The Characteristics of People before the End of the World. A Prophecy (From the works of Bishop Theophan the Recluse) The particular judgment of the departed will occur immediately after their death, but the general (last) judgment will take place at the second coming of Christ; to determine exactly when this time will come is impossible, for this is hidden not only from people, but even from the angels. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only (Matthew 24:36), said our Divine Teacher to His disciples, when they asked Him about this matter. It is hidden from us too, in order that we be ready at any moment, with a clear conscience to appear before the judgment seat of the impartial Judge, so that we do not give ourselves to carelessness about our salvation, but, like the wise virgins, will be ready to meet the Heavenly Bridegroom worthily and to enter the bridal chamber with Him. This is why Jesus Christ often encouraged His disciples to keep vigil, so that the coming of the Son of man would not catch them unawares: Watch therefore: for ye know not in what hour your Lord doth come, be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh (Matthew 24:42,44); Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when (second coming) the time is…And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch (Mark 13:33,37). If for our own good, through God’s providence the day and hour of the second coming of Christ is hidden from us, then the same Lord, Who desireth that all men be saved, for the strengthening of the righteous and for the instruction of sinners, deigned to reveal signs to us, by which we can judge the time of His second coming. The first of these signs is the universal awareness of Christ’s gospel. The message about Christ will be spread to all nations of the world; not one nation, or tribe, even in the farthest and unknown corners of the earth, will be left without the enlightenment of Christ’s teaching. The last commandment of Jesus Christ will be fulfilled – Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), and Go ye therefore, and teach all nations (Matthew 28:19). Another sign of the approach of the second coming of Christ will be the great impoverishment of faith and love among people. The primordial enemy (the devil), sowing the weeds of falsehood and delusion amid the good seed of God’s Word, before the end of the world will direct all his powers and means in order if possible to unconditionally tear away from the Kingdom of God all those who are called to it or have already entered it, and to subjugate them to his destructive dominion. Jesus Christ taught His disciples, Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore, if they will say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not (Matthew 24:23-26, compare with Mark 13:21-23). The result of this will be that many will be seduced (Matt. 24:23-26, compare Mark 13:6), and many will be deceived (Matthew 24:10). And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Matthw 24:12), and there shall follow the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (Matthew 24:15); When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8). In the First Epistle to Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (I Timothy 4:1). In his Second Epistle to Timothy, he offers a gloomy portrait of mankind’s religious and moral condition: In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof (II Tim. 3:1-5). The holy Apostle Jude witnesses to the agreement of all the apostles on this point: Remember the words which were spoken of before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How they told you there should be mockers in the last days, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, not having the Spirit (Jude 17-19). The Lord Himself foretold that at the end of the world Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24:11,12), so that when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8). Such a decline in faith and love among people will result first in the appearance of many false prophets and horrible internecine wars, and secondly, great and serious calamities in the physical world. The gospel will be known to all, but some will not believe it; a greater number will hold heretical opinions, following not the God-given teaching, but building up their own religion, of their own fabrication, though based on the words of Scripture. These self-fabricated faiths will be numerous. Their roots are found in the papacy, and then continued by Luther and Calvin. The latter two, by setting as a principle their own personal understanding of faith from Scripture only, gave a strong impetus toward the invention of various confessions. Although there are many now, there will be more. For every kingdom their own faith, and later for every province, and then for every city, and finally, perhaps, for every person, his own faith. Wherever people devise their religions for themselves, it cannot be otherwise. And all such faiths will continue to appropriate to themselves the name of Christian. There will be some who do maintain the true faith, as given by the holy Apostles and kept in the Orthodox Church; but even among these, many will be Orthodox in name only. They will not have in their hearts that order which is demanded by the faith, for they will be entranced by the present age. This is how broad the future field of apostasy will be! Even though the name Christian will be heard everywhere, and churches and rites will be widespread, all of this will only be outward; internally there will be complete apostasy. The Antichrist will be born under such conditions, and will be reared in that spirit of pretense which is opposed to reality. Giving himself wholly to Satan, he will openly apostasize, and armed with his captivating intrigues, he will draw into apostasy from Christ the Lord all those not holding the Christian faith in truth, forcing them to worship him as god. The elect of God will not be deceived, though he will attempt to entice them too. To save His elect the Lord will end those evil days. The Lord will appear and destroy Antichrist and all his works by His coming.
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