Combining a background in engineering with degrees in theology, Dr. Congdon has been in the full-time ministry for over 25 years. Through CMI he seeks to assist believers in gaining a better knowledge of the Scriptures and God's plan for history, in addition to an outreach to the lost.
Recognizing an ever increasing need to defend the faith in these latter days of lawlessness and apostasy, he uses the Internet to bring solid, in-depth Bible teaching to viewers in 20+ countries. Being particularly concerned for the 20-45 year-olds, many unchurched, over 50% of our viewership sees CMI-TV through the Internet and through smart devices. Using CMI-TV and a strong Bible conference ministry, Rob’s primary goal is to equip believers to serve their Lord Jesus Christ now, in the Millennium, and throughout eternity.
It’s such a joy to meet with you here at the 2021 Berean Call Conference. I’ve so enjoyed meeting you and speaking at previous conferences here in Bend, Oregon. While I miss the face-to-face contact, streaming is a real answer to the health concerns that we’ve all faced in this last year. That, and the many events of the year, have drawn me to my message for today. I believe the Apostle Paul explains why I feel this topic is vital for our day and for our understanding.
Please turn to 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, and I’m going to begin reading at verse 1: “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you, for you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they say ‘peace and safety,’ then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all children of light, and the children of the day. We’re not of the night nor of darkness, therefore, let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober.”
Please, let’s begin in prayer: Our dear heavenly Father, we thank you for this opportunity to study your Word; this opportunity to be together at this conference. May you guide us as we study it; may we learn what you would have for us today; may we then apply it, both in our lives personally and to others around us as we share and proclaim your glory and your honor. May you bless our time together now, in Jesus’s name. Amen.
[Audio: ominous music] – “This is determined to be an unlawful assembly. You must disperse the area.”
A few days ago, as my wife and I were out driving, we came to an intersection with a stop sign. I did a double-take as we pulled up to it, for under the word “stop” someone had handwritten and taped the emphatic word, Stupid! I immediately understood that some driver had narrowly escaped an accident there because another driver had failed to obey the stop sign. In exasperation, he or she had taken action by adding that word “stupid” under the word “stop.”
Like this frustrated driver, we have been noticing that people are ignoring stop signs more and more. As we drove on, our conversation revolved around a question that many are asking today: Why is lawlessness increasing in our culture?
This past year has seen a significant number of American cities overrun by rioters and insurgents bent on destruction as well as the overthrow of authority and the rule of law. Radical agitators have stirred up mobs of easily-led people by focusing their attention on incidents of “social injustice” that seemingly provide an excuse to become lawless, and to destroy the lives and property of others—even the very businesses that supply their own basic needs. Lawlessness has increasingly become the spirit of our age. Why is it so prevalent today? Why is it permeating nearly every nook of our culture—from the stop sign on the corner to the seat of our government?
Although I have witnessed riots and lawlessness during several periods of my lifetime, today’s disregard for law and order exceeds anything I have ever experienced! The cultural revolution of the ’60s and ’70’s, with race riots, anti-war demonstrations, sexual liberation, and the “free spirit” movement caused me to begin questioning, What was behind the lawless rebellion and cultural changes that were altering society of that day?
It was then that I first began to study biblical prophecy and understand God’s foreordained plan for human history that is revealed in the Bible. I became excited as I found answers and comfort in God’s Word, for I began to see that God is in control of earthly events—even when things seem out of control, from my perspective.
I began to recognize the significance of God’s decision to create human beings with the freedom to choose between good and evil; obedience or disobedience; loving Him and accepting His offer of salvation through His Son, or rejecting His offer of salvation. God does not desire to be loved and worshiped by robots who have been pre-programmed to do this. You see, dictators force obedience through coercive and cruel measures. Now, God draws us to Himself through love. And He gives individuals the freedom to choose their own paths. When God gave His created beings—both angelic and human—the freedom to choose their own destinies, lawlessness and evil became a possibility.
Now, God did not create lawlessness and evil, but God’s willingness to allow the freedom of choice opened the door for it to become a reality. Increasingly, I am being asked if I believe that Christ will soon come and gather His bride to Himself. Paul gave us some answers in the second letter to the first-century believers in the church of Thessalonica. There he provides a key to help us understand why increasing lawlessness actually may be the precursor of a sequence of prophesied events.
