Sunday, March 6, 2011

Watching For Apostasy

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 NKJV

apostasia:a falling away, defection, apostasy

When the subject of watching for signs of the approaching tribulation comes up, most believers immediately think of the list of natural disasters listed in Matthew 24, which is known as the Olivet Discourse. Here Jesus answers questions by the disciples concerning the end of the age, and shares with them some of the signs that would announce His imminent return. There are, however, numerous other signs given us in other passages in the Bible that are just as important as the ones listed in Matthew.

One of these is the above passage from Paul's letter to the Thessalonians where he addresses the concern many of them had that the time of tribulation had already begun. Paul takes this opportunity to not only reassure them that it had not, but also reveals an interesting sign that many are not familiar with, and this of course is the prediction that many will fall away from the faith.

Most of you know by now that there are times where I share other blogs with you, especially when I feel it's obvious they are being led by the Lord to address a subject of importance to the body. Today is one of those times, and I would like to share two commentaries on the subject of apostasy written by two individuals that I highly respect.

The Great Apostasy: Lost Forever
An apostate soul is lost forever. There is an abundance of Biblical proof that shows anyone that apostatizes cannot repent – and even stronger – has been given a reprobate mind and will not repent. The Greek word apostasion means a divorcement. The apostate person has divorced the truth of God and has been divorced by the Holy Spirit. They are lost forever. There is a multitude in today’s church, which are so captured by the watered down message that they refuse to even believe “plain truths” from the Holy Scripture.

Please consider what is evident in the very term apostate. We are not discussing someone going back into sin or simply ceasing to walk with the Lord. That is backsliding and we see a clear picture of that in the prodigal son in chapter fifteen of Luke. He left the Father’s House and wandered far from home, but he came to himself and returned. I have often said that there is a little of the prodigal in every one of us. We have all had to repent because we failed to be fully obedient. This state of a soul has no real kinship to apostasy.

Apostate people are more religious than the true saints. They have departed from the great principles and established doctrines of the Holy Bible and are committed to guaranteeing that everybody else does the same. Apostasy is a departure from truth while being convinced that they have discovered greater truths. It is the replacement of the eternal truth with religious human imagination. The book, The God Chasers, by Tommy Tenney is an excellent case in point. He states that the Bible is where God has been and the new revelation is where God is now at work. Rick Warren is clearly at the same point. He has replaced the Born Again life by the Holy Ghost with a “purpose driven life” of psychological relativisms.

In the apostate world there are many paths to God, and Jesus Christ is only one of them. The absolute teaching of Jesus Christ about an eternal Hell and eternal Lake of Fire is now to simply lie in the grave and fail to enjoy God forever. The Bible can be pen-knifed by the apostate church and almost every truth can have varied meanings. Separated living is a relic of the past and the Christian is free of all restraints in the Ten Commandments, etc. A ballgame on Sunday night is just as spiritual to this company as a great sermon from God’s eternal truth. Romance music has replaced the music that lifts the spirit of man into the Holy of Holies, where God’s Spirit sanctifies and purifies the soul.

The Holy Bible warned us of this End Time phenomenon. The most powerful Scripture about apostasy is in the great book of Hebrews. This passage has been almost ignored by most Bible teachers because it upsets their weak theology. “And this will we do, if God permit. 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” (Hebrews 6:3-6).

Apostle Paul does not just suggest the end results; he proclaims without question that this state of apostasy cannot repent. Please note the words, “fall away,” which identifies the apostate person and states that they were once partakers of the Holy Ghost, were once enlightened, and had tasted the Word of God and the world to come. But, now, they have turned from all of that great life and cannot return to their former spiritual state. The term “fall away” is from a unique Greek word that applies to the person that is part of the “falling away” or “apostasia” we see in II Thessalonians chapter two, verse three.

The prophecy of II Thessalonians is a clear companion to the truth in Hebrews. As the apostle writes about the coming Antichrist and the Day of Christ, he warns us of the “falling away.” “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (II Thessalonians 2:3-4).

Again, we see “falling away” from the two Greek words, apostasia and apostasion. These are very religious persons who have turned to “another gospel.” They did not love the pure word of God and were wise in the flesh to create their own theology. They watered down the truth to draw the crowds into their great fold. And, then, they must keep compromising to keep the crowds.

The Holy Ghost takes the apostle right down to the fine point of what the results will be, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thessalonians 2:7-12).

