Parable of Sower
First, there is the Parable of the Sower (Mat 13:20-21; Mk 4; Luk 8:13). When people hear and receive the Word in their hearts, one possible outcome that does happen to some of them is that they "fall away" in time of temptation, such as when affliction and persecution arises because of the Word.
The Lord said, "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away." (Mat 13:20-21)
His words were recorded a bit differently by Luke, yet with the same meaning: "Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.” (Luk 8:13).
Jesus said this about the man who hears the word and receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself. In other words, he was speaking about those who initially receive the gospel with joy. Certainly it’s impossible to fall away from something you have never experienced. Many people, after having been born again, have lost value. According to our Lord, if during their lifetime on earth they do not repent for doing so, they will perish in hell.
Parable of the Faithful Servant
Secondly, there is the Parable of the Faithful Servant about a faithful servant and an evil one (Matthew 24:45-51; Mark 13:33-37; Luke 12:35-48). The faithful and sensible servant did what his master put him in charge of His household to do, which was to give them their food at the proper time. Therefore, he was ready when his master returned.
This is clearly a parable about falling away, because both of those depicted in the parable were servants of the Master, put in charge of the His household to feed them promptly. The only one who is blessed is the one whom the Master finds doing so when He comes. "Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes." (Mat 24:46). This depicts the Lord’s return on a day when you do not expect, and at an hour when you do not think or know (see Mt 24:44,50). It is only the one who is doing what He was told to do and fulfilling all the duties of His ministry who will make it.
However, the wicked servant was not ready when his master returned. The reason is “that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,'” (Mat 24:48). It is an evil attitude to suppose the Lord will not be coming for a long time. Please don’t entertain that thought, because He is coming very soon. It was such an evil thought that caused that servant to make the fatal error of beginning to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards. (see Mat 24:49). He depicts that servant of the Lord who falls away, and the Lord tells us the final outcome of such a one. “The Master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mat 24:50-51)
Parable of the Ten Virgins
Thirdly, there is the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25:1-13). All ten virgins were waiting for the Bridegroom to come, which depicts the disciples of Christ waiting for the Lord’s return. Those who don’t care about Jesus are not waiting for Him to return. The five wise virgins bought extra oil for their lamps. This proved to be wise, since the Bridegroom came at a very late hour, after they had burned up their initial supply of oil, and it was very dark at the midnight hour when He came, so they definitely needed their lamps.
The five foolish virgins didn’t realize they were doing anything wrong, yet due to being unprepared, they missed the wedding. Their problem was that they neglected to buy extra oil for their lamps, and only realized their need for it when their lamps began to go out just as the Bridegroom was returning. Since the wise ones did not have enough oil for both their own lamps and those who were running out, the foolish ones were forced to go seeking after oil when it was too late.
"And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. "Later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' "But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' (Mat 25:10-12)
The foolish virgins missed the wedding feast. The door was shut, and although they begged to be let in, they were left outside in the dark. Although they called the Bridegroom “Lord,” He said He did not know them.
This parable clearly depicts disciples who fall away from the Lord. Those who are of the world are not depicted as virgins, but those who seek to keep themselves for Christ are. You cannot say the foolish virgins did not acknowledge Jesus, because they called him Lord. They were waiting for His return, and they had lamps just as the other five virgins did, since they had all received the Light of the gospel.
Don’t be caught with your lamp going out just as the Lord is returning. It’s up to you to buy extra oil from the Lord. Cry out to the Lord to give you extra oil in your flask by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Parable of the Talents
The fourth parable about falling away is the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30). The parable of the talents depicts three different servants being given talents. They were all given something, which they were expected to put to work for the master. Two of the servants put all their talents to work for the master, and had something to show Him for it. But the one servant did not put his talent to use for the master, and had nothing to show for it. He was the servant who fell away, even though he was given talent just as the others were. Therefore the master ordered, "Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 25:30). This represents the eternal punishment of hell that awaits those who do not use their talent for the glory of God.
If you don’t use every talent you have been given for the glory of God, you will be judged for it. One could put his talent to work to make a profit for himself, which is pursuing mammon. Yet he may not realize that in doing so, he is doing nothing with it for the Lord. He is looking out for himself only. Mammon in the New Testament of the Bible, is material wealth, which is evil, and enslaves people through the use of money. Pursuing mammon is stressful and leads to frustration. It also leads to hell. You cannot serve God and Mammon. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim 6:10). Remember the parable of the rich fool (Luk 12:15-21). Jesus warned, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." (Luk 12:15b).
Parable of the Sheep and Goats
The fifth parable about falling away is the Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Mt 25:31-46). It depicts the final judgment when the King sits on His throne and all the nations stand before Him. He will separate the sheep from the goats with the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. The sheep are those who loved and served their neighbor. "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Mat 25:34). But the goats did not love and serve their neighbor. Therefore, the King will condemn them. "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.’” (Mat 25:41)
There are many similarities between the wicked ones who fall away in each of these parables. They share common traits. The goats who did not serve the Lord by loving their neighbor are like the wicked servant in Mt 24:45-51, who mistreated and abused his fellow servants. The goats are also like the wicked, lazy servant who did not use his one talent in Mt 25:24-30. And if you look at these parables yourself, I’m sure you will find more similarities among the wicked people described in them, since sin always leads us away from God. In fact, the same wicked person could be depicted in more than one of these apostasy parables.
