Last day intolerance of the truth
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
— 2 Timothy 4:3,4
Today I’d like to talk to you about what the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy right after exhorting him to stay by his post, regardless of the external pressures that would try to bump him off course. There is a strategic sequence to Paul’s words that apply specifically to the believers of this generation.
Paul went on to describe the unique challenge that believers would face as a last-days deception occurs inside the Church. He wrote that at the end of the age — in the period just before Jesus returns — large numbers of people in the Body of Christ would be led astray.
Remember — the Holy Spirit didn’t tell us this to scare us, but rather to prepare us so we would not succumb to these devil-inspired tactics to affect the Church in the very last of the last days. That makes the message of these verses particularly significant for those of us born into this present-day generation of the Church.
Paul wrote, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3,4). The word “time” in verse 3 was translated from the Greek word kairos, which depicts a specific season. Paul said, “This specific season shall come.” The tense is futuristic, pointing to a season in the future, or to events that will occur in the very last part of the last days.
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In this end-times season, the Holy Spirit said increasing numbers of people in the Christian community “…will not endure sound doctrine…” (v. 3). Even now, this is taking place as many are gravitating toward teaching and preaching that is more motivational and psychological than Bible-based.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t indicate how many will be pulled in this wrong direction, but the word “they” in the Greek language implies large numbers of people. According to Paul’s prophetic utterance, a portion of the last-days Christian community will simply no longer endure the sound teaching of Scripture. In fact, the word “endure” is the Greek word anecho, which denotes no ability to put up with or to have no tolerance for.
The words “sound doctrine” in Second Timothy 4:3 are very telling. The Greek word for “sound” is hugiaino, and it indicates something that is wholesome and healthy and that produces a healthy state of being. The word “doctrine” refers to the long-held teachings and tenets of the Christian faith.
Thus, the Holy Spirit foretold of a specific end-time season when a segment of the Christian community would not only lose their appetite for sound doctrine, but they would also actually develop a distaste for it. Instead, they would acquire a distinct taste for doctrine that is unwholesome, preferring a self-help style of teaching over the teaching of sound doctrine.
In Second Timothy 4:3, Paul forecasted a moment when large numbers of people will no longer have a stomach for sound doctrine. Instead, “…after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears….” The word “lusts” describes desires or whims. In other words, this part of the verse could be translated, “But after their own desires shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
Paul unequivocally stated that a generation will arise in the very last days that will reject age-tested truth in favor of teaching that is more in step with the times. According to the Holy Spirit, teachers will appear on the scene in a specific kairos season to satisfy the hankerings of a generation that adheres to the world’s progressive approach. What these spiritual leaders teach will appeal to people’s emotions and intellect instead of to the deepest part of their being where actual transformation takes place. Because these teachers will speak what the crowds want to hear, they will enjoy great popularity among this audience of listeners.
In Second Timothy 4:3, Paul went on to say that this last-days generation will “heap” to themselves such teachers. The word “heap” is the future active indicative tense of the Greek word episoreuo, which points to piles of “teachers” who will appease an end-time audience with messages to suit them and the whims of the times.
Paul said that these teachers will satisfy the “itching ears” of the people. The words “itching ears” is used figuratively to depict a person (or a crowd of people) who wants to hear something new as compared to what he has already heard and known. Having his “ears” filled with something he wants to be told is the only thing that relieves this “itching-ear” syndrome.
As a result of this strange period that will develop in the last part of the last days, Paul said many “…shall turn their ears away from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4). This “turning away from the truth” is the rejecting of absolute biblical truth — the time-tested interpretation of the Word of God.
Is it possible we are currently witnessing this turning away from truth that the Holy Spirit predicted nearly 2,000 years ago? Are we seeing in our own day an accommodating attitude toward the world that produces a brand of Christianity that melds into the environment around it?
Paul wrote that an erring end-time group would discard fixed truth and replace it with “fables” — the Greek word for fantasies. By using the word “fables,” Paul inferred that what this group of last-days orators taught would resemble fantasy. These teachers would substitute “fables” for the authentic teaching of the Bible that calls for repentance from sin and a change of behavior that is befitting God’s Word.
The craving and demand for these fanciful messages by those with “itching ears” will produce large numbers of newly fashioned teachers with restyled messages. The mixture of truth and falsehood these teachers deliver will eventually lead a large segment of people into a distorted perception of who the Christ of Christianity really is.
You might say, “Brother Rick, that sounds like a lot of really bad news.” But I need to tell you that in the haze of this deception that Paul prophesied about, another group of spiritual leaders will arise. Paul wrote about these leaders, calling them “…blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
Since there also will be a group of believers emerging who will hold to the ageless Word of Truth and proclaim its timeless teaching, let’s make sure that is the group to which we belong! In spite of the difficulties these men and women may endure for proclaiming the Bible as utter truth, they will nevertheless stand firm, their feet solidly planted on the integrity of God’s Word.
That, my friend, is the group you want to be a part of in these end times!
As I said at the beginning of today’s Sparkling Gem, Paul forecasted that a time would come when a deception would occur inside the Church — in the period just before Jesus comes. Again, the Holy Spirit did not tell us this to scare us — but to prepare us, lest we fall into this trap ourselves. It is time for us to dig our heels deep into the truth of God’s Word, refuse to budge from its life-transforming truths, and do all we can to teach and proclaim it to those around us!