Saint Archbishop Averky (Taushev) – The second Forerunner of the coming of Christ (Sermon on the Day of the Holy Prophet Elias).
“An angel in the flesh and the cornerstone of the prophets, the second forerunner of the coming of Christ…” With these words the Holy Church glorifies the great Old Testament righteous man who lived 900 years before Christ - the glorious holy prophet of God, Elijah. By his unusually strict ascetic life, he appeared more like an angel than a man.
But why does the Holy Church calls him “a second forerunner of the second coming of Christ”?
This is because, just as before the first coming of Christ in the world, St. John the Baptist appeared “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Lk1:17), so also before the second coming of Christ on earth the Prophet Elijah himself will appear (see. Malachi 4:5). As we know, he did not die but was lifted up to heaven alive, with his flesh, in a chariot of fire (see para. 4 Kings 2, 11).
The beloved disciple of Christ, St. John the Evangelist tells about this in his marvelous Apocalypse. The Holy Prophet Elijah, along with another Old Testament righteous man - Enoch, who was also taken to heaven alive because he “walked with God” (Genesis 5:24), will appear again in the days of the Antichrist. They will prophesy and turn people away from worshiping Antichrist. The Seer of Mysteries calls them both “witnesses of God”, “two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth” (Rev.11:3-11). Both of them - Enoch and Elijah - will prophesy for one thousand two hundred sixty days (or 42 months, or three and a half years), that is, in all the reign of the Antichrist, and will do great signs and miracles to convince people not to recognize or accept the sign of Antichrist on their right hand and forehead (Rev.13:16).
But God’s permission, “the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit”, i.e., the Antichrist himself, “shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.” (Rev.11:7).
It is noteworthy that “they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth” (Rev.11:10).
The people are “tormented” because the prophets will appeal to their conscience. Because they will try to awaken the sleeping conscience - diverting them from worshiping the Antichrist and turning to the true God, to Christ.
It has always been so with the prophets of God. None of them finished their life by a natural death - they were all tortured and killed by the people whom they rebuked for their sinful lives.
The same fate will befall those who do not wish to “keep up with the times”, do not want to take part in the general corruption of morals, and who try to awaken the conscience of others by indicating to them the error or mistake of their chosen the path in life, of their improper approach and conduct.
Such people, who want to keep their conscience pure, the others will hate and seek to destroy in every way - if not physically, then at least mentally.
We do not have the information to assert that the Antichrist has already come, but … only spiritually completely blind people cannot see that what goes mad in the world now is preparing for his speedy arrival and reign. Moreover, his faithful servants work with an extraordinary energy (worthy of a better work). They have already sold him their souls for money and all sorts of earthly goods: For honor, power and domination in human society, for all sorts of carnal pleasure and delight, in order to enjoy them without hindrance or punishment.
From numerous predictions by the ancient Fathers of the Church, we know that the majority of people, of all religions, including our Orthodox faith, and not excepting priests, will enthusiastically accept the Antichrist as their lord and king. They will worship him, and begin to persecute and destroy anyone who opposes the Antichrist.
And while we do not yet see the Antichrist as a particular person, even now a great “sifting” of people is taking place. Some “keep up” with the servants of the coming Antichrist, being bought for money or other earthly goods and recruited into his camp. Others - resolutely avoid, dissociate themselves, and quickly go off away from them, by this arousing the anger and hatred of the former.
Brothers! It has never been such acunning time, in which people so excel at deception, falsehood, craftiness and lies. It is necessary to be extremely vigilant, especially attentive and cautious in one’s approach to them, in order to not be tempted by enticing words, and not get entangled in the nets of Antichrist. Do not trust anyone who comes to you with any flattering proposals whatsoever, or with lucrative promises, even if it is a person clothed in spiritual garments, if you know that they are close to some dubious or obviously anti-Christian organisations, if they entertain friendship with the enemies of Christ, and especially - if they receive money from them, whatever the plausible excuse.
The time has come now, when more than ever before, you need to carefully distinguish who of the bearers of the high calling of Pastors of the Church of Christ is indeed serving Christ, and who has already sold himself to the servants of the coming Antichrist. By this, instead of serving Christ, they serve the Antichrist. You need to distinguish, in order that you not be found following a wolf - even one dressed in sheep’s clothing - instead of a true Pastor.
Particularly dangerous pastors among such false shepherds are those who preach a need for peace with everyone, under the pretext of “non-condemnation” and “Christian love and forgiveness”. Let us remember that the peace with the Antichrist (as with his servants) is already a betrayal of Christ - and hence enmity against Christ!
For “what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?“ (2 Cor.6:14-15).
Even the smallest flirting with the servants of the Antichrist, and pleasing them with however plausible a purpose - is a crime and will not pass in vain. It is by no mistake that the old Russian proverb says: “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are!”
In our evil times, what is most necessary for all of us who wish to remain faithful to Christ the Saviour, is ardent zeal. This is what the holy and glorious prophet of God, Elijah was so famous for. Instead of any compromise with the servants of the Antichrist, we should have acomplete irreconcilability toward them, even if we are threatened with temporal death. Let us remember that Enoch and Elijah, after being murdered by the Beast-Antichrist, will be revived to life again “after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.” (Rev.11:11).
After this Christ our Lord Himself will appear, Who will consume the Antichrist with the “spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thes 2:8). Yet after this, time will be shortened, and the end of this world will come, and the Last Judgement will be opened.
Brothers! If you hear of anyone who relates to preaching on the approach of the Antichrist, the Second Coming of Christ, the end of the world and the Last Judgement with mocking, with an ironic smile on his face, or with anger and irritation, then know that you are dealing with a person who, one way or another, has been drawn in by the servants of antichrist, to involvement in preparation for his speedy arrival and reign on earth. Beware of such people, as destroyers of our holy faith and the Church!
On the Day of Judgement, their “secrets” will be revealed, and all of them, along with the Antichrist and his servants, will receive a just recompense in the “lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Rev.19:20). But for the righteous, such as the holy prophet Elijah, and for all those who did not bow, and did not join the service of the Antichrist, but rather honestly and earnestly opposed him, that eternal blessed life in the “New Jerusalem” will begin, which the seer of mysteries was made worthy to see coming down from God from Heaven (Rev. 21:2).
“Whoever has Having the ears hear, let him hear!” - Amen
Originally published in Russian in: Archbishop Averky, Sovremennost’ v svete Slova Bozhia. Slova i Rech, vol. III, Jordanville 1975, pp. 232-236.