What Is Apostasy? A Biblical Definition of Apostasy

What Is Apostasy? A Biblical Definition of Apostasy May 21, 2015

How does the Bible define apostasy? What is it exactly so we can know to identify it?


Apostasy Defined

The word itself is from the Greek word “apostasia” and is very much like renouncing or disassociating oneself from a particular religion or certain religious beliefs. It is similar to a rejection of beliefs that were once held and accepting different beliefs and might even be a renunciation of the beliefs that were previously held. For example, is someone converts to another religion, they reject or turn away from their beliefs from something they once believed and turn to believing in another, much different religion or it might be a falling away from anything to do with religion. Apostasy can also be considered abandonment or defiance of what was previously held to be true and practiced and rebelling against those same beliefs and practices. Someone or some group who does this are considered an apostate.

Jude’s Warning of Apostasy

Jude wrote that he “found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) because “certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). If someone denies that Jesus Christ is Lord, it is a departure from “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” and is considered to be an apostasy.

Paul’s Warning of Apostasy

Paul saw it happening in his day and in one of his last letters he said “the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (1 Tim 4:1-2) and certainly any teaching from demonic forces must be an apostasy from what the true faith is which Paul said would happen “in later times.” Some would teach a prohibition on marriage while others a prohibition on certain foods (1 Tim 4:3) both of which is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ, thus showing that these who teach such things are apostates.


Peter’s Warning

Peter saw a lot of apostasy that would be coming too writing that “just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (1 Pet 2:1-3). So they exploit people with “false words” and blaspheme “the way of truth” but they will come to destruction and then condemnation.

The Apostasy of the Angels of Light

In the very last letter that Paul wrote he told Timothy that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4). Anything that is taught as a “man-pleaser” or to tickle the ears, must be considered apostasy for anything taken away from or added to the gospel makes it another gospel entirely and one that is altogether different and isn’t really a gospel at all (Gal 1:7). There are certainly a lot of apostate teachers and preachers out there today. Paul would identify “such men [as] false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Cor 11:13-15). An apostate teacher or preacher is disguised “as an angel of light” meaning they look like they’re teaching the gospel but they’re really apostates and what they teach is actually apostasy or the doctrine of demons.

Guarding Against Apostate Teachings

One of the best ways to discern apostasy from the real gospel is to be consistently in the Word of God and why the author of Hebrews wrote that “for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:13-14) so if someone is not growing in biblical knowledge (lives on milk) rather than knowing more biblical knowledge (on solid food) their powers of discernment are not trained by constant practice in the Word and thus, cannot “distinguish good from evil” teachings by apostates.

Professing or Possessing

A lot of people profess to know and teach the truth but if it varies any at all from what the Bible teaches, then mark this; they are apostates. That is according to what the Bible teaches and not based upon my own opinion. Paul tells Titus to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth” (Titus 1:13-14) because “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (Titus 1:16). Anyone can profess but not all possess true faith in Jesus Christ and certainly not all teach it.


The Bible warns us that “in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Tim 3:1) and many will have “the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Tim 3:5). The best way to avoid apostasy and reject the teachings of apostates is to be reading the Word of God, study the Word of God, and listen to good expository biblical teachings in church, at Sunday school or in a local Bible study. The best way to identify the counterfeit is to know the genuine article.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack WellmanJack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.


"Be sure to google a site called “is, was and will be” and read the ..."

Top 13 Bible Verses About Virtue
"Can you please take my comments from spam and pending. I am not spam I ..."

Top 13 Bible Verses About Virtue
"Well I rethought it and I am going to pray for you so what is ..."

Top 13 Bible Verses About Virtue
""... God appoints teachers..."Well, you are not one of those. You are self appointed, but ..."

Top 13 Bible Verses About Virtue

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Rust Cohle

    Religious cults all work the same. Tom Cruise would say “The best way to avoid apostasy and reject the teachings of apostates is to be reading the Word of L. Ron Hubbard, study the Word of L.Ron Hubbard, and listen to good expository Dianetics teachings in church, at Scientology school or in a local Xenu study.

    • D. Barron

      Does L. Ron Hubbard’s teaching line up with the Canon of scripture, or has he added something, (usually works, plus) to the word?

      • Jack Wellman

        Great question…that is the barometer of truth, not L. Ron Hubbard.

