Ultimate Things by Dennis E. Engleman is an overview of the end times according to the Orthodox Church. Though it was written by a layman, it has received approval from Orthodox figures as being compatible with the faith.
Will we have spiritual descendants?
Christians concerned with being saved “from this perverse generation” are in a unique position. The world in which they live has reached an impasse: it has completed its rejection of Christ and declared the end of normal—that is, Christian—history. Any believers left in these “post-Christians” times might well be considered the “last Christians.” Yet there is a deeper truth to such a label, for the eschatology upon which these believers’ faith hinges makes it clear that they may in fact have no spiritual descendants!
I have a suspicion that at some point during the life of every man who has lived and will live, there is a tremendous crisis within his generation that frightens his bones and leads him to question what exactly is going on in the world. Why is this event happening? How did it originate? How could humanity, which I thought was essentially good and moral (from my flawed perspective), allow this danger to mankind proceed?
I’m reminded of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which occurred in 1962, well before I was born. Children at school were drilled by their teachers to hide underneath their desks in fear of nuclear war. Many adults believed that the end was nigh, and while experiencing that fear, existential and metaphysical questions were asked. Some decided to take their faith more seriously from that moment. Souls were saved that wouldn’t have otherwise had there not been a crisis, and humanity carried on. How many times in human history was there a “nuclear crisis,” where a husband looked upon his wife with glassy eyes, perhaps from hearing the thunderous noise of barbarians on horseback coming to attack his village, and gather her for a final prayer?
We’ve arrived at the year 2022, to the rule of a worldwide oligarchy that is masking our faces, locking us in our homes, and coercing us to be injected with toxic sludge. This must be the end, online commentators say, and chances are they are wrong, but I don’t feel as if they are wrong, so I step up my prayer rule, beg God for mercy, and ask Him to give us more time to repent. The spiritual benefit of thinking we are at the end is undeniable, as long as the truth of Christ is followed, but one of these times, it really will be the end, and the fact that the entire world seems now to be on board with purely secular policies and dictates says to me that the air is ripe for a complete fulfillment of the Book of Revelation, but even if it’s not really the end, we should approach it all the same by repenting and making right with the Lord, not tomorrow but today.
The truth cannot be repressed
…those who deny men freedom first attempt to deny them truth. Yet Truth can never be fully repressed, for it is not a fact or dogma, but a Person. Even if all books are burned and memories obliterated, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39).
Rene Guenon: “Is the modern world really anything whatever but a direct denial of all traditional truth? It wears every disguise, often the most unexpected, to avoid being recognized for what it is, and even to pass itself off as the very opposite of what it is.”
Everything that man creates without explicitly and directly calling upon His faith is either neutral to salvation or detrimental, because it is distant from God’s truth. Certainly any work of modern art, music, or film deserves to be tossed onto the trash heap of lies and demonic simulacrum. Modern food is decadent slop engineered to manipulate your taste buds, the “convenience” of technology is primarily geared to distract you away from God, and even the wholesomeness of nature can be packaged as a dopamine-stimulating experience of novelty and picture-taking vanity. If you are about to create something or partake in an activity, and the urge to pray to God never crosses your mind, I would reasonably conclude that that activity is not of God.
Sign of the end of the age
Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov: “Universal debauchery, together with the most abundant material progress which engendered it, will be the sign of the end of the age and the approaching terrible judgment of Christ.”
Our times have both universal debauchery and material progress, to a level that was not seen in the past.
Satan is active
Satan knows that Christ will ultimately triumph and that his own demise is foreordained. But he doesn’t care, for he is utterly incorrigible. And he knows that, though his period of absolute power will be short, it will nevertheless be long enough to ensnare many people.
After Christ’s Resurrection, Satan’s influence on earth was severely diminished. No longer could he operate openly, as a strong man in control of his own house, but only secretly, mysteriously, underhandedly. For the first time since Adam and Eve, the path from man to God was restored. “Orthodox Christians who have experienced the life of grace in the Church can well understand what Protestants cannot,” wrote contemporary Orthodox theologian Father Michael Pomazansky: “That the ‘thousand years’ (the whole period) of Christians reign with His saints and the limited power of the devil is now.”
