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4. The Prophecy of the Perilous Times.
This prophecy is found in 2 Tim. 3 and is another delineation of the professing church in the last days. It is particularly to be noted that the verses we are about to consider, describe not mankind in general but Christendom in particular. Note now the several lines in this picture. Lengthy comment is needless.
“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.” “Men shall be lovers of their own selves”—two things, closely connected, are referred to: selfishness and egotism. Self-lovers! Was there ever a time when there was so much self-seeking and self-pleasing, and so little self-sacrifice by professing Christians? “Covetous”—money-lovers. What fortunes are now amassed by those who claim to be not their own but bought with a price! Our average church-member is as greedy and grasping as the worldling. “Boasters”—intellectual boasting—laying claim to the possession of a wisdom and scholarship unknown to our forefathers; ecclesiastical boasting, evidenced in denominational pride; and what is most obnoxious of all, spiritual boasting—the profession of superior piety, the advertising of a “victorious life,” “baptism of the Spirit,” “sinless perfection,” etc. “Proud”—proud of their culture, liberality and broadmindedness. How different from the One who said, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me: for I am meek and lowly in heart.”“Blasphemers”—Christian Scientists (?), Russellites, Higher Critics, etc. “Disobedient to parents.” When was this deplorable sign of insubordination so rife as it is today? Instead of parents ruling their children, children now rule their parents, and, of course, the parents are to blame. This failure to exercise parental authority, this rebellion in the young which will brook no restraint, is the certain forerunner of the downfall of the State, fostering, as it does, the spirit of lawlessness. “Unthankful”—temporal blessings received as a matter of course without any recognition of their Giver. God’s providential mercies unappreciated. Returning of thanks at mealtime, almost entirely a thing of the past. “Unholy” which has reference to the utter absence of separation from the world: the disappearance of the Nazarite spirit.
Behold further characteristics of the Perilous Times—“without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4). It is needless to enlarge upon each separate item, but mark the first and the last of those enumerated here. “Without natural affection.” How terribly this is exemplified today in the enormous increase of divorces, in the abandonment of their infant offspring by unnatural mothers, and in the neglect of the poor, the sick, the aged! “Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” See our church-members on the Lord’s day, preferring a ride in their automobiles to the assembling of themselves together with the people of God. Mark them on prayer-meeting nights at the picture-shows instead of at the throne of grace. And witness the musical programmes, the entertainments, the ice-cream suppers etc., held in our church-houses.
“But, it may be asked, “have not these things always been true of men in general?” Perhaps so, more or less, though never to the same extent as now. But these verses do not describe “general conditions,” they depict Christendom as it exists in the “last days.” This is clear from the next verse—“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (vs. 5). There is music but it is of the siren kind, not the singing, and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. There is eloquence but it is the wisdom which man’s words teacheth, and not that which speaks for God and wins souls. There is fervour but it is the heat of carnal excitement born of novelty and sensationalism, and not that which cometh down from above. There is zeal, but it is without knowledge. There is a demand for righteousness, but it is civic and social righteousness and not the righteousness of God. There is love but it is a sickly sentimentality and not that which is the fulfilling of the law. There is gospel-preaching, but it is “another gospel” and not the gospel of the grace of God. There is much religion, but it is lacking in life. There are notorious evangelistic campaigns, but they are devoid of spirituality. There is much ritualistic performance but it is a form of godliness without its power.
“For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts” (vs. 6). We believe the reference is to Mormonism, yet the principle is of still wider application. How striking it is that we should read of “silly women” in this inspired list of “last days” characteristics! Observe the way this is fulfilled in modern Feminism! Observe the words “led away with divers lusts,” which might be freely rendered “ambitious desires.” This craving for publicity, this deplorable masculinity, this denial of man’s headship, this unsurping of authority, is one of the most striking Signs of the Times. We refer, not only to the modern Suffragette movement which makes every self-respecting woman blush for shame at the immodesty of her sisters, but also to the attitude and position taken by so many “silly women” in the churches. How sad it is to see the plain command of God—“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak” (1 Cor. 14:34)—now so generally disregarded. Today there are not a few who unblushingly denounce the inspired apostle as “an old bachelor with narrow ideas” (Ironside).
Now mark that what we have been considering above is a part of a Divinely drawn picture describing the Perilous Times of the “last days.” How clear it is that the Perilous Times are now upon us, Times that are “perilous” to the souls of God’s people, “perilous” to the spread of the Gospel, “perilous” to the whole of Christendom. How evident it is to those who have eyes to see that we have already entered into the “last days.” And how dark are the immediate prospects for the world!
Take note of one other item in this striking prophecy—“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Surely moral conditions cannot get much worse than they are now. Immorality has come in like a flood which is ever swelling and widening in its course. “Uncleanness is rampant. There is an army of over thirty thousand painted prostitutes in Chicago alone. This sin of impurity, the greatest of the age, is literally undermining and honeycombing the nations till they are now tottering to their fall.” (R.V. Miller). How true this statement is appears from a recent speech made by Secretary Daniels of the U.S. Navy. In the course of an address which he delivered before the Clinical Congress of Surgeons of North America he said:—“There is not an army in the field whose effectiveness is not reduced by reason of immoral diseases. The navy suffers likewise and business halts because venereal diseases destroy the manhood of workmen and fighters. During the last statistical year men of the American navy lost 141,387 days’ sickness from a small group of absolutely preventable diseases contracted by sin. This means that every day throughout the year there are 456 men disabled by this disgraceful malady. In the navy of 1915 there were admitted for treatment for venereal diseases 112 persons in every 1,000, and in the army 84 for every 1,000. In civil life the number afflicted is quite as large proportionately as in the military service. It has been printed that Hecht of Vienna, stated that at one time the equivalent of three entire Austrian divisions of 60,000 men was under treatment for venereal diseases, while the German army in Belgium, representing only a small part of the total German forces, is reported during the first five months of its occupation to have furnished 35,000 such patients. Canadian and Australian officers have deplored the ravages of this disease. The late figures from the British army gave 78,000 cases, and all other countries have also been weakened.” Surely such appalling figures as these, furnished by so eminent an authority, declare plainly that the “Perilous Times” of the “last days” are upon us! Does some one ask, What will be the outcome? We answer, the same as of old. God still lives and reigns, and just as surely as He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for similar wickedness, so surely shall He pour out His indignation and wrath upon the present generation of evil-doers. Yea, He has already begun to do so, and this leads us to consider—
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