From the Again Magazine – Volume 18, Number 3 September 1995 Page 26-28
Are These the End Times?
by Fr. Gordon Walker
The end of the world is upon us!”
So began an address at the Antiochian Archdiocese Clergy Symposium in July, 1994. This was by no means meant to be sensationalism. Rather, it was an attempt at a sober analysis of the condition of the world in which we now live. Even if one disregards the apocalyptic implications of the rapidly approaching year 2000, it does not take a prophet to see that we are faced with increasingly dangerous and explosive national and international conditions. Many voices—religious and secular— are warning of cataclysmic events ahead.
For more than 45 years of ministry I have taught and re-taught through every book of the New Testament except the Book of the Apocalypse (the Revelation) of Saint John. For some reason unknown to me, I have felt a subconscious restraint against teaching from this mysterious concluding book of the New Testament— until recently. Without doubt it has been the mercy of God to allow me the time and opportunity to study Orthodox writers and Church Fathers on this important prophetic book.
Throughout nearly 2,000 years of Orthodox Church history there have been a great many books written on it by renowned Church Fathers.
As Orthodox Christians we do not believe in setting dates for the Return of Christ, though His Second Advent is an article of our Creed, recited every Sunday in the Divine Liturgy. We believe the prophecies of the Apocalypse have served to prepare God’s people for the trials, tribulations and sufferings many have suffered during every age of Church history. But the special focus of these prophecies is upon the last age, the end times— the times when world history as we know it will come to a violent end. Are we, as many believe, living in the end times now?
AWESOME PROPHECIES OF THINGS TO COME
Archbishop Averky, a well-known Russian figure of our own century, writes in the introduction to his book entitled The Apocalypse of St. John (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1985), “In the Apocalypse . . . there are given to the believing mind and heart mystical prophetic indications of the future fate of the Church and the whole world” (p. 29). Because of the fearful and awesome events predicted to occur at the close of this age, the answer to the question addressed in this article becomes exceedingly important. All throughout the Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse) numerous prophecies are given of events that will occur with increasing frequency and intensity as we near the coming of Christ and the final judgment of all mankind.
One series of events prophesied concerns the coming of Antichrist. We know the spirit of Antichrist has existed since New Testament times (1 John 2:18). But the Scriptures teach that a great and powerful Antichrist will arise at the end of this age. And many of the Church Fathers believed this terrifying man, along with his accomplice, the false prophet (Revelation 13), will eventually rule from Jerusalem. What a tragic misuse of that city where so many holy events have occurred!
The term “Antichrist” carries two meanings: “in place of Christ” and “against Christ.” On a recent trip to Southeast Asia I saw overwhelming evidence of the enormous increase in the spirit of Antichrist. Every imaginable religion is on the rise, including various pagan religions. In one country I was told that in the Ministry of Religion offices long lines often form of people who wish to switch officially from Christianity to the predominant religion of that country. In every country I visited, I saw beautiful new temples and mosques—but relatively few new churches. Although the oppressive spirit of Antichrist is spreading throughout many countries, let me hasten to add that many are also turning to Christ. And I found an amazing interest in the Orthodox Faith in places I would never have expected it. But the hot, foul, oppressive breath of the dragon of Revelation (chapter 12) was evident everywhere.
BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS
Lest I sound overly dramatic, let me remind you that every age has had its antichrists—from Nero and Caligula to Attila the Hun to Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and countless others. Also, every age has had its prophecy fanatics. And many of them have gotten rich on the books they have written fabricating fantastic schemes from the Book of Revelation.
We in the Nashville area had one who published a booklet entitled 88 Reasons Why Christ Will Come in 88. The booklets sold like hotcakes. On the day in September that he had picked for the Return of Christ, a local news reporter searched for the author. He finally found him—fishing on a lake. One would have expected that if he really believed what he had written he would have been in a church, in deep repentance and prayer.
I have personally known of other prophecy “experts” who predicted the time of Christ’s Return. Some have literally made millions of dollars from their books. As we approach the year 2000 I am sure we will see an increasing number of books published by such “experts.” Only recently, a new volume came out that is filled with unsubstantiated and weird conclusions and predictions written by a person who claims to be Orthodox.