Consider these mighty verses in 2 Timothy 3:
2Ti 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3:3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 3:4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 3:6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 3:7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 3:8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. 3:9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. 3:10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 3:11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 3:14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
1. The Last Days Involve More than One Perilous Time
I sometimes need to remind myself of something Paul says in the first verse here. He writes, “In the last days perilous times shall come…” He wrote perilous times, plural, more than one perilous time, specific periods of time of great peril. The last days involve seasons of peril. There will be an ebb and flow to all the dangers to us in the last days.
We are now living in A perilous time, which could be one of a number of perilous times before the Lord returns for His church, which gives us a sense that His coming may be tonight or not for a few years. The last days will be long enough to encompass multiple periods of perilous times, multiple seasons of peril.
And because we’re looking at multiple periods of peril, it’s possible that the dynamics of each period of peril may differ from the other periods of peril. Countries that aren’t persecuting us now, may in a few short years be the worst persecutors of Christians around the globe. So while persecution may be somewhere else right now, you better gear up and stand fast, because when that next perilous time arrives, Satan’s great purge may very well come knocking on your door looking for you.
2. These Last Days are Characterized by Extreme Self-Love
Men shall be lovers of their own selves. Love of self is the first characteristic mentioned in a list of 20 characteristics of what men shall be like in the last days, and we noted also that love of self is listed first because it is the most important.
All of the 19 characteristics listed after this one are the predictable attitudes and behaviors that spring from an extreme excessive self-love. Self-love is the cause and all the other 19 characteristics are the result, because to indulge in extreme selfishness is to abandon all morality, to abandon all decency, to lose all natural affection for others, to completely disregard the happiness and rights of others, to actually hate those who do good, and to trample upon anyone who interferes with his self-interests, all done in the pursuit of the gratification of self.
The point here is – this is what we’re to overcome in order to reach people with the gospel. We have to be models of selfless love, longsuffering love, humbleness of mind in order hopefully overcome this massive global cancer of extreme self love.
I remember a couple years ago when we taught on this that I did a search on Google for “love yourself.” Back then, I got a billion results. Now there are almost 2 billion results. No one needs to learn to love themselves when they are naturally selfish. Php 2:21 “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” The sinful inclination of humanity is to love self more than God and other people.
People are trying to grow and improve themselves and their circumstances without addressing the root problem of sin itself. It’s our demonstration of selfless love that points the way to the selfless sacrifice of love accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ at the cross of Calvary.
And when it comes to the idea of love of self, yes, Paul would say that we should love our neighbors as ourselves in Rom 13:9. We are to love everyone even if they are enemies to us because God has loved us when we were enemies to Him and gave His Son for us as a sacrifice for all our sins. Our love of self is wrapped up in our identification in Christ. We love who and what we are in Christ, because of what God had made us in Christ, dead, buried, and risen with His Son, all that we were in Adam now gone, literally freed from sin’s dominion, forgiven all trespasses, a new creature, an heir of God with a seat of glory in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
3. We Must Stay Focused on His Word
Just consider how brilliantly this chapter is structured. Vs. 2 – 5 is one long sentence. For men shall be… and we get the many characteristics of these deceitful men in the last days. They shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy…
But then notice how that list is contrasted in the second half of this chapter, in vs. 10-11, with the Godly example we have in Paul. He says in vs. 10, But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience… At the heart of this chapter is the great contrast between deceitful men and the Godly example we have in our apostle of grace. We have the deceitful men vs. the teacher of the truth, the ungodly vs. the Godly, the selfish vs. the selfless, the unfaithful vs. the faithful, the boasters of self vs. the one who only gloried in the Lord, the proud vs. the humble, the blasphemer vs. the proclaimer of the truth, the persecutor vs. the persecuted, the disobedient men vs. the obedient apostle, the unthankful vs. the one who rejoiced evermore, the unholy vs. the holy, the men who are without natural affection vs. the model of charity, patience and longsuffering, the men who would be incontinent, that is, without self-control vs. the disciplined apostle, who reckoned as true what God made him in Christ, dead, buried, and risen with Christ with a newness of life as a new creature, old man dead and literally freed from sin’s dominion, and he was able to bring his corrupted body of sin into subjection unto his regenerated soul.
We also have these men who are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God vs. the lover of God more than the lover of pleasure. These deceitful men have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof vs. the example of the apostle demonstrating to us true godliness and giving the glory to God alone for all his power within.
Further, we have the contrast here of these deceitful men being delivered unto the judgment of a holy God vs. the apostle of grace who was delivered by God from the judgment of corrupt men.
