My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIS IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"NEW HEAVEN, NEW EARTH
In Greece, there is an ancient place called Agion Oros, the "Holy Mountain." Here monastic Orthodox Christians have devoted themselves to God for hundreds of years. In Stavronikita, one of the peninsula’s venerable monasteries, fifteen-century icons painted by the Cretan master Theophanes present an unearthly portrait of sanctity.
The holy figures of Christ and His Saints shown on these icons possess a remarkable luminosity, as though the light on their bodies is not reflected from an external source, but rather SHINES FROM WITHIN THEM. THE ILLUMINATION PORTRAYS THE HOLINESS TO WHICH CHRISTIANS MAY ATTAIN.
The essence OF DIVINITY IS LIGHT. As Saint John says "God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). Christ’s Return at the end of the Great Tribulation will bathe the earth in Divine Light. As the evening stars fade from view at dawn, so shall all material sources of light pale beneath the brilliance of Christ’s Divine Illumination. "There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them Light" (Revelation 22:5).
Even the mighty sun will seem dark by comparison: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Matthew 24:29-31). Referring to this, Saint John Chrysostom taught that the sun and stars are "not destroyed, but overcome by the Light of His presence; and the stars shall fall, for what shall be the need of them thenceforth, there being no night?"
The heavens which man watched for guidance during his long sojourn on earth will no longer be visible, for their Creator will again walk in brilliance with man. "For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light," anticipated Isaiah. "The sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine" (Isaiah 13:10).
In this New Heaven and New Earth, Satan WILL NEVER ENTER. Death WILL NOT BEEN KNOWN THERE, BUT ONLY ETERNAL LIFE IN GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS. "We… look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13).
Uncreated Light, Immaterial Fire
The Lord’s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor was also a preview of the Glory of His Coming. The Gospel records that "Hs face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as the light" (Matthew 17:2). The Festal Menaion reading for Matins (Orthros) of the Transfiguration of Our Lord includes these words: "Thou wast revealed as an immaterial fire that burns not the material substance of the body… showing the exchange mortal men will make with Thy Glory at Thy Second and fearful Coming, O Savior."
The Light of Christ will illumine those WHO ARE PREPARED FOR IT, AND BURN THOSE WHO ARE NOT, even as Saint Symeon’s prayer before Holy Communion indicates: "O Thou Who givest me willingly Thy Flesh for food, Thou Who art fire, and burnest the unworthy, scorch me not, O my Maker, but rather pass through me for the integration of my members, into all mu joints, my affections, and my heart. Burn up the thorns of all my sins."
Prayers offered during Matins of the Holy Theophany of Our Lord characterize the Last Days themselves as a "FIRE," the final conflagration in which all unrighteousness is to be permanently consumed in the Divine inferno. "Christ baptizes in the fire of the Last Day THOSE WHO ARE DISOBEDIENT AND BELIEVE NOT THAT HE IS GOD: BUT THROUGH THE SPIRIT AND BY THE GRACE THAT COMES THROUGH WATER HE GRANTS A NEW BIRTH TO ALL WHO ACKNOWLEDGE HIS DIVINITY, DELIVERING THEM FROM THEIR FAULTS."
This blaze will penetrate into the depths of creation removing all impurities forever. "But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same world, are reserved for fire until the day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men… But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burnt up" (2 Peter 3:7-13).
"… The "end of this world" does not produce obliteration (except of evil), but rather RESTORATION AND RENEWAL. "For this world shall pass away by transmutation, not by absolute destruction," wrote Blessed Augustine. "And therefore the Apostle says, "For the figure of this world passeth away" (1 Corinthians 7:31). The figure, therefore, passes away, not the nature."
"Thus the whole creation, after it will be renewed and become SPIRITUAL, will become A DWELLING WHICH IS IMMATERIAL, INCORRUPTIBLE, UNCHANGING, AND ETERNAL," added Saint Symeon. "The heaven will become incomparably more brilliant, and bright than it appears now; IT WILL BECOME COMPLETELY NEW. The earth will receive a new, unutterable beauty, being clothed in many-formed unfading flowers, bright and spiritual… The whole world will become more perfect than anhy word can describe."
The creatures of God’s world will also be restored TO THEIR ORIGINAL PURITY, which was lost following Adam’s Fall. By the triumph of Jesus Christ, "THE CREATION ITSELF ALSO WILL BE DELIVERED FROM THE BONDAGE OF CORRUPTION INTO THE GLORIOUS LIBERTY OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now" (Romans 8:21-22).
The ultimate meaning of the end times is TRANSFORMATION, according to Saint John Maximovitch. The end of the world signifies NOT THE ANNIHILATION OF THE WORLD, but ITS TRANSFORMATION. Everything WILL BE TRANSFORMED SUDDENLY, IN THE TWINKLING OF AN EYE. THE DEAD WILL RISE IN NEW BODIES: THEIR OWN, BUT RENEWED JUST AS THE SAVIOR ROSE IN HIS OWN BODY AND ON IT WERE TRACES OF WOUNDS FROM THE NAILS AND SPEAR, YET IT POSSESSED NEW FACULTIES, AND IN THIS SENSE IT WAS A NEW BODY."
Along with the changing of earth and heaven, there WILL OCCUR A CHANGING OF MEN. Those who are Christians, whether living or dead, WILL BE TRANSFORMED. The Light of Christ WILL INSTANTLY CLEANSE THEM OF MORTALITY. "We SHALL NOT ALL SLEEP, BUT WE SHALL ALL BE CHANGED–IN A MOMENT, IN THE TWINKLING OF AN EYE, AT THE LAST TRUMPET, wrote Saint Paul. "For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised INCORRUPTIBLE, AND WE SHALL BE CHANGED" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). … The hallowed dead, having patiently waited in their graves during the Lord’s absence, WILL BE THE FIRST TO CELEBRATE his Return.
"…The image of the new earth, or the "WORLD TO COME," IS CHRIST HIMSELF. This He revealed in that His Resurrected body WAS SPIRITUAL WHILE STILL BEING PHYSICAL. SUCH WILL THE NEW EARTH BE… It is the Resurrection, perhaps even more than the nativity, that justifies the Orthodox belief that CREATION WILL SHARE IN THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE UNIVERSE, THAT THE PHYSICAL WORLD PARTICIPATES IN ETERNITY AND HAS AN ESSENTIAL FUNCTION TO SERVE BOTH NOW AND IN THE KINGDOM.
[Source: Ultimate Things by Dennis E. Engleman]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God