The End-Time State of the Church
Part 1 - The Teachings of Paul
COPYRIGHT ©2000 (updated 2006) - James M. Frye
All scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Bible. Any deviations are not intentional. All underlines, bold and words within brackets are the author's.
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The Bible tells us many things about the End-Time state of "the church". In this series we will be looking at many of those things. Throughout these articles, we will be using the term "the church" to speak of that which calls itself Christianity, whether it truly is or not.
Many people look around them at "the church" today and everything seems rosy. There are church buildings on every corner. Even many small towns, which may boast only one traffic light, contain two or more churches. All is well in Beulah Land, or is it?
The problem lies with the fact that most "Christians" get their view of things, not from the Bible, but from the world around them. This is a tragic mistake. Scripture tells us:
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
We as Christians are not to be conformed to the world in our thinking. That is, we are not to think like the world thinks. We are instead to have our mind renewed by scripture. We need to view "the Church" and its condition through the lens of scripture. That is what we will seek to do in this article.
The Falling Away
2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 Thessalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Before Jesus Christ returns and gathers believers unto himself (the rapture), there will be a "falling away". "Falling away" here translates the Greek word for apostasy (apostasia). Before Christ returns there will be a great apostasy. That is - a falling away from the true faith. Comparing scripture with scripture, we find that the Bible has more to say about this.
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Notice that it doesn't say that people will fall away from "faith" (say they are no longer Christians). It says that people will fall away from "the faith". "The faith" refers to the beliefs that we are to hold as Christians. We see this phrase used elsewhere in scripture.
Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
Again, "the faith" refers not to a person's believing, but to what it is that they believe. So what is "the faith" and how was it delivered unto the saints? It was delivered to us in the New Testament and "the faith" is simply the truth that the New Testament teaches.
The Bible teaches that prior to Christ's return there would be a time of great apostasy. During this time, although people will still profess to be Christians, many of them will have fallen away from "the faith". They will no longer agree with many of the things that are taught in the New Testament. Why? Because they have been deceived by teachings that are spawned from the pit of hell by seducing spirits. All false doctrine comes from Satan who is a liar and the father of it (John 8:44).
2 Timothy 3:1-4 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, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
When reading the above passage, one almost feels like they are reading the headlines of this morning's newspaper. Just read the list of sins and ask yourself if this is not what society is like today.
lovers of their own selves
disobedient to parents
without natural affection
despisers of those that are good
lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God
There is perhaps no time in history when all these things were more true of society than they are in the world in which we live today. But the frightening thing is that this passage is not talking about the world. It is speaking of the end-time state of "the church". The passage goes on to say:
2 Timothy 3:5-8 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. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
These people are spoken of as "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof". This isn't talking about a bunch of people who profess to be unbelievers! They have a form of godliness, although it is just a form. That is, it is just in form only. They deny it (what they believe) any real power over their lives. They say they believe, but they do not act on it. The Bible has a lot to say about such people.
Titus 1:15-16 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
This passage describes people who "profess that they know God", but whose works (actions) show that they do not. Although they profess to know God, the passage says that they are actually unbelievers. They are also said to be "reprobate". That is the exact same thing that is used of the people in 2 Timothy. They are said to be "reprobate concerning the faith". Although they profess the faith (profess to be Christians), they are reprobates concerning it.
James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
These people are also said to be "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7). As a matter of fact, they are said to "resist the truth". Although they may go to church, read their Bibles and sit in Bible studies, they never actually come to the knowledge of the truth. We do not have time nor space in this article to do a detailed study of every verse in 2 Timothy chapter 3. But any serious study of the passage will reveal one thing. This passage is talking about people who profess to be believers.
Perilous times were to come, times (just as we saw earlier), in which there would be many people claiming to be Christians who really aren't. All one has to do is to read the long list of sins that we saw in chapter 3 and one thing will be obvious. Many people who claim to be Christians today live this way on a regular basis. This passage warns of a time such as ours.
Heaped Teachers & Itching Ears
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine". Who are "they"? "They" are the people referred to in chapter 3 who profess to be Christians but really aren't. Since chapter 4 is linked to chapter 3 with a "therefore", we know that it is talking about the same people. These people manifest themselves as unbelievers by their unwillingness to accept doctrinal truth. Jesus said to those Jews who claimed to be God's people but rejected the truth of God's word:
John 8:47 He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
The very fact that these people will not endure (put up with) sound doctrine, bears witness to the fact that they are lost. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine". Notice that it doesn't say that they will not endure "doctrine". It is only "sound doctrine" that they have trouble with. They undoubtedly love to go to church and hear Bible teaching, just not "sound" Bible teaching.
Since these people are not interested in Biblical truth - "they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears". These people have itching ears. That is, they want to be told what they want to hear. They like to have their ears tickled. Because of this they will heap to themselves teachers. They will create opportunities for any preacher who is willing to compromise the truth of God's word and just tell them what they want to hear.
There are many such preachers today. They are heaped teachers. You could just throw them all in a great big pile. They are all the same. Most every message they give is soft and syrupy. They very rarely, if ever, follow the admonition given in this passage - "Preach the word ... reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." The reproofs are rare and the rebukes are even rarer. They usually have huge congregations. Since there are so many people who want to have their ears tickled, they will flock to these sort of churches.
If a person were to point out some of these churches today by name, many professing Christians would have a fit. Why? Could it be that it is because they are the ones with itching ears? What do you think about these things? Are you able to view the churches in the world around you through the lens of scripture? Or are you conformed to the world in your thinking? Remember the passage we started with.
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…
These heaped teachers are a dime a dozen, and they are standing in the pulpits of many of today's churches. So when you drive down the street and see a church building on every corner, do you realize that many of these churches are the kind of churches spoken against in this passage? If all of the churches are fine, where are the ones spoken of in this passage? Scripture tells us that the end time state of "the church" will be such that the vast majority of professing Christianity is not true Christianity at all. We will be talking more about this as we go along in this series.
Because of these people's "lusts" (desires) they will heap to themselves teachers. They are controlled by their own selfish sinful desires. They want what they want. Go and ask people today how they go about choosing a church. Most of them will tell you that they go to a particular church because they really "enjoy" the pastor's messages. Or they will say they picked the church that they are going to because they have good music. But the Bible tells us that sound doctrine is the important thing in choosing a church.
"They shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." Again it is the truth that these people have a problem with.
In 2 Timothy 3 & 4 these people are said to:
"resist the truth".
"turn away their ears from the truth".
Be "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth".
What a testimony. These people profess to be Christians but do not like the truth of God's word. They may profess to like God's word, but show them what the Bible truly says and they will hate you for it.
Paul the apostle wrote:
Galatians 4:16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
Paul had spent years teaching the people in the churches of Galatia the truth of God's word. But when they came under the influence of false teachers, they turned against Paul and treated him as an enemy, why?, because he told them the truth. It was the truth they didn't like. What if he would have given them what they wanted to hear? They would have loved him.
Jesus had the same problem with people. He said to those who professed to be God's people in his day:
John 8:45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
John 8:46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?
John 8:40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God …
So far in this series we have seen the following things about the end time state of "the church".
Prior to Christ's return there would be a time of great apostasy.
During this time, although people still profess to be Christians, many of them will have fallen away from "the faith".
"The church" will be filled with people who live no differently than the world around them.
These people will not endure sound doctrine.
These people will have itching ears and desire to hear what they want to hear.
Because of this, the opportunity will arise for "heaped teachers" (false teachers) to build large ministries by telling people what they want to hear.
If this doesn’t describe "the church" (professing Christianity) in our day, I don’t know what does.