PREFACE TO UNDERSTANDING APOSTASY AND DECEPTION
In the “last days” the greatest deception ever perpetrated on mankind will beguile mankind, including Christians. One great nation, headed by the antichrist, will subdue the nations of the earth and dominate the world. People will think him the Savior, the man with the answer to the world’s complex problems, and the great peacemaker in an exceedingly dangerous world cowed by the specter of terrorism and economic collapse. He will do the unthinkable and make a pact with Israel to make peace in the Middle East. One man, who claims to be a Christian and appears to be a wonderful person and great leader, comes to power with the backing of the Church only to later turn on the church and Israel in the worst persecution the world has ever seen. Although seen by Daniel 2,600 years ago, and the Apostle John nearly 2,000 years ago, this could very well happen in our lifetime.
The Bible speaks of a period of deception, and tribulation that is without precedent. What will it mean practically? If the Bible is correct (and I believe it is), it will get to the point where you will not be able to buy or sell anything. You won’t have access to food, clothing, housing, health care, schools – nothing! If you are not a Christian (and by that I mean you don’t have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and haven’t been reborn in your human spirit), you will probably be so caught up in the deception that one day. When you are given a choice that will enable you to continue to buy and sell and live a half way normal life, you will agree to take a mark and worship the antichrist. This will determine your eternal destiny. Most will be deceived! Most will take the path of least resistance. You will be deceived if…
o If you are a Christian that has made himself at home in this world.
o If you don’t grasp your true citizenship, you will become a part of the system without realizing it.
o If you live in the wisdom of this world.
o If you live and act as if you are a citizen of this world rather than a heavenly eternal kingdom.
o If you try to straddle the fence and have the best of both worlds. What you love most will win out in the end: Jesus or the things of the world.
o If you love the approval of this world, and are afraid to go against the tide.
o If you love your life more than God.
o If you love your family and friends more.
o If you don’t love the truth as revealed in God’s Word. As the country singer sings, “you have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”
o If you aren’t clearly standing for what God stands for.
o If you have given in to the “broad way” of thinking without questioning.
If you are a true “Christian” and not part of the apostate (fallen) “Church”, you will be persecuted by your “Christian” friends and family – people you loved and trusted–because of your contrary stand. If you are an overcoming Christian, you will suffer the loss of all things, including the rejection of those closest to you. You will be delivered up and put to death (again, these are not my words, but right out of the Gospels). This is a small price to pay for the privilege of seeing our Lord return and to be able to rule and reign with him throughout all eternity.
Revelation speaks of “witness”, “witnesses” and “testimony”. The root in Greek for all of these words is “martyr”! Revelation 12:11 tells us that “we overcome by the blood of the lamb, the word of our testimony, loving not our lives unto death.” Only those willing to die for their faith will escape the great deception. This is as it has been down through history but even more so in the end of days.
Our assumption in writing this book is that many who read it will be those who want to stand for what God stands for, are aware of the inevitability of deception, because they know the Scripture tells us that this deception is so good that it can deceive even the very elect (by the way, Matthew 24:22 – and the phrase “if it were possible” found in some translations is not in the original Greek text). They want to know how to recognize it. They know prophecy was written for a reason – not just for academic interest. It was written to warn us about what is to come so we will not be deceived.
The purpose of this book is to equip the believer to recognize deception and to expose the extent of deception that is already at work. There is deception in the media, the entertainment world, the news, schools, government and even church. Only those who recognize and obey His still small voice will overcome. Only those with the eyes of the “Spirit of God” will see the true picture. Only those who “have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” will overcome. Only those who are willing to suffer the loss of all things will overcome. Only those who are built up with others in a vital “Body Life” will overcome. This is not the time to stand alone. We need one another.
Don’t depend on others to interpret the Bible for you (not even us.) Let God’s Word speak to you personally. Your only hope for avoiding deception is to know the Lord, know his Word and be closely knit with other saints. The stakes are high. The reward is great, so hang in there!
This book is about recognizing deception and apostasy. If we are those Christians – finally, after 2,000 years, living in the “end of days”, the greatest delusion ever to come upon the earth is coming or may already be here. How do we recognize it? How can we avoid getting caught up in it? Is there a magic bullet, some protection from its beguiling power?
The word “deceive” means “to mislead by falsehood or to delude.” A good deception is so compelling that people ARE conned by it. You may think you are seeing something really good when it is evil. If you think it is going to be easy or obvious, then it isn’t deceiving. Right? So many glibly think God will take care of them when the time comes. But if you haven’t learned to get into God’s presence and get fresh revelation from Him today, I doubt that, in that day, truth will just jump up and slap you in the face and say “Here is how you are being deceived.” Deception works like the frog in the heating pot of water – the frog gets used to the gradually increasing temperature until it is too late.
That being the case, it would make sense that there is some careful manipulation being done in the world to “muddy” our understanding of both the scriptures and world events as they happen. Because the end times prophecies are going to happen in this physical world, Satan will need to deceive Christians in their understanding of Bible prophecy or their application of it to the nations and events on the earth, or both. Therefore, we need to see with increasing clarity if there is political spin, media spin and even “Christian spin” in the information fed us.
