The Falling Away and the Fiery Trials
God warns the Church today, "Harden not your hearts (by loving other things more than God), as in the provocation in the day of temptation in the wilderness. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known My ways. So I sware in My wrath, they shall not enter into My rest (peace)."
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. . . lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end (until we overcome)" (Heb. 8:8, 10-14).
The simple explanation of falling away is the fact that the Bible states you can fall away from the faith. A person falls away from the faith when his heart turns to love other things more than God. This is idolatry. When his heart turns from God, he is unable to enter into rest and peace because he turns back to sin and once again breaks God's law.
Israel, an Example For Us Today
Like the children of Israel, we are commanded to possess the land by overcoming sin. This is the way we enter into the land of rest and peace. Our hearts are tested as their hearts were tested. When we walk in obedience to the Spirit of God, we are protected and receive the blessings of God. When we walk in disobedience by choosing the ways of the flesh, the law brings the curse and death if we continue to practice sin: "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die" (Rom. 8:13).
Because the hedge is down, the powers of darkness can bring adversity and death: "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (rest)" (Rom. 8:6).
We cannot enter into the land of rest and peace unless we love the Lord with all our hearts. When the Lord has all our hearts, we are living totally for Him. This is what God demands and this walk eliminates all idolatry. This is the only walk which will overcome and enter into the land of peace and rest.
We take the weapons of God and overcome sin, the world, and the devil. We become the mature man "...unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). This is the land of rest. God has commanded His craftsmen, the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, to lead the body of Christ through the wilderness to possess this land and enter into this rest. Today we either walk in life or death, the blessings or the curses. We enter into rest and peace by the obedience of faith or we walk in disobedience, in which case we are destroyed by the powers of darkness because we do not have the protection of God.
When the children of Israel were given the law, they were given the same choice, obedience with blessings of God, or disobedience which brought a curse and destruction. They were an example to teach us about God's judgment on disobedience in these last days. Since the law has been lost to us, we have lost all understanding of the judgment of God and the fear of God. "See, I have set before thee this day LIFE and good, and DEATH and evil; in that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land (of rest and peace) whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away (by temptations), so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them (when we serve the flesh, we are serving the powers of darkness), I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish (be destroyed), and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it" (Deut. 30:15-18).
Moses also said, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life (to walk after the Spirit) and death (to walk after the flesh), blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: that thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey His voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto Him; He is thy life, and the length of thy days (if you obey God); that thou mayest dwell in the land" (Deut. 30:19, 20). The children of Israel were delivered out of the bondage of Egypt, just as we are delivered out of the bondage of the world. God was leading them through the wilderness to test their hearts. If they were obedient they would enter into the promised land; the land of peace and rest from their enemies, the land where God protects His obedient children.
The judgments that God brought upon the children of Israel are an example of the judgments that are brought upon us today. As God has delivered us from the slavery of the world, God delivered them from the afflictions of Egypt: "And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;. . . so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land... Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven.., and I madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant" (Neh. 9:9, 11, 18, 14).
Nehemiah continued: "And gayest them bread from heaven (which is the word of God) for their hunger, and brought forth water (the word) for them out of the rock (Jesus) for their thirst, and promised them that they would go in to possess the land which thou had sworn to give them. But they and our fathers dealt proudly,. . . and hearkened not to thy commandments, and refused to listen. . . but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain (to tickle their ears) to return to their bondage (the world)" (Neh. 9:15-17).
Congregations fall away from the faith when they appoint a leader who leads them back to the sin and bondage of the world. This is the very opposite of peace and rest: "And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone" (Deut. 4:28). This is what has happened to the fallen away church today. They have appointed leaders to return to the slavery of the world. They are worshipping the works of man's hands (of wood and stone). Like Israel, congregations today have appointed kings and leaders to tickle their ears with a form of godliness, so they can justify their worldly lifestyles in the churches. God does not have their hearts. The world has their hearts.
In reading about the children of Israel, Moses is speaking to us today, "And I commanded you at that time, saying, The Lord your God hath given you this land to (overcome and) possess it: ye shall pass over armed before your brethren (with the weapons of warfare which they will use to remove the Canaanite nations who are types of the powers of darkness); until the Lord have given rest unto your brethren, as well as unto you, and until they also possess the land which the Lord your God hath given them beyond the Jordan" (Deut. 3:18, 20). "But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments" (Neh. 9:16).
The Psalmist wrote on this same issue: "They soon forgot His works; they waited not for His counsel: but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert" (Ps. 106:18, 14). "They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in His law. . . a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God" (Ps. 78:10, 8). "They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image (a form of godliness). Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox (the image of a beast, just as has happened today) . . . They forgot God, their Saviour... they believed not His word.., therefore He lifted up His hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness (God removed the hedge of protection)" (Ps. 106:19-21, 24-26).
The Psalmist also said: "He brought streams also out of the Rock (a type of Jesus).. . and they sinned yet more against Him (they hardened their hearts) by provoking the most High in the wilderness. And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust (of the flesh)" (Ps. 78:16-18).
