Pastor and author David Jeremiah says the departure of prominent Christians from the faith isn't a new phenomenon, although he warns it could be the beginning stages of a "major" wave of defections from the church during the End Times.
Jeremiah, the pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon., Calif., discussed the subject of "exvangelicals" on Sunday as he began a new sermon series, "Where Do We Go From Here? – How Tomorrow's Prophecies Foreshadow Today's Problems."
"According to the Bible, spiritual deception will cause many to fall away from Christ in the days leading up to the End Times," Jeremiah said, quoting 1 Timothy 4:1-2, which says, in part, that "in latter times some will depart from the faith."
Jeremiah began the sermon by quoting a prominent author and former pastor, Joshua Harris, although Jeremiah didn't mention him by name. Harris, the bestselling author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, said in 2019 he no longer considers himself a Christian.
Such a story "cuts me to the heart," Jeremiah shared, but "unfortunately," it's not the only one. Deserting the faith also is not new, he added, noting that Demas, a New Testament figure mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:10, abandoned Paul because he loved the world.
Jeremiah quoted 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 and said a "major specific recognizable departure" from the faith will occur during the tribulation.
"What we're experiencing right now could be the beginning stages of that," Jeremiah warned.
The Bible, he added, prophecies that "before Jesus comes back, there's going to be like a defection from the church."
"Before He comes back, there will be a gradual lessening of interest in the things of the Lord," the pastor noted.
"The rapture can happen at any time, but what we know from the Bible is as soon as the church goes up, seven years of all hell breaks loose on this earth, called the tribulation period, and it lasts for seven years. And let's suppose that the falling away doesn't take place until halfway through. What that means … is if the rapture could happen any time, we might be just three and a half years away from the falling away," Jeremiah said.
"I'm not saying that's going to happen," he continued. "I mean, the Lord [may] not come back for a long time. But the Bible says we should be ready at all times."
According to 1 Timothy 4:1-2, Jeremiah said, "there will be incredible demonic forces operating in the world as we draw near to the coming of Christ, and there will be a lot of deceiving going on. How many of you know there's a lot of deceiving going on in religious things now? If you don't know that, just – I hate to say it – watch religious television. You will see it."
1 Timothy 4:1-2, Jeremiah noted, warns of "false teachers who traffic in lies and hypocrisy" and who lead others from the faith.
Apostasy, he continued, is "not something that happens to you out of the blue." It is, he said, a "choice."
Jeremiah then listed three ways Christians can "make sure that we are never among those who fall away."
First, Christians should "examine" themselves to ensure they are truly saved. Jeremiah quoted 2 Corinthians 13:5.
"The most important thing you can do in response to this message is to make sure that you are truly a Christian," Jeremiah asserted. "You are not a Christian just because you grew up in the church. You are not a Christian just because your parents are Christians. You're not a Christian because you've lived a good life."
Second, Christians should "encourage" themselves in the faith, Jeremiah said.
"Learn how to take care of yourself in the Word of God," he added. "Learn how to take care of yourself in building up your most holy faith. It's good to have people help you. It's wonderful to be in a small group where somebody encourages you, but that's not always going to happen. So you better learn how to take care of yourself."
Third, Christians should "exercise" themselves in the faith, the pastor said, quoting 1 Timothy 4:7-8.
"If you want to stay confident and strong in your faith, it is important that you keep growing in your faith," Jeremiah argued. "Stagnant faith is the devil's playground."
Photo courtesy: ©Turning Point with David Jeremiah Facebook
Video courtesy: ©Shadow Mountain Community Church
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.