Or, “Your Split Ends Are Showing”
2 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye 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.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 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.
5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
I, for one, have difficulty understanding why the above is “controversial” or why some take it upon themselves to split hairs. However, it would seem that splitting of hairs is what leads to splitting of churches, or at least the splitting of individuals from those churches.
LCG Change in “Falling Away”
Apparently, Living Church of God (LCG) has shifted somewhat its understanding of the “falling away” described in the above passage. There doesn’t seem to be too much hard stuff written about it, although Conscript’s Registry writes about it in “The Great Apostasy”.
It would appear that perhaps COGWriter Dr Robert Thiel is having a little difficulty accepting one or more of these changes. However, it actually seems it might be consistent with how LCG defines “falling away”. Take the Questions & Answers article on “What is the unpardonable sin?” In it, they answer:
The unpardonable sin involves “falling away from the truth” after experiencing the “good word of God” and God’s power!
However, that seems to ignore the obvious. What of people who never accept the truth to begin with? How can they “fall away” from something they never truly had or want?
On his “News of the Living Church of God!” page (a web page? Really, Bob, you need to create a blog format for that stuff!), Thiel wrote:
09/07/12 p.m. Some have asked me about my position on the “falling away” matter. At this stage, let me state that on May 13, 2012, when it looked like a change in formal position may be taking place, I contacted the HQ evangelists and urged them to reconsider certain points. Dr. Winnail ended up contacting me late the next month and discussed his idea to come out to see me. Before I played his “Falling Away” sermon, I was told in July 2012 by two LCG ministers that I would probably not have issues with that sermon, so I played it and watched it. After watching it, I contacted LCG and produced several documents stating my concerns which were sent in July and August 2012.
Today, Dr. Winnail informed me (orally and via email) that while one can disagree with the Council’s primary current interpretation on the falling away matter, which I do, one can still be part of the Living Church of God while holding a different view.
Now, I don’t have the inside track on this, and frankly it is only of moderate interest to me that Thiel and LCG might be having some disagreement over some things. Unfortunately, some want to make it into a huge controversy, whether or not it actually may or may not be. It isn’t clear to me that this is the real issue between them in the first place. Rather, it would more appear that some of the speculation contained in the books Thiel has published and his manner of presentation of them are causing more friction than anything else.
Pack Obsesses on the Small Once Again
Apparently, David C Pack of RCG is having a field day over all of this in “Is the Falling Away (II Thes. 2:3) a Coming Worldwide Rebellion Led by the Man of Sin?”:
Rod Meredith now claims the apostasy is a future event involving THE WORLD, not a past and present one involving GOD’S PEOPLE. He is rewriting history. What is the truth about the prophesied “falling away,” and why is understanding its timing so important?
Well, frankly, anyone who believes the apostasy Paul was referring to is past tense is living in fantasy land. It is they who are rewriting history as well as twisting Scripture, which is SOP for Pack. It is because of the constant confusion that people like him spew out that keeps people like me around to correct such silliness, I suppose.
What the Passage Really Says
For the record, let’s look at what the passage really says:
1. Paul “beseeches” the brethren, which is a form of pleading and getting their attention, and points to the return of “our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him”. In a nutshell, this places the focus on Christ’s return. That has not happened yet, and it obviously cannot possibly happen for at least 3-1/2 more years, and probably not for at least 7.
2. He consoles them by the same event, the return of Christ, so that they not be “troubled” or “shaken in mind”.
3. Paul gets to the point of his pleading that they “let no man deceive you”.
4. Paul states that “that day shall not come” – what day? The day of Christ’s return! There “first”, in other words, before that day arrives, must be “a falling away”. We will focus on this later after clearing the debris that Pack left behind, but it is obvious that the time frame is leading up to Christ’s return.
5. Paul then introduces the “man of sin” who must be “revealed”. Notice that first is the falling away “and” then the “son of perdition” is “revealed”. What is implied here is that the Man of Sin is revealed through the apostasy. Paul goes on to describe this apostasy.
6. The Man of Sin is revealed by opposing himself against God and setting himself up in God’s stead, causing others to worship him. The falling away is related to this, meaning that he pulls others in with him to worship him.
