Most knowledgeable Christians have heard about The Apostasy, which is written about in the Bible in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, connecting it to their understanding of 'end times' chronology, of which they believe Jesus cannot Rapture them to Heaven until first 'The Apostasy' occurs. Interestingly enough they attribute this apostasy concerns more so to the moral declination of the world than viewing its application to Christians turning away from their faith in Jesus Christ.
Obviously, our world today (and for many preceding centuries) the morality of mankind has been corrupt almost from its beginning, and it's obvious it has not become more holy, nor can we view it as such in the future, any time soon. Those in the "Postmillenniam" doctrinal camp, as well as those in the "Dominionist" movement are optimistic that man's proclivity to sin can be conquered before Jesus Christ returns to set things straight.
Actually the word apostasy cannot be found in the Bible, although many interpret it as such as the original Greek word in that verse is the noun apostasia (of which W.E. Vine's Greek Dictionary states it means "a defection, revolt, apostasy," is used in the NT of religious apostasy; in Acts 21:21, it is translated "to forsake," lit., "thou teachest apostasy from Moses." In 2 Thess. 2:3 "the falling away" signifies apostasy from the faith. In papyri documents it is used politically of rebels. Note: For "mighty fall," Rev. 18:21, RV).
The words defection, revolt, forsake, rebellion and falling away actually project a more defined meaning, one that the apostle Paul is telling us has to be applied to those people who (heretofore) had great faith in Jesus Christ. For those who believe that a Christian cannot lose their salvation once they accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour, they need to reexamine the fact that they could (and will face) experiences and or circumstances in their future that could very well lump them into that group.
Most certainly, Jesus Christ has promised Christians that nothing can come between Him and His love for His servants (See Romans 8:28-39), which is so true. However, it is obvious in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 that this great falling away is will become a reality for many who claim (or have claimed) they are Christian; but, yet, for some reason they rebelled, defected and forsook their relationship with Jesus. The Lord will never forsake His loved ones, but can and will His loved ones forsake Him under certain circumstances? Being that Christians have not gained perfection in their lives (and never will until Jesus returns), does this mean that every time we commit a sin we are rebelling, forsaking and defecting the faith? If we decide to leave our respective churches because we don't like the pastor nor his sermons mean we have also abandoned the faith? These are legitimate questions, which we have answered in the Seventh Chapter of our book, Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation (The Sequel to The End Times Passover).To help you to better understand this extremely important question (if not the most important one a Christian needs an answer to), we are posting the entire chapter here for your examination:
Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation By Joe Ortiz
Chapter 7 The Apostasy
According to the belief held by proponents in their secret pre-tribulation escape to heaven theory, the Christian Church will not have to endure any form of persecution before The Second Advent. Instead, it will be “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air and then whisked up to reside safely in heaven during a time of great tribulation that supposedly will last between three and a half to seven years. The Christian Church, then, supposedly returns with Christ after this a period of great tribulation on earth, which is to include the punishing of the Jacob’s descendants (Jews) unto repentance. As their theory goes, the Christian Church will be Raptured to Heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17) before this awesome period they call The Great Tribulation. Hal Lindsey contends that the Rapture takes place somewhere between 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1, where it speaks about the coming of the Lord at His Second Advent after the seven years of tribulation have expired.
Lindsey and other theorists claim that what is spoken about in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (the dead in Christ are raised first and those who are still alive at that time are “caught up together” to be with the Lord in heaven), and what is spoken about in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 (that day, the coming of the Lord, will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed), is supposedly describing two separate events, ostensibly separated by a seven-year period of time. One question the author would ask theorists, at this juncture, is, “If Paul is informing the called out ones in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 that they will be caught together with those who sleep in Christ to be with the Lord to heaven before the Great Tribulation, why is it necessary for Paul to reassure the ecclesia (in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3) that The Second Advent of the Lord will not happen until after the rebellion and the revealing of the man of lawlessness?” If (as theorists’ scenarios go) the called out ones are supposed to be in heaven before the apostasy and the man of lawlessness will be revealed, why is it necessary that the Christian Church be informed about this aspect, a prospect that it would take for granted if indeed it supposedly will be returning with the Lord from heaven at The Second Advent?
Theorists claim that 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 addresses solely the Pre-tribulation Rapture to Heaven that is supposed to happen seven years before The Second Advent and that 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 pertains only to The Second Advent of Christ. They claim that Paul (in these two letters) is discussing two different events. Rather than enter this debate again, we will ask the reader to go back and reread Chapter 7 (He Comes With His Holy Ones) of this book for explicit clarification.
