Jesus, Hatred, and the Last Days

Ten Commandments Arkansas
The new Ten Commandments monument outside the state Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas after someone crashed into it with a vehicle.

Did you know that hatred is a sign of the last days?

In Matthew 24:9-10 Jesus said this, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.” Amidst all the other signs of which we are so familiar, Jesus lists hatred, particularly against His followers, as an indication of the end times.

Today, see hatred everywhere in our world. Opponents of Christianity killed an estimated 90,000 believers in 2016 and opposition to our faith has not diminished since then. Anti-Semitism is epidemic across Europe that has led to many Jews fearing for their lives, especially in France.

The apostle Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, describes the godlessness of the last days. Although he does not use the word hatred, he aptly describes the divisive, angry, and intolerable culture of our day.

It Begins with Arrogance

The hatred we see permeating our society starts in the heart. William Barclay, famous New Testament commentator, put it this way, “But the sin of the man who is arrogant is in his heart. He might even seem to be humble; but in his secret heart there is contempt for everyone else. He nourishes an all-consuming, all-pervading pride; and in his heart there is a little altar where he bows down before himself.”

Does not Barclay’s definition of one who is arrogant (2 Tim. 3:2) capture what we are seeing today? It’s not enough to have an opinion, but today it so often comes with spiteful “contempt” for all those who disagree. It’s this pride that leads so many to ridicule opinions of which they disagree.

The craft of making a well-reasoned case to support one’s point of view has degenerated into the art of personally destroying one’s political opponent. Arrogance breeds a sense that “of course those who think differently than me cannot be right; therefore I am justified in using whatever means necessary to destroy my opponent.” It’s all about the politics of personal destruction at the expense of truth.

Abusive and Slanderous

The next word in Paul’s list after “arrogant” is “abusive.” This word denotes someone who insults God as well as other men and women. It’s the verbal expression of contempt that begins in the heart of one who is arrogant that finds its expression in slandering the good name of others.

The most common derogatory label today is “racism.” If someone does not agree with this person’s point of view, he or she must be a “racist” or a “bigot’ or possess some dark and evil phobia. Political victories today are often measured in one’s ability to convince the majority that one’s opponent is a racist, even if you must lie about what was said behind closed doors or twist words to make ones opponent appear to hate others.

Did I mention that Paul also used the word “brutal” to describe people living in the last days?

In verse 3, the apostle depicts people during the last days as “slanderous.” We live in a day where false accusations are the norm rather than the exception. A recent news article told of one attorney who sought to give large sums of money to women who would accuse President Trump of sexual harassment or worse.

Daymond Duck, one of my favorite writers on the Rapture Ready website, said this, “Sexual harassment and racism are definitely wrong, but character assassination to silence a person that someone disagrees with is also wrong. Slandering people, ruining their reputation, calling them names, and getting them fired is not of God.”

How Should we Respond?

First, I believe our response must be one of respect for the opinions of others. Just because we vehemently disagree with someone does not mean we cannot value their opinions or ideas. It’s sometimes difficult for me to argue my case without getting carried away, but I must remember that I can be confident of what I believe without impugning the intelligence of others.

Secondly, we must understand the times in which we live. We are living in the last days of human history; the dark days of the tribulation are rapidly approaching. What we see in our world is precisely what the Lord Jesus said would happen during this time; it should not surprise us.

Our focus must be on bringing others to the Savior rather than convincing them of our political agenda. I have reached the conclusion that I really do not care what others think of President Trump. What matters is drawing people to the Savior, not to my assessment of the President.

And lastly, there is the aspect of humility. This does not mean compromising beliefs or telling someone they may be right when what they believe contradicts Scripture. For me, it starts with recognizing that the source of truth is not in me or even in my ability to recognize it. It starts with Jesus, my risen Savior. He said “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and rose from the dead to prove that His words, His claims are true.

The beliefs that I cherish start with Scripture and my confidence does not come from my abilities to reason or debate but from Jesus and what the Lord reveals through His word.

