I’ve spent many years studying the end times, and interestingly enough, it has made me less likely to jump at conclusions about what is and isn’t a sign of the end times. Every volcano, earthquake and rumor of war doesn’t cause me to retreat into my prayer bunker stocked with a three year supply of nasty food.
No, one of the things that I am certain of is that when the “signs of the times” come, we will have data to back it up. In Matthew 24:5-14, Jesus tells us of the “beginning of birth pangs.” These are the signs that things are progressing toward His return, but just as Jesus says, not every war or earthquake is a sign. No, when we begin to see an “other than” set of events, like has never before happened in history, that is when we know the times are coming soon. One of those signs is the “great falling away.”
This will probably be the saddest hour in human history. Many will turn away from the faith. Satan will raise up false prophets to condone their turning away and the love of “most” will grow cold because of their increase in sin (Matthew 24:12). But how will this happen? What will cause many to turn away from faith in Jesus? That, I can’t answer, but I do know the mechanics of what it looks like. We are seeing it now.
I don’t know if we are at the beginning of the “great falling away,” but I do know that we are seeing the early stages of at least a “big falling away.” How do I know? I hear it more and more every day.
For the past year or two, I have heard an increasing number of people casually reject “sound doctrine” in favor of things that “tickle their ears.” Read what Paul told Timothy:
3For 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. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
What Paul isn’t talking about are secondary matters—things like when to pass the collection plate or what denomination is the right one. No, Paul is speaking about rejecting the sound doctrine of Jesus. What is that? Anything other than the gospel that Paul preached, according to him.
That gospel, that not only Paul preached, but every other apostle in scripture, is this: you are sinful and your sins separate you from God. You deserve punishment for your sin and rebellion against God, but Jesus has offered you reconciliation to God through the blood He shed on the cross. He has atoned for your sins, if you choose to accept Him. If you acknowledge Him, He will acknowledge you before God.
That’s my brief paraphrase, but let’s break it down. Here are the necessary parts of the equation: 1)You are sinful, 2) you deserve punishment, 3) Jesus shed His blood to atone for you, 4) accept and acknowledge Him and have eternal life with Him.
Turning Away from the Faith
If you take away any one of those pieces, you do not have faith in Jesus. You may have faith in something, but it is not faith in the One who has redeemed you to God (Revelation 5:9). But listen carefully today. Listen to the voices out there. There are a growing number of voices that are carefully removing one or more parts of this every day. Many are offended at the idea of sin, so they tell people that they aren’t all that bad.
Or maybe they are offended by punishment. They don’t like the idea that God would truly punish someone. After all, how bad could they be? Others still persist that Jesus’ blood isn’t to atone for your sins, but it was a simply a show of His affection for you. And others insist that one doesn’t need to acknowledge Jesus or the Christian God to inherit eternal life.
Some form of these rejections have always been around. The thing that is causing me great concern is for the overwhelming number of pastors, teachers and leaders within the church today who are becoming quite vocal about dismissing one or more of these aspects of our faith.
The Great Offense
The problem many have is that it is offensive to tell people that what they do is sin. Or offensive to say if they don’t serve the right God, they will spend eternity in hell. It is just too offensive to say that we deserve punishment. But if we don’t say and affirm those things, we are not in danger of falling down a slippery slope towards apostasy—no, we have already abandoned the faith when we do so.
That sounds very serious because it is. Right now, the cause celebre is to pronounce that homosexuality isn’t sin. Not only do we deny what God has already called sin, but we also deny those steeped in that sin the opportunity to come face to face with it and be reconciled to God. Remember, without an acknowledgment of sin, we cannot accept Jesus. If we choose for Him not to save us FROM anything, there is nothing for Him to save us TO.
Right now we are seeing a falling away. People every day are deciding who they think Jesus is and what He would think about things devoid of any ration or reason. They are justifying themselves by saying that “surely Jesus woudn’t do ____.” That isn’t a slippery slope, that’s a cliff.
Our Rock of Offense
That makes the stand we must take all the more difficult. It is offensive. It is hard. It will cost us, maybe dearly. But Jesus told us that those of us who “stand firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).
We must stand confident in Jesus, the “rock of offense,” (Isaiah 8:14, Romans 9:33 & 1 Peter 2:8) because His offense is the foundation of our faith. Unless we are offended by His assertion over our lives, we cannot then see our own sin and need for Him.