By Saint Efraim of Siros
Listen to what I have to say about the Second and fearsome Coming of our Lord and God Jesus Christ.
I was meditating about that hour of the Second Coming and I got frightened regarding all that will happen then. Who can tell it all? Which tongue can describe it all? And what ears can hear it all? About then when the King of the universe will get up from the throne of glory and will come to judge all the residents of the earth, rewarding those who lived in virtue and punishing the sinners to eternal hell.
When all these things come into my mind, my entire being starts shaking and fear possesses me; tears come out of my eyes, I can hardly speak a word, my lips get frozen, my tongue shivers and my mind stops functioning. Even though fear and awe press hard upon me to keep quiet, I am compelled to speak out for the sake of the benefit of you all.
There will happen such great and fearsome events that have not ever happened before since the creation of the world. If often times we get frightened by strong lightning, which makes our legs shake, can you imagine how we are going to endure the sound of the trumpet (Matthew 24:31), that trumpet whose sound will be stronger than any other thunder, and which will wake up all the dead, righteous and unrighteous?
Then the bones of all the dead will quickly piece together. Then the Great King, who has absolute power over his creation, will order and immediately with fear the sea and the land will reveal their dead. Even those who were torn apart by beasts, or those who were eaten by fish, all will be presented in front of the unbiased Creator.
Then the rivers and all other water-sources will disappear, the stars will fall, the sun will grow dark and the moon will not shine (Matthew 24:29). The Angles sent by God will cross travel the earth to bring together the chosen ones from all the points of the earth. Then we shall see new heavens and a new earth (2nd Peter 3:13), in accordance with the promise of the Lord.
How are we going to hold firm, when we see the frightful throne being prepared, how are we going to hold firm when suddenly the Holy Cross will appear in view, the Cross over which Christ Himself was sacrificed with his own will? When we face up above in the sky the awesome and holy scepter of the Great King, then we shall remember and comprehend the word of God about the sign of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:30). This is the way in which we will be informed that the awesome King is about to present Himself. In that hour each and everyone will be thinking how to justify himself/herself in front of Him, and will be meditating about all their deeds.
When we hear that thundering voice, which declares from the heights of heaven “The Bridegroom is coming”, “The Almighty has arrived to judge the living and the dead”, then from the force of that outcry the foundations of the earth from one extreme point all the way to the other will shake. Then, brethren, fear and dread will possess each and everyone because of all that will happen in the universe. The heavenly powers will stir. The skies will open presenting like a frightful lightning the King of the Kings, the Holy and Glorious God in indescribable glory and absolute power.
We will lose it all, fear and dread will possess us during that time, when the impartial Judge will sit down and those frightful books will open, in which are written our deeds and words, whatever we did and said in this life, thinking that we would be able to fool God (Gall. 6:7) who investigates the thoughts and desires of all people (Hebrews 2:1-3).
How many tears we must shed just thinking about that time, and yet we neglect to do so? How much we will moan and cry when, from one side we shall see those great bequests, the inconceivable brilliance and magnificence of the Heavenly Kingdom, which will be enjoyed by those who worked hard to keep the commandments of God, and on the other side the fearsome punishments for those who subdued themselves to sin? And in the middle, in fear and awe all people of every gender, from the first creature Adam to the last one, will worship the Lord, in accordance with the word of God, which says that every knee will kneel down in front of Him. (Rom. 14:11)
Then the entire mankind, caught in the middle between life and death, between blessed rest and eternal punishment, in agony will await the hour of the frightful Judgment, and no one will be able to help the other.
The Bishops will be asked to give account regarding their way of life, as well as about their flock. They will be asked to give account about their logical sheep, which were delivered to them by the head-shepherd Christ so that they could lead those sheep to salvation. If due to negligence any sheep was lost, the blood of the lost sheep will have to be paid by them. In similar way the priests will be judged too; they will give account about their parish. And in the same way every faithful will be asked to give account for his household, for the wife and the children and all the other members of his family, if he nourished them “with the words and counsels of the Lord”, as the Apostles commands. (Ephesians 6:4)
All will be investigated about their works and deeds, the kings and the archons, the wealthy and the poor, the great and the small. “We will all appear in front of the judgment seat of Christ, so that each and every one can give account for their bad or good deeds, which were committed in this bodily life (2nd Corinth. 5:10)”.
The deeds of all of us will be investigated and revealed in front of the angles and the people. All the enemies of Christ will be encroached upon and every power and authority will be abolished (1st Corinth. 15:24). Then, as it is written, the sheep will be separated from the goats (Matthew 25:32). In this way, those who have committed good deeds and thus bear spiritual fruits will be separated from those unfruitful and sinful ones.
