Every once in a while, something comes along that stops you in your tracks—all surrounding noise fades to a quiet stillness; the sardined space in your mind quickly expands to include long-forgotten memories; and you are immediately transported to that place from whence you came. The Coming Apostasy did that to me.
The book opens with a brief sketch of the “ghost ship” Mary Celeste and the mysterious disappearance of the family and crew which sailed her in 1872. The battered and abandoned vessel provides a convenient analogy to describe the church adrift in the midst of moral and spiritual crises. With vivid apocalyptic imagery, rich symbolism, and a cacophony of current headlines, the authors begin to build their case that we are in the last (final) days of this world. An an impassioned voice sounds the warning siren and cries: “It’s almost here! Are you ready?”
Suddenly, I am six years old again, and various scenes from the movie A Thief in the Night flash furiously in my mind: There’s a woman searching for her family—they are gone, but she was left behind. It was a dream. There’s a little girl standing by the stove in the kitchen—the burner is on, and the contents of a saucepan are boiling, but her mother is nowhere to be found—she assumes she’s been left behind. As she screams in terror, her mother rushes into the room, and together they pray so when the Rapture occurs, she won’t be left behind. It was a dream, but then it wasn’t. The woman runs to a church to find it empty except for the pastor—the congregation is gone, but he was left behind.
Fast forward five years. I’m eleven years old, and the same gal from the first movie is starring in the sequel. She’s still not accepted Jesus into her heart, but for some reason, she is also refusing “the mark” which is now required to buy and sell anything. Near the end of the movie, she witnesses a friend’s beheading on the guillotine. The crime? Refusing the mark. And now, the chorus of Larry Norman’s hit single “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” is stuck in a loop on the jukebox of my mind.
I was raised with a “pre-tribulation, pre-millennial, dispensationalist, rapture-oriented” perspective. I cut my teeth on Tim LaHaye’s end times teachings years before he and Jerry Jenkins ever wrote their bestselling “Left Behind” series. And the movie A Thief in the Night had me so freaked out as a child that—for months after I saw it—whenever I found myself unexpectedly alone, I replayed the girl-by-the-stove scene in my head and wondered if I’d been left behind. (I’m not kidding.) It took lots of re-assurances of salvation and mini-theology lessons before I finally let that fear go.
Needless to say, when I decided to preview the new book The Coming Apostasy, it was a conscious decision to revisit my theological heritage and compare it to what I know to be true. I’m not a little girl anymore. I’ve had formal theological training and spent the last three decades studying and teaching the Bible. I was anxious to compare the current teachings of these authors to the Scriptures and “pop end-times culture” in order to answer a nagging question: Has anything changed in the last 40 years with regards to end times teaching? Because at this point in my life, I’ve survived at least three or four “second comings,” Y2K, numerous “blood moons,” and one “Mayan Apocalypse.” I was hopeful they were not setting yet another date for Doom’s Day!
In other words, I was slightly skeptical—especially after the authors set the stage for their thesis by recounting a number horrific current events including everything from the exponential rise in human trafficking across the globe to the blatant barbarism of ISIS and the incessant threats from Iran’s leadership to annihilate Israel.
According to authors Mark Hitchcock and Jeff Kinley, we are on a trajectory towards the climax of world history and our velocity has been accelerated. These are the end times. The last days. The time is now upon us when God and His followers are rejected, ridiculed, and relegated to the sidelines of society. It’s a perilous period of time immediately preceding what many expect to be the second coming of Christ—when Jesus stops knocking at the door (Rev. 3:20) and instead busts it down, and everyone on earth will mourn for Him (Rev. 1:7). And then, judgment.
Has anything changed in the last 40 years?
Over the past forty years, the world around us has dramatically changed, and the church has matured in its understanding of end times. We know God has a plan, and He is working it. We know it’s not our job to guess when Jesus will return or attempt to accelerate the timeline (as if we could do anything to affect God’s perfect timing). We know our job is to share the gospel message (Matt. 28:18-20) and protect ourselves from deception and false teaching in these last days (Col. 2:8).
I LOVED The Coming Apostasy*. The authors have a high view of Scripture and repeatedly steer Believers back to Bible basics. They plead with their readers to avoid tampering with the time-tested teachings of the Bible in order to placate modern masses; to stand for what is right, even when the world says we are wrong; to maintain an attitude of humility; and to put what we’ve learned into practice.
When we pursue knowledge for knowledge’s sake or when we fail to apply what God’s Word reveals to us, we are setting ourselves up to become proud and bloated…The Word of God always leads us to the person of God. It’s never an end unto itself. Truth comes from God to us in order that we may respond accordingly and live that truth back to God” (pp. 52-53).
They also warn us to be very, very careful with interpretation: “Sincerity is no substitute for biblical integrity” (pg. 59). I couldn’t agree more.
Without a clear understanding of Scripture and a constant calibration of our hearts and minds to God’s Word, the truth in us can fade and even morph to accommodate our feelings or the changing times” (pp. 59-60).
