The Last Days of Christianity
The Second Epistle to Timothy was written at the close of Paul’s life; it was the last inspired communication from his pen. Even then, the truth was becoming unpopular; nominal Christians were ashamed to identify themselves with the Apostle and the testimony of the Lord. God permitted these circumstances to provide through Paul’s inspired pen, His guidance for the individual saint in days of spiritual declension. The assembly of the living God is prophetically contemplated as “a great house” in the “last days” with its mixture of good and bad vessels.
The gradual declension of the Church can be traced through this Epistle by noticing three special verses. First, men are seen straying from the truth (2:18). Second, they are found in a greater degree of departure resisting the truth (3:8). Third, they are uncovered deliberately and wilfully rejecting the truth for they “turn away their ears from the truth” (4:4). While they still profess to represent Christianity, they have only a form of godliness but deny the power thereof (3:5).
Such conditions are “perilous,” and every instructed young believer will seek to realize the truth of Paul’s prophecy, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (3: 1). All the moral conditions of the “last days” recorded by Paul, are now abundantly manifested in Christendom (3:2-4). In view of these facts, his last letter to Timothy is especially timely and instructive for young believers today.
Chapter one presents God’s challenge in the “last days.” With all the moral and spiritual dangers surrounding him, Timothy was encouraged to be brave. Perhaps Timothy was timid, possibly he wept as he thought of Paul in prison forsaken by the saints and soon to be executed. His was not an easy position, nor is ours easy today. It is easier to drift down the stream of declension than to swim bravely against the current.
Young believer, BE BRAVE! Listen: “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear (or cowardice); but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (1:6-8).
Timothy was enjoined to kindle into flame his gift; to throw off the spirit of cowardice, and to bear courageously “the afflictions of the gospel.” Young believer, do NOT be ashamed of your Lord’s testimony, and although others around show “the spirit of fear,” be true to His Word for His glory. BE BRAVE!
Chapter two illuminates the responsibility of a young believer in regard to his spiritual difficulties. It opens with the stirring exhortation to “BE STRONG in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2:1). It further reveals the kind of strength to be shown. Be like a strong soldier disciplined to the Master’s will (2:3-4). Be like a striving athlete straining every nerve and muscle to win the victory (2:5). Be like the patient steady labourer of the soil working diligently with the ultimate reward in view (2:6), and follow in the path of obedience, keeping your eye constantly upon the risen Christ (2:7-9).
Be strong in time of suffering, for it has its reward (2:10-14). Be strong, and intensely so, in your study of God’s Word (2:15). Be strong in your path of separation from all known doctrinal and moral evil (2:16-26). It is a strong young believer who will “shun,” “depart,” “purge himself,” “flee,” “avoid,” and “turn away” from all the doctrinal and moral dangers around us today. May God the Spirit help each young believer to BE STRONG.
Chapter three opens with the moral and spiritual apostasy described in minute detail (1- 5). The alarming fact is that this state of things accompanies the profession of Christianity; that is, Christendom “having a form of godliness” (3:5). There is also an abundance of false teachers (3:6-9. cf. 2 Pet. 2).
Paul sets before Timothy his own consistent testimony, a contrast to the corruption and false teaching of his day (3:10-12). This was for Timothy’s example, with a warning that conditions would become worse (3:13). Do we really believe this? Are we actually concerned about our path in the midst of these dangers? What is God’s counsel and encouragement? The answer is: be consistent.
“Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned” (3:14-17). Keep on! Follow the Word of truth, for it is your salvation, your provision to furnish all the strength needed to be God’s man in this scene of spiritual and moral declension. Obey faithfully the principles and the teachings of the New Testament. BE CONSISTENT.
Chapter four tells that there is a judgment day ahead when, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). We shall be exposed then by our Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 4:1), and in view of “that day” we should seek to be faithful now. “Preach the Word” (4:2); hold not back any of its truth. The Bible is our text book for salvation and for edification. We should faithfully support the truth although we be surrounded by unsound teachings and unwilling ears (4:2-4).
Diligence in all things, endurance of all circumstances, and faithfulness in the fulfilling of our ministry (4:5) will prove our devotion to God in the “last days.” Will there be compensation? Shall we be satisfied in such a path? Yes, eternally so! Paul was! Hear him: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (4:7-8).
From this last inspired letter of Paul comes a stirring message for all young believers today, in the last days of Christianity, BE BRAVE! BE STRONG! BE CONSISTENT! BE FAITHFUL! Let us all accept the challenge, and by God’s grace fulfil it for His glory and for our eternal reward.