1985 (2) Antichrist St. John Maximovitch
Brief Notes of Sermons given by
Archbishop John (Maximovitch)
Orthodox Life 1985(2) and 1986(1)
Cheese-Fare Sunday 1956
The Sunday of the Dread Judgment
Today is the Sunday of the Dread Judgment and it is natural for us to speak of the Dread Judgment and of the signs of the end of the world. No one knows that day: only God knows it, but the signs of its approach are given in the Gospels and the Revelation [Apocalypse] of St. John the Theologian. For the most part, Revelation speaks symbolically and cryptically of the events of the end of the world and of the Dread Judgment, but the Holy Fathers have explained them, and there is the pure authentic tradition of the Church that also tells us the signs of the approach of the end of the world and the Dread Judgment. Before the end of life on earth there will be confusion, wars, civil strife, hunger, and earthquakes. People will suffer from fear; their hearts will fail from awaiting disasters. There will be neither spiritual life nor the joy of being alive, but a tortuous state of falling away from life. The falling away will not be from spiritual life only, but also from faith. The Son of Man, when He comes - will He find faith on the earth? People will become proud and ungrateful, refuting the Law of God. Together with a falling away from spiritual life there will also be a diminishing of moral life. Good will be exhausted and evil will grow. It is about this time that the holy Apostle John the Theologian speaks in his divinely-inspired work, the Apocalypse. He himself says that he was "in the spirit" - meaning that the Holy Spirit Itself was in him - when the fate of the Church and the world was revealed to him in various symbols. That is why this is a Divine Revelation. He presents the fate of the Church in the image of a woman who hides in the wilderness during these times. She is not obvious in life. This is happening now in Russia.
In worldly life, those forces preparing for the appearance of the Antichrist will be of primary significance. The Antichrist will be a man, not the devil incarnate. "Anti" is a word meaning "old," or "instead of," or "against." That man will want to exist instead of Christ, to take His place and to have that which is Christ's. He will want to have the same kind of influence and power over the entire world. Indeed, he will obtain that power before he perishes and the entire world perishes. He will have a helper, a magus, who will do his will through the power of false miracles, and kill those that do not recognize the power of the Antichrist. Before the destruction of the Antichrist, two righteous men will appear to condemn him. The magus will kill them, and for three days their bodies will lie unburied, and the Antichrist and his servants will rejoice to the utmost. Then suddenly these righteous men will be resurrected, and the entire army of the Antichrist will suddenly fall down dead, killed by the force of the Holy Spirit.
But what is known about the person of the Antichrist? His exact origin is unknown. His father is completely unknown and his mother a vile, false virgin. He will be a Jew from the tribe of Dan. The indication of this is that Jacob, when dying, prophesied about the future heirs of his children, and concerning Dan, he said that among his heirs "shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path that biteth the horses' heels so that his rider shall fall backwards." This symbolizes that the Antichrist shall act through cleverness and evil. In Revelation, St. John the Theologian speaks of the salvation of the sons of Israel, saying that before the end of the world many Jews will be converted to Christ, but in the list of tribes that are saved, there is no mention of the tribe of Dan. The Antichrist will be very clever and gifted, with a certain ability to deal with people. He will be charming and gentle. The appearance of the Antichrist is already being prepared before his coming: "The mystery doth already work ..."
First of all, the forces preparing for his coming fight against lawful monarchical rule. The holy Apostle Paul says that the Antichrist cannot appear until "the one who restraineth" is put aside. John Chrysostom explains that the "one who restraineth" refers to a lawful, pious regime. Such a power struggles with evil. "The mystery" working in the world does not want this, does not want the struggle against evil by the power of a pious ruler - quite the opposite. It wants the rule of lawlessness, and when it achieves this, nothing more will stop the appearance of the Antichrist. He will not only be clever and charming, he will be merciful and do works of charity for the sake of bolstering his control. And when he strengthens his control to the point where the entire world recognizes him, then he will reveal his face. He will choose Jerusalem because it was precisely there that the Saviour revealed His Divine teaching and His Person, and the whole world was called to the blessedness of virtue and salvation. But the world did not accept Christ and crucified Him in Jerusalem, and during the Antichrist's reign Jerusalem will become the capital of the world that has accepted his rule.
