Are you afraid? There is a lot of talk today on social media like Facebook and YouTube about the "great falling away" and Americans tend to assume that this falling away is happening right now. ABC news reported Pew Research's finding that over the last seven years there are nearly five million less people who call themselves Christians in America. Plus the "falling away" talk notes there is a huge push toward the acceptance of homosexuality, not to mention the police shootings, earthquakes, etc. Of course some believe (Sid Roth and Michael Brown), the grace movement is the manifestation of or the precursor to the great falling away.
Religion is very adept at asking us to put on their "end-times" glasses and see future judgment through their lens.
Many of us, though, are waking up, putting on new glasses and hopefully demonstrating love and patience to those trapped in that system. BUT their words are producing so much fear that I am compelled to write this blog. Those with an open heart... and open mind, know deep down the witness of the Spirit. They sense the goodness of God in them bearing witness to the truth. Others, I assume will cling to their fear and use it to create fear in others to hurry up and get it together because the "end" is near.
2 Thessalonians 2:3, "Let no man deceive you by any means for that DAY shall not come unless there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." (KJV)
1. It says nothing about a "GREAT" falling away.
The implication of using the word "great" is that it will be about an end time final falling away. The problem is that the word great isn't in the text. Not only that, but a falling away such as that would be quite difficult since Isaiah 9:3 says, "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end." What will be GREAT is the increase of the kingdom, not a huge amount of people falling away.
In addition, this passage is primarily about "the man of sin" not the Church falling apart 2000 years later. Be careful of divorcing one phrase and building an entire doctrine around it.
2. The Falling Away happened in the First Century.
Yes, that's right, it was fulfilled in THEIR generation. First of all notice that Paul said let no one deceive you. Not us, 2000 years later, but those Thessalonians. Audience relevance in hermeneutics (the study of how to interpret the scriptures) requires us to consider the ones that it was written to first, before trying to apply a scripture to ourselves.
In fact, notice what that Day was about in the context. 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10 says this:
(my commentary in parenthesis)
4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all YOUR (not our)
persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6 since it is a righteous thing with God to REPAY WITH TRIBULATION those who TROUBLE YOU (so God was to repay the apostate Jews with tribulation in their day see 1 Thess. 2:13-16),
7 and to give YOU who are troubled REST with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, (just like this passage, Jesus placed this event in THEIR lifetime Mat. 16:27-28)
8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction (ruin- complete loss) from the presence of the Lord (see Acts 3:22-26 where Peter said they would be "cut off" from the people and his presence, ie the old covenant temple system)
and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.
This event was none other than the tribulation of AD 66 -70 where Rome destroyed Jerusalem and all those who did not believe what Jesus said (Matthew 24). Either Paul lied when he said that God would give the Thessalonian Christians rest from their persecution by giving their persecutors Tribulation on that DAY (which makes him a false prophet) or he was telling the truth. I think we know which it was.
To project that into our lifetime, 2000 years later is an irresponsible use of the Scriptures and a weapon of fear instead of the proclamation of the glory of the gospel.
3. So Who was this Man of Sin?
The main rebel who caused the destruction of Jerusalem was John Levi of Gischala. I believe that he clearly fits the description of the man of lawlessness in this passage. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote of how John Levi was a selfish, unscrupulous man with persuasive powers who convinced many that he was sent by God to liberate them. Further, John Levi took over the Temple, set himself up in the Temple as the Jewish savior (as God), looted the vessels of the Temple for their gold, and caused the daily animal sacrifices to cease. He also plundered the people, even burning their storehouses of food and causing the great famine that starved tens of thousands to death, and he enlisted aid from the Idumeans, who killed 8,500 of the Jews, including the priests.
(Second Thessalonians 2:9 speaks of counterfeit signs, the main one being that John Levi declared that he was God and would deliver the people from the Romans. He commanded the storehouses of food to be burned in faith that God would miraculously deliver them from their enemies. Instead they starved to death.)
