The Great Apostasy

18 Jan

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In the context of eminent judgment (Luke 17:24-37), Jesus offers us the Parable of the Unjust Judge in chapter eighteen of Luke’s Gospel. After telling the parable (Luke 18:1-7),[1] Luke records Jesus saying: “When the Son of Man comes will he find **the** faith on the earth” (Luke 18:8). The text has **faith** (G4102) with the article (G3588). The article is in the Greek but not in the translation. Therefore, Jesus is recorded as wondering if, by the time of his coming and due to the great persecution going on, he would find the faith on the earth. That is, the faith that would expect him to return to vindicate those suffering under persecution. Would he find anyone crying out to him at his coming? Would, whatever is there, be recognizable as **the** faith Jesus had begun?

The unjust judge in the parable is contrasted with the love and mercy of God who promises to vindicate his elect—both those who had died and those who are yet suffering in his name (Luke 18:7). The widow reflects the cries of the saints, both living and dead who cry out to God for vindication (Psalm 6:3; 13:1; 35:17; 89:46; 94:3; Habakkuk 1:2; Revelation 6:10). In the book of Revelation the dead saints are told to wait a little while, until their brethren would likewise be killed (Revelation 6:11), which reminds us of what Jesus said in Matthew 23:34-35, that vindication would occur in that very generation.

Notice that the Parable of the Unjust Judge was told to Jesus’ disciples to show them they needed to pray. They needed to pray, crying out to the Lord in light of the impending trouble, coming upon them and the Jewish nation in the first century AD (cf. Luke 17:24-37). Notice what Jesus claimed about the days leading up to his coming:

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:9-13; emphasis mine)

Again, the article is not translated for the fourth “many” in the excerpt. Nevertheless, the fourth many has the article in the Greek, leading some translators to conclude: “The love of the majority would wax cold!” (Matthew 24:12).[2]

Paul warned the Thessalonians that “that day” (the Day of the Lord) or the day of Jesus’ coming would not arrive unless “THE falling away” or “THE apostasy” had occurred first (2Thessalonians 2:3), and the article (G3588) is both in the Greek and in the translation of Paul’s letter, as well. Some say, however, this doesn’t refer to believers. Rather, they conclude, it refers, to the “rebellion of the Jews”, which began in 66AD. Nevertheless, Paul excludes this interpretation when he says: “the mystery of iniquity does already work” (2Thessalonians 2:7). He is speaking of the mystery of iniquity that is already at work in and upon the church, and it is headed by the one Paul labels, the Man of Sin. It was this man who planted the seed that had troubled the church in Thessalonica.

Later Paul would write to Timothy, whom he left to guide the church at Ephesus (1Timothy 1:3), that all who were in Asia had abandoned him (2Timothy 1:15). What was this, if not the predicted apostasy that would occur just prior to the return of Jesus (cf. Matthew 24:12)?


[1] See my earlier study: Faith that Looks to God.

[2] see ACV, ANT, ASV, BBE, Diaglott, ERV, EWB, GW, LITV, Moffatt, NASB, Revised Version, Vulgate, Weymouth, and Youngs Literal Translation.

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Posted by on January 18, 2018 in Gospel of Luke


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