Please Help Us Keep These Thousands of Blog Posts Growing and Free for All
1 Timothy 4:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,
Now the Spirit – Evidently the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of inspiration. It is not quite certain, from this passage, whether the apostle means to say that this was a revelation “then” made to him, or whether it was a well-understood thing as taught by the Holy Spirit. He himself elsewhere refers to this same prophecy, and John also more than once mentions it; compare 2 Thes. 2; 1Jn_2:18; Rev_20:1-15. From 2Th_2:5, it would seem that this was a truth which had before been communicated to the apostle Paul, and that he had dwelt on it when he preached the gospel in Thessalonica. There is no improbability, however, in the supposition that so important a subject was communicated directly by the Holy Spirit to others of the apostles.
The Great Apostasy Began in First Century Christianity
Says expressly – In express words, ῥητῶς rētōs. It was not by mere hints, and symbols, and shadowy images of the future; it was in an open and plain manner – in so many words. The object of this statement seems to be to call the attention of Timothy to it in an emphatic manner and to show the importance of attending to it.
That in the latter times – Under the last dispensation, during which the affairs of the world would close. It does not mean that this would occur “just before” the end of the world, but that it would take place during “that last dispensation,” and that the end of the world would not happen until this should take place.
Some shall depart from the faith – The Greek word here – ἀποστήσονται apostēsontai – is that from which we have derived the word “apostatize,” and would be properly so rendered here. The meaning is, that they would “apostatize” from the belief of the truths of the gospel. It does not mean that, as individuals, they would have been true Christians; but that there would be a departure from the great doctrines which constitute the Christian faith. The ways in which they would do this are immediately specified, showing what the apostle meant here by departing from the faith. They would give heed to seducing spirits, to the doctrines of devils, etc. The use of the word “some,” here τινες tines – does not imply that the number would be small. The meaning is, that “certain persons” would thus depart, or that “there would be” an apostasy of the kind here mentioned, in the last days. From the parallel passage in 2Th_2:3, it would seem that this was to be an extensive apostasy.
Giving heed to seducing spirits – Rather than to the Spirit of God. It would be a part of their system to yield to those spirits that led astray. The spirits here referred to are any that cause to err, and the most obvious and natural construction is to refer it to the agency of fallen spirits. Though it “may” apply to false teachers, yet, if so, it is rather to them as under the influence of evil spirits. This may be applied, so far as the phraseology is concerned, to “any” false teaching; but it is evident that the apostle had a specific apostasy in view – some great “system” that would greatly corrupt the Christian faith; and the words here should be interpreted with reference to that. It is true that people in all ages are prone to give heed to seducing spirits; but the thing referred to here is some grand apostasy, in which the characteristics would be manifested, and the doctrines held, which the apostle proceeds immediately to specify; compare 1 John 4:1.
And doctrines of devils – Greek, “Teachings of demons – διδασκαλίαις δαιμωνίων didaskaliais daimōniōn. This may either mean teachings “respecting” demons, or teachings “by” demons. The particular sense must be determined by the connection. Ambiguity of this kind in the construction of words, where one is in the genitive case, is not uncommon; compare Joh_15:9-10; Joh_21:15. Instances of the construction where the genitive denotes the “object,” and should be translated “concerning,” occur in Mat_9:25; “The gospel of the kingdom,” i. e., concerning the kingdom; Mat_10:1; “Power of unclean spirits,” i. e., over or concerning unclean spirits; so, also, Act_4:9; Rom_16:15; 2Co_1:5; Eph_3:1; Rev_2:13. Instances of construction where the genitive denotes the “agent,” occur in the following places: Luk_1:69, “A horn of salvation,” i.e., a horn which produces or causes salvation; Joh_6:28; Rom_3:22; 2Co_4:10; Eph_4:18; Col_2:11. Whether the phrase here means that, in the apostasy, they would give heed to doctrines “respecting” demons, or to doctrines which demons “taught,” cannot, it seems to me, be determined with certainty. If the previous phrase, however, means that they would embrace doctrines taught by evil spirits, it can hardly be supposed that the apostle would immediately repeat the same idea in another form; and then the sense would be, that one characteristic of the time referred to would be the prevalent teaching “respecting” demons. They would “give heed to,” or embrace, some special views respecting demons. The word here rendered “devils” is δαιμονία daimonia – “demons.” This word, among the Greeks, denoted the following things:
(1) A god or goddess, spoken of the pagan gods; compare in New Testament, Act_17:18.
(2) A divine being, where no particular one was specified, the agent or author of good or evil fortune; of death, fate, etc. In this sense it is often used in Homer.
