Eschatology, professed by the vast majority of Orthodox, is a strange combination of a firm faith in the prediction of events that please the devil and an equally firm disbelief in promises that are hateful to him.
Among the latter, the first is, of course, the apocalyptic promise of the “millennium”, during which the seven-headed ten-horned dragon does not seduce the nations, for during this period its seductive energy is paralyzed by five “measures of restraint”: it is “taken, bound, thrown into the abyss, imprisoned and sealed”
Such is the promise of the time in which a kingdom will be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, unlimited in time and space
This promise was the theme of the last conversation of the Apostles with the Savior on the day of His Ascension
Their question: “Are you not at this time, O Lord, restoring the kingdom to Israel” meant: is it not now, is it not at your first coming that you will fulfill what is foreshadowed three times in the seventh chapter of the book of the prophet Daniel?
Here it is predicted that at the end of a difficult hard time, indicated by the symbol “half-week of times” (“time, times, half-time”), two more periods will follow: “time” (זְמָן,
and “term” (עִדָּן,
During the period of
"half-week of times"
the people suffer such a heavy defeat and oppression
that by the end of it they find themselves in a state of complete exhaustion, prostration
In this state, the coming of the Ancient of Days finds him, and
(the appointed time)
comes, in which the people of God receive a timeless “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom
under the whole heaven”
We Christians understand that “Israel of God,” “holy people,” “people of the saints of the Most High,” and finally, simply “saints,” are all Biblical names for
the historical Church of Christ.
And the prophet Daniel predicts the time of her greatest triumph on earth after the end of the most difficult hard times.
But by the day of the Ascension of the Lord, His Church has not yet received the life that the descent of the Holy Spirit will give her. Apparently for this reason the Apostles heard a negative answer: “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has fixed in His own power”
But these words do not in the least condemn the faith of the Apostles in Daniel's promise. On the contrary, it is easy to see in the Savior's answer the approval and strengthening of their faith. The promised time, in which the historical Church will forever reign on earth, refers to those “times or seasons” that are established by
the authority of the Heavenly Father.
So it will definitely come.
But the task of identifying this time is beyond the power of even the Apostles, who, ten days after this conversation, will receive all the charisms of Pentecost, including the gift of prophecy.
It remained unresolved even in patristics. The patristic tradition conveys to us two mutually exclusive interpretations of the promised time.
The first is found in the writings of St. Irenaeus of Lyon and four of his associates: Sts. Papias of Hierapolis, Justin the Philosopher, Hippolytus of Rome and Methodius of Patara. These saints found a parallel to Daniel's promise in the Apocalypse of St. John the Theologian, where this time is indicated by the symbol “a thousand years”
Just as in the book of the prophet Daniel, the promised “millennium”, according to Revelation, will come at the end of the “half-week of times”. This hard time is depicted in the Apocalypse in even darker colors than in the book of the prophet Daniel. The Apocalypse also predicts the defeat of the “saints”, i.e. of
all the people of God
from the “seed of the ancient serpent”, which is contemplated by the Seer John in the form of the first beast of
chapter 13 (v. 7),
bearing the numerical name 666
(In Daniel's visions, the victor and oppressor of the “saints” is the “little horn of the fourth beast”
Those of the Christians defeated by the beast 666, who retain enough spiritual strength not to fall into “beast-worship”, are killed by “beheading”
the deadly energy of the speaking image of the conqueror
In the promised “millennium” the slain come to life in the “first resurrection” and reign with Christ.
It is difficult for those who read our synodal translation of the Apocalypse to notice this parallel between the book of the prophet Daniel and the Apocalypse of John, if only because this Russian text predicts the “thousand-year”, i.e. temporary, co-reign with Christ of the participants in the “first resurrection”
Thank God, the Church Slavonic translation helps to reconcile this prophecy with the promise of Daniel and understand the logic of the early Christian saints. The “millennium” is the time of the beginning of the co-reign, and not the co-reign of Christ, who came to life in the “first resurrection.”
should be translated: “they came to life and begin to co-reign with Christ a thousand years.”
“… and they shall со-access with Him a thousand years” (See
Prot. S. Bulgakov,
"Apocalypse of John"). The “first resurrection”, according to the early Christian saints, will take place at the Second Coming of Christ.
Another interpretation of the apocalyptic “millennium” was proposed by Blessed Augustine in his essay “On the City of God”. It was recognized as orthodox in the official theological school of pre-revolutionary Russia, and is still recognized as such in ROCOR textbooks. Nowadays, it is zealously promoted in the book
“Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future”
by Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose).
