“I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told: ‘Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months” (Rev. 11:1-2).
The Lord has always, throughout human history, measured out those who are His. From Seth, whose offspring “hoped in the Lord God and called on His name” (cf. Gen. 4:26), to Noah, to Abraham and the birth of the children of Israel as sojourners in the desert. Old Testament Israel was measured off and separated from the gentiles and their idolatrous ways. Whenever the people of Israel left the sanctuary of the Law of the Lord, which accounts are numerous, they suffered a trampling by the gentiles. So God allowed it. Their protection was in being faithful to the boundaries of the Law.
In the Old Testament, the reality of Israel remained true whether or not people were faithful. In being unfaithful, they removed themselves from the grace and covering of the Lord God. This principle remains the same. In the New Testament, the faithful are called to remain in Christ. To be faithful to His Covenant. A place has been measured out for the Church, as it was measured out for Israel.
Elder Athanasios (Mitilinaios) teaches, “Saint John’s action – measuring the temple, the altar, and the worshippers found in it – is a symbolic action of the protection of God … Therefore, measurement here means divine protection.”
The Temple is the house of the Lord. It is the place of His Ekklesia. The Church is measured out, boundaries are laid out by the Lord. In the book of Revelation, this takes place right before the manifestation of the Antichrist. The greatest defense against the spirit of antichrist is a steadfast and faithful holding to the life of Christ in His Church. These boundaries cannot be moved, for they are set down by God; yet a person can remove himself from them.
The elder says, “The measurement of the Church is a symbol of protection and salvation during the evil days of the Antichrist.” As in the Old Testament, only a faithful Hebrew was to have access to the inner courts of the temple, so in the New those who faithfully hold to Christ will be abiding in the inner courts. Only here is salvation found.
Elder Athanasios writes, “Revelation 11:1 references the true worship of God in spirit and truth by the true faithful. Naturally, only this kind of worshipper will be saved because they have stood as living temples of the true God Who now protects His Church with the imagery of measurement.”
But the elder goes on to make this very important delineation, “It appears that the inner area of the Church will not be trod upon; it will be protected from attacks of the Antichrist. The outer area of the Church will be trod upon.”
The outer courts of the temple are given over to the nations to be trampled underfoot, they are not included in the divine measurement. It is clear that the inner life and reality of the Church will never suffer corruption, for here She is ever firmly united to Christ Her Lord. The outer court is Christianity that has lost its salt. It has removed itself from the measurements of the Lord and submitted itself to the measurements of the fallen world. This is what trampling means.
When this happens, the essential life-giving energy and grace are forfeited. They are replaced by only external rites and functions that no longer convey Divine life. In such cases, Christianity becomes but a shell, which begins tripping over itself to adapt to the latest dictates of the world. Having substituted the Life of Christ with the spirit of the world, it nonetheless does not cease to speak in the name of the Lord. A terrible judgment awaits it.
“The inner area of the Church is made up of the faithful, of those who always remain faithful, regardless of the decomposing world around them. They encircle the altar and prove to be the true worshippers of God,” thus it is clear that the faithful will hold the holy things as holy, and when tribulations, trials, and crises of various sorts come, they will gather the more faithfully around the altar of God; not abandon it. Where are the faithful to be found? Worshiping God. As the tribulations of the last of last days intensify, such ones do not diminish worship but rather cling all the more to it. In this way, we make of ourselves true children of the Jerusalem that is above and truly free.
The elder continues, “The outer area of the Church is made up of all those so-called Christians who wish to be called Christians. They are Christians of heresy, the lukewarm Christians, the Christians who compromise with the world, the secularized Christians. Such Christians and their secularized churches will not be able to obtain the protection of God, as they will be trod upon by the nations. Christ will not protect such worldly Christianity, such a secularized Church, symbolized here by the outer yard. How much such Christianity is to be judged by Christ is blatantly obvious in this mandate that they not be counted in the measurement conducted by Saint John.”