Reaching the summit of power, the Antichrist will demand people acknowledge that he has achieved what no earthly power and no one else has been able to do, and will demand worship of himself as an exalted being - a god. He will do only what pleases people, under the condition that they recognize him as the Supreme Power. He will provide opportunities for Church life, allow her to hold services, and promise that wonderful temples will be built, provided that he be recognized as "Supreme Being" and worshipped. He will have a personal hatred for Christ. He will thrive on this hatred and will rejoice in people's apostasy from Christ and the Church. There will be a mass falling away from the faith, during which many bishops will betray the faith, and point to the wonderful position of the Church as justification. A search for compromise will be the characteristic state of the people's faith. Directness of confession will vanish. People will subtly justify their fall, and solicitous evil will support such a general state of mind. People will grow used to apostatizing from the truth and will be accustomed to the sweetness of compromise and sin. The Antichrist will allow people anything as long as they, falling down before him, worship him. This will not be a new attitude toward people: the Roman Caesars were also prepared to grant Christians freedom if they would recognize the emperor's divinity and supreme divine power. They martyred Christians only because they confessed: "One God do we worship, and Him alone do we serve." The whole world will be conquered by him, and he will then reveal his hatred for Christ and Christianity.
St. John the Theologian says that there will be a sign on the forehead and right hand of those who follow Antichrist. It is not known whether this will be an actual mark on the body, or if this is a symbolic expression of people's mental acknowledgement of the necessity of worshipping the Antichrist, and of complete subjugation of people's will to him. Saint John the Theologian says that there will be a sign on the forehead and right hand of those who follow Antichrist. It is not known whether this will be an actual mark on the body, or if this is a symbolic expression of peoples’ mental acknowledgement of the necessity of worshipping the Antichrist and of the complete subjugation of peoples’ will to him. During such a completely willing and conscious submission of the entire world, the above-mentioned two righteous men will appear, and they will fearlessly preach the Faith, and condemn the Antichrist. The Holy Scriptures say that before the coming of the Saviour, there will appear “two lamps,” “two burning olive trees,” “two saints.” They will be killed by the Antichrist through the power of his magus. Who are these saints? According to the tradition of the Church, these are the two saints that did not yet taste of death: the Prophet Elias and the Prophet Enoch. There is a prophecy that these saints, not having tasted of death, will taste of it for three days and in three days will be resurrected. Their death will be a great joy for the Antichrist and his servants. Their resurrection in three days will bring inexpressible horror, fear, and confusion upon them. And then the end of the world will come.
The holy Apostle Peter says that the first world was created out of water and perished by water (2 Ptr 3:5-6). “Out of water” is also a symbol of the chaos of the physical mass, and “perished by water” a symbol of the Flood. “But the heaven and earth which are now … are kept in store, reserved unto fire … the earth … and all the works that are therein shall melt with fervent heat” (2 Ptr 3:12). This contemporary world will perish in an instant. Instantly everything will change. And the sign of the Son of God will appear - the sign of the Cross. The entire world, having willingly submitted to Antichrist, will “weep and wail.” Everything is finished. Antichrist is killed. This is the end of his kingdom and his struggle with Christ. This is the end, and one must give an account of one’s entire life, an account before the true God. Then from out of the hills of Palestine the Ark of the Covenant will appear; the Prophet Jeremias hid the Ark and the Holy Fire in a deep well. When water was taken from that well, the water burned, but the Ark itself was not found.
Looking at life now, those who have eyes to see, see that everything foretold about the end of the world is being fulfilled. Who then is this person, Antichrist? Saint John the Theologian symbolically calls him 666, but all attempts to explain this have been in vain. The life of the contemporary world gives us a rather clear understanding of the possibility of the consumption of the world by fire, of all the elements melting with fervent heat. We understand this from the splitting of the atom. The end of the world does not mean its destruction, but its transformation. Everything will change suddenly in the twinkling of an eye. The dead will be resurrected in new bodies - their own, but renewed ones - as the Saviour arose in His body; it bore the marks of His wounds from the nails and spear, but it had new characteristics and in this sense was a new body. It is unclear whether these will be entirely new bodies, or the ones with which man was created. And the Lord will appear in glory upon the clouds.
