. The civilization of today is shaped by the events
      and developments of yesterday.

      When Solzhenitsyn speaks about the coming of a great world crisis or
      even the end of the world, he is referring to the fact that this
      historical current, which has been going on for the last thousand years
      at least, is now coming to its end. There is no place further for it to
      go: it must either change drastically or destroy mankind. Solzhenitsyn
      traces it back to the end of the Middle Ages. Actually, it goes back
      further. If you examine it historically, I think you can see that it
      traces back to the time when Rome broke away from the Church, i.e. the
      year 1054, the middle of the 11th century. Something happened in the
      West: the West chose to go its own way.

      This breaking away on the part of Rome was the beginning of what can be
      called the mainstream of apostasy. Apostasy means “falling away,” even a
      very small falling away. If you look at Rome in the 12th century, it was
      still fairly close to Orthodoxy. Nonetheless, it had begun to deviate in
      its various ideas about the importance of the Pope, and so forth. Once
      this movement of apostasy began, it went step by step, very logically, to
      produce the world we see today. Rome broke off from the Church because
      worldly ideas of Church government – the papacy – became dominant. And
      once the Roman Church was independent of the Churches in the East, these
      innovations began to enter the life of Rome until it became, over the
      centuries, increasingly different from Orthodoxy.

      Worldliness in the Western world produced the pagan Renaissance, and the
      departures in the Roman Church from the true Christian practices of the
      earlier Church (most notably the Roman Catholic idea of “indulgences”
      and especially the selling of them) produced the Protestant Reformation,
      which gradually threw out almost all of the ancient Christian traditions
      together with the various superstitions and false practices against which
      it was supposedly rebelling. This, in turn, produced the reaction which
      we know as the Age of Enlightenment, the eighteenth century, which threw
      out religion altogether and tried to base life upon human reason and
      common sense. This is basically what civilization is trying to live on
      today. And this is what has produced the Communism out of which
      Solzhenitsyn came, and against which he is protesting. Communism is the
      last and most consistent form of trying to make life on earth solely fit
      human ideas, not divine ones.

      If Rome had not fallen away from Orthodoxy and started this whole
      process of apostasy, world history would have been much different. We can
      see even now that in the East, Orthodox countries like Greece and Russia
      did not have a Renaissance, or a Reformation, or even an Enlightenment
      period, as did the West. And if they are now bound up with the same kind
      of worldview as is the West, it is because they have in the last century
      or two finally accepted all these ideas and been poisoned by them.
      Therefore, they have become part of the whole world which is now involved
      in one single civilization, i.e. Western civilization – which is, as
      Solzhenitsyn rightly sees, in its dying phase.

      In the same passage in which St. Paul mentions the apostasy (II
      Thessa-lonians 2:7), he gives a second name for this movement. He calls
      it the “mystery of iniquity,” or the “mystery of lawlessness.” He says:
      “The mystery of lawlessness is already at work,” preparing for
      Antichrist, who is the “man of lawlessness.” If we look around at our
      20th century civilization, the word “lawlessness” or “anarchy” is
      perhaps the chief characteristic that identifies it.

      A few examples: By the beginning of the 20th century, all the various
      schools of modern art dissolved into what can only be called a “lawless”
      state: Cubism, Futurism, ending in just blocks on the canvas – or, what
      Jackson Pollock was doing twenty-five years ago: standing in the midst of
      a large canvas, he would get “inspired,” dip his paint brushes in pails,
      and throw the paint (and sometimes whatever came into his hands) on the
      canvas. You cannot seriously call it art if you consider what the ancient
      masters created was art, because they were meticulous and careful and
      there was a whole art or science to what they did. Therefore, you can say
      that, compared to ancient art or even the more recent art of previous
      centuries, this is a kind of lawlessness, because the artist are letting
      them-selves go and doing what is against all the laws.

      In modern music it is the same way. An historian of music – Alfred
      Frankenstein – wrote a complete history of Western music, and when he
      came to the 20th century he stopped and said: I cannot write anymore,
      because what comes from here on is no longer music as I know it. That
      is, he appreciated that there was something there, but he said it does
      not obey the laws that music obeyed up until the end of the 19th
      century; therefore, it is something else; let somebody else write about
      it. Because, again, some kind of lawlessness, a new principle, entered
      into life.

