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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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The idea has frequently been expressed that any revival of the Truth has given way to apostacy within two or three generations. This study aims to Biblically analyze this theory. The following, then, is the evidence available:

- A fresh start was made after the flood; three generations later brings us to the time of Nimrod (Gen.10:6-10),  who is highlighted both in Genesis and in later Biblical allusion as an epitome of apostacy.

- Similarly Gen.11:11-16 shows that from Shem (living after the flood) to Peleg was another three generations. " In his days was the earth divided" (1 Chron.1:19), i.e. at Babel. Three generations from the flood to Babel must be significant to our present enquiry. It appears that Nimrod was contemporary with Babel; was this one of the cities which he tried to build?

- Babel provided opportunity for another Genesis. But from Peleg (i.e. the time of Babel, 1 Chron.1:19) to Nahor, Abraham's father, were three generations (Gen.11:18-22); and we know Nahor was an idolator (Josh.24:14).

- After this, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob provide one of the finest examples in Scripture of a family committed to the Truth over three generations. The sons of Jacob clearly had many elements of apostacy among them, both in their personal relationships and their idol worship (Gen.35:4). The holocaust that came on Israel in Egypt must have been a punishment for serious apostacy; God does not willingly afflict His people. The persecution starting in the generation after Joseph therefore suggests that the fourth generation from Abraham started a spiritual slide which led the fifth generation into the deep idolatry which is hinted at in Ezekiel 20 and other passages referring to Israel's spiritual state in Egypt.

- The spiritual revival led by Moses certainly gained some followers in Egypt, coming to fruition in the generation of youngsters (under 20) who left Egypt and entered Canaan. These appear to have been one of the most faithful of all generations. But after their passing and the " elders that outlived Joshua" (i.e. the next generation?), Israel slumped into the apostacy of the Judges period.

- Jud.18:30 (see R.S.V., N.E.B.) shows that Moses' grandson was involved in apostacy. We know that Moses' parents were faithful; and thus again we see the real knowledge of God lost after three or four generations.

- Jeremiah's parable of the figs (Jer.24) describes those who were carried captive to Babylon as being the " good figs" who brought forth spiritual fruit in their captivity- doubtless due to the influence of Daniel and the prophecies of Jeremiah which we know they studied there. This group developed in faith throughout the 70 years captivity, culminating in their return to the land over another 70 year period, spanning the times of Ezra and Nehemiah. After this combined 140 year period, the idealism slacked, political in-fighting arose within the ecclesia, materialism took its toll- as detailed in Haggai and Malachi.

- There was precious little true Christianity by AD170, 140 years after the start of the Lord's ministry.

- Studies of communities holding the Truth in Europe shows the same miserable story repeated time and again.

- During the Millennium a child will die at 100 years old (Is.65:20), suggesting a tenfold increase in life-spans. Taking a generation presently as 40 years, on this reckoning a generation then will be about 400 years. Thus the rebellion at the end of the Millennium will be after two or three generations from the Lord's return. Repentant Israel will dwell in the land for ever once the Kingdom is established: " They, and their children, and their children's children" (Ez. 37:25)- suggesting the Millennium spans three generations?

- It is a Divine principle that certain people can spiritually influence their progeny for three or four generations, so that during this period God will either bless (2 Kings 10:30) or curse (Num.14:8; Dt.5:9) the people in those generations in accordance with the spiritual status of their ancestors.

It could be noted that  fair number of these cases were influenced in their apostacy by a corrupt eldership; leaders whose idealism slacked, and then led to their hold on the faith crumpling completely, in real terms. However, it is also observable that the elders allowed themselves to be influenced by the low standards of their flock. " Because iniquity shall abound (within the ecclesia?), the love of many (" the many" , R.V.- the majority) shall wax cold" (Mt.24:12). Bad spiritual standards will spread like cancer in the last days. Thus the ecclesial leaders of the last days must beware of the temptation to be overharsh on the faithful remnant, whilst eating and drinking with " the drunken" , i.e. those elements in the ecclesia who will be unprepared for the Lord's coming. Matt.24:49 is alluded to in 1 Thess.5:3-7, where the picture is graphically created of a man who has been hard drinking for a whole evening, now at home stupefied, late at night. It is then that the thief comes; whilst dimly aware of his coming, the man is quite unprepared to meet him and keep his (spiritual) house intact. This will be the tragic position of those who through belief and practice are unready for their Lord. It seems that a materialistic eldership, uncommitted to the real needs of the household, indifferent to guarding the house, will contribute to our latter day apostacy as a community. And note the correspondence between those who are harsh on their brethren being those who are also caught up in the things of the world. The drunken servant starts to beat the fellow servants, using a Greek word which means to punish (Lk. 12:45). This creates the picture of a worldly ecclesial elder over-disciplining others. No wonder there will be so much friction and disunity amongst spiritual Israel of the last days.

