Difficult Times & the Degeneration of Men, Part II
An Exposition of 2 Timothy 3:1-5
by Thomas Coutouzis
This is the part 2 of the our study on 2 Timothy 3:1-5. The first post looked at verses 1-2 and this post will focus on verses 3-5.
“…unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,…” —2 Tim. 3:3
The first word in verse 3 that Paul uses to show us the evil that will be going on as we approach the last days is “unloving“. Mankind will grow more and more unloving. The Greek word that Paul uses is ἄστοργος (astorgos). It combines “A” (alpha) which is a negative that means “without/not” and “storge” which is one of the four Greek words for love (eros, philos, and agape are the other three). “Storge” means “familial love” or “kindred love”. It is an affection that comes naturally, thus it relates to family/kindred. For any of you that have had children, or those of you that have had grandchildren, there is a natural love for the child the moment it is born. I will never forget sitting in the operating room with my wife Kathy as she was having a C-section. The doctor had removed our daughter from the womb and held her up over the covering for Kathy and I to see. Despite all the stress of the emergency C-section my wife’s first words were, “I love her!” That is the essence of “storge” love. It is a natural love for one’s kindred. Even though my wife and I just met this little one that God knit together in Kathy’s womb we had an immediate love for her. It was our disposition. The “a” used in front of “storge” renders it the opposite of “love of kindred/familial love”. Properly, ἄστοργος means, “Without natural affection/without kindred love”. What Paul means is that in the last days people will not have any love for their own family. There will be no more natural affection. Probably the greatest example of this is abortion. Any woman that has their child aborted is complicit in murder whether or not they were pressured or have a seared conscience. Any woman that has an abortion is ἄστοργος (devoid of kindred love).
Let me give you another example: Black Lives Matter wants to destroy the nuclear family. The nuclear family is God’s design and He uses it to restrain evil, train up children, and teach them to respect authority. It also gives us a glimpse of the gospel as the husband represents Christ who will lay his life down for his bride just as Christ did the church. The family was so important that God has two of the 10 commandments (5 and 7) that address it. If you destroy the family then you destroy the cornerstone for society that keeps it from collapsing. Black Lives Matter desires for the community to raise the children, not the parents. The two examples I have given with Black Lives Matter and abortion have a common sin that is integral to destroying the family…sexual immorality. The women getting abortions want to have sex without consequences. Black Lives Matter is championed by Planned Parenthood which is the largest abortion provider in the United States. They are fervent supporters of homosexuality and transgenderism which oppose God’s design for the family. God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman, so when people venture outside of His boundaries for marriage (see: Genesis 2:21-25) it creates havoc on a society. Here is what I am positing: In the last days there will not be many that hold to God’s design for marriage and family because sexual immorality and sexual perversion will be so rampant. There will be no familial love because children will be born out of wedlock by parents who just wanted to have the benefits of marriage without the commitment. The parents will have little to nothing to do with their children which will foster hatred between parent and child. Sexual immorality of every kind will be rampant so as to nullify God’s design for marriage and abortions will be rampant. The reason why there will not be any familial love in the last days is because sexual immorality of every type will be out of control. Marriage will have effectively been abandoned by the unbeliever.
The next sin that Paul points out that will manifest in great measure in the last days is “irreconcilable“. The Greek word Paul uses is ἄσπονδος (aspondos). The “a” is a prefix known as “alpha” which means “without/not”. The word σπένδω (spendo) simply means “to pour libation”. It can be rendered “without pouring libation”, but there is a much deeper meaning behind simply not pouring a drink. Paul is using this term as a figure of speech, not literally. “Spendo” was an act where two warring factions or nations came together to make an armistice. “Spendo” was for making a truce. The pouring of the libation between these to factions symbolized the ending of their conflict. By adding the negative (alpha) to “spendo” the meaning of the word changes to “to not pour a drink “. This would mean that one or both of the factions will continue hostilities towards each other. There will be no peace treaty. Applying this to the last days reveals that as we near the tribulation people will tolerate each other less and less. It will manifest in two ways. There will be people that disagree with your position on something and hate you. This is becoming more prevalent today with the political divide in our nation. I am finding today that if you disagree with a person about homosexuality or transgenderism that you will be hated and called a “hater”. True Christians do not hate anyone. In fact, we can disagree with people whose views oppose ours and not hate them, nor do anything that would harm them. Telling them God’s truth or sharing the gospel is not harming them. We are commanded to love our enemies. The problem that I am seeing escalate more and more is that we are living in a world that wants Christians to assimilate to it, but more than that in the context, we are living in a world that refuses to disagree amicably and will repay evil for evil or perceived evil.
