The day of the Lord has not come, Paul assures the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). It will not come until two things happen: the apostasy and the revelation of the man of lawlessness (v. 3).
Paul tells Timothy the same: In the latter days, some will fall away from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1).
Paul is talking about the same "day of the Lord" that all the New Testament writers talk about, the day that Jesus says will happen "before this generation passes away" (Matthew 24:34). It's the day when the old world, the "ecumenical" order of Israel-in-empire, collapses.
Paul's message to the Thessalonians is the same as Jesus': Apostasy comes before the end. Because of intense persecution, false prophets, lawlessness, "many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another" (Matthew 24:10).
Paul isn't the only New Testament writer to warn about an impending day of the Lord. James does, Peter does, John does. And all of them say what Paul says: Before that day comes, many will fall away.
Some will "deny the Master who bought them" (2 Peter 2:1). Some will trample the Son under their feet, and regard as unclean the covenant-cutting blood that sanctified them (Hebrews 10:29).
Some will escape the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior, but then be tangled up and overcome by the world. Their last state will be worse than the first (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Some, Hebrews warns, will be enlightened, taste the heavenly gift and the powers of the age to come, be partakers of the Spirit, and then fall away. Their baptisms will fall on barren ground, and produce only thorns instead of fruitful vegetation (Hebrews 6:4-8).
The New Testament wasn't predicting the apostasy of Josh Harris, or the wobbliness of Hillsong's Marty Sampson, or other high-profile apostasies of our day. It was predicting events of the first century, the end of the world that then was.
But other worlds end too, and when they do, they follow similar patterns.
Our world is fraying. A day of the Lord is coming. Before the day comes, persecution will intensify, lawlessness will increase, the love of many will grow cold. Expect false prophets, expect others to buckle under the pressure and defect from Jesus and His church.
For, as Paul says, before the day of the Lord, "apostasy comes first."
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