Last Days Men - part 1
2 Timothy 3:1-17
Today I would like to have you turn in your Bibles to 2 Timothy 3. In this second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul encourages Timothy to guard the good deposit entrusted to him, that is, his testimony of salvation and the legacy of his mother and grandmother. He admonishes Timothy to be a good soldier, a worker who is approved by God and not to be ashamed. When we come to chapter 3, Paul makes it clear that the evil Timothy will face will make standing for the Lord very difficult.
Paul is reminding Timothy, the Ephesian Christians, and you and me, of the context in which we live and minister as Christians. We know that the days are evil and that living for Christ can at times be difficult. But the interesting thing in all of this, is that this truth of evil opposition seems timeless as Paul describes for us the people of wickedness during the last days.
Last Days People of Wickedness
~ Difficulty of the Times (v. 1)
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
After all the encouragement in chapters 1 and 2, Timothy is told that he must understand something of great importance. “Understand this,” he says. What is so important here? The thing Paul wants Timothy to understand is that there will be difficulty in the last days. It will be difficult to stand true to the testimony of salvation entrusted to you, it will be hard to stand as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, or as an approved workman. The last days will be most difficult, he says. In fact, the word translated “difficult” has the idea of peril and danger.
So why is Paul writing this to Timothy if this is what the last days will be like? Simply put, it is because Timothy is living in the last days. We often think of the last days as a time that is yet future to us, the days of judgment during the Tribulation period, or the short time just before that, is what we often think of when we think about the “last days.” However, there is an interesting truth taught to us in the New Testament.
John tells us in 1 John 2:18: “Children, it is the last hour.” The writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 1:2, “In these last days God has spoken to us by his Son.” 1 Peter 1:20 tells us that Christ “was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.”
So, in short, they were living in the last days and we are living in the last days. We have been living in the “last days” ever since Jesus Christ came to earth born as a baby and died for our sin. And as we come to the end of the end, the end of the last days — the return of Christ — we may expect that there will be a great intensification of all wickedness. But the last days being described to us here in 2 Timothy 3:1 are the days we are living in even right now. This is not just the days of Paul and Timothy or the days of Tribulation judgment. Though what was written here was almost 2,000 years ago, it is still referring to the day in which we live. God is telling us, there will be times of difficulty. We need to understand this and expect this.
We may moan and complain about the wickedness in our day, but in reality, God has made it clear that no matter how evil our world becomes we should still desire to live godly lives according to verse 12, and as men and women of God we should expect difficulty. But, we shouldn’t have some kind of pity party over how bad things have become in our world either. It may be difficult, I will grant that, but we must strive to live godly. In verses 2-5, the Apostle Paul gives us 19 characteristics of these last days. Tell me if you think these characteristics describe our day.
~ Prevalence of Sinfulness (vv. 2-5)
2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
What we have described to us here is the kind of people who live in the last days, not just the time of Paul and Timothy, but our time, and it will get even worse as the end of all times grows closer. God does not use the Apostle Paul to describe what the last days are like, so we can feel discouraged or defeated. God wants us to understand that the evil in our world today is an attempt of the evil one, Satan himself, to get you and me away from the Lord and live in defeat. This list is to encourage us, so that we can live as victors in the midst of evil.
Here is how I would read this list and see if it doesn’t describe our world today. People in the last days will be self-absorbed, materialistic, draw attention to themselves, have an over inflated view of themselves, desire to be hurtful toward others, live in rebellion to parents and authority, think they deserve a wonderful life without working for it, indifference to the morals and ethics God has set, unable to sympathize with those they hurt, unwilling to forgive, distort what others say for their benefit, live according to their appetites for life, brutal toward others who live differently than they do, unable to see moral beauty, breaking promises to their own advantage, desire admiration for being reckless, swollen with self-preoccupation, finding pleasure in themselves rather than God, have an appearance of moral rightness but denying the power of true godliness.