      Once you get this far, really, there is no place else to go – that’s the
      end of that. That is why Solzhenitsyn has this feeling that something is
      coming to an end, because you cannot keep going down. Something else has
      to happen. Either there has to be an explosion – a totally new principle
      has to enter in, like when Christianity came in Roman times and totally
      transformed everything – or else, if something new does not happen, then
      the whole civilization simply winds down, and that is the end of it.

      In the realm of moral teaching, it is quite noticeable, especially in
      the last twenty years or so, how lawlessness has become the norm. Even
      people in high positions within the clergy of liberal denominations –
      usually of Catholics, Protestants, and so forth – are sometimes quite
      willing to justify all kinds of things which before would have been
      considered immoral; now they are considered according to a new morality –
      “situation ethics,” and so forth.

      Whereas most civilized people (and even wild pagan tribes) had a fairly
      good sense of right and wrong and decent behavior up at least to the
      Second World War, since then the philosophy has taken hold of many that
      one can “do whatever one feels like,” and even so-called Christians
      justify and promote behavior that until now was everywhere considered a
      total loss of decent standards, not only Christian but even just human.
      This is a deep sign of lawlessness in contemporary society. This could
      not happen wherever people have basic religious and moral views of any
      kind. It is a direct result of the abandonment of Christianity and the
      “falling away” from Truth.

      This is a sign of what St. Paul calls the “mystery of lawlessness,” – a
      mystery in that it is something which is not fully revealed in this
      world; it is something which comes from the other world. The “mystery of
      righteousness” is the whole story of how God came from heaven and became
      incarnate in order to save us. The “mystery of lawlessness” is the
      opposite: it is a mystery coming up from hell, which breaks into this
      world and changes it. Therefore, this is the mystery of lawlessness or
      anarchy which is preparing for the coming of the “man of lawlessness,”
      who is Antichrist.

      Even in politics and government – which make no sense at all unless you
      have the idea of order – the idea of lawlessness is entering. If you look
      at how the world is divided, you see that almost half of the world now is
      in the Communist camp. And Communism, if you look at it objectively, is a
      very strange form of political/economic order, because it makes no sense.
      As far as politics is concerned, it is tyranny, which the Communists
      claim to be against. As far as economics is concerned, it does not work,
      and yet the whole point of ins. Therefore, from the point of view of those who introduced
      Communism into the world governments, it makes no sense because it does
      not accomplish what it means to accomplish and because it produces the
      slave states that Solzhenitsyn writes about very eloquently. And yet it
      takes over the world. The rest of the world seems to be falling into
      this, or at least powerless to stop the movement of Communism. What is
      the reason for that?Communism as the precursor of Antichrist



      Now I will say a word about Communism. It is not simply a system of
      politics or economics. Politically, it holds together only by terror,
      by the Gulag. For anyone who wants to understand what is happening in
      the world today, Solzhenitsyn’s book, The Gulag Archipelago, tells
      exactly what life was like in Russia for sixty years and in other
      countries for thirty years or less, and what is coming to the rest of
      the world. It is written very humanely. Solzhenitsyn does not have any
      bitterness about what happened; he has suffered through it himself and
      gives a very accurate description of what it is all about.
      Economically, it fails. Solzhenitsyn points out that the Tsarist
      government exported wheat, while the Soviets have to import wheat – to
      name just one of their failures. The two most serious “accomplishments”
      of the Soviet Union are the building (after stealing Western secrets)
      and stockpiling of enough weapons to destroy life on earth, and its
      network of prison camps – the Gulag.

      But how can people believe in this Marxist system? If you do believe in
      it, you have to admit that it is a very strange philosophy. It is not
      an ordinary philosophy, such as that it is better to have the people
      vote or that it is better to have one monarch over many people; it is
      not simple like that at all. It is like a dream world, a fantasy world.
      It is like the movements which were common in the 16th century. Someone
      would proclaim himself to be Jesus Christ or the prophet of Jesus
      Christ, and people would begin to follow him. He would cause a big
      uprising, there would be a peasant revolt, and finally the prince would
      come along and chop them all down, and everybody would be peaceful
      again. But in the meantime, he had gotten the whole country excited,
      and people had thought that some kind of great religious thing was
      happening.

      Communism has this same idea – only now without God. If you examine it,
      it is actually a chiliastic idea – that Paradise is coming to earth,
      just ahead of us. It is very interesting to read about the beginning of
      the Communist movement in the 19th century, because the writings of its
      early “prophets,” such as Fourier in France, are absolutely fantastic
      nonsense. Fourier talks about the coming age of world peace and
      prosperity, when all the fountains will be overflowing with pink
      lemonade, and we will pick meat chops from trees, and all kinds of
      fantastic things.

