Russia's religious revival is creating a symphony between church and state in Russia, both working with similar aims. This was foreseen by Bible students who have been looking for these events since the 1860s and even predicted the religious revival of Russia when atheistic communism was in full force during the cold war.
This past week Canada’s McGill University International Review published an article entitled “Secular Policy, Ecclesiastical Practice: Church and State in Putin’s Russia.” This caught our eye as we considered the Bible in the News. The article stated:
Orthodoxy was considered integral to ‘Russification’, the process of homogenizing the ethnic and religious diversity of the 19th-century Russian Empire’s inhabitants. Comparatively, atheism was aggressively promoted throughout the Soviet era in an effort to rid the political climate of any potential counterrevolutionary institutions. Religious institutions were seen as yet another bourgeois tool to exploit the proletariat and therefore needed to be dismantled. With religiously reinvigorated Christianity coming to the forefront at the brink of the 21st-century, Russia’s state - Russian Orthodox Church relationship is steadily strengthening.
The changes that have been taking place in Russia have seen the growth of the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church. The article continued:
Many Russian Orthodox Church clergy have supported the idea that some scholars define as ‘Symphonia’: Church and state harmony. Symphonia intends to represent “internal cohesion of one single human society,” with the governing body responsible for human affairs and the clergy responsible for spiritual matters.
Former spokesman for the Russian
The concept of the infusion of Church and State is foreign to the western world following the French Revolution. However, in Russia – there is a different outlook, as Vsevolod Chaplin, the former spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, and Archpriest of the Moscow Parish, St. Nicholas in the Three Hills” stated in an interview:
Most of the churches here in Moscow and in all of Russia, were lost in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
We were very much oppressed during the Soviet rule, now the church is free and what is even more important we do have an opportunity nowadays to try to influence different spheres of the life of the society.
The very idea of separation of Church and state is alien to the Orthodox civilization. It’s a peculiarity of the west.
Professor for Religious Studies
Putin’s embrace of the Church is identified by Boris Falikov, Professor, Center for Religious Studies at the Russian State University who stated:
“There is a kind of an agreement between Putin’s administration and the Patriarchy. The Church is still popular among the majority of the Russian People and it makes him legitimate, you know, in their eyes. He’s supported by the church, it’s good. At a certain time he decided to turn to the right. It was his famous speech in Munich, when he said that “We are surrounded by enemies, we are betrayed by the Western Countries,” and it was the beginning of the ideology of the fortress. And that’s how the ideology of traditional values came to the surface.”
What is more interesting is what the Bible has to say.
What the Bible Has to Say
The scripture paints a picture of a kingdom of men, united, and standing in opposition to the Kingdom of God in the latter days. The interpretation given by Daniel points this out:
“But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days…” (Daniel 2:28)
The vision was given to tell the king “what shall be in the latter days” stands as a picture of the kingdom of men that would be united as is indicated by its destruction:
“Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:35)
The statement of the image being “broken in pieces together” indicates a unification of the various parts. The word together is the Hebrew word “echad” meaning “as one”. It is the same phrase used of the symbolic “man of one” in Daniel 10:5 which stands in opposition to the image of the kingdom of men.
The image of the kingdom of man in the latter days is fractured, as is evidenced by the description of the feet:
“And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.” (Daniel 2:42–43)
The various metals, although resistant to cohesion are assembled together at the time of the end and standing on the feet. What unites them is the religious element of the Babylonian head. Remember the words of Revelation. The latter-day beast is directed by a woman who is identified with the head of gold:
“And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Revelation 17:5)
The name Babylon the Great is emblazoned in her forehead, and the extent of her career is explained:
“And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:18)
Russia’s Spiritualization Foreseen in the 1860s and 1970s
Author Graham Pearce writing of Russia's religious
revival at the height of atheistic communism.
