Home Church Community

Statement of Beliefs

Contact Us

Search Our Site

Bible Study Resource

Printer Friendly Version

Particulars of Christianity:
314 End Times Prophecy (Eschatology)

Wormwood and the Falling Away

Wormwood and the Falling Away
Prophetic Details Regarding the Antichrist

In our studies of Angels in the End Times we identified the chief adversary as the angelic being who has dominion over death. We likewise identified the second ranking angelic adversary as Abaddon (or Apollyon), the Destroyer, and who has dominion over Hades, the place of the dead.

We further demonstrated that Abaddon is the beast who is released from the Abyss (of Hades) by the chief adversary in Revelation 9:1, 14. After his release, Abaddon (the Destroyer) takes possession of the man, the Antichrist, who like Judas Iscariot is referred to in the New Testament as the son of perdition (John 17:12, 2 Thessalonians 2:3). The word perdition in the Greek as it is used to refer to both of these men is "apoleia" (Strong's No. 684), which means destroying or destruction. Therefore, we said that Abaddon enters into and possesses the Antichrist just as he once did Judas Iscariot (Luke 22:3, John 13:27). The Book of Revelation refers to the Antichrist possessed by Abaddon as the beast. Both are shown throughout the scriptures as being agents of destruction.

Similarly, we noted that the chief adversary shares a relationship with the man identified in Revelation as the False Prophet (Revelation 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). Just as Abaddon and the Antichrist are workers of destruction, the chief adversary and the False Prophet are workers of deception of the nations through lying signs and wonders (Revelation 19:20, 2 Thessalonians 2:9). There scripture does not in any way indicate that the chief adversary will possess the False Prophet in the same manner as Abaddon possesses the Antichrist. This is in part because while Abaddon and the Antichrist are often referred to collectively as the beast in Revelation, the False Prophet and the chief Adversary are treated with distinction from one another.

This article is an addendum to the Angels in the End Times series and will provide further details about the identity of the chief adversary, his relationship to the falling away, and the nature of that event.

In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul reminds the church that two things must occur before Jesus' coming and our gathering to him. Paul identifies these two things as 1) the falling away, and 2) the revelation of the son of perdition (the Antichrist).

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 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;

Paul also writes of this event in his first letter to Timothy, wherein he clearly establishes that the falling away will be Christians departing from the faith.

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

So, Paul mentions the falling away of Christians and the coming of the Antichrist. This is similar to Jesus' statements in the Olivet Discourse in which Jesus indicates that the "agape" love of many will grow cold and many will be offended and betray other Christians as iniquity abounds (Matthew 24:10-13). Jesus indicates that it is in the midst of these events false prophets will arise and deceive many (Matthew 24:11).

The first thing to note is that "agape" love (Strong's No. 26) is used in the New Testament to refer to the love between Christians. So, Jesus is describing Christians losing there love here. That it is Christians falling away that Jesus has in mind here is further established by the Greek word that Jesus used for "offended," which is Strong's No. 4624, skandalizo.

4624 skandalizo {skan-dal-id'-zo} ("scandalize")
from 4625; TDNT - 7:339,1036; v
AV - offend 28, make to offend 2; 30
1) to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend
1a) to entice to sin
1b) to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey
1b1) to cause to fall away
1b2) to be offended in one, i.e. to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority
1b3) to cause one to judge unfavourably or unjustly of another
1c) since one who stumbles or whose foot gets entangled feels annoyed
1c1) to cause one displeasure at a thing
1c2) to make indignant
1c3) to be displeased, indignant

This word "skandalizo" is used throughout the Gospels to refer to those who abandon their commitment to Jesus Christ. It occurs in the parable of the seed, where it is used to refer to those who after accepting the Gospel of Jesus, endure for a little while, but when tribulation comes or persecution arises they are offended (Mathew 13:18-22, Mark 4:14-19, Luke 8:11-14) and turn away.

Matthew 13:18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Mark 4:14 The sower soweth the word…16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended. 18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.

In John 6:61, skandalizo is used when Jesus asks if his words offend them. Verse 66 reports that some of Jesus' disciples were offended at His teachings and went back and walked no more with Him.

So, we see that Jesus' places the falling away of (offended) Christians, the revelation of the Antichrist, and the coming of false christs, indicated in the Olivet Discourse by the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15, 24, Mark 13:14).

