This is prophesied. We read in Luke 18:8 that Jesus asked the disciples, "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" He had just finished telling them the parable of the unrighteous judge, and He warned them that at the end the oppressed will get justice, but it won't be on earth. He was speaking of the time of the Tribulation, but we see that apostasy being set up now.
At the last day, there will be faith on the earth in the form of Tribulation saints, but they will be so few in number and there will be so many who don't believe, that realistically speaking the believer's influence will be statistically negligible.
Apostasy will abound in the last days, and that means not only in the tribulation, but now, too. (Matthew 24:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1-3). But what does that apostasy look like? How does it begin?
First, let's look at apostasy in the person who has never believed. How can a life-long unbeliever be an apostate, you say? Because we all know God from the beginning. Any unbeliever, whether they have never believed or they seemed to have believed for a while and fallen away, are apostate.
You see, we all start out on equal footing when we are born. We all have a sin-nature. (Genesis 5:3; Psalms 51:5). And as we grow, we all see the glory of God made manifest in the world through His creation. All.(Romans 1:19). Romans 1 continues by showing us the process of how people end up dead in their sins for all their lives.
First, they deliberately suppress the truth. (Romans 1:19). Then, though they know God, they refuse to give Him honor. As a result, their hearts are darkened. (Romans 1:21). Still needing to honor something greater than themselves, though, they trade giving honor to God for giving honor to idols. (Romans 1:22). That's the end of the mental portion of the process.
If a person has come this far without repenting, then they start dishonoring God with their bodies. (Romans 1:24). The tipping point seems to be the moment when they actively start worshiping nature or idols. If they continue without repentance, then their bodily dishonor deepens and they become homosexuals. (Romans 1:26-27).
At the last, their mind becomes so polluted due to their having suppressed the truth and dishonored God with their bodies, their minds are given over to total debasement. (Romans 1:28.) You notice in the next verse it says they were "filled" with all manner of unrighteousness. The Greek word used here is defined "to make full, to complete". God allows all sins to flood into them and they are capable of anything at that point.
But what about apostates, you ask. I described the unbeliever's process, but an apostate is someone who falls away from the faith, right? Yes and no. Yes they fall away from the faith, but they were never IN the faith to begin with. They were an unbeliever the same as those I described above, they just happened to have made a little foray into the church for a while.
It is important to understand that Jesus will never lose one of His sheep. (John 10:28; John 6:39). Those He brings into the faith will never leave. John wrote:
"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us." (1 John 2:19).
How they leave may take a long time or a short time, but they never were in the faith. They only looked like it on the outside.
An apostate could be someone who came forward at an altar call, who responded to the pastor's plea for "the sinner's prayer" to be answered. Maybe they were even baptized. But after that week you never saw them again. They never came back. That was a false convert, an apostate who fell away.
An apostate could be someone who had served as deacon for thirty years. Who had been a long-time member of a church, dong all the right things, saying all the right things, but slowly began drifting away. Their church attendance became spotty, and they gave up on Wednesday night teaching. Then their absences became longer and longer and when asked about it, they said they needed a break. Eventually you realize, they never did come back. They stopped leading devotionals at home...they quit praying... That is apostate also.
So how does apostasy happen to a person who looked like a believer? The exact same way as Romans describes.
In 2 Peter 3:3 Peter reminds us that we should remember the predictions of the prophets of old, that in the last days, "knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires." The Greek word used here for scoffers implies a false teacher. These mockers will be false teachers, who look like they are in the faith, but they mock and scoff at His coming and at the doctrines surrounding His coming, such as pre-tribulation rapture, literal Millennium Kingdom, or even his second coming at all.
Jude 1:18 says the exact same thing. "They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” Haven't we seen a steady chipping away of the truth of these doctrines? Some even claim that there is no rapture.
But look at this, Peter goes on after reminding them that there will be scoffers, to say in verse 4-5: "They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God," [emphasis mine]
We saw in Romans 1 that the process begins with knowledge of God, even for the overt unbeliever. Of those who claim to be in the faith, and by definition have some familiarity with the bible and the history of our faith, they deliberately overlook the facts that they know. When a person deliberately suppresses the truth, they are on dangerous ground! Whether it is an unbeliever suppressing general revelation of God by His creation or a false believer suppressing biblical fact & history, they purposely suppress. That is the first step for the apostate.
So first the apostate suppresses knowledge. Then they begin to mock and scoff at those in the faith, or aim their ire at who hold to certain doctrines that are evidence of His sovereignty. Then they abandon the faith, either abruptly or slowly.
Picture a hot air balloon anchored to the ground. Those who are in the basket are those who are solidly in the faith. They are being sanctified, going higher and higher by God's process of Spirit-filled consecrating. Sanctification means we are becoming more Christlike every day.
Some people are around the basket, tying ropes and filling the balloon. They are easy to spot as people who will never get into the basket and allow the Spirit to lift them higher and higher. They are hangers-on, doing works that look Godly in form but they have no solidity. Some people hang on to the basket, even as it rises. Some hang on for a long time. But the further a person goes in sanctification, and the higher the Spirit takes them, the harder it is for the apostate to hang on. Eventually they drop off. They drop off because they were never IN the basket of faith. The hand of Jesus was never holding them (otherwise they never would have fallen away!)
Though it is painful to see our church swamped with apostates, flooded with ungodliness, and surrounded by false doctrines, it is part of the process! The apostasy we see now is a mini-version of what will happen at the end of the 1000 year reign of Christ. At the end of the Millennium Jesus will allow satan out of the abyss for a short while. Satan will gather the nations and like the sand of the sea they will march against the beloved city. (Revelation 20:7-9).
How can this be, you wonder!? The people will have lived for a long, peaceful life, on earth when Jesus made everything perfect, and there was no war nor high degree of sin, because Jesus ruled with a rod of iron. How could satan gather rebellious ones so fast, and so many of them, too! It will have been be a pure theocracy for a thousand years!
Because those people will have been born during the millennium with a sin nature, and the last rebellion is to weed them out. For hundreds of years of their lives, they looked the part, they acted the part, they said all the right things on the outside, but Jesus knew their heart was not inclined towards Him.
Satan's drawing out of them is an opportunity to give them one last chance to decide for him or against Him. Satan was the magnet that drew out the apostates.
This apostasy is a weeding out, too. Though we may feel surrounded at times by encroachment of false teachers, false pastors who strike the sheep, mockers and scoffers even sitting next to us in the pew, the fact that "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons" (1 Timothy 4:1), means these things must be so.
Don't worry, peanuts! At the rapture, the brittle candy exterior will be cracked, the chocolate confection melted away, and the peanuts who had been the core of the church will burst out and up. We'll be brushed off, cleaned up, and forever will be in the presence of Jesus! We'll be shot out of all that sickening sweetness like a cannonball!
As we strive toward the goal, the balloon is rising higher and higher in our process of sanctification, those who are just hanging on are exposed, and they fall away.
Even so, come Lord Jesus!