[b]The Great and Final Apostasy[/b]
[i]by David Wilkerson[/i]
October 2, 2006
The apostle Paul speaks of a great apostasy to come upon the
earth in the last days. What is apostasy? It is a
"rejection of truth once believed and proclaimed." Simply
put, it is a falling away from God's truth. Paul writes of
the apostasy to come:
"We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ...that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled,
neither by spirit, nor by word ...as that the day of Christ
is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that
day shall not come, except there come a falling away first"
(2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
Recently, the Holy Spirit prompted me to study Ezekiel 16,
which speaks about the apostate church. As I read this
chapter, I was overwhelmed with the grief of God. It
reveals his broken heart over a church that forgot its
foundations and turned away from its glorious beginnings.
According to Ezekiel, Israel had grown so corrupt it had
become a harlot church, worse than Sodom. This people, whom
God had delivered, cleansed and blessed, had now turned
against him, rejecting truth they once believed and
preached. Their apostasy pierced him.
So the Lord sent Ezekiel to Israel to deliver a scathing
message. It is a prophecy with a dual application,
speaking both to Israel then and to the church today.
Ezekiel began with these harsh words: "O harlot, hear"
(Ezekiel 16:35). Here was God's message:
"When I found you, you had been cast aside in an open
field, abandoned and bleeding. I saved you and loved you,
washing you with clean water, and you grew up to be a
beautiful woman. I showered you with blessings, clothed you
and bejeweled you. And I made a covenant with you, and you
became mine. I prospered you, making you known and
respected to all the heathen" (16:5-11, my paraphrase).
Think about Ezekiel's portrayal of Israel in this chapter.
Here were a people once delivered from bondage and death, a
church adorned with the blessings of a beloved, beautiful
bride. Isn't this the testimony of God's people today? We
all were bloodied, caked in sin, when Jesus found us, and
he cleansed us and made us whole. He has delivered all who
come to him, making us new creatures, showering us with
blessings and giving us a testimony to the world.
Ezekiel's message to Israel
reflects the glorious beginnings
of the church of Jesus Christ.
As I think of our spiritual fathers in the New Testament
church, I think of servants who gave their lives to defend
the gospel. From the very beginning, the disciples and
apostles preached the whole counsel of God, proclaiming
Christ as Messiah to their dying days. The Lord showered
his gifts and blessings on that first-century church, and
it grew and prospered in spirit and in truth. Soon its
influence spread to heathen nations worldwide.
Out of the roots lain down by that early church sprang a
tree with many branches. We call these branches
denominations, organizations, fellowships, movements, and
they take on manifold expressions and forms: Baptists,
Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Pentecostals,
Lutherans, Charismatics and others. As we study these
branches' origins, we find that most were sparked into
flame by saintly servants of Christ. Many of these godly
founders were martyred for their devotion to the pure Word
In my study are nine volumes by John Wesley, founder of the
Methodist church. I believe Wesley was one of the godliest
men who ever lived. This man wept over the spiritual
condition of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, praying
for them without ceasing. His devotion led to one of the
greatest revivals in history.
Wesley would rise in the dark and ride on horseback to
preach to coal miners at six in the morning, before they
went to work. He endured incredible hardships for his
ministry, at times being beaten by mobs. Yet Wesley labored
faithfully until revival came, transforming British society
from the depths of its prisons to the upper reaches of
In the early days of America, Methodist preachers held
open-air meetings similar to Wesley's, called "camp
meetings." These men, fired by the Spirit with zeal like
Wesley's, worked as "circuit riders," traveling on
horseback throughout Kentucky, Tennessee and the Midwest.
Their meetings were held in the countryside, drawing people
from all around. The preaching was so powerful, with deep
conviction for sin, that listeners fainted and cried out
Consider the beginnings of modern-day Pentecostalism. This
movement started early in the last century, in a little
clapboard church on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. The
congregation consisted of a few humble blacks and whites
who dedicated themselves to prayer and fasting, and out of
this the Holy Ghost manifested himself powerfully. The
conviction in the chapel was so powerful that many people
fell prostrate the moment they entered.
