In my last post I talked about whether or not God was lifting His hand of restraint. One thing I learned from studying 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 was that the man of lawlessness (also called the son of perdition) could not come until apostasy began in the church. Now it was pointed out by one of my readers that there has always been apostasy in the church, even from the time of the Apostles (Galatians 1:6-10). So how is our time any different to the early church or the church in general, throughout the years? How do we determine if there has been more apostasy in this generation compared to others? Let's start by looking at the differences between apostasy and false doctrines.
Apostasy is the total departure from one's religion, principles or beliefs. False doctrine as it pertains to Christianity, are teachings that stray from the main message of the gospel - that salvation comes through Christ alone, by faith alone. False doctrines and their false teachers take the emphasis off the cross and add non-scriptural doctrines to what the Bible teaches about salvation, repentance, confession and redemption in Christ. False teachers twist scripture to suit their own agendas. They often take scripture out of context and lie and deceive to achieve a certain goal. In today's churches false doctrines like the prosperity gospel for example, take the focus off of Jesus' atoning sacrifice for us and instead place it on monetary gain and the health and welfare of the believer.
The key to understanding apostasy and false doctrines is that they go hand in hand. Without false teachers and false doctrines, there is no chance for the body of Christ to be deceived and turn from the truth to a lie. Unfortunately, there have ALWAYS been false doctrines and false teachers, that as Jesus warned, would deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).
So what does Paul mean in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 when he says, "For that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first?" Clearly, he is talking about a massive apostasy within the church body. An apostasy so bad that the body of Christ as a whole turns from the truth to a lie. Until that happens, the man of lawlessness will not be revealed. So did that happen in the early church?
We know from Revelation, that false teachers infiltrated the church right from the beginning. In Pergamum for example, they encouraged the teachings of the Nicolaitans. These false teachers put themselves forward as believers in Jesus Christ and, at the same time, practised black magic, offered sacrifices to the numerous idols in Pergamum, were sexually immoral, and were teaching new believers that all this was okay with God. Yet the Pergamum believers allowed them to stay within the church. They turned a blind eye to what the Nicolaitans were doing and settled for a “peaceful” compromise with them rather than call them out on their wrong doctrine and sinful lifestyles and insist on repentance. So we can see that apostasy and false doctrines go hand in hand, because when people accept false doctrines, the danger of totally abandoning their previous beliefs becomes greater. This is why Jesus called the church of Pergamum out in Revelation 2:12-17 and threatened to spit them out of his mouth. (If you are interested in a study on the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, my book He Who Has an Ear, Who the Seven Churches of Revelation are Today goes into this further.)
Has apostasy increased in the church?
When you look at the horrific things that were taking place in the church of Pergamum we might confidently say the modern church has never been that bad. We don't worship idols. We are not encouraging sexual immorality. We never turn a blind eye to sin. Or do we? Is there idol worship in the church? Sadly, yes there is and it is shocking. Do we now have churches that say homosexuality is not a sin? Yes we do. Do we have well known believers in Christ encouraging Christians to disregard scripture in order to accept homosexuality? In other words - to turn a blind eye to sin? Yes, we do. In fact, I believe it is the issue of gay rights that will cause many of the faithful to turn away. Why? Because at heart, all Christians want gay people to feel accepted by the church. We want them to know Jesus loves them and that they are welcome in our churches. We want them to feel loved and we want to extend mercy and love in Jesus' name to them in any way we can. For some, that will mean compromising their beliefs that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, in order to be more open and accepting to the gay community. For others however, it will mean loving and accepting the gay community, but standing firm in their beliefs, which unfortunately, comes across as hate.
I didn't want this post to be about homosexuality. I wanted it to be about apostasy in the church. But unfortunately, I think this particular issue will play a part in the downfall of the church, paving the way for a massive apostasy. So how do we stand on the truth of God's Word and let the gay community know they are loved? First, we let them know that salvation is not dependant upon repentance. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). However, repentance is part of the Gospel message, in that once we make the decision to follow God, turning from our sin is a natural aspect of how we honour Him. To continue to sin therefore, would be to crucify Christ over and over again. Even Jesus Himself said, "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). And there is the main problem - the gay community doesn't believe they are sinning, while the Bible says they are. And Bible believing Christians won't budge on their belief that the Bible is the Word of God.
But we live in an age where people are putting down their Bibles and ignoring them in favour of man's opinion. Eighty-two percent of Christians do not read their Bibles at all and these will be the people the apostasy begins with. They will be easily deceived and if possible, will deceive others. Just as Jesus warned (Matthew 24:24). If we continue on the course of favouring man's opinion over God's Word, the great "falling away" will continue to grow and the church, because she has not stood firm on the Word of God, will be the reason why the man of lawlessness will appear.
