Two chapters later, Paul says “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1). The King James Bible says “perilous” even; it’s probably a stronger word. In the last days, there will be perilous times coming on the face of the earth.
What does discipleship look like in times of turmoil and oppression? When Paul wrote to this young man in 2 Timothy, he was in prison and he was warning that perilous times were about to be unleashed not only around the world but in Ephesus.
Paul’s prediction came true for Timothy; it wasn’t long after that that Emperor Domitian set up his capital in Ephesus, and he required that all who came to Ephesus to burn incense to him. They had to put a little bit of ash on their arm and forehead afterward to say, “I just burned incense to King Domitian.” Then they would go into the marketplace where they bought food, clothes to keep warm and coal for cooking meals for their children and families. Unless these people had sacrificed to Domitian and put the mark on their foreheads or hands, they couldn’t enter the market where all of these vital supplies for everyday living were sold.
In the last days, there are going to be difficult, perilous times, and you have to stay pure. You have to stay holy, but it’s going to cost you. You can’t sacrifice your life to idols or to the lords of this world. Paul was asking Timothy to have a fearless spirit in the midst of a perilous time. He was telling him, “You are to be a different type of disciple.”
“As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it…. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14, 16-17).
God has promised to equip us through his Word. Once we put on a spirit not of fear but of power and once we are trained in righteousness, we will be ready to face the days of evil and oppression.