Soon visitors came from all over the city to experience the
revival. Then they came from afar, and the Azusa Street
revival spread all over the world. Out of that tiny church
emerged righteous men and women full of Holy Ghost fire,
servants who would not bend to the idols of their
generation. And out of the revival sprang many of the
Pentecostal organizations we know today: the Assemblies of
God, the Church of God, the Foursquare Church and others.
Just as the Lord said of ancient Israel, he could say of
most of these groups: "I found you in your time of need.
And I picked you up, clothed you in robes of righteousness,
loved you and blessed you. You were poor, but I made you
prosperous, and your influence spread to the nations.
"But after this, you became proud and played the harlot.
You misused the gifts I gave you. You forgot how I found
you: naked, forsaken and helpless." "In all thine
abominations and thy whoredoms thou hast not remembered the
days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and bare, and wast
polluted in thy blood" (Ezekiel 16:22, my italics).
Here is apostasy in its clearest form: when God's people
abandon the truth that saved them. The Lord was telling
Israel, in essence, "You once professed and believed, but
you've become a traitor to the truth. You have left the
old paths, inventing manmade methods. You no longer love
me, and you've stopped trusting me. Instead, you're going
your own way. And that has provoked my anger."
"As a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers
instead of her husband" (16:32). Here, in a word, we see
the tendency of God's people. In short, we are bent on
backsliding. Many of us, at some point in our walk with the
Lord, forgot our beginnings. We forgot what it was like to
be found in sin, cleansed, loved and blessed by God. And
over time we grew lukewarm or cold in our love for him.
Other loves entered in.
Ezekiel's message is a picture
of the apostate church of today.
You may object, "But this isn't the proper interpretation
of Ezekiel 16. The prophet was referring only to natural
Israel." On the contrary, Paul states that the Old
Testament truths have a dual application, for both then and
now: "All these things happened unto them for ensamples:
and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends
of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). Read in this
context, Ezekiel's prophecy is clearly a parable, revealing
God's heart when his people fall into apostasy.
Let me give you a prime example of where we see this great
apostasy taking place today. The Episcopal church has
regularly made headlines for some years now. It is one of
the oldest and largest denominations in the world, a church
whose origins were solidly rooted in biblical teaching. It
preached the gospel of a risen Savior, and its pulpits were
blessed with prophets and holy preachers. Indeed, the godly
influence of the Episcopal church spread throughout the
world, from Europe to Africa and the Americas.
Now, however, this once-devoted church has fallen into
apostasy. Talk about a people who have moved far away from
The denomination is one of the first to ordain a
Some Episcopal leaders are trying to "debunk" the
divinity of Jesus.
Recently, bishops and lay members of the national ruling
body stated that the church's dioceses could interpret the
Trinity however they pleased. God can be a she, Jesus a
loving thought, and the Spirit an individual's choice. It
is outright blasphemy!
The newly elected head bishop is a woman who has adopted
the gay agenda, and the denomination is headed for a split.
Local churches are cutting off funds, and African bishops
have had enough, crying out that the American churches are
apostatizing. Meanwhile, the church's numbers here are
In England, we see the same thing happening in the Anglican
church. That denomination has dwindled to such small
numbers that church buildings which stood for centuries are
now closing permanently. This process is called
"desanctifying." These magnificent structures once were
packed with zealous believers. But the Anglicans' condition
has grown so apostate that they've had to sell off numbers
of their church buildings, some of which are being turned
into nightclubs, occult museums and even mosques.
Consider Harvard and Yale,
at one time two of America's
most biblically based colleges.
Both Harvard and Yale were founded by godly preachers as
Bible schools. Great revivals once swept through these
colleges, and powerful preachers were sent forth from them.
