The Great Falling Away

This entry is part 18 of 23 in the series Wolves in Wool

The Great Falling Away

(NOTE:  This is a continuation of the Wolves in Wool Series.  This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts)

In concluding this series on false doctrines in the church, a return to its beginning is in order; once again examining the scriptures which warn of such coming practices.  In retrospect, the teachings of the Word of Faith and the Emergent movements find themselves fully uncovered in light of numerous scriptures which have rightly predicted their rise in the latter days, their unbiblical basis of “truth” and the true motivations for their practices.

In 2 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul articulates events concerning the future rise of Antichrist and the season of the coming Great Tribulation.  Apparently, some had attempted to delude the church into believing that such events had already begun.  Paul sets the record straight that such cannot be the case until several key events have taken place.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NIV)
1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.

Initially, Paul notes that the “day of the Lord” has indeed not yet come, as has apparently been reported. 

“The day of the Lord” is an exceptionally recurrent theme in scripture.  In every case this phrase is used, in both the Old and New Testaments, it refers to what is commonly known as “the great tribulation,” a period of great distress upon the earth during which God’s judgments are to be poured out.  The Great Tribulation is aligned historically with the last seven years prior to the return of Christ to establish his Kingdom upon the earth.  Most commonly, the designation “day of the Lord” refers generally to the entire seven year season, though rarely it refers to the very end of the tribulation; the time of Christ’s return.  An example of this more common “general” usage are found in Isaiah.

Isaiah 13:9-10 (NIV)
9 See, the day of the Lord is coming –a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger– to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. 10 The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.

Noted of this “day of the Lord” are several indications as to its nature in this text.  First, it is a day of God’s wrath and anger.  Secondly, it is a day which will make the land desolate and will destroy the sinners in the land.  These designations can easily be aligned with the Great Tribulation from Revelation 6, which describes the seal judgments, the first of three separate groupings of judgments which will be unleashed during the tribulation season.  After the sixth seal is released, it is noted,

Revelation 6:15-17 (NIV)
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Clearly, the judgment program of the Great Tribulation is seen as a day of God’s wrath and a day which is aimed at destroying the unrepentant of the earth.  Clearly the people who will be judged in this day understand its nature, as they note to the mountains, “fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”  Additionally, they reference this time as the “day of the Lord” when they stipulate, “for the great day of their wrath has come.” 

Also noted in Isaiah 13 are drastic changes in nature which will accompany that day.  Verse 10 notes “the stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light.  The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.”  This “blackout” of the heavens is demonstrated on several occasions in Revelation’s accounting of the tribulation as well.  The fourth trumpet judgment will render a one-third reduction in the time which the lights of the heavens will shine (Revelation 8:12).  Likewise, the fifth bowl judgment will plunge the majority of the earth into darkness, as the entire kingdom of Antichrist will be affected (Revelation 16:10).  Thus, “the day of the Lord” in Isaiah fits perfectly within the descriptions of the judgments of the tribulation in Revelation.

The “day of the Lord” passages in Lamentations, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Malachi, and throughout the New Testament each depict the same general season of the Great Tribulation.  (For more detail on “the day of the Lord,” see the author’s book, The Return of the King.

Continuing Paul’s discourse in 2 Thessalonians, he notes,

2 Thessalonians 2:3 (NIV)
3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

Clearly, the “day of the Lord” will not come upon the earth until two things occur: the revealing of the man of lawlessness (Antichrist) and “the rebellion.”  While other scriptures note other occurrences which will also precede the tribulation, it is this “rebellion” which is of interest at this time. 

The terms, “the rebellion,” in this text are translated from the Greek term, apostasia.  Apostasia is where the English term “apostasy” finds its origins.  This term does not speak to generalized theological error, which has been common throughout history.  Instead, apostasia refers specifically to theological error which arises out of legitimate doctrine.  As such, the KJV renders this term as, “a falling away.”

Paganism has existed from very near the creation itself, being observed even in the book of Genesis.  Throughout the Old Testament are observed the practices of every sort of demonology imaginable.  None of these are what the term “apostasy” refers to.  Rather, apostasy is observed when the legitimate doctrines of the faith are distorted into ungodly teachings.  Those who once understood and taught rightly concerning the principles of God’s Word become corrupted to the point that their teachings are no longer identifiable as Christian doctrine.  The term literally means, “a defection from the truth.”  Apostasia is when one abandons the principles of the legitimate faith in lieu of another form of teaching.

