Troublesome Times Are Here
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 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. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. – 2 Timothy 3:1-9
A United States’ President has said, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” (April 30, 1863, President Lincoln’s Proclamation for a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer). Paul Harvey wisely remarked, “In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these.” Solomon would have put it this way, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). Paul commands Timothy to keep in mind that there will always be periods of perilous times in the Christian Era.
Times of Trouble
Paul begins this chapter warning, “but know this, that in the last days perilous times will come” (3:1). Many students of the Bible see the phrase “last days” and automatically envision the period of time leading up to the return of Christ. There is no need to look at the types of troubles listed in the text as signs of the end of days. Jesus clearly said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt 24:36). Premilliennial theories often color one’s view of a Biblical context to the point that the Bible student misses the message. However, the last days are making reference to the period of time from Christ’s ascension up into Heaven and His return when the earth will be no more (Acts 2:17; 2 Pet. 3:3). God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Heb 1:2). “Last days” are akin to “last hour”: “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Thus, today Christians are still living in the “last days” totally unaware as to the day or hour when the Lord shall appear.
The term “times” is not translated from the Greek word chronos which refers to chronological time, but from the plural form of kairos meaning seasons of eras or periods of time. Timothy needs to keep on being aware that troublesome seasons will come and go. Looking at the daily newspapers from around the world and listening to the news, one might conclude that the world is experiencing one of those periods of perilous times.
The Greek word for “perilous” is found only one other place in the New Testament. The term is used to refer to two demon-possessed men in the land of the Gergesenes who were “exceedingly fierce” (Matt 8:28). “Perilous times means difficult, troublesome, trying, uneasy, hard, violent, threatening, and dangerous days” (The Teacher’s Outline & Study Bible, 72).
Types of Trouble
Nineteen types of sins are mentioned which will be prevalent during these various times of trouble. “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (3:2-5a). The first one mentioned serves as a genesis for the ones that follow. The phrase “lovers of themselves” literally means self-love or affection. Selfishness results not only when men merely love themselves, but when their love for self results from a superiority complex. After all, Jesus commanded that His disciples love their neighbor’s as themselves (Matt. 22:37-39).
It naturally follows that those who love self will be “lovers of money” which is used to satisfy every desire of self. Paul used the term in the first letter to warn, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim 6:10). This is why the health-wealth gospel has become so popular with many.
Often people who have money or at least are very fond of it will become “boasters.” They will boast of their greatness to push themselves above others. They are narcissistic and often con artists who may be after your affections and devotions more than your money. They are empty frauds devoid of true virtue (Rom. 1:30).
Next come the “proud.” These of course can be found in any age of man. It is through pride of life that Satan tempted Eve to sin (Gen. 3:6). All men wish to attain a place above others and even God in their quest for superiority. Jesus warned the over-elevated Pharisees, “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:12).
There are those who will be “blasphemers.” This is often a sin of the tongue where men speak evil or ill of God or even other men. However, one can blasphemy by their actions by treating others with contempt.
No one has to look very far or very long to find those who are “disobedient to parents.” If children do not honor their parents it is highly unlikely they will show proper respect to others in authority. In the Law of Moses, disobedient and rebellious, out of control teenagers could be stoned to death. However, many parents are at fault. Mothers are at work making money instead of being available for their children. Fathers have failed to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). One of the reasons why so many children do not honor their parents is because they have become “unthankful” for all the good their parents have done. Self-centered people have a tendency to think the world owes them. They do not feel a need for gratitude. This sin effects the way they view God, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful” (Romans 1:21). This is an age where everyone demands their rights, what they feel they are entitled to, without regard to what God wants and has done from them already.
A ungrateful generation left to themselves will become more and more “unholy.” The term speaks of those who have lost all sense of the need to show moral purity but will instead flaunt their wickedness before others. MacArthur says “it is used of a person who refused to bury a dead body or who committed incest (114).”
The term “unloving” is translated by others as “without natural affection.” These men do not possess the type of love (Greek, storge) which is commonly found among family members. Natural affection would be akin to the instinctive care that animals will have for their offspring. Yet without love, babies are aborted, children are murdered or abandoned, marriage partners are cast aside.
The next word “unforgiving”, is rendered “implacable” in Romans 1:31 and also translated “trucebreakers.” The breaking of truces and the unwillingness to forgive are more appropriately the end results of this little known sinful attitude. Literally the term means “without libation.” Originally, this had reference to someone who would offer up a libation to a god or goddess as a peace offering. Those who will never accept an apology for a grievance, will not forgive a fault, dissolve their marriage due to irreconcilable differences, will never let anyone make amends, etc. Their bitterness over an affront to their pride will never let them just get over it and go on even when the opportunity is presented day in and day out.
The term “slanderers” which is also translated “malicious gossips” is translated from diabolos. The English word “devil” comes from this Greek word which means “accuser.” Satan is the accuser of men before God. This is seen in his attempts to slander the character of Job. Men are doing the work of the Devil whenever they tear down the reputation of others.
Those who are “without self-control” lack restraint in their desire for sex (1 Cor. 7:9). They are like an athlete who will not follow the rules of his training, because he lacks proper discipline (1 Cor. 9:25). They are literally “without power” over self.
