Another Thursday arrives, and with it another post. Today’s post continues the series on St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures. This post features the first part of his fifteenth lecture:
On the Clause, And Shall Come in Glory to Judge the Quick and the Dead; Of Whose Kingdom There Shall Be No End.
I beheld till thrones were placed, and one that was ancient of days did sit, and then, I saw in a vision of the night, and behold one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, etc.
1. We preach not one advent only of Christ, but a second also, far more glorious than the former. For the former gave a view of His patience; but the latter brings with it the crown of a divine kingdom. For all things, for the most part, are twofold in our Lord Jesus Christ: a twofold generation; one, of God, before the ages; and one, of a Virgin, at the close of the ages: His descents twofold; one, the unobserved, like rain on a fleece ; and a second His open coming, which is to be. In His former advent, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger; in His second, He covers Himself with light as with a garment. In His first coming, He endured the Cross, despising shame Hebrews 12:2; in His second, He comes attended by a host of Angels, receiving glory. We rest not then upon His first advent only, but look also for His second. And as at His first coming we said, Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord , so will we repeat the same at His second coming; that when with Angels we meet our Master, we may worship Him and say, Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord. The Saviour comes, not to be judged again, but to judge them who judged Him; He who before held His peace when judged , shall remind the transgressors who did those daring deeds at the Cross, and shall say, These things have you done, and I kept silence. Then, He came because of a divine dispensation, teaching men with persuasion; but this time they will of necessity have Him for their King, even though they wish it not.
2. And concerning these two comings, Malachi the Prophet says, And the Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come to His temple Malachi 3:1-3; behold one coming. And again of the second coming he says, And the Messenger of the covenant whom you delight in. Behold, He comes, says the Lord Almighty. But who shall abide the day of His coming? Or who shall stand when He appears? Because He comes in like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ herb; and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier. And immediately after the Saviour Himself says, And I will draw near to you in judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulteresses, and against those who swear falsely in My Name Malachi 3:5, and the rest. For this cause Paul warning us beforehand says, If any man builds on the foundation gold, and silver, and precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire. 1 Corinthians 3:12 Paul also knew these two comings, when writing to Titus and saying, The grace of God has appeared which brings salvation unto all men, instructing us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, and godly, and righteously in this present world; looking for the blessed hope, and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. You see how he spoke of a first, for which he gives thanks; and of a second, to which we look forward. Therefore the words also of the Faith which we are announcing were just now delivered thus ; that we believe in Him, who also ascended into the heavens, and sat down on the right hand of the Father, and shall come in glory to judge quick and dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
3. Our Lord Jesus Christ, then, comes from heaven; and He comes with glory at the end of this world, in the last day. For of this world there is to be an end, and this created world is to be re-made anew. For since corruption, and theft, and adultery, and every sort of sins have been poured forth over the earth, and blood has been mingled with blood Hosea 4:2 in the world, therefore, that this wondrous dwelling-place may not remain filled with iniquity, this world passes away, that the fairer world may be made manifest. And would you receive the proof of this out of the words of Scripture? Listen to Esaias, saying, And the heaven shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all the stars shall fall, as leaves from a vine, and as leaves fall from a fig-tree Isaiah 34:4 . The Gospel also says, The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven Matthew 24:29 . Let us not sorrow, as if we alone died; the stars also shall die; but perhaps rise again. And the Lord rolls up the heavens, not that He may destroy them, but that He may raise them up again more beautiful. Hear David the Prophet saying, You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands; they shall perish, but You remain. But some one will say, Behold, he says plainly that they shall perish. Hear in what sense he says, they shall perish; it is plain from what follows; And they all shall wax old as does a garment; and as a vesture shall Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed. For as a man is said toperish,according to that which is written, Behold, how the righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart Isaiah 57:1, and this, though the resurrection is looked for; so we look for a resurrection, as it were, of the heavens also. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood. Joel 2:31 Here let converts from the Manichees gain instruction, and no longer make those lights their gods; nor impiously think, that this sun which shall be darkened is Christ. And again hear the Lord saying, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away Matthew 24:35; for the creatures are not as precious as the Master’s words.
