The Triumph of Orthodoxy: (iii) The Millenium and the Judgement

The twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse presents one of the most difficult problems of Biblical exegesis. In the early centuries of Christianity certain heretics, such as Cerinthus, interpreted the thousand-year reign of Christ referred to in verses 2 to 7 in an over-literal, sensual, Judaizing sense. They argued, linking this chapter with certain Messianic passages from the Old Testament, that after the defeat of the Antichrist Christ would come in a visible form to earth and reign with His saints from Jerusalem; that this period would last for literally a thousand years until the Last Judgement; that the bodies of the saints would be resurrected to enjoy all the pleasures of this earthly life; and that the Jews and their Mosaic law, with its sabbaths and circumcisions, would have dominion over all the nations of the earth.

Variations of this error, called “chiliasm” or “millenarianism”, are to be found in almost every historical epoch. In modern times the creation of the State of Israel has stimulated its reappearance in many Protestant sects, notably the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some decades ago Fr. Seraphim Rose wrote: “The careful observer of the contemporary religious scene - especially in America, where the most popular religious currents have originated for over a century - cannot fail to notice a very decided air of chiliastic expectation. And this is not only true of ‘charismatic’ circles, but even of the traditionalist or fundamentalist circles that have rejected the ‘charismatic revival’. Thus, many traditionalist Roman Catholics believe in the coming of a chiliastic ‘Age of Mary’ before the end of the world, and this is only one variant on the more widespread Latin error of trying to ‘sanctify the world’, or, as Archbishop Thomas Connolly of Seattle expressed it fifteen years ago, ‘transforming the modern world into the Kingdom of God in preparation for His return.’ Protestant evangelists such as Billy Graham, in their mistaken private interpretation of the Apocalypse, await the ‘millenium’ when ‘Christ’ will reign on earth. Other evangelists in Israel find that their millenarian interpretation of the ‘Messiah’ is just what is need to ‘prepare’ the Jews for his coming…”[138]

Now there were some Orthodox fathers and saints who, while avoiding the errors of the extreme Judaizers, interpreted the millenium in a fairly literal way.

Thus St. Justin the Martyr writes: “There was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgement of all men would likewise take place.”[139] While admitting that “many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise,” he declared that he and others “who are right-minded Christians on all points are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and 1000 years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned and enlarged as the Prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah and others declare.[140]

Several other fathers of the second and third centuries, such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus and Methodius of Olympus, are also classified as chiliasts, although they usually interpreted the figure of “1000 years” in a symbolical sense. These teachers were fighting especially against the heresy of Gnosticism, which rejected the flesh as evil and tended to interpret the resurrection of the dead in a purely spiritual sense. Irenaeus, in particular, inveighed against the over-allegorical interpretation of the prophecies. Lactantius, the tutor to the Emperor Constantine’s son, was also a chiliast. Thereafter, however, a strong reaction set in against the teaching, led by the Church historian Eusebius. So strongly opposed to it was he that he described one of the early chiliast writers, St. Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, whom Irenaeus accepted as having heard the Apostle John himself, as “a man of very little intelligence”.[141]

At the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, the Church introduced the phrase: “Whose Kingdom shall have no end” into the Symbol of the Faith, without, however, formally anathematising chiliasm. In fact, according to some writers, the introduction of this phrase into the Symbol may not have been directed against chiliasm at all, or only against its cruder, Jewish variants.[142] So it is possible that the less extreme, more spiritual forms of the teaching were permitted. For even Blessed Jerome, who, with Blessed Augustine, was the foremost enemy of the teaching, while mocking the chiliasts as “our half-Jews”[143], in other places speaks of them with more respect, as holding views “which, although we may not hold, we cannot condemn, because many ecclesiastical men and martyrs have taught the same”.[144] It is unlikely that he would have said this if the views of Saints Irenaeus, Hippolytus and others had been formally anathematized. Even Blessed Augustine admits that there are “tolerable” kinds of chiliasm – that is, those kinds in which the delights of the millennium are “of a spiritual kind”: “Those who, because of the passage in this book, have suspected that the first resurrection is future and bodily, have been influenced, especially, among other things, by the number of a thousand years, to suppose that it were fitting that among the saints there should be during that time a kind of sabbatism, a holy vacation as it were after the labours of the six thousand years since man was created… This opinion would be somewhat tolerable, if the delights of that sabbath to be enjoyed by the saints were, through the presence of the Lord, of a spiritual kind. For we too were at one time of this opinion.[145]

From the fifth century, under the influence of Jerome and Augustine, a purely spiritual conception of the millenium becomes prevalent, according to which the thousand-year reign of Christ represents the whole of Christian history between the First and Second Comings of Christ but excluding the reign of the Antichrist.

