APOSTASY IN THE CHURCHES –
FORETOLD IN BIBLE PROPHECY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, June 10, 2012

“Let 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” (II Thessalonians 2:3).


Dr. W. A. Criswell, the celebrated long-time pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, said,

The phrase ‘a falling away’ may be translated ‘the apostasy.’ The use of the article [the] indicates that Paul has in mind a specific apostasy. The implication is that before ‘the day of the Lord,’ there will occur a marked falling away of professed believers (The Criswell Study Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979; note on II Thessalonians 2:3).

The word “apostasy” is from the Greek word “apostasia” which means “a defection” from or “forsaking” of “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Notice that the Apostle tells us this must happen “first,” before the man of sin, the Antichrist, is “revealed.” So, a specific apostasy from the faith must occur “first,” before the Antichrist is revealed in the Great Tribulation. Dr. Charles C. Ryrie said that the Apostasy is “an aggressive...revolt against God which will prepare the way for the appearance of the man of sin” (The Ryrie Study Bible, Moody Press, 1978; note on II Thessalonians 2:3).

This final apostasy will not appear suddenly in the Tribulation period. It began with a movement called “the Enlightenment,” which arose in the eighteenth century and has been characterized as “the Age of Reason.” In this movement human reason displaced faith in the Bible as the revealed Word of God. In his book The New Paganism Dr. Harold Lindsell (1913-1998) said that the Enlightenment “...would reverse what the early church had done and bring to Europe and to the West in general the New Paganism; this New Paganism has dislodged the church from its key religious and cultural position and brought about what we now call the Post-Christian Era. [As a result of the Enlightenment] in the Western world, the Christian faith exists in a sea of paganism and the situation is not getting better. It is getting worse” (Harold Lindsell, The New Paganism, Harper and Row, 1987, p. 45). In the past three hundred years “The Enlightenment battled with Christianity in a life and death struggle” (Lindsell, ibid.). Today we are still living in that “life and death struggle.”

Three men arose out of the Enlightenment: Johann Semler (1725-1791), Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and Charles G. Finney (1792-1875). Semler was the father of the historical-critical method, which undermined the authority of the Bible. Darwin was the father of the theory of natural evolution, which displaced the Biblical view of man as a special creation. Finney was the father of decisionism, which replaced salvation by grace with human ability, which was a return to the ancient heresy of Pelagius (c. 354-418 AD).

Criticism of the Bible, acceptance of evolution, and the emergence of decisionism filled the churches with unconverted people – who have increasingly departed from the faith in the past two hundred years – resulting in today’s apostasy in the English speaking world. In this sermon I will briefly discuss the total apostasy in the “mainline” churches, and the growing apostasy among evangelicals, “for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first” (II Thessalonians 2:3).

I. First, the total apostasy of the “mainline” churches.

By “mainline” I mean the great denominations, such as the United Presbyterians, the United Methodists, the Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ (which produced Barack Obama), the main branches of Lutheranism, and the American Baptists, as well as the “moderate” Southern Baptists, composed of men like Jimmy Carter. Second Peter 2:1 says,

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (II Peter 2:1).

Concerning that verse, Dr. John F. Walvoord (1910-2002) said,

      This prophecy does not simply forecast unbelief in an unbelieving world...It is a prediction that in the guise of Christian teachers there would arise in the course of the history of the church those who deny its essential doctrines. In this passage [in II Peter 2:1] our attention is directed to the fact that they would teach destructive heresies, which would destroy the faith, doctrines which would...deny the Lord who bought them...A person who (1) denies the person of Jesus Christ and (2) denies that He died on the Cross for our sins and that He bought us with His own precious blood is not tampering with some trivial or fringe Christian doctrine; he is dealing with the very heart of it. A person who denies the person and work of Jesus Christ in the biblical definition is not a Christian at all. He is anti-Christian; he is opposed to the gospel; he is a heretic, an unsaved person...
      They are teaching that Jesus Christ is not the Son of God, that His death on the cross has no relationship to God’s forgiveness of our sins...teachers in the Bible departments of colleges and universities have freely declared themselves atheists...Atheism in the Bible department of a church school is new in our century. Many Christians do not realize the extent and the depth of unbelief that has penetrated the church, and the widespread denial of the central doctrine of the person of Christ and His work for us on the cross. Peter anticipated this long ago. There is no need to wait for a fulfillment [of Peter’s prophecy]. It has already been fulfilled.
      Not only have theologians announced that they are atheists, they have also declared that the God of the Bible is dead and does not exist because He never actually existed. They also teach that the morality of the Bible is dead. They claim a morality is needed today which is suited to our modern situation. They advocate throwing overboard the old morality, especially as it relates to sex, and introducing modern or loose standards. Our world is all too eager to hear this from those who claim to be the mouthpiece of the church, for it gives them liberty to live on the plane of animals instead of men created in the image and likeness of God. We are living in a day when immorality is declared to be morality, and when a claim is being made for a new standard of life which disregards what the Bible teaches (John F. Walvoord, Th.D., in Prophecy and the Seventies, edited by Charles L. Feinberg, Th.D., Ph.D., Moody Press, 1971, pp. 112-115).

