Apostasy, Part 4 – The all Pervasive Nature of Apostasy in the World

II-The all Pervasive Nature of Apostasy in the World

After considering the problem of doctrinal apostasy as it was encountered in the New Testament church, it is now our task to consider it from a much broader perspective, so that the vastness of the subject can be better appreciated. The purpose now intended in doing this is to view apostasy from God as it relates to man, history and society in general. Apostasy is clearly a theological concept, and not one that is just secular in origin, even though it may be used on occasion by people as nothing more than purely a literary device. We refer once again to Charles Buck who provides a good outline for this subject in his book. “Apostacy may be farther considered as, 1. Original, in which we have all participated, Rom. iii. 23;–2. National, when a kingdom relinquishes the profession of Christianity;–3. Personal, when an individual backslides from God, Heb. x. 38;–4. Final, when men are given up to the judicial hardness of heart, as Judas.” (A Theological Dictionary-Buck, Woodward Edition 1825).

1-Original Apostasy

Roman’s chapter three paints a true picture of man as he truly is in relation to his Creator, being summed up in these words, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). This text speaks of mans total apostasy from God, for no other reason can account for why man is who he is, and why he acts the way he does than the reality of this apostasy. The world in general scoffs at the notion of personal sin against the Creator. It is not common to hear from the average worldling that the presence of evil in the world is proof that God does not exist. Of course, God is not seen for He is Spirit, immaterial and invisible. But man who is both a material and a spiritual creature does see himself and his fellow man. And what does he see but sin and evil, both within and without? The words of Paul in Romans three, which precede verse twenty three, testify to their validity against man (Rom. 3:10-18). And these words culminate in the obvious conclusion made in verse nineteen which cannot be honestly denied by any creature under heaven bearing the image of their Creator.

A brief overview of these verses paints a graphic picture of mans condition. 1. There is not a single righteous person on the face of the earth (verse 10). 2. Because there is none righteous, there is none who even understands what it is (verse 11a). 3. Therefore, because of universal unrighteousness, no one ever seeks God, who alone is righteous (verse 11b). 4. Because of universal unrighteousness, the entire world has departed from God (verse 12a). 5. The totality of mans existence on earth has produced nothing but evil (verse 12b). 6. Therefore, man cannot and does not do any good whatsoever (verse 12c). 7. Like an open tomb, the stench of moral death proceeds from the mouth of man (verse 13a). 8. Unrighteous humanity is characterized by its penchant for lying (verse 13b). 9. The language of unrighteousness is poisonous speech that gives a bite of death (verse 13c). 10. Therefore, people curse with their mouth because their heart is depraved (verse 14). 11. Man does not hesitate to kill his fellow man (verse 15). 12. The history of the earth is characterized by the damage and pain that unrighteous man inflicts against his neighbor (verse 16). 13. There has never been, nor will there ever be peace on earth (verse 17). 14. All of this is due to mans apostasy from his Creator (verse 18).

The apostasy of mankind that Paul outlines in Romans three shows that when people call the existence of God into question because of evil, they actually condemn themselves according to this indictment against them: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Rom. 3:19). Not only does the presence of evil in the world prove the existence of God who is holy, but it proves the unrighteousness of man who is not. The conclusion that should be drawn of this by people if that were possible, is that man has departed from God, he is lost, and as Paul says, has fallen short of a perfect standard (Rom. 3:23).

With all of these things being true of humanity, the proper question that should be asked by modern man, is not what happened to us in reference to evil in the world, but rather, how did it happen? Even the Darwinian evolutionist find’s agreement with Paul that evil does exist in the world. But if we who live here in the world are not the product of a Creator that afterward defected from Him, how then is evil explained? Evil is a principle, a ruling force that exists within man that leads him to commit the atrocities that characterize this fallen world. Evolution is devoid of all principle, or meaning to what exists. The forces of nature are blind according to the Darwinist, therefore, there is no meaning to life, or, reason why anything should or should not exist. The problem the Darwinist faces however, is that evil in the world strikes him and what he lives for in this life, his family, his property, and even his own physical well being.

Scripture teaches that man was made right with God in his original state of nature, but it was not long enduring. Apostasy from God occurred early in man’s existence on earth which explains why things are as they are today. This apostasy came about as the result of one man’s action against God shortly after the beginning of time. The result of this action against God that led away from Him, has affected the entire human race who has not failed to follow him in doing the same. Paul offers this explanation in the same epistle concerning mans apostasy: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). When the first man sinned, sin entered the world. Spiritual, moral and ultimately physical death resulted from this first sin. Also, the sin of the first man was passed onto his progeny through their relation to him. We all as humans are related to this man, therefore we are all partakers in his sin.

Now, there are two distinct ways in which the original apostasy from God has affected mankind. The first way mankind was affected by sin is in what we call guilt by association. Humanity has contracted the guilt of the first sin against God by virtue of our relationship to it in the first man. Actually, the biblical term for this is imputation, the guilt of our first parent is imputed, or, accounted ours as his offspring. Someone might say, that is not fair, how can I be blamed for what another has done? The fact of the matter like it or not, is we are what we hail from. All of us find our identity in our family, and especially, in our father. Anyone who has an honorable father by the worlds standard would not dream of dissociating themselves from him. This only happens when the opposite is true. And so it is with the sin and its associated guilt from our first parent.

The doctrine of imputation is theological in nature. Imputation implies more than just guilt by association. It is actually, a divine judgement. God imputed the guilt of ones mans sin (Adam) to the entire human race. And more important, it was the curse or the punishment that original sin incurred that was imputed to all mankind by imputation. We read from Paul that the curse of “death through sin” has come upon all mankind “because all sinned.” What Paul is saying, is that all men are the partakers of Adams sin through divine imputation. Therefore, Adam’s punishment which is death, has come upon all mankind as well. The sin that brought this separation from God was in direct violation of the law which was given to Adam at the beginning of time when he was created. And the imputation of sin’s curse is not imposed by God on anyone without their knowledge of this law, and without their willing participation in its violation (Rom. 5:13).

This brings us to the second consequence of original sin, or, that defection from God by our first parent. Death being the curse of sin, it is also the corruption of human nature, both morally and physically. People commit evil and die because of sins corruption in their life. The guilt of sin present at every person’s birth leads them to commit their own personal acts of sin that further that original guilt. Therefore, there is a progressive downward spiral of moral corruption in every person’s life that culminates in their inevitable physical demise. People commit evil because they are intrinsically evil to begin with, which is due to sins polluting presence in their lives. People get sick and die because of sins corruption of their human nature. Both of these things, evil and death, coexist together as concomitant principles in the human race, they are inseparably connected to one another.

Man is a depraved being, with every faculty of his humanity affected by the corrupting influence of sin. The history of the world attests to this fact that it is depraved. Take Paul’s opening chapter of Romans for instance, where he outlines the downward spiral that took place among men after sin entered the world (Rom. 1:18-32). When we read this passage of Scripture, aside from being struck by the magnitude of evil that it depicts of mankind which we know to be true, it leads us to think of secular history. As an overall view of history, the book of Romans, chapter one does provide a perfect summary of what man has done since the fall. But a closer look at this passage reveals something else, it reveals what took place immediately after Adams original sin. In other words, the effect of sin in the world led to an immediate moral declension in the human race.

Observe this very inference in the words of Paul: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Verses 20,21). Man, who knew his Creator, nevertheless departed from Him. Paul is informing us of what took place in the ancient world up to the time of the great flood revealed in Genesis. When we read Genesis chapter six, we see that God revealed in it the rationale for what He was about to do in this universal, world wide judgement. The flood was a providential judgement upon the entire earth because of original sin which resulted in the complete apostasy of man from his Creator. Romans, chapter one informs us of what that apostasy consisted of, that accounted for God’s enactment of such a devastating action as this.

The flood, was in essence a divine ablution, or, a cleansing of the earth from the pollution wrought upon it by the presence of sin. But observe this very thing, though mankind was removed from the earth save but eight people, evil was still present in it through them (II Pet. 2:5). And the moral turpitude which is described in Romans chapter one before the flood did indeed become an outline for all secular history that followed it since that time. Certainly, Paul was describing the world as he saw it according to the prevailing culture of Rome. A culture, we might add too, that was not much different from that which our own is fast becoming today, in this post modern, post Christian Era. Let us observe then in Romans chapter one (verses 21-32) what this universal apostasy entails concerning its practical outworking.

After sin entered the world men began to immediately cease glorifying God as God (verse 21). The first manifestation of this fact is evidenced by a universal ungratefulness toward God for all of His goodness in creation (ref. Verse 20). This unthankfulness toward God is an attitude of the heart in which Paul further commented on in the same verse (21) as becoming futile, foolish, and darkened. The thoughts of men are vain because they do not glorify God, they are not His thoughts but their own. The thoughts of men are foolish, irreverent, given over to base interests of the flesh. And without the light of Gods glory permeating the understanding of sinful man, his thoughts reflect the darkness that sin has wrought upon his being, along with the fruit that bears a witness to its reality (Rom. 3:10–18). This attitude of ungratefulness toward God is further manifested in the foolish notion man cherishes in his heart that he is wise in himself apart from God (verse 22).

This attitude of the mind which apostate man acquired after the fall took on another dimension as well. Since man was made by God to render acts of worship toward Him, this part of his nature which was now influenced by sin began to express itself in acts of pagan idolatry (verse 23). The innate desire to worship God, combined with unbelief in an invisible God whose nature is pure, unmixed Spirit, led man to worship the creation instead of Him. Man, believing himself to be the same nature as the animal which was created lower, worshiped himself as god by worshiping them. By assigning corruptible nature to Deity, man reduced God in his mind to his own level of being. This idolatry took on many forms of expression throughout mans history including astrology, the formation of statues and obelisks, magic and occult symbols, and the creation of mythical figures that were considered gods as well.

The deification of man after the fall led to something else too, the practice of sexual immorality as a religious expression of self love (verses 24-27). Chief among the many forms of sexually immoral behavior that man practiced in the ancient world was that of homosexuality. Same sex attraction is the ultimate in self interested love, for it is sex with the same as self. Homosexual behavior is the end at which idolatry takes man in his apostasy from God. For the worship of an idol is actually the deification of the creature (verse 25), and self same sexual perversion is the conversion of proper religious desire into fleshly lust (verse 24). And perhaps the most striking part of this particular defection from God referred to as “vile passions” (verse 26) is in its view of human nature. Apostate man considers these passions as naturally occurring phenomena, even though in fact, they are completely unnatural and unfitting to the proper sexual function of human nature (verses 26,27).

The result of all this was in the general reprobation of mankind from God’s favor (verses 28-32). God gave man over to himself and his lusts to pursue this apostasy to the fullest extent, saving but few individuals along the way until His Son, Jesus Christ came into the world to save some “Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Mankind however, apart from Christ is fully given over to apostasy delighting in this catalogue of sins. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (verse 28). The ultimate conclusion to the wholesale defection of man from God has now come in these latter days to the embrace of outright atheism. This is something the ancients would not openly avow in their pursuit of pagan religious practice. But now, the full course of original sin has bloomed in modern times, taking the form of humanism, communism, fascism, and communitarianism,[1] all man centered philosophies which are built upon the foundation of atheism.

2-National Apostasy

We begin this next segment of our study with a certain amount of trepidation. The subject matter at hand is so broad, so all encompassing in scope, that it is hard to know exactly where to begin or exactly what to cover. It is equally just as hard once started, to bring all of the pertinent issues related to it together in a single, yet a concise manner. The reason for this being, that secular and church history are both involved in the same subject, national apostasy. That being the case, a study of either one, will present the idea of national apostasy in one particular light or another. We can add to this the study of biography also, for it presents much information that is relevant to the concept of national apostasy. People are in a very real sense the central feature of a nation. People after all, is what make up a nation, therefore, whichever way they go, so doesn’t the nation with them.

Sacred and secular histories both teach that the world is a place where people strive to build nations. Each nation, since there ever was a nation on earth, has desired to build itself to the sky as it were, just as the city of Babel did long ago. The pride of sinful man says “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Gen. 11:4). But God does not suffer any nation of men to grow in power and prestige, so as to dwarf His kingdom, His nation of people whom He saves. Therefore, we read in the same passage, “So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.” (Verse 8). So we conclude that nations rise up, and God puts them down, but “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And His dominion is from generation to generation.” (Dan. 4:3). The kingdom of God will never be overthrown because it is His, He built it, He prospers it, and He will preserve it.

