Is these the last days?

Article by: Prof. Eric Aseka - The Senior Pastor at Divine Grace Ecclesia, Nairobi.

2Timothy 3:1-3 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good”.

2 Timothy is the apostle Paul’s dramatic epistle from a Roman prison to his younger associate Timothy. Paul knew that it might be any day that he was executed for his loyalty to Jesus Christ, so he wrote to Timothy about important and needful matters.

In this chapter, the apostle begins by issuing a prophetic message saying that there will be perilous times in the last days. He states: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come“. We should know that the word translated perilous has the idea of troubles, difficulty, and stressful situations. As such, this sort of atmosphere will mark the last days. The word was used in classical Greek both of dangerous wild animals and of the raging sea. Its only other New Testament occurrence is in the story of the two Gaderene demoniacs who were as savage and untamed as wild beasts and whom Matthew describes as ‘so fierce that no one could pass that way’ (Matthew 8:28).

The characteristics Paul describe speak not of bad times, but of bad people. We should note what the hardness or danger of this time is in Paul’s view to be, not war, not famine or diseases, nor any of the other calamities or ills that befall the body, but the wicked and depraved ways of men. With regard to the description in this and in the following verses it is probable that the apostle had some particular age in view, in which there should appear some very essential corruption of Christianity. Therefore, “In the last days” is a broad term in the New Testament, broad enough to where one could say that the last days began with the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). The days of the Messiah mark the last days; yet the term is especially appropriate to the season immediately before the return of Jesus and the consummation of all things. Although some think that any attention paid to the last days or Biblical prophecy is frivolous, we should be able to discern when the last days are; or at least when world conditions are like the Bible described they would be in the last days.

There are those brethren who are looking forward to everything growing better and better and better, until, at last, this present age ripens into a millennium. However, they will not be able to sustain their hopes, for Scripture gives them no solid basis to rest upon… Apart from the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the world is more likely to sink into a pandemonium than to rise into a millennium.

In Matthew 16:1-4, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day because they did not or would not understand the meaning of their times: “Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” It is possible that Jesus would have the same rebuke for some Christians today who are unaware of the last days and the coming return of Jesus Christ. He tells us that Men will be lovers of themselves: This is certainly characteristic of our present age, when men and women are encouraged to love themselves. People are told to love themselves unconditionally and that such self-love is the foundation for a healthy human personality.

We do not need to be encouraged to love ourselves. We naturally have such a love. Neither should we be taught to hate ourselves, but as Paul said in Romans 12:3: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith“. Therefore, beloved, we must see ourselves as we really are, both the bad of what we are in the flesh and the glory of what we are in Jesus Christ. We should know that this love of self is the foundation for all the depravity that follows in Paul’s description. In this sense, we should note that lovers of themselves, which comes first, can be regarded as the source from which all the other vices that follow spring.

It is no accident that the first of these qualities will be a life that is centred on self. The adjective used is “philautos” which means self-loving. Love of self is the basic sin, from which all others flow. The moment a person makes his or her own will the centre of life, divine and human relationships are destroyed, obedience to God and charity to men both become impossible.

The essence of Christianity is not the enthronement but the obliteration of self. Therefore, “‘Lovers of self’ aptly heads the list since it is the essence of all sin and the root from which all the other characteristics spring. The word is literally ‘self-lovers’ and it points to the fact that the centre of gravity of the natural man is self rather than God. Hence “men will be… lovers of money”. For sure, the love of money is nothing new, but today people have the ability to pursue the love of money like never before.

Verse 1 says: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days”.

At the end of his life, when all had forsaken him and Paul lay condemned, in a Roman cell, he wrote an accurate description of the state of the world in the end times. He foresaw this as the time for Christ’s return drew ever closer. Paul gave important information on how to identity these end times, which would become increasingly fraught with danger and wickedness. He also gave clear instruction on how to respond during this evil time and outlined the responsibility of every believer. Today, we are living in the ‘perilous, last days’ about which the apostle Paul wrote.

