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 TRUMPETS AND THE ANTICHRIST (Part IV)
By Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios
Revelation 13:16-18 (B). "Also it causes all, both small and great both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six."
At the end of the previous lesson, we had begun to present testimony from Holy Scripture concerning the characteristics of the Antichrist. We also mentioned the very words of the Lord Himself, "I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive" (St. John 5:43). However, my friends, the Apostle Paul provides one of the most clear and detailed descriptions of the Antichrist. Due to some false rumors about an imminent Second Coming of Christ which caused great unrest in the newly-founded Church of the Thessalonians, the Apostle writes to tell them that if the Antichrist-"the lawless one, the son of sin, the son of perdition"-does not come first, Christ will not come; and then he adds that they should not let anyone deceive them in any way. This simply means that one sign preceding the Second Coming of Christ is the appearance of the Antichrist. We will read this passage of Saint Paul, but we will not analyze it in depth since we have already dealt with most of these topics in our previous sessions.
"Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind of excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you, I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and coming. The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
[Please note. According to this Orthodox Christian interpretation, "times" refers to the past, to history and to tradition. Thus, the Antichrist will seek to alter tradition and history. Do we begin to see some subtle attempts in our days to change tradition and history? Each of us can easily discern and attest to this. The changes are no longer so subtle. This is why so many say that we are living in the times of the Antichrist. The changes in our century--changes that we never thought would occur--are unprecedented. Whatever happened to self-respect, respect for parents, and respect for teachers --values solidified in society for thousand years in the civilized world? There were certainly exceptions, but history has never seen this sort of erosion of basic values before our century.
The Lord also prophesied and forewarned his disciples and his countrymen, the Jews, about the Antichrist. He told the unbelieving Jews epigrammatically, "I have come in my Father's name, and you did not receive me; when another one comes in his own name, him you will receive" (St. John 5:43). According to Saint John Chrysostom, "this other one" will be the Antichrist.]
As you can see, Saint Paul is very clear concerning the coming of the Antichrist, and he tells us many of his distinguishing characteristics. Saint Paul wants to impress upon the Thessalonians (and all Christians) that the great rebellion (also called the falling away [apostasy]) will come first. By using the term rebellion, he does not mean that people in general will be marked by their rebellion against God, but that this rebellion will be the Antichrist himself, according to the Church Fathers. Thus, the Antichrist will come first, and afterwards Christ will come. Saint John Chrysostom comments on this point, "Before Christ, the Antichrist comes, and in particular, Christ will come immediately after the Antichrist comes." So, the time of the coming of the Antichrist is directly connected with the Second Coming of Christ, and since the Second Coming of Christ is unknown, the coming of the Antichrist also remains unknown. Regarding this, the Lord said, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only" (St. Matthew 24:36).
At this point, it is worth answering the question of some of our friends about the so-called millennial kingdom, which is supposedly intervening between the coming of the Antichrist and the Second Coming of Christ. No; there is no such kingdom that will rise between the coming of the Antichrist and the Second Coming of Christ. As we will see in our continued analysis, all the Church Fathers clearly teach that Christ appears immediately after the Antichrist. The millennial kingdom, which we will speak about extensively when we reach that chapter of Revelation, is totally misinterpreted by all millenialists. There will not be a one thousand year kingdom after the Antichrist, or after the Coming of Christ. The number one thousand is used figuratively in Scripture to denote a long period of time. It is not a specific number, but a conventional one. We see numbers mentioned in Scripture, such as three, seven, ten, forty, or one hundred. Someone, for example, had one hundred sheep, and he lost one. In this case, one hundred is simply a round number. The thousand-year kingdom refers to the time between the two comings of Christ and is interpreted by all the Holy Fathers of our Church to be the time of the Gospel, essentially the time in which the Gospel is preached and applied. Therefore, the millennial kingdom refers to the time between the First and the Second Coming of Christ. After the Antichrist there will be no time, because the Lord will destroy him. When the Antichrist is revealed, "the Lord shall consume him with the spirit of his mouth and shall destroy him with the brightness of his coming" (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
(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 love in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God