Perilous Times Predicted
2 Timothy 3:1–9
People who serve Satan may not realize what they are doing. But if they distort, oppose, twist, or deny the true gospel, they are indeed serving Satan. That is what the apostle Paul told Timothy (2 Tim. 2:26) and what the Lord Jesus Christ said of people captured by the Evil One’s subtle lies from the beginning of time (Jn. 8:44, 47).
In 2 Timothy 3:1–9, Paul impressed on his young disciple Timothy that such evil will not soon pass away. Rather, it will grow worse in the last days. These nine verses describe the conditions, conduct, and deceptive character of the men Timothy would encounter both in and outside the church. What he said applies to all Christians today and describes what we will encounter in the future.
Conditions in the Last Days
Paul wrote, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come” (v. 1). The phrase but know this commands Timothy to remember what Paul was about to say.
According to Scripture, the “last days” for the church (not Israel) began with the First Coming of Jesus the Messiah (Jn. 3:16; Heb. 1:1–2; 1 Jn. 1:1–7) and will culminate at the Rapture, when the church is caught up from Earth, meets the Lord in the air, and is transported to heaven (Jn. 14:1–31; 1 Cor. 15:51–54; 1 Th. 4:13–18). Therefore, the phrase last days does not refer to chronological time (the ticking of a clock or the days on a calendar) but, rather, to seasons or epochs of time throughout the Church Age. No prophecy must be fulfilled for the Rapture to occur. Christ’s coming is imminent.
Paul called the last days “perilous” (2 Tim. 3:1), meaning exceedingly dangerous, painful, grievous, and hard to bear. The same word was used to describe two exceedingly fierce, demon-possessed men in the Gergesenes, a small place on the Sea of Galilee across from Tiberius (Mt. 8:28). Thus, the apostle was predicting that the days before Christ returns not only will not get better but will get much worse.
In the verses that follow, Paul gave Timothy a detailed picture of what people will be like then. Although apostasy exists within the universal church today, it will grow much worse as the Church Age draws to a close prior to the Great Tribulation (2 Th. 2:3–4).
Paul provided 19 ungodly, profane characteristics people will exhibit in that time (see “19 Characteristics of People in the Last Days“) and told believers how to respond: “From such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:5). We must avoid such people and reject their lifestyles.
Charlatans in the Last Days
In 2 Timothy 3:6–7, Paul described evil teachers within the church, as well as the people who fall for their lies: “For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
In the last days, evil people will make an occupation of “creeping into households” and captivating the gullible. Notice, these women will be “loaded down with,” or steeped in, all types of sin and lust, making them easy prey. The word creep means these charlatans will use subtlety, worming their way into churches; finding unsuspecting, weak women; and using their cunning trickery and winsome personalities to convert them to their ungodly beliefs. Such women blindly surrender their wills to these false teachers and are held “captive,” unable to break away from them.
Paul said such women are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (v. 7). That is, they are open to every teacher with new ideas or theories and lack the discernment to distinguish between truth and error. In fact, the more these women learn, the more confused they become; and they never will understand God’s saving gospel in Jesus Christ.
Paul compared the corrupt character of these false teachers to Jannes and Jambres: “Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith” (v. 8). Jannes and Jambres are not mentioned in the Old Testament. It is believed the Holy Spirit led Paul to use an illustration from Jewish history to make his point. Most likely these were Egyptian magicians who used occult powers to counter Moses’ miracles when Moses appeared before Pharaoh to request the Israelites’ release from slavery (Ex. 7:11; 8:7, 18–19).
False teachers have “corrupt minds” (totally depraved) and are “disapproved,” meaning they are rejected as worthless reprobates. Their so-called truth is totally worthless. Paul made a final comment about them: “But they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was” (2 Tim. 3:9).
Although “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse” (v. 13) in their depravity in the last days, they will be stopped and exposed as frauds, as were Jannes and Jambres. In fact, their lack of understanding brought about by their own wickedness will be obvious to all, Christians and non-Christians alike.
It is evident from Scripture that we are living in the last days, and circumstances will grow even worse in the near future. Delusion and deception are everywhere; and as Christians, we must be aware of the times in which we live.