It would be a big mistake to assume these parables don’t apply to you. That’s why we need to ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and expose anything that is hidden that must go. The goats don’t even notice when they are not serving the Lord (Mt 25:44). They were shocked when they got to the end of their life and discovered they had neglected to serve Him. Yet they are His followers during their lifetime, because they called Him “Lord.”
On the other hand, the sheep don’t even notice when they were serving the Lord (Mt 25:37). That’s because they don’t blow a trumpet to let everyone know whenever they do a good deed. They don’t even let their left hand know what their right hand was doing. They just serve the Lord from the heart obediently with love.
As I mentioned, the goats are also like the man with one talent that didn’t put it to work for the Lord. They have something to give in the Lord’s service, but they don’t give it or use it. They are looking out for themselves only. They don’t think about the Lord’s needs. Jesus was that hungry person you met. Jesus was that thirsty person you met. Jesus was that stranger you saw or met. They may have come to your door, needing a place to stay. Jesus was that person who was in prison. Jesus was that person you saw or met who was in need of clothes. Jesus was that sick person you saw or knew. The goats don’t recognize Jesus when they see Him in their brother. They only cry for themselves and not for the Lord. They fail to realize that the talent they received was supposed to be used for serving the Lord, not for self.
Therefore, in the end, the Lord will call them accursed ones, and command them to depart from Him into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. The devil will never be shown any mercy, but will be punished forever and ever with eternal fire. In case you are one who does not believe a Christian could ever go to hell, you need to realize that the goats are assigned to the same place prepared for the devil and his angels.
Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
The sixth parable about falling away is the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt 18:23-35). This man missed heaven, because of unforgiveness. He was tortured instead and had to pay his own debt, because he did not forgive his debtor. It’s clearly a warning about falling away.
We know for certain that this man depicts the disciple who has fallen away unto eternal damnation, because of the following reasons: First, he was a servant of the King, who was his Lord. This clearly depicts a follower of Jesus, our Lord and King. Secondly, he had received mercy from the Lord. Since the only people who receive mercy and forgiveness for their sins are those who call upon the name of Jesus, we know this man depicts a believer. However, the mercy that had been given to him was later revoked, because of his own refusal to show mercy. Thirdly, Jesus told this parable to Peter (see Mt 18:1, 21). The parable of the unmerciful servant was a response to Peter’s question about the need to forgive others. Fourthly, we know this man depicts the disciple who has fallen away unto eternal damnation, because Jesus concluded the parable by saying, "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." (Mat 18:35). He said His heavenly Father would do the same to “you” His disciples, if a certain condition were met. That condition is if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart. The expression “each of you” clearly refers to Peter and the other disciples, which proves that this is a warning to disciples. Fifthly, the fact that Jesus said we must each forgive our “brother” shows that this is about disciples, since he was not speaking of biological brothers but spiritual brothers in Christ.
Parable of the Head of the House
The seventh parable about falling away is the Parable of the Head of the House (Mat 24:43-44). Jesus said:
"But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." (Mat 24:43-44)
This parable was spoken to the Lord’s disciples (see Mt 24:1,3). In fact, Jesus said, “You also must be ready.” (Mt 24:44), which meant that the disciples themselves must also be ready, and this parable applied to them. Each disciple is like the head of a household. In the parable, the head of the house was not on the alert when the thief came, which represents the coming of the Son of Man at an hour when you do not think He will. And since the head of the house did not know when the thief was coming, he fell away by failing to remain alert. Therefore, he allowed his house to be broken into, which depicts the loss experienced by those who are not ready.
Some Things God Won’t Do for You
Those who incorrectly believe that a disciple could never fall away usually believe so due to a false understanding of God’s sovereignty. While God is sovereign over the universe, He has given each person a free will, and there are some things God won’t do for you.
Let me give you some examples. First, these parables teach that God won’t utilize your talents for you. He is waiting for you to use them for His glory. Secondly, He won’t serve others for you. Although He will lead you to opportunities, and He will prompt you, He will watch to see whether or not you serve the people He puts in your life. Thirdly, He won’t forgive your debtors on your behalf, but expects you to forgive your brother from your own heart. Fourthly, He won’t automatically fill your flask with extra oil to help you stay ready for the Bridegroom’s return, if He is a long time in coming. You need to go and buy that extra oil from Him yourself, and if you are wise you will do so. Fifthly, He won't repent for you.