(3) The souls of people of the golden age, which dwelt unobserved upon the earth to regard the actions of men, and to defend them – tutelary divinities, or geniuses – like that which Socrates regarded as his constant attendant. Xen. Mem. 4. 8. 1. 5; Apol. Soc. 4. See “Passow.”
(4) To this may be added the common use in the New Testament, where the word denotes a demon in the Jewish sense – a bad spirit, subject to Satan, and under his control; one of the host of fallen angels – commonly, but not very properly rendered “devil” or “devils.” These spirits were supposed to wander in desolate places, Matt. 12:43; compare Isa. 13:21; Isa. 34:14; or they dwell in the air, Eph. 2:2. They were regarded as hostile to mankind, Joh_8:44; as able to utter pagan oracles, Acts 16:17; as lurking in the idols of the pagan, 1Co_10:20; Rev. 9:20. They are spoken of as the authors of evil, James 2:19; compare Eph_6:12, and as having the power of taking “possession” of a person, of producing diseases, or of causing mania, as in the case of the demoniacs, Luke 4:33; Luke 8:27; Matt. 17:18; Mark 7:29-30; and often elsewhere. The doctrine, therefore, which the apostle predicted would prevail, might, “so far as the word used is concerned,” be either of the following:
(1) Accordance with the prevalent notions of the pagan respecting false gods; or a falling into idolatry similar to that taught in the Grecian mythology. It can hardly be supposed, however, that he designed to say that the common notions of the pagan would prevail in the Christian church, or that the worship of the pagan gods “as such” would be set up there.
What Does the Bible Really Teach About the Great Apostasy?
(2) An accordance with the Jewish views respecting demoniacal possessions and the power of exorcising them. If this view should extensively prevail in the Christian church, it would be in accordance with the language of the prediction.
(3) Accordance with the prevalent pagan notions respecting the departed spirits of the good and the great, who were exalted to the rank of demigods, and who, though invisible, were supposed still to exert an important influence in favor of mankind. To these beings, the pagan rendered extraordinary homage. They regarded them as demigods. They supposed that they took a deep interest in human affairs. They invoked their aid. They set apart days in honor of them. They offered sacrifices and performed rites and ceremonies to propitiate their favor. They were regarded as a sort of mediator or intercessor between man and the superior divinities. If these things are found anywhere in the Christian church, they may be regarded as a fulfillment of this prediction, for they were not of a nature to be foreseen by any human sagacity. Now it so happens, that they are in fact found in the Papal communion, and in a way that corresponds fairly to the meaning of the phrase, as it would have been understood in the time of the apostle.
There is, “first,” the worship of the virgin and of the saints, or the extraordinary honors rendered to them – corresponding almost entirely with the reverence paid by the pagan to the spirits of heroes or to demigods. The saints are supposed to have extraordinary power with God, and their aid is implored as intercessors. The virgin Mary is invoked as “the mother of God,” and as having power still to command her Son. The Papists do not, indeed, offer the same homage to the saints which they do to God, but they ask their aid; they offer prayer to them. The following extracts from the catechism of Dr. James Butler, approved and recommended by Dr. Kenrick, “Bishop of Philadelphia,” expresses the general views of Roman Catholics on this subject. “Question: How do Catholics distinguish between the honor they give to God and the honor they give to the saints when they pray to God and the saints?
What Does the Bible Really Say About Apostasy? What Are Some Identifying Characteristics of Apostates?
Answer: Of God alone, they beg grace and mercy; and of the saints, they only ask the assistance of their prayers. Question: Is it lawful to recommend ourselves to the saints and ask their prayers. Answer: Yes; as it is lawful and a very pious practice to ask the prayers of our fellow creatures on earth, and to pray for them.” In the “Prayer to be said before mass,” the following language occurs: “In union with the holy church and its minister, and invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and all the angels and saints, we now offer the adorable sacrifice of the mass,” etc. In the General Confession, it is said – “I confess to Almighty God, to the blessed Mary, ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the saints, that I have sinned exceedingly.” So also, the council of Trent declared, Sess. 25, “Concerning the invocation of the saints,” “that it is good and useful to supplicate them, and to fly to their prayers, power, and aid; but that they who deny that the saints are to be invoked, or who assert that they do not pray for people, or that their invocation of them is idolatry, hold an impious opinion. See also Peter Den’s Moral Theology, translated by the Rev. John F. Berg, pp. 342-356. “Secondly,” in the Papal communion the doctrine of “exorcism” is still held – implying a belief that evil spirits or demons have power over the human frame – a doctrine which comes fairly under the meaning of the phrase here—“the doctrine respecting demons.”
