Apostasy In The End Times
I want to look at what I think is the main indication that we are really near the end of this age. I believe that Christ’s return to catch all true Christians out of this world is so close that we can hear the angels practicing on the trumpet, not that angels have to practice. Actually, the second coming in Revelation 19, is so close we can almost hear the hoof beats of the horses.
The most important indication that Christ’s return is near is not the political unrest or the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not the wars, rumors of wars, nor peace treaties that have been negotiated in the Middle East. It is not even the fact that Israel is back in the land. We should expect all of these things before Christ’s return because they are part of end time prophecy, but I believe the main prophetic event is the apostasy among “Christians.”
I want to start by looking at 2 Timothy 4:1-5, but I want to read the middle part first.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (3-4)
This is a prophecy concerning the state of Christianity as we approach the Rapture of the Saints. It is talking about those who are professing Christians, and are most likely members of supposedly Bible believing churches.
The time has come where many church members will not endure sound doctrine. The word translated “endure” means to put up with or allow. My son was recently in a conversation with a woman who disagreed with him on a Bible principle. When he pointed out what the Bible said, she said something to the effect of “We all have our own interpretation, so we will just have to agree to disagree.”
This is a typical attitude toward the Scriptures today. I know the woman, and she thinks she is a Christian even though her lifestyle is totally in opposition to what the Bible teaches. She is covered with tattoos, she has a foul mouth, and she is often proud that she brings “shine” to meetings she goes to. She is a very nice person, but she is typical of the apostasy we should expect just before the return of Christ.
The modern “Christian” wants preachers and teachers who will preach what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. As a result, they are turned from the truth to fables. It is a choice they have made.
When we see this state of affairs, we should ask why. Although God told us it would happen, it is not because He ordained it to be so. I think the first and last part of this passage give us the key to why it has happened. The passage starts with:
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.(1-2)
Paul charged the young preacher, Timothy, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the Word. In so doing, he reminded Timothy that we will all stand before the judge one day and answer for our lives. I will look more at this in a moment, but for now I want to look at what the preacher is charged to do.
First, he is to preach the Word of God, all of it. He is to preach it when it is convenient, and when it is not. This means he is to preach the whole counsel of God whether the people want to hear it or not. Because many don’t want the truth, many preachers water it down out of fear.
I am afraid that too many preachers believe that their salary depends on the members of their churches. It does not! It depends on the one who called them into the ministry. That being said, the salary only last for a time. The real reward for the faithful preachers is everlasting.
Next, he is to reprove those to whom he preaches. To reprove is to point out error and convict those who are guilty of that error. We don’t have too much problem reproving the error that is politically correct in our circles. Things like abortion and homosexuality are often reproved in our churches where few, if any, are guilty of these sins. On the other hand, little is said about immodesty, worldly conduct and speech, etc. Why, because there may be criticism or the loss of a good tithing member.
The preacher is also to rebuke. This means to charge with error or to place the blame. Public sin should be rebuked publicly and private sin should be rebuked privately. Again, if the preacher rebukes, he risks offending and losing church members.
He is also to exhort his church members in his preaching. The word “exhort” means to use strong languages to encourage to right actions. The more exhorting that is done, the less need there will be for rebuking and reproving. The sins that are the most common in Bible believing churches are often mentioned in sermons, but seldom as exhortations. Exhortation is more than the issue being one point in a message. It requires full messages that explain, not only that it is wrong, but why it is wrong. What damage does a skirt that is just a bit short do? What harm is done by going to the wrong places? And I could go on.
The preacher is to do it with all longsuffering. This means he is to keep preaching it whether the people listen or not. He is to do it if they get angry, or even if they run him off. Granted, he is to do it with love and not use deliberately offensive language, but if the truth offends, preach it anyway.
He is to preach doctrine. This is the key to all of this. If people are taught sound doctrine from the beginning, all of the other things will fall into place. Doctrine teaches what is right and correct, and why it is so. When people understand what and why, they will usually attempt to comply.
Our text ends with:
But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (5)
The preacher is to make full proof of his ministry. He does so in three ways. First, he is to watch in all things. This means be aware of everything going on in, and outside of his church. If he is not aware of things, he cannot properly deal with them.
He is to endure afflictions. This goes with longsuffering. A faithful preacher will be attacked both from without and from within. He needs to have the backbone to stand against the opposition.
