The Church in the Last Days – Part 2 of 4

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Part 2

In the Last Days, the Church Will Be Full of False Believers

For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, savage, opposed to what is good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, loving pleasure rather than loving God. They will maintain the outward appearance of religion but will have repudiated its power. So, avoid people like these. 2 Timothy 3:2-5

Observation Question: What are the characteristics of the people in the last days?

As we continue to read Paul’s words, we find that the terrible times will not be harmful because of complex events but evil people. This is what will make these last days so awful. There will be many in the church who profess Christianity but look nothing like their Lord and Savior. In verse 5, Paul says that they had an “outward appearance of religion” but “repudiated its power.” This means that they had the outer trappings of Christianity—they went to church, sang hymns, gave their tithes, went on mission trips—but lived ungodly lives that proved they had never experienced Christ’s saving power.

Christ said the kingdom of heaven is tares and wheat (v. 36-43), and good and bad fish (v. 47-50)—essentially true and false believers. He also describes the kingdom as yeast hidden in flour, spreading throughout the lump (v. 33). Yeast typically refers to false doctrine (Matt 16:11-12) or sin (1 Cor 5:6); therefore, Christ described how evil would spread and saturate the church at various stages of history. The current state of the kingdom is a mixture of good and evil. It is scary! This is what Christ warned the disciples of in the parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13.

This reality often leads to disillusionment and apostasy—Satan’s intent to plant tares, rotten fish, and leaven. No doubt, this is the reason that Paul warned Timothy. In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul gives nineteen negative characteristics of many professing believers during these difficult times:

  1. People will be lovers of themselves: This comes first because it is the last day’s dominant characteristic, leading to further sins. Satan tempted Eve to be like God in the garden. He called her to seek self-fulfilment instead of loving God and others first. From that point, that became the primary motivation in humanity. Life is about us and our satisfaction. Religion becomes another addition to seeking fulfilment. People ask, “Can Christianity help us be happy? Can it help our children not lie and steal? In that case, we should go to church!”
  2. Much of the teaching in churches these days focus on self-love. It has essentially become the greatest commandment. They say, “You can’t love God or others unless you love yourself first!” However, there is never a command in the Bible to love ourselves. The Bible assumes that we already do—it is a result of our sinful nature. Scripture says to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matt 12:31); it simply recognises that we already love ourselves way too much. Scripture continually calls us to humble ourselves (James 4:10), deny ourselves, take up our cross (Matt 16:24), and seek the interests of others over ourselves (Phil 2:3). However, since the self has replaced God, it leads to many other sins.
  3. Lovers of money: Since the love of self is dominant, the love of money naturally follows. By pursuing money, we cater to all our desires. Many will use religion to make money. First, Timothy 6:5 says that many will think that “godliness is a way of making a profit.”
  4. Boastful: Those who love themselves will continually brag about themselves, their money, education, achievements, and even their faith. They will boast about their giving, their intense devotion, and even their “spiritual” experiences. The church will be full of braggarts.
  5. Arrogant: Pride is the internal motivation that leads people to brag. People will think higher of themselves than they should. They will have false pride about their race, social class, economic standing, and even their doctrine.
  6. Blasphemers: This word can be translated as “abusive.”  life is about self, and people do not get their way; they become angry and aggressive towards God and others. Thus they will blaspheme others and God. Abuse will be directed towards people of different ethnicities, social or economic standings, denominational affiliations, and even their own families. The church will be abusive instead of loving.
  7. Disobedient to their parents: Love of self naturally leads to disobeying parents to fulfil one’s desires. Disobedience to parents will ultimately break all authorities—teachers, work superiors, government, and God.
  8. Ungrateful: If something interrupts one’s pursuit of self-gratification, then one will complain and become angry. Instead of being worshipers, the church will be a group of ungrateful people that complain about anything that makes them uncomfortable—the worship music, the seating, the preaching, the children’s ministry, the church leadership, the national government, the education system, sports, and so on. Like Israel in the wilderness, they will be grumblers who are constantly disciplined by God (1 Cor 10:10).
  9. Unholy: Love of self leads people not to respect or fear God. Without a reverence for God, they will be led into all types of sins. Their thought life, conversations, entertainment, and actions will be unholy.
  10. Unloving: “Unloving” can also be translated as “without natural affection” or “without family affection.” Parents will neglect their children as they pursue money and self-fulfilment. Sometimes they will abort their children to cater to themselves. Children will hate their parents in response. There will be a lack of “natural affection” in the church. It will be shameful to hear stories about how believers neglect their children, spouses, and elderly parents—especially when church leaders do it!
  11. Irreconcilable: They will not forgive others nor seek forgiveness from others. They are so prideful that they will not humble themselves to seek reconciliation.
  12. Slanderers: This expression is from the word “diabolos”, which can be translated as “accuser” or “devil.” People will slander others with their words and slander God. The church will be full of gossip and back-biting. When the self is on the throne, it naturally leads to pulling down others to exalt oneself.
  13. Without self-control: People will lack the power to discipline themselves. Their delights and passions will control them—overeating, oversleeping, video games, social media, shopping, drugs, cigarettes, pornography. The church will be full of addicts of one thing or another. Satisfying self leads to uncontrollable urges.
  14. Savage: This can be translated as “brutal,” “fierce,” or “untamed.” People will be like wild animals seeking to tear one another apart to gain or protect their desires.
  15. Opposed to what is good: They will love what should be hated and hate what should be loved. Ungodly entertainment, ideologies, and endeavours, they will love. However, the things of God—his word, preaching, worship, serving, and righteousness—they will hate.
  16. Treacherous: They will not keep their promises. The only commitment they will save is their pursuit of happiness. Divorce, church splits, and church hopping will be commonplace.
  17. Reckless: People will do whatever they want without consideration of others. All that matters is self and self-expression. They will say things like, “I just had to be true to myself!” as if that justifies any number of evils.
  18. Conceited: People will be full of exaggerated self-importance, blinding them to others’ opinions and ultimately God’s Word. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
  19. Loving pleasure rather than loving God: Because they love pleasure instead of God, churches will be full of entertainment instead of true worship. Church services will be about pleasing people instead of pleasing God. People will plan worship primarily with the thought of getting and keeping people and their money instead of truly worshipping God.
  20. Maintain the outward appearance of religion but will have repudiated its power: Also, translated “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (N.I.V.). Again, there will be form but no power to change lives.

