The Great Apostasy

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Two opposing kinds are at war in our world, operating by two different governing principles, undergirded by two diametrically opposite motives.

The Upside Down Kingdom

In our previous study we discovered that God is building a global community of the restoration and revelation of His love. The New Testament calls this community “the Church of the living god, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15). The singular truth upon which Jesus founded His church is the reality of His self-giving, non-coercive love (Matthew 16:16-18). Now we will discover that Scripture foretold a great apostasy that would attempt to eclipse the truth upon which Christ founded His church.

Read and discuss Luke 22:24-30

Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called benefactors. But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. But you are those who have continued with Me in My trails. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on the thrones judging the twelves tribes of Israel.

Now after reading the passage, let us answer the following questions:

What were the disciples arguing about? “Which of them should be considered the ______________.”

How did Jesus describe the principle by which the kings of this world govern? “Lordship __________” and “authority _____________.”

How did Jesus describe the principle by which His kingdom operates? “He who is _______ among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who __________.”

As the great King of the universe, what are the two words Jesus used in Matthew 11:29 to describe the kind of person He is? “I am _________ and ___________ in heart.”

Portraying Himself as “the master” in Luke 12:37, how did Jesus describe the manner in which He will relate to us in His eternal king?   _____________________________________

John 13 opens by stating of Jesus, “having _______ His own who were in the world, He ——– them to the _______” (verse1). Then Jesus did something remarkable to the illustrate the exalted nature of His love: ; He wrapped a towel around His waist, filled a basin with water, got on His knees, and washed the dirty feet of His disciples (verse 2:5). After the, Jesus said in John 14:9, “he who has seen Me has seen the __________.”

Finally, Jesus voluntarily submitted Himself to the violent rage of those He came to save, thus giving the zenith revelation of God’s character and kingdom. What is sometimes called “the myth of redemptive violence” is the notion that responding to violence with violence will end the violence. By dying on the cross Jesus set in motion the only principle of action capable of stopping the cycles of violence: self-sacrificing, nonviolent love, which only returns good for evil. Discuss the principle as explained in Luke 6:27-38 and I Peter 2:21-24.

But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you to the one cheek, offer the other also. And from Him who takes away you cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Fore even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you give back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love you enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most high, For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:27-38.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example. That you should follow His steps:   Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth; who when he was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we having died to sins, might live for righteousness b whose stripes you were healed. I Peter 2:21-24.

Clearly, then, Jesus founded His church on the principle of self-giving love. He demonstrated a power-under rather than a power-over method of governance, in which greatness is measured in terms of serving others, and in which self-sacrifice triumphs over force. His is what we might call the upside-down kingdom: greatness is defined as humility, elevation as service, and power as love. This is how God’s universe is made to function.

Falling Away

I II Thessalonians 2 Paul revealed that there would be a “falling away” (verse 3), and apostasia in Greek, from which we get the English word apostasy, which means to abandon the truth. The insidious things about this apostasy is that it would not take the form of a blatant, open abandonment of the truth, but rather the setting up of a false church masquerading as the true. Paull explained that the apostasy would be led by a self-exalting personage describes as “the man of sin . . . the son of perdition, 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” (verses 3:-4). Paul foresaw the development of a counterfeit religious system with a man at the center playing God. He then goes on to say, “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (verse 7). The coming apostasy would be characterized by “lawlessness,” or anomia which means against low, or without law – referring to God’s law of self sacrificing love.

So in order to identify this false religious system, all we need to look for in history is a professedly Christians power that exalts man to the place of God and advances an agenda against God’s law. It’s an easy show to fit, But first let’s turn to the prophet Daniel, who long before Paul foretold the same apostasy.

The Little Horn

The prophet Daniel had a vision in which he saw that “the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. Add four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.” (Daniel 7:2-3).

What do the four “beasts” of Daniel’s vision represent? Daniel 7:17, 23 __________________________________________________________________________________________

What do “winds” represent? Jeremiah 25:32; Jeremiah 49:36-37 ___________________________________________________________________________________________

What do “seas” represent? Revelation 17:15 ______________________________________________

Now read Daniel 7:4-7. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: arise devour much flesh! And after this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The best also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in night visions, and behold, a fourth beat, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and I had ten horns.