My second point will be the most prominent of sins as we approach the last days. Revenge will be celebrated. Many TV shows or movies that comes out have a protagonist that is seeking revenge for some evil that was done to them. The TV Show “Revenge” that came out years ago embodied seeking one’s own revenge. These shows in fact celebrate hostility towards your enemy, not making peace or forgiving them. We live in a day where no one can tolerate any wrong done to them even when you apologize to them. They are unwilling to “pour out a drink” and make a treaty to cease hostilities. They have a spirit that is easily enraged. Unforgiveness is a lust for revenge. The unforgiving person fantasizes about the destruction of their opponent and seeks to do anything in their power to hurt the person that hurt them, or hurt the person they disagree with. These people refuse to be reconciled. I have personally had a falling out with one of my brothers where he got involved in an argument between my wife and I when we were on the phone fighting early in our marriage when she was pregnant. Without getting into the details I should have gone home to be with with my wife because she was my priority and we needed to work through this sin that had arisen in both of us together. We both said some horrible things to each other while on the phone. I made the wrong decision of staying behind to confront another brother who was in sin. I was in no spiritual state to confront another brother in sin when I had just said some horrible things to my wife and had not even repented. My heart was in the wrong place. Regardless, this brother confessed his sin within minutes. I didn’t need to be there. As you can imagine, things escalated after that night. A rift grew between my brother and I because we repaid evil with evil and we both refused to show each other any grace or mercy. He blamed my wife for this falling out. We had deeply different theological beliefs regarding marriage, forgiveness, reconciliation, and soteriology as he had many unorthodox beliefs not supported in Scripture. This contributed to the inability to reconcile. We tried Biblical counseling, but that lasted maybe two sessions before my brother canceled them without my consent. I was challenged by the Biblical counselor to show my brother grace and to not hold any of his transgressions against Kathy and I against him anymore. Kathy and I forgave him unconditionally. I even apologized for all the sin I was convicted by the Holy Spirit of committing as did my wife. Over the years I apologized for the same sins to my brother over and over again until I finally just stopped because I had already confessed and apologized numerous times. This brother would never let it go. He ostracized us, so this has gone on for 11 years unresolved. After 10 years he did apologize for one way that he had hurt my wife, but would not apologize to us for any of the other ways he hurt us. My wife and I were okay with that. My wife and I said that he didn’t need to apologize for the other ways he hurt us. That we should just all show each other grace and move past this and be family. He called it cheap grace (forgiving someone’s sin and not holding it against them any longer). My brother refused to “pour a libation”. He was irreconcilable. He wanted war until he got everything he wanted. We told him the ways he hurt us and he accused us of lying and told us to repent. He didn’t want peace. He wanted submission to his will. When my nephew Zion died he continued his pursuit of wanting a court case where a mediator would hear all the arguments and assign guilt. I told him, no, because his way wasn’t Biblical. He rehashed the entire past as he yelled at me and misquoted Scripture in front of my grieving brother and sister in law. I lost my temper and yelled back at him. I could not believe that of all the times and places to do this he chose to do it hours after my nephew Zion was buried. I told him we could drop everything right here (pour out a drink offering) and be at peace by showing one another grace and moving on. He refused to do it. We have since cut off relations with him. Beloved, there are some people that you can’t be at peace with, and when you discover that, it is time to cut off relations so that their bitterness doesn’t pollute your soul. We are willing to be family with them again if they are willing to stop seeking revenge, but they are unwilling.