There, Paul wrote: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that you 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. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away [literally, ‘except there come the apostasy’] first, and that man [or, literally, again, ‘that the man’] of sin may be revealed, the son of perdition.”
Paul wrote that in 2 Thessalonians:2:1-3. Believers of the Thessalonian church were troubled, because they thought the Day of the Lord, the Tribulation, was about to take place, and they would have to go through it. Paul assured them that this was not the case. In this passage, he tells them about three signs, or indicators, that will be observable just prior to the Tribulation.
This passage also begins to answer our questions regarding the Rapture and the increasing lawlessness of our day. The first sign, or indicator—Paul told them that a “falling away” would take place prior to the Rapture and the subsequent tribulation. He says, “For that day [the Tribulation, now] shall not come except there come [or, literally,] the falling away first.” You see, the Greek word for “falling away” is “apostasía,” from which we get our word, “apostasy.” And the definite article “the” in front of “apostasy” indicates that this will not be just general apostasy that has happened throughout the ages at different times in the churches but rather a uniquely significant one. The apostasy.
Yes, apostasy has always been a problem for the church, according to 1 John:4:1. And Jude warned believers to be on guard for it and to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3). But in this passage, Paul indicates that this false teaching, or doctrine, would be the greatest apostasy of the church age. Now, prior to the Rapture, it may permeate the church to such an extent that it is no longer obeying the Great Commission to go into all the world and to preach the Gospel—the Gospel of salvation, Matthew:28:10-20.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Father sends His Son for His Bride, the Church, at this time (Acts:3:19-21). You see, the Church will be removed because she no longer is holding to sound doctrine or fulfilling her purpose. You might want to consult Romans:11:19-23 to see that concept.
Thus, we would anticipate apostasy increasing more and more within the church as the Rapture and the Tribulation draw nearer. Thus, the first sign indicating the nearness of the Rapture and Tribulation is the Great Apostasy throughout the church.
Now, the second sign, or indicator, is found in verse 1 of chapter 2, where Paul’s words say, “By the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him….” You see, he assured the Thessalonians that the Rapture of the church would take place before the Tribulation. This phrase could also be translated, “On account of the soon-coming presence of the Lord.” I like that! “The coming presence of the Lord….” This Greek New Testament word for “coming” is often used to indicate a future prophetic event, and, in this passage, the Rapture.
Paul had already taught the Thessalonians about the Rapture in his first letter, when he told them to “comfort one another with these words.” For, he said, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of archangel and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we, which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. So shall we ever be with Lord, wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” That’s 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, verses16-18.
The Thessalonians knew about the Rapture, but they needed to know its timing in relation to the Tribulation. And they needed assurance that they wouldn’t go through it, although many believers who lack discernment will accept the erroneous teaching of the apostasy. Others who are more discerning will not.
Nevertheless, the Lord, in His mercy and grace, will come for all true believers and deliver them from the wrath to come. For the Lord says, through Paul, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath [that’s the Tribulation] but to obtain salvation [that’s deliverance from the wrath] by our Lord Jesus Christ.”—1 Thessalonians:5:9. Thus, the second sign is the Rapture of the church prior to the Tribulation.
Now, the third sign, or indicator: In chapter 2, verse 3 (2 Thessalonians), the appearance of the Antichrist and the removal of the restraint of the Holy Spirit is the third sign that precedes the Tribulation, for we read that “the man of sin will be revealed, the son of perdition.”
Some early manuscripts say, “That man of lawlessness” (choosing the word “lawlessness” instead of “the man of sin”), “be revealed, the son of perdition.” See, so sin and lawlessness are linked together.
Now, when the church is removed, notice, the Holy Spirit’s restraining influence will be absent from the world. For the Holy Spirit indwells and works through believers during the Church Age. Paul explains this as he carries on in verses 6 and 7: “And now ye know what withholdeth [or “is restrainging] that he [the Antichrist] might be revealed in his time. For the mystery [hidden truth] of iniquity doth already work: only he [that’s the Holy Spirit] who now letteth [and literally, it means “to hold back”] will let [or hold back] until He [the Spirit] be taken out of the way [or, “is removed”]—2 Thessalonians:2:6-7.
