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... 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". (CCC 674)
As I write these lines, in wake of the peace summit in Annapolis (November 2007), there is constant talk of attempting to reach a peace agreement in the Middle East. As believers, naturally, we are to pray for peace in the Middle East and in the world. The Scriptures certainly exhort us to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Ps 122:6). Yet equally important is to pray with the proper eschatological perspective. The proper what? Well, "eschatology" is the study of the "last things," or the final events in the history of the world. To have a proper eschatological perspective, therefore, means to understand the road map that God has provided for us in divine revelation – in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition - so that we may have an idea of what to expect as we head towards the culmination and end of human history.
The end of human history? Am I about to embark in an apocalyptic "the end is near" type of discourse? Not necessarily. But I do think that eschatology is not given its proper place among many Catholics. While some evangelicals and fundamentalists overdo it in speculating about the right scenario and time of the end of days, Catholics, by contrast, tend to shun the subject altogether. When was the last time you had a good discussion about the final battle between the antichrist and the Church over coffee after Sunday Mass?
Liturgy, Scripture, and Eschatological Blindness
This Catholic discomfort with the end-times is a bit strange, because we are in fact reminded of Christ's expected Second Coming at every Mass. Every time we recite the Nicene Creed we remember that "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end." And the proclamations that follows the consecration of the Eucharistic species also have a strong eschatological character:
"Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."
"Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory!"
"When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory."
Consider also the vivid language of the reading that is read at Mass during the last week of the liturgical year:
"And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." (Luke 21:25-27)
And Matthew's version:
"Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Mt 24:30-31)
Now this will be quite a show. Why, then, the lack of Catholic interest for eschatology when liturgy and Scripture are quite emphatic about the end of days? I remember hearing a few years ago an otherwise excellent priest who preached that "it will probably be another thousand years" until Christ returns. Though this is of course theoretically possible, there are however good reasons to believe that he may have been seriously wrong. It is quite true that Christ warned us against the pretense of trying to guess exactly when the Second Coming will occur when He said that "of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (Mat 24:36). But immediately before this, Jesus also used the analogy of the fig tree to exhort us to be attentive to the signs of the times and of his second coming: "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!" (Mat 24:32-33). With these words, Jesus explicitly tells us to be attentive to what is going on around us. Even though no one can know the day and hour, the Lord tells us that we should be able to have a good idea of the season in which we find ourselves. And when he tells us: "you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" - the implication is that He may be coming sooner than we think!
All Creation Groans
As long as we are on good terms with God (in a state of grace), the prospect of Jesus returning should not trouble us but rather fill us with excitement and joy. It is true that, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, "Christ dwells on earth in his Church" and His kingdom "is already present in mystery, on earth, the seed and beginning of the kingdom" (CCC 669). Yet because of human frailty and sin, this kingdom is sometimes still very hard to see. And so, as the apostle Paul tells us, we "groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom 8:23). Consider how the Catechism beautifully describes our present state as we long for our final redemption:
Though already present in his Church, Christ's reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled "with power and great glory" by the King's return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ's Passover. Until everything is subject to him, until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God." That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ's return by saying to him: Marana tha! "Our Lord, come!" (CCC 671)
The Catechism goes on to describe our present time as "the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by 'distress' and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching." (CCC 672)
The Signs of the Times
What, then, are some of the warning signs that we are to recognize as indicative of the "birth pangs of redemption" that will precede the coming of the Messiah and final judgment? Let's see what the Scriptures and the Church tell us. Keep in mind that the following points do not pretend to sketch a scenario of end-time events in order, but merely suggest some of the signs that are likely to occur as we approach the end of human history.