Dr. Walvoord wrote that over 40 years ago. He was a highly respected theologian, and the president of Dallas Theological Seminary. I knew him, and he spoke at our church. I know that what he said was exactly right, because I graduated from two theologically liberal seminaries at that time. It may surprise some people that the so-called “mainline” churches are now advocating the ordinations of practicing homosexuals and gay marriage. But it does not surprise me. I knew they were headed in that direction 40 years ago.

Thus, today we see the total apostasy of the “mainline” denominations. There may be a scattered handful of real Christians in those churches, but they grow fewer and fewer as the years go by. As Dr. Walvoord said of one who denies the main teachings of the Gospel, “[He] is not a Christian at all...he is a heretic, an unsaved person.” When you go down the streets in Pasadena, California, and see those huge old church buildings, they are almost all pastored by men (and women) who have never been saved, and that is also increasingly true of the professors at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, since it has descended into the darkness of theological liberalism.

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first...” (II Thessalonians 2:3).

Back in the 19th century Spurgeon (1834-1892) said, “The church is being buried beneath the boiling mud-showers of modern heresy” (“The Blood Shed for Many,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1974 reprint, p. 374). In 1901 William Booth (1829-1912), the founder of the Salvation Army, as it was then, said,

      The chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell (The War Cry, 5 January, 1901, p. 7).

Those two men from the nineteenth century gave predictions that have come true in the churches of our time.

II. Second, the increasing apostasy in the evangelical churches.

Evangelicals, until recent years, have proclaimed fundamental Bible doctrines on the person and work of Christ. However, all is not well among many evangelicals today. With my own eyes I have seen the following six prophecies come true in the last fifty years. It gives me great pain to go through this list of increasing deadness in many evangelical churches.

1.  Many evangelicals have never been converted. The parable of the Ten Virgins illustrates this awful truth in the last days. “Five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them” (Matthew 25:2-3). Half of them did not have the Holy Spirit, represented by the oil. That is, half of them were not saved. When Christ, the bridegroom, returned He said to the foolish ones, “I know you not” (Matthew 25:12). Sadly, in these evil days, a great many evangelicals are unconverted, and will not be ready when Jesus returns. Dr. W. A. Criswell said that 75% of church members are lost. Dr. A. W. Tozer said that 90% are unsaved. A young Billy Graham said that 85% of evangelicals are lost. These estimates from Christian leaders show the deplorable condition of evangelicalism today.

2.  “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5). Notice that Christ said, “they all slumbered and slept.” Dr. John F. Walvoord said, “There are churches today that are cold and dead on Sunday nights – ones which not long ago had thriving evening services. Too many churches today have only one service a week, on Sunday morning...We are living in a time when the church has many problems” (ibid., p. 112). Also, where are the soul winners? In Los Angeles I do not know of a church other than ours that has an every-member soul winning program. I remember when this was not the case, but it is now. God help us! “They all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5).

3.  “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax [grow] cold” (Matthew 24:12). Most of our churches have little or no fellowship, and no weekly soul winning outreach. That is, the members have no love for each other, and no love for the lost! My long-time pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, was also a seminary professor and a seminary president. Dr. Lin said, “Believing in our Lord is an absolute must, and loving one another is also an absolute must...May the Church of the last days think thrice about this” (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, First Chinese Baptist Church, 1992, pp. 28, 29). “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

4.  “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Dr. Lin said, “The context of this verse clearly indicates that the word ‘faith’ here refers to faith in prayer. And our Lord’s statement is a lamentation that His Church will lose the faith of prayer on the eve of His second coming” (ibid., pp. 94, 95). Again, Dr. Lin said, “People often say that it makes no difference whether...you pray alone at home or together with brothers and sisters at church. Such a statement is merely a self-consolation of the lazy, or...of one ignorant of the power of prayer!” (ibid., p. 92). Luke 18:8 shows that Christians in the last days will neglect prayer meetings, as well as private prayer. Many churches now have a mid-week Bible study rather than a prayer meeting. How very sad that this is true in the last days!

