September 14, 2006
2 Timothy 3:1, "But know this that in the last days perilous times will come."
It is with great urgency that the Holy Spirit attempts to draw our attention toward these last days, not only through the mouth of Paul, but other authors of gospels as well. Although some in the church may be ignorant as to the importance of the times in which we live, God knew full well their true relevance, for this, the time of which Paul speaks, is the end of the age, the shutting up of the door of grace, and last but not least, the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
It is during this time that the enemy will make one final assault on the children of God, sending into battle every last spirit of deception, every last spirit of temptation, and every last spirit of wickedness. He knows his time is limited, he knows this is his last chance to deceive if possible even the elect, and will by no means hold back his offensive.
The signs of the end times will be most evident in mankind's indifference in relation to the Spiritual things of God, and even much of the church will depart from the spirit of faith, living instead for the earthly things, the visible and tangible things of this present life.
Another aspect of the end times that will be very evident is the persecution, rejection, and mockery of the true children of God, the Gospel, and the work of salvation, a persecution that in turn will spread a spirit of fear among believers. God's promise however, will remain steadfast and true, as He Himself is steadfast and true, namely the blessed promise that he who endures to the end will receive the crown of life.
The scriptures concerning both the end times, and the state and condition of the church during those times are abundant especially in the New Testament. Before we return to the passage in Timothy, I will quote a few, to remind us all, that these warnings were not an isolated incident, one lone scripture, or one lone servant.
2 Peter 3:1-4, "Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, according to their own lusts, and saying, 'where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were form the beginning of creation."
1 John 2:18, "Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour."
1 John 2:26, "These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you."
Jude 17-19, "But you, beloved remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions not having the Spirit."
I could fill many a page with scripture that repeatedly warns of the sin, indifference, rebellion, and dismissal of God's sovereign Word, but I think the point has been made. What's more important, is what these verses should compel us to do, namely cling to Christ our Lord, by faith, and not give heed to the strange doctrines and soothing voices of the wolves among us that would wrench us from the loving embrace of our God, and plunge us into a darkened and deplorable condition, far from His love, far from His grace, and far from His presence.
The signs are there for all to see, however, and tragically so, the church refuses obstinately to confront them, while even the world is pointing them out to us. Those that dare utter words of reprimand concerning the deplorable condition, are quickly silenced, dismissed with the wave of a hand, being told in confidence, that the church does not want to hear of such things, for they are in a better place than they have ever been, having grown rich, powerful, and influential.
"We don't major on the minors in this church, nor do we feel the need to preach outdated doctrine. People come here to enjoy themselves, feel good about themselves, and pointing out deficiencies and sin in their lives does neither of these two things. We try to preach a positive message, a message of positive affirmation, of believing in oneself."
As was prophesied two thousand years ago, the saving of souls is no longer the primary objective of most houses of worship, for we have become encumbered and weighed down, mired in our own contradictions, hypocrisies, and compromises.
Matthew 5:13, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men."
If only we would understand and receive the true meaning of this verse, the full measure of what it entails, many a tear would be shed, and many knees bowed in repentance. Unseasoned salt, is worthless, and rather than it taking up space better used for other things, it is wiser to simply throw it out to be trampled under foot by men. The measure of relevance and worth we have in relation to the kingdom of God is directly proportionate to the measure of Christ we retain in our hearts. If a heart that was once burning with the love of Christ, has now become cold, and void of His presence, it is as salt that has lost its flavor, no longer able to affect change, no longer able to direct people to the saving grace of God.
2 Timothy 3:2, "For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy."
Before we delve into what some have described as the black list of sins that hold captive the hearts of men, I must make one think perfectly clear. When Paul describes these sins, he is not relating something that will be found in the world during these last days, but rather in God's own house, the church. The world has always been evil, but what Paul is warning of, is these evils being present among believers, having crept in unnoticed, and unchallenged, creating the age of apostasy that would define the last days.
As Paul begins to recite what amounts to a cornucopia of sins, he begins oddly enough with the sin of egoism, or selfishness. Surely such sins as blasphemy or pride rank higher than egoism, so the question begs to be asked, why did Paul begin by warning that men will be lovers of themselves?
When one begins to contemplate the question, the answer becomes painfully clear. Egoism, or selfishness, the loving of oneself is the foundation upon which all other sins are built. It is the ego, the self, that one will always find seated on the throne of men's lives, and though it thinks itself a ruler, having dominion and authority, in truth it is a slave to all manner of sin, and deplorable conditions. When we dethrone the ego, when we depose the self, when we begin to die to the flesh, we begin to walk the path of salvation.
The ego has roots in, and is fueled by many sources, be it lineage, nationality, religion, social standing, career, fortune or fame, all these things enflame the ego, and puff up the self, to the point of thinking itself supreme. Only when salvation is truly received, by faith and repentance, when we make Christ the Lord and King of our hearts, can the tyrannical reign of self be overthrown.
Many ancient men of wisdom and depth penned their thoughts concerning the sin of self-love, of selfishness, and the conclusion they reached, it would seem unanimously, is that if a man loves himself, if he is an egotist, he leaves no room in his heart to love God.
