Living in the Last Days

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

Perseverance is one of the most frequently used words throughout the New Testament Epistles. God’s people are continually exhorted to persevere. Why? Because we experience challenges, difficulties, and opposition that prevent us from persevering. Consequently, we find the continual encouragement to persevere.

Most people were not familiar with The Lord of the Rings prior to the release of the movie. Perhaps now most are, at least, aware of the general plot. One of the primary characters, Frodo, must bring the accursed “ring of power” (a symbol of evil) to be destroyed in Mordor, where it was forged by Sauron, the Dark Lord, who is the primary antagonist. Throughout the fiction series (whether the book or movie), Frodo’s perseverance is apparent. Frodo is always aware of the tremendous duty that is his alone. Realizing the challenges, difficulties, and opposition to persevere, Frodo remarks repeatedly, “I know what I must do.”

In Hebrews 12, the Bible teaches us that same perseverance. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We are taught by both example and precept to persevere (in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, and others). Repeatedly, the Bible exhorts the people of God to persevere. The supreme example of perseverance is the Lord Jesus Christ, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Despite hardship or opposition—whether emotional, physical, or spiritual—all those who trust in Christ for salvation are encouraged to persevere. Life can be a challenge, especially when seeking to live in a manner pleasing to God. The Bible is all truth, and by persevering with integrity, the believer experiences Scripture’s transforming power in order to endure.

(2 Tim 3:1-9) “In the last days,” human depravity will be progressively worse, posing a very real challenge for those pursuing faithfulness to God. The “last days” refers to the time from the Lord’s first coming to His return (i.e., the interadvent age). The days are “last” because they comprise the final extent of the present church age. A primary component of godly living is having the proper view of the future. The concept of hope directly affects the believer’s perspective for the future. The hope of a believer involves the ultimately righteous outcome of history and human concerns; the expectation of bodily resurrection; and the anticipation that even in the present, there are opportunities and privileges for service, in addition to the Lord’s gracious provision for every need of His people.

Biblical hope also considers human nature with a candid realism, by understanding the direction of history prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ. For example, the book of Judges appears to convey that history tends to deteriorate as a result of human depravity. Certainly, this idea is evident in the early history of humanity prior to the Genesis Flood, and is manifest again in Jesus’ prophecy of the future in Matthew 24—25. Nevertheless, the grace of God also characterizes “the last days,” in that salvation is available for “whosoever” will believe (John 3:16-21, 36).

The characteristics of ungodliness, as described in verses 2-5, are similar to present times. Therefore, what Scripture says is quite important. “Lovers of self” is the first item on the list of moral evils, which is understandable since it is the essence of all sin and the source from which all the other characteristics arise. Self-love results in desires that consume the soul. The new birth in Christ is intended to cause individuals not to live any longer “for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor 5:15).

The primary concern of self-lovers is their own desires, so naturally they will love the money that can supply those yearnings. “Boastful” people always want all the attention, and thus make a big display of themselves. “Arrogant” refers to those who exalt themselves above others. Many people today have little respect for God, and virtually no humility in the presence of rightful authority. “Revilers” speak evil, especially concerning God. Boastful, arrogant blasphemers act as if they are the most important. Sadly, many live as if God does not matter nor anyone else.

“Disobedient to parents” is another example of self-will. In the Old Testament, God is the Father of Israel. Jesus claimed God as His Father and taught His followers to do the same. Believers relate to God as Father through Jesus the Son. God is Father, not only in that He is the Creator, but also because He is the Savior. When the emphasis is on self, people believe they deserve more than they already have. Therefore, it is important to be reminded, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above” (Jas 1:17a). Thus, one should respond with gratitude to God for His good grace.

The “unholy” are those lacking inner purity, and who may even scoff at such a notion (cf. 1 Tim 1:9). To be “unloving” is to live without natural affection, particularly toward one’s blood relations. Those who are “irreconcilable” are implacable and find it natural to be “malicious gossips,” which is to partake of the character of Satan. “Without self-control” means to be without any restraint; they become “brutal” (inhuman savages), despising any goodness. The persons described are entirely contrary to the spirit of Christ, who is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matt 11:29).

Having described those who only seek their own desires, with virtually no thought of how others will be affected, such individuals also have little interest in matters of eternal significance. They are, therefore, disrespectful toward spiritual things, even while trying to maintain a godly façade (2 Tim 3:4-5). Being passionate to gratify fleshly pleasures (v. 6), they are “always learning”—simply for the sake of interest in novel ideas (simply because something is new)—yet are “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (v. 7).

The individuals described are compared to “Jannes and Jambres [who] opposed Moses” (v. 8). There is always someone to oppose the truth. “In the last days,” such people will become progressively worse. Based upon the reference to the burden of guilt (v. 6), it would seem they primarily oppose the doctrine of human lostness (depravity) and the need for redemption.

While it may seem that devilish individuals, and the proliferation of false ideas and philosophies, are overcoming the truth, Scripture affirms that such apparent successes are temporary: “they will not make further progress” (v. 9). God’s power and truth will expose the foolishness (“folly”) to everyone, even as Jannes and Jambres were eventually shamed because their power was inadequate and limited. Deceptions and lies deteriorate, and in such ruins, the false beliefs of those who devised them are revealed for their inherent foolishness. God is sovereign, and the anti-Christ spirit of the last days will never overcome the Lord.

(2 Tim 3:10-17) What can God’s people expect in the last days? The distinct manner in which a follower of Christ lives (his or her “teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance”) will result in “persecutions, and sufferings” (vv. 10-11). The life of faith will always result in opposition sooner or later (v. 12), because “evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse” (v. 13). Conflict is inevitable when believers’ commitment to the living Word and written Word are directly opposed to the ideas and practices of the world in general. A godly lifestyle will convict others of sin; for that reason, it will always bring forth a volatile response from unbelievers.

In difficult times and circumstances, it is not uncommon to feel discouraged, even hopeless and weary. When those feelings arise, it is always good to refocus attention upon what is truth (vv. 14-15). People act in accordance with their beliefs. Faithful living is possible when possessing knowledge of the truth, and then acting in accordance with those beliefs in one’s daily decisions, in addition to the behaviors in which one engages. The reality of faith in God is proved by endurance.

God’s truth includes “all Scripture” (v. 16), which means the entire Old and New Testaments. The phrase “inspired by God” is derived from the Greek theopneustos (θεόπνευστος), meaning “God-breathed.” The origin of Scripture is God, and the Bible represents His thought. God took the initiative and gave His truth through the Holy Spirit, who impelled erring humans as penmen, yet miraculously superintended them as they wrote, thereby preventing any error or omission in Scripture. Scripture is “God-breathed,” and can be trusted as inerrant and infallible. The trustworthiness of Scripture means it is credible and worthy of belief. God gave His Word to reveal Himself and His will for humanity. Scripture makes errant humans wise unto salvation, and hearing and heeding it will certainly grant you the strength and wisdom needed for living in the last days (v. 17).

Midnight Call - 05/2022

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