The author believes that scripture clearly conveys that both letters to the Thessalonians were written by Paul solely to encourage the ecclesia about The Second Advent. In the first letter, Paul discusses the resurrection (which theorists call The Rapture), which is the fact that the dead in Christ will be raised first and those called out ones who are still alive and waiting will immediately be caught together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and then be with Him forever. In the second letter, Paul’s main message concerns the timing of the resurrection and the Lord’s return and, he states emphatically, that this cannot happen until “the rebellion and the man of lawlessness is revealed.”
Let’s examine this apostasy aspect. First of all, what causes this rebellion? Who does the rebelling? And what do these apostates rebel against? These are very important questions, which the author will attempt to answer.
Firstly, at the beginning of the second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul is seen boasting about the “perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials” that the Thessalonians are enduring. Here, Paul is acknowledging to them (and to all of the ecclesia) that to stand up for God will result in much tribulation. Since the time of Christ’s resurrection, ascension and subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit (which sealed the down payment on God’s redemption program), the single most important requirement for the ecclesia has been to preach the Gospel and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ by faith and “Thou shalt be saved, (Romans 10:9, KJV).”
Throughout the beginning of time, and even more so since the resurrection of Christ, it has been Satan’s primary mission to hammer a wedge between the believer and God. This historic war has been waged from the time of Adam and Eve and continues to this very day. However, during the last days (when tribulation will increase exponentially, leading to Christ’s return), the battle will intensify as never before. One of the missions (if not the primary one) of Satan (during this period) will be to try even harder to separate as many believers as he can from their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, because he knows his time is short. The increased times of persecutions to be unleashed by the Satanically-imbued man of lawlessness, during this period of great tribulation, will be primarily for that purpose. It is not designed for God to punish a special group of people (supposedly Jacob and his descendants) for turning their backs on Him, and much less for inflicting enough pain on Jacob’s descendants so that they will eventually buckle under it and repent. One of the main purposes for the increased time of tribulation at the hands of the man of lawlessness is for God to purify and separate His ecclesia from the unrepentant. This is why during this period of persecution we will witness the greatest evangelizing season in history, a time of reckoning where all of humanity (including Christians) will have to finally choose their allegiance between God and Satan, regardless of the consequences that may befall them!
Many in the Christian Church today believe that when they accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior they now have immunity from persecution and a safety net in what theorists call The Rapture. They believe that by merely accepting Jesus Christ in their hearts, everything in their Christian journey from now on will be one smooth ride to heaven. The debate between those who believe that “once saved, always saved” continues to this very day. The author will not enter this debate other than to say scripture clearly says two things about this issue. One is found in Romans 8:1, 35-39, which basically states that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. However, even though He will always be committed to loving us, can we say the same thing about Him, regardless of the horrendous circumstances that await the ecclesia before The Second Advent? Therefore, the proverbial question begs to be asked: Can a person lose their salvation after coming to Christ?” The answer is “Yes!” In Hebrews 6:1-6, the author provides the following warning:
"Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so. 4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace, (Hebrews 6:1-6, NIV)." [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]
Verse four is very important, in that it clearly states that even those who have tasted the heavenly gift (which is the power gifts from the Holy Spirit), they can fall away into a state of apostasy. However, as the Bible states in 1 John 1:9-10, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If, however, we claim we have not sinned we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.” It should be obvious to all true believers that to claim there is no sin in us is to not only call the Lord a liar, but it would also find us denying the power of the Holy Spirit, which convicts us of sin. Here is where the Christian comes perilously close to committing the unpardonable sin spoken of in Matthew 12:31 and Mark 3:29:
And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come, (Matthew 12:31,32, NIV).