As we would expect Paul also mentions this event, which as the Gospels note originates from the Book of Daniel. (This event is also mentioned in Isaiah 14:13-14, which Paul seems to be drawing from in his mention of it). In 2 Thessalonians 2:4, Paul describes the Antichrist sitting in the Temple of God declaring that he is God. Similarly, Paul also indicates in verse 9 of 2 Thessalonians 2, that the coming of the Antichrist will be after the working of Satan begins with all power and signs and lying wonders in order to deceive. Revelation and the Olivet Discourse also described this deception as anticipating the Antichrist. Mark 13:22 and Matthew 24:24 indicate that it is the elect that are the target of this deception, which Paul indicates is instrumental in initiating the falling away (or offending of the Church).

We must also note that both the Olivet Discourse and 2 Thessalonians discuss the iniquity that will abound and contribute to the falling away of the Church. In both the Olivet Discourse and 2 Thessalonians 2, the word for iniquity is Strong's No. 458, anomia.

Matthew 24:12 And because iniquity (458) shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

2 Thessalonians 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity (458) doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

The Greek word for "iniquity" means "lawlessness."

458 anomia {an-om-ee'-ah}
from 459; TDNT - 4:1085,646; n f
AV - iniquity 12, unrighteousness 1, transgress the law + 4160 1, transgression of the law 1; 15
1) the condition of without law
1a) because ignorant of it
1b) because of violating it
2) ontempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness

Thus, we see that what is being described here is Christians abandoning their commitment to Christ because of contempt for the Law of Christ. And as Paul indicates they did not receive a love of the truth of Jesus' teachings, but instead had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians 2:12). Because this contempt for the teachings/Law of Christ will play no small role in the falling away of many Christians from the faith, Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 exhorts the believers to avoid being a part of this falling away by holding firmly to the teachings of Jesus Christ that the Apostles had passed on to them.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

(For more on these issues please see our study entitled "Liberty in Christ" in the In-Depth Studies section of our website.)

This contempt for Jesus' teachings (the Law of Christ) will not only lead many Christians to abandon Christ, but they will also betray their Christian brethren who remain faithful to Jesus' teachings.

Matthew 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

The Apostle John also warns of this betrayal of Christians by other Christians in his epistles. He indicates that this will occur because, like Cain, they will have contempt for those who offer a more pleasing sacrifice to God.

1 John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. 13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. 14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

1 John 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.

And we must also include Peter's remarks on this subject in his second epistle.

2 Peter 2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish (2704) in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness (93), as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings (539) while they feast with you; 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling (1185) unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness (93);16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

Peter here in the second chapter of his second letter reports on the same events that we have seen described by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2 and 1 Timothy 4, and the third and fourth chapters of John's epistles. Verses 12-13 bear much similarity to Paul's own remarks in 2 Thessalonians.

2 Thessalonians 2:10 And with all deceivableness (539) of unrighteousness (93) in them that perish (622); because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (93).

2 Peter 2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish (2704) in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness (93), as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings (539) while they feast with you;

Note the similarity in language between Peter and Paul. When we pull all of these passages together from Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John we see that many Christians who did not receive a love of the truth of Jesus' teachings, will depart from the faith because they have pleasure in unrighteousness, have contempt for the Law of Christ, and contempt for those believers who are faithful to it. They will betray the faithful believers unto death and they themselves will be deceived into believing a lie spread by false prophets who were among the Church just as Jesus and his Apostles said would occur. The chief adversary and the False Prophet will be the main promoters of this deception.

But we must note how Paul describes this deception in 2 Thessalonians 2, for this will help us to understand some additional identifications of the chief adversary as well as God's intention in the falling away.

2 Thessalonians 2:9 Even him, whose coming s after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 we see that Paul indicates that the deception that comes upon the Church is designed by God with the purpose of purging from His people those who did not love the truth. As Paul puts it, it is God Himself who sends the delusion in order to weed out those who only honor God with their lips, but whose hearts are far from Him. Also according to Paul, this delusion sent by God is accomplished through the lying signs and wonders performed by the chief adversary.

Here's where we return to Revelation and identify the Book of Revelation's depiction of the falling away. In Revelation 8 the seven trumpets begin to sound. The third trumpet is sounded in verses 10-11.

