Has the Great Falling Away from the Faith Begun? – Part 1

Stephan Beitze

There have always been passionate preachers who warned of the approaching apocalypse and denounced the corruption of society. What is different today?

The Bible speaks repeatedly of “falling away.” Sometimes the word “apostasy” is used, meaning rebellion or turning away from something that you had believed in.

In the Old Testament, terms such as “backsliding” appear (Jer 2:19; 5:6; 8:5; 14:7; Hos 11:7). When it came to apostasy in Israel, it was a turning away from the Word of God, from His will, and from His presence. This has always been associated with idolatry, immorality, social injustice, egoism, and sooner or later the judgment of God. Among other things, Daniel uses this word for the time of the Antichrist: “With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant (apostatized), but the people who know their God will firmly resist him” (Dan 11:32 NIV).

In the New Testament, we find various passages that speak of apostasy from divine truths.

The first to speak of apostasy in the end times was the Lord Jesus Himself. He prophesied that in a coming time of tribulation this would be seen in a particular way, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matt 24:10-11). The same word is used in the parable of the sower and the four soils. From the seed that falls in stony places, it says: “But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away” (Matt 13:21). Although the Word of God has had some effect on them, they fall away as soon as there are problems.

The Lord Jesus called deception one of the most important end-time signs before His coming in glory. It is the only sign that is repeated three times in Matthew 24 (verses 4-5, 11, 23-26). And, although the culmination of the seduction will come in the last great tribulation period, we already see the harbingers of it.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, the apostle Paul wrote to those who said that the coming of the Lord had already happened: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (KJV). Elsewhere Paul says, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim 4:1). Or, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb 3:12). And, in 2 Timothy 4:4, in the context of warnings about the end times, Paul declares: “And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

These Scriptures show that the more we approach the end times and the appearance of the Antichrist, the more falling away will increase. But for there to be falling away or apostasy, there must first have been something people can fall away from, and something which has influenced them. If we now look for something in our Western world that has influenced large parts of society for a long time, we cannot avoid talking about Christianity.

Christianity as a whole not only includes the true believers in Jesus Christ, but also all those who call themselves Christians culturally, but do not believe in their hearts. The whole West and many other parts of the world were influenced by Christianity and the Bible. We see this in history, literature, laws, habits, education, values and traditions, art, and in many other things…even in the division of our era into BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, “in the year of our Lord”).

It is frightening to see just how much has been lost in the last decades. Christian values are becoming a “scandal,” a motivation for mockery, contempt, and even persecution. Unfortunately, even true believers can be influenced by these worldly tendencies. In the context of 2 Timothy, Paul warns against a very dangerous time. If we now want to know whether the coming of the Lord is near, all we have to do is read the last words of the apostle Paul. In the second letter to Timothy, which could also be described as his will, the apostle shows the qualities that will characterize people in the end times.

He introduces the subject with a grave warning: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim 3:1). The qualities the apostle now begins to mention are not much different from those in Romans 1, where people are generally described who want to know nothing of God. Why, then, this serious warning? Not because the danger of the “last days” originates with people who are far from God, but because these evil qualities are visible where many consider (or considered) themselves Christians.

Generally speaking, the entire West (Europe, the American continent, Australia, and parts of Asia and Africa) has been characterized by a certain fear of God since its Christianization and into the mid-20th century. Legislation, moral values, and the understanding of what a good life should look like were shaped by the standards in God’s Word. Of course, that does not mean that all people believed or kept it. But sinfulness was not usually considered a virtue.

This attitude changed drastically, beginning in the 1960s. The sexual and feminist revolution made fornication and infidelity something worth striving for, an expression of supposed authenticity and true love. The deliberate rejection of Christian thought exploded: on the one hand, more and more people turned to Eastern and demonic religions in their search for meaning; and on the other hand, the theory of evolution increasingly received the status of religious dogma. The decline in ethical reasoning has developed far-reaching consequences in the moral behavior of many. Drug use grew out of control. Open Satanism became “cool” (with the threadbare justification, “We don’t really believe in the devil”). All of this perverted so-called Christianity as never before.

Some of the effects of this large-scale apostasy can be seen in 2 Timothy 3. When Paul speaks of the “last days,” he already means the time of Timothy (v. 5). But it is evident that the falling away has reached an unprecedented peak today.

Paul starts with “lovers of their own selves.” The people of the end times are egocentric, selfish, and boastful. That is the essence of sin. The center of these self-loving people is themselves. It is the realm of the ego. And when the ego rules, there is no room for others. We see this today in many ways. Everything is about oneself, about self-discovery, about “my identity.” “I believe,” “I think,” “I want” is more important than the will of God. For self-loving people, there is no time for God and His interests. At most, He gets what still remains after the ego has been fulfilled. A profane proof of this development is self-portrayal online. We’ve become a selfie-society, where the big ego always appears first in the picture.

This self-love is also expressed in an oversized love for one’s own body. Anyone today who doesn’t feel comfortable with it at best covers it with tattoos, undergoes cosmetic surgery, or, in the worst case, changes their sex. This self-love, in which man stands alone in the center and thinks himself the highest authority in heaven and earth, has long since infiltrated the churches. The feel-good theology of our time says, “God wants you to feel good. So only do what makes you feel good. It has to be right for you.” It gives license to do everything that brings fun, pleasure, or enjoyment. Whether it agrees with God’s Word is no longer important. Biblical principles such as devotion, being living sacrifices (Rom 12:2), or abstinence (Gal 5:24) are no longer modern and are barely heard from the pulpits.

