by Archpriest Boris Molchanoff
The Lord Jesus Christ said: "I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against lt" (Matt 16:18). What does the phrase "the gates of hell" signify? It was the custom of the Jews to gather together under the leadership of their elders at the gates of the city to discuss political, legal and social questions. Such assemblies were the ultimate authority in all matters, and it was there that all of God's statutes were promulgated. Reference to this Hebrew custom of holding assemblies at the city gates can be found in the book of Ruth (4:1, 11). In the description of an active woman in Proverbs, we read: "And her husband becometh a distinguished person in the gates, when he sitteth in council...." (Prov 31:23), i.e., he is invested with the confidence of society and takes active part in important meetings (Prof. V.V. Bolotov). Thus, the phrase "gates of hell" signifies not only the power of hell, but the "general staff" of hell's powers, their principal assembly, dedicated to devising a plan of general combat with the Church. The Church and hell are two warring forces, and in its battles with hell, the Church, in accordance with Christ's words, shall remain invincible.
Hell's plan of battle with the Church is referred to in the Sacred Scriptures as "the mystery of iniquity" (II Thess 2:7). It has been in motion for ages, and will reach its culmination in the appearance of Antichrist (II Thess 2:8). Antichrist can come only as a result of universal apostasy, i.e., the peoples' falling away from God and from God's ways, when His grace shall depart from them. "When their sins are coming to the full, there shall arise a king bold in countenance, and understanding riddles" (Dan 8:23). "[His] coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders" (II Thess 2:9).
All the evil that human nature can assimilate and sustain, in all its fulness and strength, will be concentrated in the person of Antichrist. Just as millenia of development and perfecting of good human seed were required before the most pure and perfect fruit could appear on the tree of mankind (in the person of the all-holy Theotokos), so also the efforts of an entire gamut of human generations, with regard to the greatest possible debauchery and defilement of human nature through mindless hatred of Christ
and struggle against His Church, will be required to produce that most defiled fruit which will be capable of containing all of Satan's malice. "One may assume," says Prof. Belyaev, "that innate and acquired evil, accumulating gradually in the long line of Antichrist's forbears, transmitted to each new generation, will ultimately attain the strongest degree which human nature is capable of containing, manifesting and sustaining, in the person of Antichrist himself, in him the evil which lives in the human race will reach the apex of its development" (On Atheism and Antichrist Vol. I. p. 193).
Of course, in proportion to the exercise of man's evil will, the Devil's activity will increase, and he will gain all the more access to that man's soul. Since Antichrist's own evil will and corruption of will shall reach the ultimate limit of development, his relationship with the Devil will attain the greatest possible degree of convergence: this will be manifested in the devil acting continually in the person of Antichrist. "Foreseeing the future corruption of (Antichrist's) will," says St. John of Damascus, "God will permit the Devil to inhabit him" (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. IV, ch. 26). St. Cyril of Jerusalem teaches the same thing. St. Andrew of Caesarea states that "Antichrist will come from the darkest and most remote lands of the earth, those to which the Devil was banished" (Exegesis on the Eleventh Chapter of the Apocalypse, ch. 30). And Blessed Theodoretus of Cyrrhus writes: "Before Christ's coming there shall appear in the world the enemy of man, the opponent of God, vested in human nature" (A Short Exposition of the Divine Dogmas, ch. 23. published in Christian Readings, Vol. IV (1844). p. 355). Lactantius, Hesychius of Jerusalem and Blessed Jerome refer to Antichrist as the "son of Satan."
According to these patristic teachings, there shall not be a single moment of Antichrist's life that will be free of satanic activity. Such will be manifested even in his very birth, and in his conception, which will be peculiar and singular in its depravity. "From a defiled virgin shall (the devil's) instrument be born, in fact," says St. Ephraim the Syrian. And St. John of Damascus bears out the same thing: "Antichrist shall be born of fornication."
The holy Fathers lrenaeus of Lyons (Against Heresies, Bk. V. ch. 30) and Hippolytus of Rome (Discourse on Christ and Antichrist), as well as Sts. Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose of Milan, Blessed Jerome and Augustine of Hippo, maintain that Antichrist will be of Jewish lineage, of the tribe of Dan. In the Synaxarion for Meatfare Sunday, we read: "Antichrist shall come and shall be born, as St. Hlppolytus of Rome says, of a polluted woman, a
supposed virgin, a Jewess of the tribe of Dan" (Lenten Triodion, Moscow: Synodal Press. 1897, pp. 30b-31a). There are several passages in the word of God on which this statement is based: 1) In the prophecy of the Patriarch Jacob concerning each of his sons, the progenitors of the tribes of Israel, the fate of Dan's posterity is characterized by such traits as can only be ascribed to Antichrist: "And let Dan be a serpent in the way, besetting the path" (Gen 49:17); 2) In the prophecy of Jeremiah: 'We shall hear the neighing of his swift horses out of Dan; the whole land quaked at the sound of the neighing of his horses; and he shall come and devour the land and the fulness of it" (Jer 8:16); 3) In the Apocalypse there is a prophecy in which the remnants of all the tribes of Israel are mentioned by name and described as sealed by angels for salvation; in this prophecy the tribe of Dan is excluded entirely (cf. Rev 7:4-8).
According to the teaching of the holy Fathers, the Devil, raising up Antichrist, will strive to vest his advent with all the signs of the coming of the Son of God on earth (cf. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, CL; St. Ephraim the Syrian, Homily XXXIX; Bl. Theodoretus of Cyrrhus, op. cit; St. Hippolytus of Rome, op. cit.). Of course, any similarity between Antichrist and Christ will be only external and essentially deceptive, for all of Antichrist's life and works will constitute a bitter, blasphemous revolt against Christ and His Church.
This false, external resemblance to Christ will be apparent even in the very birth of Antichrist. Mindful of the fact that Christ was born of a Virgin, the devil will bring forth his instrument from a "virgin," though not from a pure one, but, on the contrary, from one filled with every vice and satanic defilement. Thus, as the Lord remained in obscurity until He was thirty years of age, so Antichrist, it is supposed, shall remain hidden and in obscurity until he reaches the same age. As Christ began His saving work by the proclamation of His divine teachings and with miracles, so Antichrist also will begin his pernicious activity by deceiving the people with his false teachings and with a great and shameful display of his "lying wonders." As the Lord was pleased to reveal Himself to all men as the Messiah in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and its temple, so also will the Antichrist reveal himself as the false messiah of the Jews, the monarch of the whole world, in the triumphal ceremony of his entrance into Jerusalem and his enthronement in the temple which, by that time, will have been restored. The Lord's entry into Jerusalem, says Archbishop Innocent of Kherson, was "a universal declaration to all the Jews that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah. The words that He Himself uttered before the gates of Jerusalem serve as an indisputable proof thereof: 'If thou hadst known, even
thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy salvation!' (Lk 19:42). From that day, with the rejection of the Messiah, the fate of the Israelite people was forever fixed" (The Last Days of Jesus Christ on Earth).
