As we consider the characteristics of the church in the last days, there are many applications we can make.
- We must examine our salvation.
Second Corinthians 13:5 says, “Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognise regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you—unless, indeed, you fail the test!” Christ said in the last days many would say to him, “Lord, Lord,” but he will respond, “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity, I never knew you” (Matt 7:21-23). As we get closer to Christ’s coming, that type of false faith will be increasingly common in the church. It will be religion without a relationship, form without power, a shell without life. We must test ourselves to see if we are saved.
How do we know if we are born again? Indeed, we must ask ourselves discerning questions: Are we demonstrating new life and new spiritual affections? Is our relationship with God healthy? How do we treat his people? Is his Word dear to us? Do we obey him? Is our sin decreasing and our righteousness increasing? Has our profession changed our life, or is it just a profession? If our profession has not changed our life, then maybe we just have the form of faith without its saving power in our lives.
- The book of 1 John is a book of many tests of salvation (cf. 1 John 5:13). First John 3:9-10 says,
Everyone whom God has fathered does not practice sin because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he cannot sin because God has fathered him. By this, the children of God and the children of the devil are revealed: Everyone who does not practice righteousness—the one who does not love his fellow Christian—is not of God.
A true believer will fail and fall into sin, but he will not practise a lifestyle of unrepentant sin; the general direction of his life is very different from the world. A true believer practices righteousness and loves God’s people.
Do you bear the marks of true salvation?
- We must make sure that Christ is still our first love.
The root problem of the end-time church is self-love. They love themselves more than God, which results in many other sins—love of money, love of pleasure, lack of family love, pride, abusiveness, etc. This can happen to us as well if we do not love God first. In Revelation 2:4-5, Christ rebuked the church of Ephesus for this sin. He said,
However, I have this against you: You have departed from your first love! Therefore, remember from what high state you have fallen and repent! Do the deeds you did first; if not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—that is, if you do not repent.
Christ promised them judgment if they did not repent for their lack of love for God. No doubt, this lack of love was causing other sins in their lives, as it does with ours. If we have lost it, we must repent and turn back to God. We must put him first as an act of love and obedience. As we love God first, we will love others and grow in righteousness.
Is Christ still your first love? If not, what is taking first place in your life?
- We must test everything through Scripture—miracles, teaching, etc.
Like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, we must test everything through Scripture to see if it is of God: Is the Bible being preached or is Scripture simply a launching point for worldly anecdotes? Are my experiences biblical or just something that feels good? The Word of God equips the man of God for “every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). If it does not pass the biblical test, it should be discarded. If we hold onto Scripture, we will be kept from the waves of false doctrine and lying miracles in the church.
- We must understand our call to persevere in, to love, and to minister to the church.
Many have given up on the church because they have experienced hurt, betrayal, and abuse during these terrible times. However, Christ said the gates of Hades would not prevail against the church (Matt 16:18)—Satan’s works will not ultimately prevail against her. Also, Christ loved the church and gave his life for her—knowing her imperfections (Eph 5:25-27). We must love her as well and be faithful to her, even when she is unfaithful. There are tares, rotten fish, and leaven within this season, but God will ultimately purify and restore her. Furthermore, in this season, we are part of that restoration. We must persevere in, love, and minister to the church, even as our Lord does.
Do you still love her? Are you faithfully ministering to her? Or are you disillusioned and fed-up with her?
Application Question: What other applications can we take from the reality that terrible seasons will plague the end-time church? How will you apply these truths to your life?
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 249). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 106). Chicago: Moody Press.
- MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2120). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
- Hughes, R. K., & Chapel, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 225). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
- MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 119). Chicago: Moody Press.
- Stott, J. R. W. (1973). Guard the Gospel the message of 2 Timothy (p. 91). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.