Storm Warning

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1).         


        2 Timothy 3:1-5 gives us a prophetic view and warning concerning the end of the church age. God’s “storm warnings” are even more serious than those of the National Weather Service, which means that when we read one, we should pay attention and take action. To parallel the words of the Weather Service, “a perilous times watch means that conditions are favorable for spiritual departure, error and evil in and near the watch area. Persons in these areas should be on the lookout for threatening spiritual conditions and consult the Scriptures for further statements and warnings.” There is a further statement and warning in 2 Timothy 3:13, where we learn that things are not getting better. “In the last days evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived”.

        In verse 1 we have the warning. “This know also,” says the Apostle under divine inspiration. This is not a guess or a prediction, but a clear statement of fact about things that will certainly come to pass. When?  “In the last days,” we are told. The word is “eschatos” and means “extreme,” uttermost,” (Acts 1:8)  or “last in time.” The end of the present age is clearly in mind. There are many warnings in the New Testament about the last days. Do we know them, and do we take them seriously? Here we are clearly told of the danger, “perilous times will come.”  That word “perilous” comes from a word translated “fierce” in Matthew 8:28.  It means difficult, hard to bear. Why will the times be difficult and hard to bear? Because “conditions are favorable for spiritual departure, error and evil in and near the watch area.” What is the watch area? Keep reading. But the warning given in verse 1 ought to wake us up and put us all on the alert. The storm is coming and has destructive power.

        In verse 2-5a we have the description of the conditions. Eighteen dangerous and destructive conditions are described in verses 2-4. These conditions begin with misplaced love. Instead of loving His appearing (4:8), “men shall be lovers of their own selves.” In some ways it is the parent sin that begets the others. Yet today self love is not only taught in the world, but also in the churches, thanks to so-called “Christian psychology.” Surely as Paul penned these words he was impressed by the coming change. In Romans 7:18 he stated clearly, “for I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.”  In Luke 9:23 the Lord demanded that His followers deny self daily. Self-love and self-will have no place in God’s kingdom. The next word in the description is “covetous,” which is literally “lovers of silver” and thus “lovers of money.” 1 Timothy 6:10 says the love of money is the root of all evil. Yet and the things it can buy are powerful forces today. Materialism abounds, yet materialists are blind; they think the warnings about the rich and their riches are for someone who has more money than they do!  Someone said that on the U.S. dollar bill the words “in God we trust” should be changed to “in this god we trust,” and he was probably right. Love of self and love of money are evil and destructive. We continue reading and the description doesn’t get any better, “boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection [another misplaced love], trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent [unsubdued passions], fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”  That last phrase could be translated, “lovers of pleasures instead of lovers of God,” and that is exactly the idea. It is another misplaced love. Something unworthy of love has displaced, expelled and choked out the love of God, which is the first and greatest commandment. To know Him is to love Him, but who has time or interest? Today people love music, sports, food, adventure, television, movies, novels and a thousand other things. All kinds of pleasures are loved, and God is not loved. As we read verses 2-4 we sense the dark storm clouds gathering and the wind increasing. Trouble is coming, but where? What is the watch area?

        We get that information when we read the first part of verse 5. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” The people whose behavior verses 2-4 describe are not people of the world, but people of the church.  They have a form of godliness, outwardly speaking. They call themselves Christians and profess to know God. But in works they deny him (Titus 1:16). They have no spiritual power, no victory over sin, no godly life of loving devotion to the Lord. They are powerless, like a car without an engine, they are empty on the inside. Those terrible, sinful, destructive conditions described in verses 2-4  have always been in the world since the early chapters of Genesis. They are the same old sins as always, we might say. Romans 1 speaks of them, too, and gives an even longer list. But the difference is that in the last days these sins and these sinful people will infiltrate the church. The barriers of separation, a forgotten word among evangelicals, are not only down, they are gone! That is why the times are perilous, difficult to bear, because the watch area is the church. In bygone times, when a person’s behavior fit that of verses 2-4 it was clear that he was not a Christian. Today people don’t think so clearly. Falsely professing Christians fill churches and throng to “Christian concerts” to enjoy the entertainment provided. It’s the age of the consumer oriented church, and if you want to be big (which in America equals success), you have to give people what they want. Ask the marketing strategists or the church growth experts. But if people attend for such selfish reasons, and if all you have to do is “raise your hand,” or “pray a prayer” to be saved, we know the why of these conditions. There has been no preaching of the Gospel, no declaration of sin, no conviction, no waking up to flee the wrath to come, no repentance, no faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, hence, no salvation.  What we see today looks nothing like the apostolic church of New Testament Christianity, yet everyone is happy. The last days and perilous times are here. The world has infiltrated the church and it is difficult to tell the difference between the two! In fact, many people in churches have never seen conditions of holiness and separation. They were “born” in a church where the world was already in, and these terrible conditions look completely normal to them.  Perilous times indeed, times of confusion and lack of discernment!  “Conditions are favorable for spiritual departure, error and evil in and near the watch area,” the potential for damage is great, and the watch area is the church! What should we do?

        In verse 5b we have the instructions. When people know there is a storm coming, they devote all the time they can to preparing, boarding up windows, stocking up on supplies and sometimes evacuating the area of trouble. Our Lord said, “for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8). We have been given a warning, and our instructions are succinct and clear, not complicated and technical. They say, “from such turn away.” We might say, “get out of harm’s way.” These are apostolic instructions, and more, they are divine instructions! The idea is to avoid these kinds of people described in verse 2-4.  We know how to avoid a mud-puddle, avoid a hole in the road, avoid a disagreeable person, and we ought to be more diligent to avoid these. We are not to have fellowship with such people. There must be separation, at the personal level and at the assembly level. Elders need to heed the Word, missionaries need to heed the Word, and likewise every individual believer. Yet many hesitate to do what the exhortation says. Maybe friends or family are involved. Maybe they are afraid of being called names or not being invited in certain circles. Our love for the Lord and His Word should eclipse all other concerns. The only way to avoid contamination and damage is to avoid the people described in our text. Remember, we are not talking about having no contact with those in the world who know they are unsaved and live like it. We should reach out to them and witness to them, not on their terms, but on God’s. The exhortation to avoid means to have no fellowship with those who call themselves Christians, “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” We cannot walk with them because we are not in agreement (Amos 3:3).

        But there is something else to do besides “turn away.” Verse 14 says, “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.”  The key word here is “continue.”  Keep on, don’t change, persevere. Timothy had been taught by the Apostle Paul, and he was to remain faithful to what he had been taught. We need to be sure that what we have learned is apostolic doctrine, not men’s ideas, marketing techniques, etc. May we each be faithful to the teaching of the New Testament. May we heed the warnings and be diligent in responding to the exhortations, and be more concerned about obeying the Lord than about pleasing men or maintaining the status quo. We should remember that men like Paul gave us those instructions, and that these “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” A terrible storm of worldliness and false profession is breaking on the churches. May the Lord help us to heed the Scriptural warnings and instructions, and may He save us from such spiritual damage and loss.

Carl Knott

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