      One wonders how people could take this seriously. But they did. Even
      Marx was inspired by this in the beginning, until he finally became
      mature and saw that, since this was all made up of fairy tales, he had
      to place it on a “scientific” basis. Therefore, he developed what is
      called “scientific materialism.” He then set forth the means of
      bringing this into reality by overthrowing the bourgeois governments.
      But when he comes into power, what is his answer? He promises actually
      the same thing that those earlier sectarians were promising. Even
      Lenin, at the foundation of Russian Communism, had this idea: first of
      all, there is the revolution – you change society, overthrow and kill
      all the kings, the middle class, and so forth; you take all their
      possessions, and give power to the workers. (That’s a very vague thing:
      the “workers.” The workers were the first to go to prison.) You give
      power supposedly to the “people,” but actually it is only a few who
      take it over for them, holding it for them, as it were, because they
      are not yet able to take care of it themselves. And after a certain
      number of years this so-called Dictatorship of the Proletariat withers
      away, and then people become peaceful, happy, contented, and there are
      no more problems.

      Someone even asked Lenin what would happen if somebody were to have a
      religious idea or want to go back to the old-fashioned ways of doing
      things. They asked him: “Won’t you need a police department at least?”
      And he said: “There will be no need for a police department because the
      people themselves will be so changed under the new conditions of
      society that, when anybody has a non-social idea, he will be
      automatically squashed like a bug by the people themselves.” In other
      words, the people will be so happy that they will take the initiative
      in squashing others, and there will be no need for police, or armies,
      or anything of the sort. This is an absolute fairy tale! And this is
      what Communist ideology is based upon. It is a very strange political
      philosophy. It partakes of the same principle of lawlessness; it is a
      kind of lawlessness which pretends to be orderly. It is a forerunner of
      the coming of Antichrist.

      The reason why Communism takes over the world is not because it is much
      “smarter” than capitalism or democracies or anything of the sort. It is
      because in the West there is a spiritual vacuum, and when this vacuum
      is present Communism simply marches in, taking one little territory
      after the other until, at present, it has conquered nearly half the
      world.

      But Communism does not have the final answer because it is a very
      negative thing. In fact, if you look at what has been happening in
      Russia in the last ten or twenty years, you can see that there is a
      full revolt, as far as the people’s mentality is concerned; it is
      against this whole system of Communism. Although the dictatorship is
      just as strong as ever, and although the secret police is very strong
      and is everywhere, nonetheless, the people are rising up more and more.
      That is, they are rising up not in armed revolt but in their minds, and
      are becoming independent. This means that sooner or later the whole
      system is going to collapse.

      And so Communism does not have the answer; it cannot conquer the whole
      world and then bring peace and happiness as it claims it can. But in
      the meantime it is preparing for one very important thing which has to
      happen before the end of the world can come, and that is that there has
      to be one, unified world government from which Christianity has somehow
      been kicked out. And that Communism has been doing very successfully.
      Other signs - the UN, the Jews, false miracles



      However, in order to supply people with a “spiritual” basis for one
      world government, there has to be something higher than Communism. A
      spiritual philosophy is needed to unite all men. The chiliastic
      philosophy of the “free world” supplies a part of this element, and
      in the idea of the United Nations, for example, we see something
      which looks like a spiritual answer.

      The very existence of such an organization as the U.N., which is to
      unite all the governments of the world, is a sign of our times. The
      speeches and propaganda of the U.N. are filled with chiliastic ideas,
      vaguely based on Christianity but without Christian dogmas: it
      strives for permanent world peace, no more wars – which of course is
      possible only if human nature changes and becomes different from what
      it is now. St. Paul spoke of one of the signs of the end: “The day
      of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. For when people will
      say,’There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come
      upon them” (1 Thes. 5:2-3). Never has there been more talk of “peace
      and security” than today. One of the chief organs of the U.N. is the
      Security Council, and organizations for “world peace” are everywhere.
      It men do achieve finally a semblance of “peace and security,” it
      would seem to contemporary man to be a state like heaven on earth –
      a millennium. The practical way to do this is to unite all
      governments under one. For the first time in history such a ideal
      becomes a possible goal of practical politics – a world ruler is
      conceivable now. For the first time, the Antichrist becomes an
      historical possibility.

