End of the World Countdown: The Great 'Falling Away' Before Second Coming
by Steve Sterling 12/03/2011 / Prophecy
The prophecy of the man of sin in Paul's second epistle to the church in Thessalonica is an attempt to stabilize the bretheren in an atmosphere of doctrinal uncertainties concerning the Second Coming of Christ. In reinforcing the truth about the Second Advent, the apostle was careful to mention a rather strange event that is to precede Christ's return. In his admonition to the Thessalonians, he made the following statement:
"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; 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." 2Thess. 2:3, 4
The clear context of this statement is about "the coming our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him" (vs 1). Therefore, in attempting to prevent the bretheren from being troubled and "soon shaken in mind", Paul is now telling them that they must not allow themselves to be deceived about the Second Advent. He let them understand that the return of our Lord Jesus will not come before a great 'falling away' takes place. This 'falling away' is to coincide with the appearance of this individual called the 'man of sin', aka, the antichrist.
When I examine the above Bible passage, the two questions that seem obvious are:
1. What does the Bible mean by 'falling away'?
2. What does this falling away have to do with the appearance of the antichrist?
The phrase 'falling away' appears to be in relation to a people who have fallen from a certain standard of morality. There lives were once conformed to a higher state of holiness and their relationship with God was in good shape. But at some point they have lowered their high standard and compromise their faith at the peril of their eternal welfare. If this is the case, then it's only when you are a Christian that you are in a position to fall away.
A falling away is not possible with somebody who was never conforming to holy principles; in order for such person to fall he/she will have be at a height. An example of what it means to fall away can be cited in Lucifer's rebellion against God. Lucifer knew God so well that there is nothing anyone can tell him about God that he doesn't know. But with all of that vast knowledge of the love of God from personal experience, he chose to rebel and thus he transitioned from being Lucifer, the covering cherub to Satan, the wicked one.
Interestingly, in the book of Hebrews, a description is given of the individual's moral state when he has thus fallen away. This description resembles, to an amazing degree, the state of Lucifer after his fall. In Hebrews 6:4-6, it says,
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."
According to this passage, the use of the phrase 'falling away' is not only pointing to its exclusive reference to Christians, but it also tells us that when it happens there is no possibility of recovery! Doesn't this sound like what happened to Lucifer?
The fact that the scriptures associate the falling away with the advent of the antichrist should be saying something to all students of end-time Bible prophecy. What Satan wants is to bring the world to a state of irreversible rebellion- the same state that caused him to be declared unfit to remain in the society of loyal heavenly beings. In multiplying the temptations to continue living in sin, it has always been his studied aim to expedite the process of human rebellion and precipitate the same condition of permanent condemnation that puts him on divine death row.
Therefore, it is only reasonable for us to see a larger conspiracy behind the reign of the antichrist in the last days leading up to the end of the world. Remember, the antichrist is but an agent of Satan and whatever Satan has in mind will be communicated through this agent. It is interesting to note that there are two other references that link the antichrist with that time in earth's history when human beings will have made their final decisions to remain transgressors and excluded from the Book of Life.
The following are Bible passages that reinforce the connection between the rise of the 'man of sin' and the great 'falling away' in the last days:
"And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up." Dan. 8:23
"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Rev. 13:8
The king of fierce countenance, the man of sin, and the beast are one and the same; they are just different designations of that agent to be appointed by Satan to do his dirty work in the last days. His portfolio is to establish a satanic rule on the earth, and to set up a scheme whereby to remain loyal to this regime is to fill up your cup of iniquity and be excluded from the Lamb's book of life.
The enemy is very much aware of the fact that despite getting people to sin every time, there is still the chance of repentance. In view of this reality, he has to set up a counterfeit system of salvation where people will indeed make their decisions contrary to the will of God. That is precisely the reason why he had to appoint an antichrist.
In the countdown to the end of the world, Satan knows that he will have to do something to bring the world to the place of final rejection of Jehovah. And he will have to find a way to get the Christians on board and to join with him in this rebellion. Therefore, the arch rebel would need a plan that accomplishes more than what he is now accomplishing. In order to achieve the goal of bringing sinners into his condemnation, it will take more than just the regular temptations to commit sin on a daily basis. While many Christians will, unfortunately, be caught up in this grand deception, many others will see through its satanic designs and will do everything in their power to unmask it for what it is, even at the peril of their lives.