Time or Eternity? ™

Apostacy: a sign of the times before the return of Christ

In Apostacy, EVIL SPIRITS on April 5, 2012 at 8:00 am

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrine of devils.” (I Timothy 4:1)

The Spirit here is the permanent prophetic witness.  Not in parable, allegory or  symbol; but in explicit, unmistakable, literal words.  The latter times are explained by the current period in which they are contrast.   In these last days, Heb. 1:1, stands in antithesis to the Old Testament days, and means the days of the Christian dispensation. The last days of 2 Pet. 3:3, plainly refers to the last days before the second advent; of which Martha, in John 21:24, mentions the very last day.   Seducing spirits are the demoniac opposite of The Holy Spirit.  The doctrines they teach are not about demons, but “doctrines” opposing the gospel of Jesus Christ.   Their sin consist in an apostasy from the Christian faith and oppressive superstition among the people.  It is expressly said that this apostasy will take place “in the latter days.” But apostasy is not a sudden occurrence, confined to a definite point of time. It is a progressive work requiring a period of time for its accomplishment. It advances step by step as it is able to lead and control public sentiment.

In our study of the predictions of the apostasy as embodied in scripture and of their realization as attested by later* history, we shall recognize two distinct phases or stages of the progressive falling away as follows:

(1) Apostasy from the Church; and

(2) The apostasy of the Church.

In the first stage we have to deal with the forsaking of the truth and severance from the Church by individuals, at times few, at other times many. Such conditions can scarcely be considered otherwise than as natural and inevitable.  We find the Church itself apostate, boasting of temporal power, making its own laws, teaching its own dogmas, preserving only a form of godliness, while denying the power thereof.

The Lord foresaw the great and general departure from the principles of righteousness, and from the beginning knew that men would set up their own forms of worship, wrongfully claiming divine authority for the same. Through the mouths of His chosen prophets He has repeatedly predicted the inevitable event.  Isaiah beheld in vision the condition of the earth in the era of spiritual darkness, a period in which all classes would be involved in a general condition of unrighteousness, a time when the world of mankind would be in a helpless and practically hopeless condition. He pictures the earth as mourning and languishing in desolation and assigns the reason for the sad condition as follows: “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.”  It may be thought that this prophecy has reference to a violation of the law of Moses under which ancient Israel lived. Let it be remembered, however, that the Mosaic law is nowhere called an everlasting covenant. The covenant between the Lord and Abraham antedated the giving of the law by four hundred and thirty years, and, as pointed out by Pault in his epistle to the Galatians, whom he designates as foolish because of their confusing the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ, the law could not nullify the earlier covenant the fulfilment of which could come only through Christ. The “law,” by which the inspired apostle plainly means the Mosaic statutes, was but a preparation for the “faith,” by which latter expression the gospel as revealed by Christ is clearly intended. “But before faith came,” says Paul, “we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified, by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.  For as many of you  as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Jesus Christ. And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  The Mosaic law was instituted as a disciplinary measure, temporary in character, destined to be superseded by the gospel of Christ, and assuredly not an everlasting covenant. On the other hand, the blood of Christ, through the shedding of which the atoning sacrifice was wrought, is distinctively called “the blood of the everlasting covenant.”

Christ prophesied the impending apostasy . In reply to certain inquiries concerning the signs by which His second advent would be heralded, He said: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.” Then He told of approaching wars and political disturbances, and added: “And then shall many be offended and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end the same shall be saved.”   

Further specifying the conditions incident to the growing apostasy, Christ declared to His disciples: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” And again: “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo here is Christ, or there, believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect. Behold I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert, go not forth: behold he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.”

After the departure of Christ from earth His apostles continued to warn the people of the darkness to come. In that memorable address to the elders at Ephesus, when, as he told them, they were looking upon his face for the last time, Paul reminded his hearers of the instructions he had previously given them, and then charged them with this solemn warning: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”

The same apostle warns Timothy of the approaching apostasy, and refers to some of the erroneous teachings that would be impressed upon misguided people,—teachings which he calls “doctrines of devils.” He admonishes Timothy to put the brethren in remembrance of these things, as is becoming in a good minister of Christ, “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine.” Note the inspired prediction: “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; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”

In addressing the Thessalonian saints, Paul warns them against the error strongly advocated by some that the day of Christ’s second advent was then near at hand. It appears that deception was being practiced, and that even forgery was suspected, for the apostle instructs the people that they be not deceived “by word nor by letter as from us.” The admonition is forceful: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 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; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth’ in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” We shall see how painfully literal has been the fulfilment of this prophecy in the blasphemous assumptions of the apostate church, centuries later.  The Apostle Peter prophesied in language so plain that none may fail to comprehend, concerning the heresies that would be preached as doctrine in the period of the apostasy; and he reminds the people that there were false teachers in olden times, even as there would be in times then future: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you; whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”

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