In the last days, people will not want to be at peace with each other. They will seek vengeance with every fiber of their being. Their lust for vengeance will not be satisfied even if they get everything they want. They will hold the sword over your head for the rest of your life even if you apologize or try to make peace. Beloved, forgive unconditionally and leave the vengeance to God (see: Romans 12:17-21). I am reminded of Brandt Jean who forgave the police officer who shot his brother Botham Jean. That was Christ’s power on full display right there and it blew the world away. As the days get darker the light of Christ will shine all the brighter for man to see. They will be speechless when they see such miraculous acts. May we be more like Brandt Jean and forgive our offenders without condition. May we be quick to pour a drink offering and make a treaty with those who wound us in the church to show the world an example of the power of forgiveness that is in Christ. May we pour a drink offering with our enemies who seek to wound us in hopes that Christ may bring them to salvation.
The next sin Paul points out that will abound in the last days is “malicious gossips“. The Greek root word Paul uses is διάβολος (diabolos) which means “to accuse falsely/to slander”. It denotes falsely accusing someone with the intent to cause harm. These people are prone to slander because it is their natural disposition. What is interesting is that the Hebrew word שָׂטָן(Satan) that is used in the Old Testament is translated in the LXX (the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament) as διάβολος (diabolos). This is the term we use to identify Satan as the “accuser” of the brethren. This is where the English word “devil” is derived. “Dia” means “across” and “ballein” means “to throw”. Properly “diabolos” means, “to throw across”. It denotes the “hurling” or “throwing across” of accusations at another person. Does it surprise you that the children of Satan (unbelievers) will be hurling accusations and insults? This would mean that in the last days man will have no ability to bridle their tongues. It would reflect what Jesus said as he rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 12:34b, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Man will be so corrupt that injurious speech will be the most recognized speech on the planet. People will only want to use their words to slander others. Can you imagine what accusations will be made of the church in the last days before Christ’s return? Can you imagine being out with your children at a public place and someone (an unbeliever) knows that you are a Christian and they say, “You homophobic piece of trash! You make me sick!” as they proceed to curse you and your family out. How about at work where the unbelievers around you make false accusations to your boss in attempts to have you fired because they hate that you serve the Lord Jesus Christ. These realities are becoming more real today with the ‘Cancel Culture’. People cannot disagree amicably anymore so they seek to destroy your life so that you never work again by labeling you as evil and using their influence to ruin your life. The Cancel Culture today that has birthed will continue to get exponentially worse the closer we get to the last days. Cancel Culture is the epitome of “malicious gossips“.
The next sin that Paul points to in the last days is “without self-control“. The Greek root that Paul uses is ἀκρατής (akrates). It combines “a” (alpha) which makes a word a negative and means (without/not) and “kratos” which means “strength”. Properly, “without self-control”. It denotes incontinence, meaning that they will lack the ability to control themselves. They will not be able to restrain themselves from evil. This goes with my first article highlighting that God is removing His restraining grace from this world so people will do even more vile things than before. Our world will mimic the Antediluvians before the flood came and wiped them off the face of the earth as a judgment from God. What I must point out is that Paul isn’t just talking about sexual immorality. He is saying that their lack of self-control will encompass every fiber of their being. This will apply to every one of their appetites. They will not only be unable to restrain their desire for sexual immorality (which is frightening) they will be unable to restrain themselves from any pleasure, whether money, food, entertainment, alcohol, etc… If they can’t restrain their own appetites for pleasures, do you think they will be able to restrain themselves from attacking someone they hate? They won’t, and I believe that is why Paul addresses “brutal” and “haters of good” next. They will be the antithesis of the fruit of the Spirit that is self-control ( ἐγκράτεια ). In these last days not only will adultery, rape, and prostitution/sex slavery be on the upswing, but also people craving non-stop entertainment, pornography, drunkenness, drugs, fits of rage, vengeance, and gluttony to name a few.
