Christian persecution and the cultural fear of public expressions of faith are signs of the end times, Pope Francis declared in a homily on Thursday.
"You must obey the orders which come from worldly powers – You can do many things, beautiful things, but not adore God. Worship is prohibited – this is at the center of the end of time," Pope Francis said in his daily homily in the chapel of the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse. Once we "reach the fullness of this pagan attitude…truly the Son of Man will come in a cloud with great power and glory," Francis declared, according to the Albany Tribune.
The pope preached on Jesus' speech in Luke 21 about the end times. In that passage, Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem, and trials and tribulations that precede the end times.
"Then he said to them, 'nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you…for my name's sake," the passage reads. "For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."
Before Jesus comes, the pope explained, "it will be an abomination, it will be desolation and abomination" in the temple. "It will be like the triumph of the prince of this world: the defeat of God."
Pope Francis declared that the worldly powers which try to make religion "a private thing," truly seek to destroy God. In response, the pope called on all believers to have faith like the prophet Daniel. Christians must pursue "fidelity like Daniel, who was faithful to his God and adored God until the end, and patience, because the hairs of our heads will not fall out – the Lord has promised this," the pope declared.
Francis warned about a "universal temptation" to give in to the deceitful ways of those against God, and Christians must avoid it. "This week it will do us good to think about this general apostasy which is called a ban on worship," the pope said, according to Vatican Radio.
The pope encouraged believers to ask themselves questions to check their spiritual strength. "Do I worship the Lord? Do I adore Jesus Christ the Lord? Do I in some measure play the game of the prince of this world?"
Pope Francis called the persecution of Christians – with great violence in places like Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan – a forecast for the whole world. "Christians who suffer times of persecution, times forbidding worship," form a prophetic sign for "what will happen to everyone."