On the Situation of the Orthodox Christian in the Contemporary Worldby Archbishop Averky of Syracuse
The situation of the Orthodox Christian in the contemporary world is, one can say decisively and without exaggeration, extremely grievous. The whole of contemporary life, in all its manifestations, is, in one way or another, directed against him. Everything in it is, in essence, a complete denial of true Christianity. And if in apostolic times the beloved disciple of Christ St. John the Theologian could write that “the whole world lieth in evil” (I John 5:19), then with far greater justice can we say this of our time. To be a true Orthodox Christian, ready to be faithful to death to Christ the Savior, is much more difficult in our days than in the first centuries of Christianity. Then, the persecutors of the Christians were irrational enemies who did not know the Faith of Christ, having wrong, often absurd ideas about it. And these persecutions had in general the character of external persecutions. Not damaging souls, they delivered the bodies of the first Christians to torment and death. And the Christians of that time, well remembering the command of Christ: “Fear not those who kill the body, but who are not able to kill the soul” (Matt 10:28), and being strengthened by the Grace of God, went with joy to the torments and gave their life for Christ. These persecutions did not only not dampen the spirit, but on the contrary inspired and inflamed it, and the blood of the martyrs, according to the apt expression of one of the apologists of those times, truly became the seed of Christianity.
The contemporary world, with a few exceptions (we have in mind the bloody persecutions against the Faith taking place in Soviet Russia), does not make clear and open threats of bodily torments and bodily death for those who bear the name of Christ. A significant part of it even continues to bear the name of “Christian”, builds churches, calls on the Name of Christ, and swears on the Holy Bible.
But this is all just appearance.
Under the cover of this deceptive, fair-seeming exterior, which is leading many into delusion, there is actually everywhere now taking place a most powerful hidden persecution against Christianity, appearing in the most various forms. This persecution is far more dangerous and terrible than the former open persecution, for it threatens a complete devastation of souls – spiritual death. What is now happening is precisely that which Christ the Savior foretold and of which He most of all warned His followers, telling them not to fear bodily torments, insofar as they do not threaten the soul: “Fear rather,” He said, “him who is able to cast both soul and body into gehenna” (Matt 10:28).
What is this that is happening in the world; and how can the contemporary world, which has been living, it would seem, for so many centuries in Christianity, persecute Christianity?
In all this there is nothing unexpected: for we have been warned about all this long ago by the word of God. But woe to him who stubbornly closes his eyes to this, not wishing to see that for which the Word of God calls us to be prepared.
In the world, according to the holy Apostle Paul, “the mystery of iniquity doth work” (II Thess 2:7) – the ever-strengthening process of the “apostasy” of Christians from Christ takes place, the process which in its final phase must lead to the revealing of “the man of sin, the son of perdition – the Antichrist” (2:3). This terrible process of “apostasy” in the last time manifests itself so clearly and evidently in all aspects of life that only a blind man cannot see to what it is leading: everything that is taking place in the world now is nothing other than the careful preparation of the kingdom of the Antichrist, in which there take the most active part those who openly defy Christ and those who continue to bear ostensibly the name of “Christians”.
The first important stage on the path of this “apostasy” was the falling away from Orthodoxy of the Latin West, with the papal throne at its head. Was not there an anti-christian principle at the base of the papist pretension to be the infallible “vicar of the Son of God” on earth? Cannot the spirit of anti-christ be felt in this striving to “be the vicar”, as if “substituting” himself for Christ for all those who believe in Him? And is not the spirit of anti-christian pride, so evidently leading people into prelest in the spiritual life, is not the boundless love of power which thirsts to subject the whole world to itself – is not all this characteristic of the Antichrist?
Such a perversion of the spirit of Christ in western Christianity which had fallen away from Orthodoxy brought in its train a whole series of false teachings and a terrible moral corruption. Only the appearance of Christianity was left, its exterior, deprived of the true spirit of life in Christ.
All this called into life the second destructive stage of the “Apostasy” – the appearance of the so-called “humanism”, which gave birth in the West to a new epoch – the epoch of the “Renaissance”, which appeared as a reaction to the perverted Christianity of the West, but which was in essence a denial of Christianity and a return to the ideals of paganism. It proclaimed the cult of strong, healthy, beautiful human flesh, and to the spirit of Christian humility it opposed the spirit of self-opinion, self-reliance, and the deification of human “reason”.