On one side will be the ones who lived in virtue, which will shine like the sun (Matthew 13:43), because they kept the commandments of God. These are the ones who were merciful, who clothed those who were naked, the protectors of the poor and of the orphans, the ones who helped the unfortunate people, those who were hospitable, those who visited the prisoners, those who stood by the bedside of the sick ones, those who became poor so that they could gain the wealth of heavens, those who forgave the mistakes and faults of their brethren, those who kept the seal of their faith whole and pure from every heresy. Those are the ones who God will place on his right side.
Whereas the sinners are the ones who did not obey the good Shepherd, but despised His words. These are the boastful ones, the uncorrected ones, the friends of the enjoyments and shameful entertainments in times of repentance, the ones who wasted their lives in pitilessness, drunkenness and debauchery, just like the rich man who was not merciful towards the poor Lazaros (Luke 16:20). All of these He will place on His left side, because they did not show understanding in good faith. They were heartless, they did not have any fruits of repentance, nor did they have “oil” of good deeds in their oil lamps. (Matthew 25:1-12)
But those who purchased oil of mercy from the poor and filled their oil lamps, keeping them lit will stand on the right side of the Creator, cheerful and glorious, and they will hear that lovable and quiet voice: “Come you that are blessed from my Father, come and possess the Kingdom, which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world (Matthew 25:34)”.
On the contrary, the doomed ones will stand on the left side, and they will hear that painful and frightful sentence: “Away from me you damned and cursed ones, away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angles. Since you were not merciful there will be no mercy for you now. Just like you did not listen to my voice so I will not listen to your inconsolable lamentation, because you did not feed me when I was hungry, nor did you give me water when I was thirsty; you did not give me hospitality when I needed it, nor did you clothe me when I was naked, nor did you visit me when I was sick or in prison. You did not serve me but you became servants of the other god, the devil. Therefore, go away from me, you laborers of injustice”. And then they will be sent off to eternal hell, whereas the righteous ones will go to eternal life (Matthew 25:41-46).
Woe to those who do not take advantage of the time in order to repent, but instead give themselves up to ludicrous things. They will want back the time that they lost in vain, but to no avail. Woe to those who attend to demoniac teachings and spirits of delusions, because in the coming life they will be punished along with those spirits. Woe to those who engage in immorality and fortune telling. Woe to those who do not fully pay their workers, because whoever does not pay the workers will bleed. Woe to those who judge unjustly; who punish the innocent and side with the one at fault. Woe to those who contaminate our holy faith with heretic teachings or by consorting with the heretics. Woe to those who bear the absurd passions of malice and hate. And in general woe to those who will find themselves on the left side on the day of the fearsome Judgment. Their minds will be possessed by confusion and they will shed tears bitterly, when they hear the frightening decision: “Away from me you cursed and damned ones, away from me, to the eternal fire (Matthew 25:41)”.
Those of you, who have tears and compunction, come and cry along with me. When I meditate about that deplorable separation, I feel an unbearable grief, because then one will be separated from the other and will be taken to a place from where they will never return. How can one be so insensitive and heartless as to not start crying here and now about that hour of the Judgment? When that hour comes, the former Kings will be crying like captives. The archons and the cruel ones will be moaning; as they will be grieving they will beg for help but help will not be given to them, because up there wealth and compliments have no value whatsoever. And there will be no mercy for them because they did not show any mercy towards anyone.
Then the parents will be separated from their children, and so will everybody from their friends. Then the marital bonds of those who did not keep their marriages clean and pure will split. Then the ones who kept their bodies pure but were cruel and heartless will be expelled, because the Judgment will be ruthless for the ones who did not show mercy (James 2:13).
I know that I will forget to say a lot of things because I am possessed by fear and dread. Awesome angels will violently take away the impious ones who did not repent, which will turn their heads in fear and crackling their teeth will want to see the righteous ones and the joy from which they were taken away. They will see that all-bright light and the beauty of Paradise. They will see their acquaintances in that joyous place and the great bequests that will be rewarded by the King to all those who fought the “good fight” (1st Timothy 6:12) in this earthly life. After being separated from the righteous ones, their friends and acquaintances, they will also be separated from their God, and they will no longer be able to see the true joy and Light. At last, they will be taken to different levels of hell in which they will be handed in. Then, when they see that they were totally abandoned, and all their hope was lost, and that now nobody can help them or pray for them, they will cry inconsolably and with bitter tears:
“How much time did we waste in negligence! How we were fooled by the Devil! When we heard the voice of the Lord in the Holy Writ we did not pay attention to Him, but instead we mocked Him. And now while we cry out for help He turns His face away from us. What did we benefit from the earthly goods? Where are the father and the mother who gave birth to us? Where are our brothers and sisters, our friends, our children? Where is our wealth and where are our possessions? Where are our governors and our kings?
