Question: Does the Bible predict an apostasy?

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Question: Does the Bible predict an apostasy?

The New Testament is absolutely clear that a major apostasy was already underway at that time

The New Testament is absolutely clear that a major apostasy was already underway at that time, and was to culminate after the passing of the apostles. Paul told the Ephesian elders, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30) Paul chastised the Galatian Christians for turning away "unto another gospel," (Galatians 1:6-8) and warned the Corinthians against "false Apostles" who were among them. (2 Corinthians 11:13)Just prior to the end of his life, he complained to Timothy that "all they which are in Asia be turned away from me." (2 Timothy 1:15 The seriousness of the situation can only be appreciated when one realizes that Asia Minor was where most of the Christian converts had been made during this early period.[1]

Paul told the Thessalonians not to worry about Jesus returning immediately, because an apostasy had to occur first

Some evangelical critics of Mormonism complain that Paul said an apostasy was to occur in the "latter time," but both Jude and John, a few decades later, called their own day "the last time" specifically because "ungodly men and "antichrists" were everywhere in the Church.

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ…. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. (Jude 3-4, 17-18)

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. (1 John 2:18)

Obviously it was not "the last time" because the world was about to end. Paul told the Thessalonians not to worry about Jesus returning immediately, because an apostasy had to occur first. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3) Peter warned Christians not to worry if Jesus didn't return soon, because "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 Peter 3:8) Could it be that the flooding of antichrists into Christianity signaled the end of the Church of that age? This interpretation is strongly supported by Paul's prediction of the apostasy in 2 Thessalonians:

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…. 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 2:3-4, 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12)

John noted that it had been predicted that "antichrist shall come," and that this prediction had been fulfilled by the appearance of "many antichrists" in the Church

Remember that John noted that it had been predicted that "antichrist shall come," and that this prediction had been fulfilled by the appearance of "many antichrists" in the Church. Most commentators link Paul's "son of perdition" with the antichrist. There is ample reason, from Paul's own use of the Temple as a symbol of the Church organization, that this prophecy predicted the takeover of the earthly Church organization by enemies. Richard L. Anderson explained:

Paul's central symbol of the apostasy is the man of sin or lawlessness sitting "in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Thes. 2:4). Pounds of pages have been written about this being the Jerusalem temple, but that would be destroyed within two decades and would have no one sitting in it. And what did that temple mean to the Greek Gentiles or even to apostles in terms of their own religion without Mosaic sacrifices? The real question is how Paul used the word temple in his writing Almost always he used it figuratively - occasionally the body is a temple for God's Spirit, but usually the Church is the temple of God. The members ("ye," older plural English for the plural Greek) are "God's building" (1 Cor. 3:9), with Christ its foundation (1 Cor 3:11), or, in summary, "the temple of God" (1 Cor. 3:16). Elswhere Paul teaches about Christ as cornerstone, apostles as foundation, and members fitting into their places as a "holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:21). And in one of his last letters, Paul still spoke of "the house of God, which is the church of the living God" (1 Tim. 3:15). Paul must define Paul, and his own words show that he was here referring to the Church.[2]

Notes

  1. John G. Davies, The Early Christian Church (New York: Anchor Books, 1965), 86.
  2. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 86.