This is part of an ongoing weekly series entitled “The Last Days” where we are examining 2 Timothy 3:1-5. To read the other parts in this series please click on the FAITH section on the menu above.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, 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, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Terrible times is a relative term. It seems every generation thinks their own generation, or perhaps the younger generation, is the epitome of darkness and terrible times. Because it is a relative term I have always held a level of frustration when people reference the times they are living as the official “terrible times” described in scripture.
In the late 1990s, I was in a small group Bible study and the lady leading the group mentioned how we had to be living in the last days because of how dark it was getting in the earth. Her qualifier for terrible times was the advance of the gay rights agenda at that time, not to mention President Clinton’s impeachment scandal. (Oh, if she could see us now!) Her suggestion frustrated me. This had to be what people believed in the 1960s with the advance of the sexual revolution, drug culture, anti-war movement, and the drastic social changes that were sweeping the country. But those weren’t the last days either. For that matter, people must have thought the same thing in the roaring twenties or during the American Civil War.
Beyond that, these were all American changes. Shouldn’t the concept of terrible times apply to everyone in the world – not just Americans?
I did a podcast on this idea some time back and we looked at different points in history when it looked like the world had to be coming to an end. This was it. It could not get any worse than this. From the Crusades to the Black Death to the World Wars, there have been plenty of moments throughout history when believers could look out upon the landscape of their generation and say, “These are terrible times. Surely this must be the last days.” But in every case, it wasn’t.
This historical fact does not mean the Word of God is untrue. It simply means we have understood the reality of what the end of the world looks like from the wrong paradigm. We should not be looking merely at the state of our culture or global events. We should also be looking at the state of the heart of mankind.
In Matthew 24 Jesus specified the environment of the last days with the comparison “just as it was in the days of Noah.” The days of Noah were not a time of global pandemics and plagues. They were not a time of geopolitical upheavals and wars. What defined the days of Noah?
The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. Genesis 6:5
The days of Noah were defined by the state of the human heart and mind. Now, this does not discount global upheaval and chaos being linked to the terrible times of the last days. Jesus referenced this occurring as well. But the central character of the terrible times of the last days defined in scripture is not what will be taking place around the world but what is taking place in the heart and mind of man.
In fact, you might notice that this passage from 2 Timothy 3 is not linking global chaos and events to the terrible times of the last days. It is linking internal characteristics – i.e. issues of the heart and mind, to evidence of the terrible times. Paul is informing us that in the last days terrible times will come about because of the systemic breakdown within the heart and mind of man. Hearts and minds will utterly detach from the standards of God and collapse into darkness such as the world has not seen since the days of Noah.
Are These the Terrible Times?
I am not going to fall into the same misstep that my Bible study leader in the late 90s did but there are at least some things worth considering when it comes to the current state of the heart of man.
Recently, I introduced the movie Stand By Me to a group of friends. This movie was among my favorites when I was young. As we watched it together, I was struck by how such a movie could not be made today, or at least the same story would not work. (I also did not remember the level of profanity in the movie.)
The four boys who go camping together were affectionate friends, constantly putting their arms around each other and comforting one another through the coming of age drama that unfolds in the story. Today, in the retelling of the story, at least one of them would be gay. The gun that one of the boys steal from his father as they go camping would be the prelude to a potential school shooting. The times have changed. Even the way we look at growing up has become much more complicated – perhaps much darker.
- In 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there were 47,173 suicides in the United States. There was 1.4 million total attempted suicides. Suicides rose by 30% between 1999 and 2017.
- Since 2005, 26 states have experienced increases in drug overdoses of between 107%-450%.
- More men are drinking themselves to death, overdosing and killing themselves. These deaths among men rose by more than half from 2000 to 2014.
- During the last five years, opioid overdose has become the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 55.
We have a whole classification for these types of deaths. It is called deaths of despair. These are self-harm deaths that are among the leading causes for deaths in America today. It is not only an American trend though. This is a global trend. People are seeking to escape life by any means possible.
Individual darkness of the heart and mind is not the only measurement to qualify our generation as living in terrible times. Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. Surviving this statistic and not ending in divorce is of course not a qualification for a successful marriage though. Many couples stay married out of convenience even while their relationship deteriorates, and their kids learn to despise the institution.
Recent studies show that fewer millennials are choosing marriage as a legitimate piece of their life. The family unit, the core building block of society, is increasingly broken and leaving individuals without the necessary support system so they collapse and disintegrate in the growing harsh and uncaring state of our world.
This generation has seen suicides live streamed, and people cheered for it online. Terrorism has become a new form of warfare. It is highlighted by its emphasis upon public displays of brutality and depravity. It is a growing global trend. Globally in our post truth age those who believe in what is good and right are mocked and seen as backwards or on the wrong side of history.
We live in dark, terrible times. The darkness and terror of our environment are born directly out of the darkened state of the heart and mind.
Above all things guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
Are these the terrible times of the last days? Well they are certainly more widespread in their terror and depth of darkness than anything the earth has witnessed so far.
This introductory post to my series The Last Days will examine the passage of scripture from 2 Timothy 3 that is noted above. These are the definers of the terrible times and the last days that Paul spoke about. Every Sunday we will look at a different aspect of these descriptors and compare it to our own times. Then you can decide for yourself if we actually are living in the terrible times of the last days.