Will There Be Apathy in the Last Days?
This is a common question by those who believe in the “Pre-Millennial / Pre-Tribulation Rapture” view of End Times
A simplified review of the various Millennial and Tribulation views is:
Pre-Millennial - The 2nd Coming of the Lord precedes the 1000 year Millennium (the 3 Tribulation views all apply to this one)
Post-Millenial - The Lord's 2nd Coming occurs after the Millennium (this is often referred to as Kingdom Theology)
Pre-Tribulation - The "Rapture" of the Church occurs before the 7 year Tribulation
Mid-Tribulation - The "Rapture" occurs at the mid-point of the Tribulation (Pre-Wrath)
Post-Tribulation - The "Rapture" is an event that takes place immediately preceding the 2nd Coming
Pastor Yandian’s teaching follows the Pre-Millennial / Pre-Tribulation model. I urge you to study his book, Understanding The End Times. His thorough presentation of the scriptural basis for this view, and his response to the opposing positions will give you a great understanding of the subject.
False Teachers As A Sign of the End
There are several scriptures that lead many to believe that one of the major indications of the nearness of the Lords’ Appearance (the Rapture, not the 2nd Coming) is a great “apostasy” from the Church. However, like many of the other signs of His Appearance, this sign is not so distinct that it can be absolute. Wars, global trouble, natural disasters, false teachers / false Messiahs, events regarding Israel, great revivals, and great apostasy have occurred throughout the Age of the Church. It is very difficult to pinpoint any event as the “one thing” that marks His Appearance—when we are “caught-up” to Him, we will be able to look back and say, “Yep! That was it!”
One of the signs that is mentioned numerous times as leading to the Last Days is the presence of False Teachers.
1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time. And just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have risen up, from which we know that it is a last hour.
In this passage, the False Teachers are referred to as “antichrists”. Notice, that is not The Antichrist. John tells us their presence shows that it is “a” last day (again not The Last Day). The significance is that there are many events in this Age called the “Last Days” that are confirmations of His soon coming return, but they are not the immediate event. They are to be an encouragement to us—a witness to His Promise.
The Apostle John doesn’t even seem to be worried or troubled over this as if it was to be expected. We, the Church, are not to allow the events of this world to shake our faith, nor to cause us to question His promise. In reference to the events preceding the End Times, Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled…” (Matt. 24:6) And, in the book of Hebrews, Paul quotes from the Old Testament book of Habakkuk in challenging the Church not to become discouraged by the seeming delay of the Lord’s return.
Heb 10:37 - For "yet a little while, and He who shall come will come and will not delay."
These Christians were losing hope in the return of the Lord—and the restoration of all they had lost—because it hadn’t happened as they thought (or were taught, incorrectly).
Coming back to the issue of False Teachers, there are numerous other references to this sign of the Last Days. In most of the New Testament Letters, when “Last Things”, are mentioned so are false teachers.
2 Timothy 3:1–5; 2 Peter 2:1–3; 1 John 2:18–20; 4:1–3; Jude 10–16
This brings us to our next point. If there are false Teachers, there will be followers.
1 Timothy 4:1 - But the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and teachings of demons,
2. speaking lies in hypocrisy, being seared in their own conscience…
2 Timothy 4:3–4 - For a time will be when they will not endure sound doctrine, but they will heap up teachers to themselves according to their own lusts, tickling the ear.
4. And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to myths.
These verses show us that the False Teachers are inspired by Satan himself, through demonic influences, and their purpose is to lead believers astray—to distract them from the mission of the Church. Also, we see that their arrival is desired by those who are looking for new and different things, people who are tired of the “standard” set forth in the Word of God. Their “itching ears” will be filled with the diluted truth (error) taught by False Teachers.
Those who follow after these teachings will comprise what we know of as the “apostasy”.
That said: the reality is that these False Teachers, and the ones who follow them, have been present throughout all the age of the Church. They were obviously present in Paul’s day, in Peter’s day, in John’s and Jude’s time, and on down to this day.
However, as we mentioned previously, one of the signs of the Last Days is the increase of the False Teachers (I believe this can refer not only to number but also to their boldness and hypocrisy). This increase will certainly give rise to many more being led astray. But, since this is relative to what has been before, we may assume that we are seeing the great apostasy when in reality, something worse is yet to come. In other words, it will seem like “The Last Day” when it is only a last day.
The “Falling Away” of 2 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians 2:3 - Let not anyone deceive you by any means. For that Day shall not come unless there first comes a falling away, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition…
Many people see in this passage a prophecy that great apostasy will occur just before the Last Day. However, there are some issues which need to be understood in discerning the meaning of this passage. I will only highlight a few of the issues, due to space here.
1. This Church was being troubled by false prophecies and even a false letter. They were troubled in believing that the Tribulation had already started and that the “rapture” of the believers was already past—they would have to go through the Tribulation. This was in direct opposition to Paul’s teaching in 1Thessalonians 4:13–5:11. This passage was also a correction to the Church, but those who troubled them had continued. Paul’s teaching clearly presented a “removal” of the Church before the coming of the wrath of the Tribulation.
