“All these things are the beginning of sorrows.” (Mt. 24:8)
From my book The Christian Church in the Last Days
2 Corinthians 4:17 reads: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” One of the clear signs we can detect in the apostate church is the attempt to homogenize the “light affliction” part of Christian discipleship out of the experience. “Christian” churches that have a lot to offer in terms of various programs, but demand very little in terms of teaching people about the costs of discipleship, actually prevents the Holy Spirit from actualizing in the lives of the congregations the challenges of faith that lead to spiritual maturity. Apostate churches celebrate worldly success in the outer natural realm, having no potential for creating spiritual growth. Paul says that momentary light afflictions will work for us eternal glory. The apostate church has no idea what Paul is talking about here.
In John 6:22-65, Jesus is talking about Himself being the bread of life from heaven. Many of the disciples at that time were offended by the statement by Jesus that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have life. John 6:66 then says: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” Then with a voice that has a note of sadness in it, Jesus asks the twelve apostles: “Will ye also go away?” This is not an Old Testament prophet or one of the New Testament apostles speaking. This is Jesus the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Jesus is teaching the truth, because He is the Truth, and some people are choosing to “walk no more with him.” The preaching and teaching of the truth sometimes winnows and sifts out people from following God. In this example, we see that teaching the truth does not always result in increased popularity and “church growth.”
The lesson of Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles, tells us that a person can be in the presence of Christ (in the church), and yet not be born again in heart and mind. Judas had a divided heart. He wanted to follow Jesus as long as this appeared to lead toward a position within an earthly kingdom of the Messiah in Jerusalem. When it finally became apparent that Jesus would be rejected by the recognized political establishment, and that following Jesus would lead to a much more costly, worldly-humbling brand of service to the Messiah, Judas sold out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. All the while, not even the other eleven apostles appear to be aware of Judas’ traitorous intentions.
It is possible to produce large bodies of similarly unconverted, half-hearted “followers” of Christianity simply by downgrading and diluting the gospel message to the point that adherence produces no real discipleship challenge. Christianity then subtly morphs into self-composed and self-directed religion, with churchgoers sitting atop the thrones of their lives in self-sovereignty. Peter said to Jesus “Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee” (Mark 10:28). Judas Iscariot brought some of the world with him in following Jesus, and never “left all.” A large number of Judas Iscariots can be created in the apostate church by compromising the “left all” portion of the gospel message.
The falling away is a real event that will occur in the future. Whether the main body of the Christian church will be on earth for this event I cannot dogmatically say. But there is a strong argument that there cannot be a noticeable falling away, worth mentioning in Holy Scriptures, without a large number of Christians and nominal churchgoers together as one homogenous group on earth at the same time.