Thursday, November 19, 2020

Notes on the Apocalypse of John (Second 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 second of 20 video lectures on the Book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse.
- When we study the Apocalypse of John, we do not study it to see the events of the present time, or to learn when this or that will take place.

- The Apocalypse of John is written to help bring us closer to God and to give us the blessed hope and assurance that God will be victorious in the end, and those people who have hope and patience will live with God for eternity.
First Chapter

- The word "apocalypse" implies something unknown and hidden that is revealed. The Apocalypse of John is the revelation of Jesus Christ given to Him by God the Father for the "servants of God" - the faithful members of the Church.

- In the Gospels, Jesus tells us that no one knows the day nor the hour of His second coming, not even the Son of God. He says this referring to His human nature, not His divine nature, since as God He knows all that the Father knows. But in His human nature only what is revealed to Him by God He conveys.
- A false prophet can never be a "servant of God", only a true prophet can. A "servant of God" does the will of God. The Apocalypse of John was revealed therefore for the "servants of God". In other words, the mysteries of God are revealed to the Saints, and only they can interpret these mysteries. Only the Holy Spirit through the Saints of God, can interpret that which is given to us by the Holy Spirit. This is why the mysteries of God should not be revealed to those who are not "servants of God". The reason we have heresies and false teachings in abundance, is because people dared to interpret that which was given by the Holy Spirit without themselves having acquired the Holy Spirit. They have not been purified, they are not humble, they are ruled by their ego, and by their own methods they try to interpret Holy Scripture. This is why when they say stupid things, their minds are not able to comprehend why they are indeed stupid. People who follow these stupid teachings, and read their stupid books and believe them, are also ruled by a certain form of pride. Something, some passion, is preventing God from illuminating them in the truth of His teachings. However, those who are humble and have a pure heart, God illumines and guides; even if they fall into some falsehood, God will not allow them to stray forever in error, but will eventually guide them along the true path. 
- The Metropolitan says that he has met many people who are serious, educated and very smart who believe the strangest things, and this is usually because they are prideful and arrogant. He speaks of a man he knew like this who read and believed the strangest things. He told the Metropolitan one day that he could have been a huge personality of the Church if he had become a monk or a priest, on the level of Elders Paisios and Porphyrios. This man came to believe in every false prophet and false prophecy you could imagine. This is because his arrogance was such that he was not even able to discern truth from falsehood even in the most simple things.

- The Metropolitan recalls a time when there were certain young people he knew who believed a certain guru was a god. This "god" of theirs had a Rolls-Royce. When the Metropolitan asked these young people, who were all educated and smart, for a photo of this "god", they showed it to him, and he was a man fairly young in his forties. He asked the young people if they truly believed this is the God who created the heavens and the earth and all therein, including humanity. They answered "yes". Despite the fact that this was a fairly young man who drove around in a Rolls-Royce and flew in private airplanes and had a huge bank account, these young people still believed that he was a god. Pride and arrogance and self-delusion will either make you believe you are a false prophet or will make you believe in others who are false prophets.

- People who have fallen into every form of error, even the stupidest delusions, when they come across someone who is truly holy and virtuous, they either try to syncretize them into their delusion, or they dismiss them them altogether if they see they cannot fit them into their delusion and error.

- One who is in the error of delusion, no matter what you tell them to the contrary, they will not see the error of their ways, and no matter what miracle they experience, they will still not see the error of their ways. There is nothing that can make them see the errors of their mind or their behavior. They never consider the fact that they may be wrong. They never consider the fact that they have a finite mind. For them it is always "I, I, I."

- The Metropolitan recalls how there was a man preaching in Limassol certain false teachings, and he wanted to meet the Metropolitan in order to say that he has his approval. The Metropolitan met with him and found out he was a Seventh Day Adventist. After about an hour into their meeting, the Metropolitan said: "Listen, we have been talking for about an hour, and all you do is talk about yourself. What you are doing, what you are saying, what you believe. 500 times you used the word 'I'. This to me says everything about you." This is the mentality of the deluded.

- When St. Symeon the Stylite ascended his pillar, a novel practice of the time, certain elders were confused as to whether this is a practice inspired by God or inspired by the devil, so they put St. Symeon to a test. They devised a plan to see if St. Symeon did this because he was under the delusion of pride, to show himself off as a holy man and great ascetic, or he did it to truly seek God in a humble manner. To show them this, they would go, as elders, and order Symeon to come down from his pillar, and if he obeyed, they would see that he was humble enough to be obedient to the elders. And this is exactly what happened, proving to the elders that this novel ascetic practice of St. Symeon was to the glory of God, and not of himself.

- Another common feature of someone who is not necessarily in delusion, though could be wrong, is that they are willing to admit when they are wrong if it is pointed out to them, and even beforehand are willing to admit that they could be wrong and are open to being corrected. At the same time, we should not think people are infallible. As human beings, everyone is liable to error. Sometimes even virtuous and holy people commit errors or even sin, and we should not think this is impossible for them.

- When it says that the revelation was given about "things which must soon come to pass," we must understand that God does not bring about these things to fulfill His will, but He foretells things that will happen because He is outside of time and able to see the end from the beginning. God didn't make Nero persecute Christians, but Nero chose to persecute Christians, and God knew his choice before the choice was ever made. Judas planned to betray Jesus, Jesus warned Judas to not do it, he still did it, and the Scripture was fulfilled. This indicates that God allows people to choose their fate, despite what even a prophetic text might say, but Jesus also knew that the Scripture would be fulfilled, because He knew Judas would choose to betray Him. Therefore, by God revealing "things which must soon come to pass," it does not mean that the free will of people is eliminated from the factor, but God foresaw where the will of people will eventually lead. And because these things will come to pass, they are written about beforehand.

- John was a recipient of these revelations through an angel of the Lord, because he was humble and pure of heart, which is why he is referred to as a "servant". He showed that he was obedient to the will of the Lord because he "bore witness to the word of God" through persecution, since this revelation came to him while he was in exile on the island of Patmos.

- "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near." This indicates that we ought to read the Apocalypse of John, which is a blessed task. This is not a forbidden book for Christians. The only requirement for reading the Apocalypse of John is that you be a "servant of God," one who keeps God's commandments and is humble and pure of heart, so that error is avoided. It is not to be read out of curiosity, but in the spirit of the Holy Fathers, who offer us guideposts in the interpretation of this text. It should not be read like a horoscope, which are silly and do not take into account the free will of man. We read as a warning to follow the path of the Lord or else we shall face His just judgment. At the same time, we should not read it and be frightened by it. One should not even believe in God because He frightens you. The purpose of the Apocalypse of John, who is known as the Apostle of Love, is to inflame within our hearts the love for God necessary to desire eternal life with Him.