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Bible verses about Apostasy, Process of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:1-5

Earlier, God had informed Adam and Eve that sin exacts a penalty, death - the cessation of life - and, if a person will not repent of sin, this means total death - no chance for eternal life. This threat God has held over mankind's head from the beginning. Notice, however, how the Devil replies:

Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (verses 4-5)

Here is the lie: "Look, Adam and Eve, you have an immortal soul. God cannot enforce His threat." In its various forms through the centuries, this doctrine of man having eternal life already has appeared time and again.

In theological terms, this belief is the basis of the "Doctrine of Eternal Security." What is worse, this heretical doctrine has resurfaced in the church, having been part of the latest apostasy. It cannot stand, however, before the light of God's Word. God has a far superior way of dealing with humanity - both righteous and incorrigible.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Do We Have 'Eternal Security'?


 

Exodus 32:1-6

Moses had placed Aaron in charge while he received instruction from God on Mount Sinai. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, Aaron probably lacked the conviction or courage to fill Moses' shoes adequately in his absence. To stall for time, he asked the people to contribute to the cause, hoping to deter them. Understanding the principle of "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21), he asked them to donate some of their jewelry.

His plan failed. They eagerly gave of their treasure, showing where their heart really was. Now Aaron had to go through with it, and he did.

A major motivator in the process of apostasy is contained within the words, "Moses delayed his coming." Impatience, weariness with the way, and the constant struggle without any indication of relief are all included. God repeats this in the New Testament, when Christ warns that the evil servant says, "My master is delaying His coming" (Matthew 24:48; Luke 12:45). God emphasizes it just in case His children's endurance begins to lag. He does not want anyone to turn aside to some exciting distraction in the surrounding culture.

Unfortunately, that is what occurred here. The impatience and the weariness of their struggle moved the Israelites to take their eyes off the Promised Land, their goal. Instead they focused on a more exciting and stimulating practice from the world they had just left.

The key to this process is found in verses 4 and 5, in the words, "This is your god, O Israel" and "Aaron made a proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.'" Can God be worshipped in any form as long as it is dedicated to the Lord? Does that please God? Did this celebration become a feast to the Lord because a man in authority like Aaron proclaimed it? Is God pleased when His people worship Him in ways other than what He has prescribed? God's reaction to their idolatrous festivities plainly shows they had turned aside from what He had delivered to them through Moses (Exodus 32:10).

The world's theologians call this process syncretism, which means "the combination of different forms of belief or practice; the fusion of two or more original forms." The incident of the Golden Calf blends the worship of the true God with the worship of false gods, and the result is proclaimed to be worship of which the true God approves.

Predictably, God was indignant with the people for defining for themselves the nature of the god they wanted to serve. They were preventing the God of heaven from defining His own nature as revealed in His laws, His way, and His actions for and against them. Their experience with these things would teach them about Him. Instead, they decided to define that nature, and chose the form of a bull, a god commonly worshipped in Egypt.

Is God a bull? Of course not! Is God confined to what a bull can do? Of course not! To modern thought worshipping a bull seems silly and foolish, but the spiritual lesson involved is serious. The essence of idolatry is defining the nature of God, not according to His Word, but according to human experience and ideas.

What is the effect of man defining God according to his own ideals? His god determines his standards. These standards are immediately perceived in his conduct, which can rise only as high as his god, as exemplified in Exodus 32:6: "Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings [a form of worship], and brought peace offerings [indicating fellowship between God, the priest and offerer]; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play."

As one might imagine, they were not engaging in ordinary eating and drinking and playing. They were not throwing a ball around, they were not shooting a ball through a hoop, nor were they kicking a ball around a field. They were playing! These people were involved in a gluttonous, drunken debauchery! "Play" suggests conjugal caresses—fornication and adultery!

The symbolism is obvious. When the nature of the true God is falsely defined, the effect will be spiritual adultery. There will be a deterioration, a degeneration, of society expressed in peoples' conduct. Plummeting standards and moral laxity are the fruit produced. Writing of Christianity in the second century, historian Will Durant observes, "Much of this difficult code [of conduct, as practiced by the apostolic church] was predicated on the early return of Christ. As that hope faded, the voice of the flesh rose again, and Christian morals were relaxed" (Caesar and Christ, p. 599).

God handled Israel's debauchery at Sinai severely, but unfortunately, Israel failed to learn the lesson. They never understood the principle of worshipping God as He instructed. In fact, it led to their eventual destruction and captivity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Exodus 32:7-10

These people were undoubtedly sincere, but God did not care for their sincerity one bit. Why? God saw this as an attempt by these people to control Him through redefining His nature.