(1) There will be many wars and rumors of wars and an increased frequency of natural catastrophes:
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Mt 24:6-8)
Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. (Lk 21:10-11)
(2) There will be increased intolerance, hatred and persecution of the remnant of Christians who remain faithful to the Gospel:
But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake... You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. (Lk 21:12, 16-17)
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. (Mt 24:9)
(3) There will be a great apostasy and falling away from the faith:
And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. (Mt 24:12)
When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron... (1 Tim 4:1-2)
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Tim 4:3-4)
(4) This apostasy will be accompanied by great moral decline and decadence:
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Tim 3:1-5)
(5) Many false prophets and false Messiahs will rise and claim to speak for God:
Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. (Mt 24:11)
Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Mt 24:23-27).
(6) Despite all this trouble, the Gospel message will reach the ends of the earth:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Mt 24:14)
(7) The people of Israel - the Jewish people - will return to the land of Israel after a long exile among the nations:
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. (Ezek 36:24-28, also Ezek 37)
And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:24)
(8) The antichrist will enter the world arena and will present himself as a (false) Messiah or pseudo-god, cruelly opposed to the Judeo-Christian God and His followers:
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ... that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God... For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess 2:1-12)
Then [the beast] opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. (Rev 13:6-7)
The antichrist will establish a one-world government and economic system, and he will deceive most of the world with an attractive, universalistic one-world religion that will pretend to solve the world's problems but "at the price of apostasy from the truth":
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. (CCC 675)
And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev 13:7-8)
Under the reign of the antichrist the persecution of Christians will reach its peak:
Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place... there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. (Mt 24:15-22)
(9) After Israel has returned from exile, all nations will rise up against it and it too will also experience a great tribulation:
Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog... In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely... You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes. (Ezek 38:1-17)
Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it. (Zech 12:2-3)
(10) God will sovereignly deliver Israel, and the Jewish people will recognize Jesus as Messiah before His return:
In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. (Zech 12:8-10)
Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved... (Rom 11:25-26)
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... 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". (CCC 674).
(11) There will be widespread religious apathy and indifference, and the final judgment will come at an unexpected moment:
For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be... Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Mt 24:37-44).
(12) Jesus will return for the final judgment when it seems that evil is about to triumph and after the Church has been purified through great suffering:
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. (CCC 677)
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. (2 Thess 2:8)
And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Rev 19:19-20).
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:16-17)
Where Do We Stand Today?
How do these signs compare with the situation of the world today? It is interesting to note that at least seven of these twelve signs are either already partially or completely fulfilled:
(1) The twentieth century has witnessed the most murderous wars in the history of mankind, and especially with the rise of global jihad there seems to be no end in sight to the number of conflicts around the globe in our own day. There also has been a abnormal surge of natural catastrophes (earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods) in recent decades;
(2) The persecution of Christians has reached peak levels in the twentieth century and continues to increase in the twenty-first, particularly in Muslim countries;
(3) In the past two centuries we have witnessed a great apostasy of what used to be the Christian world: many peoples and nations that once claimed to be Christian have abandoned their former faith and have become largely atheistic/agnostic. Many churches are empty; many others who call themselves Christians have abandoned the basic tenets of the Christian faith or only keep an empty, external form of it without real content.
(4) In the past two generations we have witnessed a shocking moral decadence, where things once thought to be moral abominations have come to be considered normal and sometimes even good (e.g. promiscuity, pornography, homosexuality, abortion, teen violence)
(5) the world has become a "religious supermarket" saturated with countless new religious sects, gurus and false prophets who propose to solve peoples' problems; New Age spirituality and relativism are the dominant ideologies, and there is a tremendous religious confusion in the world.
(6) The gospel, nonetheless, has virtually reached the ends of the earth in the past century. Though many people groups remain to be evangelized, Christians can be found in most countries on all continents.
(7) In the past hundred years, a large part of the Jewish people have returned from their long exile to the land of Israel.
In addition, three of the remaining four signs are either in the process of coming to pass, or could be plausibly fulfilled in the near future:
(8) For the first time in the history of mankind, modern technological advances in the fields of transportation and communication, along with the globalization of economic and political systems, are making the rise of a world leader not only plausible but quite possible. With the apostasy of the former Christian world, its moral decline, and the fact that many political leaders are becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity, it is not so far-fetched to imagine the rise of a world leader who could initiate a global persecution of Christians.
