13 September 2012
The Church of Christ in the Time of Antichrist
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
IN THE TIME OF THE ANTICHRIST
According to The Teachings of the
Holy Scriptures and the Holy Fathers
By Hieromonk Ignaty (Trepatschko)
…And upon this rock I will build
my church, and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18).
“True is the word, firm is the promise.
The Church is insurmountable, even if
hell itself was moved and the ruler of
darkness summoned turmoil” (St. Athanasius).
The Antichrist will appear immediately before the second coming of Christ, as attested to by the Holy Scriptures (Dan., chs. 7,11,12; Rev., chs. 12,13,17,20; Matt., ch. 24; Mark, ch. 13; Luke, chs. 17,21; II Thess., ch. 2), and by the Holy Fathers of the Church (John of Damascus says: “It should be known that the Antichrist must come before the end of the end of the world”). (1)
What means will this enemy of God use to build his authority over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations (Rev. 13:7)? Will he be able to realize his wicked rule among people and overcome Christ’s Holy Church? How will the battle between the Antichrist and the Holy Church be fought?
Through the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers of the Church, we know, first of all, what battle plan the Antichrist intends to use against the Holy Church. His intention is to root out from among people, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the God-Man and Saviour, and to replace Christ with himself as the object of worship. He will try to overthrow Christ’s teachings and sacraments, and will openly propagate himself as the only true Christ and God. To realize this end he will use not only deceit and false wonders, but will also fiercely persecute those who resist his reign. Even though he will establish his reign over many, he still will not overcome the Church of Christ.
The Saviour Himself says that the Jews will recognize the Antichrist as their Messiah: “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43).
So we see that there cannot be faith in two Christ’s (II Cor. 6:4,15). Therefore, those who have accepted the true Christ must shun the false one; and those who have accepted the false one must renounce the true Christ – the Messiah. From this, it is clear that the Antichrist must first openly renounce the true Christ in order that he himself be accepted as the Messiah. Thus, St. Irenaeus of Lyons calls the Antichrist the apostate from Christ, who demands that he be raised up and be adored as God. (2) The Apostle John writes: Who is a liar but he denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is Antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son (I John 2:22).
Therefore, according to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, the most substantial and evident sign of the Antichrist will be his rejection of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In his first epistle, the Evangelist John plainly witnesses that the Antichrist will not secretly reject the Lord Jesus Christ who came in the flesh, but quite openly: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is the spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world (I John 4:3). The words “confesseth not” not only make manifest the hidden denial of faith in the divinity of Christ, but also show the open confirmation of his denial before others. These words are used by the Saviour with the same idea when He says: Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God (Luke 12:8; Matt. 10:32; Mark 8:38). Generally, in the language of the Holy Scriptures, the word “confess” is used in terms of an open, vocal confirmation of a certain truth and is distinct from internal, hidden faith (compare Rom. 10:10; Tit. 1:16; 1 Jn. 1:9; II Jn. 1:7; Rom. 10:9).
The Apostle John uses the term “confess not” to mean the same as an open rejection of the divinity of Christ. Here he points out an obvious indication through which believers are able to recognize the Antichrist. Try the spirits, he says, Hereby know ye the Spirit of God…. every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God. He foresaw that the Antichrist will openly reject the Father and the Son. He uses this warning precisely so Christians would not fall into the nets of the Antichrist when he appears.
Like St. John, the Apostle Paul foretold that the last enemy of Christ will openly rise up against the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. The hostile actions of all the heretics, which already began to appear in his time and continued to appear after his departure to the Lord (Acts 20:29), he calls “the mystery of iniquity,” (II Thess. 2:7) because in a secretive manner they tried and are trying to bring harm to the Church of Christ. St. Paul calls the Antichrist the revelation of this mystery of iniquity, which follows after the final apostasy from faith. For that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition….whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power…. (II Thess. 2:3, 9).
