Written by Vladimir Moss



     When the Lord was about to ascend to heaven in glory, the disciples came to Him and asked: “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1.6). This shows that the disciples before Pentecost were still earthly men thinking about earthly things. They were about to witness one of the greatest events in history: the ascension of the King into His Heavenly Kingdom, taking human nature with Him to sit at the right hand of the Father. But their minds were still occupied with politics: when would the earthly kingdom of Israel be free from the Roman yoke?

     The Lord’s reply was not crushing, but it contained a veiled rebuke: “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1.7). The destinies of earthly kingdoms are in the hand of God; we should not be over-concerned about them. We should place our sights first of all on the Heavenly Kingdom. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6.33) – at the time and in the manner that is pleasing to God. And if the choice is placed before us of having the Heavenly Kingdom or an earthly, then we should unhesitatingly choose the former.

      Today the world is possessed by political passions. Even the Orthodox are prepared to go to war with their fellow Orthodox for a plot of land. But the Lord rejected the revanchist dreams of the Jews, and declared (again at His ascension): “All power hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28.18). All power means just that: power over heaven and earth, angels and men, believers and unbelievers, souls and bodies. Jesus Christ is the supreme King of kings and Lord of lords. There is nothing created that is not ruled by Him. So it is not up to us to scrap over plots and kingdoms: these have been placed in the Father’s authority.

     Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers make a particular distinction between the power that Christ wields in the spiritual realm, and in the secular realm. His power is supreme in both, but is wielded in different ways, corresponding to their different natures. The spiritual realm is the “inner Kingdom”, the Kingdom that is “not of this world”. In it Christ rules in an inner, mystical way those who through faith have voluntarily submitted to His dominion, declaring Him to be their King and God in Holy Baptism, and promising to obey all His commandments. The secular realm, on the other hand, is the “outer kingdom”, the kingdom “of this world”, which Christ rules through His providential power. As Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria writes: “’All is delivered’ to the Son by the Father (Luke 10.22) in that all is to be subject to the Son. There are two ways in which God rules over all. First, He rules over all independently of their own will [the outer kingdom]. And second, He rules over those who willingly subject themselves to Him [the inner Kingdom]. Hence I can say: God is my Master independently of my will, inasmuch as He is my Creator. But He is also my Master whenever I, as a grateful servant, fulfil His will by working to keep the commandments.”[1]

     Divine Providence uses the whole of nature, rational and irrational, to attain Its ends. So the kingdom of this world can be said to embrace the whole of nature. The State is that part of the outer kingdom that is organized by human beings and has the highest degree of organization. The Church is the inner kingdom on earth. Although having a visible presence and organization on earth, its essence is not of this world, being the Kingdom of Grace. The inner Kingdom of the Church ministers to the inner needs of man, his salvation for eternity. The outer kingdom of the State ministers to his external needs - food and shelter and security from external enemies.

     “One must distinguish two Kingdoms of Christ,” writes M.V. Zyzykin, “and consequently two of His powers. ‘The Son of God, having received human nature into the unity of His Divine Hypostasis, is called a king,’ says St. Gregory the Theologian, ‘but in one sense He is king as the Almighty and king of both the willing and the unwilling, and in the other, as leading to obedience and submitting to His kingdom those who have willingly recognised Him as king’ (quoted in Metropolitan Macarius, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 2, pp. 178-179). In the first case the kingdom of Christ is without end and all three Persons of the All-Holy Trinity participate in Providence. In the second it will end with the leading of all the true believers to salvation, when Jesus Christ hands over the Kingdom to God and the Father, when He will annul every authority and force, that God may be all in all (I Corinthians 14.18). The power of which it is said: ‘all power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’ was handed over by Him to nobody. He remains the Highest Teacher (Matthew 23.8), the Highest Priest (Hebrews 7.24-25) and the highest Ruler of His kingdom, the Pastor of pastors (I Peter 5.4) 

     “The Church is the visible form of the Kingdom of Christ, its realisation on earth, by which it is destined to embrace the world (Mark 16.15-16; Matthew 28.19-20; Luke 24.47; John 20.23); it is the kingdom that is not of this world (John 18.36). It is a special sphere in which the relationship of man with God is developed (Matthew 22.21; Luke 20.25); Church power by the spiritual character of its commission does not consist in mastery and lordship, which are characteristic of earthly power, but in service (Matthew 20.25-27; Mark 9.35).”[2]