Richards J. Heuer Jr. wrote about this common phenomenon in a 1979 article entitled, “Do You Really Need More Information?” He writes:
“Information that is consistent with our existing mindset is perceived and processed easily. However, since our mind strives instinctively for consistency, information that is inconsistent with our existing mental image tends to be overlooked, perceived in a distorted manner, or rationalized to fit existing assumptions and beliefs. Thus, new information tends to be perceived and interpreted in a way that reinforces existing beliefs.”
People don’t want to be confused with the facts. They want to make the facts fit their preconceived notions. That is why it is so difficult to perceive the deception. We were born and raised to believe a certain way and few can think outside the box they were raised with.
So how do we recognize deception? How do you recognize a counterfeit dollar bill? They teach bank tellers that the best way to recognize the counterfeit is to know what a real one looks and feels like. Below is a short checklist of how to avoid deception:
o Have a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ yourself. We are responsible for our own spiritual destiny – not depending upon a relative, a pastor, priest, church or program.
o Satan is the Prince of this world. This is his territory and he is the master deceiver! Expect the media, your leaders and others to lie.
o Don’t be afraid to question information and sources. We answer to and are accountable to God alone – not to any person in between. No one will be with us at the judgment seat of Christ.
o Read the Bible. Study prophecy and expect the Spirit to enlighten you.
o Be open to see what is happening in the institutional church. If we blindly accept what our Christian teachers tell us, we may be led astray.
o Be open in your mind and heart (because it is ultimately a spiritual matter requiring revelation). We need to have an open heart so God can reveal the truth to us from His Word – not the spun teachings of the establishment sold out to the world and the State. We must be careful whenever we are reading or listening to the professionals. This information is so important we shouldn’t assume we know it all. We had better take a fresh look ourselves instead of taking the “experts” word for it.
o It is not a sin to question our Christian leaders. Bereans were praised by the Apostle Paul for holding up what he said to Scripture. If anyone tells us otherwise, we must be very careful. These are not “God’s anointed” with a corner on the truth! We have access to the same Bible and the same Lord!
The Nature of Christian Deception
In the last chapter of the Book of Daniel, it says twice that the words of the prophecy should be “sealed up and concealed until the end of the age.” Christians have been trying their best to determine the meaning of the prophetic books of the Bible but it will only be revealed to the generation with a “need to know.” Christian writers tried to interpret prophecy in terms of their historical, political and social context. It is easy to see how things could get off.
The biggest source of deception, in my opinion, comes from confusion relating to dispensationalism, a doctrine which started in the 19th century. It started as a vision that the church would experience a “secret rapture” prior to the tribulation. Once theologians believed that the church was gone, they came up with a theory that the church age (or dispensation) ended with the rapture and that God’s attention turned back to Israel. Today, fundamental Christianity is so steeped in this tradition that they can’t see beyond it. What started as a little doctrine has grown to be a huge system of doctrine with one error compounding upon another. This is called systematized error.
This is a huge subject for another book but suffice it to say at this point that the question is not so much the timing of the rapture, but the importance of the church and Israel to be present as the “Two Witnesses” of Revelation 11 – the two olive trees and the two lampstands. The failure of Christians to see the Church in every chapter of the book of Revelations has blinded them to the essential role both groups have.
If Christians assume the church will not be here during the Tribulation period, they will miss the signs. In working on an up coming book, we have read and reread the great theologians of the past – Ironsides, Pentecost, Barnhouse and many others to the present such as Ryrie, Walvoord, Steadman, etc. The blindness of these men caused by one false assumption has led to the failure of an entire generation to grasp the significance of the last days to the church and an escapism worthy of the Laodicean Church.
Two errors make prophecy of little importance to Christians. First, the dispensational approach believed that since the church raptures at the beginning of the tribulation, it is not even present during the final seven year period. The second is preterism, currently promoted by the Bible Answer Man (Hank Hannegraff), which says that Revelation was written before 70 AD and all prophecy has been fulfilled. Both extremes tend to negate the importance of prophecy.
When Will the End Come?
Although Christians down through the ages thought their generation might be “the one”, there are two major events that signal the “beginning of the end”. The end cannot come until these two things occur. One relates to the restoration of the nation of Israel and the other relates to the rise of a nation that dominates the earth like none other in history–a young nation that comes out of the Western Christian world and dominates the entire world (the eleventh horn).
The Bible clearly foretells many times in the Old Testament the scattering of the Jews throughout the world and their gathering in at the end of days just before the Messiah’s reign. In 1948 the nation of Israel was restored, with Jerusalem being captured in 1967 during the 6 day war and made the capital in 1981. Luke 21:24 says, “and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” After nearly two millennia of being dispersed throughout the world, this tiny people group made their way back to the land God had given them. Today we see the Jews barely holding on to their little nation of Israel, as the whole world experiences wars and rumors of wars, famine, pestilence, and earthquakes – all of the “signs of the times” foretold in the Bible.