We have the admonition in vs. 5, “from such turn away” vs. the contrasting admonition in vs. 14, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them…”
Then we have my favorite contrast of all, the deceitful mean leading the women astray vs. the faithful women who led Timothy into the truth. We have in vs. 6 “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts” contrasted in vs. 15 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” How is it that Timothy had known the holy scriptures? Because of his faithful mother and grandmother.
And then we have in vs. 7, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” vs. what Paul writes at the end of the chapter of the value of the Word of God for those who know the truth and study the truth, His Word which is valuable in a myriad of ways and able to make us perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
There is also here the contrast in the manifestation of all the folly of these deceitful men, like Jannes and Jambres, vs. the manifestation of good works in us, like the apostle Paul. Their manifest wickedness will be evident folly when compared to the manifest holiness in our good works.
We also have a contrast here between Moses and Paul. As Moses stood up to Pharaoh and his two prime evil magicians, Jannes and Jambres, so too, Paul stood up to idol worshippers and corrupt men of his day. In both the example of Moses in the OT and the example of Paul in the NT, we have for us true heroes demonstrating the courage of faith in the face of evil.
We have the list of the characteristics of evil men in the last days contrasted with this list we just read of some of the characteristics of Paul. There is a great similarity in the structure of these two lists. Both lists showcase an increase in persecution. In the first list, we have love of self followed by increasingly violent behavior until we get to incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. In the list about Paul, it begins with “my doctrine” until we get to patience, longsuffering, and then persecution and afflictions. Paul gives us this dynamic view from both perspectives of the persecutor and the persecuted.
Do you remember the point we made about self love? We had in vs. 2 Paul writing, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves…” and we made the point that this is the first characteristic in a list of 20 characteristics of what men will be like in the last days. We said that love of self is listed first because it is the most important. All of the 19 characteristics after that one, are the inevitable, predictable behaviors that spring from an excessive self-love. Remember that? Self-love is the cause and all the other 19 characteristics are the result.
Well, we have a similar structure in this second list about the Apostle Paul starting in vs. 10. How does Paul begin this list? He begins with “my doctrine.” He begins with “my doctrine” because that is the most important characteristic on this list. All of the roughly 8 characteristics, listed after this one, are the inevitable, predictable behaviors that spring from Paul’s sound doctrines of grace. “My doctrine” is the cause, and all the other 8 characteristics are the result.
Why? Because the sound doctrines of grace will define your whole manner of life, as it did Paul’s. The sound doctrines of grace will define your purpose in life, as it did Paul’s. The sound doctrines of grace will define your faith, as it did Paul’s. The sound doctrines of grace will enable you to become longsuffering, enable you to become a model charity, exhibiting the attributes of agape love itself. The sound doctrines of grace will enable you to become patient, like Paul, and even enable you to the degree of enduring persecutions and afflictions with joy and peace.
Finally, we get the reminder of the value of Scripture. 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” 3:17 “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” We know that Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword…” What does it mean that the word of God is quick? Is it quick to convict us? Or change us? Not necessarily. Quick in the sense of quickened. Made alive. Eph_2:5 “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”. We are made alive together with Christ.
So when the writer of Hebrews says that the Bible is “quick,” he’s saying that His Word is “alive”. His Word is living. This is not the word of some dead philosopher. This is not the word of some dead saint. This is not the doctrine of some dead religion. This is the Word of the eternal, immutable, righteous, holy, living God, which means it is alive, because it has HIS LIFE in it. His Word is power to us, because it’s capable of transforming our lives into the very image of Christ who is the image of God’s glory.
God wants us to know all the things that He’s freely given to us and what He has made us in Christ, because He empowers us when we gain that spiritual knowledge (by rightly dividing the Word of truth). The Holy Spirit energizes us with those truths. He renews our minds, and those grace truths become a practical reality in our lives. As we daily and diligently take in His Word of grace,we build up that edifice of grace doctrines in our souls. When Grace is understood, it works in us, it takes root in us, it builds us up in Him, it establishes us in the faith, and it transforms us into the Image of Christ to will and do of His good pleasure.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit that produces holiness in us. He sustains and fortifies the inner man. He writes Christ onto our hearts. He produces life inside of us, a never-ending newness of life, the life of Christ Jesus built-up in our souls. He produces a sound mind. He produces peace in our hearts and holiness in our walks. This is a genuine relationship with a living, holy, loving God through the study of His Word, through prayer, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We have God’s life growing within us and flowing out of us so the lost may see in us the love we see in Christ.
4. Paul Tried to Change Lives, Not the System
2Ti 4:16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 4:17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 4:18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Paul wasn’t delivered in a literal sense as Daniel was literally delivered from the lion’s den. He was not physically delivered from his execution. He was spiritually delivered through Satan’s persecution that led to his death and the Lord preserved his soul by faithfully carrying out all of his promises about eternal life and He preserved his soul unto his heavenly kingdom.