When we turn aside from the path, whether we realize it or not, we are beginning to redefine what He is according to our own thinking. If we think this is not a prevalent sin, Jesus says in Mark 7:7, "In vain do you worship Me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." He is not saying that these people are insincere, but that they a failing to follow the way of God. Like these Israelites, they proclaim their religion in the name of God though. Jesus also says in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not the things that I say?" That is what they were doing in Exodus 32.

What was their motivation? Does this have an end-time application to the church of God? The answer is in verse 1:

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."

Moses, the charismatic leader, the type of Jesus Christ, delayed his coming! That is alarming! What motivated Saul to make the sacrifice in I Samuel 13? Because Samuel's coming was delayed, Saul presumptuously took it into his own hands to do something he had not been commanded to do—to make the sacrifice. The problem was the delay he perceived.

Do we understand why Christ says, "Do not say in your heart, 'The Lord delays His coming'"? He knows from the experiences from the Old Testament that, if we begin to think that Christ is delaying, then we will turn aside to idolatry because we will use it as a justification for adjusting ourselves to the spirit of the times we live in. This has alarming ramifications.

What did the Israelites do here? Redefining the nature of God is merely the sin that led to them adjusting their lifestyle, to fall into idolatry. Will that be a problem for this generation? Are we going to think that Christ is delaying His coming?

Sincerity is good, but truth is needed with it. Jesus says in John 4:24 that God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. We need to examine ourselves to see whether we are making adjustments in our way of life to be in harmony with the spirit of the age. Do we keep Sabbath just like the world keeps Sunday? If we do, we have adjusted already. Are we careful in tithing? Are we concerned God will not come through with prosperity? If so, we are already beginning to make adjustments. Who is the idol? We are.

We change the image of God by saying, "He won't mind. He understands." He does understand, but He wants us to trust Him. He knows we are under pressure, but He knows we need to learn to do without, to suffer, to wait. Do we believe that?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10


 

Deuteronomy 13:1-5

This is the earliest formal warning to God's people that attacks against their faith would take place within the fellowship of His children, and the pattern has occurred repeatedly. God raises up a prophet or minister to instruct His people. Opposition arises, usually in the form of ministers who see things differently, who force the people to choose which way they will follow. Understand, God is not passively watching. He actively tests His children's loyalties through such calamitous situations.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)


 

Joshua 7:20-21

Covetousness produces only negative results like theft, lying, murder, harmful lusts, and apostasy. Only sorrow comes from covetousness—and eventually death, if it is allowed to dominate a person's mind.

Martin G. Collins
The Tenth Commandment


 

Daniel 9:10-11

Yes, the body of Christ, the church, has been sick—from top to bottom. It was not just the leadership that went astray. It was all of us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Avoiding Superficiality


 

Amos 5:1-3

By refusing to repent of their apostasy from God's way of life, the Israelites could only expect the coming of God's fearsome punishment. The people of Israel would recognize these words as a funeral dirge, a lamentation said over the dead. Amos speaks, not as if it were yet to occur, but as if it had already happened. This death came when Assyria conquered Israel from 721 to 718 BC and deported her people to foreign lands.

Israel is pictured as a virgin, though not a spiritual virgin. God frequently calls her an adulteress, harlot, and fornicator (Jeremiah 3:1-13; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 2:2-13), but He uses "virgin" here because Israel was cut off seemingly in the bloom of youth—before she could produce what she had the potential to produce. In a literal family, God could have expected a happy marriage and children from her (Isaiah 5:1-2). Israel, surrounded by luxury and prosperity, should have produced God's personality and character, but she failed miserably.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

2 Corinthians 11:1-4

Paul had to deal with the Corinthian congregation because they had fallen under the sway of false apostles (see II Corinthians 11:13). These false ministers had convinced many of the brethren that they knew more and better than the apostle through whom they had heard, believed, learned, and been converted to the gospel. They were in the process of throwing aside what they had learned from Paul in favor of what they were hearing from these new "apostles."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

Already some had lost heart to the point that they were saying, "Christ has already come. He is here on earth." So they had little to look forward to.

John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ


 

2 Thessalonians 2:3

Apostasy ("the falling away") is not necessarily a departure from an organized body but a departure from truth, as the context shows. It points to a deliberate abandonment of a former professed position or belief.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Flood Is Upon Us!


 

2 Thessalonians 2:3

Some think that, when someone accepts heresy, he will "leave the church." That may occur on some occasions, but this confuses hairesis with apostasia. In this verse, apostasia is translated "falling away" in both the KJV and NKJV, giving the impression that it refers to leaving an organization. But apostasia means "to depart from truth"! One can remain in an organization and be departing from truth all along.

