I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works.
You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!
Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick. Do your utmost to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren. The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen. 2 Timothy 4 (67AD)
Believed to be the Apostle Paul’s final letter to anyone, we have the sobering words of a man who had run his race and now, seemingly abandoned and destined for execution, gives final guidance to his beloved son in Christ. Not only personal in nature, but its encouraging words and admonitions are also applicable for all believers, who have seemingly faced similar conditions living behind enemy lines.
We can relate to his final words here, because we too, often feel abandoned in enemy territory.
Abandoned by fellow believers who seem to drift away back into the world. Abandoned by churches who themselves, have abandoned the gospel for trendy social justice issues. Abandoned by the government, who increasingly views bible-believing Christians as the enemy. Abandoned by corporate America, who has traded in their loyal customer base to appease an aggressive, woke, minority. Many even feel abandoned by God, who, for two-thousand years has seemingly remained silent and left the church to fend for itself, until He returns at some unknown future time.
Did Paul ever feel this way?
I mean, most everyone regards Paul as the greatest of the apostles, whose superhuman faith, led more Gentiles to Christ than any other person, ever. But he, like us, was still human. Still subject to the same fears and trepidations about the future (1 Cor. 2:3). Although freed from it, he was still ashamed of his past atrocities against Christians (1 Cor. 15:9, 1 Tim. 1:13). Still bothered by some thorn in his side; presumably, someone who knew him from his former days as a persecutor and followed him incessantly to harass him (2 Cor. 12:7). Still frustrated at circumstances, either with his fellow apostles or with those who stood against him (2 Corinthians, Galatians). In other words, although he was the greatest, he was also very relatable, because we too struggle with many of the same issues as believers.
We have fear and trepidation about the future. Sure, we know the “big picture” about how in the end, God wins…but it’s all the little details between then and now we worry about. Paying bills. Medical emergencies. The death of loved ones. Friends and family who seemingly apostatize. Increasingly hostile community and government. Needless to say, there is plenty to be worried about.
Although we are freed from our past, we (I) still are ashamed of our former conduct. We look back on our lives and think, oh how I wasted so much time living for myself. In truth, God may have forgotten our sins, and no longer sees us as the former reprobates that we were, but we don’t forget. And Satan uses our inability to forgive ourselves, as a stumbling block for all the days we live.
Do you have a person or issue that is a thorn in your side? I do. I should say thorns (plural). There are all kinds of things that incessantly attempt to shipwreck my faith on a daily basis. There are issues and people who are in our life that seemingly exist for no other reason than to harass and make our lives here miserable.
The reality is, we all have our trials and tribulations. Before we were believers, we had these in the general sense in that Satan sought to destroy our souls and send us to hell. We were once part of the kingdom of Satan, and as such, were used by Satan to fight against God. However, after we were separated from Satan, and reborn by placing our faith and trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross, these attacks intensified. Not to destroy our now untouchable souls, but to prevent us from sharing the good news with anyone else as to rescue them.
At this point, it seems I’m only droning on about doom and gloom. You might be asking, well, what about our blessed hope (Titus 2:13)?
Honestly, and I can only speak for myself in this matter, but if I didn’t know or believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, I would be in a bad way today. If I didn’t have that hope to cling to, I think, like so many others, I would have abandoned the faith long ago and looked for solace elsewhere. I was certainly on my way down that path before the Lord intervened in my life back in 2007. I had my own “road to Damascus” type of intervention. When I started back then, my understanding of eschatology was all over the board. I knew what I had heard in church years earlier, and started from there. Were it not for a former youth pastor who was passionate about studying eschatology at the time, I would likely have not heard about it all.
However, between 1992 and 2007 (from my HS graduation to my return to the faith), a lot had transmogrified in terms of both technology and new theories (e.g., pre-wrath, date setting, geopolitical events, etc.) regarding our Lord’s return. The internet was awash with theories and new perspectives, and truth be told, I was drowning in them. That was until I came upon Jack Kinsella’s Omega Letter. Jack just had a way of explaining extremely complicated issues, in simple terms that even a knuckle-dragging troglodyte like myself could understand.
I remember quite a lot of chatter about the Lord having to return by 2011 because 2018 being the 70 year anniversary of Israel’s national rebirth. Then we had the 2012 “Mayan Calendar” and “Bible Code” issues. Then the coming astronomical signs in the heavens. This does not even take into the numerous false date-setting fiascos with the likes of Ronald Weinland, Harold Camping, and so many others, who have infamously attempted to name the date of our Lord’s return. Needless to say, it was an interesting time to be brought into the ministry of Bible prophecy, especially, for one such as myself.
I have zero seminary training. Yet, I can look back at my writings from ten years ago, and see nothing has had to change in terms of my core doctrines. I have not had to adjust my teachings to “keep up with the times” or to remain relevant. Granted, I have “tweaked” my understanding on one peripheral issue since then (i.e., Acts 2 not being the birth of the church, but the conception of the church), but that issue really, is neither here nor there. It doesn’t change anything else I hold dear.
I count these men as spiritual mentors in terms of my spiritual growth: Clarence Larkin, Jack Kinsella, and Jack Kelley, Dave Hunt, Chuck Missler, H.A. Ironside, Andy Woods, JR Church, Hal Lindsey, and W.A. Criswell. To wit, all of these disagree on certain peripheral issues (ordering of post-rapture events, geopolitical and technological signs, etc.), so it can be said that none are 100% in agreement with each other on every single issue. However, in the end, we are all in agreement on the core doctrines of our faith (Christology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology, Soteriology, Hermeneutics, and so forth). Although many of these have already graduated into the glorious realm eternal, each of these men held the firm belief that Jesus could come in their lifetime.
