Signs of the Times – Precursors

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There are five major things that must take place or be in place prior to the tribulation period.  Not necessarily in order, they are:
 
  • The Rapture
  • The world ruled by ten kingdoms 
  • The return of Elijah 
  • The ReGathering of Israel
  • The Apostasy  
 
Since I’m going to be covering each of these today my talk may seem a bit disjointed, but don’t worry it will all make sense sometime in February. If you need to go back and see something, my notes are always online for your reading pleasure. 

 
I’ll start with the easiest one: 
 
The Rapture. 
 
The Rapture must take place before the tribulation begins.
 
The main reason for this, as I made clear over the last three weeks, is that the purpose of the tribulation is not for the church (the bride of Christ), it is for the Jews. So, that, coupled with all the evidence I shared in my talk on the rapture a month ago indicates that the rapture must take place prior to the wrath and judgment that is to come. If you want the details, watch or listen to the talk from November 6th.
 
Now, although the rapture will be a very noticeable and significant event that effects the entire world – it is not the sign that the official seven-year tribulation has started. That, we learned last week from the Daniel 9 prophecies, is signaled by the “ruler who will come” making a covenant with the “many.” And we know from what I taught last week that this is referring to the anti-christ and the nation of Israel. The official start to the final seven of Daniel’s seventy sevens is when the anti-christ is the ruler of the world and makes a covenant with Israel to restart sacrifices and offerings in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.
 
And, It is not scripturally necessary for the rapture and the signing of that covenant to happen at the same time. 
 
In fact, I would argue that there will be a significant delay between the rapture and that happening. Perhaps even a year or more – because of the second prerequisite to tribulation being that the whole world must be ruled by ten rulers before the anti-christ comes.
 
If you remember from the other Daniel prophesies of the statue and the four beasts – both prophecies ended with the ten toes on the statue and the ten horns on the beast. Let’s look at that again from Daniel 7.
 
 
Daniel 7
“After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.
 
“While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.
 
Later in the chapter, an angel is giving Daniel the interpretation of this:
 
23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.
 
Now, there are many different views on the meaning of all of this. If you do a simple google search you can spend a whole day reading them all. But in the end, we have to admit that we do not and cannot know with 100% certainty what exactly all of this will look like because it is still future to us. But, as I said the last few weeks as we went through this – because parts of these prophesies have been fulfilled, we can interpret the future things using the past things as a key to understanding the symbols. This will be very important once we get back into Revelation.
 
Well, in this case we don’t have to try to get all fancy about the symbols because the interpretation is right there in the same chapter. We already know that this fourth beast began as the Roman Empire that came to power shortly before Christ was born. That empire never died but simply faded into the conglomeration of nation states we see today. What the angel is saying is that at some point, ten kings will come from this kingdom followed by another king that will be different and more powerful than the others. 
 
Now, with just Daniel’s prophecy we could not determine if these are ten successive kings or ten kings at the same time. But what we see later in Revelation shows us that it is ten kings at the same time.
 
Revelation 17
12 “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. 13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast.
 
That is the interpretation of another vision that John has given to him by an angel – similar to how Daniel got it. In this we see that during or before this  tribulation period, the world will be ruled by exactly ten kings at some point, and that they will effectively turn the world over to the beast or the anti-christ. I’m not going to get into it more than that today – you’ll just have to wait until January 8th where we will finally be able to meet this infamous jerk.
 
For, now I just wanted to show you that one other thing that must happen either before or during the early part of the tribulation is the world being ruled by ten kings rather than the thousands that we have today. 
 
I believe it must happen before, because in order for the antichrist to rise to power and even be able to make the covenant with Israel that starts the tribulation, it would seem this ten kingdom government must be in place first.
 
And another argument that I would make is that even before that can happen, the rapture must take place first. Just imagine the worldwide upheaval, confusion, and hysteria that would ensue. There’s no telling what percentage of the world it will be, though I would argue it’s going to be less than most expect.
 
Either way, it’s going to be extreme chaos and I believe the needed catalyst that allows for a world-wide government overhaul and the rise of a singular and evil ruler who doesn’t appear evil at first. We’ll talk more about that in January, but I suspect that while the rapture is not the named official start to the tribulation, it will certainly be the catalyst that sets the remaining prerequisites in motion. 
 