Thus, when the day shall come when Antichrist, the false messiah, shall enter into Jerusalem, the fate of humanity contemporary to him shall also be decided, irrevocably and forever. Blessed are those who, on that final day given by God for the decisive self-determination of the people, will be able to see the servant of Satan and perceive the inescapable destruction with him of all humanity that acknowledges him. And finally, as the Lord showed Himself to the world and brought His activity to perfection as Prophet, King and High Priest, so Antichrist also will concentrate a threefold authority in his own hands and will carry out his pernicious activity as a teacher of all mankind, as the monarch of a universal kingdom, and as the high priest of all religions, demanding that all worship him as divine.
One may examine the entire life and activity of Antichrist in three segments: The first period will extend from the day of his birth until the moment of his public appearance, and will be spent in clandestine anonymity. The second period of Antichrist's life will be initiated by his thunderous appearance (on the world stage) in the role of universal preacher or "prophet". It is entirely possible that he will begin his activity during a world war, when nations, enduring all the horrors thereof, will envision no other escape from a calamitous deadlock, for all the hidden levers for the resolution of the war will be in the hands of a secret society assisting the Antichrist. Antichrist will set forth a plan for the resolution of the worldwide crisis which will be most felicitous from the point of view of political and social wisdom – the establishment of a unified political and social order on a universal scale. Exhausted from the shock of war, spiritually blind humanity will not only fail to perceive this scheme as an insidious trap for itself, designed to lure it into inescapable and merciless bondage, but, on the contrary, will acknowledge it as a work of scholarship and genius. Universal acclaim for the Antichrist as a brilliant thinker, a new leader and savior of the nations, will thunder throughout all lands in the shortest possible time. The evil spirits sent throughout the world will awaken in man a generally exalted opinion of Antichrist, a common delight in, and an irresistible attraction to him" (St. Ephraim the Syrian, Discourse XVI).
Throughout this period of his activity, Antichrist will not employ any force and will strive to gain the confidence and favor of the people through deception and by his hypocritical, outwardly-
virtuous personality. As Vladimir Soloviev expresses it: "He will cast a glittering veil of good and righteousness over his secret iniquity." St. Ephraim the Syrian says: "He will come in such as manner as to deceive all: he shall come humble, meek, a (self-proclaimed) despiser of injustice, rejecting idols, preferring piety, good, a lover of the poor, noble to the utmost degree, steadfast, kind to all, valuing the Jewish people in particular, for which cause the Jews will await his coming.... He will slyly take measures to please everyone, that the people may come to love him as quickly as possible; he will not accept gifts or speak in anger, or show a gloomy countenance, but will captivate the world with a decorous appearance – until he reigns" (ibid.).
From the rich experience of our great ascetics we know that when the black demon cannot overcome an ascetic, encountering steadfast opposition on his part, a more powerful demon comes in the guise of an "angel of light'' (II Cor 11:14), striving to awaken within the ascetic a love and confidence in him, thereby easily leading him to destruction. Thus can we imagine how, after the loathsome demon of Bolshevism, the radiant image of Antichrist will readily and easily elicit love for itself. As a result of this deception, in the very temperament of man's spirit "there shall arise the need to accept Antichrist. A beckoning voice will resound throughout mankind, expressing a real need for a genius of geniuses who can exalt material development and success to a lofty degree and establish prosperity on earth" (Bishop lgriatius (Brianchaninov), Works, Vol. IV, p. 313).
The hypocrisy of Antichrist during this period will reach the point where, even as regards Christians, he will not show any animosity, but will demonstrate his readiness to protect them. He will strive to imitate Christ in the external, visible aspect of his life, and the majority of Christians, not being guided by the spiritual mind of the Church, but rather by worldly wisdom, will not perceive this deception and will acknowledge Antichrist as Christ come to earth a second time. The monks of the Monastery of Solovki have handed down the reply given by the Venerable Zosimas when his disciples asked him how to recognize the Antichrist when he comes. The saint replied: "When ye hear that Christ hath come to earth or hath appeared on earth, know then that this is Antichrist." This reply is very accurate. "The world or humanity will not know Antichrist. It will acknowledge him as Christ and proclaim him to be Christ.... But it will not be necessary or possible for men to convey the news of the coming of the Son of God to each other. He will appear suddenly, and will manifest Himself to all men and all the earth instantaneously, through His omnipotence" (Bishop Ignatius, ibid.. p. 275). The Savior Himself warned us, saying: "Then if any man shall say
unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there: believe it not.... Wherefore if they shall say to you, Behold, He is in the desert: go not forth: Behold, He is in the secret chambers: believe it not. For as the lighting cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west: so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matt 24:23-27; Lk 17:23-24).
The Antichrist will perform many astounding wonders to deceive the people. "(His) coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (II Thess 2:9). "Being the father of lies, he will so delude the imagination by false acts, that it will seem to the people that they see a man raised from the dead, whereas he had not in fact been raised up; it will seem that the lame walk and the blind see, when no such cures had occurred" (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture XV, 14).
All such measures of Antichrist – his teaching, his fame as a brilliant thinker, his "lying wonders," and his whole hypocritical, outwardly virtuous life – will have but one purpose: the securing in his own hands of universal dominion over all nations. The initial phase of this plan will be the achieving of popularity among the Jews. The Antichrist will put forth every effort to induce the Jews to acknowledge him as their promised messiah. He will be successful in establishing a Jewish realm and will undertake also the restoration of the Temple of Solomon, realizing a dream the Jews have cherished for thousands of years. Then, "compelled by the people, he shall be proclaimed king. And the Jewish people shall love him much, and he shall reach Jerusalem and raise up their Temple" (Lenten Triodion, loc. cit.).
All of Antichrist's efforts to pass himself off as the messiah will be met with unexpected and miraculous opposition on the part of two fiery prophets of the Old Testament who, in accordance with the will of God, did not know death, but were translated to Heaven above until their hour should come, and who must needs appear on earth before the end of the world to fulfill their mission and taste of death. The names of these holy prophets are Enoch and Elias. The Lord shall send them to Jerusalem during the last days of the earth to give the people a final, miraculous warning against the deceit that will take hold of them. For three and a half years they will denounce unopposed all the falsehood of the Antichrist throughout the second period of his activity, while he prepares himself to grasp world-wide power in his own hands. Not departing from his personal meekness and benevolence towards his opponents, Antichrist will not be able to prevent the prophets' denunciations at that time, nor use any force against them.
