Analyzing the Orthodox approach to the end of times through fictional literature

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew, 24:4-5). “And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things” (Mark, 13:21-23).

While reading these lines we unwillingly start to analyze and think of some events happening in the world and the Church, as well as to estimate our own role in these events. The topic of the end of times was sharp and vital during the whole history of Christianity. Apostles were waiting for the Second Coming of Christ, Saint John the Chrysostom was sure he would eyewitness the end of the world and so on. In each new era people are waiting for their Messiah and their anti-Christ, but nothing happens.

Perhaps, we should change our attitude to these words and think, of what Christ is warning us right now, regardless of time and era. While mulling it over, we may recall a story written by a well-known philosopher of the 20th century. Thanks to this story we can better conceive Christ and Christianity in general. It is “The Story about anti-Christ” by Vladimir Solovyev, which is included in his book “Three Conversations”. It will be useful if we recall shortly the plot of this story, so that the artistic fantasy of the author can let us live through the events described in the story.

Here is a short synopsis of the story: The anti-Christ is depicted as a superhuman, who united all the states of the world into a complete kingdom and became its emperor. He was preaching peace, freedom, humanity and compromise for all the competing sides in order to organize the universal order and Utopian stability. He would certainly manage to do this, if there was no Christian Churches left. Unfortunately, they went through some deformations. The Orthodox Christians joined together with the Old Believers and several cults. Their spiritual leader was Elder John, a prototype of Saint John the Evangelist. The Catholic Church lost its former power, the papacy has undergone several transformations, and the Pope’s power was no more limitless. Peter II became their leader. The third Church was the Anglican Church, which united the whole protestant world and which was led by Professor Pauli.

These Churches were the shards of the former Christian world, but they were strong enough to interfere with the emperor’s plans, as the clergy preached about the end of the world and coming of anti-Christ. To solve the conflict, anti-Christ gathered the 8th Ecumenical council, and the representatives of all the Churches came to take part in it. At the beginning of the solemn meeting anti-Christ delivered his opening speech in which he insisted that all the Christians should unite, and showed that he was ready to satisfy any interests of each side, if they would acknowledge him as the new lord of the world. He addressed the Christians: “Say what you cherish most in Christianity and I will give this to you!” No answer followed his address, and then he began to offer the terms of the deal himself. He started with the Catholics, offering them to restore the Pope’s lost authority with all its benefits. Those who agreed had to raise the tribune where anti-Christ was standing. Then the majority of the Catholics stood up from their places and joined anti-Christ. Only Pope Peter II remained on his place with a small group of believers.

Then anti-Christ addressed the Orthodox Christians. He promised to foster the study of the ancient Orthodox traditions, which were so vital to them, and to open in Constantinople the center, specializing on studying and preserving of the Church monuments and artifacts. What is more, he promised to order the life of the Church according to the ancient canons and traditions. Then the largest part of the Western hierarchy with their monks and laity went to anti-Christ. Elder John rejected to take that offer and remained on his place. When the crowd near him thinned, they joined the other group and Pope Peter II.

In conclusion anti-Christ made a proposal to the Anglican Church. He drew the attention of the representatives to the possibility of free study of the Holy Scripture. That is why he promised them to organize a Bible Study and Analysis Museum, which would deal with comprehensive study of the Bible. And again the majority of theologians and laity joined anti-Christ on his tribune, while Professor Pauli and a few believers joined Pope Peter II and Elder John. Then anti-Christ asked them: “What do you want then? Why do you not acknowledge me as your lord and patron?” Elder John answered him: “Dear ruler! What we cherish most in Christianity is Christ Himself, as we know that everything comes from Him and He is the essence of corporal Divinity. That is why all we need is that you accept Jesus Christ as the true Lord”. After he said that, the anti-Christ’s face distorted and his true self revealed.

This is not the end of the story, but this episode seems to be the main one. The author managed to demonstrate how the devil tempts people with something what is important for them in Christianity. All these things are important, but secondary. They displace Christ in people’s minds.

Thanks to this “proverb” one can begin to understand the dangers we are in. The things which seem to be the essence of Christianity, canin fact be a substitution for Christ. This is an important moment. We should always keep this in our mind and analyze our spiritual condition. We should remember that all our deeds should be in Christ’s honor, we should strive to find Christ, and not waste our life for some false values.

It is quite easy to lose Christ, because there is always a possibility of fanaticism. A person can engage in the everyday side of Church life, or lose oneself in Church science, or revere blindly the hierarchy and clergy. Sometimes this is hard to be noticed, but in fact Christ is removed or is forgotten while the person indulges in all other aspects.

Now is the time we should preserve ourselves from such mistakes. God tells us about this Himself. Of course we should not reject any of the elements of Christian life, but it is important to order our priorities and not to confuse the methods of achieving our goal, with the goal itself. There is only one main goal for us – Christ. 

An article by Alexei Miller