2 Kings 13; 2 Timothy 3; Hosea 5–6; Psalm 119:145–176
LIFE IN "THE LAST DAYS" (2 Tim. 3) does not sound very appealing: "People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Tim. 3:2–5).
Endless sins of sensuality combine with multiplying information so wedded to a corrupt epistemology that people cannot acknowledge the truth (2 Tim. 3:6–7). That is what life is like in "the last days." The immediacy of the warning for Paul's readers is one of several signals that Paul thinks these "last days" range from Christ's ascension to his return.
So what must we do about it?
First, we must resolve to follow the best mentors (2 Tim. 3:10–11). These are the people whose lives reflect the Gospel, and who have been tested by hardship and protected by God. In a world of many pop idols, not least in the field of religion, we must become intentional about choosing the best mentors, or by default we shall probably choose poor ones.
Second, we must be realistic about the world (2 Tim. 3:12–13). We should expect opposition. If we do, we shall not be surprised by it. When Paul says that "evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim. 3:13), he is probably not saying that each generation will be worse than the previous one, but that in every generation evil people spiral downward into hopeless corruptions. We should not be surprised by this. Apart from the intervention of the grace of God, this is what sin does to people.
Third, we must rely on the Bible (2 Tim. 3:14–17). Not only do the Scriptures shape the Christian's mind into a worldview profoundly alien to the secularist and the endlessly selfish person, and not only do the Scriptures make us "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15), but precisely because they are "God-breathed," the Scriptures are "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). The danger in contemporary evangelicalism is not formal rejection of Scripture, but an unrealistic assumption that we know the Bible while in fact we press "on" (in reality, slouch backwards) toward endless conferences on leadership, techniques, tools, gimmicks, agendas. Some of these might even be useful if the Bible itself were not so commonly sidelined.
Fourth—though this takes us into the next chapter—we must proclaim the Bible (2 Tim. 4:1–5). Nothing else has transforming power. Verse 2 prescribes the content, the constancy, the scope, and the manner of such preaching in the last days.