Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 1 Timothy 4:1-3
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
Falling Away from Sound Doctrine, Compromise With the World
Do the characteristics of OUR CHURCHES match those stated by the Bible as being present “in later times”, the time leading up to the end of the age? Let’s examine what Paul says the visible church (by name, not the “invisible body of Christ”, which is the TRUE CHURCH) will be like in the last days:
- Some will depart from the faith and embrace deceitful spirits and teachings of demons: This is a departure from sound doctrine.
- Consciences are seared: Their hearts are dead spiritually and sin doesn’t bother them. They will engage in sin openly.
- Who Forbid Marriage: Marriage isn’t being forbidden, per se, but the definition of “marriage” has changed, with over 90% of the population in non-Muslim nations engaging in premarital sex. Less than half of American children live in families where the parents are their original, first marriage, mom and dad. Many countries have recently changed the definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships specifically forbidden by God.
- Require Abstinence From Foods: There is a small subset of the population that abides by the Torah food laws, I’m not sure if this is what Paul is referring to.
- People Will Not Endure Sound Teaching: In the later days, people will stray from sound doctrine and collect teachers that preach love, self-acceptance and other humanistic doctrines rather than literal truths from scripture. These humanistic ideas are “myths”.
Unfortunately, it seems like the situation of the end-times church fits right in with what Jesus warns of in His letters to the Churches found in Revelation 2-3. These letters, while written to actual churches in John’s day, were specifically dictated by Jesus so that they would be relevant to all believers in all generations. In these letters, Jesus warns against:
- Losing Their First Love (Ephesus – Revelation 2:1-7). What does this mean exactly? Well, sound doctrine and good works are commendable, but not at the expense of passion. Their service had become mechanical. Does this sound like something familiar? Religion is a set of beliefs (doctrine) and a set of actions (works/traditions). And that’s all religion can be. Jesus urges them to repent and return to the passion they had for Him in earlier times – with Jesus it’s about RELATIONSHIP. I am reminded of Matthew 22 – 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment…”
- False Doctrine and Compromise with the World (Pergamum – Revelation 2:12-17). The condemnation for Pergamum centers around false teaching and compromise with the world – it is socially oriented and tries to please the masses [itching ears, anyone?]. Spiritual idolatry is raising anything above God in prominence in our lives. While the majority of believers in Pergamum did not participate in these errors, they tolerated the groups and did not exercise church discipline.
- False Doctrine, False Prophet, Sexual Immorality (Thyatira – Revelation 2:18-19).False doctrine and compromise with paganism (other religions) is in view here. Unlike Pergamum, the majority of this church was in error. This church had love, but not sound doctrine (the opposite of Ephesus, and equally destructive). The majority of this church is entrenched in the world, inviting of other religious practices (think yoga and other middle eastern influences), and living in sin – maybe flamboyantly, maybe secretly – and justifies it all with false doctrine. I believe this letter describes the liberal churches quite accurately… those who embrace all manner of sexual sins included.
- Spiritual Sleep (Sardis – Revelation 3:1-6). The false teaching and sinful living in the Sardis church resulted in most members being dead in their sins. Their works were done by their own efforts, not through the leading and power of the Holy Spirit. [This reminds me of the passage in Isaiah 64:6 – All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.] There were very few actual believers in Sardis. They needed to wake up (open their spiritual eyes) if they want to be saved!
- Lukewarm Faith (Laodicea – Revelation 3:14-22). The letter to the church at Laodicea is the only one to which Jesus says nothing positive – in this way, it is even worse than the dead church at Sardis. Just like the city’s water supply (arriving dirty and warm through a series of aquaducts), the church here is lukewarm and thus, repulsive to Jesus. The spiritually alive in their transformed lives are “hot” [the found, the saved, the “good soil” that produces mature fruit], the spiritually dead in their outright rejection of Jesus are “cold” [the lost, the unsaved, the “hard soil” where the seeds are all snatched away] , but the hypocrites who are neither hot nor cold. These are Christians “in name only” – they have been touched by the gospel in some way but are trying to ride the fence These people, in their earthly comfort and riches, have deceived themselves with a false sense of security by having “a bit of religion”. In reality are spiritually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. They make a mockery of Christ by their actions – knowing the truth but refusing to submit to it in their hearts. There are very few, if any, true believers in Laodicea.
We would do well to heed the letters to the Churches found in Revelation 2-3 and examine ourselves to see if we align with the overcomers! (More on the overcomers HERE)
Scoffing and Mocking from WITHIN the Church
The other thing we learn about the church of the end times is that it will scoff and mock those who are actively watching for the coming of Jesus Christ.
…”you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:2-4)
When Peter states that the scoffers and mockers will ask about the promise of Jesus’ coming, and refer to the fathers of the faith (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), it suggests that they are aware of these promises and these fathers. Only believers would consider themselves to have Abraham as their spiritual father!
The Prophetic Years describes this phenomenon well in 2011:
Today premillenial futurist Dispensational Theology is losing ground every day in Evangelical Christianity and you will seldom hear it taught from the pulpits anymore. It also will not be found in your Sunday school material. I think this falling away from premillennialim and the teaching of the imminent coming of Jesus is prophetic in itself. It had to be fulfilled, if we are indeed in the last days.
Peter said Christians will be mocking other Christians saying, “where is the promise of His coming”, they will obviously insinuate that your belief of a soon coming Rapture and the return of Jesus is a false hope that is even harmful to the Church. Pastors will teach that we must put away all such foolishness and work to Christianize the world through social justice programs. All that are teaching Premillennial Theology with the physical return of Jesus will be marginalized and perhaps not even welcomed in their fellowships.
The trend In Christianity is already this way in the churches that have become unequally yoked with unbelievers that intend to set up an interfaith world of social justice. This trend away from premillennialism will only increase because of more failed date setting. Soon premillennial evangelicals will become open game for soft and hard dominionist media Evangelicals, and their mocking will spread into the general church populations.
That is when this “where is the promise of His coming” rant will be literally fulfilled. Some have claimed fulfillment in the past, but they were really grasping at straws. I do not believe it will be some subtitle innuendo. It will be a direct mocking confrontation against those that hold fast to Premillennial Theology and the soon return of the Lord. This is what I believe Peter is saying in his passage. We have not seen that fulfilled yet, but we see that things are rapidly trending in that direction. We now see the Seeker, Purpose Driven, Emergent and New Apostolic Reformation churches are becoming increasingly hostile toward Premillennial Theology. Get ready for more flame throwing against anyone that takes Bible prophecy literally.
But, blessed is the the person that holds fast to the promise of the Lord’s coming. That promise of His patience was held by only one of the seven church types that identify Christianity, and they are the only Church type that was promised to be kept out of the great trial that will come upon all those that dwell on the earth.
Rev 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Jesus said, “will there be faith on the earth when I come” (Lk 18:18), Jesus probably was not talking about faith to believe that salvation came through Him. The Church has to have salvation faith, or it is not the Church. Jesus was referring to faith that He would soon return and judge the earth. The answer to His question is that other than a small minority that kept the promise of His coming and His patience, there will not be that kind of faith on the earth when Jesus comes.
Now, in 2017, those of us who are actively watching the convergence of signs and the Revelation 12 sign are being scoffed and mocked to no end – mainly by others proclaiming to be Christians.
Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8)
A Disclaimer: The Bible is infallible. I am not. Be a Berean – examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!