Reprinted From Orthodox Life Vol. 45, No1 - January - February 1995
WILL YOU MEET THE LORD
IN THE "RAPTURE" OR IN REALITY?
Then we which are alive and remain
shall be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air...
(I Thess. 4:17)
From this it is clear that these saints who participate in the thousand-year reign of Christ are reigning with Christ and per forming judgment not on earth but in heaven, for it speaks here only concerning their souls which are not yet united with their bodies. From these words it is evident that the Saints take part in the governing of the Church of Christ on earth, and therefore it is natural and proper to appeal to them with prayers, asking their intercession before Christ with Whom they reign.6
The Second Coming of Christ will be unmistakable: it will be sudden, from heaven and it will mark the end of this world.There can be no preparation for it save only the Orthodox Christian preparation of repentance, spiritual life, and watchfulness. Those who are preparing for it in any other way who say that he is anywhere here who preach that Jesus is coming soon without warning of the great deception that is to precede His Coming: are clearly the prophets of Antichrist, the false Christ who must come first and deceive the world, including all Christians who are not or do not become truly Orthodox. There is to be no future millennium. For those who can receive it, the millennium of the Apocalypse is now; the life of Grace is the Orthodox Church for the whole thousand years between the First Coming of Christ and the time of Antichrist. That Protestants should expect the millennium in the future is only their confession that they do not live in it in the present -that is, that they are outside the Church of Christ and have not tasted of Divine Grace.7
Therefore it is necessary for the living to pray for the living; and consequently, they can accomplish something. For we also pray for one another; and we are convinced, or rather, we per ceive by reality that our prayer shall be heard. Therefore, this example cannot properly be applied to the saints who have died. For the saints, when they die, even if they indeed live in the pres ence of God according to the testimony of Christ, yet it does not follow from this that they know specifically each thing that was done by us on earth...
It boggles the mind to try to imagine the kind of earth it is going to be when God eliminates the devil and sin. Our minds are staggered at the thought of 'Christ on the throne.' The great southward moving Sahara Desert of Africa will bloom and blossom. Mankind will be able to grow new foods; land that today is useless will grow twelve crops a year. The urge in man's heart toward immorality will have vanished. In that day the great drive in man will be a thirst for righteousness. It takes a great deal of faith in these days of despondency to believe this, but it is the clear teaching of the Bible.11
Those who have the body of Christ within them will rush to Christ with an irresistible motion in order that they may receive their proper place. Accordingly Paul, as he shows that this rush cannot be restrained, called it a carrying up [rapture], for he says, we shall be carried off in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air... So they will move from one table to another, from that which is still veiled to that which is already manifested, from the bread to the Body. While they still live the human life Christ is bread for them, and He is their passover for they pass from here to the city which is in heaven... This earthly banquet brings us to that Body. Apart from it we cannot receive the Body, any more than it is possible for one to look at the light whose eyes have been gouged out... Accordingly, those who depart this life without the Eucharistic gifts will have nothing for that life. But those who have been able to receive the Grace and preserve it have entered into the joy of the Lord.14
After our redemption by Jesus Christ, "all who have openly rejected the Redeemer comprise the inheritance of satan: their souls, after the separation from the body, descend straight to hell. But Christians who are inclined to sin are also unworthy of being immediately translated from earthly life to blessed eternity. Justice itself demands that these inclinations to sin, these betray als of the Redeemer should be weighed and evaluated. A judging and distinguishing are required in order to define the degree of a Christian soul's inclination to sin, in order to define what pre dominates in it - eternal life or eternal death. The unhypocritical Judgment of God awaits every Christian soul after its departure from the body, as the holy Apostle Paul has said: It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment (Heb. 9:27).
For the testing of souls as they pass through the spaces of the air there have been established by the dark powers separate judgment places and guards in a remarkable order. In the layers of the under-heaven, from earth to heaven itself, stand guarding legions of fallen spirits. Each division is in charge of a special form of sin and tests the soul in it when the soul reaches this division. The aerial demonic guards and judgment places are called in the Patristic writings the toll-houses, and the spirits who serve them are called the tax-collectors.16
When I was dying, I saw Ethiopians who appeared before me. Their appearance was very frightful; my soul beholding them was disturbed. Then I saw two splendid youths, and my soul leaped out into their arms. We began slowly to ascend in the air to the heights, as if flying, and we reached the toll-houses that guard the ascent and detain the soul of each man. Each toll-house tested a special form of sin: one lying, another envy, another pride; each sin has its own testers in the air. And I saw that the angels held all my good deed in a little chest; taking them out, they would compare them with my evil deeds. Thus we passed by all the toll-houses. And when, nearing the gates of heaven, we came to the toll-house of fornication, those who guard the way there detained me and presented to me all my fleshly deeds of fornication, committed from my childhood up to now. The angels who were leading me said: 'All the bodily sins which you committed in the city, God has forgiven because you repented of them.' To this my adversaries said to me: 'But when you left the city, in the village you committed adultery with a farmer's wife.' The angels, hearing this and finding no good deed which could be measured out for my sin, left me and went away. Then the evil spirits seized me and, overwhelming me with blows, led me down to earth. The earth opened, and I was let down by narrow and foul-smelling descents into the underground prison of hell.17
Conclusion in next issue.
2. Theophylact, Blessed. The Explanation by Blessed Thee ph ylact of The Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew, Vol.1, House Springs, MO: Chrysostom Press, 1992, p.208.
3. Wacker, Grant, "Planning ahead: The enduring appeal of prophecy belief," Christian century, January 19, 1994, p.48.
4. Ibid., p.49.
5. The Rapture, op. cit., p.43.
6. Averky, Archbishop. The Apocalypse of St. John: An Orthodox Commentary, Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1985, p.198.
7 Rose, Fr. Seraphim. Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1983, pp.214-215.
8. Graham, Billy. Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Waco, TX: WORD Books, 1983, p.205.
9. Lindsey, Hal., Combat Faith, New York: Bantam Books, 1986, p.176.
10. Mastrantonis, Fr. George. Augsburg and Constantinople, Brookime, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1982, p.270.
11. Graham, Billy. Angels: God's Secret Agents, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1975, p.139.
12. Rallis, George, "Two Different Kinds of Resurrection in the New Testament," Orthodox Life, March-April, 1983, p.15.
13. Ibid., p. 17.
14. Cabasilas, St. Nicholas. The Life in Christ, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1974, p.146-148.
15. St. Theodore of Studium, "That We Must Communicate in the Most Pure Mysteries with Pure Thoughts," Orthodox Life, March-April, 1969, p.30.
16. Rose, Fr. Seraphim. The Soul After Death, Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1993, pp.65-66.
17. Ibid., pp.75-76.
18. Rose, Fr. Seraphim, "How to Read the Holy Scriptures," Orthodox America, March, 1989, p.11.