And that’s all I have to say about that.
 

SHIFTING GEARS

 
Ok, so that stuff is pretty interesting and hard to really imagine how it will look, but it’s fun to speculate. 
 
Here’s another one that is rather quizzical. 
 
It’s the Return of the Prophet Elijah.
 
The prophecy about this is actually the very last prophecy from the last prophet of the Old Testament: Malachi.
 
After him, God was silent for about 430 years until John the Baptist started preparing the way for Jesus the Christ. 
 
It’s a short little book, only 4 chapters, but man do they pack a punch. You’re lucky I don’t have time to do what I wanted to do, which was do a mini-sermon within the sermon on this piercing little book. Instead I’ll just dare you to actually read it for yourself. It’s short and shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes, but I dare you to read it as if God is talking to you. It might just change your life if you actually listen.
 
Anyway, at the very end of the book – and really the very end of God speaking through the old prophets before Jesus came, He makes this promise:
 
Malachi 4
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
 
Now, to a Jew of Malachi’s day or even to a practicing Jew of today – these two verses carry a wealth of meaning that is probably totally lost on us 21st Century American gentiles. But don’t worry, I’ll do my preacher duty and break it down for you.
 
To start, let’s look at a less politically correct translation. The NIV and other more “modern” translations have a bad habit of making everything gender neutral – which in most cases is appropriate but in some cases completely changes the meaning of something. This is one of those cases. 
 
Here is the NASB.
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”


First, let me point out the phrase “great and terrible day of the Lord.” I’ve covered this before. It is referring to the second coming of Christ when he comes in his glory to judge the nations. As I’ve mentioned before, when Jesus comes to earth the second time, he won’t be the humble servant anymore but the conquering king.
 
Malachi is saying that before that happens though, God is going to send Elijah the prophet and that he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. The reason the other translation is erroneous in calling them “parents” rather than “fathers” is that this is not talking about restoring family relationships between parents and their kids. That seems like a pretty small thing to be worried about such that a prophet from old needs to come and set things straight so that God doesn’t smite the land with a curse…
 
No, this is talking about Israel as a nation returning to the hearts that their fathers had – as in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the “fathers” of the Jewish people who God made the original covenant of the promised land and people with. This is saying that God is going to send Elijah to bring the people of the final generation (the children) to repentance so that they will be have the same heart and obedience that the patriarchs had, so that God will then not fully destroy them but save them as He ultimately promised to do.
 
That part of this is generally not disputed and matches everything else we’ve already covered about the purpose of the tribulation. But the big question about this is the Elijah character.  This is where it gets really interesting.
 
Elijah, if you are not familiar with him, was a famous prophet that lived during the time of the kings of Israel, and specifically during the time of the evil king Ahab and his even more evil wife, Jezebel. They hated Elijah because he kept telling them to repent of all their evil ways and even made it so it wouldn’t rain for three years. Then at the end of those three years, he has a showdown with 450 prophets of Baal and Asherah on top of Mount Carmel with the result being his water soaked offering completely disintegrated by fire from heaven while their “gods” did nothing. Pretty awesome story among a few others about him. But that’s not even what made him so famous. The reason why he stands out as probably the greatest prophet of the Old Testament was because he never died. Instead he was swooped up into heaven on a chariot of fire right in front of the eyes of his successor, Elisha, and several others. Ever since then it was believed he would come back some day, and this prophecy of Malachi made it clear that he would indeed be coming back.
 
And so for 430 years, the people kept looking and waiting for him.
 
Fast forward to the New Testament and the Gospel of Luke:
 
Luke 1
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
 
This John, was none other than John the Baptist. And the angel effectively says that John will be the Elijah that Malachi prophesied about, even quoting from the last verse. So, was John the Baptist the promised Elijah? Well…yes and no.
 
The yes comes in the fact that even Jesus called him the Elijah who was prophesied to come.
 
Matthew 11
As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’
 
(This is a quote from chapter 3 of Malachi)
 
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.
 
So, Jesus says that John is the Elijah who was to come. That would seem like a pretty definitive YES then, wouldn’t it?
 
