St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
872 N. 29th St. Boise, ID
an American parish of the Russian Orthodox Church
Watch for Judgment Day - Do You Think That God Sleeps? - Archimandrite Gregorios (Estephan)

Judgment Day is not dissociated from the life we now live, for since the days of Christ’s Incarnation, the final stage of the economy of man’s salvation has begun—that of watching for the Heavenly Kingdom. Christ Himself revealed this truth in the beginning of His preaching when He said that the Heavenly Kingdom is at hand.

Therefore, Christ’s Incarnation was the beginning of the end, and we now await the fulfillment of the end and the final revelation of the Heavenly Kingdom that will follow the Judgment of all men. For Christ told us clearly that: He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained (Acts 17:31), and He will render to each one according to his deeds (Rom. 2:6).

Nowadays, there are many who try to deny the truth of the Last Judgment and the watching for that terrible day, or at least to disdain this truth; they try to eradicate every idea that reminds of death and judgment. Whereas Holy Scripture, since the Old Testament, describes that day, saying that it will be a terrible day of affliction: Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it? (Amos 5:20); The whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy (Zeph. 1:18); Behold, the day of the Lord comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. (Is. 13:9).

The mission of the Church has always been to remind of the truth of judgment. St. Polycarp of the second century says, “He who denies the resurrection and judgment is the first-born of Satan.”

Many in our times ask about the signs of the end times and the Judgment, and whether these signs have begun to appear. Holy Scripture speaks clearly about those days, and about the increase of transgressions and the aggravation of both natural and moral evils. The intensification of natural disasters is nothing but the inevitable consequence of the aggravation of man’s blasphemy and his apostasy from God. The sign of the utter apostasy will be apparent in the life of man.

What is interesting in the signs of the end times, as noted by the apostle Paul, is that they are the same signs that preceded the first coming of Christ. Before His first coming, the nations were living in abominable sexual perversion, where men replaced the natural use of their bodies to do those things which are not fitting and they were filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful (Rom. 1:19-31).

That’s how life was before Christ’s first coming. The apostle Paul also speaks about the state that men will be in before Christ’s second coming: Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Tim. 3:1-5). The most dangerous of all among the indications of the last days is this abominable spreading of sexual perversion and its legalization in our age, which is nothing but an image of the fullness of corruption.

The world was living in ugly idolatry; man began to worship himself and his passions became his gods: He worships and nurtures them and he lives to satisfy his fantasies and passions in an animal-like manner. Christ came and changed the image of this blaspheming world, its tenets and its whole way of life. The Gospel precepts became the spirit on which the different peoples who knew the Gospel founded the laws of their common life. But in the last days that will precede the day of Christ’s second coming, the world will return, according to the apostle Paul, to this new idolatry that will negate the Gospel’s precepts, glorifying man’s selfishness and seeing nothing in him except passions and animal fantasies. This idolatry destroys God’s work and all His “very good” creation to make it “very ugly.”

Furthermore, among the signs that Judgment Day is near is the terrible persecution of the true faithful. The few who will stand firm with the true Christ and resist the antichrist who will come from Satan, will flee to the wilderness. The common churches will submit to the spirit of apostasy, and their worship will not be accepted by God.

St. Hippolytus from the third century says, describing the last days: “And the churches, too, will wail with a mighty lamentation, because neither oblation nor incense is attended to, nor a service acceptable to God; but the sanctuaries of the churches will become like a garden-watcher's hut, and the holy body and blood of Christ will not be shown in those days. The public service of God shall be extinguished, psalmody shall cease, the reading of the Scriptures shall not be heard; but for men there shall be darkness, and lamentation on lamentation, and woe on woe.”

For Satan, who never sleeps, managed in this present age to impose his new law on men who exchanged the truth of God for the lie (Rom. 1:25), replacing the law of grace with the law of sin and apostasy from truth. But now the spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1).

What is the relationship between truth and Christ? The apostle Paul has in mind the apostasy from the true, correct faith, not total disbelief. He who departs from the correct faith follows automatically after the spirit of demons. This is why the end times will see a multiplication of false prophets and the fathers of all heterodoxies and heresies, who work by the will of Satan, who has hated the true Church of Christ with its dogmas and Divine canons from the beginning.

Therefore, in the day of the Just Judgment, as described by Matthew the Evangelist, the works of men will be measured by the criterion of faith and the knowledge of Christ. Works will not be a criterion in and of themselves, but rather the works of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God (Jn. 3:18). The connection between works and faith in Christ is clear in Scripture: He who hears My word and believes in Him Who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment (Jn. 5:24).

Our good works deserve God’s reward if they were the fruit of this true faith. It is impossible to attain Christ with external works, no matter how good they may be, but only through the transformation of the inner heart through the true Orthodox faith. For truth is God’s perfect gift, that man might be able to follow the true Christ and exercise the virtues in grace, not with passions. Outside the truth, there is neither Christ nor faith nor good works, but idolatry, human passions, and hearts inclined towards filthiness.

The Judgment of this world is at hand. The world’s corruption has surpassed the corruption of Sodom and Gomorrah, that of Nineveh, and of the whole world prior to Noah’s flood. Is there not an end to all this apostasy and this blasphemy and all these evils and corruption? Do you think that God sleeps and will allow His name to be blotted out among the peoples and to be blasphemed by their filthy works? Do you think that God sleeps and will allow the evils of men to defeat His good creation and distort the work of His hands? God’s wrath is coming upon man, for they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark (Mt. 24:38).

God requires repentance from Christians, for only their repentance can change God’s decision to rush the Judgment. The call of the Baptist and Christ: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, means repent for God’s Judgment is at hand and nobody enters the Heavenly Kingdom without repentance. There is no judgment where true repentance abides. However, it does not seem that the world will come back to an honest repentance, as did the people of Nineveh of old. It is clear that the world’s transgression, its blasphemy, and its apostasy from the true Christ have become firmly established with no turning back, and this is the greatest sign of the last age.

God does not sleep, and if He is still granting us respite despite our sins and our lack of any fruits of repentance, it is for the chosen, the remnant who are still fasting, praying, and repenting in order to be saved and resist the corruption and transgression of this world through their struggles. The more the number of these strugglers decreases, the more we draw nearer to God’s judgment, when the unrepentant store up for themselves wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom. 2:5).