WHAT IS "APOSTASY"? -- THE GREAT "FALLING AWAY"

August 9, 2009

We now turn our attention to the "Great Falling Away" spoken of in the last article and taught by the Apostle Paul in II Thessalonians 2.  Millions of Christians are now being taught that the antichrist will be some evil person who will rise into power outside of Christianity after the rapture.  But I ask you to think with me for a moment.  What if this idea is a horrible mistake?  What if the antichrist rises up inside of Christianity before the Church is caught up to be with Christ?  Because few would be looking for an antichrist within, can you imagine what kind of harm he could do?  Hold on to your seats, for you are about to discover that Paul taught that antichrist will come from within!

Paul wrote, Don't let anyone deceive you in anyway.  For that day [when Jesus comes to gather us] will not come unless the apostasy [falling away] comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of destruction (II Thessalonians 2:3).  Almost everyone agrees that these words predict the rise of the antichrist.  What many people have missed is that Paul is describing an antichrist that rises in the wake of the "falling away."  What does this mean? 

Once again, a little knowledge of Greek is handy when interpreting this text.  The original word Paul used for "falling away" is apostasia, which literally means an apostasy or departure from Jesus Christ inside the Christian Church.  To illustrate the connection between "the falling away," and the rising up of the antichrist, imagine a boy who climbs a tree, stands on a branch, loses his footing, and then "falls."  After banging his head on the ground, a large bump starts growing on his forehead.  Surely you can see the connection between the boy "falling" from the tree and the rising of the bump.  It's the same with the "falling away" and the rising of the antichrist.  As we are about to see, this "falling away" unquestionably takes place inside the church!  That is, there are Christians, saved by God's grace, who will "fall away" (commit apostasy) and antichrist arises.

In the first century, the Christian church remained relatively pure, especially as long as the apostles were alive.  There were some who preached false doctrine and heresy, but they were quickly put down by Paul, John and others.  But with His cosmic perspective, God saw a change would come, and He revealed this sober reality to the writers of the New Testament.  A brief survey of the following Bible passages shows plainly that an apostasy, a departure, or "falling away" from Jesus Christ was predicted to occur inside of Christianity:

  • Acts 20:    Paul told the "elders of the church" in Ephesus (verse 17) that soon many false Christian leaders would rise up from among themselves to "draw away the disciples" after them (verse 30).  He was so burdened about this coming apostasy that he warned the church "night and day with tears" (verse 31).

  • I Timothy 4:    The Holy Spirit clearly warned that "some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (verses 1).  Here again is a predicted departure from the faith inside the church.

  • II Timothy 4:    Paul predicted a time would come when many in the church would no longer "endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (verses 3 & 4).  I believe there is no doubt about it that these words point toward an apostasy in the church that will lead professed Christians to turn from Bible truth to fictitious fables.

  • II Peter 2:    Peter told the early believers that soon "there will be false teachers among you" (verse 1).  The words "among you" means inside the church.

  • Jude:    After urging believers to contend earnestly for the faith once-and-for-all delivered to the saints, Jude warned that "certain men" had already "crept in unnoticed" among them (verse 4).

  • Revelation 2:    Jesus Himself sadly told His followers in the church of Ephesus, "Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works..." (verses 4 & 5).  These words are so clear!  Many Christians in the early church of Ephesus were falling away from their initial love for Christ, who died for them.

Thus we see Paul, Peter, Jude, and Jesus all passionately concerned about a "falling away," which means an apostasy, occurring inside the Christian church.  We might compare this apostasy to a disease entering a portion of the human body.  As a result, a malignant cancer finally develops.  The shocking reality is that God's Word has predicted a similar disease-like condition would eventually overtake a large portion of Christianity.  According to II Thessalonians 2, as a direct result of this unhappy condition, a diabolical spiritual cancer would rise up.  Paul called this cancer, "the mystery of lawlessness" (II Thessalonians 2:7).  We call him Antichrist.

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