No Need to Fear the Antichrist

Christians throughout history have occasionally got onto an apocalyptic bandwagon, reading world events and deciding the end must be near.  Some of this is normative for Christians as Scriptures do contain some warnings about the end times.  World events seemed to indicate the world must be coming to an end:  The Christian Byzantine Empire thought of itself as chosen by God to live “on earth as it is in heaven.”  They were stung and stunned by the rise of Islam and its seemingly unstoppable advances against the Christian Empire.  The end of the world seemed near.  Then Byzantium fell to the Turks and many imagined the apocalypse.  But history continued on.  The Russian Empire was viewed by its Orthodox members as heaven on earth, but its Christian adherents began to fear the world’s end as the Empire teetered on the brink of destruction.  Then communism came to power and many thought it was definitely the end times, yet history kept moving on into the future. Communism fell, and time moved on.

Americans have grown increasing apocalyptic about every great or small political battle.  So many Americans lately have come to feel doom if the political party they oppose comes to power.  Every election, I hear some talking about having to leave America if “the other political party wins.”  Some see a cataclysmic end to the cosmos if the president, congress or supreme court gets anything wrong.  Fear and hatred become preached and taught by those from any end of the political spectrum.   Some feel that once again we are at the end of the world because the Supreme Court is slated to make some decision on gay marriage and gay rights.

ChernobylRecently a friend sent me a conversation from some of the Greek elders on Mount Athos regarding the end times.  The elders  were discussing the fear that was griping Europe in 1986 as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was unfolding.  Many saw it as the events described in Scripture about the world’s end and the coming of the AntiChrist.  Feeling threatened once again by world events people were convinced evil was being unleashed on earth.  This is an excerpt of a longer article in which the Elders tell us why they don’t fear the Antichrist nor the apocalypse:

One day Elder Porphyrios had told me:

“Father Athanasios (taking me by the hand tightly), I’m blind now, my eyes do not work physically because I have cancer of the pituitary gland, but I have spiritual eyes and see. Before you leave, I want you to tell me, what did Elder Aemilianos say about 666 and the Antichrist?”

This was in the days of Chernobyl. People were upset by this and went by the dozens every day, particularly to Elder Porphyrios near Athens, asking: “What will happen? Will the Antichrist come and stamp us with 666”?

The Elder asked me: “Tell me, my child, what did Elder Aemilianos say about 666 and the Antichrist?”

I told him: “He told us in a gathering a few days ago to not worry. We should be interested in having a vibrant relationship with Christ and not give much attention to the Antichrist, because then he will become the center of our lives and not Christ.”

. . .

He told me: “For us Christians, when we experience Christ there is no Antichrist. . . .

When we have Christ inside us, can the Antichrist come? Can anything opposite this enter our souls? For this reason, my child, today we do not have Christ within us and because of this we worry about the Antichrist.

When Christ is within us, everything becomes Paradise. Christ is everything, my child, and the Opposer we should not fear; this you should always tell people.

. . .

And you should tell the people to not fear the Antichrist. We are children of Christ, we are children of the Church.”

The World May or May Not End September 5

RasputinSpoiler Alert:    Grigori Rasputin (d. 1916AD), the Russian self-proclaimed savant and mystic charlatan who predicted his own death and the downfall of the Russian imperial family also predicted that the world would end on 23 August 2013.

While some were relieved that the world didn’t end with the Mayan calendar on 21 December 2012, yet another prophecy of the end time may still loom ahead.   Less ballyhooed than the Mayan calender’s end,  Rasputin, the Russian rascal, apparently predicted the world would end on August 23, 2013.  And while some may be breathing a sigh of relief that the date has past, the Pacific Standard magazine reminds us there may be some confusion with the date since he may have meant August 23 OLD CALENDAR, which corresponds with September 5 on our calendar.    Ryan O’Hanlon wrote some days ago in the magazine:

“Today is August 23, 2013, which means that today is also the day that Grigory Rasputin said the world would come to an end.
If you doubt Rasputin, here is why you are a fool:

• It is said that, as a 10-year-old, he had the ability to read minds and heal sick animals.
• He cured the son of Czar Nicholas II of hemophilia.
• He said that if he was killed by government officials, then the whole imperial family would be killed by the Russian people.
• He was killed by government officials, then the whole imperial family was killed by the Russian people.
• Russia is currently experiencing what some are calling a “pigeon apocalypse.”