In vain do certain people attempt to interpret this miraculous appearance of Enoch and Elias allegorically. The Sacred
Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church speak definitely of their actual coming to earth seven years before the end of the world, of their denunciations, of their martyrdom, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into Heaven. We read in the Apocalypse: "I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days (1,260 days = three and a half years), clothed in sackcloth, these are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before
the God of earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues as often as they will. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and will kill them" (Rev 11:3-7).
In the prophecy of Zecharias we read: "What are these two olive trees?... What are the two branches of the olive trees that are by the side of the two golden pipes that pour into and communicate with the golden oil funnels?... And he said: These are the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth" (Zech 4:11-12, 14). That the Prophet Zecharias understands the two prophets Elias and Enoch when he refers to the two olive trees. St. Andrew of Caesarea demonstrates for us, citing the fact that in the Apocalypse they are also referred to as two olive trees (Exegesis on the Apocalypse, ch. 30). In the Prophecy of Malachi, one of the witnessed is identified directly by name: "And behold I will send to you Elias the Thesbite, before the great and glorious day of the Lord cometh" (Mal 4:5).
The holy Fathers Ephraim the Syrian (Discourse on the Coming of the Lord) and John of Damascus (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith) teach definitely that the "two witnesses" who must appear before the end of the world should be understood to be the holy prophets Enoch and Elias. The tradition of the Church contained in our liturgical books also speaks in favor of a literal understanding of the scriptural prophecy concerning the appearance of Elias and Enoch before the world's end, giving no ground whatsoever for an allegorical understanding thereof. In the Synaxarion for Meatfare Sunday we read: "Seven years before, as David says, Enoch and Elias shall come preaching to the people not to accept (Antichrist): and laying hold of them he will torture them, and behead them as well" (Lenten Triodion, loc. cit.).
In the service to the Holy Prophet Elias, in one of the stichera on "Lord, I have cried...", we sing: "The fiery chariot which bore thee up on the air to the heavens as amid an earthquake, bestowed upon thee the fiery grace of miracles, O Elias the Thesblte, rendering thee incorrupt, that thou not see death until thou preach unto all the ends (of the world)..." In the troparion, the Prophet Elias is referred to as "the second Forerunner of Christ's coming," and in the sedalion after the polyeleos we sing: "O prophet and forerunner of the coming of Christ, Elias of great
renown..." (cf. Menaion, July 20th). In the Lives of the Saints for July 20th, we read: "Elias, the holy prophet of God, who was taken up bodily in a fiery chariot, liveth yet, and was seen by the three holy apostles on Tabor at the Lord's Transfiguration, and shall again be seen by mortal men before the Lord's Second Coming to the earth. Having fled aforetime from the sword of Jezebel, he shall suffer then at the sword of the Antichrist, and not as a prophet alone, but as a martyr shall he be vouchsafed great glory by the just God, the Bestower of rewards." In the Prologue for this day, we read: "This Elias must needs come with Enoch before the Second Coming of Christ, to denounce the impiety of Antichrist and to comfort the faithful."
Yet, heedless of all God's warnings, the majority of the people, because of the quality of their fleshly minds, will not only fail to perceive all the falsity in the outward conduct of Antichrist, but, on the contrary, will surround him with their adulation and praise. "When many classes and nations behold such virtues and power (in the Antichrist), all will arrive at one thought to proclaim him king, saying to one another: Can there be found another man so good and upright?" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).
The impressions created by the theatrical conduct of the Antichrist, who will pass himself off everywhere as God's emissary, the true messiah, will be so strong that, despite even the fearful denunciations hurled at him by the Prophets Elias and Enoch, the Jewish nation will be the first of all to proclaim him king.
Six hundred threescore and six – (Rev. 13: 17-18)
Many exegetes of this mystical number of the Beast, not having first established a principle for deciphering it, have been unable to give a correct explanation for it. "Many names can be found in deciphering," says St. Andrew of Caesarea, "both attributive and personal." (Some of the personal names arrived at have been: Lampetis, Titan, Benedict; some of the attributive names: bad leader, ancient envier, veritably harmful, unrighteous lamb, etc.). In this same spirit, Archpriest Michael Polsky endeavored to decipher the meaning of "666", and his article, "The Number of the Beast", appeared in the magazine Holy Land (1938, No. 1). As he explains it, the number stands for the "power of gold" and "authority over man's labor." The power of the Beast is that power which "seizes not only all wealth, but all of one's labor as well: it binds one's hands" (p. 15).
But before devising any explanations of our own, let us try to determine the sole correct principle of interpretation, which consists of a cipher of the number that can, at the same time, explain what compelled the holy Apostle to resort to a cipher instead of stating the name of the Beast clearly and openly. Thus, if we ask why the Apostle considered it necessary to encipher such simple concepts as gold, or the power of gold over man's labor, or such titles as "Bad Leader", etc., all such interpretations fall apart by themselves; offering no solution to the question, they render the cipher itself meaningless – an empty and senseless pastime, rather like modern crossword puzzles which, of course, have nothing in common with divine inspiration or the seriousness of the holy author. A serious and profound attempt at deciphering the number of the Beast, fully able to explain the reason for the cipher too, is the opinion of Fr. Sloet, a Catholic priest, printed in Revue Biblique, 1893, in a note on the Apocalypse of St. John (p. 512). "As regards the name of the Beast of the Apocalypse, we have received the following letter, which, with the author's permission, we will quote below at length:
In the most recent issue of Revue Biblique, on page 298, the Reverend Fr. Semeria mentions the opinion of G. Gode, which identifies the Beast of the Apocalypse as "Jewish might reborn at the end of time." Observing the growing power of Judaism, it must be acknowledged that this opinion finds confirmation in modern history. If so, Antichrist will be a Jewish king.
"'St. John discloses to us that "the number of his name... is six hundred threescore and six (666)" (Rev 13: 17- 18), and invites us to decipher the "number of the Beast." If this means that the name of Antichrist can be deduced therefrom, and if this deduction is possible before his coming, then it is highly unlikely that St. John had (Antichrist's) proper name in mind. We inevitably arrive at conclusions which are quite arbitrary when we produce results by utilizing proper names.
"'Since the Antichrist shall come under the guise of the messiah, he shall indubitably assume the title "King of the Jews": doubtless he shall be called king chiefly in Israel. To express this exalted title in Hebrew requires, instead of the genitive case, the prefix (lamed) before (lamed, aleph, resh, shin, iod). Thus the title of Antichrist will be as follows: (read from right to left)
And the sum of the numerical equivalents of these Hebrew letters will be exactly 666. Here is the calculation:
There is but one small difficulty: the letter (kaph) in the word "Melek" is not a final "kaph", but the usual one (in the sense of a number).... D.A.V.U. Sloet, Oldenzaal, Holland, May 18, 1893.'