You might think that Paul wrote this a few days ago, yet what he is describing as the “last days” is a time that he knows himself all too well. Did they have bakers and photographers who were persecuted for their beliefs, probably. This is not something new. Did Paul have to deal with a culture that was anti-Christian, absolutely. He was stoned and left for dead, beaten, imprisoned, etc. because of his telling others about Christ. The point is simply this, that in the “last days,” evil will be prevalent.
Evil people are everywhere, and he tells us to “avoid them.” Now this is an interesting statement. When he says, “avoid them,” he doesn’t mean never talk to them. Rather we are to do the work of an evangelist. Speak truth into their lives, but never become so entangled with them they cause you to falter in your walk of faith. We will see a lot of evil things that come against us today, but we should pursue holiness as we speak to those who are perishing in their sin.
In 2 Timothy 4:5, he tells Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist.” Talk to unbelievers. So, what does Paul mean when he says to “avoid them?” We need to avoid being influenced by them. We need to be careful of allowing their teaching to change what we believe about the truth. But at the same time, we need to “cherish the gospel that saves us and speak it to the perishing.” Why does it seem that we are given some kind of line to draw when it comes to our relationships with others? Why is this so important? Why do we need to know where to draw the line in our relationship with those who do evil? The reason is found in verses 6 and 7.
~ Pretense of Godliness (vv. 6-7)
For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
Among the people Paul just described, the wicked people of the “last days,” there are some who will make a pretense of godliness and capture the minds of those who are vulnerable. Now I know it says weak women, but this applies to the vulnerability of anyone who is not anchored on the truths of Scripture. Paul talks more about be anchored in Scripture in verses 14-17, we will get to those verses next week. The people who are being captured by the philosophies of this world are people who are not willing to deal with their sin, they are controlled by their passions, and are ever learning the vain philosophies of this world and never arriving at truth.
The idea is that there is a creeping in of moral and theological error from those who have a form of godliness and yet deny its power according to verse 5. This is why what is said in the last four verses of this chapter is so important. Men and women of God are saturated in the Word of God and can stand against moral and theological error we face in these days. They do not dabble in new cultural trends or accept the world’s idea of morality. Avoid those who prey on the vulnerable.
Because we live and minister in the “last days,” we are both discerning and confident that Christ will build His church. I believe that this is what Paul is saying to Timothy, “Timothy, you are going to minister in difficult times, don’t expect it to be easy. There are so many people that live wickedly and so you should not expect the things they say and teach to stay out of the church either. Don’t expect your teaching to be unhindered by false teachings, Timothy. Make sure your congregation is anchored firmly on the truths of God’s Word so that they will be discerning and can tell the difference between falsehood and truth.
This is exactly what God is trying to tell us here today. Beware of the pretense of godliness. We see it all over in the church today.
** Prosperity Gospel - If you only have enough faith, you’ll have everything you want. Get rich by believing in God.
** Acceptance Gospel – You can live in a sinful lifestyle and still be righteous. Saved people can live addicted to porn, drugs, other harmful substances. A godly person can be homosexual or live a life of perversion.
** Entertainment Gospel – We need to entertain people so they will accept the Gospel. That way they will be drawn to Christ.
** Unity Gospel – we all believe the same thing, let’s just come together in ecumenism and show the world we are one.
We could go on, but I think you get the picture. We need to be aware of being drawn away from the truth by the pretense of godliness. Instead of being weak, we need to be an army of well trained soldiers ready to take on the conflict against falsehood. I want you to know, that I want you to enjoy the fullness of God’s blessings in your life. But it is not my job to sugar coat the Christian life into a compromised lifestyle. It is my job and the job of every one of our deacon/elders to equip you to fight the good fight of faith. Not give in to compromise. There is spiritual warfare taking place right now trying to defeat you in your walk with the Lord. We must not only know that, we must be prepared for it.
Some of our hymns remind us of this. Take your hymnal and turn to song # 728. Isaac Watts asks some good questions. “Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb? Shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak His name?” When we stand for the truth of God, we should not fear or blush, because His cause is our cause. Bring salvation into the world.
