"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron." (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
All throughout the world we see an intense increase in apostasy-the falling away from the faith. This condition is often insidious and cunning, camouflaged with seductive words and deeds, attracting unsuspecting professing Christians and others-who do not understand Scripture and the perilous times in which we live.
This alarming state of apostasy is becoming more acute within many Christian churches and ministries. The apostasy is a very serious prophetic fulfillment of Scripture leading up to the coming seven-year Tribulation-when the prophesied one-world apostate religion will be fully implemented.
The soaring apostasy is a specific sign, a forerunner of the approaching Rapture/Tribulation.
The Greek definition of the word "apostasy" means "a defection; a renunciation."
Webster's Dictionary, the 1928 Edition provides a solid definition, "An abandonment of what one has professed; a total desertion or departure from one's faith or religion."
The Greek word "apostasia" stems from "aphistemi" which means to stand away from a body of truth. When Paul used the word apostasy (apostasia) in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 it was in reference to a falling away from, a departure from the faith. It is also important point to be aware of exactly how Paul uses the word departure in relation to the apostasy.
In 2 Timothy 4:6 Paul uses the word departure in this way:
"For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come."
The Greek word for departure is analusis. Paul is speaking about the end of his life in that passage; that he had fought the good fight, that he was about to leave (depart) from this earth, and go to be with the Lord, that his time had come. He did not use the words "falling away" apostasy (apostasia) to make that point. He used the word departure (analusis).
In 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul uses the word departed:
"For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia."
Once again we see a form of the word departure used as a voluntary act, as in packing ones bags for a vacation, or a decision to depart from a belief, not an involuntary abrupt exit. Therefore we conclude that apostasia means a forsaking of a body of truth.
We must also keep in mind that 2 Thessalonians was written before 2 Timothy. Why would Paul then later use the word departure (analusis) to make the point of his anticipated leaving (death) instead of apostasy (apostasia) "the falling away"which he used earlier in2 Thessalonians 2:3?
Clearly Paul's intention, his word usage in each context have two different meanings.
Apostasy in the Greek means to stand away from a body of truth; but when using the word departure in reference to apostasy (apostasia), it means to depart from a previous standing or belief, not a physical departure. The Greek word analusis means departure, as in physically leaving.
The apostasy Paul warned about is rampant today. Pointing out the various aspects of the growing apostasy should not be seen as harsh or unkind; it is intended to sound a warning bell to those who are asleep or think they can glide their way into eternity with one foot in the world and one foot involved in some quasi-Christian teachings. It is a serious offense to God when He is denigrated and misrepresented by false teachers who claim to teach in His name; it also weakens the Body of Christ.
"For there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped; men who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake" (Titus 1:10-11).
When we respond to biblical transgressions by ignoring them, we come close to making the same mistake as false teachers-camouflaging error as truth. We should love the truth of God's Word enough to be aware of the deceptive times in which we live, and address them just as Jesus did with the scribes and Pharisees:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matthew 23:27-28).
Many people no longer desire to be taught the Scriptures or read and study the Bible. Instead they seek out pastors or Bible teachers who preach the "feel-good" sermons, and offer various social programs. The apostle Paul's forewarning rings true today:
"For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Clearly, as we have just read, the apostle Paul wrote, there is such a thing as "sound doctrine." The pastors who lead lukewarm apostate congregations have lost their way; they are harming the people who count on them to teach sound doctrine. Many Christians in the Western world are fed lukewarm, sour milk and remain spiritual babies until death, as Paul wrote in his epistle to the Hebrews:
"Of whom we have many things to say, and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing. For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that someone teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:11-14).
The abandonment of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith has led many Christians to accept some of the unscriptural practices of the world such as fornication, alcohol intoxication, use of illegal drugs, watching illicit television shows and movies, listening to inappropriate music, incessant gossip and lifestyles that glorify themselves and not God.
The lifestyles of many professing Christians are similar to that of the unbelieving world. Paul prophesied that in the last days that evil would abound; that people would become so corrupt that they would become contemptuous and hate-filled-stepping all over one another for selfish gain.
"But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power therefore. From these also turn away" (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
It is expected that those in the secular world will live godless lives, but far too many Christians, even those who profess Christ often-spread hatred against other good Christians, which includes outright lying and slander. Hypocrisy is a prevalent problem in the Church. Control and pride issues are prevalent. How such people will reconcile their dishonesty and underhanded behavior when they face the Lord one day is an issue that may not even cross their minds.
"If any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth not his tongue but deceiveth his heart, this man's religion is vain" (James 1:26).
Today many Christians do not understand that we are already living in the time of the apostasy. It will continue to get much worse the closer we move toward the Tribulation years, when the apostasy will be at an all-time high.
