We believe that in the last days there will be spiritual apostacy. Apostacy is the renunciation of a religious faith or the abandonment of a previous loyalty. The Bible has much to say on the subject of apostacy in the last days. We believe we are living in the very last days and we see apostacy spreading everywhere.
2 Peter 2:20-22 - For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (Read More...)
1 Timothy 4:1 - Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Deuteronomy 13:6-11 - If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which [is] as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; (Read More...)
Galatians 1:8-9 - But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Read More...)
Hebrews 6:4-8 - For [it is] impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, (Read More...)
2 Chronicles 15:13 - That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
Matthew 24:10 - And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
Hebrews 10:26-29 - For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, (Read More...)
2 Timothy 3:1-9 - This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (Read More...)
2 Peter 3:17 - Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know [these things] before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
Luke 8:13 - They on the rock [are they], which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 - Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
2 Timothy 4:3 - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
1 Timothy 4:1-3 - Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; (Read More...)
Hebrews 3:12 - Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
Matthew 24:12 - And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
John 6:66 - From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
(© 2014 Deborah Taylor – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)
WHAT IS THE APOSTATE CHURCH?
Apostasy, from the Greek word apostasia, means “a defiance of an established system or authority; a rebellion; an abandonment or breach of faith.” In the first-century world, apostasy was a technical term for political revolt or defection. Just like in the first century, spiritual apostasy threatens the Body of Christ today.
The Bible warns about people like Arius (c. AD 250—336), a Christian priest from Alexandria, Egypt, who was trained at Antioch in the early fourth century. About AD 318, Arius accused Bishop Alexander of Alexandria of subscribing to Sabellianism, a false teaching that asserted that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were merely roles or modes assumed by God at various times. Arius was determined to emphasize the oneness of God; however, he went too far in his teaching of God’s nature. Arius denied the Trinity and introduced what appeared on the surface to be an inconsequential difference between the Father and Son.
Arius argued that Jesus was not homoousios (“of the same essence”) as the Father, but was rather homoiousios (“of similar essence”). Only one Greek letter—the iota (ι)—separated the two. Arius described his position in this manner: “The Father existed before the Son. There was a time when the Son did not exist. Therefore, the Son was created by the Father. Therefore, although the Son was the highest of all creatures, he was not of the essence of God.”
Arius was clever and did his best to get the people on his side, even going so far as to compose little songs that taught his theology, which he tried to teach to everyone who would listen. His winsome nature, asceticism, and revered position as a preacher also contributed to his cause.
With respect to apostasy, it is critical that all Christians understand two important things: (1) how to recognize apostasy and apostate teachers, and (2) why apostate teaching is so deadly.
FORMS OF APOSTASY
To fully identify and combat apostasy, Christians should understand its various forms and the traits that characterize its doctrines and teachers. As to the forms of apostasy, there are two main types: (1) a falling away from key and true doctrines of the Bible into heretical teachings that claim to be “the real” Christian doctrine, and (2) a complete renunciation of the Christian faith, which results in a full abandonment of Christ.
Arius represents the first form of apostasy—a denial of key Christian truths (such as the divinity of Christ) that begins a downhill slide into a full departure from the faith, which is the second form of apostasy. The second form almost always begins with the first. A heretical belief becomes a heretical teaching that splinters and grows until it pollutes all aspects of a person’s faith, and then the end goal of Satan is accomplished, which is a complete falling away from Christianity.
A 2010 study by Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola called “Preachers Who Are Not Believers.” Dennett and LaScola’s work chronicles five different preachers who over time were presented with and accepted heretical teachings about Christianity and now have completely fallen away from the faith. These pastors are either pantheists or clandestine atheists. One of the most disturbing truths highlighted in the study is that these preachers maintain their position as pastors of Christian churches with their congregations being unaware of their leader’s true spiritual state.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF APOSTASY AND APOSTATES
Jude was the half brother of Jesus and a leader in the early church. In his New Testament letter, he outlines how to recognize apostasy and strongly urges those in the body of Christ to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 1:3). The Greek word translated “contend earnestly” is a compound verb from which we get the word agonize. It is in the present infinitive form, which means that the struggle will be continuous. In other words, Jude says that there will be a constant fight against false teaching and that Christians should take it so seriously that we “agonize” over the fight in which we are engaged. Moreover, Jude makes it clear that every Christian is called to this fight, not just church leaders, so it is critical that all believers sharpen their discernment skills so that they can recognize and prevent apostasy in their midst.
