Nearly all of the writers of the New Testament predicted that changes would occur in key beliefs after their deaths. That people would “fall away” and that “apostasy” would enter the body of believers. Consider the following verses:
“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock… For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:27-30
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come (the return of Christ), except there come a falling away first…” 2 Thessalonians 2:3
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy…” 1 Timothy 4:1-2
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Timothy 4:2-4
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” 2 Peter 2:1-3
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude v3
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
We can see from the verses above that the established church would be deceived by false ideas. The warning is to take heed to what the Bible teaches. We must get back to the word of God. We cannot afford to rely on what a Vicar, Priest, Bishop or Pastor dictates to us.
We have to search out the scriptures to ensure that we hold the truth as preached by the original believers in Jesus Christ. Such searching can be done by any individual who is seeking for truth. It takes an open and independent mind, one which comes to the Bible to find that truth. The verses above show the importance of finding the true original doctrines as taught in the scriptures and holding fast to them. It clearly does matter what we believe and to ensure we have not been deceived by an apostate system we have to get back to what the Bible teaches.
The Historical Fulfilment
From the verses we have looked at, you can clearly see that the established body of Christians would be infiltrated and deceived by false ideas. History shows that the early church changed its stance on core doctrines quite early on. This changed and corrupted church soon became political under the name of the Catholic church. Many split offs from this “Mother” church have occurred but most of these “daughters” adopted the already changed and corrupted doctrines of their Mother.
The historian Edward Gibbon, in the 15th chapter of his ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’, tells of how the original beliefs of the early Christians were changed over the course of time. He writes the following:
“The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately connected with the second coming of Christ … a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years; when Christ, with the triumphant band of the saints and the elect who had escaped death, or who had revived, would reign upon earth…”
So the early believer’s hope, as outlined in the Bible (more here) was that Jesus was to return to the earth to set up a Kingdom. Believers were to reign with him on earth for 1000 years. This belief changed. A core doctrine which most churches adopted was that men have an immortal soul (a belief brought in by ancient Greek philosophy) and that, upon death it floated to heaven or hell. Many churches, including the Catholic church, its break off daughters and even churches who claim to have nothing to do with the Catholic church such as Evangelical churches, hold this same corrupted doctrine today.
Justin Martyr, an early Christian, also wrote in 150AD:
“For if you have conversed with some that are indeed called Christians, and do not maintain these opinions, but even dare to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and say that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that the souls, as soon as they leave the body, are received up into heaven, take care that you do not look upon these. But I, and all those Christians that are really orthodox in every respect, do know that there will be a resurrection of the body and a thousand years in Jerusalem, when it is built again, and adorned, and enlarged, as Ezekiel, and Isaiah, and the rest of the prophets declare.” – Dialogue With Trypho, The Jew, section LXXX.
Again we see how that the original church doctrine was changed – and we could cite from many more writers who lived in the early period of the church.
With further study you would find that other core doctrines of modern Christianity are not original beliefs as taught in the scriptures – the four most profound corruptions are on the doctrine of the resurrection, the Kingdom of God on earth, the unity of God and the devil (select a link to find out the true Bible teaching on these topics).
Many recent changes are occurring in most churches as the pressures of modern, humanistic society challenge already weak church practices and doctrines. In a desperate attempt to keep up their popularity, churches adopt these ideas. There are a few doctrines which have recently been changed in many churches – such as the authority of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, divorce, adultery, cohabitation, homosexuality, and women priests amongst many more.
The Catholic church especially has exposed its changing character with the public ‘apologies’ of its leader (Pope Benedict XVI). One Catholic doctrine is that the Pope is God’s infallible representative on earth. How is it then that one Pope can apologise for another’s declaration – especially for beliefs or decrees which followers died for! Consider the recent declaration that the idea of Limbo for child “souls” is not true. What of other Popes who believed it or indeed the Mothers and Fathers who paid money to the clergy to supposedly get their children from Limbo to heaven? Did God change his mind? What about Pope Benedict XVI’s apology for offending Islam in one of his speeches in 2006 – were the Popes of previous ages sorry when they ordered the destruction of thousands of Muslims?
These recent changes clearly show that change is something which does and will occur – but is it something which should occur?
God’s ways do not change
The Bible clearly teaches that God’s ways and purpose do not change. Consider these verses:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17
“For I am the LORD, I change not…” Malachi 3:6
“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Numbers 23:19
“Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:” Hebrews 6:17-18
“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;” Titus 1:2
It is important therefore to read the Bible, for what we find there will not change. Although man changes and society’s rules may change – the Bible will stay constant, both in its doctrines and its teaching on how we should live. What we believe and how we live our lives, should be consistent with the Bible if we claim to be followers of it.