According to Augustine, the promised “millennium” is the period of time between the first coming of Christ and the time of the Antichrist. Following Augustine, Fr. Seraphim affirms: the “thousand-year” kingdom of Christ is the life of the Orthodox Church during this period. “Protestants should expect the 'millennium' in the future is only their confession that they do not live in it in the present — that is, that they are
outside the Church of Christ
and have not tasted of Divine grace” (“Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future”).
It turns out that the most glorious martyrs and teachers of early Christianity, who were expecting this “millennium” in the future, were outside the Church of Christ and did not taste God's grace. It also turns out that all the ages from the first coming of Christ to the reign of the Antichrist, the devil does not deceive the nations. And all the Fathers of the Philokalia from St. Anthony the Great (3rd century)
to St. Gregory Palamas (XIV century), who taught that “there is no person whom the enemy would stop attacking” (St. Macarius the Great, vol. 1), did not notice what was revealed to Augustine: “The devil, then, is bound and shut up in the abyss that he may not seduce the nations from which the Church is gathered, and which he formerly seduced before the Church existed” (“The City of God”, Book XX).
And so, the fierce hater of the investigated promise seeks, first of all, an extremely inattentive, extremely absent-minded reading of Holy Scripture and patristic writings. And the authors of theological textbooks of the Russian Empire have already begun to sin with this.
In dogmatic theology, Metropolitan Macarius (Bulgakov)
argued that it was possible to adhere to the teachings of the early Christian saints about the “millennium” only as a private opinion and only until the Second Ecumenical Council added an addition to the 7th member to the Creed: “His kingdom will have no end”. “it became no longer permissible at all for an Orthodox Christian to hold these opinions” (“Orthodox Dogmatic Theology”
by Macarius, Archbishop of Kharkov, vol. II).
This would be the case if these saints taught about the “thousand-year kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth.” But there is no such teaching in their writings.
St. Irenaeus generally avoided the term “thousand-year”. In his work “Against Heresies” in the fifth book, he speaks of the earthly kingdom of the saints, which has to begin with the Second Coming of Christ, but he never calls it “thousand years.”
Once the word “millennium” occurs in St. Justin the Philosopher in “Conversation with Trypho the Jew”:
"But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and
a thousand years in Jerusalem…”.
In the writing of St. Methodius of Patara “The Feast of Ten Virgins”, the term “thousand-year” is used twice. It speaks of “a thousand-year rest, this true Sabbath” (Anthology “Fathers and Doctors of the Church of the III century”, vol. 2, p. 451).
None of the early Christian saints uses the term “thousand-year” as an attribute of the Kingdom of Christ (or the Kingdom of saints, although even very erudite theologians allow themselves to accuse them of this type of chiliasm).
About the Kingdom of Christ, strictly following the Apostles
(2 Pet 1:11),
St. Irenaeus taught only as about the eternal Kingdom (“Against heresies”, book 5,
Ch.26:2). And in the teaching about the receiving of the promised kingdom by the saints, he strictly follows the prophecy of Daniel: “But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever”
St. Irenaeus wrote: “If therefore the great God showed future things by Daniel, and confirmed them by His Son;
and if Christ is the stone which is cut out without hands, who shall destroy temporal kingdoms, and introduce an eternal one, which is the resurrection of the just;
as he declares, “The God of heaven shall raise up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed”
— let those thus confuted come to their senses, who reject the Creator (Demiurgum), and do not agree that the prophets were sent beforehand from the same Father from whom also the Lord came …” (“Against heresies”, book 5,
What does St. Irenaeus under the term “thousand-year”, without using it explicitly, can be seen from his following words: “… then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man
and those who follow him into the lake of fire;
but bringing in for
the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day” (“Against heresies”, book 5,
Ch.30:4). And yet, asking about
“… what are the hundred-fold
in this word, the entertainments given to the poor, and the suppers for which a return is made?” — St. Irenaeus answers: “These are
[to take place]
in the times of the kingdom, that is, upon the seventh day, (…)
which is the true Sabbath of the righteous” (“Against Heresies”, book 5,
So, according to the teachings of the early Christian saints, the apocalyptic “millennium” is “the consecrated seventh day, rest”, the Sabbath time of those Christians who, at the end of the “half-week of times”, come to life in the “first resurrection” and,
under conditions of complete paralysis of the seductive energy of the devil, forever reign with the ever-reigning Christ
And apparently, the “millennium” predicted in the Apocalypse, all the Apostles, together with St. Paul was expected and foretold as “the Sabbath day of the people of God”
The promise of the “millennium” establishes time limits not for the Kingdom of Christ and not for the co-reign of the participants in the “first resurrection” with Him, but for the reign of the ancient serpent, who in previous centuries deceived the entire universe
A naturally arising question: how will the spiritual growth of people be accomplished in conditions when there is no need to fight against satanic temptations, St. Irenaeus foresaw and answered it like this: “in
[the times of]
the righteous shall reign in the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they shall become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father, …” (“Against Heresies”, book 5,
St. Irenaeus and his like-minded people (according to the testimony of St. Justin the Philosopher,
"sane Christians throughout the world")
saw that what the prophet Daniel predicts as the acceptance by the people of God of the kingdom, unlimited in time and the expanse, the Seer John contemplates how the reign with Christ of those who have come to life in the “first resurrection.” This union with the Lord is predicted by the Apostle Paul, using the verb συμβασιλεύσομεν (Greek)
— “Let us reign together”
(2 Tim 2:12).
