Paul was inspired to warn the Church of God that the Day of Christ’s return would not come, unless “the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). He continued that the “mystery of lawlessness” was already at work at his time (verse 7; compare Galatians 1:6–9; 2 Timothy 2:17–22; Jude 3–4; 2 Peter 2:1–3), but he also explained that the final fulfillment of this prophecy was still in the future (compare 2 Thessalonians 2:8). Paul cautioned us in this context not to be deceived by any means (verse 3).
Why is it then that many are being deceived today and made to believe that the falling away from the truth has already taken place at the time of Paul or subsequently, or that it does not even apply to the Church of God, but to some other powerful Church organization, which did not have the truth to begin with? Did not Paul say very clearly that these two events—the falling away and the revelation of the man of sin—would occur at approximately the same time, leading to the return of Christ? He most certainly did!
Not just Paul, but also Christ Himself warned of a falling away of His people in these end times—just prior to His return. He said in Matthew 24:12-13: “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
Christ talked about the love of God (“agape” in the Greek), which was poured out into the hearts of God’s disciples by the Holy Spirit which was given to them (Romans 5:5). But because of rampant lawlessness (which is sin, 1 John 3:4), God’s love (the keeping of His law, 1 John 5:3) would wax cold in many of His disciples, and they would fall away—just prior to the end.
Don’t be deceived by thinking that the falling away could not relate to you. That would be the attitude of the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:17) whom Christ will spew out of His mouth, unless they repent (verse 16).
What are we to watch for? An obvious answer is the trap of lawlessness or sin—the transgression of God’s law. If we have become complacent regarding sinful conduct in our lives, we are in great danger. In addition, the New Testament warns against the embrace of false doctrines (2 Timothy 4:3; 1 Timothy 1:10), including those ideas which justify sin by either claiming that the law has been done away with, or that belief in Christ and grace is all we need. These wrong concepts will lead to the falling away from the truth and “sound” teaching (Titus 1:9; 2:1). In the past, we experienced that many fell for false doctrines, but we should not think that similar developments could not happen again. According to the words of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul and others, they will occur just prior to Christ’s return.
Are there indications that the mystery of lawlessness and of erroneous teachings is already at work in the Church of God—TODAY? Just look around you. Some have revived, in a slightly different mantle, the demonical teaching of a secret or not-so-secret rapture—the false idea that Christ will come back twice—first “for” His disciples to take them to the third heaven, and then “with” His disciples to establish God’s Kingdom on the earth. Others have come close to teaching wrongly that the Holy Spirit is a person. Some have questioned the correct concept that God IS a Family, or that we are NOT already born again when we receive the Holy Spirit. Then there are those who have no problems with voting in governmental elections or serving on a jury, while forgetting that true Christians are only ambassadors for Christ and God’s Kingdom and merely aliens and strangers in this rotten evil world of Satan’s devices.
Some have become lax in keeping all of God’s Holy Days, or they have developed “alternative” dates. Others have become somewhat indifferent in their observation of the Sabbath. Some are even confused about the commission of the Church, thinking that the gospel does not have to be preached anymore, or that it is more important to “do good works.” This is another critical mistake, since only AFTER the gospel of the KINGDOM OF GOD has been preached in all the world as a witness, the end of this present evil age can come (Matthew 24:14). Others keep setting dates for Christ’s return, even though Christ commanded us not to do this.
Can you see how these “subtle” and “not-so-subtle” changes and attitudes can become an avalanche, which will bury those who embrace them? Similar developments happened in the past, and our free booklet, “Are You Already Born Again?” describes them in great detail.
Don’t be deceived! A falling away from the truth is still to occur in the Church of God. Christ warns you not to accept error, but to hold fast what you have. If you think that you stand, make sure that you are not already in danger of falling.