Author Topic: Orthodox understanding of End Times  (Read 10981 times)

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Offline cothrige

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Orthodox understanding of End Times
« on: September 07, 2005, 11:15:51 PM »
Hello all,

I recently found myself reading an article online preaching about the rapture and how the Whore of Babylon is the Roman Catholic Church.  Most of it was patently absurd of course, but I found myself curious about some of the specific imagery.  As a Roman Catholic myself I have to admit that I have spent next to no time reading the Apocalypse, and certainly haven't worried too much about what is meant by this or that reference.  But, my curiosity piqued, I began digging for some more reliable info.  Unfortunately I found next to nothing.  Apparently I am not alone in the Roman Church in basically ignoring these issues.

So, in keeping with a habit of mine, I decided to see if the Orthodox, whose opinions in matters biblical and patristic I hold highest, had any firm ideas historically about these symbols and references.  However, I could find nothing to speak of, mostly I think because a google search of "orthodox church revelation" or some such returns too much to sort through.  By the way, the same problem shows up here in the search utility, and so I could not be sure I am not asking a question which has already been discussed to death.  I am sorry if I am.

But, after all this, I am wondering if someone here will help fill me in on how the Orthodox approach this particular topic and specifically the Apocalypse?  For instance, how are things such as the harlot, 144,000, beast, and so on interpreted?  And is there a basic school of interpretation favored in Orthodoxy, i.e. preterism, historicism, etc?  And have any views been specifically condemned, as I assume chiliasm has been?

I hope that perhaps somebody here can enlighten me a bit on the Orthodox, and if the normal trend is trusted, more historical and patristic reading of these prophecies.  Many thanks in advance for the help.

Patrick


Offline PhosZoe

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2005, 10:50:15 AM »
You might want to start with this article.

http://www.orthodoxonline.com/leftbehind.htm

Offline donkeyhotay

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2005, 11:36:06 AM »
The word you want to toss into your searches is "eschatology".

This article will explain the main different eschatological views held by different Christians.  Although it uses the word "Orthodox" in its title, I would read that as "Orthodox" with a small "o".

You will find that the early Church Fathers were Covenantal Premillennialists, and many Orthodox (who study such things) hold to this view today.  It differs from Dispensational Premillennialism largely in that it does not hold to a pre-tribulational rapture.  This view is (I think) also sometimes known as "Historic" Premillennialism.

Agustine promoted the theory of Amillennialism and some Orthodox hold to this view all or in part, or in some combination with Covenantal Premillennialism. Amillennialism is the nominal view of the RCC, Anglican, and original Reformed traditions (Luther, Calvin), though of course some of the reformation groups that originally held to the Amillennial view now embrace Dispensational Postmillennialism.

Ultimately, most Orthodox are not interested in eschatology apart from always being ready for Christ's return.  The "mechanics", if you will, of eschatology are a secondary issue.

Edit: Personally, I think both Covenantal Premillennialism and Amillennialism hold merit, but I think only God knows His plans for the future.   
« Last Edit: September 08, 2005, 11:42:41 AM by donkeyhotay »
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Offline cothrige

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2005, 08:37:30 AM »
Many thanks for the links.  I will check them out.

And very fascinating about "covenantal premillenialism."  I am surprised that the Orthodox would be so comfortable with a literal millenium.  We Catholics tend to view the millenium in the Church age and one will often hear the Nicene Creed's affirmation of "his kingdom will have no end" as having been a denial of any possible literal millenium.  Of course, that is when anything is said at all on the subject, which is not often.  As in your case, I suppose we are not so interested in the mechanics either, but when reading some specific theory with all of these detailed interpretations for every comment in the texts I do become curious about what has been generally accepted.  I will certainly peruse the file and page and see what I can learn.

Many thanks,

Patrick

Offline donkeyhotay

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2005, 11:55:15 AM »
Quote
I am surprised that the Orthodox would be so comfortable with a literal millenium.

I'd like to stress that this is probably not the case now, in modern times, and I don't know that anyone knows for sure that the millennial view was the majority view among the early fathers.  Eschatology (at least that part that deals with the future of the world) holds little interest with most Orthodox.  The Orthodox focus is on eschatology as it affects the individual, or as I've seen it put: "The world ends for some people every day in the form of physical death."