      • Christina Forsythe

        I doubt it. He wrote Dianetics just to make money. He famously said “If you want to get rich, start a religion.” His true objective is revealed in that statement. (I understand there was a bet of some sort between Hubbard and Robert Heinlein. Heinlein’s fiction was “Stranger From a Strange Land” which nobody took seriously as a new religion)

  • Mzlegend

    lol the only way to avoid apostasy is by reading hearing and adhearing to the word of God. Tom Cruise is an awesome actor need I say more

    • Jack Wellman

      Spot on my friend.

    • bleeaugh

      Was he in a biblically-based movie or something? Sorry I don’t understand, unless you mean actors are good at deception.

  • Dr. Zenobia James

    Thanks for sharing. The information is easy to understand.

  • Kimberlee Rivera

    Thank you for this fantastic information, Jack Wellman, and I thank GOD for you!

    • Jack Wellman

      How kind of you. All glory to God and not to us oh Lord (1st Cor 4:7).

  • ObamaBinLyin

    I wish some concrete examples were given of apostasy and heresy in this article. Without them at all, the less mature Christians or babes or adolescents in Christ will come to this article and only get these scriptures that simply say the such departures from Orthodox Christian teachings of the Gospel and God’s Word will “happen”. What the author of this article should have done is give some of the many examples of modern-day apostasy and heretical teachings contrary to historical orthodox Christian doctrines.

    Some examples I know are the celebration of Easter as being the time when Jesus was crucified and resurrected, when in fact He was crucified and resurrected on Passover which falls a month later than Easter. Also, the very name Easter is the anglicized transliteration of the name of the pagan fertility goddess Ishtar. The Easter holiday was in fact first implemented by the apostate Roman Catholic church in the early centuries after Christ, and was done so to make pagan converts fell more comfortable. Easter is NOT Passover. The Protestant church has no business making these false claims that Jesus was born on December 25th. since He did not.

    The same apostate issues are present with the Christmas holiday that falsely claims that Jesus was born in the middle of cold winter, when in fact it snows in Israel. The Truth is that Jesus was also born on Passover in the month of March-April during the lambing season when the baby lambs are born in early spring. Thusly, Jesus is “the Lamb of God.”

    There are also many, many examples of apostate and heretical ministries today such as Joel Osteen, Robert Schuller (whose Crystal Cathedral ministry went bankrupt after many members left the church due to his increasingly bizarre theological remarks), Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, Joyce Meyers, Michael Murdock, Benny Hinn, Harold Camping, T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Kenneth Copeland (all of whom preach a form of “prosperity gospel” and/or replacement theology that claims that since the Jews rejected Jesus that God now rejects all of them, and real Jews are the “spiritual Jews” who are Christians, see Romans 2:29).

    All of these people preach things that the New Testament scriptures plainly condemn, and are teachings of their own creation to make huge sums of money. All of these people I’ve mentioned live in multi-million dollar mansions, and even have several of them in the USA and other parts of the world, as well as their own private jets, all the while that Christians in Islamic countries are made homeless, impoverished, and lack adequate food and clothes. And even Christians here in the USA are in need of food and clothing, etc.

    What is perfectly clear from the New Testament scriptures is that due to the abundance of such false ministers and their false teachings and the warnings given to genuine Christians to keep away from them, every church should devote some time to identify these apostates and heretics and explain why their own members should not listen to the preaching of FALSE self-proclaimed apostles of Jesus Christ — since they are in FACT, nothing but “wolves in sheep’s clothing” just a Jesus warned, and nothing LESS than agents of Satan himself. Many people have lost or shipwrecked their faith by getting involved with these bad people who preach a different gospel than that in the New Testament.

    • Priscilla

      LOL for one great name love it, two, great response so glad others see how evil Christmas and Easter are. Just found out how bad they were and will no longer celebrate them. Never knew Holiday came from HOLY DAY. But I do now and God showed me the truth of these evil so called holy days.

    • CD

      Well said!

    • Christina Forsythe

      Look at Isaiah 11:6. The word lion has changed to wolf. Very interesting since you referred to apostates as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” One of my favorite scriptures since i was a very small child now says “The wolf will live with the lamb” (“lie down” is the way I actually remember it). This frightens me more than anything in this life ever has. The apostates definitely present themselves as apostles, and it’s up to us to discern the difference.