What fearful words! How diligently must we examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (cf. 2 Cor. 13:5)! Those who claim to be Christians but turn first to the spirit of the world for direction and guidance effectively remove themselves from the inner courts and the protective measurement of the Lord.
“When Christianity is mixed up with humanism, it turns into foolishness. It becomes salt without saltiness, which according to the most-true word of the Savior is totally useless. It is thrown away and trampled underfoot by men. Every attempt and every experiment to equate Christianity with the spirit of the times removes from it that distinctive quality which makes Christianity the only God-human religion in the world … No, we certainly don’t need the conformation and compliance of the God-man Christ with the spirit of the times, but the conformity and compliance of the spirit of the times with the spirit of the eternity of Christ, of the God-humanity of Christ. This is the true and foremost mission of the Orthodox and Apostolic Church of Christ in the world … So, we cannot subordinate Christianity to humanistic levels … We chase away Christ and seek out the devil – something terrible – in our days. We seek to replace Christ with rationalism and the format of the secular human state. The result of this will be a general bankruptcy in every sector of our life. And you will live to see it.”
Indeed, it seems we have lived to see it (the elder wrote this in 1982)! The most sublime wisdom of Christ in His Church is subjugated to the folly – which poses as wisdom – of this world. Christians have the Healer of souls and bodies, the very Lord Himself, and many still place their hope in the methods of men. In this way, as the elder says, we drive out Christ from our midst. When we do so, only a hollow form remains, which is powerless before the onslaught of evil. The bankruptcy of our times is manifest before all.
The Church, in Her Truth, will always remain steadfastly faithful to Christ Her Lord. She will not compromise with the spirit of antichrist. Thus, this faithfulness to the life and tradition of Christ Jesus, manifest in the saints, is a vital designator. Another that the elder points out is that the Church will be persecuted, and She will be willing to suffer this persecution. “It is, for the most part, under persecution. Consequently, the persecuted Church is called upon to fight its battles against the deserters and the deniers when it descends to her catacombs. And it will descend; that is not a figure of speech.”
Whenever those who should be of the Church strive to maintain worldly prestige at the expense of the Gospel, such become deserters. How much of this do we witness in our own times, how many false unions, how much compromise of the uniqueness of the true Christian faith? We witness a distorting of Christianity so that it becomes a twisted conveyor of the precepts if secular-humanist globalism. Again, modern ecumenism is a vehicle for apostasy from the Truth. This is manifest in our days.
And so, if we are to remain faithful, then we must prepare our hearts to suffer. Most of all, to suffer from those who choose to abide in the outer court; may the Lord keep us! “In this way the words Christ speaks about the Church, which is measured and encircled by the protection of God, will come to pass, the gates of hell will not overcome it (cf. Matt. 16:18). These days, the Church may be horrendously belittled, put through many trials as attempts are made to adulterate it. That which becomes adulterated will be destroyed, that which remains intact and true, not even the gates of hell will overcome it.”
And so, there will be as it were two churches. One will remain steadfast and true to Christ, the other will retain outward form but inwardly will be following not Christ but the spirit of the age; it is adulterated. It will even actively seek to adulterate the true Faith – the inner courts – if possible. Ultimately it is participating in a demonic work. May we guard our hearts! May we hold fast to the evident life of Christ in His Church! But this spiritual reality of the present age may aid us as believers so that we are not offended and scandalized by the very real compromises of even those who bear the name of Orthodox Christians.
The elder elucidates, “The other church, the one of the outer yard, is composed of lukewarm, uninformed Christians who are ready to compromise at any moment; they are ready to sell their souls, for the slightest exchange, to the caesars of this world. This church will be trampled by the nations. In other words, it will be in the jurisdiction of the godless and the non-believers. For it has been given the nations, and they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months (Rev. 11:2). During the last days, my friends, the Antichrist will compel these indecisive, compromising, unstable Christians, who will go back and forth … Naturally, he will pressure the true Christians as well. The difference is that the true Christians will be steadfast. They will keep the faith because they will have the divine protection, whereas the unstable, compromising Christians will be victimized by the demands of the Antichrist.”
