Women and the End Times
2 Timothy 3:1-9
Dr. Jim Denison
As a public service announcement, I’m here to remind all gentlemen that this Saturday is Valentine’s Day. Here’s the story.
For 800 years, the Romans held an event each mid-February during which young men drew the names of teenage girls from a box; the girl would become his sexual companion for the next year. Understandably wanting to change this practice, Pope Gelasius around A.D. 496 changed the lottery to draw the names of saints to emulate during the rest of the year. Many young Roman men were not pleased.
To encourage support, the pope named his event for St. Valentine, a martyr who was beheaded in A.D. 270. The emperor had forbidden his troops to marry, so Valentine performed their weddings in secret. He was sentenced to death, and fell in love with the blind daughter of his jailer while awaiting execution. He sent her a farewell note signed, “From your Valentine.” And a tradition was born. One you’re supposed to continue this week.
Today we’ll talk about women in the Bible and in Christian faith. And we’ll talk about the end times. I can’t imagine two more controversial or practical subjects.
Be holy in unholy days (vs. 1-5)
First we deal with the “last days”: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days” (v. 1). “Mark this” means “pay attention to this”—it’s an imperative, a command. We must know what follows. Know what?
In the “last days” there will be “terrible” times, literally “grievous” or “dangerous” times. This is the word used of “violent” demoniacs (Matthew 8:28) and by Greek writers of an “ugly” wound.
When will they come? What did Paul mean by the “last days?” It may surprise you to know that the Jews divided history into two categories: the “former” days before Messiah comes, and the “latter” or “last” days after he arrives. And so, in this era after Jesus’ advent, we are in the “last days.”
At Pentecost, Peter quoted Joel’s prophecy about the “last days” and said they were fulfilled with Jesus (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28-32).
Hebrews 1:2: “…in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
James 5:3: “You have hoarded wealth in the last days.”
1 Peter 1:20: “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”
1 John 2:18: “Dear children, this is the last hour….”
Paul tells Timothy to “have nothing to do with them” (v. 5), indicating that this period included his son in the faith. And in verse 6 he begins to describe those who are misleading others in the “last days,” using the present tense: “They are the kind who worm their way into homes….” Clearly Paul’s warnings about the “last days” have to do with Timothy’s present circumstances. And with ours.
Even though the Messiah has come, these “last days” are “terrible.” Paul lists eighteen reasons, painting a complete picture of the culture of his day. Read through the list and ask yourself which of these God finds within your heart today.
Here are the priorities of the last days: “lovers of themselves,” “lovers of money” (v. 2), and “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (v. 4). According to a recent Time magazine article, pornography online has increased 1800% since 1998. Nearly one in five movie rentals is a pornographic film. Hollywood produces 400 feature films a year; the porn industry makes 11,000. One in four American adults admitted to seeing an X-rated movie in the past year.
Here are the ways these people treat others: 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 (vs. 2-4).
Here is their deception: “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (v. 5a). They are even in the church. They look and act godly, but “deny,” refuse and thus do not produce, its power. You can know them by the degree to which God uses them.
Last Sunday’s Super Bowl was one of the best games in the history of the event. Tragically, all anyone is discussing is its horrendous, scandalous half-time show which culminated in obscenity seen by a billion viewers around the world, many of them children. What are Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia saying about our nation this week? What are we to do with such a culture?
Paul says, “Have nothing to do with them” (v. 5), literally, “turn away from these.” The Greek has the strongest possible condemnation in it—avoid them with horror. Do not be like them. Choose to be holy in an unholy day.
His injunction does not mean that we withdraw from attempting to influence the world. Salt is no good in the saltshaker, or light under the basket. I once saw a poster which pictured a ship at sea, sails billowing in the wind, speeding through white-capped storm-driven waves, and the caption: “Ships in the harbor are safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”
Rather, he means that we are to change the world without allowing it to change us. A ship in the water is a good thing; water in the ship is a bad thing.
How do we keep water out of the ship? By keeping the Spirit in control. By asking him to empower, cleanse, and fill us every morning. By communing with God in prayer, Bible study, and worship. By staying so close to Jesus that the world must come through him to get into us.
These are the “last days,” and will be until Jesus returns. That could be tomorrow, or in a thousand more years. But this could be your last day or mine. So be conformed to the image of Christ. Be holy in unholy days. What steps should you take first?
Be gracious with each person you meet (vs. 6-9)
A nurse writes, “During the second month of nursing school, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: ‘What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?’ Surely this was some kind of joke. How would I know her name? I handed in my paper leaving the last question blank. Someone asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. ‘Absolutely,’ said the professor. ‘In your careers you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care.’ I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned that her name is Dorothy.”