4. The things then which are seen shall pass away, and there shall come the things which are looked for, things fairer than the present; but as to the time let no one be curious. For it is not for you, He says, to know times or seasons, which the Father has put in His own power. Acts 1:7 And venture not thou to declare when these things shall be, nor on the other hand supinely slumber. For he says, Watch, for in such an hour as you expect not the Son of Man comes. But since it was needful for us to know the signs of the end, and since we are looking for Christ, therefore, that we may not die deceived and be led astray by that false Antichrist, the Apostles, moved by the divine will, address themselves by a providential arrangement to the True Teacher, and say, Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world ? We look for You to come again, but Satan transforms himself into an Angel of light; put us therefore on our guard, that we may not worship another instead of You. And He, opening His divine and blessed mouth, says, Take heed that no man mislead you. Do you also, my hearers, as seeing Him now with the eyes of your mind, hear Him saying the same things to you; Take heed that no man mislead you. And this word exhorts you all to give heed to what is spoken; for it is not a history of things gone by, but a prophecy of things future, and which will surely come. Not that we prophesy, for we are unworthy; but that the things which are written will be set before you, and the signs declared. Observe thou, which of them have already come to pass, and which yet remain; and make yourself safe.
5. Take heed that no man mislead you: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and shall mislead many. This has happened in part: for already Simon Magus has said this, and Menander , and some others of the godless leaders of heresy; and others will say it in our days, or after us.
6. A second sign. And you shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. Is there then at this time war between Persians and Romans for Mesopotamia, or no? Does nation rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom, or no? And there shall be famines and pesti lences and earthquakes in various places. These things have already come to pass; and again, And fearful sights from heaven, and mighty storms. Watch therefore, He says; for you know not at what hour your Lord does come Matthew 24:42 .
7. But we seek our own sign of His coming; we Churchmen seek a sign proper to the Church. And the Saviour says, And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. Matthew 24:10 If you hear that bishops advance against bishops, and clergy against clergy, and laity against laity even unto blood, be not troubled ; for it has been written before. Heed not the things now happening, but the things which are written; and even though I who teach you perish, you shall not also perish with me; nay, even a hearer may become better than his teacher, and he who came last may be first, since even those about the eleventh hour the Master receives. If among Apostles there was found treason, do you wonder that hatred of brethren is found among bishops? But the sign concerns not only rulers, but the people also; for He says, And because iniquity shall abound, the love of the many shall wax cold. Matthew 24:12 Will any then among those present boast that he entertains friendship unfeigned towards his neighbour? Do not the lips often kiss, and the countenance smile, and the eyes brighten forsooth, while the heart is planning guile, and the man is plotting mischief with words of peace?
8. You have this sign also: And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come. Matthew 24:14 And as we see, nearly the whole world is now filled with the doctrine of Christ.
9. And what comes to pass after this? He says next, When therefore you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, standing in the Holy Place, let him that reads understand. And again, Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or, Lo, there; believe it not. Hatred of the brethren makes room next for Antichrist; for the devil prepares beforehand the divisions among the people, that he who is to come may be acceptable to them. But God forbid that any of Christ’s servants here, or elsewhere, should run over to the enemy! Writing concerning this matter, the Apostle Paul gave a manifest sign, saying, For that day shall not come, except there came first the falling away, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now you know that which restrains, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of iniquity does already work, only there is one that restrains now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall the lawless one be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming. Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that are perishing. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 Thus wrote Paul, and now is the falling away. For men have fallen away from the right faith ; and some preach the identity of the Son with the Father , and others dare to say that Christ was brought into being out of nothing. And formerly the heretics were manifest; but now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise. For men have fallen away from the truth, and have itching ears. 2 Timothy 4:3 Is it a plausible discourse? All listen to it gladly. Is it a word of correction? All turn away from it. Most have departed from right words, and rather choose the evil, than desire the good. This therefore is the falling away, and the enemy is soon to be looked for: and meanwhile he has in part begun to send forth his own forerunners , that he may then come prepared upon the prey. Look therefore to yourself, O man, and make safe your soul. The Church now charges you before the Living God; she declares to you the things concerning Antichrist before they arrive. Whether they will happen in your time we know not, or whether they will happen after you we know not; but it is well that, knowing these things, you should make yourself secure beforehand.
10. The true Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, comes no more from the earth. If any come making false shows in the wilderness, go not forth; if they say, Lo, here is the Christ, Lo, there, believe it not. Matthew 24:23 Look no longer downwards and to the earth; for the Lord descends from heaven; not alone as before, but with many, escorted by tens of thousands of Angels; nor secretly as the dew on the fleece ; but shining forth openly as the lightning. For He has said Himself, As the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be Matthew 24:27; and again, And they shall see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds with power and great glory, and He shall send forth His Angels with a great trumpet ; and the rest.
