2 Corinthians 4:17 reads: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
One of the clear signs we can detect in the apostate church is the attempt to homogenize the “light affliction” part of Christian discipleship…removing it entirely out of the experience.
“Christian” churches that have a lot to offer in terms of various programs, but demand very little in terms of teaching people about the costs of discipleship, actually prevents the Holy Spirit from actualizing in the lives of the congregations the challenges of faith that lead to spiritual maturity.
Apostate churches celebrate worldly success in the outer natural realm, having no potential for creating spiritual growth.
Paul says that momentary light afflictions will work for us eternal glory. The apostate church has no idea what Paul is talking about here.
In John 6:22-65, Jesus is talking about Himself being the bread of life from heaven. Many of the disciples at that time were offended by the statement by Jesus that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have life.
John 6:66 then says: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” Then with a voice that has a note of sadness in it, Jesus asks the twelve apostles: “Will ye also go away?”
This is not a mere Old Testament prophet or one of the New Testament apostles speaking. This is Jesus the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Jesus is teaching the truth, because He is the Truth, and some people are choosing to “walk no more with him.”
The preaching and teaching of the truth sometimes winnows and sifts out people from following God. In this example, we see that teaching the truth does not always result in increased popularity and “church growth.”
The lesson of Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles, tells us that a person can be in the presence of Christ (in the church), and yet not be born again in heart and mind.
Judas had a divided heart. He wanted to follow Jesus as long as this appeared to lead toward a position within an earthly kingdom of the Messiah in Jerusalem.
When it finally became apparent that Jesus would be rejected by the recognized political establishment, and that following Jesus would lead to a much more costly, worldly-humbling brand of service to the Messiah, Judas sold out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
All the while, not even the other eleven apostles appear to have been aware of Judas’ traitorous intentions.
It is possible to produce large bodies of similarly unconverted, half-hearted “followers” of Christianity simply by downgrading and diluting the gospel message to the point that adherence produces no real discipleship challenge. Christianity then subtly morphs into self-composed and self-directed religion, with churchgoers sitting atop the thrones of their lives in self-sovereignty.
Peter said to Jesus “Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee” (Mk. 10:28).
Judas Iscariot brought some of the world with him in following Jesus, and never “left all.”
A large number of Judas Iscariots can be created in the apostate church by compromising the “left all” portion of the gospel message.
The falling away is a real event that will occur in the future. Whether the main body of the Christian church will be on earth for this event…I cannot dogmatically say.
But there is a strong argument…reasoning out of the scriptures…that there cannot be a noticeable falling away, worth mentioning in the Bible…without a large number of Christians and nominal churchgoers together as one homogenous group on earth at the same time.
I believe there is a storm coming, a massive spiritual hurricane that will engulf the entire planet (Mt. 24:21).
But you would never know a storm was coming by the outward attitude in contemporary Christendom. Some churches in America today seem to have an almost pre-storm party atmosphere. Light-heartedness in our worship can be taken too far. The word “good” can have too many O’s in it, if we are not careful and not biblically watchful.
The Old Testament prophets were rejected and sometimes killed because they brought a sobering message that people did not want to hear. Jesus told us to always be alert and to watch. This is certainly a timely message for today. But a portion of the organized church seems to be looking the other way, towards things that do not lead to spiritual alertness and readiness for the end-times.
Finally, every Christian should examine where their investment lies. Unsaved, nominal churchgoers, who have their investment in careers, material possessions, family, friends, the future well-being of children and grandchildren, and next summer’s European vacation, will be extremely disappointed in God when and if conditions deteriorate on earth as prophesied in the Bible during the upcoming end-times.
If our investment is in earthly things exclusively, then we are setting ourselves up for the great falling away.
When our expectancy for worldly conventional normalcy begins to become jeopardized, this will be one of the factors initiating the falling away. World events will begin to expose people’s expectations and motivations, and will sift-out and separate true Christian disciples willing to stand with Jesus at the cost of their lives…from nominal churchgoers perfunctorily going through the motions of church attendance for reasons similar to those of Judas Iscariot.
All of the good things in the natural realm…careers, family, friends, material possessions…are commendably virtuous only when they are recognized as God’s gift to us and are therefore completely surrendered to Him.
True spiritual balance comes when we can understand that everything good that we have and enjoy comes from God alone, that we ourselves belong to Him, and that we can let go of our treasures and confidently place them in His hands for safekeeping.
The concept of “Occupy till I come” (Lk. 19:13), including all of the normal cares and responsibilities of this life…when in proper balance…compliments and harmonizes with a journey of faith following Jesus Christ.
But the catastrophic end-times events, assuming the Christian church is on the earth for some or all of its tribulation and persecution, can and will cause a shaking loose of our attachment to everything that is near and dear to us, so that we will correctly focus our eternal investment upon God alone.
We can begin doing that now in anticipation of these end-times events, through a surrendered, crucified life in service to Christ.
If we are coming up upon the start of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period, which begins the final countdown to the end of this present world, then beginning to let go in service to Christ, while still “occupying till He comes,” is the most rational approach.
When the storm of persecution and tribulation finally comes…to borrow a line from the recent movie Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett…each person on earth will respond according to their character.
Some will be brought down by the terror of the situation. Others will flee in fear and attempt to hide. Christians who have been prepared by God for these events will spread their wings like eagles and soar with the wind.
This is God’s promise to us, and the consistent history of God’s performance in the lives of the people of faith in the Bible.
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isa. 40:31)