Yet today these renowned universities are hotbeds of
atheism, unabashed deniers of the divinity of Christ. They
have become apostate institutions, moving far from their
The same is true of Columbia in New York and Princeton in
New Jersey. Both of these colleges were founded by godly
preachers, but now they also have grown apostate. God, for
a growing number, is no longer a heavenly Father but
possibly even a female deity. Christ is no longer upheld as
the Son of God but is portrayed as only a good man or a
Even in Christian colleges and evangelical seminaries
worldwide, the leaven of apostasy has become embedded. It
is now a losing battle for these schools to try to stay the
course of the old paths, because apostatized professors no
longer hold to biblical truth. The new gospel they present
dismisses the divinity of Christ, the reality of hell and
judgment, and biblical standards of purity and morality.
Consider again God's words to Israel in Ezekiel's day: You
have corrupted yourselves more than Sodom. "As I live,
saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done...as thou
hast done.... Thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy
ways.... They are more righteous than thou" (Ezekiel 16:48,
The Lord then describes the sins of Sodom and why he
destroyed them: "This was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom,
pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness...neither
did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they
were haughty, and committed abomination before me:
therefore I took them away as I saw good" (16:49-50).
Notice what Sodom's primary sins were: pride and arrogance.
You have heard of "gay pride." New York City has an annual
Gay Pride parade, which numbers up to 400,000 marchers.
Marchers carry signs reading, "God Is Gay," "Christ Was
Gay," "Gay and Proud of It." I once saw marchers leap out
of the parade to attack a small group who carried signs
reading, "Jesus Loves Gays. He Only Hates Sin." That meek
group sought only to offer love, but they were cruelly
Despite such outright arrogance, God states in Ezekiel 16:
"The pride and arrogance of the apostate church is worse
than the pride of gays. Even Sodom never sinned as you have
sinned." The fact is, it is utter pride, terrible
arrogance, to defame the name of Christ...to call God
"she"...to say the church has no heavenly Father. (If there
is no Father, then there can be no Son, which is the
central lie of Islam.)
What awful depth of pride it takes to remove the divinity
of the One who died to save us! Yet now that same awful
pride is breaking out in some evangelical organizations,
turning the church against the truths of its fathers. It is
a wave of total apostasy.
There is something worse in
God's eyes than this gospel of
apostasy, and that is a diluted,
God hates most of all the lukewarm gospel of half-truths
that is now spreading over the globe. This gospel says,
"Just believe in Jesus and you'll be saved. There's nothing
more to it." It ignores the whole counsel of God, which
speaks of repenting from former sins, of taking up your
cross, of being conformed to the image of Christ by the
refining work of the Holy Spirit. It is totally silent
about the reality of hell and an after-death judgment.
Isaiah warns of this smooth, non-offensive gospel, which
people are clamoring for today. His prophecy applies
directly to the present time, because God instructed him to
write it "for the time to come" (Isaiah 30:8):
"This is a rebellious people... children that will not hear
the law of the Lord: which say to the seers, See not; and
to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak
unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: get you out of the
way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of
Israel to cease from before us" (30:9-11).
According to Isaiah, there was no preaching of holiness or
repentance. Why? The people didn't want to be corrected or
convicted. They refused to hear anything but a smooth
gospel. Yet a diluted gospel is no gospel at all.
Ezekiel describes such a gospel: "They have put no
difference between the holy and profane, neither have they
shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and
have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned
among them" (Ezekiel 22:26). He called the diluted gospel
mere whitewash, or "untempered mortar" (22:28). In other
words: "You're building walls with untempered mortar. Those
walls may look prestigious and strong now, but the Lord is
sending a storm, and it's going to cause those walls to
fall." "A stormy wind shall rend it" (13:11).
Ezekiel then outlined a list of awesome judgments, through
which God would say to his people: "I'm going to expose
your nakedness. Severe judgments are on the way, and when
they come, your blasphemous gospel will be exposed as empty
Isaiah prophesied that in that day, "The lofty looks of man
shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed
down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.... The
loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness
of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be
exalted in that day" (Isaiah 2:11, 15, 17).
Right now, I believe we are facing Armageddon. All around
us we see nations trembling and men's hearts shuddering
with fear. I tell you, this is no time for a diluted
gospel. That gospel is absolutely treacherous, because it
will crumble as soon as the winds of judgment blow. God
warns he'll judge those who preach this lifeless gospel:
"Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous
sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands
of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked
way, by promising him life: therefore ye shall see no more
vanity, nor divine divinations: for I will deliver my
people out of your hand: and ye shall know that I am the
Lord" (Ezekiel 13:22-23).