Thus, did the ancient ecumenical Church teach by the mouths of Her renowned Fathers and Teachers. St. Irenaeus writes that the Antichrist will show himself to be impious, unrighteous, and iniquitous as an apostate. (3) St. Hilary testifies that through the Arians, the Devil is trying to convince people that Christ is not the Only-Begotten Son of God, but is adopted as a son by grace. Through the Antichrist, however, he will try to convince people that Christ is not the Son of God even by adoption, thus completely defaming the name of the true Christ. (4) Blessed Augustine says that the Antichrist will hinder the baptism of infants, even though there will be pious parents who will decide to endure all tortures rather than to leave their children unbaptized. (5) St. Jerome foretold that the enemy of Christ will win over the trust of the Jews through rejecting the sacred ordinance of Christ, (6) while according to St. Ephraim the Syrian, “the beast will lay his mark, i.e. an evil inscription,…. on the right hand, and on the forehead so that it will be impossible for a man to make the sign of the Cross and on the forehead so as not to allow man to keep the holy name of the Saviour on his mind. The serpent will inscribe his mark instead of the Cross of the Saviour. In order to do this, undoubtedly he will use a method so that the name of the Lord and Saviour will not even be allowed to be said during this time.” (7) (See also “On Christ and the antichrist” by St. Hippolytus of Rome, and the Commentary on Revelation by St. Andrew of Caesarea).
In addition to openly rejecting the Divinity of the Saviour, His relation to God the Father, and His teachings, the Antichrist will likewise openly appropriate for himself divine dignity and will spread a new godless teaching, which will oppose the teachings of Christ.
The Lord clearly refers to this – another shall come in My name (John 5:43) i.e., not in the name of God the Father, as came our Saviour, and not even in the name of Christ, but he shall come in his own name and will propagate a new teaching, not recognizing anyone’s authority above his own. “Seest thou,” explains St. John Chrysostom, “that He everywhere declareth that He hath been ‘sent’, that judgement hath been committed to Him by the Father, that He can do nothing of Himself, in order that He may cut off all excuse for their unfairness? But who is it that He here saith shall come ‘in his own name’? He alludeth here to the Antichrist, and putteth an incontrovertible proof of the unfairness. For if as loving God ye persecute Me, much more ought this to have taken place in the case of the Antichrist. For he will neither say that he is sent by the Father, not that he cometh according to his will, but in everything contrariwise, seizing like a tyrant what belongeth not to him, and asserting that he is the very God over all. As St. Paul saith, exalting himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, showing himself that he is God (II Thess. 2:4). This is to ‘come in his own name’.” (8)
The holy Apostle Paul offers an even more detailed teaching of how the Antichrist will pronounce himself God and openly demand of people reverence as such. And that man of sin, he says, will be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as god sitteth in the temple of God showing himself that he is God (II Thess. 2:3,4).
By these words, St. Paul foretells that the Antichrist will preside among those Christians which used to belong to the True Church of Christ, but later fell away from Her, and recognize as their head the enemy of Christ and worship him. “In the temple of God he shall sit,” says St. Irenaeus, “deceiving only those who worship him, as though he were Christ.” (9)
Overseers ordained by the Holy Spirit preside in the Church of God (Acts 20:28), who are entrusted with the guidance of Christians by the Saviour Himself, but who nevertheless hold themselves as servants of the only Overseer, that is, Christ; in order to show that this will not be the way in which the Antichrist will preside over the Church, and that he will not hold the Lord Jesus Christ as his guide, the holy Apostle Paul says that he will seize the lordship over the Church as a usurper of divine greatness. For having said that he will raise himself “above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God,” immediately he adds: “showing himself that he is God.” This shows that he will openly assimilate to himself divine reverence, that he will not only show himself like God, but that he is God, presenting himself as God.
Adhering to Holy Scripture, the Holy Fathers teach the following:
St. Irenaeus of Lyons: “The adversary will sit in the temple of Jerusalem, in order to show himself as Christ, he will demand that those who are captivated by him should worship him as Christ. The Antichrist will demand worship as if he were God.” (10)
St. Hippolytus of Rome: “Having filled himself with pride, the Antichrist will begin to set himself up and glorify himself as God, belching forth slander against Christ.” He will do this so openly that he will command that all those who do not want to serve him as God be killed. (11)
St. Ambrose of Milan: “A false prophet will prophesy concerning the Antichrist saying he is Christ and he himself will try to convince everyone that he is Christ.” (12)
St. Ephraim the Syrian: “Many will believe the Antichrist and will glorify him as God,” and “many will worship the torturer with trembling crying out: ‘Thou art our saviour!’” (13)
Blessed Theodoret of Cyrus: “The Antichrist will not only pronounce himself highest of the false gods, but will sit in the Temple of God, as if he were God…. the Jews, who did not want to believe in the Lord, as though He were an adversary to God, will believe in the Antichrist who will pronounce himself to be the god of all.” (14)
St. John of Damascus asserts: “The Jews, who did not accept the Lord Jesus Christ as the true Son of God and God, will receive a deceiver who will call himself God.” (15)
Thus, the entire ancient Christian Church believed that the ultimate enemy of Christ, who will renounce the Lord Jesus as the Son of God, will openly call himself Christ and God.
