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
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 church Paul is describing fits with the one Jesus describes in Laodicea:
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” 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 claim to be Christians when they are not [have not been transformed from cold to hot, have been touched by the gospel in some way but are playing religious games, the “rocky soil” that jumps ship at persecution and the “weedy soil” that gets choked out by the passions and cares of the world]. These people, in their relative comfort and earthly riches, have deceived themselves with a false sense of security by having “a bit of religion”. In reality they are spiritually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. They make a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice by their actions – knowing the truth but refusing to submit to it in their hearts.
Jesus offers this church “gold refined by fire” – the priceless riches of true salvation (Matthew 16:26); “white garments” – to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Rom 3:22); “eye salve” – to remove their spiritual blindness (Matt 15:14, 23:16-17). Instead of immediately judging them, Christ knocks at their door to offer a call to repentance and salvation. If they heed His warning, He will have fellowship with them before the night of judgment falls. [2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.]
What does a Laodicean-type member look like? This person goes through the motions and identifies with Christianity but has never given his or her heart to the Lord. They are holding back, living in the world as the world, but wanting a piece of Christianity. That comfortable piece that gives them warm fuzzy feelings on Sunday mornings or holidays. That comfortable piece that sends them to heaven when they die. They have a false sense of security through religion but not salvation through relationship with the Living God. They try to walk the fence between the broad and narrow roads. They continue to live “of” the world as well as in it. These “Christians” by name, unless they repent and are born again, will go through the coming tribulations during the Day of the Lord and will go to hell when they die.
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 that HERE)
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!