Saturday, October 17, 2020

Notes on the Apocalypse of John (First Teaching of Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol)

Below are summary notes I took while listening to the lecture below of Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol. This is the first of 20 video lectures on the Book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse.
- The Apocalypse of John is the last book of the 27 books of the New Testament.

- It is the last book of the New Testament chronologically as well, written by the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian while he was in exile on the island of Patmos.

- It is a prophetic text of things that were taking place in the Church at the time and that were to take place in the future.

- We should know the contents of this book to understand that we are all on a journey that is leading towards a conclusion.

- Christ told His disciples that this world will come to an end, and that before this end comes it will be preceded by certain signs and events.

- The eschatological message of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew is to be vigilant and ready, and to not be deceived, since the closer we come towards the end, the more falsehood and false prophets will increase. If we allow ourselves to be deceived, we can lose our soul and salvation for eternity.

- Truth is not an ideology, but it is found in the Church, which was established by Christ.

- The 27 books of the New Testament would not exist as the New Testament without the Church.

- Many local Churches, up until the fifth century, did not include the Apocalypse of John as one of the books of the New Testament, though many did.

- In the Apostolic Church of the first century, heresies began to pop up very soon after Pentecost. It was by these heretics that the Apocryphal Gospels and many Apocryphal Eschatological texts appeared under the names of various Apostles. The successors of the Apostles, namely the Bishops ordained by them as well as their successors, were able to discern which texts were written by the Apostles and which were not.

- It is like today with the sayings and prophecies of Saint Paisios the Athonite. Metropolitan Athanasios says that he lived with Saint Paisios for thirteen years, but he often reads things about Saint Paisios and what he said that were contrary to what he taught or are misinterpretations. People twisted what Saint Paisios said even during his lifetime, which greatly distressed him. He expressed this distress often to Metropolitan Athanasios.

- The Apocalypse of John is a book of hope, telling the faithful to not be afraid of what is to come, and to look forward to reuniting with Christ in the New Jerusalem.

- One sign of the end times is the appearance of many false prophets. A true prophet is one who has the grace of God, and will not be someone who advertises himself. When you see someone on television or on the internet or on the radio saying they have a revelation from God, this is a sign that they are deluded. A true Prophet has the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and is distinguished by being a member of the Church. There are no Prophets outside the Orthodox Church, since the Holy Spirit works within the Church. Also, a true Prophet is distinguished from a false Prophet by their humility. A true Prophet is one who is given the gift of prophecy to build up the Body of Christ, not one who builds himself up or anything other than the Church and its faithful. A true Prophet is only concerned with being humble and repenting of their sins so as to attain salvation in Christ. 
- Humility is what saves us, not spiritual gifts. We should seek humility for ourselves, not spiritual gifts. Without humility, even one who has spiritual gifts will fall into pride and delusion. God grants spiritual gifts very sparingly, due to the threat of arrogance and pride, in order that we not be destroyed.

- One day a student of theology went to Elder Paisios saying how a demon possessed woman took his hand and put it in her mouth, saying: "You're burning me! You're burning me!" Elder Paisios told him: "Idiot, she is the one who burned you. She did that in order to fill your head with thoughts of pride, so that you will think you are someone important to those who heard her say those things who were around you at the moment, and for them to think you are such a good person that you are able to burn the demon."

- The Metropolitan comments that he thanks God he is fat, and he doesn't want to be thin. If he was as thin as a skeleton sitting there in front of people teaching on divine matters, people would think he was a holy man, and this would fill his head with thoughts of pride by impressing people with how he looks like a holy ascetic. People would think he spent all his time in fasting and vigils. Then he would enjoy the accolades and the love too much, because everyone thought he was a holy man. This is why he tells certain fellow overweight monks and clergy: "We are better off that we are fat. By being so we have kept pride away from us. I know that if I was thin, I would be very prideful, impressing people with my appearance of a holy man devoted to fasting and asceticism. We are better off fat and at peace than ascetical and filled with thoughts that we are saints."

- God reveals Himself to those who possess extreme humility, who consider themselves the worst of all people.

- The Apocalypse of John above all teaches us that we are all in God's hands. Despite what takes place in our lives and what happens on the earth, God is with us and ultimately is in control. He is King and rules with wisdom. The devil and death and sin have been defeated by Christ. Fear not. Final justice is in the hands of God.

- We should not read the Apocalypse to see what will take place in the future, when the end of the world will take place, when the Second Coming will happen, whether the Antichrist has been born or not. The Apocalypse teaches us how to be ready for whatever is to come at any time. It is about how to be faithful to Christ to the end, and not being deceived by whatever will distract us from our life in Christ. Our eyes and our minds are to be fixed on Christ. This is why John was forbidden to kneel before the Angel, because it indicated he lost his focus off of Christ.

- The Metropolitan says that he first read the Apocalypse when he was a sophomore in high school, and it scandalized him. He was scandalized by God's extreme judgments upon humanity, sending fire and locusts and hail. He then went to his parish priest and told him that he was shocked by what he read. The priest explained to him that God is love, while destruction will come from people. Whatever judgments come upon us, they come upon us because of us, not because God is angry and wants to punish us.

- The Apocalypse puts us on a journey, knowing that if we belong to Christ, we don't have to fear death, or temptations, or dangers, or troubles, or evil. Christ is light and life and peace and joy.  No matter what, the peace of Christ can rest in our hearts, even in our deepest sorrows and sufferings.