Definition: Apostasy is abandoning or deserting the worship and service of God, actually a rebellion against Jehovah God. Some apostates profess to know and serve God but reject teachings or requirements set out in his Word. Others claim to believe the Bible but reject Jehovah’s organization.
Should we expect that apostates will arise within the Christian congregation?
1 Tim. 4:1: “The inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons.”
2 Thess. 2:3: “Let no one seduce you in any manner, because [the day of Jehovah] will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction.”
Some identifying marks of apostates—
They seek to make others their followers, thus causing sectarian divisions
Acts 20:30: “From among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
2 Pet. 2:1, 3: “There will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them . . . Also, with covetousness they will exploit you with counterfeit words.”
They may profess to believe in Christ but treat lightly the preaching and teaching work he assigned to his followers
Luke 6:46: “Why, then, do you call me ‘Lord! Lord!’ but do not do the things I say?”
Matt. 28:19, 20: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”
Matt. 24:14: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”
They may claim to serve God but reject his representatives, his visible organization
Jude 8, 11: “These men, too, indulging in dreams, are defiling the flesh and disregarding lordship and speaking abusively of glorious ones. Too bad for them, because they . . . have perished in the rebellious talk of Korah!”
Num. 16:1-3, 11, 19-21: “Korah . . . proceeded to get up, together with . . . two hundred and fifty men of the sons of Israel, chieftains of the assembly . . . So they congregated themselves against Moses and Aaron and said to them: ‘That is enough of you, because the whole assembly are all of them holy and Jehovah is in their midst. Why, then, should you lift yourselves up above the congregation of Jehovah?’ . . . [Moses said:] ‘You and all your assembly who are gathering together are against Jehovah. As for Aaron, what is he that you men should murmur against him?’ When Korah got all the assembly together against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting, then Jehovah’s glory appeared to all the assembly. Jehovah now spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: ‘Separate yourselves from the midst of this assembly, that I may exterminate them in an instant.’”
Not only do they abandon the true faith but they then “beat” their former associates, using public criticism and other methods to hinder their work; the efforts of such apostates are devoted to tearing down, not building up
Matt. 24:45-51: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? . . . But if ever that evil slave should say in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know, and will punish him with the greatest severity and will assign him his part with the hypocrites.”
2 Tim. 2:16-18: “Shun empty speeches that violate what is holy; for they will advance to more and more ungodliness, and their word will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of that number. These very men have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred; and they are subverting the faith of some.”
Would faithful Christians welcome apostates into their presence, either personally or by reading their literature?
2 John 9, 10: “Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. . . . If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him.”
Rom. 16:17, 18: “I exhort you, brothers, to keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching that you have learned, and avoid them. . . . By smooth talk and complimentary speech they seduce the hearts of guileless ones.”
Would any serious harm come from satisfying one’s curiosity about the thinking of apostates?
Prov. 11:9: “By his mouth the one who is an apostate brings his fellowman to ruin.”
Isa. 32:6: “The senseless one himself will speak mere senselessness, and his very heart will work at what is hurtful, to work at apostasy and to speak against Jehovah what is wayward, to cause the soul of the hungry one to go empty, and he causes even the thirsty one to go without drink itself.” (Compare Isaiah 65:13, 14.)
How serious is apostasy?
2 Pet. 2:1: “These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves.”
Job 13:16: “Before him [God] no apostate will come in.”
Heb. 6:4-6: “It is impossible as regards those who have once for all been enlightened, and who have tasted the heavenly free gift, and who have become partakers of holy spirit, and who have tasted the fine word of God and powers of the coming system of things, but who have fallen away [“if they then commit apostasy,” RS], to revive them again to repentance, because they impale the Son of God afresh for themselves and expose him to public shame.”