by Fr. Seraphim Rose
JUST IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, significantly, the figure of "Jesus" has been thrust into strange prominence in America. On stage and in films long-standing prohibitions against portraying the person of Christ have been abrogated. Sensationally popular musicals present blasphemous parodies of His life. The "Jesus Movement," which was largely "charismatic" in orientation, spread spectacularly among teenagers and young people. The crudest form of American popular music is "Christianized" at mass "Jesus-Rock Festivals," and "Christian" tunes for the first time in the century become the most popular in the land. And underlying this whole strange conglomeration of sacrilege and absolutely unenlightened worldliness is the constantly reiterated expression of seemingly everyone's expectation and hope: Jesus is coming soon.
The careful observer of the contemporary religious scene - especially in America, where the most popular religious currents have originated for over a century - cannot fail to notice a very decided air of chiliastic expectation. And this is not only true of "charismatic" circles, but even of the traditionalist or fundamentalist circles that have rejected the "charismatic revival." Thus, many traditionalist Roman Catholics believe in the coming of a chiliastic "Age of Mary" before the end of the world, and this is only one variant on the more widespread Latin error of trying to "sanctify the world," or, as Archbishop Thomas Connolly of Seattle expressed it [as] "transforming the modern world into the Kingdom of God in preparation for His return." Protestant evangelists such as Billy Graham, in their mistaken private interpretation of the Apocalypse, await the "millennium" when "Christ" will reign on earth. Other evangelists in Israel find that their millenarian interpretation of the "Messiah" is just what is needed to "prepare" the Jews for his coming . And the arch-fundamentalist Carl McIntire prepares to build a life-size replica of the Temple of Jerusalem in Florida (near Disneyworld!), believing that the time is at hand when the Jews will build the very "Temple to which the Lord Himself will return as He promised" (Christian Beacon , Nov. 11, 1971; Jan. 6, 1972).
Thus, even anti-ecumenists find it possible to prepare to join the unrepentant Jews in welcoming the false messiah - antichrist - in contrast to the faithful remnant of Jews who will accept Christ as the Orthodox Church preaches Him, when the Prophet Elijah returns to earth.
It is therefore no great consolation for a sober Orthodox Christian who knows the Scriptural prophecies concerning the last days, when he is told by a "charismatic" Protestant minister that, "It's glorious what Jesus can do when we open up to Him. No wonder people of all faiths are now able to pray together" (Harold Bredesen, in Logos Journal , Jan.-Feb., 1972, p. 24); or by a Catholic Pentecostal that the members of all the denominations now "begin to peer over those walls of separation only to recognize in each other the image of Jesus Christ" (Kevin Ranaghan in Logos Journal , Nov.-Dec., 1971, p. 21). Which "Christ" is this for whom an accelerated program of psychological and even physical preparation is now being made throughout the world? - Is this our true God and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who founded the Church wherein men may find salvation? Or is it the false Christ who will come in his own name (John 5:43) and unite all who reject or pervert the teaching of the one Church of Christ, the Orthodox Church?
Our Saviour Himself has warned us: "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold I have told you beforehand. If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness, go not forth; Behold, he is in the inner chambers, believe it not. For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west, so shall be the coming of the Son of man" (Matt. 24:23-27).
The Second Coming of Christ will be unmistakable: it will be sudden, from heaven (Acts 1:11), and it will mark the end of this world. There can be no "preparation" for it - save only the Orthodox Christian preparation of repentance, spiritual life, and watchfulness. Those who are "preparing" for it in any other way, who say that he is anywhere "here" - especially "here" in the Temple of Jerusalem - or who preach that "Jesus is coming soon" without warning of the great deception that is to precede His Coming: are clearly the prophets of antichrist, the false Christ who must come first and deceive the world, including all "Christians" who are not or do not become truly Orthodox. There is to be no future "millennium." For those who can receive it, the "millennium" of the Apocalypse (Apoc. 20:6) is now; the life of grace in the Orthodox Church for the whole "thousand years" between the First Coming of Christ and the time of antichrist . That 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.