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2 Timothy 3:1-5
A BIBLICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE LAST DAYS
Intro: Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Apostle John penned the following prayer, when Jesus promised to return quickly, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus.", Rev. 22:20. John thought he was in the last days. Paul expected that he would be alive when Jesus returned to this world, 1 Thes. 4:13-17. Twice in that passage the Apostle uses the phrase, "we which are alive and remain." He believed that he was in the last days too. Simon Peter, in 2 Peter 3:12, tells us that he is "looking" for that day himself. The word "looking" is in the present tense. Peter believed that he was living in the last days!
Many of us believe that we are living in the last days as well. But, if these great men of God were wrong in their day, is it possible that we are wrong in our day as well? One thing is for sure, no one knows for certain when the Lord Jesus will return to the earth, Matt. 24:36. Another thing that is certain is the fact that we are 2,000 years closer tonight than they were then.
While we cannot, with pinpoint accuracy, tell when the Lord will return to this world, we are told what the last days will be like. These verses give us the clearest portrait of all when it comes to accurately portraying the spiritual and social climate of the last days. Are We Living In The Last Days? Well, let's examine the evidence given in these verses this evening and address that very question.
are three identifying marks mentioned in these verses that will let
us know whether or not we are in the last days. Are we living in the
last days? Let's find out. Let’s look together at
A Biblical Description Of The Last Days.
I. v. 1 THE CLIMATE OF THE LAST DAYS
A. They Are Dangerous Days - Paul describes the last days as "perilous times". The word perilous means, "difficult, troublesome, trying, uneasy, hard, violent, threatening and dangerous." While these characteristics have marked all time periods of history to some extent, they are to be intensified in the last days.
I think it is safe to say that we can describe our own times as "perilous". What we are seeing all around us is a society on the brink of collapse! This is proven by the 18 characteristics of the last days presented by Paul in verses 2-4. You see, we are living in an age when it is dangerous for men to live for God. Those who practice righteousness are called intolerant, bigoted, narrowminded, anti-social and are labeled dangerous. While those who practice deviant, sinful lifestyles are praised and labeled heroes by society. These are indeed very dangerous days!
B. They Are Determined Days - We may wonder why days such as these might factor into God's plan for the world. While God is not the author of evil, He has determined to abandon sinful man to his choice of a life of wickedness. This is an effort to expose man's sinfulness and his wretched condition. The condition of humanity and society in the last days is absolute proof that man, left to himself, will ruin everything he touches!
Regardless of how we may want society to improve, we will continue to see it slide into decay. We may be able to stem the tide and advance of sin in isolated pockets, but for the most part, conditions around us will continue to deteriorate until Jesus Christ returns to this world to rule in righteousness and power. You see, natural man, instead of getting better spiritually, is actually growing more and more wicked, Eph. 4:22. Daniel 12:10 tells us that "the wicked shall do wickedly." As we shall see in a few moments, the spread of evil is not just in the world, but it is also true in religious circles!
II. v. 2-5a THE CHARACTERS OF THE LAST DAYS
A. Their Deeds - In these 3 verses, Paul describes the kind of people who will live during the last days. He tells us how they will think and how they will live. One need only read these verses and cross reference them with the newspaper, the evening news and life all around to see that we are surrounded by those who fulfil these characteristics to a tee. Let's take a few minutes to walk through this list of attitudes and actions that will mark those living in the last days. Then you tell me if we are in the last days or not!
1. Lovers of Self – Selfish, intent on one's on interests – Phil 2:3. Nothing is more important to some people than themself. These people feel as if the world revolves around them and them alone. They are literally setting themselves up as their own little god! When love for self is elevated, love for God and all other things is lowered! (Ill. The trend in the modern church toward self-esteem, self-worth and a positive self-image. All concepts borrowed from modern, secular psychology! God wants to “Take the steam out of self!”)
(Note: Every one of these characteristics Paul names is a result of being a “lover of self”. When a person is number one to himself, when he, himself is the be all and end all of his existence, then we should not be surprised at the depths of evil of which he is capable! Keep that in mind as we study these terms. The people who do these things are merely in love with themselves!)
2. Covetous – Lovers of money – Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 6:10 (Ill. 1 John 2:15) (Ill. God's plan is that we worship God, love other people and use things. When our priorities become skewed, we start to worship ourselves, ignore God, love things and use other people. This is the formula for defeat in life.)