One example of this growing trend is the CEO of Netflix (Reed Hastings) in 2011 is quoted as saying, “ Netflix’s brand for TV shows is really about binge viewing,” he said. “It is to accommodate, to just get hooked, and watch episode after episode .” Companies are promoting “akrates”. If you lack self-control you will buy more and more product and these companies will market themselves in a way to make it seem like a good thing. Another example is sex trafficking within our nation. Did you know that the average teen that enters the sex trade is 12-14 years old? Did you know that 51.6% of the human trafficking cases in the U.S. are sex trafficking cases only involving children? Sex trafficking numbers are on the rise because the demand is there. This means that sexual immorality in our nation is on the rise. Men and women are sleeping with prostitutes at a higher rate than ever before. This is because man is becoming “akrateia” (incontinent) and cannot control their lusts anymore. Brothers and sisters, as these days grow more evil, expect for the lusts of men to multiply. You must prepare for these new harsh realities we are facing because man is getting more evil, not less.
The next sin that Paul identifies as prevalent in the last days is that men will be “brutal“. The Greek word that Paul uses is ἀνήμερος (anemeros). It combines “a” (alpha) which is make the word into a negative. It means “without/not”. The word “hemeros” means “tame/gentle”. Properly, “not tame” or “savage”. In the last days men and women will be more like animals than humans because they will be that far from God. The closer to God we are the more human we become, yet the further we turn from God the more like animals we become. Since people will lack self-control it makes sense that they will act more like animals who have no self-control over their desires. Brutal denotes they will be vicious, given over to anger. People will be inhumane, merciless, and vengeful. They will delight in hurting others, yet never finding satisfaction for this insatiable craving, always wanting but never satisfied. They will seek to dox anyone online who does not agree with them. They will go to your employer and seek to have you fired because you disagree with them on an issue. Their brutality will reflect the malice that resides in their hearts. People will become more violent and seek to physically hurt those they hate. They won’t be able to control their violent behavior. They will be given over to violence as the way they operate, harboring murder in their hearts, because as Christ pointed out in Matthew 5 that if you harbor anger in your heart you have committed spiritual murder. Physical murder is actually the furthest end one can take their anger. Murder and physical brutality will be commonplace. When Peter cut off Malchus’ ear Christ created a new ear on the man and rebuked Peter. Peter wasn’t aiming for Malchus’ ear, he was aiming for his head to kill him. Peter had murder in his heart as he was acting like an animal in the wild who had no ability to control his desires. This is why Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those that take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” Matthew 26:52. If violence is how you operate then it will be violence that will take your life. Bring a bunch of violent people together and a melee will ensue because they cannot control their rage. These savage people, if legitimately hurt, will become vigilantes and seek retribution. If they are laid off from a job whether their fault or through no fault of their own they will become embittered and start a slander campaign at the very least and trespassing, vandalism, and workplace violence at the most. When God removes His restraining grace people will become more like wild animals doing whatever their sinful heart throws into their mind. They will epitomize “follow your heart” or “listen to your heart”.
The next sin that Paul names that is prevalent in the last days is “haters of good“. The Greek word Paul uses is ἀφιλάγαθος (aphilagathos). This is a compound word. The “a” (alpha) is a negative that means “without/not”. The next two words are the compound. “Philos” means “friendly love” or “friend” and it denotes a familiar or experiential personal affection, meaning that your love is based on having spent time or interactions with a person. It is the love that you would have for a close friend or family member. The second part of the compound word is “agathos”. It means, “inherently good” denoting intrinsic goodness. Together, “philagathos” means “a personal affection for that which is intrinsically good.” When you add the negative (alpha) to the word, you get the opposite. It means, “a hater of that which is good”. It denotes being hostile or opposed to that which is good or virtuous. To put it simply, they hate anything that is good. They will burn with anger when you show a person mercy, including if they are the recipient of your mercy. They will hate you for forgiving your offender because only cowards forgive, real courage in their eyes is to get even. They will hate you for not swearing or not laughing at their course jokes. They will mock you for abstaining from sex until you are married. They are haters of all that is holy. The Christian’s holiness will be a piercing dagger in their heart convicting them of their evil. As God’s restraining grace lessons on this world the light of Christians will be all the more convicting of their sin. They don’t like that feeling when they are in your presence. They want everyone to be as evil as they are. Holy people are a reminder of how truly wicked unregenerate man is. The Israelites were afraid of Moses because after he was with the Lord, the glory of the Lord shined on his face. This literal shine from his face frightened them and convicted them of their sin, so much so that Moses had to cover his face. In the last days men will hate that which is good and seek to harm or corrupt those who are holy.
“… treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,…” —2 Tim. 3:4
The next word Paul uses for people in the last days are that they will be “treacherous“. The Greek word used is προδότης (prodotes). In Greek “pro” means “before” and as a prefix it intensifies “didome” which means, “to give”. Properly, it means “betrayer/traitor”. The word denotes giving someone over to an enemy. In fact, this word was used to in reference to Judas Iscariot in Luke 6:16. So, what does Paul mean that people will be traitors/betrayers in the last days? I am looking at it from two perspectives.
First, I believe that this will suggest that people will sell each other out. Paul already said that in the last days people will be lovers of money, so people with sensitive information about other people or leaders will use it to gain wealth, power, status, or favor. If Judas Iscariot would sell Christ out for 30 pieces of silver because he loved money then it makes sense that people will sell each other out for some sort of gain. To be honest I see nothing but treacherous activity in politics, so if our leaders are backstabbing each other, will the people of this nation not follow their lead?
Secondly, and I believe most importantly, this may more specifically be in regards to Christian persecution. We are all aware of the Germans relentless pursuit of the Jews for the purpose of extermination. German citizens sold out fellow citizens who were Jewish, some even pointing the Nazis to where Jews were in hiding. I read a story from a 2002 article in the LA Times that reported that in the Netherlands Dutch citizens would turn in Jews living in their country for money. It was more of a Dutch effort to turn the Jews over to the Germans and it paid well. These Dutchmen sold out their own countrymen for $75 a week and $37.50 per captured Jew. That is a lot of money for late 1930’s-1940’s. Just a few verses down in 2 Timothy 3:12 we are told that “all” who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Christians are to expect to be persecuted if they are living for Christ. In these last days I believe that people will be selling Christians out just as the Dutch sold their Jewish countrymen out. There will be traitors among us, people professing Christ, who conform to this present age and fear man more than God. As the persecution of Christians grows in each nation, including the United States, understand that there will be traitors among us who will turn us into the government to be arrested. Expect it. If Jesus was sold out to the Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) for 30 pieces of silver, are we so above our Master that it could never happen to us? If it happened to Christ it will happen to us. Just as Christ was betrayed by Judas Iscariot we should also expect to be betrayed by those who profess Christ too. It will reveal that they are sons of perdition just like Judas.
The next sin Paul addresses in the last days is that man will be “reckless“. The Greek word Paul uses is προπετής (propetes). “Pro” (before) is a preposition that intensifies the word and “pipto” means “to fall”. Properly, “to fall forward” denoting rashness or careless behavior because the person is headstrong. The implications here are that the person is impulsive. They shoot first and ask questions later as the old saying goes. They think they know it all so they make reckless decisions that cause them calamity. These people give no thought to their actions. They do not seek counsel. They do not entertain anyone’s opinion unless it lines up with their own. They never consider the consequences of their actions. They will spend more money then they make in their paycheck. They will jump into a marriage without really knowing the person because their spouse is hot, not godly. When I served in a college ministry many years ago I met a headstrong couple that had not dated long and they wanted to get married immediately because they could not control their passions for sex. They ignored everyone’s advice to not rush into the covenant of marriage and were married. Needless to say their early years of marriage were a struggle because it takes much more than sexual relations to maintain a relationship, especially when you raise it above God. A reckless person will take a mortgage out on their home to invest in the stock market or even worse, take it to the casino.
