There is much talk going around these days about how unified, triumphant and glorious the Church will be in the end times right before the return of Jesus, but it does not correspond with what the Bible prophesies. Already we've looked at how apostasy and cultism have ravished Christ's Bride, now we'll look at the third and fourth set of prophecies that characterize the Church in the end times.
A third group of prophecies indicate that in the end times the Church will be assailed by doctrinal error. These are doctrines that do not damn the soul but which confuse and weaken the spirit.
In II Timothy 4:3-4, Paul says: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths." There are many popular myths in Christendom today that either rob people of the power of their faith or else deceive them into practicing a presumptuous faith.
Among Fundamentalists there is a myth that God retired in the First Century and that with Him went all manifestations of the supernatural, including angels, demons, spiritual gifts, and miracles. Among Charismatics the doctrinal abuses have been epidemic, including the following myths:
- Faith is to be placed in your faith and not in God.
- It is always God's will to heal.
- The believer has the authority of Jesus.
- It is God's desire that believers be financially prosperous.
- Believers can have what they want through positive confession.
The winds of doctrine (Eph. 4:14) are blowing through the Church at gale force and believers are being tossed here and there by the waves, all in the fulfillment of prophecy.
A fourth characteristic prophesied about the Church in the end times is that it will be compromised and corrupted by worldliness. The prophetic picture of this worldly church is found in Revelation 3:14-22, where the church at Laodicea is described.
The seven churches depicted in Revelation 2 and 3 are symbolic of seven periods of church history. The church at Laodicea, the last to be presented, is representative of the type of church that will prevail in Christendom at the end of the Church Age.
The picture is a pathetic one. The Church is apathetic, neither hot nor cold. The apathy is a product of the Church's adoption of a worldly attitude expressed in the words, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing." Jesus responds with a scathing rebuke: "You don not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked."
In fulfillment of this prophecy, our churches today are filled with cultural Christians who have accepted Jesus as Savior but not as Lord. They are schizophrenic Christians who walk with one foot in the Church and the other in the world. They are carnal Christians who shout "Hallelujah!" on the weekend but who live like pagans during the week. They are greedy Christians in pursuit of health, wealth, and power. The Cross and its message of sacrifice is as offensive to them as it is to the world.
Because of the apostasy, heresy, cultism, and worldliness that the Bible says will characterize the end time Church, the Bible prophesies that the Church will come under judgment. In Revelation 3:19 Jesus says to the church at Laodicea, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline."
The glitzy, overindulgent church of the last few decaces is now tasting the judgment of God. Sin is being exposed. Religious empires are being dismantled. The Lord is calling us from the Cadillac to the Cross. Through discipline, the Spirit is motivating us to humility, righteousness and holiness.
Judgment has begun in the House of the Lord, where it always begins (Ezek. 9:6 and I Peter 4:17). The Lord is disciplining His Church as a prelude to the pouring out of His wrath upon the world.
In the third and last part of this series on the Church in prophecy, we'll look with hope at what good news there is about the Church in the end times and conclude with an exhortation.