The nations of the world are not so, for just as we have observed “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:21,22). Now since God has purposed to build His kingdom in the midst of these foolish people in the world, the whole subject of nationhood takes on a different light. This is seen in ancient Israel is it not? When God took the Hebrew people and made of them a holy nation on earth, He set them among the others as a bright and shining example to them of God centered, theocratic statehood (Ex. 19:5,6). But that kingdom at that time, though it served a purpose, awaited something bigger and better in the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-33). This was done in the church of Jesus Christ, the people of the new and better covenant, along with the remnant of the old (I Pet. 2:9,10; Hos. 1:10,11; Heb. 8:7-13).

And so the last two thousand years since the advent of Christ, His death, resurrection, and ascension into glory, have seen the unfolding of this new and wonderful expansion of God’s nation on earth. And so intertwined has been the relationship between the earthly and the spiritual nation that few if any have been able to separate in their minds what the difference is and ought to be between them. In the last two thousand years many nations have come and gone, many of these have been influenced by Christianity to the extent they were considered to be Christian in one way or another. In saying this however, understand that the idea of nationhood should not be either limited to, or expanded by the modern concept of this term. For instance, many of the nations mentioned in the New Testament as having been evangelized in the first century, do not exist today as they did then (Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:6). Yet, the people who made up those nations do still exist, if by nothing else than genetical heritage. And the nations that now exist that were known then by the same name, and also became Christianized, are not now necessarily made up of the same people as then. This is the case with Italy, Greece, Spain and so on.

So let us narrow the focus of this discussion to the more immediate situation we find ourselves in. We speak of course, of America and its present day spiritual situation. In doing that however, it is still necessary to consider it in light of the not so distant past. Not so distant that is, when considering that there has been two thousand years of Christian church history, while America is but two hundred and some odd years old. And since America was once a British colony whose religious history parallels it in many respects, it too must be considered. For there has been without doubt, a national apostasy from God in both these nations for a very long time. Both these nations have risen to the heights of an empire in terms of their power and influence in the world, even though it has been in a different way for each nation. Britains glory days had peaked, then left in stages throughout the twentieth century. America on the other hand, rose in power and influence at the same time that Britain was fading, yet is now and has been for a long time on its way down.

It’s very hard to pinpoint exact times in which nations rise and fall in a political and cultural sense, this is certainly the case for America. Spiritual rise and decline are the same way. But one thing about both of them is that they seem to go together, hand in hand. In other words, when a nation influenced by Christianity is on the ascendency, it appears to be vibrant spiritually. Likewise, when a nation appears to be on its way down, spiritual apostasy is evident in it everywhere. This is true too, of both America and Great Britain, though for varying, yet, somewhat different reasons. And the concept of a spiritual vibrancy is something hard to quantify too. A nation can tally up its economic resources, its military might and so on, but spiritual health is quite different. This has been lost on many however, who seem to want to look at it the same way. They do this by collecting facts and figures concerning the number of churches and the number of people in them.

A good example of this is the late Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) of England. This was a wonderful and godly man who gave himself to the building of Christ’s kingdom in the nineteenth century. Spurgeon is often viewed today as the prince of preachers, who had a tremendous number of physical converts to the Christian faith from his relatively short number of years in the ministry. The Metropolitan Tabernacle which he built in London, and still remains today, had a congregation of more than fifty three-hundred people by the time he died. A biography of Spurgeon written by a man named G. Holden Pike the same year he died, was republished not so many years ago by the Banner of Truth Trust. This book was clearly written to show the impact Spurgeon had on England as a Christian nation. Throughout the book, many numbers and records are put forth in order to quantify the success of Spurgeon’s ministry. And this is done with very little mention of the actual spiritual effect that it had, as is seen by what followed in England afterward.

For with all the seeming outward success Charles Spurgeon had, at the same time there was evidence of a large-scale spiritual decline in the land. Spurgeon himself was well aware of this fact, and did nothing to promote himself in any way consistent with the type of success this man Pike tries to portray in his book. How did Spurgeon view things? He was an outspoken critic of what he called the “downgrade” in the church. This came about by the presence of an ecumenical spirit among many professing Christians that was based solely on an Arminian view of salvation. Churches were joining together to engage in what was considered mission work, the furthering of the kingdom of God in England and throughout the empire. In reality however, there was a wholesale attempt to modify the message of the gospel in order for it to become agreeable to all who participated in this activity. The result was, though Spurgeon himself did enjoy a great deal of outward success from his preaching, he was under no delusion on the spiritual situation that existed in England at the time.

After Charles Spurgeon died at the end of the nineteenth century, the British empire declined precipitously throughout the twentieth century. The rampant spiritual decline he spoke against in his day, continued on into the next century in a complete tandem with it. And so it goes in national apostasy, both happen together. When tallying numbers of so-called converts becomes the driving interest of the broad church, know for certain it is on the way down in terms of spiritual substance. We say this because Scripture nowhere gives such a test as this for spiritual soundness. Instead, the apostle John says to test the spirits, why does he say this? He says this in order for us to see whether they are of God, or not (I John 4:1). And what does it mean to do this? To test a spirit is to search the Scriptures, in order to investigate what is being taught by the popular teachers in society at any given time (Acts 17:11). After Spurgeon was gone, his congregation slowly disappeared.[2] The church building remains today, but it is a memorial to a bygone era, just as so many church buildings end up becoming.

Christian movements seem to come and go with the rise and fall of a nation. Take a walk down the street of any New England town and what is there to see? There are usually large church buildings in almost every square, of every denomination that once boasted a full compliment of attenders. Most likely what will be seen depending on the size of the town, are a Congregational, a Presbyterian, a Baptist, and an Episcopalian church building, dating back to either pre or post colonial days. Today, most of these buildings are occupied by people of varying liberal persuasion. These old buildings were more often than not built to accommodate congregations of several hundred people. But now they struggle to take in enough money from the offerings to pay the utilities. Many of these church organizations are involved in social activities of one sort or another. But very few of these continue to house congregations of orthodox Christian people.

Before going any further it is probably in the interest of this study to consider Charles Buck, the man of whose Dictionary we have obtained our outline on the subject of apostasy. What should come under consideration here is exactly what this man intended by the notion of national apostasy from the Christian faith. Charles Buck (1771–1815) was an Englishman, a Congregational Pastor to be exact. But he wrote his dictionary in large part to aid American Christians in the formation of the newly constituted republic, toward the idea of becoming a Christian nation. This might strike some people as an odd point, for Christians have always insisted that America was founded a Christian nation. Today, as the nation is in rapid decline on every side, there are many who attack this notion with the opposite assertion, namely, that it was never a Christian nation. Both sides seem able to offer proof of their particular assertion often from the same source.

This is an extremely curious thing, for how can one prove a point in ones own favor by using the same evidence as the opposing opinion? In a court of law evidence is successfully sustained either, or, it is successfully refuted. It is impossible however, to prove two contradictory points from the same evidence. The answer to this lies in how the data is interpreted. It also brings us back to the point made earlier about Charles Spurgeon, how he viewed things as opposed to others. It is proposed here that the inability to properly discern the spiritual condition of a nation is its own evidence against it. Charles Buck himself was given to a similar assumption as Mr. Pike that statistics mean something in terms of the relative health of the church, and hence, of the nation it is in. For proof of this assertion we need only direct the reader to the back part of Buck’s dictionary where he supplies his own numbers of Christians in various denominations.[3] The point being, they are given to constitute some real assessment of the actual strength of the church worldwide at the time.

Now since we have already stated the proposition, that the use of such a method as statistics imply absolutely nothing, we don’t want to make any point from Buck’s outline that is contrary to what he meant by it. Concerning the outline itself, it is rather good, which is why we have used it. Concerning this one point however, we call national apostasy, it is admitted there will be two definitions at issue here, Charles Bucks and ours. It might be added too, that Rev. Bucks definition is certainly the more popular one. Since both cannot be true however, we will simply attempt to present the difference as we see it between the two and leave the reader to decide for themselves. Very well, let us proceed now to consider Charles Bucks idea of a Christian nation. Since Rev. Buck was an Englishman that is the place to start.

The English have always viewed the nation and the church as synonymous with each other. At one time this meant the exclusive priority of Church of England. Today, religion is a relatively bygone idea in the British isles, but that was not always the case. Any student of the reformation and especially, the Puritan era knows this. The Anglican church was born when Henry VIII separated England from Roman Catholic control. He did this by pronouncing himself the head of the church of England in the place of the Pope. Since this providence occurred at the same time the continental reformation was in full swing, many English churchmen desired their church be reformed as well. It was conflict over this that gave birth to the entire Puritan movement. After a long and bloody struggle that saw church control handed back and forth between Catholics, Anglicans and Puritans, it was finally settled there would be an official tolerance of all in 1689.

The church of England would remain the state church. All other dissenters were free to practice their idea of Christianity without state interference, but also without state support. Since then, any person born a citizen of England has been considered by default, a Christian simply because of this circumstance. Of course, a person can be associated or not wherever they like, but England itself, under the King is considered by Englishmen to be a Christian nation. That may be disputed today, for there are probably more Muslims in England than actual professing Christians. But officially, by its own definition England is a Christian land. The law states the monarch is to be a baptized communicant of the Anglican church. They are not to marry outside of this. The laws of England at one time, certainly in Charles Bucks day, heavily favored the church.

Before the act of toleration was proclaimed in 1689, what was called the Erastian system prevailed in England, so named after a Swiss theologian, Thomas Erastus (1524-1583). This was a view that the state under the Christian banner, was obligated by God to impose civil enforcement of all Ecclesiastical law. This is why so many people had been burned at the stake, beheaded, or spent time in prison. So it is clear to see that it was the right of civil enforcement which was being fought over. By the nineteenth century when Charles Buck was around, the situation in England had mellowed greatly. The number of people in non conformist churches had grown quite large. All three of the main Puritan churches had thrived and expanded under the condition of toleration. Many of these churches however, started to succumb to liberalizing tendencies introduced by Enlightenment skepticism. Enlightenment philosophy began to permeate all of the denominations, especially, the Anglican church.

It was at this point that a certain divergence of thought began to operate in England. People influenced by Enlightenment liberalism were very much concerned with society. They viewed the state as really an advance upon the concept of the church. In other words, the idea of a Christian nation began to take on the form of social religion, a sort of social piety obtained through human laws. This happened in the face of more than a thousand years of class distinction under monarchical rule, in which there were but two social classes, nobles and peasants. Religion in general among the various denominations began to assume a more human centered focus in its teaching and churchmanship. This is what led to the downgrade as Charles Spurgeon called it. Added to this was the popular reign of Queen Victoria (1819-1901). She was considered the consummate English monarch, representing the Christian nation. Under Queen Victoria, the idea of Christianity became more and more associated with moralism, rather than salvation.

Britain expanded its empire during this time throughout the world, establishing new colonies, and strengthening old ones. Britain became the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the face of the earth in the nineteenth century. There were two significant military successes, one against Napolean at Waterloo (1815) and the other against their rival the Russians at Crimea (1856). This opened the door for British dominance in trade throughout the world. The expansion of the British empire also opened the door for a great deal of Christian missionary activity in those lands they controlled. Thus, giving the impression of Christ’s kingdom prayer being answered (Matt. 6:10). The average person in England associated the success of the empire to favor from God because of their national Christianity, a sort of English exceptionalism. And growth of the British empire in the nineteenth century was also marked by the emergence of various religious reform movements.

One of these movements involved the Anglican church itself. It underwent an overhaul in what was called the Oxford, or, the Tractarian movement. The leading figure in this movement was Cardinal John Newman (1801-1890). Newman started out as an Evangelical Priest, but eventually became a Roman Catholic in his view of salvation. The Tractarians as they were called tried to steer the church back to Rome by publishing tracts espousing their doctrinal views. There were good men in the church at the time too, who opposed this such as Bishop J.C. Role (1816-1900). His books, written in this context reflect a commitment to Christian orthodoxy that is considered evangelical. Another reform movement began at the same time called the Plymouth Brethren. Its chief founder JN Darby (1800-1882) was formerly an Anglican curate, yet he was to some extent orthodox in his view of salvation, unlike Newman. The Darbyites however, went on to develop a number of fantastic doctrines[4] outside of any previously known teaching. This is known today as Dispensationalism. The Brethren, as they were often called, were completely separatist and did not want to associate at all with broad English Christianity.

