“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 KJV
In Trinidad and Tobago, the onset of the Christmas season is heralded with parang. Parang is our local Christmas music with Amerindian, Spanish and African influences. Originally, groups of singers and musicians would visit houses in their communities performing their parang renditions; this is similar to the North American tradition of caroling. The sweet sounds of paranderos ( those who perform the parang) and the cool night breeze were indicative that it was time to begin Christmas preparations.
Soon neighbours would be busy trying to outdo each other: cleaning their yards and their homes; windows would be washed; fences would be painted; shopping for and sewing of curtains would be completed; and an air of anticipation and excitement would waft through the countryside. In the old days, the night before Christmas would be the time to change curtains and do all baking. A sure sign of Christmas day would be the heady aroma of ham and turkey mixed with the spicy, sweet fragrance of sweet bread and black cake( Trinidad Fruit Cake).
Then there is the pastelle, that savoury appetizer consisting of highly seasoned minced meat (either chicken, pork or beef traditionally) encased in a corn meal patty. The sight of banana or “fig” leaves being cut is a giveaway that pastelles are being made.
Also around this time of the year, market stalls are laden with the rich crimson or dark red sorrel flowers. These are in high demand as the sepals of the sorrel flowers are used to make a deliciously refreshing drink. The sepals are mixed with a variety of spices including cinnamon, clove, orange peel and ginger and all are boiled together and allowed to steep overnight to develop full flavor. The intoxicating bouquet produced by this blend of sepals and spices is an undeniable indication of the Christmas season.
There is no snow to bring in the wonder of the Christmas season in our tropical isles but there are many titillating precursors which alert the senses of the approaching event. We have the house cleaning and painting; the parang; pastelles, ham and turkey, fruit cake and sweet bread;and the drinks – sorrel, ginger beer and punch de creme. The season for exchanging gifts is always expected and most people, Christians and non-Christians, are prepared when it arrives.
There have been major events which have changed the course of history throughout the years. The biblical incidents with Moses and Noah saw the freedom of the Israelites from Egyptian rule in the first case and the destruction of the earth by water in the second case. In both these incidents there were warnings and signs. Those who heeded the warnings were prepared. Those who chose to ignore them were destroyed.
There were the wars, the first and second World Wars, the Depression and many other events of lesser magnitude. In all cases there were signs of impending change. For example, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by an ethnic Serb, turned out to be the precipitating factor of World War I.
However, the existing military, political and economic climate at that time provided clues that all was not well and that soon enough there would be some disastrous event. Nations such as Russia, Germany, Britain, Italy Austria-Hungary and France were desperate: for control; to be in possession of strong armies for power and pride; to be regarded as the best nation; to form alliances so that less powerful nations could have protection against more powerful nations.
We are fortunate to have access to a manual which contains the signs of the times in which we are living. We are told that there is no way to know the exact time of the next momentous time in our history but there are definite signs of its approach. That manual is the Bible. Throughout both the Old and the New Testament there are references to the signs of the times. We are warned to live so that we are prepared at any time for the next coming of our Lord and Saviour. Many scoff at this but that also is a sign of the times.
Let us examine what is meant by signs. Let us look at different references to the signs of the times in the Bible and see if we know why we ought not to ignore those signs. What do the signs say and what happens if we choose not to pay them any attention?
One of the meanings for the word “sign” is that it is something which tells us of some event that has happened or that may happen. Signs may be real or virtual. A sign may be literal such as a traffic sign indicating “no entry” or “no parking”. Alternatively a sign may be a visual change such as a change in the sky from clear, blue to grey indicating the possible occurrence of rain. Many times when we are confused or worried we turn to God for a sign, not really knowing what to expect. However God has provided signs throughout the ages and He has provided signs even for the present times and for future generations that may come.
In the Bible there are many occasions of strife or concern when signs from God either provided a solution or gave a warning or indicated how we ought to live. Some of these signs are from the Old Testament; some are from the New Testament. To ignore the signs written in scripture is to err, for then we will not be familiar with the ways of God nor will we be able to discern when He signals to us.
One very powerful scriptural reference is linked to signs which may abound during the end times or as the second coming of the Lord is expected. It states as follows:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5 KJV
This compelling and poignant piece of scripture has to be read and understood in context. Previously Paul had been telling Timothy that God’s servants have no need to fear any attacks against them. In this particular reference, Paul proceeds to enlighten Timothy of the impending threats and peril that he may face and that he has to be prepared for such grave danger.
In the first verse, Paul speaks of the “last days”. Many commentators speculate that this refers to the second coming of Christ. Still other commentators are uncertain as to what precisely is meant by the term “last days”. That time is not specified, neither is the hour nor the day nor the year known by any, except the Father Himself. However, what Paul is highlighting is that there will be indications, occurrences and events which will become more prevalent as that time approaches to act as beacons to those who are aware of them, ensuring that they live in accordance with God’s instructions.
The next few verses are related in simple, plain terms, directly stating what signs will indicate the presence of false teachers and false doctrine. Verse 2 speaks of valuing self above God and parents and your neighbor. It conjures an image of an ungrateful being, unholy and full of conceit.
Verse 3 develops that imagery of aggression, selfishness and unrighteousness while verse 4 reveals that the pursuit of pleasure will overcome pursuit of God and all that is godly. Verse 5 sums it all up: there will be a form of godliness but it will be based on false teachings, not completely submitting to God’s will; it is a form of godliness which seeks to justify its own selfish beliefs and pursuits. At the end of verse 5 is the important message to those who are willing to heed the signs: stay away from those who interpret the scripture to suit their own agendas; stay away from the hypocrites and their carnal pleasures.
Essentially the signs do not tell of when the last days are but they become more pronounced as those days approach. Whether it is the end of the world or the second coming of the Messiah, the times will become increasingly perilous or difficult. Specifically Paul is not referring to trying economic times or times of natural disasters, but times when evil will abound. He is telling of times when many charismatic persons will arise, who will speak corrupted doctrine in dulcet tones and will lure the simple minded and the desperate into their own nefarious ways.
It will be easy for anyone to inhale the alluring fragrance emitted from the metaphorical crimson sepals of those beguiling yet pernicious men. Their words and intentions are dripping with the syrup of deceit set to capture naïve, misinformed souls. However there is hope! The signs of these men are clearly detailed for those who take the time to read the scriptures and who are willing to place their trust in the Lord’s word.
There are instructions for what is acceptable in life and there are instructions for what is to be avoided. Let us be wise and discerning; let us not be lovers of self, man and pleasure but rather be lovers of God and righteousness so that when the time which is unknown arrives we will be prepared having lived our live according to His word and having heeded the signs.
The signs of the times are all around,
Evil, deceit and treachery abound.
Read the scripture for there you will learn,
Instructions in righteousness, to prepare for His return.
God’s words and my actions:
Today I will use every opportunity to be strong in God’s word by:
Knowing the scripture so that I can exercise wisdom and discernment in my encounters with those who claim to teach His doctrine.
Thank you Lord, Amen!