Moral Decay and Theological Ruin
Over the course of 2000 years we have seen the church debate almost every subject imaginable, from basic concepts to particular nuances, some for good reasons, and others for no good reason. It has apparently become a qualifying distinction of any internet forum, where any subject can lead to a merciless argument, whether it be about morality, or whether Han shot first. It is sad, really, that the range of our discussions can be so varied and result in so much separation.
I am by no means against separation as it is a natural result of right being separate from wrong, but this type of discussion has gotten to the point in our day and age where it is no longer for the purpose of finding the answer, but is instead a building up of walls to defend one’s own view, regardless of its validity. And this is dangerous thinking, as it assumes that I am allowed to determine what is right without any consequences whatsoever. This has led to the increase of the agnostic movement, which claims quite plainly that there is no “one truth,” only one’s opinion to which we are all entitled, therefore making by implication all views of certainty and any absolute decision on a moral standard offensive and appalling, being described primarily as “intolerance.” To say another is wrong is now not only offensive, it is an offense against humanity and must be silenced as soon as possible.
And within the church we are no better, being so fixated on trivial matters that the substantive truth is of little to no importance to the so-called “believer.” The objective truth is no longer applicable, being replaced with imposters called “topical sermons” professing to be Bible-based, holding no more truth than any other member of the congregation. Topical sermons have their place, but they are not to be referred to as Bible sermons, because by its very nature a topical sermon is that which is based on a topic deemed relevant, with Scripture added to reinforce one’s opinion. At least, that is how they are preached nowadays, being so prevalent within the church that they are the primary sermon, to which Scriptural sermons are viewed as obstructive to that which is “applicable” or “relevant.”
The sad reality is that the church has slowly but surely giving into the agnostic view that has so widely spread in the Christless world we see decaying before us, to the same extent that the church is unwilling to look and see what God has said and follow it (regardless of preconceptions or feelings), and looks on with seething hatred those who follow Him faithfully. This has resulted in the church giving way to the pressure of the world in ways many thought impossible until now, which can be clarified in one event that has occurred in our lifetimes, that being the sudden and expansive rise of the homosexual movement in Western society. Not that there have never been this many who hold to such a view, but that it has been so broadly accepted into the public and so widely endorsed to such an extent that it is now the objectors who find themselves the “minority.” These are quickly finding themselves outnumbered in society, as more and more are giving in to the idea that homosexuality is a righteous moral that ought to be defended and encouraged, carrying along with it all other moral exceptions like polygamy and those who believe they are of another gender entirely. And this has bled quickly into the church, who was perhaps the most ill-prepared group of them all to receive such a conflict, as they have been caving on so many smaller moral issues (drunkenness, pre-marital relations, dress standards, divorce/remarriage) due to their forsaking of consistent Biblical truth and interpretation. Well before all of this abject immorality broke loose in the Godless world, the church has been battling away at those who attempt to remain faithful to the literal interpretation of the Word of God, and who seek to live it consistent and persistently, all while prodding others to do the same. These are those who are looked down upon by other professing Christians as Pharisaical or legalistic, and are quickly pushed out the doors of the larger churches (and now the smaller ones at that) while the younger, more blatantly ignorant personalities are welcomed with open arms because of their “potential for the Lord” all while being deafened to what the Lord actually said. These “younger minds” are those who have quickly deformed the practical and moral standards of the popular church, both in smaller realms (clothing, music, priorities) and the more important subject matters (theology over practicality, what is fun verses what is important, sharing the Gospel verses selling it). Now we no longer have colleges and seminaries teaching people how to study the Word, but rather schools of deception for the purpose of increasing wealth and popularity, all while maintaining that “holy” appearance that is oh-so crucial to your Christian audience. Preachers are no longer declaring the Word of God to a dead world and needy saints, they are suggesting practical and easy solutions to your fleshly lusts and laziness, while being stern and strict on making sure your self-respect is unscathed.
And the older haven’t done much to stop this unfortunately, instead embracing it as a sort of “revival” within the church, encouraging the change because their version of “legalism” is so contrary to the requirement of “saving souls.” Their youth programs are the clearest reflection of this subjective mindset, as they become more aggressive in their tactics and lewder, more undisciplined and uncontrolled in their standards of conduct. And perhaps unknowingly so, these have opened the floodgates to what has now been revealed within the walls of the church today, that being the push for “acceptance” of the so-called “homosexual” and “transgender” movements. These pretend as though they do not know where it came from, while they themselves were the ones tearing down any Biblical objection to such an immoral ideology and Godless theology. While they quickly point the blame to the world that has long been in such an agnostic mindset, they are only painting more guilt on the wall they are trying to hide before God.