"Here Fr. Sloet expresses reservations, considering his use of the usual 'kaph' to be a strained interpretation; but might not the opposite have been incorrect in the given case? Fr. Sloet's calculation is extremely correct, for in the early Christian era as well as in all subsequent periods, substitution of letters with numbers (according to the Kabbalah) was carried out only over the twenty-two letters of the "sacred alphabet". Each has a precise numerical value corresponding to an ordinal number. This ordinal number is the same for the ordinary 'kaph' and the final 'kaph' (as for all dual letters)."
Such an interpretation of the number of the Beast also explains the practical necessity of using a cipher for it. If the sacred author had decided to write openly that the Beast (i.e., Antichrist) was to be that king of Israel whom the Jewish people awaited with such longing, and who, according to the interpretations of their own teachers, would first deliver the Jews from the Roman yoke, and then subject all nations to himself, forming one universal realm, such a declaration would not only be a strictly religious warning, but would be taken by the Jews as a treasonous statement and would provoke an outburst of indignation against its author. In addition to this, an open declaration concerning a king of Israel who was to come, regardless of his personal traits, would have been taken by the Jews as political treachery, for they assiduously hid their intentions concerning their king from the Roman authorities and strove to assure the Romans that they did not desire to have any other king apart from the Roman caesar.
The third and last period of Antichrist's activity will commence with his taking all earthly power into his own hands. The results
of the widespread destruction of the nations during a world war will greatly facilitate this. In a unified world government concentrated in the hands of Antichrist, who will be glorified by all, the majority will see the only guarantee against the possibility of new wars and the only way towards the greatest, peaceful flowering of mankind.
The word of God describes Antichrist's assumption of earthly power in the following manner: On the body of a world devastated and ravished by war "ten kings shall arise" (Dan 7:24). Seven of them will be "of one mind" with the Antichrist, and to him they shall "give their power and strength" (Rev 17:13). The other three kings shall defend their independence, and Antichrist will be able to subjugate them only by force of war (cf. Dan 7:8, 20, 24). "When nations increase their armies to excess and forsake the tilling of the soil," says Lactantius, "which will be the beginning of the ruin and destruction, all shall be ravaged, exhausted, devoured. Then from the farthest reaches of the north a mighty foe shall arise against them. Three of them shall he destroy; the rest shall join him, and he shall be made ruler over them all. This shall be the Antichrist" (Divine Instructions, Bk. Vlll. ch. 16). The three kings whom Antichrist shall "destroy" are the kings or rulers of Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia, according to St. John Chrysostom.
After Antichrist's conquest of the three kingdoms and the removal thereby of the sole remaining obstacle on his path to dominion, the Apocalypse portrays him as a red beast with ten horns (i.e., one that has subjected ten kingdoms) and seven heads (i.e., one who has allowed the seven rulers who submitted to him voluntarily to remain in their countries in the capacity of viceroys). "And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads" (Rev 12:3) (cf. the interpretations of St. Irenaeus of Lyons and St. Cyril of Jerusalem).
Of Antichrist's worldwide political authority the Apocalypse states: "And power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations" (Rev 13:7). Although ordinary human efforts and means will be important in the process of Antichrist's seizing of all world power, the principal source of his success will not lie therein. "And his power shall be great" (Dan 8:24). Antichrist will receive his power and authority from Satan. "And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority" (Rev 13:2). And only through Satan's constant assistance will it be possible to explain Antichrist's unusual success in seizing control of the whole world and his singular strength, which no human power and authority will be able to oppose or hinder. Prof. Belyaev
states: "Antichrist will act with the Devil's power and miracles, and this power is very great... (Moreover,) with rapid communications and modes of transportation it is possible to bring about a worldwide upheaval in very short order." (On Atheism and Antichrist, Vol. I, p. 765).
The universal acknowledgement of the Antichrist as the ruler of the world will be bound up simultaneously with the international recognition of him as the sole spiritual head of all religions, Vladimir Soloviev, in his last work, Three Discourses, suggested
that, having achieved power, Antichrist will convoke an "ecumenical Council" of the leaders of the world's religions. At this council (held in Jerusalem), Antichrist will suggest that everyone unite to form one flock under one shepherd. He will direct the most attention to Christians of all confessions, promising them every preferment for recognizing him as their master. St. Ephraim the Syrian writes: "He will trumpet about himself as his forerunners trumpeted about him, and shall call himself preacher and restorer of the true knowledge of God. Those that do not understand Christianity will see in him a spokesman for and champion of true religion, and will flock to him. He will herald himself as, and call himself, the promised messiah. Students of worldly wisdom will cry out on meeting him; seeing his glory, might, brilliant talents and widely developed maturity in worldly matters. They will proclaim him a god, and will become his lackeys" (Discourse CVI, p. 2: cf. also Bishop Ignatius. op. cit., p. 301).
Furthermore, it is very important to note that all the holy Fathers consider the main reason for the peoples' rapid and irrational enthusiasm for Antichrist to be their lack of spiritual understanding, their total immersion in a fleshly state. And since spiritual understanding can be attained and developed only under the conditions of the correct spiritual life taught by the Orthodox Church, then at that moment only Orthodox Christians will be found to be in full spiritual armor, able to recognize all of Antichrist's snares and guile "yet not all Orthodox Christians, but only that small portion of them who will live a spiritual life according to the canons of the Church. Heretics and adherents of false religions who have either lost the spiritual life completely or practice it in incorrect or perverted forms, will inevitably fall victim to Antichrist's delusion. Antichrist will subtly transform the cult of the God-man into a cult of a man-"god", and will demand that he himself be worshipped as god. In the Sacred Scriptures he is described as one who exalts himself "above all that is called God or that is worshipped" (Thess 2:3-4), as one who speaks "great things and blasphemies," blaspheming against God "and His tabernacles, and them that dwell in Heaven" (Rev 13:5-6).*
* It is important to note here that in the dissemination of anti-Christian views, setting forth the "divinity of man", active propaganda is presently being spread by "yogis" and the western followers of such gurus, viz., the Theosophists. All of these say that our human "I" is divine and of one essence with the Divinity. "The spirit in man's soul is the true "I" of man, in which he is actually of one essence with the Father" (Jnani Yoga, [. 100). "The true "I" of man is a manifestation of God, and therein the very essence of Divinity is contained" (Raja Yoga, p. 50). "The Divine Essence which we 'in our ignorance' represent as separate from ourselves, is in no way outside of us, but is the personal "I" contained within us" Swami Abedananda, How to Become a Yogi, p. 28). The same author maintains that revelation does not proceed from any particular source, but that it [a suggestion from on high"] is only a disclosing of a higher "I" in man himself (p. 32). We find such anti-Christian religious points of view on Theosophy as well. A Bezant, president of the Theosophical Society, stated that the highest 'I' of man is that very power which created the universe... it is a portion of the life of the Logos and cannot be separated from It" (The Power of Thought, 1912). Madame Blavatsky says: "The higher 'I' is the Divine Spirit" (Occultism and the Art of Magic, 1912. Theosophists believe that the appearance of God on earth is not a singular manifestation, but is repetitive. The appearance of the so-called avatars, or "saviour of the world," according to their teaching has taken place many times. A. Bezant maintains that until now nine avatars have come down to earth. "A tenth has yet to come" (A Bezant, lecture entitles "The Ideal of Christ", 1914). These avatars are understood to include Buddha, Krishna, Jesus of Nazareth and others (A. Bezant, On Universal Teaching, 1913). Christian catechesis asserts that only the Son of God and the Holy Spirit are of one essence with God the Father, comprising the Holy Trinity, consubstantial and indivisible. The salvation of the world took pace only once. The Son of God, out Lord Jesus Christ, is the sole Saviour and Redeemer of men. There have been no other "saviours" at any time, nor will there ever be. The points of view of the leaders of Eastern and Western occultism cited above witness to the preparation being made for the proclaiming of the coming of Antichrist as god and "saviour of the world."
