Below the reader will find part two of the very spiritually profitable talk given by Archbishop Averky of blessed memory. The original title is “‘Salt is beguiling’ – a sign of the approaching end: To the centenary of the blessed repose of Bishop Ignatius (Bryanchaninov).” Part one may be found here. I provide the text “as is” from the source that I have. Although the blessed Archbishop reposed in 1976, his words are all the more potent in our days, thus clearly showing forth their true prophetic spirit, which resonates harmoniously with the Holy Fathers, who speak from the Holy Spirit. With no further comment, I present part two of this most needed word.
Begin part two of the talk by Archbp. Averky –
Antichrist will be a natural consequence of “the impoverishment of people of spiritual knowledge and reasoning” and “lack of true knowledge of God,” which “takes the works of the devil for the works of God.
The whole situation in the world, before the arrival of the Antichrist, will be such that the Antichrist will appear as a necessary consequence of all this truly anti-Christian environment, anti-Christian mindset of the world. That’s why already St. John the Apostle spoke about many Antichrists (1 John 2:18), that’s why we can talk about the manifestation of the spirit of Antichrist in the world long before the reign of the Antichrist himself. And to talk about it is not to take the liberty of predicting the time of the appearance of the Antichrist, which, according to the teachings of God’s Word, no one knows with certainty, although many signs of it are pointed out.
And it is necessary to talk about it, so as not to allow ourselves to be carried away by the Antichrist, who will be extremely skillful deceiver-traitor, even capable of performing false signs and wonders.
Here is how St. Ignatius speaks about this dangerous and soul-destroying deception, based on the teachings of the Word of God and the Holy Fathers: “Before the Second Coming of Christ, when Christianity, spiritual knowledge and discernment will be scarcely touched among men, “false christs and false prophets will rise, and will give great signs and wonders, as they may deceive the elect” (Matt. 24:24).
In particular, the Antichrist himself will lavish wonders, impress and satisfy carnal wisdom and ignorance with them: he will give them “a sign from heaven,” which they seek and long for. “His coming,” says St. Paul, “will be accomplished “according to the work of Satan in all power and signs and wonders false, and in all flattery of unrighteousness in those who perish: for they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2Sol.2:6-10). Ignorance and carnal wisdom, seeing these wonders, will not stop to reflect, will immediately accept them by the affinity of their spirit with their spirit, by their blindness, will recognize and confess the work of Satan as the greatest manifestation of the power of God, and Antichrist will be very quickly, without thinking (St. Ephrem the Syrian, Part 2). People will not understand that his miracles have no good, reasonable goal, no clear meaning, that they are alien to the truth, full of lies, that they are monstrous, spiteful, meaningless acting, trying to surprise, to lead to bewilderment and self-occupation, to deceive, deceive, fascinate by the charm of a magnificent, empty, stupid effect.
It is not strange that the wonders of the Antichrist will be accepted unconditionally and enthusiastically by apostates from Christianity, enemies of truth, enemies of God: they have prepared themselves to openly and actively accept the messenger and instrument of Satan, his teachings, all his actions, having entered in good time into communion with Satan in spirit. Worthy of deep consideration and lamentation is the fact that the wonders and deeds of the Antichrist will lead the very elect of God into embarrassment.
These last cautionary words of St. Ignatius are especially important for those who look at the modern preparation of the world for the acceptance of the Antichrist lightly, who remain blind in spite of everything, and do not want to see clear signs of this frantic preparation for the reign of the Antichrist by his servants, who have already sold their souls to Satan for earthly goods: for the free, unhindered gratification of “the lust of the flesh,” “the lust of the flesh,” and “the pride of life,” that is: lust, covetousness, and voluptuousness (1 John. 2 :16)!
It is necessary to know and remember how great will be the cunning of the Antichrist and how cunningly he will act, if even the chosen of God, the true Christians will be in difficulty, not being able to immediately detect and expose the Antichrist – not being able to first recognize him.
The reason for this predicament and strong influence of the Antichrist on people, according to St. Ignatius, “will lie in his hellish guile and hypocrisy, which cleverly will cover the most terrible evil, in his unbridled and shameless insolence, in the abundant cooperation of the fallen spirits, finally, in the ability to work wonders, though false, but striking.
Insidiousness and hypocrisy are particularly characteristic of our time. By fostering them in people, humanity is prepared for the easiest and most painless acceptance of the Antichrist.
“Human imagination,” says St. Ignatius, “is powerless to imagine the evil one as the Antichrist will be; it is incompatible with the human heart, even a corrupt one, to believe that evil can reach the degree that it will reach in the Antichrist. He will sound the trumpet about himself, as his forerunners and icons trumpeted about themselves, he will call himself a preacher and restorer of the true knowledge of God: those who do not understand Christianity will see in him a representative and advocate of true religion, will join him.
“He will sound a trumpet and call himself the promised Messiah: the disciples of fleshly wisdom will cry out to meet him; seeing his glory, his power, his genius, his vast development in the elements of the world, they will proclaim him a god, they will be his accomplices (St. Ephraim the Syrian, word 106).
