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What the Bible says about Apathy, Caution against
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The church did not literally go to sleep, but it was asleep spiritually. Here is what "sleep" indicates metaphorically: When we are asleep, what are we paying attention to? Nothing. If we are in a sound sleep, our minds are "dead to the world." We are not aware of anything that is going on, even of the passage of time.

We may have a dream or two, but that does not count. Usually, we pay such little attention when we wake up in the morning that we fail to remember what we dreamed, unless it is especially vivid. Still, the idea is this: that sleep indicates insensitivity to responsibility. If we were awake, we would pay attention to our responsibilities. We would do our work around the house or go earn our money at the office. But if we are asleep, we are insensitive to what is happening.

That is what occurred to the church. It was not literally asleep, but it became insensitive to its relationship with Jesus Christ. It became insensitive to its spiritual responsibilities. This do not mean that church members were out freely breaking the laws of God, but the relationship was still nonetheless deteriorating because of that lack of attention.

Another aspect of this is also very important: As the pressure increases from this world, it brings stress with it. From studying people closely, psychologists know that those who face frequent, stressful hardship become apathetic. In other words, a person reaches the point where finally he just rolls over, plays dead, and says, "Who cares?"

With that in mind, it is no wonder that Jesus says in Matthew 24:13, "He that endures to the end, the same will be saved." The end time will be stressful, whether or not we are being directly affected physically. The spirit of the age, the zeitgeist, will impact upon our minds, and it will tend to make us feel tired, weary of the whole thing, wishing that God would hurry up and get it over with.

That is, of course, understandable. It also helps us to understand why the Bible says some of the things it does regarding the church at the end time. A large portion of the church will be lulled into worldliness through being more concerned with ordinary, self-centered, secular pursuits than with the spiritual work of God. Jesus' warning in Luke 21:34-36—"take heed to yourselves" and "watch . . . and pray always"—is absolutely essential.



2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

Scripture indicates just how far this defection from truth—the falling away—goes. In three places, the Bible says that when Christ returns, people will mourn when they see the One from whom they have distanced themselves and oppose (Matthew 24:30; Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7). In Revelation 1:7, John says that every race or clan will be dismayed—apparently including most physical Israelites—because the falling away will be so widespread. The falling away does not have to include every person, but as a generality, the creation will defect from its Creator, leading to ready support of a man who exalts himself above God.

Even though the scope of II Thessalonians 2 is more indicative of the world than the church, this trend will still put pressure on us. The spirit of the age guides the world, but it also always influences the church to some degree. As one evangelist once said, “If it is in the world, it is in the church.” Peter gives us warning:

You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (II Peter 3:17-18)

This is the conclusion to a warning that in the last days there will be scoffers, walking according to their own lusts, and denying the surety of Christ's return. This, too, indicates a defection from once-held truth. Peter says that, since we have been warned about these things, we must stand vigilant against them. He warns against falling from our steadfastness or losing our spiritual stability. Obviously, the apostle did not believe in the Doctrine of Eternal Security, and there is good reason for his warning.

The danger for us is probably not a ready acceptance of atheism, nor a sudden sprint into one of the rising belief systems. The greater threat is the slow and gradual one, the peril of neglect, of apathy, of little compromises that set the stage for larger defections. Without a steady walk with God and a consistent practice of His Word, we may forsake the rare understanding that we have been given in favor of the wisdom of men and the opinions of the day. Even now, in corners of the church of God, baptized members shrug at things that the Creator God calls abominations. These viewpoints do not arise from the Word of God, but from its dismissal, as the ideas of the age fill in the cracks little by little.

True Christians believe that this present world will end when Christ returns. God has a superior way of life for mankind, and that way is open now to those whom He has called in this age. However, when He returns, the door closes for us. Those who have a love of the truth will be on the victorious side, and those who do not will be condemned. They will have had their pleasure in unrighteousness, and God will give them over to what they have been seeking all along.

In verse 18, Peter counsels us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. If He is the desire of our hearts, we will seek Him, and He will be our reward. If the world is what we find attractive, we will love the world and perish with it.

God does not direct us to arrest the falling away that is taking place in the world, but to make sure we do not let things slip in our lives. We are urgently warned to take heed that no one deceives us (Matthew 24:4), to take care lest we be weighed down by the cares of this life (Luke 21:34), and to take heed lest we fall (I Corinthians 10:12), so that the day of Christ's return will be a day of victory for us rather than a day of condemnation.

David C. Grabbe
The Falling Away

Hebrews 1:1-4

The first chapter of Hebrews lays the foundation for the theme that will run through the entire book. The author begins with the truth that Christ is superior to angels. He wants his readers to focus on the message, which is important, not only because it is thrilling and of weighty content, but also because of its Source. In times past, the message came through agents or intermediaries—either angels or prophets were sent. This message, however, came right from the top—through the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is greater than or superior to any angel or prophet. All of those who came before Jesus Christ are "inferiors."

Thus, when God sent His message through His Son, it was introduced by the very highest Source that it could possibly come from. The author intends us to understand that this message requires us to give it the highest priority of our lives. Nothing supersedes the message that came through the Son of God. No one can present a message anywhere near as great.

The message that Moses gave was, of course, right and true and powerful, but it cannot even be compared to the message that came through the Son of God. That is the theme! Christ and what He has to give us—be it words, His ministrations as High Priest, His efficacious death, His covenant, etc.—are far superior to everything else. Absolutely nothing in life can compare. He has given us the most awesome gifts that any human being could possibly be given.

This is how the author begins his treatise—as if firing a cannon to get our attention! How dare we be apathetic toward this message! That is what he implies. Do we not realize where the gospel came from? It came from the One for whom all things were created and by whom all things were created. He created Adam and gave him the breath of life—and He right now sustains us with His power! Yet the world and the pressures that it puts on us have a way of turning our attention toward other things, do they not? Unfortunately, we give into them so often, so easily.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today

Hebrews 2:1-4

These Hebrew Christians were neglecting what they were given. William Barclay's translation of the first clause of verse 1 reads, "We must, therefore, with very special intensity [the opposite of "apathy"]pay attention to what we have heard" (our emphasis).The wonderful message that these people had heard was drifting from their minds.

This word "drift" (or "slip" as translated in the King James Version) is used of a thing that is negligently, carelessly, or thoughtlessly lost: of a ring that slips from one's finger; a thought that is slipped into a conversation; or a boat that drifts away from the dock because the knot in the rope securing it slips. In Greek literature it is used of an idea that slips from one's mind. In this word picture is a major warning for us today—as we enter the most distracting, enervating, and fearful time in man's history.

There is another illustration here that is equally compelling. It is of a man on a long journey who is carrying over his shoulder a goatskin, which was used in ancient time to carry water. He intends to use the water in that bag to refresh and reenergize himself, whenever he needs it. However, the goatskin is cracked, and the water is slowly dripping out unobserved by the traveler. The water is "slipping away." When he becomes thirsty and reaches for the goatskin to take a drink to refresh himself, he finds that his bag is empty. Nothing remains.

It is reminscent of the Ten Virgins and their oil (Matthew 25:1-13). Half have none when they need it, for it has run out. They have been negligent in buying it from the sources that they could have gotten it from, whenever they had the time. But now the Bridegroom approaches, and they have no oil, a kind of oil that cannot be transferred from one person to another. So, they must go out in desperation to find some on their own—but it is too late.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 




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