Origen – The “Wormwood” and Third Trumpet of Revelation Chapter 8

From “INTERPRETATION of the BOOK of REVELATION by Apostolos Makrakis (1881 AD, translated from the Greek to English in 1948 AD by the Orthodox Christian Education Society, Chicago, IL) – Pages 187 to 193

Apostolos Makrakis is the first commentator on the Apocalypse to describe Origen as the “star” behind the Third Trumpet of the Apocalypse, described as a once great bright luminary of the Church who would then go on to fall from grace and become the “Father of all Christological Heresies”, contributing to the rise of others like Arius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches, and Mohammed. The fulfillment of this prophecy “shortly came to pass” approximately 100 years after John penned the Apocalypse in 96 AD.

“And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as though it were a lamp, and it fell upon a third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.” – Revelation 8:10-11

The fall of the great star from heaven and its consequences are a scourge upon the Christian Church. For the first vision revealed to John Christ walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks and holding in His right hand seven stars. In interpreting the significance of these the “one like unto the Son of man” said: “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches” represented by the seven candlesticks among which walks Christ, the supreme leader of the church admonishing each of the bishops. We have thus far observed, in the course of the admonitions to the bishops, that the first, having forfeited God’s love, was called to repentance; the second remained faithful to duty and irreproachable; the third was tolerating the heresy of the Nicolaitans, for which He was lightly censured and also called to repentance; the four was likewise tolerating the false prophetess, Jezebel, who taught that it was no sin to eat meats sacrificed to idols or to commit fornication; the fifth was negligent and sluggish, disinclined to support the Christians in the faith, and therefore many degenerated and died a spiritual death; the sixth was aggressive, painstaking, and blameless, like the second, and received much praise and great promises; the seventh, a boaster, as a result of his perusal of many world-wise books, was naturally unacquainted with the Scriptures and the word of God, because of which fact he was derided for his ignorance of his own miserableness and wretchedness and spiritual poverty, and blindness and nakedness, and was advised to obtain through Christ “gold tried in the fire” that he might thus acquire true riches and put on white raiment to cover the shame of his nakedness. Besides, he was advised to anoint his blind eyes with eye salve so that he might see the light fully, and not as before when he groped in the outer darkness of pseudo-wisdom. These admonitions of Christ to the angels of the first seven churches testify that the stars of heaven are liable to fall if attacked by Satan, who has been cast out of heaven, and that the Ruler of the stars reprimands them before falling and recalls them to their former status through repentance and counsel. However, if they persist in sin, or neglect to follow in practice the counsel given them, they shall fall from heaven in defeat and disgrace in the wake of the dragon’s path. And such a fall of the stars means the utmost havoc to the Church which is illumined by them. For just as during war the fall of a general causes demoralization, retreat, rout, and captivity to an army; so during the war of the Church of Christ against the King of Darkness and the black demons, the fall of a bright star serving as a beacon and guide to the Church is the cause of enormous destruction to the entire church. Therefore, the churches must take as much pains in maintaining and supporting their bishops in the faith of Christ and in insuring their safety against the onslaughts and attacks of Satan as an army does during battle in protecting the lives of its generals. The bishop, for example, who happens to be visited at his home by sisters and by young married women, and through whose home many other women come and go, may become the object of Satan’s designs and attacks, through female charms, intended to undermine his moral stamina and to cause his fall from his exalted position of spiritual adviser and leader. With regard to such diabolical plans, the members of a church must not remain indifferent or apathetic; but if they detect the least weakness in their spiritual chief, they must exert every effort toward removing all causes of temptation and toward preventing any untoward moral calamity. Unless such a course is taken by the church, its indifference will prove as criminal and devastating as that of an army which deserts its general in the midst of an enemy attack and thus becomes guilty of treason. The church is a candlestick, and the bishop is a star illumining and guiding from on high the course of the church; and thus, the light of the candlestick aids the bishop in a thorough discernment and fulfillment of his duties. Therefore, the fall of the great star from the firmament, which is announced by the third trumpet, is a scourge and a penalty of the Christian Church, since it is the result of a sluggish and thoughtless life on the part not only of the falling star but also of the Christian membership of the church. Thus, it is obvious that by not heeding their councilors and Christ’s injunctions, they are led astray by the delusive Devil, and fall, thus causing many souls to perish. The falls of the various stars and the consequences of these falls are all recounted in the history of the church. To this source we must go to inquire what this great star is that fell from heaven and when the fall occurred.