What means will the Antichrist use among people in order to weaken their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel?
According to Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers, in order to carry out his devilish scheme, the enemy will, on the one hand, use constant and vicious persecutions by which he will try to extract Her weaker members from the midst of the Holy church; on the other hand, he will try to use false wonders and signs to seduce, if possible, even the elect.
Our Saviour foretold that these very same calamities would befall believers before the end of the world. Thus, the Holy Apostles asked Him: “What will be the sign of Thy coming at the end of he world?” The Lord answered by explaining that the first sign will be the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and then added this description of the end: the appearance of false prophets, wars among nations, the increase of lawlessness, and a complete chilling of mutual love, so that many will grow to hate one another.
The Saviour drew exceptionally vivid images of various calamities as signs of the end. For than shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (Matt. 24:21, 22). At that time, salvation will be gained through hope in God and long-suffering patience. Our Lord warns His followers, when that time comes, not to believe the false prophets or the Antichrist (Matt. 24: 23-26).
We find in the book of the Prophet Daniel (11:44; and elsewhere), and especially in the Book of Revelation (11:7; 13:7; etc…), references to the great calamities that will afflict the Holy Church in the last times.
The Holy Fathers are in agreement with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures when they say that the Church will endure cruel and constant persecution from the Antichrist from which the only deliverance will be the second coming of the Son of God.
St. Justin Martyr says that the “man of apostasy” will not only utter blasphemy against the Most High, but will take up arms against Christians by means of persecutions. (16)
St. Irenaeus of Lyons calls the time of the Antichrist a time of cruelty and heavy persecution of the Church, which will be worse than any other time in history. (17)
St. Hippolytus writes that the Antichrist, arrogant with pride, will send out orders among all nations to punish with death all Christians who refuse to serve and worship him as God.
Having mentioned the Antichrist’s pretense earlier, St. Cyril of Jerusalem continues: “He shall be known by his crimes of inhumanity and lawlessness, so as to out do all unrighteous and ungodly men who have gone before him; displaying against all men, but especially against us Christians, a spirit murderous and most cruel, merciless and crafty” (Catechetical Lecture 15, Ch. 12).
St. Ephraim the Syrian, in particular, vividly expresses the last persecution of Christians by the Antichrist, saying, that he will deal with those who do not believe in him “in a severe, cruel, hateful, fierce, murderous manner,” that “in that time, infants will die on their mother’s lap, and the mothers will die over their children, fathers will die with their wives and children in the marketplace, and there will be nobody there who will bury them.” (18)
“For the Antichrist will come for the destruction of men, and to injure them,” says St. John Chrysostom. “For what will he not then work? He will change and confound all things, both by his commandments and by the fear of him. He will be terrible in every way: by his power and by his unlawful commandments.’’ (19)
Blessed Augustine says that in the times of the Antichrist, the devil will be freed. So much more (uncontrollable) will be the violence of the freed devil than when he was bound, that the persecution of that time will surpass all previous persecutions in its cruelty. Thus, he will use all the power he has to persecute the Church. (20)
We find similar thoughts expressed in the works of St. Andrew of Caesarea and St. John Damascus.
In addition to cruel persecutions, the Antichrist will use deceit to seduce Christians. False wonders and signs will work as means to this, according to the Holy Scriptures.
The Lord spoke further about these wonders worked by the servants of the Antichrist. He said that they would seem to be true miracles if judged from their external appearance and by the effect they will have on people. The False Christ and false prophets shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch, that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matt. 24:24). The extraordinary character of the signs, according to the words of the Saviour, will be such that the very elect will be open to the danger of deceit. “Then the deceit will be great because of the delusive signs,” notes St. John Chrysostom. (21)
St. Paul has a specific idea concerning the wonders that the Antichrist will work. He says, “He will come after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness in them that perish (II Thess. 2:9,10). These words show the essential differences between the false miracles of the Antichrist and the true miracles of Christ. First, the Apostle said that the Antichrist will wield great power and will work wonders, but he warns Christians not to think that the enemy of God is able to work true miracles. Therefore, the Apostle calls the miracles of the Antichrist false.
