Summary: This study looks at the clear signs given by Jesus and the apostles that point to the falling away from the faith and the condition of the church nearing the end-times.
The Church in the Last Days
The clearest sign given to the Christian that we are in the last days is the falling away from true faith. The scripture gives a lot of attention to this one sign that will precede the rise of the anti-Christ. Look at 2 Thessalonians 2:
3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
People constantly try to predict the return of Christ and look at world events to see if the end is near. Christians often get concerned over governmental decisions and world events that seem to point toward specific prophecies in the scripture and spend energy trying to discern the times. Many times in history the believers have thought world events fit the end times. From Nero to Hitler to the European Union, many governments have displayed similarities to the descriptions the Bible foretells. In reality, there is absolutely no way to predict Christ’s return. Jesus made it clear that it has not even been revealed in heaven, therefore it will not be revealed on earth until the time comes. Satan also does not know when the time is, therefore we can understand why history is filled with evil men who try to become the world ruler. Satan never ceases to groom his false messiah to be ready when that day arrives. Satan’s only goal has always been to be worshipped by all of creation. This was his pride causing his fall in the beginning and is still his hope today. He will not risk missing his moment of glory.
Even so, we do have signs of the times that are provided so that those who are looking will not be caught unaware. The Bible makes it unmistakably clear that that day will not come unless the falling away from the faith comes first. The Bible makes it clear that God sees the end from the beginning and He knows exactly when it will come, but only the failure of the church will open the door to the end. Jesus said that the gates of hell cannot withstand the church and the prayer of the church will be answered by God. Then Jesus made it clear that even though these things are true, He will not find real faith on the earth when He returns. There will be religion and there will be many churches, but there will not be true biblical faith within the church as a whole when He comes back. Look at 2 Timothy 3:
1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
The peril of the church is evident in the acts of people within the church. They will be indistinguishable from the world. Self love, self-gratification, unthankfulness, unholy lifestyles, unloving, unforgiving, no self-control, etc. The fruit of the Spirit is peace, love, joy, goodness, kindness, patience, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The latter days church will not walk in the Spirit, therefore they are missing these things and practicing the opposite. They will have a form of godliness, but no power. The same power granted to the first century church is available today. The reason the church has no power is because we have lost the concept of holiness. Without holiness, the Bible says we will not see the Lord. Without holiness – or being set apart for God, we will not have His power. Religion will abound, but true faith and true godliness will not. Jesus foretold that during this time false teachers and false prophets would arise using signs and miracles that would deceive the very elect if it were possible. In the book of Deuteronomy, God said that there will be times when God will allow false prophets to show wonders to test His people to see if they will follow God or turn from Him to follow the prophet. His word is the test – not the miracles or prophecies.
Recently I went to a faith-healer’s service. A friend invited me to come and see this man that did wonders and healings. It is ironic that he arrived just after I finished a series on the Word of Faith movement and their unbiblical (and often anti-biblical) doctrines. This man was a part of this movement and echoed their beliefs to the letter. The first thing he did was call the audience to a commitment not to judge or say anything negative. This is a common practice with false teachers. We are commanded in scripture not to judge based on appearance, but we are also commanded to judge and contend earnestly for the scriptures. Those who stress ‘judge not’ are almost always people who do not want their teaching or their lifestyles exposed by the scriptures.