If Christ Is With Us, Death Is Defeated

Revelation: Removing the Veil, Part 2

Part 1


Christ said that we are truly moving towards the end. When will that happen? No one knows. Maybe in 1,000 years, maybe in 10,000, maybe 5,000,000—no one knows. And it shouldn’t concern us. Why shouldn’t it occupy our attention? First, because Christ told us that no one knows about the end of the world. Not a single saint knows. Only God knows, but He hasn’t revealed it to anyone. And I can tell you for sure about what’s being spread online now, that the end of the world will come in 2012—it will not come in 2012.1 It may come in other years perhaps—in 2011, in 2013, in 2015, but not in 2012. The Lord will not allow false prophecies to be fulfilled. We can sleep peacefully in 2012—the world will not end then.

However, there is another end—our own. It will happen for sure, and soon enough. Our years are numbered, and life has a limit. You’re fifty now—you’ll have another twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years, and that’s it. We must take for granted that there will be an end to our lives and the end of the world. They’re coming. What’s it important to think about? Not about the timing, but about how you’ll meet and receive this end, and that this end is not really the end of life, but your entry into eternity.

It would be good for us to reflect upon how we’ll walk this path and what our relationship with Christ will be like in eternity. If we think about it, we’ll stop hoping that we’ll amount to something. All this is transitory. And your earthly journey will come to an end. There will be no one left on earth who knows you, who remembers you. Only God remembers us. Only God remembers us all. At funerals, we say, “Memory eternal.” It’s not about us, humans. It’s nonsense when people say, “You did so much, and we’ll remember you forever!” You yourself will depart tomorrow, then I’ll follow after you. And how will you remember him? I don’t like these empty words.

I usually can’t stand listening to the speeches given at funerals. I fumble with my staff and pray to the Theotokos, “That’s enough, Most Holy Theotokos!” People say so many stupid things… Some kind of theater, playing with someone else’s pain. You can just say a few words of comfort without causing all this chaos. Unfortunately, we’ve turned this into a theater. God remembers man. God will always hold you in his memory. And when we sing: “May your memory be eternal, fathers and brothers worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory,” it means you’ll always remain in God’s memory.

When God remembers you, it means you exist, that you’re alive, that you’re the likeness of God, that your spirit and your soul repose in God. When God doesn’t want to remember you, doesn’t want to see you (not because He doesn’t want to, but because your soul has renounced Him, rejected the love of God, severed its connection with God, and renounced the eternal memory of God), it’s unfortunate for you. The Lord speaks about this in the Gospels. Try to spend the few years allotted to you on earth with dignity before God, so you can pass through the gates of eternity and stand before God pure, repentant, united with the grace of God, living in God, and having conquered death; so that you overcome corruption, overcome despair, so you don’t live far from God, but live eternally with Him. This is God’s victory over death, victory over corruption. This is our personal end.   

But the Lord also told us about the end of the world because there will be Christians living in those times. The Lord told us about the signs that will precede the end. He told us about this end in the Gospel and the Revelation of John through images and symbols. But He didn’t reveal this to us so that we would panic and lose sleep at night, seeing locusts coming at us, and all those visions that were revealed to the Apostle John. He wanted to leave us a very important message: “Fear not, God will win in the end.” No matter what happens, God will win. At times it will seem as though the Antichrist is winning, that the false prophets are winning. God will allow them to do what they want without restricting their freedom, as much as our inaction and malice will allow them to do so.

But the Lord will put an end to everything, not in order to punish us, but to give man a new birth, to bring man into the eternal Kingdom, to return everything to its own paths, as it was in the beginning, to recreate man according to the image of God; so that all who love the Lord may live with Him; so there would be a new Heaven and a new Earth, where God reigns, where there is neither pain, sorrows, nor human pettiness, but only Christ everywhere and in everything. The Lord has left us this blessed hope-bearing message. He told us not to fear anything. You’ll hear about wars, about dangers—one, then another, then a third. Don’t give in to your thoughts and don’t be afraid. This is how it should be and will be. But it will pass. And don’t be afraid. Don’t look at what’s going on now, but at Him Who is coming; at Christ, Who is the King of everything and everyone who has received and loved Him.

One notable sign of the end times will be the appearance of many false prophets. Today you can see that there are many prophets. The earth is filled with them—everyone has become a prophet or prophetess. But prophecy is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And the gifts of the Holy Spirit aren’t given quickly; they’re worth a lot, they’re very valuable. They’re given for the sake of something, not randomly. None of the prophets will go around saying, “I’m a prophet! God has revealed such and such to me.” They won’t spread it around. Know, that all these prophets you’ll see on TV and hear on the radio, who’ll say that God, the saints, the Theotokos revealed something to them, that they speak with God and get answers from him, are deluded.

