But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, (2 Timothy 3:1-2a).
The list that Paul outlines in this verse and the next three verses are devastating. Here they are:
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.(2 Timothy 3:2b-5).
There are many objectionable behaviors that are listed in those verses which Paul says will be symptomatic of the last days. It’s terrible even to think about.
There are two kinds of last days that people think of when they think of ‘last days.’ There are the Last Days which are now, in between Jesus’ ascension and His return. Most people do not think of these as the last days, but they are, complete with wrath, too. Romans 1:18 says God is now revealing His wrath against all ungodliness. Ephesians 5:6 says not to be deceived by anyone with empty words, “because of such things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience.”
Then there are the last days that most people think of when they think of last days- the Great Tribulation. Unlike now, when God’s wrath is being revealed indirectly, during the Great Tribulation God’s wrath will be poured out directly. It will be a time of distress that will be unlike any previous time in all of history. (Matthew 24:21).
The Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21), is also known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 3:7), and The Day of the Lord or just The Day (Isaiah 2:12, Isaiah 13:6, Isaiah 13:9, Isaiah 34:8, Jeremiah 46:10, Lamentations 2:22, Ezekiel 13:5, Ezekiel 30:3, Joel 1:15,Joel 2:1, Joel 2:11, Joel 2:31, Joel 3:14, Amos 5:18, Amos 5:20, Obadiah 1:15, Zephaniah 1:7, Zephaniah 1:8, Zephaniah 1:14, Zephaniah 1:18, Zephaniah 2:2, Zephaniah 2:3,Zechariah 14:1, Malachi 4:5, Acts 2:20, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10).
You can see by that list of verses above that the Last Days doctrine is mentioned numerous times in scripture. The Last Days is a big theme in the Bible. We do well to study it.
So, these are all the last days- it’s the time now and the time to come when God will directly punish the unbelieving world. Thankfully, the Church will have been raptured prior to the end when the wrath is poured out. (Revelation 3:10, FMI go here).
Today I’ll focus on the last days warning that people will be lovers of self.
The Greek word for lovers of self is a compound word, defined by Strong’s Concordance:
phílautos (an adjective, derived from 5384 /phílos, “lover” and 846 /autós, “of self”) – properly, a lover of self, describing someone preoccupied with their own selfish desires (self-interests). It is only used in 2 Tim 3:2.
A characteristic of the last days is that the time between Jesus’ ascension and His return the world will become worse and worse. (2 Timothy 3:13). One of those ways the world will become worse is that people will increasingly be lovers of self. In modern psychological terms this is called narcissism, which is defined as,
|Narcissus (1590s) by Caravaggio|
“…the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes. The term originated from Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.”
We’re all used to the regular kind of selfishness, love of self in the stead of love of God is the root of all base sins. We’re today inundated with selfies, selfie sticks, the “Me Generation” and all that. That’s what sinners do- they love themselves. The last days characteristic of people being lovers of self is more than that.
Barnes Notes brings clarity to the section of the verse:
For men shall be lovers of their own selves – It shall be one of the characteristics of those times that men shall be eminently selfish – evidently under the garb of religion; 2 Timothy 3:5. The word here used – φίλαυτος philautos – does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means a lover of oneself, “selfish.” Such a love of self as to lead us to secure our salvation, is proper. But this interferes with the rights and happiness of no other persons. The selfishness which is condemned, is that regard to our own interests which interferes with the rights and comforts of others; which makes self the central and leading object of living; and which tramples on all that would interfere with that. As such, it is a base, and hateful, and narrow passion; but it has been so common in the world that no one can doubt the correctness of the prophecy of the apostle that it would exist “in the last times.”
Therefore, the Timothy verse points this selfishness of a worse kind. As Barnes said, this is selfishness under the garb of religion. I can think of nothing worse than a sin parading as righteousness.
Here are a few examples of this kind of love of self that plagues the church. In today’s church world the brethren are grieved by a new fad called narcigesis. It comes from a combination of the aforementioned definition of narcissism (narci-)and the proper term exegesis (-gesis). Exegesis is explained by GotQuestions– “the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.” Christians are called to properly exegete a biblical text. Of course, we are not called to be narcissistic in any way. The opposite in fact, we are to think of others higher than ourself. (Philippians 2:3).
Stand Up For the Truth explains the term narcigesis:
When we force the Bible to mean that we are at the center of the story, and when we are taught that every teaching, every command and everything God asks His people to do becomes about our own personal faith journeys, that is what is known as narcissistic eisegesis, and it is a type of teaching prevalent in the Seeker Friendly movement sweeping the United States and the world.
Apostasis Lexicon also explains this fad and adds to it:
Narcigesis – A biblical hermeneutic where one reads themselves into the bible and writes God out of it.
Narciguesswork – A biblical hermeneutic used when a preacher not only reads himself/herself into the text, but encourages the audience to guess how they too can read themselves into the text.
We are loving ourselves so much in these last days that we are inserting ourselves into the Bible so we can love ourselves even more. Of course, the more we loves ourselves, the less we love God. As a perfect example of narcigesis, with the above definitions in mind, we have preacher Beth Moore narcigeting a text from Acts 16:14. That text is recounting how Lydia from Thyatira, a seller of purple, became converted. In this clip from Moore’s “teaching” onActs 16:14, at the 1:10 minute mark and the 2:15 mark she says,
You and I are about to personalize it [the biblical text], and adapt it to ourself. We’re about to put ourselves in the storyline because that’s what Jesus is after today. …You are the woman in the story today.
No we are not the woman in the story today. I am not from Thyatira. I am not named Lydia. I do not sell purple dye. I am not the woman in the story and Moore has no business teaching 11,000 women in her audience to be so narcissistic as to believe we are.
Narcigesis such as Moore’s and others’, teaches that sometime Jesus changed His mind about scripture pointing to Him, (Luke 24:27) and now these false teachers say, scripture points to you. I think not. I also do not think that Beth Moore knows what “Jesus is after”. Note that she is teaching 11,000 women from her inside personal knowledge of what she says Jesus wants. In that, Moore is also demonstrating a massive love of self. It takes a high amount of love of self to be so confident that you regularly hear from and have visions of Jesus and go forward with teaching from this direct revelation and not the Bible.
Of course Moore is not the only false teacher preaching ourselves into the Bible. It just happened to be a perfect recent example of religious love of self. This fad has become so widespread, that new Apps are being developed to support it. The ToYouBible is now here. Touted as,
The Bible that reads in your name™”A personalized Bible app for smartphones and tablets. Just enter your name and gender and read the Bible with your name.
Listen to this clip, and no it is not a parody.
Secular Psychologists say that as narcissism increases empathy decreases.
Narcissism is a serious social and psychological problem. The term refers to an inflated view of the self, coupled with relative indifference to others. People who are high in this trait fail to help others unless there is immediate gain or recognition to themselves for doing so; often think they are above the law and therefore violate it; and readily trample over others in their efforts to rise to the “top,” which is where they think they belong. A world full of narcissists would be a sad world indeed.
Look back up at the terrible characteristics Paul listed which will be prevalent in the Last Days. It is a world which is full of self-loving, brutal people. And I’m talking about the church. Not the true church of course, but it means the church and the people in the church that have a form of Godliness, but deny its power. It is a sad world indeed.
The good news is that the world ahead for true Christians is gloriously awaiting us and it is a place where we will be gloriously joyful. At a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be changed into imperishable and raised through the clouds to meet Jesus in the air! (1 Cor 15:52, 1 Thess 4:17). We will not miss the sermons and ‘teachings’ that focus on us, making it all about us. We will gaze into the face of Jesus and everything, every day we will see Him, the most glorious Person in the universe. With Jesus in the Bible to learn about now, and with the anticipation of seeing Him and being with Him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17), why, WHY, would anyone preach about us? Oh well, the heart is sick, who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9).
As a strategy to combat the tendency to love one’s self, the Bible gives us urgings and advice. Here are a few. Humility is key.
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
The former, however, preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing they can add to the distress of my chains.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
1 Peter 3:8
Finally, all of you, be like-minded and sympathetic, love as brothers, be tender-hearted and humble.
Once again, God’s word helps us. At the beginning we have a warning about people who love themselves, and at the end we have several of many verses advising us to be humble and loving. Humility is hard, so ask the Spirit for help. Loving others is a choice. Choose love, choose humility. This honors Jesus.