In our recent messages we have been reflecting on the topic of the antichrist. Contrary to popular belief, the antichrist is not a global dictator but the false religious spirit that has distorted the identity of the Lord’s people leading them into error and disobedience. Although the antichrist appears throughout scripture, only John designates it with that title. By virtue of the name, there has been much misunderstanding and sensationalizing causing many to associate the antichrist with a coming one-world government and an antichrist economic policy that will forbid certain people from buying and selling. However, while God’s people remain captivated by fairytales of a “satanic superman”, they remain oblivious to the great apostasy taking place within the church.
Paul underlines two events that must occur prior to the coming of the Day of the Lord: (i) the falling away and (ii) the revelation of the man of sin.
The Falling Away
The “falling away” (Greek: apostasia) is where we get our word ‘apostasy’. It means “defection or revolt”. According to Strong’s, it not only relates to the act of “defection from truth” but indicates a “state” where one has forsaken the truth. There is a general understanding by many Christians that there will one day come a great falling away, a departure of many from the church due to the rise of false prophets, false christs, deceiving spirits, and false doctrines. However, what many fail to recognize is that the falling away is taking place right now within the countless denominations and among the millions of sincere Christians who troop to church every Sunday.
If we were to trace the falling away to its origin, we will see that we have all been partakers of it by virtue of the apostate in us all. The falling away and “the man of sin” are intricately connected. The great falling away began with the fall of Adam. Adam fell from the spiritual heights of his union with God. He fell from the truth. He fell from his high calling in Christ. He fell from the glory of the divine nature and authority that he possessed as a son of God. He fell from sonship. He fell to mortality and corruption and vacated the seat of dominion in the temple of God to the man of sin. The outcome was his separation from the life of God in all realms of spirit, soul and body. We read that: “just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned… by the one man’s offense many died” (Rom. 5:12, 15).
And so it is that every man born into Adam has been a man of sin. Today, humanity finds itself in the falling away. Brother George Hawtin writes: “That falling away is here now. It is everywhere. It is in the government, in the palace, in the courts of law. It is in the universities and colleges. It is in the homes, on the streets, and worst of all it is in the church system. It is in the pew and in the pulpit. It is in the hearts of the populace. The man of sin, the antichrist, is very evident in the world, but few see him or recognize him”. Paul also writes that: “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (2 Thes. 2:7).
This great apostasy is fundamentally a falling away from Christ as head. It is a falling away from the love of God, from the truth as it is divinely revealed by the Spirit, from the ministration of the Word and Spirit, from the pursuit of the pureness of His indwelling life, and the administration of the Spirit of God in every sphere of life. Unfortunately, we also see this apostasy in the church system of our day which has become governed by men who have taken upon themselves the role of comforter, counselor and shepherd. The focus of these so-called ministries has shifted from bringing every man to perfection in Christ to merely nourishing the appetites of the natural man.
That vast and elaborate system of Babylonish religion has erected countless substitutes for the spiritual reality of Christ until people have begin to cry out for something other than Christ or something in addition to Christ. Humanism has become deep-seated and the happiness of man has become the chief pursuit of ministry. The kingdom of men is promoted instead of the Kingdom of God. No place is given for the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings and conformity to His death. Through their incessant emphasis on blessings, they gradually erode the love of the Truth from the hearts of the saints.
And the appointed clergy, who exercise their influence over the people, are right there promoting this apostasy. They are like the young Levite of Bethlehem-Judah who was glad to serve as priest in Micha’s house for ten shekels and a shirt (Judg. 17). While the young Levite has no problem with Micah’s idols, Micha assumes the Lord will do him good because a Levite is in his house. So for ten shekels and a shirt they make a pact to sell out God. This is the great apostasy and the betrayal of the ages we witness in this hour.
