Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com
Sermon #2227 — Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: The Great Apostasy
Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17
Subject: Apostasy and Election
Date: Sunday Morning — May 31, 2015
Readings: Proverbs 7:1-27 and Romans 1:14-32
My subject today is — The Great Apostasy described in the second chapter 2nd Thessalonians. Without question, we are living in a reprobate age. Ours is a generation under the judgment of God. The spirit of antichrist is so thick in this generation of will-worship religion that you can cut it with a knife! Read the first chapter of Romans and tell me that I am mistaken! The marks of divine judgment are evident throughout our society.
· Spiritual Blindness (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12)
· Moral Perversion (Romans 1:27-28)
· Self-Serving Chaos and Rebellion (Romans 1:29-32).
These things are the results of what the Spirit of God calls “will-worship,” putting man in the place of God (Colossians 2:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:4), freewill, works religion, religion that debases the character of God and exalts the dignity of man. The more thoroughly convinced men are that salvation depends upon them the more vile they become!
In the light of the fact that we live in such a dark, dark day, this question weighs heavily on my heart: What can I do? What should I do to serve my generation by the will of God? What can we do to serve God our Savior and the souls of eternity bound sinners in this apostate generation?
What can God’s people do in this reprobate age? That is the question I want to address in this message. If we could outlaw abortion, shut down the peddlers of pornography and smut, banish all drugs from our culture, and eradicate sodomites from the world, it would not move our generation one step closer to God. Our problem is much deeper than these things. These things are only the branches. The root is in the wicked heart of man. Nothing can deliver us from the judgment of God but the grace of God.
Yet, there are some things we can and must do in this reprobate age.
I want you to open your Bibles with me to the book of 2 Thessalonians. As we read our text, I want you to try to imagine that you are a resident in the city of Thessalonica during the first century, and that you are sitting in a small room somewhere in the city, meeting with God’s saints. News has come that the pastor has a letter to be read at the Church meeting from the Apostle Paul.
Paul was dearly loved by these Thessalonian saints. He had first come to Thessalonica from Philippi. He preached in the city for about three weeks, and was used of God as the man from whom many heard the gospel for the first time. Many Jews as well as some Gentiles were converted during those three weeks of blessedness. After Paul left, a gospel church was established. The saints at Thessalonica never forgot Paul; and he never forgot them. You can imagine how excited they were to receive this letter, written to them while Paul was in Athens preaching the gospel. Try to put yourself in their seats, as we read what they read on that day for the first time.
In chapter one, the beloved Apostle, with a loving pastor’s heart, commends the saints at Thessalonica for their obvious growth in grace and gives thanks to God for it. The grace of God was obviously at work in them, because it was reflected in their growing faith, their love for one another and patience in trials, persecutions and tribulation (vv. 1-5).
2 Thessalonians 1:1-5 “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: (2) Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; (4) So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: (5) Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:”
Then he assures them of the glorious second advent of Christ (vv. 6-10).
2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; (7) And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (8) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (9) Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (10) When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”
In the last two verses of the first chapter, he assures them of his unceasing prayers on their behalf (vv. 11-12).
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: (12) That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now, I want us to read chapter two, verse by verse. Apparently, someone had written to the Church here, or visited it, and told them that Paul said, “The Lord Jesus is coming real soon.” I must comment on that before I go on.
In the years approaching the turn of century, and in the last fifteen years since, prophecy-mania nuts have popped up all over the world predicting the second coming of Christ, setting dates and trying to scare people into the Kingdom of God. Do not be fooled by them. Any man who makes such predictions does not speak by the authority of God. Such men are utterly ignorant of or deliberately choose to ignore the Word of God (Acts 1:7).
Acts 1:7 “And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”
2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, (2) That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.”
I want us to look at all seventeen verses in this chapter. So I can only skim the surface as we move through the chapter. In these first two verses five things are obvious.
1. Our Lord Jesus Christ is coming again. He is on his way back at this very moment. — “Behold, he cometh!”
2. There are no signs or prophecies yet to be fulfilled before the Lord’s return.
3. We are never told to look for signs, but always to look for Christ himself.
4. We should live every day upon the tiptoe of faith, looking for Christ at any moment, while laboring in his vineyard as responsible servants. — “Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21). — “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:13-14)
5. Our Lord may appear at any moment; but we must never allow anyone to dupe us into thinking he knows when. He may not return for another thousand years.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”
While there are no visible signs or prophecies to be fulfilled before our Lord’s return, the Apostle does tell us that before Christ’s Second Advent, there will be a wholesale, universal apostasy and departure from the faith (Revelation 20:1-3).
Paul is not talking here about liberals, open heretics, and vile ungodliness. He talks about those things in other places. Here he is talking about a departure of men and women from the faith who claim to be in the faith, a subtle, deceiving, damning departure from the faith by professed believers throughout the world. The apostasy he is talking about, our Lord said, is so great that were it possible, the very elect of God would be deceived. — Thank God, that cannot happen! — But the apostasy spoken of must be a terribly subtle, deceitful thing!
Look at this third verse. Here the Holy Spirit tells us that heresies must come. They had already begun in apostolic times; and they only get worse as time passes (1 Corinthians 11:19; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; 1 John 4:1-3). — This is all precisely according to the purpose of God.
1 Corinthians 11:19 “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
1 Timothy 4:1-3 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; (2) Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; (3) Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”
2 Timothy 3:1-9 “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2) For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (3) Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, (4) Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (5) Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (6) For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, (7) Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (8) Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. (9) But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.”
1 John 4:1-3 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (2) Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: (3) And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
Look at 2 Thessalonians 2:3 again.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (an apostasy) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”
Heresies must come. The next thing we are told is this: — The man of sin, antichrist, will be revealed. Forget about what you see coming out of Hollywood. This man of sin will not be revealed to the world. He is not some hideous looking, green-eyed monster. He is not a red devil with long tail and a pitch fork in his hand, with “666” written across his forehead. Antichrist is so smooth and slick that unless God himself enables you to recognize him, you cannot recognize him. However, he shall be revealed to God’s elect. — Read on...
2 Thessalonians 2:4 “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
Here the Apostle identifies antichrist, the man of sin. The antichrist is not one man. I have no problem at all in stating as our forefathers did, in great faithfulness, that the pope (the dog of Rome) is antichrist and the church of Rome is antichrist. I do not mean that is the way it used to be. I mean that his unholiness, the pope is antichrist. I mean that Roman Catholicism is antichrist. It cannot be stated too often, or too emphatically.
However, it is a serious mistake to limit antichrist to one man, or one religious sect. Antichrist was already at work in the Apostolic Age.
· John said many antichrists had gone out into the world.
· Paul had to contend with antichrists at Galatia, Colosse, Corinth, Ephesus, and Jerusalem.
Notice how Paul describes this thing called “the man of sin, the son of perdition.” He is one who...
· Opposes God.
· Exalts himself above God.
· Sits himself up in the temple of God and is worshipped as God, showing that he is God.
Antichrist is any and every system of free-will/works religion, any and every man, any and every preacher, any and every church, any and every denomination that makes salvation to be dependent upon or determined by the will, works or worth of man rather than the will, works, and worth of Christ. It does not matter whether that system of religion is conservative or liberal, a mainline Protestant Church or a wild cult, Baptist or Methodist, Pentecostal or Presbyterian, Buddhist, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, or “Christian.” —— Any church, doctrine, preacher, or religious system that makes man the center-piece is antichrist.
Let me be understood...
Now, look at verses 5-7
2 Thessalonians 2:5-7 “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? (6) And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. (7) For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”
Paul told these saints at Thessalonica that the Holy Spirit now restrains, or withholds, the power and influence of antichrist. However, the time shall come, he wrote, when the Lord God will turn all hell loose to deceive the nations of the world again. At the end of the age, he said, Satan shall be loosed for a little season. —— It appears to me that we are living in that little season.
Revelation 20:1-7 “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. (2) And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, (3) And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. (4) And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (5) But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. (6) Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (7) And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison.”
According to Purpose
Read on (vv. 8-10). —— Read the Apostle’s inspired words with care. Do not allow a single syllable to pass before your eyes without prayerful thought and consideration.
