The words of 2 Timothy 3:1-5, written by the apostle Paul 2,000 years ago, give a sobering and alarming prediction about what life can become like when moral and spiritual foundations collapse – “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men [Greek anthropos means mankind, includes women as well as 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!” Conservative Bible students view the “difficult days” (or “perilous times,” King James Version) mentioned in verse 1 as applying to every era of time this side of the death, burial resurrection, and ascension of Christ (Acts 2:14-17 * Hebrews 1:1-2 * 1 Peter 1:20). The church is always in the last days and will be until the return of Christ! According to Paul’s jarring words, life gets really difficult and nasty when people behave in ways laid out in the words quoted above. The words just prior to that description (especially 2 Timothy 3:25, 26) and the verses that follow it (2 Timothy 3:6-9) indicate the forces and conditions that usher in perilous times. According to Paul, the devil is involved, and anytime the devil is involved (which is all the time – see 1 Peter 5:8), deceit and deception and falsehood are in the air. Especially prone to such tactics are “gullible” people “loaded down with sins, led by various lusts” instead of by the Lord and the clear, concrete, inspired moral and spiritual teachings of His word (3:6). Paul describes those who promote and practice this kind of “I live by my own rules” approach to life as “men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the truth” (3:7). And finally in verse 14 he labels them as “evil men and impostors,” impostors translating a Greek word that can mean “sorcerers” or magicians. They may use slick sounding words, they may label their ideas as being progressive and modern, they may occupy high positions of power politically and even religiously, and they may be very, very popular celebrities from the professional worlds of entertainment and athletics. But if they promote the idea we are free from all moral and spiritual restraints, they are “deceiving and being deceived” (3:13b). They have lost touch with God and the reality of moral and spiritual absolutes. The results are the appalling and destructive conditions cataloged in the first 5 verses. Meanwhile they attempt to cover up the whole, rotten mess with a veneer of religion, “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (3:5a). Paul urges Timothy (and the church today), “Turn away from such people!” (3:5b). Don’t buy what they are selling! It will create peril for human society and human souls.
G. K. Chesterton spoke to the modern craze for unrestrained, uncritical “open-mindedness” – “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of having an open mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” An open mind is good to a point. But as Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, God’s word contains solid truth! In Paul’s words, “the Holy Scriptures” lead to “salvation through faith in Christ” – they are “given by inspiration of God,” and are “profitable” to teach, correct, and equip us for life. The Bible’s truth has sustained God’s church through spiritually perilous times in every age. There’s no reason to believe it’s truth won’t sustain us today. So, study it, trust it, shut your mind on it, and obey it!