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The Apostasy


Acts 17:2 tells us that the Apostle Paul spent three weeks with the new believers in the city of Thessalonica.  During this time, as he stated in 2 Thessalonians 2:5, he explained to these believers the events leading up to the end of this present age.  At some point after leaving Thessalonica Paul had to confront false reports claiming the Day of the Lord had already come.  From my understanding of Scripture, the Day of the Lord refers to both the last few years of judgment prior to the return of Jesus to earth, and the exact day of His return. 


Paul began to respond to these false reports in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.  He said that day would not come until "the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed" (NIV).  Other translations use such words as falling away and apostasy instead of the word rebellion which I believe better reflects the Greek.  So what is this rebellion, falling away, or apostasy?  Like every other issue concerning Biblical prophecy, the answer to this question has been thoroughly debated.  I certainly won't end the debate, and who knows, I might be wrong in my thinking.  On the other hand, miracles do happen and I might actually be right.  So it's worth hearing me out.   


If I take Paul's words at face value, and in their context, it appears to me that there will be an unprecedented departure from godliness in the world before the end of this age.  In 2 Timothy 3:1 to 3 Paul lists just a few examples of such ungodliness that will take place during this apostasy.  He said that people will be lovers of themselves and lovers of money.  They'll be boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, and brutal.  You might suggest that these human traits have existed throughout history, and that is certainly the case.  The point Paul must then be making is that these traits will worsen as we approach the end of this age.  We have yet to see the worst of humanity.            

Note that Paul connected this apostasy with the rise of the man of lawlessness onto the world scene.  This means the apostasy is associated with the man of lawlessness, otherwise known as the anti-Christ by most Prophetic Futurists.  Since the apostasy worsens over time and reaches a climax near the end of this age, it paves the way for the rise of the anti-Christ to international dominance.  Without an overwhelming influence of godliness to oppose him, his rise to power is relatively easy.          


I hate to disappoint you, but although my view is common among Prophetic Futurists, not everyone agrees with me.  Another view of prophetic history is known as Restoration Theology, with a sub doctrine called Replacement Theology.  Replacement Theology states that Israel failed to fulfill its covenantal responsibilities to represent God to the nations and thus failed to influence the world towards godliness.  God, therefore, withdrew His covenantal promises and prophecies from Israel and offered them to the church.  Israel lost its prophetic and historic significance in the mind of God.  This loss was cemented into history in 70 A D when Israel's death blow came with the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army.  From then on, all Old Testament promises and prophecies have been redirected to the church.  The covenantal promises and prophecies predicting Israel's restoration to international greatness has gone by the wayside.  It's the church that will now grow into the greatest influencing force in human history.  It's the church that will lead the world into a state of righteousness.  When this takes place, Jesus will look down from heaven to see a perfected church and a righteous world.  He will have no other choice but return to a restored world where righteousness rules the day without any hint of apostasy, or so Restoration Theology teaches.         


As I've recently observed once again, Restorationists would call me a defeatist because I believe in a world wide apostasy, which implies that the church has failed to be what it was meant to be.  Of course, Restorationists fail to remember that they believe Israel failed to be what it was meant to be as well.  In that sense, by their own reasoning, aren't they defeatists?  Aren't they being a bit inconsistent in their claim about me?


I believe, that like Israel, the church in many respects has failed to carry out its responsibilities as the representative of Jesus to an ungodly world.  I believe a quick glance at church history shows that to be true.  That may sound like I'm a defeatist, but I'm not.  I also believe that both Israel and the church win in the end, and that's not because Israel and the church finally figure out how to get their act together.  It's because the Lord Jesus Christ intervenes into human history once again.  In numerous acts of judgment, He alone brings the nations to their knees, places Israel into international prominence as promised and predicted, and, grants Christians the authority to rule the nations with Him for a literal thousand years.  I believe a study of the book of Revelation, with the original recipients of the covenantal promises and prophecies of the Old Testament in mind, shows that to be true. 


The apostasy Paul spoke about certainly isn't the end of the prophetic matter.  Jesus doesn't end in defeat, and neither does Israel or the church.  The apostasy is only the beginning of the prophetic events that bring this age to a glorious and victorious end.  To borrow the title of a recently written book, this is truly "Victorious Eschatology".   

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