Glory to God for All Things

Hopko on the Apocalypse (with a slight nod to Narnia)

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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.

17 Responses to “Hopko on the Apocalypse (with a slight nod to Narnia)”

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  1. Dean Arnold says:

    That’s a pretty cool picture. What is it?

    Since we are promoting wares of the Apocalypse in this entry, let me share another:

    http://www.entrewave.com/freebooks/docs/a_pdfs/dcdv.pdf

    It is an online book for something no longer in print, the best commentary I have ever seen on Reveation and, perhaps, the best book I have ever read.

    It played a major part in my becoming Orthodox. Author David Chilton quotes Hopko, Schmemman, Meyendorf as well as scores of church fathers. Chilton was a billiant protestant (a well known Reconstructionist, for those familiar with that movement) who had a stroke at age 40, recovered, converted to Orthodoxy and died two years later. Of course, his coleagues blamed it on the stroke.

    Chilton captures the glory of the Apocalypse as the great divine liturgy. He deftly explains how the imagery is not foreign, but the familiar symbols of the Old Testament. From stem to stern, he shows how the book is not primarily about the end times, but about the utter glory of Jesus Christ and his life and mission in the first century. He explains the historical and eternal shakings of those great first century events.

    Father, the book is a nice companion to Hopko’s CD, which I just recently listened to. Chilton, however, is able to explore and enjoy Revelation phrase by phrase. Ten years after reading it the first time, I still use it (like right now) as a tool for daily devotions.

  2. Dean Arnold says:

    Let me mention that this commentary on Revelation is entitled, “Days of Vengeance” by David Chilton.

    Skip the preface by publisher Gary North. He is self-centered, polemical, and thus outdated, and he does not represent Chilton.

    You may want to skip Chilton’s introduction also and get right to the meat of the Scriptures themselves, the real feast of this book. However, Chilton’s lengthy introduction is one of the most insightful theological pieces I have ever read.

    Father, I apologize for not commenting on your entry. I have not thought so much about accepting the Kingdom as including Tribulation, so that when we pray “They Kingdom Come” and tribulation is upon us, then we are already receiving the promise of the kingdom. I’ll need to chew on that.

    Like you, I am disgusted by the popular culture’s obscession with avoiding the tribulation, including inventing theologies to support such escapism. I consider it absolutely destructive. (My career as a historian–studying the past with an eye toward shaping the future–would never have materialized had I continued to embrace pre-trib rapture theology.)

    As I side note, when my father was getting his doctorate at Dallas seminary, a poor soul single guy used to come over all the time for meals and mom’s cookies. The way my parents tell the story, Hal finally met a nice gal who put braces on his teeth, got him to dress nicely, comb his hair, and turn all those weird term papers he wrote on the end times into books. Sadly, Jan was no longer part of the family after success hit the Lindsays.

  3. Fr Stephen says:

    Dean,

    Thanks for the notes. I’ll be sure to follow up and read Chilton. Our nation has a peculiar part of its history shaped by bad Biblical interpretation and we should always feel free to acknowledge that. It does not diminish America to offer corrections to her history. A wise man can bear rebuke.

    But millenialism, much less the notion as America as the Land of Promise in which we Christians get to play the Israelites and the Indians get to play Canaanites is doubtless a very sad point in our nations history. As you know, many of us in East Tennessee still writhe at the injustice fostered by Andrew Jackson when so many Tennesseeans (and Georgians and Carolinians) were forced on the trail of Tears. God save David Crockett for his opposition to this terrible action.

  4. Dean Arnold says:

    I just finished my first 12 pages (out of 100) on a movie script about Jackson and the Cherokees.

    What a story.

  5. Steve says:

    Be wary of Chilton. He’s not entirely all there, and before he died he became a heretical full Preterist. Preterism was a great help and partially led me toward my eventual conversion to Orthodoxy, but there was a time when I had to give up my dedication to Preterism and pick up historical Orthodoxy.

    Some of their interpretations aren’t bad, but they are still Protestants and are still driven by their own private interpretations of the Bible.

    Forgive me for being so blunt.
    Steve

  6. Fr Stephen says:

    Forgive me, what is a preterist? Is that that everything has already happened, etc.? That would be a problem. I’ll read carefully.

  7. Dean Arnold says:

    Yes, preterism is taking AD 70 too far, that all the end times prophecies are fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and Christ has already returned.

    In the book, Chilton clearly denounces preterism and embraces the creed. My understanding is that he converted to Orthodoxy after writing the book. I was not aware of a belief in preterism after that. Clearly, that would not jibe with Orthodoxy. Perhaps his conversion was merely idiological and not an actual chrysmation. I’d like to find out.

  8. Steve says:

    Preterism is the belief that most of the events prophesied in Daniel/Matthew/Revelation were fulfilled in A.D. 70 at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

    There are “full” preterists which believe that *everything* was fulfilled and that resurrection is only spiritual and not physical. There is no further 2nd coming. It happened in A.D. 70. This is the obviously heretical version.

