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The kingdom of satan at the threshold of fiery gehenna

Holy Scripture predicts that before the end of the world there will be an extraordinary increase of the activity of fallen spirits. In these times many people, having lost faith, will begin to be attracted to the occult and to serve demons openly. Pitying the people who are perishing, the Lord will try to bring sinners to understanding by different disasters, but the majority of them will become as if blind and deaf, and "neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts" (Rev. 9:21).

This will be the time in which satan, being held back until then by the power of the risen Christ, will receive for a short time a certain freedom to seduce people who have turned away from God. The book of Revelation (ch. 20) designates the whole period of time from the resurrection of Christ until the end of the world symbolically as a thousand years. In a prophetic vision the Apostle John saw "an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season … And shall go out to deceive the nations …" (Rev. 20:1-3, 8). According to the Holy Fathers, the binding of the dragon refers to the moment of the resurrection of Christ, at which satan lost his earlier power over sinners, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and found himself to be restricted, "bound" in his activity in the world. "A thousand years" embraces the whole period from the resurrection of Christ until that time before the end of the world in which satan, using the departure of people from faith, again receives mastery over them - but for a very short time. Then, in agreement with the figurative vision of the book of Revelation, satan's spirits somehow fill the atmosphere itself that people breathe, as if they were hellish locusts infesting human society on all sides: "and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke out of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power …And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit [the devil], whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon (the destroyer) …Woe to the inhabitors of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Rev. 9:2-3, 11; 12:12).

Hurrying to ruin the maximum quantity of people, the devil gives over his power to the antichrist (a world ruler and enemy of Christ), "Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thes. 2:9). His main assistant, the false prophet, will seduce people by various specious miracles, and "he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men" (Rev. 13:13). These will be, of course, not true miracles, but different improved tricks, accomplished with the help of unclean spirits (Rev. 16:14).

These will be times of exceptionally severe persecution of believers. Because of unbelief and the depravity of mankind, the antichrist will be allowed "to make war with the saints [the believers in Christ], and to overcome them" (Rev. 13:7). But this will be only an external and apparent success. The Church itself will remain steadfast, as the Lord promised: "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). At the time of the antichrist, the Church will only go underground.

But the very success of the devil in these times will presage his forthcoming and final destruction. Finally the old prophecy will be fulfilled: "In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea" (Isa. 27:1). St. John the Theologian, the scrutinizer of prophecy, saw in his prophetic vision, how "the beast was taken [the antichrist] and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him …These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone …After which …the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 19:20, 20:10).

Such a total and all-shattering end of the self-exalted Daystar, of the spirits who became apostates with him and of all their dark kingdom! With their precipitation into Gehenna will end all seductions, violence, lies and every evil in the world, and eternal blessedness of the saved will begin. This joyous time approaches, but we should be especially vigilant in our devotion to Christ and urge ourselves to burn with faith, so as not to prove to be enticed away by the flood of temptations that satan will direct against humanity on the eve of his complete defeat. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Rev. 3:21).

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