The Holy Gospel tells us that the Pharisees, dissatisfied with the miracles the Lord performed, asked Him for a special miracle: a sign from heaven (Mark 8:11). The request for such a sign, according to some strange notions of signs and wonders, was repeated many times, as the Lord testified: this kind wants signs (Mark 8:12). The Sadducees also took part in the Pharisees’ request, differing so much in their beliefs (Matt. 16: 1). Sometimes the people expressed a desire to see a sign from heaven. For example, after the miraculous multiplication of the five loaves and the saturation of the great multitude of five thousand men, without women and children, the eyewitnesses of this miracle participating in this meal said to the Lord: What figure do you give us to see and believe? What are you doing? Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat” (John 6: 30-31). They saw insufficiently the wonderful multiplication of the loaves in the hands of the Savior: it became quiet, with holy humility, which permeated all the actions of the God-man, and they needed a spectacle, they needed an effect *. They had to cover the sky with thick clouds, thunder and lightning, and the loaves fell from the air. Such was the character of the request for a miracle made by the Jewish high priests and chiefs of the people to the God-man, when He was pleased to be crucified. And the chief priests mocked together with the scribes and Pharisees and elders, saying, Save others; but he cannot save himself. If He is the King of Israel, let Him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in Him (Matt. 27: 41-42).
They acknowledge the miracles performed by the Lord, but at the same time they laugh at them and thus essentially reject them; and rejecting the miracles bestowed by God’s mercy, they seek a miracle of their own whim and discretion, a miracle which, if performed, would destroy the purpose of the God-man’s coming to earth, and then the redemption of men would not follow.
Herod was among those who wished to see a miracle of the Lord with which they intended to satisfy their curiosity, frivolity, and recklessness (Luke 23: 8). He needed a sign to have a good time. When he did not get what he wanted, he showered the Lord with ridicule, which gave him a minute of entertainment. What does this general request for miracles from the God-man, expressed by so many different people, and connected at the same time with contempt for the astonishing miracles performed by the God-man, mean? Such a request is an expression of carnal wisdom about miracles.
What does the term carnal wisdom mean? This is the way of thinking about God and everything spiritual, which is borrowed from people in their state of fall, not from the Word of God. The property of enmity and opposition to God, with which the carnal wisdom is infected and overflowing, is especially clearly expressed in the request for miracles from the Godman according to the notions of deceptive reason, in case of carelessness, rejection and condemnation of the miracles performed by the Godman. kindness. And He did them, being God’s power and God’s wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24).
The request of a miracle from the Godman was a grave sin, it was based on the concepts of carnal wisdom. Hearing this bold, blasphemous request, the God-man sighed with His Spirit and said: what does this race want a figure for? I tell you the truth, no figure of this kind will be given. And leaving them, he passed away. (Mark 8: 12-13)
There is joy in heaven for every repentant sinner, but also the opposite – the ungodly mourn the fall of every man and the rejection of repentance by the sinner  (Luke 15:10). In a gracious contemplation of God’s infinite goodness to mankind, in a contemplation of God’s benevolence for the salvation of all men, the great Macarius decided to say that the most holy and dispassionate God is filled with his characteristic weeping for human destruction. This cry, which transcends our notions, is not alien to the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God, who dwelt in man, intercedes for him (for the man in whom he dwelt) with unspeakable sighs (Rom. 8:26). Such a sigh caused the Son of God to ask for a miracle, a request proud and insane. Sighing with His Spirit, He said: what does this race want a figure for? This question was God’s answer to the hostile request for a sign. What a deep cry is heard, God’s cry is in this answer! It seems to express bewilderment caused by the audacity and absurdity of such a request! It shows the loss of hope for the salvation of the people who made this request, contrary to the Spirit of the Giver of salvation! Marked with carnal wisdom and stubbornly abiding in it, as sick incurably, the Lord leaves them – hands them over to themselves, hands them over to destruction, which they have freely accepted and carried within themselves. And leaving them gone. It is true: Carnal wisdom is death (Rom. 8: 6). It is characteristic of the dead not to feel that they are dead, it is characteristic of the carnal
it is wise not to understand and not to feel human doom. Due to the lack of consciousness of his doom, he does not feel the need to revive, and on the basis of his deceptive, false consciousness of life has rejected and rejects real life – God.