A common fantasy for a secular man is, upon being physically threatened by multiple men, to imagine maiming or killing at least one of the attackers. If I will be killed, but can kill at least one of the enemy, then did I not accomplish a victory? In other words, the man is thinking, “I will return as much evil for evil as I can, and that will make it all better.” This is not the Christian way, but it is how I imagine Satan views his upcoming imprisonment in the Lake of Fire at the end of time: “Yes, I am going to hell for eternity, with all my henchmen. I know this very clearly, but to spite God, I will take as many of his creatures with me, who were all created in His image and likeness, so that I can torture them forever, and then I can tell God, ‘Look how many sinners there are who are just like me!'”
What is human history?
“History,” wrote Father Seraphim Rose, “…is not a chronology of political or economic events; it is what happens in the souls of men, for good or evil, and only then is reflected in outward events. In the whole 19th century there were only two ‘historical events’: the progress of the worldwide Revolution, which is to say, the progress of unbelief in men’s souls; and the attempt of one power to stop it: Orthodox Russia… Similarly, in the 20th century only one historical event is very visible to us as yet: the progress of Revolutionary atheism (or anti-theism, to use the Social Proudhon’s more accurate word) once it has come to power.
Without Lord Jesus Christ, history makes no sense. It seems to be just a gradual falling into chaos for no reason at all, with no justice, no real morality, and no sense of ultimate meaning other than “Try to become rich and powerful to experience pleasure that you will soon get bored of.”
Man has rejected God
In rejecting Christ, society has again become pagan, which is to say, demon-worshiping. Human sacrifice has re-emerged, not as a superstitious practice, but as one rife with scientific, economic, and social justifications. On stainless-steel tables, in scrubbed rooms reeking of antiseptic and anesthetic, women offer the fruit of their wombs up to a merciless idol who scorns both them and their costly sacrifice. And this abominable crime is no longer limited to some freak group of deluded savages, but has replicated itself in sinister abandon across the face of the earth.
[Man] has rejected the Kingdom of God in order to reign over a pathetic little world of corruption. He has enslaved heart and soul in order to experience the passions of his fallen mind and body. He has denied virtue and been eaten up by vice. He has craved immortality, but only of the flesh.
People who deny truth, and thus their own nature, inexorably become either suicidal or anarchistic.
What’s even more strange is that there are those who profess to believe in Lord Jesus Christ but do not follow His teachings or commandments, and thus by their disobedience have rejected Him.
The desire to create heaven on earth
Flight from God produces in worldly man a desire to build on earth the paradise which he has rejected in heaven.
Whereas Christ offers His servants a perfect Kingdom in heaven, the Antichrist offers his servants the promise (which cannot be fulfilled) of a supposedly perfect kingdom in this world. Modern man, having lost touch with the spiritual reality upon which this earth is founded, has ceased to struggle for his heavenly homeland and given himself over to the easy path of staying where all his worldly friends are.
I chafe whenever someone eagerly offers me a scheme or plot to increase pleasure or rewards in this life that is totally disconnected from God. No, I’ll pass and wait until the next life for the joy you promise instead of taking my eyes off God to experience temporal happiness in this one. For this reason, I’ve had to re-evaluate my decadent cooking habits of tasty foods, limiting them more infrequently to the point where I don’t crave them. How foolish of me to look forward to the pleasure of food instead of the pleasure of communing eternally with God.
What will the end be like?
Archimandrite Panteleimon wrote, “A special affliction of people during the reign of Antichrist will be hunger.” Saint Nilus cautions Christians to have fortitude: “If you crave and demand food, beat it a little while, and God, having seen your patience, will send you help from above; you will be revived by the aid of the Most High God. If, however, you will not be patient, and will be sealed with the imprint of this foul king, you will later regret this.”
Saint Nilus the Myrrhstreaming said, “The more calamities afflict [non-Christians], the more evil will they become; instead of repenting, they will be angered at God. The evil deeds of people will surpass those of people at the time of the flood. All will speak only of evil, plan only evil, consent to evil, meet others only for evil.”
“Let not us, who would be Christians, expect anything else from it than to be crucified,” wrote Father Seraphim Rose. “For to be Christian is to be crucified, in this time and in any time since Christ came for the first time. His life is the example—and warning—to us all. We must be crucified personally, mystically; for though crucifixion is the only path to resurrection. If we would rise with Christ, we must first be humbled with Him—even to the ultimate humiliation, being devoured and spit forth by the uncomprehending world.
