Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’  It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”
Jude 17–19

Who could have ever foreseen what 2020 would hold? I think we all knew that the political circus was coming to town with the Presidential Election, but adding in a global pandemic, protests and riots over racial divisions, threats of war in Iran, talks of peace in for Israel, an alphabet of hurricanes and tropical storms, and even murder hornets – this has been a full year. 

If someone had told you back in 2019 what was to come, would you believe it? Would it have made a difference. Maybe you would have stocked up on toilet paper, invested in the company that makes face masks, but I don’t know that knowing any of this would have made this year easier. Knowing something bad is coming doesn’t make it better, it doesn’t make it less evil; but it may be more bearable.  

This is the point of Jude’s reminder in vs. 17-19. Jude has spent 2/3 of the letter detailing the corruptive teaching of those who had crept into the church. He has highlighted that their judgment is sure, and their teachings are empty. Now Jude begins to speak to the faithful.

“My beloved,” he says, “remember that the prophets told you this was going to happen.” These false teachers are no surprise to God, and God has warned us of their coming. We don’t know exactly what prophecies Jude has in mind, it could be that these were predictions made by the apostles but never written down, or he could be referring to passages such as:

1 Timothy 4:1–5: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

2 Timothy 3:1–5: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

Acts 20:29–30: “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

or even Matthew 24:10–12: “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”

In these passages the faithful are called to remember that all of this was foreseen by the Lord.  Remembering here doesn’t simply mean to recall, but to take to heart what was spoken. God has determined the end from the beginning, nothing comes as a suppose to God. God has spoken, through Christ His Son, and through the prophets and apostles, about the troubles that the church would face. God has warned the faithful that there would be days like this. His warning is a call to prepare for trouble, but also to not lose heart.

In these last days – between Christ’s death and resurrection and His coming again – some will be led astray by false teaching. Some will cause division within the church as they seek their own desires. Some will cause trouble for the church, and even bring persecution to the faithful as they reject the Lord and His word.

None of what we face is beyond God’s sovereign provision, and even in the midst of it God is working for the good of those who love God (Rom 8:28).  In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom 8:37). 

Knowing that these times of trouble in the church were foreseen by the apostles doesn’t make it any less evil or troubling, but it does make it more bearable.  Thomas Schreiner writes in The New American Commentary:

No false teaching, no threat from the outside can be considered a genuine threat to the truth since it has all been foreseen and predicted. God never promised that the church would progress in the world without enemies from within. People are apt to think that blessing from God would mean that the people of God exist in a blissful state with no conflict. On the contrary, the apostles foretold that opponents would come, and now they had arrived. They were evident by their words and their works. It should be clear to all, therefore, that they were not part of the people of God. The church should recognize them, reject their teaching, and reach out to those wavering under their influence.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.

The Found Prophecy for You

“In accordance with the prophecies previously made about you…”
(I Timothy 1:18 (ESV))

Until recently, I don’t know that I had ever really paid much attention to the verse listed above.  It is something we normally just gloss over as we read the letter to Timothy.  Still, it has tremendous value; at least it did for Timothy.

Paul’s first letter to Timothy was written to encourage this young pastor to faithfulness in his calling, to stand against the false teaching that had crept into the community of faith, “to wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.”  Timothy had a lot going against him.  He was young – even Paul kept referring to him as “my child” – and so might have had a hard time being received with authority and respect.  He was from questionable lineage; his mother was a Jew, his father a gentile.  In a church that had been plagued with a false teaching preoccupied with myths and genealogies, Timothy’s heritage didn’t help his reception as a pastor.

So Paul writes to encourage Timothy.  In one of the most wonderful treatments on the grace of God in Jesus Christ Paul shows how, if he, who once persecuted the church in his ignorance and unfaithfulness, could now be considered worthy and faithful for the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God, then it is no stretch of the imagination that Timothy should also be entrusted with this calling.  Timothy’s age, heritage, or brokenness neither supports nor negates his calling.  Rather, his sufficiency is from God, “who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant” (2 Cor 3:6).

But there is one other thing that Timothy had going for him: he had a prophecy.  There is not account of this, no record of what was said.  We see in Acts how prophets were instrumental in calling and sending individuals in the church.  When Paul/Saul is blinded on the road to Damascus, Ananias receives a prophetic word from the Lord to share with Paul (Acts 9:10-17).  When Paul and Barnabus and others were gathered in Antioch for prayer, the Spirit of God gave them a prophetic word that Paul and Barnabus were to be set apart for the work to which God had called them (Acts 13:1-3).  Apparently, there was a prophetic word concerning Timothy (actually, more than one, since the word is plural).  It would be pure speculation to try to guess what was said, but it was received as a word of the Lord.  For Paul, this prophecy should have been the driving force behind Timothy’s ministry.  He had been called to this.  In accordance with the prophecies, Timothy would wage the good warfare, hold faith and a good conscience.  The road ahead would surely be difficult; there would be opposition and frustration.  However, considering the nature of his call, the charge with which he was entrusted, and the prophesies concerning his faithfulness, Timothy had a treasure of encouragement and strength to equip him for anything he could possibly face.

But what about you and me?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a prophecy about you, something to say, here’s how you’ll fare?  Harry Potter had one, look how he turned out.  Neo, from the Matrix, had a prophecy about him, and sometimes learning to believe the prophecy in spite of all the evidence to the contrary gave him the confidence to become what he was supposed to be.  Is there a prophecy, a promise, something out there to give us strength and encouragement for these days?  Wouldn’t it be comforting to have a word from the Lord that we could fall back on when we feel like giving up?

We do have such a promise.  The word of the Lord might not mention you by name, but it is yours nonetheless.  Consider the following verses:

  • Jer 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
  • Rom 8:11 “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
  • 2 Cor. 4:1 “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”
  • 1 John 5:4 “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”

I could go on, but there is no end to the promises afforded to us in God’s Word.  Whatever you may face today, God’s word for you will bring peace, contentment, joy, satisfaction, hope, and encouragement.  Won’t you take it up and read?

May you be strengthened and encouraged by the time you spend before God in His Word.