But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come… 2 Timothy 3:1
The apostle Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, a young trainee for the work of the pastoral ministry. These letters are packed with good advice on the functioning of a church. He ends both of these letters with a prophetic view of the church of the last days, maybe more for our attention than Timothy’s.
We live in perilous times. Hatred is at an all-time high with unnecessary divisions between genders, sexual identities, races, religions, political factions, economic classes, ideologies, etc., and this hatred is boiling over into violence such as we have not seen in recent times. Widespread anger and hostility also affect the reasoning capabilities of some people to the point where sound logic is no longer necessary to support their point of view.
Paul explains what he meant about these perilous times:
As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. 2 Timothy 3:2-4 (The Message)
This is exactly the toxic atmosphere that we live in today. Both the Main Stream Media and social media are filled with hate-fuelling rhetoric, unashamed bias, selective reporting, and ideology-driven censorship that taunt the sensitivities of the weak-minded. Add to that the sharp increase in terrorist attacks everywhere, and you have the dangerous environment that is our home.
The list of frustrations, dangers and phobias that captivate the minds and hearts of people is long, and there is much to say about all of this, though we must not be distracted by any of it. As Christians we keep our eyes on the bigger picture because we are not of this world; this is not our home.
Paul also has something to say about the church in the last days:
…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 2 Timothy 3:5
A form of godliness! The Message translates this as “they’ll make a show of religion…” Paul also adds “denying its power.” A church without power that makes a show of religion is a self-deceiving church and a disappointment for those in search of hope in a dark world.
Pointing fingers is never helpful, but, as a well-known author once said, we examine the church like a physician examining an old friend with a terminal disease. We simply cannot afford to have churches with a form of godliness and no power in the last days. No wonder Paul says, “from such people turn away!”
The church is the only beacon of hope in the world; lasting hope is nowhere else to be found. God’s hand reaches through the church to offer help when it is “dog-eats-dog” in a loveless, greedy, selfish, and cold world. It is a strong tower that we can run to when the world falls apart; even sinners know the church is a safe place where they can find help in a time of need.
The church of the last days is battle-tested and knows how to win wars. Feeding on the meat of the eternal Word, they know how to raise the sword of truth to defeat the lies of the devil. Their minds are renewed and their focus fixed on the mission to make disciples. No distraction, no matter how virtuous it might appear, deters them from their pursuit. Time is short, and there is much to do.
The spiritual world is buzzing with activity, and we can see the effects thereof on the ground. A war is being fought, and it is about the souls of men. The church is God’s battle axe on earth, and it must be sharp and balanced. Misinformation, disinformation and deception are all part of the enemy’s strategy to lure countless unsuspecting victims into its nets. If you know the truth, it will set you free, if not, you are an easy target. Ignorance, as is the case in a court of law, is no excuse, and can be fatal to your eternal future.
The church of the last days is not a place where Christians huddle together cozily to feed on the stale food of another era. We have never been in a time like this; there is no precedent to draw from, yet we must win this battle at all cost – and the cost is high. To be victorious we must feed our faith on an entirely different level.
This is the last lap of the relay race; the baton has been handed to us and our faces are fixed on the finishing line. Let’s not be afraid to stand out for the truth in a world where telling lies is acceptable. In the midst of confusion, we don’t fight like one who beats the air. We know our weapons and and the destruction that they cause in the camp of the enemy. It is a war that we are destined to win because we are well equipped.
The world is breaking up under the pressure of the war in the heavens: pollution left a toxic mess on our planet, our governments are failing, societies are restless, cultures are disappearing everywhere, the world’s economy is on the brink of collapse, hope is fading. May people run to our churches in these troubled times, instead of turning away for lacking power.
The increasing darkness offers the church an opportunity to shine as never before. Let’s not fall for the many distractions around us, but instead keep our focus on the assignment given to us; we are almost there!