3. Boasters – Empty pretenders Ill. Windbags! Brag about what they have and have done! Set themselves up as the be all and end all of other people's lives!
4. Proud – An over estimate of one's worth – Pro. 16:18. (Ill. Nothing but sinners saved by pure grace! – Ill. Paul – 1 Cor.15:10) Ill. Men would do well to remember the counsel of Romans 12:3, "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." (Ill. We are nothing without Him - John 15:5.)
5. Blasphemers – Given to defiant and bitter words. These are they who speak evil of God, His children and His work! Have you considered the rise in cursing in our day? Why is this true? Because men have lost all respect for God, themselves and their fellow man. They think nothing of using their tongues to speak evil against everyone and everything.
6. Disobedient To Parents – This rejection of Christian values reaches into the home. Eph. 6:1-3 (Ill. Discipline has gone out the window!) If children will not respect and obey their parents, who will they respect? If there is no obedience, respect and loyalty in the home, why should we expect to find it in society?
7. Unthankful – No sense of gratitude for anything they possess. Whether it came from man or God – 1 Thes. 5:18. Our society is marked by this kind of unsettled, unthankfulness. People complain about everything and everyone. Yet, God's Word teaches us that we should be a thankful people, Col. 3:15.
8. Unholy – Wicked – this word means profane. This is state of heart when men lose all regard for decency and shame. People are governed by their passions and they are blind to modesty, decency, purity and righteousness! (Ill. Think of the common use of sexuality to sell products.) (Ill. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake at Superbowl XXXVIII) Think of the flaunting of wickedness and evil that is so rampant in our society. Men will increase in wickedness as the end approaches. Ill. This trend is becoming more and more evident! (Ill. The bottom line is that men will hold nothing as being sacred anymore! Are we there yet?)
9. Without Natural Affection – Describes a breakdown of the family. There is a loss in love for those we ought to love the dearest. (Ill. Abandonment, abuse, abortion, infidelity, etc.) All natural loves will be lost in the desire to fulfil the basest and most perverted of human excesses.
10. Trucebreakers – This refers to those who will not keep their promises. A man's word is no longer his bond! It also speaks to people who will not try to agree. This is a picture of those who are unyielding and must, at all costs, have their own way. (Ill. Very prevalent in the church!)
11. False Accusers – Slanderers. These people do everything in their power to destroy the good name and reputation of another. By the way, this word is the same word from which we get the word "devil". In other words, the devil is a slanderer, and those who engage in destroying the good name of another person are guilty of engaging the devil's work!
12. Incontinent – Without self-control or the ability to discipline one's life. "If it feels good, do it! Why should I deny myself the little pleasures of life?" (Ill. Many lost people careen through life like a driver less car!) Such is the motto and mission of modern society! However, the Word of God has a different take on the situation, 1 Cor. 6:12, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."
13. Fierce – untamed, savage, brutal – People will be controlled by their baser instincts. We are seeing a trend in this direction in our society. Men are literally living like wild animals! (Ill. The death of Carlie Brucia in Florida this week, 2/7/04)
14. Despisers Of Those That Are Good – In a world where good is evil and evil is good, those who stand for right are a slap in the face of the evil doer. Therefore, those who take a stand along Biblical lines are apt to be persecuted and hated. Why do you think the worldly crowd wants the 10 Commandments taken down from court room and school house walls? Why do you think they don't want prayer at school functions? Why do you think that the world is so against the Word of God being preached in a public forum?
15. Traitors – People who betray others and break friendship just to get their way. These people will lie, cheat, steal and crush anyone who dares get in their way. Basically, people will possess no loyalty except to themselves! (Ill. Just watch the presidential race unfold!)
16. Heady – Reckless, rash, acting without reasonable thought. This is a lifestyle that does as it pleases without regard for the consequences. Speaks of those involved in activities of a foolish nature.
17. High-minded – Those who are puffed up with a false sense of their own self-importance. People who think they are better than what they are. These people feel that they have no need for God or others. They are all they need!
18. Lovers Of Pleasure More Than Lovers Of God – Those who love the pleasures of the world more than God. (Ill. Ours is a pleasure mad society. In 1998, Americans spent 6.68 billion on films; 13.7 billion on music; 6.3 billion on video games and bought 1.04 billion books.)