      The U.N. claims to be for the foundation of one world government
      which will not be a tyranny, based not on any particular idea like
      Communism, but on something very vague, with no particular Christian
      basis. In fact, about twenty years ago they built a meditation chapel
      in the U.N. building, and at that time they had a big discussion
      about what would be the object of worship in it. If you have a Cross,
      you’re immediately branded as Christian; you can’t have anything
      Moslem or Hindu because again you’re also identified. It has to be
      above all religions. Finally they decided upon a black stone block.
      If you go there and bow down to it, it is like bowing down to an
      idol. But this indicates a very vague kind of religious interest. But
      such a vague thing is exactly what the devil likes to grab hold of.
      In any particular religious belief you may be mistaken, but at least
      you put your heart to it, and God can forgive all kinds of mistakes.
      But if you do not have any particular religious belief and you give
      yourself over to some kind of vague idea, then the demons come in and
      begin to act.

      For example: after being conservative, even anti-revolutionary,
      during the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Roman Popes have now
      come close to joining the revolution, as Dostoyevsky predicted they
      would in the 19th century. Roman Catholicism has become a great
      worldly institution preaching the same chiliasm as the
      representatives of the U.N. Pope Paul VI’s visit to the U.N. in New
      York in 1965 reveals this clearly. He was given a hero’s welcome in
      New York by the American people, mostly non-Catholics, precisely
      because he is seen as the most eminent religious figure who preaches
      the chiliast dream which is now so strong in the air. In his speech
      at the U.N., the Pope justified these expectations, and called on the
      U.N. to bring about the prophecies of Holy Scripture concerning when
      swords will be turned into plowshares and the lion will down with the
      lamb – in a millennial kingdom on earth.

      Another sign that the end times are approaching is the present state
      of the Jews in Israel, in the city of Jerusalem. According to the
      prophecies of Scriptures and the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church,
      Jerusalem will be the world capital of Antichrist, and there he will
      rebuild the temple of Solomon where he will be worshipped as God.
      There are events that are to come right before the very end of the
      world. Of course, it is very significant that only since 1948 has
      Jerusalem been once more in the hands of the Jews, and only since
      1967 has the place where the temple was, the Mosque of Omar, been in
      their hands, since this had been in the part held by the Moslems.
      Therefore, all that prevents them – that is, technically – from
      building the temple is this Mosque of Omar. If they can destroy the
      mosque, they can erect the temple on this site. It is also
      significant that Jerusalem is now constantly in the news. The Jews
      have returned to Palestine for the first time since Christ. This
      makes it possible for the Antichrist to come first to the Jews, as
      the prophecies state, and then rule the whole world from Jerusalem.
      And the very idea of chiliasm comes from the Jews, because they
      rejected Christ just because He did not establish a worldly kingdom.

      If you were to ask anyone who is aware at all of political events in
      the world a question: “What would be the ideal city to have as the
      world capital if there’s going to be a world empire?” – it is obvious
      what the answer would be in most people’s minds. It cannot be New
      York, because that is the center of capitalism; it cannot be Moscow,
      because that is the center of Communism. It cannot even be Rome,
      because Roman Catholicism is still some kind of limited tradition.
      The logical place is Jerusalem, because there three religions come
      together, three continents come together. It is the most logical
      place where could be peace, brotherhood, and harmony: all those
      things which look good, but unless they have a solid Christian
      foundation are not God-pleasing – those things which can be used by
      Antichrist.

      Another aspect of the Jewish question is that many young Jews are
      becoming interested in Christianity, because among Jews also there is
      the same kind of religious seeking and problems that occur among
      other people. Some of them are being converted to Christianity, and
      some of them are coming to Orthodoxy. This is already a sign, a
      preparation for the fact that at the end of time the Jews will be
      restored to Christianity, to Christ. St. Paul expresses this by
      saying that, if the falling away of the Jews meant “riches” to the
      Gentiles – because when the Jews fell away the Gentiles were invited
      into the Church – then the restoration of Israel will be like a
      rising from the dead. And this event will come right before the end.

      We should say a word about Antichrist. He is not simply a cruel
      dictator who is anti-Christian. I think most people, when they think
      of Antichrist, think of someone like Hitler, who was a persecutor, or
      Stalin, who persecuted Christians and was against religion. But that
      is not what Antichrist is, though he has that aspect. “Anti” means
      not just “against”; it means “in place of.” He will be someone who
      will come and take the place of Christ; it says quite clearly that he
      will be in the temple of Jerusalem, worshipped as God. You don’t go
      and worship an ordinary dictator; at least, the whole world could
      not very easily do that. But he will come as a world dictator who is
      accepted as God, as someone very positive; thus he will try, in every
      possible way, to imitate Christ, to take the place of Christ.

