Orthodox America

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

The Editors

As stated in the foregoing article, the Holy Fathers grant that the number of the beast, 666, is open to different interpretations. Two years ago, at the Gethsemane Convent in Juersalem, I heard from Archimandrite Paul the following explanation, which had come from a Russian elder. "Six, six, six - this is when unrighteousness clothes itself in righteousness (nechestiye oblichaetsya v blagochestiye).' Expounding on this interpretation, Fr. Paul explained that it applied not only to the last times but to the entire history of the Christian Church.

"What wisdom there is here. In just three words the elder was able to express such a profound thought. These three words describe the whole warfare that the devil, acting through people, wages against God.  Judas was an apostle, but he concealed great evil in his heart and ultimately betrayed Christ. In the time of Constantine, the priest Arius, a servant of the Church,  sowed heresy and incited a cruel persecution of those who stood fast in the true Faith. In every age one finds wolves in sheep's clothing. In our own century, servants of the godless communist regime were vested as hierarchs, compromising the spiritual integrity of the Church in Russia. Through heretics and through evil people, the devil climbs into the Church like a robber.  Under the Soviets, in a closed meeting of some of the godlesss leaders, one communist zealot cried out, 'We will destroy the Church from within!'

"In the last times will come the most frightful deception of all, when the devil will not only enter into a man, but will take complete possession of him [Antichrist].

"This is not to say that this is the only possible interpretation. I feel, however, that it is genuine. God reveals such mysteries to spiritual people. Our minds, however, are clouded by sin, and for us to try to decipher the meaning of this enigmatic '666' is vain."