“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3:1).
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:5-7).
This series is a study examining the societal characteristics of the last days that Paul wrote about in 2 Timothy 3.
Part 1 can be found here: Societal Characteristics of the Last Days: Part 1 :: By Mark A. Becker – Rapture Ready or Societal Characteristics of the Last Days Part 1 | FaithWriters
Part 2 can be found here: Societal Characteristics of the Last Days: Part 2 :: by Mark A. Becker – Rapture Ready or Societal Characteristics of the Last Days Part 2 | FaithWriters
Part 3 can be found here: Societal Characteristics of the Last Days: Part 3 :: by Mark A. Becker – Rapture Ready or Societal Characteristics of the Last Days Part 3 | FaithWriters
… Having A Form of Godliness
The Greek word for “of godliness” is 2150 eusébeia (from 2095/eú “well” and 4576/sébomai, “venerate, pay homage”) – properly, someone’s inner response to the things of God which shows itself in godly piety (reverence). 2150/eusébeia (“godly heart-response”) naturally expresses itself in reverence for God, i.e., what He calls sacred (worthy of veneration). [All definitions from Biblehub.com]
Man is a spiritual being with a spiritual appetite that is easily deceived by the wiles of the devil in his schemes to turn us away from the Creator and to worship the creation. Even the professed atheist worships at the altar of “natural selection.”
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (Romans 1:20-23).
But Paul’s revelation of the last days’ characteristic of those “having a form of Godliness” are for those who claim to know God with a show of piety and superficial spiritual virtue. They have a veneer of Christian character that yearns to be accepted by man with little to no thought of God’s approval.
“Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).
Often, this charade is exposed in their lack of knowledge concerning God’s Word.
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes would be those who illustrated this “form of Godliness.” Today, it is the false teachers and false prophets in the professing church that Jesus warned us of, who are our example.
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).
The warnings against false teachers are well documented in Scripture, and the power and influence they were to have upon the body of Christ are witnessed today in everyday observation.
Paul warned Timothy regarding this last day’s deception:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
And, of course, our Lord:
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16a).
“Sheep’s clothing” is their visible “form of Godliness.”
But for the believer, in relationship to the world (and false teachers and false prophets are most certainly of the world), we are to…
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
We are to flee these unholy alliances with those who are of the world and with those who corrupt the church.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
But we are to remain in the world as ambassadors for Christ and to share the gospel with a lost and dying world.
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
… But Denying The Power Thereof
The Greek word for “the power” is 1411 dýnamis [also known as dunamis] (from 1410/dýnamai, “able, having ability“) – properly, “ability to perform” (L-N); for the believer, power to achieve by applying the Lord’s inherent abilities. “Power through God’s ability” (1411/dýnamis) is needed in every scene of life to really grow in sanctification and prepare for heaven (glorification). 1411 (dýnamis) is a very important term, used 120 times in the NT.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith…” (1 Timothy 4:1a).
These false teachers and false prophets deny our Lord and His power:
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1).
“Denying the Lord that bought them” is the epitome of “denying the power” of God.
Time and time again we see these false teachers downplaying the grace of God and His power and turn to the law and traditions of men in an attempt to keep the body of Christ in bondage:
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).
“Denying the power” of grace and faith in Christ is a false Christianity and has no power to save anyone.
As followers of Christ, we are to be securely grounded in the Word of God and sound doctrine:
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Ephesians 4:14-15).
Our power is found in Christ Jesus and the Father through the Spirit:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
… From Such Turn Away
The Greek word for “turn away” is 665 apotrepó turn away. From apo and the base of trope; to deflect, i.e. (reflexively) avoid — turn away. Definition for tropé is turning. From an apparently primary trepo to turn; a turn (“trope”), i.e., Revolution (figuratively, variation) – turning.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
“Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
“… he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:2-5).
“Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away” (Proverbs 4:14-15).
For Of This Sort Are They Which Creep Into Houses
The Greek word for “which creep” is 1744 endunó creep. From ennomos and duno; to sink (by implication, wrap (compare enduo) on, i.e. (figuratively) sneak – creep. 1746 enduo To clothe or be clothed with (in the sense of sinking into a garment).
The Greek word for “houses” is 3614 oikia Home, household. From oikos; properly, residence (abstractly), but usually (concretely) an abode (literally or figuratively); by implication, a family (especially domestics) — home, house-hold.