"I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed
blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and
jealousy.... Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy
youth, but hast fretted me in all these things; behold,
therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head,
saith the Lord God" (16:38, 43, my italics).
When judgment comes, what will happen to those who put
their security in a diluted gospel? They'll look in every
direction for a true word from the Lord but won't be able
to find it. Their apostate preachers will say, "Don't get
worked up. The world has seen troubles like these before.
We've seen world wars. All things continue as they have
from the beginning. This will blow over."
No, not so! There has never been a day like this one. There
are now nuclear weapons in the hands of madmen, deadly
missiles that can travel thousands of miles, dirty bombs
and germ warfare that threaten to wipe out huge masses of
Just as Sodom and Gomorrah willingly ignored God's warnings
and were judged, the Lord will judge this last-day
generation. But many of his judgments are redemptive, and
those that fell on Sodom were examples for every
generation: "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah...are set forth for
an example" (Jude 7).
At the end of Ezekiel 16,
something incredible happens.
This chapter is one of the greatest expressions of God's
mercy and grace in all of Scripture. The Lord says that
while judgments are falling with fire and fury on all
sides, "I will cause thee to cease from playing the harlot"
(Ezekiel 16:41). Once again, humankind is going into the
fiery furnace. And once again, God will do a supernatural
work in people's hearts, turning multitudes from idols and
According to Revelation, two things will happen as the
awful vials of wrath are poured out. First, many
hardhearted people will refuse to repent: "Men were
scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God,
which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not
to give him glory.... And blasphemed the God of heaven
because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of
their deeds.... And men blasphemed God because of the
plague...for the plague thereof was exceeding great"
(Revelation 16:9, 11, 21).
Yet, Scripture says, in the midst of those frightful times,
others will turn to the Lord in repentance. Backsliders and
the lukewarm, those who had a taste of God's Word, the Lord
will convict and woo. Then Ezekiel's prophecy will come to
pass: "I will turn you from your prideful apostasy."
"They shall burn thine houses with fire, and execute
judgments upon thee in the sight of many women: and I will
cause thee to cease from playing the harlot" (Ezekiel
16:41, my italics). The judgments at that time will be so
earth-shattering, all of humanity will know it is "do or
die" time. In that moment, God is going to shake and stir
every backslider who's known him and show them the apostasy
of their hearts. Many apostate pastors will be driven back
to the Cross, turning from their sloth to preach repentance
and righteousness. It will be a supernatural work, a
manifestation of God's grace that will be evident to all
Meanwhile, Allah will fail to deliver his worshippers from
the vials of wrath. Masses of Hindu worshippers will be
crushed as they're failed by their millions of deities.
Indeed, the whole world will say, "These judgments are
supernatural," and multitudes will cry out for Christ.
(We've already seen this happen, after the devastating
tsunami in the Far East.)
"And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt
know that I am the Lord: that thou mayest remember, and be
confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of
thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou
hast done, saith the Lord God" (Ezekiel 16:62-63).
God is telling us, in short: "In spite of all your
apostasies, all your rejections of me, all your
backslidings in the hour of trial that comes upon the
earth, I will remember the covenant I made with you in your
youth." In other words, it will all happen because of his
Beloved, that is the New Covenant, made at Calvary. Think
of it: Jesus came to a world that was in total apostasy,
dead in ritualism, bound by corruption. He didn't come in
answer to man's prayers, because so few were seeking him.
The world at that time worshipped idols and false gods,
just as humankind does today. Israel was apostate. Christ's
coming was a pure act of mercy, undeserved by anyone.
I believe a great harvest of souls is still to come out of
modern Sodom. All around the world, churches will be
blessed and amazed by the remnant of hungry believers who
come forth out of every nation. These will recognize the
voice of the Lord, saying, "I am bringing you back to your
beginnings in me." And their hearts will awaken,
responding, "Lord, bring me back to my first love for you."
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon