I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
The Perils of Our Times
Unless you've been living in a cave, it's hard to miss all of the horrible things that have been going on in our country in the past few months. For instance, a group of men in Rochester, New York, armed with planks, were captured in a shocking video as they brutally attacked a young couple in their 20's while this man and his wife were trying to defend a store from being looted.
Apparently, the couple, Madison and Brett Mavity, lived above this jewelry store that was being vandalized. They had resided there for 4 years and were helping the owners of the establishment. Here is how the news article describes the incident:
"Madison Mavity could be seen emerging from the door of the 2nd floor apartment followed by her husband.
“Go away” she could be heard telling the group of men smashing in windows. “People live here!”
“Maddy heard the banging and thought the owners had returned, so she went down to help,” her mother explained. “She told me that’s why she went outside.”
She added that her daughter “was mad when she saw the men.
“She was really angry and frustrated,” she said.
One of the thugs swung a 2×4 piece of wood, striking the couple as another threw objects. They appeared to be leaving at one point but one of the men turned back and grabbed the woman by the head as another repeatedly struck her with the board.
Her husband, also struck by the looters, momentarily ran inside and reemerged with a golf club, yelling “you get away from my wife!”
The couple needed medical care after the incident, according to Madison's mother, who believed her daughter suffered a concussion and her son-in-law’s hand was broken during the confrontation."
The Apostle Paul could probably identify with this incident and with the problems we are facing in our country today with the rise of brutal people. He had suffered at the hands of many who opposed him and his teaching. And while writing the book of II Timothy was in jail awaiting his execution for preaching the gospel. In the midst of all of his suffering he said this to his young son-in-the faith, Timothy:
"But realize this, that in the last days perilous times will come." (II Timothy 3:1)
Another way to say this is "savage" times. We are indeed living in an era where it is becoming more and more difficult to live a quiet and peaceful life, especially if you are a Christian. Our culture, which used to embrace the Judeo-Christian world view, if only in theory, is now becoming more openly opposed to it.
Many believers in other parts of the world have never known the freedoms that Christians have in the United States of America. They are beaten, tortured, imprisoned and murdered for their faith. We are living in a culture where religious freedom is a right that very few civilizations have ever known. And yet it is slowly eroding as our culture becomes increasingly secular in its outlook on life.
For those of us who have been around for more than 50 years, the erosion is obvious. For instance, today you cannot publicly talk about the Biblical views of homosexuality or abortion without being called names, or, in some cases, attacked.
I heard of one such attack, which was described in a sermon I listened to, where a Christian spoke to a gay couple, telling them that God could deliver them from their homosexuality. On his way home, he was taken, shoved into a van and beaten to death by friends of that couple.
That may not be the norm today in our country but it certainly shows the anger and hatred that many people have for the biblical worldview.
While there is always hope for a revival, Christians must be prepared for anything that may come our way. In II Timothy 2:1-9, Paul is describing to Timothy and to us living in the 21st century, what is going to happen in the era before the return of Christ. He gives a series of characteristics of unbelieving people, with which we should all be aware in order to know what we are dealing with and how to successfully live in opposition to it.
Let's take some time to look at these characteristics.
I. Lovers of Self and Lovers of Money (2:1-2a)
To begin with, though, we need to clear up what Paul means by the word "times" when talking about "perilous times." He is not discussing that which is measured by clocks or calendars here. Rather he is speaking of epochs or eras.
As we get closer to the return of Jesus, Paul foresees an increase in the frequency and severity of perilous or savage times. Thankfully, the believer in Jesus Christ today will be delivered from the horror of the seven year Great Tribulation that the biblical writers are predicting for the future of this world. We will be taken out by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself when He returns in the air to take His Church, the Body of Christ to be with Him (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). However, we are still living in a sin-cursed earth in which much of mankind is constantly in rebellion against the Lord. And many hate the truth of Scripture as well as those who preach, teach and live it.
The first two characteristics that Paul speaks of that will increase in the era between Christ's first appearance on this earth to save us from our sins, and the second time He will come as King of Kings and Lord of Lords is that people will be lovers of self and lovers of money.
None of us in America really know what it was like in the time before Christ. It was a world where the gods had little interest in caring for mortal men. For instance, the Greco-Roman gods had no love for humans. And if they did express love it was merely in the form or erotic lust. Several demigods, who were believed to be the offspring of the gods in the mythology of the time, were said to have seduced and raped women.
The gods of that era were said to have cheated one another, tricked one another and sometimes hurt each other as well.
The true God of the Bible, on the other hand, is love itself. He is the God of agape love. Agape is the special Greek word that stands for the highest form of love. The word embraces a universal, unconditional love that goes beyond and persists regardless of circumstance. It is not based upon having that love returned by the person or persons being loved. The lover rather loves no matter what the response may be to what he does to show it. It is seeking the highest good for the object being loved, and expresses it through actions.
God gives the Christian the power to act in this way. So those without Christ cannot truly express that kind of love. As we get more and more away from the belief in the Christian God, there will be more self-love and less love of others. People will more and more look out for number one and not after anyone else. In other words they will be selfish rather than seeking to serve others.
And with an increased selfishness, comes a love of money. While money is just a tool and isn't itself evil, loving money is idolatry. When you are obsessed with money and wealth for its own sake, you are seeking the power and prestige that it brings rather than relying on the power of God. In I Timothy 6:10 Paul tells Timothy that the love of money is the root of "all sorts of evil." In the last days, more selfishness brings more obsession with wealth.