`When Paul wrote that “he,” the Antichrist, might be “revealed in his time,” he could only mean the time of the Tribulation. The Antichrist will not be identifiable during the Church Age, so don’t look and point, and say, “That’s the Antichrist.” You can’t know. But he will become very apparent shortly after the Rapture.
Now, the church won’t be on the earth after the Rapture when this sign appears, although the workings of iniquity that will eventually lead to his appearance on the world stage are already present, according to 1 John:2:18-19. His identity is a mystery that is hidden from us today. Thus, the third sign is the appearance of the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, and the removal of the restraint of the Holy Spirit with the taking of the church just prior to the start of the Tribulation.
During the present Church Age, believers are to serve as salt and light in the world by spreading the saving light of the gospel of salvation and opposing sin through the power of the Holy Spirit, according to Matthew:5:13-16. When the majority of believers no longer are walking in the Spirit but instead are quenching the Spirit, then worldliness and apostasy inevitably will enter the church, and the world outside will then grow darker and more lawless.
In verses 6 and 7, Paul told the Thessalonians the Holy Spirit will restrain the full fruition of sin until the Spirit’s restraint is removed along with the church at the Rapture. When the church leaves, the Holy Spirit’s restraining action will end. When sin is fully ripe for harvest, or for the judgment of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will appear on the world’s scene. He will be the embodiment of lawlessness and rebellion against God.
Now, I believe that we are witnessing the final unique apostasy of the church that reflects and contributes to the lawlessness within our culture today. I urge you, we cannot stick our heads in the sand and deny that these are the very last days of the Church Age.
As mentioned earlier, the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit through the Church Age believers has increasingly been quenched as the world’s values and influences have infiltrated the church and been adopted by believers. External distinctions, such as moral behavior, modesty, and humility, often are absent and have been replaced by the politically correct acceptance of sin, immodesty, and pride.
For example, more and more Christians approve of drinking alcoholic beverages. Such drinking was once considered ungodly and something a Spirit-filled Christian should abstain from, according to Ephesians:5:18. In Greenville, South Carolina, once considered to be the “buckle” of the Bible Belt, a hymn-singing and beer-drinking venue called “Hymns and Hops” has grown from a gathering of about 80 people to 1,000 in just two years. Their stated goal is to (and I quote), “create a space for families and people to celebrate the gospel through community song and drinking.”
Their website proclaims their motto, and I quote again, “Sing loud, die happy.” And a website testimonial says, and I quote, “There is nothing like worship at a brewery.”
[Quote from a participant]: “Many people ask me, ‘Is hymns and hops trying to start a movement? And that makes me laugh, because we’re not looking to start a movement, but we’re joining a movement. We’re joining a movement that was started over 2,000 years ago by a guy named Jesus.”
This growing acceptance began when Christian schools started yielding to student pressures to drop their prohibition on drinking. Beginning in 2003, Wheaton College, once a fundamental school, began to allow drinking, smoking, and dancing for graduate students and faculty. In 2013, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago dropped their rules about tobacco and alcohol. And in 2014, Dallas Theological Seminary followed, sadly. These schools actually are reflecting the changing attitudes of students and their families and have compromised their former biblically based standards to draw more students.
The apostle John warned believers against the tendency to compromise biblical standards with worldliness when he wrote of the “last time or hour” of the church age and that final Antichrist who shall come.
John wrote, “Little children, it is the last time [or the last hour, literally], and as you have heard that after Christ shall come, even now there are many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John:2:15-18).
I’ve given a few examples of the world’s influences infiltrating the church and pressuring pastors and church leaders to compromise biblically based standards for personal behavior, worship, and preaching and teaching styles. When I consider all these changes seen in the churches during my lifetime, I truly believe that we are witnessing the final unique apostasy of the church that contributes to the lawlessness within our culture today.
I have given this overview because Paul commanded us to know of and recognize these dangerous last days of the Church Age. We can’t ignore it when it comes. If these are the final days of the Church Age, and the church is falling away from biblical truth once delivered to the saints, then we must face the very real possibility that the uniquely significant apostasy that Paul, Jude, and John warned about—that it’s present within the church right now.
I believe this is the case, for a unified body of unsound doctrines is permeating churches and Bible schools throughout the entire world today. It is rapidly infiltrating the church through the word of mouth, through books and articles, prominent speakers, and the Internet.