      • Jack Wellman

        The original Hebrew in Isaiah 11:6 is “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat” so there was no reference to a lion in this verse anyway.

      • ObamaBinLyin

        The New King James Version is OK, but stay away from Scofield reference bibles. Scofield was a screwball con-artist funded by anti-Christian Zionist Jews in New York city.

    • Ulf Turkewitsch

      It would be helpful to have seen examples of what the cults teach. One excellent book that deals extensively with most modern cults in America and the West is Martin’s ; “The Kingdom of the Cults ” He also has a website. Actually it is better if a person checks out specific cults himself/herself. Then one really learns. Also reading and studying orthodox Christian Bible scholars is essential. This article however is a good start.

  • mjoinsd

    This is awesome. Do you have anything on apostasy of Christians during this election cycle, and how it relates to violent support for Trump?

  • Hillary Clinton,if elected,will complete Obama’s plan to secularize America and suppress religious freedom while changing the meaning of right and wrong. Obama and Hillary have both endorsed the concept of converting American citizens into Global citizens,and what they consider ‘backward’ religious beliefs into 21 st century beliefs.Beliefs that accept abortion on demand for any reason, that includes allowing late-term babies, born fuly viable, to die on a table alone and without medical aid. Incidentally, Obama ,while a Senator, voted against any aid that he said was in accordance to constitutional law, Obama is not only an intellectual incompetent ,he is a moral incompetent. And the tens of millions of Christians who voted for him in 2008 and again in 2012 are guilty of apostasy,like the over 50% of Catholics who sold their religious beliefs to Obama for 30 pieces of silver,a promise to a nun, Sister Carol Keehan, that was never kept. And most of these Christians fully knew that Obama’s record clearly revealed a man with an anti Christian ideology.Hopefully,all Christians will come together and right a wrong. God forgives all sins,even sins that were honest-mistakes. But in the end ,all Christians must realize that to believe in Jesus Christ ,we must accept His terms for our salvation for which he died on the cross:John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” There is no such thing as Liberal Christianity,because when you compromise good with evil, you will be consumed by evil,and that’s what’s happening right now. God help us to be Christians first and have the strength to die for that blessing if necessary.

    • jamesparson

      “Hopefully,all Christians will come together and right a wrong.”

      So we are better off now?

  • Christina Forsythe

    Has anyone noticed that the actual words in the Bible have changed within the last 10-12 months or so? I just started noticing. I’m terrified. I can give you a short list of the ones I’ve been looking at today.
    Luke 17:31, & 34-35 (these verses have not changed in my Bible, as you can see, but, horrifyingly, my Bible no longer has verse 36!! I’m sorry I can’t get a clearer picture, I’m trembling slightly.)
    Luke 19:23
    Isaiah 11:6 & 36:12 (11:6 still has a plethora of illustrations supporting the original text.)
    Matthew 25:27 & 9:17
    Mark 2:22

    I’m really just looking for words of comfort to quell my intense fear, though I have no idea what true consolation anyone could offer in this situation.
    Please, check your own scriptures and report back here what you find. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/06494cb25b7769b35f7f893860eda103d70020ee9aee6d4f129eb086f3a4e878.jpg

    • Lola Duncan

      Which bible do you have? There are many versions out there. I only read the original King James Version. My reason being it is the oldest version out there that I am aware of. Plus I was brought up reading the KJV. I know that other versions of the bible have either left out or added things not in the original version.

      • JT Orzan

        Apparently you don’t understand Biblical scholarship.

    • bleeaugh

      You have the NIV correct? Some verses are left out of the NIV and some other newer versions due to the verses not being found in all of the ancient manuscripts. At the very bottom, you should see a note labeled with the letter at the end of the verse (“c” in you’re case). The left out verse is included there. Here’s a pic of the NIV and KJV. In the KJV, v36 is in the text. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ed0cf92078d035bd1b3585ec09311e4143eefcaa7450008d6dfaa73a9a01454e.jpg

      • flscman222

        It is time for Pope Francis to step down.

  • pamameen

    Apostasy in Islam

    An apostate may be questioned on the reasons for his actions and if he sincerely feels regrets he may be pardoned.