At any rate, Orthodox views on eschatology are as rare as hen's teeth online. I have had several books recommended to me: Ultimate Things: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the End,  and A Rumor Of War: Christ ’s Millennial Reign and the Rapture of His Church both by Dennis Engleman; The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology by Brian E. Daley; Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity by Charles E. Hill.

I have not read any of these, unfortunately, so I couldn't recommend any one over another.


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Offline sojourner

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2005, 10:05:29 PM »
cothridge,

It is not suprising that you didn't find much. The topic is not really addressed directly and has apparently not been an issue since Iraneous view of chilism.
I have read the book by Dennis Engleman, "A Rumor of War" as well as "A Second Look at the Second Coming" by T.L. Frazier.
In each case they don't necessarily present an Orthodox view as it is typically Orthodox by being apophatic. What it is not. Most spend the chapters refuting all the modern notions regarding most of the views.
Since at some point in the early twentieth century millennialism was married to dispensationalism, another book I found quite enlightening regarding the prophecy of Isreal is, "Exploding the Israel Deception" by Steve Wohlberg.
The latter is not written by an Orthodox author, but by a Jewish Believer.
I found them all to be excellent, balanced and quite informative.

Offline icxn

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2005, 10:34:03 PM »
I would also recommend the following from St. Symeon the New Theologian:

http://sgpm.goarch.org/Monastery/index.php?p=46

- EDIT -

... and let me say this only, The End Times has been fulfilled for the Saints.

icxn
« Last Edit: September 11, 2005, 10:42:31 PM by icxn »

Offline cothrige

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2005, 08:28:36 AM »
I am intrigued by what you are calling the "prophecy of Israel" sojourner.  Would you be able to elaborate on which prophecy you mean specifically.  Just curious since the title of that book sounds so, well, explosive.

Patrick

Offline Innocent

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2005, 08:59:46 AM »
You might want to start with this article.

http://www.orthodoxonline.com/leftbehind.htm

Great link. The rapture has always been something I avoided even when I was RC.

Offline donkeyhotay

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2005, 11:56:09 AM »
Quote
Dispensational Postmillennialism

Sorry, this should read Dispensational Premillennialism.

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Offline amnesiac99

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2005, 03:52:50 PM »
You might find this link interesting: http://www.receive.org/index.php?menu=3&submenu=23&id=17
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Offline amnesiac99

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2005, 05:03:29 PM »
I would also like to urge whoever it was who suggested that the Orthodox view is somehow premillennialist to check out the canons from the Second Ecumenical Council. Premillennialism certainly was posited by many, but was rejected as heresy by the Council of Constantinople in 381. This, and multiple talks I've heard given by prominent Orthodox scholars and theologians, leads me to the conclusion that the Orthodox Church rejects, and has always rejected, any form of premillennialism. I think you're correct that most Orthodox are not terribly interested in these issues, as our focus is much more sacramental and spiritual, but there is a definite Orthodox position.
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Offline donkeyhotay

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2005, 11:17:23 PM »
I would also like to urge whoever it was who suggested that the Orthodox view is somehow premillennialist to check out the canons from the Second Ecumenical Council. Premillennialism certainly was posited by many, but was rejected as heresy by the Council of Constantinople in 381. This, and multiple talks I've heard given by prominent Orthodox scholars and theologians, leads me to the conclusion that the Orthodox Church rejects, and has always rejected, any form of premillennialism. I think you're correct that most Orthodox are not terribly interested in these issues, as our focus is much more sacramental and spiritual, but there is a definite Orthodox position.

Hmmm.  I thought it was rejected by the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431. 
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Offline Fr. George

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2005, 07:28:20 AM »
I'd like to stress that this is probably not the case now, in modern times, and I don't know that anyone knows for sure that the millennial view was the majority view among the early fathers. Eschatology (at least that part that deals with the future of the world) holds little interest with most Orthodox. The Orthodox focus is on eschatology as it affects the individual, or as I've seen it put: "The world ends for some people every day in the form of physical death."

At any rate, Orthodox views on eschatology are as rare as hen's teeth online. I have had several books recommended to me: Ultimate Things: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the End, and A Rumor Of War: Christ ’s Millennial Reign and the Rapture of His Church both by Dennis Engleman; The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology by Brian E. Daley; Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity by Charles E. Hill.

