In Matthew 24, Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” (vs. 3) Then, throughout the rest of the chapter, Jesus laid out for them what they (we) can expect.
One of the signs of His coming especially stands out to me. Jesus said, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (vs. 10-11)
This falling away from the faith or apostacy is nothing to ignore. Don’t think we’re immune from it.
In Revelation, Jesus sent messages to seven churches in Asia Minor that existed at the time. The apostle Paul and his co-workers established at least one of those churches (in Ephesus). Yet, already, in a matter of a few short decades, Jesus urged five of those churches to repent of their sin. In so short a time they were already falling into apostacy. We see the same happening with our churches today.
Many churches are preaching nothing more than a gospel of self-help, as if all we needed was Jesus to die for our sins, and now we can take it from here. Salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ is by faith from start to finish. We will always desperately need Christ’s saving power.
The antidote Jesus gives for this falling away from the faith is to stand firm. But stand firm in what? Immediately following Jesus’ exhortation, “but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved,” He continues, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (vs. 14)
We need to stand firm in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) And, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
We must stand firm in our love for Jesus Christ, for it is in Him alone that we have life. To the church at Ephesus, Jesus warned, “You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first!” (Revelation 2:4 NLT) But again, this isn’t a love that we muster on our own. The Apostle John wrote, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) The Gospel begins and ends with Christ. We desperately need Him!
Whenever we stray from the message of Christ and our helplessness apart from Him, and instead try to promote our own goodness and works, we have already begun to slide into apostacy. We must stand firm by holding to the truth of God’s Word in the onslaught of deception introduced by false teachers and our culture in general. The Lord continually urges us to be alert and sober-minded. When the tide of cultural views is so strong and prevailing, it’s so easy to be swept away by it.
Today, our culture not only chooses to sin but celebrates it and calls us bigots and haters when we take a stand against sin. We must always love the sinner but call out and stand against their sin.
Be especially vigilant in your church. Many churches are watering down the Gospel and embracing worldly views and sinful practices. Much of this is very subtle. In their efforts to be culturally relevant, they can take on the sinful mindset and practices of our culture.
Stand firm in the Gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)