Today’s Reading: 2 Timothy 3
Biblical prophecy provides some of the greatest encouragement and hope available to us today. Just as the Old Testament is saturated with prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming, so both the Old Testament and the New Testament are filled with references to the second coming of Christ. One scholar has estimated there are 1,845 references to Christ’s second coming in the Old Testament, where seventeen books give it prominence. In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the second coming of Jesus. That means one out of every thirty verses talk about Jesus coming again. And twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books refer to it. For every prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ’s first coming, there are eight that look forward to His second coming!
Both of Paul’s letters to Timothy speak of Christ’s second coming. And in today’s chapter, Paul warns Timothy about the condition of humanity just before Christ comes again. The prophetic words he gives to the young pastor are not only chilling but eye opening—because the condition he describes can be easily attributed to our culture today. That means we are closer than ever to the second coming of Jesus.
Billy Graham said, “Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, ‘If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.’”
Consider what Paul says about what the planet will look like before Jesus comes:
“In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Paul gives nineteen descriptions in verses 2-4 to distinguish what humanity will look like and how they will be controlled. What is striking is that five of them have to do with love. It is a misdirected love, a misconstrued love, a deceptive love. It’s humanity not loving the One for whom they were created but finding a very bad substitute.
Look at what they love instead of God: self, money, pleasure. Then look at the other two: they are unloving or without love and not lovers of God. The phrase without love or unloving means without true love. It means that people today are not without love—it’s just the wrong love.
Paul wants to warn Timothy that when people are not lovers of God, they will start to believe that “there is no God, and since there is no God, let us start loving other things—self, money, and pleasure.”
But we also find hope in these verses. Notice what verse one tells us: “In the last days difficult times will come . . .” Paul is saying, In the last days, Satan will unleash his worst—but God will unleash His best.
Remember those words, In the last days. There is another section of Scripture that starts off with those words. It’s found in Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:
“It shall be in the last days,” God says, “that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18)
Wow! That is so encouraging. That means the second coming of Jesus is not to discourage us but to encourage us. As the nineteenth-century preacher, G. Campbell Morgan said:
To me the second coming is the perpetual light on the path which makes the present bearable. I never lay my head on the pillow without thinking that perhaps before the morning breaks, the final morning may have dawned. I never begin my work without thinking that perhaps He may interrupt my work and begin His own. This is now His word to all believing souls, “Till I come.” We are not looking for death, we are looking for Him.
Early on during World War II, the Japanese army stormed the Philippines and forced United States General Douglas MacArthur to leave the islands. Upon leaving the Philippines, General MacArthur declared his famous promise, “I shall return.” And he did, walking ashore a victor at Leyte in the Philippines several years later. There is a more famous “I shall return.” This one from the Captain of the hosts, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who declared to His fearful band of disciples, “I will come again” (John 14:3).