I’ve mentioned Matt. 24:10 a few times — it’s the heartbeat of Stand Firm because it holds a prophecy that many will turn away from the faith. That haunts me. Professed Christians, church members, friends, family, people who are dear to us and once proclaimed to be a believer will turn away.
Unfortunately, this future reality doesn’t seem too futuristic. There’s likely an empty chair or pew spot in front of us. If not there, then certainly behind us. There are even once occupied pulpits that are empty. This was the case before COVID-19, and it’s far more the case now.
Though our attendance appears to reveal this having been fulfilled before our eyes, it hasn’t exactly occurred. In context, this turning away is at a particular time. So, even with the “great no return” following COVID, we “ain’t seen nothing yet.”
In Matthew 24, Jesus includes the great apostasy (turning away) during the beginning of birth pains. The birth pain term wasn’t novel to Jesus’ Olivet Discourse. It comes from an Old Testament precedent. Prophets referred to the birth pains as the final 3.5 years of this age. This is the time of unequaled great distress — the time of Jacob’s trouble. Following that trying time for the Jewish people, Jesus will return and establish His kingdom. The “baby” from the birth pains is Jesus’ Kingdom.
Since we can align the birth pains and birth, the beginning of birth pains leads to this unspecified amount of time. We can’t exactly pinpoint how soon before the birth pains the pre-labor tremors will begin. According to Daniel 9, the Antichrist is in power at least 3.5 years before the start of the birth pains. It seems the events of Matt. 24:4-12 correlate to the rise of the antichrist. The language in Matthew 24 also seems to show that the events are given in chronological order. The order of these first events also matches those in Revelation 6.
I point out the timing in which this turn-away event occurs, but what I really want to point out in the context is that Jesus told the reason for the apostasy. “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matt. 24:9-11).
Did you catch it? Yes, persecution and even martyrdom. The full prophecy here is that there will be great persecution leading professed believers to hate one another, betray one another and even turn away. This intense time of persecution isn’t vague either, we see it mentioned in the book of Revelation: “…I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4).
“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed” (Rev. 6:9-11).
In comparing these two passages, it appears that this great turning away happens due to intense persecution and beheading in the last days. We’re not told where this persecution will happen. It appears to be universal. I think we should highly consider the persecution occurring where it hasn’t already. I think this because those facing persecution are now standing strong. They are teaching that persecution is possible, therefore those who come to faith in those nations know what they’re getting into. That’s not the case for the West, especially in America.
Regardless of the location, both the persecution and resulting turning away will be future headlines. In those newspapers or social media newsfeeds, it would be best to have our obituary and closed casket funeral announcement rather than being listed as one of the great number of people that turns away.
That sounds tough, like something we don’t need to be talking about, but I beg to differ. We need to think through it beforehand. Though we might not likely be the generation that experiences it, one generation will. We need to be prepared. They need to be prepared. We need to stand firm. They need to stand firm.
Jake is available for revivals and preaching learn more at standfirmministries.com.