A Study of 2 Tim.3:1-14

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days” <2 Tim.3:1 (NIV)> The characteristics of people in the last days – the last days began with Christ’s first advent and will continue until he comes again – Paul states that during this time people will become increasingly ruthless. Let us examine Paul’s list <2 Tim.3:1-5>:

People will be lovers of themselves               no respect for others                   

lovers of money                                              always trying to get more

boastful                                                         arrogant

proud                                                             self-righteous, egotistical

abusive                                                            insulting, obnoxious, offensive

disobedient to their parents               begins at the earliest age, progresses and can cause great grief

ungrateful                                                      thankless, unsatisfying

unholy                                                            desiring nothing to do with God

without love                                                    cannot show, or unable to love

unforgiving                                                    exacting, intolerant, remorseless, vindictive

slanderous                                                      insulting, malicious

without self-control                                        no restraint or self-discipline

brutal                                                             ruthless, cruel, heartless, violent

not lovers of the good                                    not decent, respectable, moral, worthy       

treacherous                                                              unfaithful, disloyal, deceitful, two-faced, untrustworthy

rash                                                                 impulsive, thoughtless, foolish

conceited                                                   self-important, superior, snobbish, self-satisfied, narcissistic, selfish

lovers of pleasure rather than … God          lovers of gratification, indulgence, sensuality, leisure


This list describes the character and attitude of people in the era of Paul and Timothy, – it is even more ruthless in the present era – and will become increasingly corrupt as the years go by, until Christ returns. Evidence of this type of behaviour is rampant in our society today! Individuals will have and demonstrate “a form of godliness but denying its power.” <2 Tim.3:5a (NIV)>; they will have a practice of worship, they will follow rituals, they will follow custom; but there will be a rejection of God who they are professing to worship. Paul’s instruction to Timothy, and all followers of Christ is: “Have nothing to do with them.” <2 Tim.3:5b (NIV)>. Such individuals will become members of the Church, but we are instructed not to encourage them or their beliefs.

Paul continues to describe their characteristics: “They are the kind who worm their way …… and gain control” <2 Tim.3:6 (NIV)>, like an insect they wriggle their way into the homes and Church, attempting to, and will eventually gain control of those that are weak in their faith; “over weak-willed ……who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires” <2 Tim.3:6 (NIV)>; those that are guilt-ridden because of their unforgiven sins, and are victims of false teaching; they are always learning but never coming to a saving knowledge of Christ <2 Tim.3:7 (NIV Study Bible)>. According to Jewish tradition, (Jannes and Jambres who are not mentioned by name in the OT, <see Ex.7:11>); just as Moses was in conflict with these men, so also is the conflict seen by such individuals in our time: “…so also these men oppose the truth — men of depraved minds” <2 Tim.3:8 (NIV)>. When the Scriptures are clearly taught in the Church the progress of these individuals will be minimized because “…their folly will be clear to everyone.” <2 Tim.3:9 (NIV)>; and the issue is – is such absurdity clear to us today?

In our opposition to this rejection of God <2 Tim.3:10-17>, we should understand that there are two types of denial; one in which the individual absolutely denies God’s existence or refuses to be guided by The Spirit of God; and the other is, those that have professed to be believers but have never fully committed their life to Christ. There are many “church members” who are similar to the unbelievers that Moses had to contend with, they heard the message but rebelled <see Heb.3:16-19; cf Jn.5:38-40>. Then there are those that have been enlightened and have been exposed to the gift of salvation, have walked the new way for a while, but have been turned away because of worldly pleasure and false teachings <see Heb.6:4-6; cf Jn.8:31-32>. Whatever the reason may be, our opposition must always be based on Scripture, for Paul reminds us that the Scriptures are able to give us the wisdom that we need in such circumstances <2 Tim.3:15>. We base our opposition and correction of denial on the Scriptures because “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” <2 Tim.3:16 (NIV); cf Heb.4:12-13>, and should be our only method of correcting those that deny the authority of Christ as Head of His Church, and the teaching of His appointed leaders.

