II Tim 3:1-4; Matthew 24:12; I Corinthians 7:26-27. Are we approaching the end times? Between now and then, can we expect things to get worse and not better? e.g. sins like greed, immorality, suffering, etc. Is it better and safer to be unmarried and childless in current times if things are going to be worse in the future?
"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was" (II Timothy 3:1-9).
The phrase "last days" does not mean the last few days before the end of the world, but the last set of days or the last age of the earth. There was the time when God spoke to the heads of households, as recorded in Genesis and Job. This was the Patriarchal Age. It was followed by the period of time when God selected one special nation, Israel, originally led by Moses; thus, the Mosaical Age. Now God deals with mankind through Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2), calling all nations into one kingdom. That is the age we now live in. But after this age there will be no more days. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (II Peter 3:10). Therefore, the Christian Age is the last days.
In prophecy concerning the coming Messiah, the church, and God's new covenant, we find it being called "latter days."
"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD" (Jeremiah 31:31-32).
"Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD'S house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:1-2; Micah 4:1-2).
Thus, the time of the Gospel was a different, latter, set of days from the time of the Law of Moses.
"He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you" (I Peter 1:20).
"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds" (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Jesus came in the last times or last days. If the days of the Gospel were the last times, then we are still in them.
"Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour" (I John 2:18).
John said we are in the last hour, even though he wrote this during the first century.
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth" (II Timothy 4:1-3).
"Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation"" (II Peter 3:3-4).
"But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts" (Jude 17-18).
These prophecies did take place and have been repeated several times.
Paul is telling Christians of the first century that during the Christian age there will be periods of perilous times. We are to avoid the people who promote such peril as much as possible, but also note that Paul stated that these periods would not last in II Timothy 3:9. This cannot be describing the final few days of earth because the idea of coming and going would not apply. II Timothy 3 is not a prophecy about the end of the world but about how this last age would play out.
"And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12).
"I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress--that it is good for a man to remain as he is: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife" (I Corinthians 7:26-27).
Notice that Paul said "present distress" and not "future distress." He was talking about a persecution that was shortly to take place. His recommendation of avoiding marriage was a temporary suggestion for that time period. See: Because of the Present Distress.
Yes, each day takes us closer to the end of the world. Today is closer than yesterday. But that does not mean we know when the end will come. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (Matthew 24:36). The world has always gone through cycles of good and bad times. Christians have always been told to expect persecution and distress. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:10-12).
There may be times of extreme persecution, such as was faced by Christians at the end of the first century when delaying marriage might be smart thing to do. Yet, the problems we face in today's society have not come close to rising to the level of hardships seen before.
Rather than panicking when we see society cycling downward yet again, we should keep in mind the words of the writer of Hebrews:
"You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed" (Hebrews 12:4-13).