In the early days of my sanctification when God had a lot of work to do in me after college, I remember going to a casino in Tunica, Mississippi. I remember playing roulette. A lady sat down next to me who had just cashed her entire paycheck and spent every last penny gambling. When I left she had lost well over $1100 and was almost broke. Another example would be to look where modern Christian music is trending. Song lyrics are born from emotion, not reasoned through Scripture. The song “Reckless Love” irritates me to no end. That one would call the love of God “reckless” is both callous and blasphemous. God’s love is not careless, hasty, impetuous, or rash. This would suggest that God has no idea how to love at all. Reckless people care for no one else but themselves and leave throngs of wounded in their wake. They are controlled by impulse, not reason. Saying that God’s love is reckless is slanderous to His holy name. In the last days, people will be so headstrong that they will make reckless decision after decision and bring those close to them into their storms.
Paul follows up with the next sin prevalent in the last days and it is a good follow up to “reckless”. He calls people in the last days τυφόω (tuphoo). It literally means “to blow smoke” or “to wrap in smoke”. Paul uses it figuratively like he has done most of this passage to denote being “puffed up” or “conceited“. You can render this, “to be lifted up” as they are inflated with pride, blind to their own conceit and ripe for a fall. These people will think very highly of themselves. They will seek after vain things to glorify themselves. They will think they are experts in every facet of life. They will look down on those that challenge them as lesser people whose opinion is worthless. They will speak to people in a condescending manner. They will tell you what is best for your life because they know you better than you know yourself. They will seek to be influencers to push their immoral agendas because they are right and you are wrong because they are smarter than you. I don’t like politics, but I saw the perfect example recently where a Democrat commented that the Republican congresswoman from Colorado Lauren Boebert is not fit to serve in Congress because she only has a GED. In the last days elitism will be rampant and if you don’t have the right pedigree you will be looked upon as a witless peasant.
The next evil Paul addresses regarding people in the last days is that they will be “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” The term “lovers of pleasure” is the Greek compound φιλήδονος (Philedonos). It combines “Philos”which is the experiential love. It is a love that you would have for a friend that grows because of the time you spend with them (experience). The experience that Paul is speaking to here is an experiential love of “pleasure”. The second part of the compound is “hedone” which gives us our English term ‘hedonism’. “Hedone” simply means “pleasure” and implies a pleasure that itself has become an end. Properly, “philedonos” translates as “lovers of pleasure“. The implications are clear. The ends (pleasure) will justify the means. The people in the last days will live to gratify themselves. Pleasure will be their god, not Yahweh. They will sacrifice whatever they can to procure these fleeting pleasures if but for a moment. In the second Hunger Games movie (Catching Fire) Katniss and Peeta were at President Snow’s mansion for a party which celebrated the victors. They were stuffed from eating all the sensuous foods when a man and woman offered them some more food to which they refused. They handed Peeta and Katniss a drink and said that if they drank the mysterious beverage that it would make them vomit so that they could enjoy eating more food. That scene of decadence and gluttony in Hunger Games will give you an idea of what “lovers of pleasure” will look like in the last days.
Think about sexual immorality. Sex slavery and brothels will be commonplace, adultery will be off the charts. Drunkenness will be an epidemic as people seek alcohol to deal with life’s troubles and as a temporary escape from reality. Mind altering drugs will prominent whether at home or in night clubs or at raves. Entertainment venues will be full as events will have to make more and more provocative shows to keep people coming back. These people will be addicts always looking for their next fix as each act of lust for pleasure will bring about ever diminishing returns. Their god of pleasure will leave them discontent and unable to satisfy their desires, whereas the Christian finds their satisfaction in Christ, not be brought into slavery to pleasure. Love of pleasure is slavery to sin and it is a cruel master that will never let you go unless God rescues you by His grace. These people will be in a constant state of want and suffering because they cannot be satisfied. Contentment and satisfaction will be absent in the last days.
“…holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” —2 Tim. 3:5
The base word that Paul uses for “holding” is ἔχω (echo). It means, “I have” and denotes possession of something. Paul is using this verb in the present tense meaning that they are constantly holding to this “form of godliness“. It appears that Paul is switching gears just a little and is now pointing to apostasy in the church in the last days. Granted, apostates will embody every one of the aforementioned sins Paul says will be common in the last days, and they should, because they are unregenerate. From 2 Timothy 3:5-9 Paul is directing his warning as to what will be happening in the last days to the church. In the Tribulation there is no church, this is why I believe that the last days here refers to the time just before the rapture of the church. Putting that aside, Paul is warning the church that these men and women will appear godly on the outside. They will profess Christ, pray daily, fast, read Scripture every day, teach or serve at church, take communion, fight injustices, talk about Christ often, give food and clothing to the poor and hungry. The Pharisees did the exact same things regarding God. This is why Paul says they hold to “a form” of godliness.
