Perilous Times, A Time of Trouble

Perilous times were prophesied. Shortly before his death, Paul wrote to Timothy his beloved companion of so many journeys, urgently expressing the need to be faithful in the perilous times that were upon them, brought about by the Roman Emperor Nero's persecution of the Christians. Paul, himself a likely victim of this persecution, foresaw the vulnerability of the disciples of Christ in this time of trouble, and charged Timothy to stand fast for the hope that was in him. A time when the world and household would "not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears." (2 Tim 4:3)

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul focuses on the vulnerability of the things of the mind while acknowledging that acting contrary to the mores of the day can lead to direct physical harm such as Paul experienced. Because the things of the mind are the things that will gain or lose one's salvation we are wise to turn our attention to them. Paul elsewhere presented similar behavioral lists, all of which concluded that the unrighteous have no "inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." (Gal 5:21, Eph 5:5, 1 Cor 6:9-10) Daniel was warned by Michael, and Timothy by Paul, of these troubles; but both were also provided defensive instructions. Those "found written in the book" would be those who held fast to "the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of ... which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (Dan 12:1, 2 Tim 3:14-15)

Today, it is very easy for us to see the condition of the world around us portrayed by the same words Paul used to describe the coming perilous times. The list in 2 Timothy 3 transcends all epochs, for it is a list of the deeds and attributes of the flesh. These deeds of the flesh are a portrayal of man from Enoch's day (Jude 14-16), to Noah's day (Gen 6:5), to Paul's day (Rom 1:18-32), and now to our day. The self gratification so prevalent in the media, with its seductive advertising and "me first" orientation, the unfurling of homosexuality, the wrangling of politicians over the sovereignty of Israel, the Yasser Arafat and Osama Bin Laden-led terrorist wave against Christian, Jewish and western interests, the Washington DC area sniper murders for the sport of it, and the four contemporary sects (Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish) "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." (2 Tim 3:5) These all will be delivered "unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh." (1 Cor 5:5) The causes of the perilous times of Timothy are present in our day as well.

Daniel foresaw "a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation" when "many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." (Dan 12:1-4) By type, Paul described this time as "perilous times ... ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Tim 3:1, 7) These warnings by Daniel and Paul fall directly into our laps. The Gnostic flavor of worship in the common church, coupled with the humanism of individual rights displacing the laws of our Creator, serves as evidence of Paul's "perilous times."

As latter-day believers we must "strengthen the things which remain." (Rev 3:2) We must make our "calling and election sure" by attending to the teachings from Paul that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (2 Tim 3:16) Strengthening each other from the scriptures, "Exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Heb 10:25), and rejoicing in the lot that we have chosen to stand among, knowing and expecting that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim 3:12) If we are to be found "in faith" at the return of our Lord and Savior, we must expunge from our homes, our lives, and our activities those things that bring us into contact with the ungodly, those who may believe in a God, but don't believe God or do His will. They are "lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." (2 Tim 3:2-4)

This means we should shun and abhor much of what is on television, in the theaters, in video games, and on the Internet. Our media must be the scriptures, our pioneer writers and contemporary works of servants in the vineyard. We must shun the world's addictive heroin - electronic media, whose beguiling intention is to portray and glorify the deeds of the flesh.

"Let your moderation be known unto all men" and "whatsoever things are true... honest... just...pure... lovely...of good report...think on these things." (Phil 4:5-8) Yahweh taught all men, "that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." (Tit 2:12) Just as King Asa removed the idols from the land (1 Kings 15:12-13), we should remove these things from our homes. Where else can a safe haven be created that is fully under our control?

