Sunday, October 16, 2005

Reality Check - Part 2

The Catholic Church’s teaching on the Second Coming of Christ is firmly rooted in Scripture, and not based on the wild speculations of television evangelists or the musings of popular “end-times” authors. The Church’s position is simple and reasonable. It fits the model of the Bible, and is faithful to the historic tradition of Christian teaching. It is embodied here in the following paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church....
673 Since the Ascension Christ's coming in glory has been imminent, even though "it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority." . This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are "delayed".

674 The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by "all Israel", for "a hardening has come upon part of Israel" in their "unbelief" toward Jesus. St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old." St. Paul echoes him: "For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?" The "full inclusion" of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of "the full number of the Gentiles", will enable the People of God to achieve "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ", in which "God may be all in all".

675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.

676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.

677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.
In review, the “sign” that precedes “the end” and the “Second Coming of Christ” is twofold. It does not necessarily involve natural disasters. Nor does it involve wars and rumors of wars. As I pointed out in the last post, “Reality Check - Part 1,” Jesus Christ warned us not be alarmed by these things. The twofold “sign” that precedes Christ’s second coming is the great apostasy of Christians, and the simultaneous conversion of Jews to Christianity.

This conversion of Jews must not be coerced, chided or forced in any way. It must be spontaneous, originating from within their own communities, and by their own doing. None of us know when or how this will happen. Some would rightfully say it’s going on today. Others would rightfully point out that it’s been going on consistently for the last 2,000 years. Indeed, there has been a steady trickle of Jews converting to the Christian faith since the time of his First Coming. It is also accurate to say that this trickle has increased in recent decades to larger numbers than ever seen before. At the same time however, we can also rightly say that this can be accounted for by the increasing number of people identifying themselves as “Jews” whether they practice their religion or not. In other words, the number of Jews converting to Christ has increased, but the overall statistical percentage is about the same. Whatever the case, we know that half of the final “sign” signaling Christ’s Second Coming is the conversion of Jews. We know that this has been going on for some time, but we don’t know what level of conversion would be significant enough to firmly say that this half of the sign has been fulfilled.

The great apostasy of Christians is the second half of the great “sign” that will precede the Second Coming of Christ. It is something that is with us now, and indeed has been with us for some time. Actually, this has ALWAYS been a problem within Christianity, but I believe it can safely be said that as the centuries pass by, the problem keeps getting worse. The last 2,000 years is a history replete with examples of large numbers of Christians who have fallen away from the faith. One need only search the annals of Church history to discover the many heretical sects that have arisen only to lead Christians away from the faith. But in the last three centuries, I would have to say that no previous movements have been as successful as the two I am about to mention. The first is Secularism and the second is Marxism. Both philosophies promised utopia through a kind of political messianism, but neither were able to deliver. The Enlightenment period of the 1700s gave us both the American and the French revolutions. The American revolution was based in a philosophy that saw the melding of Christian ideals with Deist aspirations. But the French Revolution was based on an entirely different mindset. In France the faith of Christianity was deposed, in favor of human reason being elevated to the highest place above all religious doctrine. The French Revolution was the beginning of modern Secularism which would eventually lead to the militant and intolerant view that all religion should be kept out of politics entirely. This led to the second philosophy known as Marxism, which is Socialism combined with a militantly atheistic ideology. Perhaps no system promises utopia more than Marxist Communism, and this “utopia” is promised as the crown of mankind’s achievement without the help (or even mention) of God. History has given us only one more clear example of what political messianism looks like -- Nazi Germany.

Though Hitler’s Nazi Party embraced the tenets of Marxist socialism, it melded them together in the most peculiar way to folklore Paganism. Nazism allowed for the worship of whatever god (or goddess) people would have, but it did so with the understanding that no god (or goddess) was above the State. The State was All Supreme in Nazism, and the State was embodied in the personality of Adolph Hitler -- a man hated by the allies but adored by most of his own people at that time. If ever there was a political version of the “messiah,” this was the man. The Third Reich provides us with a tiny glimpse of the mindset that will drive the final apostasy, and fulfill the second half of the last “sign” before Christ’s return.

There are elements of the final great apostasy clearly at work in the world today. However, these elements have been at work for some time -- at least 300 years now. Those Christians living in France during the time of the French Revolution must have thought the “sign” had been fulfilled, and the “end” was upon them. Those Christians living in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution must have thought the same thing, as well as those living in China during their communist revolution. I would imagine that many Christians, from around the world, thought Nazism was the fulfillment. I would say that all of them were right -- partly. I think they correctly identified the spirit of Antichrist within the movements driving these hostile takeovers of governments. I think they correctly identified the nature of the apostasy that had fallen upon their countrymen. But as we all know, the end did not come.

So what are we looking for today in the way of fulfilling this final “sign” of Christ Second Coming? Well first, we’re looking for a conversion of the Jewish people to Christianity. This has been going on for some time already, but nobody knows how many Jewish conversions it will take before this prophecy is considered “fulfilled.” Second, we’re looking for the rise of secular messianism on a global scale. This has been going on for some time already in the form of militant secularism and godless communism. We’ve seen strange Neopagan aberrations of it in the form of Nazism. Any system were the State holds a position supposedly higher than God is a manifestation of this. All of these things have been going on for some time, and will continue to go on for decades (if not centuries) to come. Everywhere throughout the world where secular messianism has taken root, the Church suffers because of it.

Jesus only made one prophetic prediction about his Second Coming. He promised us that when he does return, it will be a surprise. Virtually nobody will be expecting him. Life will go on as usual all the way up to the day it happens, and everyone will be caught off guard. There will be no time for preparation. Whatever lifestyle and habits people are accustomed to, will be what he finds them doing with he returns. That’s why TODAY is the day of repentance. That’s why TODAY is the day of renewal. If we’re going to follow Christ at all, we must begin TODAY, because we won’t be given any warning when the “last day” and the “final judgment” comes upon us.