But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty2 Timothy 3:1
In Paul’s last letter before his death, he wrote these words to his “child in the faith” who was to continue his ministry:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (2 Tim. 3:1-5, emphasis mine).
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:12-15, emphasis mine).
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:3-5, emphasis mine).
“Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica … Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it” (2 Tim. 4:10a,14-17, emphasis mine).
There are some things I want you to notice here: First, “understand,” as Paul emphasized to Timothy, wanting Timothy to “take note” of what he was about to write: In the “last days”, which Paul was living a preview of in the first century. For I am convinced that what happened in that first century of Christ’s advent on earth is a small picture of what it is going to be like in the entire world in the “last” of the last days. So, times of difficulty are here already in various places and for various individuals who are being affected by those described as “lovers of self.” Are you affected by “lovers of self”? Also, notice that these lovers of self will exchange loving God for loving pleasure, and they will have a form of godliness. This is IMPORTANT to see here: in the context of this letter, Paul is NOT talking about unbelievers. He is talking about Christians. How do I know? Because He is exhorting Timothy to “not” be like them by saying, “as for you” which I underlined in the text. Plus, non-believers (scripturally) never exchanged loving God for loving pleasure since they can only “love God” through Christ. So, Paul says “avoid” these people.
Next, these “Christians” will leave sound doctrine because they cannot tolerate the truth. They are tired of the message of the pure Word of God, so they go find those who will compromise regarding the Holy Scriptures. They want “watered-down” doctrine and possibly they will exchange it for entertainment and experience alone? Notice how Paul says they will “turn away from listening to the truth” this means they “were” following the truth at one time. And again, Paul says, “as for you” in other words, “do not compromise like them, Timothy!” Yet, to remain faithful to Christ in the last days will mean persecution. Also notice the name Demas, who, in a different letter from Paul (Col. 4:14) was still “following” Jesus. But in these last days, Demas has exchanged the love of God for the love of the world. I might call this “leaving” your salvation?
I could break all this down more, but for the sake of length, and because what I really wanted you to see when you read the last letter to Timothy is that in the “last days” (which we are in) this is what the Church or Christian’s will look like increasingly, due to the influence of evil and culture (the World) creeping into the Church, unnoticed by most. How then do we ourselves avoid being deceived? Paul is clear on this point. He says, “be sober-minded (stay awake, discern truth from error) hold to correct doctrine at all costs (do not compromise regarding the Word of God at any point regarding New Covenant truths). Paul puts it this way in 2 Thessalonians 2:10, that those who are deceived are those who refused to love the truth! So, if you are honoring the Word of God (the Bible) as the Word of God that it is, and if you are honoring Christ as Lord in your heart as Holy (1 Pet. 3:15) through spending time in the Word daily and time with the Lord in prayer intimately and daily, seeking to live a pleasing life before Him, then you will guard yourself against compromise. Stand firm!