Read Apostasy of The Church Part 2
Read Apostasy of The Church Part 3
2 Thess. 2:3 NASB says: “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [Jesus’ return] will not come unless the apostasy (nkjv: “the falling away”) comes first, and the man of lawlessness (nkjv: “sin”) is revealed, the son of destruction.”
The word apostasy means “a falling away, a departure.” Apostasy refers to a departure from known or previously embraced truth. It is not necessarily a departure from the church but a shifting of loyalties from the true faith to a counterfeit faith. It implies a church that once had the truth and rejected it. Therefore, an apostate is someone who has once believed and then rejected the truth of God’s Word.
The great apostasy refers to the departure of the church from sound doctrine and what was once held to be the truth. Going astray because of error results from ignorance, but apostasy is the abandonment of a previous loyalty. Although apostasy includes false beliefs and error, the motivation is willful, and it defies what the Word of God says because of an adherence to its own deception. Apostasy is a rebellion against God because it’s a rebellion against the truth of God’s word. Notice in verse 3 this is not called ‘a’ falling away, but ‘the’ falling away, the great and final rebellion against God, His Word and His rulership in individual lives.
Apostasy is associated with the appearance of the Antichrist. This scripture says the arrival of the Antichrist cannot occur until this great Falling Away has happened first. Most Christians are looking for the coming of Christ or the arrival of the Antichrist, but very few are looking for “the apostasy” or “falling away” that must come first.
The Antichrist, who is the ultimate of liars, cannot rise to power in a world where the truth and light of God’s word exposes him as a counterfeit for Christ. This is why the Bible says that the apostasy will come first, and then the Antichrist will be revealed. Jesus prophesied in Matt 24:10 & 12 (ASV) that “many will fall away” and “because lawlessness (disobedience) will increase, most people’s love will grow cold.” Jesus is saying most professed Christians are going to turn away from God and “grow cold” in their love for Him because they have hardened themselves against the truth and grown insensitive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin.
Apostasy has little to do with the condition of the unsaved world, which has always rejected the authority and truth of God’s Word, and therefore has nothing from which to depart or fall away from. This departure from truth takes place within the household of God – the Church. Sin will become so prolific that many will slowly become tolerant to the wickedness and be seduced away from the fervent love that they once had for God to embrace the world’s standards.
1 Peter 4:17: “For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?” God does not start by judging the ungodly; His first judgment begins with the “house of God”. In other words, it begins with those who profess to follow Christ. It’s an “investigative” judgment to see who His true people are and who are not.
2 Thess. 2:1 & 3: “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him……., 3 “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it (the coming of the Lord) will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” Scripture says the apostasy, the falling away, precedes the coming of the Lord.
In the book of Revelation, the church at Laodicea represents the Church of the end times. Laodicea is interpreted to mean ‘people judged.” Revelation 3:15-17: “15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked“
Apathy is indifference or unconcern about spiritual things. This end time church is neither hot nor cold; they don’t have the fervent warmth and zeal of a true believer of Christ, nor are they outright unbelievers who flatly reject Jesus and make no pretense of faith. Rather they are lukewarm: In short, it’s a church that is materially wealthy but apathetic to spiritual truth.
The sad fact is that in our day, the majority of Christians cannot tell the difference between truth and heresy. Today’s Church is like the religious leaders of Jesus day, they can look at the sky and predict the weather, but have no ability to discern weighty spiritual matters. They cannot discern a wolf from a sheep.
Jesus pictures the Laodicean church as a worldly church enamored with its wealth. But Jesus says they’re poor; in other words, all their talk about spiritual gifts and power is nothing more than a form of godliness. The Lord is so dissatisfied with this church that He declares, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth” The act of vomiting is used as a visual metaphor for absolute, unconditional rejection. Jesus will completely reject the Church of Laodicea at some time in the future. This is why no commendation was received by this church, and this is another reason why the meaning of their name is “people judged.”
Paul supplies us with some strong clues as to why the end times Church will be weak, apathetic, and full of apostasy. One of those clues can be found in 2 Timothy 4:2-4 which says that ” Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they [Christians] will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; ………. and they will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to fables (myths).”
The most obvious sign of the spiritual decline of the church today is its apathy and waning commitment towards the Word of God. Many Christians no longer want to truly study and learn of God, but they are content to just fire missiles of scriptures at each other devoid of proper interpretation.
