We Orthodox Christians have already recognized and
accepted the signs of Christ's First Coming. The very fact that we're
Orthodox Christians means that we've done this. We know what these signs
mean: for example, the sign of Jonah, the 490 years of Daniel, and many other
things which our Lord fulfilled. Our Orthodox Divine services are filled
with Old Testament prophecies which were fulfilled in the coming of
Christ. These we all see and recognize—it all seems clear. But now
we have to look for different kinds of signs, that is, the signs of the Second
Coming of Christ. The whole teaching about the Second Coming of Christ
and the signs which will precede it is set forth in several places in the
Gospels, especially in the 24th chapter of St. Matthew. St. Mark and St.
Luke also have chapters about this.
Return to the first page
This chapter of St. Matthew tells of how our Lord departed
from the Temple, and how his
disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the Temple.
Of course, in those days the Temple
was the center of worship. Every Jew had to come to the Temple
at least at Pascha, the Passover, for this alone was where God could be
worshipped in the right way.
Our Lord looked at the Temple
and told His disciples, "See ye not all these
things? Verily I say unto you: There shall not be left here one
stone upon another, that shall not be thrown
down." To tell a believing Jew at that time that the whole Temple is
to be thrown down, that nothing is to be left of it, is like saying it's the
end of the world, because the Temple is precisely the place where God is
supposed to be worshipped. How are you going to worship God if there's no
Temple? So these words of our
Savior made the disciples start thinking about the end of the world. They
immediately said, "Tell us, when shall these things
be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of
the end of the world?" In other words, they already knew that He was
going to come again and that this would be bound up with the end of the world.
Then our Lord gives a whole set of signs which are to come
to pass before He comes again. First of all He says, "Take heed that
no man lead you astray. For many shall come in My name saying, 'I am Christ'; and shall lead man
astray." That is, many false Christs will come. This we've
already seen throughout the history of the Church: those who have risen up
against the Church, those who have pretended to be God, pretended to be Christ.
Secondly, in the next verse He says, "Ye shall hear of
wars and rumors of wars. Se that ye be not
troubled, for these things must come to pass, but the end is not
yet." Of course, from the very beginning of the Christian era there
have been wars and rumors of wars, and even more so in our time. "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against
kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquake in diverse
places." Again, wars, then famines, earthquakes.
And He says, "All these things are the beginning of tribulation."
Then comes the next sign, which is
persecutions. "Then shall they deliver you up unto
tribulation, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name's sake." So, first we have false Christs,
then wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecutions—and then a very
important sign for our times concerning the growing cold of love:
"Because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of many shall wax
cold." This is the most deadly of all the signs, because the sign of
Christians, as St. John the
Theologian tells us, is that they have love for each other. When this
love grows cold, this means that even the Christians are beginning to lose
Then another sign, in the next verse of the 24th
chapter: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole
world for a testimony unto all the nation, and then
shall the end come." This sign of the Gospel being preached unto all
the nations we see about us now. The Gospel itself is produced in
hundreds of languages now to almost all the tribes of the earth, and Orthodox
Christianity is being preached in almost every country of the world. In Africa
there are great missions: in Uganda,
the Congo, and
spreading out from there.
The a more difficult place:
our Lord speaks concerning the abomination of desolation which is spoke of by
Daniel the prophet. "When you see the abomination of desolation
standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand)." That
is, you're supposed to understand this from something else. This is
another sign. It is concerned, of course, with the Temple
in Jerusalem and some kind of
desecration of it.
Then, in the 21st verse, there is the sign of great
tribulation: "Then shall be great tribulation such as has not been
from the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be." That
is, it will be the worst and most difficult time of suffering in the whole
history of the world. You can read history books and find that there have
been many times in the history of the world when there was
great suffering. If you read about what happened to the Jews when Jerusalem
was taken after the death of Christ, you will find that such suffering as went
on then was unparalleled. In other places there has been almost as much
suffering. And yet the great tribulation at the very end will be much
worse. Of course, it will be worldwide and involve everyone, not just one
people, and will be something of a very impressive character. It will be
called "such tribulation that the world has never seen."
Just after this time, something even worse begins to
come. Verse 29 reads: "Immediately after the tribulation of
those days, the sun shall 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." Such an event, of course, has never been before, and this
obviously refers to the time just at the end of the world, when the whole of
creation prepares to be annihilated in order to be refashioned.
Finally, the next verse: "And then shall appear
the sign of the Son of Man in heaven," that
is, the sign of the Cross will appear in the sky. "And then shall
all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming on
the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." That is, the very
coming of Christ shall be in the heavens with the sign of the Cross—and that is
the very end of everything.
After telling all this about the signs of the end, our Lord
gives a final command, saying, "Watch,
therefore, for you know not on what day your Lord cometh.... Therefore,
be also ready, for in an hour that you think not, the Son of Man cometh."
All this is in the 24th chapter of the Gospel of St.
Matthew. But all this, for anyone not thoroughly acquainted with
Scriptures and the writings of Holy Fathers, almost raises more question than
it solves. We must understand what is the meaning of
all these prophecies. How can we know when they are really being
fulfilled? And how can we avoid false interpretations?—because there are
many false Christs, false prophets, false prophecies, false
interpretations. How can we know what is the true interpretation and what
are the true signs of the times? IF you look about you and go to any
religious bookstore, you will see shelves containing many books of commentaries
on the Book of Revelation (The Apocalypse), books with interpretations about
the coming end of the world. In fact many Christians who are not Orthodox
have a very definite feeling that these are the last times, but they all give
interpretations based upon their own opinions.