The Church in the Last Days: Evidence of the Apostate, and the Remnant revealed.
God’s Word gives us a clear description of the church in the last days in Christ’s letters to the seven churches in His Revelation, chapters 2 & 3. These are seven churches that existed in Asia Minor at the time of the writing of the Revelation. The seven churches are representative of the church throughout history, and yet there are characteristics of each of these churches evident in “the Church” today. Unfortunately most of these characteristics are not desirable. However, there is evidence of a remnant group in these two chapters who stand fast in the faith in the end times.
Five problems with the church in the last days.
Christ prophesied in Matthew 24 that in the last days false Christ’s or Anti-Christ’s would appear to deceive many Matthew 24:4&5 And Jesus answered and said unto them: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, ‘I am Christ,’ and shall deceive many”. We find evidence of this today in the various cults and false Christianities in the world today. Jesus also prophesied in Matthew 24:11&12 “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold”. Here Jesus warns of false prophets within the church itself, and the resulting confusion they cause. This is Doctrinal error they bring into the church resulting in powerless, worldly congregations that tolerate and even embrace sin, which eventually causes them to wax cold, fall away, become apostate.
These prophecies are born out in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. In these letters to the seven Churches we find five distinct problems that turn the church away from Christ, five things that Satan uses to destroy the church by making it un-impassioned, irrelevant, institutional, spiritually insolvent and ineffective.
Four of these churches are addressed in chapter 2 and the remaining three in chapter 3. The first church is the church at Ephesus, and while the church is commended for its ability to discern who are or are not true messengers of the gospel, and the fact that they hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans (the Nicolaitans wanted to establish a priestly order placing the power of the church in the hands of priests and bishops and even a high priest; but the New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers), still there is a problem with this church.
In Revelation 2: 4 Christ tells them “you left your first love”. This isn’t just sad, it’s shattering. This church where Paul had labored for three years establishing their faith, where Timothy had instructed them in sound doctrine, and were John himself had been their teacher, was no longer passionate in their love for Christ. Somewhere along the line their joy was gone and with it their pure love for Christ. Their hearts had grown cold and what was left was legalistic religion. So this is the first problem that arises, the people who are the church lose the joy of their salvation. They just don’t love Jesus like they once did, they’re not talking to him in prayer, they’re not listening to him by studying his word, there’s no worship there anymore, just a broken relationship and unless there is true repentance the church has begun a steady decline into apostasy.
In Revelation 2: 12-17 we find the letter to the church at Pergamos. This is actually the third of the letters to the churches and in it is described the second problem embraced by the church. Christ tells them, “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name.” So they are still identifying themselves as Christians, but he says “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.” So what is the doctrine of Balaam? Very simply it is compromise. Balac allowed the children of Israel to participate in pagan parties and rituals which caused them to fall into immorality and idol worship, they intermarried with the women of Moab destroying the separation God had established, and they disregarded God’s laws and did what was right in their own eyes. This then is a picture of what happened to the church at Pergamos, they compromised, they let the world in, and they quit preaching against immorality, they began to let things become idols in their lives. And of course, what was once pure faith became religiosity and rote worship in an institutionalized church.
So this is how it happens, when you quit loving Jesus Christ with all your heart and mind and soul, you allow worldly things to come into your life, you’re not really separated from the world anymore, what you believe becomes compromised, and the next thing you know, your following those who teach another gospel.
This then brings us to the third problem found within the church in the last days, false prophets teaching false doctrine. In Revelation 2: 18-29 we find the letter written to the church in Thyatira. While verse 19 speaks of good things about this church, Revelation 2: 20 says “Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, because thou allowest that woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. ” Once again we see a church caught up in false doctrine, but worse yet, the false doctrine is being taught from within the church. This Jezebel is allowed to teach, but she’s not preaching the gospel, instead she’s teaching seduction. You know this message, the apostle Paul said it was for “itching ears” in 2 Timothy 4:3 &4 and “they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” We see this in the church today, where the Gospel of Grace through the shed blood of Jesus Christ at Calvary, the Gospel that tells us that the blood is the only thing that will wash away our sins, the Gospel that tells us that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him, has been replaced by false doctrines.