According to the prophecy of the holy Apostle Paul, Antichrist "as god (will sit) in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (II Thess 2:4). Doubtless, Antichrist will have neither the time, nor the inclination, nor the possibility of sitting in the temple constantly. He will do so only on especially solemn and important occasions, as, for example, when he is proclaimed ruler of the world and divine. But it will not be necessary for him to be in the temple at all times. Having sat once in the temple and declared himself to be a god, he will by this very act give a signal and simultaneously issue a command that in all places of worship, Christian and non-Christian alike, his image be set up (a statue or a picture), and that all people bow down in worship before it as to Antichrist himself, inasmuch as they are representations of the "god." And services to Antichrist as a god will begin in the churches" (Prof. Belyaev, op. cit., p. 384).
This defilement of the sanctity of the Christian's churches and faith is mystically foretold in the Sacred Scriptures in the descriptions of the setting up of the "abomination of desolation" in the holy place: 1) "And in the midst of the week (after the three and a half years of the second period, at the beginning of the third period of Antichrist's activity, which will last for another three and a half years) My sacrifice and drink offering shall be taken away: and on ('the wings of' – in the Hebrew text) the temple shall be the abomination of desolation" (Dan 9:27). 2) "And seeds shall spring up out of him, and they shall profane the sanctuary of strength, and they shall remove the perpetual sacrifice and set up the abomination of
desolation" (Dan 11:31). 3) "And from the time of the removal of the perpetual sacrifice, when the abomination of desolation shall be set up, there shall be a thousand, two hundred and ninety days" (Dan 12:11).
Three events are here represented in prophetic perspective, and even though they are centuries removed from each other, they share a profound internal affinity. In actuality, the first two events are but a foreshadowing of the last, to which the prophecy primarily refers.
1) The first event is the persecution of the Faith by Antiochus Epiphanes, the fourth Seleucid emperor of Syria. Antiochus reigned after his brother, Seleucid IV, in the one hundred thirty-seventh year of the Seleucid era. i.e., in 176 B.C. His terrible reign and cruel persecution of the Faith is described in the first two books of the Maccabees. "He entered proudly into the sanctuary... (and) wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people, and everyone should leave his laws... that they should profane the sabbaths and festival days, and pollute the sanctuary and holy people.... And whosoever would not do according to the commandment of the king, he said, should die.... And they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar.... And when they had rent in pieces the books of the Law which they found, they burnt them with fire. And whosoever was found with any the book of the testament, or if any consented to the Law, the king's commandment was that they should put him to death.... They put to death certain women that had caused their children to be circumcised. And they hanged the infants about their necks, and rifled their houses" (I Macc 1:1-64). Among Christian theologians, Antiochus Epiphanes is acknowledged as the most vivid prototype of Antichrist.
2) The second event is the destruction of Jerusalem and the defilement of the Temple by Roman forces in AD. 70. "If Daniel's prophecy had referred solely to Antiochus Epiphanes, Jesus Christ, repeating what had been spoken by the Prophet Daniel concerning the "abomination of desolation" (Matt 24:15-21; Lk 21:20-24), would not have been able in this case to speak of an event which was to take place in the future, since by His time the era of Antiochus Epiphanes had long since passed" (Prof. Belyaev, op. cit., p. 230). This event has been described by Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian. In his words, the Romans, putting down a revolt of the Jews, razed Jerusalem and "carried their standards into the Holy of Holies and set them up opposite the eastern portals: they offered up (pagan) victory sacrifices before the standards, and with loud cries proclaimed Titus their autocrat." "Thus began the 'abomination of desolation' in the
sacred city and in the holy place of that city, the Temple of Jerusalem. In that Temple a sacrifice was made to pagan gods by pagans; thenceforth prayers and sacrifices to the true God ceased forever" (Prof. Belyaev, op. cit.. p. 216).
3) But this prophecy of the "abomination of desolation" could only refer in part to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Principally it had in view a second, future time, "when all the temples on earth will be polluted and devastation and defilement of the New Sion "Church of Christ" will take place... throughout the world. This will occur before the end of the world, during the reign of the Antichrist" (Belyaev. ibid.. p. 219). Blessed Jerome applies the entire prophecy of Daniel concerning the "abomination of desolation" to Antichrist, and only a few lines to Antiochus.
The meaning of the words "on the wings" found in the Hebrew text of the description of the "abomination of desolation" is not entirely clear (Dan 9:27). The translation of this passage done with an exegesis by Gezenius, the renowned compiler of the Hebrew grammar and Hebrew-German lexicon, is a clever attempt at interpretation, He translates Daniel's phrase in the following manner: "And on the wings of abomination is the destroyer." He explains his translation thus: "The enemy of the Church, i.e. Antichrist, is presented here as raised upon the wings of an abominable idol, just as the Lord God is described as borne aloft upon the cherubim." It is quite possible that Antichrist will be transported from place to place on a winged idol, as upon a chariot or a throne. But it would not be incredible either, should Antichrist fly upon the wings of an abominable idol (an airplane or helicopter), specially constructed for him in the form of a winged image. The latter suggestion, although not in reference to this passage in particular, was articulated many centuries before Gezenius by St. Ephraim the Syrian (cf. St. Ephraim's Discourse on the Lord's Coming, pt. III, p. 25).
Initiating his universal dominion, Antichrist will ensnare all mankind in his satanic trap, utilizing the same methods that Satan used to tempt the Lord himself:
1) Satan's first temptation was his suggestion that the Lord turn stones into bread (Matt 4:3). At first glance this would seem to be "entirely in harmony with the ultimate goals of service of the Son of God." What can one have against the desert flowering "as the lily" (Isa 35:1), that starvation, poverty, want, and all onerous labor "by the sweat of the brow" in the tilling of the soil, the result of the primeval cursing of the earth as punishment for man's sins (Gen 3:17-19), finally cease? However, the sinfulness and evil of this suggestion lie in the fact that "it proposes to begin with this
instead of ending with it; it proposes to call forth a at abundance in the visible world, but not in the capacity of the result and expression of the inner Kingdom of righteousness (Trench). The outward betterment of the conditions of life alone, without first a moral improvement of the people themselves, would be a total victory for evil, for such a self-satisfied happiness would strengthen the hopeless corporeal condition of those who partake thereof, paralyzing all possibility for moral improvement and spiritual perfection.