Daniel lived and wrote his prophecies as a captive in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. He understood that the head of gold in the king’s dream and the lion in his own vision both symbolized Babylon (2:36-40). From our position in history, we know the complete succession of kingdoms.

The Lion represents Babylon (Jeremiah 4:7; Jeremiah 50:17, 43-33). The wings on the lion indicate speed of conquest (Deuteronomy 28:49).

The Bear is the empire of the Media-Persia, raised up on one side because the Persians were stronger than the Medes. The three ribs in the bear’s mouth are the three provinces conquered by Media-Persia: Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt.

The Leopard is the Greek Empire, depicted with four wings to indicate the tremendous speed with which Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and every other kingdom in his path. The four heads on the leopard represent the four kingdoms into which the Grecian Empire was divided after Alexander’s death, ruled by his four generals: Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy and Seleucus.

The Dreadful Best with iron teeth is the Roman Empire which conquered Greece. The Ten horns representing the ten principle kings of Western Europe that arose out of the Roman Empire as it crumbled: The Visigoths (Spain): the Anglo-Saxons (England); the Franks (France); The Alemannia (Germany); the Burgundians (Switzerland); Lombards (Italy); Suevi (Portugal) Heruli (destroyed); Ostrogoths (destroyed); Vandals (destroyed).

Then Daniel described “another horn, a little horn, coming up among them” (verse 8).

I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.

Daniel saw that yet another power would rise to prominence among the ten horns or among Western European kingdoms. There is no mistaking what Daniel has revealed to us. As sure as history bears out the Babylon was succeeded by Media-Persia, Media-Persia by Greece, and Greece by Rome, just as certain does the historical record reveal that the pagan Roman Empire was succeeded by the papal Roman empire, or the Roman Catholic church-state.

What are some to the additional characteristics that are given concerning this little horn that help us identify it.

  1. Self-exaltation. It would speak “pompous words against the Most High” (verses 8, 11, and 25). As the pagan Roman Empire crumbled and the Church of Rome rose to power upon its ruins, the Pope came to occupy the elevated position previously held by Caesar, claiming to possess the authority of God on earth.
  2. Force and violence in God’s name. It would “make war against” and “persecute the saints of the Most High” (verses 21, 25). For more than a thousand years during its Dark Ages reign, the roman Church slaughtered an estimated 50 million people who refused to acknowledge its supremacy in matters of conscience.
  3. Against God’s law. It would “intend to change times and law” of the Most High (verse 25). So self-exalted in its power, the Roman Church ventured to delete the second of God’s Ten Commandments, which forbids the worship of images, thus accommodating the adoption of pagan idol worship practices, and she claimed the power to change God’s Sabbath from the seventh day, Saturday, to the first day, Sunday, of the pagan sun worship cults.

This prophecy is remarkable and vitally important, not simply because it foretold the existence of the papal church-state, but because it informs us that the colossal system known to history as “Christendom” is not, in fact, the true church of Christ, but rather an apostate, counterfeit system masquerading as His church. By adopting the principles of self-exaltation and force, the Roman Church has horribly misrepresented the character of God. But we can be assured that God is nothing like the Roman Church has portrayed Him to be. In Jesus Christ – as He girds Himself to wash dirty feet and as He willingly gives His life at the cross without retaliation – we see what God is really like.

Connect

God’s love drives Him to tell us the truth, and His love in us will drive us to hold the truth with humility.

“Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (I Corinthians 8:1). By identifying Catholicism as the “Little Horn” foretold by Daniel, and as the great apostate power of history foretold by Paul, Scripture is condemning the system, not the individual people, and the only reason the system is condemned is because God love the people so much. A religious system that darkens the character of God by teaching that made him appear exacting, cruel, and coercive, can only have the effect of generating either slavish fear or outright rebellion against God in human hearts. So the system must be identified for the danger that it is and must be indicated by the stand of God’s love to be false. And yet we who understand these prophecies need to remember something crucially important: none of us are better than the rest of us.

We’re all inclined to self-exaltation and disinclined to humility. God loves every member of the human race and Jesus died for all. While the system is warned against as dangerous, the people are cherished by God as precious objects of His love.

Experience

I want to know God for who He really is, in all His beauty, unobstructed by the false teachings of men who would date to put themselves in the place of God.

As I learn the meaning of these prophecies, it is my sincere desire to discover the whole truth as it is unfolded in Bible prophecy, while at the same time loving those who do not know the truth.