Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Is the "Day of the Lord" the same thing as "The Last Days"? part 2

In two parts, I'm examining a last days prophecy Paul delivered to Timothy. Paul's warning to Timothy is in 2 Timothy 3, 1-9, and it concerns "perilous times", or "Godlessness in the last days." Paul warned Timothy that in the last days perilous times would come, and Paul went on to describe the characteristics of people's behavior in those last days. Paul begins his warning to Timothy by saying that the prophesied times of difficulty will come in the "last days." In part 1, I looked at what the "last days" are, and how they are different from the Day of the Lord. In this part 2, I will look at the passage closely and show that how it is commonly interpreted may need a second look.

Here is the passage- It is in the ESV.

Godlessness in the Last Days
1But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. (2 Timothy 3:1-9)

People usually interpret this passage as pertaining to the world. As when "in the last days, perilous times in the world will come." That, perilous times from the world will come. That when sin in the world heightens to monstrous levels, it will be a sign of the perilous times Paul spoke of.

I used to think this way also, and in a way it is still true. Sin gets worse and worse. Jesus said in Matthew 24:12 that "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold," and that shows us that sin gets worse and because of it, people's love gets colder and colder (that is the meaning of grow cold, 'to breathe, blow, to make cool'). Later in this same chapter of Timothy I'm looking at today, 2 Timothy 3:13, it says "while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." They go from bad to worse. Sin always gets worse.

But though sin in the world will get worse and worse, the passage specifically isn't talking of the world here. It is speaking of people in the church. People in the body of Christ. How do we know this? There are several clues.

If you read 1 Corinthians 2:14 in it surrounding context, the passage there is saying in essence, don't be angry with unbelievers when they act like unbelievers. The world has always been brutal. The world has always presented difficulty to the church.

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, it was around 67 AD and shortly before Paul was martyred. It was no surprise to Timothy that people in the world were brutal, Christian martyrdoms had been going on since Stephen, our faith's first martyr. Stephen was killed for the name of Jesus barely a year after Jesus rose to heaven. Killings had been ongoing ever since. Nero's wave of particularly vicious killings began in 64AD. Why would Paul need to warn Timothy that the world will treat us brutally? Jesus even said so (Matthew 10:22).

The surprise is that the people claiming to be Christian who dwell inside the body of believers will act in the ways Paul outlined. We need to guard ourselves from people on the inside.

The second clue is that Paul warned such folks will have adopted an "appearance of Godliness." Pagans who hate Christians and treat them brutally do not stop to pretend they are Godly. They just hate.

A third clue that this passage relates to how people inside the church will act is that they are "lovers of self." Those in the world, pagans, already love themselves. This is not news to Christians and certainly would not have been necessary to warn Timothy about people such as those.

No, I'm afraid this passage sadly tells us to watch out for those who are brutal, false, hating, greedy, treacherous, conceited, etc and will be people who sit alongside you in the pew. Or preach to you from the pulpit. Or teach you in Sunday School class. Now that is a warning worthy of taking heed of!

In case you have difficulty interpreting that the passage from verse 1-9 relates to the church, think on this. First:

Some say that the current evil in the world surely matches the passage and must be a harbinger of Jesus's soon appearing. Well, the evil in the world is surely awful. They cite the present escalation of evil and say that the events of today are frequent as opposed to evil event that used to be rare and isolated. But are they so rare? They cite the Gosnell baby abortion murders, or the kindergarten massacre at Sandy Hook school. But haven't people always sacrificed children to Molech? (Leviticus 18:21). Children have always been at risk as society's most vulnerable targets. Or they cite the New Orleans Mother's Day Parade shooting, or the Boston Marathon terrorist bombing. Yet enemies have always come by stealth or deceit to kill (Joshua 9). They say that the Benghazi terror attack and coverup, and the current government abuse against citizens with IRS spying or tapping phones, is surely evidence of the world's descent into evil. But look no farther than today's North Korea and Eritrea as most oppressive regimes full of abuse and hate against their own citizens, or Egypt and its treatment of millions of Jews in Pharoah's day. Or they say that today's shock video of victorious Syrians eating the dead hearts of their enemies is definitely evidence of how far the world has fallen. But the ancient Aztecs and the ancient Chinese of the Tang Dynasty ate the hearts of their enemies.

Eve and Adam rebelled against God, Cain killed Abel, and not long after, Nimrod was the first world dictator. The world IS brutal. Always has been since the fall.

The evidence of the evil in the world is how far it has crept into the church. Jesus said there would be tares sown in with the wheat and that He wanted it kept so until the harvest. (Matthew 13:24-30). Tares (darnel) and wheat look the same until just before harvest when it only then becomes possible to tell one from another. The field of the church is filled with those who are just as Paul warned Timothy about. They infiltrated then (Simon the Magician) and they infiltrate now, but since the last days have progressed so long, the progression of the behaviors Paul warned Timothy against have grown too and now the church is overgrown with infiltrators.

We have our greedy ones, pitching Jesus at you to make money for themselves so they can fly around on their private jets to one of their many homes. We have the unholy, heartless false pastors spiritually abusing their people and tossing them under the bus. We have the slanderous and unappeasable litigating against their own family members over their television station ownership. And boy, the name it and claim it crowd sure do love themselves. The way they preach by inserting themselves into every passage surely is disgusting.

No, the warnings about those to look out for is a warning to us in the last days to look out for infiltrators (traitors to Jesus) who have an appearance of Godliness but deny the power thereof.

The glorious part is that those who are in Jesus have the Holy Spirit in them to help spot these who would make a shipwreck of their faith (1 Timothy 1:19). He cares for His sheep, and cares for His church. After all, didn't he warn us that these things would happen?

Recently I noted that our pastor was asked to resign because the sermons he was giving for the last many years were word for word someone else's. He was a plagiarizer. It is a heartbreaking thing to discover you have been worshiping through a veil of untruth. But I was truly grateful to the Lord also, not only because by the Spirit He had revealed this to us, giving us the opportunity to address it in a God-honoring way, but also because He already told us these things would happen. Therefore was I shocked? Yes. Was I surprised? No. Through the pain we were feeling, I praised Him because of His many warnings about false prophets and false teachers and disqualifying behavior throughout the Old Testament and the New. Even right at the end of verse 8 in the passage we are studying today, did the Spirit not inspire Paul to write, "men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith" ?? It made me love the Lord all the more for His care in showing us these things, and for giving us His comfort when when they do happen to us.

If you are in a church worshiping body and are reeling because you've experienced deception or brutality by one of the kind of people mentioned in the passage, take heart. The Lord warned us because He loves us! And if you have not been affected by the behavior of any of the church-fakers mentioned in the passage, take heart, because you will! (2 Timothy 3:12). Take heart because He will use your experience for the good to those who love Him, and you will be polished as a jewel of faith in His trophy case. He is equipping you for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:17).

In my opinion, that is our highest calling- service to a holy Lord who loves His own.

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Is the "Day of the Lord" the same thing as "The Last Days"? part 1

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