Well, there is some nuance here that is generally lost in a casual reading of the modern English translations. This is why there are so many differing opinions on this. 
 
But let me show you why John the Baptist WAS and WAS NOT the Elijah prophesied in Malachi. 
 
He clearly was at least meant to be by what Jesus says of him and what the angel told his father. But John himself actually denied being Elijah when questioned by the religious leaders.
 
John 1
19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
 
In that last verse he was quoting Isaiah 40:3. So, John denies being Elijah himself but at the same time claims to be doing the role of the prophesied Elijah from Malachi 3 and 4. 
 
So, which is it? Is he or isn’t he?  Yes…No.
 
More precisely, the best answer is: HE COULD HAVE BEEN.  
 
The nuance comes in what Jesus said. 
 

Matthew 11:14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.

 
This is a case when our American euphemisms trip us up. When we hear “if you are willing to accept it” – to us that sounds like “believe it or not” or “if you can believe it” – which is a common way we suggest that something is true even if it seems unbelievable. That’s not what Jesus was doing. He is actually saying that IF you (the Jews) are willing to accept it, then John is the Elijah. But if you do not accept it, then he is not.
 
Ultimately he was saying, if you accept John’s message that I am the Messiah, then his work as Elijah will have been successful – bringing the hearts of the children back to the fathers and we can all go home to heaven together. But since you will not believe his message that I am the Messiah, but instead you are eventually going to behead him and crucify me, then there is still another Elijah to come before I come the second time. And the next time it’s going to work, just not for you.
 
So, John the Baptist was the Elijah of the first coming of Christ. And, there will be another Elijah that hails the second coming of Christ, and this time he will be successful in bringing Israel back to their fathers.
 
Now, who this Elijah will be specifically or when exactly he will show up we do not know. Some think he may be one of the two witnesses that the antichrist kills at the midway point, but there are a lot of problems with that theory. Basically we just don’t know except that he will be showing up at some point during or before the tribulation. So, he’s not exactly a prerequisite but he could be. Either way, pretty crazy stuff, right? You should read your bible.
 

SHIFTING GEARS

 
So far now, I’ve covered three things that are still in our future but must happen before or coincide with the beginning of the tribulation period.  The next two things must also happen before, and are actually in the process of happening in our time right now.
 
The first one I’ll talk about is one of the more fascinating stories in all of human history and likely the greatest testament to the truthfulness of Scripture and proof that the God of the Bible is real. 
 
I’m talking about the Regathering of Israel. 
 
Most of us today just take it for granted that there are people all over the world who still identify and live as cultural and/or religious Jews descended from the ancient nation of Israel, and that there is a sovereign nation with borders and a government called Israel.  And for most of us young folks, we probably mostly puzzle at the constant turmoil that seems to surround that fact. We wonder at why the rest of the middle east hates Israel and wants to annihilate their very existence. And we further puzzle at why Hitler would have chosen the Jews – who at the time did not even have a nation of their own – to try to exterminate. It’s all quite puzzling unless you understand Scripture and the role of Israel in the final days of our planet. 
 
Putting all the hatred of the Jews aside, the mere fact that they still even exist and retain their cultural distinction is a straight up mathematical impossibility – otherwise known as a miracle. 
 
Multiple times through their history, the world has tried to destroy them. It began when the Jews were slaves in Egypt. The Pharaoh wanted to end their race by killing off the babies as they were born. But God intervened. 
 
Fast forward to the time of the captivity we’ve been reading about in Daniel. It’s quite a miracle that one, they were not just destroyed outright but taken captive, two: that despite great pressure to conform to the culture of their captors they retained their unique Jewish culture, and three: their captors let them go back home and rebuild. Each unlikely on their own, but even more unlikely together. 
 
Fast forward a few more centuries of domination by Gentiles and they still maintain their distinct culture. Even during the time of the Romans that we see in the Gospels, when all other subjects of Rome became integrated into the Roman culture, the Jews maintained their identity despite Rome trying their hardest to change them, killing literally millions in the process. They used to line the streets with crucified Jews, but they would not yield until finally Rome had enough and completely destroyed the city and the temple in A.D. 70. 
 
