Orthodox America

  Questions and Answers

From a talk given by Father Seraphim Rose in 1994 on Signs of the End Times
The Talk 

Question: Are the Jews going to destroy the Mosque of Omar and set up the temple?  Will they return to the use of the book of Leviticus and return to all the laws?

Fr. Seraphim: Well, it is their problem what they will do with the temple. Human intentions are one thing; the second thing is how God wills it to come out.  They tried before to build the temple, and did not succeed.  As far as Leviticus is concerned, I do not know; I would, however, think they will try to do as much as possible.  If the whole idea of building the temple is to get back to that old religion, I suppose they would try to imitate it as closely as they could.

Of course, in modern times they would undoubtedly find they would have to change all kinds of things.  And when Antichrist himself comes to sit there, he will have his own ideas, to make it accep-table for everybody else.  It is difficult to see how the exact form might come out.  But when it is all fulfilled, you will see it is exactly the way it was prophesied. If men, however, try to do something before the time when God wants it to be done, then it simply will not work.

There was the attempt of Julian the Apostate to build the temple to prove that Christ was wrong when He said that "one stone will not be left upon another."  And Julian commanded the Jews to begin building the temple, and they began to build.  And it is a very well-authenticated historical fact in several of the early church historians, that they would build, and at night everything would fall down, and everyone would see balls of fire coming out from the earth.  Nowadays, historians say they must have been digging oil wells, or something. . .  Obviously there was something there preventing this project from going on, and they finally gave up.  Julian himself was killed, and the whole thing stopped.

The times were not ripe, in other words, for that to happen.  Of course, today the times are much more ripe.  There were two saints of the Old Testament who did not die: Enoch was translated, and he was not found; and Elijah went up to heaven in the fiery chariot, and therefore they will come back as the two witnesses and preach against Antichrist.

In fact, there are traditions about St. John the Theologian returning in the last times.  Then there is the prophecy of St. Seraphim of Sarov that he should come back at that time, though he died, and so he will come back resurrected.  The two mentioned in the Apocalypse, however, are Enoch and Elijah.

Question:  Are they going to tell the people at that time that this is the Antichrist and not Christ?

Fr. Seraphim: According to tradition, they have two functions: Elijah will speak to the Jews.  It says in the Gospel that they asked Jesus if Elijah had come yet, some saying that John the Baptist was Elijah, to "reconcile the fathers to the children."  And Our Lord said that, in a certain sense, he had come; that is to say, in a spiritual sense he had come.

But most people would not accept this, therefore, the real Elijah comes at the end of time to reconcile the fathers-the Jews, to the sons-the Gentiles.  Enoch will speak to the rest of the people.  In other words, it will be quite clear at that time who Antichrist is and that these are the two prophets speaking and exposing him as Antichrist.

Question: If Antichrist and the mystery of iniquity will produce imitations of Christ's revelation, then surely Antichirst will have his "Church"-only it will not in any way be like the Church of Christ. How do you see the World Council of Churches-the Council of the Churches of this World?-as part of this mystery of iniquity?

Fr. Seraphim: Well, it is trying to prepare for that.  It is the religious equivalent to the United Nations, trying to build up a religious unity which is not on the basis of Christ.

 Question: The vagueness of that UN obelisk of which you spoke-I was there in 1976.  It is a dark, black rock.  It kind of reminds me of the "least common denominator deity" that ecumenism is producing: we all believe in "Christ" in Whom we have no common opinion whatsoever.

Fr. Seraphim: And even beyond Christ, because now they welcome non-Christian groups, dialogue with non-Christian religions, including any sort of any kind of religious belief, which, while in a certain sense it is true, you cannot make anything positive out of that.  Therefore, Antichrist will come to offer some kind of catalyst to gel all the elements together, and all will bow down to him since he supplies what they want. The Russian writer Soloviev-a very interesting man, though a little crazy in some ways-at the end of the last century, in his last few years became very changed.  In fact, he said he felt very strange going to church because he felt that the age of the catacombs was about to return.  And he felt he should be going underground to church.  While he was under this impulse in the last year or two of his life, he wrote a book called Three Conversations of Antichrist and the End of the World, in which he sets forth like a novel the coming of Antichrist.

