I drive around a good bit covering the area of my parish. One of my great joys is to listen to various tapes or CD’s by Orthodox speakers. Over the years, none have fed me more than Fr. Thomas Hopko. I offer a short quotation here from one of his most recent CD’s. I highly recommend it. I’ll offer an observation or two in a moment.
Speaking on the Apocalypse of St. John, Fr. Thomas Hopko comments:
[Reading] ‘John, who is with you, shares with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom’, [commenting] because what the Christian shares with Jesus is the Kingdom and the tribulation…..One of the things that we will see [in this study] is after Jesus is crucified, raised in glory and the Holy Spirit is given, the content of life in this world is the Tribulation. We are in the Tribulation until He comes again. And the Tribulation is a technical term for the End Time. Because the End Time is characterized by the Tribulation, the temptation, the trial, the affliction…. And in the time of the Tribulation we are also in the Kingdom because we belong to Christ.
So we are in two worlds. Spiritually, mystically, sacramentally, liturgically, baptismally, eucharistically, we are in the Kingdom. But we are [also] still in this history, in the time of Tribulation. And the End Time is the time when the children of the Kingdom get nailed by the children of this world. That’s what the End Time is all about. And they [the children of the Kingdom] have to stand fast in the Tribulation. And that is in fact the main Christian prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer given by Jesus is a prayer for the End Time. That is why we say, “Father in heaven…your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, “You are already glorified, we belong to your Kingdom.”
Fr. Tom’s understanding is so much to the point – particularly during a season when the media at large will want to know what happened to “peace on earth and good will toward men,” as if Jesus had instituted a program to make that happen and has failed ever since.
The peace has been given. We hear it multiple times in our services, “Peace be with you!” We are in the Kingdom of Peace as we stand in the Presence of God. And yet, as Fr. Tom says so well – we are also still in this world, and not merely in this world, but in the End Time when we should expect the Tribulation.
The prosperity and relative freedom of our lives in America should not lull us into thinking that the Tribulation has passed us by. You can lose your faith here as well as anywhere. The ersatz “gospel of prosperity,” which is not the gospel at all, is itself one of the lying wonders of the Tribulation and we should be bold enough to name it as such. It promises things that God is not giving and measures our lives by a standard that is not of the Kingdom. It is false teaching. It is an offering of Turkish Delight that leaves a person enthralled.
The joy as we near the celebration of our Lord’s Nativity, is not at all to be found in how close or far we are from the final fulfillment of His promises, but that we have a foretaste, an “earnest of our inheritance,” in our gatherings as we stand within the Life of God and are nourished by His Body and Blood.
So nourished, I can return to life in the End Times, encouraged and able to encourage others. Christ is coming. He is coming again. Just as the White Witch lost her hold on Narnia, so too, our enemy has lost his hold on our world. Christ is risen from the dead. It doesn’t matter how deep the winter becomes, Christmas comes because it has all been accomplished in him.
If you want to give a good present for Christmas. Click on the item above and send someone a copy of Fr. Thomas Hopko’s The Apocalypse. It’s worth the price.