Reflecting on this, Graham Pearce, a Christadelphian writer living at the height of the Cold War, published a booklet entitled “Russia, The Vatican and the Invasion of Israel” in 1970. This is what he foresaw based on the prophecies:
One other useful feature emerges from considering the Image as erected complete at this time. The Image has a golden Babylonian head. The head is the most important part of a man; it directs, it rules the body. The Bible speaks in clear terms about a Babylon that “reigns over the kings of the earth” when Christ comes. So we have the Revelation filling out the feature of the head of the image. Babylon the Great in its religious aspect has the Papacy at its head and it must therefore play an important part in the erection of this Image on the feet phase of Europe…. The great confederacy coming down upon Israel has a religious element in it, it comes as a crusade. Also this Babylonian Great head of the Image is in line with what we have already seen in Daniel chapter 7 that the 4th beast, as it stands in time of Judgment, has not only brazen feet to stamp with – the military power – but has its horn with Papal eyes and mouth, to speak “great words” against the ancient of Days….
This was written at the height of atheistic Communism’s grip on Russia, called at that time the Soviet Union. Graham Pearce went on to state:
“The idea put forward by several that the Papacy is soon to disappear and be replaced by an atheistic Super Power is not true. There is plenty of atheism about, but so it has been for a long time. Socialists from the time of the French Revolution have generally been atheists, as are the communist part in Russia today. But the Bible shows that a form of Christianity will hold sway in the end. The Russian and the Vatican systems are very similar and will coalesce quite easily. The Vatican is no more and no less “atheist” than her counterpart Babylon of Old. Her outward façade of Christianity is no index to her real self. Russia has long conceived the idea of establishing a “third Rome”, and in combining with the Vatican will succeed.
The words of Ezekiel define the alliance which comes against Israel in the latter days in religious terms:
“Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.” (Ezekiel 38:7)
The word “company” is the Hebrew word “qahal” defined as “a congregation, convocation, assembly for war or religious purposes.” The word in the Septuagint is “synagogue”.
Daniel the prophet identifies the career of the King of The North, (military leader of the Image). The quest is the restoration of Constantinople, but continues on into Israel where he ultimately stakes his claim:
“And at the time of the end… the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries (Turkey), and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land (Israel), and many countries shall be overthrown… And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.” (Daniel 11:40–45)
The expectation of Bible students has been the arising of a religious Russia that will lead a crusade against Turkey first, to reclaim St. Sophia’s and then “overflow” and pass over into “the glorious holy land” as Daniel predicts. John Thomas, a Bible student wrote about this 1868:
“The power causing falsehood, or False-Prophetism, to prosper must hold Jerusalem at the crisis of the accomplishment of the indignation. By False-Prophetism, I mean, papalism. Hence, the Sultan must be ejected, that a dynasty patronizing a High Priest who forbids to marry, may come in. When, therefore, the Czar gets possession of Constantinople, he will not be hostile to the Pope. On the contrary, he will honor and acknowledge him, and be the enemy of the Holy Land.
But when the Autocrat gains Constantinople, and Russianizes Italy and the West; and having superseded the Ottoman regime in Asia, comes as Gog to invade the Holy Land and to besiege Jerusalem, the Little Horn of the Goat will again represent the powers of the who dominion briefly united under one chief, and he the proudest that has ever exalted and magnified himself above all rulers upon the earth.”
Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I
"Constantinople is "Holy Ground"
It is interesting to hear what the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has to say about the plight of Orthodox Christians in Turkey. He is head of the 300,000,000 strong Orthodox Church and lives in a complex of 9 buildings, tightly squeezed into less than an acre, in Istanbul. He carries the title of Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome. He was interviewed on the television program 60 Minutes, where he was asked by a reporter,
I think a lot of people would want to know, Your All-Holiness, why a leader of so many millions of Orthodox Christians in the world lives in a country that is 99% Muslim.
“We are here because before this country becomes a Muslim country. Much earlier, since ever, since the very beginning… of the foundation of our Church, since the foundation of Constantinople.
We feel that our mission is here, as it has been for seventeen entire centuries. I wonder why the authorities of our country do not expect this history.”
For us this is the continuation of Jerusalem. It is equally sacred and holy land. We prefer to stay here, even crucified sometimes, because in the gospel it is written that it is given to us, not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for Christ.
The Eastern Orthodox still view Constantinople as “holy ground.” The Bible predicts they will seize it once again.
The Resurrection of Religious Russia
The resurrection of a religious Russia is not a regional sideshow, but a central plank in the administration of Russia.
