Christian Revelation teaches that the world will not last forever. One day, God will put an end to the terrestrial world. The Church does not know the date of this event, only God the Father knows: "But as for that day and hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father alone." (Matthew 24:36.)
Jesus Christ, however, left us with many prophecies that are clear enough to allow us to understand the unfolding of what will precede the end times, these are called the "signs of the times". Before His second and final coming on Judgment Day, Jesus Christ will have prepared the hearts of men through a series of events. Is there any official text from the Catholic Church about these events preceding the end times? Yes, it can be found in the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church (issued in 1992), paragraphs 675 to 677 :
"Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. (Cf. Luke 18:8: ‘But when the Son of man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’ and Mathew 24:12: 12: ‘And with the increase of lawlessness, love in most people will grow cold.’) The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth (cf. Luke 21:12; John 15:19-20) 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. (Cf. 2 Th 2:4-12; I Th 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; I Jn 2:1 8, 22.)
"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 judgement. 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.
"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. (Cf. Rev 19:1-9.) 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. (Cf Rev 13:8; 20:7-10; 21:2-4.) God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgement after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world. (Cf. Rev 20:12; 2 Pt 3:12-13.)
Jesus announces a final persecution against His Church before His return, through the seemingly universal (but temporary) success of the Antichrist, who will establish a "false peace" on earth (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:3), through a world government and a world religion that will deny Jesus Christ as the true Messiah.
This coming of the Antichrist will be preceded by a general apostasy, the loss of faith of most of Christians: "Let no one deceive you in any way. For unless the apostasy comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one doomed to perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God." (2 Thess 3-4.) For if people were faithful to their Christian beliefs, they would never submit to the lies of the Antichrist. The work of the enemies of God to undermine the faith is clear for everyone to see today.
Saint Paul also wrote in his First Epistle to Timothy (4:1-2): "Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences." And in 2 Tim 3:1-5: "But understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power."
The logical result of this loss of faith is the establishment of a world without God, an idea which has been dreamt of by many people over the last centuries (for example, the French Revolution in France, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia), but especially but some Masonic circles called "the Illuminati". (See article page 4). In these secret circles, one is longing for what John Lennon wrote in his popular song Imagine in 1971; many people sing it without thinking about the meaning of the lyrics, but this song could very well be described as a hymn to a godless world government :
Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
In his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI, in a comment on the prayer of the Our Father, wrote this about the Beast of the Apocalypse:
«We see before us the dragon of which the Book of Revelation speaks. ‘Then another sign appeared in Heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.’ [Rev. 12:3.) John portrays the ‘beast rising out of the sea,’ out of the dark depths of evil, with the symbols of Roman imperial power, and he thus puts a very concrete face on the threat facing the Christians of his day: the total claim placed upon man by the emperor cult and the resulting elevation of political-military-economic might to the peak of absolute power — to the personification of the evil that threatens to devour us.
"Notwithstanding the dissolution of the Roman Empire and its ideologies, this remains very contemporary! Today there are on one hand the forces of the market, of traffic in weapons, in drugs, and in human beings, all forces that weigh upon the world and ensnare humanity irresistibly."
Every year for Lent, the Pope invites a distinguished bishop or theologian to preach a retreat (the "Spiritual Exercises") to all the members of the Roman Curia including the Pope himself.
This year, in February of 2007, Pope Benedict invited Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, the retired archbishop of Bologna, Italy, , to preach that retreat. And guess what was the topic? The Antichrist!
Cardinal Biffi based his lectures on the last book of the great Russian philosopher Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov (1853-1900), The Three Dialogues and the Story of the Antichrist, in which the Antichrist is elected president of the United States of Europe, acclaimed as emperor in Rome, takes possession of the entire world, and finally imposes his command even over the life and organization of the Churches. Here is a news report from the Catholic news agency Zenit:
"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Antichrist is the reduction of Christianity to an ideology, instead of a personal encounter with the Savior, says the cardinal directing the retreat which Benedict XVI is attending. Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, delivered that message during a meditation Tuesday, drawing on the work of Russian philosopher Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov. The cardinal’s meditation came during the weeklong Spiritual Exercises being attended by the Pope and members of the Roman Curia. The retreat ends this Saturday. The Holy Father suspended his usual meetings, including the general audience, in these days.
|V. S. Solovyov|
"According to Vatican Radio’s summary of his preaching, the cardinal explained that ‘the teaching that the great Russian philosopher left us is that Christianity cannot be reduced to a set of values. At the center of being a Christian is, in fact, the personal encounter with Jesus Christ.’ Quoting the work Three Dialogues on War, Progress and the End of History, Cardinal Biffi told his listeners that ‘the Antichrist presents himself as pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist.’
"‘He will convoke an ecumenical council and will seek the consensus of all the Christian confessions, granting something to each one. The masses will follow him, with the exception of small groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants,’ he said. The cardinal added that Solovyov says in that work: ‘Days will come in Christianity in which they will try to reduce the salvific event to a mere series of values.’
"In his Tale of the Antichrist Solovyov foresees that a small group of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants will resist and will say to the Antichrist: ‘You give us everything, except what interests us, Jesus Christ.’ For Cardinal Biffi, this narrative is a warning: ‘Today, in fact, we run the risk of having a Christianity which puts aside Jesus with his cross and resurrection.’
"The 78-year-old cardinal said that if Christians ‘limited themselves to speaking of shared values they would be more accepted on television programs and in social groups. But in this way, they will have renounced Jesus, the overwhelming reality of the resurrection.’ The cardinal said he believes that this is ‘the danger that Christians face in our days… the Son of God cannot be reduced to a series of good projects sanctioned by the prevailing worldly mentality… There are relative values, such as solidarity, love of peace and respect for nature. If these become absolute, uprooting or even opposing the proclamation of the event of salvation, then these values become an instigation to idolatry and obstacles on the way of salvation."