Thus St. Andrew of Caesarea writes: “The thousand years is the time in the course of which the Gospel will be preached. There is no need to understand the thousand years literally. Neither does the number have a literal meaning in the Song of Songs: Each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver. My vineyard, my very own, is for myself; you, O Solomon, may have the thousand, and the keepers of the fruit - two hundred (8.11-12)… The full number depicts abundance and perfection in the bringing forth of fruits. In the same way here the thousand years depicts the completed bringing forth of the fruits of faith.” As Fr. Seraphim Rose put it, “the ‘millenium’ of the Apocalypse (20.6) is now; the life of grace in the Orthodox Church for the whole ‘thousand years’ between the First Coming of Christ and the time of Antichrist.”[146]

However, this interpretation is open to certain powerful objections; and below a third view is expounded, which takes a middle course between the more literal views of the second and third century Fathers, and the purely allegorical views of Jerome and Augustine. This view is presented very tentatively (as is the whole of the present interpretation of the Apocalypse); but it has the advantage of escaping the extremes of over-literalism and Judaism, on the one hand, and excessive allegorism, on the other.

20.1-3. And I 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.

This image is immediately reminiscent of Revelation 9.1-3, where demons are released from the abyss to let loose (according to our interpretation) the Third World War, and Revelation 10.1, where an angel descends from heaven to restore peace to the world. In view of the similarity of the imagery, it would be reasonable to suppose that the seer is here witnessing the same events as in the earlier vision. If so, then there is a chronologically continuous transition between Revelation 19 and 20, just as there was between chapters 9 and 10, and not the abrupt break in the narrative that is postulated by the Augustinian interpretation. This transition is that between the terrible carnage of the Third World War, which was incited by the devil but in which Christ emerges as the Victor, and the period of peace afterwards, in which demonic activity is suppressed, at least temporarily. The nations are undeceived and come to the Faith of Christ for a period denoted symbolically as a thousand years, at the end of which the demons are again let loose to prepare the way for the Antichrist in his final form.

It should be noted, too, that whereas the beast and the false prophet are cast into the fire at the end of chapter 19, it is not until a chapter later, after the millenium, that we read that the Devil was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are (20.10). This suggests that the punishment of the beast and the false prophet does not represent a full close or last judgement, but a penultimate judgement preceding that of the devil himself at the end of time.
Our hypothesis is that chapter 19 describes the defeat of the beast in his penultimate incarnation, as the seventh head, or collective Antichrist, while the end of chapter 20 represents the destruction of the personal Antichrist (here we agree with the Augustinians), followed by that of the devil at the very end of time.[147]

According to the Augustinian interpretation, Satan’s binding for a thousand years represents his defeat by the Lord on the Cross, while his deceiving the nations no more signifies the whole history of the Church before the reign of the Antichrist. But is it reasonable to suppose that Satan has had so little success since the Coming of Christ that the nations were deceived no more? Is it not rather the case that most of the nations have been deceived for most of the time, and especially in the twentieth century? Christ bound the devil in hades in the sense that He made a way for those who believe in Him to escape the devil’s snares and ascend without hindrance through the demonic toll-houses and into the Kingdom of Heaven after death. But at no time has the majority of mankind accepted His redemption; the nations have remained deceived.

Somewhat more reasonable is Archbishop Averky’s hypothesis that the thousand years represents “the victory of the Church over paganism and the establishment of the Church on earth”. This would suggest that the period from Constantine the Great to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II is meant, from about 312 to 1917. And yet even in this period, and even confining the discussion to Europe and the Middle East alone, heresies such as Islam, Monophysitism, Papism and Protestantism have held sway over very large areas for long periods of time. Constantine’s victory in the fourth century opened the way for the Christianization of the Mediterranean basin only; it may be said to foreshadow the enlightening of the nations worldwide, but cannot be said to be its realisation.

It would be most natural to interpret the phrase: he should deceive the nations no more to mean a more universal defeat of paganism than Constantine’s, a triumph of good over evil such as cannot be said to have taken place yet. This is the victory which, as so many prophets have foretold, will take place at the end of the Third World War, and which will be followed by the enlightenment of most of the nations with the light of the Orthodox Faith. It is the victory which the Lord Himself prophesied when He said: This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come (Matthew 24.14).

And why is this triumph said to last for a thousand years? We may suggest - very tentatively, as always - the following explanation. Approximately 1000 years passed between the building of Solomon’s temple in the Old Testament and the First Coming of Christ. The Zionist Jews and Freemasons wish to rebuild the temple of Solomon and enthrone their “son of David”, the Antichrist, within it. Therefore symbolically speaking the period between the coming of Christ (as described in chapter 19) and the enthronement of the Antichrist could also be said to be 1000 years. So the thousand years may indeed represent “the victory of the Church over paganism and the establishment of the Church on earth”, as Archbishop Averky says - only the victory is not Constantine’s in the 4th century, but Christ’s at the end of the 20th.

