blocks_image
The Apostle Paul wrote that "in the last days perilous times shall come" (II Timothy 3:1). In that same chapter he defined "perilous times". He said that sin would abound in the world and deception would abound in the Apostate Church. But in the midst of this time of great deception, God has promised to "pour out [His] Spirit upon all flesh" (Joel 2:28). This means that The True Church of the last days will see a great harvest of souls, astounding healings and miraculous deliverances of mankind. This, as stated, will be accomplished by the Spirit of God working through the true believers of The True Church.

Are we actually living in the last days? What is the Apostate Church? What is The True Church? How can each of us determine where we stand with God? These questions and others must be answered before we can have a proper understanding of what is in store for us in the future. The inerrant, authoritative Word of God thoroughly answers all of these questions for us. Therefore, let's turn to the Word of God.

THE LAST DAYS

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded..."
(II Timothy 3:1-4)

The Bible defines the "last days" as the period of time just preceding the Second Coming of Christ to earth. The Second Coming of Christ is preceded by the Rapture of the Church and the Great Tribulation (I Thessalonians 4:13-17; Matthew 24:21-25).

The last days will be marked by an increase of sin throughout the world. And this is what we see in our day and age -- sin is literally destroying the fabric of our society. Paul lists the types of sin that will be evident in the last days in his letter to Timothy. He said mankind would be self-lovers, money-lovers, boasters, arrogant, blasphemers of God, disobedient to parents, ungrateful and unholy (Dr. Bernard Rossier). Paul's prophecy is literally being fulfilled before the eyes of the world as we speak.

Aberrant behavior in the world is presently at an all-time high. Homosexuality is rampant. This sin is a perversion of the creation of God and is an abomination in His sight (Romans 1:26-27). Abortion (the murder of unborn babies) does not even tweak the conscience of most people anymore. High crime rates, drug abuse, alcoholism, teen pregnancies and the escalating rate of divorce ought to be warning signals that something is desperately wrong. These things, plus children murdering parents, teachers and other children clearly fulfill Paul's prophecy.

Another sign of the last days is the fulfillment of Bible prophecies which point to the end times. The formation and recognition of Israel as a nation in 1948, the disintegration of communist control in eastern Europe and the age of technological advances are other signs of the end times (Zechariah 10; Daniel 2:36-45; 12:4).

THE APOSTATE CHURCH

"...lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth...so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith."
(II Timothy 3:4-8)

The Church in the last days will be divided into two groups -- the Apostate Church and The True Church. The Apostate Church will be that group that deserts the principles of the Christian faith. In other words, many people in the Church will no longer believe the Word of God as it is written. False doctrines will be accepted in place of the Truth until many fall from grace. Because they have rejected the Truth, those who make up the Apostate Church will no longer follow the leading of the Holy Spirit either. The Apostate Church will take on the traits of the world mentioned in II Timothy 3:1-4 and will also be characterized by that which Paul writes above in verses 4-8.

"Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" characterizes a large segment of the Church today. This condition can be observed by any honest seeker of truth. God no longer reigns supreme in the lives of many church-goers. Things of the world have become paramount to most who call themselves Christian. When worldliness creeps into the Church, the Church begins to turn from the ways of God and into apostasy.

The Apostate Church in the last days will also have "a form of godliness". A form of godliness is an outward appearance of Christianity without the inward experience of relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. A lack of true, Biblical relationship with God is a definite sign of apostasy. The True Church is told to turn away from this apostasy and from those who fall into its trap.

Mere religious pretensions and ceremonies are not true Christianity. For example, just because a person reads the Bible, goes to church, prays, takes communion and participates in a plethora of other church activities, does not mean that he or she is necessarily saved or born again. This is a deceptive trap most will fall into in the last days. True Christianity is accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. As Saviour, Christians believe that Jesus Christ suffered the punishment for sin for them when He was crucified. True faith, therefore, is recognition that we are sinners in need of a Saviour and that when we repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ into our lives, then we are forgiven and cleansed by His blood. Notice, though, that Jesus must become Saviour and Lord! This means that we must come to know Him and follow Him from the time of Salvation and throughout eternity.

When Jesus becomes Saviour and Lord of one's life, that person's purpose from that point on is to live for God, seeking His will in all things and obeying all that God directs them to do. The true Christian hungers and thirsts to be holy and righteous like Jesus (Matthew 5:6). This takes a close walk with God. Then reading the Bible, going to church, praying, fellowshipping with other saints and serving God will have a substantial meaning. In other words, when our relationship with the Lord is right, then our works for the Lord will be right also. Works without a relationship with the Lord is false Christianity.

Without a proper relationship with God, a person will be "ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." Jesus is Truth (John 14:6). Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1-2, 14). To know Him is to know Truth. To have a relationship with Jesus Christ is to experience true Biblical Christianity. Those who know Him will ever be learning more and more of Who Jesus is and what He has done for them by His sacrificial death on the Cross. Those who know Him will have victory over sin and will receive the abundant blessings of God which come through the Cross.

The Apostate Church also denies the power of God. Its members deny the Biblical teaching of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Without the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (which we will cover in the next section), the gifts of the Spirit will not operate in the Church. This means that the lost will not really be saved, the sick will not be healed, the demon possessed will not be liberated and miracles will not occur in the Church. If the Church denies the power of God to meet the needs of believers, then the Church is denying God Himself.