The Political Theology Network published an article in July of 2018 which stated:
In December 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the Episcopal Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in honor of the hundredth anniversary of the reinstatement of the Russian patriarchate.
In his speech, Putin praised the Orthodox Church for its contributions to Russia. At the end of the twentieth century, which he called “a time of spiritual rebirth and a huge growth of the Church’s authority in society,” it “supported people, gave hope and helped us to acquire a moral and spiritual direction in life.” Putin expressed hope for the continued collaboration between the Church and the Russian government, and honored the church for its understanding of “Christian civilization.”
The Daily Signal published an article in February, under the title “How Putin Uses Russian Orthodoxy to Grow His Empire.”
When Vladimir Putin rose to the presidency of Russia in 2000, he inherited the remains of a once-fearsome communist-atheist imperial state.
In the intervening 19 years, he has transformed Russia back into an imperial power with global ambitions. One of his key tools in that transformation has been the Russian Orthodox Church.
The article went on to state:
Putin has set himself up as a defender of traditional morality—for instance, by opposing homosexuality, penalizing divorce, and supporting the “traditional family.” He loves to pose for photo-ops with the Russian Patriarch Kirill, and has even published calendars of himself featuring traditional liturgical celebrations.
The speed and force of this revival was highlighted by Konstantin Malofeev, (Chairman of the Tsargrad TV, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Society for the Development of Russian Historical Education, and Chairman of the Doubled Headed Eagle, and founder of St. Basil the Great charitable foundation which is responsible for constructing, restoring and financially supporting the development and growth of the Russian Orthodox Church). Every week a staggering 19 Russian churches are either built or restored in Russia. This is what he said:
25,000 newly built or restored churches, 800 monasteries, millions of new believers, we are on another wave, another trend. If in Europe the crescendo goes down and values are going down, in Russia we have moral trend back to Christian roots.
The publication International Policy Digest confirmed this when it stated:
Putin continues to emphasize the need for God in Russian society, in his words and in his negotiations with the Russian Orthodox Church. However, it’s important to note that Putin’s encouragement of religious growth through the promotion of the Russian Orthodox Church is not without political benefit. As of February 2016, Russia had 34,764 parishes. With the 200 Church Program, this number has only been increasing.
Though protests for new church construction are popping up across the country, the level of Russian Orthodox Church influence is increasingly resembling its status in the days of the Russian Empire.
Religion is declining in the West, but not so in Russia. It is the largest Christian country by population in Europe according to the PEW Research Center.
The Daily Signal discussed the Kremlin’s cozy relationship with religion:
The Kremlin’s use of Orthodox Christianity makes perfect sense, given religious trends in the region. Orthodox Christianity has enjoyed a marked revival in Eastern Europe in the last two decades. In nine of Russia’s regional neighboring states—Moldova, Greece, Armenia, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Belarus—more than 70 percent of people identify as Orthodox, according to current Pew Research results.
This revival of Orthodoxy coincides with pro-Russian sentiment. Pew Research notes that in the nine former Soviet nations that are majority-Orthodox—except for Ukraine—more than half of those surveyed agree that “a strong Russia is necessary to balance the influence of the West.”
Russia is the largest Christian Country in Europe by Populatin
Pew Research concludes:
Many Orthodox Christians—and not only Russian Orthodox Christians—express pro-Russia views. … Orthodox identity is tightly bound up with national identity, feelings of pride and cultural superiority, support for linkages between national churches and governments, and views of Russia as a bulwark against the West.
Of remarkable note has been the moves bring the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches back together again under Putin’s watch, but that is a story for another day.
As we watch Russia resurrecting its religious roots in fulfillment of Biblical prophecies and of the hopes and expectations of bible students going back at least 170 hundred years, we are reminded of the words of the prophet Amos:
“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, But he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
In these last days, on the dawn of the greatest upheaval the world will ever see, our God draws back the curtain in the political world, and allows us to witness the Bible living in the News. As we see these events taking place we are encouraged to prepare ourselves for that great day when we are promised:
“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2:26–28)
For the Bible in the News, this has been Jonathan Bowen joining you.