Monday, December 13, 2010

End Times

When I was just a young man in my early twenties, working as an apprentice in furniture making in Edmonton, Alberta and still living in the New Age commune that drew me to Canada, I met a lonely young man at work. When I say lonely, I mean he was a loner. He had no friends, and he was quite private and untalkative.

Even back then, I was no different than I am now. Though I wasn’t a Christian yet, I was still always interested in other people, especially when they seemed to be spiritually minded. That’s what I suspected of this boy, and so I befriended him. He was a skinny boy with a very serious look on his face at all times, and fiery red hair. As we got to know each other, and he learned that I was also ‘on the spiritual path’ and involved in a group that believed that ‘the end is near,’ he opened up to me his great secret.

Through his study of the Bible and working through its numerology, he had determined that not only were we in the Last Days, but that the Lord Jesus Christ was about to return, and it would not be too far ahead. In fact, it was going to be the very next year. This was in 1972.

I didn’t criticize him in any way, but let him talk about it more and more to gain his confidence, and finally one day, he invited me to his room. He rented a single room in a house—that was what young people did in those days in Canada, that is if they didn’t pool their resources and get an apartment to share—and he had a hotplate in there, was able to use a shared washroom, but other than a small bed and a tiny dresser and writing table with lamp and a chair, he had nothing else in the room. I felt sorry for him, as my commune was in a large house on the edge of the University of Alberta campus. It had five or six bedrooms, four (gas) fireplaces, a great room, a fully finished one room attic with dormers, and several bathrooms and all the other rooms one expects in a very large house. Our rent was $285 a month. This young man was certainly poor as well as lonely. I wish I could remember his name, but I can’t, so I will call him Colin.

When Colin invited me to come over, so he could show me the fruits of his labors, I was excited, because he really interested me. There was something about him, so solemn even at that young age, and so confident of his beliefs. On the other hand, I was still being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, and almost drowning in the New Age sea. I hadn’t made it to the ark in time. Would the flood finally drown me? I wondered.

Finally, the day came and after work I drove him home (he didn’t have a car either; I had a brand new Ford Pinto), and we ascended the stairs to his room. When the door opened, his one lamp was already burning. It was dark outside already, being the beginning of winter. There was nowhere for me to sit but on his bed, and he took the chair and pulled out of somewhere a pile of oversized, thick paper with what looked like geometry diagrams and tiny writing all over the pages. He pulled one out of the pile and laid it out on the bed where I could see it, though the lamp didn’t give much light.

The page had what looked like intersecting circles and lines, and lots of tiny writing and dates and bible verses. He began explaining to me all kinds of things about what the Bible said, that I had never heard of in my life. He had figured out from all the prophecies in the bible exactly when everything was going to happen, events that I had never even heard of before. I had been brought up as a Catholic, and so there wasn’t any concept of prophecy being fulfilled before our very eyes. I was impressed but overwhelmed. There was suddenly something emanating from his eyes, voice and face that I hadn’t seen in him before. It scared me a little bit. It was almost as if he were possessed.

Yes, possessed. Possessed by ideas, for sure. Possessed by certainty, but what was the source? Things that I thought about fuzzily and not even in biblical terms, only in the New Age way—you know, Age of Aquarius—this Colin seemed to know with rock hard certainty. The complexity of his drawings and timelines, as he showed me the other papers, astounded me. To this day, I have never seen anything so rigorously organized and complex on a piece of paper. As he told me about his revelations, he spoke almost as if I weren’t there, almost as though he didn’t care whether I believed him or not. When he was done, he looked at me point blank and said, “In just a couple of months, I will disappear. Do you want to come with me?”

That was too much for my New Age head to wrap around, and after an embarrassing moment and a stutter, I told him, I needed time to think about it. Disappear where? I was afraid to ask him. I had a sickening feeling that he might kill himself. I knew in my gut, something was not right here.

Colin only worked with us for maybe another week and a few days more, and then he really did disappear. I didn’t retrace my way to his doorstep to look him up either, even though I wanted to very badly. There was just a strange emotion of attraction and fear in me going on, and the fear won. I never forgot him, though, and I wonder to this day what happened to him. He is not the only person in my life who has just disappeared, but certainly one of the most enigmatic.
What brought this all to mind was looking at a webpage an old friend of mine brought to my attention this morning. It is from a religious group that claims that Jesus Christ will return on May 21, 2011. Looking at their webpage, I was reminded of my friend Colin. Here it was, the same spirit, still claiming to know what only God knows, only on a much larger scale. If only it were that easy. If only we could expect God to unfold His plans like clockwork and give some of His servants the privilege to know His timeline.