The next evil feature on the apostle’s list is “covetous,” or greedy. This is closely related to the previous one. If you love yourself, you are striving for more money to satisfy yourself. The self-lover collects money and goods, and there is little to nothing left over for others. They don’t notice how their selfish love of money affects all areas of life—personal, family, and social. Our Lord Jesus warned against this in Luke 12:34: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” He also said that the love of money is an idol of this world: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24).

Unfortunately, many Christians fall victim to this pitfall as well. They only live for the material, and merely give what is left to the Lord. They fly all over the world for vacations, but have no eyes for the mission all over the world. They spend a lot on themselves, but the Lord’s work cannot go on, because the means are lacking.

Next, Paul calls out those who are “boasters.” Whoever is enamored with himself and has a lot of money, naturally has to boast about it. Self- and money-lovers show off their new car, the best cell phone, expensive clothes, the vacation paradise that they visited, what they were able to afford, or what they pulled off. And whoever cannot keep up with the others in this regard plunges into debt for the sake of appearances. Unfortunately, boasting within the church is also not foreign. Some even manage to brag about what they have done in the service of the Lord.

Next follows “proud.” The self-loving, money-loving boasters of the end times are arrogant. They try to stand above each other. One of the most important values of Christianity, humility, is thought of with contempt and viewed as a weakness. Unfortunately, Christians also allow themselves to be blinded by titles, respect, recognition from people, and arrogance. There is not much room left for humility.

Paul continues and calls out “blasphemers.” It’s a question of denigrating God and others. Everyone can say all kinds of things about Jesus, God, the Bible, and Christians. I honestly believe that Christianity is the religion that most reviles its own faith. For other religions, Christ is still a great teacher or prophet. But unfortunately, He is blasphemed by Christians themselves. Church services become a show, and publishers refuse to speak about the righteousness of God, sin, the cross, Jesus’ blood, or the confession of sins.

The most dangerous attacks on the Bible are not from the outside, but from the inside: from the liberal theologians who question everything that is supernatural, or even deny it directly—up to and including the resurrection of Jesus. Although they call themselves Christians, they deny the basic principles of Christianity.

The next characteristic mentioned by Paul, “disobedient to parents,” doesn’t need much elaboration. Anti-authoritarian education is “in.” But if children do not learn to obey their parents, which is the first commandment with a promise, they will also not obey God or any other authority.

Paul calls the next character trait “unthankful.” This is also related to the previous one. If you don’t respect your parents, you won’t be thankful, either. This principle applies to all cases in which someone does us good, not least God Himself, and we don’t appreciate it. In the churches we often find a lot of criticism, but few words of thanks.

After ingratitude, Paul mentions “unholy”; that is, to be “away from God.” Whoever is ungrateful does not need God. A teen who was offered a New Testament by the Gideons said, “I don’t need one. I’ve got everything.”

But unholiness is more than just a life far from God; it is a life that specifically goes against Him. Laws that once defended Christian values are thrown out, and instead, same-sex marriages, abortion, or euthanasia are legalized.

In verse 3, the apostle adds “without natural affection.” This means neglecting or even attacking those who are closest to you; not loving those you would naturally love. How many forget their parents in retirement homes! Worldwide, 56 million abortions are performed annually. Child prostitution and pedophilia are on the rise. What one should naturally protect is neglected, tormented, or even killed.

“Trucebreakers” is the next sad feature. The unforgiving argue about everything possible, and do not come together anymore. We see this in marriages, but also in society at large; violent demonstrations, and in the increasing hardening on the right and left sides of the political spectrum. News and entertainment programs are full of hostility and unsolvable problems.

“False accusers” follows. This is one of the qualities of the devil himself. It doesn’t matter to slanderers whether something is true or not; the main thing is that they can show the other in a bad light. Time and again we hear that we’re living in a post-truth age. It does not seem important whether the media show the truth. What is important is that I like it, that it is compatible with “my truth.” This can be seen above all in today’s political trench warfare.

Unfortunately, many Christians also lend the devil their tongues to slander others. It starts with neighbors, and doesn’t even stop at the brother in church.

Another trait is “incontinent.” It means the opposite of self-restrained. The intemperate man lives according to his impulses. And that leads to the lawlessness and immorality that we see today. Everything is allowed, and even promoted by the media and legislation. Self-restraint is thought of as an imposition, and is met with criticism and ridicule. The consequence is that we hardly see healthy families anymore. Man only lives for himself. Divorces, which only a few decades ago meant a catastrophe, are something normal today. Or people just live together and when it doesn’t work out, they separate. Pornography and pedophilia do not stop at Christians. Who dares to defend self-restraint today?

Another term Paul names is “fierce.” This could also be translated as “brutal,” “bloodthirsty,” or “cruel.” Among other things, it refers to people who enjoy violence. Today’s media knows how to take advantage of this. We hear of rape and sexual harassment more and more, unfortunately also from key leaders in the so-called Christian world. On top of that, we see increasing cruelty in sports, on the street, and sadly, often in families. Mixed Martial Arts is currently the fastest-growing sport (if you can call it that), and it revels in pounding an opponent’s face into pulp.

A further subject is “despisers of those that are good.” It means the opposite of friendliness, kindness, mercy, and other Christian values. We see this again in the media, laws, school lessons, etc. It is in direct opposition to Biblical values.

Verse 4 continues with “traitors.” Traitors are willing to betray, leave, or unjustly treat their spouse, friend, family, or anyone who has helped them. The promise, “Till death do us part” is rarely mentioned at weddings or is made fun of. How many everyday promises go unkept? And who still expects a politician to keep all of his campaign promises?

Of course, fidelity to God’s Word is also on the chopping block, or has become obsolete for many. That’s why true Christians everywhere are running into more and more difficulty. This is what the apostle says in verse 12: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” There will be increasingly more hostility to the gospel and true Christianity.

Midnight Call - 07/2018

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