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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, December 14, 2014

“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).

I have always loved the epistles of Paul – especially First and Second Thessalonians. In I Thessalonians we have a striking picture of the first resurrection – often called the “Rapture.” I love the description of it that the Apostle gives,

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

It is evident that Christ’s coming “in the air” at the “Rapture” is different from His coming down to the earth to set up His Kingdom (Zechariah 14:4; Revelation 19:11-16). The Christians in the church at Thessalonica had been told, had heard sermons, and read forged letters (supposedly from Paul) that the day of the Lord had already started and that they were going to be destroyed by the Antichrist, “the son of perdition” (II Thessalonians 2:3). To understand our text you have to first understand the background. These people in Thessalonica were “troubled” because they thought the day of the Lord had already come. They had been taught by false teachers that “the day of the Lord has come.”

The Apostle wrote this epistle to tell them it could not have come yet because something else had to come “first” (II Thessalonians 2:3). What had to come first? Paul said, “that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first...” (ibid). Dr. W. A. Criswell pointed out that “a falling away” comes from the Greek words “hē apostasia” – “The use of the article [the word hē] indicates that Paul has in mind a specific apostasy” (The Criswell Study Bible). John MacArthur correctly said, “Paul’s point was...that the Apostasy will precede [will come before] the Day of the Lord. And since the Apostasy had not yet taken place, the Day of the Lord could not have arrived” (The MacArthur Commentary, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Moody Publishers, 2002; note on II Thessalonians 2:3).

I am convinced that we are now moving into “the apostasy” that Paul said would come before the day of the Lord. I have been reading a book edited by Dr. John H. Armstrong titled, The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Moody Press, 1996). In this book, men like Dr. Michael Horton and Dr. Albert Mohler said that today there are “challenges to the authority of Scripture and the Gospel” (byline to the title). The book goes on to show that many evangelicals are giving up the authority of the Bible, and are even questioning the message of the Gospel itself. Dr. Michael Horton wrote another book titled, Christless Christianity (Baker Books, 2008). Some of his chapter titles include, “Christless Christianity: The American Captivity of the Church,” “Smooth Talking and Christless Christianity,” “How We Turn Good News into Good Advice,” etc. The back jacket cover says that Dr. Horton points out “flaws [in evangelicalism] that do more than distort Christian faith: they reject it.”

Both of these books show how deeply evangelicalism is going into the apostasy of our time. Dr. Francis Schaeffer called all of this, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Crossway Books, 1984). Dr. Schaeffer said, in that book, “The last sixty years have given birth to a moral disaster, and what have we done? Sadly, we must say that the evangelical world has been part of the disaster. More than this, the evangelical response itself has been a disaster. Where is the clear voice speaking to the crucial issues of the day with distinctly biblical, Christian answers?...a large segment of the evangelical world has become seduced by the world spirit of this present age. And more than this, we can expect the future to be a further disaster...For the evangelical accommodation to the world of our age represents the removal of the last barrier against the breakdown of our culture. And with the final removal of this barrier will come social chaos” (ibid., p. 141).

In other words, even our so-called “conservative” churches are giving up the “fight of faith,” as Iain H. Murray titled one of his biographies of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones! In other words, our churches are rapidly sinking into “the apostasy” (hē apostasia), the final apostasy predicted in II Thessalonians 2:3! I may be wrong, but the apostasy of our time does seem apocalyptic in its depth and magnitude. It does appear to be the final apostasy spoken of in II Thessalonians 2:3.

I became acutely aware of today’s apostasy when I studied at two theological seminaries in the 1970s. Because I was too poor to pay the tuition at a more conservative seminary, I had to attend the liberal Southern Baptist seminary near San Francisco, followed by the liberal Presbyterian seminary in that same area, doing doctoral work. I can only say that both of these schools were fully under the liberal delusions of biblical criticism. In virtually all my classes, I was confronted face-to-face with attacks on the Bible in the strongest possible way.

I was told that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead.