Some men will become “brutal.” This is a term often applied to the fierceness of a savage beast. Violent crimes against their fellow man will result.
Although those who have a desire to become overseers must be lovers of good (1 Tit. 1:8), the wicked men of troublesome times will become “despisers of good.” Isaiah warned, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Abortion is not murder and homosexuality is not an abomination. They hate those who have natural affection and are pro-life and despise those who uphold the Divine institution of marriage between one man and one woman.
The “traitors” will seize every chance to get their own way, even if they have to sacrifice a friend in the process. This is what Judas did to Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver. Therefore the term is aptly applied to both Judas (Luke 6:16) and to the Jews who called for Christ’s crucifixion (Acts 7:5).
Anyone who rushes head long into trouble without regard for the consequences to himself and others is “headstrong” or rash. Like a motorcyclist who does stunts while driving down the interstate at the same time weaving in and out of traffic.
Although the “haughty” may be a lot like the “proud,” they are those who are conceited to the point they puff themselves up like a cloud of smoke. They may even be blinded by their own words of high-minded self praise.
As the beginning of the list of sins reflected, in troublesome times comes other types of selfish love. Some men will become “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Translated from the Greek term philedonos. This represents an affection for pleasure. And is a compound of philos (love) and hedone (pleasure). From the later comes the English words “hedonist” and “hedonism.”
The final characteristic of wicked men living in perilous times refers to those “having a form of godliness but denying its power” These are the pretenders. They have external signs of religion, worship, morality and piety. Yet, in their lives and in their hearts they lack any semblance of these. These men may have been faithful Christians but are a mere shadow of godliness without any solid substance.
Turn Away from Trouble
Next, Paul warns “and from such people turn away!” (5b). Those sins which are prevalent in the world will sooner or later overrun the local church. What is Timothy to do during times when these type of men and women invade the congregation? Church discipline seems to be in order. They must be avoided or shunned.
Targets of Trouble
Next, Paul tells Timothy why this type of troublemaker needs to be turned away from. “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” (6,7). They gain entry into households through stealth and capture the minds of women. Perhaps they are even targeting easy prey in the church: gullible (lit. silly) women. Whether Paul is referring to just a select set of women who were currently at Ephesus, such as the younger widows mentioned in 1 Timothy 5: 1-13 or giving a warning that women are often the target of such false teachers is not known. Women often make up a majority of those who follow after cult leaders such as, David Koresh. Paul also remarked that the role of women with regard to their leadership in the church and their role in the home is based on their vulnerability to deception. “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim 2:12-14). Another reason for their susceptibility is their being “loaded down with sins.” This may be a reference to their guilt. When overcome with guilt, men and women will seek out those who will tell them what they want to hear in order to ease their consciences. The next cause is the strong and irresistible appeal of strong desires of various sorts. Some think Paul is referring to unrestrained sexual lusts, but these are various or a variety of desires. Like the Athenians who always loved to hear of and learn new philosophies, these women are looking for some novel doctrine. These gullible women are not ignorant and lazy, but their efforts do not lead them to a deeper knowledge of the Truth.
Teachers of Trouble
Paul now focuses on the troublemakers found in troublesome times. “Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith” (8). He compares them to two men not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. Jannes and Jambres are mentioned in extra-biblical writings. This legend appears in Pseudo-Philo, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Talmud, Targums, Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) and Apuleius (AD 130). The Pythagorean philosopher Numenius (second century AD) also speaks of these two. Paul knew these two men to be the names of the troublemakers in Pharaoh’s court by means of inspiration of the Holy Spirit. According to Jewish legends these two were Pharaoh’s magicians who resisted Moses (Ex. 7:11; 9:11). They oppose Moses’ attempts to free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. When Aaron’s rod became a serpent, so did their rods turn into snakes. Although, Aaron’s snake ate theirs. When Moses turned the Nile into blood, they could only turn water into blood. After the plague of frogs these magicians were not able to compete with Moses. They are believed to have falsely joined with the Israelites and were the chief instigators behind the worship of the golden calf. This treachery led them to be killed with others by the loyal Levites.
Paul mentions several characteristics of these false teachers. First, they resist true men of God and the Truth. Next, they are of corrupt minds. Perhaps they were once faithful but no longer. Finally, they will be tested and exposed as the counterfeits they really are. Like Jannes and Jambres were exposed to be frauds when they resisted Moses, so will the false teachers of Timothy’s day. The term for “disapproved” is adokimos. Those testing metals would see how they react under the test of fire. They would be proven by testing to be real or counterfeit. So it was also used of testing real soldiers in combat and athletes in competition.
Termination of Trouble
As Jannes and Jambres could not keep up with imitating Moses’ miracles, so neither will these false teachers continue in their advancement in the last days. “But they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was” (9). False doctrine will make inroads into the church but will sooner or later be stopped. Truth is eternal. The lies of Satan are limited and filled with folly. All such will be brought to light when compared to the Truth. Just as many other false doctrines and counterfeit churches have become extinct so will they. Remember, the hymn, “Jesus Is Coming Soon,” begins, “Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear.” But when Christ does come again all those troublesome times will come to a final end.
– Daniel R. Vess