I have not read any of these, unfortunately, so I couldn't recommend any one over another.

I wouldn't say that Orthodox views on eschatology are rare, per se, but rather that Orthodx views on the eschaton are hard to find.  Many Orthodox theologians incorporate eschatology into their works, since our Church is an eschatological Church.  Thus, you will find eschatology woven into everything from ecclesiology to sacramental theology to Hagiology.  There is a definite focus in the writings of the Church fathers on transforming where we are and who we are into beings of the Kingdom of God.

Now, I'm no expert on matters of the eschaton proper, so you'll have to ask others for books regarding the Apocalypse/end times.  Of course, I'm no expert on eschatology, either; I've just had a bit more exposure to it than to books on the end times.
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Offline MCE

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2016, 11:34:55 PM »
I would also like to urge whoever it was who suggested that the Orthodox view is somehow premillennialist to check out the canons from the Second Ecumenical Council. Premillennialism certainly was posited by many, but was rejected as heresy by the Council of Constantinople in 381. This, and multiple talks I've heard given by prominent Orthodox scholars and theologians, leads me to the conclusion that the Orthodox Church rejects, and has always rejected, any form of premillennialism. I think you're correct that most Orthodox are not terribly interested in these issues, as our focus is much more sacramental and spiritual, but there is a definite Orthodox position.

Actually the only thing rejected was the idea of a thousand year limit to Christ's reign, which is wny in the Creed it says "of His kingdom there shall be no end." The protestant eschatologists talk of a "thousand year reign of Christ," but Revelation does not say this. It says that the first thousand years of that eternal reign, the devil is bound and unable to tempt the nations. since he tempts believers and unbelievers alike, it follows that the binding done by Christ during the time Christ was dead and visited all the unseen realms, was more of a serious crippling. After the thousand years the devil is allowed to tempt mankind one more time, a revolt occurs which is put down and the devil is thrown into the lake of fire where the antichrist and the false prophet already are by then.

The amillennial idea is that while Christ will come back physically, He will simply destroy the earth and judge all who are resurrected for this, a future on earth for the blessed is not emphasized. Revelation and Daniel and hints in other Prophets point to a blessed and immortal and indestructible state on earth. (Paul speaking of a "spiritual body" is speaking of a supernatural body, since it will be like Jesus' Body after the Resurrection, which was very physical with flesh and bones yet also supernatural.

And, this amillennialism holds that the thousand years is symbolic and Christ rules on earth through the Church. While of course we have a foretaste of His rule, this is not all there is to it.
Paul speaks of us awaiting the redemption of our bodies, the resurrection of the dead. So we
have part of the kingdom of Heaven now, and fullness of it later.

Origenists started the idea that a physical resurrection was too material and gross for their tastes, and Montanism which exploited Revelation got that Book a bad reputation so that some even doubted it was legitimate.

dispensationalism posits extreme demarcations between eras and is very mechanistic, and is the basis for the pre trib rapture nonsense.

some had the idea that after a thousand years Christ would give the rule over to The Father, and no longer reign. But The Father has been the monarch and source of the Son and The Holy Spirit therefore king all along. Taking a direct role on earth would not mean that Christ would not continue to be king also even if only a secondary king so to speak.

Origenism infected some Patristic writers, so that St. Gregory of Nyssa believed the apokatastasis or restoration of all things or universal salvation of all and damnation of none. St. John Chrysostom I think is the transit point for the idea that the coats or tunics of skin that God gave Adam and Eve were the densely physical bodies we have now, and that originally they were etheric. Such ideas were condemned in the I think 15 anathemas against Origen, and though Adam and Eve aren't mentioned the idea that heavenly bodies only became physical as we see them now when they stopped contemplating God was condemned and if it doesn't fly with them it doesn't fly with us. St. Epiphanius in the Panarion denounced this idea about adam and Eve as "nonsense," so it was no part of normal ORthodox thought in his time. And he blamed it on Origen.