… And Lead Captive Silly Women Laden With Sins
The Greek word for “silly women” is 1133 gunaikarion A woman, with all a woman’s weakness, a poor weak woman, a silly woman. Idle or foolish woman. A diminutive from gune; a little (i.e., Foolish) woman — silly woman.
… Led Away With Divers Lusts
The Greek word for “lusts” is 1939 epithymía (from 1909/epí, “focused on” and 2372/thymós, “passionate desire”) – properly, passion built on strong feelings (urges). These can be positive or negative, depending on whether the desire is inspired by faith (God’s inbirthed persuasion). See 1937 (epithymeō). 1937 epithyméō (from 1909/epí, “focused on” intensifying 2372/thymós, “passionate desire”) – properly, to show focused passion as it aptly builds on (Gk epi, “upon”) what a person truly yearns for; to “greatly desire to do or have something – ‘to long for, to desire very much‘” (L & N, 1, 25.12).
With the definitions of key words freshly in our minds, let’s consider this portion of Scripture in its entirety:
“For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,”
Paul’s warning to the church:
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16-17).
Considering the First-Century Church
In Paul’s day, the church was much different than we see today. All churches were known as “house churches,” and this should be considered when analyzing this passage. Below is only one of many examples in the New Testament Scriptures of what the church looked like in the first century:
“Likewise greet the church that is in their house” (Romans 16:5a).
Putting aside the possibility of actual sexual seduction in these verses, we should ask, “Is Paul thinking of these house churches when he is being led by the Holy Spirit?” If so, then it seems we could be seeing these false teachers invading individual house churches in the attempt to seduce “silly women” in their perversion of God’s Word.
When comparing this thought to modern-day “houses” where families live, one can’t help but think of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormon missionaries in the field. Have you ever wondered why they come around during the working hours of the men in the traditional family?
The following verse may be helpful to this thought:
“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14).
Women tend to be more “spiritual” than men. This could very well be why Satan went after Eve instead of Adam. Adam wasn’t deceived, but he did sin because of his love for Eve. He didn’t want her to bear the consequences of her sin alone. Adam, in fact, was the first “type,” or “picture,” of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.
Is this what Paul had in mind in this portion of Scripture? Maybe.
Considering the Modern-Day Church
In today’s age, churches are organized. We usually have a certain building designated as a meeting place for the church instead of the family home. But we also have “small group” Bible studies in the homes of families, so this too could be what Paul had in mind. That is, false teachers entering into small group studies to deceive the group, usually targeting women to obtain a following and/or seducing them sexually in the process.
When considering the organized church buildings, we can also see a possible link to what Paul is stating here. Paul, knowing the church of his day were independent house churches, might be describing future church buildings as “houses” and that the “silly women” may actually be referring to weak churches and their membership – prime targets for deception – and not to individual women and/or family homes.
John seemed to refer to a house church as a woman in his epistles, and women are often designated as symbols for cities, nations, and false religious systems throughout Scripture.
Here’s an example of John, seemingly, referring to a local house church as a “woman” or, in this case, a “lady”:
“The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another” (2 John 1-5).
Many think, and I tend to agree, that John refers to this church as “the elect lady” and that “her children” are the parishioners within this particular house church.
This is easily applicable to our organized church buildings today, and Paul could very well have had both institutions in mind when he wrote these verses.
In this interpretation, a paraphrase within the text might look something like this: “For of this sort are they which creep into houses [all churches], and lead captive silly women [weak churches and their membership] laden with sins [falling into apostasy].”
The Fulfillment of This Prophecy is ‘Right Before Our Eyes’
While the above interpretations absolutely have merit, I couldn’t help wondering if I was missing something in this prophecy. I mean, honestly, false teachers and false prophets have been infiltrating house churches and church buildings for over 2,000 years. What is different in these last days that wasn’t present for the last two millennia? What was I missing?
A little over 72 hours before I was to release this article, it came to me – and I’d like to share this with you now. This is in addition to, not in place of, the above interpretations.
How is it that, in the last days, false teachers and false prophets will have the ability to “creep into houses” at an exponential rate?
See if any of these sayings ring a bell:
“God is obligated to bless you when you give your money to this ministry because of His “Law of Reciprocity.” “If you plant a seed of $100.00 to this ministry, God will bless your seed of faith 10-fold with $1,000.00 in the coming days.” “Your love gift to this ministry will come back to you some 30-fold, some 60-fold, and some 100-fold, depending on the amount of faith you have.” “Buy this ‘holy anointing oil,’ and God will heal you.” “Purchase this ‘prayer cloth,’ and God will bless you abundantly.”