II. Various Other Characteristics (2b-9)
If you count all of the characteristics listed in this section, there are a total of 19. After being lovers of self and lovers of money the seventeen remaining include:
1. Being boastful or proud, meaning they are obsessed with people noticing them and their actions.
2. Arrogant: The Greek word literally means putting one's self above others.
3. Abusive: The New American Standard Bible says revilers but the King James translation is probably closest here. The Greek word used refers to speaking slander or evil of others: blasphēmoi, which is where we get our English word blaspheme.
4. Disobedient to parents: Parents are the first authority figures that people learn to honor and respect. Those who don't honor parents most likely won't honor God or anyone else.
5. Ungrateful: Those who are proud don't think that they have anything for which to be thankful or grateful.
6. Unholy: That is not wanting to live according to God's truth.
7. Unloving: The word can mean heartless, without natural affection. It includes being inhumane to others.
8. Irreconcilable: Sometimes translated implacable or unappeasable. These are the persons who refuse to hold to agreements, who cannot be convinced to agree on anything.
9. Malicious gossips: The King James here uses incontinent. It is the term diabolos. One who is prone to slander or to accuse falsely. The devil or Diabolos is a slanderer.
10. Without self-control: Self control is part of the Fruit of the Spirit and is something that the Holy Spirit gives.
11. Brutal: One who is savage, cruel, bloodthirsty, wild or untamed.
12. Haters of Good: These are persons who don't merely despise goodness. They despise good people as well.
13. Treacherous: Traitors or betrayers. This is probably a betrayal of their Christian brothers and sisters.
14. Reckless: Sometimes translated heady.—but better rendered, headstrong in words, or thoughts, or actions.
15. Conceited: King James says high-minded. This means a person who is blinded by pride.
16. Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God: These are persons who would make any sacrifice to grab any fleeting pleasure but who would give nothing up in order to do honor to the eternal but invisible God. There are lots of people in this world who fit this description.
17. Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power: Unfortunately, many church's who call themselves Christian and many pastors who claim to proclaim the Bible look like the real thing and act like the real thing but are no more Christian than a country club. They deny the message of salvation by grace through faith, plus nothing. They may teach a form of works-salvation, or worse yet, never preach the need for salvation at all.
Many teach a prosperity gospel, which is not the good news of the Bible at all. They deny a literal Hell and the wrath of God upon sin. These are the false teachers that Scripture warns about over and over again. And the Apostle Paul alerts Timothy to avoid these people.
Paul says these are the kinds of persons who bring into captive "weak women weighed down with sins." These are women, or men for that matter, who are weak in virtue and deficient in a knowledge of the truth of God's Word.
Sadly, many people who enter cults come from mainline denominational church's. Either they didn't learn what was being taught or they went to a church that didn't correctly handle God's Word. It's hard to listen to the truth if you never hear it. Or, finally some simply refused to accept the truth that was being taught to them. All of these things will cause a person to be lead astray by false teachers.
Paul continues talking about the weak-willed people who, he says are "always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth." It doesn't matter how bright or educated a person is in this world. If they aren't learning the truth of Scripture, they are just as bad off as those who know nothing.
I Timothy 2:4 uses the same "always learning" phrase and equates it with being saved. Many people jump around from one church or cult to another without coming to know the truth of Jesus Christ. This present evil age is full of teaching that can't save a person but will lead them to damnation in the end.
Paul ends this section of his epistle by comparing the false teachers who hold to a form of godliness to Jannes and Jambres. These are two men whose names aren't mentioned in the Old Testament. But Jewish tradition tells us that they were most likely two of the Egyptian magicians that opposed Moses during the time of the Exodus. According to tradition, they later pretended to become Jewish proselytes, (or Gentile converts to Judaism), and instigated the worship of the golden calf in Exodus 32. It is believed that they were killed with the rest of the idolaters there.
The Apostle is equating these evil men with the false teachers in Ephesus, where Timothy was, who were practicing deceiving signs and wonders.
In these perilous times in which we live, men and women like this will become more abundant and more blatant in their desire to get a following. The followers of Jesus Christ must always be aware of these imposters and should never be taken in by them.
However, Paul gives us a hopeful message at the end of this section. No matter whom we face in the times in which we live, those who would subvert the gospel of Jesus Christ, his messengers or His people will not win in the end. In II Timothy 3:9, the great apostle tells Timothy:
"But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes's and Jambre's folly was also.
As we close this message, I am reminded of something said in a sermon by pastor Ray Pritchard entitled "Perilous Times." He told those whom he spoke to that:
"You’ve probably heard the old joke about the fellow who was told, “Cheer up. Things could be worse.” So he said, “I did as I was told. I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse.” That in a nutshell is the message of II Timothy. The Apostle Paul, writing from a prison cell in Rome, knowing that his own death was at hand, warns his young protégé Timothy of difficult days to come. Although he never loses his faith in God, it is clear that the aged apostle was deeply concerned about the trends he saw all around him. Hard times were coming; days of stress were just around the corner. If a man was not ready, if he didn’t brace himself in advance, he might be washed away when things got really hot."
I believe that Pritchard is on to something. We, like Paul, must not lose our faith in God. However, we should be concerned about the trends that we see all around us in our culture. And we must not be so naive as to believe that we can't ever go through the types of hardships such as they experienced in the first century, or that many are going through in the world today. Further, let us always be on the alert for false teaching that can infiltrate the church of Jesus Christ.
But all is not lost. God is still in control. He has not abandoned His throne. Though things in this life seem to be falling apart, they are indeed falling into place. In the end God wins. That means we do too! May we continue to give praise to the Lord that, because of Him, we are on the winning team!
© 2020 Jeff Shirley