Point blank, this has not happened yet. It does not matter how many lies Gerald Flurry or David C Pack tell to try to convince you that this has already happened. It is obvious that this occurs during the Great Tribulation in the few years leading up to Christ’s return. It probably even is the same event as the Abomination of Desolation, given both the timing and the reference to the Temple and how it coincides with how it occurred in the past.
If nothing else, LCG has it correct that this is in the future. I also doubt that is what Thiel is contesting (and he wasn’t specific), and it is just Pack once again trying to shake the tree to see if he can get any apples to fall into his basket.
Apostasy: Survey Says!
I can only answer what I would have an issue with here. It is the same one I’ve already pointed out. How do you fall away from something you’ve never embraced in the first place?
The Greek word apostasia is G646. It translates it as “a falling away, defection, apostasy”. “Defection” is probably a more familiar term. You cannot defect from an army you’ve never belonged to. Dictionary.com backs this up in the definition of apostasy:
noun, plural a·pos·ta·sies.
a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc.
~ Dictionary.com (bolding mine)
Another point should be made that calling it “The Great Apostasy” is misleading as well. The passage never calls it a “great” apostasy. In fact, since the Church has always been called a “little flock”, there is nothing about the size of the Church that could qualify as “great” to begin with! The only thing that could be considered “great” in this passage, although I stress again it is never called “great”, is the level of sin of the Son of Perdition, which the very title emphasizes “utter destruction” (G684).
Apostasia is also used in Ac 21:21, where the meaning is quite clear.
21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake [apostasia] Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
~ Ac 21:21
Again, you cannot “forsake” something you’ve never embraced, even if you were once forced to do so. Children may forsake the ways of their parents, but that means when they were small they had to comply.
If that isn’t convincing, there is something else you should know about this word. Apostasia is a feminine noun. It has a neuter counterpart, apostasion, G647. It means either a divorce or a certificate of divorce. You cannot divorce someone you’ve never been married to!
Maybe the part that boggles my mind the most is that the world at large is already and always has been heavily deceived. What possible good would it do for Paul to state that the world at large would be deceived in the end times?
The Main Things Are the Plain Things
Now, let’s step back even further, shall we? What does this matter in the larger picture? How can we rationally look at this passage?
You know, I don’t think counting how many people are going to be deceived in the end times is going to be a fruitful exercise. All I need to know is that someone is going to deceive the world into following him and worshipping him instead of God. He will have “all power and signs and lying wonders”.
So, how will you or I know the difference? By being in the Word, praying to God for understanding, by loving the truth and not allowing ourselves to be deceived. “Let no man deceive you” is a statement in the imperative. It means that once our minds are open, we have a choice and a responsibility to not be led into deception.
We will know because we will know the real God. We will know the truth. We will know that the entire world will be deceived and drawn into a worldwide war that will force Jesus Christ to return in order to stop the carnage.
17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Those who will not be deceived will either be in a place specially prepared for the Church or will be striving to keep the commandments of God and be a witness for Jesus in the last days. We have a tendency to focus on the two witnesses in the end time, but they will not be alone in their testimony. If nothing else, their very witness will be an example to everyone, and there will be a multitude from all the nations who will repent during the Great Tribulation (Rev 7:9, 13-14). They will understand because of the preaching now (planting a seed) and later by the two witnesses and of the testimony of anyone left behind that the man setting himself up as God is no god.
I sometimes have to wonder how myopic we are. Is our investment in being right about every jot and tittle really that important?
Instead of constantly splitting up over splitting hairs, we should be concentrating upon the trunk of the tree. Not only do we as members of the COGs tend to splinter, but we often splinter because of wooden splinters when we should be concentrating upon the trunk of the tree.
Of course, there are those who specialize in majoring in the minors. They cannot negate the large things, so they differentiate themselves (not God) by selecting the molehills and making mountains out of them. It is their goal not to nourish and feed the flock but to prey upon it. Those who harp upon such small matters will in the end only attract those that also major in the minors. Losing sight of the big picture is a dangerous thing to do.