I was told that there was no such person as Moses, and that the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt was a fable, and had no historical basis. They said it never happened at all.

I was told that almost all the books of the New Testament were forgeries, not written by the Apostles, but forged by others.

I was told that the Flood in Noah’s time is a myth, that it never happened – and there was no such person as Noah.

I was told that the Second Coming of Christ was a myth, that He would never return through the clouds to set up His Kingdom.

I was told that the Bible was only a book of myths and fairy tales – from cover to cover.

If you think I am exaggerating, why not write to me, and send $15, and ask me to mail you a copy of my book, Inside the Southern Baptist Convention? Write to me at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, California 90015. In preparing this book, my associate, Dr. C. L. Cagan, personally travelled to all six Southern Baptist seminaries and spent extensive time going through their libraries and archives. Much of the material in my book comes from Dr. Cagan’s research – and has never before been revealed to the general public. The Southern Baptist seminary was extremely liberal at that time, in the 1970s. The seminaries are much better now, thanks to the work of Dr. Bill Powell, Dr. W. A. Criswell, Dr. Paige Patterson, Dr. Harold Lindsell, and others. But the errors we pointed out in my book are still taught in the Southern Baptist universities, in their theology departments. The Presbyterian seminary was even worse. The only word I could use to describe these schools is “apostate.” I graduated from these two seminaries, earning a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree and a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree. But the experience of studying all those apostate ideas was devastating. I had to fight the Devil day in and day out to maintain my faith in the Bible as the divinely inspired Word of God!

Yet, now, I believe God put me there in those schools for a reason, for it was in the fire of affliction that I learned to love the Bible more than life itself. It was there that I learned by experience what that old hymn meant,

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
   Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word...
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
   Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
   I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
   I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!
(“How Firm a Foundation,” “K” in Rippon’s “Selection of Hymns,” 1787).

Jesus never forsook me! He went with me through the fire. King Nebuchadnezzar looked into the fiery furnace to see what happened to those three Hebrew boys. And he said,

“I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25).

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
   Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

I remember reading what Pastor Richard Wurmbrand wrote in one of his books. I can’t remember which book, so I will have to repeat what he said from memory. Pastor Wurmbrand was in a Communist prison for preaching the Gospel. They put him in solitary confinement. He could hear no sounds. He was completely alone for many months in that dark dungeon. Then he said, “Now I knew I was not play-acting. I didn’t just think I believed. Now I knew that I really believed.” That’s the way I felt in that lonely, God-forsaken seminary. Now I knew I wasn’t play-acting. Now I knew I didn’t just think I believed. Now I knew that I really believed in Jesus and in the Bible.

What I heard in that seminary has helped me to answer Bible critics in my sermons. One theology student from the Solomon Islands wrote an e-mail to me last week. He said, “Thank you Dr. Hymers for the two sermons on ‘The God-Breathed Book’ you sent me. I am blessed by these sermons and got profound insights to defend the Bible.” The sermons are on our website in 29 languages. They have helped pastors around the world. Praise the Lord!

I promised last Sunday that I would give you more scientific proofs that the Bible is the Word of God. But I ran out of time tonight, so I will have to come back to this subject in another sermon.

If you are not yet saved, these “proofs” will probably not help you very much. “Apologetics” refers to the defense and proofs of Christianity. Apologetics often helps young Christians, but I have found the use of such “proofs” usually does not help those who are unconverted. Saving faith in Christ “is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Saving faith is produced by the Holy Spirit. First, the Holy Spirit convicts a lost person of his sin (John 16:8). Then the Holy Spirit illuminates them of the reality and graciousness of Christ (John 16:13-15). Finally, God draws them to Jesus for salvation (John 6:44, 45).

It is my prayer that you will come under conviction of sin, and trust Jesus, being cleansed from all sin by His precious Blood, and clothed in His righteousness! Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: II Thessalonians 2:1-3.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“In Times Like These” (by Ruth Caye Jones, 1902-1972).