Paul writes to Timothy: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2 Tim. 3:1).
This verse, combined with 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3…giving the sequence of a falling away and the revealing of the son of perdition before the rapture… implies that the fiery challenges of the great tribulation period are in full play and producing noticeably prophetic results on a grand scale…by the time the rapture occurs.
Many people believe and teach that all of the prophecies that are required to take place prior to the rapture were fulfilled with the formation of the nation of Israel in 1948. I am not so sure.
The Bible talks about a great falling away before the coming of the Lord, as quoted above, regardless of whether the “day of the Lord” refers to the rapture or the second coming of Christ.
It talks about scoffers in the last days chiding Christians about the rapture or the second coming not having occurred yet (2 Pet. 3:3-4).
The Bible talks about perilous times, when people’s moral standards and sense of right and wrong will have noticeably deteriorated (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
The Bible talks about believers prophesying, seeing visions and having dreams, to the point that this prophesying is probably recognizable and notable to skeptics and believers alike (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-21).
2 Timothy 4:3-4 talks about a time when people will not endure sound doctrine, but will turn their ears away from the truth.
The gospels tell us not to be afraid when we hear of wars, of nation rising against nation, of great earthquakes, and famines, and pestilences, as if we are still on the earth and not raptured yet (Mt. 24:6; Lk. 21:9).
The Bible tells us that the whole world will be evangelized before the end comes (Mt. 24:14).
These scriptures suggest either an intense preliminary period of distress and spiritual activity containing all of these challenges for the church leading up to the tribulation, or the church still being on the earth for some period of time overlapping into the tribulation.
How might the falling away transpire?
If large numbers of people were attracted to a version of Christianity Light that promised positive-thinking outcomes with no discipleship costs involved, in keeping with our instant coffee, microwave popcorn culture, and they were transported back in time to one of the great persecutions under the Roman emperors in the first or second centuries…then we can easily see where a lot of these people would reconsider their membership in the church.
There was no opportunity for a Great Falling Away during the first three centuries of the Christian church, because there was not the time and population numbers to build up a watered-down, worldly attractive, compromised apostate church in existence that would draw-in millions of nominal adherents.
Life-and-death persecutions under the Roman Empire from time-to- time sifted out nominal believers from the Christian fold, because it truly meant the possibility of death when the authorities would catch and put on trial a professing Christian during these periods of widespread persecution.
In our modern times, people who have joined a church because they are attracted to the positive-thinking, upbeat message of God helping us to obtain better jobs, bigger houses, nicer cars, and better relations with family and friends…through what often amounts to a form of self-realization, will in all probability abandon the Christian church at the first signs of trouble.
People who join a church because it is a friendly club for social networking, family activities, and to make business contacts, will have a difficult time re-evaluating the decision they made for this easy and worldly compromised version of Christianity…when it is compared to the alternate real version of Christianity where believers will have to take a courageous stand for their faith that will cost them their lives (Rev. 12:11).
When the Antichrist changes his tactics from deceptive peace (Dan. 8:25) to deadly persecution, and begins to require people to take the mark of the beast or suffer the consequences…the nominal churchgoers will probably opt for survival (Dan. 3:7).
We can have large, arena-type sanctuaries, with comfortable stadium seating, state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, worldly entertaining “rock and roll” style worship music having over-simplified Christian lyrics that appeal to large numbers of people, and positive-thinking motivational style messages mixed with watered-down Christian doctrines.
But what will it profit if the people who attend these churches do not get challenged and inspired to follow Jesus into an intimate journey of faith?
What will it profit if end-times persecution exposes these types of churches as being shallow and empty in terms of preparing Christians to live lives that would faithfully stand up in the heat of hard times?
What will it profit if people have been mistakenly taught that they could successfully have one foot in the world and one foot in Christ, without any future adverse consequences or reckoning?
What will it profit if the external environment of persecution and tribulation removes overnight the possibility of safely attending the currently popular mega-churches, and the churchgoer is left “high and dry” without having established a personal relationship with Jesus Christ with the ability to listen and follow the Holy Spirit on their own?
What will it profit if the end-times churchgoer cannot tell the difference between the counterfeit but worldly appealing Antichrist (Dan. 7:25), and the genuine Jesus Christ who calls us to pick up our cross and follow Him?