Ultimate Things: An Orthodox Christian Perspective On The End Times by Dennis Engleman

bookIn some ways, Ultimate Things by Dennis Engleman is a fitting end to a year of eschatological studies. The book focused on strengthening the church for the upcoming struggles against the kingdom of darkness with several chapters devoted to standing firm.

At the same time, there were some parts of the book that I did not like – mainly the parts where the author gets away from Biblical themes and started speculating about how things will be. For example, Engleman looks at Saint Paul’s words in 2 Thess. 2:3-8 about the ‘one’ who is holding back the antichrist and interprets it as a reference to the Christian Monarchy (ie. as long as there is a Christian king/queen on the throne of the Roman Empire, the antichrist will not be reviled).

Note that for Engleman, the Christian Monarchy starts with St. Constantine in 312 AD and continues to death of the Russian Tsar Nicholas II in 1948. (Moscow is concerned the third “Rome” by the Eastern Orthodox following the destruction of Constantinople, which was the second “Rome”).  This begs the question of what kept the “man of lawlessness” from showing up prior to establishment of the Christian Monarchy in 312 AD?  😕

Luckily, not all Eastern Orthodox scholars interpreted 2 Thess. the way Engleman does – for example, the Father Thomas Hopko (Dean of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary) writes in the introduction of the Ultimate Things that he “would take issue with the author” on this point.

One of the best parts of the book comes in the middle when Engleman is discussing the end time prophesies of Daniel. He just finished talking about the seven “weeks” and the “time, times and half a time” when he wrote:

Given the scripturally defined duration of the world’s “last week,” it might appear that calculating the time of Christ’s return is elementary. Once the Great Tribulation has begun, one need only watch for the specified events, then count down three and one-half years from the defiling of the Jewish temple. Even the Antichrist, presumably, will be mindful of his “forty-two months,” and expect to battle the Lord only on the last day of the last month.

This simple forecast is untrustworthy, however, since it ignores Jesus’ assurance that “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36)….God, being sovereign, controls the timing of everything….The seven years of Daniel’s week may therefore ultimately be vastly shorter or longer then chronological years.

This is a good point to remember when studying the end of the end times.

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