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Many Christians live carelessly and even in sin because they do not take seriously enough the upcoming Universal Judgment; it seems to them a very remote and uncertain event. To improve our spiritual life, we should remind ourselves that prior to that final and ultimate Judgment there constantly occur particular Divine judgments. Indeed, throughout all of history we see cases of particular Divine judgments over individuals, places, and even whole nations. Vivid examples of this are the global deluge at the time of Noah, the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the repeated ravages of Israel, the fall of ancient Assyria and Babylon, the sudden destruction of the immoral Pompeii, and the fall of the Roman Empire and other mighty kingdoms. Even large Christian nations such as Byzantium and Russia did not escape God's judgment when their people deviated from the Christian life. It always happens as Jesus explained about the particular judgment: "wherever there appears a carcass [moral decay], there will the eagles be gathered together" (Matt. 24:28).

In order to forewarn us about moral decay and inspire us to renew our spiritual life, the Savior kindly warned us: "Be prepared, for in the hour which you don't expect, the Son of Man will come." Therefore, we should be attentive to our spiritual state. We should strive that the lamp of our faith does not stop shining and the that garment of the soul remains clean. Then the coming of Christ on earth will become a desirable event, as it was for the Christians in apostolic times. This Second Coming will be perceived as the end to all wrong doing, crimes, and calamities and the beginning of a new life in the renewed world.

Among the already fulfilled signs of the end of the world we should mention: a) the spread of the Gospel message over the whole globe; b) the intensifying process of moving away from the faith by peoples who were Christians from the early centuries; c) the beginning of the return to Jesus Christ of many Jews; d) the increasing number of false prophets and wild cults and; e) the fall of moral standards, with the increase of horrible crimes, witchcraft, and satanism.

As to the contemporary decrease of moral standards, we know that people were always sinful to a larger or smaller degree. But in the past they used to recognize their wrongdoing and attempted to correct it. A peculiarity of our time is that sinful deeds are declared to be okay and even raised on a pedestal. For example, supporters of abortion and groups of homosexuals organize mass demonstrations and demand special rights for themselves. Gazing at them, one remembers the words the Prophet Isaiah said before the destruction of Jerusalem: "The look on their countenance witnesses against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom. They do not hide it. Woe to their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves" (Is. 3:9). The other gloomy peculiarity of our time is the obtrusive intrusion of all kinds of depravities and vulgarities in those spheres of life which traditionally were expressions of the most bright and noble aspects of mankind's spirit music, art, and literature. Evaluate from the Christian standpoint popular rock music and heavy metal, full of cacophony and crude and voluptuous yelling; some modern ugly paintings and sculptures; and the many movies full of violence and vulgarity. And with alarm we observe how the growing spiritual void in people is being filled by a dark alien force, which is leaving its imprint upon the affairs of daily life and even the appearance of people.

Seeing all these foretold signs, we still cannot predict the exact time at which the world will end. Nevertheless, it should not be very far away. Predictions by our Optina elders and other pre-Revolutionary righteous people of Russia give us reason to think that with the downfall of communism and the beginning of spiritual rebirth in Russia, the next to the last page of world history has been turned, following which will be the coming of the Antichrist and the fulfillment of the predictions in the book of Revelation.

May the merciful Lord guide and protect all of us in the coming times of trial. Amen!

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