So this was the national and religious climate of the day in which Charles Buck lived and wrote his article on apostasy. He being an evangelical Congregationalist Pastor, was also an Englishman whose idea of Christian nationhood was based on these particulars. England was certainly evolving during this time. One direction was toward Enlightenment liberalism as was already mentioned. The other direction was toward Anglo-Catholicism in the Tractarian movement. Still another direction was the more Arminian, Evangelical stance taken by those who opposed both, and desired the expansion of national Christianity through worldwide, ecumenical missionary activity. Charles Buck published his dictionary at a time (1802) when the American republic was new and still very undefined as a nation. His purpose was to bring together a dictionary of theological articles on the broad church that would assist Christians in America in defining it as a Christian nation.

So what was the American republic supposed to be, Christian or secular? This question has to be answered two ways, before and after its founding. From the moment the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Massachusetts, until the Treaty of Paris in 1783, America was an English colony. There are a couple of things which need to be said about this. First, there were two different types of government under which the American colony existed during this time. One was that of monarchy, the other for a brief time was that of a commonwealth.[5] Second, there were two different Ecclesiastical conditions the American colony existed under as well. Both were state church situations, Congregational and Anglican. From 1620 to 1685 the colony was governed under home rule with Congregationalism the defacto state church. From 1686 until the Treaty of Paris it was ruled under an appointed British Governor. The Anglican church then became the official state church in America. All other non Anglican churches in the colony were deemed non conformist, and became politically marginalized during this time.

Much is made about the founding of the American colony under the Puritan Pilgrims. They were given a charter to settle the land for the king in exchange for their freedom to practice their faith and even to govern themselves at the local level according to the Mayflower Compact. What better way is there for a king to establish a colony out of some dangerous wilderness thousands of miles away? The charter was given them through a trading company who provided their passage from England to the colony. Once the settlement was prosperous and well established however, England began to take more of an interest in it, especially since it had come under attack by the native Indians in King Philip’s war. Wanting to assert greater control of it, William and Mary created a new charter in 1692. This is how the colonists lost their independence, and gained the Anglican church. What the king giveth, he taketh away. So any appeal made today to the Mayflower Compact as proof of America starting as an independent Christian nation is frivolous, for it legally ended when the charter did. And of course, it is easy to see that the colonists would never see it that way afterward.

In fact, this mind set and the political circumstances which preceded it are probably the best reason to explain the revolt that took place between the colonists and England. Many people like to pinpoint exact grievances as the starting point of this affair, and to some extent there is validity to it. But the main reason is simply the fact that from the beginning of the colony, it was viewed by the colonists as an autonomous settlement, albeit under the king, of Puritan Christians who were self governing. One tremendous change did occur however, from the original religious mind set of the people in America over this period of time. By the time of the revolution, Enlightenment skepticism had become the dominant force in the religious climate of America. This was true in spite of the Great Awakening revivals (1731-1755) that temporarily reignited Evangelicalism. Enlightenment thinkers were essentially Thomists, or actually Aristotelean from a philosophical perspective, unlike the Puritans which preceded them.

The difference between this and the Puritan way of thinking can be summed up in one word, revelation. Puritan epistemology was based on Scripture as the only true axiom of the Christian faith. Thomistic epistemology is based on knowledge obtained by sensory perception. This comes through the application of reason from empirical evidence seen in nature, so that a person forms their faith from natural, rather than Divine revelation. Enlightenment religion is better known as Deism. It is a naturalistic view of God that denies supernatural revelation, substituting it for science. By the time of the founding of the republic, all of the denominations were thoroughly infected with Deistic thinking by its members to one degree or another. Virtually all of the prominent founders of the new republic were Deists or Unitarians. These men were all connected to Christian churches. All of them had been brought up in the confessional and sacramental training of their individual church associations. But none of them espoused doctrinal views consistent with the Christian faith.

This historical reality presents an obvious problem for Christian urban myth that states the case otherwise. The reason for this being, the church today has become so shallow, so doctrinally ignorant of the Bible, that almost any written expression of religious devotion from the past is accepted as evidence of evangelical faith. That being said, it was also true that the founders of this country were not in opposition to the notion of religious freedom including Christianity. On the contrary, they felt it a healthy thing for the republic to have a visible expression of orthodox Christianity within it. They did this out of a respect for the moral and ethical teaching of Scripture. These men were brought up in a quasi Christian culture, so they valued it as a positive force in the newly formed republic. What they did not want to see however, was any sort of state church situation such as existed in England and the colony before a true political independency had been realized.

So the founders wrote all the things they did from this personal perspective. This is why so many founding documents have expressions of religious recognition of a Creator. They spoke about providence, which is a very Christian concept, for it was the destiny they envisioned of a religiously tolerant, humane and free society. The founders envisioned a democratically elected, secular government that was concerned with the welfare of all citizens. But nowhere, is there the slightest evidence they envisioned America as an officially Christian nation, at least not in the current evangelical sense of the term. In order to prove this point, someone only needs read an early treaty made with the Muslim government of Libya, called the treaty of Tripoli (1797). Desiring free trade with Moslems, and not wanting to offend their religious sensibilities, the US Senate specifically wrote a clause[6] in the treaty asserting that America was not a Christian nation. It was signed by the Unitarian President, John Adams.

But this is only of half the story. The early American republic experienced a tremendous wave of religious furor following the cessation of hostilities between them and England. This is popularly called by Evangelicals today as the second Great Awakening (1790–1840). This too, is Christian urban myth. This period of time was certainly revivalistic, but it was anything but orthodox. The inroads that Deism, Unitarianism, and Arminianism had made in the church were so profound, that there was little, if any sound, biblical confessional Christianity that resulted from it. It is true there was an explosion of religious activity which took place in the new republic. This continued until the civil war (1861-1865). It resumed to a lessor extent afterward, and by that time it had become very much a sort of religio-political movement.

What is important for our thought on national Christianity is this, there was an effort by church organizations in the early American Republic, to alter the separation established by the founders between the state and the church.[7] One very popular Christian myth about this is that our first president, George Washington was a Christian. Of course, Washington appears to be a virtuous leader, someone of great importance to the beginning of our republic. For this reason, ministers across the land years after his death wanted to obtain evidence of his personal commitment to the Christian faith. The Pastor of George Washington’s church, Rev. James Abercrombie wrote in response to letters of this sort, making enquiry of his faith. The reply was that he would faithfully attend the main worship service, but would absent himself from the communion service afterward. When Abercrombie preached a sermon on hypocrisy directed at Washington, he stopped attending church altogether on communion Sunday. He did this out of a desire to be honest in public, the very thing we admire in him as our first president. A personal friend of his, Rev. Ashbel Green stated Washington was a Deist.[8]

The nineteenth century in America paralleled England in this respect. It was a time of national increase, wealth and influence in the world. But it was in a much different way than England for several obvious reasons. America is not a monarchy, nor does it have a state church. But America did become a culture in the first one hundred years of its political existence that was very closely tied to the Christian church. Almost everyone in America during the nineteenth century professed faith in Jesus Christ. In fact it was not only popular to do so, but it was expected as a prerequisite to standing in the community. No one would do business with an avowed non-Christian business owner. Every politician who wanted to be elected had to be a member in good standing in a traditional Christian church. This went on well into the twentieth century too, even though secular humanism developed as a religio-ethical rival to it at the same time.

What developed in America was a sort of state sanctioned, state enforced Christian morality. The first example of this phenomenon was the abolitionist movement that started in the Northern states almost immediately after the founding of the republic. As a result, slavery was outlawed in these states. It is a generally accepted notion today by Christians that slavery is not consistent with Christianity (I Tim. 1:10). The fact that it was a thriving institution, one practiced and endorsed by America’s founders should prove they were not Christian thinking men at all. Abolitionist sentiment culminated in a bloody civil war between the states being fought over the principles involved in it. The most interesting thing about the whole sordid mess, was that those who agitated for abolition were primarily liberals and Unitarians from the northern states. This was in opposition to the staunch Presbyterian Calvinists from the South that defended the institution as a matter of states rights versus federal intervention in their affairs.

The second big example of state enforced morality was in the temperance movement. No one can deny that drunkenness is condemned as sin in the Bible. But it does not condemn the moderate use of alcohol either. Jesus did not turn water into grape juice as many legalists in the church today like to say (John 2:1-10). There are many so-called Christians who say such things, who are also unlike Jesus’ disciples, because they do not believe in Him as they did (verse 11). Temperance started as a push to limit the use of alcohol, but it resulted in the complete prohibition of it through the addition of the eighteenth amendment to the constitution. So even though America was not supposed to be theocratic in the former sense of the term, in the eyes of most Americans it was supposed to be a Christian society. This is a kind of society whose laws are moral by Christian standards, but enforced by the state. This became the American version of a Christian nation.

Something else began to define America as an up and coming Christian empire after the war between the states. This was America’s adventure of many foreign military interventions beginning with the war with Spain (1898). After this followed two world wars and numerous lesser military adventures, all in the name of promoting America’s brand of culture around the world. Today, there is no hint whatsoever of this culture being the slightest bit Christian. But the moralistic crusader type mentality lives on in the mind of most Americans.This all has its roots in what took place at the beginning of the republic, by way of thinking this nation is Christian. Unlike Britain, America has never acquired colonies, at least not as they did. Nor is America generally referred to as an empire. But America is a place that many Christians and non Christians alike think of it as exceptional, though not for the same reasons. Most Christians however, would like to see a return to nineteenth century society as a means of restoring what they see as the model for a Christian nation.

A-The biblical concept of a Christian nation

So here we turn our attention a different way and ask, what does the Bible have to say, if anything about all this? The Bible after all is the standard, the axiom of Christian faith and practice. Does the idea of Christian statehood arise in the pages of the New Testament? And if so, in what manner does it do so? The idea of Christian statehood is one that has been around almost as long as the New Testament church has. That being the case, it would stand to reason that there must be something in it that supports this notion. There must be a body of clear teaching that we can turn to and find the principles of a Christian nation spelled out in such a way so as to be able to define it, even if in an imperfect sense. The fact of the matter is, we can’t find such a body of teaching that satisfies this requirement. It does not exist in the pages of Holy Writ, but is the fabrication of well meaning, yet misdirected souls.

The first thing to consider is that there has been but one nation on the earth that has ever had the distinction of being an earthly nation under God’s direct rule. This is Israel, of course, who were a special covenant nation under the Old administration of God’s covenant purpose. This was a theocratic nation, unlike any other that has ever existed. It is also a notion that fell under judgement and was destroyed, ending that theocratic arrangement for all time. There are some who believe it will return. We do not wish to take up space here in refuting that, but refute it we must. For the notion that this has been purposed by God in modern times has given rise to all manners of religio-political activity in the world. Activity we assert, that has led the church away from Christ rather than to Him. We will prove this in the course of the present essay. We will also reserve the study of Israel as a nation for another section of our series too. It certainly deserves a consideration in its own right concerning the subject of apostasy.

The first place to turn in the New Testament to search out its teaching on the idea of a Christian nation, is where Jesus tells Pilate “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36). So here it is, Jesus tells the world definitively that there is no such thing as a Christian nation as it has normally been assumed. He has no political district where His law prevails to the extent that it requires enforcement of the type Pilate would understand. That is to say, Jesus has no troops to defend Him or His church in this world from any threat it may encounter. This statement, Jesus speaks from a temporal consideration of Pilate’s question “Are You the King of the Jews?” (Verse 33).

The Jews expected just such a king for just such a kingdom. What they got instead in Jesus disappointed them, this is why they crucified Him, or should we say, put Pilate up to it. It is certainly understandable from an unregenerate point of view, that the Jews interpreted the Old Testament to mean such a thing. And we have the statements of the prophets about this that contributed to their delusion. Early on in Israel’s history it was anticipated that they would fall away from God and be scattered, removed from their land and brought into the captivity of others. But also, God would bring them back into it as well (Deut. 30:3). After this prediction came true, and Israel dwelt in captivity to Babylon, Ezekiel tells them what God says, “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.” (Ez. 36:24). The destruction of Judah ended a long siege against Israel and Judah first, by Assyria, then by Babylon. Jews had been scattered all over the middle east, and here the prophet says they will return to the land, God will reestablish them in it as His covenant people.

