Was There a Great Apostasy?

June 20, 2017

“Apostasy” comes from the Greek work apostasia, which means “a defection, revolt, or falling away” The Bible warns against apostasy: against those who secretly bring in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1) and despise authority (2 Peter 2:10), rejecting God’s Word by adding to and taking away from it (Deuteronomy 4:2). The Bible warns against those who distort the Gospel of grace (Gal. 1:7)—adding leaven to the Gospel (Matthew 16:12), seeking justification through works, and bringing bondage (Gal. 2:4).


There will also be those who turn away from the truth for myths (2 Tim. 4:4), who seek teachers to suit their own passions (2 Tim. 4:3). Many will greedily exploit with false words (2 Peter 2:3), boasting of false visions (Col 2:18). Some will forbid foods and marriage (1 Tim. 4:3). Others will be taken captive by philosophy (Col 2:8). Man-made forms of religion that promote asceticism have and do entice the Church (Col. 2:23). Predictions are made of those who will become lovers of self, pleasure, and money, lacking self-control (2 Tim. 3:2-4)—love grown cold because of lawlessness (Matthew 24:12).


Too many have a dying love for God; a growing love for the world (2 Tim. 4:10). The love of the world will choke many, and prove them unfruitful for God (Matthew 13:7). The Bible warns against false teachers, prophets, apostles, and Christs, of false signs and wonders—the counterfeit creeping into the church (2 Peter 2:1; Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13). Some will devote themselves to doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1), while others will pervert God’s grace into sensuality (Jude 1:4). There will be those among the Church who are not of the Church, who will forsake her for the world (1 John 2:19).


Many have become dull of hearing within the Church (Hebrews 5:11), but the bride of Christ is to remain awake (Matthew 24:42), continually sanctifying herself from the world (2 Cor. 7:1) while looking forward to the return of Christ (2 Peter 3:12). We are to abide in the Word and bring forth fruit (John 8:31; 15:4). The devil hates the Church, and since its beginnings has tried to destroy her (Rev. 12:17). We certainly see evidence for the multi-century war waged against Christ’s bride, the Church. The spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places seek her destruction (Ephesians 6:12; Luke 22:31). The saved are the wheat, and the devil seeks to sow tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:25). The seed is the Word, and the devil seeks to snatch away the Word sown in our hearts (Matthew 13:19). He wants humanity severed from Christ (Gal. 5:4)—branches not abiding in Him (the vine) that wither and die and are thrown in the fire (John 15:6).


Among the Church today are those who seek the riches of this world (Mark 4:19) instead of the riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). There are leaders who greedily manipulate, coerce, and deceive for power and money. The gate is straight and the way narrow (Matthew 7:14), but we find God’s Word compromised for the sake of inclusiveness (1 Kings 18:21). Women teach and usurp authority over men (1 Tim. 2:12). Sinful lifestyles are embraced and celebrated—authority of scripture denied.


The New Covenant standard of teaching is set aside by many for sexual immorality, homosexuality, worldly vices and pleasures. Some seek an evolving Church, a compromising Church: one that yields to the standards and expectations of its contemporary culture. Having forsaken their first love, Jesus (Rev. 2:4), are those lukewarm to the things of God, but passionate about things of this world: and those, disengaged with the covenant of Grace, who pursue the Old Law. Many are self-seeking and self-exalting, using and abusing the Church for ego and benefit.


The world is constantly trying to creep into the Church. There is the New Age movement, the Emergent Church, and the Works-Based Cults. Elements of Spiritism, Occultism, Mysticism, Witchcraft, and more manifest themselves among the Church. Clairvoyance is confused as prophecy. Witchdoctor chants are accepted as speaking in tongues. Some of what we see surfacing among the Church—embraced as “spiritual” and “divine”—may actually be pagan in origin, indistinguishable from the supernatural manifestations found in the Occult. Forms of necromancy (communication/connection with the dead) are encouraged and accepted among some. There’s Universalism: all paths lead to God. All will be saved. There’s the Prosperity Doctrine: the Gospel will make you rich. Neomontanism embraces new revelations and ecstasies, unapproved by the wider Church: a parallel to the Montanism movement of the 2nd century.  Not content with God’s Word and revelation for the Church, many have sought to go beyond what is written in what they practice, experience, and believe.


The teaching of the Nicolaitans and the teaching of Balaam are stumbling blocks for the Church. There are false, adulterous prophetesses like Jezebel among the Church, seducing many. Some have the reputation for being alive, but are dead, bearing incomplete works in the sight of God. There are the ostentatious, lascivious, and worldly displays of entertainment within the Church to the extreme that one might ask: Is this a Luciferian Illuminati light show or a Christian worship gathering?


God pleads with his Church to forsake the world: “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Revelation 18:4) The Church is called to be sanctified in the Word of truth through the work of the Holy Spirit (John 17:17; 1 Cor. 6:11). We are called to be separate and watchful (Luke 21:36; 2 Cor. 6:17).


Apostasy has sprung forth among the Church throughout the centuries. “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God” (2 John 1:9). Mormonism, for example, has distorted the Gospel of grace, doubting and rejecting the authority of scripture while severely adding to it via extra-Biblical revelation, teaching, and ritual practice. Ironically, this religious institution, a product of apostasy itself, identifies as “the only true and living church” on the earth today. In its identification as “The True Church,” the LDS Church  rejects any notion that anyone outside of their institution could be a part of Christ’s Church, could have the fullness of the Gospel, and can receive eternal life.


To justify their authority and new teachings, which tend to stray from many foundational Biblical truths, it is paramount they (and groups similar to them) accept that the Way had been lost, that God was unable to preserve both His Word and His Church. They claim a universal Christian apostasy in which the Gospel itself had been lost. For them, embracing a complete apostasy is foundational. Without it, there would have been no reason to lay a new foundation. Without a “Great Apostasy”, there would have been no need for what they call “The Restoration,” no justification for changing and adding to God’s Word revealed in the Bible.  


No doubt the threats and dangers of apostasy have invaded