God’s omniscient Spirit warns them that He will give them “strong delusion,” and “that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned.” It is not the truth that saves the soul. The world is full of people that know the Bible. Many souls study the Bible just to argue their deception more successfully. It is the “love of the truth” that saves the soul. Now, we are discovering the real heart of apostasy. It is to reject the truth for error and our highly intellectual church world is fulfilling this prophetic design to a tee.

There is clear evidence that this condition of apostasy is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of Truth is absolutely the Holy Ghost. To reject truth, to change truth, to water down truth is to grieve, quench, and blaspheme the Spirit. The whole matter of apostasy is the forsaking of truth. The Holy Ghost inspired every Bible writer and they wrote as “they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:21). There is no way you can blaspheme Him more readily than when you attack His revelation. From Moses, the writer of the Pentateuch, to John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, the Bible is the pure Word of God.

The final proof of apostasy is found in Revelation chapter twenty-two. The Spirit said, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19). When you alter the Bible, you are an apostate person and will be eternally lost.

Joseph R. Chambers

Universalism as a Lure? The Emerging Case of Rob Bell
Tuesday, March 1, 2011

As is so often the case, most of us first learned of Rob Bell’s new book by means of Justin Taylor and his blog, “Between Two Worlds,” at the Gospel Coalition. Justin reminds me of the steady folks at the National Hurricane Center. He is able to advise of looming disaster with amazing calmness. That is why I took special notice of Justin’s stern warning: “It is unspeakably sad when those called to be ministers of the Word distort the gospel and deceive the people of God with false doctrine.”

Why would Justin feel the need to issue such a warning? He was writing about Rob Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, due to be released on March 29 by HarperCollins.

The publisher’s statement about the book is clearly intended to provoke controversy:
Fans flock to his Facebook page, his NOOMA videos have been viewed by millions, and his Sunday sermons are attended by 10,000 parishioners—with a downloadable podcast reaching 50,000 more. An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.

Now, Rob Bell and others within the Emerging Church movement represent what can only be described as a new form of cultural Christianity. Bell plays with theology the way a cat plays with a mouse. His sermons, videos, books, and public relations are often more suggestive and subversive than clear. They are also artistically and aesthetically superior to most of what is to be found in the video section of your local Christian bookstore or on the Web.
Time is running out on the Emerging folks. They can play the game of suggestion for only so long. Eventually, the hard questions will be answered. Tragically, when the answers do come, as with the case of Brian McLaren, they appear as nothing more than a mildly updated form of Protestant liberalism.

The publicity surrounding Bell’s new book indicates that he is ready to answer one of the hardest questions — the question of the exclusivity of the Gospel of Christ. With that question come the related questions of heaven, hell, judgment, and the fate of the unregenerate. The Bible answers these questions clearly enough, but few issues are as hard to reconcile with the modern or postmodern mind than this. Of course, it was hard to reconcile with the ancient mind as well. The singularity of the person and work of Christ and the necessity of personal faith in him for salvation run counter to the pluralistic bent of the human mind, but this is nothing less than the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation.

Universalism and the various inclusivisms are exactly what Justin Taylor suggests — distortions of the Gospel that deceive the people of God (and non-Christians as well).
But what if all this is just clever advertising? What if Rob Bell’s book turns out to be an affirmation of the truth? Did Justin jump the gun?

There is good reason to doubt this. The most powerful argument about the book comes in the form of a video offered by Rob Bell himself. In the video, he pulls no punches. In his clever and artistic way, ever so artfully presented, he affirms what can only be described as universalism.
We must await the release of the full book in order to know what Rob Bell is really saying, but his advance promotion for the book is already saying something, and it is not good. The material he has already put forth does demand and deserve attention.

The Emerging Church movement is known for its slick and sophisticated presentation. It wears irony and condescension as normal attire. Regardless of how Rob Bell’s book turns out, its promotion is the sad equivalent of a theological striptease.

The Gospel is too precious and important to be commodified in this manner. The questions he asks are too important to leave so tantalizingly unanswered. Universalism is a heresy, not a lure to use in order to sell books. This much we know, almost a month before the book is to be released.

There is no question in my mind that the apostasy Paul warns us about is happening right now. If that indeed is the case, just how close is the rapture of the church and the revealing of the man of sin?

Keep watching.