End of history
Fr. Sergei Bulgakov
An individual eschatology of death and of the world beyond the tomb has partially replaced the general eschatology of the second coming. From time to time the sentiment of waiting for the Christ Who comes, the prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus,” burns with a new flame in human souls and illumines them with a glimmer of another world.
End of history and the joy of the future age
Then I moved, as if by some inner command, forward, from this world there — to God. I rushed with speed and freedom, devoid of any heaviness. I knew with some kind of authentic inner feeling that I had already passed our time and the present generation, that the next generation had passed, and the end had already begun to glow behind it. The inexpressible lights of the approach and presence of God lit up, the light became brighter, the joy was inexplicable:
"It is not for a man to speak".
Then the afterlife and the joy of the next century were revealed to me, along with the continuation and end of history.
Words from the first Luminary Prayer performed during the All-Night Vigil.
History has its end
The life of the world does not end with history. It is followed be a new aeon: meta-history.
But this history also has an end, to which both the Old Testament and the New Testamtnt eschatologies bear witness. … The life of the world does not end with history. It is followed be a new aeon: meta-history.
The time of the coming of the
of this creation, beyond which the transfiguration of the world will take place, is known only to God. The coming of the end is a new action of God upon the world upon the world, analogous to its creation.
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind”
“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness”
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away;
and there was no more sea”
The world created by God is fulfilled by man. Man creatively fulfills the tasks entrusted to him by God in creation. Such a creative completion of the creation entrusted by God to the humanization of the world by man is required for the appearance of the fullness of the universe, to achieve the end of history.
Having created man in the fulness of his potential tasks, God entrusts to him their fulfillment. In this sense,
the world created by God is completed by man,
not as a creator
"out of nothing"
of course, but as the accomplisher of God's design. Man accomplishes this mission according to the modalities of creaturely creative activity. Without this accomplishement the fullness of the universe cannot be manifested, and the universe cannot attain its end and its ultimate transfiguration, the passage in the new state of the future age.
Hisotry is a certain
of becoming being. History is not a bad infinity.
First of all, history is not a bad infinity, a negative eternity, without begining or end. One cannot apply to history the antinomy of time and eternity that holds for all of creation in its relation to God. History takes place within the
of creation. It belongs to
which is on the threshold of
"the life of the future age".
History has a beginning and an end.
Chasms bound it on both sides: The beginning is bounded by the creation of man;
the end is bounded by the beginning of the new time and the future age. In this sense, hisotry is
of becoming being
that is included in being in a definite way: an additional creation of the world within itself, as it were.
The life of the world does not end with history. It is followed by a new aeon: meta-history.
God created this world on an unshakable foundation and He gave the proper life to this world.
One cannot annul this proper life of the world, whose foundation has been laid by God, by conceiving of a kind of divine arbitrariness which does not take into account the proper work of God Himself, who created this world on an unshakable foundation. “Learn a parable of the fig tree”
“let both grow together until the harvest”
History matures for its end
A consequence of this positive content of
is the fact that the latter is
a closed whole.
As the image of God, man is inexhaustible as the image of God in its dynamics, in its infinite development and manifestation, in the variations of its themes. But these themes or tasks are determinate and, in this sense, exhaustible in their content. They are a closed circle, a positive infinity, in contradiction to
indeterminacy, boundlessness, and thus contentlessness, inasmuch as it is deprived of the determinateness of content. This determinate possession of content, the thematics of history, is precisely what makes history self-contained. History cannot arbitrarily or randomly break off at any point;
it must end inwardly,
mature for its own end.
“Now learn a parable of the fig tree;
When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh”
God's actions correspond to the age of the world itself, the times and seasons of its organic being.
The end of this world and its transfiguration are depicted both as God's action upon the world and as the ripe fruit of the world's life, comparable to a butterfly flying out of its cocoon or a chick breaking through its shell. There is no incompatibility or contradiction here. God's actions correspond to the age of the world itself, the times and seasons of its organic being. But the history of the world and its ripening toward its end are not determined only by its organic development. Human freedom and creative activity participate in this history. The humanization of the world and of man himself, the manifestation of the fullness of powers implanted in his humanity, is man's creative act over himself and over the world.
Man is not a thing or only an object of creation;
he is also its subject. Creative freedom is interwoven into the world's being, together with its organic nature.
In the XIV chapter of Revelation, an angel commands:
"Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth;
for her grapes are fully ripe"
(Rev 14, 18).
The ripening of the grapes described here corresponds to the 1000-year kingdom. But
this is not the end of history and the Last Judgment
(which, according to
is accomplished by the Father:
This image of the ripening of berries can be applied to the whole outcome of history, including the deeds of both the righteous and the sinners. However, the following words refer predominantly, if not directly exclusively, to the latter:
"and the angel cast his sickle to the ground"
(once again here you can see confirmation that
"sitting on a cloud"
is only an angel, but not the Son of God, but, as it were, His representative or messenger
(Mat XIII, 41):
"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity").