Bishop Peter of Tomsk writes: “Some understand by the beast the pagan Roman Empire, and count the thousand years as beginning from the time of Constantine the Great and until the end of the 13th century, when the Turkish empire was founded, and consider the Turks to be Gog and Magog. But others, while understanding by the beast the mysterious, antichristian Roman Empire, refer the thousand years to a time of the peaceful flourishing of the Church, which God has ordained for her on earth after the destruction of this empire hostile to her, and which had not yet come into being. This prophecy is closely linked with the previous one, which speaks of the destruction of the beast. This opinion is confirmed by: (1) the connection of speech. In the previous prophecy (ch. 19) it is said that after the destruction of the kingdom of the beast, hosts of saints and martyrs in their doxologies offered to God for His great goodness given to the Church, express the reason for their joy as (a) the fact that God has entered into His kingdom, that is, the kingdom of Christ (v. 6); and (b) the fact that the time for the celebration of the wedding of the Lamb has come and the bride has prepared herself (v. 7). Since this is said only briefly there, the Holy Spirit wanted in this same order to explain it in more detail in the following prophecy, so that people should clearly know what happiness there will be for the Church after the destruction of the beast. The first happiness, that is, reign of Christ God, is revealed in the 20th chapter, in which it is said that after the destruction of the kingdom of the beast Jesus Christ will reign with the saints and martyrs sitting on thrones (v. 3). The last, that is, the celebration of the wedding of the Lamb is depicted in chapters 21 and 22. This is the connection of this prophecy with the preceding one. But if this prophecy about the thousand years refers to a previous time and is to be considered as inserted here, then the connection and order of the prophecies contained in chapters 19, 20, 21 and 22 is destroyed. (2) In this same prophecy it is clearly presupposed that the empire of the beast has already appeared in the world and has been destroyed. Thus in verse 4 it is said that the thrones were set, and on them sat to whom judgement was given, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. In verse 10 it is said that Satan, who had deceived Gog and Magog, was cast into the fiery lake where the beast and the false prophet had already been finally cast, and in which they already were during the time when God determined that Gog and Magog should be judged and punished. But Gog and Magog will appear immediately after the passing of the thousand years and will perish. Besides, the kingdom of the beast and the glorious kingdom of Christ – which must spread throughout the world among all peoples, Satan being no longer able to deceive them with a false religion or persecute the confessors of the truth, - cannot coexist at the same time. Consequently, the thousand-year reign of Christ with the saints will be in the last times, after the destruction of the kingdom of the beast or antichristianity, when all the Jews and Gentiles will be united to the Church of Christ, which at that time will be cleansed from all errors, superstitions, deceptions and the crude vices of carnal people, which before that had never been seen. For Christ does not reign everywhere when there sit on the thrones not only those who confess His name only outwardly, but also pagans. The Kingdom of Christ is the kingdom of righteousness, truth, piety, love and peace with an abundance of spiritual goods and gifts, triumph over satan, over the spirit of the proud, luxurious, corrupt world, and over all the enemies that oppose this kingdom. Where this is, there Christ reigns. But when little of this is revealed in the Church, then Christ does not reign in complete glory. When in the rulers of the Church we note: pride, worldly splendour, luxuriousness, a worldly spirit, the love of power, a passion for predominance, the love of glory, avarice, envy, jealousy, and, proceeding from these, quarrels, arguments, temptations, impurity of life and pandering to the vices of worldly people; when the Church groans under the tyranny of impious tsars who do not respect religion: then Christ does not reign in such an evident and glorious way. On the contrary, when the pastors and teachers of the Church are humble, righteous, non-possessive, abstinent, prudent, zealous for piety and the glory of God, far from the spirit of the world and luxuriousness, under the protection of pious governments that are reverent before God, who teach the knowledge of God, piety and righteousness to the flocks entrusted to them, who lead them to salvation in accordance with the teaching and good order of the Apostles and Holy Fathers, who care about peace and the decency of the morals and customs of their flock; who destroy temptations; who shine to their flock in the purity of morals and holiness of life; who serve as objects of fear for the impious and vicious, but as consolation for the good: then Christ reigns in glory.

“But the Kingdom of Christ will be spiritual, and not sensual, as the so-called chiliasts of antiquity imagined it, thinking that Jesus Christ would in a visible manner come down from heaven to earth in Jerusalem, and would rule whole peoples like earthly, civil tsars. For the Kingdom of Christ is spiritual (John 18.36), and His glory is spiritual; it does not come in a noticeable manner (Luke 17.20,21), so that one could see it externally, it does not consist in external civil institutions and administration, it is not united with external pomp and splendour; according to the words of the Apostle Paul (Romans 14.17), the Kingdom of God consists not in the enjoyment of food and drink, in material goods, but in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The glorious Kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth will consist in the fact that, after the destruction of all the enemies of Christianity – paganism and antichristianity, there will come a peaceful, calm period in which the Church, after receiving into her bosom all the Jews and Gentiles, well constructed and ruled in accordance with the teaching and good order of the Apostles and Holy Fathers, enlightened by the Evangelical light of the knowledge of the truth and holiness, and enjoying the gifts of grace, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, will flourish in piety and good works under the care of prudent, righteous pastors, and under the protection of pious governments, and will widely spread the light of Evangelical truth, piety and glory.”[148]

20.4. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgement was given to them.

The Lord said that the apostles would sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19.28). But judgement over the unbelievers, according to David, shall be to all His saints (Psalm 149.9).