What is blasphemy? This is an issue that has been debated for centuries. However, W. E. Vine provides a sound understanding of blasphemy, when he stated that, “As to Christ's teaching concerning "blasphemy" against the Holy Spirit, e.g., Matt. 12:32, that anyone, with the evidence of the Lord's power before His eyes, should declare it to be Satanic, exhibited a condition of heart beyond Divine illumination and therefore hopeless. Divine forgiveness would be inconsistent with the moral nature of God. As to the Son of Man, in his state of humiliation, there might be misunderstanding, but not so with the Holy Spirit's power demonstrated.” (W. E. Vine’s, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Page 124, Thomas Nelson Publishers) [Underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]
Can our salvation be lost or taken away without our acquiescence? The author believes the answer is a resounding no! In Romans 8:35-39, it emphatically states that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. He will forgive those who seek His forgiveness. However, during the time of tribulation (and even today), many that profess to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will rebel and will turn away from their faith in Christ! During these times of trials and testing, many will renounce Jesus Christ as Lord and savior merely to survive tribulation at the hands of anti-Christian forces. For example, in Luke 8:4-8, we read about the parable of the sower, which perfectly describes the degree of effectiveness the word of God has on mankind. In verses 11 through 15, Jesus gives the disciples the exact meaning of the parable so there will be no misunderstanding:
This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they cannot believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have not root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce crop, (Luke 8:11-15, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]
This parable is identical to the one in Matthew 13:1-9, which is interpreted in verses 18 through 23, and Mark 4:1-9, and verses 13 through 20. However, in Matthew’s and Mark’s account, we see how much of a crop is produced by the “good soil” man, “yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” This message of sowing and reaping is immersed throughout the New Testament, including the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30 and the ten minas (Luke 19:11-27). Let’s briefly look at Matthew 25:14-30:
Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 14 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 22 The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 23 his master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 24 Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26 His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be seeping and gnashing of teeth, (Matthew 25:14-30, NIV) [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]
We all know that a person is saved by grace, not of works, that any one should boast. This merely implies that we didn’t have to work to receive the gift of salvation. However, throughout the entire Bible, we see that God has chosen (Acts 13:48) and called out from among the world, a people (ecclesia) for a specific purpose. These people (ecclesia) who have been called out from (ecclesia) the world have not been called out to escape the tribulation of the world; but, rather, to be a major influence (if not an integral part) in the fulfillment of God’s overall plan of redemption!
Therefore, the degree of effectiveness that the word of God has on the individual believer, as evidenced in the parable of the sower, will have much to say about who will turn away from God during great persecutions that will intensify immediately prior to the Lord’s return! Let’s examine Luke, Chapter 8.
There appears to be four types of people who are referred to in the parable of the sower. There is the path group, those who hear the message about the kingdom, but don’t understand. The rocky places group, those that hear the word and receive it with joy, but have no root; henceforth, the word lasts for a short time and, then, when trouble or persecution comes, because of the word, they quickly fall away. Then there is the thorns group, those who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. Then, there is the good soil group, the ones who hear the word and understand it. And, as Luke 8:15 states, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with those with a noble and good heart, who hear he word, retain it, and by persevering, he produces a crop, (Luke 8:15, NIV).”
The author remembers an experience of this sort while attending a Baptist Bible conference in Hume Lake, California, back in 1956. The author can still hear the preacher belting out those oft heard words: “You have to repent, you have to accept the blood of Jesus, you have to be saved or you’re going to Hell!” The author can still remember going up to the altar, getting down on his knees and pouring out his soul, tearfully asking God to forgive him for his sins. However, after he came back to his hometown, after momentarily feeling a beautiful peace in his heart, the memory of the event would soon become an isolated part of his youthful past. The author never attended another event like that again until January 5, 1975, at a small Assemblies of God Church in Montebello, California. It was there that he was again led to Christ by a youthful pastor named David Tanner. Since then, the author’s life in Jesus has grown at a consistent pace, albeit filled with much strife and life-altering challenges. Was the author truly saved back at Hume Lake when he accepted Christ in 1956? Or was he saved on January 5, l975? The author does not truly know. However, the important aspect to this story is not when the author was saved, but rather when did the word of God take hold of him and begin producing fruit?
The Bible specifically states that we (called out ones) were chosen in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4) and that we were also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those (called out ones) He predestined, He also called; those He called, He justified; those He justified, He also glorified (Romans 8:29, 30). These scriptural verses assure the author that God has chosen him and has called him out from the world for a purpose. But, should the author ever reject this calling (as Judas, one of the Lord’s original apostles did), then he doesn't believe that he can rest solely on his church membership to assure him a spot at the great reunion God has in store for His true disciples!
It appears then that the only sin that God cannot forgive is when the called out ones blatantly reject the calling by Holy Spirit, which is an act of blasphemy against almighty God. All other sins He forgives, if they come to the throne of grace and confess them to Him. But how will the author (and the total professing community of Christians) react when these horrific times of increased tribulation come upon us? Those represented as the pathway group evidently have not understood the word of God, and it would appear that they would have a difficult time holding firm during this period if they know not how to live by the word of God. Those of the rock group will also have difficulty, because they have no root (although they believe for a while); but, in the time of extreme testing (as prophesied in Matthew 24:5-12), many will definitely fall away! Those of the thorn group appear headed for an even greater time of trouble because their hopes lay in wealth, which deceitfully seduces their need for security. But, more importantly, they are choked from life’s worries, riches and pleasures - and they do not mature! The good soil group, those with a noble and good heart, however, hears and retains the word of God and, by persevering, produces a crop! If we were to view these four groups of people (the pathway group, the rock group, the thorn group and the good soil group) existing during the time of tribulation, which group would we most likely see coming through great tribulation more or less unscathed.