The disturbing thing is that those living in the third and fourth generations in the examples detailed above would have admitted that things in the ecclesia were not how they had been years ago, but they rarely appreciated how God really saw them- as a corrupted community. Please note that I am not saying that we are corrupted; only God truly knows that. But in view of the evidence presented, are we going to be the only generation to prove all these Biblical precedents wrong? " When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find (the) faith on the earth?" . The fact that there is a question mark over it should inspire us with zeal and sober enthusiasm to prepare ourselves against that day.

Lk. 17:22 warns that in the last days, the Lord’s disciples will “desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it”. Yet Jn. 8:56 implies it is always possible to see one of the days of the Son of man through faith in Him. Is the Lord not hinting here that there will be a clouded spiritual vision amongst His latter day followers, even though they will “desire” this not to be the case? And can we not see uncomfortable similarities with our position and feelings today, realizing our vision is somewhat clouded, desiring for things to be different, but still not seeing…?

A big theme

2 Thess. 2:3 RV speaks of " the falling away" which must come as the final, crystal clear sign that the Lord's return is imminent. It sounds as if Paul treated this as an obvious, well known thing amongst the believers. In the context, he's saying: 'How ever can you believe this idea that the day of Christ is here now (RV)? As you know thoroughly well, the great apostacy from the truth in the ecclesia must come, and only then will the Lord come, to save the elect within his corrupted ecclesia'. The idea of latter day weakness in the ecclesia is taught explicitly and implicitly throughout the Scriptures. Both natural and spiritual Israel have to be almost pleaded with to come out from among the beast system of the last days (Rev. 18:4), implying that somehow they become part of it- although ideally they should never have become involved with it. Israel being tempted by Balaam and the Moabite women at the very end of the wilderness journey looks forward to the tendency of latter day spiritual Israel to mess up on the eve of the Kingdom. A fair case can be made for thinking that Adam sinned at the end of the sixth day, on the eve of the sabbath of rest (cp. the Millennium).

1  Tim. 4:1  indicates what a big theme latter day apostacy was in the first century ecclesia: " The Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith" , due to giving heed to false teachers purposefully trying to seduce the faithful. " Some" (in the Greek) doesn't imply 'not many, just a few'. The link with Mt. 24:12 teaches that " many" (Gk. the majority) will depart- because, 1 Tim. 4:1 tells us, of 'giving heed' to false teachers. Tit. 1:14 warns the first century believers not to 'give heed' to the false doctrines of Judaism which were being pedalled within the ecclesia. Yet the spirit of the day generally is to be more and more tolerant of doctrinal deviants, rather than 'giving heed', 'watching' against them. There is a telling play on words here. The Greek for " giving heed" is normally used concerned taking heed, being ware, of false teachers (Mt. 7:15; 16:6; Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 1:4; Tit. 1:14). Paul's implication is: 'Instead of giving heed to the danger of these people within the ecclesia, you gave heed to them in the sense of listening to them'.

Worse than we think

If we accept the Bible teaching that there will be false teaching and apostacy within the latter day ecclesia, we simply can't trust someone's doctrinal and spiritual integrity just because they call themselves a Christian. At the time of Christ's coming, there will be tares actively growing in the ecclesia. Those tares are the " thorns and briers" of Heb. 6:8, who are " rejected...nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned" ; the 'thorns' who crucify Christ again (2 Sam. 23:6,7; Heb. 6:6-8). Yet we will, in some sense, rub shoulders with this category if we are in the latter day ecclesia (Mt. 13:27-30). In the last days, the true Christian community simply won't be (isn't?) the spiritually safe place, where error is impossible, which we may have felt it to be in the past. The man of sin, the wicked one, will sit in the very temple of God , the ecclesia (see Chapter 23).

Ezekiel (8:8-15; 9:8; 11:3), Jeremiah, Micah and perhaps even the Lord Jesus (Is. 59:16; Lk. 13:8) over-estimated the spirituality of God's people in the run up to the 'day' of Divine judgment in their time. The " peace and safety" cry within the latter day ecclesia (1 Thess. 5:3) is part of an extended set of allusions back to the parables of Mt. 24 and 25, concerning the apostate, drunken servant who thinks everything is fine being suddenly destroyed by his Lord's coming. This kind of believer had been forseen by Moses in Dt. 29:19; the type who hears the curses for disobedience, but blesses (forgives) himself in his heart, " saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst" . As natural Israel will be awoken from their drunkenness by the final Arab invasion (Joel 1:1,2), so spiritual Israel will be awakened by the holocaust to come. The false prophets who lived on the eve of the Baylonian and Assyrian invasions told Israel that everything was " peace and safety" within the ecclesia of their time (Jer. 5:12; 6:14; 14:13; Ez. 13:10; Mic. 3:5). It seems that the latter day ecclesia will likewise have a faithful remnant who clearly perceive the apostacy, although they are surprised at it, seeing in it the clearest sign of their Lord's return; and an apostate majority, backed up by the elders of the ecclesia, who will claim with some aggression that this is all utter nonsense, and there is peace and spiritual safety within the ecclesia. The embryo (or further) of this situation is evidently with us already.