Could there be a special authenticity of the sign from heaven – because those who wanted it, that is why they wanted it, attributing such authenticity to it. Can it be concluded that the sign from heaven is necessarily a sign from God? The opposite is seen from the Divine Scriptures. The very expression sign from heaven is too vague. Then they believed, and even now most of the people unfamiliar with the sciences, refer to the sky what is done in the air and in the air. For example, the sun, the moon, the stars are considered to be in the sky, while they are actually moving in space. The rain, the thunder, the lightning (James 5:18) are called celestial phenomena, but in fact these phenomena take place in the air, in the earth’s atmosphere and certainly belong to the earth. In the Candle. Scripture tells that by the action of the devil, God’s fire fell from heaven, burned the sheep and the boys and devoured them (John 1:16). Apparently this fire was formed in the air, just as lightning is formed in it. Simon the Magi amazed the blinded people with miracles, who considered the satanic power in them to be the great power of God (Acts 8:10). Simon was especially astonished at the Roman idolaters when he declared to the assembled crowd that he was a god, that he would ascend to heaven, and suddenly began to rise into the air. This is what the blessed Simeon Metaphrastus tells us, who borrowed his story from the ancient Christian writers. A great calamity is the lack of true knowledge of God in man: then people accept the works of the devil as the works of God.
Before the Second Coming of Christ, when Christianity, spiritual knowledge and reasoning will be reduced to the extreme, false christs and false prophets will appear among the people and show great numbers and miracles to seduce, if possible, the elect (Matt. 24:24). The antichrist himself will perform many miracles and with them will amaze and satisfy the carnal wisdom and ignorance: he will give them a sign from heaven, which they seek and long for. His appearance – says St. Apostle. Paul – by the action of Satan, will be with all power and with omens and false miracles, and with every unrighteous seduction those who perish because they have not accepted the love of truth as their salvation (2 Thess. 6:10). Those who do not understand and are overwhelmed by carnal wisdom, seeing these miracles, will not think at all and will immediately accept them because of the affinity of their spirit with theirs and according to their blindness will recognize them and confess the action of Satan as a great manifestation of God’s power. . The Antichrist will be accepted very quickly and recklessly. People will not understand that his miracles have no good, reasonable purpose, no definite meaning, that they are alien to the truth, full of lies, that they are a monstrous, vicious, meaningless acting that tries to amaze, to led to bewilderment and self-forgetfulness, to seduce, to deceive, to captivate with the charm of the brilliant but empty and foolish effect.
