Apostasy (Gk. apostasia) appears twice in the New Testament as a noun (Acts 21:21; 2 Thes. 2:3) and in Heb. 3:12 as a verb (Gk. aphistemi, translated “depart”). The Greek term is defined as a falling, defection, withdrawal, or turning from what one has formerly turned to. The Holy Spirit has explicitly revealed that in the latter times, there will be a falling away both from a personal faith in Jesus Christ and from scriptural truth (cf. 2 Thes. 2:3; Jude 2-3). In the last days multitudes within the professing church will depart from Biblical truth. Both the apostle Paul and Yeshua (Jesus) depict a dismal picture of the condition of much of the visible church; morally, spiritually, and doctrinally, as the present age closes. (Matt. 24:5,10-13,24; Tim. 4:1 2 Tim. 4:3,4). Paul in particular stresses that the churches will be invaded by godless elements in the last days. The falling away within the church will have two dimensions:
- Theological apostasy: is a departure from and rejection of a part or all of the original teachings of Christ and the apostles. False leaders will offer salvation and cheap grace and ignore Christ’s demand for repentance, separation from immorality, and loyalty to God and His standards. False gospels centering on man’s desires, needs, and goals of self-interest will become popular.
- Moral Apostasy: is the severing of one’s relationship with Christ and returning to sin and immorality. Apostates may proclaim right doctrine and N.T. teaching, yet abandon God’s moral standards. Many churches will tolerate almost anything for the sake of numbers, money, success, and honor. The gospel of the cross with its call to sacrifice for the kingdom of God, and deny one’s self will become rare.
The lord Jesus has given us a clear picture of what an apostate church would look like today, when he spoke to the church at Thyatira in the Rev. 2:18-29. A prevalent sin within the church in Thyatira was the tendency to tolerate sin, unrighteousness, or unbiblical teaching in its leaders (vv. 14,20). John calls one particular person Jezebel, a name derived from the Old Testament Jezebel and synonymous with idolatry, persecution, and control. (1 ki. 16:31; 19:1-3; 21:1-15). For this reason Thyatira is also known as the Jezebel church. Some at Thyatira probably accepted false teachers because they claimed to speak for God and because they manifested great talents, power, position, success and influence. However Christ condemns and rejects the sin and compromise within the church in Thyatira.
We must reject anyone who put their own ideologies above Biblical revelation and truth, and who state that God accepts within the church any who commit acts of immorality and participate in the evil pleasures of the world. Some in the church often tolerate such false teaching because of indifference, fear of confrontation, or personal friendship, or because of a desire for peace, harmony, personal advancement, or money; God will destroy such a church with its leaders. There were those in Thyatira who has held fast to Christ’s Word and His righteous standards. God knows them and promises that they will rule with Him over the nations (vs. 26). “The depths of Satan” may refer to the false teaching that says in order to fully experience the grace and salvation of God, one must enter into depths of sin and become acquainted with all kinds of evil. However, Yeshua’s words “till I come” and “unto the end” (Vs. 26) make it clear that His messages, warnings and promises to the seven churches apply also to all churches until the end.
1 Timothy 4:1-5
- There will appear within the church ministers who are highly gifted and mightily anointed by God. Some will accomplish great things for God and preach the gospel effectively, but they will depart from the faith and gradually turn to seducing spirits and false doctrines. Because of their former anointing and zeal for God, they will mislead many.
- Many believers will fall away from the faith because they will fail to love the truth (2 Thes. 2:10) and resist the sinful trends of the last days. Thus, the distorted gospel of compromising ministers and educators will find little resistance in many churches (2 Tim. 3:5; 4:3).
- The popularity of unbiblical teaching will be primarily the result of Satan’s directing his demonic hosts in a more intensified opposition to God’s work. The second coming of Christ will be preceded by a greater intensity of Satanism, spiritism, the occult, demon possession, and demonic deception in the world and in the church (Eph. 6:11-12).
- The believer’s protection against such deception involves utter loyalty to God and His inspired Word, and the knowledge that men of great charisma and anointing can be deceived and then deceive others with their mixture of truth and error. This awareness must be accompanied by a true desire within the believer’s heart to do the will of God and walk in righteousness and the fear of God (Ps. 25:4-5,12-15).
- Faithful believers must not think that because apostasy is prevalent within Christianity during the last days that authentic revival cannot occur or evangelism according to the N.T. pattern cannot be successful. God has promised that during the “last days” He will save all who call upon His name and separate themselves from this perverse generation (Acts 2:16-21,33,38-40), and He will pour out His Spirit on them.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
The last days include the entire Christian era. Yet Paul prophesies through the Holy Spirit that things will become worse as the end approaches. The last days will be marked by ever-increasing wickedness in the world, a collapse of moral standards, multiplying of false teachers and churches within the kingdom of God. These times will be especially grievous and trying for God’s true servants. Paul issues this warning in order to fortify those ministers and their churches who remain loyal to Christ and His revelation. The church in apostasy only means greater grace and power for those who hold fast to the original faith delivered to the saints.
Having a form of godliness
Paul refers to those who profess to be Christians and appear to be religious, yet do not manifest the power of God that can save them from sin, selfishness, and immorality. Such people tolerate immorality within their churches and teach that a person may practice the sins listed in vv. 2-4 and yet inherit salvation and the Kingdom of God.
2 Timothy 4:1-5
They will not endure sound doctrine: Throughout the history of the church some have always refused to love sound doctrine yet as the end draws near, the situation will grow worse. Many will profess to be Christians, gather at churches, appear to reverence God, but will not tolerate the original N.T. apostolic faith or the Biblical demand to separate from unrighteousness.
They shall turn their ears from the truth: Sound Biblical teaching from a man of God will no longer be endured or tolerated by many within the Christian church. Those who will turn from the truth will want teaching that demands less from them. NO COMMITMENT, NO REQUIREMENT TO LIVE HOLY. They will not accept God’s word when it speaks of repentance, sin, damnation, and the necessity of holiness and separation from the world.
After their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers: these professing believers will not seekers pastors and leaders according to the standards of God’s word, but will seek those who conform to their own self-seeking and worldly desires. They will choose preachers with the gifts of oratory, the ability to entertain, and a message that reassures them that they can remain a Christian while living according to the flesh (HYPER GRACE). However, the Holy Spirit warns all those who remain faithful to God and submit themselves to His Word to expect persecution and suffering for righteousness sake. Furthermore they must separate from people, churches, and institutions who deny the power of God in salvation and who preach a compromising gospel. We must ever be loyal to the N.T. gospel and to God’s faithful ministers who proclaim it. Doing this, we can be assured of the close fellowship of Christ and times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.
2 Thessalonians 2:3
Paul explains the events that will signal the beginning of the day of the Lord and goes on to discuss the destruction of the man of sin and the unrighteous at the end of the age. The sequence of events is as follows:
- Throughout the entire church age, a “mystery of iniquity is at work, reminding us that the end is coming; and evil will become progressively and aggressively worse and worse
- As the “Mystery of iniquity” becomes more prevalent, apostasy in the church will reach major proportions.
- The restrainer (i.e. “he who letteth”) of the man of lawlessness is then taken out of the way.
- Next, the man of lawlessness is revealed
- Apostasy reaches its climax in total rebellion against God and His word; and God sends a deluding influence upon those who did not love the truth.
- The man of lawlessness is then destroyed along with all who took pleasure in wickedness.