Origen – 185 to 254 AD

The great star which like a flaming torch illumines the church and then, being darkened, falls from heaven and embitters the waters is the learned and notorious Origen, concerning whom Melitius in his church history remarks:

“Origen became more famous than any one else and in word and deed was greatly admired for his mode of living as well as for his great intelligence, his learning, his ability, and his experience. However, his renown, according to Epiphanus, did not remain untarnished until the end; for he proved the author of the great blunder of too much experience. Wishing to leave nothing uninterpreted in the Holy Scriptures, he tripped himself into error and sin by propounding and launching many pernicious dictums and interpretations. Arius himself, as well as all the lawless heretics since, then derived their basic pretexts from him. And so, becoming the leader of all heresy, he gave utterance to the following dogmatisms:

  1. That the only begotten Son cannot behold the father; neither can the Holy Spirit behold the Son; nor can men behold angels.
  2. That in the physical body there abide fettered souls, and that before man was created in paradise his spirit sojourned within rational beings in heaven.
  3. That Satan and all the demons will finally return to their former angelic state; that hell is not perpetual, but merely a temporary means for the purgation of sins; and that after this purgation every single man or demon will be reinstated.

Many other like blasphemies did he invent for which, while still alive, he was ousted from among the faithful of the Church, and after death was condemned as a heretic together with Arius, Eunomius, Madedon, Apolinarius, Nestorius, and Eutycus in Constantinople in the year 553.”

Thus, much in brief concerning the fall of Origen may be found in church history. The fact, moreover, that the revered Epiphanios, in his history of heresies, called him the leader of all heresy, agrees with the fall of the first star, which is referred to as becoming the leader of all heresy that reappeared again later. Therefore, there is no doubt left that the fall of the first star which John saw in 95 A.D., while he was observing what “must shortly come to pass” upon earth, has been fulfilled by Origen, who was born in 185 and died in 250; for he was at first a beacon light of the Church, an outstanding interpreter of the Scriptures, and an unequaled catechist and teacher. However, owing to the extreme and all-absorbing application of his mind to the works of the outstanding learned men of the period, and especially to the Platonic theories and myth-like speculations, his understanding became clouded; and thus he was transformed from a. bright star into a dark and bitter one like wormwood, his consequent fall from heaven having caused the loss of many a human soul. For this reason, he is called “Wormwood” in the Apocalypse and referred to as falling “upon the third part of the rivers” and upon one-third of the water fountains and as causing “a third part of the waters” to become wormwood, and many men to die “of the waters, because they were made bitter.” Rivers, in the language of the Bible, denote pastors and teachers of the church, concerning whom Christ says: “He that believeth in me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Fountains of water represent the Scriptures, according to the song of the psalmist: “Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord from the fountain of Israel.” Fountains of water form rivers, and so the drinking in of the Holy Scriptures and the clear conceptions conveyed by the Holy Spirit form within the recipients rivers of divine inspiration and doctrine. The doctrine of Origen embittered “a third part of the rivers,” or the teachers of the church; for many embraced the views of Origen, which fact resulted in great quarrels and dissensions within the church until the fifth Ecumenical See at Constantinople, which condemned the heretic views of Origen and those who embraced these. Again, Origen’s teaching embittered “a third of the waters” through the inadequate and preposterous scriptural misinterpretations and allegorical explanations accepted by many of those who read them to their own harm, delusion, and spiritual death as a result of their estrangement from sound and wholesome teaching. The fall of Origen and its consequences is the first plague which the Devil hurled against the church by embittering “a third of the rivers” and “a third of the waters” by means of the false ideas of ancient Greek philosophy to which Origen adhered closely, being unable to discern the real criterion of philosophical truth or to discriminate between truth and falsehood. Scriptural knowledge is divided into:

  1. Philosophical and interpretive of the events occuring and recounted in the Bible.
  2. Legal and political knowledge, and
  3. Religious knowledge conducive to the healing of souls from the diseases of sin.

