Thursday, 12 April 2018
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 Timothy 3:1
In the previous chapter, Paul warned Timothy of those who would “strive about words.” He said, “their message will spread like cancer.” With warnings such as this, he exhorted Timothy to be strong in the faith, avoiding things that can lead to ruin, and striving for that which is honorable. Understanding this, he now begins a section which will point to the great challenges expected as the church would develop and grow.
“But know this,” are words of surety. What he says is certain, and Timothy was to be set and prepared for it. He was to apply what he had just been instructed to his life so that he would be ready to face what lay ahead. From this, Paul then says, “that in the last days.”
This term is often used by people to claim that the church is now in the last days, as if the time that they live is seeing the fulfillment of the words. In this claim, they are implying that before their time, these things didn’t exist and that now – in their generation – they have come to pass, demonstrating that the last days are upon them. With this springboard, they have claimed that the return of Christ must be moments away.
Commentaries going back for eons have made this claim or cited others who have. However, what Paul describes here are things common to any era, and some of which are actually recorded in the epistles themselves. They are the normal state of things in any given church at any given time. As churches age, the things Paul describes arise. New churches are established to correct the errors, and things eventually devolve again. Rather than a set time which proves the Lord’s return is right around the corner, Paul’s words here speak of the entire church age. This is validated, for example, by the words of John – a contemporary of Paul –
“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” 1 John 2:18
An honest reading of 2 Timothy 3:2-9 will reveal that the things Paul will speak of are to be noted throughout the church age. It may be true that wickedness will increase towards the end of the church age, and it appears that such is coming upon the world now, but the world has been on the precipice before and stepped back. Churches have likewise. Therefore, it is best to not get caught up in sensationalist teachings concerning Paul’s coming words. With this understanding, he next says, “perilous times will come.”
This is what he will begin warning Timothy about. The word “perilous” is an adjective found only here and in Matthew 8:28 when speaking of the violent demon-possessed men of the Gergesenes. They were exceedingly fierce. Thus Paul is warning that such men will arise to cause their own trouble against the church. There will be injurious times, and so he is giving advanced warning for Timothy, and thus all, to be prepared.
Life application: Paul’s warning of this verse is to Timothy. Further, it can be inferred from his other writings that he honestly thought that the return of the Lord was not far off. He was apparently not privy to the fact that the church would last over 2000 years. With this understanding, it becomes evident that his words were a warning for Timothy to be prepared in his own life for the things which he said were coming. As noted already, it is unwise to use these verses to make sensational claims about the certainty of the return of the Lord in one’s own day.
Lord God; Precious heavenly Father, and Source of all strength and grace – grant us Your peace and joy as we face our daily struggles. The stresses we face, the trials that arise, and the conflicts which surround us… these can be debilitating and overwhelming. But from You there is an infinite supply of help, if we are willing to reach out for it. You, who sent Your own Son to redeem us, certainly care for us in our redemption. And so still our hearts and invigorate our souls with Your presence. Grant us this peace, O God. Amen.