As a protest against perverted Christianity, and on the soil of the same humanistic ideal which recognized “reason” as the highest criterion of life, there appeared in the West the religious movement receiving the name of “Protestantism”. Protestantism with its countless branches and every possible sect not only radically distorted the whole teaching of true Christianity, but it also rejected the very dogma of the Church, placing man himself as his own highest authority, and went so far as to reject faith in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Founder of the Church.
Puffed-up human pride finally falls completely away from God, and begins boldly to reject the very existence of God,and man proclaims himself to be as it were a god. Seized with pride, self-opinion and reliance on his own unlimited powers, possibilities and capacities, man raised in the ideals of the “Renaissance” no longer sees for himself any obligation to strive for the spiritual perfection enjoined by the Gospel, and as a natural consequence descends deeper and deeper into the abyss of spiritual fall and moral corruption. Onto the foreground there steps the service of the flesh, as a consequence of which spiritual demands are more and more deadened, subdued, and finally, so as once and for all to finish with the unpleasant voice of conscience which lives in the spirit of man, the spirit itself is declared to be non-existent.
Thus there appears “materialism” – the natural child of “humanism”, the natural and logical development of its idea. The ideal of the full stomach, covered by the raucous “doctrine” going by the name of “the ideal of social justice,”~social righteousness”, became the highest ideal of humanity which had denied Christ. And this is understandable! The so-called “social question” could not have taken root if people had remained faithful to true Christianity incarnate in life.
On the soil of materialism, in its turn, there naturally grew, as a strictly logical consequence, the doctrine of “Socialism” and “Marxism-Communism”. Humanism and materialism, having denied the spiritual principle in man, proclaimed man himself to be a “god” and legitimized human pride and animal egoism as self-sacrificing, came to the conclusion that savage struggle should be made the law of human life, on the soil of the constant conflict of interests in egoistical human beings. As a result of this so-called “struggle for existence”, stronger, cleverer, craftier people would naturally begin to constrain and oppress the less strong, less clever and less crafty. The law of Christ, which commands us to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2) and “not to please ourselves” and “not to do to another what you do not wish for yourself” (Acts 15:29), but “to love one’s neighbor as oneself’ (Mark 22:39), was expelled from life. And so there began more and more to grow and spread so-called “social evil”; “social injustices” increased and multiplied, together with the “social ulcers” of society. And since life was made more and more intolerable, as a consequence of the ever-increasing egoism and violence of people towards each other, then there was naturally something to think about, so as to attempt to establish for all a single tolerable and acceptable order of life. Hence “Socialism”, and then its extreme expression, “Communism”, became fashionable doctrines, which promised people deliverance from all “social injustices”, and the establishment on earth of a peaceful and serenely paradisaical life, in which everyone would be happy and content. But these teachings determined to cure the ulcers of human society by unsuitable means. They did not want to see that the evil of contemporary life is rooted in the depths of the human soul which has fallen away from the uniquely saving Gospel teaching, and naively thought that it would be enough to change the imperfect, in their opinion, structure of political and social life, so that there would immediately be born on earth prosperity for all, and life would become paradise. For this inevitable, as they affirmed, and beneficial change, the more extreme socialists (e.g., the communists), even proposed violent measures, going so far as the shedding of blood and physical annihilation of people who did not agree with them. In other words: they thought to conquer evil by evil, this evil being still more bitter and unjust because of their cruelty and mercilessness.
The “Great French Revolution”, which shed whole rivers of human blood, was the first of their attempts. It clearly demonstrated that men are powerless to build their life on earth without God, and to what terrible consequences man is drawn by his apostasy from Christ and His saving teachings.
But there was no looking back: the process of “Apostasy” had already gone too far.
And so there appeared the third, most important stage in the “Apostasy” which is now developing so quickly in front of our eyes – the bloody catastrophe which came upon our unfortunate homeland of Russia in 1917. Carried out in accordance with the example of the “Great French Revolution” of 1789, our Russian Revolution can, with all justice, be looked upon as the greatest achievement of the servants of the coming Antichrist. In the person of Orthodox Russia, the chief obstacle on the path of the victoriously progressing God-permitted “Apostasy” was destroyed: there remained no strong fortress of the true Orthodox Faith and Church in the world, and the Antichrist, in the person of his servants, began, according to the expression of our native interpreter of the Apostolic epistles, the hierarch Theophan, the recluse of Vysha, “to expand his operations.”
Since then, as we see it now, the “Apostasy” has gone forward by gigantic strides, not meeting any serious impediments.