Understanding that the flesh and all its undesirable attributes have been surrounding the faithful in all epochs, one has to ask himself from what source was Paul addressing his cautions to Timothy. Was it only from without or could it include, as well, seducing dangers from within the household of Christ - or both? I think both. Whether baptized or not, Christ observed that, "... from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." (Mark 7:21-23)

Our exposures to perilous and troubled times are heightened by the household's continual challenge to strengthen itself. We may invest too much of our time in divisive activities for the purpose of seeking "one accord" and "singleness of heart." (Acts 2:46). My appeal is to not ignore these things altogether, but we also need to leave time sufficient to grow in our hearts and minds those things we held precious at the time of our baptism and go on unto perfection as the writer to the Hebrews admonishes. Ask yourself, "What one thing can I do tomorrow for my Brother or Sister that would please the Lord?" and then do it. Or better yet, pledge to yourself that tomorrow you will be the manifestation of Christ for 24 hours and then do it. (1 Pet 2:21-23) Strong walls are built one brick at a time. Let us consider the good among us, and lay aside every weight, focusing on the glory to be, when Christ and his saints reestablish the manifestation of Deity in this troubled world.

Having a form of godliness. Let us now turn our attention to the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." (Luke 18) We are not exempt from this type of high-minded thinking, and we must be on guard to not permit such thinking to creep into our minds or our ecclesia. Paul says to turn away from such, "Having a form of godliness [G2152; piety], but denying [G4483; contradicting] the power thereof: from such turn away." (2 Tim 3:5)

Ananias and Sapphira were servants within the household (Acts 5). They had committed themselves to follow the commands of the Lord and to share all things in common. Yet while in this state of piety, through the deceitfulness of their hearts, they conspired to deceive their brethren and as a result came under the condemnation that Paul is admonishing Timothy to beware of. Likewise, in these perilous times, pledging to be separate from the world, while enjoying and partaking in its pleasures of aggressive behavior, violence, immorality and language, which one would be humiliated to repeat in the presence of our Lord, is but one way we allow "this sort" to "creep into [our] houses." (2 Tim 3: 6)

Perils in my lifetime have come not from persecution, but rather from the inundation of technology, knowledge running to and fro. Technology in all forms stalks our salvation, beguiling us, as Eve was beguiled, "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator." (Rom 1:25) Brothers and Sisters, an effective tactic for believers in these perilous times of the last days is to redeem the time by reading, visiting with one another, and enjoying the fellowship of one another around the word of God. This means, by example, forgoing the Sunday afternoon sports on the television and inviting brethren to gather and talk through a challenging verse from the readings of the week. This was Paul's solution for Timothy's perilous times. (2 Tim 2:5, 3:15-17)

Jannes and Jambres. The reference to Jannes and Jambres withstanding Moses was given by Paul to show that despite perilous times, in the course of time, Yahweh prevails and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Jannes and Jambres are thought to be two of Pharaoh's magicians who confronted Moses with similar feats such as Moses was using to demonstrate the supremacy of Yahweh above all gods and all nations. In this context, Jannes and Jambres represent the non-believing world, self confident and arrogant in their position in the world. Paul profiles these Jannes and Jambres types as men who "also resist the truth" and, "men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith." (2 Tim 3:8)

In our day we see the greatest influence of "Jannes and Jambres" in the "unclean spirits like frogs" coming out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet." (Rev 16:13) Yes, democracy and its rights-of-man credo. Yahweh offers freedom in Christ; the democratic nations counter with freedom of choice. Just as Aaron's rod devoured the serpent-rods of Pharaoh's magicians, so will Paul's words come to pass, "their folly shall be manifest unto all men" (2 Tim 3:9) when Jesus Christ is king in Jerusalem and all nations have been devoured by the priestly rod of Christ.

In the last days referenced by Daniel, one of the galvanizing focuses which will bring all nations against our Christ will be the spirit of democracy - "Who made you a ruler over us?" might be the cry. Democracy's meteoric rise in popularity this last decade has been built upon "liberty, equality, fraternity," in addition to the pledge of peace between men and nations.

Conclusion: The antidote to perilous times is captured by selected verses from the preamble of 2 Timothy 3. "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth... shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness...flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart... the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." (2 Tim 2: 15-16, 22-25)

Scott Cram

St Louis, MO