Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Notes on the Apocalypse of John (Third 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 third of 20 video lectures on the Book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse.

First Chapter (cont.)

- In verse 9, John identifies himself as one who follows the same path as the Lord Jesus Christ. This is where his authority comes from. The Apostles were not rich and powerful men who sat back and directed and ruled the Church, but they suffered very much for the Church and with the Church in the same way Christ did. This is further illustrated by the fact that he says he was at the time of the writing of this book on the island of Patmos in exile for his testimony of Christ. Patmos was not the beautiful and touristy island it is today where people go for a vacation, but at that time it was a dry and difficult place to survive in. Despite his "tribulations", however, he was patient in the Lord and hoped in the future kingdom where Christ eternally reigns.

- In verse 10, when he says, "I was in the Spirit," it is equivalent to what the Church Fathers would call being in a state of Divine Grace. The difference between being in a state of Divine Grace and being in a state of delusion is that those in a state of Divine Grace are conscious of what is happening; they know who they are and where they are and they know its divine origin without being confused. They further realize that this vision comes to them not because they see themselves as worthy or virtuous, but just the opposite they feel unworthy and too sinful for their experience, and they are completely overcome with a humble spirit. No one with a spirit of pride and an ego can have a divine vision in the Holy Spirit. Egoism is a seal of delusion, humility is a seal of Divine Grace.

- In verse 10, we also have the first reference to the day after the Sabbath as being called the "Lord's Day" or "Kyriaki". This is because on the day after the Sabbath, the Lord rose from the dead.

- In verse 11, it should be noted that the seven churches listed to whom the Apocalypse was to be addressed, no longer exist, but are under the Turks. This is a lesson to us that the Lord is not bound by particular places, but He is beyond all places. We even came to the point of losing Hagia Sophia and so many sacred places in Cyprus, among others. And God will allow this, to show that here on earth we have no lasting home.

- In verse 12, each of the seven golden lampstands represents one of the churches just mentioned. That Christ is in the midst of the seven golden lampstands indicates that Christ is among those churches, whether approvingly or disapprovingly.

- The description of Christ is an apocalyptic image similar to the Ancient of Days seen by the Prophet Daniel. It also indicates that what the Prophet Daniel and the other Prophets of the Old Testament saw were in fact the pre-incarnate Christ.

- The "belt" in verse 13 is an important feature historically. In the ancient world, all men wore belts, and often women too, especially those who held offices of authority. This is seen also in the current dress of those who hold offices in the Orthodox Church. The clergy wear belts with their vestments, and monks wear leather belts. It is a symbol of prudence, self-control, power. In the Orthodox Church, we pay special attention to the belt of the Panagia, which is currently at Vatopaidi Monastery. It was made out of camel's hair by the Panagia herself, and at her metastsis she handed it to the Apostle Thomas in order for the Church to always have it as a relic of her grace. Even at Holy Baptism, the newly-illumined are asked to wear a white garment and a belt after they are baptized, as a symbol of the fact that they are now soldiers of Christ. One who is girded about the waist with a belt is in a spiritual sense ready for war with the demons. The Lord here is described as wearing a golden belt, because He was alone without sin, not subject to His human passions, which are believed to have an association with the area of the belly.

- A difference between an authentic vision of God and a vision conjured by the devil is that the visions of God are full of details, while the visions of the devil are merely meant to deceive and created half-heartedly.

- In verse 17, John falls down at the feet of Christ as one who is dead, but Christ immediately comforts Him with His love and the assurance that by such a magnificent vision He is indicating He is Almighty God, who is the conqueror of Hades and Death, and with Him is hope on the horizon.

- The angels of verse 20 are not literally angels, but are the bishops of each of the seven churches. Each letter is addressed to the bishop.

Second Chapter

- The Church is the greatest miracle of God. If it was a mere human organization, the Church would have been wiped out ages ago. God allows His Church to thrive, even in the worst circumstances. This is why we should never worry about the Church. The Church has no need to be saved. The Church serves to saves us and to protect us.

- The Church of Ephesus shows us that you can be completely Orthodox and completely correct in all things, who are strong fighters for the truth, but the love of God can still be absent. Zeal against falsehood is praised by Christ, but it is despised if combined with a lack of heartfelt love for Christ. Good works are also good, but Christ is more interested in what is in your heart.

- In verse 6, the Lord says He hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans, not the Nicolaitans, who were led by the deacon Nicholas, themselves, since heretics should not be hated. We hate sin and heresy, but not sinners and heretics, just as sin and heresy are hated by God, but God loves the sinner and the heretic. Their "deeds" were that they believed they can attain deification through indulging in their passions.

- The "tree of life" in verse 7, refers to the fact that they who overcome, God will allow to be united with Him in Paradise eternally. Christ is the tree of life in the Paradise of God.