It is not surprising that the miracles of the antichrist will be accepted unquestioningly and enthusiastically by the apostates of Christianity, by the enemies of truth, by the enemies of God: they have prepared for the open, active acceptance of this messenger and instrument of Satan, his teaching, of all his actions, having long since entered into communion in spirit with Satan. It is worthy of deep attention and weeping that the miracles and actions of the antichrist will cause difficulty even to God’s elect. The reason for the strong influence of the antichrist on people will be his insidious cunning and hypocrisy, which will skillfully hide the terrible evil, his unbridled and shameless audacity, the abundant help of fallen spirits, and finally his ability to work miracles, though false, but striking. The human imagination is powerless to imagine such a villain as the antichrist. It is not inherent in the human heart, though corrupt, to believe that evil can reach the extent that it will in the antichrist. He will blow the trumpet for himself, as his forerunners and foreshadowers did, he will be called a preacher and restorer of the true knowledge of God, and those who do not understand Christianity will see in him a representative and fighter for the true religion and will join him. He will blow the trumpet, he will declare himself the promised Messiah. Alumni of carnal wisdom will greet him with a joyful voice. Looking at his fame, power and genius, his all-round development in all areas of this world, they will proclaim him a god and become his associates. The Antichrist will appear before men meek, merciful, full of love and all virtue. Those who accept only the truth of fallen humanity and have not renounced it for the sake of evangelical truth will accept him as such and will obey him for his “sublime virtue.” The Antichrist will offer mankind the highest earthly prosperity and well-being, will offer him honors, wealth, splendor, bodily comforts and pleasures. Therefore, those who seek the earth will accept the antichrist and call him their master. The Antichrist will open to mankind, like a theatrical performance, a spectacle of astonishing miracles inexplicable by modern science, will cause fear with the horror and strangeness of his miracles, will satisfy with them reckless curiosity and gross ignorance, will satisfy human pride and vanity, will satisfy wisdom and superstition will perplex human learning. All people who are guided by the light of their fallen nature and have become estranged from the guidance of God’s light will be drawn to and subdued by the deceiver (Rev. 13: 8). The signs of the antichrist will be manifested mainly in the air,  because that is where Satan reigns supreme (Eph. 2: 2: 6-12). Signs will act primarily on vision, attracting and deceiving it.
St. John the Theologian, contemplating the events of the world that must precede his end, says that the antichrist will do great deeds and even bring down fire from heaven on earth before men (Rev. 13:13). This sign Candle. Scripture points to the greatest of the signs of the antichrist, and the place of its performance will be the air. It will be a terrible and majestic spectacle. The signs of the antichrist will complement the action of his cunning. They will make most people on earth his followers. Opponents of the antichrist will be pointed out as troublemakers and enemies of the public good and public order, will be subjected to covert and overt persecution, torture and death. Sly spirits sent around the world will awaken in people the highest opinion of the antichrist, universal enthusiasm, irresistible attraction to him . With many scars Candle. Scripture depicts the severity of the last persecution of Christianity and the cruelty of the persecutor. The most characteristic and defining feature is the name that Scripture gives to this terrible man: he is called a beast (Rev. 13: 1), while the fallen angel is called a dragon (Gen. 3: 1 Rev. 12: 2). The two names very accurately depict the character of the two enemies of God. One acts more secretly, the other more openly, but to the beast, who bears a resemblance to all beasts, uniting in them their various ferocities,  the dragon gave him … his power, and his throne, and great power (Rev. 13: 2). Then there will be a terrible trial for the saints of God: the cunning, hypocrisy, and miracles of the persecutor will intensify to deceive and deceive them. Sophisticated, thoughtful and insidiously concealed persecutions and worries, as well as the unlimited power of the torturer, will put them in the most difficult position. With their small number, they will seem insignificant to all mankind, and their opinion will be given special helplessness. Universal contempt, hatred, slander, harassment and violent death has become their lot. Only with the special assistance of God’s grace and under its guidance will God’s elect be able to stand up to God’s enemy, to confess before him and before men the Lord Jesus Christ.
