The Most Terrible of the Lord’s Prophecies

Holy Monday, at Presanctified Liturgy

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Matthew 24:3-34 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 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 shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Today the Lord speaks to us of the mystery of the Judgment, which is being carried out over the Church even now and which will be revealed in His Second and glorious Coming. When He sat on the Mount of Olives, His disciples came alone to Him and asked: Tell us, when shall these things be?

The disciples ask the Lord of the times and dates and signs of His Coming and the end of the age. Without saying a word about the times and dates, the Lord begins with a warning: Take heed that no man deceive you. Seducers and deceivers are enemies of the Church more dangerous than persecutors. Verily, those who kill the true prophet are first entrapped by false prophets. And those who crucified the true Messiah Christ first allowed themselves to be deceived by false christs and false messiahs. But this test must come so that those who are Christ’s may be revealed.

The Lord tells us that under the guise of the greatest good can hide the greatest evil. Who are false prophets? First of all, those who are seduced by the inspiration of false spirituality, false religions, including those false prophets we have seen in the last century, when millions of people were deceived by the spirit of the enemy. But false prophets can also be from among those in the Church, moreover, people who may teach in the Church and hold important places in it. They are the most dangerous because they are least likely to be suspected of deception.

False christs and false prophets have legions of their servants everywhere, through whom they attract the souls of men to themselves. The consequence of accepting the false teaching of these false prophets will be great calamities on Earth. And when the calamities become so unbearable that people are ready to grasp at everything that seems like deliverance to them, then they will be told: “Here is Christ and there is Christ,” and, “He is in the deserts and in the secret chambers.” As proof of their claims, the servants of the enemy of mankind shew great signs and wonders. Not those genuine miracles that seal the grace and truth of Christ, but those by which they seduce many, and if it were possible … the very elect.

If it were possible … the very elect. The Lord speaks of the power of deception. It will be such that many will be captured by it and few will be able to resist. Even those who think they will stand strong. And the elect are not those who consider themselves such, but those whom the Lord has chosen—and the devil will try to deceive them.

However, the words “if possible” mean that it will be impossible for the enemy, although man always remains free, wherever he is, whatever spiritual heights he reaches. But genuine freedom consists in such an affirmation in the good that a man is already free from evil and can reject any of its provocations. He is already so united with Christ that Christ lives in him (Gal. 2:20). Where the grace of God works, it is impossible to separate a Christian from Christ. Therefore, it will be impossible for the enemy to defeat the Church of Christ.

The Lord prophesies about the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. And He gives an image of the end of the world. One plan is superimposed upon another. The destruction of the world will be according to the image of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, the most holy site before the Coming of Christ, which existed to maintain the elect of God in holiness and through them, all of mankind, to accept Christ the Messiah.

The Lord speaks of wars. Living in such a sinful state, mankind will naturally have wars. He warns of incessant calamities and persecutions against the Church. When the twentieth century began, many, hearing these Gospel words about the persecution of the Church, thought that this prophecy had already been fulfilled, as had many other of the Savior’s prophecies. However, the twentieth century saw something that far surpassed anything that had come before. Do we not think the exact same thing now, hearing these words of the Lord—that this prophecy has already been fulfilled, and all the main trials are behind us? Soon the wolves in sheep’s clothing will drop their masks and appear simply as wolves before the flock of Christ’s sheep.

But, perhaps the most terrible of all the Lord’s prophecies is the prophecy that because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. One is a consequence of the other. The world always lies in evil, but there is coming a particular time when we can say that lawlessness will abound. And the more brazen the evil will be, the weaker will be the resistance of good, that is, love—the highest manifestation of good—although it would seem everything should be the opposite.

Such terrible words: “Love will wax cold.” It’s the same as saying life will die. It’s the same as saying, ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation … stand in the holy place (Mt. 24:15). To be a Christian means to be a loving person. Where is there love in the world? In the Church of Christ. If there is no love in the Church, there can be no love in the world. Before the Church, every one of us will stand before the Cross of Christ; therefore, today’s judgment over the Church consists in our testing ourselves, whether we have this love. Of course, we don’t achieve what the word of God tells us about love as a union of perfection, as a grace that ever lives in our hearts. However, we cannot live without striving for love. It is only because of this that we are alive and thanks to this that the world is alive. If we stop striving for love, then the light that is in the world, that is, the Church of Christ, will become darkness. And what then will be the darkness in the world?

But even in a world that doesn’t know God, human love is always present as a residual light, by which man still exists. Where does this residual light exist above all? In the family. However, today, before our very eyes, everything is being done to destroy the family—and very successfully, as we can see. Where else is human love manifested? Where there are the most intimate and exalted relationships between a man and a woman. What happens here? What used to be called fate, the dream of your betrothed, is now increasingly being superseded by what they say is an easily-replaceable partnership. Finally, children. Where there are children, it is impossible for there to be no love. Whoever doesn’t love children has a dangerously, fatally ill soul. But now this is a mass phenomenon. More and more we see children simply as nuisances. We well know that millions of children are killed before birth or are corrupted almost from their very birth. Day and night, the false media prophets of the propaganda of hate leave no stone unturned on what is the foundation of human life.

The Lord tells us today that amidst this horror, when the abomination of desolation … will stand in the holy place, that not only in the Church, where love waxes cold, but in all of mankind, he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. We must endure to the end—not only in the midst of persecutions and prisons, not only on our sick beds, but even when the world with its lust of the flesh occupies everything—all of culture, all the schools, all the streets with their vile advertisements for sin, and all the homes where these visible demons enter every day and they are received as desired guests; all minds and hearts. And we Christians are nothing to this world; Christ is no one and nothing for them. And they want to interweave us into their stinking fabric as a decorative pattern. Where there is at least a spark of the Divine in life, has it remained? Truly, love waxes cold. Is this not a clear sign of the end?

It is not for us to know the times and dates, says the Lord (1 Thess. 5:1). But it is our duty, because we are Christians, to stand on the final borders of the Kingdom of Christ, where love is above all, until the end; wherever it can still be preserved, both in the Church and outside the Church, in all human relations. Let the Church enter today into that darkness that was from the sixth hour … unto the ninth hour (Mt. 27:45), although the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not (Jn. 1:5). We hear these words on Pascha night, when the triumph of evil turns into its complete defeat. And we must be this light if we are truly Christ’s. By the word of Christ and by the gift of Christ, we must be this light. God trusts us to be faithful to Him, and He speaks so that this word of light, which is offered to us today, would be heard correctly.

The love of many shall wax cold, says the Lord. But He does not say that love waxes cold in all. In the worst of times, like when the Prophet Elijah, in the midst of a general apostasy, thought that he was alone, the Lord reveals that there is a remnant that remains faithful to Him. There are those for whom preserving at least a drop of the love that God give is more valuable than anything in this world, even their own lives.

Love … shall wax cold. But the Lord does not say that it will die. Is it in vain that the Lord reveals the same, simplest and deepest mystery over and over again ever year, before our very eyes? When it seems everything is dead under the snow, we know that there is life in the roots, and it will thrive as soon as winter is gone. When the Lord’s Pascha comes, we hear these words: “Today spring’s sweetness fills the air.” This love of God, which overcomes all the hatred of hell, all the evil of the world, triumphs, and we are called to enter into the joy of our Lord.

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved—but only in love. The Church of God will endure, but only by love. And although many will be tempted, there will always be those who endure all the way to the end. Who are we and where are we in the midst of the Dread Judgment of the Lord’s Cross?

Archpriest Alexander Shargunov
Translated by Jesse Dominick


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