This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their selves, covetous, boasters, proud,
blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection,
trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors,
heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness,
but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 2 Timothy 3:1-5, KJV
The twin letters to Timothy and the single letter to Titus are typically identified in the New Testament as pastoral letters since he wrote to young pastors; they contained sage pastoral advice for shepherding in the house of God. But the twin letters to Timothy, though branded pastoral, are also prophetic. They contain prophecies regarding the last days. For example, in I Timothy 4, we read this prophetic description of the later times:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith
by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and
require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe
and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received
with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
This text, including the previous one from II Timothy 3:1-5, contains insights regarding things that will occur in the last days. Regardless of how one interprets the last days, we can all agree that Paul seems to be saying that as the time of our Lord’s return draws near, things will be getting more difficult (perilous). One version says grievous times, while another says terrible. Looking at the whole of these twin letters, Paul identifies two things the Church will have to deal with in these last days. First is the promulgation of false doctrine in the Church. Therefore, it is not surprising that we have seen an increasing emergence of false teaching in the Church in recent years. Many well-known Christian leaders have recently repudiated their faith, rejecting essential doctrines of the faith such as the atonement.
But along with increased amounts of false teaching, there is another thing that Paul says will mark the last days as perilous. We should notice what Paul doesn’t say after his statement that in the last days, perilous times shall come. We would think that his reference to perilous times would be followed by such things as nuclear proliferation, the war with China, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but he doesn’t do that. Instead, he alludes to the dissolution of human character—people are getting worse as evidence of the last days. The danger of the last days is that “people shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, etc.”
In this way, they will be like those living in Paul’s day in the Roman Empire. One author commenting on the destruction of the Roman Empire said, “Rome began to face many problems that together allowed the fall of the Roman Empire. The three main problems that caused Rome to fall were invasions by barbarians, an unstable government, and pure laziness and negligence” (Three Main Reasons For the Fall of the Roman Empire, https://www.bartleby.com/essay/Three-Main-Reasons-For-The-Fall-Of-PCBDCW266).
In other words, one of the reasons for the collapse of Rome was that it was destroyed, not from without but from moral rot from within. Someone once said that the only difference between first-century Rome and us is that CNN allows us to broadcast it worldwide in seconds. We also see an increase in moral rot everywhere we look today.
The question I seek to answer in this blog and the four to follow is, “How do we stand in times of peril and difficulty?” As always, the answer is found in the Gospel. God, through the gospel, always equips us with what we need to face whatever difficulty we are called upon to face. The Church, through the ages, can testify to this truth. No matter what problem she has had to face through the ages, God has always supplied what she has needed, not only to survive but to testify boldly to the truth.
In the following blogs, I want to point out four things we must personally know and experience in the last days to be sure we will be able to navigate through the difficult times ahead. Many other things could be cited, but these are indispensable for perilous times. When I say we must personally know these things, I don’t mean we must merely have theological knowledge of them (though it certainly starts there). I mean, we must understand these things, so they become living realities, and they are changing us.
These four indispensable realities are sovereignty, community, humility, and prayer. I will unpack each of these in the following four blogs.