(9) Anti-Semitism is again on the rise, along with increasing irrational hostility towards the state of Israel, not only from the Arab/Muslim world but also increasingly from Western nations. Israel's existence has been threatened since the establishment of the state in 1948, and today this existential threat is graver than ever. Several of Israel's neighbors unashamedly and openly call for the destruction of the Jewish state.
(10) With the rapid rise of Messianic Judaism in the past thirty years, we are witnessing the first large-scale community of Jewish believers in Jesus since the early centuries of the Church. Are these the first-fruits of the coming salvation of Israel?
(11) Moral and religious indifference, apathy and relativism are widespread. The West, especially, is increasingly driven by a culture of materialism, hedonism and self-gratification which leaves no room for God.
Perhaps the key point to watch is number 8 - the mysterious figure of the coming antichrist. As we have seen above, the Catechism tells us that this man will orchestrate a "religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth." The antichrist will not appear as a frightening, evil-looking man with horns. On the contrary, he will likely be a charismatic figure who will propose attractive solutions to the greatest problems afflicting mankind, such as divisions and war, terrorism, poverty, or damage to the environment. With all the conflicts, fears and unrest spreading throughout the world, people will likely grow so weary of all this trouble that they will become literally itching for a leader - any leader - who will restore peace, order and security. He will likely be the advocate of a loose, universalistic religion or philosophy that will unite all people "beyond all creeds and dogmas." This will be a modern rebuilding of the ancient tower of Babel where man again proclaims: "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves!" (Gen 11:4) and where man seeks to actualize the original temptation where "seduced by the devil, he wanted to 'be like God,' but 'without God, before God, and not in accordance with God" (CCC 398).
The Catechism further explains that the reign of the antichrist will be "a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh" (CCC 675). As Christ himself warned: "I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive" (Jn 5:43). In other words, the "mystery of iniquity" becomes manifest whenever people proudly try to "fix the world" on their own, while leaving God and His revelation aside:
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. (CCC 676)
Though every attempt to better the human condition is in itself legitimate and good, the Scriptures and teachings of the Church are clear: man will never succeed in "fixing the world" on his own while remaining autonomous from God. Nor will the kingdom of God be fulfilled "by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil," that is, the last judgment (CCC 677). These words should spur us to remain humble and cautious when considering the efforts of politicians who seek to bring peace to the Middle East: do the solutions they propose leave room for God and His revelation, or are they merely cosmetic, apparent solutions "at the price of apostasy from the truth"?
In his book Jesus of Nazareth (pp. 30-41), Pope Benedict XVI mentions a fascinating short story on the antichrist written by Russian author Vladimir Soloviev (1850-1900). Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, who delivered in 2007 a lenten meditation to pope Benedict and the leaders of the Roman Curia on the subject of Soloviev's antichrist, noted that
the Antichrist will be a "convinced spiritualist," Soloviev says, an admirable philanthropist, a committed, active pacifist, a practicing vegetarian, a determined defender of animal rights. He will not be hostile "in principle" to Christ. Indeed, he will appreciate Christ's teaching. But he will reject the teaching that Christ is unique, and will deny that Christ is risen and alive today. (Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Soloviev and Our Time)
Soloviev's antichrist writes a book entitled The Open Way to World Peace and Welfare, which is acclaimed by all. The brotherhood of freemasons elect him "President for life of the United States of Europe," and he convenes an ecumenical council in Jerusalem where he offers Christians everything they desire - except Christ Himself. The overwhelming majority of Christians fall for his deception and submit to his authority, except for a small group of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant Christians who resist him and tell him: "You give us everything, except what interests us, Jesus Christ." Their resistance to him, of course, unleashes fierce persecution against them.