Origen, by accepting without reason or challenge the theories and tenets of Platonic philosophy and by attempting to interpret the historical sections of the Scriptures through these false theories, embittered “a third of the waters” or philosophic knowledge, and “a third of the rivers” or the third of the church teachers. Thus he unwillingly and unwittingly sowed the seed of heresy in the church; he accepted the theory of preexistence of souls and the assumption that the body is the soul’s prison house from which the soul must finally be relieved, denying subsequently the resurrection of the dead, the reunion of members, and sex, by which men are distinguished from women; and finally, by using false allegory in interpreting the historic element in the Scriptures, he corrupted its historic truth conceiving the angels as trees of Paradise, the heavenly powers as rivers, and Adam and Eve as physically bodiless and inhabiting a spiritual paradise, and finally as acquiring physical bodies after they had sinned, their leather garments being considered to mean bodies. By means of such preposterous allegories and interpretations he embittered one-third of the fountains of waters, or the philosophic and interpretive knowledge of historic events, and became the cause of all heresies which sprang up within the church, according to the correct statement of the revered Ephiphanios. The fall of Origen was the result of his heedlessness to the counsel which Christ gave the seventh angel or bishop of Laodicea. The latter, neglecting the study of the Scriptures and devoting his entire attention to the writings of the non-Christian sages, became a boaster and proud, thinking himself rich in wisdom and dependent upon no one for aught. But the Lord, reprimanding him, says : “thou * * * knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear ; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent.” The disease of the latter angel was contracted by Origen who devoted undue attention to the non-Christian sages and sought riches in false wisdom. Moreover, he thought that he had grown rich and had need of no one, not realizing that such riches rendered him wretched and miserable and poor and naked. He failed to buy from Christ “gold tried in the fire” so as to acquire the riches of true wisdom; he failed to buy Christ’s white raiment in order to cover his own shame and nakedness; he also failed to procure the eye salve to anoint his blinded eyes and thus recover his full sight; he neglected the counsel of Christ and therefore “there fell a great star from heaven, burning as though it were a lamp, and it fell upon a third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters” and being as bitter as wormwood embittered “a third part of the waters * * *and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter” by illogical allegories and interpretations. The fall from heaven of this great star which shone and illumined the church like a beacon was in accordance with the judgment and decision of the One who sits upon the throne; for the various stars must be illumined by Christ and battle against the entire social system of Satan (including his philosophical, his political and his religious principles) for the maintenance of Christ’s philosophy, government and religion. Origen, instead of securing from Christ “gold tried in the fire” and through it burning down the false philosophy of the old world, obtained from Satan counterfeit coins for genuine, and attempted by means of these to evaluate the worth of the divine statements, using falsehood as the criterion of truth instead of vice versa. Such was the nature of Origen’s sin for which the One who sits on the throne sentenced him to fall from heaven, to poison “a third of the waters,” or the philosophical knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and to open the door of the heresies into the Church. However, the majority of the Christians at that time were equally guilty of the sin of Origen, for they preferred wisdom foreign to Christianity and failed to agree with St. Paul who said: “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock and unto the Greeks foolishness, but to the elect Jews and Greeks Christ the power and wisdom of God; for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” The same Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” and in Him as he states elsewhere the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. Such counsel did Christ give through Paul to the stars of the Church so that they might not be despoiled by philosophy and empty delusion, but that they might, on the contrary, despoil the sages without the realm of Christian philosophy. And first, Origen, after disobeying Christ’s counsel was despoiled by empty delusion; and this despoilation ultimately resulted in a great calamity to the Church militant, all philosophical knowledge of the Scriptures having been poisoned and numberless having perished “of the waters, because they were made bitter.”

Just as great disaster follows the despoiling of the guard during hostilities between armies, and as the fall of a general results in a general breakdown of the army morale; so, during the spiritual war of the Church against the gates of hell, the despoilation and fall of a star from heaven is the cause of general despoilation among the other members of the church. And only those are saved who are wary and who watch, remaining faithful to Christ’s teaching and following His counsel; while such as drink thoughtlessly of the poisoned waters die, since their ignorance of the poison in the water does not save them from death. Hence, Christ proclaims: “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation” and “let your loins be girt and your lamps burning.” And to what end? Surely, that we may discern the tactics of the enemy and repel his assaults upon us, remembering that sluggishness, laxness, and negligence in the fulfillment of our duties will result in our despoilation, our attack by the enemy’s arrows, and in our death. The fall of Origen caused great harm to the Church at that time-approximately in the middle of the third century; however, today his fall can prove of by far more benefit than harm to the Church if we recognize its causes and try to avoid them, and if we make the misfortunes of the past sources of light and salvation for the future.

