One of the single, greatest signs regarding the prophetic season of life we are currently in is the condition of the visible Church. When the visible Church falls into apostasy it is an important witness about what is going to happen in the near future. Right now, the visible Church has largely drifted away from the historic Christian faith and been seduced and transformed by our culture into something that has nothing to do with the Christian faith, the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The Bible tells us this current apostasy is setting the stage for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and most people don’t seem to see it at all or even care.
Now the idea of a dramatic apostasy within the visible Church is hardly a new one. If you go back into the Old Testament, shortly after the Exodus story, you find that Israel had turned away from the Lord and had replaced Him with a Golden Calf we hear about in Exodus 32:1-4,
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
It has been about 2000 years since the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven in Acts 1:9 after His glorious resurrection. In that time, like the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, our Lord is seemingly gone, and our culture has become very powerful to the Church world. For the past 40 years or so we have seen an explosion of new and trendy churches spring up, seemingly overnight. These new churches have redefined the Christian faith in many ways. Gone are the days of hymnals, traditional services, memorizing doctrine and Bible verses and other less than relevant stuff from the past. In their place we now have rock bands, ear plugs, food courts and coffee bars, entertaining and fun youth centers equipped with the latest games and relevant programming for everyone.
As the Church world said its goodbyes to a previous generation of churches and their way of doing ministry, we are told that these new churches and their Biblical focus still faithfully represent the historic Christian Faith. But is that true? And while most people want to believe this for a variety of reasons, it can’t be true when you look at the facts that describe the condition of the professing Church today.
One of the great examples of the dramatic changes underway in the Church world is the fact that the number of Americans with a Biblical worldview has dropped to just 6% of the Nation as a whole. This shockingly low number has dropped 50% in just the last 25 years from only 12%. That means that during the rise of these newer, trendy churches the Biblical literacy and belief in the historic, Christian faith in America has collapsed. A Biblical worldview, as defined by Barna Research, contains the following, modest commitments of Christian faith,
A biblical worldview was defined as “believing that absolute moral truths exist; that such truth is defined by the Bible; and firm belief in six specific religious views. Those views were that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He stills rules it today; salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; Satan is real; a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people, and the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.”
Now if these basic, doctrinal beliefs are not a part of any church’s worldview it would be reasonable to ask if we are even talking about Christianity anymore. Can a church end up not being a church? Is it possible then to unwittingly create a new “American Church” that has nothing to do with the Bible’s view of the Church and true, saving faith? Is it possible that in a search for cultural relevance to a new generation of Americans we have created our own version of the “Golden Calf”? Is it possible that the majority of people sitting in our churches on Sunday are not even Christians? Those are some of the hard questions of this prophetic hour that you hear little discussion about. Instead of seeking to answer these important questions, it often seems many people are more concerned about how big a church is, how many campuses they have, how many programs they are running and if people are happy.
So, as we watch the visible Church dramatically changing before our eyes away from historic Christianity, it can’t be surprising to see apostasy growing all around us. Much of this apostasy always seems to deal with the authority, or lack thereof, of the Bible in the churches. Does the Bible mean much anymore to people in the Church world? If someone says the Bible speaks against the LBGTQ agenda, does that matter anymore? If we are honest, we would have to say that Biblical authority has been dramatically eroded by our culture and people today largely believe what they want to believe and seem to find churches that agree with them.
As a case in point, a trendy, modern church in Tennessee has recently posted on their social media the picture you see in this article about their view of the Bible and its meaning to their lives. This church does not believe the Bible is God’s Word, infallible or inerrant…by their admission. Instead, they believe the Bible is just a human response to God. In other words, the Bible is what people believed through the years, NOT what the Lord has said or revealed to humanity. Statements like that have made the authority of the Bible in the Church world a joke. Not a single person in that church appears to take the Bible…or ultimately the Lord seriously. And yet, one would have to believe the members of this church believe themselves to be “Christians” and on their way to “Heaven”, however you define those terms.
The deception underway here in such churches is staggering in scope and not uncommon. There are literally thousands of such churches in America, and around the world that believe the same things as the church in Tennessee, in one form or another. As a result, there are literally millions and millions of people sitting in such churches and thinking they are doing fine with the Lord, even though their churches, pastors and ministries have jettisoned anything to do with the Christian faith. Sadly, they have created their own “Golden Calf” and think they are doing just great. If you not sure about that just ask them.
Clearly, deception on this massive scale is prophetic in nature and reveals that we are in the midst of an epic apostasy that the Bible talks about in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 where we hear the Apostle Paul preparing the Church for the Lord’s return with these words,
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion/apostasy occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.
In this important passage, the Apostle Paul is preparing the Church to meet the Lord Jesus. He reminds them that the arrival of the Day of the Lord and coming Antichrist, a period of future deception and judgment, will be preceded by a great rebellion and apostasy in the world. We see that exact thing happening today in our society as lawlessness has exploded. That same lawlessness has also exploded in the visible Church world, where people reject the Lord and His laws and end up doing their “own thing”, regardless of what the Bible or the Christian faith has said for the last 2000 years. You see what is happened here at the close of this present age is that the visible Church has become a part of the world. There is little difference that one can discern between the visible Church and the world today. That fact confirms the very nature of the growing apostasy that is underway before our eyes.
The issues that have been discussed in this article are not on the “fringe” of the Christian faith, though many might see it that way. Surely the issues discussed here are literally unknown to the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians and their churches. But such things are at the core of Biblical Christianity. Our salvation, love for the Bible, future hope in the Lord Jesus Christ’s return are a part of “Christianity 101”. Such things have always been important to the true Church for the past 2000 years. The fact that they are not important today, in many cases, is because the visible Church has been taken over by the world and its cultural influences. As a result, we can’t be surprised that most professing Christians have no interest in such things. The real Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible is simply not known by most people today. Tragically, that was the same story when our Lord came to the people of Israel at the beginning of His public ministry. People back then and now simply did not and do not know the Lord.
One day soon we will all find out about the spiritual issues being discussed. One day soon the deception and seduction of the world and its culture will be known to all. On that Day everyone will know the truth about our Lord Jesus, the Bible’s truth and authority without any filters that might have come from pastors, churches, the media or even from our own lives. If there was ever a time to be serious about the Lord and our profession of faith it is now. Are we in the faith? Are we really Christians? Do we know the real Lord? Are we ready to meet Him? Do we want to meet Him? Do we long for His return? Those are but a few of the questions that every genuine believer should consider in this hour of exploding apostasy. The Bible encourages us to do that in many places like 2 Corinthians 13:5. So let’s run to the real Jesus, in the real Bible and find real life in Him forever more.
Jeff Carlson serves as Pastor at Oakhill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is a Distinguished Fellow at Salt & Light Global. You can read more of his writing at www.CarlsonReport.com