2 Thessalonians 2:1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us – whether by a prophecy, word of mouth, or by letter – asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, because that day won’t come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.
In this verse, the word rebellion comes from the Greek “apostacia”.
- an act of refusing to continue to follow, obey, or recognize a religious faith
- abandonment of a previous loyalty : DEFECTION
Four dispensations of time
The Essenes, who preserved the Dead Sea Scrolls saw time in four dispensations, or ages. Three span 2,000 years and the last, 1,000 years. Each of these represents a different way that God relates to people. This is what’s referred to when the bible talks about the end of the age. Typically, when people talk about the end of the world, they’re actually meaning the end of the age. At the end of each age, is a great falling away from godliness – an apostacy.
The Age of Chaos is named after the chaos at creation before God began sorting things out and filling the world with life. I prefer to call this age of the patriarchs – from Adam to Abraham.
The Age of Torah or the age of the law is from Abraham through to the Messiah. Although Moses was 400 years later, Jews recognize Abraham as the beginning of their covenant with God. The events of the Exodus formally establish this covenant. I prefer to call this the age of Israel, where Israel was the focal point of God’s interaction with people.
The Age of Grace is often called the Church Age. During this time, God hasn’t focused on a particular nation. As prophesied, he exiled Israel for a long time, but as this age comes to an end, he’s restoring Israel to him.
The Age of Messiah is like the seventh, thousand-year day of rest. During this, Jesus will govern the Earth with the saints representing him as governors throughout the world.
The Apostacy at the end of each dispensation
At the end of the Age of Chaos, just a few hundred years after Noah’s flood, the people had turned away from God, and Emperor Nimrod enslaved the world to build the tower of Babel.
At the end of the Age of Torah, Israel collapsed into civil war between the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were both so religiously committed to their traditions and opinions that they killed off the heretics who thought differently. The Essenes record in the Dead Sea Scrolls, that the whole nation was walking in madness, as they fled to the safety of the desert. Independently, the leaders of the Pharisees and the Sadducees requested that the Romans come in to bring order. In the gospels, we see the resulting Roman occupation and corrupt religious officials who were so engrossed in their ways that they killed the Messiah they were waiting for.
At the end of the Age of Grace, there will be another apostacy before Jesus returns.
At the end of the Age of Messiah, Revelation 20 describes another apostacy as Satan is released for a little while to gather a final rebellion before his destruction. Then this universe will be replaced with a new one.
The coming Apostacy is not what many people think
I hear a lot of end timzers talking about various groups becoming apostate. Before I talk about that, I thought I’d google “The Apostacy”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Apostasy mostly talks about the protestant view that the Catholic church apostatized a few hundred years after Christ. This was a very strong teaching with the protestant reformation, which has settled down as we’ve learned to get along with each other better. To counter this, Catholics taught that The Apostacy is something yet future. Others teach that all prophecies have been fulfilled so we don’t need to worry about this. In this case, I’ll betray my usual protestant stance and say that the Catholics are right, to say that The Apostacy is yet future. However, I agree also that churches tend to fall away from their apostolic roots and apostatize into religious traditions, holding these above the authority of scripture. The Pharisees are just one of many biblical examples of this. The book of Judges is full of such stories, so are the books of Kings.
Mormons teach that the church apostatized soon after the apostles died out, and “here’s how the story really happened as was revealed to us privately by an angelic visitor…”. This is the typical hallmark of gnostic sects soon after Christ, and every sect since, even Islam and Baha’i. Such teachings are contradicted by the early church fathers who document similar influences in their day.
This is what The Apostacy will look like:
Matthew 24:10 Then many will turn their backs on their faith, betray each another, and hate each another. 11Many false prophets will turn up and will deceive many. 12Because God’s laws will be abandoned, the love of many will grow cold.
Today, we hear end timezers claiming that “these other groups have abandoned the true faith.” They lament that so many (or all) other churches have apostatized, and they are among the faithful few who’ve kept the true faith. These claims are supported by pointing out dodgy practices that happen among other groups. Of course, these churches use a narrower view to avoid acknowledging any dodginess among themselves. Based on this verse, they look for false prophets and false apostles, but dismiss the logic, that a counterfeit is a copy of the real thing. In this way, those who are not known for signs and wonders denounce those that focus on signs and wonders. This seems really suspicious to me.
Mark 16:17 These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they’ll drive out demons; they’ll speak in new languages; 18they’ll pick up snakes with their hands; and if they drink deadly poison, it won’t hurt them at all; they’ll place their hands on sick people, and they’ll get well.”
It seems that those who accuse others of apostacy are proving their own departure from God’s commands.
John 13:34 I give you a new commandment: That you love each other. Just in the same way as I’ve loved you, you must love each other. 35By this it’ll be obvious to all people that you’re my disciples: if you have a deep loving affection for each other.
To me, this sounds suspiciously like the apostacy 2,000 years ago as the Pharisee and Sadducees were killing each other off. We’re all different parts of the body of Christ. We have different focal points and different functions. But we all work together as the whole body of Christ.
Those who accuse Christians are doing Satan’s job:
Revelation 12:10 I heard a loud voice in Heaven saying, “Now salvation has come, and strength, the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been cast down, who accused them before our God day and night.”