He said that the Lord stood with him and strengthened him – to what end? “…that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear”. The Lord stood with Paul not simply so he wouldn’t feel alone, but He was there to give him the strength and courage he needed to share the gospel to the very men who had outlawed the gospel.
We know that Paul was a scholar in every sense of the word. He would certainly have been familiar with the history of Rome. The system under which we live, this Constitutional Republic, is a system about which Paul was already familiar because that system had existed before Christ was born. The way America was founded would not have been something new to Paul, because the model for our system had already existed in Rome.
And yet, Paul never told Rome they needed reforms. He never told Rome they needed to go back to a Constitutional Republic. What did Paul do? He kept everything in its proper spiritual perspective. He stayed focused on the gospel.
Regardless of the system, there will always be corruption while we’re living in a sin-cursed world. The solution isn’t a new system. The solution is a new man. And the bigger point is that to get wrapped up in politics is to get lost in the weeds. The big picture is not the politics. The bigger picture is the gospel of grace and God’s eternal purpose to glorify His Son by the church for all eternity.
So rather than changing the system, Paul was focused on changing the people through the gospel. Rather than being upset about a lost Constitutional Republic, Paul was more upset about losing souls to an eternity of suffering in a Lake of Fire.
What was more important in Paul’s day? Reforming an empire that’ll only last another 400 years or saving souls who’ll be with Christ for all eternity? What was the bigger picture? Helping to make changes to a temporary system of government or helping people receive the free gift of eternal life? What’s better? Temporary earthly benefits or eternal rewards while reigning with Christ? We have to look at Paul here and ask ourselves, “Are we keeping everything in its proper spiritual context? Are we keeping ourselves focused on the big picture of God’s eternal purpose?”
5. We Must Remember our Marching Orders
What did Paul tell us to do in the last days of grace? 2Ti 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 4:3 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; 4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 4:5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
Now you might remember how Paul told us in 2 Tim. 3:1 that he wants us to This know also, and we might ask the question, “Why are we to know these things?” Because the Lord wants us to be prepared for what is to come, and He wants us to know what to do when those days arrive, and I think we all agree that those days are already here.
This means that when all that is prophesied by Paul here has come to pass, and when things are as bad as we’re told they will be, the Lord will not have us go underground and be silent. Even when it would seem that all the world refuses to listen to us, we do not ever stop giving the gospel. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself would have us all remain vigilant with feet swift to share the gospel of peace, to be like Moses and Paul embodying the courage of faith in the face of evil no matter the cost.
What we’re given here in chapter 4 is the great big picture application to the great big picture view of chapter 3 about the perilous last days of grace. We are to Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. We are to be alert, to watch… in all things, to endure afflictions, to do the work of an evangelist, and to make full proof of all our ministries.
At the end of chapter 3, we’re given a preview of the application to come in chapter 4. Paul writes 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. And what are we to do? 3:14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them…
No matter the circumstances, we never stop living the grace life. We never stop endeavoring to live our lives according to all the things that our apostle of grace had assured us about everything we have and everything we are in Christ, celebrating with joy evermore the reign and the riches of His grace no matter how dark the days become.
In chapter 4, Paul tells us that we are to always do the work of ministry even when all the world, including Christendom and some in the grace movement, will refuse to tolerate sound doctrine. We keep moving forward. We keep walking by faith. We keep going. We are to never stop sharing the gospel to a lost and dying world and helping to bring people into the knowledge of the truth, the sound doctrines of grace.
We never give up. We never give in. We always stand firm, stand fast, and stand tall. We are to always be ready to share the Word, being instant in season and out of season. In the face of real dangers in perilous times of the last days of grace, in the face of real afflictions, we are to always do the work of an evangelist and make full proof of our ministries. Php 1:29 “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…”
There is a lot of benefit to us when we suffer, and there certainly are tons of benefits. Tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope. Suffering is an opportunity to draw close to God in the fellowship of His sufferings, enduring the kinds of hatred Christ endured, to draw on Him for strength, to experience the manifestation of His power in our weakness, trusting in His hope, and also the chance for us glorify Christ and His work in us and the fact that He will preserve our souls unto His Heavenly kingdom. But notice what Paul said here. “…but also to suffer for his sake…” Suffering is not something we go through for our sake. Suffering is something we go through for His sake. For His benefit. For His cause. We suffer for the sake of His will. To what end? To reach the lost and the dying with His offer of that free gift of eternal life. When we suffer it’s not about us. It’s about Him.