God’s prophets have the gifts of the Holy Spirit and have the characteristics of true prophets within themselves. The first distinguishing feature is the Church. The gifts of the Holy Spirit aren’t active outside the Church. There are no prophets outside the Church, among the other creeds and heretics. There are false prophets, false messiahs, and antichrists there. The gifts of the Holy Spirit don’t work outside the Church. The Lord has established the Church, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit work within the body of baptized people. That doesn’t mean everyone else is going to hell. These are different things. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are one thing, and who will go to Paradise is another. It’s not only prophets and clairvoyants who will go to Paradise.

I’m not a prophet. I’ve probably already told you the story about how a woman called me at Maheras Monastery and asked: “Fr. Athanasios, tell me honestly, please, do you have the gift of clairvoyance?” I replied: “I’ll tell you frankly that, unfortunately, I don’t have the gift of clairvoyance.” “Maybe you’re saying that out of humility?” “No, I don’t have such humility. I’d like to have the gift of clairvoyance, but it wasn’t given to me. What can be done?” “Where can I find someone who has the gift of clairvoyance?” “Open the phone book and look—there should be some prophets there.” “Will prophets leave their phone numbers?”

People of God won’t bother with such nonsense. Go tell Elder Paisios, Elder Porphyrios that they’re prophets—they’ll think you’re insane. And they really were prophets. It’s impossible to imagine them saying: “My words are prophetic.” They were very shy and humble, deeply humble people. They never bragged. Gifts are given for the arrangement and strengthening of the Church to certain people—ascetic, virtuous, extremely humble, pure-hearted people—for the good of the Church. And not so we would write books, get carried away with fantasies, have followers, and the like. But our salvation doesn’t depend on whether we’ve prophesied or not. Everyone is invited to the Kingdom of God. Gifts have nothing to do with salvation in this sense. Salvation is for the whole world. St. John Climacus says:

Know, beloved, that the valleys shall abound with wheat (Ps. 64:14) and spiritual fruit. This valley is a soul low and humble among the mountains, that is, it is filled with labours and virtues, and always remains unhaughty and steadfast. David did not say, “I have fasted,” “I have kept vigil,” or “I have lain on the bare earth,” but “I humbled myself, and straightway the Lord saved me (Ps. 114:6)” (Ladder 25:13).2

I didn’t have anything else; I was looking for gifts, it didn’t occur to me. But I humbled myself, repented, changed my way of thinking, and asked the Lord for salvation. Humility saves us, not gifts. If you have talents but you don’t humble yourself, they’ll destroy you. You’ll fall into vanity, into pride.

The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus     

Once a possessed woman grabbed the hand of a student from the theological school, put his hand in her mouth, and started shouting: “You burned me, you burned me, you burned me!” Deeply affected, he went to see Elder Paisios, and the Elder told him: “You got it all wrong! It’s that he burned you. He implanted such proud thoughts into your mind, making you think you’re someone special, that everyone was looking at you and saying: ‘What a good guy; even demons are burned by his touch.’” The devil scorched him with pride in the end.

Our vanity and pride are so great that the Lord, out of His love, leaves us without His gifts, so we don’t perish. Are we really going to dream that we’re going to start working miracles and make everyone happy? I thank God that I’m plump. I don’t want to lose weight. Imagine if I looked like a skeleton, people would say: “What a holy man! Skin and bones. Completely emaciated from fasting, from asceticism, from vigils.” And I’d start thinking about how people revere me, how they love me and understand that I’m a holy man. But instead, everyone looks at me and thinks, “How fat. They found a real saint! I’d like to see how much he ate at lunch today.” At least it humbles us. This is what I say to my portly brothers: “Glory to God! At least it keeps us from pride!” I’d be very proud if I were thin like a monastic saint.

We recognize the prophets by their humility, by their belonging to the Church. The people of God are extremely humble; they truly consider themselves worse than everyone else. To such people the Lord reveals His mysteries, His will. The Apostle John was given his revelation to remind us that Christ is the King of the world. In both our daily life and in the life of the whole world, neither what the devil desires nor what human evil seeks will come to pass, but whatever God wants. Evil may sometimes prevail in this temporary life. People can die being wrongly slandered, but the Lord is coming and He will put everything in its place. He will justify every unjustly condemned person forever.

And what has true dignity? The eternal Kingdom of God, not the feast of this world, given to us for fifty, sixty, or seventy years. The final word about every one of us will come from God. And it matters. All other words are empty. Everything passes, like a fog—both the good and the bad. The most important thing is what God will say about me—the final and most important word. The world and people can say different things; everyone judges in their own way.

The book of Revelation teaches us a lot, especially when we begin to carefully delve into its words, when we see how Christ holds the world in His hands and acts with wisdom in all things. We’re not forgotten or abandoned to fate. But at the same time, the devil has his rights and his freedom, he has room to act based on what he possesses. The freedom of every man is preserved by the wisdom of the providence and love of God. Not a single person will be left without the righteous judgment of God.