Thus, in Dr. Butler’s Catechism: “Question: What do you mean by exorcism? Answer: The rites and prayers instituted by the church for the casting out devils, or restraining them from hurting persons, disquieting places, or abusing any of God’s creatures to our harm. Question: Has Christ given his church any such power over devils? Answer: Yes, he has; see Matt. 10:1; Mark 3:15; Luke 9:1. And that this power was not to die with the apostles, nor to cease after the apostolic age, we learn from the perpetual practice of the church, and the experience of all ages.” The characteristic here referred to by the apostle, therefore, is one that applies precisely to the Roman Catholic communion, and cannot be applied with the same fitness to any other association calling itself Christian on earth. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the Holy Spirit designed to designate that apostate church.
All the questions and answers above are apostasies within themselves and are not biblical.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 Let no one deceive [Or seduce] you in any way, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
Apostasy: (Gr. apostasia) The term literally means “to stand away from” and is used to refer to ones who ‘stand away from the truth.’ It is abandonment, a rebellion, an apostasy, a refusal to accept or acknowledge true worship. In Scripture, this is used primarily concerning the one who rises up in defiance of the only true God and his people, working in opposition to the truth. – Ac 21:21; 2 Thess. 2:3.
Let no man deceive you by any means – That is, respecting the coming of the Lord Jesus. This implies that there were then attempts to deceive and that it was of great importance for Christians to be on their guard. The result has shown that there is almost no subject on which caution is more proper, and on which men are more liable to delusion. The means then resorted to for deception appear from the previous verse to have been either an appeal to a pretended verbal message from the apostle or a pretended letter from him. The means now, consist of a claim to uncommon wisdom in the interpretation of obscure prophecies of the Scriptures. The necessity for the caution here given has not ceased.
For that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first – Until an apostasy (ἀποστασία apostasia) shall have occurred – the great apostasy. There is scarcely any passage of the New Testament which has given occasion to greater diversity of opinion than this. Though the reference seems to be plain, and there is scarcely any prophecy of the Bible apparently more obvious and easy in its general interpretation; yet it is proper to mention some of the opinions which have been entertained of it.
Some have referred it to a great apostasy from the Christian church, particularly on account of persecution, which would occur before the destruction of Jerusalem. The “coming of the Lord” they suppose refers to the destruction of the holy city, and according to this, the meaning is, that there would be a great apostasy before that event would take place. Of this opinion was Vitringa, who refers the “apostasy” to a great defection from the faith which took place between the time of Nero and Trajan.
Whitby also refers it to an event that was to take place before the destruction of Jerusalem and supposes that the apostasy would consist in a return from the Christian to the Jewish faith by multitudes of professed converts. The “man of sin,” according to him, means the Jewish nation, so characterized on account of its eminent wickedness.
Hammond explains the apostasy by the defection to the Gnostics, by the arts of Simon Magus, whom he supposes to be the man of sin, and by the “day of the Lord,” he also understands the destruction of Jerusalem.
Grotius takes Caius Caesar or Caligula, to be the man of sin, and by the apostasy, he understands his abominable wickedness. In the beginning of his government, he says, his plans of iniquity were concealed, and the hopes of all were excited in regard to his reign; but his secret iniquity was subsequently “revealed,” and his true character understood.
Wetstein understands by the “man of sin,” that it referred to Titus and the Flavian house. He says that he does not understand it of the Roman Pontiff, who “is not one such as the demonstrative pronoun thrice repeated designates, and who neither sits in the temple of God, nor calls himself God, nor Caius, nor Simon Gioriae, nor any Jewish impostor, nor Simon Magus.”
Koppe refers it to the King mentioned in Dan_11:36. According to him, the reference is to a great apostasy of the Jews from the worship of God, and the “man of sin” is the Jewish people.
Others have supposed that the reference is to Muhammed, and that the main characteristics of the prophecy may be found in him.
Of the Papists, a part affirms that the apostasy is the falling away from Rome in the time of the Reformation, but the greater portion supposes that the allusion is to Antichrist, who, they say, will appear in the world before the great day of judgment, to combat religion and the saints. See these opinions stated at length, and examined, in Dr. Newton on the Prophecies, Dissertation xxii.
Some more recent expositors have referred it to Napoleon Bonaparte, and some (as Oldshausen) suppose that it refers to some one who has not yet appeared, in whom all the characteristics here specified will be found united.
Most Protestant commentators have referred it to the great apostasy under the papacy, and, by the “man of sin,” they suppose there is allusion to the Roman Pontiff, the Pope. It is evident that we are in better circumstances to understand the passage than those were who immediately succeeded the apostles.
