In Revelation 13 we read about the BEAST with the number of 666. This is only one of a number of references in the Bible to a great APOSTASY (abandoning of the faith) that would develop. This "falling away" from the true faith actually started in the first century and it has continued into our own day. Many prophecies are written to warn us that this corruption of Bible truth would be very prominent in the last days, just before its final destruction at the return of Christ.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
"And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." (Matthew 24:11-12)
"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; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." (2 Thess. 2:3-4)
"Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8)
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come....Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."( 2 Timothy 3: 1-5)
These prophecies of APOSTASY are of obvious concern to all of us. We owe it to ourselves to identify the errors and source of false religion so that we can escape from the judgments that are coming. (See 2 Thess 2:8-12)
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy to warn him of
the dangers of the coming APOSTASY. "I charge thee
therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who
shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing
and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in
season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with
all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will
come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but
after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves
teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn
away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned
(2 Timothy 4: 1- 4)
Why would people prefer fables to Bible truth? Simply because the promises associated with false religion are more appealing to the flesh. By telling their followers what they want to hear, the false prophets maintain their livelihood. Religion can be a lucrative profitable business. Beware the message of those who are more concerned with donations than truth.
How do we identify the fables? First of all, we must follow the example of the disciples at Berea, who searched the scriptures daily to see if what the preachers were telling them was true. (See Acts 17:10-11)
The other thing that we need to be watching out for is a message that is just "too good to be true." Consider the church funeral for a deceased of questionable character who was now being commended to paradise with words of praise.
Watch out for those promises that no matter how much of a sinner we are, God loves us just the way we are, and He will reward us anyway. Sermons of this sort are far removed from the truth as revealed in the Bible.
The bottom line is that most of these fables are nothing more than a repetition of the serpents lie that "Ye shall not surely die." (See Genesis 2:17, 3:4)
The Bible teaches that God's people fall asleep in Christ when they die. They return to the dust of the ground to wait for the resurrection.
The false teachers, on the other hand, tell us that we never die. We are taken to heaven or sent into a mythical burning hell. (Did you ever attend a funeral where the preacher commended the deceased to this place?)
Sure, it is comforting to hear that a loved one is not really dead and gone. We all would love to think that the reality of death is only a transition to something more wonderful. But, that is not the message of Bible truth.
Where do we stand? Is it with itching ears, listening to the smooth stories about the after life, somewhere beyond the sunset? Or, are we ready to open our Bible again, and read without money and without price, the truth about God's wonderful plan of salvation for man upon this earth.
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." (Not heaven)
The Apostle Paul provided a very clear warning. Before the return of Christ, there would be a "falling away" (from the faith), and the man of sin would be revealed. His remarks are written in the first 12 verses of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 and are well worth our consideration. We have copied verse 3 and 4 below:
"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; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."
Who is this man of sin? Bible students have debated over this issue for centuries, often avoiding the obvious. The apostate church will not accept the indictment of scripture against her. This system of false religion has worked hard to re-direct the focus of the incriminating evidence.
Paul indicated that this "mystery of iniquity "was already starting to work in his day. History reveals that the truth of the gospel was perverted and gradually corrupted during a period of 280 years climaxing in 312 AD when Christianity was adopted as the state religion by pagan Rome.
The original teachings of Christ and the apostles were watered down and mixed with the philosophies of the day. Those who ascended to the temple of God as the spiritual leaders of the church were corrupt. They maintained control at the expense of the lives of the true followers of Christ.
The Holy Roman Empire exalted their religious leader into a god and he ruled over the kings of Europe. The system of religion that was established during the middle ages was centered in Rome. Its characteristics are described as "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." (See Revelation 17 and 18 for a full description of this great corrupt system, WHOSE LEADER IS THE MAN OF SIN.)
Today, all nations have been corrupted by the religion of this corrupt system. The man of sin still leads the "mother church" and many of the other churches are "daughters" who have embraced the false teachings.
The man of sin, and all who support him in worship, will be revealed and destroyed when Christ returns. Let us be sure that we have distanced ourselves from the apostasy and embraced the true religion of the Bible, so that we may be found acceptable in that day.
"And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:1-8)
The widow in this parable continually sought vengeance through the unjust judge. It was her persistence that convinced the judge to help her. She was actually annoying him with her constant pleas.
Jesus related this story for a reason. He wanted his followers to learn a lesson from the widow. If this unjust, worldly man would respond to the plea of the widow, then surely a merciful God would answer the earnest prayers of His people.
We are therefore encouraged to "cry day and night unto him" to be avenged of our adversary, which is the sin that dwells within us. We face a daily struggle against the desires of the flesh, and we pray for the return of our Master, who will change the bodies of the faithful after their judgment. "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 7:24-25)
When we consider the lesson in this parable, it is apparent that Jesus questioned if any of his servants would have persistence like the widow. Would they cry day and night? Would they have that kind of faith when he comes?