Look at the questions in verse 2. “Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease? While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?” Or how about the last stanza of verse 3? “Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?” This world is not going to help you walk in holiness and live for God. No!
Listen, I don’t know how to say it any better than this. We are so vulnerable to the ideas of a false Gospel when we are not anchored in the truth. Whether it is the open spirituality beliefs of Oprah Winfrey, or the natural deistic beliefs of Ellen DeGeneres, or the concept that whether a person believes in God or Allah is no difference, or a works mentality of salvation that says I can do enough to please God, or an easy believism that results in no change of one’s life, we need to beware of a pretense of godliness. Avoid being sucked into falsehood. Avoid such people. Why should we be careful, because God will expose them one day.
~ Exposure of Evil Intent (vv. 8-9)
8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
God knows who are truly His by genuine faith and He will expose the those who have put on a pretense of godliness and opposed the truth. Jannes and Jambres are the names given to the magicians that opposed Moses during the 10 plagues. If you recall, these magicians of the Pharaoh of Egypt were able to replicate the first three plagues in their own power, or the power of the evil one that helped them. But then their power gave out and they were exposed. These two magicians of the Pharaoh opposed truth, they were corrupted in mind, and certainly were disqualified concerning faith. But it was not long before they were exposed as not having the powers of God.
Paul uses them as an example that those who oppose the truth with a pretense of godliness will one day be exposed as false. Often, I want to get discouraged by all the falsehood that surrounds us today. Even many of the churches today have turned away from truth. But the one thing that gives me hope is the promise that one day all will be exposed. The evil intent of those who put on a pretense of the power of God will one day be exposed.
There is one more thing Paul wants to tell Timothy and us when it comes to living a life of faith. We often think life should be easy with no problems or persecution. After all we are good people. But that is not what he tells us in verses 10-13.
~ Persecution of the Godly (vv. 10-13)
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra-- which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
If I were Timothy, I would be excited to read verse 10. If your teacher and mentor tells you that you have followed in his teachings, his way of life, his goal, his faith, his patience, love, and steadfastness, . . . man that is a great compliment. But then verse 11 goes on to say that you have followed in his sufferings also. The sufferings that happened in Timothy’s hometown of Lystra where Paul was left for dead after being stoned and other towns in the region of Ephesus where Timothy was pastoring. Paul is indicating that Timothy will also suffer for standing for the truth of God. But just as a bit of encouragement Timothy, God rescued Paul from all of them.
We could probably take what has been said about persecution pretty well up to this point because it is about Paul and Timothy suffering, but then in verse 12, he makes it clear that anyone who tries to live a godly life will be persecuted. Anyone who takes a stand for godliness and tries to live out a life of purity and holiness will be persecuted. Anyone who determines to reach the lost with the gospel of truth will be persecuted. And not only that, but evil people will get worse, if you can imagine that. Not only will they deceive many, but they will be deceived from the truth by their own deceptions.
Listen, this is the world we live in today. Paul tells Timothy in the last four verses of this chapter what we need to do. How we should respond. We will delve into these verses next week but let me give you a sneak peek. “Last days” men and women of God are anchored in the truth of Scripture and equipped to stand in the midst of an evil world. I hope you are able to be with us as we look closely at these verses.
Today as I conclude, I just want to say, we should never get down hearted about the evil of this world. We should never be depressed about any persecution that may come our way. In fact, as a people of God, if we are not experiencing any opposition then we must not be proclaiming God’s truth. We should not be surprised when faced with difficulty because of our faith. In fact, we should expect it and prepare ourselves for it.
We should anchor ourselves in the truth of Scripture and never be influenced to compromise God’s truth. Watch for those who have a pretense of godliness but teach things that oppose the truth of Scripture. We are men and women of the “last days” and we should desire to live godly lives in the midst of an evil world.
Do you experience persecution?
Do you live out the truths of Scripture?
Are you tempted to compromise what you believe to get along?
Or is your desire to live for God no matter how evil our world gets?