You see, the Internet uniquely provides the means of communicating ideas and disseminating them exponentially around the globe. Now, this teaching has been present throughout much of the church age, but it’s taken on a new “persona” in recent years. It has been repackaged so that it appeals to the present generation that is looking for deeper teaching and answers to basic questions about life in the here and now—and in eternity.
Since many of the millennial and Gen-Z generations have a worldview that has been shaped by secular influences in schools, the workplace, the media, and the culture around us, they’re easy prey for this apostasy. As previously mentioned, many churchgoers are undiscerning, and therefore, unable to recognize doctrinal error, because the preaching and teaching ministries have not adequately equipped them when carefully examined in the light of scripture. It becomes evident that this apostasy offers a “form of godliness, but denies the power thereof”—the very description that Paul warned Timothy about for the latter days in 2 Timothy:3:5. What power does it deny? The Holy Spirit’s power. It’s the Holy Spirit’s power that enables believers to understand and obey God’s Word, discern good from evil, and truth from error, to live as a new Creation in Christ and reproduce new believers through witness and the Word of God.
In other words, the Holy Spirit edifies, enables, convicts, sanctifies, and gives new spiritual life. How does this great apostasy deny the Holy Spirit’s power? Here are two prime areas of this apostasy’s teachings, or doctrines, that are permeating the church today and quenching the work of the Holy Spirit. The first is that this apostasy denies that all individuals have been given the freedom to choose their own destinies. That is to accept or reject God’s gracious offer of redemption through faith in the atoning work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection.
Instead, it teaches that God arbitrarily preselected only those whom He wanted to redeem. According to this teaching, the pre-selected individuals are regenerated and then later given faith. That regeneration occurs some time prior to their hearing the gospel. Thus this acquired “faith” enables them to confirm and acknowledge their regeneration. Now, they’re already saved because they were regenerated! They only needed to acknowledge that they are saved and to confirm it intellectually.
In actuality, this is an intellectual ascent or a head-knowledge, not necessarily genuine salvation. You see, faith is simply believing that something is true and then relying on it, trusting it. The Holy Spirit’s job is to convict individuals of the truth of the gospel. It’s then up to the individual to choose whether or not to believe the message and receive it by faith or reject it.
Faith is a decision of individual choice, not a commodity that must be given. Why God chose not to offer redemption to everyone is not considered by those holding this apostasy, even though it is obvious that those who were not “chosen” for heaven are destined for hell. Those who hold this doctrine also do not consider how it denies God’s attributes of grace, mercy, and love, for John tells us, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John:3:16).
And we read also in the scriptures, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise [that is, to return for His bride] as some count slackness, but is long-suffering [that means “to be patient”] to usward—[notice] not willing that any should perish [that’s ‘go to hell’], but that all should come to repentance [salvation].” That’s in 2 Peter:3:9.
Because of this false doctrine, many churches no longer preach the gospel of salvation by faith in their services, nor do they reach out in evangelism. If they still support missionaries, they encourage them to emphasize the social aspects of missions—those that improve the living conditions of the lost in the here and now.
While this can be a means of opening doors to share the gospel of salvation, reaching the lost with the saving message of Christ no longer is their primary purpose. You see, they believe there is no need, for “God has already selected those who will be saved.” Many missionaries have been dropped by supporting churches that hold this teaching because they are emphasizing the gospel of salvation instead of a gospel of “social justice.”
Sadly, when the bride of Christ stops obeying her commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel of salvation to the lost, her purpose for remaining on the earth will cease! This false teaching denies the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of unbelievers that causes them to understand that they are separated from God by sin and in need of the Savior.
As I’ve already mentioned, it’s the Holy Spirit’s task to convict them of this truth so that they may choose whether or not to believe and receive God’s free offer of redemption by faith. Faith is not “given” by the Holy Spirit. Conviction of the truth is.
The second area of this apostasy’s teaching that is permeating the church today and quenching the work of the Holy Spirit, is that it does not offer a clear understanding of prophecy, and, for them most part, just avoids the subject. Because of this, people are not aware of God’s overall plan for history and where we are in that plan today. It does not teach that both Israel and the Church are included in God’s prophetically revealed purposes for eternity. Anti-semitism is increasing in the church because this apostasy teaches that God permanently turned away from Israel when the nation refused to believe that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah and had Him crucified. It teaches that God has permanently replaced Israel with the church.