Eighteen hundred years have passed (written circa 1880’s) away since the Epistle was written, and the “day of the Lord” has not yet come, and we have an opportunity of inquiring, whether in all that long tract of time any one man can be found, or any series of men have arisen, to whom the description here given is applicable. If so, it is in accordance with all the proper rules of interpreting prophecy, to make such an application. If it is fairly applicable to the papacy, and cannot be applied in its great features to anything else, it is proper to regard it as having such an original reference. Happily, the expressions which are used by the apostle are, in themselves, not difficult of interpretation, and all that the expositor has to do is, to ascertain whether in any one great apostasy all the things here mentioned have occurred. If so, it is fair to apply the prophecy to such an event; if not so, we must wait still for its fulfillment.
The word rendered “falling away” (ἀποστασία apostasia, apostasy), is of so general a character, that it may be applied to any departure from the faith as it was received in the time of the apostles. It occurs in the New Testament only here and in Act_21:21, where it is rendered “to forsake” – “thou teachest all the Jews which are among us to forsake Moses” – apostasy from Moses – ἀποστασίαν ἀπὸ Μωῦσέως apostasian apo Mōuseōs. The word means a departing from, or a defection; see the verb used in 1Ti_4:1, “Some shall depart from the faith” – ἀποστήσονται apostēsontai. The reference here is evidently to some general falling away, or to some great religious apostasy that was to occur, and which would be under one head, leader, or dynasty, and which would involve many in the same departure from the faith, and in the same destruction. The use of the article here, “the apostasy” (Greek), Erasmus remarks, “signifies that great and before-predicted apostasy.” It is evidently emphatic, showing that there had been a reference to this before, or that they understood well that there was to be such an apostasy. Paul says 2Th_2:5, that when he was with them, he had told them of these things. The writers in the New Testament often speak of such a defection under the name of Antichrist; see Rev_13:14; 1Jn_2:18, 1Jn_2:22; 1Jn_4:3; 2Jn_1:7.
And that man of sin – This is a Hebraism, meaning a man of eminent wickedness; one distinguished for depravity; compare John 17:12; Prov. 6:12, in Heb. The use of the article here – ὁ ἄνθρωπος ho anthrōpos – “the man of sin,” is also emphatic, as in the reference to “the falling away,” and shows that there is allusion to one of whom they had before heard, and whose character was well known; who would be the wicked one by way of eminence; see also 2Thess.2:8, “that wicked” – ὁ ἄνομος ho anomos. There are two general questions in regard to the proper interpretation of this appellative; the one is, whether it refers to an individual, or to a series of individuals of the same general character, aiming at the accomplishment of the same plans; and the other is, whether there has been any individual, or any series of individuals, since the time of the apostle, who, by eminence, deserved to be called “the man of sin.” That the phrase, “the man of sin,” may refer to a succession of men of the same general character, and that it does so refer here, is evident from the following considerations:
(1) The word “king” is used in Dan. 7:25; Dan. 11:36, to which places Paul seems to allude, to denote a succession of kings.
(2) The same is true of the beast mentioned in Dan. 7; Dan. 8; and Rev. 13, representing a kingdom or empire through its successive changes and revolutions.
(3) The same is true of the “woman arrayed in purple and scarlet” Rev_17:4, which cannot refer to a single woman, but is the emblem of a continued corrupt administration.
(4) It is clear that a succession is intended here, because the work assigned to “the man of sin,” cannot be supposed to be that which could be accomplished by a single individual. The statement of the apostle is, that there were then tendencies to such an apostasy, and that the “man of sin “would be revealed at no distant period, and yet that he would continue his work of “lying wonders” until the coming of the Saviour. In regard to this “man of sin,” it may be further observed:
(1) That his appearing was to be preceded by “the great apostasy;” and,
(2) That he was to continue and perpetuate it. His rise was to be owing to a great departure from the faith, and then he was to be the principal agent in continuing it by “signs and lying wonders.” He was not himself to originate the defection, but was to be the creation, or result of it. He was to rise upon it, or grow out of it, and, by artful arrangements adapted to that purpose, was to perpetuate it. The question then is, to whom this phrase, descriptive of a succession of individuals so eminent for wickedness that the name “the man of sin” could be applied, was designed by the spirit of inspiration to refer. Dr. Newton has shown that it cannot refer to Caligula, to Simon Magus, to the revolt of the Jews from the Romans, or to the revolt of the Jews from the faith, or to the Flavian family, or to Luther, as some of the papists suppose, or to one man who will appear just before the end of the world, as others of the Romanists suppose; see his Dissertations on the Prophecies, xxii, pp. 393-402; compare Oldshausen, in loc. The argument is too long to be inserted here. But can it be referred to the papacy? Can it denote the Pope of Rome, meaning not a single pope, but the succession? If all the circumstances of the entire passage can be shown to be fairly applicable to him, or if it can he shown that all that is fairly implied in the language used here has received a fulfillment in him, then it is proper to regard it as having been designed to be so applied, and then this may be numbered among the prophecies that are in part fulfilled.