He prophesied of moral decay, societal degeneration and an increasing advance towards every form of ungodliness such that the influence of evil and wickedness would be seen to permeate every area of society. It would even infect the Christian church itself. Thus, Paul gave clear, concise instructions to Christians living in “the end times” and he outlines what our responsibility to God is and our duty toward others.

Hebrews 1:1-2, reminds us that the ‘last days’ started with the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. It says: “In these last days God has spoken to us in His Son”. The apostle John also reminds us: “my little children, these are the last days”. The Bible points out that these “last days” in which we live, began back in the first century and will continue right down until Christ returns, when He comes to set up His millennial kingdom. Paul together with other New Testament writers identifies these perilous last days as the entire church age together with that future time of terrible tribulation, known as “the time of Jacob’s Trouble” which is often called the 70th week of Daniel. Thus, Paul begins this new chapter with a warning. This passage uses wording similar to Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 1:9, which were also in connection with a list of sinful actions. First, Paul describes a time period known as “the last days”. Biblically, the “last days” began with the start of the church (Acts 2:17). Peter also spoke of the “last days” in 2 Peter 3:3, as did James (James 5:3), and the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 1:2). The “last days,” as used in the New Testament, are not necessarily a reference to some era of the distant future, but a time period that began with the dawning of the church age and continues today. Moreover, these last days will be difficult. False teachers in Ephesus, like many deceitful teachers today, claimed that faithfulness to God would lead to material blessings. In contrast, Paul clearly taught that godly living would be difficult. The following verses chronicle the sins of evil people found in Paul’s time, issues which are still seen today.

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy“. This will be the case because men shall be lovers of their own selves. It shall be one of the characteristics of those times that men shall be eminently selfish, evidently under the garb of religion ( 2 Timothy 3:5). The word here used is “philautos” which does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means a lover of oneself that is one who is “selfish”. Such a love of self as to lead us to secure our salvation, is proper. But this interferes with the rights and happiness of no other persons. The selfishness which is condemned, is that regarding our own interests which interferes with the rights and comforts of others. This makes self the central and leading object of living; and which tramples on all that would interfere with that. As such, it is a base, and hateful, and narrow passion yet it has been so common in the world that no one can doubt the correctness of the prophecy of the apostle that it would exist “in the last times”.

The apostle uses the Greek word for covetous to describe lovers of silver; i. e., of money ( Luke 6:14). They will be boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful. The word here used occurs in the New Testament only in these two places. Beloved, ingratitude has always been regarded as one of the worst of crimes. It is said here that it would characterize that wicked age of which the apostle speaks, and its prevalence would, as it always does, indicate a decline of true spirituality. Living a life of faith in Christ makes us grateful to every benefactor, to God, and to man. People will be unholy, that is, they will be without piety, having no heart or reverence for God. We therefore see how the apostle Paul presents an extensive list of some 19 traits in all. These are attributes found in evil people. Both these behaviours, and those who persist in them, are to be avoided. Verse 2, therefore, includes the first eight attributes.

First, people will be selfish, rather than serving others.

Second, evil people will be obsessed with wealth. Material things are not evil in and of themselves, but the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

Third, these people will be “proud,” meaning they are preoccupied with people noticing them and their actions. This is related to concepts such as arrogance, but puts the expectation on others. A “proud” person not only thinks highly of themselves, they expect other people to demonstrate approval.

Fourth, such people will be “arrogant.” This is from the Greek word “hyperēphanoi” literally meaning “putting one’s self above others.” This term seems to refer more to one’s state of mind, while the idea of “selfishness” involves a similar problem, but in deeds.

Fifth, these evil people will be “abusive”. The Greek word used here refers to speaking slander or evil of others: “blasphēmoi”.

Sixth, these wicked ones would break the commandment to honour one’s parents (Exodus 20:12). This is a common thread in the lives of those who despise authority. Children who do not respect their parents typically do not respect anyone. Those who do not honour their parents, in this context, have problems beyond simple family conflict.