Kinley and Hitchcock are committed to the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God—authoritative for every issue in our lives. What the Bible says we should do, we do. What it says we should avoid, we avoid. Period. “God’s Word is our source for detecting and rejecting apostasy” (pg. 114). It’s important to note that when they are referring to God’s Word, they are referring to the proper interpretation of it. And I’d like to clarify something that is mentioned in passing in the book, but could have used a bit more attention: biblical hermeneutics.
The authors at Theopedia.com define hermeneutics as “the science of interpreting what an author has written.” They continue:
In Christian theology, hermeneutics focuses specifically on constructing and discovering the appropriate rules for interpreting the Bible. These methods and principles, however, are often drawn from outside of scripture in historical, literary or other fields. It inevitably involves exegesis, which is the act of interpreting or explaining the meaning of scripture. The goal in applying the principles of hermeneutics is to ‘rightly handle the word of truth’ (2 Tim. 2:15), striving to accurately discern the meaning of the text.” “Hermeneutics,” Theopedia
In other words, there exist guidelines and standards for proper biblical interpretation, and it is when these rules are either ignored or twisted that we end up with false doctrine in the church. The authors of The Coming Apostasy are frustrated with “professing Christians” (especially famous ones like Tony Campolo, Rachel Held Evans, and Jen Hatmaker) who—in their opinion—have “decided to fit in rather than stand out” in society. The authors contend that this “moral freefall” is only possible because of unbiblical compromises and improper interpretation of clear passages.
There’s just one problem…
** It is at this point that I have to insert a caveat: I HATED the premise of Chapter 7.
In fact, I disagree so much with their decision to focus on one particular sin
that I’m writing a separate review specifically for Chapter 7 (click here to read it). **
Chapter 8 is entitled “Will the Real Jesus Stand up?”—I loved this chapter! In it, Kinley and Hitchcock present three popular “Christ caricatures” including: Hipster Jesus, Equality Jesus, and Patriotic Jesus. Each easily recognizable caricature captures a particular part of Jesus’ personality and ministry methodology, but none of them is complete on its own. And none of them bear much resemblance to the complete picture of the Savior as recorded in the Bible.
Thanks to the overwhelming secularization in society, we’re beginning to see a dramatic drop in the most basic biblical knowledge about Jesus…But among those in America with a rudimentary knowledge of Christ, many have rejected long-held beliefs about the Son of God, favoring instead a re-imagined version of Him. To them, He’s due for an upgrade—Jesus 2.0, and new and improved Christ for a new generation” (pg. 139).
The authors are spot-on theologically when they say, “The portrait of Jesus that Scripture paints cannot be improved upon” (pg. 144). Amen, and amen. “By detaching ourselves from Scripture’s Jesus, we not only end up with the wrong Jesus, but we also short-circuit the very power of the gospel” (pp. 144-145). Can you imagine? May it never be!
One thing we know for certain: the end is coming. God has a plan, and He’s been moving it forward since the beginning of time. His redemption is available to everyone who calls upon His Name. There is forgiveness available to everyone. Every. One. We have all sinned and fallen short of what could have been (Rom. 3:23). And yet, while we were still living in our sinful state—according to our own whims and desires; never giving God a second thought (or third thought); never darkening the door of a church building or even owning a Bible—God became a man and made a way where there was no way. And that way is still available to everyone today. It always will be. (Click here to learn more about this.)
How Should We Then Live?
Having made their case for these being the “last days” and some in the church capitulating to current cultural expectations, The Coming Apostasy concludes with a four-point answer to the question, “How should we then live?”
- Remember ~ We need to remember that we were warned about false teachers and false teachings nearly 2,000 years ago, and the fact that they exist should be no surprise.
- Remain ~ We must commit ourselves to spiritual growth through prayer, Bible study, obedience, and anticipation of His return.
- Reach Out ~ We should reach out with compassion and mercy to those who have been deceived by false teachers while guarding our own hearts with truth so we don’t fall into the same trap.
- Rest ~ We can rest knowing that our eternal destiny is with Him.
The book ends with a clear, concise, biblical presentation of the gospel message and an invitation to the reader to begin a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Because, when it all comes down, the goal for any Christian is to save as many as we can from eternal separation from the Lord. Though we are living in the end times, we are not alone…and we know how the story ends.
* I highly recommend The Coming Apostasy to everyone (especially pastors and Bible study leaders) with this caution: BEWARE of Chapter 7. In it, the authors select one sin and focus on it and neglect numerous others which are also clearly prohibited in Scripture. I was mortified at their labeling homosexual behavior as the “watershed of apostasy” in the church. Although the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is wrong, nowhere in Scripture is any one sin singled out as “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” with regards to end times (or any other time for that matter). In fact, Scripture is very clear about what God hates and what sins will be rampant in the last days:
These six things the Lord hates,
…..Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
…..A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
…..A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
…..A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.”
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Therefore, when you read Chapter 7, do so with the understanding that the authors have chosen to focus on ONE clearly condemned sin and to ignore others which are also clearly condemned, have been around just as long, and are actually more prevalent in the church than homosexuality.
Because I truly enjoyed The Coming Apostasy, I cannot not recommend it. However, I also cannot recommend it wholeheartedly without addressing the problems in Chapter 7; therefore, I am writing a completely separate review of Chapter 7 which you can read HERE.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”