The true Gospel has been replaced by a self-help gospel laced with secular humanism which teaches that man has the power and authority to change and elevate his own life, that true happiness comes from within man himself; the true Gospel has been replaced by a prosperity gospel which teaches the God wants you to be wealthy and that you can have anything you want, that all you have to do is to name it and claim it in Jesus name, it is a gospel centered on the base desires of man rather than the reality of God’s will. The true Gospel has been replaced by an emergent gospel which takes away the need for repentance because the god of the emergent gospel loves you so much that no matter who you are or how you live he would never condemn you, it is a gospel devoid of faith, devoid of responsibility, and devoid of judgment. The true Gospel has been replaced in these last days by a false gospel which teaches that the church has replaced God’s chosen people Israel, that the church has become “spiritual” Israel and that Israel’s blessings have become the church’s blessings. This false gospel denies prophetic Scripture as allegory and denies the future second coming of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, there is much more on the subject of false doctrine. In speaking of false doctrines, the apostle Paul used even stronger language in1 Timothy 4:1 “that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” Today the world is awash in cultic teaching, from the blasphemy of Mormonism which teaches the Jesus Christ is the brother of Lucifer, to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their blasphemy which teaches that Jesus Christ and the Archangel Michael are one and the same, to Christian science which is neither Christian nor science, to Scientology, Catholicism, Chrislam, Universalism, Shamanism, Spiritualism, and countless other “ism’s” which all deny or denigrate the deity of Jesus Christ.
All of these false Gospels, false doctrines, cultic religions, are stealing the souls of men, and one of the greatest reasons for this is that the church of Jesus Christ has strayed from the true Gospel, from the Word of God, we’ve lost our first love.
This brings us to Revelation 3: 1-6 and the fourth problem associated with the church in the last days. In verse one Christ tells this church in Sardis, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” He has nothing good to say to this church, they think they are alive, they still open the doors, unfortunately Ichabod (the Glory has departed) is written above them. They are dead, their works show no fruit, they are marked by evidence of all of the previous three problems, they deny the love of Christ, deny morality, deny separation from the world, they deny sound doctrine, deny saving faith, deny the power of the cross, deny the power in the blood, deny the second coming of Christ, in fact they deny the authority of God, His son Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit. And so, they are dead, and dead churches become apostate.
This brings us to the fifth problem in the church in the last days; Apostasy. Corrupted and compromised by worldliness it will be devoid of the presence of God. Somewhere along the line it abandoned all pretense of Biblical Doctrine, it renounced the authority of the Scriptures, it ridicules Bible Prophecy, it denies the Second Coming, and denies God’s covenant relationship with His chosen people Israel. The church at Laodicea in the Revelation is representative of the Apostate church.
In the letter to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3: 15- 20, Christ says “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So, then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayist, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest to be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
There isn’t any mention of even one person in this church that has remained faithful to God. Not one, and in fact, we find Christ on the outside of this church knocking at the door. Christ hasn’t even been invited into this church. So I ask you, can it really be a church at all without the presence of Christ? Christ says if any man hears my voice and opens the door then I will come in and sup with him and he with me, it only takes one, just one person to desire fellowship with Jesus Christ. Yet there is no one within the walls of this church that desires a relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ says they are neither cold nor hot, he says they are lukewarm. The picture here is of water. Cold water is refreshing, and hot water has the ability to cleanse, but lukewarm water is neither. It’s tepid, stagnant; it has no quality to be desired. Christ says because of this, he will vomit them out of his mouth.
This isn’t a church; it’s a country club, a social club, some sort of charitable organization, perhaps some sort of a political organization, whatever it is it has no resemblance to the church in Acts. This so called church is apathetic, they have become worldly, they are completely focused on temporal things and so declare, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing”, but Christ says that they don’t realize that they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. These people may still call themselves “Christian”, but they don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They believe in a “Higher Power”, or may even say they believe in God (even the demons believe, James2:19), but all that is left here is a form of godliness as described in 2Timothy 3:1-5. This “church” is filled with people who are only interested in wealth, power, health, and self promotion. Many of these “churches” are sincere in their desire to improve the lives of people by what they teach, but they teach tolerance and inclusion of all religions and moralities, saying there are many paths to God, yet Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” John 14:6. The message of the Cross, the sacrificial shed blood of Christ, and repentance of sin, are offensive to them. And so however sincere they may be, they are sincerely wrong, and are sincerely leading people down the broad path of destruction which at the very least will usher them into the Tribulation and at worst, to Hell.
So here is the progression of problems evident in the church down through history, leading us to where we find the majority of “churches” today.
First, they leave their first love, the beauty of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Second, they compromise, let the world in, they tolerate sin.
Third, they tolerate and follow false prophets and false doctrine.