Paul makes an iron-clad prophetic assertion that the prelude to the end times will be characterized by such apostasy.  The former teachers of the legitimate truth will systematically fall to doctrines which are in no way affiliated with God’s Word.   Understanding the necessity of an apostasy to occur before God’s “day of the Lord” program can unfold is perhaps the most disconcerting disclosure of this entire study.  As much as we may fight against the growing defection from truth in the church, such events are guaranteed.  The church will endure this rebellion prior to the day of the Lord.  I believe whole-heartedly that we are witnessing such at these current times.

Teaching Doctrines of Demons

Paul’s pre- “day of the Lord” reference to apostasy is also noted in his numerous appeals to Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV)
1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

Here, these same “later times” are referenced to be days when people will “abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”  To “abandon the faith,” one must have at one point been observing the faith with some measure of demonstration.  Such is the nature of apostasy; to be following legitimate doctrines at one point, and fall away at a later point to deceptive, unbiblical practices.  Interestingly, these apostate teachings are not only noted to be deceptive, but literally the subject matter of demons.

That the coming apostasy is characterized as “things taught by demons” should cause each of us to stop in our boots in light of the preceding chapter detailing the nature of the contemplative prayer model of the emergent leaders.  Understanding that these men are having spiritual encounters with “higher beings” as a part of their routine religious worship experience sheds much needed light onto the origins of their weird and unbiblical theological conclusions.  Should one expect a man who engages a spirit guide in his regular prayer life to come up with any other conclusion than that “there is no distinction between Islam and Christianity?”  Should we be surprised that men who listen to random voices in their “prayers” conclude that there is no literal Hell?  

The ramifications of Paul’s assertion are startling.  The designation, “taught by demons,” leaves no room for misinterpretation.  Those of the apostasy are those who must consort with demons on a regular basis in order to receive their indoctrination.  Sadly, such is the case in an enormously popular and growing community within the church today.  Every time an Emergent leader instructs his giddy, “cutting-edge” congregation in a season of listening prayer (or contemplative prayer, or transcendental meditation), one must seriously question who or what exactly is being listened to.  These men who attempt to redefine orthodoxy as something which is mystical, unclear and deconstructed by communal acquiescence are well into the nature of the apostasy which Paul warned.

Likewise, in light of this text one should assert great critical analysis to the Word of Faith teachers in our culture today.  Commonly, these false prophets proclaim to teach valid theology by the use of “revelation knowledge.”  They claim to hear from God “new” teachings which were not included in the biblical writings.  They claim to have a direct doctrinal pipeline of new teachings which are for a new generation.  Yet, I have strong objections to this methodology of supposed “revelation.” 

Essentially, such “latter revelation” presumes that God was either short-sighted or somehow otherwise incapable of including all necessary revelation concerning himself in the Bible as written.  Is God forgetful?  Is he the bumbling Lieutenant Columbo who turns around after he has spoken eternal truth to his true prophets and says, “oh yeah… just one more thing?”  If God had planned a “later” revelation (which could only be heard by Benny Hinn or Kenneth Copeland), would he have not prepared his faithful – from scripture – to be prepared to hear such latter teaching?  Yet, quite the opposite is true.  The Bible does warn that future prophetic vision will come, but that such future vision is to be avoided!  Jesus said, “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matthew 24:11) in his statement concerning the signs of the end times.  Such is also the very point of Paul’s warning (above) in 1 Timothy, that,

“in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” 

Yes- a future “vision” will indeed arise.  But it is no vision from God, via revelation knowledge.  Such “revelation” comes not from God at all.  John noted in Revelation,

Revelation 22:18 (NIV)
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

Biblical references concerning all such coming teachings categorically note them as apostate and ungodly in nature.  As Paul noted,

Galatians 1:8 (NIV)
8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

My friends, understanding that demonic doctrines will be introduced to destroy the work of the legitimate gospel in the latter days should create a sense of utter dependence upon God’s word as the final and unfailing test of that which is legitimate, good and godly.  At no point in history has it been more clear that sola scriptura (scripture alone) should be the defining trait which distinguishes between the theological men and boys.  The conclusions of scripture are solid and clear: demonic doctrines will permeate the last days.  Therefore, by default, when someone attempts to teach me something which is not clearly defined in the scriptures, my first assumption is that such teachings are demonic, ungodly and invalid.  Indeed, a stark paranoia should be the mark of true disciples of Christ concerning the introduction of “new” theological ideas which are not readily understandable from scripture alone. 

Romans 16:17 (NIV)
17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

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