History has shown every one of these claimants to hidden prophetic knowledge to be imposters and deceived, and yet that doesn’t stop them appearing with predictable regularity. In fact, that’s the only predictable thing about their whole enterprise. We know that Christ will return, but not when. He tells us this is how it must be. And we also know that these false prophets and deluded brethren will appear with dependable regularity. Lucky will be the last, who come proclaiming and prophesying the day before He really does return. But how will He regard them?


Hilarius said...

Interesting comments, Romanos. I think the most troubling thing about Harold Camping's teachings is the bit about all the churches having become apostate and that the only way to be saved is to come out of the churches - that the "church age has ended."

I mean to say, the world could indeed suffer tribulations starting next may and ending next October. But I could get hit by a bus next week, too. The point is, have I repented today, and each day, taken up my cross, followed Him? An answer to that question doesn't require me to know when the end will happen, either my specific end or the end of days.

I suppose the other thing that particularly bothers me is the doctrine about the total annihilation of those not called to be saved.

There is an excerpt from "The Truth of Our Faith" that I think is helpful found here:

Second Coming

Actually, the next section, on Chiliasm is also quite interesting.

Mr. Barnes' site has many things that not all Orthodox agree on, but he does have some interesting material collected there.

Veni Emmanuel!

- Eric John

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Thanks, brother, for commenting, and for bringing these things to our attention. I deeply appreciate you.

Mother Effingby said...

This reminds me of the group I had met up with last year in a home church setting. They were deeply imbibing the writings of Peter S. Ruckman, who, like Camping predicted the Rapture several times, always prefacing his predictions with 'if the timeline' is correct, then the date should be...' and the day never was. He became a hateful, Phelps kind of Baptist preacher who preached racist beliefs and everyone not of his clique. Are we in the last days? I don't know, but there are many signs towards something momentous. Many faithful brothers and sisters have believed His return is imminent.

Joan of Argghh! said...

I remember when everyone thought Jesus was coming back because the price of gas had risen to 75 cents a gallon. The charismatic movement back then gave rise to many such ideas.

Such unbridled freedom of interpretation as experienced in-depth by this born-Catholic who left the Church for more "spiritual freedom" finally caused me to exclaim, "I used to complain about organized religion, until I tried disorganized religion."

pilgrim said...

I completely disagree, not only with the notion that a date can be set, but also with Elder Cleopa’s attack on what the written Word of God clearly teaches concerning Christ’s earthly reign for 1000 years. If the plain and literal meaning of the text cannot be taken, then how can it be taken, received or obeyed at all? If there is no reference point, then truth can be whatever I think, or you think, or that man over there thinks.

Of course this is nothing new from the Orthodox Fathers. They claim apostolic succession, yet really, most everything they preach, and the whole culture of Orthodoxy, is a snapshot of post-Constantine Byzantium. This is why he slanders the Chiliasts, whom he claims the whole Church rose up against and drove out. He is right in saying that they drove them out. The Orthodox Church would be completely and historically different and a better church had the original and true teaching been kept and received.

“Elder Cleopa: This idea is an ancient one. In the first centuries of Christianity it was endorsed by the so-called Chiliasts or Millenialists. Against them rose the entire ancient Church and its most important representatives.”

By despising those who believe the Word of God concerning the earthly reign of Christ, this Elder sets himself up over and judges the Apostles, who knew and were convinced that the Lord would restore the kingdom to Israel (See Acts 1).

In fact, the more I read what he has written in “The Truth of Our Faith”, the more I realize he is no different in his unsound doctrine than this group Romanós has pointed out, The Latter Rain.

pilgrim said...

First, he speaks of the first resurrection of Revelation 20 as pertaining to spiritual baptism and the second resurrection as a literal resurrection:

“Therefore, it should be clearly known that the first resurrection is the baptismal resurrection and the second resurrection is that which we await on the last day, the last resurrection.”

But again, what does the scripture simply say:

“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”

First of all it clearly states that there are many who are given authority to judge, prior to the first resurrection, and these are seated on thrones. Then, those who partake of the first resurrection do so because they did not take the mark of the beast or worship his image, but were slain because of the testimony of Jesus. They come to life and reign with Christ. This is the first resurrection and they are deemed holy and blessed. It mentions nothing about spirtual baptism.

Then it says:

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”

The words second resurrection are not even used, only second death. But what is implied is that the first resurrection is for the holy and for those who maintained their testimony during the persecution of the beast, and that the giving up of the dead by the sea, death and Hades results in the participants of this event being judged by their deeds and being cast into the fiery lake. They experience second death, while the former group second death has no power over.

This is just one example of his faulty doctrine. And this happens, whether in “Orthodoxy” or by fringe groups like the above post mentions, when the Word of God is made figurative and spiritualized into oblivion.