“And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.” – Revelation 8:12

The latter scourge, as well as the former, is referred to in connection with the large Christian community within the Roman empire. The Sun of the souls in the Christian community refers to Christ; the Moon which gives light in the absence of Christ, is the universal Church; while the stars which add their light to that of the moon are the pastors and teachers of the Church. The smiting of the sun, the moon, and the stars, together with the darkened one-third of each, is a scourge and a misfortune to the enlightened Christian community, involving the domination by Satan and darkness of one-third of the whole community. This scourge is the consequence of the fall from heaven of the great star which embittered one-third of the rivers and the fountains of water. For, after the fallen Origen corrupted the philosophic knowledge of the Scriptures by his preposterous allegories, and after he attempted to interpret the Scriptures through the theories of ancient philosophy, while in ignorance of the highest criterion of Christ’s philosophy and truth. it was natural for the philosophic character of Christ to be misinterpreted and for the Christian world to be deprived of the light of Christ’s philosophy. Christ is the one and only mentor and teacher among men – an omniscient and all-wise mentor – and the source of all sound knowledge and science. Therefore, he says: “I am the light of the world. He who comes after me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” And “I am the way and the truth and the life,” and again, “call not yourselves teachers, for one is your teacher, Christ.” Thus, we can see that Christ is in substance the truth and the source of all knowledge and science and that He is ranked as the logical and ontological criterion of all truth. Moreover, Christ is not to be judged according to the ideas and tenets of men; but rather men and human tenets are judged by Christ who is the measure and standard of all. Origen having misinterpreted the philosophical character of Christ, instead of judging and testing ancient philosophy and the beliefs of men by the principles and axioms of Christ, judged Christ’s teaching by the opinions and beliefs of ancient philosophers and thus introduced the source of all heresy. Wisdom foreign to Christ’s religion was overestimated and introduced into the church as judge and interpreter of divine doctrine, instead of being itself judged and interpreted by divine doctrine. And so “a third part of the sun was smitten” in the language of the Apocalypse means that Christ the beginning of all philosophy, and the criterion of the genuineness and truth of every philosophical system was misunderstood and misinterpreted; and that Christian philosophy within the church was replaced by foreign philosophy which is in reality darkness and not light. And so, after Christ was smitten to the extent of one-third of Christian philosophic knowledge, the church and the teachers of the church were also smitten; and no one proclaimed Christ’s philosophy and knowledge; but instead foreign knowledge and philosophy held dominion, according to which Christian boys were trained and taught to reason. It follows then that after Christ was smitten and thrown into one-third darkness, He still enlightened the church by two-thirds, that is, as regards religious knowledge dealing with the purgation of souls and divine worship; and also, in the capacity of honored and glorified King and High Priest, administering legal knowledge concerning the government and conduct of Christians. These two types of knowledge were also proclaimed by the stars of the Church who taught the evangelical law for the edification of Christians, and also the potency of religious mysteries to­ward soul sanctification and the remission of sins. Besides being ignorant of Christian philosophy and science, they supposed that philosophy belonged exclusively to the ancient social order of the Greeks and termed it “outward knowledge” or knowledge from without, which some ignored as useless and profitless, while others considered it very seriously, and still others looked upon it as an ornament of the soul bearing the same relation to the soul as the leaves bear to the fruit. And in general, this “outward wisdom” and learning reared and trained the industrious children of the Christians; for such wisdom was deemed essential not for the salvation of their souls, but only for the needs of their present existence, and especially for their association with, and the relation to men of the world. And just as the city whose strongholds have been captured by the enemy, is in grave danger; likewise, a Christian community is in serious danger, after Satan has cap­tured its stronghold or the position, in the Church, of philosophy and learning by means of which he can constantly attack the truths of Christian faith, and disturb the peace and harmony of the church. And, without doubt, since Satan has succeeded in embittering and poisoning one-third of the rivers and the waters by casting from heaven the star called Wormwood; and since he later again succeeded in filling “a third part of the moon, and a third part of the stars; so as a third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise,” he will ultimately bring about complete darkness which fact is predicted by tho sixth seal; and this darkness will prevail throughout the earth. The darkening of the Sun and the Moon and the stars will take place first in the moral world, and later in the physical, at the very end and immediately prior to its renewal. The darkening of one-third of the Sun is a precursor of universal darkness and of dire evils which are announced by another angel flying through the midst of heaven.

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