After that, the Jews were without a home for 1,878 years until 1948 when they were given some of their land back after World War II and the horrible nazi holocaust. They were immediately attacked by all the other arab nations but were not defeated. Fast forward to 20 years and the six days war, and finally Israel has Jerusalem back – though not completely. And that’s how it stands today amid constant fighting. 
 
The odds of that happening are astronomical. No other people group without a home has come even close to the longevity of the Jews. Probably the closest second are the Native Americans, but they were not dispersed over the entire world away from their homeland. And it’s only been a couple hundred years for them, where as it was nearly 2,000 years for the Jews. Multiple generations that were born in foreign lands and cultures, yet the Jews that began as a single family some four thousand years ago still exist and they still maintain their cultural uniqueness despite everything stacked against them and a world that has tried over and over again to destroy them. 
 
If that isn’t proof of God, then I don’t know what is. 
 
And there are multiple, multiple prophecies in the Old and New Testament that the dispersed people of Israel would in the end be gathered together in the promised land to face their final curses and ultimately yield and be saved. Which is the one thing the Devil is trying his hardest to stop from happening. Because if the Jews do not survive or if they never finally accept their Messiah, then the plans of God are wrecked and Satan believes that his fate would then be thwarted. So, he has done everything he can and will do even more as we will see in the tribulation to try to stop all the prophesies from coming true because if they do it means his doom. 
 
And so far, despite his best efforts, the chosen people are still around and the gathering is well underway.
 
I won’t have time to cover every prophecy about this, but I will include a link in my notes to a page that goes into great detail about it with timelines and everything. It’s fascinating.
 
 
For now, I will share a selection with you. 
 
One place we find this being prophecied is in the major prophet Isaiah.
 
 
Isaiah 11
11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.
 
12 He will raise a banner for the nations
    and gather the exiles of Israel;
he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
    from the four quarters of the earth.
 
Notice that Isaiah says a “second time.” This is not referring to the Israelites going back home after the Babylonian exile. This is another regathering after a second dispersion – which happened at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. Also, the listing of the many countries they will come from is indication this is not the first exile, which was only in Babylon. This one will be gathering the Jews from the four quarters of the earth.
 


Here’s another one from the prophet Zachariah, who was a prophet after the babylonian exile was over speaking of another time of regathering
 
Zachariah 10
I will signal for them
    and gather them in.
Surely I will redeem them;
    they will be as numerous as before.
Though I scatter them among the peoples,
    yet in distant lands they will remember me.
They and their children will survive,
    and they will return.
10 I will bring them back from Egypt
    and gather them from Assyria.
I will bring them to Gilead and Lebanon,
    and there will not be room enough for them.
 
God is predicting what we’ve already seen, that despite their scattering – the Jewish people have survived and are returning.
 


The last one I’m going to share on this topic is from Ezekiel 37. Ezekiel was a prophet during the exile in Babylon, so at first you may think he’s talking about them returning home from that exile. But I’m going to read the whole chapter and you will see by the end that he’s talking about the final gathering that will lead into the Millennial Kingdom. 
 
This won’t be on the screens so follow along in your own bible or just listen.
 
Ezekiel 37
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley;it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
 
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
 
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
 
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
 
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
 
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
 
15 The word of the Lord came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Belonging to Joseph (that is, to Ephraim) and all the Israelites associated with him.’ 17 Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.
 
18 “When your people ask you, ‘Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’ 19 say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lordsays: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick. I will make them into a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’ 20 Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on 21 and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. 23 They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
 
24 “‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. 25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers,and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”
 
Ezekiel get’s to see some serious special effects before there even was such a thing. Pretty crazy. God shows him a valley of dry bones – meaning they’ve been dead for quite awhile. Zero life in them. God tells Zeke to start preaching at them and suddenly they start getting their parts back. Like the reverse of the guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when he drank from the wrong cup. He chose poorly. 
 
Anyway, the whole scene is God showing Ezekiel that even when the nation seems as dead as dead can be with zero life in it, God will still bring them back to life and gather them to the land He promised Abraham – but the scene also indicates it will be a slow and step-wise process. 
 