In fact, the prophet Jeremiah prophesied of a New Covenant, one that would not fail as the other one had (Jer. 31:31-33). But how are we to take these promises? In exactly the same way the New Testament writers took them. That is how we are to do the same. The writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah and applies its promise not to Israel, but the church (Heb. 8:7-13). Peter quotes Moses from Exodus, calling the Christian church the covenant nation of God, in the same way Moses did there (Ex. 19:5,6; I Pet. 2:9,10). The promises made to Israel in the Old Testament belong to and are fulfilled in the church. But that begs the question, what about the land, and what about a future re gathering of Israel? This is fulfilled in the church too. For the Jews as earthly people were but representative of the spiritual ideal of what a Jew is supposed to be (Rom. 2:28,29). A true regenerate Christian alone fulfills this ideal, not an earthly Jew simply because they bear the outward marks of Abraham or Moses.

It is true the land promise has its fulfillment in Christ, but not till He returns again to recreate heaven and earth anew (Is. 65:17-19). This is what was promised the true worshiper of Zion (Ps. 37:3-11). The Psalmist joins land and earth together as the possession of the regenerate people of God. This will not take place until the end of time. It is also exactly what the Lord meant when He taught His disciples how to pray saying “Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10). The Jews were physically scattered all over the earth. They still are to this day. They rejected Christ as a people, but God loves the whole world, meaning people throughout it. And He loves those Jews too, whom He saves in Christ according to election. This God does by establishing His kingdom through their participation in the church with Gentiles. This is the ingathering that was predicted. The unregenerate, reprobate Jews who hate Jesus, observe Gentiles coming to Him in faith in the land they dwell in. The church then is the covenant nation of God on earth.

This brings us to the next important consideration. When Judah and Jerusalem were destroyed there was a suspension of the earthly theocracy. There was however, no end to the spiritual dominion of God on earth, it was simply changed outwardly, altered by Him to serve His redemptive purpose. This is why God commanded the remnant believers not to fear their captors but submit to them until the Lord sends His Messiah to deliver them (Jer. 38:17,18, 42:11,12). They were to be under His dominion while in the custody of earthly rulers. By giving His people into the earthly custody of a series of earthly rulers and empires, God maintained the kingdom and its promises. They were to act as His surrogates until the time when the promised kingdom would find its ultimate fulfillment (Dan. 2:37-39).

These earthly kings rule on earth at the discretion of the Lord. And His theocratic rule over all creation, including the church is not only maintained, but furthered under these wicked rulers and their empires. This is why the apostle Paul exhorted Roman Christians to submit to the Roman authorities (Rom. 13:1-7). When the Lord came the first time, it was to accomplish redemption. When He comes again, it will be to suspend all earthly rule and bring all things to their conclusion. In the meantime, Christ as the risen Lord and King reigns from heaven where He is seated at Gods right hand (I Cor. 15:24-28). Now since this is the case, there is no need whatsoever for the church to have or engage in any sort of rule that is temporal or earthly in a political sense. Christ builds and establishes His church in every nation of the world. Every attempt ever made by man and evil spirits to overthrow it has been met with utter defeat, for He has said it would (Matt. 16:18).

So we ask the reader at this point, is there no sense then in which a nation might be considered Christian? To this we answer, there is a proper sense in which this might be done. In sticking to the outline we have chosen from The Theological Dictionary, and therefore, the subsection of this chapter entitled National Apostasy, we now proceed to address it in the manner the author intended, namely as an aid to this end. What Charles Buck had in mind of course, in his idea of the concept of national apostasy, was in a particular nation becoming enlightened by the gospel, only to turn away from it in the end. For though there was never another nation on the face of the earth like Israel, to have the distinction of being a covenant nation, it was to the various nations in the world that God sent the gospel. It is in this way that the covenant promise of God is now fulfilled according to what was originally stated in Exodus 19:15,16 to Israel.

We state once again, the apostle Peter applied the same promise given to Israel to the church found in many nations throughout the world saying “you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ” Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” (I Pet. 2:5,6). Scripture tells us that God’s covenant kingdom is diffused throughout the world by the institution of the church. In this way, God brings a witness of Himself to the world in a much broader and more comprehensive fashion than was possible by the former state of Israel. The church is now “the Israel of God,” “Mount Zion,” “the heavenly Jerusalem,” “whose builder and Maker is God” (Gal. 6:16; Heb. 12:22, 11:10).

B-The unbiblical concept of cultural Christianity

At this point we have to stop for a moment and ponder the question, what does the reality of a universal church throughout the world have to do with the concept of a single instance of national apostasy? Certainly, if a covenant nation like Israel were unable to remain faithful to God, how can any nation not under a covenant become “Christian” in the first place, let alone remain that way? It is necessary to understand that we cannot compare the two in any absolute manner, though many have tried. Whatever Reverend Buck meant by the idea of a Christian nation, [9] we reserve the right with the responsibility to apply it so as not to create conflict with Scripture in any way. Therefore, for the purpose of this chapter we define the idea of a nation being Christian as one whose culture is influenced predominantly by Christian teaching. This would include any country with a state church of Christian heritage, or, any nation without one that is nevertheless predominantly Christian by a majority of the public having affiliation to a Christian church.

A Christian nation would be one, whose laws for instance, would be influenced heavily by the concept that there is an immutable moral law that ought to regulate every society in one way or another according to the Christian view of God. A Christian nation would be one whose political verbiage and documents reflect the Christian faith of the people who govern it. A Christian nation would be one that never tolerates the name of Jesus Christ to be publically abused by infidels without due censure from the public. A Christian nation is one where no true Christian would ever fear to practice their faith in public or private. We could add many other examples like this, but this definition is sufficient in consideration of a country which we might apply the word Christian, in reference to national apostasy. National apostasy then would mean that a nation that once identified with Christianity in one fashion or another, at some point turns away from that recognition wholesale.

Very well, let us consider the rise of the Christian nation. The spread of the gospel throughout the world since the days of Pentecost have been nothing less than astounding. The Christian church was planted by the apostles amid the ruins of the ancient pagan world, outlined by Paul in Romans one. Originally made up primarily of Jews, the early church grew in size exponentially to eventually include large numbers of Gentiles throughout the then known world (Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:6). Gradually, not only did the church shift away from its original Jewish roots with the addition of a large number of Gentiles to it, but it also overcame the pagan culture of the Roman empire. After more than two hundred years of repeated persecutions from the Roman authorities, Christianity became recognized by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 312 AD when he converted to it as well. Constantine then declared Christianity to be the official state religion of Rome. The empire disintegrated over the next several hundred years, but the Christian church was established in each nation that arose from its wake.

There is little wonder that historians call the nations that emerged from Rome Christian. This was after all, a fulfillment of our Lord’s command to the church to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15). The fact that nations became “Christian” as a result of this commission from the Lord is consistent with His will that the church is to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” (Matt. 28:19,20). In other words, it is the Lord’s will that entire nations become influenced by the gospel, to the extent that churches be planted in them, and their members are taught the doctrines of Scripture.

All of this happened this way in God’s providence, toward the accomplishment of what Christ commanded His disciples to do in the world. And the blessing of Christ’s presence among His people in the church is powerful everywhere it is established. Jesus told His disciples that the church was to be the salt and light of the earth (Matt. 5:13-16). Salt is a preservative, and light reveals truth. Elsewhere, the apostle Paul gives the analogy between salt and grace, showing the preserving power it exerts wherever the Lord dispenses it (Col. 4:6). We do not infer that grace is something common to all men, only that where God applies saving grace to His people, it will affect an area for its betterment, if only from a temporal perspective. Light is often referred to metaphorically as disinfectant for the eye. The Psalmist declares that God’s truth is a light to direct his steps (Ps. 119:104,105). When the word of God is taught and believed by His people in the church, they command tremendous spiritual authority among those that are near them in the world (I Cor. 14:23-25).

But Jesus also told them if the church failed to be salt and light it would become useless. The church once planted and flourishing, then becoming useless is what we are talking about when it comes to national apostasy. The apostle Paul warned church Elders that days of apostasy would come to the church at some future time (I Tim. 4:1,2). There are some who hold to a doctrine that would apply Pauls prediction to some future circumstance preceding the second coming of our Lord at the end of the age. But two thousand years of church history shows the church to be always in a state of flux concerning its spiritual temperature in any particular place, and at any particular time. The Lord, who died for His people is the one who plants His church. He it is who also preserves it, just as He told Peter more than once (Matt. 16:17,18; Luke 22:31,32). This preservation is accomplished by Christ through the continual mediation of His propitiating sacrifice for it.

Christ also threatened His sinning churches with the removal of His presence if they do not repent. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, makes this perfectly clear in the content of the seven letters sent to the seven churches in Asia Minor, which is now Turkey (Rev. 2,3). By the end of the apostolic era, the Christian church flourished in that part of the world. Yet, we see in the words of Christ to these churches fulfillment already at work of Pauls words to Timothy, showing them to be applicable to all churches at all times. Why did this happen? It happened because of the danger that all Christian churches have of falling away from Christ. These seven churches of Revelation when put together and examined constitute a sampling of all the other churches of that era and region. Five hundred years later, Mohammed began his religion and his quest to propagate it throughout the world. Today, Turkey is solidly in the camp of Islam, with no evidence whatsoever of any true Christian church existing in that land.

Pauls prediction of widespread apostasy also came further on in a far greater way than that showed in those individual churches of Revelation. The particular problems of those churches, had been but a sampling of what was generally found throughout the various New Testament churches in the first century. As the larger church developed, the issues concerning it became much closer to what Paul said would happen in latter days (I Tim. 4:1-3). This too, appears to have a close connection to Rome, through its emperor adopting the Christian faith as its official state religion. There were certain immediate advantages however, to the spread of the gospel that occurred from the Roman state church. Various lands under its control could be evangelized more freely than before. But many more disadvantages came from it too, as history will attest. For with the rise of the first state church, came the first example of widespread apostasy of the Christian religion through the advent of Roman Catholicism. And this widespread apostasy shows us the way in which an entire nation can fall away from Christ, once having been enlightened by Him (Heb. 6:1-8).

There are numerous passages in the New Testament that suggest to us that there will be a widespread, universal apostasy from the Christian faith in the world before the Lord returns. When the disciples asked Jesus about His coming at the end of the age, they did not imagine there was to be a long time between His presence with them then, and the fulfillment of the kingdom (Matt. 24:3-14). Jesus told them the gospel was to be preached throughout the whole world to all nations before that time came (verse 14). The success of this revelation is what we perceive to account for many lands becoming nominally Christian. But Jesus also told the disciples there would be a reversal of the success that would precede His actual coming to power, which is what they were interested in (verses 9,10). Opposition to the preaching of the kingdom will be present during this time Jesus warns them in the ninth verse. But the relative success of their endeavor will result in much imitation on the part of many false Christs (verse 11). These will lead the nations away from God’s kingdom before Christ returns (verse 12).

Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonian church says more to this subject (II Thess. 2:1-12). In it Paul says “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, 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). It seems there will be at that time a particular false prophet who will seek to deceive the whole world and the church along with it. Most people will follow him as the messiah so that the church on the whole will fall away, or, become entirely apostate. This false messiah will exhibit occult signs and wonders to the masses of people so as to deceive and draw them away to himself (verses 9,10). Furthermore, this delusion will be preparation from God for their destruction when Christ returns (verses 11,12). How does this happen? The inference in Pauls language implies that the Christian message will have become corrupted. He tells us this so we will understand how many nations that were once considered Christian will end up following this false prophet away from Christ.

