A FALLING AWAY FIRST
By John C. Carpenter
The apostle Paul wrote the church in Thessalonica, Now we beseech you, brethren,
by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled,
neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 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. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth
that he might be revealed in his time. 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 (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
In verse 3 or our subject verses,
the words a falling away is translated from the Greek word apostasia, which means a defection from truth, forsaking, to separate,
or divorce. Apostasia also suggests a falling away from the truth, and a willful rejection or complete abondonment of the faith. Unger's
Bible Dictionary defines apostasy as a religious defection, a secession from the church and a disowning of the name of Christ, and
knowingly and deliberately rejecting revealed truth regarding God and the deity of Christ. For the sake of simplicity, we can define
apostasy as the willful abandonment of Christian faith. Apostasy can only occur in the individual who has come to faith in God and
Jesus Christ, but then, at some point in time and for whatever reason, intentionally rejects that faith. Apostasy does not describe
the unbeliever who has never come to a saving faith in Christ.
SCRIPTURAL EXAMPLES OF APOSTASY
Examples of apostasy exist
in both the old and new testaments. In the old testament, the nation of Israel committed apostasy on several occasions (Judges 2:11-13;
Deut 7:1-2; Deut 32:15; 1 Kings 12:25-33, and others). Saul turned away from God: Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back [Hebrew, shub, return to a previous state, retreat from,
draw back from, turn away from] from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto
the LORD all night (1 Samuel 15:10-11). Amaziah, the ninth king of Judah, also committed apostasy against the Lord God. The scriptures
instruct us, Now it came to pass, after that Amaziah was come from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the
children of Seir, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them (2 Chronicles 25:14).
Later we read, Now after the time that Amaziah did turn away [Hebrew, sur, to turn off, decline, depart, put away, turn aside, withdraw]from following the LORD they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem; and he fled to Lachish: but they sent to Lachish after him,
and slew him there. And they brought him upon horses, and buried him with his fathers in the city of Judah (2 Chronicles 25:27-28).
the new testament, Judas Iscariot committed apostasy. We read, Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief
priests, And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him [Christ] unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty
pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-15). And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with
swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he [Judas]that betrayed him [Jesus] gave them a sign, saying,
Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him (Matthew
26:47-49). The fruit of Judas' betrayal of Jesus was that he purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong,
he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out (Acts 1:18). According to the apostle Paul, Hymenaeus and Alexander,
having put away their faith and good conscience, committed blasphemy and apostasy (1 Tim 1:19-20). As a result, Paul delievered them
unto Satan. Demas turned away from the apostle Paul because he loved the present world more than Christ (2 Tim 4:10).
Jesus' own disciples were in danger of committing apostasy: But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning
who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me,
except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back [Greek, opiso, to the back, aback, backward],
and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away [Greek, hupago, to withdraw, retire by sinking
out of sight, depart, or go away]? (John 6:64-67).
WHAT ARE SOME CAUSES OF APOSTASY?
Clearly, apostasy occurred in both
the old testament, as well as the new testament. So, we should ask, what are some of the biblical reasons for apostasy? Why do individuals
who once believed in God the Father and/or Jesus Christ intentionally abandon and divorce themselves from the faith? The scriptures
mention several possible reasons.
First of all, persecution can lead to apostasy. The disciples of Christ asked Him a question:as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall
be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Matthew 24:3). Jesus responded, Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted,
and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one
another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound,
the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (Matthew 24:9-9-13). Obviously, some,
due to difficulties, persecution, and suffering, shall not endure unto the end. Jesus taught this to those around Him: Now the parable
is this: The seed is the word [of truth, the gospel] of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh
away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive
the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away [Greek, aphistemi, to remove,
revolt, desist, desert, depart, fall away, withdraw self] (Luke 8:11-13). Sometimes, our own lusts can bring about apostasy. The apostle
Paul referred to the dangers of end times apostasy in his letter to Timothy. Paul wrote, 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. 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 [Greek,apostrepho, to turn away, turn back, pervert, turn away from] their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy
4:1-4). The apostle Paul also teaches us that, in the end times, the spirit of antichrist shall cause some to depart from faith and
truth: Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists;
whereby we know that it is the last time. They [departed from the truth and] went out [Greek, exerchomai, to come out, depart out,
get out, go away, depart from the original position] from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt
have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us (1 John 2:18-19).
