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THE END OF THE WORLD


But why should we speak of the end of the world?  Are we really living in the last times of this world?  Why do we bind together the future of Russia and the end of the world?

Even secular writers speak of our “apocalyptic” times.  And truly, the problems that plague the world today — the exhaustion of resources and food, overpopulation, the literal monsters created by modern technology, and especially weapons capable of destroying entire countries or even the whole civilized earth — all point to the approach of a crisis in human history quite beyond anything the world has ever seen, and perhaps to the literal end of life upon earth.

At the same time, religious thinkers point to the blossoming of non-Christian religious movements in our times and predict a “new age” in which a “new religious consciousness” will dominate men's minds and put an end to the 2000-year reign of Christianity. Astrologers refer to the “Aquarian Age’ which they think is to begin around the year 2000.  And the very approach of the year 2000 is enough to inspire in many minds the idea of a new epoch, somehow different from all the rest of human history.

Among many non-Orthodox Christians these ideas take the form of a teaching called “chiliasm” or “millenarianism” — the belief that Christ is soon to come to earth and reign right here with His saints for a thousand years before the end of the world.  This teaching is a heresy that was condemned by the early Church Fathers; it has its origin in a misinterpretation of the book of Revelations (the Apocalypse).  The Orthodox Church teaches that the reign of Christ with His saints, when the devil is “bound” for a thousand years [Apoc 20:3] is the period we are now living in, the whole period (1000 being a number symbolizing wholeness) between the first and second comings of Christ.  In this period the saints do reign with Christ in His Church, but it is a mystical reign which is not to be defined in the outward, political sense that chiliasts give to it. The devil is truly bound in this period — that is, restricted in the exercise of his ill will against humanity — and believers who live the life of the Church and receive the holy Mysteries of Christ live a blessed life, preparing them for the eternal heavenly Kingdom.  The non-Orthodox, who do not have holy Mysteries and have not tasted of the true life of the Church, cannot understand this mystical reign of Christ and so look for a political and outward reign.

And so it is that the future of the world, in which Russia obviously will have a central place, is bound up with ideas either of the end of the world in a physical sense, or the end of the civilized world as we know it and the coming of a new epoch of almost paradise-like qualities.

Some people have interpreted Russia's place in this new era in terms of the heresy of chiliasm.  In fact, if we look closely at the teaching of communism, which has taken possession of Russian society in these past 60-some years, we can see that it is a secular version of the chiliast idea; it teaches that a totally new historical era begins with Communism, that when Communism finally dominates the world there will be universal happiness and the liberation of mankind from everything that has bound it in the past, including religion.

Today, after sixty years of the Communist experiment in Russia, and a shorter period in other nations, we can see how foolish are the beliefs underlying Communism.  The reality of Communism is not paradise on earth, but Gulag; mankind has not been “liberated” at all, but enslaved worse than ever before.  But Russia, the first country to experience the Communist yoke, is also the first country to begin to wake up from it and survive it; despite the continued reign of Communist tyranny in Russia, atheism has not captured the soul of Russia, and the religious awakening that can be seen now is Russia is undoubtedly only the beginning of something immense and elemental: the recovery of the soul of a whole nation from the plague of atheism.  This is the reason why Russia today can speak a word of significance tot he whole world, which is plunging into the same trap of atheism from which Russia is emerging; and this is why the future of Russia is so closely bound up with the future of the whole world, in a religious sense.

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