A very good teaching on the great falling away prophesied in the bible as one of the end time signs, comparing the first coming of Jesus with His coming second one.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet
‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER
WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’ ”
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.
— Matthew 2:1-8 (NASB)
One of the repeated teachings at Moriel is that prophecy is not so much about the fulfillment of specific events at a specific pre-set date and time as much as it is really patterns which repeat themselves, growing ever stronger until their last, ultimate fulfillment. That is why a lot of what we understand about Christ’s Second Coming is foreshadowed – a pattern – revealed during His First Coming. Learning as much as we can about His First Coming teaches a great deal about how things will ultimately take place at His Second Coming. And I have a very strong suspicion that we are seeing some of these things taking place right now. The religious authorities of the day knew Scripture so well that without hesitation they answered the Magis’ question about the Messiah, but like many today, they were completely blind to actually seeing it take place.
At that time in history the night sky was earth’s version of television: EVERYONE watched it, never missing a nightly episode. Since they didn’t know what a “star” really was, they considered the sky part of “the heavens”, the place where God lived and reigned. What happened in the sky was considered to be an indication – even a type of communication – of what was going on in heaven. Everyone from the most learned to the most superstitious kept an eye upward, curious as to what God was doing and might be saying through the events of the night sky.
This is an important point to remember because in such an environment it’s required that we ask, “If there was a comet or supernova that created a never-before-seen big, new shiny star in the sky, how is it possible that NO ONE noticed EXCEPT the Magi?” No one recognized the sign because it was only visible to a very few. If there had been a big, shiny “Christmas star”, everyone would have noticed it. They may not have understood what it meant, but when the Magi appeared and said, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east”, everyone would have slapped their head and confirmed, “Oh! You mean that big, new shiny thing that appeared for the first time a couple of years back?” Not only did no one say that, but they found it necessary to ask the Magi for the particulars.
It was most logical for the Magi to stop and inquire at the one palace they surely thought would be most in tune with the arrival of the birth of the Messiah. And in fact the experts at that palace knew the exact answer. Although they were unaware it was taking place at that very moment, they had no doubt it would eventually take place and they knew exactly WHERE it would happen. But how is this possible? How can someone possess all the information about Christ’s coming and yet not recognize it when it’s coming about? Because something took place that we’re seeing take place again in these final hours. What happened then is happening again, and the biblical term for it is “apostasy” – the great, spiritual falling away.
It’s important to distinguish the difference between “apostasy”, “heresy”, and generic disbelief. A heretic is someone who denies some essential part of the faith in order to foster false teaching or join a different religious group, whereas an apostate is someone who having at one time believed and sided with God, now turns against Him and abandons those beliefs. It’s not a state of ignorance or mistaken knowledge but a deliberate renouncing of the faith. A non-believer can’t renounce what they never subscribed to in the first place. What took place leading up to Christ’s First Coming is again taking place as a prelude to His Second Coming: a great spiritual falling away.
Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [the day of the Lord] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
— 2 Thessalonians 2:3
The star was most certainly a sign from God, an indication in the heavens that spiritual events were taking place, but it was not a natural phenomena that everyone recognized. Only the spiritually prepared saw and interpreted the sign correctly; everyone else was blind to both its presence and proper context. It’s the real-life occurrence of what Jesus taught in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins  – only the biblically prepared are ready when He comes.
The most repeated End Times issue that has been brought up by every major figure of the Old and New Testaments — including Christ Himself — is that the Last Days are marked by great deception and even greater apostasy. It’s those who hold fast to a faithful relationship with Christ to whom the true meaning of such things is revealed. It doesn’t come about by “knowledge”, but “faith”.
- At the First Coming, the signs were only visible and understood by those who were faithful to Him. So it will be at His Second Coming.
- At the First Coming the established religious authorities had become so institutionalized and corrupt that although they possessed knowledge of God’s Word, they did not know how to apply it or use it to recognize the signs of the times. Likewise at the Second Coming the great apostasy will render such authorities completely ineffective, even working on Herod’s behalf in his day, a major type of Antichrist.
- At the First Coming those who recognized the signs of the times first went to those most likely to be interested but were not only rejected but actually found to persecute the Son of the God they professed to serve. Instead of welcoming Him, they sought to kill Him. At the Second Coming, much of the persecution of true believers comes from those claiming authority and position within the church, not to mention outright war waged aginst the Son.
- At the First Coming a one-world system of government that embraced all religions as being part of a diluted whole ruled the earth under a single ruler in the form of the Roman Empire. So at the Second Coming the merging of religious institutions within a single organization under the world rule of the Antichrist will arise in the spirit of the revived Roman Empire.
- At the First Coming the world’s ruler instituted a worldwide census to “mark” all its citizens. At the Second Coming the Antichrist will “mark” all of its citizens.
- At the First Coming the followers of Christ rejoiced at His coming and responded by worshiping Him. At the Second Coming the Antichrist will lead a war against Christ and His followers and will do everything in his power to get everyone to worship him instead of Christ, but in the end every knee will bow and every tongue confess.
- At the First Coming the signs of the times provided Believers with the time frame and general context that assured them that Christ’s appearance was imminent. So at the Second Coming we shall know not the exact date and time but the certainty and nearness of His arrival.
With more examples I suppose I could go on and on, but this is the sure point to take with you: If you want to know about the Second Coming, learn everything you can about His First Coming. And not according to the distilled holiday stories or even elaborate scientifically-based theories that have become so popular, but according to His Word, which was the very thing God gave to the earth at His First Coming.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
— John 1:1-5
Just as it was then, so it is now. The difference between those who saw and responded to the signs and those blinded to them came down to the fact that such things are not a test of knowledge but faith. Knowledge of the Scriptures was enjoyed by all, but only those who were putting it into practice, who were doers of His Word and not merely hearers were the ones who passed the test of faith requisite for spiritual clarity.
There are many things foretold in Scripture that have and are coming true. But there is no greater confirmation that we are living in the shadow of Christ’s imminent return than the apostasy that is presently taking place within the church.
In His Love,