2 Thessalonians 2:8-10 “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (9) Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, (10) And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
Here are five things revealed in these three verses...
1. Antichrist arises, is revealed, consumed, and destroyed exactly according to the purpose of God.
2. Signs, wonders, and miracles are as certainly marks of antichrist in the last days as they were of Christ and his Apostles during the Apostolic era.
3. The deception of antichrist is tremendous, so tremendous that were it possible, the very elect of God would be deceived.
4. The religion of antichrist, self-righteousness, is here called “unrighteousness!”
5. The reason for the delusion of men is their own, willful rejection of truth. — It is not that they do not receive the truth, theoretically, but that “they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
It is not merely giving mental assent to truth that is evidence of saving faith. Saul of Tarsus had that. Judas had that. The demons who confessed Christ had that. Saving faith not only embraces truth, it loves the truth. We love Christ, the embodiment of truth; and we love the truth of the gospel revealed in and by him. — All believers do!
For This Cause
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (12) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
Do not imagine that things are out of control. We get a little fearful. We sometimes act as though the circumstances in which we live are overwhelming! We must never entertain such thoughts. This day of religious deception and delusion is no more outside God’s plan, purpose, and power than the formation of a rose. Things have come to pass as they are exactly according to God’s sovereign purpose.
· God sends blindness in judgment, just as he sends light in grace (2 Corinthians 4:4).
· God gives unbelievers the fruit of their own way and sends them to hell singing, “blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!”
Proverbs 1:31 “Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.”
Proverbs 16:25 “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
Again, in this 12th verse, the Holy Spirit tells us that the religion of man, free-will/works religion, that which men think is righteousness, is unrighteousness before God. — This is call “all deceivableness of unrighteousness” in verse 10.
Now, can you imagine what shouts of “Hallelujah!” “Glory!” and “Bless God!” must have gone up from the hearts of these people when they read the next line?
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: (14) Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Be sure you get the message contained in these two glorious verses of Scripture. Here the Holy Spirit is telling us that the only reason you and I are not lost and ruined, the only reason we are no longer under the spell of antichrist, trusting our dead works of self-righteousness, the only reason we are not worshipping at the altar of our own free will, the only reason we are not reeling to and fro in drunkenness, intoxicated with the wine of Babylon’s fornications is God’s sovereign election. Every time we hear or read the words “elect,” “election,” “electing love,” “electing grace,” we ought to lift our hearts to our great, ever-gracious and all-glorious God with thankful praise, and say, “Thank God, for electing love!” Let me talk to you for a minute or two about this great work of grace called “Election.”
1. Election is God’s sovereign work. We give thanks to God for it because God did it.
2. The cause of election is God’s free, sovereign, everlasting love. All who are “beloved of the Lord” were chosen to salvation in Christ. — “Jacob have I loved!”
3. Election took place in eternity. “God hath from the beginning chosen you.”
Ephesians 1:3-6 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
4. Election is unto salvation. — “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation.” — And all who were chosen to salvation must be saved. Else, the purpose of God is meaningless.
5. God’s elect were chosen to be saved “through sanctification of the Spirit.”
God will not save sinners apart from or without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, by which all the chosen are made “partakers of the Divine nature.”
6. We were chosen to salvation by the instrumentality of specific means — “Belief of the Truth!”
Not only has God chosen and predestinated us to salvation, he also ordained that every chosen sinner be saved by “belief of the truth.” God does not use religious lies to save sinners. He uses the truth. It is not the delusion of free-will/works religion that sets sinners free, but the truth, not truth, but the truth! Christ is the Truth. We are saved as we are brought to know him who is the Truth through the preaching of the gospel.
John 6:44-45 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (45) It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”
Ephesians 1:12-14 “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (13) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (14) Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
7. Now, look at 1 Peter 1:2 for second, and learn that we were also chosen to salvation through the obedience and death of Christ as our Substitute.
1 Peter 1:2 “Elect according to the foreknowledge (Eternal Love and Sovereign Purpose) of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”
The obedience and sacrifice of Christ are put after the sanctification of the Spirit because we know nothing about Christ’s work for us until we have been regenerated and illuminated by God the Holy Spirit. Put this text with 2 Thessalonians, and you will see that we were chosen…
· To Salvation.
