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Know About Perilous Times

2 Timothy 3:1-7
1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
NKJV

Theme: The last days brings perilous times for Christians

Verse:

2 Timothy 3:1
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:

Teaching Comments:

We have already seen examples in this letter which suggest the presences of false teachers in Ephesus (1:15, 2:16, 23). After having explained to Timothy the correct way to teach and witness (last week’s lesson), the Apostle tells Timothy why such knowledge is necessary. “the last days perilous times will come” (v1). Paul admonishes Timothy to “know this.” 

We must understand the times we are living in. The Amplified Bible catches the full force of Paul’s warning:

1 BUT UNDERSTAND this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear].

Times of great stress and trouble sat in Timothy’s future. As we review Paul’s list of examples of actions that make the times perilous, we should note the conditions of today’s world. In many ways today’s society merely parallels conditions of the Roman Empire of Timothy’s time, which led to its downfall. On the other hand, when we consider all of the end times prophecy in Scripture, we cannot help but conclude with Paul that:

Romans 13:11-15 (NKJV)
11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

We must remember the discussion is not about the future for Timothy but about his time. While in many New Testament passages, the term “last days” refers to the end times of Messiah’s Coming (Acts 2:17; James 5:3; 2 Peter 3:3), here they clearing refer to the present time. Timothy is to “understand,” “know,” “recognize,” or “realize” this. Opposition to the truth is a permanent condition brought about by the schemes of Satan (1:8; 2:3, 11-12, 14, 16, 23, 26). It is just as “present” for us as it was for Timothy. There may be seasons of rest and little evil activity in our individual lives, but evil and Satan are always at work in the world.

What follows in these verses is a description of false teachers. Not all false teachers boast all of the traits listed, but this is a wonderful description of a false teacher. For those interested, other good general descriptions of false teachers may be found in 2 Peter 2 and Jude.

False teachers will be:

The false teachers will be self-centered, prideful, and always looking out for number 1, no matter what the circumstances or situation. This description adequately describes society today and becomes a description of almost every unsaved person you will meet. We truly are living in the “last days.”

America alone has more than 350 sects and cults, and most of them claim to base their doctrines on the Word of God. [0]

Another source stated there have been between 1,000 and 2,000 new religious movements started in the US in the twentieth century. [1]

One of the major traits of the last days will be an increase in the number of cults and false religions. Verse 5 adds this trait to the list of characteristics. The false teachers will have a “form of godliness but denying its power.” We have seen a major increase in cults in America over the past 100-150 years. There have always been false religions. Paul’s letters all point to false doctrine and false teachers. The roots of gnosticism are found in many of these letters, although the actual Gnostic religion did not form for about a 100 years after Paul’s death. Forms of Gnosticism still exist in false religions today (Christian Science is one example). 

Gnostics believe in some form of a dual system where God (spiritual things) are good and material things are evil. Thus, under a pure Gnostic system Jesus could not be God because He was material, a human! “Gnostic” comes from Greek word meaning knowledge. The Gnostic seduced people by claiming to have superior or hidden knowledge.

It is not surprising that we encounter these cults. Paul warned us of this as well.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 (NKJV)
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

We should note that Paul warned Timothy of these false teachers in his earlier letter as well.

1 Timothy 4:1-3 (NKJV)
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Paul will further describe today’s phenomena at the beginning of chapter 4.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NKJV)
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

It is interesting to note Paul’s instruction to Timothy about these false teachers who possess the form of godliness that has no power. “And from such people turn away!” (v5).

I remember hearing a reading a story about one of John’s foes in Ephesus. Cerintus was an early Gnostic. One day John and his disciples were in the bathhouse. Upon seeing Cerintus enter the bathhouse, John jumped up, grabbed his towel, and ran out of the bathhouse screaming “Let us fly, lest even the bath - house fall down, because Cerintus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” How many of us would flee from a known cultist?

This admittedly creates difficult issues for us over witnessing to the lost. False teachers are deceivers and what we would call smooth operators.  We must be very certain of our footing and careful of the circumstances whenever we enter into discussions with false teachers. 

As an example, we might well be inclined to invite some youthful Mormon missionaries into our house to “discuss” Jesus. At the same time, only the most spiritually mature might do the same to a senior elder of the Mormon church.

Paul makes this point by providing a further description of the false teachers. 

6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Many commentators make much about these verses and the cults. A study of the history of the cults will expose the fact that as many as one-half or more of these groups were started by women. The commentators use this as a springboard to expose all of the silly, gullible women of the world.  Unfortunately they lump virtually all women into this category, creating a chauvinistic world. 

Cult leaders are usually charismatic and strong willed. They play an emotional game of psychology on their members and potential members.  They play on the emotional needs of a lost society. These leaders pray on the week willed, male or female. False teachers track and attack vulnerable people. Some suggested answers on why cults flourish include:

Paul would agree this is their mode of operation. This is why it is so important that we approach all witnessing, evangelism, and teaching in a spirit of “meekness and fear.”  We need to “love” people into the Kingdom of God.


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[0] Tan, Paul Lee

In fact, Paul’s point in these verses suggests the false teachers are males who use their manly charm on spiritually weak women. These women are “seekers,” being “led away by various lusts.” They are women who fail to accept the grace of Jesus. Instead of repenting of their sins and getting on with life, they are “loaded down with sins.”  The false teachers make great use of this emotional condition. In fact, this is generally true of all cult victims.

, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, (Garland, Texas: Bible Communications, Inc.) 1996, Logos Electronic Edition.

[1] Herrick, James A, The Making of The New Spirituality, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003, 17.

 

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