How will we see? With spiritual sight. Even now, righteous people see at death that which other people around them do not see. The trumpets will sound in souls and consciences. Everything will become clear in the human conscience. The Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Dread Judgment, tells of the Ancient of Days upon His throne, and before Him a river of fire. Fire is a purifying element. Fire burns sin; sin also is burned up by sorrow. If sin has become part of a man, it burns the man himself. Then fire will flare up inside man. Seeing the Cross, some will rejoice and others will fall into despair, confusion, horror. Thus people will be separated instantly. In the Gospel narrative, some stand on the right hand, others on the left hand of the Judge -- they are separated by their inner consciousness. The very state of a person's soul casts him to one or the other side, to the right or to the left. However much more consciously and diligently a person strove toward God in his life, so much the greater his joy when he hears the words: "Come, ye blessed." And on the other hand, the same words will kindle a fire of horror and suffering in those that did not desire Him, or avoided or fought or mocked Him in their lives. The Dread Judgment knows no witness or court records. Everything is inscribed in the souls of men, and these inscriptions, these "books," will be opened. Everything will become clear to all and to oneself; the state of a person's soul sends him to the right or the left. Some will go to the place of rejoicing, others to the place of horror. When the books have been opened it will become clear to all that the root of all transgressions is in a man's soul. Consider a drunkard or a fornicator: when the body dies, some think the sin, too, has died. No -- the inclination to sin was in the soul, and to the soul the sin was sweet. And if the soul has not repented of this sin, has not freed itself of it, it will come to the Dread Judgment with the same desire for the sweetness of sin and "never sate this desire." There will be the suffering of hatred and wrath in this soul. This is the state of hell. "The fiery Gehenna" - this is the inner fire, the fire of weakness and anger, and here will be the wailing and the gnashing of teeth of powerless wrath.
from off the internet:
A Talk On The Dread Judgment
St. John of Shanghai & San Francisco
The DAY OF the Last Judgement! That day no one knows -- only God the Father knows -- but its signs are given in the Gospel and in the Apocalypse of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. Revelation speaks of the events at the end of the world and of the Last Judgement primarily in images and in a veiled manner. However, the Holy Fathers have explained these images, and there is an authentic Church tradition that speaks clearly concerning the signs of the approach of the end, and concerning the Last Judgement. Before the end of life on earth there will be agitation, wars, civil war, hunger, earthquakes... Men will suffer from fear, will die from expectation of calamity. There will be no life, no joy of life but a tormented state of falling away from life. Nevertheless there will be a falling away not only from life, but from faith also, and "when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (St. Luke 18:8). Men will become proud, ungrateful, rejecting Divine law. Together with the falling away from life will be a weakening of moral life. There will be an exhaustion of good and an increase of evil.
Of these times, the holy Apostle John the Theologian speaks in his God-inspired work, the Apocalypse. He says that he "was in the Spirit" when he wrote it; this means that the Holy Spirit Himself was in him, when under the form of various images, the fate of the Church and the world was opened to him, and so this is a Divine Revelation.
The Apocalypse represents the fate of the Church in the image of a woman who hides herself in the wilderness: she does not show herself in public life, as today in Russia. In public life, forces that prepare the possibility for the appearance of Antichrist will play the leading role.
Antichrist will be a man, and not the devil incarnate. "Anti" means "old," and it also signifies "in place of" or "against." Antichrist is a man who desires to be in place of Christ, to occupy His place and possess what Christ should possess. He desires to possess the attraction of Christ and authority over the whole world. Moreover, Antichrist will receive that authority before his destruction and the destruction of the world.
What is known of this man -- Antichrist? His precise ancestry is unknown: his father is completely unknown, and his mother a foul pretended virgin. He will be a Jew of the tribe of Dan. He will be very intelligent and endowed with skill in handling people. He will be fascinating and kind. The philosopher Vladimir Soloviev worked a long time at presenting the advent and person of Antichrist. He carefully made use of all material on this question, not only Patristic, but also Moslem, and he worked out a brilliant picture.
Before the advent of Antichrist, there was a preparation in the world, the possibility of his appearance. The mystery of iniquity doth already work (II Thes. 2:7). The forces preparing for his appearance fight above all against the lawful Imperial authority. The holy Apostle Paul says that Antichrist cannot be manifested until what withholdest is taken away (II Thes. 2:6-7). St. John Chrysostom explains that the "withholding one" is the lawful pious authority: such an authority fights with evil. For this reason the "mystery," already at work in the world, fights with this authority; it desires a lawless authority. When the "mystery" decisively achieves that authority, nothing will hinder the appearance of Antichrist any longer.
Fascinating, intelligent, kind, he will be merciful — he will act with mercy and goodness; but not for the sake of mercy and goodness, but for the strengthening of his own authority. When he will have strengthened it to the point where the whole world acknowledges him, then he will reveal his face.
