Jesus warned his disciples:
"Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many."--(Matt. 24:4, 5.)
Then He told of approaching wars and political disturbances, and added:
"And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."--(Verses 10-13)
Further specifying the conditions incident to the growing apostasy, Christ declared to His disciples:
"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake."--(Verse 9.) And again: "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth; behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not."--(Verses 23-26.)
After the departure of Christ from earth His apostles continued to warn the people of the darkness to come. In that memorable address to the elders of Ephesus, when, as he told them, they were looking upon his face for the last time, Paul reminded his hearers of the instructions he had previously given them, and then charged them with this solemn warning:
"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."--(Acts 20:29, 30; read verses 17 - 31)
Not only would outsiders ingratiate themselves with the saints for purposes of selfish gain,--wolves entering in, and not sparing the flock,--but schisms and divisions were imminent; and these dissensions were to come through some then present,--men who would aspire to leadership, and who would set up their own doctrines, thus drawing disciples away from the Church and unto themselves.
The same apostle warns Timothy of the approaching apostasy, and refers to some of the erroneous teachings that would be impressed upon misguided people,--teachings which he calls "doctrines of devils." He admonishes Timothy to put the brethren in remembrance of these things, as is becoming in a good minister of Christ,
"nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine."
Note the inspired prediction:
"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; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth."--(I Tim. 4:1-3)
In a second epistle to his beloved Timothy, while labouring under the premonition that his martyrdom was near at hand, Paul urges zeal and energy in the preaching of the gospel; for the shadows of the apostasy were gathering about the Church. His admonition is pathetic in its earnestness:
"I charge thee therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."--(II Tim. 4:1-4.)
In addressing the Thessalonian saints, Paul warns them against the error strongly advocated by some that the day of Christ's second advent was then near at hand. It appears that deception was being practiced, and that even forgery was suspected, for the apostle instructs the people that they be not deceived
"by word nor by letter as from us."
The admonition is forceful:
"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, 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. 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; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."--(II Thess. 1:2-14.)
We shall see how painfully literal has been the fulfilment of this prophecy in the blasphemous assumptions of the apostate church, centuries later.
The Apostle Peter prophesied in language so plain that none may fail to comprehend, concerning the heresies that would be preached as doctrine in the period of the apostasy; and he reminds the people that there were false teachers in olden times, even as there would be in times then future:
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."--(II Peter 2:1-3.
Jude, the brother of James, in his general epistle to the saints, reminds them of earlier warnings:
"But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts."--(Jude17, 18.)
John, who is called the Revelator, saw in vision the state of the world in the days then future. Describing the spirit of unrighteousness as a hideous beast, and its author, Satan, as the dragon, he says:
"And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? * * * And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear."--(Rev.13:4,6-9.)
Note another prophecy based on the vision of John the Revelator. Again referring to latter-day conditions he declares:
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of water." --Rev. 14:6, 7.)
While it is true that the scripture last quoted does not specifically predict the apostasy, the breaking up of the Church is treated as an event actually accomplished. The Revelator looked beyond the period of disruption and saw the brighter day of the restoration of the gospel,--a re-establishment of the Church through the ministry of an angel. It is illogical to assume that the gospel was to be brought to earth by a heavenly messenger if that gospel was still extant upon the earth. Equally unreasonable is it to say that a restoration or re-establishment of the Church of Christ would be necessary or possible had the Church continued with rightful succession of priesthood and power.
If the gospel had to be brought again from the heavens, the gospel must have been taken from the earth. Thus, the prophecy of a restoration is proof of an apostasy general and complete. [Source: James E Talmadge "The Great Apostasy"]