Offline LenInSebastopol

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #15 on: April 27, 2016, 09:52:30 PM »
In a nutshell, thanks, MCE.
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Offline Cyprian700

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2016, 01:47:35 PM »
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (+386)

Catechetical Lecture XV

18. Guard thyself then, O man; thou hast the signs of Antichrist; and remember them not only thyself, but impart them also freely to all. If thou hast a child according to the flesh, admonish him of this now; if thou hast begotten one through catechizing, put him also on his guard, lest he receive the false one as the True. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work. I fear these wars of the nations; I fear the schisms of the Churches; I fear the mutual hatred of the brethren. But enough on this subject; only God forbid that it should be fulfilled in our days; nevertheless, let us be on our guard. And thus much concerning Antichrist.

Eschatology is very important in the Orthodox Church.  The general apathy that is seen with regards to eschatological study is a sign of the times and is indicative of the indifference and general luke-warmness that pervades Christianity in our day.  That very few Orthodox Christians concern themselves with study of the last times is one of the indications that Antichrist is at hand.

There are a number of Orthodox commentaries on the Apocalypse by the saints.  It is best to read their commentaries rather than these modern books, not written by saints, which only attempt to summarize their teachings.

There are some well-known commentaries on the Apocalypse that have been translated into English:

St. Andrew of Caesarea's commentary can be read here
http://theses.ulaval.ca/archimede/meta/25095

St. Bede provided a commentary on the Apocalypse in the 8th century.  It can be read here:
http://www.ecatholic2000.com/bede/untitled-31.shtml

St. Victorinus - Commentary on the Apocalypse can be read here:
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0712.htm

Closer to our times is this one written in 1946 by Archimandrite Panteleimon, founder and abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville:

A Ray of Light -  Instructions in Piety and the State of the World At the End of Time
http://bookstore.jordanville.org/9780884650478




Offline Rohzek

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2016, 05:01:52 PM »
If I recall correctly, the commentary by Victorianus, at least the one linked, was the one that was embellished by Jerome. Jerome felt that Victorianus endorse too much millenarianism or was too chiliastic, so he "corrected" it. As a result, there were two textual traditions of Victorianus' text throughout the Middle Ages. Eventually, the original version died out and was lost. However, it was found again in the 20th century and has since been republished.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2016, 05:06:37 PM by Rohzek »
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2016, 06:18:07 PM »
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (+386)

Catechetical Lecture XV

18. Guard thyself then, O man; thou hast the signs of Antichrist; and remember them not only thyself, but impart them also freely to all. If thou hast a child according to the flesh, admonish him of this now; if thou hast begotten one through catechizing, put him also on his guard, lest he receive the false one as the True. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work. I fear these wars of the nations; I fear the schisms of the Churches; I fear the mutual hatred of the brethren. But enough on this subject; only God forbid that it should be fulfilled in our days; nevertheless, let us be on our guard. And thus much concerning Antichrist.

Emphasis mine.

The fact that St. Cyril was making the same laments in the 4th Century that Christians make today should tell you something. Isn't it enough to be watchful because one does not know the hour of one's own death? Why do we also need to fear some future boogeyman who can kill the body but can't kill the soul?
« Last Edit: May 02, 2016, 06:19:36 PM by Volnutt »
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Offline Daedelus1138

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Re: Orthodox understanding of End Times
« Reply #19 on: May 12, 2016, 04:03:06 PM »
Orthodoxy definitely has eschatology, it permeates everything in the liturgy and spirituality.  BUT... it doesn't neatly fit into Evangelical Protestant categories.  And Evangelical Protestants have tended to dominate speculation into the Apocalypse, at least culturally in the US and Europe.

Orthodox, like Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Lutherans... seem to be amillenialist as the orthodox position.  The millennium is interpreted allegorically.

Now about the assertion that "Christ will Destroy the Earth"- I'm not sure most mainline Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic Christians would describe it that way.  The whole world will be redeemed (even if perhaps cleansed by fire, whether this is literal or figurative, who knows...), that is the eschatological promise most of us understand.  Consequently, His Holiness Bartholomew sees a lot of value in supporting environmentalism, as do many Protestants and Catholics.  Especially for the Orthodox, the significance of Christ's redemption is cosmic in scale, and is not merely a matter of redeeming individual souls.

I think it's a case of "both-and".  There is a tension between the Kingdom of God being real and immanent right now, that the New Heavens and New Earth represent a present reality, but also an understanding that it is not yet fulfilled.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2016, 04:11:43 PM by Daedelus1138 »