(2 Thessalonians 2:1-6; Matthew 19:30)
In the above passage of 2 Thessalonians, we are informed of two things that will precede the 2nd stage of the Lord’s second coming, namely:- (i) a falling away; (2 Thessalonians 2:3); (ii) revelation (appearance) of the man of sin (the Antichrist) (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
The Greek word used for falling away is apostasia, which means defection, apostasy. Now, apostasy means, “giving up the Christian faith, spurning and speaking evil of it, of those that hold it, and of the Holy Spirit” (1 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 6:4-6; Matthew 12:32; 2 Peter 2:1-3, 20-22).
During the great tribulation that will occur between the rapture and the second stage of Christ’s second coming (see Matthew 24:4-31; Revelation 6:1-19:21), there is going to be great apostasy because people will be hardened for missing the rapture and because of the incomparable persecution of the Antichrist on all who will not yield to his idolatrous and blasphemous rules (2 Thessalonians 2:3-5).
From the above we can assert without fear of exaggeration or error that the time in which we live is the period of great deterioration and backsliding. For one thing, if the horrible persecution of the Antichrist will bring about massive apostasy, it is logical (to say the least) to assert that the presence of other earlier militating factors, such as, the increased influence of sinful pleasure, the mad pursuit of money, other possession and knowledge, the increased difficulties of this life, the persecutions and the like, would surely bring about deterioration and backsliding.
WHAT IS DETERIORATION AND BACKSLIDING?
DETERIORATION means, “falling from standard (or Bible) Christian convictions, conduct and qualities to substandard ones” (compare Isaiah 1:22; Jeremiah 7:26; Luke11:26; 2 Timothy 3:13). On the other hand, BACKSLIDING means, falling back from godly ways into the old sinful ways of living, losing interest in, and insight into the Christian faith completely” (Exodus 32:1-6; Jeremiah 1:16; 2:1-3, 4-8, 13-14, 17; Malachi 3:7-18; 2 Peter 2:20-22).
EVIDENCE OF MASSIVE DETERIORATION
There is great evidence of massive deterioration and backsliding in the present day. Many have dwindled in their love for, faith in and commitment to Christ (Matthew 24:12; 1 Timothy 1:19).
For others, regular reading, studying and hearing the word of God and communing with Him in prayers are now difficult, boring, occasional or even things of the past. Brother or sister prayer warrior has become brother or sister-worried.
Attendance to fellowships as we are commanded (Hebrews 10:25) is now an occasional thing, when it is convenient. He that was of a quiet spirit is now of a violent spirit, speech, now nagging and murmuring at almost everything. The former fasting man is now the feasting one, moving from the offensive to the defensive.
He that was looking up to Jesus and His word for guidance in marriage, business, etc, is now looking around to use his senses. Many now question the need for Bible teachings on restitution, moderation in all things including dressing, jewelry, etc. Some due to this evil, have all the money to rent or buy houses, buy good furniture, but they do not have money to buy good study Bibles or useful Christian literature.
In the matter of service to the Lord, they engage in business and other things day-in-day-out, but never bother about the business of soul-winning by way of person-to-person, house-to-house, bus-to-bus and other forms of soul winning service to the Lord.
EVIDENCE OF MASSIVE BACKSLIDING:
Many are now filled with their own ways (Proverbs 14:14), and indifferent (Matthew 24:12). They that looked up for the next world are not looking back to this world (Luke 9:62). They have turned from calling upon God to calling upon the gods and upon men (Exodus 32:1-6).
The fear of the Lord has departed from their eyes (Jeremiah 2:19). The former faithful are now questioning the authenticity of God’s word, attributes and other things revealed in Scriptures. Their love for Christ has vanished for love of the world (2 Timothy 4:10; Revelation 2:4-5). They have moved from righteousness to sinfulness (Jeremiah 2:3). The praying pilgrims are now prayerless pagans.
The captives of Jesus are now the captives of Satan. They looked to the hills previously, but now they look downward and around. They that remembered God everyday now go about in their programmes without Him (Jeremiah 2:32).
They used to be afraid of hell, but now, they console themselves with some foolish argument, or force their consciences to forget the issue. The fiery evangelistic pastors or teachers are now silenced to fearful, toothless dumb dogs (Isaiah 56:10).
We will not close this chapter without stating the consequences of deterioration and backsliding.
CONSEQUENCES OF DETERIORATION AND BACKSLIDING:
DETERIORATION beclouds one’s spiritual senses, hinders communion with God, effectiveness in service or ministry, brings about removal of privileges, backsliding and disinheritance by God (Matthew 21:43; 25:28; Luke 19:24; 20:16; John 15:2; Revelation 2:5).
BACKSLIDING on its part earns total separation from God and His kingdom (Exodus 32:7, 31-33; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 69:28; Ezekiel 33:11-19). The backslidden is on his way to hell (Numbers 16:30-35; Matthew 27:3-5 with 26:24).