Revelation 8:10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; 11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

This event, which occurs as a result of the third trumpet is Revelation's depiction of the falling away, which will result from the work of the chief adversary and the False Prophet. In this passage we see the chief adversary depicted as a great star, which falls from heaven at the sounding of the third trumpet.

In our series of articles entitled "Angels in the End Times" we have already shown that Revelation 9:1 depicts the chief adversary as being given a key to the bottomless pit, which he opens to release Abaddon.

Revelation 9:1 And he fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. 2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit…11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.

So, we have already seen from Revelation 9:1 that the chief adversary is depicted as a great star. And we see from Revelation 4:5 that the seven angels of God are described as lamps of fire.

Revelation 4:5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

So, in Revelation 8:10, when we see the description of an event in which a great star falls from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, we know that a significant angelic adversary is being described being cast out of heaven. The question is how does this event in Revelation 8:10 relate to Revelation 9:1? Are the great stars discussed in these verses different from one another or the same? In fact, they are the same.

In chapter 8:10, the event that occurs as the result of the third trumpet being sounded is the falling of this great star (angel) from heaven. The Greek word for "fell" is Strong's No. 4098, pipto. In 8:10, the verb "pipto" is rendered in the aorist tense and the indicative mood. The aorist tense describes an event occurring without speaking of past, present, or future. But we know that this event occurs at the sounding of the third trumpet. Likewise, the indicative mood indicates that this event's occurrence is a fact. So, chapter 8:10 describes an event that occurs at the sounding of the third trumpet, the falling of a great star (or angel) from heaven.

In Revelation 9:1, we again see the word "pipto" used. However, in 9:1 "pipto" is rendered in the perfect tense and the participle mood. The perfect tense refers to an action that was completely or accomplished in the past. The participle mood includes the addition of the suffix "ing" or "ed" to a basic verb form. So, while 8:10 records that the great star falls as a result of the third trumpet, 9:1 records that at the point of the sounding of the fifth trumpet this great star had already fallen. In this way Revelation 9:1 uses the phrase "fallen from heaven" as a descriptor of which great star is in view. Which great star? The great star that had fallen from heaven at that sounding of the third trumpet. So, the great star that is mentioned in Revelation 9:1 and opens the bottomless pit is the same star that falls from heaven as a result of the third trumpet in Revelation 8:10. In our previous articles on "Angels in the End Times," we have identified this great star as the chief angelic adversary.

However, while our previous articles identified the second in command of the angel adversaries with the titles "Abaddon" or "Apollyon" (both meaning Destroyer), we did not have a title to identify the chief angelic adversary. Revelation 8:10-11 provides us with such a title for the chief angelic adversary. So, here in Revelation 8:10 we at last have some sort of unique title for the chief adversary. What we are told is that the Devil is referred to by the title Wormwood. In the Greek the word used here is "apsinthos."

894 apsinthos{ap'-sin-thos}
of uncertain derivation;; n f
AV - wormwood 2; 2
1) wormwood
2) the name of a star which fell into the waters and made them bitter

"Apsinthos" is the Greek reference to a plant, more commonly called Wormwood, which is why it is translated as wormwood in the English. However, this plant is identified with bitterness not only in chapter 8 of Revelation, but throughout the scriptures and in the botanical world.

"Wormwood - NOUN: 1. Any of several aromatic plants of the genus Artemisia, especially A. absinthium, native to Europe, yielding a bitter extract used in making absinthe and in flavoring certain wines. 2. Something harsh or embittering." - The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Absinthe - 1. A perennial aromatic European herb (Artemisia absinthium), naturalized in eastern North America and having pinnatifid, silvery silky leaves and numerous nodding flower heads. Also called common wormwood. 2. A green liqueur having a bitter anise or licorice flavor and a high alcohol content, prepared from absinthe and other herbs, and now prohibited in many countries because of its toxicity." - The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

In Revelation 8:1 the chief adversary, Wormwood as he is called, is responsible for making the waters bitter. But this is not a natural disaster being described. Instead, the waters becoming bitter is a reference to the falling away of many Christians from their faith in Jesus Christ.

Revelation 8:10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers (4215), and upon the fountains (4077) of waters (5204);

The Greek word for "rivers" is Strong's No. 4215, potamos. The Greek word for "fountains" is Strong's No. 4077, pege. The Greek word for "water" is Strong's No. 5204, hudor.

The description of Christians having rivers (4215, potamos) of living water (5204, hudor) flowing in them as a symbol of their life in Christ Jesus originates with Jesus Christ's own teaching.

