2 Timothy 3

Read 2 Timothy 3.

There are good reasons to be glad to be alive today. Life expectancy is greater than it has been in hundreds of years. Technology has given us the ability to communicate constantly and never to be bored. Poverty has been falling around the world (source).

So, by those gauges, times are good! Here in 2 Timothy 3:1, however, Paul prophesied “terrible times in the last days.”

The “last days” in the New Testament began on the Day of Pentecost, shortly after Christ left this earth. Paul said that these last days would be “terrible times” based not on poverty or low life-expectancy, or war. What he defined as “terrible” was the moral condition of people (vv. 2–5). As human society gets older, humans become less morally restrained. That may please those without morals who seek mainly pleasure in this life, but the effects of unrestrained immorality are devastating to humanity. You don’t have to look very far to see illustrations of everything listed in verses 2-3. Society may have become more affluent, better educated and more but, morally speaking, things are “terrible” (v. 3).

So what do we do about it? Do we rail against the sins of society? Do we seek positions of power in the government so as to force submission to God’s word on others?

No.

The contrast to the “terrible times in the last days” is not to mobilize and become crusaders against the evils of humanity. There might be a place for that, but it isn’t the primary thing God wants from us. Instead, what God wants is for us to “…continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it” (v. 14b). And “from whom” did Timothy learn? From Paul, for verse 10 says, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance….”

Yes, society is decaying morally and people are living more and more wickedly. The prescription for us, however, is to keep following Christ, keep trusting him, keep living patiently and lovingly, growing in grace and holding steadfastly to the truth. That’s a prescription for persecution (v. 12) but it comes with Christ’s promises to sustain us.

Think times are terrible? Then “continue in what you have learned and become convinced of” (v. 14).

2 Thessalonians 2

Read 2 Thessalonians 2.

Paul continued, in this chapter, his teaching on end time events. We saw that right off the bat in verse 1: “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him….” Paul described the rise of the Antichrist, called here the “man of lawlessness” (vv. 2-8a) and the deception he will bring on the earth (vv. 9-12). But, in the middle of this description, we are told in verse 8, “the Lord Jesus will overthrow [him] with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.”

So, as bad as the end times will be, Jesus will win. The passage ends, then, with a reminder that they have been saved by God’s grace (vv. 13-14). Therefore, Paul encouraged them (and us) to persevere in the faith: “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

Knowing and clinging to the truth of God’s word is the key to perseverance. When you start to doubt the truth of God’s word or entertain novel interpretations of it, that’s will weaken your faith and your walk with God.

The promise of God, however, is that those who believe and follow Jesus to the end will be saved. As verse 14b says, “that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Did you notice that phrase? It’s easy to miss but it is so important. God saved us so that we will share in the glory of Jesus Christ.

That “glory” describes his holy character that is being formed in us and and that will be completed in eternity. But it also describes the eternal kingdom God has promised to all of us who love Jesus and follow him. the Bible tells us again and again that we will rule and reign with Christ (2 Tim 2:12, Rev 20:4, 22:5). I cited 2 Timothy 2:12 in that last sentence, but let me quote it for you because it is so on point: “…if we endure, we will also reign with him.”

That’s God’s promise to you and me. No matter how bleak things become on earth, continue to follow Jesus and you will be rewarded with his kingdom.

So don’t be deceived by the fake promises of sin or the tantalizing “secrets” of false doctrine. Don’t let discouragement keep you from following Jesus. Instead, “…stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you” (v. 15).

Numbers 29, Isaiah 52, 1 Thessalonians 5

Read Numbers 29, Isaiah 52, and 1 Thessalonians 5. This devotional is about 1 Thessalonians 5.

What will the end of humanity look like? Everyone agrees that this earth is doomed–eventually. Some people believe that space travel will offer escape for the human race to some other inhabitable planet when our sun dies out or the earth becomes uninhabitable.

But realistically that’s the stuff of science fiction, not reality.

According to God’s word, human history will end here on this earth. And most of humanity will be utterly unprepared for it as we read today in verses 1-3. Verses 4-11 describe the contrast; while most of humanity will be unprepared for the end, believers “are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief” (v. 4). God’s word has described for us what will happen when the “day of the Lord” (v. 2) arrives. As students of his word, then, we should not be surprised when his judgment comes.

Still, although we are not in darkness, this passage urges us to “be awake and sober…since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (v. 6b, 8). The promise of salvation from God’s wrath in Christ (v. 10) calls us to be active and growing in our faith, not passive and complacent as if we are just passing the time until Christ comes.

This is always how the Bible applies end times promises to believers. The promise of deliverance through Christ should motivate us to become like Christ. We strive to become holy for many reasons–the new nature within, the Holy Spirit within, a desire to be like Christ–but one of the things that should motivate us to grow is the knowledge that Christ will return. Understanding that this world is temporary and that eternal things are, well…, eternal, lifts our thoughts from materialism, self-centeredness, pleasure-seeking, and other temptations. We lose our desire for these things when we realize all that God has promised to us eternally in Christ.

Have you lost your focus on eternity? Is your interest in the Lord, his word, and his character formed in your life cooling off? Let this reading remind you that the Lord is coming. So many things that seem important now will be completely irrelevant when Jesus returns; likewise, things that advance God’s work through evangelism and God’s holiness in people’s lives will be shown for the eternal value that they have. So let these words encourage you (v. 11a) but also refocus and re-energize you to know the Lord and participate in his work.