This is vitally important to us living at the end time! Notice what Paul writes in II Thessalonians 2:9-12 about this:

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

2 Thessalonians 2:3

"The falling away" is a translation of the Greek apostasia, meaning "departure," "forsaking," "defection," or "apostasy." In secular Greek, the word "is used politically of rebels" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 413). Thus, in the present context, it denotes a departure or apostasy from the faith, the revealed truth of God (see I Timothy 4:1). Such a defection from the true gospel and doctrine was a very real concern for the first-century apostles. Paul, Peter, John, James, and Jude all warn of it in their letters. Despite their warnings, it did indeed occur as the century wore on.

Paul tells us specifically what the "unrighteous deception" (II Thessalonians 2:10) is for which the people depart. In verse 7, he names it "the mystery of lawlessness," a set of beliefs that is totally contrary to "the truth" (verses 10-12). This deception is "the lie" that Satan has always foisted on mankind—that we do not need to obey God's law (see Genesis 3:4; Romans 1:21-25).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are These the Last Days? (Part 1)


 

2 Thessalonians 2:3

People fall away because they do not have the love of the truth. Consequently, they have nothing to pour out their energies on, and so they drift away. Anybody who is drifting will follow the current opinion within the body, whatever it happens to be.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

2 Timothy 1:13-14

He tells Timothy—and every Christian—to hold to the standards that the apostle had delivered to him. And, he says, the only way to keep the doctrines is both to live it and proclaim it with faith and love. Paul is concerned, not just about the truth, but also about how it is preserved, in faith and love. Regarding keeping the deposit through God's Holy Spirit, The Expositor's Bible Commentary states, "It has been well said that the Holy Spirit is the great Conservator of orthodoxy" (vol. 11, p. 397). In other words, a person led by and using the Spirit of God will not turn away from the teaching delivered by the apostles.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Hebrews 10:19-20

Hebrews 10:19 begins the verbal bridge that transitions from the doctrinal material to its practical application. This latter section contains arguably the most powerful exhortations in the entire Bible for us to get up and get going. If these Hebrews were not Laodicean as a whole, they were very close to it.

Overall, God is saying through the apostle, "Don't you realize your danger? Being justified and sanctified, you absolutely cannot allow yourselves to continue in your neglectful ways. You have powerful help available through Christ, yet you are drifting away! Don't you realize what you are giving up by your slow but steady drift into apostasy?" He had already warned them as chapter 2 opened that their neglect of their privileges and responsibilities was allowing this great salvation to slip away.

In Hebrews 10:19, He reminds them that they already have access to God, so they should come before Him with eager boldness. This is one of our great privileges. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden and God's presence, but through Christ, God's regenerated children are now invited into His presence in spirit. Because the way has been prepared for us to do this, we are able to come to know God up close and personal. This is among the greatest of all blessings afforded to everyone who makes the New Covenant.

In other words, He meets with us, not outside the back or front door, but inside the house! And not merely inside the house but inside the second room beyond the veil—the Holy of Holies—where formerly only the High Priest was welcome once a year! The veil separating the rooms in the Temple was torn asunder at Christ's death (Matthew 27:51). Nothing hinders our liberty to go boldly into God's very throne room.

Jesus Christ Himself is "the Way" to the Father (John 14:6). As High Priest, Jesus has dedicated Himself to intercede on behalf of us sinners in our relations with God. In John 17:19, in His prayer the night before His crucifixion, He says, ". . . for their [His disciples'] sakes, I sanctify Myself." He set Himself apart to the shedding of His blood for us and to His position as our High Priest.

The phrase in Hebrews 10:20, "through the veil, that is, His flesh," refers to what He did as a human to make this access to God possible. When He was flesh and blood, He died for us so that we, like Him, could go directly into the Holy of Holies. Spiritually, His death pierced the veil.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Power: Our Shield Against Apostasy


 

Hebrews 10:25

We have now reached one of the most solemn and fear-provoking sections of Scripture. We need to understand that this passage is written to Christians, not to the world, and what it threatens is facing any Christian who does not choose to believe that God is serious. God is thundering at His own children because some of them have become insipidly blasé about what He has done for them and have ignored the help that He makes so readily available to them.

This does not mean that everybody who heard this message was in that perilous spiritual condition. It was given, however, against the backdrop of some having already departed from the church, and it uses them as examples of what not to do, for the purpose of warning the others about what those who left are facing. To determine just where he stands, each person has to examine himself in light of Paul's instruction.

Yet, some who heard this message had regressed so far that they were on track to apostatize, which means "to depart from the faith." This subject is Paul's major motivation for writing the letter. He first introduces it as early as Hebrews 3:12: "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." "Departing" is the Greek word aphistemi, meaning "to remove" or "to instigate to revolt."

How far had people departed? Hebrews 10:25 gives a clear indication by Paul's use of the word "forsaking" regarding assembling on the Sabbath. The Greek word means exactly this: Some of the Hebrews were not missing just an occasional Sabbath service but had abandoned attending Sabbath services entirely for extended periods, if not altogether. This accounts for the strength of the apostle's message.