And, indeed, his wonders will be false. “Just as the Son of God, having been incarnate and having become man,” says St. Ambrose of Milan, “proved His Divinity by signs and wonders, so will Satan open himself to man in order to show himself as God by means of false wonders.” (22) They are false by their origin, for they will belch forth from the father of lies through whom will come the Antichrist. Thus, the Fathers of the Church taught, “Satan will use the Antichrist as a tool, acting himself through him.” (23) The miracles will be false in their essence because they will not surmount the natural laws of nature, – as do true miracles, worked in harmony with the will of God, which defeat the laws of nature. Being false in all respects, they will yet appear as true. Thus, Apostle Paul says that they will manifest great power. In addition, these words of the Apostle clearly show the difference between false wonders and deceit or treachery, which the Antichrist will use as a stumbling block for the weak in faith. Saying that the enemy of God will come with every power and sign, he adds, and with all deceit of unrighteousness in them that perish (II Thess. 2:10).
“One of the servants of the Antichrist,” says St. John Chrysostom, “having been before the Apostles, seduced many. ‘He will come,’ says the Saviour, ‘and will seduce many’; but others to appear before the second coming of the Saviour will be even more deceitful than the first: ‘they will work signs and wonders in order to deceive, if possible, even the elect.’ He refers not only to the Antichrist, but to those who will serve him.” (24)
Expounding on the words of Christ, wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert, go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not (Matt. 24:26). St. John Chrysostom writes: “See how Christ warns us. Do not go forth, He says, into the desert….He did not say :go aside and believe not; but go not forth and do not go aside. For in those days, the temptation will be great because of deceitful signs.” (25)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem teaches that the adversary of Christ will be “a sorcerer who is very experienced in the art of deceit, sorcery and enchantment.” He will conjure up “ false wonders in order to tempt people so that they will think they see a resurrected man, when in reality he was not resurrected. They will see lame who are walking, they will see people who were blind before suddenly start to see, when in fact, they were never healed.” (26)
Having painstakingly taken into account the miracles of the Antichrist, St. Ephraim the Syrian says: “Mountains and islands will arise out of the ocean in plain sight for all to see, but all this will be deceit and an illusion and not real. In addition, he will seduce the world and will deceive all eyes. Many will believe and will glorify him.” (27)
All of the references of Holy Scripture that we have cited, as well as of the Holy Fathers, show that the Antichrist will use cruelty and force, as well as trickery and false miracles, as means for rooting out faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“The persecution of the Church,” observed Blessed Augustine, “when Christians were forced to bring sacrifices to idols by threat of exile, torture and death, was carried out by force. The second persecution the Church endures is from false teachers and false brethren, and is carried out by means of craftiness and deceit. The third persecution will be from the Antichrist, and will be the most dangerous of all because it will be accompanied by force, craftiness and deceit. His power will be used for enforcing his will, and his miracles will be used for deceit.” (28)
The end result of the Antichrist’s insurrection against the Church will be that he will attract to his side those who received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, (II Thess. 2:10). The Holy Church will not only not waver under the persecution of the Antichrist, but will be even more glorified in the face of her faithful followers who will suffer for Christ.
According to the Holy Scriptures, the Antichrist will reign not only over the minds and hearts of those who reject Christ, but will create an entire community with them, which will recognize him as their head and will follow his ordinances.
Scripture frequently refers to the Antichrist as asking and conqueror who will wage war with many kings and will defeat them, utter blasphemous words against God, and oppress the Saints of the Lord, (Dan.7:23-25).
“All the ancient writers of the Church teach, that during the end of the world, there will be ten kings….. and then there will arise an eleventh lesser king (i.e. the Antichrist), who will defeat three of the ten…. and with the defeat of the three, the other seven will submit to his authority.” (29)
In the Holy Scriptures, the kingdom of the Antichrist is described as a society in opposition, even in its external organization, to the Church of God. We find in the book of Revelation, that Satan will be permitted to act freely, then he will gather people from all nations under himself and with them he will surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city, (Rev. 20:7-9). In reference to this, St. Augustine comments, “this will be the last persecution, which will precede the last judgement; throughout the whole world the Holy Church will be exposed to all the servants of the Devil.” (30)
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, says that the Antichrist will seduce a kingdom and will gather the unbelieving Jews under himself. (31) “Christ is King, likewise, the Antichrist is a king. The Lord gathered together His sheep that went astray, and the Antichrist in like manner will gather his strayed people.” (32)
St. Ephraim the Syrian testifies: “Many classes and nations will develop similar thoughts, and with great happiness will pronounce the Antichrist as king.” (33)
Likewise, Holy Scripture clearly indicates that all members of the Antichrist’s kingdom, will have a special mark, which will distinguish them from Christians. The Antichrist “causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name, (Rev. 13:16-17).