5.  “Where is the promise of his coming?” (II Peter 3:4). In the context of II Peter 3:1-9, Peter is writing to Christians, to be “mindful” of the prophecies of the Second Coming, lest they be influenced by those who ask, “Where is the promise of his coming?” Dr. Ed Dobson gave as a sign of the last days the fact that there will be “widespread disregard for the signs of Jesus’ coming” (Dr. Ed. Dobson, The End, Zondervan Publishing House, 1997, p. 160). My colleague Dr. C. L. Cagan reminded me that forty years ago there was great interest in the signs of Christ’s Second Coming among evangelicals. “But now that the signs are being literally fulfilled nearly every day, they have very little interest in prophecy.” Disregard for the signs of Christ’s Second Coming among evangelicals is itself a sign of the last days! – and a symptom of the worldliness of church members in this evil hour.

6.  “After their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers” (II Timothy 4:3). The Apostle Paul tells us to “preach” (4:2). But he prophesied that people in the churches of the last days would “not endure” sound preaching, but would “heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” Fifty years ago there was great preaching in many of our pulpits. Today we have only verse-by-verse “teaching” in most pulpits. Dr. Lin said, “A professor of Systematic Theology from a seminary on the West Coast made this remark: ‘I think teaching and preaching are exactly the same!’ I could not disagree more. Teaching and preaching belong to two different categories. As a seminary professor, he could not even differentiate between teaching and preaching. Can his students preach then? The answer is a clear ‘no.’ Standing at the pulpit, many seminary graduates today can only give a lecture, but not preach a message. A pastor who does not know how to preach is likened to a chef who does not know how to cook!...The desolation in the Church of the last days is not due to the lack of pastors, but an abundance of pastors who [are not called by God]” (ibid., pp. 20, 21).


Today we see the horribly apostate condition of the mainline churches, and the pitiful condition of most evangelical churches. We would be greatly discouraged if we didn’t see these conditions prophesied in the Bible. Speaking of the signs of His coming in general, the Lord Jesus Christ said,

“When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh”
       (Luke 21:28).

The signs of Christ’s coming should encourage us in these dark days of apostasy. When people say, “You are going to church too much,” remember that their complaint is a sign that Jesus will come soon. When they say, “You pray too much” or “You evangelize too much,” remember that this too is a sign that Jesus is coming! Let others slumber and sleep, as did those virgins, but let us be awake! Awake in the prayer meetings! Awake when it is time to go soul winning! Awake during the preaching!

“When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh”
       (Luke 21:28).

Please stand and sing hymn number 4.

Dark was the night, sin warred against us;
   Heavy the load of sorrow we bore;
But now we see signs of His coming;
   Our hearts glow within us, joy’s cup runneth o’er!
He is coming again, He is coming again,
   The very same Jesus, rejected of men;
He is coming again, He is coming again,
   With power and great glory, He is coming again!
(“He is Coming Again” by Mabel Johnston Camp, 1871-1937).

And if you are still not saved, it is high time for you to awake from sin, trust Jesus, and be saved! The Bible says,

“Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).

Awake thou that sleepest, and trust the Saviour. He died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He is alive in Heaven. Trust Him and He will save you, even now, even in these dark and evil days of apostasy!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
   Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
   In the light of His glory and grace.
(“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen H. Lemmel, 1863-1961).

While we sing that chorus again, please step to the back of the room. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place for prayer and counselling.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
   Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
   In the light of His glory and grace.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

You may email Dr. Hymers at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net, (Click Here) – or you may
write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 25:5-13.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“In Times Like These” (by Ruth Caye Jones, 1902-1972).


THE OUTLINE OF

APOSTASY IN THE CHURCHES –
FORETOLD IN BIBLE PROPHECY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Let 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” (II Thessalonians 2:3).

(Jude 3)

I.   First, the total apostasy of the “mainline” churches, II Peter 2:1.

II.  Second, the increasing apostasy in the evangelical churches,
Matthew 25:2-3, 12, 5; 24:12; Luke 18:8; II Peter 3:4;
II Timothy 4:3, 2; Luke 21:28; Ephesians 5:14.