I really love Zechariah’s vision of Joshua the high priest:
Zechariah 3:1 He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. 2The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan. The Lord who’s chosen Jerusalem rebukes you. Isn’t this a burning stick snatched out of the fire? 3Now Joshua was wearing filthy garments and stood before the angel. 4He answered and spoke to those that stood before him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” He said to him, “Look, I’ve taken your sins away from you and will put new clothes on you.”
Joshua was filthy with sin. But God rebuked Satan’s accusations, despite them being true, and replaced Joshua’s filthiness with his righteousness.
These accusers purposely look for fault in other Christians and when they find it, denounce them to the world as apostate. Their precedent would charge Peter of apostacy when he got caught up in legalism, and others followed his example in Galatians 2:11-21. We all mess up sometimes. This doesn’t mean we’ve departed from the faith. Every great Christian leader through the ages has their faults. We’re all like the high priest Joshua, dressed in filthy rags of our sinful nature, but God rebukes the accuser and clothes us in his righteousness.
So, what is apostacy?
2 Peter 3:1 My loved ones, I now write to you this second letter (in both of which I stir up your pure minds as a reminder), 2so that you’ll be aware of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment from us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior. 3Firstly, be aware, that scoffers will come in the last days, who pursue their own desires, 4saying, “Where’s the promise of his coming? Since the fathers fell asleep, everything continues as it was from the beginning of creation.” 5They deliberately forget, that by God’s Word the Heavens were created, and the Earth was formed out of water and in the water. 6The world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7But the Heavens and the Earth which are now preserved by the same Word, are being kept for a fiery destruction until the day that ungodly people are judged and punished.
Certainly, we’ve seen this over the past generations in the west. Church attendance has diminished, e.g. from 80% to 7% of the population in New Zealand. Much of this is because we’ve gotten rich and fat with prosperity and forgotten that it is God who caused us to prosper. We see this repeatedly through ancient Israel’s history in the Bible. But the strongest driver has been evolutionism. Generally, even throughout the church, we’ve deliberately forgotten the fact, that God created everything in six days six thousand years ago. We have attributed the fossilized remains and geological features produced by Noah’s flood, to an imaginary process that happened once upon a time “millions of years ago”. This process is an extreme extrapolation of statistics that defies logic, probability, scientific laws and history. The motivation is to deny God’s power and authority – that he will hold us to account for our defiance of him and his laws.
This is a pattern of apostacy – that a society once rooted in God’s standards is rapidly replacing this with a new standard that defies God.
Isaiah 5:20 How terrible it will be for those who call evil good, and good evil; who call darkness, light, and light, darkness; who call bitter, sweet, and sweet, bitter! 21how terrible it will be for those who think they are wise, and well educated!
Our society is starting to sound a lot like this. This is an apostacy, but it’s not The Apostacy. Throughout history societies have apostatized like this, then a mighty move of God has turned things around again. Just because it looks bad, it doesn’t mean the end is come.
Romans 1:18-28 God’s anger is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people, as they suppress the truth through immoral acts. 19That which can be known about God is demonstrated in them, because God showed it to them. 20Since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly observed, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead. So, they’re without excuse. 21When they knew God, they didn’t glorify him as God, or give him thanks. But they became meaningless in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22They called themselves wise, and so, they became fools. 23They exchanged the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image they made up, similar to corruptible man, birds, four-legged animals, and creeping things. 24So, God handed them over to the impure desires of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies with each other. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26Because of this, God handed them over to disgusting passions. Even their women exchanged the natural for that, which is unnatural. 27Likewise the men, abandoned natural sex with women, and burned in their desires for each other. Men did shameful things with other men and infected themselves with the consequences of their error. 28Even as they didn’t want to keep their knowledge of God, God gave them over to an immoral mind, to do those things which are detrimental.
As people reject God, God allows them to be controlled by their desires, and thereby bring destruction upon themselves.
All that we see around us today is the pattern of apostacy. However, this is all being held back by Jesus’ faithful church – by prayer warriors who are combating the spiritual forces behind this, by those who do evangelistic work, whether it’s preaching to colleagues or providing a loving home for our kid’s friends.
The time will come when this Restrainer is removed, then the real Apostacy will come. This is what’s written of the Beast and how he’ll lead the world into The Apostacy. While we see elements of evil all around us, then it will be unrestrained. While some Christians are persecuted today, then the entire world will actively hunt down those who love God. Now, the world denies God’s existence, then, since it’s undeniable, they’ll actively defy God and worship the Beast as the Messiah who’ll save the world from this tyrannical Creator God. As the Beast leads the world in a fight against “God’s tyranny”, his own tyranny will be exerted. While he spins a tale of God’s enslaving influence over the world, he’ll enslave the world to his evil schemes, and praise the ensuing fatalities as glorious martyrs’ sacrifice to the greater good of the world.
I generally cringe when I hear talk about The Apostacy, because it’s generally abused to pass judgment on another part of Christ’s body. People have a general tendency to apostatize, but when the Restrainer is removed, we will see The Apostacy described in Revelation and other parts of the Bible.