Directly related to what has been said is that the Pharisees and Sadducees, asking the Lord for a sign from heaven, desired a miracle such as the miracles of the antichrist. The fact that they wanted such a miracle is indicated by the behavior of the Lord, His attitude to their desire. Once the Godman expressed deep indignation, resolutely refused to comply with their request and did not want to stay with those who allowed themselves such a request, but withdrew from them. In another case, He gave them the following answer: A wicked and adulterous generation seeks a number, but no number will be given to it except the number of the prophet Jonah (Matt. 16: 4). Here are called “genus” all those who want such a sign because of their kinship in spirit. They are called “adulterous” because they have spiritually entered into communion with Satan  by severing their communion with God, and they are called “cunning generation” because, realizing the miracles of the Godman, they pretended not to understand them. Humiliating and blaspheming God’s miracles, they prayed for a miracle, according to their unhappy disposition, with their spirit. The request for a sign from heaven was not so much a request for a miracle as a mockery of the miracles of the Godman and an expression of the ignorant, perverse notion of miracles. The figure of the prophet Jonah, according to the explanation of the Savior Himself (Matt. 12:40), signifies the signs accompanying His death and resurrection. Then, God’s sign was given from heaven! The sun, seeing the crucified Lord, darkened in the middle of the day, deep darkness everywhere, which lasted three hours, the curtain of the Jerusalem temple itself tore in two from the upper to the lower end, there was an earthquake, cracked stones, opened graves, many holy resurrection and they appeared to many in the holy city (Luke 23:45, Matt. 27:45, 51-53). At the very resurrection of the Lord there was another earthquake, a light-bearing angel descended from heaven to the Lord’s tomb as a witness to the resurrection and terrified the guard at the tomb of those seeking a sign from heaven (Matt. 28: 2-4, 11-15). The guards announced the resurrection of the Lord to the Jewish Sanhedrin. But he, having received such a sign from heaven, showed him contempt and hatred, as he showed all the previous miracles of the God-man, bribed the guards and together with them tried to cover the miracle of God with the darkness of lies (Matt. 28: 2- 4, 11-15).
Let us now consider the miracles performed by our Lord Jesus Christ. They are a gift of God to humanity, a gift given not as a duty, but only out of mercy and benevolence. People were obliged to treat this gift and the Giver of the gift with the greatest reverence and prudence, because the Giver of the gift revealed to them that He is God, accepted the human image for their salvation, and gave the gift as a testimony of Himself. This gift had undeniable dignity. But because the acceptance of salvation is left to the free will of man, people have been given the opportunity to consider the miracles of Christ, discussing their authenticity and quality, to draw conclusions about their doer, to accept and acknowledge the Redeemer. by virtue of free, undoubted conviction, and not of hasty, frivolous, as if violent indulgence. Christ’s miracles were very clear. For all of them can be said what the Lord said to St. Apostle. Thomas: Put your finger here and see My hands, put your hand and put it in My ribs, and do not be an unbeliever, but a believer (John 20:27). Christ’s miracles were tangible, they were clear to the simplest people, there was nothing mysterious about them, everyone could look at them calmly, there was no room for doubt and perplexity whether it was a miracle or just like a miracle. The dead were resurrected, incurable diseases were cured, the lepers were cleansed, the blind were seen, the dumb began to speak, food instantly multiplied for those in need, sea waves and winds subsided with a single word of command and saved people from death. who were threatened with death by the storm; the nets of the fishermen, who toiled for a long time in vain, were suddenly filled with fish, obedient to the silent voice of the Lord. The miracles of the Godman had many witnesses, most of whom were either hostile to Him, or careless, or sought only bodily help from Him. And the worst enemies of the Lord did not reject them, but tried to humiliate them with blasphemous explanations and by all means that inspired them with cunning and malice (Matt. 12:24, John 9:24).
(to be continued)
(Writings of Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov. Volume IV. Ascetic Sermon and Letters to the Lay People, St. Petersburg, 1905, pp. 292-326.)
* All underlining in the text is by the translator
1. St. Macarius the Great. Talk 30, ch. 7.
3. Cf. the life of St. Apostle Peter. Pinetti lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, performing such miracles, performing them and performing others like him.
4. Prep. Ephraim Sirin. Essays. Part II Word 106 – for the antichrist.
6. Prep. Macarius the Great. Talk 31, ch. 4.
7. The Evangelist. Interpretation of the Gospel according to John, ch. 5, § 43.
8. Prep. Ephraim Sirin. Again there.
9. “The devotee of prayer must too seldom stare at heaven for fear of evil spirits. That is why they are called air spirits, because they commit many different deceptions in the air “- St. Simeon the New Theologian. For the third type of attention. Benevolence, vol.
10. Prep. Ephraim Sirin. Again there.
11. “The beast I saw was like a leopard, its feet like a bear and its mouth like the mouth of a lion (Rev. 13: 2).
12. The Evangelist. Interpretation of the Gospel according to Matthew, ch. 16, § 4.