Again, as Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov writes: “The thrones of the saints are their dominion over the passions, over the demons themselves, over human weaknesses, over the elements, over beasts - the abundance of their spiritual gifts… They are given judgement, that is, spiritual discernment, by which they expose sin, with whatever fair appearance it may be covered, and reject it; they are given judgement, by which they judge the angels of darkness who take on the form of angels, and do not allow them to deceive them. They bowed down neither to the beast, nor to his image, neither to the Antichrist, nor to his forerunners, the persecutors of Christianity, who demanded from Christians that they renounce Christ and renounce His all-holy commandments. They received the seal of the enemy of God neither on their foreheads nor on their right hands, but acquired the mind of Christ, constantly expressing it in their thoughts and actions, not sparing even their blood in order to receive the seal of faithfulness of Christ. And for that reason they reigned with Christ. For them there is no death! For them the separation of the soul from the body - we repeat the thought of Basil the Great - is not death, but a passage from sorrowful wandering on earth to eternal joy and repose.”[149]

It is also possible that the Eighth Ecumenical Council is being referred to, insofar as in the Ecumenical Councils the holy fathers triumphed over heresies and judged heretics. For as St. Nilus the Myrrh-Gusher prophesied: “A last and Eighth Ecumenical Council [will be convened] to deal with the disputes of heretics and separate the wheat from the tares”.[150] And St. Seraphim also prophesied the convening of a last and Eighth Council that would defeat the western heresies and prepare the world for the final contest with the Antichrist” [151] – which is not to say, however, that there may not be a false eighth council of the ecumenists before the true one of the True Orthodox.[152]

20.4. And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived with Christ a thousand years.

These souls are clearly those whom the seer saw under the heavenly altar after the breaking of the fifth seal (6.11) - that is, the holy new martyrs of Russia. Evidently their petition is about to be answered, God’s vengeance on His and their enemies is about to be accomplished. But this can only come about when the veneration of the martyrs is alive in the hearts of the people. Hence the significance of the canonization of the new martyrs by the Russian Church Abroad in 1981 - which led very quickly to the fall of Soviet power. However, the veneration of the new martyrs will have to become much more widespread - and its distortion by the false patriarchate of Moscow rejected - before the scourge of the revolution can be finally swept away.

Archbishop Averky points out that “here mention is made only of their souls, which have not yet been united with their bodies. From these words it is evident that the saints take part in the government of the Church of Christ on earth, and for that reason it is natural and right to address them with prayers, beseeching them to intercede for us before Christ, with Whom they rule. And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. This living must be understood in a moral-spiritual sense. The holy seer calls it the first resurrection, while he speaks about the second, bodily resurrection further on. This co-reigning of the saints with Christ will continue until the final victory over the dark forces of impiety in the time of the Antichrist, when the resurrection of bodies will take place and the Last and Terrible Judgement.

St. Cyprian of Carthage writes: “He says that all live and reign with Christ, not only those who have been slain; but even whosoever, standing in firmness of faith and the fear of God, have not worshipped the image of the beast, and have not consented to his deadly and sacrilegious edicts.[153]

However, this first resurrection - of souls, not bodies - could also mean the resurrection of the Church from her present obscurity, the setting of her light upon a lampstand for the whole world to see, when multitudes of nations, both Jews and Gentiles, will return to her bosom. Thus according to Hieromartyr Damascene of Glukhov, the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth could be “a short period of peace from the Lord (perhaps even a time when darkness will consider its work already completed), [when] the lamps [of faith] will be revealed, will be united, will light up many others which were about to go out, and will merge into a great flame of faith which, amidst the attempts to quench it, will only flare up more strongly, for many of those which have gone out and have felt the torment of the darkness and cold of tartarus will prefer rather to burn on the fire of the flame of faith than to be immersed again in darkness. It is possible that this will be the moment which is indicated in a hidden manner under the image of ‘the thousand-year reign with Christ’.”[154]

In a general sense, therefore, the first resurrection can be said to represent the resurrection of the Church on earth that will take place after the Third World War. It will be a resurrection of souls, not bodies, and will anticipate, by its world-wide extent and the intensity of its joy, the general resurrection of the body at the very end of the world. However, it will not be the end of the world, but will rather prepare the world for the final battle against the Antichrist and the Second Coming of Christ.

Now several of the prophecies of the saints speak of a paradisal situation over the whole earth after the Third World War which recall the Old Testament prophecies of a similarly paradisal situation after the Coming of the Messiah. For example: “The earth’s treasures will be opened up and everyone will become rich; and there will be no paupers; and the earth will bring forth a hundredfold; and the weapons of war will be turned into ploughs and scythes” (St. Methodius). Again: “After the general war the lion will live with the lamb” (St. Cosmas). The question is: are these prophecies of the New Testament saints referring to the same events as the messianic Old Testament prophecies whose images and metaphors they borrow?