Our Russian Orthodox Church has lived through and continues up to now to live through terrible upheavals unheard of in history from the first centuries of Christianity. But it was not so much these bloody persecutions, likening her to the early Church, that were so terrible in themselves, as that inner devastation which began in her and with her spread to the whole of the Orthodox Church after the Bolshevik revolution. We have in mind that pernicious spirit which began to manifest itself ardently, insinuating itself first into the so-called “living-church” and “renovationist” movements,and then – in the destructive compromise with the God-fighting communist power. This was the spirit of “Apostasy” in the very midst of the Orthodox Church,which gave birth to all kinds of divisions and schism, both in the Homeland and abroad . This spirit of “Apostasy” is, of course, much more dangerous and destructive for souls than open bloody persecutions. This is the inner betrayal of Christ while preserving an external, merely seeming faithfulness to Him.
Bishop Theophan the Recluse foretold this more than 80 years ago in his exegetical work on the 2nd Epistle to the Thessalonians, saying: “While the name of Christian will be heard everywhere, and everywhere churches and church oratories will be seen, all this will be only appearance, while within there is true apostasy” (pp. 491-2). Christ Himself in His Sermon on the Mount clearly said that “no one can serve two masters” (Matt 6:24); it is impossible to serve at the same time God and “Mammon”, that is, “this world lying in sin.” One cannot please at the same time both Christ and Beliar, that is, the servants of the coming Antichrist in the person of an open or hidden God-fighting power (II Cor 6:15).
With the fall of Orthodox Russia, “he that restraineth” (II Thess 2:7) was no longer – as Bishop Theophan the Reculse often foretold, as well as our great all-Russian righteous man St. John of Kronstadt and many other Spirit-bearing clairvoyants of our time – and everything in the world was shattered, shaken to its ancient foundations. The spirit of “Apostasy” with unheard-of cynicism and shamelessness began to manifest itself everywhere in the world in all the spheres of personal, family, communal and political life,as never before. Whole millions of people, Orthodox by birth, are not ashamed now to speak openly and in the hearing of all about their lack of faith and atheism, and political power officially registers them as belonging to no confession of faith; immorality has reached frightening proportions, depravity and pornography in the majority of cases are not only not prosecuted but even cultivated by those in power, to the extent of the systematic perversion of the young generation in schools; the former understandings of duty, honor, nobility and conscience have almost disappeared, and the first place is occupied by crude profit, purely egoistical calculation, material advantages and carnal pleasures. Especially bitter is the lot of contemporary youth, which is almost completely deprived of spiritual fire and that lofty enthusiasm for sacrificial service of one’s neighbors and inclination towards lofty moral ideas which distinguished youth in former times. The aim of life for many has become merely career aspirations, service well provided for in the material sense, external comfort and base carnal pleasures. While the unbelievable growth in child crime, concerning which our newspapers constantly write, fills us with the gravest apprehensions for the near future.
In one word, the world – terrible to say, the Christian world – now presents a terrible, dismal picture of the deepest religio-moral fall.
And at the same time a sharp contrast with all this terrible actuality is provided by the ever more frequent, ever more insistent appeals for peace and unity.
Can one believe, in such circumstances, seeing all that is taking place, in the sincerity and goodness of these appeals?
These appeals go out: in the east – from the God-fighting Soviet power, which has drenched our Homeland in blood, and from its obedient instrument, the Moscow patriarchate, which has justly earned for itself the name of “Soviet church” (what a frightful combination of words!); in the West – from papist Rome, which has so compromised itself in the history of its evil and anti-christian politics of enslaving dissidents; and from the Protestant world, which is guilty of this religious chaos by which the modern pseudo-Christian world, having arrived at complete atheism, is distinguished.
With the aim of making propaganda for this “peace” and “unity”, the representatives of the God-fighting power and their submissive servants in cassocks travel throughout the world, sowing the seeds of falsehood and trying to deceive naive and credulous people and lead them into delusion; and it is undoubtedly with the same aim that the papist throne has created the so-called “eastern rite”, so as to lead the Orthodox who know their faith but badly into delusion, and now it has even declared the convening of an “Ecumenical Council”, in which all the as it were “separated brethren” [Abp. Averky wrote these lines shortly before the Second Vatican Council of 1962. His analysis has lost none of its force and truthfulness today] can take part, although at the same time the encyclical issued by the Pope leaves no doubt as to the real aim of this “council” – the unambiguous submission of everyone to papal authority; nor does it leave out of this attempts at “peace” and “unity”, having itself ceaselessly created so many divisions, in the form of a vast quantity of sects. And the Protestant world is now propagandizing its “ecumenical movement”, in the nets of which, not without success, it is trying to ensnare the Orthodox, mainly from the number of those wounded by the pernicious spirit of “living churchmanship” and “renovationism”.