The question now is on the applicability of the phrase “the man of sin” to the Pope. That his rise was preceded by a great apostasy, or departure from the purity of the simple gospel, as revealed in the New Testament, cannot reasonably be doubted by any one acquainted with the history of the church. That he is the creation or result of that apostasy, is equally clear. That he is the grand agent in continuing it, is equally manifest. Is the phrase itself one that is properly applicable to him Is it proper to speak of the Pope of Rome, as he has actually appeared, as “the man of sin?” In reply to this, it might be sufficient to refer to the general character of the papacy, and to its influence in upholding and perpetuating various forms of iniquity in the world. It would be easy to show that there has been no dynasty or system that has contributed so much to uphold and perpetuate sins of various kinds on the earth, as the papacy. No other one has been so extensively and so long the patron of superstition; and there are vices of the grossest character which have all along been fostered by its system of celibacy, indulgences, monasteries, and absolutions. But it would be a better illustration of the meaning of the phrase “man of sin,” as applicable to the Pope of Rome, to look at the general character of the popes themselves. Though there may have been some exceptions, yet there never has been a succession of men of so decidedly wicked character, as have occupied the papal throne since the great apostasy commenced.
A very few references to the characters of the popes will furnish an illustration of this point. Pope Vagilius waded to the pontifical throne through the blood of his predecessor. Pope Joan (the Roman Catholic writers tell us) a female in disguise, was elected and confirmed Pope, as John VIII. Platina says, that “she became with child by some of those that were round about her; that she miscarried, and died on her way from the Lateran to the temple.” Pope Marcellinus sacrificed to idols. Concerning Pope Honorius, the council of Constantinople decreed, “We have caused Honorius, the late Pope of Old Rome, to be accursed; for that in all things he followed the mind of Sergius the heretic, and confirmed his wicked doctrines.” The Council of Basil thus condemned Pope Eugenius: “We condemn and depose Pope Eugenius, a despiser of the holy canons; a disturber of the peace and unity of the church of God; a notorious offender of the whole universal church; a Simonist; a perjurer; a man incorrigible; a schismatic; a man fallen from the faith, and a willful heretic.”
Pope John II, was publicly charged at Rome with incest. Pope John XIII usurped the Pontificate, spent his time in hunting, in lasciviousness, and monstrous forms of vice; he fled from the trial to which he was summoned, and was stabbed, being taken in the act of adultery. Pope Sixtus IV licensed brothels at Rome. Pope Alexander VI was, as a Roman Catholic historian says, “one of the greatest and most horrible monsters in nature that could scandalize the holy chair. His beastly morals, his immense ambition, his insatiable avarice, his detestable cruelty, his furious lusts, and monstrous incest with his daughter Lucretia, are, at large, described by Guicciardini Ciaconius, and other authentic papal historians.” Of the popes, Platina (a Roman Catholic) says: “The chair of Saint Peter was usurped, rather than possessed, by monsters of wickedness, ambition, and bribery. They left no wickedness unpracticed;” see the New Englander, April, 1844, pp. 285, 286. To no succession of men who have ever lived could the appellative, “the man of sin, be applied with so much propriety as to this succession. Yet they claim to have been the true “successors” of the apostles, and there are Protestants who deem it of essential importance to be able to show that they have derived the true “succession” through such men.
Be revealed – Be made manifest. There were, at the time when the apostle wrote, two remarkable things:
(1) That there was already a tendency to such apostasy as he spoke of; and,
(2) There was something which as yet prevented the appearance or the rise of the man of sin; 2Thess. 2:7. When the hindrance which then existed should be taken out of the way, he would be manifested.
“The son of perdition.” This is the same appellation that the Saviour bestowed on Judas. It may mean either that he would be the cause of ruin to others, or that he would himself be devoted to destruction. It would seem here rather to be used in the latter sense, though this is not absolutely certain. The phrase, whichever interpretation be adopted, is used to denote one of eminent wickedness.
Please Help Us Keep These Thousands of Blog Posts Growing and Free for All