Here we again come up against the problem of avoiding extremes of interpretation. The over-literal approach characteristic of the Judaizers and Protestants would see in the messianic prophecies a revival of Judaism, with its sabbaths and circumcisions and animal sacrifices. However, this is definitely excluded both by St. Paul (in his epistle to the Galatians, especially) and by all of the Holy Fathers of the Church, who warn that it is precisely such false interpretations of the Scriptures which the Antichrist will use to justify his own dominion. They explain that where the Scriptures refer to Israel they are referring to the New Testament Church, and that the triumph of Israel throughout the world refers to the triumph of the Church.[155]

Thus when, for example, the Prophet Micah says: He shall judge among many peoples, and shall rebuke strong nations from afar off; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles; and nation shall no more lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn to war any more (4.3), - he is speaking of the triumph of the Church in the millenial period. Again, when the Prophet Zechariah says: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall be left of all the nations that came up against Jerusalem, shall even come up every year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (14.16), he is not speaking of the universal triumph of the Jews and Judaism, as the Zionists and Judaizers like to think, but of Christ and the Church, the Feast of Tabernacles being understood here as the Christian fulfilment of the Old Testament feast. For, as Jean Danielou wrote, “although the Jewish feast of Tabernacles has not been carried on into the Christian liturgy of today, this feast was seen by the Fathers of the Church as a figure of Christian realities.”[156]

At the same time, it is impossible to allegorize the Old Testament prophecies to such an extent that all references to the race of the Jews and to the physical land of Israel are excluded. For the triumph of the Church in the millenial period will be at the same time the return of the Jews to the Church, as was prophesied by St. Paul in Romans 9 to 11, and by St. John in the Apocalypse, as we have seen (e.g. 3.9, 7.4-8). Therefore the apparent confusion of the categories of the Old and New Testament Churches may be deliberate, as pointing, not to the return of the Christians to the worship of the Old Testament, but to the return of the Jews to the Church, the turning again of the heart of the father to the son (Malachi 4.5).

One of the clearest of these prophecies is in Ezekiel, where, after describing how the Jews will spend seven months clearing up after the destruction of Gog and Magog, the prophet continues: All the nations shall know that the house of Israel was led captive because of their sins, because they rebelled against Me, and I turned My face from them, and delivered them into the hands of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions did I deal with them, and I turned My face from them. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Now will I turn back captivity in Jacob, and will have mercy on the house of Israel, and will be jealous for the sake of My holy name (39.23-25). For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you [baptism], and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses.. And you shall be My people, and I will be your God (36.24-25,28).

Again, in the Prophet Jeremiah we read: Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days, says the Lord, that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord’. It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. Nor more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers (3.16-18).

Again, in the Prophet Zephaniah we read: From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My suppliants, the daughter of My dispersed ones, shall bring Me offering. On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against Me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in My holy mountain. For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord, those who are left in Israel… I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors, and I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gathered you together; yea, I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord. (3.10-13,18-20).

Again, the Lord says through the Prophet Zechariah: I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and compassion; and they shall look on Me Whom they pierced (i.e. the Crucified Christ), and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns over a first-born (12.10). Thus pierced with a true spirit of repentance, “Jacob”, the Jews, will return to “Israel”, the Church.

And so all Israel (i.e. Christian Jews and Gentiles together) will be saved; as it is written: The deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob (Romans 11.26; Isaiah 59.20).[157]
The Apostle Paul calls the conversion of the Jews to Christ life from the dead(Romans 11.15). Therefore it is entirely fitting that this event, combined with the simultaneous harvest of the fullness of the Gentiles (Romans 11.25), should be called the first resurrection in the Apocalypse. “Then,” writes St. Agathangelus, “honey and milk will flow in everything; the sea storms will cease, and for fully fifty years shall peace reign; truth shall triumph, and the sky shall rejoice in true glory; the Orthodox Faith shall be uplifted and shall spring from East to West in order to be praised and blessed; the barbarians shall be overcome with fright and, wholly trembling, shall flee headlong speedily, abandoning the world’s metropolis; then God shall be glorified, and man shall see the works of His omnipotence. Let it be so, and it shall be so.” Or, as St. Cosmas of Aitolia writes: “Blessed is he that shall live after the general war. He will eat with spoons of silver.”

Professor Pangiotis Trembelas: “Then the Church will be able to celebrate peace on earth as an annunciatory dawn of the eternal Day without evening of the future Kingdom and will be able to see the ideal of her combats and efforts realized. At that moment the devil will have been truly bound, for if evil has not been completely annihilated, it will nevertheless be reduced to impotence. There will no longer exist a human will strong enough to oppose Christianity and the Christian spirit will predominate everywhere. States and institutions will be inspired by it; the sciences and arts, in the service of Christian thought, will find their true ideal and will serve glorified humanity. There will be a religious resurrection, the tombs of ecclesiastical history will be opened, the whole past will be revealed to live again in a memory always present and alive…”[158]
20.5-6. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

According to our interpretation, the rest of the dead refers to those who, when the Church is resurrected and spreads to the furthest ends of the earth, remain stubbornly in their unbelief.

That there will be some who do not partake in this feast of faith is indicated by St. Cosmas, who in regard to the Muslims says that one third will be killed in the war, one third will be converted to Christianity, and one third will remain in unbelief.[159]

Again, the Prophet Zechariah declares concerning these stubborn unbelievers: If and of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain upon them. And if the family of Egypt do not go up and present themselves, then upon them shall come the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that go not up to the feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the feast of Tabernacles (14.17-19).