B. Their Deception - Paul tells us that these the population of the last days will be characterized by wickedness and evil, but that they will be a religious people! We are seeing this trend in our society. While morality continues to decline, 94% of Americans claim to believe in God. Over 70% claim that they have had a "born again" experience. There is a glut of churches in our society. One doesn't have to travel very far to find a church that embraces any doctrinal slant you want to believe. We are running over with religion in America!
Paul says that these people will have a "form of godliness." The word "form" means a "semblance." in other words, they will claim to be good and decent people, but their claim is false! Their problem is the fact that they have a desperately wicked heart. The way they live proves that their claim of faith is false.
C. Their Denial - You see, Paul says that people in the last days will be religious and they will have that appearance of godliness. In other words, they will go to church and talk the language of the church. And, friends, whether you know it or not, we are living in a day when people are considered spiritual, saved and heaven bound if they are a member of a church! But, Paul says, while they possess the form of godliness, they deny the power thereof. What does he mean? Simply put, a relationship with Jesus Christ is a vital, life altering relationship. No man can meet Jesus and remain the same, 2 Cor. 5:17. If a person claims to be right with God and still manifests all the characteristics of a lost person, then that person is still in sin! Of course, we know that all people sin from time to time, even the redeemed 1 John 1:8-10. However, those who are genuinely converted cannot wallow in their sins, 1 John 3:9.
The last days will be characterized by people who want the security of a relationship with God, but who refuse to have Him rule their lives. They want a god of their own creation and blatantly reject the cross and its life changing message! What is the bottom line? The world will be filled up with people who are religious but lost. There will be an increase in powerless, Christ-less religion. Religion that cannot save, cannot change and cannot satisfy. Whether you can see it or not, we are in those days right now!
III. v. 5b THE COUNSEL FOR THE LAST DAYS
(Ill. I think it is clear that we are in the last days. Since that is true, what are you and I to be doing? Paul did not leave us without sound counsel in this matter.)
A. We Are Counseled To Isolate - He says "from such turn away." Before we can turn away from them, we must first identify them. This involves us doing something that has become quite distasteful to the modern church. To isolate those who are walking in sin, we must lay their lives alongside the Word of God and judge their fruits, Matt. 7:20. While we cannot judge a person's eternal destiny and are commanded to refrain from doing such, Matt. 7:1-2, we can look at a person's life and see whether or not they are the kind of people who will build us up or tear us down, 1 Cor. 15:33.
B. We Are Counseled To Insulate - When a man, by his fruits, proves himself to be a child of the devil, what are we to do? Well obviously, we are to pray for him and try to reach him for Jesus, but we are also to separate ourselves from him and his works, 2 Cor. 6:17; Rom. 17:17; Phil. 3:14-15.
You see, we are supposed to be very selective with whom we associate as individuals and as a church! There comes a time when, because of sin and wickedness, we must cut ties and walk apart from evil! The word "turn" in verse 5 means "to shun and to avoid." That sounds harsh, but it is the path to power! It's hard to think about, but it is biblical! If we refuse, we will forfeit the power and presence of God!
Conc: Are we in the last days? Well, all the signs seem to indicate that we are. If that is the case, then what do we need to do? First, as individuals we need to get every nook and cranny of our lives cleaned up and separated unto the Lord. Secondly, as a church, we need to be sure that get ourselves totally separated from every worldly influence and that we stay separated unto the Lord. We are in the last days, and if we are not careful,we will be sucked into the mentality that dominates our society. If we are, we will lose our power and we can count on God writing "Ichabod" across our door!
Let me close with this quote from Charles Spurgeon. May his goal become ours! "Complicity with error will take from the best of men the power to enter any successful protest against it. ** It is our solemn conviction that where there can be no real spiritual communion there should be no pretense of fellowship. Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin. As soon as I saw, or thought I saw, that error had become firmly established, I did not deliberate, but quitted the body at once. Since then my counsel has been "Come out from among them." I have felt that no protest could be equal to that of distinct separation from known evil. That I might not stultify my testimony I have cut myself clear of those who err from the faith, and even from those who associate with them. Cost what it may to separate ourselves from those who separate themselves from the truth of God is not alone our liberty but our duty."