Falling Away of False Christians

The fifth sign is the falling away (apostasy) of many false Christians. “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another” (Matt. 24:10). The verb phrase “will fall away” is from the Greek, skandalisthesontai polloi, which literally reads, “Many shall be caused to stumble.” The root word is skandalizo, “be led into sin, fall away” (Gingrich); “cause to stumble . . . fall away, give up believing (MT 13.21); (2) passive, as taking offense at Jesus or refusing to believe in him be offended (MT 11.6).” (Friberg) The verb is in the passive voice, “Many will be caused to stumble.” In other words, “many will be offended at Jesus.”

Matthew used the same word in Matt. 13:21 to refer to fake believers. “Yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away [skandalizo]” (Matt. 13:21). Here, Jesus talks about the rocky soil, the rocky heart. Because of the rocks in his heart, God’s Word does not take root. He endures for a while. But when tribulation and persecution comes because of God’s Word, immediately he falls away. He stops trusting God and gives up following Jesus. That is the falling away of fake believers.

Also, Jesus said that they will “betray one another” (v. 10). The verb “betray” is from paradidomi, “hand over, give (over), deliver, give up.” (Gingrich)

When I was a kid, I watched old Tagalog movies on black and white TV about the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. I couldn’t forget watching a Filipino whose head was covered by a hood made of bayong, a native bag. (Remember the TV show, “Pera o Bayong?”) He was a Filipino collaborator with the Japanese army. He would help the Japanese identify a Filipino guerilla fighting against the Japanese.

He was called a “Makapili,” and member of the “Makabayang Kalipunan ng mga Pilipino (League of Patriotic Filipinos), whose members ironically were spies of the Japanese during World War II. The Makapili, with his face and head hidden inside the bayong, a native bag, was feared by Filipinos, who dreaded being picked out as guerillas fighting the Japanese.”[1]

Believers will betray one another by reporting others to the authorities. Then they will hate one another (v. 10). The falling away of fake believers will include betrayal and hatred of one another.

Why would they fall away from Jesus? The answer is in v. 9. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matt. 24:9). It’s due to intense persecution, killing, and hatred of Christians. Many became Christians seeking peace and prosperity in Christ, but only finding persecution. (Morris) So they want to get out. Jesus said it’s because God’s Word is not rooted in one’s heart.

How about you today? What kind of gospel have you believed—the true gospel, the health and wealth gospel, or the “feel good” gospel? If you believe the true gospel, you will suffer and endure to the end. But if you believe the health and wealth gospel or the feel good gospel, you will only last until you suffer persecution, until the health and wealth and the good feelings will run out.

Are you faithfully following Jesus or losing faith in God? Are you discouraged by your sufferings for Christ? Is God’s Word rooted and growing in your life? Keep trusting your Lord to the very end!

When I was a new believer, we sang this old song by John W. Peterson.

I just keep trusting my Lord as I walk along.

I just keep trusting my Lord and He gives a song.

Though the storm clouds darken the sky o’er the heav’nly trail, I just keep trusting my Lord. He will never fail.

He’s a faithful friend. I can count on Him to the very end.

Though the storm clouds darken the sky o’er the heav’nly trail, I just keep trusting my Lord. He will never fail.

Jesus said, “But the one who endures to the end shall be saved” (v. 13). The mark of a true believer is endurance. The mark of a truly saved person is perseverance. It’s a paradox. If you endure to the end, you will be saved. Yet the truly saved person will endure to the end.

You must endure to the end.

[1] Clarissa V. Militante, “The hooded witness in Makapili tradition,” GMA News Online. Cited June 17, 2017. Online: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/specialreports/1981/the-hooded-witness-in-makapili-tradition/story/.

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