The latter times referred to in this text simply indicate the last days of this age. Broadly speaking, it is the period between the two advents of Christ. Cp Heb 1:1-2, Acts 2:16-21/Joel 2:28-32. It is an expression that comes up frequently in the prophetic Scriptures, often referring to events that climax in the appearance of the Saviour Himself. Cp Dan 10:14 || the time of the end 11:27, 35, 40 etc.
Consequently, we are living in the last days—indeed the last of the last days. The Scripture has much to say about the character of those days that it is important the Christian know and understand. There is much happening in our society presently that is dealt with by the word of God, as part of its instruction about the last days.
I A WORD FROM THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
- Divine truth. The Holy Ghost is the source of this revelation. It is a message from God. Only the Lord can reveal to us the true nature of things and specially on this matter. As we shall see, confusion and deceit mark the last days and a word from God is vital.
- It is communicated in His word. The Spirit is said to ‘speak’. How does He do so? The Apostle is referring specifically here to the word of God in the inspired Scriptures. Cp 2Tim 3:15-16, 2Pet 1:21. It is that which is seen in contrast to the seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. This is the Scripture’s description of every alternative to its revelation.
- Faith, v1. This is a matter of faith. Saving faith accepts the word of God as such. Faith believes what God has revealed for man to believe. The sheep of Christ have an ear for His word, John 10:27
- It is a clear message—expressly. This is a subject upon which God speaks with clarity and urgency. There is a boldness, directness and distinctness about His words on the matter. There ought therefore to be no confusion in the Christian’s mind about the last days. Yet, there often is.
II THIS WORD REVEALS APOSTASY AS BEING THE CHIEF CHARACTERISTIC OF THE LAST DAYS.
- Departure. Departure from God is the essence of apostasy—a ‘falling away’. Various facets of this departure must be kept in mind. Apostasy has a general application to the direction of society. It has a specific application to the visible church. The Apostle is speaking of the latter here.
- Apostasy in the church is the result of devilish work. It is a ‘spiritual’ movement—motivated by evil spirits and devils. The devil’s work is however done through men who speak for him, v2. These are men with no light in their souls having their conscience seared. Even the light of nature has been destroyed by their embrace of error and delusion. These men and their doctrines are set up in contrast to those who know and believe the truth.
- Seducing doctrine, v3. Seducing has the idea of ‘roving about’ > ‘an imposter/deceiver’. Apostasy involves a set of deceitful doctrinal beliefs that appeal to the base nature of man in order to shift him away from the truth. Several examples of such doctrine are cited here. Cp Col 2:20-23. The doctrine and practice of apostasy is driven by what pleases man rather than what pleases God. The emphasis is always sensual—what makes man feel good about himself—his pride, ego etc.
- Apostasy advances when men heed falsehood. The idea is that they turn their minds in this direction. They begin to consider these things and they eventually become the dominant inclination of their mind. Cp 2Thess 2:9-15. How careful we must be when it comes to our minds in the last days. Cp Phil 4:8.
III A WORD THAT MUST BE PREACHED.
- The brethren must be put in remembrance. God’s people are likely to forget even the most important spiritual truth. There must be constant reminders! The last days will be of such a nature as to aid forgetfulness. Cp 2Pet 3:1-3, 1:10-15.
- These things… There is a need to focus on these very matters. What God has said about the last days should be a regular feature of the preacher’s work. It is a much neglected subject!
- The evidence of a good minister. Such a ministry is the evidence of:
- A good servant of Christ. Here must be the chief motivation of all the servants of God and especially the gospel minister.
- Nourished up… The evidence of spiritual health and strength. What foolish notions are entertained today about Christian maturity, strength and health!
- No going back. The word attained indicates that Timothy had been a ‘close follower’ of good doctrine. The only way for Timothy to hold to his position and not go back from it was to continue to preach these things. Were he to be slack in this he must go backwards from what he had attained and so show the influence of apostasy upon him.