Additionally, those who have embraced this apostasy are unable to recognize and understand the signs that God has given for those living in the final days of the Church Age. For that matter, there’s no clear understanding that the church is made up of Church Age believers. It teaches that the church is made up of both Old Testament and Church Age saints. Also, there is no teaching about the Judgment Seat of Christ—the Bema—where believers will be evaluated and rewarded for faithful service. This Bema will take place in heaven after the Rapture.
Further, it does not hold the teaching about the Bride’s return to earth with Christ at the end of the Tribulation to rule and reign with Him during the 1000-year Millennium. We’ll find that true teaching in Revelation:5:10 and Revelation:20:4. This apostasy simply teaches the Lord suddenly will return in some future time to judge everyone throughout all history at the Great White Throne Judgment. I would suggest you view our video on the Great White Throne Judgment.
At this Judgment, those who are righteous will present good works that serve as evidence to confirm that they were preselected by God for salvation in heaven. They will enter God’s eternal kingdom while the unredeemed will be judged according to their sinful works and sent to hell. If you think about this, in many ways, this clearly is a form of works salvation—trying to gather evidence to prove you’re the “elect.”
In what way does this teaching quench the Spirit? It makes people unable to recognize the signs of the times. As a result, they’re not motivated to be the purifying salt of the earth that restrains wickedness, or to be the light of the world that transforms lost sinners into new creations in Christ. John tells us that the study and understanding of prophecy will have a purifying effect upon believers, according to 1 John:3:1-3.
Now, lawlessness is increasing because the Spirit is increasingly being quenched in the church. When the Spirit is quenched, the church cannot be led into all truth, for we read, “Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth, for He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that He shall speak, and He will show you things to come.” That’s prophecy: John:16:13.
What did the Lord tell His disciples what happened to the salt? It has lost its savor, or usefulness. He told them, “It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the foot of men” (Matthew:5:13).
These words should surely be a wakeup call to the church today. You see, Christians need to recognize that the church soon may be trodden under men’s feet, because they have ceased being the salt and the light in the world. Christ’s words to the Laodicean church aptly describe and serve to warn the church of our day. The Lord Jesus Christ writes, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would thou were cold or hot, so then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous, therefore, and repent.”
If the church does not repent but continues to quench the Spirit so that it does not recognize the worldiness and apostasy that has entered into it, the Lord may allow it to be persecuted by godless men. We must pray for wisdom and discernment in these perilous days.
Now, some may be wondering if the apostasy I have just described has been given a name. The answer is yes, it has. It’s called New Calvinism. Now, at this point, I want to make it quite clear—quite clear—I do not believe that all New Calvinists and Calvinists are apostate. Many are brothers and sisters in Christ. Furthermore, there’s a broad spectrum of variations of New Calvinist doctrines being taught and held by churches today and individuals. Thus, not every Calvinistic church will be teaching the doctrines I just covered. However, the Calvinist teachings I have addressed are impacting and influencing many today, and changing the focus and direction of the church.
Now, let’s look at who are the apostates. Jude describes those who bring apostasy into the church as, “Certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation—ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness and denying the only Lord God and our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
You see, Satan and his demonic host gain a foothold in the church through individuals who appear—appear—to be genuine believers but are not. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. When we see this, we must speak out and “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” according to Jude. You see, Jude lays this responsibility upon us. It is helpful to read about the Old Testament apostates also, to understand and see some of their characteristics. Jude, therefore, used as examples all apostates in verse 5-16, so that we are able to identify them.
What do we need to understand and recognize during this time of increasing lawlessness and apostasy that not only will encourage us but will also enable us to live as victorious Christians? Many believers need to be made aware of the invisible spiritual battle going on all around us in every sphere of human endeavor. Satan and the fallen angels (demons) are very real and are actively working to derail God’s plan for an earthly kingdom ruled by His Son and the glorious eternal kingdom where the righteous of all ages will dwell with God and see Him face to face.
You see, they hate God, His creation, and those who love Him. Satan wants to unite humanity in rebellion against God and to be worshiped as God! Everything he does is motivated by this goal. We read that he is able to blind the minds of unbelievers so they cannot recognize truth, and instead they can believe the lies and deceptions that promote his goal. For we read, “The god [that’s little ‘g’] of this world [that’s Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians:4:4).
Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers because he does not want individuals to hear, believe, and receive the saving message of the gospel. Or, you see, they can hear the gospel; they can’t see it, they can hear it. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Demons can actually influence and control unbelievers who reject any thoughts of God’s existence or their own future accountability to Him. Although God’s handiwork is seen throughout the earth and the universe, they refuse to acknowledge Him as Creator and Sovereign Lord and Ruler.
God has allowed this to happen for several reasons. First reason: He wants individuals—God wants individuals to choose between what this world has to offer in sensual pleasure, power, wealth, and influence in the here-and-now vs. the wonderful eternal blessings God promises to those who choose to trust Him by faith. This allows human beings to exercise their freedom of choice.
Secondly: God has given the church the task of shining the light of the gospel of salvation into the darkened minds of unbelievers so that some may choose to turn away from lawlessness and sin and become new creations in Christ. The Bride must decide whether or not to obey Christ, for she has been given the freedom of choice. Although Jesus Christ gained the victory over Satan’s hold on the earth at the Cross when He paid the penalty for humanity’s sin with His lifegiving blood and then rose from the grave, as yet He has not reclaimed the earthly kingdom. God meanwhile is using Satan and the demons to test, to hone, and to strengthen believers in the Church Age.
God wants believers to be victorious by growing in discernment, by using the Armor of God for defense, and walking and praying in the Spirit (Hebrews:5:14; Ephesians:6:14-18, and Galatians:5:16). Therefore, it’s vitally important for believers to recognize that first of all we must learn how to use the armor of God to walk in the Spirit and to pray effectively if we want to have victory over evil whenever it confronts us—especially in these challenging days.
If you want to be successful when we contend for the faith, we need every piece of spiritual armor that God has provided. We need to be “girded about with truth.” That means to be grounded in the truth, holding firmly to it. This can only be done by earnestly studying the Bible and being in a church with solid Bible preachers and teachers who explain all of the scriptures clearly and do not leave out any part, particularly prophecy. Paul wrote this in 2 Timothy:3:16. This is how we acquire God’s truth, so that we can wrap it around us like a belt and take it with us wherever we go.
We also have to have the breastplate of righteousness, which means that as believers we should examine ourselves for sin and worldliness that tarnishes our righteousness and hinders our relationship with God and our testimony to others. You see, to maintain a glowing testimony, or a shining breastplate, we must examine ourselves honestly in the light of scripture and confess any sins we discover, according to 1 John:1:9. You see, God hears and answers the prayers of the righteous, for “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James:5:16).
Furthermore, we are to have our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. This means that we must be ready to share the Gospel whenever the Holy Spirit prompts us to do so.
Now, not only should we prepare a brief testimony of our life—maybe 2, 3, 4 minutes—and our salvation experience, but we also need to memorize scripture, the verses of salvation that can lead to salvation, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” We’ve got to properly give the Word of God, according to Romans:10:17.
You see, when we try to explain salvation in our own words, we can only be effective if we quote God’s words, because that’s what can break through to them. Furthermore, pray for opportunities. Be willing to look for God-honoring ways to meet people outside of the church, because today, few unbelievers come into churches looking for answers.
Now, while our goal always must remain unchanged—to share the gospel biblically—our method of communicating the message of salvation may include modern tools, obviously, such as the internet and online streaming, etc. Success depends solely on the Lord and careful evaluation as to the godliness of our methods and obedience to the principle of the Word.
When our feet are shod with “shoes of preparation,” we’re equipped to take the gospel wherever the Spirit leads us.
Above all, it’s essential that we take that Shield of Faith wherever we go. Faith is simply believing God’s Word and trusting His promises. For example, He promised, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Hebrews:13:5). “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally” (James:1:5). You see, we should learn and memorize God’s promises so that our shields of faith completely protect us from the fiery darts of persecution, of doubt, and temptation that Satan and his demonic hosts will hurl at us.
Further, we need to take the helmet of salvation, for it guards our minds from especially lethal darts that Satan throws at us. One of the big ones he often throws believers is the temptation to doubt their salvation. This particular temptation causes many believers to become ineffective in their Christian lives. Paul assured believers that they have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. This means that we are permanently preserved by God so that we cannot lose our salvation!