From the most pious earthly kingdoms, the Kingdom of Christ differs most of all in that entering into it is co-reign with the Lord. This connection cannot be temporary, it is forever, permanently. But the “Sabbath” of the people of God is limited by the time during which the enemy, the deceiver of the universe, is paralyzed. The “Sabbath” will end when the dragon is released from the “thousand-year prison”
But the co-reign with Christ of the participants in the “first resurrection” will never end.
In the eschatology of the early Christian saints, far from everything is indisputable. There are many things that the Lord foresaw and foretold with the words: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons…”
But there is a true core, received from the perfect faith of the Prophets and Apostles, — this is the belief that at the end of the “half-week of times” the time will come for the healing of mortal wounds received by the people of God during this difficult hard time, the time of the victory and triumph of the historical Church on earth.
But what are these wounds, what is the essence of the defeat of
the entire people of God
predicted by the Prophets in the fight with the “seed of the serpent”
and what is the essence of the extremely grave consequences of this defeat: exhaustion
and general mortification
through the “beheading” of the whole people of God
What is the meaning of the symbol “half a week of times”, which is contained in the Apocalypse of John and in such variants of it as “1260 days”
but in the book of the prophet Daniel it is hidden in such “terms” as “1290 days” and “1335 days”
What does the “revival” of God's people in the promised “first resurrection” mean
What happens at the turn between the “half week of times” and the “thousand-year Sabbath”: the coming of the Ancient of Days
or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ “to judge the living and the dead”?
Can these Comings be identified?
Why didn’t the early Christian Fathers notice that at the end of the “thousand-year Sabbath” the very last days of the “present evil age” will come, which in the book of Daniel are predicted by the Aramaic
and in the Apocalypse of John as a “little time” of the last uprising of hell on the Church, revived in the “first resurrection”, the time of the movement of Gog and Magog
There is no satisfactory answer to these questions in the writings of early Christian saints. And the official theological school of the Orthodox Church accepted the exegesis of Blessed Augustine, adding to it that very part of the eschatology of the early Christian saints, which is a clear illustration of the words of the Savior: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons…”
The result of this confusion was a defeatist eschatology, identifying the end of “this age” with the end of “half a week of times.” This obvious confusion of the Truth with the Absolute lie is presented to the church people as a dogma of the Orthodox faith. “INNOphobia” and other modern diseases of the eschatological consciousness of the people are a consequence of this confusion. In the events of our day, the fallacy of this eschatological conception is indirectly proven by the fate of Jerusalem. And the guiding signs given by the Mother of God in Her greatest Egyptian apparitions (from April 1968 to the present)
allow us to identify the coordinate of our time, understand the nature of the accumulated errors and failures in the development of the eschatological dogma and bring it to a victorious end.
The Apocalypse of John
Hippolytus of Rome,
TREATISE ON CHRIST AND ANTICHRIST
Λόγοι Κατά Ιουδαίων/5
Saint John Chrysostom,
HOMILIES ON FIRST THESSALONIANS
Saint John Chrysostom,
Православие и религия будущего
Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future
The City of God
Irenaeus of Lyons,
Orthodox Dogmatic Theology
Vladimir Nikolaevich Lossky,
The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church
Early Church Fathers