And here we find ourselves in this day and age. Is there any way out of this? I do not believe so, and for a reason based almost solely on my eschatology. Allow me to explain…
The Line of Separation Over the Years
Over the years the events of Christianity make very clear that there is a point for every Christian, professing and actual, where they must separate from the popular points of theological change and settle down on a particular principle about how they view God and His Word. This has been seen particularly in the separation of Christians from churches, whether from the individual church to an entire denomination, whether it be for petty little things (like the lack of youth programs or someone’s views on Santa Clause), or major things (such as soteriology, Christology, eschatology, etc.).
Take as an example the Reformation, which started when Martin Luther found the final line of separation with the Catholic church. It had been happening for some time prior to this occurrence, but culminated when what was perceived as abject rebellion against the Catholic church began to rise steadily. When the points of theology held by the “church” could no longer be excused by misinterpretation (or rather, the downright mutilation) of the Word of God, people began to separate from this church, whether knowingly or not in some cases, as there were quite simply certain things they could not allow themselves to adhere to. And so we found a sudden clash of theological viewpoints hitting a substantial point in history, to the point where many were executed for their beliefs, by both Catholics and Reformed alike, as the line of separation had boiled over to the point of violence. Such is neither excused nor justified by Biblical theology, but nevertheless it evidenced the brutal reality that is the importance of God’s Word and understanding it correctly. When given to the hands of sinful men, it is torn apart and used to justify every sin. And such has carried on the church, when the Bible became free to many and perverted by so many.
And so we find the church some time later, facing many points of separation. We found more distinct and well-known lines of view being drawn, and people holding to drastically different viewpoints. Questions like standards in clothing or drinking became more particularly volatile, and things that are nowhere mentioned in the Scriptures became solid points of hatred and excuses for bitterness, both in those who held to standards too strict, and those who threw out all standards together. Some condemned the practice of medicine altogether, while others indulged in drunkenness and immorality, excuses each his viewpoint by Scriptural mutilation, something we see especially evidenced in the modern church today. But as the various groups within the church became more popular and distinguishable, nevertheless people within those groups have experienced the same things again and again. When things are compromised or moralized, there are certain people who suddenly feel convicted, being bothered by something that is a part of this sudden action by their particular denomination. And as they research this, they find that this action is ungodly and unbiblical. And so they begin to question and prod those in authority, and when the wall is found, and they are deemed legalist or unloving, they are found with no other choice but to depart from their gathering. At first this was found the major things, like whether Mary deserves to be worshiped, or whether or not Jesus is actually God. But such things are easy to group people together, as some can ignore Scriptures that are clear, while others can accept Scriptures that are not in any way changing their life drastically. But as time has gone on, these points of theology have become more particularly detailed, such as whether or not “Christian liberty” justifies as much as people say it does, or whether remarriage after divorced is truly excused in the New Testament. And these points have driven people to cross lines, and move onto other groups which hold to similar viewpoints as they.
But over all of these happens there have always been two general groups: the conservative Christians and the liberal Christians. Those who hold to high standards, and those who hold to very few standards. And what we see today is something that has not been seen so clearly before, that being the sudden realization that the liberal Christians have found a line of separation. Slowly, but most surely, they have found certain points of theology being so grossly torn apart and misused, that even they (in their already loose handling of God’s Word) can no longer hold to such a weak and inconsistent hermeneutic. The acceptance of clear perversion and immorality has suddenly drawn out even the most convinced liberal Christian to the point of pulling out God’s Word to see whether these things are so, and lo and behold, they find that such things are not said by God, much less endorsed! And thus the liberal Christians have begun to find their line of separation, and see liberal Christianity for what is has been all along.
What does this mean? This means that the church is being filtered. A sifting, if you will. Over all of these years (all of the above), God has been carefully testing the church, from the extreme to the detailed points of theology, whether in standards or basic understanding of His Word. And as each time of testing comes, we see a certain group of people appearing more and more. These are those who look at the doctrines of their groups at a time when it has found an extreme, and examine God’s Word to see if these are truly acceptable. And they find it not to be the case, and begin to step back from what they finally see to be a cult of people falling to their flaming doom. As we go overhead of the church, we see large gatherings of people, but as these walk to the cliffs, we see a very select few breaking off in the back. They slow down, moreso than those around them, and sudden stop moving. They turn around, and begin to head away from the impending danger. And as they move away, they find themselves discovering that there are others. And so while liberal and overly-conservative Christianity fight and concede over things of little importance, these individuals find themselves looking at a common theme: God. They see the Bible for what it truly is. Not just some book by which we title our religion, or some foundation for an argument, but the knowledge of our life in Christ, from whom we have received “so great a salvation.”
