The word apostasy is from the Greek word, “apostasia” meaning, rebellion, abandonment, or defection; it is a defiance of an established system or authority or a breach of faith. In Hebrew, an apostate is “mumar”. He is “one who is changed” (out of his faith) or “poshea Yisrael” literally, “transgressor of Israel” or “kofer” a denier”. In the first century, it was a technical term for political revolt or defection.

Two types of apostasy  

The falling away from the true biblical doctrines into heretical teachings that claim to be true Christian doctrines. 2. Arius, a Libyan teacher, pastor, and theologian argued that Jesus Christ has a SIMILAR (Greek – homoiousios) substance as God but not the SAME (homoousius) substance. Arius thus denied the divinity of Christ. The difference is the Greek letter, iota (i) So Arius became the first to begin the downward slide into full departure from the faith which is the second form of apostasy; the end goal is a total falling away. In A.D. 325, the Council of Nice convened on the issue of Arius and his teachings. They excommunicated Arius and issued a creed affirming the divinity of Christ.

Arius died centuries ago but his spiritual children that deny the divinity of Christ still subsist in the name of Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witness sects. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Jesus is greater than man but lesser than God. If Jesus is just a man and not God, he cannot save us.  Such a Superman, lesser than God, is a fable existing only in some people’s imagination.

Characteristics of apostasy

Jude, one of the half brothers of Jesus showed how to recognize apostates and urges us to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 1: 3) Content is from Greek words telling us to agonize. The fight involves every church member. Jude revealed that apostasy sneaks into the church unnoticed.

W Tozer warned that error can skillfully imitate the truth. Paul warned that they disguise themselves as angels of light. 2 Cor. 11: 14.  Jude (3-16) calls them ungodly men using God’s grace to commit unrighteous acts; he also says that they are: morally perverted, ignorant of God, proclaiming false visions, self-destructive, twice dead, grumblers, fault-finders, worldly-minded and devoid of Spirit (ie unsaved), etc.

He is now the president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. (FFRF) This organization is said to have a population of about 37,000 members worldwide. It is a haven for pastors and ministers who no longer believe in Christ. He said that when he learned that Christianity is not true, he had to decide whether he wanted God or he wanted the truth. Who taught him that God is not true?

It took him 4 to 5 years to fall away from Christ. His reconversion was completed in 1984. He claims that he is now free from the fear of hell or judgment. His confidence now is in human reasoning and kindness; what a horrible disaster. Church leaders, please note that once Christ becomes real to your members, your job isn’t done.

Apostate Pastors

Believe it or not, a large number of pastors are now actively working in the ministry that has long lost faith in Christ Jesus. They remain in the church for material gain. Can you imagine a pastor querying why should Christ be the only savior of the world?

Old Testament Apostates

Cain: Cain was the first Old Testament apostate. We are told that Cain went out from the presence of the Lord. Gen. 4: 16. The Bible does not record any godly man in Cain’s generation. All the generations of Cain perished in the flood of Noah. It was a case of a steady degradation and deterioration of Cain’s family tree; a contagious sin that swallowed up all the generations of Cain.

Please note that it was recorded twice that Jonah both fled and went down from the presence of the Lord in Jonah 1: 3. He ran away from God in Jonah chapter 1; he ran towards God in prayers of repentance in Jonah 2; he ran with God carrying out His instructions in Jonah 3. He angrily ran against God in Jonah 4. Why, because Jonah openly disagreed with God’s theology of mercy.

Nevertheless, God recovered Jonah, he never became an apostate. Cain could not be recovered; he was a case of the first Old Testament apostate. He never returned to God. Another imagery of the Old Testament apostate was Israel, symbolized as a faithless spouse turning away from Yahweh, her marriage partner to other gods. Jer. 2: 1-3.

New Testament Apostates

Judas: The first example that easily comes to mind is the case of Judas, the man from Kerioth. The Jewish leaders covenanted with Judas to pay him 30 silver pieces to help them apprehend Christ for execution. Zechariah, the prophet, sarcastically called this offer a “handsome price” in Zech 11: 13.

This was in reality an insult to our Lord, Jesus Christ because it was the price and worth of a slave. Whenever an ox gored (not pushed) a slave to death, the ox owner should compensate the slave owner with a sum of 30 pieces of silver. To a thief like Judas, it was a reasonable price. Ex. 21: 32.

Paul reported that Demas had forsaken him for worldly things. 2 Tim. 4: 10.

The Great Apostate- Christ’s Eschatological Warning

Eschatology is the doctrine of the end times. Jesus warned that a time is coming (in our present generation, the last generation before His arrival) when backsliding would become a common feature in all churches.

See Matthew 24: 12. This was reiterated by Apostle Paul who called it the time of “FALLING AWAY”. The end times would be characterized by tribulation and hollow religious charlatans. See 2 Thes. 2: 3; 2Tim. 3: 1-2, 5.

Julian: To talk about this emperor’s attempt to destroy Christianity, we look at history from Nero to his reign.  A colossal opposition against Christianity of a frightful dimension broke out in the reign of Nero in the first century, A.D 54- A.D 68. Many believed that Nero had serious psychiatric challenges. He murdered his mother and two wives. He killed the apostles, Peter and Paul among many others.

He set Rome on fire and falsely accused the Christians of it. The fire burned for 6 days and destroyed 70% of the city. People say, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned”. His senate soon declared him an enemy of Rome and in panic and fear; he committed suicide and died at the age of 30.

Soon the Lord had mercy on Christians and a reprieve came as Emperor Constantine the First (called Constantine the Great) allegedly saw a revelation leading to his conversion. He issued the Edict of Toleration in A.D. 311 and other laws to set Christians free from persecution. He eventually made Christianity the state religion.

Julian: Julian was the nephew of Constantine the First; he in vain tried to reverse the transformation of Imperial Rome into a Christian Empire. His father was killed by the so-called Christian leaders engaged in internal bloody struggles for the throne. A Christian Bishop brought him up in the ways of Christ; he was active in the church but seemed to have been influenced by the slaves taking care of him.

When he became emperor in A.D 360, he turned against Christ. His interest in paganism was strange to many who saw him as a good Christian. He tried to build a pagan church in competition with the true Christian church. He criticized pagan priests for not living holy lives like Christians. Despite all his efforts, he became a laughing stock to both Christians and pagans.

Julian: Julian fought and lost a war against Persia. Being wounded and dying, he rose his bloody hand in the air and screamed, “You have conquered, O Galilean (Jesus)”. He usually referred to Jesus as the poor Galilean.