“The Antichrist will show himself to be meek, merciful, full of love, full of all virtue: they will recognize him as such, and obey him because of his most exalted virtue, those who recognize fallen human truth as truth, and have not renounced it for the truth of the Gospel (St. Macarius the Great, conversation 31).
The Antichrist will offer mankind the highest worldly welfare and prosperity, he will offer honors, riches, splendor, carnal pleasures and comfort: seekers of the earthly will accept the Antichrist, calling him their lord (Herald explains at John 5:43).
Here is a vivid picture of what we are seeing now, even though the antichrist himself as a certain specific person does not yet exist. However, his “forerunners” are already acting in the world in the same way that he himself will act. From this point of view, we understand all these modern trends in church-religious life, like “ecumenism,” all these fiery calls for mutual unity “in the name of Christian love,” all this blossoming of purely earthly, entertaining human passions and lusts of external culture and civilization, all this passion for charity. And how much caution and wise prudence is needed to distinguish here the real from the fake, sincere from the deceitful, hypocritical, real benefactor from the servant of the coming Antichrist, who spreads his net! How dangerous it is nowadays for a true Christian to deal with “benefactors” and use the “good deeds”! But that is not all! “The antichrist will open before mankind a shameful spectacle of amazing wonders, inexplicable by modern science; he will inspire fear with the thunder and wonder of his wonders, satisfy by them reckless curiosity and gross ignorance, satisfy the vanity and pride of men, satisfy the carnal wisdom, satisfy superstition, perplex human scholarship: All men, who are guided by the light of their fallen nature, who are alienated from the guidance of the light of God, will be drawn into obedience to the deceiver (Rev. 13 :8)”
The beginning of all this we see even now, and we can clearly imagine what will happen when the antichrist himself appears.
“The signs of the Antichrist will predominantly appear in the air layer (Pr. Ephraim the Syrian, word 106): in this layer Satan predominantly reigns (Eph.2:2). The signs will work most on the sense of sight, enchanting and deceiving it (Simeon, Nov. God. – On the third mode of attention). St. John the Theologian, contemplating in the revelation the events of the world, which must precede the end of the world, says that Antichrist will do great things, “and he will create fire from heaven on earth before men” (Rev.13:13). This sign is pointed out by Scripture as the highest of the signs of the Antichrist, and the place of this sign is the air: it will be a great and terrible spectacle.
And this we see now in the foreknowledge – in the form of all kinds of extraordinary, previously unheard of inventions, developing their effect just in the air.
“The sign of the Antichrist complements the effect of his cunning behavior: the majority of men will be caught up in following him. Those who oppose the antichrist will be regarded as troublemakers, as enemies of the public good, and of order, will be subject both to covert and overt persecution, will be subjected to torture and execution.”
And this we already know! Not only Antichrist himself, but his forerunners and servants in our time have already erected a “covert and open” persecution of all true Christians, and in some places, such as in our homeland, have even gone as far as bloody persecutions, torture and executions. And all this is done under the most plausible pretexts: true Christians are proclaimed “enemies of the people,” “enemies of public good and order,” recognized as “troublemakers,” and in the church as “dissenters.
“Evil spirits, sent out over the universe, will excite in men the most sublime opinion of the Antichrist, a general enthusiasm, an irresistible attraction to him (St. Ephraim the Syrian, word 106).”
Something similar we have already seen in relation to the true forerunners of the Antichrist, such as Lenin and Stalin. They were like rehearsals for what would happen on an even larger scale under the Antichrist.
“In many ways Scripture has depicted the severity of the final persecution of Christianity and the cruelty of the persecutor. A strong and certain is the name, which the Scripture gives to this terrible man: he is called the Beast (Rev. 13:1), while the fallen Archangel is called the serpent (Gen.3:1). Both names portray with fidelity the character of both the enemies of God. One acts more secretly, the other – more clearly; but the beast, which has a resemblance to all animals, combining their diverse nature, “gave the serpent his power, and his throne, and great power” (Rev.13:2). The test for the saints of God will be dreadful: The deceit, the hypocrisy, the wonders of the persecutor will seek to deceive and seduce them; the subtle, contrived and covered by cunning ingenuity of persecution and constraint, the unlimited power of the torturer, will put them in a most difficult position; their small number will seem insignificant before all mankind, and their opinion will be given special weakness; general contempt, hatred, slander, oppression, violent death will become their lot. Only with the special assistance of divine grace, under its guidance, will God’s elect be able to confront the enemy of God, to confess before him and before men the Lord Jesus.
How familiar all this is to us too: as if it had been copied from modern life! Only the spiritually blind or those who are already in the service of the anti-Christian servants would not recognize that we are on the threshold of the kingdom of the anti-Christ and are beginning to experience all of the above!
But, how and why will people reject Christ and accept the antichrist?
