“Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” – 2 Thessalonians ii, 3.
“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led astray with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.” – 2 Peter iii, 17.
It is seldom that children of grace are enabled to realize the exalted position that they occupy in this present life, as witnesses to Truth eternal. It is written, “Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord.” – Isaiah xliii, 10. And living witnesses at that: “To the intent that the living may know.” – Daniel iv, 17. What an exalted calling this is! To stand for Truth and righteousness in a world of darkness, sin, wickedness, and deviltry of every conceivable form!
To prove a fact it is not needful that the witnesses should be so numerous, nor yet necessary that they should be few; the numbers are not taken into consideration; but it is absolutely essential, that the witnesses should know whereof they affirm; having seen with their eyes, heard with their own ears; and that their testimony should be unimpeached as unimpeachable.
So far as this present world is concerned they know nothing whatever of Divine Truth, but are absolutely at “enmity against God.” – Romans viii, 7. Not simply at enmity; but the carnal heart is “enmity” itself; hence we do not expect, nor do we receive either sympathy or support – either attention or consideration to the Truth which we preach and so dearly love, from the carnal world around us. Their boasted “open-mind” is not that open!
But God has raised up witnesses; He has qualified and prepared them to receive understanding, rejoice in, and to live the Truth of Divine Testimony. When Christ was born there were a few who were anxiously and surely awaiting His initial coming; as prepared of God to witness His advent; they were not many, but each one was a thoroughly prepared witness. In this group of faithful witnesses was Simeon (Luke ii, 22-30;) “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
As an exhibition of the manner of the God of heaven to accomplish His wise and deep laid way, it is said that as the parents of Jesus brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord; Simeon “came by the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child, Jesus, to do for Him after the custom of the law, then took he Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord; now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.”
We specify this instance as an evidence of each and every case wherein the God of Israel qualifies and prepares a witness to the Truth; as it is written in 1 John i, 1; “That which was from the beginning; which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life.”
The witness will be there at the identical moment of time, when needed; and will unhesitatingly, boldly, fearlessly, and accurately declare the Truth of the Testimony. Such a witness is especially prepared; and his testimony corroborated from the Holy Oracles: there is always Scripture to positively prove a Divine Testimony.
It should be remembered that it is the God of heaven who qualifies these witnesses in each and every instance, in each and every age, to the particular work; and for the particular age, and special occasion, upon which they are to testify.
“There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.” – 1 John v, 7-8.
We have been particular in emphasizing the origin and character of these true witnesses, and of the accurate nature of their testimony, as important in considering this testimony in each and every age through time. We have in our test a testimony bearing upon the final coming of our exalted Redeemer; touching upon, it may be indirectly, in the first verse; but more especially spoken of in the last.
“Let no man,” says the apostle, “deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first.” Paul in this connection alludes to the false prophets which were then in the field, and should continue to rise; and to which Jesus, referring it is true to a somewhat different period of time had warned His disciples: “If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not!” – Matthew xxiv, 23.
But the apostle gives us an indelible mark of the second actual coming of Christ; a sure sign for “that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first.” To fall away from a thing is to have once, at least, professed to hold it. Similar testimony is recorded in 1 Timothy iv, 1; “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the Truth, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” This testimony cannot apply to outside characters. The seducing spirits here spoken of are evidently professors; and most entirely or wholly men; claiming to be ministers, who “be in wait to deceive.”
Again the apostle says: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves * * Traitors, (turn from what they profess to hold) heady, (advice or counsel to such one avails nothing,) high-minded, (an exalted opinion of themselves, and their own ability,) lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. * * * Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth” – 2 Timothy iii, 1-9. The apostle continues in the 8th verse: “As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds; reprobate concerning the faith.”
Again, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” – 2 Timothy iv, 3. These loose Baptists in love with carnal things, find pleasure in having their itching ears scratched by weak preachers; their ears constantly itching for just such weak and carnal fables.
But the apostle connects another link in the chain of this testimony: “And that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” His connecting these two things together is certainly a great mystery. If we wish to trace the developments of the “man of sin” we must trace them in the professed religious world; and we must come near to those who follow in the ways of death: upon the principle that if we want to find a counterfeit, we must look for something that appears like the real. “Little children,” says John, “it is the last time; and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” – 1 John ii, 18.
But more fully does John trace the developments of antichrist in the next verse: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” Here certainly is testimony similar to the text under consideration. The “falling away” comes first, and in that “falling away” comes the development of the “man of sin;” “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.”
We think that the apostle in using the term “falling away” refers to something more than an occasional departure, or apostasy from the Truth; a signal and pronounced departure, continued in its effect; such indeed as we have experienced among us in the last 20 years; where Baptists who we thought stood firmly for Truth and Gospel order, have fell from their own former profession back to the “beggarly element of the world.”
Zion; Has thy night been long and mournful,
Have thy friends unfaithful proved.”
The 2d verse of our subject appeals with power to the children of free grace; “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.”
What an infinite blessing bestowed upon the beloved of the apostle; “Seeing ye know these things before.” This confirms what we have already written that our God will in every age qualify witnesses, and prepare them to stand unmoved and immovable for Truth Eternal.
Here were those who knew, who could read the signs in events occurring in the Church, and in the world. They could see by an eye of faith what these things meant; and that the God of heaven was back of it all; unfolding yet another chapter of His wise and wonder-working way.
An holy exhortation indeed to these beloved disciples when the apostle warns them: “Beware lest ye also being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.” Solemn, important caution, Beware! Look well to your own steps. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall;” being “led away with the error of the wicked.” Have we not seen many instances of this in the recent past? How clearly the Scriptures point out each instance and character, as in the glare of eternal noon. To fall “from your own steadfastness,” the apostle terms it. “The stars of heaven fell unto the earth,” said John in Revelation vi, 13, declares; that is, came from the exalted sphere of Gospel Grace down to the law, degraded level of earthly doctrines and practice.
Surely have we seen these things in the few years that are past, in the wholesale departure of professed Old School Baptists from the Truth and Gospel order, and in their amalgamation with the “potsherds” of the earth – the Means Baptists.
Now the apostle couples these solemn admonitions; prepares our mind by pointing to these holy evidences, for the testimony: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” No longer a world of sin and unrighteousness, and the home of the unclean, the wicked, and the vile; but the home of the redeemed where these can never come.
“Wherefore, beloved,” continues the apostle, “seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” Our faith soars over the dark and dismal way of time, to the unfading glory of a world without end; and we behold the dawn of an immortal morning. No matter how long this present world and “last days” may exist, when the child of grace lays his mortal armor by there is the end of it all to him; and there will be an “end of all things.” – 1 Peter iv, 7.
“The Lord shall endure forever: He hath prepared His throne for judgment.” “Therefore My heart is glad, and My glory rejoiceth: My flesh also shall rest in hope.” “Thou wilt shew Me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalms ix; & xvi.
William M. Smoot,