“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” – 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Reading Paul’s warning to Timothy of the last days, it is not hard to imagine the perilous times he described. Every descriptive word spoken in this nearly two thousand year old text accurately depicts the depraved state of our world today. From glorifying pride, envy, jealousy, and greed, to railing public blasphemies, to openly encouraging unholy and sinful acts, to loving self pleasure and gratification more then God, we see it all around us everyday. When we turn on the tv, when we go to work or school, and saddest of all, even when we go to church.
You see, therein lies the true brokenness of Paul’s warning. Paul was a man that had suffered great hardship and persecution for the sake of the gospel. He had given his life over to the work of bringing the light of Christ to the darkest of places. He had no illusion about the state and character of a sinful man. Remember that Paul himself, prior to being saved, was a murderer and persecutor of Christians. He knew that sinners (by nature) will sin and was not surprised when they did, but rather was all the more desperate to bring them into the saving, life changing, heart altering grace of God. So understand that when Paul says “perilous times will come” and all these evils will be done, his point was that things would get so bad that these things would become as common among believers as they already were among those who had no knowledge of God in their heart at all. This is why God, in 2 Chronicles 7:14, pleads with those whom He says are “called by His name” to turn from their wicked ways and repent or else He cannot forgive their sins. They knew God and even called themselves by His name, yet still chose to deny His power and live in sin. Also remember that Paul’s purpose for writing to Timothy in the first place (who was a pastor) was to give him instruction about the church and those who are part of it. This is why he concludes his description of these people with the words: “having a form of godliness, but denying the power there of. From such, turn away”.
It’s clear that Paul was talking about people who knew and believed in God, even showing forth a sense of being godly (claiming to be Christian), but not obeying God nor honoring Him with their actions. Put plainly, their walk does not match their talk. They say that God is real but deny that He has any real power, omnipotence, effect, sovereignty, sense of justice, or rule over them.
Let’s look a bit more closely at the final description in Paul’s statement. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” The problem here is that, though they acknowledge God, they are denying His “power“. The word translated into “power” here, in the original Greek was “dýnamis“. Let’s look at the actual definition of dýnamis to see exactly what these people are denying about God.
- strength power, ability.
- Inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth
- power for performing miracles
- the power to influence
- moral power and excellence of soul
- power consisting in or resting upon armies, forces, hosts
We see that the word dýnamis includes the power of God to influence believers to live moral and holy lives. This is also the original definition of the word grace (the power to live holy) and is likely the reason that Paul says earlier in the passage that these people are “unholy”, because they have denied the power that allows them to live holy lives. It also includes the power to preform miracles, denying that God is still able to do what they claim to believe He has done in the past, even though scripture says that He is unchanging. These people not only deny the very nature and character of God, laid out in His Holy Word, but they also deny His supreme authority, nor do they fear His wrath. They hold no respect for His awesome power, but rather play dangerously with it, knowing about it but having no reverence for it, they choose to deny it’s strength, power, and volatility. They do as they please with no fear or reverence for God, all the while claiming to be godly.
It is worthy to note that Dýnamis is where we derive the word dynamite, which is a powerful explosive device that has been a great blessing to mankind but is also very dangerous when it’s power is not respected.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicket ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” – Romans 1:18-22
Paul’s warning is clear, as were Jesus’s before him. As the last days draw nearer, the divide between the true followers of Christ (who claim Him in Name and in action) and those who claim Him in name only, will grow until a dividing line is finally drawn and one must (by necessity) “turn away” from the other. This is the purpose in tribulation. It identifies and separates the goats from the sheep. Know that it is not enough to simply believe in God, even the demons do as much (James 2:19). We must obey His every Word, walking in faith, reverence, and power. Even Jesus said, “if you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Understand this, scripture tells us that Jesus is coming back only for a “pure and spotless bride” (Ephesians 5:27), let us walk in obedience and the power of His righteousness that we might be counted among the faithful on that day.
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… …Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels… ..And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal..” – Matthew 25:31-34,41,46