It is for this reason that Christ replied to Satan, saying: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt 4:41. In this retort the Lord did not ignore the bodily needs of the people, but relegated them to a place second after spiritual requirements. The Gospel only censures attempts at pleasing the flesh while forgetting God completely; it condemns the intention of making people materially better off, while not making them more perfect morally. The Lord warns us: "And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness" (Lk 21:34), for ultimately we shall lose our moral freedom and shall become slaves to our basest needs and shall slay our souls with eternal death.
People are led into such complete slavery of the soul by the leaders of today's world revolution. Their teaching and slogans are clothed in high-sounding language about universal equality and brotherhood, but in reality they try to entice men to dwell on material happiness alone, diverting them from all exalted moral and religious aspirations. When material goods become man's sole value, he becomes without fail completely enslaved to anyone who will give him that good. The materialistic education of people will give Antichrist limitless power, for all the means of existence will be controlled by him totally. He will distribute them lavishly to his followers and lackeys. And the man who has not taught himself abstinence, and who does not have steadfastness of soul and principle, will be compelled to submit to his will. "And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark on their right hand, or in their foreheads... that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Rev 13:16-16).
2) Satan's second temptation was to take the Lord into the holy city and set Him upon the pinnacle of the Temple, saying: "If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands shall they bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot
against a stone" (Matt 425-6). The devil's proposal meant the following: cast Yourself down and show Yourself to an astounded people, surrounded and upbome by a host of angels, that the people, seeing this sign, might immediately acknowledge You as the Son of God. This temptation of Satan, under the guise of a decorous concern to arouse in the people belief in the divinity of the Savior, was nothing but a complete rejection of the Cross of Christ, a rejection of redemption, for it suggested that Christ become a leader who captivated the masses by a single empty effect and not one who requires of them moral struggle and self-denial.
A similar demand for "signs" from the Lord was made repeatedly by the Pharisees. "The Pharisees, not content with the miracle that the Lord had performed, demanded of Him a special miracle: signs from Heaven (cf. Matt 12:38-40; Mk 8:12)... The desire for signs from Heaven expressed itself at times among the people as well. Thus, after the miraculous multiplication of the five loaves and the feeding therewith of the huge assembly of five thousand men, not counting women and children, eyewitnesses of this miracle, those who partook of that meal, said to the Lord: What sign showest Thou then, that we may see, and believe Thee? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written. He gave them bread from Heaven to eat" (Jn 6:30-31). For them the miraculous multiplication of loaves in the hands of the Savior was not enough: it was performed quietly, with the holy humility with which all the actions of the God-man were imbued: but they needed a spectacle, they needed an effect. They needed to have the heavens covered with dense clouds, to have the rumble of thunder and the flash of lightning, to have bread fall from thin air" (Bishop Ignatius, op. cit., pp. 296-7).
It was grievous sin to make such a request of the God-man, for it arose from the fleshly mind which rejects any lofty spiritual goal in favor of external effect. The Lord, on hearing this audacious, blasphemous demand for a sign, sighed deeply, and said: "Why doth this generation seek after a sign? Verily, I say unto you, There shall be no sign given unto this generation. And He left them... and departed" (Mk 8:12-13). This demand for a sign from the heavens was a demand for a miracle such as Satan performs. A sign from the sky cannot have any particular authenticity. Why could only a sign from the sky testify that He was from God? "From the Divine Scriptures the opposite is apparent.... The
Sacred Scriptures relate that by the action of the devil fire fell from the heavens and consumed the sheep and shepherds of the Righteous Job (Job 1: 16; cf. Blessed Theophylactus the Bulgar1an's interpretation of Matthew 16:1). Apparently, this fire was formed in the air as lightning is formed. Simon Magus amazed with "miracles" a blinded people who acknowledged the power of Satan working within him as "the great power of God" (Acts 8:10). Simon especially astounded the pagan Romans when, in their crowded assemblies, having declared himself to be a god and stated that it was his intention to ascend to Heaven, he suddenly began to float upon the air; the Blessed Symeon the Translator relates this, citing accounts from the most ancient Christian writers (cf. the Life of the Holy Apostle Peter, Lives of the Saints, June 29). Pinetti, who lived at the end of the eighteenth century, performed similar miracles, and others have performed and will perform them as well" (Bishop Ignatius. op. cit.. pp. 299-300).
What Christ refused to do will be done by Antichrist. He will give a "sign from the heavens," i.e., a sign in the air, the principal domain of Satan (cf. St. Ephraim the Syrian, Discourse CVI. p. 11; Eph 2:12, 6:12). St. John the Theologian says that Antichrist will perform mighty works, "...so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on earth in the sight of man" (Rev 13:13). "The Scriptures indicate that this is the greatest of the signs of Antichrist, and the site of this sign will be in the air, it will be a magnificent, awesome spectacle, and will act for the most part on the sense of sight, bewitching and deceiving it" (Bishop Ignatius. op. cit.. p. 302).
St. Symeon the New Theologian warns that "one ought to gaze at the heavens very rarely, for fear of the evil spirits of the air who cause many and divers deceptions in the air (Philokalia, pt. 1. "On the Third Form of Attentiveness"). The holy Apostle Paul calls Satan "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph 2:2). Bewitchment by the demonic phenomenon in the air brings with it the threat of inescapable destruction for those that behold it. "All demonic manifestations are such that even casual attention to them is fraught with danger. From one such glance, made even without sympathy for the phenomenon, a most harmful impression can result, subjecting one to grievous temptation" (Bishop Ignatius. op. cit.. p. 329). The signs which Antichrist will perform by the power of Satan will irresistibly influence the spectators. "Men will not understand that his miracles have no good, rational purpose, no definite meaning, that they are totally alien to the truth, full of falsehood, that they are a monstrous, totally depraved affectation, devoid of sense, which attempts to astound, to perplex, to distract, to captivate, to deceive, to influence by means of a fascination with a sumptuous, empty, stupid effect" (ibid., p. 300).
On seeing these miracles, the people, in their blindness and in the exultation of their fleshly mind, will immediately mistake the working of Satan therein as a magnificent manifestation of the power of God, and with delight will acknowledge Antichrist as a god. "Antichrist shall instill fear by the threat and wonder of his miracles, shall satisfy the peoples' foolhardy curiosity and crude ignorance, shall satisfy the vainglory and pride of man, shall satisfy his fleshly wisdom, shall satisfy his superstition, shall confound human erudition. All men, guided by the light of the fallen nature, who have alienated themselves from guidance by the light of God, will be enticed by the seducer into obedience (cf. Rev 13:8)" (Bishop Ignatius. op. cit. p. 302).