"They did not destroy the nations (the powers of darkness), concerning whom the Lord commanded them: but were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils (this is exactly what we do today by teaching our children's hearts to go after success, power, and treasures of this world). Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions. Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against His people ... and He gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over them (as the powers of darkness have invaded and taken over a fallen away church today)" (Ps. 106:35-37, 39-41).
The Psalmist also declared: "Therefore the Lord heard this, and was wroth; so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel; because they believed not in God, and trusted not in His salvation. Therefore their days did He consume in vanity, and their years in trouble. When He slew them, then they sought Him: and they returned and inquired early after God. And they remembered that God was their rock and the high God their redeemer, nevertheless they did flatter Him with their mouth, and they lied unto Him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with Him, neither were they steadfast in His covenant" (Ps. 78:21, 33-37). Nehemiah, addressing the same subject, said; "But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee; therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them:.. . and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies; and testified against them, that thou might bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (by which if a man do, he shall live in them); and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear" (Neh. 9:28, 29).
The Psalmist said, "Many times did He deliver them; but they provoked Him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity" (Ps. 106:43). According to Nehemiah,... . thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly. Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments ... For they have not served thee in their kingdom.. . neither turned they from their wicked works. Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land. . . we are servants in it: and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies.., and we are in great distress." (Neh. 9:33-37)
The Psalmist said: "For they provoked Him to anger with their high places (as they do today), and moved Him to jealousy with their graven images. So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh (as He has forsaken the fallen away church today).... And delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy's hand.., and was wroth with His inheritance. The fire (the powers of darkness) consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage" (Ps. 78:58, 60-63). "0 God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps. The (spiritually) dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth" (Ps. 79:1, 2).
Only the ones who love the Lord with all their hearts and put their faith and trust in Him will survive the judgment of the law today. The others will be lawbreakers and will be kept under the judgment of the law. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise authority" (2 Peter 2:9, 10).
We either resist the flesh and the temptations of Satan, or else we walk after the desires of the flesh in unrighteousness, staying under the punishment and judgment of God's law. This makes it easier to see and understand that we shall be saved, yet so as through fire. Israel turned away from entering peace and rest as the Church today has turned back from following God. They provoked God to jealousy by turning their hearts to other things instead of to Him. Their hearts fell away from God as a fallen church today has departed from God and turned to the ways and idols of the world. God Is jealous for our hearts also, and warned us of His wrath by using the children of Israel as an example. Moses wrote: "Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping His commandments. . . then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness (the world), wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions (which are types of the powers of darkness), and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint" (Deut. 8:11, 14, 15). As they needed water physically to survive in the wilderness, we also need water today. That water is the Word of God. We need the understanding of God's Word to lead us through the terrible wilderness, in order to obtain God's protection from the fiery serpents. Their physical water was brought out of the rock of flint. Our spiritual water is also brought out of the rock, Jesus. God is warning us in the New Testament today, as He warned the children of Israel, to take heed lest we be destroyed as the children of Israel were destroyed because of disobedience. They were examples for us today. Paul said, "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our EXAMPLES, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye IDOLATERS, as were some of them:. . . Neither let us COMMIT FORNICATION, as some of them committed, and 23,000 fell in one day. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents, neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer" (1 Cor. 10:4-10).
Paul warned: "Now all these things happened unto them for examples (models to warn us): and they are written for our admonition (warning), upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (away and be destroyed). There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but GOD IS FAITHFUL, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry (from practicing sin). I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord (love), and the cup of devils (selfishness); ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table (covenant), and of the table (covenant) of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? Let no man seek his own, but every man anothers" (1 Cor. 10:11-15, 21, 22, 24). God warns again that we can fall away in our trials and be destroyed as the children of Israel were destroyed in the wilderness: "Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness" (Heb 3:7, 8). We are truly learning the reality of the verses in Matt 7: 13 and 14, "Enter ye in at the strait gate.., and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth to (eternal) life, and FEW THERE BE THAT FIND IT." Even with all these warnings, the children of Israel refused to fear the Lord and obey Him. The heart of God was grieved by their actions: "0 that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all My Commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!" (Deut. 5:29). The writer of Hebrews said: "But with whom was He grieved forty years? (on whom did He pour out His judgment?). Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? Let us therefore fear, lest.., any of you should seem to come short of it (the rest and peace of God). Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man FALL after the same example of unbelief (Heb 3:17, 4:1, 11).
The writer added: "For we have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted LIKE AS WE ARE, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15,16). And Moses wrote: "the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no" (Deut. 8:2). We are going through these same tests today. We overcome the wilderness experiences in this world in order to enter in and possess the land of peace and rest. These tests will prove whether we really love the Lord with all our hearts. If we love anything more than the Lord, we cannot enter into this peace and rest. A proud person will never stand these tests. Only the humble can be led through the wilderness to the land of peace and rest.