The world around us is quickly changing. There are radical converts and those who profess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and yet live a life that is contrary to His teachings. Years (for some, this is much sooner in weeks and months) down the road, they become apostates just like Judas. Jesus warns that those who depart from the faith were never truly of it. He further warned that in the end times there will be a rise in apostasy. Christ has been expelled from schools, laws, and even churches. This post will cover the definition of apostasy, the rising apostasy in the most popular religion, and why it's important to discern it in today's society.
What Is Apostasy?
Apostasy comes from the Greek word "apostasia," meaning departure, revolt, or rebellion. It is the conscious abandonment of religion by someone who once stated to belong to it. In Christianity, it is the rejection of Christ by someone who once stated that He was their Lord and Savior.
Discerning false converts and those that deny Christ in times of weakness such as the disciple Peter can be tricky at times when done in our own strength. The Holy Spirit's power is needed in these cases. There are several examples of apostasy throughout the Bible, the very first originating with Adam and Eve in Eden.
Apostasy Lived Out by Believers from the Most Popular Religion of Christianity
For the born again believer, committing the sin of apostasy can be led by a few factors. These include temptation, persecution, and deceptions such as false teaching. The list below shows evidence of such factors.
"And he said to the woman, indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the garden we may eat; but the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.' The serpent said to the woman, 'You surely will not die!' For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'" (Genesis 3:1-5, NASB)
Read the full chapter of Genesis 3 at Bible Study Tools.
Saul's disobedience when God told him to destroy the Amalekites in His punishment for what Amalek did to Israel (see reference here).
". . . . .and Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments." 1 Samuel 15:7-11, NKJV.
The full chapter of 1 Samuel can be read here.
Apostasy Lived out By Believers, Continued
Many disciples in the crowd of Jesus' teaching of the Bread from Heaven turned away.
"Therefore, many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more" (John 6:60-66, NKJV)
Read the full chapter of John 6 here.
Other examples of the sin apostasy carried out by believers include:
Jeremiah 23:13, in reference to false teaching by the prophets of Samaria (read Jeremiah 23 here)
Luke 24:54-62, relating to Peter denying Christ three times (read Luke 24:54-62 here)
More information about false teachings is provided in the below articles.
Contrast of Fruits
Apostasy Lived Out by Nonbelievers
If the sin of apostasy can be committed by believers, it can definitely be committed by nonbelievers. It may, at times, be difficult to distinguish between the two. Sometimes, we may not see the evidence until years later.
The mark of the true convert is conviction after sin is committed, much like the disciple Peter after he denied Christ. He showed true spiritual grievance towards His sin that was evidence of the Holy Spirit convicting him. Those that state they are Christian yet do not understand the Gospel and true salvation and walk away from the faith were never truly of it, to begin with.
Examples of apostasy carried out by nonbelievers include:
Acts 15:1, in reference to false teachers in Judea confronting Paul and Barnabas about salvation and circumcision (this context suggests that the false teachers believed that through carrying out the law--a good work, such as like circumcision which was ordained by God to the people of Israel to be set aside in a covenant due to Jesus not being carnate yet and dying on the cross, or resurrecting yet--that one could be saved which is in direct opposition to Jesus' teachings)
Luke 22:47, in regard to the betrayal of Judas who departed from Jesus and betrayed Him for silver and safety from persecution (read Luke 22 here). Evidence of Judas not being a true convert is seen in Answers in Genesis article, "Questioning the Bible," about midway down the article.
The Pharisees as referenced in all four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Rising Apostasy in the End
Jesus foretells that in the End Times, towards the end of the church age, there will be a rise in apostasy (Daniel 9:27, 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:3-4, etc.). What does this mean today? Deception will continue to increase and become harder to discern. Below is an article by Cold-Case Christianity that expounds upon one discovery of a certain "Gospel of Judas" that identifies as Christian, yet is masked in lies.
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