3) Satan's third temptation consisted of leading the Savior to a high mountain and showing Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, saying: "All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me" (Mk 4:89; Lk 4:57). Satan's authority over the kingdoms of this world is repeatedly attested to by the word of God itself. The Lord Himself calls the devil "the prince of this world." And St. John the Theologian writes in his Apocalypse that to those that serve him, Satan gives "his power, and his seat, and great authority" (Rev 13:2). The power of Satan is founded on deceit, trickery and compulsion. The Lord Jesus Christ came to confirm His own authority on free, moral struggle and voluntary, filial obedience to the Father. That which Christ rejected, Antichrist shall implement fully. He shall himself receive all his authority over the world from Satan as a reward for his complete obedience, and shall likewise reward others similarly, according to the measure of their obedience to, and serving of Satan's will.
Having attained worldwide domination, Antichrist will sharply alter his tactics. Instead of hypocritical, careful relations towards the people, instead of outward, theatrical goodwill towards those that oppose him, he will openly show himself to be a relentless persecutor of all faithful Christians who do not consent to worship him as god. He shall "wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change times and law" (Dan 7:25; cf. also Rev 13:6-7). Open public Christian services will cease. "Antichrist and his lackeys will destroy the books of the
Sacred Scriptures," writes Prof. Belyaev. "They will see to it that the Eucharist is nowhere celebrated, yet nevertheless the preaching of the Word of God shall not be silenced, and the divine services shall not cease, and the Eucharist shall be served" (Op. cit., p. 346), but, of course, only in hidden places, as in the first years of Christianity.
Antichrist shall have an active aide in his persecution of the Christians and in compelling them to worship him as God. Because of his cruelty and mercilessness, this assistant is referred to as the "Second Beast" by Holy Scriptures. St. John the Theologian writes in his Apocalypse: "And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth.... And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell thereon to worship the first beast.... And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying... that they should make an image to the beast.... And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed" (Rev 13:11-12, 13-14).
"The ordeal shall be fearsome for the saints: the evil, hypocrisy and miracles of the persecutor will increasingly deceive and captivate them; the subtle, carefully planned crimes and constraints concealed with perfidious resourcefulness, the boundless power of the tormentor, will place them in a most difficult position; their small number will seem insignificant next to all humanity... general contempt, hatred, oppression, violent death will become their lot... the opponents of Antichrist will be considered seditious enemies of the common good and order; they will be subjected to overt and covert persecution, to torture and execution...." (Bishop Ignatius. op. cit., pp. 302-303).
Antichrist's first victims will be his accusers – the holy prophets Enoch and Elias. "And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit (i.e., Antichrist) shall make war on them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts to one another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear
fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from Heaven saying unto them: Come up hither. And they ascended up to Heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. Ant the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain men seven thousand; and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of Heaven" (Rev 11:7-13).
After this, a remarkable event must take place which may be ascribed only to the holy prophet's labor of preaching, their miraculous resurrection and ascent into Heaven – the turning to
Christ of a significant portion of Jews contemporary to Antichrist. Blessed Theophylactus the Bulgarian writes concerning this: "Elias shall come... as the forerunner of the Second Coming, and he shall return to faith in Christ all the Jews who were found to be obedient, remaining faithful, as it were, to the paternal heritage of those who had fallen away therefrom." The following prophecies from the Sacred Scriptures serve as the bases for this assertion: a) "And behold, I will send to you (Jews) Elias the Thesbite, before the great and glorious day of the Lord cometh, who shall turn again the heart of the father to the son, and the heart of a man to his neighbor, lest I come to smite the earth grievously" (Mal 4:5-6); b) "And it shall come to pass in that day that the remnant of Israel shall no longer repeat their offence, and the saved of Jacob shall no more trust in them that injured them; but they shall trust in the holy God of Israel, in truth. And the remnant of Jacob shall trust on the mighty God" (Isa 10:20-23); c) "Isaiah also crieth concerning Israel: Though the number of the Children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved" (Rom 9:27; cf. Isa 10:22); d) "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and compassion; and they shall look upon Him, because they have mocked Him, and they shall make lamentation for Him, as for a beloved friend, and they shall grieve intensely, as for a firstborn son. In that day the lamentation in Jerusalem shall be very great, as the mourning for the pomegranate grove cut down in the plain" (Zech 12:10-11); e) "For if thou (who turned to Christ from among the Gentiles) wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches (i.e., the Jews), be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom 11:24-25).
Vladimir Soloviev, who tried to explain all the prophecies concerning the appearance of the Prophets Enoch and Elias allegorically (cf. Three Discourses, the chapter entitled "Narration on Antichrist"), unwittingly erred also in his explanation of the turning to Christ of the remnant of Israel, which is closely connected with the appearance of the prophets. In his opinion, the Jews, learning that the person they accepted as their messiah was suddenly discovered to be uncircumcised, will be disillusioned with him and will convert to Christianity. If this premise concerning the uncircumcised state of Antichrist proves correct, it might force the fanatical Jews to abandon him and wait for another, more suitable candidate for the role of messiah, but it would not be cause for their disenchantment with their
entire religio-nationalistic ideology or for their conversion to the Christian Faith. There were many unsuccessful pretenders to the position of messiah among the Jews, who headed partisan movements against Rome. Nevertheless, the Jews' disillusionment with them never led them to accept the truth of Christianity. Vladimir Soloviev's explanation must be acknowledged as very inadequate. Only the Holy Scripture's testimony concerning the wondrous appearance of the Prophets Enoch and Elias, their preaching and denunciation of Antichrist, their martyrdom and resurrection, can fully explain the miraculous turning to Christ of the remnant of Israel during the rule of Antichrist.
The conversion of the Jews to Christ will elicit Antichrist's most dread reprisals against the Christians. Then the "great tribulation" shall begin for them, "such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt 24:15-21). "And it was given unto him (Antichrist) to make war with the saints, and to overcome them..." (Rev 13:7). Salvation for the tiny remnant of believers will lie only in the short duration of Antichrist's reign. "And except those days be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elects' sake those days shall be shortened" (Matt 24:22).
The universal dominion of Antichrist will last for three and a half years. "And from the time of the removal of the perpetual sacrifice (the beginning of the third period of Antichrist's activity when he proclaims his universal dominion), when the abomination of desolation shall be set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days" (Dan 12:11; cf. also 12:7). This same time period is recorded in the Apocalypse: "...and power was given unto him (Antichnst) to continue forty and two months" (Rev 13:5).