      Therefore, the Apostle emphasize very strongly in their warning about
      the end of the world that we must beware of deception. St. Paul says
      in II Thessalonians 2:9-11: “The coming of the lawless one, by the
      activity of Satan, will be with all power and sings and lying
      wonders… God shall send (that is, allow) a strong delusion, that men
      should believe a lie.” That is, it will be something very deceptive.

      In fact, we know that the elect themselves might be deceived if the
      times will not be cut short. Christ Himself warns, in speaking of the
      last days, that “false Christs and false prophets will arise and show
      great signs and wonders so as to lead astray, if possible, even the
      elect” (Matt. 24:24). And in the Apocalypse, St. John states that the
      last times will be characterized by “demonic spirits working
      wonders” (Apoc. 16:14). Therefore, one of the sings of the coming of
      the end is the multiplication of demonic signs and wonders, i.e.
      false miracles and things of that sort.

      Do we see any signs of satanic activity, miracles and signs that are
      leading people astray today? Yes, this has become one of the leading
      characteristics especially of the last decades. I mean in particular,
      for example, the increase in the last several decades of outright
      Satanism – Satan-worship – which only in these last twenty years or
      so has achieved such openness and notoriety. People openly call
      themselves witches. Perhaps few call themselves Satanists, but it has
      become a recognized religion in our society, and very many are
      seriously involved in the practice of witchcraft. (The widely
      publicized ritual murders of recent years are only the surface of a
      deep current of evil and demon-worship.)

      Eastern religions, physics, UFOs




      Another example is the greatly increased interest in Eastern
      religions, which in these past two or three decades have become
      tremendously fashionable. Now there are Western-born, American and
      English gurus and Zen masters, and so forth. And people take it
      quite seriously. All these Eastern things have become quite an
      American institution, with people bowing down to the ground before
      Maharaj-ji and others who proclaim themselves to be God. This has
      been quite unheard of until the last two or three decades. And these
      are ordinary, idealistic Americans who are quite capable of bowing
      to the ground before Maharaj-ji.

      Interest in Eastern religions has been present for a hundred years
      and more in the West, and has been gaining especially in the 20th
      century; but it has always been a fringe movement in society, and
      only in the last decade or so have we seen the institution of native
      Western temples and monasteries, with seemingly normal American
      young men and women bowing to the ground before Buddhist and Hindu
      gods…

      Eastern religions have obviously gone deep into the Western soul.
      Their appeal is understandable: Western Christianity, especially
      Protestantism but also Catholicism in recent years, has been
      deprived of the element of the true worship of God which Orthodoxy
      has, and the human soul feels empty. Also, most Eastern religions
      offer a rather simple kind of “peace” through meditation or chanting
      which is not as demanding as true Christianity, since the latter
      gives one a peace not of this world and prepares one for eternal
      life in a Kingdom not of this world.

      In Western Christianity – because the element of the true worship of
      God which Orthodoxy preserved has been lost – there has occurred a
      reaction, which takes the form of the searching after signs. This is
      very strong in the “charismatic” movement. Quite a few spectacular
      things happen: people speak in tongues, they give so-called
      prophecies, there are some kind of “healings,” and so on. These are
      not in accordance with what we Orthodox Christians know of real
      spiritual life. It is a whole false outlook on spiritual life, which
      causes people to seen these things and to attain them.

      And of course, there “transcendental meditation” and other such ways
      of seeking “peace” – a this-worldly feeling of contentment which has
      nothing to do with true spiritual striving

      Then one could name all kinds of occult and paranormal phenomena
      which are so prevalent in our times. Research into various kinds of
      extrasensory perception (ESP) is very strong in the Soviet Union,
      probably much more so than in America. In the Soviet Union, people
      who claim to be atheists allow and in fact promote research into
      things like mental telepathy, hypnotism, faith-healing, prophecies,
      auras of plants and humans, the action of mind over matter, etc.
      They take special photographs, attempting to see the boundary
      between matter and psyche. All kinds of weird things come up in the
      midst of these experiments. One contemporary psychic, Uri Geller,
      whom you have probably heard about, is able to bend spoons by
      looking intently at them, and he claims he gets his power from
      beings in outer space.

