The last days of history – Part 40
“Take heed brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” (Heb3: 12)
THE Greek words for apostasy appear twice in the NT in the noun form apostasia, (Acts 21:21; 2 Thes 2:3) and here in Heb 3:12 in the verb form aphistemi, (translated here as “departing,” but in some other translation as “turn away”). The Greek term literally means “standing,” away from God and refers to abandoning what one has previously believed and experienced in Christ. It involves a disowning of Christ and departure from the body of Christ and the Christian faith. Apostasy is the consequence of a deliberate and volitional choice to “[depart] from the living God” (3:12).
(1) Individual apostasy is possible only for those who have first experienced the blood of the new covenant in regeneration and sanctification, renewal through the Holy Spirit, and relationship with Christ (cf. Heb6: 4-5; 10:29). The Christian faith is primarily about a relationship with God. Thus, the Bible speaks of God’s fatherhood and Christ’s sonship, and our relationship to God as His family and children (Rom8: 14-17). Whereas logical systems of thought and natural law are cold, fixed, and unrelational, salvation in Christ is personal, relational, and requires our responsiveness. God’s grace in His Son makes possible our relationship with Him and is sufficient for sustaining it. In Jesus’ analogy about the vine and the branches (John 15:1-8), the believer (BRANCH) who remains in relational union with Christ (VINE) is secure and has life. Should a believer because of the hardness of heart ever choose to break this relational grace-union with Christ and thereby “depart,” that person may, in the end, perish eternally as an unbeliever (John 15:6)
(2) The Bible issues urgent warnings about this grave possibility, designed both to alert us to the deadly danger of abandoning our union with Christ and to motivate us to persevere in faith and obedience.
The divine purpose of these warning passages must not be weakened by the view that states, “the warnings are real, but the possibility of actual apostasy is not.” Rather, we must see these warnings as speaking to the reality of our probationary period, and we should regard them with an alarm if we want to be saved in the end. A few of the many NT warning passages are: Mat24: 4-5, 11-13; Luke12: 46; John15: 6; Rom11: 17-21; 1Cor15: 2; Col1: 23; 1Tim 4:1, 16; 2 Tim4: 2-5; Heb2: 1-3; 3:7-19; 4:1, 6-7, 11; 6:4-9; 10:26-31; 12:25; 2 Pet1: 10; 2:20-22.
(3) Examples of actual apostasy can be found in Ex32; 2 Kg17: 7-23; Ps106; Is1: 2-4; Jer2: 1-9; Acts1: 25; Gal5: 4; 1Tim1: 18-20; 2Pet2: 1,15, 20-22; Jude4, 11-13, see the article on The Age of the Antichrist for comments on apostasy predicted to occur within the professing church in the last days of this age.
(4) The steps that lead to apostasy are as follows:
(a) Believers, through unbelief, fail to take the truths, exhortations, warnings, promises, and teachings of God’s Word with utmost seriousness (Mark1: 15; Luke8: 13; John5: 44, 47; 8:46).
(b) If the realities of the world become greater than the realities of God’s heavenly kingdom, believers gradually cease to draw near to God through Christ (Heb4: 16; 7:19, 25:11:6).
(c) Through the deceitfulness of sin, they become increasingly tolerant of sin in their own lives (1Cor 6:9-10; Eph5: 5; Heb3: 13). They no longer love righteousness and hate wickedness (Heb1: 9).
(d) Through hardness of heart (Heb3: 8, 13) and rejecting God’s way (Heb3: 10), they ignore the repeated voice and rebuke of the Holy Spirit (Eph4: 30; 1Thes 5:19-22)
(e) The Holy Spirit is grieved (Eph4: 30; Heb3: 7-8) and His fire put out (1Thes5: 19) and His temple violated (1Cor3: 16). He eventually departs from the believers (Judg16: 20; Ps51: 11; Rom8: 13; 1 Cor3: 16-17; Heb3: 14).
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