But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. ~2 Timothy 5:1-9
These are difficult days. Not as difficult as some days in the past but more difficult than others. From the First Advent to the Second Advent time is characterized as difficult. That is what Paul is telling Timothy: in the last days there will come times of difficulty. We might
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
call this time the “in-between times” as if we were perpetually living between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. As if Saturday was just one big long day. These times are not static. Sometimes they are better, sometimes worse, but always to one level or another difficult.
Of course, like Ronald Reagan said, “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.” Now to be sure that is one of the all-time funny lines in modern political theater. In the theater of life, however, whether we are in a state of recession, depression, or recovery the historical period between the advents of Christ is going to be difficult.
The key to life is not to use your own personal experience to measure how difficult things really are. Rather, we are to use a different standard of measurement, namely, the advents of Christ. The Church Fathers use to talk about the adventus Christi incarne, the adventus Christi in gratia, and the adventus Christi in gloria. That is, the
Russian Icon of Second Coming
coming of Christ in the flesh, in grace, and in glory. Again, we live in that middle period, in the in-between time of Christ’s coming in grace through the Holy Spirit. And so our standard of measurement is not with resepct to how difficult things are, but rather in how much grace God has given for those difficulties. As God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient” (2 Cor. 12:9). That is our standard during this difficult time.
I want to suggest that the reason for the difficulty during the in-between time is quite the opposite of what we first might think. In fact, it is what we might never guess on our own unaided reasoning power. Indeed, it might be logically opposite of what we currently blame for our troubled time. The reason for our difficulty in this present age is–love. Look at the Greek words Paul uses to describe the character of people during this age that we share with them. They nearly all have something to do with love.
- Lovers of self… φιλαυτοι (φίλος and αὐτός), loving one’s self
- Lovers of money… φιλαργυροι (φίλος and ἄργυρος), loving money
- Not loving good… αφιλαγαθοι (α not. and φιλ lover, άγαθος good), opposed to goodness
- Lovers of pleasure… φιληδονοι (φίλος and ἡδονή), loving pleasure
- Rather than lovers of God… φιλοθεοι (φίλος and θεός), loving God
- Led astray by various passions… επιθυμιων (inward desire)
There are five compound words here that I suspect Paul coined. These terms describe our movement away from God and/or goodness. Each of them shares the same syllable of one of the Greek words for love (philo). I believe that the way these compound words are used here are synonymous with the word passions or desires in verse 6.
In his confessions Saint Augustine talked about ordinate and in-ordinate love.
Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
Augustine recognized ordinate love when he spoke of coming to love God so late: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!” He spoke of in-ordinate love when he said: “In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.”
Moreover these “loves” whether ordinate or inordinate are governing, controlling, and formational. They are the main things in shaping what kind of person we are and what kind of lives we live.
The thing to note is that loving and desiring are here in contrast with learning and knowledge with regard to revealed truth.
They are never (a vey long time when you consider eternity) able to come to knowledge of reveled truth. In other words, you cannot simply reason your way to revealed truth. Rather, it is a much more precognitive function on the level of our loves, our passions, and our desires (Augustine).
Not that revealed truth is irrational or unreasonable, but rather that reason is insufficient by itself. That is, it is not the only or even the main faculty in discovering or apprehending it.
The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.
Think about these words:
- Always learning… μανθανουσι (to learn intellectually)
- but never able to come to the knowledge… γνωσιν
- of the truth… αληθειας (revealed truth)
Now take a look at these expressions:
- “Knowledge is power.” The basis for modernism.
- “Ideas have consequences.” The basis for world-view thinking
- “I know better than that.” The basis for moral behavior
Loving and learning are related to be sure. But in much of the evangelical world (especially the Presbyterian and Reformed part) it seems like we have put an inordinate amount of emphasis on the latter to the almost negation of the former.
As I said in the beginning of this post, most of the difficulty of our time, and I might add of anytime, has to do with love–inordinate love. The same is true of all that is right with our time. Love–ordinate love–is the governing, controlling, shaping, and forming power to get us through this difficult age in-between times.