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The Great Apostasy

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The New Testament is full of warnings that at the end of this age there will

be a great apostasy or falling away from the truth affecting the Christian

Church. Jesus himself warned that in the last days there will be 'false

messiahs and false prophets' who will deceive many (Matthew 24). Paul warned

that 'evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being

deceived' (2 Timothy 3.13), and that the day of the Lord (the return of the

Messiah Jesus) will be preceded by an apostasy in the church and the

revelation of the man of sin or Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2.3).

 

The process of apostasy began in the early days of Christianity:

 

"As you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now have many

antichrists come .... They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if

they had been of us they would have continued with us; but they went out

that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us." 1 John

2.18-19

 

This passage signifies that though there is one antichrist who is coming at

the end of this age, there are many who have the spirit of antichrist which

may be manifested in many different forms. Although this spirit 'comes out

from us' (i.e. originates within Christianity and may continue to call

itself Christian) it is marked by a fundamental denial of the basics of the

Christian faith. This is why so many things have been done in the name of

Jesus which deny everything He stands for. The main characteristic of this

spirit is a denial of the central truth of the faith: that Jesus is the

promised Messiah, fully man and fully God, whose sacrificial death and

resurrection is sufficient to bring forgiveness of sins and eternal life to

all who believe:

 

"By this you know the Spirit of God; Every spirit that confesses that Jesus

Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not

confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is

the spirit of antichrist which you have heard was coming and is now already

in the world." 1 John 4.2-3

 

"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be

false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in damnable heresies, even

denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of

truth will be blasphemed." 2 Peter 2 1-2

 

The New Testament is absolutely clear that our redemption is gained solely

on the merit of the finished work of Messiah Jesus:

 

"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ

died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that

he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." 1 Corinthians

15.3-4

 

Therefore any form of Christianity which denies this is a form of apostasy.

The apostasy, which the writers of the New Testament recognised as taking

place in their time, gathered momentum in the following centuries. By the

'Dark Ages' in Medieval Europe it had almost completely taken over the

professing Christian Church.

 

The Reformation brought a degree of light and recovery of truth back into

Christianity and led to the evangelical awakenings of the 18th and 19th

centuries which resulted in the Gospel being spread world wide, the original

command of the Lord Jesus and the major condition of his return (Matthew

24.14, 28.18-20).

 

However as we come to the end of the 20th century we see the process of

apostasy in the church gathering momentum at an astonishing speed, leading

to the fulfilment of the prophecy of 2 Thessalonians 2 and the revelation of

Antichrist. Bearing in mind that the essence of this apostasy is the denial

of the finished work of Christ as sufficient for our redemption, let us look

at three ways in which this apostasy is now invading the church.

 

1 The New Age / Inter Faith / Feminist route

 

This denies that Jesus was any more than one of many 'gurus' who teach us

how to discover 'god' within ourselves. In our previous edition we looked at

this teaching in more detail (copies available on request). An example of

how this way of thinking fits in with the apostasy we describe above was

given in an article in Newsweek 'The Search for the Sacred' (28/11/94):

 

"2000 Protestant and Catholic churchwomen from 27 nations gathered in

Minneapolis to sacralize female sexuality. During a communion service of

milk and honey they prayed to 'Sophia' a feminine image used to personify

wisdom. Jesus was never invoked. But his death in atonement for the sins of

man was dismissed by one theologian as the grotesque product of the male

imagination. I don't think we need folks hanging on crosses and blood

dripping," said the Rev. Dolores Williams who teaches at Union Theological

Seminary in New York.

 

2 The Ecumenical Route

 

Ecumenism has now gone beyond the liberal and high churches. On 29th March

1994 leading evangelicals and Catholics signed a joint declaration,

"Evangelicals and Catholics together: The Christian Mission in the 3rd

Millennium. This document urges evangelicals and Roman Catholics who have

worked together in opposing abortion and pornography to 'finally accept each

other as Christians .. and to stop proselytization of each other's flocks.'

The document is being translated into Spanish, Polish, Portuguese and

Russian for circulation throughout Latin America and Eastern Europe.

 

Despite the well meaning words of working together for common causes this

document could be used to prevent evangelicals from preaching the Gospel in

Roman Catholic countries. It will contribute to the trend of supposed

evangelical leaders backing off from making a stand for the Gospel. In

recent months we have seen the Archbishop of Canterbury commending the

Communist government of China and criticising missionary work there. Chuck

Colson, one of the evangelical signatories of this document, has said that

he and others had become 'distressed by the clashes arising from the growth

of evangelical Protestantism in traditionally Catholic countries.'

