Preparations for times ahead
I. The perilous times that are coming (increasing moral and spiritual decline) (verses 1-9)
NB. Perilous = fierce in Math. 8:28 (same Greek word); 20 features are here listed, each a picture of the situation today. But God will still set His own limits (see v. 9).
II. The persecutions we must expect (verses 10-13)
1. They are comparable to the persecutions of Paul (v. 10, 11).
2. They are provoked by our desire for godliness (v. 12).
3. They will get worse (v. 13).
NB. Greek for persecutions is diognos; the idea is like a fierce terrier at the heels!
III. The procedure to be followed (2 suggestions) (verses 14-17)
1. Personal continuance with the Lord (v. 14).
2. Diligent use of the Scriptures (v. 15-17).
NB. Christ Himself was sustained by the Scriptures when He was being pursued in the wilderness of temptation, and at the cross. See e.g. Math. 4:4, 7, 10.
No one could read the opening verses of this chapter without seeing a clear picture of the days in which we live. Have there ever been, for instance so many family disorders and disruptions (v. 2), and have good people ever been so universally despised (v. 3)? And, while that term ‘a form of godliness’ (v. 5) could obviously refer to some superficial church-going, or the like, we suggest that it might easily include a variety of new phenomena that are appearing in our day. We hear, for instance, of certain rock-stars who are being acclaimed as the new messiahs, especially when they donate considerable portions of their huge incomes for the supply and distribution of food and clothing in some of the famine areas of the world. The acclaiming and supporting such benefactors is often regarded as a new and better kind of piety! Likewise, we hear of new enthusiasms for the environment, and the like, and whatever may or may not be the merits of such causes, the fact is that these enthusiasms have now developed into a kind of alternative religion for which many are prepared to put their very lives in jeopardy. These, surely, are the last days of which Paul spoke!
It is noteworthy also that Paul’s description of end-time wickedness begins with the phrase lovers of self (v. 2 R.V.). Here again is the real culprit standing behind all the horrors that Paul goes on to describe. It was this devilish self and self-interest, that led to the original fall (Gen. 3:4-6) and this is the poison that has penetrated the Adam race until this day. Thank God there is now another Man, and another humanity (Christ and His church), where the opposite principle prevails, “Not I but Christ” where we cease to be lovers of ourselves and become lovers of our Saviour.
We should all welcome the closing section of the same chapter in which we are told how Christians should proceed at such times. The main thing, Paul says, is to go on quietly with the Lord (v. 14) and at the same time being careful to make full use of the sacred Scriptures which, we are assured, are God-breathed. And our approach to those Scriptures is to be that of simple faith in Christ Himself, for it is He Who is to be our day-by-day victory even in those fierce and perilous times. All praise, then, to Him.