In recent years the gospel of self has been touted from many a pulpit in this nation, a gospel of dependence and reliance not on God, and His sovereign wisdom but rather in our own abilities, and in our own will. Books have been written, seminars have been held, and most of God's house is not wise enough to see the error of these teachings, to perceive the fact that when we stop preaching dependence and reliance on God, we are reviving the self, resurrecting the ego, and in doing so create a conflict between it and God the battlefield being nothing less than our very hearts.
Egotism is the perpetual nature of the flesh, and as no man is absent of flesh, no man can be absent of egotism, save he crucify the flesh daily. Egotism manifests itself in various ways, some being so hidden and finite that only in the light of Christ and the Gospel can it be perceived.
Self love, self-reliance, selfishness and egotism can have only one acceptable place, and that is nailed to the cross. Absent of the cross it is impossible for man to grow in doing good, to make strides toward sanctification, or draw nearer to the kingdom of God.
There have always been, and always will be men who are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, who are boasters and proud, but in the last days these spirits will have dominion over much of earth's inhabitants, and even some of Christ's followers who have grown complacent in guarding their hearts.
You are the watchman, the guardian of your heart, beware that you not slumber in these final hours before the dawn is to break, that you not grow indifferent and complacent as so many have in your duties, for an unguarded heart is an invitation to all manner of foul vice, darkened thoughts and sin.
All other sins are linked to this first that Paul mentions, namely the sin of selfishness, the final link in this chain being enmity against God. The awful truth about sin, is that once a soul allows even one to corrupt its quest for righteousness, the door has been opened. Sin is interconnected, and one sin feeds upon another, and so from self-love, covetousness is produced, from covetousness springs boastfulness, from boastfulness pride, from pride blasphemy, from blasphemy defiance and disobedience. And so sin is produced, most often ascending from below, slowly stripping the conscience bare, and cooling the heart gradually. Sin is not content until it destroys its host, and one sin begets another more destructive sin, until that soul finds itself absent of light, and truth.
Yet another characteristic of these last days is that men will be blasphemers. So how do we define blasphemy, and what is it to blaspheme? Without going into laborious detail, to blaspheme is to speak evil of anyone, blame unjustly, or to injure by words. When applied to God, the definition broadens to include ascribing acts or attributes to Him, which He does not posses, to speak profanely and impiously, and to willfully omit characteristics by which God is defined.
There is an abundance of teaching today that falls within these parameters, and as such are blasphemous, and those promulgating these heresies, are by definition the blasphemers to which Paul was referring. Due to the fact that many men's hearts have grown cold toward the message of Christ and the cross, the only message that leads to salvation and eternal life, many have taken it upon themselves to replace the message of the Gospel, with surrogate doctrines, and substitute teachings that leave out these crucial elements, in effect preaching a Christ less gospel, a lifeless gospel, and a truth less gospel.
Two other links that Paul mentions, in the chain that would shackle the hearts of men in these last days, are the sins of disobedience toward parents, and that of being unthankful.
John Chrysostom once wrote concerning those who are lovers of money and unthankful, that he who is mad after wealth never knows the fulfillment of his desire; whatever is bestowed upon him, he is still unsatisfied, and will therefore never be thankful. For he will feel no gratitude to him, who does not give him as much as he wishes, and this no one can ever do. And as there is no limit to his wishes, he will feel no gratitude. Thus no one is so unthankful as the covetous, so insensible as the lover of money.
There is great truth in his words, a truth that cannot be overlooked, for the selfish and covetous man can only hear and chase after his own desires, always finding new horizons for his greed once the present desires have been fulfilled. Covetousness is never satisfied, and the soul that falls into the sin of covetousness and selfishness will perpetually be unhappy and dissatisfied, until the day his heart us turned toward God, and repentance brings him to his knees.
In order to see the reality of Paul's word, and thereby perceive we are living the last days, one need look no further than some of the most prominent pulpits of America, wherein rather than call down the power of God, we are encouraged to call money down from heaven, and rather than be desperate after the virtue that is holiness, we are encouraged to desire all the excesses that this world has to offer, and to live this present for the flesh, and in the fullness thereof. (So much more could be written on the love of money, too much in fact, and for this reason I have chosen to save it for another article entirely.)
'But surely brother you must see that these are the messages that draw the crowds, these are the foundations upon which congregations of thousands are built. Surely you cannot expect us to return to the old path, to preach an unpopular truth, to delve into the deeper things of God, for then what would become of the multitudes that gather every Sunday to hear how they too can be rich, and reap the fat of the land for themselves?'
A foundation built upon shifting sand, a foundation riddled with decay, is no foundation at all, but merely the illusion of one. What will become of those who rather than having placed their trust in the unshakable things of God, place it solely on the temporal things of this earth when the shaking commences, when not only the earth but also heaven will be shaken?
Hebrews 12:25-29, "See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, 'Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.' Now this, 'Yet once more', indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom, which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire."
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.