We know to watch for particular signs, and the signs of the times are not good. Is it the end of the world? Could Antichrist be imminent? While "no man knows the day or hour," Jesus left us some certain knowledge of the future, both in the Deposit of Faith, and also through the spiritual charism of prophecy offered for the edification of the Church through great numbers of Saints, Venerables, Popes, and Blesseds.
NASHVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - Uprising after uprising in the Middle East; sexual and intellectual scandal in the Church; earthquakes in Chile and Haiti; tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan; and financial collapse in almost every market: given the startling increase in the frequency of global crises - political, religious, financial, natural - one is tempted to begin looking for Antichrist and despair for the future.
The pervading anxiety and fear is exacerbated by non-Catholic proliferation of end times fiction and even some Catholics who erroneously promote the imminent arrival of the Antichrist and the Second Coming. This idea has distinct emotional appeal in our troubled times, since one way or another, it would all end soon, and possibly without our having to "do" anything.
Although the prospect relieves us of our sense of personal responsibility to become or remain involved in an immoral world which despises a Christian moral message, according to the historic Tradition of the Church and the direction of her leadership, it would be a tragic error for several reasons.
Obama is Not the Antichrist
First, the Antichrist is not here, or even just around the corner. Jesus told the disciples how they might positively identify the imminent arrival of Antichrist and the events surrounding the end times. The Church Fathers, as the most immediate successors of the original apostles, sorted out much of the eschatological uncertainty from what had been handed down to them both orally and in writing from the apostles, and left extensive writings on the subject.
We know to watch for particular signs, and although conditions have been chaotic enough in other eras in history that our ancestors also speculated they might be near the end of the world, at no time have all the signs outlined in Scripture and the Tradition of the Church yet been present.
Those signs were given in order to combat then-current teachings of the imminent end of the world, and/or, the opposite view that God had completely abandoned creation to destruction. Yet to happen are: the sweeping conversion to Christ, a world-wide religious apostasy, signs in the heavens, the arrival of Enoch and Elijah (Rom. 11; 2 Thess. 2; Rev. 8-12).
The Third Millennium
Second, our last two Holy Fathers have strategically and deliberately prepared the Church for the "New Evangelization" of the third millennium, pastorally, liturgically, and theologically. Would they do this if the end of the world were imminent?
Is not Pope Benedict XVI a brilliantly distinguished academic and theologian, conversant with both public and private prophecy? Was he not hand-picked by our beloved John Paul II and the College of Cardinals for his orthodoxy and holiness? Is he not also intimately familiar with the writings of the Fathers and approved private revelations (Our Lady of Fatima, for example) that help "flesh out" the eschatological skeleton given to us in the Deposit of Faith?
He and our faithful Bishops know that Scripture, Tradition, and approved private revelation agree: we are not experiencing the time of Antichrist, or even his imminent arrival.
Chastisement in Love
What we do seem to be experiencing, in my opinion, is a minor chastisement that may precede the major chastisement of Antichrist. Between the two chastisements is a prophesied age of great peace. We will suffer the sweeping consequences of decades of unprecedented flagrant sin against God and Church, humanity itself, and the earth.
We are told it will become so desperate that people will believe it is the end of the world. It is not. It is mercy from God upon our faithless, corrupt age, and nowhere near what the world will experience during Antichrist. Chastisement proceeds from a loving Heavenly Father attempting to draw men to Himself in repentance. We must repent! and repentance begins in the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17). We are told we can avoid the chastisement, even as it has already begun, through repentance.
A Great Hope
We can avert it for ourselves and our children! "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Ch 7:14). Our Lady of Fatima begs us to pray, pray earnestly for sinners (ourselves!) and sacrifice for the salvation of souls.
We can repent in this way, and perhaps a period of unprecedented Catholic peace will reign over the whole earth, both in government and in the Church, in what may seem like a renaissance of the Holy Roman Empire.
Or we can continue our current trajectory and experience the dramatic frequency and worsening of the crises: multiple simultaneous civil and national wars in Europe, the radical rise and spread of militant fundamentalism, great famines and disease plagues due to war and other sin and near-complete financial collapse, widespread death and destruction, several days of total darkness, sacks of Catholic churches and the murder of a pope - at which time there will arise a Great King, Great Pope and a great Church Council that will usher in the age of civil and sacred peace under the protection and direction of God.
All this precedes the major chastisement and Antichrist.
There will not be a literal 1000 year reign of Christ with His Saints on the earth. This is called millennialism, and it is a heresy condemned by the Church on the basis that it denies the Second Coming as the end of the ages and awaits another period of definitive salvation after that.
There will not be a "Rapture" in which the church is assumed en masse into heaven to escape chastisement. This teaching denies that the Church must follow Jesus in taking up her cross and being crucified with Christ, in order to also be resurrected.
While "no man knows the day or hour," Jesus left us some certain knowledge of the future, both in the Deposit of Faith, and also through the spiritual charism of prophecy offered for the edification of the Church through great numbers of Saints, Venerables, Popes, and Blesseds. When such prophecies are duly investigated and approved by the Church they provide heroic hope for the people, and fulfill the deep-seated, created physiological need in man to anticipate, work for, and hope in the future.
We must be prepared to offer "an explanation for the hope that is within us" when waves of people search for God in the chaos. We must be able to offer stability, sanity, hope, truth.
It is not the end. Be not afraid! Now is the time for the New Evangelization. We are invited to repent, pray, and work for the salvation of souls, help stave off the worst of the chastisement, and work to usher in the coming peace. Our Holy Father leads the way into the third millennium. Come Holy Spirit, come. Renew the face of the earth!
Sonja Corbitt is a Catholic speaker, author, and a contributing writer for Catholic Online. For more information on this and other topics visit pursuingthesummit.com. Click here to order her 10-week, DVD-driven Bible study on the Church in the Old Testament tabernacle, Soul of the World, The Heart as God's Dwelling Place.
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