Biblical Evidences of an Apostasy
by Michael W. Hickenbotham
Critics of the LDS belief in an apostasy after the death and resurrection of Christ often cite Jude 1:3 as proof that no such apostasy took place. This passage speaks of the faith which was “once for all” delivered to the saints. Those critics believe that “once for all” (Jude 1:3, NIV) means that there will never be a need to restore the gospel… that it will never be taken from the earth or lost.
The word “once” as used in Jude 1:3 should be translated as “before” or “previously” to be more accurate. As proof of this, note that the same Greek word was used in verse 5 and was also translated in the KJV as “once.” The context used in verse 5 makes it clear that to interpret the use in verse two as “one time” is not correct. The KJV translates the Greek as “ye once knew this” (i.e. He knew it in the past but may have forgotten it). The New International Version confirms this by translating this same Greek word (once–verse 5) as “already,” meaning formerly.
Other scriptures confirm that many general apostasies have taken place, and that the gospel had been formerly delivered to ancient Israel following these apostasies… (Deuteronomy 9:7,25; 29:25; 30:15- 19; Judges 3:7; 1 Kings 11:2; 14:22; 2 Kings 17:7; 21:2; Psalms 106:36; Isaiah 2:8; 39; 24:5; 29:13-14; 59:2; Jerimiah 2:17; 7:11; 35:15; Ezekiel 2:3; 11:12; 22:26; Hosiah. 4:6, 17; Amos 8:11; Micah 3:11; Matthew 13:15; 15:9).
Paul taught the Galatians that “God… preached before the gospel unto Abraham” (Galatians 3:8) and in Hebrews 4:2 he declared that, “unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them [Israel in the days of Moses.. 1 Corinthians 10:4, Hebrews 3:16-17]: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Hebrews 4:2). If the gospel was preached to Abraham in 2000 BC, to the people of Israel during the Exodus in 1350 BC, and then to Israel of Christ’s day, it was delivered more than one time. (See also Isaiah 40:9; 52:7; 61:1; Moses 5:58-59; 6:51-68; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 59-61; Seaich, Mormonism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Nag Hammadi Texts, pp. 54-55).
It is clear that an apostasy was predicted by Jesus Christ and his apostles. Jesus taught that, “many shall come in my name, saying ‘I am Christ’, and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). Paul declared, “Be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, not by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by many means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first.” (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3).
We should note that the Greek word apostasia was translated as “falling away” in the KJV. Thus Paul is saying that the early Christians should not be fooled by false Christs since there would be an unmistakable apostasy before Christ’s return. Consider also the following: Matthew 24:4, 9-13, 24; John 16:2-3; Acts 20:29-30; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Galatians 1:6-8; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-9, 12-13; 4:3-4; Titus 1:10-16; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 3:3; 1 John 2:18-19; Jude 3-4; Revelation 13:4-8.
Other Biblical verses such as Matthew 17:11; Acts 1:6-7; 3:19-21; Ephesians 1:10; and Revelation 14:6 confirm the LDS belief that a restoration of the gospel was prophesied to occur in these latter days.
Some may be tempted to cite the Protestant reformation as the fulfillment of these prophecies, but it is clear that the promised restoration was to be accomplished not through man’s effort but in spite of it (Daniel 2:44-45; Matthew 5:13; 1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:1-7; 4:3-4; Hebrews 6:4-8). Such a renewal came at the time of the Savior’s mortal ministry. Jesus Christ made no attempt to reform the doctrines and institutions of His day; He simply restored the true gospel to the Earth. It was taught not as reformed Judaism but rather as a new alternative to it. As Jesus taught, new wine cannot be put in old bottles or both the wine and the bottles will be lost (Matthew 9:16-17). The multitudes of Protestant churches existing today are proof of the fact that a reformation cannot succeed in restoring absolute truth. God has always accomplished this end through new revelation to his chosen prophets and not through self-appointed reformers.