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In the following talk, 1 Fr. Seraphim speaks to us from almost twenty years ago, and yet his words are quite relevant to our times as we approach the end of the second millennium.

Although some of the individual examples he gives are now dated, there are now even more extreme examples of the same phenomena of which he speaks. As always, he humbles his understanding before the holy Scriptures and their interpretation by the Orthodox Holy Fathers, and thus his teaching about the times remains timeless, free of the intellectual fashions and prejudices of this world.

As time goes on, the Orthodox world-view from which he received his wisdom will become ever more necessary for the spiritual survival of true Christians. First of all, we have to know what it is meant by the phrase “signs of the times. Christ tells the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Him, “Ye can discern the face of the calenxar that is, tell what the weather will be; “but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

It’s a religious question. We study the signs of the times in order to be able to recognize Christ. During the time of Christ, the Pharisees and Sadducees did not study the signs of the times in order to see that Christ had come, that the Son of God was already on earth. There were already signs that they should have recognized. For example, in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, there is a prophecy concerning the seventy weeks of years, which means that the Messiah was to come about years from the time of Daniel.

Those Jews who read their books very carefully knew exactly what this was all about, and at about the time that Christ came they knew that it was time for the messiah. But this is an outward sign. More importantly, the Pharisees and Sadducees should have been watching for the inward signs. If their hearts had been right with God, and if they had not been merely trying to fulfill the outward commandment of the law, their hearts would have responded and recognized Cwlendar in the flesh when He came.

And many of the Jews did—the apostles, the disciples, and many others. This same passage in the 16th chapter of St. Matthew speaks further about signs. Our Lord told the Jews, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given ortocox it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah.

When Jonah was three days in the belly of the whale, this was a prefiguation of our Lord’s being three days in the tomb. And this sign—the sign of Jonah-was given to the people of Crsstin time. Our Lord was telling the Pharisees and Sadducees that an evil and adulterous generation seeks for spectacular events, that is, fire coming down from heaven, or the Calencar being chased away, angels manifesting themselves and banishing the foreign government of the Romans, and things of that sort.

Christ told them this kind of sign would not be given. An evil and adulterous generation seeks after this, but those who are pure of heart seek rather something more spiritual.

And the one sign that is given to them is the sign of Jonah. Of course, it is a great thing that a man should be three days in the grave and the rise up, being God.

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Thus, from our Savior’s words, we know that we are not to watch for spectacular signs, but we are rather to look inwardly for spiritual signs. Also, we are to watch for those things which according to Scripture must come to pass. The very fact that we’re Orthodox Christians means that we’ve done this. We know what these signs mean: 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. Luke also have chapters about this. 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.

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? 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. This we’ve already seen throughout the history of the Church: 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.

And He says, “All these things are the beginning of tribulation. 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 Christianity. Then another sign, in the next verse of the 24th chapter: 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: The a more difficult place: 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: 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. Finally, the next verse: 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.


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But all this, for anyone not thoroughly acquainted with Scriptures and the writings of Holy Fathers, almost raises more question than it solves. Ortkdox 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? 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 Apocalypsebooks with interpretations about the coming end of 20009 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. The first thing we must have if we are going to have the true interpretation of the signs of the times is something we can call basic Orthodox caledar. That is, knowledge of the Holy Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments and not just according to the way it seems, but according to the way the Church has interpreted it ; knowledge of the writings of Holy Fathers; knowledge of Church history; and awareness of the different kind of heresies and errors which have attacked the Church’s true understanding of dogma and especially of the last times.

If we do orttodox have a grounding in sources such as these, we will find ourselves confused and unprepared. That is precisely what our Lord tells us: Unless we have this basic knowledge, we will not be prepared and we will misinterpret the signs of the times. A few years ago a book was printed in English which has become a fantastic bestseller for a religious book. It has sold over ten million copies in America. In a rather superficial style he gives his interpretation of the signs of the times.

He believes it’s the last times we are living in now. He believes that everywhere around us there are being fulfilled these signs which our Lord talked about. If you read this book, you find that sometimes he gets something more or less correct according to our Orthodox understanding, sometimes he is totally off, and sometimes he is partly wrong, partly ceestin.

It’s as though he’s just guessing, because he reads the Scripture according to his own understanding. He has no basic Orthodox Christian knowledge, no background in the true knowledge of the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers. Therefore, if you read this book seriously, you will find that you become very confused. You don’t know what to believe any more. He talks, for example, about a millennium which is supposed to come before the end of the world.

He talks about the rapture, when Christians are supposedly gathered up into the heavens before the end of the world, and then watch how the people suffer down below. He talks about the building of the Temple caalendar Jerusalem as though this is a good thing, as thought this is preparing for Christ’s coming.

If you read such books as this there are many other books like it; this one happens to be a bestseller because the author caught the imagination of people just at one particular ortodosand if you take them all as truth, you will find that instead of recognizing Christ—which is the whole reason for our understanding about the signs of the times—you will be accepting Antichrist.

Take, for example, the very question of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is true, according to Orthodox prophecies, that the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem.


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