How is the Orthodox Christian to relate to all this? Must he strive for every kind of peace and unity? Must every kind of peace and unity be precious in his eyes, dear and close to his Orthodox soul?
Absolutely not! decisively answers this important question – a question of Christian conscience – the great ecumenical teacher and hierarch, and pillar of our Faith, St. Gregory the Theologian. “One must not value every kind of peace,” he says, “for there is a good difference of opinion and the most destructive unanimity. But one must love only the good peace, which has a good intent and unites with God” (Sermon 6).
The dearest thing of all for the Christian is the Truth, for the sake of witnessing to which the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, as He Himself said to Pilate (Jn 18:37). And for the true Christian there can be only one desirable unity – unity in the Truth of Christ – the pure, undistorted, uncorrupted Truth, without any admixture of diabolic falsehood, not envenomed by any compromise with it. From this point of view, all these appeals for “peace” and “unity” are unacceptable, for they come from people who encroach on our principal treasure – the pure and undefiled truth of the teaching of Christ that has been preserved by us, and who wish to substitute for it a lie which is of the devil. The “unity” which is now envisaged by the enemies of the pure truth of Christ is not unity in Christ. It is that unity which the Antichrist, who wishes to subject all to himself and to found his kingdom on earth, is striving to create.
Everything that now comes from people on the summits of religious, political and communal life, since the time that our Orthodox Russia was trampled in the dust, is nothing else than intense work of preparation by the servants of the coming Antichrist for his future kingdom.
For that reason it is more than ever before incumbent on everyone who wishes to be a true Christian and preserve his faithfulness to Christ to remember the exhortation of the holy Apostle: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16).
It must be understood by all rational people that we who wish to preserve our faithfulness to Christ the Savior cannot submit to the church authority which has been established by the God-fighters and which appears as an obedient instrument of the realization of their hellish plans in the world. We cannot be in any kind of dependence on any other church authority beyond the frontiers of our enslaved Homeland which recognizes this enslavement as lawful and has communion in prayer with the minions of the God-fighters in the person of the hierarchs of the Soviet church. We dare not forget that the anathema proclaimed by His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon on January 19, 1918 against the God-fighting Communist power and subsequently upheld on January 28 of that year by the whole Sacred Council of the Russian Orthodox Church has in no way been removed, and up to this moment weighs upon it and upon all those who recognize it as lawful and who in this or in any other way co-operate with it or maintain communion with it.
Only complete light-mindedness and extreme lack of principle – more than that: the wisdom of the evil one, by which this present age is so distinguished, permits the rulers of contemporary States to recognize as lawful this truly anti-christian power, and the hierarchs of the local Orthodox churches to go to Moscow, place wreaths on the graves of the leaders of militant atheism, and enter into canonical and liturgical communion with the leaders of that church which has given itself into the service of this anti-christian power.
Such “high politics” we neither understand nor accept, judging it with the whole force of our inner conviction, which does not allow such compromises, a conviction which is based on the words of the holy Apostle Paul: “What communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial: or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (II Cor 6:14-15).
Similarly, we can have no confidence in those representatives of the Orthodox church hierarchy who under the fair-seeming excuse of this same notorious “peace” and “unity” enter into institutions and organizations which are hostile with regard to true Christianity –Orthodoxy; or who at any rate have close friendly communion with them. We decisively reject every appearance of the spirit of “living-churchmanship” or “renovationism”, in whatever form this harmful spirit may appear. We can have nothing in common with the “eastern rite” or with “ecumenism”, nor with any secret society or organization, with whatever high-sounding phrases they might cover themselves. We must know and remember that, according to the prophecy of a whole row of Holy Fathers, who wrote about the last times, the Antichrist will appear in the form of a very great benefactor and well-wisher of humanity, for how else could he draw people to his side?
“Therefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not their uncleanness”(Is 52:11) – that is the instruction of the holy prophet, quoted in the 2nd Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to the Corinthians (6:17), by which the Orthodox Christian who lives in the contemporary world that is so strongly seared with the seal of “Apostasy” should constantly be directed. Sleeplessly watching over himself, lest he himself should be drawn into this whirling torrent of”Apostasy”, the contemporary Christian must strongly cleave to that Church which has not soiled its garments with any communion with the servants of the coming Antichrist….
