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End of history Category: Texts Kingdom of God will come

Homilies of hegumen Varsonofii (Khaibulin)

Compiled on the basis of homilies of hegumen Varsonofii (Khaibulin) to eschatological themes.

Jerusalem above is free

The majority of Orthodox Christians in our country are convinced that in the parable of the unjust judge (Luk 18:1-8), the Savior predicted that at the end of time there would be an extreme impoverishment of faith on earth.

Will not God protect His chosen ones?

Against this I cite the interpretation of a prominent 19th-century exegete, Bishop Michael. He proves that here, in fact, the Savior does not predict the impoverishment of faith, but He “teaches His disciples that, in the midst of grave disasters and temptations of faith, God will protect His chosen ones, with the constancy and perseverance of their prayer, in accordance with His promises. The Lord asks (the parable with questions): 'will there be so much of this constancy and firmness in prayer only in them (in his followers), will there be so much strength and liveliness of faith in them to maintain this constancy, this perseverance of prayer, will He find in the followers their vigilance in prayer, so firm in faith, how immutable and firm is the Divine determination to help and protect them in the midst of troubles, sorrows and temptations.'” And this parable ends with this question: “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” And the overwhelming majority of Orthodox see this question, essentially rhetorical, as a prophecy that by the time of the Second Coming there will be no faith left on earth at all.

The Eschatological Completion of the Church is the Kingdom of God

But in fact, as we see in the interpretation of Bishop Michael, this is a call, a call to that faith, the firmness of which corresponds to the immutability of the Divine promises to protect believers. And then I say that an affirmative answer to this call of the Heavenly Bridegroom, the answer of the Bride-Church, can be read in the last lines of the Apocalypse, where the call of the Bride sounds. The Bride, turning to the Heavenly Bridegroom, calls: come, “Yes, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20). In the Church, precisely the Church that lives by the Holy Spirit and awaits the coming of the Savior, faith is preserved until the end of time.

No one, except V.N. Lossky, managed to express the essence of Orthodox Christian eschatology so precisely and completely:

…[The Church] increases and is compounded in history, bringing the elect into its bosom and uniting them to God. The world grows old and falls into decay, while the Church is constantly rejuvenated and renewed by the Holy Spirit who is the source of its life. At a given moment, when the Church has attained to the fullness of growth determined by the will of God, the external world, having used up its vital resources, will perish. As for the Church, it will appear in its eternal glory as the Kingdom of God.

Vladimir Nikolaevich Lossky
The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church
Ch.IX: Two Aspects of the Church

That is, the eschatological completion of the Church is the Kingdom of God. This is a very important idea, which for some reason is not noticed, not paid attention to. This certain moment, established by the will of God, is called in the New Testament books the end of this age, the end of the present evil age.

Wheat and tares reach harvest maturity

According to the parables of the Savior, the end of this evil age will come only when not only satanic tares, but also, planted by the word of God, the wheat reaches the highest harvest maturity (Mat 13 and Mar 4, parables). Moreover, on the way to the fullness of growth, the wheat of God must go through three stages of growth: “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear” (Mar 4:28).

I want to note that we use the expression “end of the world.” But this expression is completely alien to biblical vocabulary. I think that the apostle Paul would say that this is the vocabulary of “old wives' fables” (1 Tim 4:7). The end of the evil age is predicted, the end of something negative, vicious. And thank God that it (negative, vicious) has an end. And the early Christians prayerfully, invitingly expected the approach of this end: “Yes, come, Lord Jesus!” And then some kind of superstitious-shy attitude set in and the shy expression “the end of the world” arose, as if the world was ending.

World life will never end. There will be some transformation. But, of course, it is terrible for those who turned out to be strangers to God, the incarnate God, indifferently passed by the redemptive feat. For them, meeting Christ is torment. And for those who believe in Christ, this is a joy. We must pray for it to come soon.

Preaching of dark eschatology

Why does Father Andrei Kuraev call Christian eschatology one of the darkest? He finds grounds in the revelation of John the Theologian. Christianity, he writes, “warned that, in the end, the forces of evil would be allowed to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Rev 13:7-8). (At this point, the Apocalypse says that “the beast 666” was given to wage war with the saints and defeat them.)

Christianity is perhaps the only worldview on earth that is convinced of the inevitability of its own historical defeat. Christianity has heralded one of the darkest eschatologies; it warned that in the end the forces of evil would be given power “to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Rev 13:7). The Gospel promises that the gates of hell will not be able to overcome the Church, that the Church is invincible. But “invincible” does not necessarily mean “victorious.”