After two thousand years of church history, we see this happening already. Many nations throughout the world that once embraced Christianity on a popular level have now abandoned it and are increasingly becoming secular. The very concept of secular itself is deceptive too. The new kingdom of man views human government as god. And sad to say, a very large portion of those who still claim to be Christians, embrace this notion on one level or the other as well. The way this is implemented is in the notion that Christianity is primarily cultural and political, rather than spiritual. From the social gospel of the nineteenth century, to the moral majority movement of the twentieth, Christians have become increasingly interested in public morality rather than doctrinal integrity. And now, in the twenty-first century, the same mentality has “emerged” in a movement called the emerging church. When boiled down, this movement is nothing more than religious globalism of a purely ecumenical nature.

We do not want to fall into a trap at this point that many others have over the course of history. The fulfillment of those things in the New Testament that point to the end of the age, and the Lords return, is all revealed in general and vague terms. Of course, we take a literal view of Scripture, but one that takes this fact into account. Before the reformation it would appear the world was in utter spiritual darkness under Roman Catholicism. The world once having been enlightened by the gospel in the first few centuries, then became functionally apostate. Five hundred years after the reformation the world appears to be in utter spiritual darkness again. Who knows, maybe the Lord will once again reform and revive the church before He comes. Also, in spite of it all, the Lord continues to call His elect and build His church. There will be a remnant of true believers’ here on earth when He returns, of whatever size He has determined.

There is one very telling passage in the second epistle of Peter about this (II Pet. 3:3-13). This passage is often used in an erroneous manner to suggest the Lord desires every person to come to faith, if only they will respond to His overtures in the gospel. May we suggest the passage says nothing of the kind. These verses taken in context show them to be in reference to the end of the age before the Lord returns (verse 10). Peter is concerned to put scoffers and rejecters of the gospel into their proper light before those who have truly believed (verses 3,4). Peter draws an analogy between this time and that of Noah’s, that people will like then ignore the message of repentance (verses 5,6). Peter wants his readers to understand that if the Lord tarries, and the world seems to go on without end, it is only temporary (verse 8). Peter presents the central feature of the point in reference to “us” believers (verse 9). The Lord will not return until each and every one of His elect are effectually called into the kingdom.

And so we conclude with this. The Lord is not concerned to save every person, nor every nation in the world. The kingdom of God is not determined by the nations becoming culturally amenable to moral Christian principles. Instead, the Lord gives suggestion in His word that the world will not believe His report of the good news through the preaching of the gospel (John 12:37,38); that there will not be widespread faith found on earth (Luke 18:8). And, that all Christians should therefore, be warned about pursuing cultural Christianity, rather than the teaching and practice of Gods word in His church. Know therefore, that when the Lord returns “The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God.” (Ps. 9:17).

3-Personal Apostasy

We now turn our attention to the third form of apostasy listed by Charles Buck in his Dictionary of Theology on the subject at hand. In the outline provided in this article entry we see this stated as Personal, when an individual backslides from God. Now, right away it is clear, what he means by this statement from the Scripture text that follows it, “Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” (Heb. 10:38). He is talking here of course, of those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. And to be more specific, Rev. Buck is speaking of those who have made a credible profession of their faith in the church according to its ordinances and discipline, only to fall, or, backslide away from it. It appears as well to be a suitable follow-up to the previous point on national apostasy. For as we have previously stated, that nations are made up of individuals, and a Christian nation, if there is such a concept, is made up of individuals who profess Christianity.

Jesus Himself seems to have had a concern about this, as seen in His frequent discourses to the disciples that touched upon it (Luke 9:57-62). When a certain believer said to Jesus “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” (Verse 57), “Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Verse 58). By this Jesus meant that living a life of faith in Him was not something easy, but full of challenge. When Jesus told another to “Follow Me” (verse 59), this request was made, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” (Verse 60). Apparently, this one had other things to do that acted as a diversion to an undivided faith commitment. And lastly, when another disciple showed a certain willingness to do what, the previous one did not, still there was some worldly thing which engaged his attention (verse 61). “But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Verse 62). Clearly, Jesus taught that faith in Him is something that requires perseverance.

A-The backsliding Christian

The various doctrinal issues that surround the Hebrew’s text above (10:38) are so deep that we cannot possibly treat them all here. But there is one obvious thing in it that must be considered, for it introduces something which is of deep concern by the Lord for His people. And if this is the case, then it should be of concern for them as well. This subject draws justification and sanctification together as they relate to faith. And because of the complexity of these doctrines, joined together with the fact and presence of remaining sin in the believer, there has arisen in the church divided opinions about it. For our consideration here we divide the matter into two camps of Christians, those who believe in eternal security and those who don’t. Any discussion of a believer losing his or hers salvation, by any defect found in them should be abandoned at once. Should such an idea as this be imbibed in, the defect proposed by it is actually regarded as a defect in Jesus and the sufficiency of His sacrifice. Away with such an idea as this!

No, this is not what is proposed here by the words Personal Apostasy. First of all, since salvation is the sovereign work of God, given to a definite number of people Jesus has died for, every one of them will persevere unto the end, unto eternal life in glory. Second, as there remains in every believer a principle of depravity, and the life of faith is something that pertains to human experience, the possibility of backsliding in the Christian life is very real. But just as the Father has decreed those who would inherit eternal, He has also decreed every event that pertains to their life on earth. This includes events such as backsliding. We see this in Scripture too, by the words of Jesus to Peter of his apostasy. “Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” (Matt. 26:34). Of course, it happened just as He said. But just so we can see the nature of the decree as it unfolds in providence, Scripture reminds us of the earlier statement of Jesus to Peter. “And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31,32).

So not only is our backsliding ordained, but also our recovery. And it is done according to the interposition of Christ’s blood, shed on behalf of the true Christian. For that is what Christ mediated for Peter in His prayer to the Father. Peter’s recovery was effected by means of grace. And what were the means involved? It was by hearing the word of God and repenting. It was the word of Christ spoken to him previously, which were brought back to his memory and made effectual. “Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matt. 26:75). So even though sin is ever present with the Christian, so is the means of grace too. Therefore, we are informed by John in his first epistle, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (I John 2:1,2).

But there is another side to this too, which makes the subject at hand even more important. This involves the fact that a believer is capable of sinning just as heinously as any unbeliever is, though it ought not to be. There are many places in Scripture in which God makes a distinction between the two, but regarding the very same sins. Take for instance the presence of sexual sin in the church (I Cor. 5:1-5). We are told that the sin being committed in Corinth at this time and by this person, was something not even acceptable to the world, namely, “that a man has his father’s wife!” (Verse 1). This is hard to fathom but it was so. But here is the issue, what matters most of all is what happens to the person in question concerning his status in the church. They were told by Paul to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (verse 5a). In other words, he was to be put out of the church, excommunicated from their fellowship and communion with the Lord, but for what purpose? We are told the reason, “that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (Verse 5b).

The true believer will repent and return, while those who are false will not. Now we can see what the writer of Hebrews meant in chapter ten, verse 38. The just, or, those who are justified by faith already live continuously by it, even when they fall. And the writer makes a distinction in this (38), and the following verse (39), between the just and the lost. He does this by saying that those who draw back, in a permanent way, are those whom God has not been pleased to save. These go on to perdition, or hell for their unbelief without recovery, implying they were never saved in the first place. In fact, this distinction with purpose is seen throughout the book of Hebrews. The writer is concerned to stir the faithful to further faithfulness, in the face of tribulation and temptation. He exhorts them to give heed to the word of God lest they “drift away” (Heb. 2:1). He tells them not to harden their hearts as the Israelites did in the wilderness (Heb. 3:8). He warns them to beware of an unbelieving heart that will lead to apostasy (Heb. 3:12). And there are many other verses besides these in Hebrews and the rest of the New Testament that point to the same thing.

B-Backsliding church member

Every instance of personal backsliding addressed in the pages of the New Testament pertains to a relationship that one has with Christ within the church. We have already noted this in the instance of the man in Corinth caught in gross immorality. Paul did not speak in his letter to the man personally, nor did he even speak in it to the Pastor of the church. He spoke directly to the church itself (I Cor. 5:1). This is vitally important to see, because there is nothing envisioned by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament concerning the faith and perseverance of a believer, outside of a church context. Why would we make this point? It is simply this, in the present day and circumstance the church has been discounted as having any relevance to the gospel and the kingdom of God. People boast of being a Christian but of not being religious. What they mean by this is that they have no regard for the church, either in its ordinances or its discipline. To that we can add doctrine too, for Bible doctrine is about Christ and His church.

The reason Paul addresses his letter and its remarks to the church in Corinth is because it comprises individual believers. The sinning man’s name is unimportant to this that is why it is missing from what he says. For that matter, so isn’t the Pastor and all the other members which make up this church. Why is this? It is simply this, when God saves a person by the work of His Son Jesus Christ, that person becomes an individual member of His mystical body (I Cor. 12:12-14). Together, each member placed by God in Christ’s body comprise the whole. And it is not that a person loses their personal identity as a member of this body, but rather they gain the definition of being a Christian. Now, Paul does not speak simply to the mystical body of Christ when he writes his letter to the church. This is because they are physically present together on earth. They have not gone on to be with the Lord in glory yet, therefore, they must be considered a local assembly of believers.

Each individual within a congregation is subject to the discipline of the church. This is the manner in which the contrary principle of sin that resides within each and every believer is to be checked. Those who claim to be Christian, and yet, have no affiliation to a biblical church deceive themselves, and put themselves outside of His body. The apostle John was confronted by gnostics in the Ephesian church who claimed they had no sin in themselves to be concerned about. This was due to a false unbiblical idea of dualism. They said if God saves the spirit but not the body, then the spirit is pure and the body is corrupt. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what someone does in the flesh. It will not be redeemed. To this John wrote the following in the first chapter of his first epistle: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (verse 6); “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (verse 8); “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (verse 10).

The point John makes, if we say we are a Christian, and do not conform to His teaching, we do not have fellowship with Him. Furthermore, we have no right to say we have fellowship with other Christians as well. Those who call themselves Christians, but have no regard for Christ’s definition of what it means within a church context, are liars. It is only for those within a legitimate church communion that this matter of personal piety, or, the lack of it, we call backsliding is concerned. For if Christ has died to save an individual, and has interceded that blood in His high Priestly prayer on their behalf, it is in the church context they will be recovered. This is why Paul writes to the church about this man who was reported to be committing gross, public immorality. He is to be dealt with by the collective church body. This is the manner in which every believer is to persevere in the faith.

Coming back to the tenth chapter of Hebrews we see this very issue at work in the writers argument (Heb. 10:19-25). The writer begins with the believer and ends with the church. In verses 19-22, the focus of it is on the standing of a believer before God, on account of Christ. There exists in every blood-bought believer a certain boldness to enter the presence of God, because of Christ’s sacrifice. But notice the transition of thought in verse 23, a warning is issued concerning the maintenance of this boldness and its assurance. And how is this to be done? It is done by the association, fellowship, and accountability that can only be found within the context of a biblical church situation (verses 24,25). Apparently, these believers were in danger of forsaking it. This is why the writer is concerned to pen these words to them. It is certainly an understandable situation too. The Hebrew believers were the objects of much scorn by the reprobate Jews. Sinful logic might say, can I not be a Christian without making such a public display of it?

For this reason, the close relationship that exists between corporate and personal Christian testimony should be vigorously maintained. Surely the advance of anyone’s piety, depends upon a personal daily commitment to the faith. But this commitment must include and lead to a public identification with an assembly of Christians. Otherwise, there is no validity to whatever claim one might make about his or hers faith or religious perspective. A look at the plethora of powerless churches today in America, should tell us there is a serious lack of understanding and commitment to this teaching. Paul warned Timothy “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (II Tim. 4:3,4). How does such a time as this come about but by the abandonment of interest in the church? And what naturally follows this sort of religious atmosphere is the eventual abandonment altogether of Christianity in a nation.

C-Personal Piety

The notion, an individual is to be elevated above the covenant community of believers in a sort of special lone star status, prevails in the eyes of many today. This is a situation that is utterly ridiculous, and furthermore, utterly unbiblical. But that being said however, the importance of each individual member of the visible body of Christ, striving to maintain their own spiritual life and growth in it is vital. For as it is true that when a church falls away from its duty to reveal “the mystery kept secret since the world began;” “by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations” (Rom. 16:25,26), the nation falls; so it is with the church when an individual falls. Jesus said to His disciples as individuals “You are the salt of the earth;” “You are the light of the world.” (Matt. 5:13,14). As such, the spiritual health of individuals is of vital importance to the church as an institution.