If the first resurrection is not a literal resurrection, then what is to stop someone from saying that the crucifixion of Christ was not a literal crucifixion? We all know that if any Christian were to say this they would be immediately labeled as heretics by Elders like these. Yet, these men, who have donned the vestments of Nicolas of Antioch, get away with murder because of the term “Orthodoxy” which they use to encompass them and trumpet their drivel.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Thanks for your long and detailed comments refuting Elder Cleopa, brother, but I did not read whatever it is you're reading, and I don't feel the need to blast anyone. My blog is not a battlefield, but a welcome home.

Having been my closest friend and co-laborer for so many years, I am surprised you would use my blog to blast ideas that you know very well that I do not endorse.

pilgrim said...

I did not say you endorsed them, nor Hilarius. But brother Hilarius did put the link to the above quotes. He said it was interesting. I do not know what that means in this particular circumstance. So I clicked on the link and read what the Elder wrote. In response, I pointed out what is wrong. And in response, I suspected this would happen...

And this is my point. If... if brothers believe that what they are testifying to, what they are writing, that what they speak could by any means cause controversy, arguments and the like, they should think before posting such things, or be willing to take the heat. The blame can't all simply fall on me because of a response. If you think I blasted him, that is fine. But I was no harsher than you have been with others. How many times have you done the same, brother? In fact, who taught me to boldly speak if it were not you?

What is and is not allowed on your blog? Is not your post here a denouncing of brothers deluded? How many other times have you written against denominations, cults, charismatics, modern false teachers, false movements and so on? How many times have you said things that many might feel are hard to swallow or even hurtful?

So, it is fine to point out the weaknesses and failings and falsehoods of others, but the moment one does so to one who is Orthodox, it is considered battle and an affront? If you want to refute, do so. But with refuting comes battle -- it will always be this way, because you will be offending someone, even if it is for their betterment.

There is no partiality with the living God. Nor is there hypocrisy. Let's judge rightly and stop wasting time. Controvery for controvery's sake is sin. Denouncing others because it makes you feel better than them is the same. There is good and honorable refuting, and each situation has to be judged accordingly. But most likely, any argument we have, it has been had before. Christ matters solely, and His precious evangelion. You know this, and I know this. So lets make it happen.

I hope this has proven my point. If not, then I ask all to forgive me for not being clear enough. I will no longer use your blog, brother. Nor will I use my own. I would rather say nothing and simply preach Christ crucified...

Grace and peace to everyone...

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Brock, if I taught you to boldly speak, you know that. But I did not teach you to accuse. I have tried to demonstrate love and reason, mercy and patience, and my witness is that of one who would rather suffer for the truth of Christ than attack others for it. I love the Church, and I try to practice what I preach, and what you used to as well, to cover for our brothers' folly, to be patient, to endure in peace, and defend even those with whom we disagree, for the sake of the unity which Christ prays over us. I repeat, I love the Church, and even when I criticise or observe and comment on something that needs correction, I try to do it in the spirit of abject repentance and with reconciliation and love as the object.

I would rather let you have the last word, to prove yourself right, but unfortunately I have to say these things. I am not right, only God is. I do not love, only God does, though I still try. He loves because He is love. I want to be at least as good a copy of that love and that welcoming heart that I find Him to be as I can.

Always to say Yes to Him, come what may, and to love not just in word but in deed. That has been my object, as it remains.

pilgrim said...

This has nothing to do with having the the last word. Of course accusation is wrong (though I believe my discernment is correct and may the Lord judge me in His mercy for trying to demonstrate how quickly partiality comes into play when those we favor are confronted compared to those we care little for). But I am opposing you to your face. I believe you are in the wrong for the partiality you show to the Orthodox, but not for the other brethren. I could care less who has the last word, as along as the truth is upheld and maintained. If you are going to uphold the truth without partiality, then the last word is yours. Only may Christ be glorified in all that is said.

Out of respect for your age, for your senority in the Faith, for all you have taught me and for all who may be listening to this dispute, but more importantly, in submission to the Word of God, I will " quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." James 1:19-20

I am finished my brother. Grace and peace...

Hilarius said...


My more lengthy comment simply would not get accepted by blogger - perhaps that providential.

My abbreviated comment:

I am not offended.

I lack the spiritual wisdom and discernment about the Revelation of John to say whether Elder Cleopa is right or wrong in the totality of what he is saying, but it is counterpoint to those who would quickly sign on to doctrines such as Harold Camping's, and thus cautionary at least.

I do not see how baptism is not a literal death and resurrection, albeit spiritual, therefore I cannot agree with your argument. See Colossians Chapters 2 and 3.

That said - with all love - in my opinion worrying too much about how the end times will be is as fruitless as the Sadducees question about the woman with 7 husbands when they are standing next to the Source of Life Himself.

What concerns me more immediately (and more to the point I was hoping to make in my comment) was that even if I have perfect knowledge of the end, it does me no good if I can't follow my Lord now.

I am not after debate - and no hard feelings at all.

May you have a blessed celebration of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

- Eric John