The Seven Year Trial – Epilogue

 


Christ the Word of Life, by Michael D. O’Brien

 

I will choose the time; I will judge fairly. The earth and all its inhabitants will quake, but I have firmly set its pillars. (Psalm 75:3-4)


WE have followed the Passion of the Church, walking in the footsteps of our Lord from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem to His crucifixion, death, and Resurrection. It is seven days from Passion Sunday to Easter Sunday. So too, the Church will experience Daniel’s “week,” a seven year confrontation with the powers of darkness, and ultimately, a great triumph.

Whatever has been prophesied in Scripture is coming to pass, and as the end of the world approaches, it tests both men and the times. —St. Cyprian of Carthage

Below are some final thoughts regarding this series.

 

ST. JOHN’S SYMBOLISM

The Book of Revelation is packed with symbolism. Thus, numbers such as a “thousand years” and “144, 000” or “seven” are symbolic. I do not know if the “three and a half year” periods are symbolic or literal. They could be both. It is agreed upon by scholars, however, that “three and a half years”—half of seven—is symbolic of imperfection (since seven symbolizes perfection). Thus, it represents a short period of great imperfection or evil.

Because we do not know for certain what is symbolic and what is not, we should remain awake. For only the Lord of eternity knows precisely in what hour the children of time are living… 

The Church now charges you before the Living God; she declares to you the things concerning Antichrist before they arrive. Whether they will happen in your time we know not, or whether they will happen after you we know not; but it is well that, knowing these things, you should make yourself secure beforehand. —St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386) Doctor of the Church, Catechetical Lectures, Lecture XV, n.9

 

WHAT NEXT?

In Part II of this series, the Sixth Seal of Revelation presents itself as an event which may be the Illumination. But before then, I believe the other seals will be broken. While war, famine, and plague have come in repeated waves throughout the centuries, I believe the second to fifth seals are another wave of these events, but with a serious global impact. Is a war imminent then (the Second Seal)? Or some other kind of act, such as terrorism, which takes peace away from the world? Only God knows that answer, though I have felt a warning in my heart regarding this for some time.

One thing that does seem imminent at the time of this writing, if we are to believe some economists, is the collapse of the economy, particularly the American dollar (to which many markets in the world are tied.) It is possible that what may precipitate such an event is in fact some act of violence. The description of the Third Seal which follows seems to describe an economic crisis:

There was a black horse, and its rider held a scale in his hand. I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures. It said, “A ration of wheat costs a day’s pay, and three rations of barley cost a day’s pay. (Rev 6:5-6)

The important thing is to recognize that we are on the threshold of dramatic changes, and we should be preparing now by simplifying our lives, reducing our debt wherever possible, and setting aside a few basic necessities. Above all, we should turn off the television, spend time in daily prayer, and receive the Sacraments as often as possible. As Pope Benedict said at World Youth Day in Australia, there is a “spiritual desert” spreading across the modern world, “an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair,” particularly where there is material prosperity. Indeed, we must reject this pull toward greed and materialism sweeping through the world—the race to have the latest toy, a better this, or a newer that—and become as it were, simple, humble, poor in spirit—radiant “desert flowers.” Our aim, said the Holy Father, is…

…a new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deadens our souls and poisons our relationships. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, July 20th, 2008, WYD Sydney, Australia; Manilla Bulletin Online

Will this new age be, perhaps, the Era of Peace?

 

PROPHETIC TIMING

The prophetic words of St. John have been, are being, and will be fulfilled (see A Circle… A Spiral). That is, have we not in some ways already seen the Seals of Revelation broken? The past century has been one of tremendous suffering: wars, famine, and plagues. The Marian Age, which began the prophetic warnings that appear to be culminating in our times, has lasted well over 170 years. And as I’ve pointed out in my book and elsewhere, the battle between the Woman and the Dragon really began in the 16th century. When the Seven Year Trial begins, how long it will take to unfold and precisely the sequence of events are questions only Heaven can answer.