We have this illustrated in the Old Testament in the story of Achan in Joshua chapter seven where we read: “But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel.” (Verse 1). The sin of a single person brought the Lords anger down upon all of Israel. We conclude then, that when a single member of the covenant community of God sins, it adversely affects the whole community in regard to its fellowship with Him. Not that a single sin of a single believer somehow overthrows the covenant, or, permanently impairs it, but that the displeasure of the Lord by it is shared by all. If more people took this passage of Scripture and its implications to heart, how different would the church be!

The same thing is echoed in the New Testament by the apostle Paul in first Corinthians chapter eleven. In teaching about the sacrament of the Lords’ supper, Paul calls on the people of the church at Corinth to examine themselves (verse 28). In other words, Paul is saying to them, they should not come to the table in a backsliden condition, acting as though nothing were wrong between them and God. People in Corinth had done this, so Paul informs them of the personal and corporate danger of it, and its ramifications. “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” (verses 29,30). God will judge not only the believer for doing this, but the entire church. Now, this is not to say that no sinner is allowed at the table. If that were so, no one would be there. What Paul is saying is no one should partake of the supper if they have unconfessed sin against God. This might be some secret sin, or an offense against another (Ps. 19:12, 139:23,24).

So you see, individual piety is of the utmost importance to the prosperity and preservation of the church. Likewise, backsliding, especially if it is extreme and long-term, is the destruction of the church. You can almost hear the frustration in the voice of the writer of the book of Hebrews in chapter five, as he attempts to explain some of the weightier matters of the covenant. At a certain point, this writer feels he is getting no where in his discourse to them and so he stops, and with this digression says: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14). No wonder these people were backsliding in their faith as Christians! Instead of growing in their knowledge of God and His covenant purpose, they were like brand-new Christians; untaught; unskilled; ignorant.

Many a person thinks they can take or leave any portion of the Christian faith and practice that does not suit them. Some think, as these people did, they don’t need to learn doctrine, they don’t need to be proficient in the Bible. The writer of Hebrews however, disabuses them of the notion (verse 13). Good works often become a replacement for spiritual growth in the life of a believer. This is what happened here. Notice what is said in the next chapter that continues the thought introduced here in chapter five. After explaining the nature of apostasy to these people (verses 1-8), the writer goes on to say “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.” (Verse 9). He was sure these folk were not apostates for they had shown themselves to be Christians by their many fruits. But notice what he says in the next verse “your work and labor of love which you have shown” (Verse 10). They were more concerned with outwardly observable works than those of a more spiritual nature, done in secret such as Bible study and prayer.

The bottom line is, one without the other does not produce spiritual growth. And where there is no spiritual growth in a believer the danger of backsliding is always near. Observe what is said in the previous chapter to this effect. They were “unskilled in the word of righteousness,” and therefore, unable “to discern both good and evil” because of it (Heb. 5:13,14). Not only were they unable to discern good and evil, but they were unable to comprehend the important doctrinal teaching being presented to them about the difference between the Old and New Covenant. The administration by Moses of the Old Covenant was necessary in the absence of the fulfillment of its promise in Christ. Once He had come and accomplished redemption, there was no more need for the many outward ordinances of the Mosaic economy. Those Jews that troubled the Hebrew believers about this were mistaken, supposing there to be value in such fleshly ordinances. They were never meant to be that way, but instructors of the New Covenant (Gal. 3:24).

Those who have no discernment of doctrine, due to a long term neglect of Bible study, are easy prey for heretics. This was the problem with those Hebrew believers. For up to this time, the temple still stood and Christians went in and out among Jews. Many Jews had embraced Jesus as the Messiah, but only with the idea He had come to enforce and further the ordinances under the Mosaic law. Threats from Jews against Christians for mingling with Gentiles and not observing the law caused many to fall away from assembling publically, as we have already mentioned. But it also served to confuse the Christians about the nature of the covenant. The writer of Hebrews unpacked this for them in the eighth chapter, showing the Christian faith to be the very same eternal covenant of grace Jeremiah spoke of in his book (Jer. 31:31-33; Heb. 8:1-13). It was the same covenant, but new in the sense of its higher degree of spirituality concerning its administration. Also, the covenant was new in the sense of being expanded greatly to include all those Gentile believers who were coming to embrace Jesus Christ as their own Savior.

Twenty-five years after Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Romans (AD 70), the new Testament reveals the dangers attendant on backsliding among believers in the various churches in Asia Minor (Rev. 2,3). There are two churches in Revelation that are of special interest to us in the matter of personal apostasy, the first at Ephesus, and the last at Laodicea. The Ephesian church was a doctrinally sound church. Apparently, the elders of that church heeded the exhortation given to them from the apostle Paul, concerning false teachers who would come in after he was gone and try to ruin it and the people in it (Acts 20:28-30). Paul gave this church the fullest treatment of the doctrine of the church to be found anywhere in the New Testament, in the book addressed to them. And so we read in Revelation chapter two these words from Jesus “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars” (verse 2).

The problem was however, that though these folk excelled in doctrine, somehow their love for Christ had grown cold (verse 4). Let this be clear to the reader, Bible study and doctrine were not the cause of it, otherwise Jesus would not have commended them for it. No, the problem these saints had was the subtle temptation of pride in their learning. This brings us to another important point about backsliding and its danger to the Christian. True Christian testimony is judged by two criteria in the New Testament, confession and practice. By confession is meant that it is absolutely necessary for anyone that is truly saved to have a minimum amount of orthodoxy in their understanding. Although we shouldn’t exclude people for being immature, as the Hebrew believers obviously were not, we should not allow anyone with less than orthodox views to become members of the church. A good example of this might be a view on the nature of the Trinity that there is one God in three persons. Or, another might be on the incarnation of Christ through the virgin, and the union of His two natures in one person. These are not negotiable doctrines in the church. We could name a few others too.

The need to do this makes it necessary to define what the Christian faith is, from the doctrine of God, to salvation and so on. The church has always used the means of creeds and confessions to do this. When a person comes to faith in Christ, it means they have obtained a knowledge of Him according to Gods word (John 17:3). What it does not mean is they have had an experience, or a feeling, or have done something considered religious such as walking an aisle or even partaking of a sacrament. The devil will try to confuse the minds of believers to think this way but the New Testament says otherwise. Faith is knowledge with proper content. It is doctrine understood and received. And it is also doctrine practiced. If someone says they believe in Christ, all right, what do they practice? That is the question for them and for anyone else to ask. Problems of backsliding always come down to this, the failure to believe aright, and the failure to practice what is believed aright.

The believers at Ephesus had their confession right, the problem for them was they did not practice it aright. Wait a minute, did not Christ commend these folk for their intolerance of false teachers? Absolutely, but the truth is taught in Scripture as law, and the sum of the law is taught by Jesus to be love (Matt. 22:36:40). So to forget to love God and man while holding to a system of doctrine, is to not practice the truth. If we understand this principle, it informs us to the nature of apostasy as the apostle spoke of it to the Thessalonians (II Thess. 2:9,10). The apostasy that will take place in the church before the lawless one is revealed, will be preceded by a general lack of love for the truth, ie, a love for God according to it. Now, Paul also said to Timothy as we have already considered it, in the last days people will not endure sound doctrine (II Tim. 4:3,4). We see this already in our day across the entire western world where Christianity once flourished. But there are those who will imbibe in truth and yet, they do not love it, but rather hold it up as an ornament to their religion.

One clear example of this can be seen in those who apply for ordination to the ministry. They present their tidy statement of faith for scrutiny, but once accepted by the church into a position of authority and responsibility, they behave in a manner that is anything but consistent with their confession. This is why Paul made the chief qualification for the ministry a man’s character (II Tim. 3:2-7). Or, in other words, this is a man who is humble, loving and wise; one who is temperate and clear minded. There is but one brief statement concerning his gift in regard to teaching (verse 2). This presupposes the man has a certain amount of intellectual capacity. It also presupposes the man has had a proper intellectual preparation for such a calling. But without a proper Christian character, or, we might say the man’s practice, no matter how gifted or well-taught he is, he is not fit for anything in the ministry. A Pastor named Diotrophes is the perfect illustration for this (3 John 1:9-11).

Paul wrote about this very thing to the Corinthians, showing the imperative of love as the only acceptable practice in which to adorn Christian knowledge (I Cor. 8:2,3,). In fact, he goes much farther with this point in chapter thirteen. There, Paul gives an outline of the relationship that exists between the truth of love which is practice, and the various aspects of Christian profession and ministry. He concludes the chapter with this statement: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (Verse 13). Faith is knowledge and its reception, hope is confidence in the truth, and love is the principle of practice which binds them. This is the point Paul makes to Timothy, the Pastor of the Ephesian church, about charging them with the maintenance of sound doctrine (I Tim. 1:3,4). Paul states the essence of the principle to Timothy in these words: “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (verse 5). There it is Timothy, doctrine and practice. The Christian life comprises objective and subjective reality, in that order.

The second church of interest in Asia Minor concerning apostasy, is one we have already mentioned, this is the church at Laodicea. The people of this church, unlike those of the other churches, had nothing about them in which Jesus could commend them. These folk were all backsliden to such an extent in their faith that Jesus accused them of being lukewarm (Rev. 3:14). Jesus says something very curious in this verse to the Laodiceans that they were “neither cold nor hot.” The Ephesian Christians were entirely cold hearted, but these were lukewarm. Now why would Jesus say He wished they were in one condition or the other, either, cold or hot? It is simply this, if they were cold as the Ephesians were, they could be revived. And if they were hot but ill advised in their doctrine as Apollos was (Acts 18:24-26), they could be instructed by the word. But as they were neither of these, the Laodiceans were truly backsliden people, perhaps to the point of being unrecoverable.

Now why would we suggest the possibility of their being unrecoverable here? After all, it has already been asserted that God has ordained His grace, and Christ has mediated His blood on behalf of those whom He has also foreordained would fall into trouble (Rom. 8:28,29). Yes, but until there is repentance, there is no recovery. Therefore, Jesus addresses His people in this church by these words “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Verse 19). Only those who repent of sins have the stamp of God upon them. And the word of God preached, just as Jesus does here in this place, is the means of their recovery. Consider for a minute what this condition of lukewarm actually is. To be lukewarm is to be indifferent about spiritual things. While one way a person may depart into apostasy is by doctrinal error, another way is by indifference, or, apathy toward the things of God.

According to a thermometer, lukewarmness is a state of being that precedes coldness. Certainly, that is a specific danger here in what Jesus says to these folk, namely, that they might be on their way down spiritually. But there is something even more than that implied in the choice of words used by our Lord, “I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Verse 16). Vomit is a graphic expression for expelling or getting rid of something putrid. These are hardly words anyone might use toward loved ones, which leads us to believe there was a very mixed situation going on in this place. One could hardly tell the difference between the true and false. Think about this, human bodies are warm, are they not? In fact, you could say they are lukewarm to the touch. Even though a human body is supposed to have a temperature of 97.8, you cannot feel that temperature on the skin. Imagine if the same body was but lukewarm on the inside, how cold it would be on the outside. So the imagery here is that Laodicea was a place full of barely warm people, but it was hard to tell which ones were sincerely Christ’s and those who were not.

We imagine the ordinances of the church were kept up in this church too, along with some semblance of orthodoxy in the teaching. There must have been a certain amount of what could be called the visible trappings of Christian culture found amongst this bunch. The problem with lukewarmness in religion is that it is so deceptive. Sin itself is a deceptive thing and so isn’t the devil as a deceiver of sinful people. If either of these in a single instance, or both of these at the same time can deceive one of Christ’s people sufficiently, they will have become spiritually short-circuited. So a lukewarm Christian is someone who is deceived by sin, the devil and the world into a sort of spiritual complacency. The lukewarm Christian has become slack about sin and whether they are growing at all in grace. Jesus calls on the one He loves to repent that they might be shaken out of this complacency they have fallen into, a sort of cruise control mentality about the Christian life.