“Form” in the Greek is μόρφωσις (morphosis). It means “form” but it carries a deeper understanding. It denotes “a form/outline”. In other words it takes the shape of something and gives you the impression that it is what you think it is purely by how it looks externally. When it is used in context with “holding” it denotes a process (constant) rather than an ending point. I am using too many pop culture references, but they seem to be fitting examples. In the first Men in Black movie a spaceship crashes out in a rural area on a farmers property. The farmer witnessed the crash on his property and came out to investigate. This farmer was suddenly snatched into the crater made by the ship by some sort of giant alien bug and was presumably killed. When you next see the farmer he is walking away from the crash but is really awkward in his speech and movements. The giant alien bug somehow went inside the dead man’s body and began acting as if he were human so as to carry out his plan. On the outside we saw a man, but on the inside was a giant alien bug controlling the man’s body. This is what Paul is talking about. On the outside we see someone who looks like a Christian. They do all the right things and say all the right things, but it is a facade covering who they really are. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” People have this misconception that evil people look the part of what is considered evil. They think that evil is going to take the form of Orcs like in Lord of the Rings and that good is going to take on a beautiful form. This is not true! Evil many times takes the form of something good or pleasing! Paul clearly says in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” Evil likes to take on the form of good for the sole purpose of deceiving you. If you think an evil person is good then they can lead you astray. This is why I made the wicked (Mardok, traitorous Adelphos, and Azriel) in my Athanasia series some of the most beautiful people, because they appear like an angel of light, but are desperately evil. These apostates put on a form (morphosis) of godliness on the outside, yet they are anything but godly. They hold (echo) to this outward appearance (form) of godliness constantly, but they are apostates. These are pagans disguised as Christians.
These apostates in the church will do their best to hold to a form of godliness, “although they have denied its power“. The Greek word for “denied” is ἀρνέομαι (arneomai). What is interesting is that the word is in the present tense denoting constant/perpetual denial by these apostates in the last days. The word within the context means, “to deny/to abnegate/to adjure”. This is not merely a denial they keep to themselves, rather it embodies carrying this denial into their own personal practice. Christianity to them is a mere outward expression, not an inward transformation to reflect the living power of God. These individuals will appear godly on the outside, but inwardly they will be raging with countless lusts. What is in the mind will transition to action.
Sadly, the best example of this is Carl Lentz, former pastor of Hillsong Church in New York City. On the outside this man lived a pretty clean life. He looked like he had his life in order, though his theology was terrible. He agreed with Oprah about everyone going to heaven (universalism) when she interviewed him. He also would not call abortion sin when directly asked about it on the The View. All the red flags for apostasy were there because his beliefs were erroneous. This man was credited for turning Justin Bieber’s life around, a man who poured countless hours into sermon prep, a man who prayed and appeared holy from the outside regarding his actions. Then it was reported that he had committed adultery with an atheist woman who lived in New York City. He kept it on the down low. Even after the affair was discovered by his wife and by the leaders of Hillsong, he still went back and had sex with the woman after the fact. He looked like a Christian on the outside, but his actions in secret pointed to his unbelief. He held to a form of godliness but denied its power in his life. He revealed that he was a fraud. Many Christians already knew this based on his theological beliefs, but his faux godliness wasn’t enough to combat his sin nature. I will point out that this doesn’t just apply to heterodoxy.
