1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1–5, NKJV)
Paul was about to charge Timothy before God and Christ to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1). He needed to know that difficult, stressful times were ahead (2 Tim. 4:5). He would have to recognize those who were dangerous and “turn away” from them (v. 5). So do we. These perils present us with decision points when we must choose to be faithful to Jesus and accept suffering for the sake of righteousness instead of yielding to the protection of compromise with error and evil. We should observe that Christians who maintain their faith in the Lord, their love for His truth, and their devotion to Christ above all are not the culprits. They are not responsible for the times of peril. Those who love themselves, money, and sinful pleasures apply and pressure Christians to deny their faith. They are proud and boastful, disrespectful to authority, unthankful, unholy, lacking the love and self-control to be kind and forgiving toward others. They are brutal and arrogant. Some even appear to be pious as they defame and blasphemy (v. 5). They are not. We live in difficult times, too. Abhor evil and love good even when peril comes (Rom. 12:9). Take heart and overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). We are more than conquerors in Christ (Rom. 8:37).
If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:18, NKJV)
Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jno. 16:33). As they preached the gospel, Paul and Barnabas were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22). Peter said, “do not think it strange” when fiery trials happen to you because of your faith (1 Pet. 4:12). These statements do not suggest we earn our way to heaven. They explain being a faithful Christian brings you face to face with challenges and turmoil that require the effort and conviction of a faith to endure and prevail when they come. “Scarcely” is from a Greek word that means “with difficulty.” Luke used it in Acts 27:16 of securing the skiff with difficulty during a storm. He also used it in Acts 14:18 of the difficulty of restraining the mob from sacrificing to Paul and Barnabas. The righteous are saved, but not without difficulties that test our faith. Trials purge the dross from their faith and identify them as being unashamed to live for Christ (1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:16-17). On the other hand, the “ungodly and the sinner” will not appear in glory due to their lack of faith. They are unwilling to endure tribulations to enter the kingdom of God, preferring not to obey the gospel of God (1 Pet. 4:17).
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17, NKJV)
The apostle Peter speaks of judgment commencing at God’s house. Since it has been almost two thousand years since he wrote this, we can safely conclude what started then continues to be true now. God’s house is the church (Heb. 3:4-6; 1 Tim. 3:15). So, we readily admit the church of Christ has and will undergo judgments. Judgment in this verse means “the process of judgment (separation) leading to a decision” (Vine, I:222). Peter has been discussing intense persecutions already happening to Christians. He said God’s people should not think it a strange (foreign, novel) thing when trials come upon us (1 Pet. 4:12). Instead, he exhorts us to “rejoice” since such trials are our fellowship with the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 4:13; Phil. 3:10). God blesses and comforts Christians who suffer for His name’s sake. Accepting reproach for our faith without shame, we are to glorify God in the name “Christian” (1 Pet. 4:14-16). To be ashamed of being a Christian judges us unworthy of Christ (Mk. 8:38). Suffering for one’s faith in Christ separates the faithful from those who abandon their faith to escape reproach. Thus, persecution has the effect of judging Christians. It separates the unfaithful from the righteous. Since Christians are saved through such difficulties, it becomes obvious that those who “do not obey the gospel of God” will not be saved (1 Pet. 4:17, 18).
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:16–18, NKJV)
Everyone, including Christians, will stand before the Lord and be judged by His truth (2 Cor. 5:10). Already the judgments of God are applied to His house, the church. The righteous are saved with difficulty – the strenuous effort of the devoted life of faithfulness to Christ (see 1 Pet. 4:16). Therefore, the outcome of those who do not obey the gospel of God becomes evident. The ungodly and the sinner face the certainty of divine wrath on the day of God’s judgment. Surely this is incentive for everyone who fears God to repent and live by faith. Those who glorify God as faithful Christians will escape the eternal suffering of sin’s punishment. Will you?