“The expression: lived not again expresses the gloomy and painful condition after bodily death of the souls of impious sinners. It will continue until the thousand years are finished. As in many other passages of Sacred Scripture, this term ‘until’ (evs in Greek) does not signify the continuation of the action until a clearly defined time limit, but, on the contrary, the complete denial of such a limit (e.g. Matthew 1.25). In these words, therefore, we should see the denial of an eternally blessed life for the impious who have died. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power. This is explained by St. Andrew of Caesarea as follows: ‘From the Divine Scriptures we know that there are two lives and two killings, that is, deaths: the first life, as a punishment for transgression of the commandments, is temporal and carnal, the second, as a reward for fulfilment of the Divine commandments, is the eternal life promised to the saints. In a similar fashion there are two kinds of death: the one carnal and temporary, and the other eternal, being sent in the future as a punishment of sin, that is, fiery gehenna. Consequently, the meaning of these words is this: he who has lived here on earth in Christ Jesus and in the grace-filled life given by Him, and who after the first, i.e. bodily death has appeared before Him with flaming faith in Him has nothing to fear with regard to the second death, that is, fiery gehenna.” (Archbishop Averky)

20.7-8. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

Saints Ephraim the Syrian[160] and John Chrysostom[161] understand by Gog and Magog the peoples who oppressed the Jews soon after their return from exile in Babylon.

St. Jerome writes: “The word Magog is used for the first time in the Book of Genesis (10.2). It is one of the sons of Japheth. In the prophecy of Ezekiel there is mention of Gog and Magog; from there these names have been transferred to the Apocalypse with the same meanings with which they were understood by Ezekiel, but with a different denotation. Gog in Ezekiel is represented as a glorious and terrible conqueror, who invades the land of the people of Israel with a large army (38.15-16)… God was a weapon of the wrath of God against Israel, but then because of his cruelty and impiety was also made an object of revenge of the wrath of God. The word Magog meant either the land, or the people, commanded by Gog… From the Apocalypse it is evident that prophecies sometimes referred, in the same words, also to the judgement of God on the impiety of the last times in the existence of the world, the time of the coming, kingdom and dominion of the last Antichrist. Gog has always been understood to refer to a savage and warlike ruler commanding a numerous army of warriors of various races who tramples on the laws of God, a bloodthirsty evildoer, an enemy of God, the faith and the Church and the worship of God. Gog is the Antichrist; Magog – his army. Gog means one who gathers, and Magog – a gathering of the peoples.”[162]

There are two important differences between the prophecy of Ezekiel and the present prophecy about Gog and Magog. The first is that whereas Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog come from the extreme north (38.6; cf. 38.15, 39.2; Joel 2.20), John’s come from the four quarters of the earth; and the second is that whereas the destruction of Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog is followed by several more years of terrestrial life, that of John is followed by the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgement.

The reason for this difference is that while Ezekiel’s vision is of the collective Antichrist, John’s is of the personal Antichrist. Between the destruction of the collective Antichrist and the rise of the personal Antichrist comes the millenium, during which True Christianity will spread to the four quarters of the earth. Hence the transition from the local to the universal: whereas in 1917, the beginning of the reign of the collective Antichrist, True Christianity was mainly concentrated in the Russian Empire and the Balkans, before the reign of the personal Antichrist it will have spread everywhere, eliciting a universal persecution of it by the dark forces.

“Some think that Gog and Magog are the distant peoples of the Scythians, or, as we call them, the Huns, the most warlike and numerous of all the peoples of the earth. Only by the Divine right hand are they held back from taking control of the whole earth until the liberation of the devil. Others, translating from the Hebrew, say that ‘Gog’ signifies ‘meeting’ or ‘assembly’, and ‘Magog’ - ‘raised’ or ‘exaltation’. One must know that Ezekiel prophesied concerning these peoples, that they shall come in the last days with great power and fall on the land of Israel; and their weapons, because of their great number, will burn for seven years.

“Some interpreters of this word of the prophet have referred [this event] to the battle of the Assyrians under Sennacherib with Hezekiah. But this event took place many years before the prophecy of Ezekiel. Others refer them to the defeat of the peoples who attacked the inhabitants of Jerusalem when they, after the Babylonian captivity, wanted to repair and strengthen the walls of the city in accordance with the command, first of the Persian Cyrus, and then of Darius. They also refer them to the armies of Antiochus, which were defeated by the Maccabees. It is clear, however, that their advent above all refers to the last times. It is possible to assert this, first, because nowhere in the sacred books is there mention of wars of the Jews with the Scythians, only of wars with neighbouring peoples who envied their modern enrichment; secondly, because it is written concerning Gog that he will be prepared from ancient times and will come in the last times; and thirdly, because in this revelation foretelling the future (Revelation ch. 20) it is said that Gog and Magog will come at the end of the age.” (St. Andrew of Caesarea)

St. Jerome interprets the words “Rhos”, “Mosoch” and “Thubal” to mean “head”, “insanity” and “universal”, respectively.[163]

A Catacomb Church document states: “St. Andrew translates the ancient Hebrew word ‘Gog’ as an assembly of tribes, or union. ‘Magog’ is the Scythians or Slavs according to Genesis 10.2. Investigators affirm that Gog and Magog are the peoples and tribes inhabiting the coast of the Caspian sea.”[164]

Josephus says that Magog (or Gog) was the ancestor of the Scythians, who also originally inhabited the Black Sea area.[165]

However, other writers have rejected the identification of Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog with Russia.[166]

But why are the forces of the Antichrist in the Apocalypse after the millenium also called Gog and Magog? Evidently because spiritually speaking, in their antichristian aims and spirit, they are identical

20.9-10. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints above, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And 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.

