The Antichrist and Coming Christian Unity
It will and must happen
Editor’s note: This piece is part of our series on Christian Unity.
There’s disunity in Christendom. There has been since at least the gnostic Cerinthus. Around 100 anno Domini he gained a small following by teaching that Jesus and the Christ were two separate people.
The Great Unity
The good news is that our unhappy disunity will at some point dissolve. The bad news is that the coming reunion is not going to be painless.
The Apostle Peter reminds us of what must someday happen:
But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it, shall be burnt up. … But we look for new heavens and a new earth according to his promises, in which justice dwelleth.
No man knows when. But there is a rich tradition in literature in imagining how the end will come.
Enter Vladimir Sergeyevich Soloviev
One such work is by Vladimir Sergeyevich Soloviev (sometimes spelled Solovyov), a Twentieth Century Russian Orthodox philosopher and theologian. He was also a friend of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He advocated Christian unity through the idea of sobornost. This is the “spiritual community of many jointly living people.”
In his 1900 apocalypse A Short Narrative About Antichrist, he explored our coming final Christian unity. Actually, he spoke of many different unities. (Quotations below are from the Natalie Duddington translation.)
The story opens with Antichrist, a man who, like Satan himself, believes in Christ, but who believes in himself more. With Satan’s dark blessing, Antichrist becomes a master and teacher of self-love. He quickly gains worldwide admiration for his book The Open Way to Universal Peace and Welfare. This global glow is the first unity:
The wonderful writer carried all with him and was acceptable to everyone, so that Christ’s word
were fulfilled: “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” For in order to be received, one must be acceptable.
Soloviev foresaw European history correctly. He has the “European States Union” convene a constituent assembly that “decided to concentrate executive power in the hands of one person.” That one person is Antichrist, who was recognized as the “man of the future.” Antichrist healed the many great secular divisions (which even now surround us). Peace was upon the land.
Christianity had greatly diminished: “There were not more than forty-five million Christians on the whole of the globe.” The missing Christians, i.e. the great apostasy, is the (unfortunate) unity of the second kind.
A Test of Faith
But because of the great falling away, the historical “hostility between” the remaining denominations “had lessened considerably.” The “Roman Catholic hierarchy still had many representatives with an independent position, strong will and indefatigable energy.” Protestantism “freed itself from its extreme negative tendencies whose champions openly passed over to religious indifference and unbelief”; evangelicals evinced “wide erudition with deep religious faith.” Orthodoxy “had the joy of being united to the best elements among the Old Believers.”
The regenerated Church, while not increasing in numbers, grew in spiritual power, which showed itself very clearly in the struggle against extremist sects with a demonic and satanic tinge that had multiplied both among the masses and in society.
This was the beginning of the great reunion.
Antichrist held all but the faithful remnant in his sway. He despised their recalcitrance. So in Jerusalem he assembled leaders of all denominations. Chief among these was Pope Peter II, the Orthodox Elder John, rumored to be “the apostle John the Divine who had never died and of late appeared openly,” and the Evangelical and “most learned German theologian, Professor Ernst Pauli.”
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Antichrist used Christian disunity as a powerful argument.
“Dear Christians,” he said, “… Unfortunately you have been broken up into various sects and parties since time immemorial and perhaps you have no longer a common aim. But if you cannot agree between yourselves I hope to bring agreement between all your parties by showing them all equal love and equal readiness to satisfy the true desire of each.”
Offering himself as the great uniter and ultimate “spiritual authority,” many came to his side.
Only our trio and a small band refused to bend their knee. They insisted that Antichrist “confess now here before us Jesus Christ the Son of God.” John and Peter are struck dead. Pauli escapes and secrets the bodies away to the desert heights of Jericho.
And on “the evening of the fourth day” they come back to life.
Elder John said: “Well, my dear children, so we are not parted after all. And this is what I tell you now: it is time we fulfilled Christ’s prayer about His disciples that they should be one, as He and the Father are one. For the sake of this unity in Christ, my children, let us honor our beloved brother Peter. Let him pasture Christ’s sheep at the last. There, brother!” — and he embraced Peter.
Soloviev writes, “That was how the union of the churches took place on a dark night, in a high and solitary place.” There was only left the last final and greatest unity of which the Apostle Peter wrote. And that’s where the tale may, someday, truly begin.