can also be caused by a hard and evil heart of unbelief. In the book of Hebrews, God warns, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation,
in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was
grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath,
They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing [Greek,aphistemi, to remove, revolt, desist, desert, depart, fall away, withdraw self] from the living God (Hebrews 3:8-12).
good example of apostasy occurs with Jesus' disciple, Peter: Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him,Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee
now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto
thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied [Greek, aparneomai, to deny utterly, disown, departure, reversal in relationship,
or separation] me thrice (John 13:36-38). As we would expect, the Lord's words did come to pass, and Peter did deny Jesus three times
Next, one of the clearest examples of apostasy can be seen in the book of Hebrews. The author of Hebrews
writes, For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened [about Christ and the gospel], and have tasted of the heavenly gift [of
future salvation], and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word [message of the gospel] of God, and the
powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away [Greek, parapipto, to fall aside, to apostatize], to renew them again unto repentance;
seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:4-6). The indivdual who has been
enlightened by coming to a saving faith in Christ, has tasted the sweet gift of God's eternal salvation, has experienced the powers
of the Holy Spirit working in his life, and has come to know and understand the gospel of Christ and His kingdom can be considered
nothing other than a saved believer in Christ. Clearly, these scriptures teach that when that saved individual turns away from God
and Christ, it is not possible to bring them again to a second repentance from their rejection of Christ.
Another excellent example
of apostasy is found elsewhere in the book of Hebrews. The author of the book wrote, For if we sin wilfully after that we have received
the knowledge of the truth [of God and the gospel of Christ], there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking
for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two
or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God,
and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of
grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29). Later, the author adds, But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated [enlightened
about Christ], ye endured a great fight of afflictions (Hebrews 10:32), and Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great
recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise (Hebrews
10:35-36). Finally, the author summarizes the point with these words: Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back [Greek,hupostello, to withhold, to cower, to shrink, draw back, shun, or withdraw], my soul shall have no pleasure in him..But we are not
of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that [continue to] believe to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:38-39). In verses
32-39, the author defines sin wilfully for us. When the individual, who has received the knowledge of the truth of God and the gospel,
that is, a believer, casts away their confidence in Christ, God the Father, and the truth of the gospel, and, as a result, draws back
or abandons their faith in God and Christ due to afflictions, lack of patience while suffering affliction, and a demoralizing loss
of faith, this is sinning wilfully, and a solid example of apostasy.
THE DAY OF CHRIST IS AT HAND
Certainly, the second
coming of the Lord shall be preceeded by a great apostasy and the revelation of what most scholars believe to be the antichrist. So,
what is the believer in Christ to do about this future falling away [which may have already started] and the revelation of the antichrist?
How is he or she expected to behave, or think? Paul gives us his answer.
First, Paul wrote the saints in Thessalonica, Now we
beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken
in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 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. Paul then adds, But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren
beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of
the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand
fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God,
even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts,
and stablish you in every good word and work (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17).
Before the second coming of Jesus Christ, Paul explains
that there shall come a massive falling away, an apostasy, from God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the truth of the gospel,
and faith, as well as the revelation of the antichrist. The apostle Paul gives us significant instruction and encouragement with these
words on how to respond to this troubling future. In summary, he exhorts all believers everywhere to be not soon shaken in mind, or
be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, and to let no man deceive us by any means. We are to give thanks always
because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, and has called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our
Lord Jesus Christ. We are to stand fast, we are to hold the traditions which ye have been taught, and we are to remember that the
Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, hath loved us. We are to always be mindful that God hath given us everlasting
consolation and good hope through grace, to expect that God will Comfort our hearts, and, lastly, to remember that God has promised
to stablish us. AMEN.