In the perspective of earthly history, it is not the world-historical triumph of the Gospel, but the world-wide dominion of Antichrist.[1]

[1] The coming second Coming of Christ in glory, strictly speaking, does not complete the earthly history of mankind, but opens a different eon of being.

Father Andrei Kuraev recalls at the same time the gospel promise about the invincibility of the Church by the gates of hell (Mat 16:18). He tries to resolve the revealed contradiction in the following way: “invincible” does not necessarily mean “victorious” (A. Kuraev). What happens: not a victory and not a defeat — it's a draw. The Apocalypse predicts not a draw, but the defeat of the saints in the war with the beast, the seed of the serpent.

Thus, the contradiction between the gospel promise and this accusatory prophecy is not resolved. But neither the author, Kuraev, nor the vast majority of our readers notice this. Because the main argument of Father Andrei Kuraev is accepted by the absolute majority of Orthodox as a universally binding truth: “In the perspective of earthly history, there is not the world-historical triumph of the Gospel, but the universal dominion of the Antichrist” (A. Kuraev).

Against this argument, no one dares to object, because. it is based on patristics. The patristic exegesis teaches that in the book of the Prophet Daniel and the Apocalypse of John the Theologian, the time marked by the symbol “half-week of times” (time, times, half time) and two variants of this symbol — 42 months and 1260 days — is the last three and a half years before the Second Coming of Christ — time when the Antichrist reigns throughout the world.

The official theological school of the Orthodox Church refers this teaching to Sacred Tradition. Many books are being published that pass this teaching off as a dogma of the Orthodox faith.

However, this teaching appeared along with the disease, the diagnosis of which is patristic chiliasm. This disease, as will be shown later, was not overcome in patristics. The patristic thought did not find a positive orthodox interpretation of the apocalyptic promise of time, denoted by the symbol “thousand years”, as well as many biblical prophecies parallel or in one way or another connected with this promise. Obedience to this unfortunate tradition of our theological school compels Father Andrei Kuraev not to unravel the contradictions that he surely noticed, for the simple reason that they were not resolved in patristics either.

The Complete Exhaustion of God's People

We should start with the very prophecy (Rev 13:7) by which Professor Kuraev substantiates his thesis about the extreme gloominess of Christian eschatology. For a reason that remains to be seen, the patristics did not trace the connection of this really gloomy prediction with the parallel prophecies of the book of the prophet Daniel, in which the same events are contemplated from a slightly different angle of esoteric vision.

4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?
5 And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.
7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Both the prophet Daniel and the seer John the Theologian predict the defeat that all the people of God will suffer during half a week of times, or, according to the Apocalypse, in a forty-two month period. (In the language of the Bible, saints is the name of the entire people of God.) But if, according to Daniel, by the end of the half-week of time, the people of God suffer complete exhaustion — their strength is completely cast down (Dan 12:7), then Revelation paints an even more gloomy picture for us: by the end of the forty-two month period, the people of God were killed by the deadly energy of the talking icon of the “beast 666” that defeated them (Rev 13:15). What Daniel describes as a perfect deposition of power, the Apocalypse qualifies as murder.

7 And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.

15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

But this connection is not noticed, and the mind of the reader of Revelation is carried away by the fact that Christians are killed for renouncing all forms of beast-worship. It is as if we are talking about a nationwide martyrdom. So it would really be if the talking icon of the beast would kill Christians physically — the blood of the nationwide martyrdom would wash away the sin of nationwide defeat, which cannot but be a sin, since God does not allow us “to be tempted beyond our strength” (1 Cor 10:13). The feat of nationwide martyrdom would restore freedom lost in defeat, for “he who is defeated by whom, that is also his slave” (2 Peter 2:19). (If we are defeated by the beast, then we lose our freedom.)

The New Testament Israel becomes the Old Testament one

However, the assumption that Rev 13:15 speaks of nationwide martyrdom is doubtful, if only because it ignores the prophecy of Daniel about the complete exhaustion of the people of God by the end of half-week of times. Such an assumption is completely refuted by the fact that the vision of the first verses of the 11th chapter of the Apocalypse (Rev 11:1-2) informs about the state of church life of this time. Church life of the 42-month period is contemplated here in the vision of the Old Testament Jerusalem temple with such characteristic details as the altar and the outer courtyard. Doesn't this feature speak of Christians of this time becoming the Old Testament ones — a disease that already in the 11th century exposed by St. Simeon the New Theologian.

