Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Homily Three for the Sunday of the Last Judgement (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on March 4, 1951)

"As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matt. 24:37-39) - the terrible second coming.

Will it be exactly like that? No, what happened in the days of Noah is cited by Christ in His discourse about the Last Judgment in order to show that just as suddenly, just as unexpectedly, the Son of Man will appear to us in His glory with all the holy angels to begin His Judgment.

Why do I say that it is not true?

I rely on the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, for He said: “And suddenly, after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of heaven will be shaken; then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven; and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:29-31).

And this terrible manifestation of His, according to His holy words, will be preceded by great horrors, the greatest disasters, “for nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be famines, plagues and earthquakes; yet this is the beginning of sorrows” (Matt. 24:7-8) – those terrible epidemic diseases that are always inseparable from war.

There will be, you see, terrible wars, peoples will exterminate each other; then there will be no carefree rest, which was in the days of Noah, but there will be a cruel and terrible life, "for then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, and will not be" (Matt. 24:21).

From the Holy Apostle John the Theologian in his wondrous Revelation we read a description of those horrors, those fierce sufferings that will precede the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It will be a time of pestilence and earthquakes, it will be a time of indescribable suffering.

And then suddenly the terrible sound of the Archangel's trumpet will suddenly be heard, from which the whole universe will shudder. Then it will be what the Holy Prophet Isaiah foretold: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!" (Is. 64:1).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the time is coming, and it has already come, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and having heard, they will live” (John 5:25).

How is it that all the dead come to life? By the power of God they will come to life: by the will of God, the tombs and graves of all those who have died from eternity will be opened; the boundless sea will roar with terrible storms and cast forth the countless dead hidden in it - the whole earth will be covered with bones - human bones - and that will begin, which our God announced to the Holy Prophet Ezekiel in an extraordinary, amazing vision.

“The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?'

So I answered, 'O Lord God, you know.'

Again He said to me, 'Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, "O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”’

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

Also He said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the 1breath, "Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’  So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then He said to me, 'Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, "Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!" Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,' says the Lord” (Ezek. 37:1-14).

So it will be when all the graves are opened, when the sea gives up its dead - then the whole earth will be covered with dry bones. And suddenly, by the command of God, these bones will begin to move and begin to approach each other.

Oh, what a terrible roar of bones will rise then! This roar will deafen everyone. The bones will unite with each other, veins will grow on them, flesh will grow, cover with skin, and the spirit will enter into them, and the Lord will work a great miracle.

He said in a vision of John the Theologian: "Behold, I make all things new." And He will create new bodies of the dead, and flesh unknown to us, according to its properties.

But it is said in Scripture that they will be spiritual bodies. The Apostle Paul announced to us about those who will still be alive by the terrible day of the Judgment of Christ. Thus He says: “I tell you a secret: we will not all die, but we will all change suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

In the twinkling of an eye, these bodies - the bodies of resurrected people and suddenly changed living ones - will acquire completely new properties: they will become incorruptible, they will live forever together with their immortal spirit.

So, a terrible world catastrophe will happen, about which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself spoke, about which both the Holy Prophet Isaiah and the Holy Apostle Peter spoke in his Second Epistle, and the Apostle John the Theologian in Revelation. They all say that on this terrible day of the Second Coming of Christ, the end of the whole universe will come:

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?" (2 Peter 3:10-12).

There will be an indescribable global catastrophe. The whole universe will be destroyed by a terrible fire unknown to us.

And then the day will come when the Lord will create everything new: a new earth, a new Jerusalem, a new universe.

A terrible flame that will engulf the whole earth like a fiery river, will carry away all the resurrected dead, all who were alive, at that time and suddenly changed and incorruptible, will carry away far, far from the earth that is burning, which is being destroyed, to where the Last Judgment will be, where the Judge, the Righteous Lord and our God Jesus Christ will appear on the clouds, with all His angels.

And all nations will appear before Him, all the most ancient people who have ever lived, people of the Stone and Bronze Ages - all will appear.

They will appear when terrible darkness sets in, for “the sun will grow dim, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of heaven will be shaken ...” (Matt. 24:29-30). But this darkness will be illuminated with an extraordinary light, for the sign of the Son of Man will suddenly appear in heaven - the holy cross, the light of which will be immeasurably brighter than the dimmed heavenly bodies.

"And then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory...". And all nations will see the One in whom so many did not believe, they will see those who crucified the Lord Jesus, they will see those who in all subsequent centuries and up to our time continue to crucify Christ again and again and trample on His priceless Blood. Those who disbelieved will see and shudder; they will see - and they will come to indescribable horror, because then they will see - and they will not be able not to believe.

They will see with their own eyes, with their trembling hearts they will feel the horror and fear from which they will hide in caves and precipices, and ask that the mountains fall on them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb.