“And we must be crucified outwardly, in the eyes of the world; for Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, and the world cannot bear it, even a single representative of it, even for a single moment. The world can only accept Antichrist, now or at any time.”
Are you spiritually ready for this? Whether this is the end or a type of end, it’s a clear as day that this decade will not end without extreme tribulation that will cause many people to run to a type of antichrist for their survival and physical health, and they will have no hesitation to trample over you on their way to seek solace and aid from him.
Saint Paul explained that many will be vulnerable to Antichrist’s deception because they have already rejected Truth. They will believe his lies, because they are already living the Lie.”
The Jews will be the first to declare that, in the person of Antichrist, their “Christ” has finally come. When he receives the ringing endorsement of this traditionally recalcitrant and conservative people, Antichrist’s spiritual credentials will attain a sudden and spectacular validity.
For it is certain that no human strength, whether physical, emotional or mental, can resist Antichrist.
A portion of Jews will convert back to Christianity at the end, joining the original root. I would love to be alive to see Jews of all stripes turning away from pioneering evil and calling upon Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior as God intended.
The fatal lie of the Protestant rapture
When these awesome events [of the end] transpire, what will be the fate of those who have expected the rapture to isolate them from the Great Tribulation? It is safe to assume they will be unprepared to face the crisis. What’s worse, they will not understand what is really happening! They will reason that, since they are still on earth, the Antichrist cannot possibly have come yet. This attitude was articulated by the respected Protestant theologian Arthur W. Pink: “The Antichrist cannot appear before the Rapture of the saints,” he asserted. As long as the rapture has not yet occurred, “then, here is proof positive that the Antichrist has not yet appeared.” Not expecting the Deceived, those awaiting the rapture could be completely taken in by his deception and unwittingly become his disciples.
What could be more diabolically clever than for Antichrist to persuade his victims they need never fear even meeting him? Viewed from this perspective, the common conception of the rapture as a pre-Tribulation “emergency eject” seems to be far more than just a minor misinterpretation of Scripture. It is instead a demonic subterfuge designed to lure many into dangerous complacency.
Those who firmly believe in the rapture will, unfortunately, be fooled by the Antichrist, if they happen to live during his reign.
Prepare today to suffer
Lutheran pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who spent fourteen years in a communist slave labor camp because of his faith in Christ, believes preparation for hardship must be communicated to Christians early in life. “I took a group of ten to fifteen boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to a church, but to the zoo,” he once related. “Before the cage of lions I told them, ‘Your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to do with men who would be much worse than lions. Decide here and now if you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ.’ They had tears in their eyes when they said, ‘Yes.’ We have to make the preparation now, before we are imprisoned.”
If you can’t even endure minor Christian asceticism today, which is what Lord Jesus Christ called us to do; if you blanche at the prospect of fasting two days a week from animal products or taking a cold shower, you will be utterly unprepared for true suffering, no matter how much of a tough guy you make yourself out to be. Prepare now, spiritually and materially, to have a chance for maintaining your faith in the time of Antichrist.
Death is coming
If anyone who has serious sins on his conscience leaves this life without repenting, he will become sick at heart when he sees his sins standing before him, accusing him and condemning him, and he will say, ‘Why did I the poor one not struggle with them, but wasted time playing games and so became myself a plaything?.. Why did I not repent before Him who takes away the sin of the world, but spent my years in delusion?… What am I to do? The time for repentance has passed by’.”
Saint Paisios said, “Those who are in Hades desire only one thing from Christ: to live for five minutes in order to repent.” It’s heart-crushing to think that pride and attachment to worldly things can condemn a soul for all eternity, but that is the reality. Repent now, start living a Christian life, and diligently prepare for the age to come.
Overall, I enjoyed Ultimate Things. It was light reading, without the potency that you’d find from the writing of a saint, but it explained in clear writing the teachings of the Orthodox Church concerning the end times, and I could spot nothing that conflicted with what I learned directly from the Church. I recommend this book to those who seek to make sense of what is happening to us today, which I believe is a type of the end, through an Orthodox lens.
Learn More: Ultimate Things on Amazon