Let the wicked be cut off, that he behold not the glory of the Lord (Isaiah 26.10).

20.11. And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from Whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them.

In Daniel we read: I beheld until the thrones were set, and the Ancient of days sat; and His raiment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was as pure wool; his throne was a flame of fire, and his wheels burning fire. A stream of fire rushed forth before Him: thousand thousands ministered to Him, and myriad myriads attended upon Him: the judgement sat, and the books were opened (7.9-10).

“This is a picture of the universal judgement of God on the human race. The whiteness of the throne on which the supreme Judge sits signifies the holiness and righteousness of His judgement.” (Archbishop Averky)

The fleeing away of the heavens and the earth is explained by the Apostle Peter: The Day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up (II Peter 3.10). For, as David says: In the beginning, O Lord, Thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou abidest; and all like a garment shall grow old, and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them, and they shall be changed (Psalm 101: 25-26; Hebrews 1.10-12).

20.12. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
In Daniel we read: And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (12.1-3).

“The opened books represent the acts and conscience of each person. One of them is the book of life in which are written the names of the saints.” (St. Andrew of Caesarea)

“The opened books symbolically signify the omniscience of God, to Whom all the works of men are known. The book of life is only one, as a sign of the small quantity of the elect of God who are to be heirs of salvation.” (Archbishop Averky)

20.13. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hades delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works.

“The meaning of this is that everyone without exception will be resurrected and stand before the Judgement of God.” (Archbishop Averky)
20.14-15. And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

“This is said with the meaning that those who are glorified and saved will no longer fear either death or hades: for them death and hades will cease to exist forever. By the lake of fire and second death are to be understood the eternal condemnation of sinners, whose names did not appear in the Lord’s book of life.” (Archbishop Averky)

“The second death is.. the cutting off from God of a sinful soul which lives in carnal desires, of which the Lord says: Let the dead bury the dead (Matthew 8.22; Luke 9.60).” (Patriarch Anthimus)
For, as St. John Chrysostom says, “many even of those who seem to live are no better than dead men, living as they do in wickedness.”[167]

St. Ephraim writes: “We know from the Gospel that there are various places of torment. For it has been revealed to us that there is exterior darkness (Matthew 8.12), and so it follows that there is also interior darkness. The fire of gehenna (Matthew 5.29) is another place, the abode of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25.30). Another place speaks of the worm that dieth not (Mark 9.43). We read in another place of the lake of fire (Rev. 19.15). The lower world of destruction and perdition are written of in precise terms (Matthew 7.13; I Timothy 6.9). The depths of the earth is another place. The hell where sinners are tormented, and the depths of hell, a more fearful place. The wretched souls of the damned are distributed throughout these places of punishment, each one according to the nature of his sins; fearfully or less fearfully, as it is written: Each one is fast bound by the ropes of his own sins (Proverbs 5.22); and this is what is meant by the servant who is beaten with many stripes or with few stripes (Luke 12.47,48). For just as there are differences of sin so also are there differences in their punishment.”[168]

St. Gregory Palamas writes: “Although in the future restoration, when the bodies of the righteous will be raised, the bodies of the lawless and sinners will also be raised, they will be raised only so as to be subjected to the second death: to eternal torment, the unsleeping worm (Mark 9.48), the gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8.12), the outer and impenetrable darkness (Matthew 8.12), to dark and inextinguishable gehenna (Matthew 5.22). The prophet says: The lawless and sinners shall be burnt up together, and there shall be none to quench it (Isaiah 1.31; cf. Jeremiah. 4.4). For this is the second death, as John teaches us in his Revelation.”[169]

“For at that time the trumpet shall sound (I Thessalonians 4.16),” writes St. Hippolytus, “and awake those that sleep from the lowest parts of the earth, righteous and sinners alike. And every kindred, and tongue, and nation, and tribe shall be raised in the twinkling of an eye (I Corinthians 15.52); and they shall stand before the face of the earth, waiting for the Coming of the righteous and terrible Judge, in fear and trembling unutterable. For the river of fire shall come forth in fury like an angry sea, and shall burn up mountains and hills, and shall make the sea vanish, and shall dissolve the atmosphere with its heat like wax (II Peter 3.12). The stars of heaven shall fall (Matthew 24.29), the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood (Acts 2.20). The heaven shall be rolled together like a scroll (Rev. 6.19): the whole earth shall be burnt up by reason of the deeds done in it, which men did corruptly, in fornications, in adulteries, and in lies and uncleanness, and in idolatries, and in murders, and in battles. For there shall be a new heaven and a new earth.”[170]

St. John of Damascus writes: “A judge justly punishes one who is guilty of wrongdoing; and if he does not punish him he is himself a wrongdoer. In punishing him the judge is not the cause either of the wrongdoing or of the vengeance taken against the wrongdoer, the cause being the wrongdoer’s freely chosen actions. Thus too God, Who saw what was going to happen as if it had already happened, judged it as if it had taken place; and if it was evil, that was the cause of its being punished. It was God Who created man, so of course He created him in goodness; but man did evil of his own free choice, and is himself the cause of the vengeance that overtakes him…”[171]


