By Charles Wages
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5)
The verses in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 give a vivid account of what we can expect in “the last days.” There are approximately twenty distinct characteristics given that portray for us the “trends of the end.” The “last days” spoken of by the apostle Paul refers to the end of this age of grace.
In a right division of God’s Word we must “try the things that differ,” therefore the “last days” of the church here mentioned are different from the last days of Israel. The apostle Peter, while preaching on the day of Pentecost spoke of the “last days” of Israel and accounted the tremendous physical and outward manifestations that would precede and accompany those days. For example, he tells of sons and daughters prophesying and seeing visions and dreams, the showing of wonders in heaven; signs in the earth; sun turned into darkness; and the moon into blood. These “days” are further shown in the early chapters of the Revelation.
In the “last days” of this present church age, the characteristics given are more of a moral, ethical, and spiritual nature. For example, a few of these include, men to be lovers of self; without natural affection; disobedient to parents; heady and high-minded; and “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” This last one is a good example of what we are seeing today. It is surely a “trend of the end.”
We must be constantly reminded that all that goes on under the heading of “worship” is not always true worship of God. Worship can be just an exercise directed toward and for man or even the devil! It must be noted that the Scripture says: “Having a form of godliness.” This means that there is emphasis on an outward semblance of worship instead of a real worship from the heart in accordance with God’s Word and will. This “form” can take on many forms. The apostle Paul had to correct the philosophers at Athens for their confusing superstitions and ignorant worship of every false god. (Acts 17:18-23). Then he concluded by telling them the true God had created all things by stating,
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needeth anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:24-25)
Throughout the history of man, both secular and biblical, we find human beings worshipping everything under the sun, including the sun. The early inhabitants of this earth are described in Romans, chapter one. We are told that they did not glorify God, but became vain in their imaginations, and were so foolish that they:
“Changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping thing.” (Rom. 1:23)
And then further, we are told,
“Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom. 1:25)
In the book of Colossians, chapter two, we find a stern warning to the “worshippers” of that day (and today) who worshipped angels. Paul’s warning was,
“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” (Col. 2:18)
No doubt this kind of worship took on itself a religious “form.” They went through certain rituals and possibly looked good and appealed to the eye and the senses (Col. 2:20-21). This kind of worship is described as “will worship,” and false humility in Colossians 2:23. It satisfies the flesh, but does not honor God.
In one sense, it is good to live in a land where there is freedom of worship, and most of us, I am sure, are glad and thankful we do. However, it has its problems as well. Apart from the leading of the Spirit of God, sinful man invariably chooses that “form of worship” that satisfies the flesh. The “god of this world” (Satan) doesn’t mind people being “religious” as long as they do not worship the God of glory. Satan loathes the saint; God loves the sinner, but hates the sin. The antichrist, when he appears and takes charge of this world system, will forbid all worship except that which acknowledges him as god (2 Thess. 2:4).
This “false” worship—this “form” worship that denies the power of God, is the outstanding “trend of our times” (2 Tim. 3:5).
How wonderful to worship the One who loved us, even when we were lost in sin, and took our place on the cross of shame. It is God’s great desire through His grace “that all men be saved, and come into the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). It is good to acknowledge that “there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). When we trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, God saves and justifies us and makes us “new creations” in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Further, the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the one body, (the Church, which is Christ’s body), seals us unto the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13-14), and the Spirit of God comes to dwell in the child of God (1 Cor. 6:19).
Then, we are able to distinguish the false, and worship the true God, and understand (in some manner) the “trends of the end.”