Many of God’s people have a defective understanding of sin and its operation in their life. If this is so, it is easy for them to fall into all sorts of trouble. Some are looking for experiences to authenticate their faith. It is no wonder these people are drawn to holiness and Pentecostal type churches. But there are many even in more conservative surroundings who want the same thing though in a different way. This is usually searched after in the form of sentimentalism, the pursuit of warm and fuzzy religious feelings. When Christ’s people fall for such nonsense, they spend their time and energy seeking after personal assurance, not realizing what it actually is. Assurance is not a feeling, it is confidence in the promise of God, which can only be obtained from Gods word. God does not impart experiences through His Spirit in some mystical manner to His people so they will have assurance. It is only as they grasp the significance of the truth that this is realized.

Holiness Pietism such as Pentecostalism and Fundamentalism is Arminian, man centered, decisional salvation. The first one thinks salvation comes and goes with each fall in sin, the other thinks sin itself is irrelevant due to a false concept of eternal security. In fact, sin is always present in the Christian life, but so isn’t justification. The apostle Paul explains this in the seventh chapter of Romans, a passage often disputed by unenlightened Christians as the conversion experience of Paul. But this is absurd, for we have the narrative of this event in the ninth chapter of Acts. It was an instantaneous, crisis conversion that he underwent as he traveled on his way to Damascus. The passage in Romans shows an ongoing struggle against sin that Paul as a believer found after his conversion (Rom. 7:13-25). In the first half of this chapter, Paul presents the theological framework in which salvation is wrought (Rom. 7:1-12). God’s law is good, but as a principle of life to someone who is dead in sin, it is totally ineffective (verses 9-12).

If a person is sound in their understanding of election, the unconditional nature of God’s grace, and the doctrine of imputed righteousness in justification, they will go on to maturity in the Christian life while at the same time persevering against sin. The law then becomes a standard by which obedience to God can be measured, not a rule of life which condemns the lost. Spiritual vitality, such as that which was at issue in Laodicea is defined by growth in grace through knowledge (II Pet. 3:18). And so we conclude this particular point in our essay with this thought, temporary backsliding is a danger which every true Christian must face. But it cannot be a permanent condition where there is true faith. Therefore, it is an imperative that the Christian strives to guard that faith they have been given in a diligent manner, as their duty and obligation to Christ who saved them (Prov. 4:23).

4-Final Apostasy

Coming now to the last portion of our essay dealing with the pervasiveness of apostasy in the world, we encounter the sad and final state of those who fall away without recovery. We are directed by Charles Buck to an appropriate example of this from Scripture, in the person of Judas, the son of perdition (John 17:12). Right away, in this verse taken from Jesus’ high priestly prayer, it is clear there was a disciple who fell away from Him and was never recovered. Jesus calls him whom we know as Judas, the son of perdition. This is an interesting title which Jesus gave to him for it means that Judas was a son of hell. Now someone may have read the story of Jesus’ betrayal in the garden by Judas, and concluded the name son of perdition was given him for this reason. But this verse in which Jesus calls Judas by this title reveals something quite different. Judas was a son of hell for it was determined by God beforehand that he would be. It is certainly true, Judas’ act of sin in betraying Jesus to the Romans, leading to His crucifixion was a heinous act for which he was to be judged worthy of eternal death. Scripture shows that his guilt as a sinner was the ground of his condemnation, but it was not the cause, for there is a difference.

All men are sinners worthy of eternal death, so in that Judas was no different from the other disciples. What was different about him however, was that Jesus had not interceded for him the grace of repentance and forgiveness. As He prayed to the Father Jesus said of the others “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name.” (Verse 12a). Yes, Jesus’ disciples were kept, but from what? They were kept from any continual, permanent backsliding leading to ultimate apostasy. They were sinners, they would fall and do it frequently, but never unto eternal loss. You see, apostasy is a term that really envisions an ultimate and final state of those who are given this term. When the word apostasy is used in a broad and general way, it is used to describe the behavior of those who are backsliding. Since Jesus intercedes for those whom He died they will recover, so that word perdition can never be used toward them in the same manner it is used here in John, to describe Judas. Judas was a son of perdition because he was a reprobate, he was given over to his sin (Rom. 1:24,26,28).

We offer as an example of what we mean by this assertion, that apostasy can be either temporary or final, a word that is used the same way in the New Testament, the word is carnal (I Cor. 3:1-4). Paul calls the believers of Corinth carnal because they were acting that way, as carnal people. Carnal is a term to describe evil, worldly and sinful. Certainly, ungodly, unbelieving people can be called carnal. Paul did not mean they were carnal in the absolute sense he used that word in another place, again to believers (Rom. 8:5-8). Here in Romans Paul makes a contrast between the carnal and the spiritual, one is death the other is life. Obviously, a true believer can never be referred to as spiritually dead. But when Paul calls believers carnal, he means to say their behavior is characteristic of what a spiritually dead person would do. This is not a very flattering way of talking to people professing Christian faith. But this is nevertheless, necessary in the context in which Paul does this. It is also interesting in the Corinthian passage he does this as well. It is for a similar reason as that in the Hebrew’s rebuke, being that of spiritual immaturity (I Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12-14).

There is an unbiblical form of teaching in the modern church today called the carnal Christian doctrine. This teaching supposes that a person might become a Christian through faith, but never manifest any sign of true conversion such as repentance and new obedience. Furthermore, this teaching says that a person is free whether to choose obedience at any time, or not, even to the end of their life. Yet, no one can gainsay this sort of person’s salvation. They base this teaching on these verses in first Corinthians chapter three. A couple of things need to be said about this. First, it is true that justification is by faith alone apart from any work whatsoever. Second, it is true that when a person is saved, they are eternally secure, they cannot lose salvation, even if they fall away for a time. This is what has already been demonstrated above.

Having said all that, this teaching is in gross error for it assumes a couple of false and unbiblical things. First, it is based on the erroneous notion that salvation is a matter of personal choice. It is the decision of a sinner whether they are saved or not. We need not spend much time or space debunking such a ridiculous and blasphemous notion as this is, but simply refer the reader back to the John seventeen passage (verse 12). Jesus thanks God in His prayer that the Father gave Him those whom He kept. Mark this down, God gave to Jesus those whom He saves, excluding none but those who go into perdition. We do not deny that faith is something for a person to exercise at all, only that those who have it, received it from God (Eph. 2:8). And God does not give faith to any but the elect for whom Christ died (Eph. 1:4-8). In fact, the entire seventeenth chapter of John clearly asserts this very thing (verses 2,6,9,11,12,24).

Second, the carnal Christian doctrine is closely connected to a heretical system of teaching known as Dispensationalism, a teaching which supposes that Jesus is not now a reigning king. If this is so, then no one who is saved is also now obligated in any way to own Him as king in their life. Obedience is purely optional so that there are different classes of believers, carnal Christians and the super Christians. According to this teaching, Jesus will not reign as king over the kingdom of God until He returns to preside over a new temple in Jerusalem! Even then, His rule will be frustrated by those who do not submit to Him, so that He must go out and conquer the world for a future reconstituted Jewish kingdom. Since we have already given too much exposure too such a ridiculous teaching as this, we conclude by saying that Scripture reveals that Jesus is a present reigning king (Acts 2:32-36). No amount of personal decision or obedience by anyone establishes or frustrates this fact.

Conversion to Christ as Savior and Lord is the evidence of salvation. Of course, hypocrites are always around who will put on a show of faith and piety in the church. We cannot look into someone’s heart to determine whether it is sincere or not. But the standard Scripture gives us, as we have already stated previously, is confession and practice. Does someone confess faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior? Let them repent of sin and unbelief, joining the church of Jesus Christ, coming under its discipline, its sacraments and fellowship. Peter preached this to the Jews at Jerusalem. Peter first told them they had crucified the Messiah, the Son of God. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Second, he informed them of their duty. “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Verse 38).

Repentance and continued obedience followed from those Jews who believed in Christ (Acts 2:41-47). Proper assurance of salvation involves an acute self-awareness of being a sinner in need of a Savior, followed by obedience to Him as Lord, out of gratitude to Him for salvation. Failure to manifest this to any degree over the course of some persons life suggests something that is completely otherwise. Carnal Christian teaching encourages an apostate in their unbelief. And we use the word unbelief judiciously, for there is another false teaching that says there is two kinds of faith, one saving and the other unsaving. The example given from Scripture for this is from James, in what he says about the faith of demons (James 2:19). These folk err in failing to see that James does not say the demons believe in the gospel, only that they are monotheists. That is not his point at all. Only that a claim to faith, stripped of any proper definition is not true Christian faith at all. Scripture never presents faith in the gospel as anything other than saving (John 1:12,13).

Coming back to Judas, we see in him a person who was found among believers, yet, was not one himself. As the son of perdition, so called by Jesus, we should examine him as a pattern for someone who finally and completely falls away, without remedy. Judas appeared to be a legitimate believer and follower of the Lord, but all apostates start out this way. So as we direct our attention to the gospels and Jesus’ earthly ministry, we find the first instance of apostasy among His close followers in this person Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples. The circumstance surrounding Judas’ apostasy is the most startling and egregious case of this ever recorded for us in Scripture. For this man aided the Jewish and Roman authorities in having Jesus arrested, knowing that He was the Messiah and that He would be put to death. And what makes Judas’ sin so egregious is this, unlike the Pharisees who hated Jesus wanting no part of His kingdom, he pretended to be a follower, a trusted disciple, only to disguise a corrupt ulterior motive. Having done this Judas went to his grave unrepentant and unforgiven (Matt. 27:3-5).

This fourth and final type of apostasy, is then classified as that which appears to be the fruit of false intention leading to betrayal, coupled with a heart of impenitence at its discovery. The main sin that Scripture exposes in Judas is obviously the betrayal of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemene. But there was much more to the story of Judas than just this one sin. Consider this, if the leaders of Israel were so disposed to put Jesus to death then certainly the soldiers would have found Him soon enough with or without help from Judas. So the act of betrayal perpetrated by Judas served to merely exacerbate the sufferings of Jesus, and accentuate the heinousness of sin itself for which He came to die. What are we to make of Judas’ motivation? In the backdrop of events surrounding the ministry of Jesus, along with His ultimate crucifixion, was the political situation in Judah. Judas was ideologically a Zealot, meaning he desired the violent overthrow of the Roman government and the restoration of the earthly kingdom of Israel. Therefore, Judas’ intention regarding this was foundational to any conviction he had of the Messiah.

Judas viewed Jesus’ Messiahship as merely a means to an end. When he discovered that Jesus had no intention of establishing an earthly kingdom he was furious. Spirituality and devotion to God meant nothing to Judas, for he was a man of political expediency. There have been many in the church like Judas who have been of the same mind concerning worldly kingdoms. Such men as these pretend to be men of faith but inwardly all they see of the kingdom of God is its power to control. Freedom, prosperity and self government are the motivations to practice some form of religion that exist in the minds of many such hypocrites like Judas. Such men as this will do anything in their power to manipulate true religion toward this end. This is the most egregious kind of an apostate because they are not content to simply play the hypocrite, they must inflict the maximum damage on the church in the pursuit of their purpose.

The Zealots wanted to reestablish Israel as the dominant political entity in the land of their ancestors. They wanted to reclaim the covenant promises given to them of old as a nation. Their interest in this however, was not about anything to do with the spiritual nature of God’s kingdom. Their interest was in the restoration of a temporal empire, one in which the world would be subject to their domination. Zealotry harbored a deeply held hatred for all Gentiles, but especially for the Roman oppressor. Judas heard Christ speak and saw His miracles; he became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. So Judas became not just a mere follower of Jesus like many others who hoped for political redemption, but actually one of His close disciples. A disciple was one Jesus’ inner circle of devotees. They lived with Jesus day in and day out, going with him everywhere, and listening to His teaching.