    Where, in which country’s citizen the apostate is, is an important consideration. Islam has no jurisdiction over non-Muslim secular nations except protesting by diplomatic channels and through the UNO

    But whether it is an Islamic law that considers apostasy a serious crime and that an apostate should be punished is a contentious issue

    However, apostasy is not always in the same degree or the same form.

    There are several kinds of apostasy, each which has a different impact and harm on the Muslim community.

    Some scholars and authorities of Islamic history had maintained that the punishment for apostasy should match its harm to society, and that punishment may differ in accordance with its degree of impact.

    Many scholars view is that some apostasies may be excused by repentance, depending on whether it is simple apostasy, which could be excused by that way ,

    Punishment for apostasy depends on the degree of the apostate’s harm to Islam

    It is the same way as a nation’s traitor’s behavior. It depends on the harm the traitor does to his nation.

    Imprisonment might be an alternative punishment in the case of apostasy.

    An apostate may, not only deny Islam, but he may also incite a war against Islam and the Muslim Ummah.

    The apostate joins the rank of those who wage war against Islam. This is same way as a traitor joins the ranks of the enemies of his nation.

    Imagine an American citizen joining Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria and try to kill the Americans

    Would not such an American face the court martial and convicted for a long prison sentence

    However, there are certain regulations and restrictions

    Declaring a Muslim an apostate is a very complicated issue

    The person who issues a ruling on apostasy should be an expert or specialized scholar, and the person who implements this rule must be a specialist of religious law.

    An apostate should be given a chance to repent before passing judgments. .

    But hidden apostasy may be left to the mercy of God and be judged by Allah in the hereafter.

  • Char Farner

    Is teaching the serpent seed doctrine apostasy?

  • ompeople

    Both christianity and islam are non-religions .They are cults and oppressors.They spread their cult by force, violence, conversion , killing and immoral acts like money & other inducements. These two religions and their holy books viz., bible and kuran are manufactured by the wealthy traders from Europe and Saudi Arabia to expand their business interests and keep the populace as bonded work force.In contrast, hinduism is a religion of the masses and the universe since time immemorial. Here even non-believers, people who commit sins, infidels can remain as hindus and correct themselves if they want so.There is no compulsion to go to temples regularly and it is believed that every human being has god ( atma) within himself.Even animals and trees are given due respect because we believe that every object having life has right to live.We believe that the whole world be happy whether they belong to hinduism or not.

    • Melissa

      Obviously you have never read the Bible. The Bible is the word of God..there is no cult or any of the other things you mention in Christianity, Islam is another story. You may want to try reading the Bible before you start commenting on it.

    • Collao

      I’ll grant you one thing – Hindus are ultra-religious with their two million or so deities. Someone once said, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” Then that person went on to show a clear path to the One True God. Check it out, it can be found in the Christian Bible in the book of Acts. Chapter 17 beginning at verse 22.

  • Shidevek

    Congratulations!! Greatness, Light and Blessings has come to you
    You are special that is why you are contacted. Greatness, Light and Blessings has come to you.
    Get richer, become great in life, get the best of everything in life, get powers to overcome your enemies and powers to protect your Family, your Future, Life, Health, Wealth, Business, Investments and reign in life. Money, Powers, Fame, Favours and Wealth will become your title all the days of your life. Join the Great Shidevek Shidevek (Brotherhood of Greatness) and become a citizen/agent of the Great Shidevek Shidevek planet and all your dreams shall be fulfilled. Contact our Liaison Citizen in Spain Edward Zalo now by email at “shidevek@zoho.com” and Whatsapp +34671313905 for more details and citizenship initiation process. No matter where you are, no distance can affect the work/power of our Baphomet (Deity). Become part of us now and say yes to your dreams as you will be given financial aid for business/investment project of your choice. This message is for you that is why you are contacted so do not ignore it. contact Edward Zalo now for more detsail.

  • Jerry Parks

    Jack, have you done anything with the teaching today that “The Apostasy” in 2 Thess. 2 means The Rapture?

    • Jack Wellman

      Hello Mr. Parks. No sir, I haven’t thought of that before but yes, I struggle with the Rapture and believe that many of those things in Revelation are not for a tribulation period that’s coming, but was leveled upon Jerusalem and the Jews in 69-70 AD because they did not know the time of the Lord’s visitation. Thank you for the comment. That would be a great subject indeed.