But of course, a purely formal membership of the true Church is not enough. It is necessary to strive to be a living and not a dead member of the Church. For this it is necessary to”church” one’s personal and family life: one must with fervor and without omissions fulfil all the Church’s rules and decrees, customs and traditions. We must by all means preserve our primordial Orthodox existence, not allowing ourselves to be merged with the surrounding heterodox environment and submit to its influence….
Now is the time of confession – of firm standing, if necessary even to death, for our Orthodox Faith, which is being subjected everywhere to open and concealed attacks and oppression on the part of the servants of the coming Antichrist. And in our holy Faith there is nothing of little significance – everything in it, to the smallest detail, has its meaning, its significance, its value. For that reason nothing is to be neglected and we must make concessions and compromises in nothing. Every concession or compromise in questions of the Faith and Church decrees leads to a greater and greater shaking of the age-old foundations of our holy Orthodoxy, to a gradual falling away from it and to the passing into the camp of the servants of the coming Antichrist.
This last we must fear above all in our age filled with evil, deception and betrayal.
We must thus fear that about which the Word of God so carefully warns us through the lips of Christ the Savior Himself: “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). The enemy of man’s salvation knows how drawn fallen men are towards material prosperity, and for that reason in our time the servants of the coming Antichrist are striving above all to work on this weak side of their nature. Every kind of ease, luxury, and abundance of material goods presents the greatest and most dangerous temptation in our time, and they try to use this on a broad front for the furtherance of their aims. Nothing so contributes to destructive spiritual blindness as the seduction of earthly goods, the pursuit of them, immersement in them, tasting of them. This spiritual blindness hinders the recognition of “the signs of the times,” of which Christ the Savior Himself told us; it hinders giving a correct estimate of all that is happening now in the world; it hinders the recognition of the Antichrist himself, when he comes. “Mankind led by carnal reasoning,” say the Holy Fathers, “not only will not recognize the Antichrist, not seeing in him its perfidious enemy, but on the contrary it will recognize him as its benefactor and proclaim him as its god” (Bishop Ignatiy Brianchaninov).
That is why at the present time all those who wish to preserve faithfulness to Christ the Savior must especially extract themselves from every seductive attraction of earthly goods. It is extremely dangerous to give oneself to any kind of striving to make a career for oneself, to create a good name for oneself, to acquire power and influence in society, to acquire riches, to surround oneself with luxury and comfort. One must fear and flee from people who offer help in all this, demonstrating their co-operation. It is especially dangerous to accept large financial contributions from unknown or little-known persons and organizations, for they always create obligations and in one way or another bind you. What will a man do on another occasion, propelled by a feeling of gratitude towards his benefactor? – It is better to live humbly and even in need and constraint, as long as one can preserve one’s freedom and independence from whomever it may be, remembering the utterance of the holy Apostle: “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men”(I Cor 7:23).
Worst of all, in our present life is not even open and hardened fighting against God, which repels many, but complete religious indifferentism, forgetfulness of God, and indifference to the Faith and the Church. The servants of Antichrist are more than anything striving to exclude God from the life of men, so that men, satisfied with the immaterial prosperity, should not feel any need to turn to God in prayer, should not remember God, and should live as if God did not exist. Therefore the whole tenor of life today in the so-called “free” countries, where there is no open bloody persecution against the Faith, where every man is recognized to have the right to believe “as he wishes,” represents a still greater danger for the soul of the Christian, for it chains him completely to the earth, forcing him to forget about heaven. The whole of contemporary “culture”, which is directed to purely earthly aims and the headlong waterfall of life which is bound with it, keep a man in constant vanity and dispersion, in which circumstances he has no possibility of going deeper into his soul, and the spiritual life in him gradually dies out.
That is why the Orthodox Christian living in these difficult conditions of contemporary life must with all his might fight for the retention within himself of spiritual life, and the principal means for this is unfailing daily prayer at home and obligatory participation in the communal prayer in church. Disregarding all obstacles, he must set himself a rule of unfailing prayer at home morning and evening, even if it is short, taking as his model if only the prayer rule of St. Seraphim for laymen, and in no case missing even one Sunday or Feast-day service in church, not only the Liturgy, but also the all-night Vigil. From this point of view, the phenomenon widely spread among us, unfortunately, of arranging every kind of festivity and entertainment on the eves of Sundays and Feast-days is completely inadmissible. This is also undoubtedly a ruse of the servants of the coming Antichrist so as to draw Orthodox Christians away from this not-to-be-missed visiting of church services, which is absolutely necessary for the retaining in oneself of spiritual life.
