I was recently asked if the Armenians believe in the Rapture, a belief held by certain evangelical Christians that at Christ’s Second Coming, the “faithful” would be taken up to the sky and join Jesus before the climactic and tumultuous events of the Judgement. I simply answered, neither yes or no, but that “we believe in the Parousia (yergrort kalust). The Parousia, a Greek word refers to Christ’s Second Coming when he will come with glory of the Father to raise the dead and to judge all mankind, both the living and the dead, with those who have done evil, rejecting the Son of God to the resurrection of judgement and eternal separation from God and those who have done good, bearing the fruits of faith in Christ to the resurrection of eternal life in the enjoyment of God’s presence on the new earth in the “day without end”. (see John 5:29) The study of such things is referred to in theology as eschatology or verchnapanutiun, the study of the last things.
The heresies concerning the Last Things and Christ’s Second Coming have splintered churches into many groups simply due to an irreverence toward our Lord and his teaching together with a terrible practice of picking texts to fit a theology.
The Last Day will be ripe with mourning, and the weeping and gnashing of teeth. The dread Judgement will see God’s wrath poured out on all unrepentant sin (Colossians 3:6). Our present age is already showing the intensification of the growing pains of the Last Day, with gross sin being manifest not only in the realm of the secular but also in the church of God. The world is already seeing and experiencing the “birth-pangs” (Matthew 24:8) an escalation in war, natural disasters, famine, pestilence, while in the spiritual realm, we see spiraling sexual immorality, the breakdown of the family, massive increases in abortion (Ireland a Catholic nation, recently legalized the procurement of abortion changing and rending apart segments of their constitution protecting the life of the unborn), anti-Christian governmental persecution of Christendom both abroad and now even in America where religion is supposed to be free and unfettered from any government meddling.
To help better understand the premise under which our Orthodox Eschatology is refined regarding the Parousia or Second Coming, we have a few Scriptural Signs and the witness of the Church fathers to rely on and as summarized in the Nicene Creed. The gospel of St. Matthew chapter 24 contains in it the capstone of our eschatology and is known as the Olivet Discourse.
The Parousia will see the Judgement against all iniquity and with-it catastrophic occurrences, preceded by wars and rumors of war, and a general diabolical and deliberate rejection of a communion with God. The only means that scripture and the patristic testimony convey to avert such destruction is from a genuine repentance and turning away and from all sinfulness, chiefly infidelity to God which can even be demonstrated by indifference (see New Age movement and Process Theology if not all out hatred and in so doing rewriting the script of morality.)
The other signs will be the preaching of the Gospel throughout the whole world (Mat. 24:14) The Parousia is not the proof of God’s anger and hatred of sin so much as proof of his love and concern for his creation which he deemed “very good” from the beginning. The Parousia will bring the promised finality to the evidence of God’s love for us in that he will “forgive all sins and heal all diseases (Ps. 103:3), unveiling the very heart of God in Christ who desires that man should live eternally with him God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked but would rather that “he turn from his ways and live” (Ezekiel 18:23).
These are the days to turn to Christ. NOW is the time. The dual feasts of the Exaltation and the Holy Cross of Varak ought to be harbingers of the days to come and a summoning of the wise to repentance from sin and every evil. They are wonderful vehicles in which we should buckle up in order to prepare for the coming days, with a profound outpouring of contrition, repentance and seeking the mercy of All-mighty God, yearning for his absolution, thankful for his long-suffering and grateful for his love and the gift of gracious forgiveness for the sake of Christ found and sacramentally given only in and through the clergy and in the church those God given means and mysteries of his promise.
Before your Holy Cross we humble ourselves and bow down, O Lord Jesus Christ. Come Lord Jesus.