      Some people, of course, hear about this and laugh. They think it is
      very funny that people are so stupid as to think things like that.
      But the phenomena which are occurring are quite real. The
      descriptions which people give of them have a remarkable similarity
      to what we Orthodox Christians know in the ancient Lives of Saints
      – especially the descriptions of phenomena given by people who claim
      to be abducted by UFO spacecrafts and so forth. Whatever you might
      think about these stories, what they describe is exactly what we
      have heard described in Lives of Saints as to how demons operate,
      i.e. their remarkable ability to switch from matter to psyche, to
      instantly vanish or appear, or to move very quickly from one place
      to the other. This is the way the demons operate, and this is the
      way these so-called space beings operate also. It is very
      interesting that demons come back into modern history through this
      means.

      The subject of the flying saucers – the UFOs – is very much part of
      the atmosphere of our times. Science-fiction literature is very
      popular both in the free West and in the USSR. Several recent movies
      with science-fiction themes have been enormously popular: several
      years ago there was 2001: A Space Odyssey and the television series
      Star Trek, and just now there is Star Wars and Close Encounters of
      the Third Kind. Therefore, whether or not there are actual flying
      saucers and flying-saucer people, this phenomenon is a significant
      indicator of what people are feeling and thinking now.

      One sober investigator has examined in great detail many of the best
      cases of supposed sightings and landings of UFOs, and he says that
      with few exceptions they can be explained by other means, or are
      fraudulent. He calls UFOs a “fairy tale for grown-ups,” because
      20th-century man – i.e. humanist, agnostic, or atheist – has lost
      other supposed fairy tales.

      But at the same time many people claim not merely to have seen them,
      but to have contracted beings in them and been kidnapped or ridden
      with them. If one reads a few descriptions of such contacts (this is
      what is called “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”), reads
      contemporary science-fiction or sees some of today’s movies, one
      gets a strange feeling: here are described strange beings, some of
      them almost human but much more “advanced,” able to do extraordinary
      things like turning sticks into swords, causing themselves and
      others to disappear, assuming different shapes at will, flying
      through the air, probing into the mind, or creating whole imaginary
      scenes before one’s eyes. Perhaps for modern man this is all “fairy
      tales,” but for an Orthodox Christian the phenomena which appear in
      these very popular literary and artistic forms are very familiar –
      most of them can be found in the Lives of Saints and are often a
      very realistic description of the way demons act.

      Most contemporary men, of course, laugh at the mention of demons –
      but this is precisely what they are describing and seeing under the
      guise of “extra-terrestrial intelligences” or “flying-saucer
      aliens.”

      Some recent books by Evangelical Protestants suggest that the best
      explanation of UFOs is that encounters with them – when they are
      real and not fraudulent – are actually encounters with demons who
      contact men in accordance with the ideas and expectations of the
      times. What is significant for us is that many ordinary people
      today consider it possible or desirable to enter into contact with
      “advanced beings” from other worlds – this is exactly what demons
      are, and increased contact with them is precisely one of the
      characteristics of the period towards the end of the world.

      All these are signs of occult or strange spiritual attitudes, which
      produce what nowadays cannot be called anything but miracles, i.e.
      something which does not accord with the normal way of natural
      processes. This is just what is needed to prepare the world for the
      acceptance of Antichrist, who will come with a great deception, with
      demonic wonders and miracles in order to deceive people.

      Other sources of contact with other worlds and beings are to be seen
      in contemporary “after-death” experiences and closely related
      “out-of-body” experiences. Many of these experiences are without
      doubt real – but people who have them are almost all unprepared to
      protect themselves against demonic deceptions.

      Many followers of the charismatic movement – who do not of course
      believe in occultism, and in fact are very much against it –
      nevertheless accept very strange phenomena as being in a Christian
      context: for example, the modern “gift of tongues.” People involved
      in these experiences are similarly uninformed about the nature of
      demonic temptations and apparitions. These experiences have become
      much more common today than heretofore because the Orthodox
      Christian doctrine of spiritual experiences has been lost in the
      West because of the apostasy; and from various modern influences
      (such as television) men have become more passive and open to
      mediumistic influences than ever before. Many of these people
      believe that what they are seeing is an outpouring of the Holy
      Spirit. In fact, our times have been called the “New Age of the Holy
      Spirit. People think this is a sign that Christ is coming soon;
      however, the actual prophecies of the Scriptures<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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