 

However if we believe that our redemption is solely through the sacrifice of

Jesus, we have to preach the Gospel to Roman Catholics for Roman Catholic

doctrine denies this:

 

"For it is the liturgy (sacramental rituals) through which, especially in

the divine service of the Eucharist, the work of our redemption is

accomplished. Vatican II.

 

"Christ's death earned 'satisfactions and merits' which have been deposited

into a 'Treasury' to which have been added the prayers of the Blessed Virgin

Mary and the prayers and good works of all the saints... From most ancient

times in the Church good works were also offered to God for the salvation of

sinners. Vatican II, Flannery's edition Vol.I

 

"The Mass is truly a propitionary sacrifice by which the Lord is appeased

and pardons wrongdoings and sins... The priest is indispensable since he

alone by his power can change the elements of bread and wine into the body

and blood of Christ... The more often the sacrifice of the Mass is offered

the more benefit is conferred.

 

This is another means by which it is denied that the sacrifice of the Lord

Jesus at Calvary is sufficient for our salvation. Evangelicals who have made

an alliance with Roman Catholicism and no longer call for Roman Catholics

who have come to know the Lord to leave the Catholic Church are joining

hands with those who 'deny the Lord who bought them' and are undoing the

work of the Reformation.

 

(Information from 'The Berean Call' May 1994, reprinted in 'Mainstream'

Summer 1994)

 

3 The 'Word of Faith' route

 

Perhaps the most insidious denial of the Lord is one which is currently

affecting much of the charismatic and pentecostal movements. In the 1950s

American preacher Kenneth Hagin plagiarised the teaching of E.W. Kenyon, an

earlier preacher whose roots lay in the 'Unity Church' in Boston, a centre

of unbiblical doctrines including Christian Science and Theosophy. Hagin

influenced Kenneth Copeland who in turn influenced Rodney Howard-Browne, the

prime mover in the so-called 'Toronto Blessing' which is now sweeping the

charismatic churches. Most of the people who are claiming that revival is

coming to the church through this movement do not realise that at the core

of its teaching is a denial of the sufficiency of the cross of Christ.

 

Kenyon taught that the most important part of our redemption was not what

happened at the cross but what happened in the three days between the

crucifixion and the resurrection. According to Kenyon, Jesus died two deaths

on the cross; the first spiritual, the second physical. The physical death

of Christ was but the beginning of his redemptive work, not its end. After

his physical death Jesus endured spiritual death and suffering in hell,

where he was separated from God and took on a mortal and sinful nature.

There he was 'born again' and defeated Satan and emerged from hell to be

Resurrected.

 

Kenneth Copeland puts it like this: "Jesus went into hell to free mankind

from the penalty of Adam's high treason. When His blood poured out did not

atone Jesus spent three horrible days and nights in the bowels of the earth

getting back for you and me our rights with God.

 

From this bizarre and unscriptural teaching the 'faith' teachers make a

quantum leap to say that believers can be identified with Christ to the

extent that they become as much incarnations of God as Christ was. Hagin

maintains that in the new birth God imparts 'His very nature, substance, and

being into our human spirits.' Hence Hagin maintains that 'every born again

man is an incarnation' and that 'the believer is as much an incarnation as

Jesus of Nazareth.' This is in fact a Christianised version of the New Age

heresy that we can become as God.

 

All of this is a totally heretical teaching that is affecting more and more

of the charismatic movement. It has all the marks of the apostasy described

in 2 Peter 2. It denies the Lord who bought us (verse 1-2); its leaders

exploit gullible Christians financially with deceptive words (verses 3,

14-16); they make promises of financial prosperity, and health and a great

revival coming as a result of following their teaching, promises which are

never fulfilled (verse 18-19). For further information on this subject send

for our leaflet 'Whatever happened to the charismatic movement?'

 

Information in this section from 'A Different Gospel' by D.R. McConnell and

'Beyond Seduction' by Dave Hunt.

 

Conclusion

 

Through this brief survey we see the Enemy, Satan, attacking and undermining

the foundations of Christianity on all fronts. In each case he promises that

something great will happen as a result of the programme he is offering. In

each case the opposite in fact takes place. Satan knows that his time is

short and that the only people who have the answer to the catastrophe that

is coming on the world are those who believe the Gospel. If he can

neutralise and corrupt all of Christianity there will be no resistance left

to the Antichrist system he is seeking to bring on the world.

 

However all his schemes will fail and any victory he wins will be a

temporary and illusory one. The true Lord Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour of

the world, who defeated Satan once and for all at the cross, is returning in

power and glory to deliver all who trust in Him and to destroy the

Antichrist world system.

 

Meanwhile let us "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." 1 Peter 5.8-9

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