How will people reach such blindness that they will begin to consider a human being like themselves as God? Will mankind have lost its right reason?
This deception will occur at a time when the faith of man in the True God will have run dry, and thus God will give them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient, (Rom. 1:28). He will give them up because of their countless offenses, their opposition to Truth, and the extreme corruption of their hearts. Thus, they will be stricken with blindness, and will become unable to differentiate lies from truth, and will change the truth of God into lies, and will worship and serve creation instead of the Creator (Rom. 1:25). Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness, (II Thess. 2:10-12). These people will forget the Creator and will serve creation. At that time, when no visible creation will be in the condition to compare with the Antichrist, in power and might, nor wield such influence as he does by means of those things that blind and awe man, then they will worship and serve this unusual being.
Even though the Antichrist will spread his influence to every nation on earth, the Holy Church of Christ will exist on earth until the very time of the second glorious coming of the Lord.
The Lord gave this promise to His Apostles concerning the Church: I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). Here the word “Church” should be understood as those faithful to Christ and following His teaching. With the words “gates of hell”, the Saviour points out every type of persecutor of the Church, for example, temptations, heresies, and all forces used by the devil, including the Antichrist.
St. Athanasius the Great takes note to the promise of the Lord regarding the perseverance of the church saying, “The word is sure, the promise holds strong: the Church is invincible, even if hell itself were raised and the rulers of darkness brought forth turmoil.” (34)
St. John of Damascus, teaches: “Even though the ‘gates of hell’ will rise up against the church, i.e., the mouths of heretics, the tools of the demons, they will not conquer the Church, even though they will arm themselves, they will not defeat Her.” (35)
The words ‘will not conquer’ mean, according to St. John Chrysostom, that the Church will not be destroyed by any means. “That which the Lord has created, no man can destroy.” (36) Because the Saviour gave His promise about the unquestionable and uncompromising invincibility of the Church, we should firmly believe that no efforts of the enemies would ever destroy Her. No persecutions of the Antichrist will destroy that which the Lord Himself has established.
“The enemies of the Church,” says Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, in one of his sermons, “will rise up against the Church, but they will not crush Her. How long? Undoubtedly, until the end of time. For, if they were able to overcome Her in some time in the future, then the Lord, the Seer of all time, would not have said so assuredly that they would never overcome.”
Before His Ascension, The Lord gave a similar comforting promise to his disciples/ With the following words, he sent them forth for the preaching of the Gospel, strengthening their courage and patience so that they might endure the forthcoming struggles: I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:20). “Do you not see the power of Christ? Do you not see the condescension with which He says this? He will not only be with them, He says, but He will be with all people who believe in Him. For the Apostles were not able to live until the end of time, but He, to all the believers, as if one body, says: I am with you, I tear down all barriers.” (37)
In another place, the Lord says, And I will pray to the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever (John 14:16). St. John Chrysostom asks: “What does it mean when He says, that He may abide with you unto the ages? And he answers: It means the same as when Jesus Christ says about Himself: I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (38) It follows from this promise that the Holy Spirit will always abide in the Church with His grace, regardless of circumstances, never leaving Her without His protection and safekeeping.
Along with stating that the Holy Church will endure until the end of time, The Holy Scriptures also tell us that there will remain an elect of God in the last difficult times. Speaking about His second coming, the Saviour said: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matt. 24:30-31). These words clearly indicate that prior to the second coming, there will still be people who are pleasing to the Lord God, not only in one obscure place, but in various locations.
That Christian divine worship and the serving of the Holy Mysteries will not be terminated during the time of the Antichrist, is confirmed by St. Paul. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup (i.e., the Body and Blood of Christ), ye do show the Lord’s death till He comes (I Cor. 11:26). “Here we find an important truth,” says Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, “in the small word ‘till’. In order to better understand this, I direct the speech of the Apostle to the question: will Christians eat the mystical Bread and drink of the Chalice of the Lord? We find the answer in the words of the Apostle: ‘till He come,’ i.e. the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ will take place without interruption in the true Church of Christ till the very second coming of Christ, or till the end of time, which has the same meaning. Since this cannot be without the grace of the priesthood, and the grace of the priesthood cannot exist without the grace of an hierarchy, then clearly the grace of the office of bishop, according to the foresight of the Apostle, will be in the Church in all times and uninterrupted channels will flow even up to the brink of the approach of the kingdom of glory.”