If you believe Rasputin, here is why you are a fool:

• The historical success rate for apocalypse predictions is currently zero percent.
• There is some doubt over the Julian/Gregorian calendar conversion, so he may have actually predicted that September 5, 2013, will be the world’s final day.

So, if you are unsure of whether or not you are currently experiencing the apocalypse, look around. If everything you see is being engulfed in what could accurately be described as an “eternal flame,” the world is ending.  Actually, no. If you are unable to perceive anything around you because you, yourself, are being engulfed in what seems like what one would consider an “eternal flame,” then most likely, yes, this is the end of the world. If not, then you have until at least September 5. Have a good weekend.”

Rasputin apparently thought he knew what even Jesus Christ said he didn’t know – when the end of the world would take place (Matthew 24:36).  Predictions of apocalyptic conflagrations ending the world garnish attention (at least for 15 minutes) and fervent reactions among certain people.   There are other images of the end not to be forgotten.  In Revelation 20:13 both Death and Hades will give up all the dead in them as neither Death or Hades are eternal.  In Revelations 20:14 Death and Hades themselves are thrown into the lake of fire and destroyed forever.

“Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”

  (Revelation 21:3-4)

 

Beyond the Beginning and the End

In physics and cosmology there is an idea that there are certain limits or boundaries to what we can know.  The Big Bang in which our universe came into being is one such limit.  Science can only study the empirical universe and what if anything was on the other side of  (‘before’) the Big Bang is beyond the empirical universe and so remains hidden from our knowledge.  As astrophysicist Robert Jastrow writes: 

“At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation.  For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream.  He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”   (God and the Astronomers)

Sergius Bulgakov, Russian Orthodox philosopher and theologian, wrote in a similar way that the end of the world – the eschaton, the parousia – remains equally veiled from our eyes as the eschaton is describing a reality beyond this present world.   Scriptural references to the parousia, Bulgakov maintained, are endeavoring to use the inadequacies of human language to describe something not quite of this world.  He thus warned against an overly literalistic reading of New Testament passages referring to the parousia. Those who wrote about the eschaton were trying to use human language and symbols to relate what vision had been given them about life in the parousia.  But precisely because they were translating the vision into current human language and symbols, their efforts must be read in a more symbolic way as they only approximate what they saw, for what they saw is beyond our experience in this world.  Bulgakov wrote in THE BRIDE AND THE LAMB:

“The idea that the cosmos is transformed, not abolished but transfigured, is expressed in images of the destruction of the old heaven and old earth and the ‘creation of a new heaven and a new earth.’

This is not a new ‘six days of creation,’ a new creation out of nothing: this creation cannot be repeated.  Rather, it is a renewal of the created world.   …  

An ontological connection is thus affirmed between our world and the world to come.  They are one and the same world in its different states.  However … they are separated – or united-by a chasm …

Human life is connected by its yesterday and tomorrow, between which today is suspended, but the last day of the world will not have a tomorrow and will not become a yesterday. …

deisis… the parousia takes place not in this world but upon a new earth and under a new heaven.  The present world, this heaven and this earth, will not see Christ again.  The parousia is therefore not an event in the life of this world, and even less is it one of the world’s events.  Rather, it is an accomplishment that entirely transforms the life of this world as well as that of the humanity that passes through resurrection.

The appearance of Christ in heaven, His descent from it on clouds accompanied by angels and saints, seen simultaneously in all places by all of humankind, is, of course, only a symbolic figure of what the helpless language of our spatiality and temporality cannot describe or express.  This only means that the entire world and all humankind will be penetrated by the appearance of Christ; it will be visible and palpable to them.  Let us add that He will appear not only to humankind but also to the angels, including, in their own manner, the fallen spirits, for whom the Lord’s coming will signify, first of all the expulsion from the world of the prince of this world as well as their own expulsion.  It will signify for them their accusation and judgment.  In other words, the panorama of the parousia is indescribable; it serves only to express the general idea that the Lord will be manifested and that He will be accessible to all creation, which will become transparent for his presence.  …

The end of the world is not physical but metaphysical.  In reality, the world does not end but is transfigured into a new being, into a new heaven and a new earth.