But nothing will hide them, for God's truth is eternal, it cannot be trampled with impunity; for the truth, which has so often been trampled on our sinful earth, will then shine forth throughout the world as the greatest and perfect truth of God.

Then great joy will come for those who have been hungry and thirsty all their lives for the truth, not finding it around them. Then they will rise up and raise their heads, because their deliverance draws near (Luke 21:28).

With great joy, with indescribable triumph, all the righteous will be resurrected.

All those who trample on the Blood of Christ, who did not believe in Him, will rise in horror and trembling.

And there have been countless unbelievers since ancient and immemorial times. For even the ancient sage Jesus the son of Sirach says this on their behalf: “Do not delay to turn back to the Lord, and do not postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will come upon you, and at the time of punishment you will perish” (Sir. 5:7).

No, they will not be like those who have not been, but will rise again, with horror and trembling they will appear before the eyes of the terrible Judge.

And the moment will come when the truth of God will be revealed to the whole world.

The Lord Almighty, the Judge of the world will separate the righteous from the unrighteous; He will put some to the right of Himself, and others to the left and will say the words that you heard in the Gospel reading: He will justify them, He will call them blessed of His Father all those who do deeds of mercy to people who are unfortunate and suffering and needy; He will condemn and send to eternal torment those who have never done works of mercy to anyone.

It is extremely important what the Lord revealed about His Last Judgment: it is extremely important to know that He will judge people only for works of mercy or a complete lack of mercy. He will not ask about anything else, he will judge sinners only because they did not have compassion, pity, mercy and love for their neighbors.

Why is this enough, why is it no longer necessary to ask the Lord Jesus about anything? Because love is the fulfillment of the whole law, and the absence of love is a violation of the law of Christ.

He will call blessed of His Father those who were full of love, mercy, pity and compassion.

Cursed and condemned to eternal torment, He will call those who by their deeds have shown that they are alien to love, completely alien to the most important thing in the law of God, that having rejected this law, trampling on holy love, they rejected the law of good and preferred the law of evil; did not want to follow the path of Christ, they went their own way, the way of evil. Well, shall we be indignant that they will go into eternal torment? No, we won't: they condemned themselves to this eternal death.

Even if Christ had not said His terrible words, they would still have condemned themselves. How can people who lived thousands of years ago judge themselves?

You heard in the stichera of this Sunday, when the commemoration of the Last Judgment takes place, that when the judgment begins, the books will open, in which the deeds of each person are recorded.

What for are these books, which will be opened, are they really needed for the Omniscient God? No, of course not. These books only symbolically depict what is indelibly imprinted in the conscience of every person, in his immortal spirit.

All of a sudden, in a single moment, his whole former life will pass before him, he will remember to the smallest detail every evil word of his, every evil deed, every unholy thought he will remember - and he will be horrified.

If he was a villain, if he was a blasphemer, if he trampled on the Blood of Christ, all these terrible deeds would suddenly appear before his spiritual eyes.

What grounds do I have for saying so and asserting this? I have a direct reason, because it is known from books on psychology that people who were on the verge of death - who drowned in the sea and were saved at the last moment, who fell under a train, but lay between the rails while the train swept over them - these people said that in one terrible dying minute, their whole former life passed before them, starting from early childhood.

This is possible only because everything that we do, that we say, that we think, is indelibly imprinted forever in our spirit. The spirit keeps all this, and when the spirit is freed from the fetters of the flesh, when the flesh becomes spiritual, then the spirit will reveal to the spiritual eyes of a person everything that happened during his life. It will be a terrible judgment of himself over himself. His own spirit, his conscience will condemn him.

Therefore, it is profoundly fair and right that all those who did evil will exist forever with the devil and his angels, who rejected good and became the center of evil.

With them in eternal, endless communion, will live those who crucified Christ, who trampled on His Blood. In this communion, their malice and cruelty will increase without limit. This will be their endless torment.

This is what the Last Judgment will consist of. This you should know to believe unconditionally, because it will be so. Thus spoke Christ, His holy apostles, His prophets, and they cannot lie.

What should we do, having before our mind's eye this terrible picture of the Judgment? I will not answer this question, but the Holy Apostle Peter will answer: “Therefore, beloved, expecting this, endeavor to appear before Him undefiled and blameless in the world; and count the patience of our Lord as salvation...” (2 Peter 3:14-15).

Take care in advance that the Last Judgment is not a shocking horror for you, not an unbearable horror, but a joy.

Live in such a way that when you hear the terrible trumpet of the Archangel, when your bodies are resurrected, you would rise up and, with a joyful smile on your lips, give praise to God, who finally executes judgment, finally punishes serious sinners, whose impunity your soul, the soul of every good person, could not stand.

Let us live in such a way that the Last Judgment and the trumpet of the Archangel do not frighten us, but bring us to great joy, and we will sing a song to the Eternal Judge, the Righteous Judge, Who will reward everyone according to their deeds. “To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen" (2 Peter 3:18).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.