Survival Guide for the Last Days
One of the more common teaching errors in the American church today is that the “Last Days” is a period of time in the future. Usually it is identified with a seven year tribulation to occur immediately before the second coming of Christ. This is neither the text nor the time to preach on the Great Tribulation, but this text is definitely the text to teach that the Last Days in not limited to a seven year period at the very end of the age. We know this because of Acts 2:17.
From this text we learn that the Last Days began either on the day of Pentecost or forty days prior to Pentecost at the resurrection of Christ Jesus. Either way the application to us is this—WE ARE LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS! This surprises many Christians, but once we understand this truth many of the difficulties in the Christian life begin to make sense. For example: the trials and tribulations we suffer or the demonic oppression and the human opposition. All these things are not isolated events, but rather part and parcel of the days we live in! Consequently, if we are to survive in these days, we need to understand the dangers we face. Let’s begin reading at verse 1.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
The first imperative we find in this chapter is a command to understand that the times we live in will be filled with difficulties. The first key to survival in the last days is to...
Understand the Dangers You Face
Understand the Dangers You Face
When we read over this list of vices in chapter 3, we should not think that Paul is teaching that we should expect any one individual to exhibit all these vices at once, but rather that these vices characterized the ungodliness of our world. An honest evaluation of our own day, in fact the whole of human history, shows us that these vices do in fact characterized fallen human society.
What makes the danger we are facing particularly dangerous are two things:
We ARE living in the “last days” in which Christ has inaugurated his Kingdom, consequently the kingdom of Satan is fighting back for all it’s worth. It has been said that the most dangerous animal is a dying wounded animal. Jesus Christ has delivered the fatal blow to the Beast and he and his forces are attempting to take as many down with them as they can!
The church has been infiltrated by those who Paul says “have the appearance of godliness, but deny its power.” In other words, in the church there are false teachers and false Christians. Satan attacks like a “roaring lion,” but comes to us as an “angel in light.”
As for the first danger, we only had to be reminded of the warnings Jesus gave us. For example:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
What Jesus is telling us is that true godliness is so alien to the spirit of this world that conflict is sure to happen, even within our own families. In verse 12 of our text Paul states it like this:
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
This comes as a shock to many people, we naturally assume that if we are a good, godly person, people will respond to us positively but this is not the case. If you truly love God and your neighbor, your unconverted neighbor will hate you! This is why we are taught by Jesus to love our enemies—the whole world has made Christ their enemy and when we join ourselves to Christ they make themselves our enemies as well.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
Now there is a type of “godliness” the world is perfectly comfortable with—hypocritical godliness. This is the type of “goodness” Paul speaks of in verse 5.
having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Today, ungodliness is very brazen and it is tempting to look back on the past and think those days were not a part of the “last days.” However, as verse 5 reminds us, looks can be deceiving. Without a doubt the West was much more Christianized in the past and without a doubt there were many more true Christians, but let us not be deceived. The majority of those who professed Christ were not of Christ—religion was a facade, that covered up a whole host of evils.
There was probably no period of English history more impacted by true religion than the Puritan era, but as we have been learning in our adult Sunday School class as we are studying The Pilgrim's Progress, every true Pilgrim must walk through Vanity Fair and have to abide by the company of false Christians like Mr. Talkative and Mr. By-means on the journey to the Celestial City. The Christian life is as Bunyan warns us again and again in his allegory—a Dangerous Journey.
That is why Paul urges Timothy to follow the Right Guide in his journey.
Follow the Right Guide
Follow the Right Guide
We find this second imperative at the end of verse 5:
having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.
In these 7 verses Paul is contrasting false teachers with true teachers. The false teachers are the hypocrites we looked at earlier. Paul likens them to the two Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Jambres, who opposed Moses. If you recall from the story of the Exodus, these two men were able for a time to stand toe to toe with Aaron. By the power of the devil they were able to work mighty miracles, but in the end they were proven false. This should warn us not to place too much weight on external signs. Jesus gives us the true standard to judge true believers from false believers—the fruits of godliness.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Let me read from verses 10-11 again and this time notice how Paul points to his fruit.
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.
A person’s true character shows itself in the face of persecution and suffering. This is why “health, wealth, and prosperity” teachers are so transparently false. Jesus promises us a cross of persecution, not a rose bed of comfort in this life!
How does one cultivate the fruit of godliness and in faith willingly embraces persecution and suffering? By equipping ourselves with the Word of God.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
So we see the final imperative Paul gives us is to...
Equip Yourself by Scripture
Equip Yourself by Scripture
In a survival situation nothing is more important than having the right equipment. In the survival shows on T.V. such as Man vs Wild or Duel Survivor, they always give the survival experts so equipment. This is because even the “experts” would have a difficult time surviving with nothing at all.
Thankfully, God has not provide his people with the very best equipment—the Word of God! Scripture is like a Swiss Army knife, it is one tool that can do many things. Four things Paul highlights in these verses.
Scripture teaches us all we need to know for life and godliness. We don’t have to go to other sources to “supplement” it’s teaching. This is what the Reformation debate over Scripture vs. tradition was all about. The Roman Church insists that Scripture is not sufficient, that some of the Apostles’ teaching is preserved in tradition that only the Pope can fully teach authoritatively. One only has to read church history to see that this “tradition” changed from pope to pope, from council to council. The only bedrock of authority we can trust in the sacred writings of Scripture.
Scripture reproves us when we are in error. Reading, hearing and studying Scripture has an amazing ability to shed light on the darkest corners of our lives. We all have some hypocrisy in us. The difference between a true believer and a false believer is this—the false believer will make an excuse for their sin, the true believer will repent of that sin. Christians are not sinless, it is their repentance of sin that makes them different from the world.
Scripture corrects us. In other words, it does not just turn us to repentance, it points us in the right direction. It is like a compass. In a survival situation there are few items more prized than a compass. With a compass you can quickly get yourself out of a survival situation! Rather than eating wood grubs with Bear Grylls, you can be eating a steak dinner with your wife!
Scripture trains us in the art of godliness. Godliness is something that takes time and practice. It is not just about knowing the right things, but practicing the right things. The Word of God is only helpful to us if we are practicing what it teachings. James, the Lord’s brother, reminds us of this when he writes:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
This was the problem with Mr. Talkative in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim's Progress, he loved to talk of religion and makes a great show of his knowledge of Scripture, but in everyday life he did not practice it.
What about you? Will you allow Scripture to teach, reprove, correct and train you today. You see this day is not just any other day—this day is a part of the Last Days. Through the beguiling deception of false religion your enemy the Devil is attempting to destroy you. We all have sin in our lives that we have been hiding and making excuse for. John Calvin reminds us of this when he wrote:
"Even if we were carefully to examine just one minute of our lives, we would find ourselves worthy of eternal death. Indeed, each one of us would discover ourselves to be sinners, not in just one area but a hundred thousand; not due to some one fault but to countless millions.”
Will you by the power of the Spirit and the Word of God put to death sin and so survive or will you perish in the Wilderness of these Last Days? Let us pray...