"And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it
into the great winepress of the wrath of God."
This image, obviously, means God's judgment on people, which also corresponds to the events of human history, expressing a general historical crisis. However,
this is not the end of history and the Last Judgment
(which, according to
is accomplished by the Father:
ff.). Rather, it is a historical judgment, expressed in external catastrophes and internal upheavals after the sixth seal:
In contrast, it is depicted as the harvest of grapes, which takes place in the winepress of God's wrath. What is its relationship to the Millennium?
Does it happen before it or after it?
Such a ratio is
established here, just as in connection with
the earthquake of Chapter VI.
Egzegetically, there is no need to assume it, since both are parallel, although correlative, internally interconnected events, however, each having its own origin: the first in the judgments of God in history, the second in the special action of the power of God in the first resurrection. One can only hypothetically state, admit that one precedes the other.
The thousand-year kingdom is a positive goal for history, its inner ripening to a good end.
[of the thousand-year kingdom]
is an expression of the Christian notion of progress, where the latter is liberated from its limited naturalistic conception. … This idea grounds the validity of history with its supreme achievements in this world;
moreover, it presupposes and commands these achievements. The end of history is not due to an arbitrary
deus ex machina,
to a divine act of violence that interrupts the contentless bad infinity of human history. On the contrary, a positive goal is set for history: its
inner ripening to a good end,
although this end comes convulsively and catastrophically.
In general, the millennium is a symbol of historical creativity.
The thousand-year kingdom makes
the end of history, although it itself is not yet that end, but only its harbinger.
Thus, history does not end naturally but breaks off, as with an ellipsis, which corresponds to its transcensus into the life of the future age. In this sense, the millennium is like the line of the horizon, which constantly recedes as one approaches it. This
character of the millennium as a moving goal makes it unattainable but always sought.
Thus, we return to the idea that, besides being a specific epoch or episode of history, the millennium is also where the continuous revelation of the Church in history mysteriously abides. In this sense, one can say that the millennium is repeated in history, and this repetition reaches its greatest intensity in history's creative epochs, in their principal themes and creative achievements. In general, the millennium is a symbol of historical creativity. But this does not contradict the idea that all of these diverse goals and achievements lead to a higher synthesis: the thousand-year kingdom in the strict sense. This kingdom makes
the end of history, although it itself is not yet that end, but only its harbinger. The end arrives by a transcendent act of the Father's will.
The tragedy of the last battle
The fundamental, guiding idea of this historiosophy is that the history of the Church is not a peaceful
that leads to a harmonious resolution within the limits of this time, but a battle and a tragedy that end in a universal-historical catastrophe and a universal fire. And only out of this is the phoenix of the future age born. And the
of world history consists of the growth in intensity of this spiritual antagonism and combat.*)
This is history growing toward its maturity.
Can we characterize as pessimism this philosophy of history as the
"philosophy of the end"?
By no means. On the contrary, it is the most vital and energetic of worldviews. But neither is it optimism, for,
within the limits
of history itself, there is no resolution for this tragedy. It is true that, as the end approaches, the dawn becomes brighter and brighter, illuminating the heavens, and the sensitive ear already hears hymns of victory coming from there. But, down below, the black armies of Gog and Magog amass for the last time, encircling the camp of the saints, preparing for the battle of Armageddon
And, in response to this, the armies of heaven and earth gather around the one sitting on the white horse, the one whose name is
"The Word of God"
until the arrival of the end of history and the universal resurrection and judgment.
like Marx and the socialists, see in this struggle only an economic content, whereas it is actually fought for ultimate spiritual values.
God may reveal «the times or the seasons»
The end of this age is God's business, a determination of the Father's will:
"Of that day and hour
[it is said in the anthropomorphic language of our time]
knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven
[neither the Son, according to
Mark 13:32], but my Father only"
"It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power"
This means that the end of the age is due to a creative act of God, which depends on the power of the Father, the Almighty, the Creator.
Only God Himself, through his prophets, can reveal the end to us. Christ, as the God-man, bore witness to it in accomplishing His prophetic, humanly kenotic ministry, in the course of which He Himself, in His self-diminution, did not know the time of the end
although, after His glorification, He already knew it. The Apocalypse powerfully bears witness to this:
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him"
It is appropriate to think, perhaps, not about the end, but rather about the beginning of history.
… not only is history no longer standing before a tearing end, but it is not yet internally finished, and therefore the history of the Church still has a new, unrevealed future ahead of it, and in the face of this future it is appropriate to think, perhaps, not about the end, but rather about the beginning of history.