11. But as, when formerly He was to take man’s nature, and God was expected to be born of a Virgin, the devil created prejudice against this, by craftily preparing among idol-worshippers fables of false gods, begetting and begotten of women, that, the falsehood having come first, the truth, as he supposed, might be disbelieved; so now, since the true Christ is to come a second time, the adversary, taking occasion by the expectation of the simple, and especially of them of the circumcision, brings in a certain man who is a magician , and most expert in sorceries and enchantments of beguiling craftiness; who shall seize for himself the power of the Roman empire, and shall falsely style himself Christ; by this name of Christ deceiving the Jews, who are looking for the Anointed , and seducing those of the Gentiles by his magical illusions.
12. But this aforesaid Antichrist is to come when the times of the Roman empire shall have been fulfilled, and the end of the world is now drawing near. There shall rise up together ten kings of the Romans, reigning in different parts perhaps, but all about the same time; and after these an eleventh, the Antichrist, who by his magical craft shall seize upon the Roman power; and of the kings who reigned before him, three he shall humble , and the remaining seven he shall keep in subjection to himself. At first indeed he will put on a show of mildness (as though he were a learned and discreet person), and of soberness and benevolence : and by the lying signs and wonders of his magical deceit having beguiled the Jews, as though he were the expected Christ, he shall afterwards be characterized by all kinds of crimes of inhumanity and lawlessness, so as to outdo 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. And after perpetrating such things for three years and six months only, he shall be destroyed by the glorious second advent from heaven of the only-begotten Son of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus, the true Christ, who shall slay Antichrist with the breath of His mouth , and shall deliver him over to the fire of hell.
13. Now these things we teach, not of our own invention, but having learned them out of the divine Scriptures used in the Church , and chiefly from the prophecy of Daniel just now read; as Gabriel also the Archangel interpreted it, speaking thus: The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall surpass all kingdoms. And that this kingdom is that of the Romans, has been the tradition of the Church’s interpreters. For as the first kingdom which became renowned was that of the Assyrians, and the second, that of the Medes and Persians together, and after these, that of the Macedonians was the third, so the fourth kingdom now is that of the Romans. Then Gabriel goes on to interpret, saying, His ten horns are ten kings that shall arise; and another king shall rise up after them, who shall surpass in wickedness all who were before him Daniel 7:24; (he says, not only the ten, but also all who have been before him;) and he shall subdue three kings; manifestly out of the ten former kings: but it is plain that by subduing three of these ten, he will become the eighth king; and he shall speak words against the Most High. A blasphemer the man is and lawless, not having received the kingdom from his fathers, but having usurped the power by means of sorcery.
14. And who is this, and from what sort of working? Interpret to us, O Paul. Whose coming, he says, is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders ; implying, that Satan has used him as an instrument, working in his own person through him; for knowing that his judgment shall now no longer have respite, he wages war no more by his ministers, as is his wont, but henceforth by himself more openly. And with all signs and lying wonders; for the father of falsehood will make a show of the works of falsehood, that the multitudes may think that they see a dead man raised, who is not raised, and lame men walking, and blind men seeing, when the cure has not been wrought.
15. And again he says, Who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God, or that is worshipped; (against every God; Antichrist forsooth will abhor the idols,) so that he seats himself in the temple of God. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 What temple then? He means, the Temple of the Jews which has been destroyed. For God forbid that it should be the one in which we are! Why say we this? That we may not be supposed to favour ourselves. For if he comes to the Jews as Christ, and desires to be worshipped by the Jews, he will make great account of the Temple, that he may more completely beguile them; making it supposed that he is the man of the race of David, who shall build up the Temple which was erected by Solomon. And Antichrist will come at the time when there shall not be left one stone upon another in the Temple of the Jews, according to the doom pronounced by our Saviour ; for when, either decay of time, or demolition ensuing on pretence of new buildings, or from any other causes, shall have overthrown all the stones, I mean not merely of the outer circuit, but of the inner shrine also, where the Cherubim were, then shall he come with all signs and lying wonders, exalting himself against all idols; at first indeed making a pretence of benevolence, but afterwards displaying his relentless temper, and that chiefly against the Saints of God. For he says, I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints ; and again elsewhere, there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation upon earth, even to that same time. Dreadful is that beast, a mighty dragon, unconquerable by man, ready to devour; concerning whom though we have more things to speak out of the divine Scriptures, yet we will content ourselves at present with thus much, in order to keep within compass.