Yes, the world will hate followers of Christ for our beliefs on abortion, same sex marriage, gender identification, Islam, and the like, but such hatred is exactly what Jesus said would happen, especially in the last days before His return to earth.

What I see in the world around me saddens my heart. People are becoming increasingly vicious and cruel in their blasphemy of both Christ and His followers. But I also know a much better day is coming with Jesus’ peace and righteousness will reign supreme over the entire world.

Maranatha!!

It’s All About Me

Pawn and king

The apostle Paul begins his list describing the characteristics of people who make up the “perilous times” of 2 Timothy 3 with the phrase “lovers of self.” Does this not sum up the Facebook generation? For many, posting is all about drawing attention to themselves, their lives, and their opinions. It’s all about making them look good. I have not been immune to this temptation myself.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a response to a Facebook post and later regretted it. I discovered too late that my reply was a mistake and misunderstood. I soon realized that any attempt to explain my words would only make matters worse and increase the anger of the responses I had already received.

While such self-promotion as I exhibited has been around ever since the time of Paul, it describes our current day more than ever before. Part of the current day problem is that everyone now has many more opportunities to express their feelings and ideas in an anonymous way without having to answer for anything they say.

What also makes matters far worse today is that so many have replaced a love of God with love for themselves.

A multitude of books and psychoanalysts today encourage people to love themselves and express everything that come to their minds. This, they claim, is the essence of a healthy emotional state. The disastrous results of such encouragement manifest themselves in broken relationships, quarrels, a lack of trust in people as well as in what we read, and a total lack of respect for the opinions of others.

Let’s begin by looking a little closer at why Paul chose this trait first in describing “perilous times.”

Lovers of Self

“Lovers of self” is the first characteristic that Paul lists in 2 Timothy 3:2-5 and as such it sums up well all the qualities that follow. In his commentary on 2 Timothy, William Barclay states that this “self-loving” is “the basic sin, from which all others flow.” He went on to say that once a person makes self the center of everything, “human relationships are destroyed, obedience to God and charity to men both become impossible.”

People today place everything in their lives ahead of their devotion to the Lord and make themselves the center of their universe.

This becomes evident through the other items on Paul’s list such as pride, a lack of “self-control,” “conceit,” and “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Such an inward focus of life is the capstone of many of the ills that beset people today. People today place everything in their lives ahead of their devotion to the Lord and make themselves the center of their universe.

When such self-love defines a person, many other problems ensue including his or her inability to effectively relate to other people or to worship God in any meaningful way. It also leads to depression and increased anxieties when people do not respond to us in the way we would like.

The Antidote Begins with a Renewed Mind

How do we counter this tendency of focusing our dependency inward rather than upward?

The Holy Spirit changes our thinking; He is the one who makes our thoughts God-centered rather self-centered.

I believe it starts with remembering that as believers we have the powerful Holy Spirit living inside us. When we walk with the Spirit, we experience victory over the lure to see ourselves as the center of our universe (Rom. 8:1-11). Later in Romans, Paul describes the transformation that takes place in us as the renewing of our minds (12:2). The Holy Spirit changes our thinking; He is the one who makes our thoughts God-centered rather self-centered.

I love the verses that follow in Romans 12:3-8. Self-loathing is not the antidote to self-centeredness. Rather, as the Spirit renews our thinking we increasingly see our gifts, and talents as something bestowed upon us for the purpose of serving others, particularly those in the body of Christ. These special abilities come from the Lord, not us, and as such they are not a cause for boasting in ourselves.

We are to have the mindset of verse 3, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” The gifts and ministries the Lord gives to us vary greatly, but they all come from Him and the same Spirit for the purpose of building up others in the body of Christ or reaching the lost.

The Lord never intended for us view ourselves as superior to fellow believers because of our gifts or based on the degree to which the Holy Spirit manifests Himself through us. Instead, He intended our focus is to be God-ward with our thinking constrained by how we can serve and bless others.

We do not need someone to teach us how to love ourselves; that comes naturally. We do need, however, the power of the Holy Spirit to look for ways we can benefit others with the gifts and abilities He has given to us.

This is not a “poor me” or false humility. It’s certainly not self-hatred.