In fact, He won’t do anything you yourself are supposed to do in order to be ready for the Lord’s return. If He did all these things for you, then there would be no reason for Him to punish all those people depicted in the parables for not doing them. Granted He will prompt you through the Word and by the Spirit, as well as through others in the Body of Christ, and through circumstances. The Holy Spirit does work in and through the yielded and willing vessel to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (see Phil 2:13). But He will not override your will and do these things for you. It is possible to resist, quench, and grieve the Holy Spirit. It's possible to neglect to seek the Lord for help to do His will. The Holy Spirit does lead the sons of God, if we desire Him to, but it is necessary on our part to be led by Him (see Rom 8:14). You must live in accordance with the Spirit (Rom 8:5).
Final Judgment of Those Who Fall Away
In these parables, we see recurring themes, as well as a recurring pattern in which a final judgment is rendered against those who fall away, and they are sentenced with eternal punishment. Some of those final judgments include the following:
- “And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.” (Mt 18:34)
- “And will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 24:51)
- The door was shut. "But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’” (Mat 25:12)
- "Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 25:30)
- "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Mat 25:46)
- “The master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.” (Luk 12:46)
Jesus Prophesied There Would Be Apostasy
These parables depict what our Lord Jesus prophesied would happen in the last days, when He said, "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Mat 24:9-13)
He said that many would fall away, which means it will not be a rare occurrence. Since it is so common today, even among pastors, the standards within the church have been lowered to accommodate the apostates. Truly, you could be a Christian reading this article, and not even know that you yourself have gone astray. You may not even realize you have fallen away through immorality of some kind, through idolatry, through your attire and adornment, through the music you listen to, through false doctrine, the traditions of men, failure to tithe properly, failure to keep Sundays holy, through the things you do for entertainment, or one of many other possible sins that have become so common and accepted in the Church today. This is because very few are preaching against sin any more. They are neglecting to tell people what will land them in hell. They are teaching falsely.
The Lord told us what those would act like, who have fallen away. First, they will betray one another and hate one another, which is widespread these days. Secondly, most people's love will grow cold, which is so common today that we no longer even notice it. It seems to be accepted as the norm. Thirdly, the Lord said lawlessness would be increased, until it reaches a climax just before He returns, when it will be just as it was in the days of Noah. “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5). Fourthly, many will be misled by false prophets, which is much more common than you may realize.
Putting it All Together
There are at least seven parables about falling away, including the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Head of the House, the Parable of the Faithful Servant, the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the Parable of the Talents, the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, and the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. We could call them “the apostasy parables,” although they teach other lessons besides this.
These parables depict what our Lord Jesus predicted would happen in the last days, when He said that many would fall away. In these parables, we find some recurring themes. First, they teach that some followers of Jesus will not be saved, because they fall away. Second, we learn from them that the righteous will inherit eternal life, rewards, and happiness, while the ones who fall away will be thrown into hell, where they will inherit eternal punishment and condemnation. Thirdly, the Lord taught us to keep on the alert, be ready, and stay awake, in order to avoid falling away. Fourthly, it is only the one who endures to the end, who will be saved. Fifthly, it’s necessary to act according to His will. Sixth, while God is sovereign over the universe, He has given each of you a free will, and there are some things God won’t do for you. Last but not least is the recurring theme in which a final judgment is rendered against those who fall away, and they are sentenced with eternal punishment.
Let this be a wake up call to each of us to heed the voice of the Spirit, and listen to the warnings of our Lord. We are living in the days of the Great Deception and the Great Apostasy. Please ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart and reveal if you have gone astray in any area of your life.
I want to see each and every one of you there in the kingdom of heaven. But the path is narrow that leads to life. God’s standard is high and He is not going to lower it for anyone. He still loves you, but He requires holiness, righteousness, and truth in all of His children.
I want to be the seed on good soil that produces thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold. I want to be that faithful slave whom the Master finds promptly feeding His household when he comes. I want to be one of the wise virgins, who were ready and went in with the Bridegroom to the wedding banquet. I want to use every talent the Lord has given me, and hear Him one day say to me, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!" I want to be among the sheep who one day hear the King say, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." Don't you want that, too? I pray the the Lord would help you and I live in such a way, so that we can be among those who are called blessed. But don't assume it is automatic, just because you call yourself a Christian, or just because you once prayed a sinner's prayer to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
If you realize you’ve gone astray, then be earnest and repent, cry out for mercy, return to the Lord, and seek Him with all your heart. There is still hope for you while you are alive, but mercy is only available on the earth. So don’t put this off for later, thinking you will have time. This could be your last chance.
Also see: 1 Timothy, Hebrews, Romans 11, 1 Corinthians 9-10, 2 Peter 2, Jude, and Revelation 3.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Photo from goatsupplies.netfirms.com
Author's note: Also see Drifting Away, The False Gospel of Eternal Security, The Conditional Security of the Believer, Overcomers in This Life, Garments of Godliness, Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations, Rachael Mushala Testimony of Hell, Faith Works!, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, Holding Fast the Faithful Word, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies, Keeping Sundays Holy, and Is Tithing Required?
If you are confused about how the Lord is able to keep us while there is still the possibility of falling away, then I recommend reading Keeping Power of God and Election and Predestination.
You can access the Seeking the Lord Main Directory or my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." Now I'd like to ask a very important question.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.