1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

From the first verse of chapter 11 it can be seen that the worship of the temple is taking place, i.e. there is no total physical extermination of Christians. The same conclusion follows from verses 16-17 of chapter 13, which speaks of the outward signs of adherence to beast-worship, without which no one will be able to buy or sell.

15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

There would be no need for these signs if all Christians who did not worship the image of the beast were killed physically, if only beast-worshipers remained alive. Visible signs of beast-worship are symbols of the economic coercion of those Christians who, in the conditions of the triumph of the official ideology of beast-worship, still retain traditional worship of God. They also include the vision of the outer court of the temple possessed by the Gentiles (Rev 11:2).

The pagans who enjoy the fruits of the victory of the beast over the Christians are beast worshipers. The outer courtyard of the temple is the place where the praying people were during the service. The ground of the Temple of God, like all the sacred topographic images of the Bible, in the New Testament sense, revealed in the parable of the sower, means the heart, or religious consciousness. The vision of the outer courtyard of the temple, possessed by pagans (beast-worshipers), suggests that the latter managed to some extent to capture the religious consciousness of even that part of Christians who, under the yoke of state beast-worship, remain faithful to traditional piety.

Trampling the Hierarchical Center of New Testament Israel

But the saddest fate befalls the holy (temple) city, i.e. hierarchical center of New Testament Israel. He is trampled upon by the beast worshipers.

“The image of trampling, often used by biblical writers, is taken from the custom of the ancient Eastern conquerors to stand on the back of the kings they defeated as a sign of their humiliation and humility” (Bishop Michael). The trampling of this city signifies the extremely humiliating obedience of the church hierarchy to the power of beast-worshipers. And it lasts all 42 months, i.e. all the time of the reign of the “beast 666” (Rev 13:5). Which would have been absolutely impossible in the period of nationwide martyrdom. (That is, if the whole people were a martyr people who would go to their death for the sake of the triumph of faith, then there could be no humiliating obedience to the hierarchy.) The Church ranks Christians among the holy victorious martyrs, who were killed in impotent shamed malice the enemies of our faith, defeated by them, Christians, who “possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption.”  

By the end of the half-week of times, or the 42-month period, everything is the other way around — the seed of the ancient serpent, “the beast 666”, triumphs in victory. Christians are exhausted, exhausted. Their hierarchy is prostrate — trampled. Being the master of the situation, the serpent and its seed (the beast of Chapter 13) have the opportunity to choose the killing of Christians, which would be the continuation and completion of their victory over the Christians.

Jerusalem above is the mother of all of us

In order to clarify what this killing consists of, we note that in the vision of Chapter 13 of the Apocalypse, the original establishment of God is reproduced: the law of mutual enmity between the serpent and his seed, on the one hand, and the woman and her seed, on the other. In the New Testament conditions, the polar antipode of the serpent is the eschaton of the Church — the Wife of the Lamb, the mother of all of us, or (in the vision of Chapter 12) the woman clothed in the sun. The people of God are called to be a seed; her offspring, to be born again from her.

The object of special envy and malice of the ancient serpent is the grace-filled life and wisdom from above, given in this birth. The seed of the serpent (the beast of Chapter 13) rushes at Christians in the course of that battle, in which the dragon, enraged at the wife, enters into “war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 12:17).

15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

As a result of this battle, by the end of half a week of times or a 42-month period, life and wisdom are destroyed in Christians, which is inherent in the seed of the woman clothed in the sun, the Wife of the Lamb, the mother of all of us. The life and wisdom inherent in the children of the ever-free Jerusalem above are being destroyed (Gal 4:26). The Jerusalem of the New Testament Israel trampled down by beast-worshipers (Rev 11:2) turns out to be with her children, i.e. Christians of the time of Antichrist, in bondage, fall and impoverishment (Rom 11:12), i.e. in a state of Jewish-like cutting off from the good olive tree, about the real danger of which St. Apostle Paul (Rom 11:22).

11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

What is happening is that the paths of both Israel converge. The Jews of the Old Testament turned out to be hostile to the incarnate Word of God, and the Christians, the people of the New Testament Israel, were deeply alien, in fact hostile, to the contracted Spirit of God.

The acquired Spirit of God is precisely the Wife of the Lamb, because the marriage of the Lamb is a union with the Lord into one Spirit of the Lord.

17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

All this happens towards the end of the period, which is designated as "time, times, half a time" or 42 months.

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