So when I speak of the Seals of Revelation being broken, perhaps it is the definitive stage of their breaking that we will witness, and even then, we see elements of the Seals within the Trumpets and Bowls (remember the spiral!). How long it will take for the preceding seals to unfold before the Sixth Seal of the Illumination is something none of us knows. This is why it is essential, brothers and sisters, that we do not dig a bunker and hide, but rather continue to live our lives, fulfilling the mission of the Church each moment: to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (for no one hides a lamp beneath a bushel basket!) We must be not only desert flowers, but oases! And we can only be so by authentically living the Christian message. 

 

CONDITIONAL 

The Scriptures have something to say about the conditional nature of chastisement. King Ahab was caught red-handed, illicitly taking over his neighbour’s vineyard. The prophet Elijah pronounced a just punishment upon Ahab which caused the king to repent, to tear his own garments and put on sackcloth. Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his time. I will bring the evil upon his house during the reign of his son” (1 Kings 21:27-29). Here we see God postponing the bloodshed which was to come to Ahab’s house. So too in our day, God may delay, perhaps even for a long time, that which more and more seems inevitable.

It depends upon repentance. However, if we consider the spiritual state of society, it may be fair to say that we have reached a point of no return. As one priest said in a homily recently, “It may be too late already for those who aren’t yet on the right track.” Still, with God, nothing is impossible. 

 

CONSIDERATIONS ON THE END OF ALL THINGS

After all is said and done, and an Era of Peace comes, we know from Scripture and Tradition that this is not the end. We are presented with perhaps the most difficult scenario of all: a final unleashing of evil:

When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. They invaded the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city. But fire came down from heaven and consumed them. The Devil who had led them astray was thrown into the pool of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev 20:7-10)

A final war is waged by Gog and Magog who symbolically represent another “anti-Christ,” the nations that will have become paganized toward the very end of the Era of Peace and surround “the camp of the holy ones.” This final battle against the Church comes at the end of an Era of Peace:

After many days you will be mustered (in the last years you will come) against a nation which has survived the sword, which has been assembled from many peoples (on the mountains of Israel which were long a ruin), which has been brought forth from among the peoples and all of whom now dwell in security. You shall come up like a sudden storm, advancing like a cloud to cover the earth, you and all your troops and the many peoples with you. (Ezek 38:8-9)

Beyond what I have just quoted here, we don’t know much more about that time, though the Gospels may indicate that the heavens and the earth will be shaken one final time (eg. Mark 13:24-27).

Therefore, the Son of the most high and mighty God… shall have destroyed unrighteousness, and executed His great judgment, and shall have recalled to life the righteous, who… will be engaged among men a thousand years, and will rule them with most just command… Also the prince of devils, who is the contriver of all evils, shall be bound with chains, and shall be imprisoned during the thousand years of the heavenly rule… Before the end of the thousand years the devil shall be loosed afresh and shall assemble all the pagan nations to make war against the holy city… “Then the last anger of God shall come upon the nations, and shall utterly destroy them” and the world shall go down in a great conflagration. —4th century Ecclesiastical writer, Lactantius, “The Divine Institutes”, The ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 7, p. 211

Some Church Father suggest that there will be a final antichrist before the very end of time, and that the False Prophet before the Era of Peace is a precursor to this last and most evil antichrist (in this scenario, the False Prophet is the Antichrist, and the Beast remains solely the conglomeration of nations and kings aligned against the Church). Again, the antichrist cannot be restricted to one single individual. 

Before the Seventh Trumpet is blown, there is a mysterious little interlude. An Angel hands a small scroll to St. John and asks him to swallow it. It tastes sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach. Then someone says to him:

You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. (Rev 10:11)

That is to say, before the final trumpet of judgment sounds to bring time and history to its conclusion, the prophetic words which St. John has written must be unrolled one last time. There is yet one more bitter time to come before the sweetness of that Last Trumpet is heard. This is what the early Church Fathers seemed to understand, particularly St. Justin who recounts the direct witness of St. John:

A man among us named John, one of Christ’s Apostles, received and foretold that the followers of Christ would dwell in Jerusalem for a thousand years, and that afterwards the universal and, in short, everlasting resurrection and judgment would take place. —St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, The Fathers of the Church, Christian Heritage

 

WHAT IS MEANT BY “THE FINAL CONFRONTATION”

I have often repeated Pope John Paul II’s words that the Church is facing “the final confrontation” between the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. I have also quoted the Catechism which says:

Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 675

How do we understand this when it seems as though there are two more confrontations left?