The health and wealth, name-it-and-claim-it “Prosperity Gospel” proponents make a killing “fleecing” the flock. How do these false teachers and false prophets reach those with these empty and Biblically-baseless claims? How do they reach so many? You guessed it, “Television.”
For over 1,900 years, Christians couldn’t fully understand how the magnitude of this prophecy could be played out. With modern-day technology, as with so many other future prophecies, we now know how.
Remember, the Greek word for “creep” is 1744 endunó and means to creep. From ennomos and duno; to sink (by implication, wrap (compare enduo) on, i.e. (figuratively) sneak – creep. 1746 enduo To clothe or be clothed with (in the sense of sinking into a garment). (Emphasis mine)
This is exactly what happens when a television transmission enters the television set – whether through the air, cable, or satellite – it “sinks” into the “houses.”
Who is the general target audience for these charlatans? You guessed it again, “Women.” From the young mother to the aging widow, women are the target prey of these predators. Any check will do; whether the child support payment, the hard-earned paycheck from work, or Social Security supplemental income, it matters not to these evil men and women.
When it comes to these “silly women laden with sins, [and] led away with divers lusts,” these weak women buy into these promises in the name of their own selfish greed. They desire the unrealistic return on investment for their own purposes. Of course, had they known the Scriptures and had totally given their lives to their Savior and depended on Him alone, they wouldn’t have been led astray, but, sadly, this is not the case.
Sometimes – and sincerely sad this is – many of these women have their hearts in the right place and are truly desperate or want to help others, but their lack of Biblical knowledge allows them to be misguided and to succumb to these despicable deceptions and exploits.
So, in this interpretation, the sins and lusts are entirely based upon greed, self-gratification, and material and monetary gain. Obviously, Paul would never have been able to relate to us the idea of the television and modern-day technology, but the Holy Spirit seemed to direct his words well.
With this interpretation in mind, let’s look at this verse again:
“For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,”
The false teachers and false prophets “creep into houses,” via television and computers, “and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led with divers lusts,” in the pursuit of everything that isn’t holy, being led astray by the charlatans of greed. How convenient for these false teachers and false prophets, as they never have to leave their apostate churches or their television studios while the mammon keeps rolling in.
“For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:18).
… Ever Learning
The Greek word for “learning” is 3129 manthánō (akin to 3101/mathētḗs, “a disciple”) – properly, learning key facts; gaining “fact-knowledge as someone learns from experience, often with the implication of reflection – ‘come to realize'” (L & N, 1, 27.15).
“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:” (1 Timothy 6:20).
As is so widely known, mankind has never had so much knowledge at his fingertips than he does today. With the click of a button and a few hours on the internet, one can acquire more knowledge than most people in the past learned in a lifetime.
“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4).
Unfortunately, the knowledge people absorb today is useless when it comes to the truth and the things of God:
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
“Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth” (Titus 1:14).
… And Never Able To Come To The Knowledge Of The Truth
The Greek word for “the knowledge” is 1922 epígnōsis (from 1909/epí, “on, fitting” which intensifies 1108/gnṓsis, “knowledge gained through first-hand relationship”) – properly, “contact-knowledge” that is appropriate (“apt, fitting”) to first-hand, experiential knowing. This is defined by the individual context. See 1921 (epignōskō). 1921 epiginṓskō (from 1909/epí, “on, fitting” which intensifies 1097/ginṓskō, “know through personal relationship”) – properly, apt, experiential knowing, through direct relationship. This knowing builds on (epi, “upon“) the verbal idea and hence is defined by the individual context.
The Greek word for “the truth” is 225 alḗtheia (from 227/alēthḗs, “true to fact”) – properly, truth (true to fact), reality. Verity.
“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. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:18-21).
“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:15-16).
“And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
The following passages correlate well with this school of thought on who these false teachers are and what their end will be.
Our Lord Jesus Christ warned us:
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5).
Paul had much to say about this:
“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:6-7).
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).
“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:2, 4, 13-15).
We’ll let Jude conclude our study with his fiery indictment against these men:
“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
“But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
“These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
“These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 4, 8, 10, 12-13, 16-19).
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
[Note: I realize that this study on Societal Characteristics of the Last Days is United States-centric, as this is where I live. My guess is that this series will also ring true in the rest of the Western world. But what I’m really interested in is: Do these characteristics describe the current conditions in the nation of Israel as well? After all, the Bible is Israel-centric. If any of our dear friends in Israel would like to reach out with their take on this study and its relationship to Israel, I’d really love to hear from you!]