2 Timothy 3:1-9-Paul Predicts There Will be Apostasy in the Last Days
The description of certain unidentified men in Second Timothy 3:1-9 is a reference to the apostate Christians and in particular the apostate pastor-teachers in the church.
This is indicated by the fact that Paul commands Timothy in Second Timothy 3:5 to avoid these men which he would never say to Timothy in relation to the non-Christian but only to the Christian who is an unrepentant apostate Christian.
In Second Timothy 3:1-9, Paul is reminding Timothy that the last days or specifically the period of time between the First and Second Advents in which the church age dispensation was inserted, would be characterized by ungodliness among Christians.
This does not mean that there would be no spiritual growth in the church or spiritual victories for the church but rather that apostasy would always be present.
Second Timothy 3:1 Indeed continue making it your habit of taking note of this, namely that dangerous circumstances interacting will exist during the last days. (My translation)
“The last days” does not refer to seventieth week of Daniel or the final days of the church age dispensation but rather it refers to the period between the First and Second Advents of Jesus Christ.
Thus, Paul is reminding Timothy that they were both living in these “last days.”
This expression refers to the entire period of time from the death and resurrection and session of Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Father to His Second Advent which ends Daniel’s seventieth week.
This is indicated by Peter in Acts 2:16-39 and by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 1:2.
They are called “the last days” because during this period of time God is completing His purposes for His people.
In fact, Paul in Second Timothy 3:1 is actually reminding Timothy of a prophecy he issued to the pastor-teachers in Ephesus which is recorded in Acts 20:28-30 which is also referred to by him in First Timothy 4:1-5.
This prophecy predicted the apostasy of many of these pastor-teachers in Ephesus.
Paul’s first letter to Timothy addressed the problem of apostasy among pastors in the church at Ephesus who were adhering to the false doctrine of the Judaizers.
Thus the prophecy in Acts 20 was already coming to fulfillment when Paul wrote First Timothy.
Now, in Second Timothy 3:1, Paul is reminding Timothy of his Spirit inspired prophecy that many of the pastors in Ephesus would go into apostasy.
Paul’s statement here in Second Timothy 3:1 would at first glance appear to indicate that the dangerous circumstances that would exist during the last days was still yet future to the time of writing this epistle to Timothy.
However, the context requires that the ungodly character traits described in Second Timothy 3:2-5 and thus the “last days” of Second Timothy 3:1 were already present in the days of Paul and Timothy.
This is indicated by Paul’s command in Second Timothy 3:5 which required that Timothy continue making it his habit of avoiding these men he describes in Second Timothy 3:2-5.
In other words, the same people he was to avoid are described in Second Timothy 3:2-5.
Secondly, in First Timothy 4:1-5 there is the same implication regarding time.
In fact, it is speaking of these same apostate pastors since it is referring back to the prophecy of Paul’s recorded in Acts 20:28-30 which predicted the future apostasy of these men.
Paul says in Second Timothy 3:1 that these dangerous circumstances interacting will exist during the last days.
The dangerous circumstances are described in Second Timothy 3:2-9 which describes the ungodly conduct of apostate Christians.
Therefore, when Paul says that these dangerous circumstances interacting will exist during the last days, he means that these ungodly apostate Christians will interact with each other creating dangerous circumstances within the church.
Second Timothy 3:1 Indeed continue making it your habit of taking note of this, namely that dangerous circumstances interacting will exist during the last days. 2 For out of selfishness, people will be characterized as self-centered, lovers of money, braggarts, arrogant, slanderous, disobedient to the detriment of their parents, ungrateful, unholy. (My translation)
The “people” Paul is referring to in Second Timothy 3:2-5 are unrepentant, apostate Christians living during the church age and it is speaking of unrepentant apostate Christians living during the last days.
In particular, it speaks of those Christians living during the church age which appears during the last days which began with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and end with His Second Advent and it is not referring to the non-Christian.