[138] Rose, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1990, pp. 212-213.
[139] St. Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 81.
[140] St. Justin, op. cit., 80.
[141] Eusebius, History of the Church, 3, 39, 11.
[142] This is the view of Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, who writes (personal communication, 21 January, 1997): “It seems more probable that it was directed against the theories of Marcellus of Ancyra (who was not a millenarian); Marcellus and his followers are mentioned in Canon One of the 381 Council. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, takes the view that the clause in question is aimed against Marcellus. Brian E. Daley, The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology, says nothing about any condemnation of millenarianism in 381.”
[143] St. Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 60.1, 66.20.
[144] St. Jerome, Commentary on Jeremiah 19.10.
[145] St. Augustine, The City of God, 20, 7, 1; translated by William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Fathers, Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1970, vol. III, p. 104.
[146] Rose, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, op. cit., pp. 214-215.
[147] Perhaps forty-five days later, as seems to be suggested by Daniel 12.11-12. See the commentary on Revelation 11.14 above.
[148] Bishop Peter, Explanation of the Apocalypse, Tomsk, 1885, p. 237; in Barsov, op. cit., pp. 239-240.
[149] Bishop Ignatius, On Signs and Wonders, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, 1960 (in Russian).
[150] Sotiropoulos, op. cit. See also the anonymous prophecy that the Greek Emperor John “will chase the bad priests from the sanctuary and re-establish the divine altar” (quoted in Delimpasy, op. cit., p. 65).
[151] St. Seraphim, text supplied by Fr. Victor Potapov. See also Literaturnaia Ucheba, January-February, 1991, pp. 131-134 (in Russian). However,
[152] Such a council has been planned for over thirty years now; and a false eighth council is hinted at by Archbishop Theophanes of Poltava: “I do not know anything about the Eighth Ecumenical Council yet. I can only tell you the words of St. Theodore the Studite: ‘Not every meeting of bishops is a council, only those meetings of bishops which are held in Truth.’ The validity of an Ecumenical Council depends not on the number of bishops gathered at it, but on whether it formulates philosophy or teachings ‘in an Orthodox way’. If it deviates from truth it is not ecumenical even if it is called ecumenical.” (Selected Letters, op. cit., p. 56).
[153] St. Cyprian, Treatise 11, 12.
[154] St. Damascene of Glukhov, in E.L. Bishop-Confessors, San Francisco, 1971, p. 85 (in Russian).
[155] A useful rule of interpretation in this context has been provided by Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov), who writes: “The people of Israel are called both Jacob and Israel after the name of their forefather, who was named Jacob at birth and renamed Israel after he had been counted worthy of the vision of God; [but] in the spiritual sense Christians who have made significant spiritual progress are called Israel” (“On the Judgements of God”, in the Collected Works (in Russian)).
[156] Danielou, The Bible and the Liturgy, Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966, p. 333 See Appendix 1.
[157] . Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) interprets this passage to mean that all of the Jews will be saved: “Not of a single people - not of the Russians, or of the Greeks - has it been said that all of their descendants will be saved in due time, as this is said of the Jews” (“Sermon on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing women”, 1903; Living Orthodoxy, N 83, vol. XIV, no. 5, September-October, 1992, p. 37). But this is surely a mistake. We know that the Antichrist, for one, will be a Jew and will not be saved. For other interpretations of this passage, see Sergius Fomin, op. cit., p. 296.
[158] Trembelas, Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church, Chevetogne, 1961, vol. III, pp. 474-477 (in French).
[159] St. Cosmas, in Metropolitan Augustine, op. cit.
[160] St. Ephraim, volume V in the Russian edition of his works, p. 58.
[161] St. Chrysostom, volume V in the Russian edition of his works, p. 688.
[162] St. Jerome, Interpretation of the Apocalypse, 20.7.
[163] St. Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel, 454; P.L. XXV.
[164] “The Mystery of the Apocalyptic Babylon”, op. cit., p. 19.
[165] Josephus, On Antiquities, VI, 1. St. Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople in the fifth century, had the same interpretations (see Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, VII, 41). See also Henry Morris, The Genesis Record, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1976, pp. 247-248 and references 42 to 44 from part II. For more references on the identification of these names, see Fomin, S. & Fomina, T. Rossia pered Vtorym Prishestviem, Sergiev Posad, 1998, third edition, volume II, pp. 475-506 (in Russian).
[166] See Ant. Florovsky, “‘Knyaz’ Rosh’ u proroka Iezekiilya”, in Fomin, S. & Fomina, T. op. cit., pp. 682-691 (in Russian).
[167] St. Chrysostom, Homily 27 on Matthew, 7.
[168] St. Ephraim, Sermon 72; translated by M.F. Toal, The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, London: Longmans, 1959, vol. 3, p. 302.
[169] St. Gregory Palamas, To the Nun Xenia, P.G. 150.1043-1088.
[170] St. Hippolytus, Discourse on the End of the World, and on Antichrist, and on the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, 37.
[171] St. Damascene, Dialogue against the Manichaeans, 37. Translated in Jurgens, op. cit., vol. III, p. 348.



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