THE TRUE CHURCH

"And He [Jesus] said unto them, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.'"
(Mark 16:15-18)

The remnant of the Church that does not fall into apostasy will consist of those who know and serve the Lord according to the Word of God. If the truth is preached and the signs mentioned by Jesus are occurring in the Church, then the Church is believing God. If the Church is not believing the Truth and experiencing these signs, then the Church is not following God. It is that simple!

The mission of the Church (all true believers) is to preach the Gospel to the whole world. In other words, it is the Lord's desire that every person hear the Gospel message so that they may have an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. This is the calling of the Church. The Church means every single born again believer, not just ministers. Every single Christian may not stand in a pulpit on Sunday, declaring the Word of God, but every Christian can support the propagation of the Gospel in many and various ways. God calls every Christian to a certain function in a church or ministry that promotes the taking of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

Once people hear the message of the Gospel, it is their responsibility to accept the Truth. Those who accept the Gospel will be born again. Christians need not to force the Gospel on others, but only preach it, teach it and minister it as the Holy Spirit leads.

"And these signs shall follow them that believe" clearly describes what should be happening when the Gospel message is preached in Truth and Spirit and is then accepted. True believers will experience these manifestations of God's power in their lives and in their churches.

The first sign involves believers casting out demon spirits. Demon spirits are real. They seek to inhabit (possess) mankind. Jesus gave believers authority over these enemies of mankind. Those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit can simply speak in the name of Jesus and command demons to leave those whom they have inhabited. Demon-possession is a serious problem today in the unchristianized parts of the world, such as Haiti and parts of Africa and South America. But, there are many who are demon-possessed living in "cultured" societies, too.

"They shall speak with new tongues" speaks of the experience that all Christians are commanded to receive after accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord (Acts 1:4). The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is always accompanied by "speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance." (Acts 2:1-4, 10:45). "Tongues" is a language that the Holy Spirit gives the Christian at the moment the believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit. In other words, if the believer does not speak in other tongues, then the believer is not baptized in the Holy Spirit. Tongues is not a learned language, it is a language spoken somewhere on earth and is given to believers to speak as God's Spirit moves them.

Jesus said, "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me...." (Act 1:8). So the purpose of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is to give believers the power to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world. This delegated power of God is used by the believer to oppose the Devil. This is also the power that Paul tells Timothy that the Apostate Church will deny in the last days. The True Church has and uses this power to set the captives of Satan free, to heal the sick, to cast out demons, to lead the lost into the Kingdom of God, etc. We will cover the baptism in the Holy Spirit more in the next issue of "The Good News Newsletter."

"They shall take up serpents" does not mean to literally handle snakes, as some believe. "Take up" comes from the Greek word "airo", which means to "remove, take away, put away, do away with, or kill". Therefore, this speaks of the power that believers possess to remove demon spirits who attempt to hinder the work of God. Since demon spirits cannot inhabit believers (because believers are already inhabited by the Holy Spirit), they will attempt to hinder or even stop the believer from living for God and from witnessing to others. A well-known evangelist who preached a large outdoor meeting in a stadium in Central America gave a good example of this type of demonic activity. Many people in the stands were being used by demons to bark like dogs in an attempt to hinder the preaching of the Gospel. The evangelist rebuked the demon spirits in the name of Jesus. The demons were immediately silenced. The Gospel was preached and thousands gave their lives to Jesus. Hallelujah!

"If they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them" speaks of God's protection of His servants. Jesus said that the world hated Him and that it would hate all those who follow Him (John 15:18-21). He also said that He sends us out as lambs among wolves (Luke 10:1-3). This means that many will attempt to stop or hinder those who preach the Gospel. They will resort to violence, lies or any other means to discredit or silence the voices of God's servants. Believers are to be harmless as lambs while the "wolves" attempt to devour them. In other words, God tells believers not to strike back or harm their enemies. Believers are to love their enemies and trust God for protection.

"They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Isaiah wrote, "by His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). Therefore, healing is in the Atonement. This means that Jesus not only died and was resurrected to "take away the sins of the world", but to also take away the effects of sin. In other words, sin and sickness were addressed at the Cross. If Christians can believe God for their sins to be forgiven, by that same faith they should believe that the Lord will heal their sick bodies. Where the Church does not pray for the sick and see them recover, the Church is not believing the Lord as they should. Christians should experience healings on a regular basis in their churches. When people pray for the sick and believe God, He will heal them. Listen to what James tells the Church:

"Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."
(James 5:14-15)

CONCLUSION

The True Church will overcome the Great Deception in these last days while the Apostate Church, unfortunately, will fall from grace. Each Christian, therefore, must examine their faith to see if it is based on the Word of God.

Is Jesus your Saviour and your Lord? Do you have a relationship with Him? Are you following and obeying the Lord according to the Word of God? Are you a part of His evangelistic efforts to the world? Are you baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking with other tongues? Are you seeing the sinner saved, the sick healed and the demon-possessed set free? These are the questions you must ask yourself to know where you stand with God. If you lack any of these Christian graces, then turn to the Lord Jesus Christ -- He will fill your void and meet your every need.
blocks_image