Here are some characteristics of an apostate church:
Indifference to doctrine, truth and scriptural preaching.
Feel-good talks rather than Scripture-laden sermons.
Acceptance of all religions as different ways to God.
Emphasis on the social gospel not the true gospel.
No talk of sin, hell, literal fire and brimstone and eternal never-ending judgment.
Double-mindedness: Worship of God and mammon.
Taking a look at the popular "Feel Good" (It's All About Me) movement can be very revealing. Pride, control issues, self-importance, laziness and greed are the main components of the watered down ear-tickling "sermons" that drive these Laodicean-styled churches.
The apostasy began to significantly increase as an explosion of ministries within Christianity sprang up in the 20th century. Pastors and Bible teachers started preaching and teaching lukewarm "feel-good" sermons relegating the true teachings of Christ to second class status.
The late Robert Schuller shocked the world when he said that believing you are a sinner is bad for self-esteem. He used "possibility thinking" to help people solve their problems.
Robert Schuller abandoned the gospel that leads to salvation in favor of human reasoning, which leads only to death and hell. He taught humanism-the belief that fallen mankind can become good enough to get into heaven by doing good works.
Bruce Wilkinson, author of several books is a key figure in this movement. In his book, Dream Giver, he uses the word "dream" hundreds of times, but not once does he use the name "Jesus."
Even the very controversial emerging church advocate, Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback mega-church in Southern California and author of The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life recognizes the problems of "seeking for purpose" through a self-help approach, (without the Lord being the primary catalyst for a changed life). This is what he has to say about self-help books:
The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That's because we typically begin at the wrong starting point-ourselves. We ask self-centered questions like, "What do I want to be?"
Or "What shall I do with my life?" and "What are my goals, my ambitions and my dreams for my future?" Focusing on ourselves will never relieve life's purpose. Many people try to use God for their own self-actualization. That is a reversal of nature and is doomed to failure.
I have read many books that suggest ways to discover the purpose of my life. All of them can be classified as "self-help" books because they approach the subject from a self-centered viewpoint.
Self-help books, even Christian ones, usually offer the same predictable steps to finding your life's purpose. Consider your dreams, clarify your values, set some goals, figure out what you are good at, aim high, go for it.
Rick Warren makes some excellent points but sadly, because of his very strong pro-Catholic ecumenical leanings, he too, has become part of the apostasy. This is how many apostate preachers work. They offer some good sound teachings but then throw in some blasphemous curves with extra-biblical doctrines and ideas.
Scripture unequivocally teaches that believers are not to get instruction (counsel) from the unsaved and those who compromise their faith; and that includes reading self-help books that water down God's holy Word.
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of scoffers" (Psalm 1:1).
The confusing teachings by questionable preachers/teachers is a cornerstone of the growing apostasy leading up to the prophesied one world religion-which will spread like a plague during the seven-year Tribulation (under the leadership of the False Prophet, the second beast of Revelation 13).
As believers it is important to support, encourage and earnestly pray for our beloved pastors who have not compromised their faith. Many good pastors work tirelessly for the Lord and are faithful to their calling. They bless us with their true to the Bible sermons and Bible studies. These good men have many responsibilities and should never be taken for granted. They are on the front lines of this spiritual battlefield and they deserve our attention and heartfelt prayers.
When God's Holy Bible is our life's Guide Book, we will not become spiritual casualties. Praying throughout each day as Scripture teaches keeps us focused on the Lord and sin is kept in check (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
"Thy word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against the" (Psalm 119:11).
Faithfully reading and studying the Word of God will help keep us on the straight and narrow path (Deuteronomy 17:19; Acts 17:11). Memorizing Scripture and meditating on God's Word strengthens each believer's walk with the Lord, and witnessing skills are sharpened when opportunities arise to share the gospel.
We are better equipped to witness to others when the gospel is hidden in our hearts (Colossians 3:16; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2). Spending time with other faithful believers is a blessing and brings unity to the Body of Christ (Hebrews 3:13; 10:24-25).
"...but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15).
John 7:17 is an important Scripture every serious Bible student should grasp and apply to his or her life daily. Spiritual discernment is key to knowing the will of God in order to live for Him:
"If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself."
We should always pray for wisdom, patience and guidance to discern God's will-so we can stay very true to His teachings, and become more effective ambassadors for Christ. What an incredible honor and blessing it is to belong to the Lord. Although this entire world is swirling in a menagerie of chaos, our calling is to live for the Lord and to "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).
"Yea, if thou cry after discernment, and lift up thy voice for understanding; if thou seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures: Then shalt thou understand the fear of Jehovah, and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:3-5).