This past August I decided to reward my two youngest children by taking them and their mother on a Caribbean cruise. It was their first cruise and trip out of this country. We packed our bags and away we went. Of course one of the best parts of cruising is the shore excursions. There were many shore excursions to choose from on our three country stops. One activity that I wanted to introduce my children to was snorkeling. So during our stop in Roatan, Honduras we decided to snorkel in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean.
As Christians, we believe in modest dress. It is possible to dress modestly even when going for a swim or in our case snorkeling. I can guarantee that my wife and daughter weren’t wearing bikinis nor were my son and I in Speedos!
Upon arrival at the snorkeling location, we saw a group of young Honduran men waiting at the end of the pier. These young men would serve as guides for our snorkeling adventure. One of the guides, however, hurriedly made a beeline for us. His name was Omar, and unlike his counterparts, he was modestly dressed. Omar introduced himself and explained that upon seeing us, he knew we must be Apostolic Christians. After telling me about himself and his Church, he partially quoted from 2 Timothy chapter 3 and asked if I thought we were living in “perilous times.”
Here’s the entire passage that Omar was referring to:
2 Timothy 3:1-5 (KJV) – 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.
I responded to Omar’s question by directing his attention first to the phrase “in the last days.” I pointed out that we are not living the “last days” because the inspired authors of the New Testament said that they were living in the “last days.” I cautioned Omar that we must first determine what these first century Christians meant by the term the “last days.” When they heard the term “the last days” would they think of a time thousands of years in their future? The “last days” that the disciples were speaking of was from 30 A.D. to 70 A.D. That is the last days of the Old Covenant. This 40 year period was the transition period between the two covenants – the Old and the New!
I suggested that Omar look up every scripture in his Bible that contains the phrases “last days” or the “last times.” When he had done this, he would see that the disciples believed they were living in the “last days.” Their belief makes it difficult to stretch the “last days” over a period of thousands of years, continuing past our day.
Which Last Days?
Here are some of the scriptures that reveal that the disciples believed they were living in the “last days”…
Hebrews 1:1-2 (KJV) – God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
The epistle (or letter) of Hebrews was written for Jewish Christians who lived in Jerusalem. The letters’ purpose was to encourage Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. At the time Hebrews was written some believers were considering turning back to Judaism, and it’s system of law. They were doing this to escape persecution for following Christ. The theme of the epistle is the doctrine of the person of Christ and his role as mediator between God and humanity.
Notice that the inspired writer of Hebrews chapter one uses the phrase “in these last days.” He is obviously referring to the “days” that they were living in. The writer didn’t say “those last days” did he? And what happened “in these last days”? Well, the writer of Hebrews and his companions were “spoken unto” “by his Son.” The “Son” was a reference to Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:20-21 (KJV) – Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
Again in 1st Peter chapter 1, we see the phrase “in these last times” used. “These last times” denotes the times that the apostles were living in – the 1st century A.D. Peter is referring to his “times,” not a day thousands of years in their future. Peter is placing himself as living in the “last times.”
Acts 2:16-17 (KJV) – But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
Here in Acts chapter 2, Peter reaches back into the Old Testament writings and quotes from the prophet Joel chapter 2 verses 28-29. Peter reminds these believers that the Holy Ghost is being poured out just as Joel prophesied. Peter is a witness to this outpouring knowing that this a fulfillment of scripture.
1 John 2:18 (KJV) – Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
John, the Apostle, was the author of the books 1st, 2nd and 3rd John, the Gospel of John and Revelation. First John was written during the 1st century A.D. Here we see John, in that day telling his readers that “it is the last time” because “even now there are many antichrists.” Please understand that the “now” that John is referring to is not our “now” but his “now.” John is stating that because “there are many antichrists” that had come that they (these 1st century A.D Christians) were living in “the last time.” The “last time” that John is referring to is the end of Old Covenant Israel. These were the “perilous times” referred to in 2nd Timothy chapter 3.
The End of an Age
The authors of the New Testament also said they were living at the end of the age.
1 Corinthians 7:31 (KJV) – And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
1 Corinthians 10:11 (KJV) – Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world come.
Hebrews 9:26 (KJV) – For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once at the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
1 Peter 4:7 (KJV) – But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
When reading the verses above, please keep in mind audience relevance. Who is the audience? The “ye,” “you,” and “they” of these verses are the listeners of the first century A.D. The “ye” are not us! Also of note are the terms “end of the world” or “ends of the world.” The Greek word for world is “aion” which means age. The “age” of the Old Covenant was coming to an end. The age of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ had arrived!
So are we living in perilous times today? Of course, we are! And so were those who were alive during the days of WWI and WWII! But that’s not the question here. The problem is this: Does 2 Timothy chapter 3 refer to our day or Timothy’s day? Keep in mind that 2nd Timothy is believed to have been written approximately 67 A.D. before the destruction of the Temple. The “perilous times” that Timothy was referring to came to an end in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the Temple and city of Jerusalem.
Animal sacrifices ended. The city of Jerusalem would be encircled by the Roman Army as prophesied in Luke chapter 21. Not one stone of the Temple was left upon another, just as Jesus predicted in Matthew chapter 24. The Old Covenant came to an abrupt end and with it the “perilous times” that Timothy was referring to. Most of the persecution coming from Apostate Jews also came to an end.
Christians, heeding the warning of Jesus in Matthew chapter 24 fled the city of Jerusalem before its encirclement by the Roman Army. Early Christian historians Eusebius and Epiphanius claim that before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 the Jerusalem Christians fled to the Decapolis city of Pella (also note Mark 13:14; Matt 24:15; Lu 21:20-22; cf. 19:43-44). Now ask yourself this question: Does it make sense to believe that Timothy was referring to a time thousands of years in the future of his audience? How would that be relevant to his listeners? Many have bought into this “last days” madness. But I’m no longer one of them.
While the words in 2nd Timothy were future to a first-century audience, it’s NOT future to us. Their future but our past! And what about all of the other “signs” of the last days mentioned in 2nd Timothy? Where men would be ” lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy”? Well, men were guilty of those sins in the first century just as they are today. All the conditions listed in 2 Timothy chapter 3 were fulfilled in the first century. Perilous times would occur during the lifetimes of these first century Christians. The “last days” had arrived for them. God was getting ready to shut the door on the Old Covenant – a new day had arrived!