A similar passage in II Peter 2:20-22 reads:

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."

Peter speaks of apostasy here. He says it would have been better had they never known the way of righteousness rather than know it and then turn from it. Jesus said of Judas that it would have been better for him not to have been born (Matthew 26:24). The same end faced those who had forsaken assembling together on the Sabbath.

I Timothy 1:19 contains a vivid illustration of apostasy, saying that an apostate makes shipwreck of his faith in God. Having escaped the world, he returns to it and soon finds himself on the rocks, being beaten to death by the waves of life. As mentioned earlier, a person does not apostatize in one giant leap. Just as the Israelites obtained the Promised Land step by step, so apostasy occurs step by step. One goes forward, the other backward. If the backslider takes appropriate action, he does not have to lose his faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Power: Our Shield Against Apostasy


 

2 Peter 2:1-3

These verses show us in a general way that traitors will come from within the church and subvert many to follow their carnal ways. Peter uses the word "but" to provide a contrast with the preceding section about the "sure word of prophecy" (II Peter 1:19, KJV). These traitors to the faith are not led by the Holy Spirit as were those God inspired to write the prophecies (verse 21). The apostle immediately warns that these "false teachers" will come from within the church, or as Peter writes, "among you." The implication is that "forewarned is forearmed"! Therefore, be on guard!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

2 Peter 2:1

Alarming as II Peter 2:1-3 is, Peter does not define heresy, but he does tell what one heresy is and will be. He also does not tell us here what the source of heresy is either.

Heresy is the translation of the Greek hairesis—meaning literally "choice" or "selection"—which has an interesting secular as well as biblical history. Until its biblical use, it had no evil connotation. Even in the Bible, it is mostly used to refer to a party or a philosophy with which a person had chosen to identify or ally himself. Thus, hairesis is frequently translated "sect." In Acts, Luke applies it to the Sadducees (Acts 5:17) and the Pharisees (Acts 15:5; 26:5). Outsiders also used hairesis in Acts 24:5, 14 and Acts 28:22 to identify the Christian church.

However, when Paul and Peter's writings began circulating, hairesis meant a destructive element within the church that creates division through consciously formed opinions and ideas in disagreement with the orthodox teachings of the apostles. Paul condemns it in Galatians 5:20 as one of "the works of the flesh." Sometimes it is translated "factions" or "party spirit," but regardless of its translation, Paul says that people who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (verse 21)!

In the ordinary course of secular life, heresy was of little consequence; one person's opinion or choice about most things in life is just as good as another's. A person can be given any number of alternatives, any one of which he may be perfectly free to believe. However, in Christianity we are dealing with revelation, with God-given truth, with absolutes. When God's truth comes to men, we either have to accept or reject it. Thus, a heretic is a man who believes what he wishes to believe instead of accepting the truth of God that he ought to believe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

2 Peter 2:1

If "secretly" ("privily") were translated into the closest English synonym, it would have been rendered "smuggle." They smuggle in heresy by cunning deceit. The word literally means "they bring it along side," that is, they present this heresy in such a way as to make it appear favorably with the truth. "Oh, it's just a refinement. We're not really changing anything. You understand that, don't you? We're not really changing it. It's just a refinement, a clarification."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

2 Peter 2:1

One denies the Lord by failing to submit to Him in obedience. If the doctrines gradually begin to be changed, then submission to Christ will be put in different terms as well.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

2 Peter 2:1-2

Destructive will also translate into the English word "pernicious," which means "deadly." We hear it most frequently in a medical term, "pernicious anemia." What is so interesting is that it may appear innocent, but all the while it is destroying life. It gives the appearance of being not overtly or openly dangerous, but all the while it is undermining one's health. Peter, of course, is talking about spiritual health.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

2 Peter 2:1

The King James Version calls their heresies damnable, implying that their words—their messages—are destructive to one's faith and relationship with God. "Denying the Lord" does not mean they deny that He lived or died or that He is God, but that their words and conduct are opposed to His fundamental nature. Their lives deny any close contact with Him.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

1 John 2:18-20

John informs us that the antichrists were right in the church fellowshipping with the truly converted! No doubt, they performed the same function in John's areas of responsibilities as they did in Paul's. They created a measure of havoc in the church through heretical teaching and then left the fellowship, proving they were not really part of the church. They were tares.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)


 

1 John 2:18-19

John calls the various individuals who were teaching heresy "antichrists." At one time, these people had fellowshipped with true believers, but then had left the church and were now trying to draw others away to follow their heretical teachings. John points out that they were never really converted, or they would have stayed with the body of true believers.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
For the Perfecting of the Saints


 

 




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