This is not egotism or self-centeredness. It’s giving all the credit to the Lord for all He gives to us and does through us.

Instead, it’s looking at our lives as God does. It’s putting Him first rather than ourselves and serving others with gifts the Spirit entrusts to us. It’s being confident, not proud, recognizing that our competence in ministering to others comes solely from the Lord (2 Cor. 3:4-6).

We can be confident because of the gifts God gives to us and the working of the Holy Spirit through us to bless others. This is not egotism or self-centeredness. It’s giving all the credit to the Lord for all He gives to us and does through us.

 

Are These Perilous Times?

mandaly bay

The news of the Las Vegas massacre shocked me. I watched with great sadness as updated news bulletins increased the death toll seemingly each hour on Monday morning. How could someone be so evil as to murder innocent so many people he did not know? How could he gun them down as though he was a gamer shooting lifeless images on a computer screen?

The pictures of those killed, now appearing on news sites, are almost too much for me to bear. I see the smiling faces and wonder about the grieving families left behind.

Are these the “perilous times” that the Apostle Paul described in 2 Timothy 3? Are we in the “last days?” I think so. Paul’s mention of “last days” in this passage refers to the time just before the end of this age. While the evil people he described in the opening verses of this chapter existed in his day as well as in every era since then, the sense is that they will be especially numerous at the end of human history with their behavior much more intense, or fierce, than in previous times. I believe this is what we are seeing today.

This Is a Sign of the Last Days

In 2 Timothy 3:1 Paul says this, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (KJV). I used the King James Version here because the phrase “times of difficulty,” as in the English Standard Version, does not capture the harshness of the word in the Greek.

In Matthew 8:28, the word in the original depicts the fierceness of the two men possessed by demons. The text says that they were “so fierce that no one could pass that way.” They were “violent and dangerous” men as the commentator William Barclay describes them. The word also denotes someone as “hard to approach.” The brutal nature of these demon possessed men made it impossible for anyone to deal with them in any normal way.

Does this not bring to mind the scene in Las Vegas? Although the suspected shooter did not appear to be violent leading up to the assault, he somehow possessed the vileness to carry out the vicious attack. I believe the characteristics of the two demon possessed men of Matthew 8 apply to anyone who would massacre and injure so many people. We see the work of the devil in all such violence such as was certainly on display during this latest tragedy.

Barclay also described the menacing last times of 2 Timothy 3:1-5 as “a kind of last tremendous assault of evil before its final defeat.” All throughout the world we see daily terror attacks with similar death and destruction. The devil knows his time is growing short and is fiercely and savagely attacking all that is good. This came to full fruition in Las Vegas, did it not? This brutal attack has the fingerprints of Satan all over it.

Although the authorities have not yet announced the motive for the killing, I firmly believe ISIS was behind it. In Amir Tsarfati’s prophecy update after the tragedy, he provided many convincing reasons for this conclusion. I do not think the shooter could possibly have carried out his tragic attack without help. He appeared innocent enough so he could procure the weapons, but could not have planned and carried this out alone.

Are You Ready?

What does the terrible tragedy in Las Vegas tell us? I believe it primarily reminds us that we need to be ready. If you know the Lord as your Savior, this means watching for Him to return as Jesus instructed us to do in Matthew 24:42-44. If we are in Christ, we know we will see Him either through death or meeting Him in the air. We need not be afraid of the day in which we live; we are secure in Him regardless of what comes our way. Personally, I am hoping to meet Jesus in the air.

If you do not know Him, please call upon His name while you have opportunity. As demonstrated by what happened in Las Vegas, life on this earth is ever so uncertain. We do not know if we will have tomorrow; but those who know Jesus as their Savior can rest in His promise of eternal life come what may during their time here on earth.

Jesus said this in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus is the only path of salvation available to men and women. He will, however, give eternal life to all who call upon Him believing that He will forgive sins and save them from the wrath that is coming (see Romans 10:9, 13).

Are you ready for eternity? Are you resting secure in Jesus?

Stay tuned for more studies on the characteristics listed in 2 Timothy 3 . . . .