Now nobody can save us from all this. We cannot even help ourselves. What can we do? The time for repentance has been long gone (Psalm 6:5) and the prayers no longer have power, the tears cannot aid us, the sellers of “mercy”, the unfortunate ones and the poor ones no longer exist. When we had the time and the opportunity, and they were selling (mercy) by begging us to “buy”, we shut off our ears; we did not want to hear them and therefore we did not buy. And now we are seeking but we cannot find anything. There is no salvation for us the deplorable ones. We will not find affection because we are not worthy”.
And then everyone will go to their places of torment, places which they themselves prepared by committing wicked deeds, such places where the worm, which will eat them up, will never die, and where the fire will never be put out. (Mark 9:44)
There, brethren, you heard what will be gained by those who neglect their souls and are lazy, and do not repent. You heard how those who mocked the commandments of God, will be mocked upon.
Saint Peter, the head-chief of the Apostles, warns us about that day, by saying: “The Day of the Lord will come just like the thief of the night. Then the skies will disappear with a shrill noise, the elements of nature will burn up and be destroyed, and the earth with everything in it will vanish (2 Peter 3:10)”.
Previous to that, our God and Lord Himself revealed to us the events of that day by saying: “Be careful not to let yourselves become occupied with too much feasting and drinking and with the worries of this life, or that Day may suddenly catch you like a trap. For it will come upon all people everywhere on earth (Luke 21:34-35)”. And elsewhere He says: “Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads you there is hard, and there are few people who find it (Matthew 7:13-14)”.
My dear brethren, let us walk on that difficult road, so that we may inherit the eternal Life. That road demands repentance, fasting, vigil prayers, fervent prayers, humility (humble soul), alms giving, tears, lamentation, contempt of the flesh, and being watchful about your soul. If you are hated do not hate, forgive the person who did wrong to you, if you are treated unjustly do good and if the time demands it, do shed your blood for Christ.
On the contrary, “wide is the gate to hell and easy is the road that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13). That road may be enjoyable here, but there the end is sorrowful. Life is sweet here, but there life is intolerable and painful. Examples of the wide road are such as prostitution, adultery, debauchery, idolatry, wrangle, dissension, anger and rage, malice, murder, shameful entertainment and dances, luxurious meals and gluttony, as well as other things similar in nature. And the worst of all is lack of repentance and total obliviousness of the hour of death.
The holy Martyrs being mindful about that Day of the Second Coming did not pity their bodies, but suffered every kind of torment with great joy, in the hope of enjoying the eternal crown. For the same reason they fought in the mountains and in the deserts by fasting and in virginity, not only men but women as well, walking with perseverance in the narrow and afflicted road, and by so doing they earned the Heavenly Kingdom.
King David was meditating that dreadful judgment and the relentless Judge when he shed downpours of tears imploring God and saying: “Don’t put me, your servant, on trial; no one is innocent in your sight and if you want to judge us then no one will be saved” (Psalm 143:2).
Therefore, before that Day comes, before the feast of this current life is over, before God comes and finds us unprepared, let us prepare to receive Him by confessing our sins, by fasting and repenting, with tears and good deeds.
Be mindful and do not say that you did not sin: “But if we live in the light – then we have the fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing” (1 John 1:7-10). So, whoever says that he/she did not sin is blind and deceives him/herself, not knowing that the devil can possess him/her not only by words but by deeds as well, by hearing, by vision and by thoughts.
Who can boast of their clean and pure heart, of clean and pure feelings? No one is sinless, no one is clean and pure, but Him Who even though was so rich and wealthy became poor for us. He is the only sinless One. He takes away the sin of the whole world, and does not wish the death of the sinners, but wishes their salvation. (John 1:29, 1st Tim 2:4)
Therefore, us too, let us take refuge in Him, because whoever took refuge in Him was saved. Let us despair not, my dear brethren, for our salvation. Did we sin? Let us repent! Thousands of times did we sin? Thousands of times let us repent! The Lord rejoices for every good deed; but especially does He rejoice for every single soul that repents. (Luke 15:10)
So come, let us fall upon His feet and let us worship Him, by confessing our sins.