      The relationship between the two kingdoms was highlighted during Christ’s trial before Pilate. While recognizing Pilate’s power as lawful, the Lord at the same time insists that both Pilate’s and Caesar’s power derived from God, the true King and Lawgiver. For “you could have no power at all against Me,” He says, “unless it had been given to you from above” (John 19.11). These words, paradoxically, both limit Caesar’s power, as being subject to God’s, and strengthen it, by indicating that it has God’s seal and blessing in principle (if not in all its particular manifestations). Nor is this conclusion contradicted by His earlier words: “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18.36). For, as Blessed Theophylact writes: “He said: ‘My Kingdom is not of this world’, and again: ‘It is not from here’, but He did not say: It is not in this world and not here. He rules in this world, takes providential care for it and administers everything according to His will. But His Kingdom is ‘not of this world’, but from above and before the ages, and ‘not from here’, that is, it is not composed from the earth, although it has power here”.[3]

      Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich writes: “Let no-one imagine that Christ the Lord does not have imperial power over this world because He says to Pilate: ‘My Kingdom is not of this world.’ He who possesses the enduring has power also over the transitory. The Lord speaks of His enduring Kingdom, independent of time and of decay, unrighteousness, illusion and death. Some man might say: ‘My riches are not on paper, but in gold.’ But does he who has gold not have paper also? Is not gold as paper? The Lord, then, does not say to Pilate that He is not a king, but, on the contrary, says that He is a higher king than all kings, and His Kingdom is greater and stronger and more enduring than all earthly kingdoms. He refers to His pre-eminent Kingdom, on which depend all kingdoms in time and in space…”[4]

      The kingdoms of time and space will be ruled well and distributed justly only if men recognize who their true, pre-eminent King is. That King has told His subjects to obey the powers that be, even if they are not Christians: “for there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13.1). However, he has placed limits on that obedience. Authorities must not be obeyed if they command something that is contrary to the Law of God (Acts 4.19). And they must not be obeyed if their authority actually comes from the devil – for there is an authority that receives its authority, not from God, but from the devil (Revelation 13.2).

      Perhaps the greatest tragedy of contemporary Orthodoxy is that the majority of the Orthodox in the Eastern European homeland of Orthodoxy eagerly follow after “authorities” that derive their power from the devil. The Soviet Union, in the consciousness of the Russian Orthodox Church, was created, not by God, but by the devil; which is why the Church formally anathematized it in 1918, forbidding her children “to have anything to do with these outcasts of humanity”. But the best men of Russia were killed or exiled, and those who remained, in their great majority, submitted to the evil one. They followed him as he destroyed the Orthodox monarchies of Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia, and installed evil regimes from the evil one there. They follow him now as he attempts to re-establish the Soviet Union through the invasion of Georgia and the Ukraine.

     As the cross is blasphemously portrayed within the hammer and sickle, the people go mad with revanchist passion and murder members of the same Church in the name of God and Holy Russia. And all because they love the earthly kingdom more than the Heavenly, and so are prepared to die for the former while betraying the latter. They reject the true King, the Lord Jesus Christ, while following unquestioningly the rebels against His power who are under the anathema of the Holy Church.

      Once, when the Lord and His disciples were passing through Samaria, they asked permission “to command fire to come down from heaven and consume” (Luke 9.54) the Samaritans, whom the Jews despised both because they were heretics and because the land they occupied had once belonged to them.  But the Lord turned on them and said: “You know not of what spirit you are” (9.55). The same could be said of the contemporary “zealots of Orthodoxy” who want to destroy both Ukraine and the West, despising their (undoubted) corruption – they know not of what spirit they are. Thus Dmitri Kiselev even boasted on Russian television that Russian missiles could reduce the West to ashes. And yet it was the Samaritans who were the first nation to receive the Gospel after the Resurrection, while most of the Jews rejected it. Similarly today, it may well be that “the first will be last, and the last first”, and those who boast of their Orthodoxy against the heterodox will be counted among the hypocrites…

      Peace and unity will not be restored to the Orthodox commonwealth of nations until the people cast out the usurping agents of the evil one, and are themselves purged of the evil spirit of revanchist nationalism. This will happen only when they understand that the earthly kingdom must not be loved above the Heavenly Kingdom. For the earthly is only the “vestibule”, as St. John of Kronstadt put it, to the Heavenly. True patriotism can only be founded on true faith and morality; without true faith and morality, patriotism becomes a form of idolatry. For “where the faith has fallen,” said New Hieromartyr John Vostorgov, “and where morality has fallen, there can be no place for patriotism, there is nothing for it to hold on to, for everything that is the most precious in the homeland then ceases to be precious.”[5]


May 16/29, 2014.

The Ascension of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

[1] Bl. Theophylact, The Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke, House Springs, Mo.: Chrysostom Press, p. 114.

[2]Zyzykin, Patriarkh Nikon, Warsaw: Synodal Press, 1931, p. 231.

[3] Blessed Theophylact, On John 18.36.

[4] Bishop Nikolai, The Prologue from Ochrid, Birmingham: Lazarica Press, 1986, part III, September 30, pp. 395-396.

[5] Vostorgov, in S. Fomin & T. Fomina, Rossia pered Vtorym Prishestviem (Russia before the Second Coming), Sergiev Posad, 1993, p. 400.

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