My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
SUNDAY OF THE LAST JUDGMENT
Stichera from the Triodion:
I think upon that day and honor when we shall all stand naked, like men condemned, before the Judge Who accepts no man's person. Then shall the trumpet sound aloud and the foundations of the earth shall quake, the dead shall rise from the tombs and all shall be gathered together from every generation. Then each man's secrets will be manifest before Thee: and those that have never repented shall weep and lament, departing to the outer fire; but with gladness and rejoicing the company of the righteous shall enter into the heavenly bridal chamber.
How shall it be in that hour and fearful day, when the Judge shall sit on His dread throne! The books shall be opened and men's actions shall be examined, and the secrets of darkness shall be made public. Angels shall hasten to and fro, gathering all the nations. Come ye and hearken, kings and princes, slaves and free, sinners and righteous, rich and poor: for the Judge comes to pass sentence on the whole inhabited earth. And who shall bear to stand before His face in the presence of the Angels, as they call us to account for our actions and our thoughts, whether by night or by day? How shall it be then in that hour! But before the end is here, make haste, my soul, and cry: O God Who only art compassionate, turn me back and save me.
THE SIGNS OF THE NEARNESS OF THE DAY OF THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD AND THE LAST JUDGMENT (St. Matthew, Chapter 24)
It was not pleasing to the Lord--for our own moral benefit--to reveal to us the time of the "last day" of the present heaven and earth, the day of the Coming of the Son of Man, "the Day of the Lord." "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, not the Angels in heaven, but My Father only" (St. Matthew 24:36). "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power" (Acts 1:7). The fact that the time is unknown should arouse Christians to a constant spiritual vigilance: "Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is...And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (St. Mark 13:33, 37).
However, the unknowability of the time of the Lord should not prevent Christians from reflecting deeply on the course of historical events and discerning in them the signs of the approach of the time of the "last day." "Now learn a parable of the fig tree: When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh. So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the door" (St. Matthew 24:32-33).
Here are some of the signs indicated in the word of God:
a) The spread of the Gospels to the whole world: "And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (St. Matthew 24:14).
b) On the other hand, there will be an extraordinary manifestation of the powers of evil: "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (St. Matt. 24:12). The Apostle Paul says: "In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers...lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Faith in general will grow weak: When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (St. Luke 18:8).
c) The devil will raise up warfare against the Kingdom of Christ through his instrument, Antichrist. The name "Antichrist" is used in Sacred Scripture in two meanings: in a broad, general sense it indicates every enemy of Christ; this is the meaning when "Antichrists" are spoken of in the first and second epistles of Saint John the Theologian. But in a particular sense, "Antichrist" signifies a definite person--the adversary of Christ who is to appear before the end of the world. Concerning the qualities and actions of this Antichrist we read in the Apostle Paul: "Let no man declare you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who apposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God...For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth will let, until he taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy by the brightness of His Coming even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" (2 Thess. 2:3-11).
The image of this adversary of God is presented also in the Prophet Daniel (Chapter 7 and 11), and in the New Testament in the Apocalypse (Revelation) of Saint John the Theologian (Chapters 11-13). The activity of Antichrist will continue until the very day of judgment (2 Thess. 2:8). The character of the person of Antichrist and a description of his activities are depicted hypothetically, but in detail, by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechetical Lectures (the fifteenth), and by Saint Ephraim the Syrian in his "Homily on the Coming of the Lord and Antichrist".
d) In the Apocalypse (Revelation) of Saint John the Theologian there is indicated the appearance of "two witnesses" during the period of the Antichrist's activity; they will prophesy of the truth and perform miracles, and when they finish their testimony they will be killed, and the after "three days and a half" will be resurrected and ascend into heaven" (Apocalypse 11:3-12). According to the universal interpretation of the Holy Fathers, these "two witnesses" (mentioned also in Zachariah, ch. 3) are the Old Testament righteous ones Enoch and Elijah, who never died but were carried up alive into heaven, and endure their earthly death only during the reign of Antichrist.
THE SECOND COMING OF THE SON OF MAN (Saint Matthew, Chapter 25)
The spiritual gaze of mankind which believes in Christ, beginning with the time of the Ascension from earth to heaven of the Son of God, has been directed to the greatest future event of world history: His Second Coming to earth.
Testimony to the reality of this expected Coming was given quite definitely many times by the Lord Jesus Christ (St. Matt. 16:27 and ch. 24; St. Mark 8:38; St. Luke 12:40 and 17:24; St. John 14:3). The Angels declared it at the Lord's Ascension (Acts 1:11). The Apostles often mention it: the Apostle Jude (verses 14=15); the Apostle John (1 John 2:28); the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 4:15); and the Apostle Paul many times (1 Cor. 4:5; 1 Thes. 5:2-6; and other places).
The Lord Himself described to His Disciples the manner of His Coming in the following characteristics:
It will be sudden and obvious to everyone: "For as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be" (St. Matthew 24:27).
First of all, there "shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn" (St. Matthew 24:30). This, according to the universal interpretation of the Holy Fathers of the Church, will be the sign of the Life-giving Cross of the Lord.
The Lord will come surrounded by innumerable choirs of Angels, in all His glory: "And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Saint Matthew 24:30), "with the holy Angels" (St. Mark 8:38). "He shall sit on the throne of His glory" (St. Matthew 25:31). Thus, the Second Coming will be different from the first when the Lord "humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross" (Phil. 2:8).
He will come to "judge the world in righteousness" (Acts 17:31) and to "reward every man according to his works" (St. Matthew 16:27). in this the purpose of His Second Coming into the world is to be distinguished in essence from the purpose of His first Coming, when He came "not to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (St. John 3:17); He came "to give His life (as) a ransom for many " (St. Matthew 20:28).
THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD (1 Corinthians, Chapter 15)
In the great day of the Coming of the Son of Man there will be accomplished the universal resurrection of the dead in a transfigured appearance. Concerning the resurrection of the dead the Lord says: "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation " (St. John 5:28-29). When the Sadducees expressed unbelief in the possibility of the resurrection, the Lord reproached them: "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power" (that is, the Almightiness) of God" (St. Matthew 22:39). (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Father Michael Pomazansky)
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God