God writes, “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 the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians:1:13).
We also must take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. So far, all the pieces of armor we have looked at are obtained by knowing, believing, and obeying the scriptures. How does this piece differ from the others? Well, the sword of the Spirit actually is Word of God. Believers should know the Bible so well that they are able to gain victory over any spiritual attack by applying the proper Bible passages correctly and accurately. You see, we should be like skillful swordsmen who accurately wield their swords to defeat the enemy. Now, this takes diligent study, time, and practice if we are to be able to apply the scriptures to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
Also, we have to pray always, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. This is the weapon of our warfare that Satan’s hosts hate the most! They hate it because prayer unleashes the omnipotent power of God that defeats them. For we read, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare [that’s prayer] are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians:10:3-4.
This is why Satan has motivated men to remove prayer from schools, from the government, and other public gatherings. In many instances, he has undermined and weakened prayer in churches. There was a time when “Prayer Meeting” was considered essential to the life of a church and its believers. For this was where prayers and supplications were made for fellow believers, and the Spirit’s leading was relied on to lead the church in outreach and direction in general. Spiritual warfare was done in the prayer meeting. Today, many believers consider prayer meeting unnecessary, and actually an inconvenient intrusion in this week of their busy-ness. For this reason, prayer meetings today are the poorest attended activity of the church. That should not be.
Corporate prayer and individual prayer are more essential than ever before in these perilous days. Prayer becomes effective when we know and use God’s promises—His words from Scripture—in our prayers. If we are applying the promises correctly to our requests, then they are in agreement with God’s will.
Now, He may or may not answer right away, but He will always answer. It also is my prayer that individuals in churches will recognize the urgent need to pray and put into practice these truths from God’s Word. Fully equipped prayer warriors are our primary defense in these final days of the Church Age.
Hopefully you’ve gained a better understanding about the spiritual battles waging around us today, and the reasons why lawlessness and apostasy are increasing. Satan is using the sinful temptations of the world to draw humanity away from God and toward Satan’s plan to unite all humanity in rebellion against God. Sadly, the Bride of Christ is quenching the Spirit’s prompting toward holy living and evangelistic outreach and becoming more and more like the world. Apostasy has entered the church because the church is not doing her part. Satan’s influence is increasing and the world is growing more and more in lawlessness. However, each believer—each of us—is accountable for his or her response to the circumstances and situations we find ourselves in. When we go about our daily lives and find ourselves facing trials, temptations, or simply difficult decisions that must be made, it’s wonderful to know the Holy Spirit will help us, for He indwells us. He helps us to discern truth from error; to understand how to apply the Scriptures to our situation. Further, we have the Armor of God at our disposal, if we take the time to acquire and maintain it. This, of course, take effort on our part.
As I close, I would like to offer three steps, which Jude gave to encourage we who are dealing with apostasy in churches. Jude said, “But beloved, building up yourselves [building up yourselves, notice, takes your effort] on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (vv. 20-21).
1) Therefore, first, we must build ourselves up in the faith by studying all of scripture, including prophecy, and knowing God’s plan for history and the Bride—that’s we, the church, our role in Christ’s coming kingdom. We must also study so that we can contend for the faith effectively and counter the influences of apostate teaching.
2) We must earnestly pray in the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance. That takes real effort. It takes real discipline to take the time to pray for that strength, help, and guidance.
3) We are to keep ourselves in the love of God and to look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. That’s to look for His return. I believe we are kept in the love of God by getting to know Him better through Bible reading and prayer. Just as a bride wants to know her future husband better and eagerly anticipates her wedding day, we should be earnestly looking for Christ to return for us, His Bride—to try to be getting to know Him better and better right now, so when we see Him face to face, we can rejoice and be happy with Him.
Now, while we wait, we should consider Paul’s warning to those who will be living in the final days of apostasy. That’s found in Romans 11. Many believers today are wondering if the Lord soon will come for His Bride in the Rapture. While we can’t know the specific day or hour it is coming, we are told that we should be able to recognize the signs, such as lawlessness and apostasy, telling us that the Church Age is drawing to a close. The immanence of the Rapture has served to encourage and motivate believers throughout the entire Church Age. God’s plan for history is progressing, and it will be fulfilled. May we be found faithful and hear His words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”