Be On Guard: The End Times Church Is One Inundated With Apostasy
here is much talk going around these days about how unified, triumphant, and glorious the Church will be in the end times right before the return of Jesus. This pollyanna image of the Church is certainly attractive, but it does not correspond with what the Bible prophesies.
The picture of the Church in the end times that is portrayed in the Bible is not a very pretty one. For one thing, the Bible prophecies that the Church will be racked by apostasy. Jesus prophesied that “many will fall away” (Matt. 24:10). Likewise, Paul said the Anti-Christ cannot be revealed until “the great apostasy” takes place (II Thess. 2:3).
Paul reveals the source of the apostasy in II Timothy 3:5 — “Men will hold to form of religion but will deny its power.” The fulfillment of this prophecy began in the 1920’s with the ascendancy of the German School of Higher Criticism. This school of thought, which quickly swept American seminaries, advocated that the Bible should be approached like any other piece of literature — with a critical eye. The concepts of the special inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible were rejected. The Bible came to be viewed as Man’s search for God rather than God’s revelation to Man. As a human product, it was considered to be full of myth, legend and superstition.
This assault on the integrity of God’s Word opened the floodgates of apostasy. Before long Christian theologians and ministers were laughing about the virgin birth of Jesus, discounting His miracles, casting doubt on His resurrection, and flatly denying His second coming.
As the uniqueness of Jesus was downplayed, many denominations began to embrace the damnable doctrine of Universalism. And that is where we are today, caught up in the midst of a gross apostasy which says, “Believe what you want. The important thing is to be sincere. There are many roads to God.” All of which makes a liar of Jesus who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:16). The result is that there are a lot of sincere people who are sincerely going to Hell.
A second set of prophecies warn that the Church will be assaulted by cultic deception in the end times. Jesus emphasized this point repeatedly in His Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:5, 11, 24). And Paul underlined it in the strongest possible language when he wrote: “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (I Tim. 4:1).
In the 19th Century we saw the rise of demonic teachings that Jesus is the brother of Lucifer, one of thousands of Gods created by the super god, Adam, an exalted man. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were next on the scene with their perverted teaching that Jesus is the Archangel Michael.
This century has witnessed the rapid multiplication of the cults, just as prophesied. Today, life long Christians who do not know why they believe what they profess to believe are being sucked into the cults by the tens of thousands.
Equally appalling is the direct penetration of the Church by cultic doctrine. Well known Christian leaders are advocating the ancient Shamanistic practice of visualization as the key to prayer. Others are teaching one of Satan’s oldest lies — that those who have been born again are “little gods.”
The latest cultic fad is the concept of Satanic salvation; namely, that we do not owe our salvation to the blood Jesus shed on the Cross but rather to some imaginary torment which He suffered at the hands of Satan for three days in Hell. And then, of course, there is Masonry, the oldest form of cultic penetration of the Church, with its secret blood oaths, its works salvation, and its Universalism.
A third group of prophecies indicate that in the end times the Church will be assailed by doctrinal error. These are doctrines that do not damn the soul but which confuse and weaken the spirit.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.”
There are many popular myths in Christendom today that either rob people of the power of their faith or else deceive them into practicing a presumptuous faith. Among Charismatics the doctrinal abuses have been epidemic, including the following myths:
Faith is to be placed in your faith and not in God.
It is always God’s will to heal.
The believer has the authority of Jesus.
It is God’s desire that believers be financially prosperous.
Believers can have what they want through positive confession.
The winds of doctrine (Eph. 4:14) are blowing through the Church at gale force and believers are being tossed here and there by the waves, all in the fulfillment of prophecy.
A fourth characteristic prophesied about the Church in the end times is that it will be compromised and corrupted by worldliness. The prophetic picture of this worldly church is found in Revelation 3:14-22, where the church at Laodicea is described.
The seven churches depicted in Revelation 2 and 3 are symbolic of seven periods of church history. The church at Laodicea, the last to be presented, is representative of the type of church that will prevail in Christendom at the end of the Church Age.
The picture is a pathetic one. The Church is apathetic, neither hot nor cold. The apathy is a product of the Church’s adoption of a worldly attitude expressed in the words, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” Jesus responds with a scathing rebuke: “You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
In fulfillment of this prophecy, our churches today are filled with cultural Christians who have accepted Jesus as Savior but not as Lord. They are schizophrenic Christians who walk with one foot in the Church and the other in the world. They are carnal Christians who shout “Hallelujah!” on the weekend but who live like pagans during the week. They are greedy Christians in pursuit of health, wealth, and power. The Cross and its message of sacrifice is as offensive to them as it is to the world.
We must all be on guard spiritually. None of us is immune to deception. Everything must be tested by the Word. If a doctrine fails the test of Scripture, it is to be rejected, regardless of who is teaching it. Our trust is to be placed in the Word and not in men. ✪