The Jewish People and the Antichrist
One question is particularly puzzling: what will the Jews think of the antichrist? As in Jesus' days, mainstream Judaism still expects the coming of a merely human Messiah who will politically redeem Israel and restore an earthly kingdom reminiscent of the Davidic and Solomonic monarchy. It is because of this view that most Jews rejected and still reject the divinity and atoning death of Jesus, despite the many currents in Jewish tradition that point to the divinity of a suffering Messiah. Given this earthly messianic expectation, it is possible that the Jewish people will initially fall for the antichrist's deception and believe that he is their expected Messiah. However, since, as we have seen above, the Jews will recognize Christ before His return, they will (hopefully) eventually see through the antichrist's deception and renounce him, probably at the price of terrible persecution. Interestingly, this is also what Soloviev conjectures:
When [the Anti-Christ] transferred his residence to Jerusalem, secretly spreading amongst the Jews the rumour that his main object was to bring about a domination of Israel over the whole of the world, the Jews proclaimed him as their Messiah, and their exultation and devotion to him knew no bounds. And now they suddenly rose, full of wrath and thirsting for vengeance... You see, the Jews, who regarded the Emperor a true and perfect Israelite by blood, unexpectedly discovered that he was not even circumcised. The same day all Jerusalem, and next day all Palestine, were up in arms against him. The boundless and fervent devotion to the saviour of Israel, the promised Messiah, gave place to as boundless and as fervent a hatred of the wily deceiver, the imprudent impostor. The whole of the Jewish notion rose as one man, and its enemies were surprised to see that the soul of Israel at bottom lived not by calculations and aspirations of Mammon but by the power of an all-absorbing sentiment -- the hope and strength of its eternal faith in the Messiah...
Peace on Earth?
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man’s enemies will be those of his own household'. (Mat 10:34-36)
How is all of this related to our current world situation? How should we live, and how should we pray? We must of course pray for peace, but we should beware of the naive expectation that somehow politicians will manage to bring a permanent solution to the current conflict in the Middle East so that life will be able to go on peacefully, business as usual. It somewhat concerns me when I hear Christians praying that all people would "simply live in peace with each other." This lofty ideal is of course worthy to be desired by anyone. But such a prayer entirely overlooks the "mystery of iniquity" working in the world and the calling of every Christian to engage in spiritual warfare. We must take heed to not forget Paul's words:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph 6:11-13)
We must also remember Christ's sobering words: "I did not come to bring peace but a sword." Faith in Jesus Christ divides. In his classical work The City of God, St. Augustine masterfully tells the tale of the two cities that exist side by side through the vicissitudes of human history: "These two cities were made by two loves: the earthly city by the love of self unto the contempt of God, and the heavenly city by the love of God unto the contempt of self" (Bk. 14, c. 28). The earthly city glories in its own power, the heavenly in the power of God.
As much as we ardently desire and long for peace, let us be watchful lest we quickly and enthusiastically follow the one who will bring peace to mankind as the "apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth." For this peace will neither be real nor lasting, and it will only temporarily mask the far greater evils that will afflict mankind soon after. By contrast, the peace for which we should pray is the peace that comes from Christ, the peace that reconciles man to God and which can only be attained through personal conversion and through entering the "narrow gate" of faith, hope and charity, by embracing our current sufferings with patience and even joy, with the knowledge that our embrace of the cross is the key to eternal life. And so let us pray first and foremost for conversions! Pray for our own conversion, for the conversion of Christians and of the Church, that we all would become more faithful to the Gospel message. Pray for the conversion of former Christians and apostate Christians, that they would return to the house of the Father. Pray for the conversion of Jews, Muslims, pagans, atheists and all people, that they would find the Prince of Peace who reconciled the world to the Father, so that they may find eternal life.
The Second Coming* (PowerPoint)
Interestingly enough, after I completed this article I came upon a very similar article on the signs of the second coming on an Orthodox Christian website. Though the two articles were written independently, notice how they resemble each other.