The ancient Fathers of the Church express the same opinion. St. John Chrysostom says: “Showing that the Holy Eucharist will be till the end of the world, The Apostle Paul said: ‘till He comes.’” (39) St. John of Damascus and St. Ephraim the Syrian concur with this view.
Faith in the insurmountability of the Church was generally accepted in the ancient Christian Church.
Tertullian teaches: “The Christian society will never be depleted and will particularly become strong when in its appearance it will seem to wane.” (40)
St. Ambrose of Milan adds: “the Kingdom of the Church will abide unto the ages,” since God founded the Church and has foreordained to extend its existence unto the ages. (41)
St. John of Chrysostom writes, “Do not leave the Church, for there is nothing mightier than She; She will never grow old and will always bloom; thus the Scriptures, showing Her durability and stability, calls Her a mountain.” (42) This Holy Father adds in his Commentary of the Gospel of St. Matthew that in the times of the Antichrist, the Church will become filled with Jews who have converted to Christ.
St. John of Damascus teaches: “We firmly believe that the Church will never fall, will never waiver and will not be destroyed. For this is what Christ taught, by Whom the heavens were established and the earth was founded, and stands firmly as the Holy Spirit says” (Ps. 32:6). The Antichrist will lure to himself “those who have a weak and feeble mind, will seduce and will tear them away from the living God.” (43)
St. Hippolytus confirms that even though the Church will be exposed to cruel persecution, it will not cease to exist. (44)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, supporting his homily on the prophet Daniel (12: 1-3), teaches: “God will allow persecution from the Antichrist not because He cannot stop it, but because He desires, as usual, His strugglers to be crowned,” and for this reason, “the reverent ones among the living will be taken up into the clouds, receiving, as a reward of honor, that which is higher than any man.” (45)
St. Ephraim says: “Many people will be found pleasing God, for whom it will be possible, in the mountains and in dessert places, to save themselves by much prayer…. for God, seeing their many tears and sincere faith, will have mercy on them, as a tender Father, and will keep them.” (46)
Blessed Theodoret writes: “The Antichrist will not rule over all, but only over those who are worthy of perdition, who, even if he did not come, still would have deprived themselves of salvation.” (47)
St. Andrew of Caesarea teaches that the Antichrist will defeat only those whose names are not written in the book of life. Many of the faithful, because they have loved Christ with their whole heart, will defeat the enemy of Christ. (48)
This, from the teachings of the Holy Scriptures and writings of the Holy Fathers, we see that the Holy Church, with all its sacraments, will remain steadfast till the end of the world.
1). St. John of Damascus, Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, Ch. 26 (Footnotes 1, 15, 35); Oration on
the Transfiguration of the Lord. (Footnote 43).
2). St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, Book 5, Ch. 25. (Footnotes 2, 3, 9, 10, 17, 31).
3). St. Hilary, On the Trinity, Ch. 6. (Footnote 4).
4). Blessed Augustine, The City of God, Book 20. (Footnotes 5, 20, 30). Commentary on Psalm IX. (Footnote 28).
5). St Jerome, Commentary on the Prophet Daniel, Ch. 11. (Footnotes 6, 29).
6). St. Ephriam the Syrian, Oration on the Coming of the Lord. (Footnotes 7, 18, 27, 33, 45); Commentary of Psalm 43 and the Gospel of St. Luke. (Footnote 13).
7). St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John. (Footnotes 8, 38): Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew. (Footnotes 21, 24, 25, 35, 37); Commentary on 2 Thessalonians. (Footnote 19); Commentary on 1st Epistle to the Corinthians. (Footnote 39); On Eutropius. (Footnote 42).
8). St. Hippolytus of Rome, On Christ and the Antichrist. (Footnotes 11, 32, 44).
9). St. Ambrose of Milan, Catechetical Lectures, Oration 15. (Footnote 12); Commentary on 2 Thessalonians. (Footnote 22); Commentary on St. Luke. (Footnote 41).
10). Blessed Theodoret of Cyprus, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians. (Footnotes 14, 47).
11). St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, Ch. 137. (Footnote 16).
12). St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 15. (Footnotes 23, 26, 45).
13). St. Athanasius, (Footnote 34).
14). Tertullian, In lib ad Scapulam, Ch. V. (Footnote 40).