Can apostates be Christians?

This is the eighth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.

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Of all the terms Jude uses to describe false teachers – dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, and wild waves of the sea, to name a few – he stops short of calling them apostates. Yet that is what they are. Hey Jude, what gives?

A closer look at the New Testament’s sparing use of this term may prove helpful, particularly as we broach the thorny subject of apostates’ standing with God. Are apostates backslidden Christians? Shameless pretenders? Or people who once knew Christ but now have willfully rejected Him, thus losing their salvation?

The Greek word apostasia appears only twice in the New Testament. The apostle Paul is accused of apostasy for teaching others to “abandon Moses, by telling them [Jews living among Gentiles] not to circumcise their children or to walk in our customs” (Acts 21:21b).

And Paul warns the Thessalonians not to be deceived by those claiming that the Day of the Lord has already come. “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way,” he writes. “For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thess. 2:3).

Many other New Testament passages describe people who abandon the faith, never to return, for example: Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:19-20); “antichrists” (1 John 2:19); and professing Jewish Christians who are beyond repentance because they have returned to the practice of offering animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins (Heb. 6:1-6).

An apostate, then, is someone who has received the knowledge of the truth, but willfully and decisively rejects it.
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Outside are the dogs – Revelation 22:14-15

Previously: I am the Alpha and the Omega – Revelation 22:13

The Scripture

Rev. 22:14 – “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. (HCSB)

Outside are the dogs

In verses 14-15, Jesus speaks directly to readers with a blessing and a curse: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.”

This is the seventh and last of the beatitudes in Revelation, the others being found at Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; and 22:7. The one who reads this book, hears the words of this prophecy, and keeps what is written is blessed (1:3). The one who perseveres in keeping God’s commands and faith in Jesus to the death is blessed (14:13). The one who is alert and remains faithful is blessed (16:15). Those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb are blessed (19:9). The one who shares in the first resurrection – the resurrection of the just – is blessed (20:6). And the one who keeps the prophetic words of this book is blessed (22:7).

In this final beatitude (22:14), the Lord assures believers – those who demonstrate their faith by keeping His commands – that they are welcome in the New Jerusalem, where they enjoy complete security and boundless provision. The basis of their entry is the shed blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14), which cleanses from sin and replaces the filthy rags of sinners’ self-righteousness with the white robes of Christ’s righteousness (see Rev. 3:4; 7:14; 19:7-8; Isa. 1:18).
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Who is Michael the archangel?

This is the seventh in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.

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Jude 9 offers one of the few references in Scripture to Michael the archangel. He is the only archangel named in the Bible, and his name means, “Who is like God?”

Though little is revealed in Scripture about Michael, we are given enough information to draw some conclusions. He is introduced in Dan. 10:13 as “one of the chief princes.” He helps another angel, who has been battling the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” for 21 days, to deliver an answered prayer to Daniel. Because of the reference to Michael as “one of the chief princes,” it’s possible there are additional archangels, though none is named as such.

Some commentators suggest that Gabriel (“hero of God”) may be an archangel. He appears to Daniel (Dan. 8:1527; 9:20-27), and later to Zechariah (Luke 1:1123) and Mary (Luke 1:26-38).

Michael is one of God’s most powerful holy angels and the protector of God’s people. He is called “the great prince” in Dan. 12:1. He leads an angelic host in a heavenly battle against the “dragon and his angels,” defeating them so there is “no place for them in heaven any longer.” Satan is thrown to earth, and his angels with him (Rev. 12:7-9).

No doubt, Michael is a powerful angelic being who serves primarily as the champion angel of Israel. The word “archangel” comes from a compound Greek term archangelos and means “ruling angel.” It only occurs twice in the New Testament (1 Thess. 4:16; Jude 9) and not once in the Old Testament.
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I am the Alpha and the Omega – Revelation 22:13

Previously: My reward is with me – Revelation 22:12

The scripture

Rev. 22:13 –  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (HCSB)

I am the Alpha and the Omega

In verse 13, Jesus identifies Himself with three names that confirm His eternality and deity. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End,” He declares. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Jesus, or the Father, uses these words to describe Himself in other places in Revelation:

  • “I am the Alpha and the Omega … the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty” (1:8 – usually understood to refer to the Father).
  • “I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look – I am alive forever and ever” (1:17-18 – Jesus).
  • “The First and the Last, the One who was dead and came to life …” (2:8 – Jesus).
  • “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (21:6 – often understood to refer to the Father).

Throughout the Gospels and Revelation Jesus reminds us that He is both divine and eternal. In addition, this Almighty One was dead and is alive forever; in other words, the eternal Son of God has left the glory of heaven, come to earth, added to His deity sinless humanity through the virgin birth, lived a sinless life, offered up that life on the cross to bear our sins, was buried, rose physically from the dead on the third day, appeared to many people, ascended into heaven, sat down at the right hand of the Father to serve as our Mediator and Intercessor, and is coming back one day in power and great glory to fulfill all things.

Unlike the mighty angel in Rev. 22:9, who urges John not to bow before him, Jesus truly is worthy of worship as the Alpha and Omega.
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My reward is with me – Revelation 22:12

Previously: Don’t seal the prophetic words – Revelation 22:10-11

The scripture

 Rev. 22:12 – “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done. (HCSB)

My reward is with me

Jesus speaks in verse 12: “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.” The New Testament often repeats the theme of judgment based on works. For example:

  • In Matt. 16:27 Jesus declares, “For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will reward each according to what he has done.”
  • In Matt. 25:31-46 Jesus speaks of the coming judgment of the “sheep” and “goats.” He separates those on His right from those on His left and explains that their works revealed their character. The sheep are welcomed into His kingdom, prepared for them from the foundation of the world, while the goats are banished to the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
  • In Rom. 2:5-8 Paul writes, “But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth but are obeying unrighteousness …” While commentators have offered nearly a dozen interpretations of this difficult passage, the most likely one is that works are the outcome of a person’s faith, or lack thereof. Paul quotes from Ps. 62:12 and Prov. 24:12 when he writes, “He will repay each one according to his works.” The believer, indwelled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, lives a life of conformity to the image of God. The unbeliever, driven by the flesh, produces works worthy of eternal separation from God.
  • In 1 Peter 1:17, Peter notes, “And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence.”
  • And in Rev. 20:13, as unbelievers stand before the great white throne, they are judged “according to their works.”

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