The Church teaches that the entire period from the Resurrection of Jesus until the absolute end of time is “the final hour.” In this sense, since the beginning of the Church, we have faced “the final confrontation” between the Gospel and the anti-Gospel, between Christ and anti-Christ. When we go through the persecution by Antichrist himself, we are indeed in the final confrontation, a definitive stage of the prolonged confrontation which culminates after the Era of Peace in a war waged by Gog and Magog against “the camp of the saints.”

Recall what Our Lady of Fatima promised:

In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph… and a period of peace will be granted to the world.

That is, the Woman will crush the head of the serpent. She will give birth to a son who will rule the nations with an iron rod during the “period of peace” which is to come. Are we to believe that her Triumph is only temporary? In terms of peace, yes, it is temporary, for she called it a “period.” And St. John used the symbolic term “a thousand years” to denote a long time, but not indefinite in the temporal sense. And that too is Church teaching:

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.Catechism of the Catholic Church, 677

Our Lady’s Triumph is much more than bringing about a temporal time of peace. It is to bring about the birth of this “son” who consists of both Gentile and Jew “until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ” (Eph 4:13) in whom the Kingdom will reign for eternity, even though the temporal kingdom w ill end with a final cosmic upheaval.

What is arriving is the Day of the Lord. But as I have written elsewhere, it is a day which begins and ends in darkness; it begins with the tribulation of this Era, and ends with the tribulation at the conclusion of the next. In that sense, one could say that we have arrived at the final “Day” or trial. Several Church Fathers indicate that this is the “seventh day,” a day of rest for the Church. As St. Paul wrote to the Hebrews, “a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God” (Heb 4:9).  This is followed by the everlasting or “eighth” day”: eternity. 

Those who on the strength of this passage [Rev 20:1-6] , have suspected that the first resurrection is future and bodily, have been moved, among other things, specially by the number of a thousand years, as if it were a fit thing that the saints should thus enjoy a kind of Sabbath-rest during that period, a holy leisure after the labors of six thousand years since man was created… (and) there should follow on the completion of six thousand years, as of six days, a kind of seventh-day Sabbath in the succeeding thousand years… And this opinion would not be objectionable, if it were believed that the joys of the saints, in that Sabbath, shall be spiritual, and consequent on the presence of God…  —St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.; Church Doctor), De Civitate Dei, Bk. XX, Ch. 7 (Catholic University of America Press)

Thus, the Era of Peace will begin with the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the earth as in a Second Pentecost. The Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, will truly be the source and summit of the Church’s life in God. Mystics and theologians alike tell us that after the “dark night” of the Trial, the Church will reach the heights of mystical union when she will be purified as a Bride so that she may receive her King in the eternal wedding banquet. And so, I speculate that even though the Church will face a final battle at the end of time, she will not be shaken then as she will be during the coming Seven Year Trial. For this present darkness is really the purification of the earth from Satan and evil. During the Era of Peace, the Church will be living in a state of grace unparalleled in human history. But unlike the false notions about this era proposed by the heresy of “millenarianism,” this will be a time of simplification and living more primitively once again. Perhaps this too will be part of the final refining process of the Church—part of the final trial.

See also Understanding The Final Confrontation where I explain that the coming “final confrontation” of this era is really the final confrontation between the Gospel of Life and the gospel of death… a confrontation which will not be repeated in many of its aspects after the Era of Peace.

 

THE TIME OF THE TWO WITNESSES

In my writing The Time of the Two Witnesses, I spoke of a period in which the remnant of the Church prepared for these times goes forth to witness in the “prophetic mantle” of the two witnesses, Enoch and Elijah. Just as the False Prophet and Beast are preceded by many false prophets and false messiahs, so too, Enoch and Elijah may be preceded by many Christian prophets infused with the hearts of Jesus and Mary. This is a “word” which came to Fr. Kyle Dave and I a few years ago, and one which has never left me. I submit it here for your discernment.