Even when the Roman General Titus pleaded that John Levi leave the Temple, so that it wouldn’t be destroyed in battle, John flatly refused. John Levi caused the Temple to be destroyed; without him, the Temple might have been spared, considering that it was one of the wonders of the ancient world.
Paul goes on to explain more about the man of lawlessness: Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back [Ananus], so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back [Ananus] will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way (2 Thessalonians 2:5-7).
John was not only a rebel leader, but also a false messiah. He claimed godhood by taking over the Temple, and the only person who stood in his way was the Jewish Chief Priest, Ananus. Ananus had tremendous diplomatic skills and had been able to negotiate peace treaties with Rome many times before. Ananus was literally able to restrain the full-scale rebellion that John Levi was aiming to accomplish.
That is why Paul referred to the one who restrained, who must be taken out of the way.
Even Josephus noted that once Ananus (the one who restrains) was killed, then the destruction of Jerusalem began: I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city, and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her wall, and the ruin of her affairs. (Welton, Jonathan (2013-11-01). Raptureless: An Optimistic Guide to the End of the World - Revised Edition Including The Art of Revelation (Kindle Locations 2327-2358). BookBaby. Kindle Edition.)
4. The Falling Away was FROM Grace, not into a Modern Grace Movement.
Paul made a point to tell the them not to go back under the law because as the inspired writer of most of the NT he said to do so was to "fall away" from grace: Galatians 5:4, "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have FALLEN FROM GRACE."
Pay attention to my commentary of Hebrews 10:
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth (of the gospel), there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, (the sin that he is speaking of in Hebrews is abandoning the faith and going back into the Law where there is no longer a valid sacrifice for sin)
27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (See Will the World Be Destroyed by Fire)
28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (if they abandon, fall away from grace, there was only Moses Law covenant for them and now all they can look forward to is the fulfillment of the judgments of the Law coming in AD 70)
30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (these are quotes from Deut. 32 THE LAW describing the end of Israel as a covenant people)
5. The Last Days, according to Paul was the end of the Old Covenant Age ending in the destruction of Jerusalem.
If I put every single verse about the "end times" or "end of the age" here, you would see that they all are speaking about their time period, not ours. It was the language set out in Genesis to describe the end of Israel possessing the kingdom covenantally (while at the same time believing Jews and Gentiles were bonded into one body of Christ) and shifting to Jesus having the scepter. It was an end because the Old Covenant was formally and officially ending when the temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, etc, were going to be destroyed.
Genesis 49:1,10, "And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the LAST DAYS:...The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh (Jesus) comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people."
Matthew 21:43, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people bearing the fruits of it"
1 Corinthians 10: 11, "Now ALL these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom (the apostate Jews-them) the ends of the ages HAVE COME."
The old covenant age had come to a close, according to the writer of Hebrews (8:13) it was obsolete but "fading away" ending in the destruction of the city, temple and all associated with it.
Forgive me if I have been too straight-forward. Freedom of speech belongs to everyone, not just those who yell the loudest on television or Facebook. Maybe what is coming to an end is not the world, but the American Religious system as we have known it. There are good people caught in the trap of fear and only a willingness on their part to hear the Holy Spirit will empower them to break into the truth. Are you willing?
Sid Roth is a blessing to the kingdom in many ways. But eschatology isn't one of them. I sincerely love him and pray for his very best.
There is no great falling away in our future. Are there ebbs and flows? Yes I think so. But sometimes what we think is a great falling away is nothing more than an awakening to the truth and people are PULLING away from bad doctrine. The ones teaching the bad doctrine think they are the only true defenders of the faith and they think the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. No, it's just their religious world falling apart. THIS HAPPENS IN EVERY "MOVE OF GOD". The truth is the grace movement, with all its flaws and varieties of opinions, is, in my opinion a work of God... but I'll save that for another post.
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