Then he goes into another illustration to show that the kingdom that had been divided before the babylonian exile will again be united and will ultimately become a perfectly obedient nation under the rule of King David himself – which of course cannot happen until the resurrection of the dead and the salvation of Israel at the very end. But we’ll be talking about that sometime later.
 
There are many other prophecies about the regathering. I encourage you to check my notes for the link to a page that goes through them all. 
 
The long and short of it is that before the end comes, Israel must be regathered to the promised land and it will not be instantaneous but a slow process – a process we can see in our day progressing against all odds and opposition. It’s happening before our own eyes. Which means we truly are getting ever closer to the end of the book.
 

SHIFTING GEARS

 
Now for the final precursor to the beginning of the time of wrath and this one is also happening as we speak and unlike the others strikes very close to home.
 
I’m talking about the Apostasy of the Church. 
 
I spoke on this when I covered the seventh of the seven churches of Revelation 2 & 3 – The ones that King Jesus wrote some final and prophetic instructions to, and that many believe make up a timeline of the phases of the church throughout the church age. The final one was Laodicea, the lukewarm and self-deceived church, the apostate church, and I made the argument that we are living today in that final phase of the church – especially here in American and in Europe. 
 
But aside from the letter to the church of Laodicea, there are several other references to a great apostasy in the church in the last days.
 
The Apostle Paul specifically speaks of it in three of his letters, two of which were to his understudy and fellow minister – Timothy. 
 
Remember that Paul was no ordinary apostle. He did not walk with Jesus during his ministry, but was converted by direct intervention of the risen and glorified Christ. Then He was trained by the living Christ himself. So, even more so than the others, Paul was given intricate details of the plan for human history that he shares in tidbits in his letters. So, I’d say he’s worth listening to. (It’s also the reason why so many of the modern scoffers try their best to discredit and remove his letters from the bible – but they can’t!)
 
Let’s first look at where the term APOSTASY comes from.
 
In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians he gives them a rather detailed description of some things we can expect in the last days that we will be looking at again later, but for now I want to focus on one verse:
 
2 Thessalonians 2
Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 
 
The “rebellion” here is the Greek word ἀποστασία, where we get our word apostasy. It literally means “to leave from a previous standing”, “to depart from”and in this case means a departing from a faith or belief once held. Apostasy is not the same as not believing. It’s believing and then changing your mind in the wrong direction.
 
The context of this verse is speaking of the “Day of the Lord” – also known as the “great and terrible day of the Lord” as in the second coming when all bets are off and Jesus judges the world with a vengeance. Paul is saying that day won’t come until THE APOSTASY (not just any, but the apostasy) comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed. That man of lawlessness is none other than the anti-christ who is the one who will make the covenant with the many that we talked about three hours ago.
 
So, if nothing else, the apostasy must come before the anti-christ, and we know the anti-christ starts the tribulation, so you can do the math.
 
Now I want to show you what Paul said to Timothy about what the apostasy will be like. You can judge for yourself it it’s happening in our day or not.
 
This first one comes from the first letter to Timothy.
 
1 Timothy 4:1-3
1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 
 
In the first verse, the “abandon” in the phrase translated as “abandon the faith” is the verb form of the Greek word for apostasy:  ἀφίστημι (aphistemi).
 
And in this passage, Paul is saying that the Spirit – the Holy Spirit – CLEARLY says that in later times (the last days) some will fall away, turn away, abandon the faith…but not just to believing nothing. They turn away and instead follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 
 
This should make you pucker up a little bit. 
 
The apostasy of the church is not simply the softening on some of the harder doctrines of the church and being more lenient on some of the clear commands of God. The apostasy is not an abandoning of God’s Word toward some middle and neutral ground, it is jumping from one ship to another that is sailing in a different direction. I’ve said it before and Scripture clearly teaches there is no neutral ground where you stand in the middle and make your choice. You are either following God’s truth or you are following the lies of God’s enemy. The teachings of the apostate church are not just watered down truth, but the deliberately misleading teachings of actual deceiving spirits and demons that are using willing human teachers as pawns.
 
Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
 
What Paul is really saying is that these apostate teachers are not just good people that are wrong on a few trivial things. They are agents of Satan who are deceiving the masses with lies to clever that they sound like the truth. Which is exactly why Jesus gave the gifts of true apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to his church. To prevent His people from being deceived. It’s all there in Ephesians 4 – another letter of Paul’s. But clearly not all who carry the titles are actually from Christ. Some are wolves in sheep’s clothing – which I’ve explained before is not a wolf dressed like a sheep but a wolf dressed like a shepherd to lead the sheep astray in order to devour them.
 
If this sounds like scary stuff, it should. 
 
This is why I am so adamant about being unapologetically, uncompromisingly grounded in God’s Word. Because without it we are lost!
 
If you’ve ever wondered how some preachers can keep preaching blatant lies with a smile on their face, it’s because they have compromised to the point that their consciences have been seared and they don’t even feel the sting of it anymore. Effectively they have sold their soul to the devil. 
 
This is why I tell you, you should always do your own reading and studying of the bible. And I strongly recommend having a paper bible, not just digital. Digital things can change without you even knowing it, and I’ve already shown how they are “updating” them all the time to be more politically correct. I’m not saying you can’t trust modern translations. I’m just saying you should have a bible or ten that cannot change overnight. And use them to compare what your preacher is saying to the Word of God so that you are not lead astray. And if you really love your pastor, then if you do find that I have clearly violated scripture with my teaching, then please call me on it. As we will find later in this series, the consequences of being wrong are dire. 
 
Jesus says in Matthew 7 that you will know them by their fruit. By how they live their lives more than by what they say. 
 
But another, more specific mark of a false teacher is what Paul says in this passage. And it’s quite interesting. He says, 
 
 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.
 
I’m not going to try to point any fingers at other churches or church leaders, but if you ever see any pastors or church organizations that teach that abstaining from marriage is more spiritual than being married, or if abstaining from certain foods will win you brownie points with God or will satisfy some kind of religious duty…then be very wary of their other teaching. Do your research!
 
Moving on. 
 
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he talks a bit more extensively about the coming bad times. 
 
2 Timothy 3:1-5
1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money,boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
 
While he doesn’t say the word apostasy in that passage, you can definitely see the results of a church that stops obeying God’s laws. Almost sounds like God gave Paul a glimpse of our modern news channels. That phrase “having a form of godliness but denying its power” is a way of saying people who like to talk a good game, but it’s all surface and shallow. They claim Jesus as their king but they don’t live for him. These are especially dangerous people and Paul says to stay away from them. Again, look at the fruit.
 
In the next chapter,  as part of an encouraging charge to Timothy and to all pastors who do not want to compromise on God’s word, Paul further clarifies what to expect. 
 
2 Timothy 4:1-5
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
 
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
 
Paul says that part of the apostasy will include people refusing to listen to teaching that disagrees with them. Instead they will only listen to the preachers and teachers that tell them what they like to hear. This is rampant in the modern American church and has resulted in a church philosophy that is all about pleasing the masses to get them into the seats rather than preaching the unadulterated and generally offensive Word of God.  
 
Funny thing is this doesn’t only apply to preaching, but to politics as well. We only listen to the side that we like and demonize the side that we don’t. And we put our fingers in our ears whenever our views are challenged. 
 
It’s no accident that a whole generation is being raised to believe that feelings overrule facts – even born-with body parts. That having your feelings hurt is something you should never have to tolerate. Safe spaces and trigger points.
 
Well, here’s a trigger point for you…
 
Hebrews 4
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
 
Jesus said something similar within the context of the world’s favorite bible verse…
 
John 3
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
 
Is there any doubt that we are living in the time of the Apostasy? 
 
It’s all around us, and it would be so easy for each one of us to just put the blinders on and the headphones in and just ignore the uncomfortable truth of God’s Word and sink into the dark cozy oblivion of the same self-deception that the Laodicean church had. 
 
But I take the charge to Timothy personally and promise to do all that I can to ensure that at least here at Reality,  we all stay uncomfortable, unsafe, and fully triggered by the soul piercing truth of God’s Word. We must keep the lights on brightly because the world is getting darker by the minute. 
 
And intentional ignorance is only bliss for a little while. 
 
Because if the signs of the times are any indication, there is a rude awakening coming very soon.
 
Let’s pray.