Paul then gives Timothy, and us, the reason for this methodology: “so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” <2 Tim.3:17 (NIV)>. When all the members of Christ’s Church live by the principles of the Scriptures, correcting differences and outright denial of scriptural truths can be easily managed, and all members will be completely equipped for His service. This is the reason why Paul could draw attention to his own way of living when he addresses Timothy at the beginning of this section: “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings…” <2 Tim.3:10-11 (NIV)>; Paul’s life and purpose, and everything else about him, was all under the influence and control of Christ through The Holy Spirit; and in reference to his suffering, he reminds us that “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” <2 Tim.3:12 (NIV)>. While evil people will go from bad to worse deceiving and being deceived <2 Tim.3:13>; Christ’s followers are encouraged to continue living being guided by what we have learned from the Scriptures; But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it” <2 Tim.3:14 (NIV)>.

As we have examined Paul’s description of the denial of God by individuals today, where do you fit into the picture? It is obvious that many people fit Paul’s description of those that reject the gospel, and if you see yourself as such, please allow the Spirit of God to lead you to Christ today.


Israel was now at the end of their forty-year wilderness journey, a journey during which God had instructed them using the many difficulties and hardships that they experienced. He instructed them through Moses as to their conduct in worship, the spiritual structure of their priesthood, the construction of their place of worship. Many lessons were taught and through their many failures God’s instructions were meant to equip them for life in general and for what they were now going to accomplish in the promised land. They are now encamped on the border of the land that God had promised to their fore-father Abraham, a land that was occupied by people who were heathen in nature, who worshipped a variety of false gods; their worship included child sacrifice, perverted worship involving prostitution, ritualistic meals, licentious dancing, all such that were (are) satanic imitations of true worship. So, one of the final instructions from God through Moses is recorded: “On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.” <Num.33:50-52 (NIV)>.

Why the instruction to drive out all the inhabitants? God knows that what we see and hear on a regular basis influences us to the extent that we are encouraged to incorporate these beliefs and actions into our lives. Advertisers are well aware of this and we are inundated with repeated messages encouraging us to consider the suggestions. God had set up a specific procedure and practice of worship for His people, one that was godly and spiritually beneficial for His people, any variation or insertion of satanic imitations would be contrary to God’s purposes. A severe warning to believers in Christ! God has called us to be a separate people, followers of Christ that are not to incorporate any worldly imitation into our worship, whether private or corporate <see Jos.23:7; Psa.4:3; Rom.13:12-14; 2 Cor.6:14-18>. God further speaks, through Moses, a warning that if they fail to completely obey His command, they will suffer the consequences: “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.'” <Num.33:55-56 (NIV)>; and this warning certainly has an application today in our private, and our corporate worship.

It was unfortunate for the Israelites that under the leadership of Joshua they conquered and drove out only some of the inhabitants of the land, allowing many of the Canaanite tribes to remain in disobedience to God’s command. After Joshua’s death it is recorded: “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.” <Judg.2:10-13 (NIV); see verses 1-3>. And this began many years of rebellion against God resulting in God’s judgment upon them, and this judgment continued all through their history as the influence of idol worship caused them to turn away from God. Finally, God had to send them into exile as the Babylonians conquered the land that God had given to them.

What then should we learn from this, why is all this history recorded for us? The apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth reminding and warning them of Israel’s history: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” <1 Cor.10:11 (NIV)>. Paul warned them about their idolatry and pagan revelry; he warned them of sexual immorality; of testing The Lord and grumbling <1 Cor.10:7-10>; all of which the Israelites experienced during their wilderness journey. What was Paul’s reasoning? It was that pagan worship is offered to demons! <1 Cor.10:20>, and each and every believer and follower of Christ today must be on guard, not allowing Satanic imitations to be incorporated into our worship whether private or corporate! The Israelites practiced this intermingling during their history while living in the promised land and suffered the consequences of exile. Believers and followers of Christ must understand that although these sins are recorded in the history of the people of Israel, they are still widespread today both in our private and corporate lives. We, therefore, must take note of Paul’s warnings given to the Corinthian believers, and seek the help of The Holy Spirit to keep us faithful to God’s Word and from participation in these sins which would be to our downfall, disgrace and discipline by a Holy God.

It is extremely easy for us to be deceived by Satan into believing that certain practices are allowable because they are attractive and thought engaging to our worship and to those that we are attempting to reach with the Gospel, but we must be careful to remember that “”Everything is permissible”-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”-but not everything is constructive.” <1 Cor.10:23 (NIV)>.


