Inside View May/Jun 2013
I often hear people say, “I think the Rapture is close!” or “I believe we are living in the last days just before the end-times.” Many people have a profound feeling this world can’t continue on its current path much longer, and world events seem to point to the soon-coming of our Lord.
One of the marks of the last days is increased apostasy within the church. So it is important to be able to recognize apostasy and deal with it.
The word apostasy comes from a Greek word meaning “to stand away from, to depart from.” When applied to the church, it refers to people who left the truth of God’s Word, particularly the gospel.
Concerning the great apostasy of the last days, the New Testament teaches (1) it will come to the church, (2) it will occur within the Church Age, and (3) it will mark the end-times of the Church Age.
Its characteristics include denying God (2 Tim. 3:4–5), Christ (2 Pet. 2:1; 1 Jn. 2:18; 4:3), Christ’s return (2 Pet. 3:3–4), the faith (1 Tim. 4:1–2), sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3–4), the importance of living a separated life (3:1–7), morals (vv. 1–8, 13; Jude 18), and authority (2 Tim. 3:1).
During the “perilous times” that will affect the church in the last days (v. 1), many will have a “form of godliness” but deny its power (v. 5). They will have an insatiable desire to learn about God but will never be able to come to know His truth, revealed through His Word (v. 7).
Furthermore, the church will not endure sound doctrine. Instead, people will follow their own desires and surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears with fables, rather than truth (4:3–4).
Apostasy is not an attack from the outside world; it is an attack from within the church. How can we recognize it? Here are four signs:
(1) Human Experience. Apostasy uses human experience to determine truth (vv. 3–4), overemphasizing the experience of self-discovery and focusing on social programs, with a goal of reforming humanity. However, our lives should be centered around God and His glory, not on ourselves.
(2) Sensuality and Greed. Apostasy exploits and maligns God’s truth and teaches that God only wants us to be happy and enjoy life (2 Pet. 2). However, God’s primary goal is not our happiness; it is our holiness. He does not call us to sensual pleasures and wealthy indulgences.
(3) Mocking God’s Word. Apostasy denies Scripture’s clear teaching and ignores God’s past work in history (chap. 2). Considering how many deny the literal six days of creation, it is no wonder so many deny God’s literal words that He will return to judge the earth and re-establish His Kingdom on Earth, with the Messiah sitting on His throne in Jerusalem.
Today many within the church mock the Rapture, Tribulation, and Millennial Kingdom. Yet the fact that God fulfilled prophecy in the past should be sufficient grounds to believe He will fulfill it in the future. Eschatology (the study of future events) is not a science created out of thin air; it recognizes the continuation of God’s plan of redemption, which He has revealed in His Word.
(4) Ungodly Lifestyle. Apostasy teaches an ungodly lifestyle (Jude), turning God’s grace into a license to sin and denying Jesus Christ as Lord and Master. Apostates recast Christ into an image that suits them, rather than accept the Person presented in the Bible.
How often do you hear sin and eternal judgment preached? Yet churches that fail to teach that people are sinners and God hates sin provide an incomplete picture of Christ: who He is, what He did, and how He expects us to live. When church leaders sanction sin, it is a sign of apostasy.
God tells us to disassociate ourselves from such people and preach His Word (2 Tim. 3:5; 4:2). In fact, in the midst of his discourse on apostasy, the apostle Paul declared, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (3:16). The apostle Peter also said to trust God’s Word (2 Pet. 1:16–21). Scripture is to be trusted and used to teach His truth because people desperately need it.
Israel My Glory has been teaching God’s Word since its first issue in 1942. And with His help, we will continue to do so until He comes!