MacDonald said this about these people that outwardly, these people seem religious. They make a profession of Christianity, but their actions speak louder than their words. By their ungodly behaviour, they show that they are living a lie. There is no evidence of the power of God in their lives. While there might have been reformation, there never was regeneration. Weymouth translates: “They will keep up a make-believe of piety and yet exclude its power.” Likewise, Moffatt: “Though they keep up a form of religion, they will have nothing to do with it as a force.” Phillips puts it: “They will maintain a façade of ‘religion”, but their conduct will deny its validity.” They want to be religious and have their sins simultaneously (cf. Rev. 3:14–22). Hiebert warns: “It is the fearful portrayal of an apostate Christendom, a new paganism masquerading under the name of Christianity.”

Indeed, we have seen some of the worst examples of this throughout history: In the name of Christianity, people have slaughtered Jews, Muslims, and one another! The believers in the letter of James were fighting, oppressing, and murdering one another (James 4:1-2, 5:1-6). The Corinthians were taking one another to court (1 Cor 6:1-6). Terrible times indeed!

Observation Question: How should we respond to these people in the church?

Paul says to Timothy, “o avoid people like these” (v 5). This means that there should be a complete healthy separation from individuals who profess Christ but live lives that deny that reality. Consider what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. In no way did I mean the corrupt people of this world or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters since you would then have to go out of the world. However, now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, greedy, idolater, verbally abusive, drunkard, or swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what do I have to do with judging that outside? Are you not to judge those insides? However, God will judge that outside. Remove the evil person from among you.

We must separate from believers who practice lifestyles like this. Yes, we must first lovingly challenge them to repent—even multiple times (Matt 18:15-17). However, if they continue in rebellious lifestyles, we must separate. We separate to protect ourselves from corrupt habits (1 Cor 15:33), but we also do it so that they can be shamed and hopefully repent. Second Thessalonians 3:14-15 says,

However, if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him so that he may be ashamed. However, do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Application Question: Which characteristic that Paul shared stood out to you most and why? Why is it important to understand the everyday reality of false believers in churches? How should we respond to this reality? How have you experienced this?

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