Paul certainly anticipated the Lord Jesus to return in his lifetime, which is where we get our doctrine of imminence. So it is likely that even Paul, felt at times, left in the dark, as it were, about what God was doing, as we all have. Let’s face it, if John the Baptist, whom Jesus said was the greatest born among women (Matt. 11:11), if he had his doubts about what God’s plans were, Paul could have as well.
And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Matthew 11:2-3
Part of this human experience is that we are finite and mortal. Part of being finite and mortal is that we are prevented from knowing the future. Although we are sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit to help shepherd us and to help us understand, Scripture does provide us a blueprint of things to come. Therefore, we cannot know the future apart from the Author who does. Even still, we are limited to understanding what we think of God’s prophetic word based on the information available at the time, and what God has chosen to reveal to us via progressive illumination. For example, the concept of the Mark of the Beast to us is becoming increasingly understandable, given the current issues like biotechnology and things like vaccine passports. We can see the correlation. However, this idea was a giant mystery to those generations before, who didn’t have the technology available to see how it could be done.
Furthermore, if we are honest, even our best understanding of how the prophetic scriptures will play out still remains a best guess until it actually occurs. Many great Biblical scholars and theologians (both Dispensational and not) from the 17th thru the early 20th century knew, according to Scripture that Israel would become a nation again. However, the how and when of Israel’s restoration remained a topic of much debate until it actually happened. Little did anyone know that it would take the European Zionist movement (Theodore Herzl), two World Wars, the collapse of an empire (Ottoman), and a newly formed global organization (United Nations) to make it all come to pass. The Bible predicted it would happen, but was scant with the details of how it would actually happen.
We (even Paul) are all prone to the same fears and anxieties when faced with the cruel reality of this fallen planet. Remember, Paul didn’t have the New Testament. He had his extensive rabbinical training under the Sanhedrin, his personal conversion and revelation from Jesus Himself, and perhaps, the Gospel of Mark (depending on when you think this was written). Thus, was Paul’s initial excitement in 1st Thessalonians (circa 50-51AD) tempered by the years of increasing persecution and isolation we read here in 2 Timothy (circa 67AD)?
But what he shows here, is that despite his circumstances, he trusted God. He trusted and was inspired to write even something more encouraging, in that, those who look and long for His appearing will one day receive a crown of righteousness. It seems, at least, according to his final writing here in 2nd Timothy that he came to understand the Lord’s return would not be something we could pinpoint, but rather, would be something we see building towards, like the brewing of an afternoon thunderstorm.
At first, we see nothing but blue skies. Then we start to see the clouds forming on the horizon. Then we begin to notice those clouds darken and move from whatever direction they form at, to where we are now. Things begin to become more ominous, as the winds pick up as the storm moves overhead. There can be no doubt now that a storm is coming, and we had best seek shelter before we are caught out in it. But the Seventieth Week of Daniel (aka the Tribulation) is not some local storm; it is a global one. According to Revelation 13, there will be nowhere left to run on the earth for those who stand against the Antichrist and his beast system.
It was granted to him (the Antichrist) to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:7-8 (clarification added)
Take note of Paul’s admonishment to Timothy that the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine echoing what he said earlier in 2 Timothy 3. I wonder if Paul knew how long his teachings would survive. Did he know 2,000 years would transpire? Did he know how many attempts to hijack the Gospel the Bible would survive? This alone would be proof positive of the divine nature of the Bible and its ability to weather the satanic storm of corruption.
In his day, Paul was busy fighting the Jewish religious leaders' (Judaizers) attempts to reintroduce the Mosaic Law back into this new Christian faith. Later, Jude, John, and the disciples of the apostles (Polycarp, Irenaeus, etc.) would see new attacks on Christianity in the forms of Gnosticism. Later, the ante-Nicene fathers would see paganism and other forms of heretical doctrines pop up every few years attempting to challenge the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
But these attacks normally came from without, which allowed the early Christian church to rally and fight off these attempts to destroy her. However, as early as the 2nd century AD, we see a newer, more subtle form of corruption come in by way of good intentions vis allegorical interpretation. We see what Origen first theorized, which was later codified and venerated by Augustine in his 4th-century book, the City of God. This largely became the foundation for much of what the Roman Catholic Church, and later, the Protestant Reformation adopted in terms of their eschatological doctrines. These have been most destructive to the Christian faith, and have shipwrecked untold millions of souls. Let us, even if we be the remnant, continue on in the faith that was once delivered to the saints.
On a personal note, this June marks my ten-year anniversary since my first call to be a writer. I know my call to write was from the Lord, primarily, because I hated writing. Secondly, to be asked to contribute my writing skills to the famed Omega Letter by the late-great Jack Kinsella, was in my mind, the highest praise. Now, I will never meet most of you in real life. I’ve met a handful of you at conferences, but the majority, I’ll never know. I don’t even know who all reads these, as its distribution goes out worldwide and archived on the internet forever. However, let me just say it has been one of my greatest joys to serve you in this manner. To pass on what I have learned, so that we may all grow together in the faith until the Lord returns. Nevertheless, when the Rapture does happen, I promise, I will meet you there.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11-16
Until then, Maranatha!