The “Great Apostasy”
And here we find the Great Apostasy. Those who remain in the large groups as mentioned above are those who form the popular, modern and most known church which claims to follow Jesus Christ. These are those who remain in ignorance of the Scripture, or are simply too focused on argument that they miss the warnings, and fall right into the trap of the Antichrist. So often we think of the Antichrist as being one who claims that there is no God, or that he is a god that is better than the God of the Bible. Some say he will be atheistic, others say he will be Muslim or Catholic. But I see it a different way. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2, “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” (vs. 1-4) Notice what he says about the apostasy first. It takes place in the Christian church (as he was writing to Christians, referring to apostates, which by their nature forsake the true church of Christ), not a general group of people (as though we are counting anyone and everyone who claims to be a Christian). So he refers specifically to those within the church who are believed to be genuine followers of Christ, but forsake the truth for a lie. What is this lie? Pay careful attention to the description of the Antichrist’s actions: “…who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship [not as a part of them, but rather making them to be false by comparison], so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” He is not from some other religion, as he tramples them under his feet, nor is he some vague form of Christianity, as these are no better than false gods or cults. Rather, he is one who comes to the temple of God (as in, the temple of the God, not just any god) and claims to be God, the God of the Bible. Remember, “Antichrist” means “In the stead of Christ,” not “directly opposite of Christ.” Don’t be mistaken, this man is a very evil person, as he is described as being the “man of lawlessness, the son of destruction,” but the devil is also the “father of lies” (John 8:44), therefore it is not unlike him to claim the Antichrist as being the God of the Bible. Satan is not ignorant of the Word of God, he simply chooses to rebel against it and oppose it at every turn. And most often this takes the form of deceit, not clear-cut contrast. He pretends to be Godly, or at the very least knowledgeable of the Scripture, and with this approach he leads many astray. The Antichrist is no different, being one who claims to be the God of the Bible, Christ Himself, sitting on the throne of God in the temple of God as though he were God. What is the Great Apostasy then? This is the event when all of those who claimed to follow the true Christ are deceived, and follow after the Antichrist as though he is who he says he is, the Christ of the Bible. They know Jesus will return, and thus they think He has returned, and all the while they forsake the true Christ who has yet to come. Such is the very worst of apostasy, as they commit the worse crime in the utmost ignorance.
The Groundwork Has Already Been Laid
How did they become so ignorant? Because of the above. They have not held firm to the Word of God, treating it literally and authoritatively, following it no matter the cost. Instead they rip out pages of the Scripture, those which seem to offensive, impossible or just plain useless, and cling to the sections they deem applicable. They prefer topical sermons, fashioned to their own perceptions, not willing to sit through hours of God’s Word as He Himself gave it to us. These do not tolerate sound, Godly teaching, but seek teachers in accordance with their own desires. And these teachers are not always those who are obviously wrong. So often they find people who use the Scripture, and that consistently! But only in such a way that it matches what they already believe to be true. Calvinists run from certain doctrines, yelling out their disgust, while at the same time avoiding certain Scriptures themselves. It is not uncommon in the “Reformed Movement” for people to throw out the Bible altogether, in favor of theologians, reformers and historians, all in the name of “Biblical truth.” Not wanting to study it for themselves, they surround themselves with teachers who tell them what they can accept. Sovereignty? You bet! Human depravity? Yes please! Working out your salvation with fear and trembling, studying the Word of God for yourself to see if it is true? Not… so much. I am not saying that God’s Sovereignty, human depravity or other “reformed” doctrines are false. But there is something missing. These fit the accurate description of being “puffed up with knowledge,” having no love (see 1 Cor. 8:1). And the other side is no better, being so focused on their idea of “love” or the miraculous, but are nevertheless completely blind to what the Bible actually says. I have seen both sides, and have found that both sides tend to be bitter, ruthless, heartless people, who are more concerned with their rightness then they are the salvation of souls. This is not to say that there are not true Christians in the Reformed movement, as such a statement would be blatantly false. But the same applies to the other side as well. Martin Luther did not wish to be followed by his name, but by the Word of God. Nevertheless, we find the Lutherans. The point is this: There are so, so, so many people out there who follow movements, or adhere to certain truths that they find acceptable, and yet these never actually believe them as the Word of God. Rather, they find them as a movement in and of themselves, and when challenged, they become angry and hateful, being violent in their responses, all the while missing the point of the truth of God altogether. And so when this Antichrist comes, they will be blinded by his deception, as the Word of God is pushed aside in favor of a figure whom they can follow. I am certain that if John Calvin rose from the dead and said “I am Christ!” so many would follow after him. Why? Because they already do in so many ways! I like things Calvin has said, and things Luther has said. But these never replace the Word of God. They merely clarify it, sometimes very well, and sometimes inaccurately. Because they are men, and are therefore flawed.
And so the groundwork is laid. The lines of separation begin to grow clearer and clearer, whether in regards to abject immorality, or clear truths in God’s Word, we find more and more people going into the dark, with a select few breaking off, seeing the Bible for what it is: God’s Word, which must be followed and adhered to above all else, being the sole source of our belief. All other things are secondary, and when the Antichrist comes, we must be ready to discern his deception, as it is possible that even the “elect” might be deceived.
“For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” – Matthew 24:21-28