And no excuses can be accepted here. The soul of a man is dearer than everything in the world – according to the words of Christ the Savior, it is more valuable than the whole of this corruptible world (Matt 16:26), and deprived of the grace of church prayer it dies. “The Christian without the Church, like a fish without water, cannot live the true life,” taught the ever-to-be-remembered St. John of Kronstadt: “The Church is his element” (“Thoughts about the Church”, p. 114).
What is needful is a correct spiritual life according to the instructions of the Holy Orthodox Church, and for this constant direction by the Word of God and the works of the Holy Fathers is necessary. More destructive than anything is the custom widely prevalent in our time of seeking fashionable teachers and following in everything the so-called “opinion of society.” All these fashionable teachers are nothing other than those same “false christs” and “false prophets” from the deception of which the Lord Jesus Christ warned us (Matt 24:4-5; 23:5). And the so-called “opinion of society” is formed through the press and other media by these same servants of the coming Antichrist, who have acquired great authority and the ability to act on the minds and hearts of contemporary people.
Finally, the most important thing is decisively to leave the majority of contemporary people with their carnal sinful life, light-minded and careless, and as often as possible, cleansing one’s soul by sincere repentance, to strive with all one’s soul towards union with Christ in the greatest Christian Mystery of Communion.
Only an Orthodox Christian living in this way can avoid the nets cunningly laid in all directions by the servants of the coming Antichrist. Only such a Christian will have the strength to struggle for his soul and for the souls of those near to him with the steadily advancing kingdom of darkness, which is ready to engulf the whole of mankind. In this struggle the most dangerous thing is indecisiveness, wavering and compromise. The most insignificant compromise can complicate and make this struggle more difficult, can even lead to destruction. This is a struggle not to life, but to death.
It is criminal to lull oneself with cheery hopes of some kind of “progress” of humanity, of some kind of better future life here on earth. This is the primary deception of the servants of the Antichrist, so as to draw men from thoughts of heaven. The Lord clearly said that no “progress” awaits us, but ever-increasing sorrows and woes, as a consequence of the “abounding of iniquity” and the “cooling of love”, and that, when He comes, He will hardly find faith on the earth (Lk 18:8). And the words of the Lord are immutable, as He Himself triumphantly witnesses: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away”(Matt 24:35).
Of what “progress” can one speak?
The true Christian must not think of the illusory anti-christian progress of our time, but of how better to prepare himself to meet the Lord as He comes to judge the living and the dead. With regard to this there is a direct command of the Lord.
“Watch…. Be ready” (Matt 24:42-44). Be like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding…. Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing”(Lk 12:36, 43).
And on the other hand: a bitter lot awaits him who lulls himself, saying: “My lord delayeth his coming”(Lk 12:45).
The spirit of constant waiting for the Second Coming of the Christ is that spirit of the first Christianity, which prayerfully called on the Lord: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20). And the opposite of that spirit is undoubtedly the spirit of the Antichrist, who strives by all means to draw Christians away from the thought of the Second Coming of Christ and the recompense that follows it. Those who submit to this spirit are courting danger – the danger of not recognizing the Antichrist when he comes, and the danger of falling into his nets. It is precisely this which is most terrible in the contemporary world, filled as it is with all manner of deceptions and ruses. The servants of the Antichrist, as the Lord warned, will try “to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matt 24:24).
This thought, however, should by no means subdue and depress us, but on the contrary – “Look up,” says the Lord Himself about it, “and raise your heads, for your deliverance draweth nigh” (Lk 21:28).
However evil and terrible the servants of the Antichrist, who so carefully prepare his coming, may be, and however terrible his coming may be, the Lord is more powerful than them all, Who, as we well know, “will kill the Antichrist with the spirit of His mouth, and will destroy the brightness of his coming” (II Thess 2:8).
For this faithfulness to our Lord we must struggle with all our strength, even if we have to give our life for it. A great reward, incomparable with anything earthly, awaits us for this. “Be thou faithful unto death,” says the Lord Himself, “and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev 2:10).
————————————————————- The above version is checked against SJKP version. Other versions on the internet are probably less accurate. ~jh