Why the Great Falling Away

One precise sign of Christ’s Second Coming has been fulfilled: The Church of God experienced a terrible apostasy. How could this happen? There was a specific reason—and you need to avoid making this mistake!

The Apostle Paul gave a specific sign of the imminent Second Coming of Jesus Christ that not many people pay attention to. Yet it has happened. This is a sign you can see. Anyone can see it—and you can prove to yourself from your own Bible this sign of the soon-coming return of your Savior. You need not guess or hope; you can prove and know.

What is this sign? Paul prophesied that nearly all of God’s people would turn away from Him in this end time.

What do you know about this great falling away? What could be more important than knowing the sign that Jesus Christ is about to return?

This was a massive spiritual revolt against God. And it happened in our lifetime.

Now, consider this crucial question: Why would such a thing happen? How could tens of thousands of true Christians turn away from God just before Christ returns?

You need to know the answer. Whether or not you have personal history with this rebellion, understanding why it happened is still extremely relevant. It reveals a spiritual flaw that you and I must avoid. The Bible shows that this is the only way we can escape grievous tribulation that is about to descend on this Earth. All of God’s rebellious people who fail to repent before the Great Tribulation will suffer through that dreadful period. And 50 percent of them, in spite of this punishment, are prophesied to refuse to repent and will lose their eternal lives!

Though this is a serious warning, it is also a beautiful and inspiring lesson God wants to teach us. And there is a faithful remnant of God’s people delivering this message—a message Paul said had to be delivered in this end time. These saints will share Christ’s throne and work with Him at universe headquarters in Jerusalem for eternity!

Why did so many of God’s people fall away? Let’s learn this lesson today.

The Man of Sin

Here is Paul’s prophecy: “Now we beseech you, brethren [he is talking to God’s own Church—his ‘brothers’ in the spiritual family], by [or concerning, it should read] the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [this is the context: the Second Coming], and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled [or terrified, it could read], neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ [again, His Second Coming] is at hand” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).

Paul is talking about something that can shake or even terrify people! There is great danger and exceedingly high stakes.

“Let no man deceive you by any means,” verse 3 begins. Paul was fighting individuals who were deliberately trying to deceive God’s people! That word means to lead astray. This event is marked by deep deception and wickedness.

“[F]or that day [of Christ’s return] shall not come, except there come a falling away first …” (verse 3). Here is the sign: A massive “falling away” from the truth among God’s people. Other translations call this “the apostasy” and “the great revolt.”

The original Greek says this will happen first. Christ will not return until this has taken place. This falling away is a sign that Christ is almost here!

This Church-wide rebellion has happened! It was a disturbing, terrifying event in this end time. But realize: It is connected directly to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ! The New English Translation calls it “the final rebellion against God.” Why? Because Christ’s return comes next. There will be no rebellion at all until the very end of His thousand-year rule over Earth. Then Satan will be banished into outer darkness forever, and no one will ever rebel again (Revelation 20:1-3, 7, 10).

Paul’s prophecy continues by giving a lot more detail about what occurs in this falling away: “… and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 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, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

Note: During this great falling away, an individual Paul calls the “man of sin … the son of perdition” is exposed. This man is “in the temple of God”—meaning in God’s Church. Perdition refers to destruction, damnation, perishing, waste and utter ruin. This man placed himself above God and taught God’s people the opposite of what God teaches! He led God’s Church into destruction!

The man of sin is a specific human being. If we are tuned into God and His message, then God reveals this man’s identity to us. Do you know who this man is? I absolutely do, and I can prove it. (Request my free book Malachi’s Message to God’s Church Today to study this proof for yourself.)

The Moffatt translation says Christ will not return “till the Rebellion takes place first of all, with the revealing of the Lawless One.” You can know and see this man because his identity was exposed in that great “falling away.” He is “the Lawless One”—inside God’s Church! And because of him, God’s people are dying spiritually. Spiritual lives are at stake because God has called them and given them His truth, yet they turned away from it! God has to correct them for that, or they are going to lose their eternal lives!