No human power will be able to oppose Antichrist. Only the Lord Himself, coming to earth a second time in all His glory, will conquer him. Then will Christ's dread Judgment begin and the end of the world (Matt 24:30-31, 25:31-46; Rev 1:7, 20:11-15, 21:1-8). And "the beast (will be) taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he had deceived them which had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of His mouth...." (Rev 19:2lff.). "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of tire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev 20:10).
THE CAVE OF THE APOCALYPSE
The principal misfortune of the period preceding the universal reign of Antichrist will consist of the peoples' exceptional blindness of soul. Spiritual reason, i.e. that reason which alone can clearly behold the light of Truth, will be an extremely rare phenomenon. Humanity, guided by fleshly reason, will not only fail to recognize Antichrist or see in him its own insidious foe, but will, on the contrary, acknowledge him as its benefactor. "Many shall believe in him, said a certain blessed monk, and shall begin to glorify him as a 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 coming of the tormenter shall be known to all that have knowledge of God and 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 up in the things of this life. And if they hear a word (of caution concerning Antichrist), they will have no faith, but will despise them that say such things all the more" (The Letters of George, the Recluse of Zadonsk, Book I. p. 62. publ. 1850: cf. also St. Ephraim the Syrian's Discourse CVI). Christ's words are a continuing warning for us: "And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life; and so that day come upon you unawares" (Lk 21:34). For inordinate submersion in the interests and concerns of material life furthers
the development of the fleshly mind which will always be in opposition to divine teaching and revelation.
To acquire a spiritual mind one must first of all be obedient to the mind of the Orthodox Catholic Church. One must verify each of one's own reasonings with the word of God and the teaching of the Fathers. "Essential, necessary in the extreme, is the attention to the word of God which warrants, by the very events of times and moods inimical to it, that we not fall" (Bishop Ignatius, op. cit., pp. 227 228). "Cease not to test the Divine Scriptures," says St. Ephraim the Syrian; "cease not to inquire of thy Mother the Church: when the hoped for Bridegroom shall come. Ask about, and ascertain the signs of His coming, for the Judge will not tarry. Cease not to ask, though thou shalt not know with accuracy; cease not to flee to the aid of them that know of this exactly" (Works of the Venerable Ephraim the Syrian, Moscow: 1850. vol. IV, p. 133).
All the holy Fathers recommend the Holy Scriptures to us as a constant handbook. Therein is the beneficial counsel of those who are close to God, who themselves were guided by the word of God and the works of the holy Fathers. Such a guidebook protects the faithful with the mind of the Church from enthusiasm for the widely circulated false teachings and points of view current today. The absence of this handbook and the habit of always following the common opinion will lead unfailingly to the false path. Furthermore, if a man has decided to go against established public viewpoints, against the generally accepted way, he may certainly fall into the following temptation: of necessity he hears a voice say, "Are you really the only one who is right, while all, or the majority, of the people have been deceived?" Only for him who is guided by the Sacred Scriptures will such reasoning have no value. The Scriptures tell him that it is not the majority, but only a very few who travel the narrow path, and in the last days of the world this path will dwindle to the extreme" (Bishop Ignatius). The Holy Scriptures inspire him to courage. He is not troubled by the fact that the number of true believers is a tiny island amidst the boundless ocean of falsehood and impurity. He will remember Christ's testament: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom" (Lk 12:32).
The second misfortune of Antichrist's era consists in that at that time any organized opposition to his power will become impossible. Then, "Do not attempt to stay him with your weak hand. Withdraw, save yourself from him; and this shall be enough for you" (Bishop lgnauus, op. cit.). ''It will be enough for those people that wish to save themselves that they be granted salvation." says the Elder Isaiah. Thus, it is essential to struggle
now against the coming kingdom of darkness, when the possibility of such struggle has not yet been taken from us. Every avoidance of such struggle now, every compromise with evil, be it even the most insignificant, with the aim of co-existence therewith, permitted today will only increase the difficulty of struggling with it tomorrow. One must "work the works... while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work" (Jn 9:4, 12:35).
Night is the satanic kingdom of spiritual darkness which is coming upon us, which is prepared to seize all mankind. Then the life of the faithful will be so grievous that they, regardless of their sinfulness, forgetting even their fear of the coming Judge, will cry out: "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:20).
Biographical Sketch of the Author's Life
Fr. Boris Molchanoff was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on July 24, l896 (o.s.). On graduating from gymnasium in 1916, he enrolled in Petrograd University and majored in natural science. Drafted shortly thereafter, he served in the imperial army, later joining the White Army under General Zhudenich. Following the Civil War, he left his native land for the West and, in 1926, began his theological studies at the Theological institute in Paris, graduating in 1928. That same year he was ordained to the holy priesthood and assigned as pastor to the parish church in Meudon, Paris. He subsequently continued to serve as priest in London, Beirut, Bela Crkva (Yugoslavia), Austria, and again in France. He renounced his connection with the Paris Metropolia and the institute of St. Sergius due to his disagreement with the policies and ecclesiology of Metropolitan Evlogy, and proclaimed his loyalty to Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and the Synod Abroad.
In 1941, at the outbreak of the German-Soviet war, Fr. Boris was assigned as military chaplain to the Russian Anti-Communist Volunteer Corps, and earned the admiration and respect of the regiment for his personal courage and sense of duty. In 1946, he returned to Paris, where he found pastoral work extremely trying for one of his sensitive conscience. Archbishop Seraphim, who headed the Synod's Western European diocese, had decided to accept the jurisdiction of the Soviet patriarchate, and the diocese was in great turmoil. Not wishing to compromise by returning to the Paris Metropolia, then headed by Metropolitan Vladimir, successor to Metropolitan Evlogy, who had broken with the Soviets and placed himself under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Fr. Boris left France in 1956 and came to the United States, where his abilities were greatly appreciated by the Synod of Bishops. Fr. Boris was assigned the position of Assistant Chancellor and entrusted with many crucial tasks of great importance and complexity. which he carried out with considerable success.
Though Fr. Boris had a history of cardiac illness, he continued to work unceasingly in the Synod chancery and, on August 9/22, 1963, he suffered a heart attack and reposed in the Lord. May the Lord grant his soul everlasting rest! Eternal Memory!
• A hardcopy of the above article is offered for sale by https://www.sjkp.org
If you have gratitude for the article being available on the internet and wish to show appreciation, you can make a donation to the Haiti Mission http://www.sjkp.org/search.php?static=3379 either through the SJKP website or through the Mission website http://www.haitiorthodoxe.org
The poorest of the poor. Every dollar counts. Thank you.
• Surely the author, Archpriest Boris, would appreciate being commemorated at the Divine Liturgy. Especially in his Church, the ROCOR under Metr. Agafangel. (From his biography, above, we can be certain he would not have joined the ROCOR-MP.)