“Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Avoid such people.
For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.
But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.”
“If God does not judge America, He must apologise to Sodom and Gomorrah.”
The speaker was a young evangelist named Billy Graham.
The occasion for speaking these words was a West Coast evangelistic crusade which he conducted in the mid-1950s.
Though the noted evangelist muted his criticism of western culture in later years, the truth spoken almost sixty years ago has not changed.
I confess that I am concerned for the western world.
I love my natal land, and I grieve for the wickedness that characterises that nation.
Nevertheless, I am bold to say that Canada must anticipate judgement for rampant wickedness which characterises us as a nation.
The spiritual state of Canada yields mute evidence that we may well be living in the final days.
Religious conditions will be drastically changed in the final days of plant earth.
That the transformation Paul foresaw is already well under way should be evident to reasonable people.
Even was I unconcerned about the spiritual state of the entire world, I would need but look to our own community to register my insistence that we are now in the last days.
*WHAT ARE THE LAST DAYS?*
The Apostle is looking forward to a time that he identifies as “the last days.”
Jesus spoke on at two occasions of the “last day.”
In John’s Gospel, Jesus spoke of the “last day.”
Jesus said, “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day… Do not grumble among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
And I will raise him up on the last day… Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” [JOHN 6:39, 40, 44, 54].
Clearly, Jesus referred to the resurrection of the just and the judgement of the wicked.
The two events are conflated and referred to as the last day.
Likewise, in JOHN 12:48, the Master speaks of the judgement occurring on the last day.
There are several instances in Scripture when the writer refers to the last days.
A review of each of these instances will prove beneficial to our understanding.
On the Day of Pentecost, as Peter began his message, he spoke these words which provide a point of initiation for the last days.
Peter said, “In the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” [ACTS 2:17].
The last days appear to have begun with the outpouring of the Spirit of God at Pentecost.
Though it is by no means certain that the writer of the Hebrew letter meant to say that the Son of God came in the last days, it is at least a possibility and deserves consideration as one meaning of his words.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” [HEBREWS 1:1, 2].
James has written, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.
Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.
Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire.
You have laid up treasure in the last days.
Behold, the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence.
You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous person.
He does not resist you” [JAMES 5:1-6].
Clearly, James is addressing those who now hoard treasure even as they abuse the labourers as those living in the last days.
Peter, also, is focused on a time which appears to set the upper boundary of the period known as the last days.
He sees a time when those professing the Faith will ridicule the concept that God called all things into being.
They will appeal to a form of uniformitarianism to account for the presence of all substance.
This is nothing less than the exaltation of the neo-orthodox doctrine of evolution as we witness today.
“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.
In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.
They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?
For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’
For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.
But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly” [2 PETER 3:1-7].
Paul speaks of later times marked by a departure from the Faith, as we saw in a previous message.
“The Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” [1 TIMOTHY 4:1-3].
The Apostle to the Gentiles had in view the growth of an apostate church which, though bearing the marks of evangelicalism would nevertheless be spiritually dead.
That church which he foretold exalts external religion, yet denies the Word of God.
This Laodicean church is indeed coming at the end of the Church Age.
In addition to the aforementioned instances, Paul speaks of the last days in today’s text.
He speaks of those days as “times of difficulty.”
That word translated “difficulty” bears scrutiny.
The Greek word employed conveys the concept of that which is hard to bear, something difficult to put up with.
It speaks of that which is violent or dangerous, and thus it speaks of that which is evil.
We understand that the Apostle is warning that the course of history will move toward dangerous times and increasing evil.
Society will become increasingly difficult to bear as the end of the age draws near.
*WHAT CHARACTERISTICS MARK SOCIETY IN THE LAST DAYS?* “People will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Avoid such people.
For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”
As the end of the age nears, human character will grow increasingly perverted.
Listen once again to the apostolic appraisal of the downward trend of human character.
Eugene Petersen has rendered this passage, “As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.
They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals.”
Does this sound anything like the general condition prevailing in society today?
“Self-absorbed, self-promoting” and “without self-control” certainly appears to characterise the general condition of contemporary society.
If you question this assessment, stop by any bookshop and peruse the self-help section of the store.
The plethora of books available for reading demonstrates that people are very much in love with themselves—society is focused on self.
People are more concerned about personal comfort than they are concerned about doing what is right.
Per capita giving to charity bears this out.
The expenditures for cosmetics and name-brand clothing bear this out.
Expenditures for pet food and pet grooming compared to spending designated for the relief of hardship in our own nation demonstrates that this assessment is true.
The personal debt load of the average Canadian bears this out.
The heart of the apostolic charge is that people will be “lovers of self.”
Whenever self is exalted to a position of honour, God is no longer worshipped—indeed, God cannot be worshipped if we are exalting “self.”
Satan loved himself more than He loved God; his self-love was the genesis of rebellion in heaven.
Adam and Eve exalted “self” to the throne of their lives and thus plunged the world into ruin.
Loving “self” can never result in that which is good or right.
One of the most frightening developments among contemporary churches is the wide acceptance of and enthusiastic proclamation of self-love, not only as allowable, but as being the basic virtue.
 Self-love and its many derivatives—self-esteem, self-worth, self-fulfilment, positive self-image—have been imported into the churches from antibiblical psychology.
The claim is made that one cannot properly love God and/or other people unless he loves himself.
Such self-love is perverted and destructive, inviting the wrath of God.
God must be loved supremely.
Today, instead of a theocentric view among the churches we are witnessing an egocentric view.
When people are self-absorbed, they also become “lovers of money, proud” and “arrogant,” or as Petersen says, “money-hungry, self-promoting” and “stuck-up.”
Money is not of itself evil, but when the acquisition of money becomes the primary pursuit, that pursuit leads people astray.
“Money-hungry” describes far too many people in this day.
Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, the Nortel Scandal, Martin Shkreli and Turing Pharma—each remind us of Corporate greed which was enabled by societal greed.
The present instability in the stock market reveals a society scrambling to own just the right stock to make us rich.
We should also mark the Health and Wealth movement, the Name-it-and-Claim-it crowd as wrapping this philosophy in the guise of religion.