There’s always been a special interest in Revelation. But we don’t need to look closely at it for what will happen in the future—when the world will end, when the Second Coming will happen, whether the Antichrist has already been born or not. Revelation doesn’t talk about that. Revelation shows how you should prepare to face and make it through these events; what you should be like before these events; how you should seek Christ; how to remain faithful to Christ; how to avoid being deceived, seeing what’s going on; how to keep your mind and eyes fixed on Christ, no matter what’s happening around you. This is what you have to look for. The rest will happen, and we won’t be able to stop it.

Do you see what’s happening today? I read Revelation in second grade, and I was confused and said to myself: “Will God really allow so much evil in the world? Will He burn the world? Will the locusts come, and all that?” I went to see our parish priest. He was a very good man. I told him: “Father, I read Revelation and I’m confused.” He replied: “Son, God is love. It’s not God Who’s going to do this to us. People will do all of this.” He answered simply, but with correct theology. In the end, man will destroy the world. God won’t destroy it; He won’t take this work upon Himself. We’ll destroy everything ourselves. With the weapons we have today, the world could be destroyed in no time. And all the pollution of nature, diseases—no angel is going to arrange all of this for us—we’ll do it all ourselves. Do you see what’s happening? We create diseases ourselves, then we run to get vaccinated. These are all symptoms. They speak to the fact that this world has its time limit. No one knows exactly when, but destruction is happening, and it’s winning. We see what’s happening around us. Reading what was written two thousand years ago, we notice the peace of God in every chapter and see how peaceful man remains if God is with him.

I remember one nun from the Monastery of St. Herakleidios, Sister Christodouli. She was a very grace-filled old woman, plump, cheerful, and strong. Towards the end of her life, the sisters took care of her. She started saying, “I’m going to die, my end is near.” She called the sisters to give them the icons from her cell. She gave them out and asked them to remember her when she died. The sisters asked if she was afraid to die. She was perturbed: “What are you saying to me? Aren’t you ashamed to say such things? We’re nuns—what are you talking about? I’ve been a nun for fifty years, and I’m going to be afraid to die?”

I went to see her. She said she was being tempted by the sisters, that she was starting to get nervous from such questions. “Isn’t it shameful for nuns to be afraid of dying? I carry Christ in my heart, so what kind of talk is this? I receive Holy Communion, after all.” It was a challenge for her. “The only thing I want is for you to come to my funeral, so I can see you.” I said it might not work out if I go somewhere. After all, I couldn’t just sit and wait for her to die. We were planning to go to Jerusalem then. “I’ll tell Gerondissa to put me in cold storage until you get here! I don’t want to die and leave without you.” We agreed that she’d be put in cold storage.

And indeed, the Lord arranged it according to her heart’s desire. That day it happened that I was at the monastery. I went to see her. She was already hooked up to oxygen, breathing heavily. I asked her, “How are you, Sister Christodouli?” She said: “Geronda, bless me to die already. I want to go.” I blessed her, and she kissed my hand and crossed herself. I left her cell and headed for my hut. But before I could get there, five minutes or so later the sisters called and said she had died. That’s how she left.

If Christ is with us, death is defeated. We’ve seen dozens of deaths of God’s people. Death is a terrible thing, not easy to overcome. Death, corruption, age, years. But if Christ is with us, then He illuminates everything. Revelation speaks about the journey of mankind through problems, difficulties, trials, dangers, and struggles. But Christ is the light, peace, and joy of man, and therefore man can accept both his end and the end of this world in deep peace. And such peace is not a feeling. There can be pain and human struggle, but peace can reign in our hearts due to the presence of God. We’re with God, in His hand. God guides this world and my life, my children and family. Sometimes we worry about what will happen to our children when we die. Of course, this is inherent in man. But give everything over to God and give up such thoughts. Don’t worry—put everything in God’s hands and you’ll see how the Lord will take care of everything. Every day in peace, in Christ. Be calm, peaceful, and joyful.

Let’s finish our introductory talk. Next time we’ll turn to the text. We’ll begin with the first chapter of the Revelation of the Apostle John. It’s a difficult book, but we’ll work through it as much as we can.

Part 3

Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol
Translation by Jesse Dominick

Sretensky Monastery


1 This talk was delivered in 2010.—Trans.

2 St. John of Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2001. P. 153

sherlock_holmes2/23/2024 7:29 pm
"... And grant us to pass through the night of the whole present life with watchful heart and sober thought, ever expecting the coming of the bright and appointed day of Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, whereon the judge of all shall come with glory to reward each according to his deeds. May we not be found fallen and idle, but watching, and upright in activity, ready to accompany Him into the joy and divine palace of His glory, where there is the ceaseless sound of those that keep festival, and the unspeakable delight of those that behold the ineffable beauty of Thy countenance... " From the Morning prayers .
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