The only other person in the Bible to be called the “son of perdition” was Judas Iscariot (John 17:12). Judas betrayed Christ Himself! Scriptures show that Judas was actually possessed by the devil (Luke 22:3; John 13:27). Satan actually entered his mind the last night of Christ’s life on Earth!

The implication is that this happens in this end time as well! This end-time man of sin is on the same sinful level as Judas. It is a betrayal of Christ. The Church rebellion is the epitome of betrayal! Satan loves betrayal. The devil infiltrated God’s Church as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) and possessed the mind of this man of sin. Most of God’s people were so lukewarm and far from Him, they couldn’t discern Satan’s presence in this man and inside the Church.

Imagine Satan possessing a man—and God’s own people following that man, thinking they are following Christ! That shows you how easily we can be deceived!

How could this happen? I will show you a specific reason, and it is something that could happen to you or me or any human being, depending on how we react to God and His Word.

The Reason for Rebellion

We must understand Satan and how he operates. “And then shall that Wicked be revealed … Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-9). The Revised Standard Version renders signs as “pretended signs.” It is all deceit. The man of sin is a fraud emboldened by Satan’s impressive power to deceive.

Revelation 12:9 reveals that Satan has deceived the whole world. But did you know that God’s very elect cannot be deceived? That is what Matthew 24:24 says. Nobody can deceive them! If you operate on that spiritual level, you never have to be deceived. But if we do not stay close to Christ and remain His very elect, we will be deceived.

Notice, though, that verse 8 of 2 Thessalonians 2 also says of this lawless man, “whom the Lord will slay with the breath of his mouth [His truth], and bring to an end by the appearance of his coming.” The man of sin is going to have to face Jesus Christ Himself at His Second Coming—and it will not be pleasant for him. Christ is going to end this man’s work!

Verses 10 and 11 reveal why almost every member of the Worldwide Church of God rebelled after Herbert W. Armstrong died in 1986. Speaking of the deceptive activity of the man of sin, it says, “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish”—notice: These people are perishing spiritually! That is how serious this is! Then comes this illuminating statement: “because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (verse 10).

Why were they deceived? Why was Satan able to have such success in deluding them? Because they received not the love of the truth. God’s own people didn’t love the truth—and passionately love God the Father and Jesus Christ. Now, they are perishing spiritually! What could be more serious?

John 17:17 says God’s Word is truth. That means both the Old Testament and New Testament. Christ told us we must live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4). But God’s people fell away from that! They possessed tremendous understanding and great truth—but didn’t love it. So they followed the devil who came as an angel of light, and were led away from it!

The Philips translation says, “They have refused to love the truth.” God’s own people just refuse! They will not obey God’s Word! “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:11). God allowed Satan to wreck the Church because the people stopped loving the truth.

You cannot fake loving God’s truth. Ezekiel prophesied of many people who say they love the truth, but who won’t do it and obey it! “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (Ezekiel 33:31). Saying you love the truth means nothing of itself. God demands action to back up our words.

Do you passionately love God’s truth?

If you want to avoid deception, love the truth of God. If you want the ultimate peace and happiness in your life, love the truth of God!

There is a little remnant of that church that shows by their fruits they love the truth by proclaiming and explaining this prophetic message of 2 Thessalonians 2. God’s loyal remnant delivers the truth, and obeys the truth, and proves by their fruits how much they love the truth!

God’s prophets and apostles, heroes of the Bible, loved the truth so much that they would die before they would give it up! No matter how difficult the circumstances, however severe the persecution, they simply would not give it up! The truth was more important than anything else in their lives. And even amid trial, they radiated with joy because they knew that if they clung to the truth, they would be able to enjoy life with God forever!

Do you want to escape deception? Do you want a life filled with happiness and peace? Do you want to serve with Christ for eternity? Then love God’s truth!