So Judas became devoted to Jesus in the hope that He, the long awaited Messiah would spearhead a political revolution that would lead to the removal of the Romans, along with the reestablishment of a united Israel. But as time wore on and Judas listened intently and observed what this Jesus of Nazareth was all about, he became disillusioned. Instead of being the fiery political figure that Judas had hoped for, Jesus was a man of peace, forgiveness, and love, not at all the things that political empires are built on. And above all else, Jesus preached about a spiritual kingdom that was not of this world. And citizenship in that kingdom was through a new, spiritual rebirth (John 3:3-7). In fact, Jesus taught that unless one was “born again” in this new and completely spiritual manner, “he cannot see the kingdom of God; he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

This raises an important question, how many people are there in the church who are like Judas? They may have grown up in a Christian family, or, have come into the church enthusiastically testifying of their faith, but in their heart there dwells a false motive for being there. This type of a person always tries to influence others in the church toward worldliness. They never have any true spiritual devotion at heart because they are not born again. Certainly, a religious reprobate does not care one whit about preciseness of doctrine. Only a shallow, man-centered doctrine appeals to these types who infest the church of God. When these people are discovered by true believers for what they are and what they do, there is always trouble in the church. The political zealot will give people any number of reasons to buy into this or that cause, anything but the true cause of Christ in the gospel. These men have no shame. When exposed by the light of Gods word, they, like Judas have no place for repentance. The church that has no confessional position and does not practice biblical discipline will be full of members like Judas.

The evidence that Judas’ faith was spurious is revealed by the fact that his lusts were in no way mortified. On the contrary, his love of the material world was fed by his access to the disciples money box. On one occasion Judas protested at the use of valuable perfume on Jesus rather than for the poor, and “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:6). Before Judas had betrayed Jesus in the garden, he was already betraying Him through the exercise of his secret sins. If the reader misses everything else written here, please understand this: Secret sins persistently indulged in, by those who claim to have an interest in Christ, will eventually lead to betrayal and eventual apostasy. Those who only seek to follow the Lord outwardly along with His true disciples, but entertain secret lusts, are nothing but hypocrites.

Now here is a fact that should be taken to heart by those who fit this description. Although someone may fool Christ’s disciples with false acts of outward piety, they will not fool the Lord. Judas knew he was uncovered as an apostate when Jesus made this announcement in the midst of the disciples “most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me” (John 13:21). Yet, in spite of this announcement Judas did not repent. The Lord then indicated which one it was who would betray Him to His disciples, something He always does in due time, by saying “it is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it” (John 13:26). Judas did not even repent at this level of exposure before the disciples, indicating that his heart had been thoroughly hardened by his sins. The sin of an apostate is always self justifying so they never see their need for repentance before God and men.

For a time the apostate may be restrained in his behavior. This was true of Judas. But when it was time and Jesus had given him the bread, “Satan entered him” (John 13:27). We must stop for a moment here and issue this warning, if anyone is an apostate such as Judas was, the time will come when Satan will have full reign over their heart to do whatever serves his kingdom. This can never be true of the believer however, for this is what John says elsewhere, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (I John 5:19). Hypocrites do evade detection for a time but will in the end show their true colors.

Unless a hypocrite finds grace from God for repentance, they too will suffer the same fate as Judas, as well as the consequences for their actions. Once Judas had thrown off all pretense, seeking to overthrow any popularity Jesus might have with the people, he betrayed Him to the Roman authorities.

Judas would not suffer the people of Israel to be following a preacher of God’s spiritual kingdom, when there is an earthly kingdom to be lusted after. It is the work of that arch apostate Satan to lead corrupt men in violence toward the furtherance of their earthly utopia. Judas hated the priests of Israel because of their collaboration with the Romans, still he sought to assist them in their conspiracy against Jesus. In order for Judas to conspire against Jesus, he must take up common cause with his own enemies. There is a saying in the middle east that goes like this: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. For a professed believer in Jesus to have such a philosophy as this is the very epitome of evil. But then, Satan was ruling Judas’ heart in his downward slide to perdition. So Judas offered his services of betrayal to the Priests “and they were glad, and agreed to give him money” (Luke 22:5). Judas the thief was rewarded with his money idol for betraying the Lord, to both His and the Lord’s enemies. Judas led the Roman soldiers straight to Jesus so they might arrest Him and take Him away to be crucified.

This last example of apostasy in our outline is of special interest for it seems to suggest that apostasy is something determined by God, even though it is the man that chooses sin and refuses to repent. Of course, the chief example of hardening and reprobation found in Scripture is that of Pharaoh. There has been an age-old debate over who was the first cause in the matter of Pharaoh’s heart being hardened. Since both Pharaoh and God are said in Exodus to be the cause of it speculation has been endlessly made over this (Ex. 8:15,32,10:1,20,27). In one way the answer should not matter when it comes to Judas because Pharaoh never had a part among Gods people like he did. On the other hand though, Judas was chosen by Jesus to be His disciple. This tells us that reprobate religious people are brought into the church by God for a very specific purpose. The ultimate purpose lies in the eternal council of God. But we may surmise at least one thing about it that should be obvious, and it is this, when it is done it tests the faithfulness of His true followers in their resolve to maintain a true church.

But there is perhaps another reason why God brings people like Judas into the church that does relate to the historic figure of Pharaoh as a reprobate. A day will come when a person termed the Antichrist will come into the world and commandeer the visible professing church his way. The very term Antichrist means one who opposes Christ. This person will not just oppose Christ, but he will falsely present himself as the Christ, seeking to usurp His rightful place as the Head of the church (II Thess. 2:3,4)! This will precede the second coming of the Lord who will bring all as of yet unrealized Eschatology to its final conclusion (II Thess. 2:7-10). But how will this person get such a following from those who profess faith in Jesus Christ? It will be from a general apostate church that such a thing as this will happen. Paul says “And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thess. 2:11,12). This reality makes the matter of apostasy one of utmost concern to any true believer.

For when the Lord returns and finds a world and church that have forsaken Him believing the lies of Antichrist, He will do them what He did to Pharaoh, and for the same reason. “For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” (Rom. 9:17). God raised Pharaoh who was a type of the Antichrist, in order to show His power and glory in their destruction. Those who follow the example of Judas in the church will eventually follow Antichrist. And those who follow him will perish with him just as God overthrew Pharaoh and his army. The Lord will also deliver His covenant people from the clutches of Antichrist just as He did the people of Israel when He led them through the Red Sea (Ex. 15:1; Rev. 15:3).

The Antichrist will mark his people out in the world (Rev.13:16). Any discussion of what the number 666 means is really irrelevant to the issue at hand. The point is that the Antichrist will have an identifiable group of people who worship and serve him. These people will be led astray by his false teaching, robbing them of the proper discernment needed to see this Antichrist for what he is. True followers of Christ persevere in the faith which is only defined by an accurate teaching from Scripture. The subject of apostasy is important for this reason that everyone who names the name of Christ should be found to be true to their calling at His second coming, or earlier if that is meant to be. No one knows the day or the hour of His appearance. Many in every generation have looked for it thinking that it was upon them. It would be foolish to speculate as some do in this matter announcing a date and so forth. At the same time, it should be evident to anyone who has true faith that this day hastens upon us, if for no other reason it has been two thousand years since the Lord ascended to heaven.

Judas’ apostasy led to the arrest of Jesus and the subsequent scattering and forsaking of Him by His disciples (Mark 14:50). And it was foretold it would happen because it was preordained that He would be forsaken (Matt. 26:56). We are however, under no illusions when it comes to the purpose of God and the death of Christ on the cross. There was a host of actors involved in this beside Judas. We are informed by the praying people of God when they prayed and said to Him “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27,28). It was the determined purpose of God to use the evil acts of pagans and apostates to accomplish His redemption in Christ. But this fact most certainly does not mitigate the guilt of Judas or any of the others involved. And it most surely should cause everyone that says he follows Christ to examine themselves, as to their motives and actions, that they are not found to be a betrayer of the Son of God in any way.

Let us in conclusion consider this pivotal figure of history once again, and what led up to his grand apostasy. Mark down well, the chain of events that led up to Judas’ apostasy and treachery. Judas had earthly, not spiritual motives in following Christ. Judas had unsanctified secret sins of thievery in his heart in his position as treasurer. Instead of understanding and embracing God’s spiritual kingdom by faith, Judas became disillusioned with it and rejected it, focusing only on political redemption. Judas sought to use the ecclesiastical leaders of Israel against Christ, in bringing slanderous reports of Him to them. Judas knew that they were disposed against Him and would welcome his aid in overthrowing Jesus’ ministry. Judas accepted money for his service against Christ, and no doubt rationalized this as a just reward for his service to the future political state of Israel. And finally, Judas acted as the agent for the Roman government in bringing reports of Christ’s activities and whereabouts to them. Beware if any of these things characterize you.

The last and final issue regarding Judas and his apostasy is seen in his lack of repentance, even in the face of personal remorse over what he had done. Repentance is not remorse, but turning from sin and self to Christ seeking His forgiveness. Every one of His disciples who forsook Him did this and were forgiven and restored. That is, everyone but Judas. Jesus taught that there is only one sin that cannot be forgiven saying, “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.” (Matt. 12:31). This statement causes much consternation among God’s people for it begs the question, what is this blasphemy? It is the sin of going to the grave, denying the power and work of Christ. So the disciples who committed the grievous sin of forsaking the Lord at His hour of death were all forgiven except this one. The true disciples of the Lord repented of their sin and went on to become apostles. Not so with Judas because he was a graceless professor, an apostate of the irrecoverable type.

Notes

[1] Communitarianism is the philosophy du jour among elitists. It is actually a synthesis of Communism and Fascism. Although it is not spoken of openly in the media, Communitarianism has been around for a long time, only being discussed in private by members of the upper class.

[2] The Metropolitan Tabernacle burned down in 1898 and was rebuilt. It was destroyed once again in 1941 by German bombing, and rebuilt after the war. Spurgeon had removed the church from the Baptist Union in 1887 over the theological downgrade, only for it to rejoin in 1955. Now retired Pastor, Peter Marshall removed it once again in 1971 for the same reason as before. The war was responsible for large numbers of people leaving London, but the Tabernacle never regained its previous size. Today, it is but a small congregation.

[3] 7. TABULAR STATEMENT (Bucks Theological Dictionary 1802, Page 864)

The following tabular statement will not be void of interest to the reader, nor entirely out of place in a work of this character. Though but a small proportion of the population of the globe bears the christian name, yet about one half are under christian governments, and, in some measure subjected to wholesome laws. The following table will show the correctness of this remark:–

Population under Christian governments ——————–387,788,000

Population under Mohammedan governments—————— 72,000,000

Population under Heathen governments———————–277,212,000

____________

Total 737,000,000

Those under Christian governments are thus divided:–

Protestant States——————————————193,624,000

Roman Catholic States————————————–134,164,000

Russian, or Greek Church———————————– 60,000,000

_____________

Total 387,788,000

Almost one hundred and fifty millions belong to the British Empire.

[4] Darby and the Brethren believed in a restored Jewish kingdom on earth when Jesus returns, complete with a restored temple and sacrifices. This is based on an ultra literal rendering of Old Testament Scripture concerning Jewish return to the land. A literal interpretation of the Old Testament promises falls into the category of Premillenialism, which has been around since the early church. The idea however, of a regression from Christianity to Judaism was entirely new, and furthermore, is historically heterodox.

[5] Persecution in England under King James led to the Pilgrims voyage to New England in 1620. From 1642-1651 civil war raged in England between Parliamentarians who were Puritans, and Royalists who were loyal to the King. From 1649-1659 England was either a Commonwealth or a Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell. Monarchy returned to England in 1660. It was modified under William and Mary’s co-regency in 1689 to become a constitutional monarchy. The American colony was governed under all of these circumstantial changes.

[6] Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

[7] The so-called establishment clause in the Bill of Rights prohibited the Federal Government from establishing a state church, or from supporting organized religion in any way. The problem plaguing the nation since then, stems from the fact that there was a tacit allowance of religious expression in the halls of Government and their many documents, from the start of the republic. It was also a fact that after taxpayer support for the Anglican church ended, it was shifted toward the Congregational churches. This is what led to the famous letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist church, in which he expressed his own view of the clause. They protested the redistribution of tax money toward the Congregationalists. What resulted from the protest was an end to it.

[8] Rev. Ashbel Green “often said in my hearing, though very sorrowfully, of course, that while Washington was very deferential to religion and its ceremonies, like nearly all the founders of the Republic, he was not a Christian, but a Deist.” (Quote from Rev. Arthur B. Bradford about his associate, Rev. Green, who was Washington’s personal friend. (Washington and Religion by Paul F. Boller, Jr., Southern Methodist University Press, 1963, Page 82).

[9] Ibid. 7. TABULAR STATEMENT (Bucks Theological Dictionary 1802, Page 864)

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