In the Book of Revelation, where it speaks about the letters to the seven angels of the seven churches (which could represent varying degrees of the Christian walk, throughout history), it appears that the pathway group is not mentioned; the rock group could very well be applied to the church in Ephesus, you have forsaken your first love, (Revelation 2:4); the thorn group could very well be applied to the church in Laodicea, You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing, (Revelation 3:17); and the good soil group could very well be applied to the church of Philadelphia, Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth, (Revelation 3:10).
Theorists contend that the apostasy mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 does not apply to the Christian Church because it will have been secretly caught up from earth to heaven before the increasing times of great tribulation. They contend that the apostasy here should be applied to the so-called “Roman Church” or other humanistic oriented religious groups, which will be more prevalent during this time. But, if they apply their theories solely to these groups, or to unbelieving Jews, how can they see someone fall away from something they never had, which is true faith in Jesus Christ?
Throughout history, satanic forces have waged a spiritual warfare against God and His people, and they continue to this very day.
True, we do have an apostasy period now; however, as Paul states in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, the fulfillment of the final rebellion (by those who profess to be walking with God) will occur in massive proportions immediately before the Lord’s Second Advent! Let’s examine a group of scriptures that speaks directly to this period of time:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with desires, 7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth – men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone, (2 Timothy 3:1-9, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]
Here we see a perfect example of the people who fit the “thorn” group. The key to this group of scriptures is found in verse 5, which bears repeating: “Having a form of Godliness but denying its power!” Here we see a group of so-called ‘church’ people who mouth religious precepts, make claim to being God-fearing and righteous. However, when it comes to living and walking a life of faith in Christ, they struggle between true faith verses money, power and their own glories, which will include the overindulgence of worldly pleasures. Throughout history, and now more recently, many well-known people of the cloth have been excommunicated from their church groups, or convicted of crimes that go against the will of God. Sadly, many who have once been enlightened, if they fall away, it will be impossible to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace, (Hebrews 6:4-6, NIV). This sad fact will become more pronounced as the day of wrath draws nigh. In verses 10 through 17, however, we see the author describing so beautifully the “good soil” group:
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scripture, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work, (2 Timothy 3:10-17, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]
The key to this group of scriptures is found in verse 12, which also deserves repeating: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted!” Therefore, it appears that during the end times, two major groups of confessing Christians will exist in the world: those who will turn away from their faith in God during horrendous times, and those who will knowingly face persecution for the testimony of Jesus. God is no respecter of men. He either is for you because you believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, or He is against you because you have rejected His gift of salvation.
It should therefore be concluded that a “falling away” is to be seen from the beginning of time; however, its massive culmination will be seen during the persecutor's reign of the man of lawlessness. If, as theorists contend, the Antichrist (or Beast) is known to exist three and a half years before his true nature is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:3), and has subtly implemented his 666 program (where no one can buy or sell without the mark), it becomes evident that enduring for Jesus Christ will require a greater amount of faith and commitment than ever before, which will be obviously lacking in the pathway, rocky places and thorn groups, but not in the good soil people of Christ!
Hal Lindsey and others see this apostasy as being a single event (which can be measured in a day’s time); however, as scripture reveals, the “apostasy” should not be viewed in a timely event-like fashion, but rather, as an escalating swell of rebellion toward Jesus Christ! There is no set magical day seen here in 2 Thessalonians 2:3; but, rather, it will be a rapidly and increasing fulfillment of a defection and revolt against God’s saving grace. Sides will be chosen! Those who are Christ’s will stand up and be counted! Those who are not truly committed (unto to death) for Christ, will align themselves with the man of lawlessness and accept the mark of the Beast. Many professing Christians will even join the Beast as he makes war on the called out ones until he has overpowered and killed many of them (Daniel 7:21; 11:32-35; 12:7).
As the author stated earlier, these that remain are not the so-called “tribulation saints” in the sense that they were left behind after the so-called Rapture and eventually repented due to tribulation and or God’s wrath. These are all of those called out ones who will be on earth during the reign of the man of lawlessness and will eventually overcome him by faithfully preaching the Gospel to the glory of Jesus Christ, even unto death! Yes! Many will be martyred but many will also pass through the tribulation of antichristian forces unscathed! These will not be semi-converted Christians or Jews who accept salvation resulting from God-inflicted-punishment-until-you-repent. These will be the called out ones of Christ, God’s ecclesia, who will be victorious in the greatest spiritual warfare ever witnessed by mankind. These will be God’s Christian Soldiers who will be preaching the gospel to the end, even if it means giving up their lives so others can live in eternity with Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God!"
[For more information about the author and his books, web sites and blogs, please click on Joe Ortiz]