Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

The Doctrine of the Last Things (10) General Eschatology

Written by Rev. C.A Schouls
The Second Preliminary Sign: Satan's Little Season
The Great Apostasy

In our last section we noted that there are various attitudes possible which govern our view of these end time matters: the Laodicean of cold indifference, the Thessalonican of hot excitement and the Smyrnian of reasoned expectation and faithful perseverance. This latter attitude is the right one. To have this frame of mind is especially important when we consider the tensions involved with ÒSatanÕs Little SeasonÓ--the term comes from Revelation 20: 3, 7, 8. This ÒLittle SeasonÓ is marked by three distinct but closely related events: 1) The Great Apostasy, 2) The Great Tribulation and 3) The Reign of Antichrist.

These events will follow the Gospel Age (see previous notes). There will be great darkness after what seemed to be a period of light. The gospel will go to all nations, but after all have been confronted with the claims of the gospel it will be made evident that not all accept those claims. Many people will fall away from the faith which they, for a while, professed with their lips. There will be a great apostasy (literally Òfalling awayÓ). This is clearly taught in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, ÒLet 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.Ó They who fall away will then turn on the ones remaining faithful and will persecute them.

The leader of this apostasy movement will be a very wicked person, the Antichrist (we will deal with this later). The three terms (Tribulation, Apostasy and Reign of Antichrist) deal with the same final period, which will immediately precede ChristÕs Second Coming. It is also called ÒSatanÕs Little Season,Ó for here he will have apparent free reign. It will not last long and it will be his last gasp.

The passage that refers to this coming apostasy does not teach in any way that GodÕs true children will fall away. They cannot fall from grace--the Lord Jesus himself has given the assurance of that in John 10:27, 28. What it does mean is that the faith of the fathers, which has by this time been preached across the world and to which many of the children adhere in a strictly formal sense, will be abandoned altogether by these Òform believers.Ó The apostasy, the falling away, will be very real, indeed. It will be on a very large scale. ÒMany shall stumble ... many false prophets shall arise and shall lead many astray ... the love of many shall wax coldÓ (Matt.24: 10-13).

It seems as if history repeats itself. As the Old Dispensation was drawing to a close there was the reign of terror by Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC) in which the temple was destroyed and horribly desecrated and the remnant of the Old Testament church slaughtered. In 70 AD there is the bloody siege and destruction of Jerusalem in which thousands die and the city is destroyed. These are prophetic of the calamities that will fall on the true church at the end of times just before the glorious return of the Lord Jesus. As this new dispensation draws to a close, there will be great persecution and it is to be expected that some of the most vehement persecutors will be the people who have most recently abandoned the faith for, after all, they will have much to prove.

Characteristics of this Great Apostasy
a.
False Security, Materialism and Sudden Destruction
This is taught in Luke 17:26-33. The Lord here teaches what life will be like in this final period. People will be going about their business, involved in everyday activities when suddenly, destruction will come.

The first question that may come to mind is: what is wrong with all these activities--eating, drinking, marrying and giving into marriage, buying and selling, planting and building? There is nothing wrong with this at all--provided we do this in the right spirit. We have a task to do and we are to be faithful in doing it until the very last day. This means that life is to go on as normally as possible until the moment Jesus returns. However, when we become so wrapped up in them that nothing else matters and we become so involved in them so that these things are all there is to life--they become ends in themselves--and spiritual things are neglected, they then become a curse and are not at all a blessing. This was how it was in the days of Noah and Lot.

The destruction that will come upon them will be sudden, swift and total--just as in the days of Noah and Lot. The man on the housetop must not think he has time to come down and go inside to gather his treasures; the man in the field must not return to his house to pick up some goods--they must flee as quickly as possible! Let the example of LotÕs wife who turned around and lost her life in so doing be a warning.

b. Division Between True Believers and the Apostate
On the one hand, it may well be that some who have abandoned the faith may still pass themselves off as Christians. However, their true nature will be revealed in the judgment. It will overtake them swiftly and it will then be seen that they really do not belong to the Body of Christ. This is taught in verses 35-37. When Jesus returns in His glory, two men may be doing the same thing--they may be lying on one bed, but only one will be taken (Òcarried offÓ--the idea is taken to be with the Lord, meeting Him up in the air) while the other will be left to sudden and terrible destruction. The same applies to two women working together. And this will not just happen in one place only or just here and there, but wherever apostates are found, judgment will overtake them. Viewed collectively, these apostates are seen here as a carcass, a decaying body. Vultures and eagles are not choosy with respect to where such a carcass is found; wherever it is, they will devour it. ÒWell,Ó says the Lord, Òwherever the apostate will be, they will be found, judged and condemned.Ó

But, prior to this, there will also be a sharp distinction between believers and the apostate. It is in the very nature of one who turns away that he will do so in a way which leaves no doubt that his mind has been changed. The most violent enemies of the church are often her own children. Cultures which have been most blessed by the Christian faith will become most brutal in their rejection of the last remnants of this way of life. We can see this in lands where the gospel has had a great place and where now the forces of sin seem to hold almost unchallenged sway. The Netherlands is a prime and very sad illustration of this truth. It is clear to anyone who wishes to see, that Canada is not far behind. In a recent editorial in our magazine, some experts are quoted as saying the U.S.A. (by many standards more socially conservative than Canada) is no more than fifteen years away from where apostate Holland is now. May God preserve us from such a future!

QUESTIONS FOR GROUP DISCUSSION
1. Are there any indications in the church today pointing to the Great Apostasy being not far away? Do you think there is more false security, materialism and rebellion against GodÕs laws than, for example, 20 or 30 years ago?

2. What can we do to prevent our children being swept away by this stream of apostasy that seems to be growing stronger? Is there anything in grace which is inherited?

3. Is our church, generally, becoming more relaxed about such issues as the authority of Scripture, worldly amusements, marriage and divorce? What can we do to ensure that we are sufficiently awake and on guard against such evils?

4. Are church members today more aware of the dangers of apostasy than those of former generations? Is there a problem between keeping the lines straight and exercising Christian liberty?

5. How do the events of and following Ò9/11" impact all this?

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