Those who have an interest in prophecy will be very familiar with 2 Timothy 3:1-7 – it is a passage that is regularly the subject of church sermons and is one of the key passages concerning end-time indicators. It clearly provides an accurate description of the world around us and it is patently obvious that this prophecy is being uniquely fulfilled in this generation. In fact, it’s quite frightening to consider how accurately this describes society today which alone should be a urgent wake-up call to stay alert and not be distracted or seduced by matters of this world.
However, there are some details in this passage that are often overlooked and what is most shocking is that this text appears to be describing the situation INSIDE the church as opposed to society at large. When it’s fulfillment is being seen specifically within the ‘Christian’ environment we can be sure we live in times Paul was speaking of.
In many ways, both of Paul’s letters to Timothy act as an ‘instruction manual’ for the running of a Church and the prevention of false doctrine is a key function. Let’s look at this passage in the more detail and see how it applies to the church today:
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2 Timothy 3:1)
This reference to the ‘last days’ is in the definite article and is therefore talking about a very specific period of time leading up to end-time events as opposed to a more general reference to the times since NT times (see Hebrews 1:2 for a contrast). The term for ‘perilous’ includes ‘dangerous’ and ‘violent’ and although this could apply to any time of Christendom there has been a sharp rise of Christian persecution, almost always ignored by international media. The last 50 years have seen more Christian’s murdered for their faith than at any other time in the last 2000 years – this is coming to the Western world and the apostate church is likely to strongly feature as the aggressor when this happens.
The term ‘shall come’ is also worthy of note. In the greek, this word ‘enistemi’ means to ‘set in’ and in the form here (indicative future) expresses permanence once it does settle in. In other words, there is certainty that perilous times will settle into the church and when this happens, it will remain like this until the very end.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (2 Timothy 3:2)
This is a shocking list that is all too evident in society at large, but how does this apply to the church? Well, there is no question that an excessive focus on self-esteem, self-confidence and entitlements has already infiltrated church leadership along with a over-emphasis on ‘experience’. The huge focus on ‘self’ in various forms is the polar opposite to the teachings of Jesus who emphasized being humble, selfless and that confidence is in Christ, not ourselves. Furthermore, the landscape of ‘political correctness’ is making it much easier for churches to be held to ransom inside secular courts of law, often by those who ‘work’ for the church!
There will be a rapid rise of children turning against their Christian parents, particularly as the education system, media, and entertainment poisons their minds from an increasingly young age. Children will cease to value a Christian upbringing that is mocked by society as secular values entice and seduce them away from the true gospel. The reference to holiness (being set apart for God) indicates that Paul has a religious environment in mind with this list – the concept of being set apart for God (which naturally involves practicing Biblical morally) attracts derision and suspicion – as a result, the church is often silent or even actively promotes/celebrates unholy behaviour to appear trendy.
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, (2 Timothy 3:3)
There are already many examples of believers (and Churches) who hold to the true gospel being attacked by other supposed Christians. In fact, Christians who hold to Biblical values and beliefs are already having a very tough time. This is to be expected from the world – however, this is increasingly coming from inside the church where Jesus’ unpopular teachings are thrown out along with anyone protesting this. The church is being infiltrated by those who want to change the meaning of politically-incorrect passages/doctrines and those who resist are being side-lined. Biblical virtues are already being discouraged whilst unbiblical virtues are often celebrated.
Christian’s who hold to Jesus’ gospel of repentance will increasingly find themselves on the wrong side of ‘hate’, ‘bullying’ or ‘harassment’ legislation and be forced into silence. Worse still, there is no doubt apostate Christians from within the church will be part of this purge in an attempt to pacify a legal climate determined to prevent the gospel being shared. The obvious irony is that true love and care is only demonstrated by telling others the truth as opposed to a superficial and fake message that cannot save. Jesus never told people what they wanted to hear – He told them what they needed to hear.
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (2 Timothy 3:4)
The assumption here is that God is on the radar of those Paul is speaking of – Paul is addressing the Christian environment.
Our entertainment driven youth are leaving the church in droves and many churches are resorting to an attempt at ‘entertaining’ them back in. The problem is the gospel message is not there to entertain, it’s deadly serious – there is no other issue more important than the gospel message to the life of an individual. The world will always put on a better show than the church – it is futile to try to keep up and it will be impossible to prevent compromise when going down this path. The church is for those with a humble, repentant and worshipful heart – the world disdains this but it’s far better to have a small faithful congregation than a large unfaithful one.
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Timothy 3:5)
Again, this passage is clearly aimed at people who profess some kind belief – they attend church, they may lead churches and they are clearly prominent on the Christian landscape (otherwise there were be no need to warn against it). It is very likely they will peddle counterfeit gospels that cannot save – in fact, false gospels are flooding mainstream Christianity as they are more culturally acceptable and the mainstream struggle desperately to be popular and trendy. This makes them the most deceptive possible and many will not be able to discern through their ‘fluffy’ approach to Biblical text. The greek term ἀποτρέπου is used which means ‘turn away from’ or ‘avoid’ and it comes in the form of an imperative which means it is a command – in other words, if your church goes down this road, you need to get out!
For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, (2 Timothy 3:6)
There are hints in the Genesis account that women are the pinnacle of creation – God literally performed ‘hands on’ surgery when creating Eve! Women generally are more in tune to hearing from God, but the flip-side is that they are also sometimes more susceptible to being tricked or led astray – hence the serpent tempted Eve in the garden of Eden. This is why there are numerous passages in the NT explaining that churches should be led by men (this has nothing at all to do with superiority as man and women are completely equal – there are just some different roles based on the way we are created). The Greek term ἐνδύνοντες means to ‘creep’, ‘slip’ or ‘sneak’ in – it’s deliberate and calculated and this will come from INSIDE the church victimizing vulnerable women who have their guard down and who are not grounded in Scripture.
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:7)
This is very common in Christian circles – people accumulate knowledge but never come to faith. This approach has an air of intelligence and reason but is deceptive and damaging. Many church leaders continually try to find a new spin on the gospel, something novel or trendy and end up watering down the gospel or losing the message altogether! Similarly, some endlessly pursue further education/qualifications and end up lost in theology. The gospel message is a simple message and Jesus chose many ‘uneducated’ (but clever, brave and uncompromising) disciples in order to display his power. The same is true today.
Later in this passage, Paul later continues to with a warning for those who remain faithful:
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13)
Remember, the whole context of this passage is that it is describing a situation that will manifest itself WITHIN the church! Persecution is not something that may happen – it will happen. In fact, Paul continues in 2 Tim 4:1-5 to give further detail on this: notice again the reference to doctrine – this is happening inside the church environment and is not an attack from outside the church:
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. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
In summary, the scene above is a complete nightmare for the saved Christian but many will already be able to see this with their own eyes in the Church landscape in this country. Paul continues with the only antedote to this:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
The only way to protect against this avalanche of false doctrine is by immersed in the Scriptures and maintaining the plain meaning of ALL the text – not just selected texts that pass the test of the current sanitized christian environment – the list of acceptable texts will get smaller and smaller and it’s better not to start on that journey at all as it can only lead to compromise and error.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine…But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2 Timothy 3:2,5)
Christendom is being flooded with all that’s described above – when you see this happening in your church, it’s time to get out! We believe there will be a surge in the function of the ‘home church’ in years to come as faithful churches are forced to close or are infiltrated from within. The need to stand firm against compromise has never be more important – the Lord is looking for the few who will stand firm in these last days – will you be one of them?!