Next he is to do the work of an evangelist. An evangelist is one who preaches good news. The sad thing is, we often limit this to soul-winning. Is the only good news in the Bible that we can be saved? Although that is where it all starts, that is not the only good news that must be preached. We live in what the Bible calls perilous times. There is evil on every side. Nothing seems to be going the way we would like things to go. It is very easy for our people to get depressed. The work of preaching good news also includes preaching of the soon return of Christ, the rewards in heaven for faithful servants, and even the rewards of this life.
The following passage is often used to bring people under the authority of their pastor. It does teach that we are to obey our spiritual leaders, but there is something more important that is seldom mentioned. The reason they are to obey their pastor is that he is a watchman for their souls.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)
I would like to remind every preacher, pastor or not, that one day we will stand before God and give an answer for what we preach and how we preach it.
The word “pastor” is used nine times in the Scriptures, eight in the book of Jeremiah, and one in Ephesians. Six of the nine times, they are warnings or condemnations of the pastors because they were unfaithful to their calling.
Since pastors are to watch for the souls of those over whom God has given them oversight, I believe the warning given in Ezekiel is something to pay attention to.
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. (Ezekiel 33:1-9)
Each God called preacher is responsible to warn the people of danger. The passage I began with tells us that the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine. Well, that time has come. I believe that it has come because pastors have not been the watchmen God has called them to be. The world we live in has many spiritual dangers. The only defense against these dangers is the Word of God. It must be preached in its fulness.
As an older preacher who can remember things as far back as WWII, I would like to speak to the younger preachers. I had the advantage of growing up at a time when we spoke the truth without fear of offending those who heard it. Over the last fifty years or so, things have changed considerably. In our day, the worst sin that can be committed is to offend someone. Our Bible colleges have taught preachers to keep things positive. It is sad to say, but this was taught by some of the great preachers of the past. For example, Lee Roberson, the founder of Tennessee Temple, said that he kept everything positive, and kept the negative from his people.
When I was in Bible College, I was taught that I was to keep things positive and take care not to rock the boat. I know this was taught in other Baptist Bible colleges also. The result is that even those younger preachers who do preach on the negative things from time to time, apologize for being negative.
The Old Testament prophets never apologized for the negative messages they brought to the people. The Apostle Paul didn’t apologize when he rebuked the church at Corinth. The greatest preacher of all times, the Lord Jesus Christ, never apologized when He rebuked those in error.
The Old Testament prophets and Paul received direct revelation from God, and Jesus was and is God. If they had apologized, they would have been apologizing for God and His Word. Is our message any less from God simply because it did not come by direct revelation? No! If our message is faithful to what God says in His Word, it carries the same power and authority as the messages given by direct inspiration to the prophets of old.
Many preachers try to keep negativity out of the Gospel message. We like to tell people the good news that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day for our justification. All of this is positive. However, without the negative teaching that we are all sinners guilty before a holy God and condemned to Hell, the good news means nothing. There must be true conviction of sin before the good news can be fully understood.
Everyone likes to be liked. We all like it when others say nice things about us. This is human nature, and is not wrong in and of itself. We do, however, need to be careful about who says these nice things. Listen to what Jesus said on the subject:
Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26)
This does not say woe unto you if men speak well of you. It says woe unto you if ALL men speak well of you. If other faithful Bible believing Christians speak well of you, and if you don’t let it turn into pride, it is not a bad thing. On the other hand, if the world and liberal Christians speak well of you, you should be concerned with the message you are communicating.
Woe is an expression of grief. We should be grieved when the lost world speaks well of us. It means there is something missing in our message. Our message is not bringing conviction in the hearts of those who hear it. By the way, by message I mean everything we communicate, both by word and conduct.
Bible Prophecy should be seen as a warning of things to come. Some of those things are good and encouraging, like the Rapture of the Saints. Some of them are fearful, like the apostasy of the last days.
But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 1:17-21)
Let me close this out by saying that what we see today was predicted by our God. Although we live in perilous times, we also live in exciting times. As a Christian, it is a good time to live. Persecution may come, but our God will give us the grace and strength to endure it, just as He did our spiritual ancestors. We are to build ourselves up on our most holy faith. This means know what God has said, and stand faithful to the end. We are to pray in the Holy Ghost. Our prayers should be guided by the Holy Spirit that indwells us . Remember, God loves us and will give us the mercy we need. We have eternal life in Christ. Be encouraged, justice is coming.