He places it in the twenty-first century, with world wars, in which a great man-leader arises who first becomes President of Europe and by acclamation is made the President of the World for life, and then World Emperor, and he reunites everyone on the basis of the Roman Empire, and decides that he has to have a religious unity also. So he calls a world Ecumenical Council in Jerusalem, and there he offers to all people all that they ever desired if only they will sort of acknowledge and bow down to him.

For the Protestants he opens a kind of special Academy to explore the Scriptures from all different points of view and Biblical criticism; for the Roman Catholics he creates some kind of Papal institute or some such; and to the Orthodox he offers, in a restored Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, a museum of all possible Orthodox antiquities, in which every kind of beautiful thing which Orthodoxy ever had will be placed in the museum.  And this is supposed to satisfy the Orthodox people. Therefore, everyone will be satisfied and will all bow down and worship him.  Of course, that means that you will be satisfied with this external thing, which, from an external point of view, represents your religion. Anyone who is attracted merely by glittering censors, incense and beautiful vestments, he, first of all, will fall down before Antichrist.

Question: How do you view the Orthodox presence in America, which has more or less produced the World Council of Churches?

Fr. Seraphim: You mean the apocalyptic significance of Orthodoxy in America?  I don't think there is anything more significant about America than any other country, like Uganda, but I think it is definitely significant that people are awakening to it, those who have never had any relationship to Orthodoxy, simply because they heard the word preached, began to wake up, especially in a country which is supposedly totally Christianized, seeing that all which is called Christianty is not really Christianity, and therefore they want Orthodoxy.  That could very well be one of the signs of the end.

Of course, there are different kinds of ends. When a country comes to its end, as before com-munism came to Russia, there was a great spiritual revival occurring: they had great saints, such as St. John of Kronstadt, the elders of Optina Monastery, and many holy monks and bishops living at that time. And many people who were very fervent.  But the whole society, though, was against it: it had become so Westernized and almost anti-Christian. So the revival was finally submerged.

But if you look at it from the point of view of spiritual revival, there was definitely a spiritual revival going on, and therefore, the more you see that kind of thing happening here, you begin to wonder whether it isn't coming to an end or something similar for us, too.  And that may very well be bound up with the end of everything, because things right now seem to be stepping up their tempo, both in Russia and in America, the whole world situation.  It looks as though we are heading for some momentous events quite close in the future.

We should not, of course, get carried away by historical events, for Christianity is to save your soul, and, therefore, each person finds out about the truth and starts right here and now starting to live according to the commandments of the Church. That is the first thing which we should have in mind. And if somebody next year also finds out about it, perhaps somebody down the street, after which there is a whole group of people, that is all the better, inspiring you to struggle more yourself.

I think, though, that there is not much difference as to the end result: the Gulag, and whatever else happenced in Russia, the aim was destroy Christianity, and to a large extent it succeeded, because it is with great difficulty that people find out about Christianity now; and in the West all this indifference, tolerance, freedom and prosperity also helps to destroy any kind of strong Christianity. The end result, as Solzhenitsyn says, in the East they become stronger; after communism they became stronger than we in the West who have all this freedom.  But we should not be satisfied being weaker; we should offer to God our struggle.

Question: Are there any references made to the government using a stamp on the hand or forehead with which to purchase food or necessities?  Do you think that would go along with the coming of the one world government?

Fr. Seraphim: It has been done before.  In 1812, when Napoleon invaded Russia, when they returned there was no food, and so everyone was stamped on the wrist or top of the wrist with a number, and without that number they could not get any food.  And Adolph Hitler also did something like that, though I think it was not a number but rather some kind of a sign. That idea has already been practiced.  It is, in a sense, a natural thing. If you are short of papers, or no means of identification, you would have to mark a person on the forehead or hand, or something like that.