For his capital, he will choose Jerusalem, because it was here that the Savior revealed His Divine teaching and His person. It was here that the entire world was called to the blessedness of goodness and salvation. The world did not acknowledge Christ and crucified Him in Jerusalem; whereas, the whole world will acknowledge the Antichrist’s authority and Jerusalem will become the capital of the world.
Having attained the pinnacle of authority, Antichrist will demand the acknowledgement that he has attained what no earthly power had ever attained or could attain and then demand the worship of himself as a higher being, as a god.
V. Soloviev describes the character of his activity well, as "Supreme Ruler." He will do what is pleasing to all -- on the condition of being recognized as Supreme Authority. He will allow the Church to exist, permit her Divine services, promise to build magnificent churches…. on the condition, that all recognize him as "Supreme Being" and worship him. Antichrist will have a personal hatred for Christ; he will see Him as a rival and look upon Him as a personal enemy. He will live by this hatred and rejoice in men's apostasy from Christ.
Under Antichrist, there will be an immense falling away from the faith. Many bishops will change in faith and in justification will point to the brilliant situation of the Church. The search for compromise will be the characteristic disposition of men. Straight-forwardness of confession will disappear. Men will cleverly justify their fall, and gracious evil will support such a general disposition. There will be the habit of apostasy from truth and the sweetness of compromise and sin in men.
Antichrist will allow men everything, as long as they "fall down and worship him"; and the whole world will submit to him. Then there will appear the two righteous men, who will fearlessly preach the faith and accuse Antichrist. According to Church tradition, they are the two Prophets of the Old Testament, Elijah and Enoch, who did not taste of death, but will taste it now for three days, and in three days they must rise. Their death will call forth the great rejoicing of Antichrist and his servants. Their resurrection will plunge them into great confusion and terror. Then, the end of the world will come.
The Apostle Peter said that the first world was made out of water — an image of the primordial chaos, and perished by water — in the Flood. Now the world is reserved unto fire. The earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up (II Peter 3:5-7, 10). All the elements will ignite. This present world will perish in a single instant. In an instant all will be changed.
Moreover, the Sign of the Son of God, the Sign of the Cross, will appear. The whole world, having willingly submitted to Antichrist, will weep. Everything is finished forever: Antichrist killed, the end of his kingdom of warfare with Christ, the end, and one is held accountable; one must answer to the true God.
"The end of the world" signifies not the annihilation of the world, but its transformation. Everything will be transformed suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye. The dead will rise in new bodies: their own, but renewed, just as the Savior rose in His own body and traces of wounds from the nails and spear were on it, yet it possessed new faculties, and in this sense it was a new body. It is not clear whether this new body will be the same as Adam was made, or whether it will be an entirely new body.
Afterward, the Lord will appear in glory on the clouds. Trumpets will sound, loud, with power! They will sound in the soul and conscience! All will become clear to the human conscience. The Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Last Judgement, relates how the Ancient of Days, the Judge sits on His throne, and before Him is a fiery stream (Daniel 7:9-10). Fire is a purifying element; it burns sin. Woe to a man if sin has become a part of his nature: then the fire will burn the man, himself.
This fire will be kindled within man: seeing the Cross, some will rejoice, but others will fall into confusion, terror and despair. Thus, men will be divided instantly. The very state of a man's soul casts him to one side or the other, to right or to left.
The more consciously and persistently man strives toward God in his life, the greater will be his joy when he hears: "Come unto Me, ye blessed." Conversely: the same words will call the fire of horror and torture to those who did not desire Him, who fled and fought or blasphemed Him during their lifetime!
The Last Judgement knows of no witnesses or written protocols! Everything is inscribed in the souls of men and these records, these "books," are opened at the Judgement. Everything becomes clear to all and to oneself.
Moreover, some will go to joy, while others — to horror.
When "the books are opened," it will become clear that the roots of all vices lie in the human soul. Here is a drunkard or a lecher: when the body has died, some may think that sin is dead too. No! There was an inclination to sin in the soul, and that sin was sweet to the soul, and if the soul has not repented and has not freed itself of the sin, it will come to the Last Judgement with the same desire for sin. It will never satisfy that desire and in that soul there will be the suffering of hatred. It will accuse everyone and everything in its tortured condition; it will hate everyone and everything. "There will be gnashing of teeth" of powerless malice and the unquenchable fire of hatred.
A "fiery gehenna" — such is the inner fire. "There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Such is the state of hell.