On the night of their exodus from Egypt, it is recorded that there were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children <Ex.12:37>. However, there were others that joined the exodus: “Many other people went up with them” <Ex.12:38 (NIV); cf 9:20>, and the belief is that these Egyptians caused much of the problems for Moses and Aaron. If that is the reason, it was not an excuse for the Israelites to join in their disbelief; and whether or not, there was a major rebellion at Kadesh-barnea that brought God’s judgment upon the people, the result was, all who were adults at that time would not enter the promised land, the whole assembly were destined to wander in the desert for forty more years <see Num.14:26-35>.

The greater part of their wanderings during the forty years, except for a few events, is not recorded; a full description of the encampments are listed for our reading in Numbers 33; and it is apparent that their wanderings took many circles that eventually brought them back to Kadesh (NIV Study Bible).

The beginning of their fortieth year is recorded: “In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh.” <Num.20:1 (NIV)>, this can be verified by comparing the record: “They left Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the border of Edom. At the Lord’s command Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt.” <Num.33:37-38 (NIV); cf 20:22-28>; and following this, other events are recorded for the rest of the 40th year, including the death and burial of Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron <1 Chr.6:3>.

The new generation of Israelites are now faced with a similar problem that faced their parents when they began their wilderness journey; “Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”” <Num.20:2-5 (NIV); cf Ex.17:1-3>. On the first occasion God instructed Moses to strike the rock with his staff, but here God’s instruction to Moses was for him to speak to the rock <Num.20:7-8>; instead, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff and water flowed from the rock <cf 1 Cor.10:3-4; Heb.10:12-14>; these scriptures compare to the O.T. references and teach that Christ, who is ‘The Rock’, suffered once and will never suffer God’s judgment again! In his action we see that Moses sinned against God to the extent that both himself and Aaron, who assisted him, were not permitted to enter the promised land; “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”” <Num.20:12 (NIV); 20:22-29>; the nature of Moses’ offence is not clear from the text but it is apparent from God’s statement that both Moses and Aaron failed to trust God that speaking to the rock was sufficient, and by Moses’ impulsive action in striking the rock twice, God’s holiness was not honoured in the presence of the people. For any servant of God in a leadership position, and faced with difficult decisions and severe criticism, extreme care is required that no harsh words or actions are expressed!

 The new generation of Israelites now face their first challenge; “When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them.” <Num.21:1 (NIV)>; and the Israelites make their first request to God that these people would be delivered into their hands, if God would honour their request, they would totally destroy the people and the city of Arad. God honoured their request and “They completely destroyed them and their towns; so the place was named Hormah.” <Num.21:3 (NIV)>. Following this encounter, they travelled along the route to the Red Sea so as to bypass Edom, for the Edomites had refused to allow the Israelites to pass through their territory <see Num.20:20>, which caused the people to become impatient with Moses and with God for not allowing them to engage Edom in battle. This exhibited their self-confidence seeing that they had just defeated Arad, not acknowledging that it was God who had given them the victory; leading them to further sin against God by rejecting God’s provisions for them: “they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”” <Num.21:5 (NIV)>. This brought about God’s judgment upon His people by Him sending venomous snakes into their camp and many people died. Upon their confession of sin God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole and those that looked at the bronze snake would live <Num.21:9>.

Following this event, the Israelites now resume their journey towards Moab camping in various places along the route and finally arrive in the valley in Moab in the shadow of Mt. Pisgah, where they face another battle. Sihon, king of the Amorites refused Israel passage through his territory, there is a battle, and Sihon and the Amorites are defeated. Og, king of Bashan is also defeated by the Israelites, and they take possession of his territory.

There are three scriptural truths that are evident from these encounters. First, Jesus Christ “The Rock” <1 Cor.10:4> was (struck) as a sacrifice for our sins “once” by God and never will be struck again <Heb.10:10>. Christ sacrifice for sins was the end to the Aaronic priesthood and sacrificial system set up through Moses <see Heb.10:12-13; cf Rom.4:25-5:1>. Secondly, the bronze snake that Moses set up in the Israelite Camp represented the work of Christ in the redemption of the sin of all peoples <see Jn.3:14-15>. Finally, we should never reject the grace of God that He has offered to us in His salvation, for this is what the Israelites did when they rejected the heavenly manna that God had provided for them <Num.21:5; cf Jn.6:32-35, 48-51, 58>. We need to do what the Israelites did; “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord” <Num.21:7 (NIV)>; we need to acknowledge our sinfulness and seek God’s forgiveness: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” <1 Jn.1:8-2:2 (NIV)>.