There are orthodox Christians out there that hold to the right theology, but are inwardly dead. They do not practice what they preach. They look down on those not as wise as them rather than showing them grace. They belittle rather than exhort so as to exalt themselves, not God. They can be cruel and heartless to those that oppose them. The Pharisees made some horrible accusations regarding Jesus, including saying that he was born from adultery (John 8:41). There are some discernment ministries out there that fit this bill. I would also add that many who profess Christ on the left are modern day godless Sadducees. They appear moral too on the outside, but like the Sadducees do not hold to the authority or sufficiency of Scripture. They are practical atheists. They fight for worthy causes to stop the sex slave trade. They fight to help get third world country kids vaccinated, as well as feed and cloth the poor. The problem is that their actions justify their salvation, not Christ. These actions are not born out of orthodoxy (right beliefs) thereby bringing forth orthopraxy (right practice), rather it is their orthopraxy that they lean on to justify that they are orthodox. I am sorry, the fruit doesn’t give birth to the tree. It is the tree that bears the fruit. As Christ said in Matthew 12:33, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make a tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” On the outside they have a form of godliness, but on the inside they are dead. How do you recognize them? They reject the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. They will be okay with abortion, transgenderism, sex before marriage, homosexuality, gossip, drunkenness, recreational drug use, lying, pride, reviling, course jesting, cursing, etc… It is because Scripture has no authority over them that they are not obligated to obey God’s commands showing that they in fact are unbelievers. In fact, they will also import man made philosophies into Christianity as well as beliefs of other false religions. This is called ‘Syncretism’ as they attempt to sync Christianity to other beliefs and religions. In the last days my hope is that the church will exercise discipline against these apostates, and for those who are truly in error and refuse to repent, that they be tossed out to keep Christ’s church pure as best as fallible man can.
“Avoid such men as these“. This is a command. We are not to associate with these fake Christians. The Greek word for “Avoid” is ἀποτρέπω (apotrepo). It combines “apo” (from) and “trope” (turning). Properly, “turning from”. You can also translate it as “to shun/avoid”. The implication here is simple. Have nothing to do with professing Christians who work hard to put on an appearance as a Christian, but inwardly have no evidence of regeneration. This will come out in their beliefs and actions, especially the hidden actions. “Be sure your sin will find you out,” from Numbers 32:23 comes to mind. I often wonder why Christians associate with the godless, especially in politics. It is true, we are and must witness to unbelievers and be a light to them, yet I am noticing a lot of Christians who fellowship with the unbelievers. They empathize and befriend them more than Christians in their church. I see it in the political realm and in the philosophical realm. Christians are importing worldly philosophies into the church and corrupting it. I have seen it with nationalism, but even worse with CRT which is more pervasive because it is being adopted and employed by the U.S government, every major corporation, churches, and into our schools. The same can’t be said about nationalism. Either way, these, and the multitude of heresies associated with the church with prosperity theology, social justice, eastern mysticism, panentheism, gnosticism, antinomianism, self help theology, attractional church, emergent church, etc…need to be challenged and removed from Christ’s church. The command is clear…have nothing to do with them. Avoid them because if you let them into your life or into your church they will come to roost.
As I finish up I would like to point out that it appears that there will be two churches just from looking at Paul’s words in verses 5-9. We are seeing the Harlot church form like Bethel which is obviously apostate, but some churches are more discreet in their heresies, though a careful look at them would show their heresy. The apostate churches will become more and more obvious the closer we get to the last days. Paul makes it sound in verse 9 as if anyone who has been redeemed will know the harlot church from the true church. It will be that obvious. The good news is that we will see the true church split from the harlot church. When the harlot church is removed they will fall into deeper wickedness, and the true church will easily see that they are frauds. This would signal that there is going to be some painful times ahead as people we once thought redeemed go to the harlot church. It will sting, but it is a good and necessary pain. Prepare for it, beloved. It is Christ purifying His church and we need to be grateful for it because we have failed in our attempts to keep the church holy and pure.
Thomas Coutouzis is the author of Agonizing for the Faith: A Biblical Exposition of Jude as well as an epic fantasy series that is partial allegory called Athanasia: The Great Insurrection (Book 1) and Athanasia: The Unknown Lands (Book 2). Thomas resides in Fuquay Varina, NC with his wife and two children and is an expositional bible teacher at Southside Church in Clayton, NC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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