Imagine a home Bible class, perhaps a dozen men and women. They care about each other, invite their non-Christian friends, stay transparent--loving one another as best they can. They usually pray in concert together. They are all, pretty much, on the same page theologically (doctrinally). Not finding a like-minded group of Christians in their zone, they start a church, meeting perhaps in a rented empty office. One in their group knows the Bible, so he is the new pastor, by default. They'll hire a professionally trained pastor when they can afford it. Soon the church has embraced the Laodicean heresy without knowing it: a paid clergy and a separate laity. Soon all sorts of seeking, searching, hurting people join their ranks--and these people tithe. It is less and less important that each member knows Jesus and is actively trusting Him. From a starter group of dozen people, they soon may number hundreds. They soon decide on a creed--a statement of what they believe--to distinguish themselves from the cults in the area. Lining up with the IRS is important, so gifts to their fellowship are tax-deductible. Soon they the need help of a lawyer, a facility manager, some secretaries. Lots of wonderful church starts end up cabals, or "city hall" churches. It's the slippery-slope of apostasy, happening in every generation, but cascading at the end of the age. Like now. The "Christian" church in our world is presently falling rapidly into apostasy. See The Two Churches.
The creedal statement will probably remain orthodox, kosher, but the growing church becomes "seeker friendly." Hypocrisy sets in. So does apostasy. The creed stays in place, but fewer members know and walk with Jesus. The original warm, caring Fellowship is now just another church on church row with very little light and not much love overflowing into the community. The visible church is now mostly compromised as far as God is concerned. Fewer real seekers bother to show up. The members know that are not really loved and but everyone is welcome as long as they have no "problems" and/or "issues." The younger generation loses interest and drops out! No one knows quite why. The outward form is preserved but there is dry rot inside.
Something else happens! The culture changes and compromised churches can't keep up with the times. Churches become entrenched, liturgical, set in their ways--and God shuts off the power.
There is nothing new about this series of events. Through two thousand years of church history, the professing church has reinvented her image and protocols seven times now. See The Seven Churches. The last church of the series, Laodicea, boasts the largest number of converts but is the flakiest.
Scenario: An evangelist, like Billy Graham, from a certain cultural understanding of the Gospel message devotes himself to spreading the good news near and far. Many thousands "accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior" and, joining local churches, they bring new life to a dying congregation. Yet mainline churches have a history of fading away for a number of reasons! Counter-cultural movements such as the Jesus Movement rise up, and a new generation of gung ho followers of Jesus springs up. They, too, fall away, or are assimilated back into the surrounding pagan culture. See The Church Papers.
Individuals apostatize as well as entire churches! The age of the church is now ending with the fake church coagulating into the Great Harlot and true church being about to be caught up to heaven. God's program is right on schedule and on track, ready or not. Today most born-again Christians are not found in an organized church--for a variety of reasons. But this means the Body of Christ on earth today is highly fragmented. Yet the the church is the "secret government" of God on the planet--as the church goes, so goes the nation.
Jesus is intensely personable and all who will may come. It is not enough just to know Jesus individually since the church Jesus is building is family, the very Body of Christ. Jesus is the Head and His agenda calls for a total rebuilding of a wasted planet.
Giving up has always been a struggle for frail humanity. But when Jesus urges us to ask for strength to escape, he has something particular in mind, something he sees coming: “At that time many will turn away from the faith” (Matthew 24:10).
Saint Paul was deeply troubled by this as he wrote his friends living in Thessalonica: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day [the day Christ returns] will not come unless the falling away comes first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 NKJV). Prior to the climax of this story, and the wonderful return of Jesus to make everything new, there will be some sort of global Falling Away. The Greek word here is apostasia, and that is why some translations put it this way: “No one is to deceive you in any way! For it will not come unless the apostasy comes first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 NASB).
But the word apostasy conjures up more zombie apocalypse imagery, and that’s not helpful in our effort to understand our situation. I don’t think we’re going to see millions of people tattooing “I hate God; I love Satan” on their chests, or marches in every major city blaspheming Jesus Christ. Satan is much cleverer than all that. I believe what we will see—what we see happening now—is simply people giving up on God in large numbers. Which is why I think the New Life Version has it right: “For the Lord will not come again until many people turn away from God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
I believe we may be witnessing the Great Falling Away.
Let me be quick to say that there isn’t a simple explanation nor simplistic solution. Some people are fed up with religion. But much of the turning from God is born out of heartache and disappointment—God did not seem to help. He did not seem to hear. These are the deepest hurts of the human heart. We will explore what to do with those hurts as we go along, but let me say here that giving up your faith is like finding yourself in a desert, your weary legs throbbing with pain. You can’t find your way out by cutting your legs off. God can handle your anger, disappointment, even bitterness. But walking away from Jesus is forsaking your only hope out of the heartache.
I bring this up because the enemy is wickedly skilled at pouncing on our vulnerabilities. He is using these trying times to cloud our hearts with unbelief. If in fact the Falling Away is sweeping the earth, we want to have advance warning. It gets in the air like poison, and we don’t want to slowly succumb to it ourselves. It gains a social momentum, and since we are social creatures, we can get swept up in it without a conscious decision on our part.
But this is our moment, and Jesus offers us strength, so let us seize it now with both hands while we still can.
The Two Churches
References to Falling Away from the Faith
The Meaning of the Remnant
The Church Papers
Wikipedia on Apostasy
The Hidden of the Lord
Hiding in the Rock
When a Nation Dies
The Apostate Church
The One True Church
Jeremiah in Stocks
The Left Behind
The True and the False
The Two Churches
The DAY of the LORD
Hiding in the Rock
Is God Angry?
The Revirginized Bride
When a Nation Dies
The Call of Heaven
The Real Jesus
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
Let no one deceive you by any means;
and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. (2 Thessalonians 2)
Notes by Lambert Dolphin
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