The Great Apostasy: Future or Fulfilled? #2
In the first installment of this shot series on The Great Apostasy, we noted that Jesus unequivocally stated that it would occur in his generation. And the epistles confirm that to be the case.
Jesus tells the parable of the widow seeking justice. The widow in Jesus’ parable represented the faithful who suffered at the hands of the wicked. Christ said “Shall not God avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though he bears long with them? I tell you He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he really find faith on the earth?”
Plummer says the meaning of the question indicates that “the majority, not only of mankind but of Christians will be absorbed in worldly pursuits, and only a few will ‘endure to the end'”. Theophylact, cited by Meyer, says Jesus was “indicating in the form of a question the fewness of those who will then be found faithful.” The point of Jesus’ question then, a question of pathos and poignancy, is that there would be very little faith found at his return.It truly would be the great apostasy!
Now note the context.
Luke 18 continues Jesus’ discussion of his coming in chapter 17. In verse 22 Jesus said the time was coming when his disciples would “desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man”. Jesus was not, as suggested by Jackson, saying the disciples would desire to see the end of the world. Jesus was warning of troublesome times when the disciples would long for the peaceful days when Jesus was still among them; but they would find no peace. Trouble was coming, the Great Apostasy was coming!
Luke 17 positively cannot be describing any “end of time” scenario. Christ all but said his coming would be in that generation after he had suffered, see verses 24-25. Christ said he was going to come, but first he had to be rejected and suffer. Does an objective reading of these words actually suggest a, thus far, two thousand year gap between his suffering in that generation and his coming?
Notice verse 31 — Jesus told them, “In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away”. Now Jesus uttered these same words in Matthew 24:17, a verse my Amillennial friends insist refers to the time prior to Jerusalem’s fall. In Matthew, we are told, Jesus’ words were an urgent warning for his disciples to flee the coming cataclysm. And since flight was possible the warning could not be of a “sudden, end of time situation”. Well, why do Jesus’ words in Luke 17 not mean the same? Where is the magic key to delineate between these verses? This question is particularly significant in light of the next verse Luke 17:32 — “Remember Lot’s wife.”
These words can have only one significance — the urgency of flight. In Genesis 19:14-22 is found the story of “Mrs. Lot” and three times we find warnings to flight, 14, 17, 22. The warning was “Escape for your life!” The warning was not against covetousness as some have suggested as an interpretation of Luke 17:31-32. The warning was to escape. With this in view, Luke 17 cannot therefore be referent to any end of time coming of Christ. It rather, (correctly), becomes a parallel to Matthew 24 and is set within the context of the first century.
With the context of persecution in Luke 17:22 then, and remember Jesus in Matthew 24 said one reason for the apostasy would be persecution, Jesus urged his disciples to “pray and faint not” (Luke 18:1). Yet with this exhortation he nonetheless pondered, “when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?” The extent of the persecution is therefore set forth as massive- and the great apostasy would likewise be endemic. When was this to happen?
Matthew 24:34 would seem to be the end of all controversy as to whether the apostasy occurred before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Jesus said all the things, including the apostasy when the love of “most people” would grow cold, would be fulfilled in that generation. The response to this is varied.
The Amillennialist will agree that an apostasy of some degree did occur in the first century; and then insist a greater apostasy is predicted in other texts. This is contextually untenable.
The Premillennialist does not believe Matthew 24 even speaks of events in the first century. This view is totally dependent however on redefining the word “generation” in vs. 34. We will take a look at this term in our next installment on the great apostasy, so stay tuned!