Seventh, they will be “ungrateful” or unthankful. This closely relates to the ideas of selfishness and arrogance. It speaks of those who are ungrateful and typically feel entitled to certain things rather than being thankful when they receive, they are angry when they do not.

Eighth, these depraved people will be “unholy,” not truly desiring to live according to God’s truth. God is described in the Bible as “holy,” which means “set apart” (Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 6:3). In contrast, these evil people are unholy, immersed in the fallen world. This echoes an illustration Paul used in 2 Timothy 2:20-21.

Verse 3 says: “Without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good”. Beloved, these people will be without natural affection to parents, or children, or wife. Parents will thrust their children into religious houses, cloisters against their wills; children leaving their parents without their knowledge or consent, married bishops and priests being obliged to quit their wives, and declare their children spurious with a litany many other such unnatural actions.

They will be trucebreakers or covenant breakers who will stir up rulers to break through their treaties and covenants with one another; dissolving the allegiance of subjects to their sovereigns, and moving them to rebellion against them. They will lose the marriage bond between husband and wife; making void all oaths, contracts, and agreements, among men, which stand in the way of their designs. They will teach that no faith is to be kept with heretics. They will be false accusers and be like Satan, the accuser of the brethren, charging all that depart from their communion with schism and heresy. They will be incontinent, although they will pretend to the gift of continency, yet give themselves up to all lasciviousness, and work all uncleanness with greediness or “intemperate” in eating and drinking, indulging themselves in rioting and drunkenness. The apostle John describes this as “she has lived deliciously” ( Revelation 18:7 ) .

They will be fierce like beasts of prey. Such was pagan Rome in the times of the ten persecutions; and such has been Rome Papal, exercising the greatest cruelties and barbarities on the saints, being drunk with their blood. They will be despisers of those that are good and without love to good; and good works, to which they will be reprobate, notwithstanding all their pretensions to them, and bluster about them, and to good men, whom they will hate. As such, there is a continuation with was listed in verse 2 where Paul began to list some of the evil traits associated with the “last days”, the era of the church, which continues through today. Paul continues here by adding six additional traits to the eight already noted.

First, evil people will be “heartless,” from the Greek “astorgoi”. This term is the combination of the negative a, meaning “not” or “against,” with the root word “storge”. That Greek root word refers to a natural, affectionate love. Storge is typically summarized as “parental love”. In this context, it not only means those who fail to show proper love to children. It also means those who are inhumane towards others.

Second, evil people will be “unappeasable,” from the Greek word “aspondoi”. This means those who refuse to hold to agreements, who cannot be convinced to agree on anything. Some translations use the word “irreconcilable.”

Third, these wicked people will be “slanderous.” This Greek term is “diaboloi”, which means one who lies, slanders, or makes false accusations. This is the root of English words such as diabolic. From a Christian standpoint, this is one of the titles of Satan: “The Devil,” meaning the one who lies and slanders others. A hallmark of this fallen world is the tendency to tear down others with gossip, lies, and hateful speech.

Fourth, these evil people will be “without self-control”. Beloved, self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). The presence of self-control is mentioned frequently by Paul as an important trait in the life of a Christian (1 Corinthians 7:5, 1 Corinthians 9:25, Galatians 5:23, 1 Timothy 2:9, and 2 Timothy 1:7). Self-control implies a person who is not selfish or arrogant, as mentioned in verse 2.

Fifth, evil people will be “brutal”, from the Greek word “anēmeroi”. This most literally means “savage or untamed”. Paul’s use of it here might refer to physical violence, but it certainly implies a wild and un-controlled attitude.

Sixth, Paul says that evil people will be known for a hatred for godly things. Interestingly, Paul uses the Greek word “aphilagathoi”, which suggests a very personal aspect to this hate.

In other words, beloved these evil people do not merely despise “goodness” they specifically dislike “good people”. This certainly agrees with Jesus’ warning to the disciples: those who love God will be hated by the world. Are you taking any caution against these vices of the last days?

Prof. Erick Aseka, is the Senior Pastor at Divine Grace Ecclesia, Nairobi.


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