Fourth, they die, the glory of God has departed, and they become Spiritually Dead.
Fifth, they are Apostate centers of religiosity that may look like a church, they may have a form of godliness, but they are powerless because they don’t have the presence of the Holy Spirit.
However, there is still hope in these last days, for Christ still is at work in the world through His Holy Spirit. And there is a remnant of believers empowered by the Holy Spirit of Christ, who are alive in Christ, who refute false prophets and false doctrine, who refuse to compromise with the world, and who have a vibrant, growing, and intimate, relationship with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the Remnant Church that Loves Him and is awaiting His return.
In Revelation chapters 2&3, we find within the Letters to the seven churches, evidence of a remnant of believers who are true to Jesus Christ and His call. This group represents what I believe to be the Remnant Church of the last days. We find them in four passages in chapters 2 & 3 of the Revelation.
In Revelation 2: 8-11 we read the letter to the church at Smyrna, “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”
This group of believers, this church is a church under persecution, a church that has suffered for the stand that they have made for Christ. They are told to be a fearless church. And while outwardly they look to be poor, Christ tells them they are rich. This church is promised a crown of life for being faithful all their life… right up to the time of their death. Notice Christ has no rebuke for this church? Persecution has a way of purifying a church. Suffering causes us to rely on our Savior, and we are promised in1 Peter 3:13-16 “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” It doesn’t matter where the persecution comes from, we are to rely on the strength of our Savior, and testify of His provision for us, His protection of us, and His promises to us. The Remnant Church will be a persecuted church. (We will discuss the Persecution and Suffering of the Remnant Church in more depth in part four of this series of articles.)
Now then, if we look back in Revelation chapter 2 at the letter to the church at Thyatira, the church that allowed false prophets to teach false doctrine, we find something interesting in this letter. Rev 2:24-26 “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations”
It appears that here in these verses we find evidence of a few in this church who made a stand for Sound Doctrine and Spiritual Truth. And, the promise to them for their faithfulness is to not be cast into tribulation, but be given a position of power in His kingdom. These few faithful are more evidence of the Remnant Church in the last days. Christ tells them to “hold fast what you have till I come”. This is instructive because of Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24 “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” This is a primer for Christian service, with a promise that if these instructions are followed, God Himself will preserve the believer until Christ’s return. (We will discuss further the Responsibilities of the Remnant Church in part three of this series of articles.)
In the letter to the church at Sardis, the dead church, in Revelation chapter 3, we find evidence of a few who are still spiritually alive. Rev. 3: 4 &5 “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
In these verses we see more of the Remnant Church, those who have not “defiled their garments”. This passage says these are worthy and their name remains in the Book of Life… they are heaven bound, we see them again in Revelation 4:4 around the throne, and in Revelation 19:14 mounted on white horses following Christ the Warrior King into battle. The first recording of Christ’s promise to confess the name of the faithful servant before His Father is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Matthew 10:32
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” This is an honor in recognition of their faithful service in fulfilling the responsibilities they were given as a part of the Body of Christ.
The fourth passage in Revelation chapters 2 & 3 relating to the Remnant Church is found in the letter to the church at Philadelphia in Revelation 3:8-12 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”
This church is recognized as having “a little strength” and “have kept My word” which tells us they are growing spiritually because they are students of the Scripture, which in turn has given them the strength to Stand and Hold Fast for Christ. And, while they too are a persecuted church, they persevered and so Christ promises to keep them “from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” This is evidence of the Pre-Trib Rapture in this passage, because the “hour of trial” is a reference to the Tribulation. Again, like the remnant at Thyatira they are told to “Hold fast”, there is yet a little work to do, a need to persevere a little longer, there are still some that need to be reached in these last days. Jude 22&23 “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
In these Last Days, God is calling out His Remnant Church, those who are and will be faithful. He began by building His church as recorded in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and those who are faithful to the message of that church are those who are the Remnant Church today. He has preserved this witness for the past 2000 years, for He has not left Himself without a witness, ever. At times, throughout these intervening years, the Remnant may have appeared to be very poor, and even frail; but the Lord Himself chose them to carry His message and to do His will. The strength within the Remnant Church is the Power of the Cross, through the shed Blood of her Savior Jesus Christ. When Christ calls His Bride to join Him in the Fathers House, there still will be a remnant, 144,000 sealed believers from the children of Israel, two Old Testament prophets, and countless numbers who will heed their message of Salvation through the coming King of Kings.
Where do you stand today? Are you a part of the Remnant Church?
Even So Come!