    There are “partial” preterists, which believe that many of the things prophesied in Daniel/Matthew/Revelation were fulfilled in A.D. 70, but there is a 2nd coming, and a physical resurrection of our glorified bodies as well. This is the more sane version, more in line with what the creeds confess.

    I wasn’t aware that Chilton converted to Orthodoxy? If you have a source for that, Dean, I’d be much interested.

  9. Dean Arnold says:

    I did a little surfing. He did become a full preterist at the end, after the heart attack/stroke.

    A non-Orthodox friend wrote the following about Chilton (see http://www.preteristarchive.com/PartialPreterism/anathema_north-gary.html):

    “Before he became a consistent preterist (or, as Gary North puts it, a “heretic”), David concluded that there were no verses in the Bible which taught a future (to us) coming of Christ, in which Christ would bodily return to this planet. Nevertheless, he continued to believe this, the “orthodox” doctrine of the “Second Coming,” because it had been taught for nearly 2000 years by “Holy Mother the Church” (Chilton’s words).

    After his heart attack, he apparently abandoned the doctrine that the institutional church has priority over the Scriptures.”

    I didn’t learn anything about a chrysmation, but it sounds like he was submitting to the church in a wonderful way up until his heart attack. I believe the pre-stroke Chilton, whose books–all pre-stroke–are highly orthodox, can certainly be a blessing to the discriminating layman and Orthodox scholar.

  10. Steve says:

    Interesting. Which church was he submitting to? I wonder if he was Catholic.

  11. Dean Arnold says:

    No, just the idea of the church.

    That’s why I mentioned “idiological conversion” above as opposed to chrysmation.

    Father Stephen, I’ve been a contributing member of a certain sports team’s bulletin board for the past ten years (my one vice of irrelevance). When someone starts posting comments that change the whole topic, they call it “hijacking the thread.”

    That wasn’t my intention here. But I hope you enjoyed your flight.

  12. Fatherstephen says:

    Dean,

    No particular sense of hijacking here. Sometimes good conversations can be had this way and if this blog becomes such an occasion that’s fine by me. I write the blog, and I maintain rules of good behavior – must write like gentlemen (or ladies) etc. – but no violations spotted here. Thanks for the lead on Chilton. Interesting and worth following up.

  13. Reid says:

    I’ve been helping teach an adult Sunday School class on Revelation this fall. It struck me recently that Babylon is, after all, a prostitute. Her primary method of attack is not violence but seduction, and her allurements primarily involve riches, comfort, and luxury. It is hardly surprising that the “prosperity gospel” has gained such popularity. I have, with many Christians, long mourned the “commercialization of Christmas.” Now I suspect it is no coincidence that the holiday celebrating the Incarnation, the one Christian holiday that still had some hold on this culture, has been perverted into the greatest shopping season of the year. Babylon is simply plying her trade most vigorously where she sees a rival.

  14. Reid,

    I don’t blame merchants for making a buck where they can – they’re merchants and they do that sort of thing. What I find more objectionable is when Christmas falls on a Sunday, as it did last year, many Churches (non-liturgical) cancelled Sunday services so as not to interfere with a “family” holiday. It’s not the merchants who killed the holy day. It was those who refused to recognize the Holy as Holy.

    My own Archbishop, who converted to Orthodoxy back in the 40′s, first began to ask questions when the Baptist church, to which he belonged, was having a picnic on Good Friday, while the Episcopalians across the street were having services. It was exploring that divergence (which obvious struck him as strange) that eventually led him to the Orthodox Church – which was quite a trek in 1940 – much further than today. The assault on Christmas should not be blamed on Babylon unless it is also understood that many Christian churches sold the feasts out a long time back. The Puritans outlawed Christmas in England for a time. They can’t complain if the merchants took it over.

  15. Reid says:

    So you are suggesting that Babylon did not force her way in, that men who should have known better (or claimed to know better), invited her by their own failure to treat the holy as holy? Hmmm, I’ll ponder that.

  16. Fatherstephen says:

    Reid,

    What I am suggesting is that the history of secularism is not nearly so much that “secularists” invented it. It’s an invention of Christianity, or certain parts thereof. It then becomes somewhat complex and you can’t just blame this or that – history is more complex – but last year’s surrender of Sunday to a “family holiday” by so many protestant churches is symptomatic of where the problems began.

    To be fair, many of the early critics of “Holy Days” argued that “all days are holy”. Of course they are. But history has long proven that when “all days are holy” means all days get treated the same, before long no days are holy.

    Same is true, for instance, with the priesthood. A Church teaches the “priesthood of all believers” and does away with the sacramental priesthood. Before long the phrase “priesthood of all believers” means nothing other than an obscure Bible phrase.

    It’s not good to throw the Baby out with the Bath. Before long you lose the Baby, too.

    Orthodoxy has had many of its own problems, but sometimes, never having had a Reformation, Counter-Reformation, Enlightenment, etc., can be helpful. We’ve got the Baby and the bath. :)

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