John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly (2836) shall flow rivers (4215) of living water (5204).

Jesus repeats these same remarks in the Book of Revelation with the same Greek words demonstrating how the Book of Revelation itself employed this terminology to refer to the relationship of the believers to Jesus Christ, which produces eternal life.

Revelation 21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha 1 and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain [4077] of the water [5204] of life [2222] freely.

Likewise, the Apostle James uses the same Greek word for fountains (4077, pege). In his epistle he exhorts believers to live in godliness and desist from evil practices using a metaphor about fountains of water being sweet or bitter, but not both.

James 3:11 Doth a fountain (4077) send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?

Additionally, becoming or being bitter is used in the Bible to refer to individuals among God's people who return to the ways of the world. In fact, God's purpose in sending delusion to purge the Church is paralleled by God's words to Israel in Deuteronomy 29.

Deuteronomy 29:10 Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, 11 Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: 12 That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day: 13 That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 14 Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; 15 But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day: 16 (For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by; 17 And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:) 18 Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; 19 And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: 20 The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven. 21 And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law:

Here in Deuteronomy the people of Israel stand before God. They were entering into a covenant with God wherein He would be their God and He would establish them as a people unto Himself. Verse 20 speaks of God's jealousy for His people and anger against those among them that turned away from their covenant with God.

There are several things worthy of note from this passage, which all closely relate to the events described in the Book of Revelation, especially the falling away. First, verse 20 says that God will not have mercy upon those who turn from Him in their heart. Second verse 21 says that God's intention is to separate out of His people those who are evil. These two points parallel Paul's statements in 2 Thessalonians 2 that God will send a delusion to deceive those among His people who did not love the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Third, in verse 20, God says that he will blot out the names of those who turn away from Him. Fourth, all of the curses of the covenant that are written in the Book of the Law would be upon those who turned their hearts away from God.

These last two points find parallel in the Book of Revelation.

Revelation 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

Revelation 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Revelation 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, f any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

Fifth, those people of God who turn their hearts away from Him are referred to as a root that beareth gall and wormwood. Here are the definitions for these two Hebrew words.

07219 ro'sh {roshe} or rowsh (Deut 32:32) {roshe}
apparently the same as 07218; TWOT - 2098; n m
AV - gall 9, venom 1, poison 1, hemlock 1; 12
1) gall, venom, bitter, poisonous

03939 la`anah {lah-an-aw'}
from an unused root supposed to mean to curse; TWOT - 1121; n f
AV - wormwood 7, hemlock 1; 8
1) wormwood
1a) bitterness (metaph.)

We can see the obvious tie-ins between Deuteronomy 29 and the description of the events of Revelation 8:10-11. We must keep in mind Jesus' teaching that those who believe his teaching and accept it have rivers of living water flowing out of their belly. And we must remember Jesus' parable describing the falling away, in which he stated that some of those who received the word of God would endure for a while, but then be "offended" (or turn away) in a time of persecution and tribulation.

So, when we see Revelation 8:10-11 describe the chief adversary falling from heaven and that this results in the rivers and fountains of water becoming bitter we understand that this is the falling away that Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2 would follow the lying wonders of the chief adversary to deceive God's people. It is not some natural disaster that is occurring at the third trumpet. It is the falling away of Christians at the coming of Satan.

And there is yet another New Testament passage in which Paul speaks of this same bitterness. Undoubtedly Paul had Deuteronomy 29 in mind when he speaks of a root of bitterness among God's people of his day, which would cause them to be rejected and to not receive the promised inheritance in Christ.

Hebrews 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

We must note the implication of verse 16, wherein Paul mentions Esau who for a morsel of meat sold his inheritance. This connects well with Revelation 13's description that in the years before Jesus' coming, Christians will have to choose between remaining faithful to God or accepting the mark of the beast, instituted by the False Prophet to force people to choose between being able to buy and sell (even food) or die.

Revelation 13:11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. 12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, 14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. 15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. 16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Revelation 14:9 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, 10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: 11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Revelation 19:20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

The final piece of information needed to complete this study of the falling away and its relation to the chief adversary, who is titled Wormwood, comes from the book of Numbers, chapter 5. In this chapter of the book of Numbers, God is providing instructions for what to do when a man suspects his wife (or promised bride) of being unfaithful to him.