Apostasy begins with loss of spiritual discernment regarding the authority in the interpretation of scripture. Lack of spiritual discernment has permitted false teachers and preachers to stand behind our pulpits and gain popularity with their doctrines of demons. America’s church members have been deceived by the false teachings they have been fed; they have imitated the immoral character of the pulpit. The sin of the spiritual leaders has emboldened the people to new levels of debauchery. “Like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.” (Hosea 4:9)
The great falling away is taking a firmer hold every day and is increasing in intensity. We have been instructed to ‘preach the Word.’ We are to preach the Word whether it’s popular or not; whether it’s received or not; whether people like it or not. It is authoritative. Our culture fails on those three words alone in the vast majority of churches in America today. False teachings that pervert the gospel and distort the very identity of Christ and His sacrifice for sin are being taught and accepted with barely a whimper. The brick-and-mortar apostate Church has become a house in danger of catastrophic collapse, and those who remain may very well suffer Eternal consequences.
Rather than teaching the world to conform to Christ, the visible, organized Church is conforming to the world. This manifests itself, among other things, in the way many Churches and Ministries are using slick marketing strategies indistinguishable from the worlds techniques to increase their attendance and revenue. This fills both their pews and pockets but it doesn’t make for holier Christians. On the contrary, it has spawned a population of so-called “Born-Again Christians” who barely know what the word “Christian” means. And they show it by how they live their lives.
Doctrine is being shaped by whoever is on the bestseller list or the latest rising star heretic attracting the biggest crowds rather than the Word of God. Many in the Church refuse to sit under sound Biblical teaching that will awaken them. They prefer sermons that are like drinking warm milk that lulls them into a spiritual coma. It’s getting more and more depressing to enter the doors of most churches. Carnal, hollow, shallow, dead, are the words that come to my mind.
Without knowing the Word, it’s impossible to fulfill the admonition to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” There is no such thing known to most Christians today as church discipline, and few would tolerate reproof or rebuke. (Rebuke means to correct by verbally confronting a person with their sin; Exhort means to encourage, to urge or advise strongly, to warn) The word ‘repent’ has become an offensive word among preachers and professing Christians today. The truth is, unless we are confronted with our sin and called to repent, we will never be delivered from it.
Why do sinners react violently and with anger when presented with sound Biblical doctrine? The answer is because people are in love with their sin and hate the boundaries and standards that are acceptable and pure in the eyes of the Lord. They react with anger to the truth of God’s Word. Even professing Christians gasp and pant when preaching is a reproof or rebuke. Apostle Paul writes to Timothy in Titus 1:9-13 “Wherefore rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith.” But most reject and despise rebuke because they love their sin more than they love their Lord and Savior. Rather than submit to correction, they embrace false teachings because it makes them feel at ease with their sins.
Another clue why the end times Church will be apostate is located in 2 Timothy 3:5. After describing in graphic detail how professing Christians will fall apart in the end times, Paul adds that the basic reason will be due to people “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. From such people turn away”
There will be no lack of religion, says Paul, but people will only have the outward appearance, the pretense, the façade of godliness but they are actually hypocrites who lack real spiritual power in their lives. “A form of godliness” does not alter the way a person lives! It‘s a deception that allows them to set lower standards for their lives than that which is acceptable to God. It allows them to do what they want to do and yet proclaim that God approves. It allows them to justify their character traits, make excuses for their selfish lifestyles, live in sin, and persecute those who preach and teach and live out the truth of God’s word.
“Holding to a form of godliness…they deny it’s power.” What is the power they deny? First and foremost it is the power of the blood of Jesus. It is also the power that comes from accepting the Bible as the infallible Word of God. It is the power of believing in a Creator God with whom all things are possible. And certainly it includes a belief in the power of the Holy Spirit who enables us to live a holy life. Today, these essential beliefs, which constitute the power of Christianity, are being subjected to an unparalleled assault from within the Church itself.
If our belief system does not change our lives, and bring us into a more direct and closer walk and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then we have to seriously question its authenticity! It doesn’t matter whether “a form of godliness” comes from a prophet or a pope, a dynamic preacher or a church denomination, if it doesn’t line up with the clear teachings of Scripture, we are told to turn away from it.
As we get closer to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are going to see the gap between the godly and those with “a form of godliness” get further and further apart. The life of Biblical godliness will be rejected more and more as people reject the authoritative word of God. A church that doesn’t pray has the ‘form’ but not the power!
The gospel that the Lord Jesus and his Apostles believed in and preached had power over sin and an ability to change people. But the popular social and politically-correct gospels being preached today lacks that power because it’s not the Word of God. (2 Tim 3:13).
The Gospel is going forth in power in nations that are not ours because those people in those nations believe what God says is true. We, however, have our best preachers and Bible teachers telling us that the power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit has passed away. Our churches are filled with unbelief and hardness of heart – filled with an empty, powerless form of godliness.