Those in the outer court, or yard, will be blown here and there by the tyrannizing demands of Antichrist, driven along by the ever-changing dictates and fear of the times. It is possible that many will believe themselves to be doing a “good” thing by submitting to these tyrannies. All will be done for the seeming “well-being” of humanity. How much wisdom in the Lord is needed! May our Lord help us.
This is why every believer is called to “know the times.” Elder Athanasios, summing up the call of the saints, says, “Study. Be aware of the signs around you … What about the winds blowing through the historical climate, the spiritual climate? Why aren’t you analyzing these things? Why aren’t you searching these matters?” In our own days events are transpiring at an exhausting rate. All of them bear significance and manifest the spirit of our times. Are these events more in line with the tradition of Christ Jesus or the spirit of this fallen age?
Regardless of whether the coming of the Antichrist is tomorrow or five hundred years away, our vocation as followers of Christ is to remain faithful to the Revelation of Truth. In our times we must understand what spirits are warring against us as Christians. The only protection from the trampling of the nations, the subjugation of Christians to lies, is to dwell firmly within the Temple that has been measured out by the Lord. It has boundaries. If we leave them, we turn ourselves over to be trampled underfoot. Some will even claim that submitting to this trampling is a form of humility.
The elder tells us plainly, “The believers will be persecuted, but they will have divine protection. Any Christian persuasion that has lost its salt will be trampled by the Antichrist and will be definitely and permanently lost because it lacks God’s protection. From these conclusions, we see that we are in great need of constant vigilance. That is why the Orthodox spirit, and our continued perseverance and allegiance to it, despite the persecution, will be our salvation.”
Every compromise of the Truth to appease the spirit of the world will only lead to the destruction and loss of people’s eternal souls. The Faith is not “mine” to compromise so to placate the world and those who dwell in it. The Faith is the only means whereby mankind will be saved. As Archbishop Averky of blessed memory boldly proclaims, “Nevertheless, there is but one path of truth, and it does not acknowledge, nor does it countenance any compromise, any concessions with falsehood, for every such compromise, by whatever specious pretext it was achieved, is a betrayal of the truth. Let those who have rejected the truth and given themselves over to falsehood call us arrogant who value the truth and sincerely desire to walk the path of truth. We should neither fear nor be shamed by this. We do not pride ourselves on our personal righteousness, our own personal virtue, or our own personal merits and good works of any sort. We realize that in our own personal lives we are weak, infirm and sinful people. And if here is anything of which we can boast, we boast not of ourselves, but of the Orthodox Faith, “the pure and undefiled Bride of Christ,” the Church of Christ, “not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27), to which we belong, and membership in which we cherish more than anything else on earth.”
Every compromise brings us closer to Antichrist, while every act of steadfastness, in repentance, energizes God’s mercy in our world. If we have been lukewarm, let us once again ignite the fire of faithfulness to God in our hearts. Now is the time for our repentance. The signs of our times are numerous and heavy. Which way will our world tip? And if and when it does tip, will there still be attached to it strings of worldliness in our own hearts that will drag us after it? Let us strive to sever these now. For it seems clear that our modern love of pleasure will be one of the primary pressure points used to bend our knees before the false-savior.
In closing may we ponder these sobering words from the elder, “The apathetic Christians will be those most victimized by the corruption of the Antichrist, while the Church, remaining unshakably steadfast and unmercifully persecuted by the Antichrist, will have fled into the desert, in other words, back into the catacombs. Are we prepared for this?”
Are we prepared for this?
(All quotes are from – Vol. III, Revelation, the Seven Trumpets, and the Antichrist, by Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios. Zoe Press)