Because some Church Fathers expected an antichrist to appear after the Era of Peace, it may be that the Two Witnesses do not appear until then. If this were the case, then prior to the Era of Peace, most certainly, the Church will be endowed with the prophetic “mantle” of these two prophets. Indeed, we have seen in many ways a tremendous prophetic spirit in the Church in the past century with a proliferation of mystics and seers.

The Church Fathers were not always unanimous since the book of Revelation is highly symbolic and difficult to interpret. That said, the placement of an antichrist before and/or after an Era of Peace is not a contradiction, even though one Father may have emphasized one more than the other.

 

JUDGMENT OF THE LIVING, THEN THE DEAD

Our Creed tells us that Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. What Tradition seems to indicate, then, is that the Judgment of the living—of wickedness upon the earth—generally takes place before the Era of Peace. The Judgment of the dead occurs generally after the Era when Jesus returns as a Judge in the flesh:

For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:16-17)

JUDGMENT OF THE LIVING (before the Era of Peace):

Fear God and give him glory, for his time has come to sit in judgment [upon]… Babylon the great [and]… anyone who worships the beast or its image, or accepts its mark on forehead or hand… Then I saw the heavens opened, and there was a white horse; its rider was called “Faithful and True.” He judges and wages war in righteousness… The beast was caught and with it the false prophet… The rest were killed by the sword that came out of the mouth of the one riding the horse… (Rev 14:7-10, 19:11, 20-21)

JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD (after the Era of Peace):

Next I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls. The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. (Rev 20:11-13)

 

GOD WILL BE WITH US

I assure you, this series was as difficult to write as it was for many of you to read. The devastation of nature and the evils that prophecy foretells can be overwhelming. But we must remember that God is going to bring His people through this Trial, just as He brought the Israelites through the plagues of Egypt. Antichrist will be powerful, but he will not be all-powerful.

Even the demons are checked by good angels lest they harm as much as they would. In like manner, Antichrist will not do as much harm as he would wish. —St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part I, Q.113, Art. 4

Though the Antichrist will have exerted every effort to entirely abolish the offering of the “perpetual sacrifice” of the Mass throughout the world, and though it will not be offered publicly anywhere, the Lord will provide. There will be many priests ministering underground, and thus we will still be able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and confess our sins in the Sacraments. Opportunities for this will be rare and dangerous, but again, the Lord will feed his people “the hidden manna” in the desert.

Furthermore, God has given us sacramentals which carry His promise of grace and protection—holy water, blessed salt and candles, the Scapular, and the Miraculous Medal, to name but a few.

There will be much persecution. The cross will be treated with contempt. It will be hurled to the ground and blood will flow… Have a medal struck as I have shown you. All who wear it will receive great graces. —Our Lady to St. Catherine Labouré (1806-1876 A.D.). on the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of the Rosary Library Prospect

Our greatest weapons, however, will be praise of the name of Jesus upon our lips, and the Cross in one hand and the Holy Rosary in the other. St. Louis de Montfort describes the Apostles of the end times as those…

…with the Cross for their staff and the Rosary for their sling.

There will be miracles all around us. The power of Jesus will be manifested. The joy and peace of the Holy Spirit will sustain us. Our Mother will be with us. The saints and angels will appear to console us. There will be others to comfort us, just as the weeping women comforted Jesus on the Way of the Cross, and Veronica wiped His face. There will be nothing lacking that we will need. Where sin abounds, grace will abound all the more. What is impossible for man will be possible for God.

If he did not spare the ancient world, even though he preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, together with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the godless world; and if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, reducing them to ashes, making them an example for the godless people of what is coming; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man oppressed by the licentious conduct of unprincipled people (for day after day that righteous man living among them was tormented in his righteous soul at the lawless deeds that he saw and heard), then the Lord knows how to rescue the devout from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment (2 Pet 2:9)

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Posted in HOME, MILLENARIANISM, SEVEN YEAR TRIAL.