That these individuals are unrepentant apostate Christians is indicated by the command Paul issues Timothy in Second Timothy 3:5 which required that Timothy continue making it his habit of avoiding these same people who he describes in detail in Second Timothy 3:2-5.
Paul would never command Timothy to avoid the non-Christian but only the unrepentant apostate Christian which is indicated by his teaching in First Corinthians 5:9-12.
Therefore, the “people” being referred to in Second Timothy 3:2 are unrepentant apostate Christians living during the church age and which dispensation appears during the last days which occurs between the First and Second Advents.
I say “unrepentant” since Paul would not command Timothy to avoid a Christian in apostasy unless they were unrepentant.
Timothy was to follow the procedure taught by the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:15-17 for administering church discipline and this procedure involved three steps.
If after the third step they were still unrepentant, then the church was to avoid these Christians and not have fellowship with them until they did repent.
Second Timothy 3:1 Indeed continue making it your habit of taking note of this, namely that dangerous circumstances interacting will exist during the last days. 2 For out of selfishness, people will be characterized as self-centered, lovers of money, braggarts, arrogant, slanderous, disobedient to the detriment of their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 devoid of natural affection, implacable, malicious gossips, self-indulgent, brutal, opposed to what is good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, hedonists rather than lovers of God. 5 They exhibit that which resembles godliness. However, they reject for themselves its power. Consequently, for your own benefit, continue making it your habit of disassociating yourself from these types of people 6 because out from these individuals are those who make it their habit of insinuating themselves into households. In fact, they make it their habit of captivating foolish women because these are overwhelmed with guilt because of sins because they are driven by means of various kinds of lusts. 7 They repeatedly receive instruction. However, they are never at any time able for their own benefit to enter into knowing experientially the truth. 8 Now, just as Jannes and Jambres rebelled against Moses so in the same way these individuals previously mentioned are in their own selfish interests presently in a state of rebelling against the truth, men who permitted their minds to be corrupted, worthless ones with regards to the Christian faith. (My translation)
Now, in verse 8, Paul presents a comparison between these unrepentant apostate pastors in the Roman province of Asia and Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses.
He asserts that in the same way that Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses so also these unrepentant apostate pastor-teachers in the Roman province of Asia opposed the truth.
Jannes and Jambres were not believers in the God of Moses, however, these unrepentant apostate pastors were in fact Christians who were declared justified through faith in Jesus Christ.
But, they did not continue to obey the Christian faith but were deceived into rejecting the truth and obeying the false doctrine of the Judaizers.
Jannes and Jambres are never mentioned in the book of Exodus or anywhere in the Old Testament as opposing Moses.
In Second Timothy 3:8, Paul asserts that in the same way Jannes and Jambres rebelled against Moses and the truth he communicated to Pharaoh, so also the unrepentant apostate pastor-teachers in the Roman province of Asia rebelled against the truth which Paul communicated to the Christian community in his gospel.
Second Timothy 3:9 But in fact, they will certainly by no means progress any further because their foolishness will certainly cause itself to be fully manifest for the benefit of each and every person just as the foolishness produced by Jannes and Jambres caused itself to be manifested. (My translation)
The apostle Paul prophesies in verse 9 that these unrepentant apostate pastor-teachers living in the Roman province of Asia will by no means progress any further in the sense that their impact on the Christian community will not progress or advance further.
He is not denying the reality of the impact of their teaching upon the Christian community but rather he is emphasizing that though they appear to be having success, they will ultimately be judged as foolish for their unfaithfulness.
The foolishness of these men will be fully manifest to all in the Christian community and specifically to each and every person in the Christian community at the Bema Seat when these men are censured by the Lord Jesus Christ and do not receive rewards because of their unfaithfulness.
Furthermore, the full manifestation of the foolishness of these apostate pastors will benefit each and every person in the body of Christ in time when these men are disciplined by the Lord and specifically suffer the sin unto death (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 John 5:17).