Numbers 5:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 12 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him, 13 And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner; 14 And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled: 15 Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance. 16 And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD: 17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water: 18 And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse: 19 And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: 20 But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband: 21 Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell; 22 And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen. 23 And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water: 24 And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter. 25 Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the offering before the LORD, and offer it upon the altar: 26 And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water. 27 And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people. 28 And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. 29 This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled; 30 Or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law. 31 Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.

This description is significant for several reasons. First, both Numbers 5 and Hebrews 12:15 speak of God's people becoming bitter and being found as defiled. Second, the Old Testament prophets often likened God's relationship with His people as a man and an adulterous wife. Third, the New Testament applies the same metaphor of bride and groom to Christ and the Church.

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 12 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

We see in these two New Testament passages several connections to other passages of this study. Like Deuteronomy 29, 2 Corinthians 11 speaks of the jealousy of God for His people. Like 2 Peter 2:13, Ephesians 5 discusses the spots and blemishes among God's Church.

Likewise, it is significant that the word for "falling away" that Paul uses in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is the word apostasia.

646 apostasia
feminine of the same as 647; TDNT - 1:513,88; n f
AV - to forsake + 575 1, falling away 1; 2
1) a falling away, defection, apostasy

Of significance is the note that this Greek word "apostasia" is the feminine of the same as Strong's No. 647, apostasion.

647 apostasion
neuter of a (presumed) adj. from a derivative of 868;; n n
AV - divorcement 2, writing of divorcement 1; 3
1) divorce, repudiation
2) a bill of divorce

This word, aspotasion, which means divorce, appears in the following passages where Jesus teaches on divorce.

Matthew 5:31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement (647):

Matthew 19:7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement (647), and to put her away?

Mark 10:4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement (647), and to put her away.

So, the word for "falling away" used by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 parallels the divorce of a husband and wife. This is not surprising given Numbers 5 and the other passages in this study, which describe the falling away that will occur before Jesus' return.

The Church is a bride betrothed to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is also the High Priest. In Numbers God instructs that if a bride is suspected of being unfaithful that the priest must make her drink of bitter water. If she is found faithful she will be unaffected by the curse. However, if she is unfaithful, then the water will become bitter and her belly will swell and the curses written in the book will come upon her.

So, in the Book of Revelation we see the bride of Christ, the Church, being given the bitter water to drink to see if we are faithful. For those who are in the Church who are unfaithful, the rivers of living water will become bitter and they will not attain salvation (the intended fruit of the seed of the Word of God that they had previously accepted with gladness). The fall of the chief adversary, who is referred to as Wormwood (meaning bitterness), is the delusion sent by God to purge the unfaithful among His people (just as Deuteronomy 29 also spoke about).

Apparently, according to Revelation 10:9-11, the Book of Revelation itself, which was given to John the Apostle, ultimately proves to be a significant contributor to the process of the falling away of the unfaithful Christians, who become bitter when having to digest its contents.

Revelation 10:9 And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. 10 And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. 11 And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.

Before we close we might also want to mention a few other potentially relevant New Testament passages. In light of the role that the chief adversary (Wormwood) plays in the deception of God's people who fall away from their faith in Jesus Christ we might conclude from the following passages that the delusion sent by God will involve the chief adversary (Wormwood) coming to earth after being cast out of heaven and proclaiming (with the False Prophet) another Gospel and enticing the nations and God's people to worship the angelic adversaries (along with the Antichrist who is himself possessed by Abaddon).

2 Corinthians 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Colossians 2:18 Let no man beguile (2603) you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,


Other parallels between the passages of this study abound and are worthy of further thought. But in the interests of remaining brief and because we do not want to overstate the obvious we will limit our commentary on these matters. Furthermore, the importance of remaining in the teachings of Christ is of the utmost important for safeguarding us from the coming delusion, which God intends to purge from the Church the unfaithful among His people. After being cast out of heaven, the chief adversary (titled Wormwood), with the cooperation of the False Prophet, initiate this deception, which will lead astray those who received the Word, but who in a time of tribulation and persecution will divorce themselves from Jesus Christ. As they depart from faith in Christ, they will in turn accept the anti-, or false Christ, at the leading of the False Prophet and the chief adversary.

(For more on the importance of the remaining sound doctrine and understanding Biblical teaching as disciples of Christ should, please read the Introduction to the Church Ethic in the In-Depth studies section of our website.)