3 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 2 Timothy 1-5
It’s important to understand the gravity of what Paul is telling his disciple Timothy here. It was obvious to Paul that his time was near, and that Timothy would carry on in his footsteps in the years to come. These were Paul’s final instructions. You hang on a dying man’s last words and Paul was uttering them. He’d just finished urging Timothy to be cleansed and useful for service, to be patient and kind and focused and persistent in persuading the lost to follow the Lord.
But then came a dire warning. You could just sense a deep sigh, a foreboding finger, and moist eyes. “But realize this, that in the last days difficult days will come.” Now Paul’s days had been perilous, and they were about to get worse. “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” So Timothy could expect much harder times than what he saw his mentor suffer through, if you could believe it. That must have been sobering. And Paul felt these days were imminent, likely within Timothy’s lifetime.
Times did change with emperor Nero fixating on Christians, but looking back, a couple of thousand years have elapsed since that time. Some would exclaim its always been terrible for believers! Others might still be seeing darkest days around the corner. What we learn for sure from this dire prediction is that there has to be a noticeable uptick in difficulty in the last days and that there will be last days.
The last days before what? Since Paul was “pre-trib” he was talking about the rapture. As an aside, they’ll be no one but the bad people Paul describes in the 7-year tribulation, outside of those who convert under those harsh circumstances. The restraining influence of millions of spirit-filled believers will be gone. The “restrictor plate” on evil will be removed.
In the Greek, you can make the meaning of a word opposite with an “alpha.” In Paul’s litany in verses 2-5, you have all the bad actors, and many alphas. Today with social media so pervasive we clearly see the evil in people’s souls (in this case, due to a lack of self “without self-control”). It’s an ugly window in. And seeing all the “selfies” taken and all the self-indulgences, is there any doubt that the love of self is preeminent in today’s society. And that’s just two of this cast of characters.
It’s in this context Paul commissions his son, with the prescience of a prophet to sense it will not end well. But for us it does.
The one admonition that’s apparently counter to our Christian calling is “avoid such men as these,” or keep shunning people like these. Are we to be in the world but not of it? Are we to stiff arm the unsavory sorts, or like Christ dine with them? Since Paul tells Timothy to avoid these kinds of people, I’ll err on the side of avoidance. Nevertheless, life throws us into inescapable encounters with these kinds, just like Daniel in the lion’s den.
Our objective in these interactions is to handle them as Christ did. He was a compelling magnetic figure. So should we be!