Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
As He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for My Name’s sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24: 3-13 (Gospel from the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on Holy Monday Morning) Monday of the Second Week of Lent
Good morning Prayer Team!
Are we in the end times? Today’s scripture passage certainly does make us wonder. The world is filled with “false Christs”. Open the newspaper and you can read daily about wars. Nations rise against one another. There are famines and earthquakes. Christians are hated more and more each day it seems. Betrayal and hatred are a part of everyday life. Wickedness seems to increase. And even most profoundly, love has grown cold.
The Gospel readings, both on Holy Monday morning and Holy Monday evening (which will be addressed in a future reflection), are probably the harshest scriptures read in the entire year. In today’s reading, Christ tells us very specifically that the end times are coming, but He doesn’t indicate when. There are certainly “signs” in our times, but there have been signs at many ages of human history. Probably since the time of Christ, people have wondered “are we in the end times?” Whenever I am asked this question, I always reply “Why do you want to know? Because if I say ‘yes’, then you’ll take the faith more seriously, and if I say ‘no,’ it will give you license to be complacent?” Jesus says in Matthew 25:42-44 “Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” If we knew, for instance, that Jesus was coming in exactly 20 years from now, then we might feel complacent for 15 of those years, knowing that there would be five years left to take it seriously. The fact is, your end, or my end, could come TODAY. Whether the world ends any time soon, life for any of us can end at any time. So we must be ready to give our “defense” of our life to the Lord at His awesome judgment seat at any moment in time. We don’t know the day or the hour, so we have to be vigilant at all times in waiting for the Lord.
Which brings up a second question that I am frequently asked, which is “Are we ALL going to be saved?” The easy answer to that question is “I am not God, so it is not my decision to make.” But based on scriptural evidence, the answer to this question appears overwhelmingly, to be NO. In Matthew 24: 38-41, we read “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left.
We read in the Parable of the Ten Maidens (Matthew 25:1-13) that five were foolish and five were wise. In the Parable of the Last Judgment, the people are divided into sheep and goats. If I were to venture a “guess,” and that’s all it could be is a guess, based on how I read these passages—one is taken, one is left; five were foolish, five were wise—it seems as though 50 percent are going to be saved and 50 percent will be condemned. So, why doesn’t the Bible just say “fifty percent of you will be saved”? Because then we would be obsessed with being in the top 50 percent. And if we thought ourselves better than 50 percent of the population, we would be content being number 49. We might be tempted to become complacent. So, we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, for we are not competing for salvation, nor will we stand in competition with others at the Last Judgment. CAN all people be saved? YES. Does everyone have the potential to be saved? YES. Will everyone be saved? According to the scriptures, NO. And that’s because it is a choice to journey to salvation. And many people do not make that choice.
Whether we are in the end times or not is not relevant to my life today. My purpose today should be to glorify God in my life today. Nor should we obsess over our “percentage” (whether we perceive that we are in the top 50 percent or not, or whether there is a percent that will make it to salvation). Our job today is to do the best we can with what God has given us, glorifying Him and serving our neighbor. If we are doing that today, and tomorrow, and every day, we will be ready for the day He comes and we will be in good stead at His awesome judgment seat. We need to make it our goal to be ready everyday, whether our days are few, or whether they are many.
As for men’s love growing cold, this is a sad but very true statement. Love is a choice. Each of us can do our part to reverse this trend by choosing love today—choose to love God! Show love to your neighbor!
You, the Wisdom of all, declared to Your Disciples: “Cast away the impurity of human passions, and obtain a wise understanding, worthy of the Divine Kingdom; in which you shall be glorious, and shine more brightly than the sun. (From the Praises of the Bridegroom Service of Palm Sunday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Make the most out of today!
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