Question:  Could you tie in the ideas of monastic life with the apocalyptic vision?

Fr. Seraphim: On the most simple level, a monk is one who is supposed to be expecting death, the end.  therefore, he takes seriously the words: "Behold, I come quickly," and prepares himself to be in such a state that when Christ comes, he is ready.  In that sense, monasticism is apocalyptic. Of course, everybody is supposed to be like that if you are a Christiam. We should not think that only the monks are responsible for living a Christian life; such an idea is not true; a monk is just like everyone else.  Everyone must wake up.  If you look at the early Church, there was no distinction as to who was a monk and who was a layman-they all recognized the truth and they saw that it was urgent, to be lived immediately.

Question: Could you address some aspects of science fiction that you had a chance to write about in your book, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future?

Fr. Seraphim: Yes, anything in particular?

Question: Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov writes that modern man expects an "encounter" of one sort or another; and of course, we get that in the titles of these movies: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, whose creatures you describe in your book as ". . . barely disguised demons."  Could you tie in this aspect of the mentality of supposedly atheistic modern man as a "sign of the times"?

Fr. Seraphim: Well, I think that things like science fiction-which is only one aspect of it-is the way through which totally atheistic, unbelieving, man can come back to religion, (which, how-ever, is not the religion that saves your soul, that requires your soul to repent) to some kind of vague religious interest, which are perfectly in harmony with the spirit of the times, with worldliness, and therefore that belongs to Antichrist. It is remarkable if you look at many of the Star Trek series, the things which are performed by these space creatures are merely demonic tricks, which you can read in the lives of the saints.  And it is interesting that if you read to them from the lives of the saints they would laugh at you; but not so if you read them in science fiction stories.  They might not take it entirely seriously as reality; nonetheless, that is the way it begins.  First, you sort of accept it as a fantasy and, if not you, then the next generation begins to take it more seriously as reality.  Thus, it finally enters into the atmosphere as something quite plausible.

Question: Now we see such an outpouring of ideas and attitudes which are not Christian and are even anti-Christian, and some of the things of which we may not be consciously aware but are still in the air, what are some practical things which Orthodox Christians can do to resist these and become more aware of them?

Fr. Seraphim:  Well, we should be reading more Orthodox literature, such as the lives of the saints and the writings of the Fathers, on the more practical side, especially, on Christian life, so that we will have an idea of what are the basic kinds of temptations which come to people who are conducting a Christian life.  And that will help us even in new kinds of situations as we fit it into the type to which it belongs.  And the more you are doing that, the more you are prepared to face temptations which are happening.

Another thing is to try to look at the things which go on in the world around you with a critical point of view; that is, not simply accepting whatever is in fashion-in fact, if it comes into fashion since the times are always evil and now more than ever, there is bound to be some kind of a wrong reason for it to be in fashion.  Therefore, you should instantly distrust some kind of new fashionable thing, and do not give your entire trust to it.

That does not mean you have to be entirely sour about everything, just cautious.  As St. Paul says, you have to be walking circumspectly, redeeming the time for the days are evil.  If that was true during his time, it is so much more the case now when evil has built up so much. Since we live in a civilization which is very advanced in the sense of providing instant comfort and all kinds of convenient things, there is a certain kind of paralysis which can come over one, a certain kind of hypnotism.  You must be aware of anything which makes you extremely passive; for example, television: if you watch television too much it produces this kind of feeling of passively waiting for the next thing which will come to you.  It is spiritually a very dangerous state.  I think you must be aware of anything that can produce some kind of passive state in us which can lead to hypnosis or hypnotic suggestions.  I think if you are doing those things, plus leading a normal Christian life and saying prayers according to the prayer book, attending church when you can, making prostrations, venerating icons; that is, the normal things which Orthodox Christians do.  All these help guard against all the evil which is in the air.

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