The other major event is one that almost all theologians and Christian leaders seem to have missed. The Bible tells us that there will be a powerful nation in the last days that will dominate economically and militarily. Just as the modern nation of Israel was born, another nation was becoming a world economic, political and military superpower. In the years following WWII, America was emerging as the supreme military superpower in the world. Today it spends more on its military as all the nations of the earth combined. It has been so technically advanced, no one can stand against it. Wherever America has gone, she left troops and military bases (e.g. Germany, Korea, Bosnia, Iraq), and in recent years she has taken on the world in preemptive strikes at will around the world, totally ignoring world opinion and the UN.
It also emerged as the dominant commercial force in the world. In 1972, the entire world went on the dollar standard and U.S. domination of the world economies was complete. It is very interesting that most Christians can’t see America for what it really is but academics clearly understand the complete dominance of America from a military, economic or political point of view. When I presented this material to a group of conservative Jews in Buenos Aires, they had no difficulty in seeing the role America is playing in the world. Outsiders such as the 19th Century Frenchman Alexis de’Toqueville and the Russian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn have always been able to see our strengths and weaknesses better than we can. They have also seen the dominant place of religion – Christian fundamentalism in our history. Based on the above, isn’t it conceivable that this really could be the end? These conditions that were prophesied so long ago have never before existed in history.
Christians are blinded to the possibility that America could be that nation. They see the antichrist coming out of Europe, Russia, Iraq, Israel, etc. – anywhere but America. They fail to understand that God looks at peoples rather than geographic boundaries. We are European in language, culture, law, etc. We are also the most “Christian” nation on earth whereas Europe, Russia, etc. are post-Christian. Because theologians were expecting the church to be gone, they saw the antichrist as likely a Jew – again, so confused because of their predisposition to believe Christians are gone. However, if they are gone, how can they be deceived? Oh well.
A WORD ABOUT THE ANTICHRIST
We greatly underestimate Satan himself if we do not remember that he is known as the “deceiver of the brethren” and the one who can appear as an “Angel of Light.” As such, he will perpetrate his cleverest deception upon the American evangelical church. Can you imagine anything more diabolical than deceiving Christians into actually helping the “beast” come to power? Revelation sees the beast come to power with the woman (the church) riding the beast! Since Satan’s plan is to hit us coming and going, we must be cautious when a leader comes along who seems to have all the answers–one who is moral, decisive, and charismatic and, above all, talks the Christian talk. Watch out when a leader feels called by God to bring peace to the world, solve the sticky problem in the Middle East, and bring Christian values, morals and free market prosperity and democratic self-rule to the whole world. He sees the Church and State in partnership, funding “faith-based” initiatives, in bringing this new wonderful peace to the world. He will be lauded from the pulpits across the land as Christians are caught up in the great patriotic fervor as his armies march against the evil forces of ignorance, intolerance and Islam. The term “antichrist” is a misnomer. People think it means “against Christ” but it really means a “Christ substitute”. Could an obviously evil, new age person from Europe fool an American evangelical Christian? I doubt it. So many believe the antichrist will be from the Middle East or Europe, marginally Christian if at all – probably “new age”, even a Jew but this is not what the Bible tells us.
The Bible indicates that many trusting Christians will take the antichrist at his word and even support him. Today, if a public figure claims to be a “Christian” everyone believes him and takes it at face value. The Bible tells us that antichrist represents the most powerful country in the world – one that dominates it militarily and commercially. That can hardly be Russia, Italy (the Vatican), Iraq, Israel or even the European Union. He makes a defense treaty with Israel and he is so beguiling that even Christians are seduced by his wiles. Only one nation fits the description. Only one country has the crusading Christian zeal and sense of destiny. We hear from Christians around the world and it is interesting to note they don’t find that nation quite as hard to identify as we do.
People do not understand that God deals with peoples – not geographic boundary lines. America is an extension of Europe in language, culture, history and law. We are the apex of Western Civilization. We may well be that conquering “Christian” nation that no one in the world can stand against. We may be the “little horn” of Daniel, having grown out of the ten, ripping the three that colonized us out (the English, French and Spanish) and now dominate the whole World as the only superpower with the will and the way!
So what does this say to American Christians – that their beloved country could be the evil empire of the “last days?” That very well could be, and if that is the case, the deception will be far worse in the heart of that darkness. Apostasy means – “falling away” implying a church that once had the truth and lost it. So is it possible that the American church is epitomized in the description of the Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), a church that thinks it has it all and really doesn’t? How deceiving would it be for the American Christian who thinks America is a force for truth, justice and democracy taking the world for “Christ and the church” by vanquishing the evil “godless” dictatorships of the world? What if things are not as they seem? Recognizing deception and apostasy may be more difficult than you think!
For the full article, please see http://www.the-tribulation-network.com/denemcgriff/Apostasy/