“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (II Tim. 3:1). Jude had spoken of the apostasy in the last days already having occurred. Paul, too, spoke of heretics and apostates active in the church in his days. But here he prophesies that worse days are coming, both in and outside the church. Since the time he wrote this epistle, his warnings have been passed on to us. As we would expect, the apostasy (the falling away) today has become worse than ever before, and we are to expect it to become worse and worse. This Pauline perspective and prophecy of apostasy in the last days is not merely Paul’s, for it had been foretold by the Holy Spirit. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith…” (II Tim. 4:1-3). Let us give attention to these words before going on with II Timothy 3.
The source of all prophecy is “the Spirit.” This does not mean that the Spirit spoke directly to the apostles in an audible voice entirely apart from the Scriptures. The Spirit caused all Holy Scripture to be written by holy men of God. Further, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (II Tim. 3:16). Now that we have all canonical Scripture, in order to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches, it is required that we read and hear His Word from its infallible Source, God-breathed Scripture. Quakers and charismatics claim direct speaking of the Spirit to them apart from the Bible, in addition to the Bible. God’s Word denies this, for, literally, “speaking expressly,” means “speaketh explicitly in words,” i.e., in “words which the Holy Ghost teachest;” and those words appear exclusively in “all Scripture.” For example, “the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake concerning Judas” (Acts 1:16). Since the Spirit speaks explicitly in words, divine inspiration is verbal. It is all written in the Book of Scripture. Rev. 22:18-19. Jesus always appealed to the Word of God written: Matt. 4:4, 7, 10. The Lord indeed had spoken objectively, directly, and with His own voice from heaven. But we have a more sure Word of prophecy, which now is all cast into writing and recorded in Scripture (II Peter 1:17-21). In that inscripturated Word of the Spirit we have all the divine revelation we need; all that there is!
“That in the latter times,” generally, refers not to these last days, but to later times, not only later than when Paul wrote, but to the later seasons of the last days. Then “some shall depart.” Paul warns Timothy of some who will depart (apostatize) a little later, which came about in the later days of the oldest apostle John (I John 2:18). There are always some like this. Those “some” are always showing up in the church; so the church must be ready for them. They apostatize “from the faith,” which implies that they were once of the church. “The faith,” being objective, means the Christian faith, Christianity. In those times, Christianity was in the form of the teaching of Jesus, as in His discourses, the Sermon on the Mount, the Bread of Life discourse, John 6, and the eschatological discourse of Matthew 24; and in the form of the Gospel according to Paul, as in Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, etc. Now Christianity is best and most beautifully expressed in the Presbyterian Westminster Confession and catechisms, and in the Reformed Confessions and Forms of Unity. There are also important summaries and emphases of Christianity in the Apostles, the Nicene and the Athanasian creeds. Many today apostatize from the faith as represented in these creeds, by corrupting, mutilating and abandoning them. Since there is so much at this hour of what we might call a “Modern Christianity,” we would warn of “The Hidden Dangers of ‘Christianity Today’.” Certainly we must ever warn against “The Corruption of Christianity,” which is resulting in “The Impotence of American Christianity.”
“Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (demons).” “Giving heed to” means, literally, “holding the mind to.” This brings almost immediately to mind one of the dangers of Transcendental Meditation where one assumes a relaxed position attempting to empty the mind of any thought whatsoever. This is to hold the mind out and open to seducing (deceitful) spirits and doctrines of demons. The deceitful spirits are apostate teachers (I John 4:1-3). “Doctrines of demons” is not doctrines about demons. “All Scripture” contains that. But false doctrine (pseudo theology) comes from demons, Cp. I Kings 22:20-23; Rev. 16:13, 14, 16.
Today modern universities put much stock in the occult, but they have no stock in Scripture truth. It was not always so. About two generations ago they were too Sadducean to believe in the human spirit, the evil (fallen angelic) spirits; and all the occult was beneath their contempt. Now they are deeply into parapsychology (telepathy, the clairvoyant and related avenues of the occult) and the occult arena of Eastern (heathen Hindu) mysticism. They too sought to cease charging Calvinists and Reformed believers with being “witch hunters” or “heresy hunters,” while they are laboring to produce degreed witches and shamans, and deliberately, of choice, pursue (hunt), openly, heresy of the most Satanic nature. Formerly they had raged over the witch-burning of the Dark Ages; now they are the doctors and scholars of the occult in our New Age of Enlightenment.
“Seducing spirits…speaking lies in hypocrisy.” False prophets speak lies in their hypocrisy. Pseudo prophets, to be successful as such, must be clever hypocrites; and they are, for they lie behind a mask of piety. Some of the biggest hypocritical liars on the contemporaneous scene are the self-styled “evangelists” who preach that not only spiritual salvation, but also physical healing, along with earthly riches, may confidently be sought in the atonement and claimed from the promises of God. For the popular line of the pseudo prophets is that of a wealth-motivated religion. Naturally they must wear a mask, like the ancient stage-players, to play the hypocrite in order to palm off their lies on a dulled, duped, and gullible public (II Cor. 4:3, 4).
“Having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (I Tim. 4:2). They have gotten a seared conscience from their pseudo prophets and demonic teachers, (James 3:15, Gk.). Their damaged conscience has been cauterized so many times that it has become hardened, and so no longer responds as the sounding board of the soul. An example of the “seared conscience” we have in the ancient and modern heathen, not only as those heathen are found in so called “third world” nations, but as found in our own nation. See Eph. 4:17, 19. But then the hardened heathens out there in the world are not hypocrites, are they? Indeed not; but hypocrites in the church are capable of concealing their hardened consciences. That’s what makes them such clever hypocrites, their ability to present themselves as very human, caring, loving and tender-hearted shepherds of their flocks. Thousands flock to them and readily swallow their “pitch,” their “line,” to “hold their (empty) minds to,” and their (full) pocket-books to them, to make their adored idols rich.
“Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats” (v. 3). This prophecy is fulfilled in the negative hierarchical and monastical impositions of the Roman Catholic Church, another sign of apostasy in evidence today. As a result, “forbidding to marry” meets with more resistance, resentment and dissatisfaction on the part of priests and nuns in this country than ever before. Also there are still certain die-hard ascetic dietary laws which dictate what Christians are not to eat and not to drink.
Such is the way of the apostates and their departing from the faith. They are as conscienceless and callous as circus barkers and “con men,” yet they are far more professional than these crude bilkers and “bunco artists,” having far more talent in attracting crowds, gaining huge followings, and in amassing riches. They roll in wealth, reminding us of the unbelievably opulent “life style” of former Philippine President and Mrs. Marcos. Is it any wonder then that it finally comes to public eye that for years they have been guilty of shocking violations of Christian morality?
It is true that from the riches of His providence God gives these apostates from the faith, these seducing spirits, these lie-speaking hypocrites, their allowance and affluent allotment. But that does not sanctify their avarice, greed, lust and ingratitude. For the Lord will call them to account for the scandalous abuse of their stewardship. Then let us not fail to notice from Paul’s words (I Tim. 4:4) that nothing will be good to us, unless by guileless prayer we seek the Lord’s blessing on our use and enjoyment of it.