After urging his readers to contend earnestly for the faith, Jude highlights the reason: “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). In this one verse, Jude provides Christians with three traits of apostasy and apostate teachers:
First, Jude says that apostasy can be subtle. Apostates have “crept” into the church. In extra-biblical Greek, the term Jude uses describes the cunning craftiness of a lawyer who, through clever argumentation, infiltrates the minds of courtroom officials and corrupts their thinking. The word literally means “slip in sideways; come in stealthily; sneak in.” In other words, Jude says it is rare that apostasy begins in an overt and easily detectable manner. Instead, it looks a lot like Arius’s doctrine—only a single letter, the iota, differentiates the false teaching from the true.
Describing this aspect of apostasy and its underlying danger, A. W. Tozer wrote, “So skilled is error at imitating truth, that the two are constantly being mistaken for each another. It takes a sharp eye these days to know which brother is Cain and which is Abel.” The apostle Paul also speaks to the outwardly pleasing behavior of apostates and their teaching: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13–14). In other words, do not look for apostates to appear bad on the outside or speak dramatic words of heresy at the outset of their teaching. Rather than denying truth outright, apostates will twist it to fit their own agenda, but, as pastor R. C. Lensky has noted, “The worst forms of wickedness consist in perversions of the truth.”
Second, Jude describes apostates as “ungodly” and as those who use God’s grace as a license to commit unrighteous acts. Beginning with “ungodly,” Jude describes eighteen unflattering traits of apostates: they are ungodly (Jude 1:4), morally perverted (verse 4), denying Christ (verse 4), ones who defile the flesh (verse 8), rebellious (verse 8), people who revile angels (verse 8), who are ignorant about God (verse 8), those who proclaim false visions (verse 10), self-destructive (verse 10), grumblers (verse 16), faultfinders (verse 16), self-satisfying (verse 16), people who use arrogant words and false flattery (verse 16), mockers of God (verse 18), those who cause divisions (verse 19), worldly minded (verse 19), and finally (and not surprisingly), devoid of the Spirit/unsaved (verse 19).
Third, Jude says apostates “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” How do apostates do this? Paul tells us in his letter to Titus, “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:15–16). Through their unrighteous behavior, the apostates show their true selves. Unlike an apostate, a true believer is someone who has been delivered from sin to righteousness in Christ and who refuses to continue in sin (Romans 6:1–2).
Ultimately, the sign of an apostate is that he eventually falls away and departs from the truth of God’s Word and His righteousness. The apostle John signifies this is a mark of a false believer: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).
WARNINGS ABOUT FALSE TEACHINGS
Every New Testament book except Philemon contains warnings about false teaching. Why is this? Simply because ideas have consequences. Right thinking and its fruit produce goodness, whereas wrong thinking and its accompanying action result in undesired penalties. As an example, the Cambodian killing fields in the 1970s were the product of the nihilistic worldview of Jean Paul Sartre and his teaching. The Khmer Rouge’s leader, Pol Pot, lived out Sartre’s philosophy toward the people in a clear and frightening way, which was articulated in this manner: “To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss.”
Satan did not come to the first couple in the Garden with an external armament or visible weapon; instead, he came to them with an idea. And it was that idea, embraced by Adam and Eve, that condemned them and the rest of humankind, with the only remedy being the sacrificial death of God’s Son.
The great tragedy is that, knowingly or unknowingly, the apostate teacher dooms his unsuspecting followers. Speaking to His disciples about the religious leaders of His day, Jesus said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14, emphasis added). Alarmingly, it is not only false teachers who go to destruction, but their disciples follow them there. Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard put it this way: “For it has never yet been known to fail that one fool, when he goes astray, takes several others with him.” It is critical, now more than ever, that every believer pray for discernment, combat apostasy, and contend earnestly for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.
For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.
2And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.
3And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve,
4That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!
5The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers.
6He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.
7The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.
8Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.
9Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.
10All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?
11Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.
12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
15Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
16They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;
17That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?
18All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house.
19But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.
20Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.
21Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.
22For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.
23I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.
24The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:
25That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.
26This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.
27For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
28In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.
29Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.
30And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.
31Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.
32What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.