Look where the large crowds assemble today, they gather around men who offer messages that soothe their soulish desires. Most of the evangelical churches of the day have become “seeker-friendly” or “seeker-sensitive”. They run their church operations and services to be more “successful” by creating a comfortable and friendly environment in order to attract both the churched and unchurched, keep them attending, and thus, gain more members. Their principle is to not “rock the boat”. Their music, their programs, their worship, their decorations and media, their messages are all carefully designed to appeal to the mind of the natural man.
To these the Lord declares: “Woe to the rebellious children… Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, That they may add sin to sin; Who walk to go down to Egypt, And have not asked My advice, To strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, And to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore the strength of Pharaoh Shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation” (Isa. 30:1-3).
It comes as no surprise that the loyalty, devotion and obedience of today’s church-goer has turned from God’s will, His ways, and His word to the dogmas and programs of the apostate church system. Their great misfortune is that they know it not. Mystery Babylon, that mother of harlots, the abomination of the earth, holds them in religious bondage and slavery not against their will but with their glad consent (Rev. 17:2). She has seduced them into spiritual fornication by her pagan holidays, her flesh-appeal programs, her false ideas about God, and her distorted teachings of God’s will. And how they love her bed. No wonder then that they will defend her to the death, banishing and discrediting anyone who does not fall in-line with her teachings. Sadly, those married to her mistake their commitment to the church system for commitment to God.
This great apostasy has been a gradual one. Over the centuries, from the early church to Rome to The Reformation and to the numerous moves that have led to our day, something of the pureness and glory of the Spirit of Christ has been slowly supplanted until we have today a rich and influential system backed by a generation of Christians who have become so stepped in their religious traditions that they neither know nor have any desire for the revealed truth. They fervently argue against things they don’t understand, labeling as heresy the truth of God not knowing that it is the voice of the Lord they rebel against. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.“Like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies. They are not valiant for the truth on the earth… ‘Through deceit they refuse to know me'” (Jer. 9:3,6).
As the prophets of old, should we also not weep and take up a lamentation for this generation of the Lord’s people. How often the Lord has sent His word, calling His people to turn them from the errors of Babylon. Yet, they would not incline their ear nor obey Him. On the contrary, they became stern adversaries to the truth. In this hour, the greatest opposition to the truth of the Kingdom and the plan of God for the ages comes from the church system and its devout members. They oppose the Fatherhood of God to all men. They reject the redemption of all and the reconciliation of all things in Christ. They resist the truth that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, until in the ultimate finale of things there will be one reality – God all in all.
What struggle it is to restore these people from this great apostasy. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:4-6).
Yet, many today who submit to Babylon still claim: “the Lord is with us and has not turned away from us”. How much more a rejection is there than to be left to stagger in error and confusion? Does the Lord not chasten those He loves and discipline every son whom He receives? In enduring chastening, does God not deal with us as with sons? The Lord has forsaken His wrath among those married to Babylon in this hour. Thus, the lawless one and the great apostasy remain veiled from much of the church. But, “in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down” (Jer. 8:12). Only then will they know that the Lord is moving in their midst, that He has not rejected them. Then shall they hear the call to “come out” (Rev. 18:4) and heed the voice that says to them: “come up here” (Rev. 4:1).
How we love and continually yearn for our fellow brothers and sisters who today are restrained from hearing the truth. There is an eager expectation that with every word that there would come some glimpse into reality that will cause a great escape. And yet, as we look on the outward events, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Nevertheless, there is an incessant groaning within that the elect of God apprehended in this hour would be quickened to experience Christ in a greater measure. That they would be freed from the bondage of Babylon and from that man that corrupts in their temple. And while the Lord inspires us to reach out to them, He would remind us that their remains an inworking in our very own lives. And perhaps this is why we are the main audience of our own ministry. For those things we labour to write and share are doing more for our own separation from this great apostasy.
Dear beloved, it’s our prayer that the Lord would sanctify us from the great falling away! May we all experience an awakening in this the Day of the Lord and may the Day (Christ) purge with fire everything that defiles His temple. Amen!