This “removal”, we call the Rapture. Some disagree, saying that the word “rapture” does not occur in the Bible. They are correct—to a point. The word Paul uses is “caught-up - harpagmos” (1Thes 4:17). This word usually occurred in a negative context and meant to seize, snatch, claim for one's own, accompanied by force. This is a great word—and a great truth. The Church will be seized by Jesus Christ at His return, and with sufficient force to overcome any possible resistance! (By the way, “Rapture” is from the Latin word “rapio” – to take away, seize, often through force) Whether we are caught-up, or raptured it will be the same.
2. Paul’s correction to the Thessalonians was to encourage and inform them—the Tribulation had not started because some events that precede it have not occurred. In 2 Thess. 2:1, Paul establishes a difference between “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”; and “our gathering together unto Him”. At the 2nd Coming, there will be no “gathering together” of the Church. His Return is to bring judgment to the wicked and deliverance to the nation of Israel. That is a much different picture than is presented by Paul in what is known as the Rapture.
3. The reference to the “falling away” must be taken in this context. What did this confused group of believers need to understand in order to remove their concern? That the Tribulation could not have begun because there had been no “falling away”. So, what is that?
The problem people encounter with this verse is the phrase “falling away”. The Greek word for this phrase is not a verb; it is a noun. The Greek word is “apostasia” from which we get the English word “apostasy”. Throughout the New Testament, when the Greek word “apostasia” is used, it has a negative connotation…
However, when the word “apostasia” stands alone, it is neither positive nor negative; its connotation is dependent upon its association with other words in the sentence.
The word “apostasia” in 2 Thess. 2:3 was translated by the King James Version writers according to all the other negative uses of the word. But in this instance, the word…in noun form does not mean falling away; it means “departure”.
Putting it back in context, this verse could actually be translated, “Don’t be fooled by any means, for the Tribulation cannot come until the departure occur first.” The departure is speaking of the rapture of the Church.
Kenneth Wuest’s Expanded Translation of the New Testament brings out the tense, mood, and voice of the original Greek. His translation of this verse says, “That day cannot come until the aforementioned departure of the Church occurs first.” The “aforementioned departure of the Church” was mentioned in verse one by His coming and “our gathering together unto Him”.
The Antichrist cannot be revealed as long as the Church remains in the earth. We are the “hindering” force to his coming to power. So, not only are we taken to be “…(for)ever with the Lord”, but we have to be removed so that Antichrist can take his place and the rest of the events of the End Times be completed.
4. In conclusion, this “falling away” really has nothing to do with believers departing from the faith to follow False Teachers. It is about our “departing” this earth, and being gathered unto Christ. That does not, of course, change any of the previously discussed issues. There will be False Teachers, and there will be “apostates”, but that is not the point here.
The Church of Laodicea
Many teach that this passage refers to the condition of the Church just prior to the Return of the Lord—a Church that is “lukewarm”, apathetic, and apostate. This common interpretation places all of the 7 Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 into a progressive review of the Church Age. The age began with a Church that was “apostolic”, but then left its first love (Ephesus). Next, came a time of great persecution, with believers who remained faithful unto death (Smyrna). This was followed by 3 Churches that represent the ages of false doctrine, loss of truth, institutional indifference, sexual abuse, and carnality (Pergama, Thyatira, Sardis). This was followed by an age of great revival and the restoration of the true mission of the Church (Philadelphia). Finally, a time will come when the Church will turn away, even from Christ, feeling confident that they don’t need Him (Laodicea; Rev. 3:17).
While this is a very common interpretation, there are some problems with it.
1. The only application to believers of the day in which it was written would have been the Ephesian Church. While God often reveals things in prophetic passages about a day which is yet to come, each of these 7 Letters was given as a teaching. And, they are commanded to be heard and accepted by the “Churches” (plural), not just to the Church of that age—if they can figure out where they are in the progression. However, without any point of reference, no individual “Church Age” would know where they stand.
2. An in-depth study of these Letters will reveal incorporation, not progression. There were, in John’s day, elements of each of these “churches” present throughout The Church. That same point applies to each different “movement / age” of the Church throughout history. Even a simple review of today’s “Church” would reveal that many of these issues (good and bad) are present. This makes all of these Letters beneficial to us—all of the time. Let each one of us, “…hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches”.
3. Apostasy is not limited to a certain age. As I have written above, false teaching abounds in all ages, and there will always be those who will follow. Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove yourselves…” (2 Cor. 13:5a). Paul expected each believer to do their best to hold themselves to truth—and to apply that truth in their life. In his own time, he knew of both great apostasy and great revival. And, he expected the Lord’s return at any time!
In summary, yes there will be apostasy. But, there will also be revival. And, both will co-exist throughout all the Church age. We should all follow the model of Paul, Peter, John, and Jude. Take a stand for truth, and against error. Look for the Lord’s Return, and await our “gathering together unto Him”.
Until that time, we are left to observe the signs, prepare our hearts, spread the Gospel, and, oh yes (!), frustrate the plans of the Devil.