And to this question our Saint Ignatius gives the perfect explanation. Just as they rejected Christ nineteen-odd centuries ago and crucified Him on the cross. “Christianity is taught with such certainty that there is no excuse for those who do not know it. The cause of ignorance is one of arbitrariness. As the sun shines from heaven, so Christianity shines. He who closes his eyes arbitrarily, let him attribute his unseeing and ignorance to his own arbitrariness, not to the absence of light. The reason for the rejection of the God-man by men is in men, just as the reason for the acceptance of the Antichrist is in men.
“I have come in my Father’s name,” the Lord testified to the Jews, “and you will not accept me; but if anyone comes in his own name, you will accept him” (John 5:43). They are called together both rejecting Christ and receiving the Antichrist, though the Antichrist is mentioned as having come. By rejecting Christ in spirit they are numbered among those who have accepted the Antichrist, though they completed their earthly walk many centuries before he came. They accomplished his greatest deed: God-killing. For the time of his appearance, for him no such evil was left. As their spirit was at enmity with Christ: so it was in a state of communion with the Antichrist, separated from him by a vast expanse of time, now reaching the end of the second millennium.
“Every spirit” says the theologian, “who does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the Antichrist, whom you have heard say is coming, and is now in the world. (1 John 4:3) by the Spirit. Those who are led by the spirit of the antichrist reject Christ, have received the antichrist in their spirit, have entered into communion with him, have submitted to him, and have worshipped him in the spirit, recognizing him as their god. “For this reason he will send” – that is, he will allow “them the work of deceit, that they may believe a lie: that judgment may come upon all those who do not believe the truth, but are well pleased in unrighteousness” (2Sol.2:11-12).
In His allowing, God is just. It will be a satisfaction, together with rebuke and judgment for the human spirit.
The Antichrist will come in his own time, predestined to him.
His coming will be preceded by a general Departure from the Christian faith in most people. By apostasy from Christ, mankind will prepare to receive the Antichrist, will receive him in his spirit. In the very mood of the human spirit there will arise a demand, an invitation to the Antichrist, a sympathy for him, as in a state of severe illness arises a thirst for a murderous drink.
The invitation is pronounced! A call is heard in human society, expressing the urgent need for a genius of genius, who would raise the material development and prosperity to the highest degree, to bring welfare on earth, in which heaven and heaven are made superfluous for man. Antichrist will be a logical, just, natural consequence of the general moral and spiritual direction of men.
Truly God-wise, prophetic words of our great Russian luminary and visionary! After all, he wrote all this over a hundred years ago, when life in Russia was relatively peaceful, normal, when there was nothing that God sentenced us to experience later, during the century since then, and in particular – during the last terrible, truly apocalyptic fifty years, when many people naturally began to feel that the end of the world is very close, almost at the door. And everything that we now observe in the world – in the ecclesiastical and socio-political life of the people – is quite in keeping with the foretelling of our saint above. After all, if you seriously consider everything that is happening now, it becomes clear that never before, in its entire past history, has the world been as close to the Antichrist as it is at this time. The only question is the timing, which is not revealed to us.
We, the sons and daughters of the Russian Orthodox Church, should be eternally grateful to St. Ignatius for the fact that a hundred years ago he so vividly drew before our mental eyes the picture of all that is now happening before our eyes and what is yet to happen, perhaps in the near future. We have been warned of everything, and a terrible answer will be incurred if we ignore it all, assuring ourselves and others that nothing special is happening, that everything is absolutely normal, and that we must be reconciled to everything, fearing nothing and doing nothing, but “going with the flow, like everyone else,” or “keeping up with the times,” which are drawing us headlong toward the Antichrist.
The salt is wearing off – the Church ceases to be the Church, but becomes a “false church” that has the Antichrist as its “Messiah,” except for the small remnant of true believers, which, in the words of St. Ignatius, is becoming “scarcer and scarcer. All modern culture and all human life, aimed only at ensuring the external, purely mundane well-being of people, strenuously and hastily prepare the world for the reign of the Antichrist.
So, the last time for each of us is to determine where we are and with whom: in this “little remnant” of true believers, in this “little flock” of Christ, as Christ the Savior Himself said (Luke 12:32) – with Christ or with his enemy – the Antichrist?
This is what the God-wise writings of St. Ignatius teach us!
About the author
Husband, father, and Priest.
Schooling: Kharkov State University (Ukraine); Brownsville School of Ministry; St. Tikhon's Orthodox Seminary (M.Div.).
Author and illustrator of St. Patrick, Enlightener of the Irish Lands (Conciliar Press, out of print) and illustrator of The Life of St. Brigid (authored by Jane G. Meyer).
Proprietor and writer at the Inkless Pen Blog, at which, based on the foundation of the teachings of Orthodox Christianity, a wide variety of topics are addressed. Fr. Zechariah has translated some works by St. Dimitry of Rostov and New Hieromartyr Seraphim (Zvesdensky), these translations are also available on his blog.