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.
REVELATION :THE SEVEN SEALS (Orthodox Christian Lessons) Part II
By Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios
Revelation 6:1-2 "Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the Seven Seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say, as with a voice of thunder, 'Come!' And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer."
Before we enter the most mysterious area of the Seven Seals, it would be beneficial to bring to mind a few basic presuppositions for enhanced understanding-not only of this sacred apocalyptic text, but also of the word of God in general. First, to become serious Christians we must develop a spirit of discipleship. This is something that we have stressed many times. It is for this reason that I previously insisted that these are not lectures but lessons. One should not think that these lessons have a goal to delight and please the ears. The goal is to teach, reveal the truth, the Lord's will; to wake up our consciences, to censure, console, strengthen, revise mistaken positions and point out the way to repentance and salvation. This is the goal of the topics and the lessons before us.
Second, what we will accept as a lesson must not simply move us emotionally or remain at a level of unproductive knowledge. What we hear should develop into an experience, a change, a rebirth. Our experiential, eschatological concern must be developed. The reality about the end of our life and the end of history must not stay buried deep within our subconscious. This reality must be established in our soul without suppressing our optimism about life, without extinguishing the fruit of joy that escorts those who share in the life of the Holy Spirit. The end of times is awaited. Let us not develop the notion that the Lord's return will take place in the distant future. Let's be reminded of what Scripture says about the evil worker and the foolish enemies who say that the Lord would delay. Let us not say, "Who cares?" The Apostle Peter says some people do have this "who cares" attitude. "Who cares," they say, "a generation comes and a generation goes." Or, "History did not have a beginning nor will it have an end." No, my fellow Christians, history had a beginning, and since creation had a beginning, it will have an end." The end is near because the Lord is near (cf. Philippians 4:5-6). When the believer views the end of history as his goal, he obviously keeps the eschatological concern within and then does not lead a careless, carefree life. He does not aim for worldly goals but instead focuses on the Second Coming of Christ.
Third, as we analyze the prophesies of Revelation, we must fight our urge to obtain knowledge simply to satisfy our curiosity. People often wonder what will happen in the future. Someone called me yesterday from Thessaloniki who had heard rumors that a certain ascetic from the Holy Mountain was hinting that at certain impending hardships. The caller was somewhat young, a little over twenty-five years old, and seemed worried whether a war would occur. He became greatly disturbed. He had no desire to go to work, and he called to ask me what would happen. I said, "Ignore these thoughts at once, continue your work, and focus on your spiritual life.
People in general are victimized by this morbid curiosity concerning the future. What does the future hold? Maybe we can see what our world will be like tomorrow through a crack in the prophecy. Understand this: The prophecy serves to notify us about what will always happen in history, and always with the aim of avoiding deception. Prophecy also serves to remind us of the end of times. The purpose of remembering the end of times is, as I have stated before, so that we will not lose our view of the horizon. This is the goal of history and of our being, and also of our life-long struggle. So, prophecy consoles believers in difficult times for whatever will happen, so that the faithful are not surprised and shaken. Prophecy prepares the faithful for future undertakings, so that they will not lose heart and fall into despair. For this reason, Revelation is par excellence a book of consolation and of comfort, especially for difficult days...
"...Fourth, here I have a request for a few brothers and sisters who do not attend weekly. Do not be absent from these talks. Do not say, "I went this Sunday, so I will not go the next Sunday." The topics comprise an unbreakable continuation. The loss of one piece of information will make the understanding of the following lesson difficult. The Apostle Paul writes in his epistle, "not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:25). Saint Paul reminds the Hebrews not to abandon the gatherings; it would be a bad habit for them to do so. So, my friends do not forgo these talks, especially now when we have a greater reason, when we know that the Day of the Lord is near.
Fifth, let us not remain mere listeners to the word of God. Study at home as well. Open your Bible and read the text prior to attending each meeting. Know the text so that when its analysis occurs, you will understand it much more. We should also bring our Bibles. The Jehovah's Witnesses hold their own version of scripture in their hands during their gatherings. I have asked you to do this many times. Alas, I have not been successful. We should really have our Bible in our hands as we sit here. I ask that we study our Scripture at home, as well as other spiritual books, with much attention, prayer, with a notepad, and with a pencil. We should underline anything that impresses us. Some people may not want to do this due to matters of neatness. I also like neatness. I like to be neat but it is okay to write an observation, a thought, in the side margins. Now if you feel badly about writing in a book, then you can write your observations on a piece of paper. Keep notes in a notebook. A few years later, you can go back and look at these notes and you will be amazed at how helpful they can be in reminding you of some of these thoughts and some of the things that you were studying or reading.
Sixth, it is a true expression of love, when in an age of apostasy and terrible indifference we bring a few brothers and sisters to hear the word of God. It is by far the highest form of philanthropy, the best charity, because as we know today people more or less have food to eat. At times you ask me if I know of some poor person that you may be able to help out. Of course poor people do exist, and they will always exist, but there are not as many poor people as there were a few years ago. Today people more or less have food to eat. However, there is a great spiritual poverty, hunger, thirst and starvation for the Truth. So, go ahead and bring more people here. Do not worry if the church cannot hold us. We will move out to the sidewalks. We will put speakers outside. Bring people here to hear the word of God and be saved.
Seventh, the key to understanding the Scripture is the Holy Spirit. If we do not have the Holy Spirit, we cannot understand anything at all. A presupposition, however, of having the Holy Spirit is the attainment of a struggling spirit. It is the keeping of the Commandments. It is the purification of the heart. It is the constant contemplation of God. Let me explain this. Contemplation, or theoria (θεωρία), means that I will attempt to live all the things that I have read. When I persistently think of these things, then I become theoretical in the spiritual sense. A theoretical person in patristic literature refers to a person who constantly contemplates the mysteries of God, so, we must live this internal theoria.
Eighth, we must also revive the spirit of the ancient Church, which entailed constant sanctification and eschatological expectation. As I had stated in the beginning when concluding these presuppositions, we must live sanctification. We must be sanctified. We must attempt to become vigilant and we must live this expectation of the last days. In the ancient Church, the Christians lived as if the Lord was near. We do not care for worldly things. As the Apostle writes, "The Lord is near. Do not be concerned (or at least overly concerned) for worldly things" (Philippians 4:5-6). The "do not be concerned" does not mean that you do not eat or drink or that you do not build a home or that you do not go to work. It means: do not forget your purpose and think that you will be permanent residents here, so that you begin to build as if you will live for a thousand years upon this earth. The Lord is here and the Lord is near. I should ask: Lord, when will you come? Lord, Lord, yes, come. Yes, I am coming quickly is the answer. Revelation ends this way, "Yes I am coming soon. Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).
(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!"-St. John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God