While Canadian Christians have been dealing with the legalization of gay marriage for ten years, we all assumed that it wouldn't affect us. For the most part it hasn't. Yet, like America, we are seeing our rights to our beliefs slowly being stripped away due to the homosexual agenda. From the Canadian Law Society's vendetta against Christian law students, to having Biblical Speech (which speaks against homosexual behaviour) ruled as hate speech - Canadian Christians are slowly and almost imperceptibly having their rights stolen from them and no one is crying foul. Why? Because they can't see it happening. If it doesn't personally affect them, then like all Canadians - they don't worry about it. Today's guest blogger Matt Ward, helps put into perspective what many Christians need to take seriously.
The focus of everybody's attention is on the recent Supreme Court decision over gay marriage. It really is a perverse juxtaposition. The Middle East is on the brink of self-destruction and the entire world wide economy is about to self-implode. Life for everybody on this earth could get drastically worse very quickly, yet the issue which occupies all the attention is gay marriage. Why?
The real motivation in this decision is not perhaps what it seems.
The real issue here is not to win equality in marriage for gay people, as so many believe. The real agenda here, and it is a satanic one, is to marginalize Christians. That is why this is being celebrated so widely and why, despite the plethora of other more important events and issues around the world, it occupies such a place of prominence.
The real agenda here is to put Christians in a position where they are finally legally exposed if they follow and practice their faith. The endgame is "to get" Christianity.
The desired outcome is not to liberalize and bring equality for gay people; the desired outcome is to put Christianity directly within the cross hairs so that its adherents can be proactively attacked and persecuted.
If you live in the United States of America and you are a Bible believing Christian you woke up in late June criminalized. If your desire is to live your life in a way pleasing to your Savior, then hard times are ahead; you and your beliefs have been rejected by the legal system of your country.
The repercussions of this judgment will be far reaching.
People write often, men and women that I respect, about the possibilities of national repentance and the spirit being poured out once again upon us. People better than I believe that if we would just turn our hearts back to God, then even now He would forgive us as a nation. With all my heart I wish that this were true but in reality, I simply don't believe that it is possible anymore.
There is no coming back from what has just happened.
What has taken place is an absolute affront to God. God ordained marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman. It is a picture of Jesus Christ's relationship with His Bride. This decision fundamentally corrupts God's will for mankind and it mocks Him.
This decision is a very deep offense to the nature of God. Even the rainbow colors, which are the symbol of the Pride movement, is purposely offensive and insulting to God. It is designed specifically to cause God offense. These are the colors which symbolize God's deliverance of mankind from a time of evil the likes of which this earth had not seen before.
A rainbow even surrounds the holy throne of God Himself. This rainbow, a symbol of deliverance, has now become corrupted and twisted, now in our time a symbol of sin and rebellion, the symbol of the Pride movement.
As I write this my heart is very unsettled within me. I am deeply troubled spiritually by what has happened. When we look at the biblical example of Sodom and Gomorrah, we need to understand that these cities were not destroyed until the leadership of these places actively mandated a homosexual lifestyle. With this decision America finds itself in an identical situation to Sodom and Gomorrah.
God loves mankind, deeply and desperately. He loves us so much that He has told us what is good for us and what is bad through His Word. He cares for us to such a huge extent that He has actually put Himself in the place of our execution. God Himself stands directly in our stead on our behalf.
God loves humanity, each and every person within it.
Yet it is because of this love that God will ultimately allow each person and nation to decide for themselves what they think is good. If a nation chooses friendship with God then He will come and make his home with that nation. If a nation chooses to walk away from God and follow its own path, God will allow it.
This decision means that America has chosen enmity with God. There will be consequences for it. For those of you who will hold to Jesus and His testimony, you are now marginalized, set apart.
Even though I genuinely believe that as the bride of Christ we will not see the wrath of God come upon this world, I do believe, especially in light of this decision, that we will see persecution.
From this moment on we will never be as free as we once were in our faith. We will be systemically harassed. I believe that there will be a brief pause now, a moment of calm while people and forces take stock of what has happened and what it means.
Then will come the outright persecution. You are in the cross hairs. You have been warned.
Attend to your God and His Son and be about His work. The night is coming when it is not possible to work. In fact, I think that dusk has already begun to settle on this fallen world.
Matt Ward is a free-lance writer commenting on current issues and Bible prophecy. He can be contacted at Wardmatt1977@gmail.com.