· Through the Merits of Christ’s Obedience and Death.
· By the Regenerating Work of the Spirit.
· And Belief of the Truth.
8. Go back to 2 Thessalonians 2:14 now, and you will see that God never by-passes the use of means in accomplishing his purpose of grace. The only way a person can ever come to belief the truth is by the effectual, irresistible call of God the Holy Ghost, which comes to chosen, redeemed sinners through the preaching of the gospel. —— “Whereunto he called you by our gospel.”
9. I cannot leave verse 14 without calling your attention to this fact also — Every saved sinner has been chosen, redeemed, and called “to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Whatever that glory is which our Lord Jesus Christ now possesses as our Mediator, we shall obtain in all its fullness and blessedness, because of God’s sovereign election. The glory of Christ has something to do with the perfection of holiness, the possession of power, and the totality of satisfaction. These things shall be ours forever in that blessedness that awaits us at the throne of our God!
What is your response to all this? What is my response to this great grace of our God? What can God’s people do in this reprobate age? What should we do? For one thing, we can stand fast in Christ and holdfast the Gospel of his grace.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”
In these days of wholesale apostasy, in these days of spiritual darkness, famine, and utter perversion, we who have been taught of God must stand fast in the traditions, not in the traditions of religious custom and superstition, but in the traditions of Holy Scripture and gospel truth. Let others say and do what they will, for those of us who have experienced grace, hesitation, shifting, shirking, shrinking, evading, and compromise would be treason to the Son of God! We must stand fast.
2 Timothy 1:13 “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”
· Divine Sovereignty
· Total Depravity!
· Unconditional Election!
· Limited Atonement!
· Irresistible Grace!
· Perseverance of the Saints!
I will tell you something else we can do. We can pray, like Habakkuk of old. —— If God is pleased to work his works of grace in this age he can. And if it is his purpose to do so, he will do so in response to the fervent prayers of his people. “As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isaiah 66:8). — We might well pray the prayer of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:2). “O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid.” — Truly, I tremble for this generation. I fear for the souls of men in this day. I know the cause of all the evil around us. God has obviously left this generation to itself!
“O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years.” — The word “revive” might be better translated “preserve alive.” I pray that our God will graciously preserve alive his Church and revive his truth. And I know he will!
“In the midst of the years make known.” — Pray that God will make known the gospel of his grace, and that he will make all men to know his greatness, his grace, and his glory in Christ. Though the prophets of Baal and those who follow them to destruction may not repent, I pray that our God would make himself known to this generation by us (1 Kings 18:36-37).
“In wrath remember mercy!” — There is yet a remnant, chosen of God and redeemed by Christ, who must be saved. Let us plead with God, putting him in remembrance of his covenant (Isaiah 43:26), that he might have mercy upon some, even in this Day of Judgment.
Here’s something else. —— We can and must preach the gospel to all men, as God gives us opportunity (Romans 1:15-18).
Romans 1:15-17 “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
The only hope sinners have is Christ. Unless someone tells them the good news of God’s free and sovereign grace through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ they will perish under the strong delusion of Arminian, free-will/works religion. We must tell this generation the truth!
Now, look at verses sixteen and seventeen. This was Paul’s benediction, his inspired declaration of Divine blessing upon God’s elect. I cannot think of a better way to conclude this sermon, or a better note to give you to carry home with you than these words of blessedness. This is my prayer for you and God’s promise to every sinner who trusts Christ alone as Savior and Lord.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, (17) Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”
The Triune God “hath loved us.” —— The Lord God has given us “everlasting consolation” through the everlasting gospel of his everlasting grace.
Isaiah 40:1-2 “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. (2) Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
God has given us a “good hope through grace.” –Christ is our Hope! “The Lord is my Portion, saith my soul. Therefore will I hope in him.” Our hope is…
· The Son of God!
· The Grace of God!
· The Word of God!
· The Faithfulness of God!
May the God of all grace now be pleased to “Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work,” for Christ’s sake.