Giving up has always been a struggle for frail humanity. But when Jesus urges us to ask for strength to escape, he has something particular in mind, something he sees coming: “At that time many will turn away from the faith” (Matthew 24:10).
Saint Paul was deeply troubled by this as he wrote his friends living in Thessalonica: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day [the day Christ returns] will not come unless the falling away comes first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 NKJV). Prior to the climax of this story, and the wonderful return of Jesus to make everything new, there will be some sort of global Falling Away. The Greek word here is apostasia, and that is why some translations put it this way: “No one is to deceive you in any way! For it will not come unless the apostasy comes first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 NASB).
But the word apostasy conjures up more zombie apocalypse imagery, and that’s not helpful in our effort to understand our situation. I don’t think we’re going to see millions of people tattooing “I hate God; I love Satan” on their chests, or marches in every major city blaspheming Jesus Christ. Satan is much cleverer than all that. I believe what we will see—what we see happening now—is simply people giving up on God in large numbers. Which is why I think the New Life Version has it right: “For the Lord will not come again until many people turn away from God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
I believe we may be witnessing the Great Falling Away.
Let me be quick to say that there isn’t a simple explanation nor simplistic solution. Some people are fed up with religion. But much of the turning from God is born out of heartache and disappointment—God did not seem to help. He did not seem to hear. These are the deepest hurts of the human heart. We will explore what to do with those hurts as we go along, but let me say here that giving up your faith is like finding yourself in a desert, your weary legs throbbing with pain. You can’t find your way out by cutting your legs off. God can handle your anger, disappointment, even bitterness. But walking away from Jesus is forsaking your only hope out of the heartache.
I bring this up because the enemy is wickedly skilled at pouncing on our vulnerabilities. He is using these trying times to cloud our hearts with unbelief. If in fact the Falling Away is sweeping the earth, we want to have advance warning. It gets in the air like poison, and we don’t want to slowly succumb to it ourselves. It gains a social momentum, and since we are social creatures, we can get swept up in it without a conscious decision on our part.
But this is our moment, and Jesus offers us strength, so let us seize it now with both hands while we still can.
And that’s the memo.
By John Eldredge from Resilient