The Last Days and The Latter Times
The titled words occur in two different prophetic warnings given by the apostle Paul in his epistles to Timothy.
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 1 Timothy 4:1 (KJV)
1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 Timothy 3:1 (KJV)
These “perilous times” do not refer to the prophetic ultimate “Day of the Lord,” when He return in wrath, rather. The “perilous times” of 1 Timothy 4:1 are the closing days of “the mystery,” of today’s “the dispensation of the grace of God” that was entrusted to Paul as his ministry.
During Paul’s own ministry when he was forsaken by all but a few as he neared the end of his life. Likewise, he foresaw that as this ‘dispensation of grace’ neared its end, apostasy due to the lying deceptions of seducing spirits and doctrines of devils would be its sad characteristic.
We shall discover, as we proceed, how that the “apostasy” of 1 Timothy 4 prepares the way for the “perilous times” and the utter corruption of humankind.
1 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; 2 Timothy 3:1-4 (KJV)
We could not have a more appropriate description of the day in which we now live than is seen in the above verses.
The cryptic prophetic phrase “a time, and times, and half a time” in Rev. 12:14, using the Greek word ‘kairos,’ refers as it does to the last three years and a half of the final “seven” of Daniel chapter nine, regarding the ‘Tribulation period.’ It suggests at least that in the “after times,” after the latter times of 1 Timothy 4:1, we can expect something similar in character even though it belongs to the Tribulation period.
In 2 Timothy 3:1 we observe that we have two ‘time notes,’ namely “the last days” and “perilous times.” The Greek ‘eschatos,’ translated as “the last” has reference to ‘the furthest edge, border, or extreme time,’ the time after the Rapture that end the dispensation of grace.
So, the ‘latter times’ of 1 Timothy 4:1 is the PRELUDE to the “perilous” extremity of the seasons of 2 Timothy 3:1’s “perilous times.” So, the factors that make up “the falling away [apostasy]” of the present-day dispensation find their fruition in the practices and lying doctrines of “the last day” … “perilous times.”
Throughout the N.T. there are statements that point to the evil character of that which comes “last” (Luke 11:26, 1 Cor. 4:9, Jas. 5:3, 2 Pet. 2:20, 2 Pet. 3:3, 1 John 2:18 and Jude 1:18). In 2 Timothy 3:1 the Apostle does not say “the last times”, but “the last days.” The word Greek ‘hemera’ translated “day” primarily means that period of time during which the sun is above the horizon (Matt. 20:6, Matt. 20:12); a period of twelve hours (John 11:9), a period of time to be seen as the night, with its darkness and the inability to do any more work (John 9:4).
4 I [Jesus] must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. John 9:4 (KJV)
The reference in 2 Timothy 3:1 to “the last days perilous times” refers to the extreme edge of man’s day, which then must ultimately give place to “the Day of the Lord,” His coming in wrath.
From the foregoing we gather that Paul speaks in 2 Timothy 3:1, not of the last of the days spoken of by the O.T. prophets, nor of the last day of resurrection, nor the last hour of Antichrist’s dominion during the Tribulation period. Rather, Paul is speaking of the last days of the dispensation to which Paul the Prisoner of the Lord ministered. In other words, the closing days of the age in which we live. These days are referred to as “perilous times.” Perilous times is the first characteristic of the closing days that the Apostle gives us.
“Perilous” is a word to give us pause, being related to in some measure of violence and force. The Greek words employed to actually describes the mental condition of the men possessed with devils, who were “exceeding fierce” (Matt. 8:28). This gives some idea of the character of the closing days of this dispensation. It is so important that we should be aware of the character of the Evil Day That Lies Just Ahead Of Us.
Note that The Greek ‘chalepos’ translated “perilous” in 2Tim. 3:1 is also translated “fierce” elsewhere in the KJV. It is used of things hard to bear, sore, severe, grievous, dangerous as the sea; of pathways that are rough, rugged, and steep. When used of persons, it indicates that they are hostile, angry, cruel, and stern; bitter as enemies; troublesome as neighbors, and ill-tempered generally. These references, can be added to that of Matthew 8:28 mad Gadarene account. It all as a trumpet call to vigilance, to the putting on of the whole armor of God, to single-eyed service, and to unswerving, uncorrupted loyalty.
The last reference that we must consider under the heading of “times” is that of 2 Timothy 4. “The time will come” (2 Tim. 4:3). Again, we must postpone an examination of the things that are to be done in this coming time, in order to complete our examination of the time itself. Here once again we have the word Greek kairos, meaning “season,” and there seems to be an intentional play on the word, as seen by the following translation:
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season . . . for the season will come . . . the season for my [Paul’s] departure is at hand” (2 Tim. 4:2-3, 2 Tim. 4:6).
We do well to remember in preaching the Word in these “perilous times,” that if we wait for a convenient season we shall wait too long. In the estimate of many, it will always be inopportune, but those who have received the good deposit as a sacred trust know that the preaching of the truth of the Mystery, however much it may be refused and rejected, is indeed and in truth “a word in season.”
Summing up what we have seen concerning “perilous times,” it can refer to both;
- The ‘latter times’ of “the apostasia” from the faith, leading up to the Rapture and the last “perilous times” of the Tribulation period, which will be the characteristic of the extreme end of today’s “dispensation of the grace of God.”
- The days to come AFTER the Apostle Paul’s own times that end with the Rapture of His body – that is the “perilous times,” to come during the Tribulation Period),
The preaching of the Word, however attacked or ignored, must be maintained until the course is finished. At one end of the story is a departure from the faith and on the other the example of one who kept the faith (1 Tim. 4:1, 2 Tim. 4:7). May we diligently avoid the one, even as we seek to emulate the other.
Extracted and slightly adapted from Don Samdahl: https://doctrine.org/hell-and-judgment/comment-page-1#comment-140831