As pre-millennials, we believe that there will be a rapture, a seven-year tribulation period, and a literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth. We are often viciously attacked by those who differ from us, especially by amillennial and preterists. Is it really worth entering into relentless debates with these people? We often see how they blindly ignore any Scripture we present, while they stubbornly cling to what their pastors and their church fathers taught them. 2 Timothy 2:14-16 provides helpful guidelines on how to deal with these situations.
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim 4:1-5)
Satan attempts to obliterate God’s truth with his own falsehood. He attempts to keep the fallen world in spiritual darkness and to confuse and discourage God’s people. The father of lies is working relentlessly to pervert and corrupt the truth of God’s written Word, the Bible, and of the living Word, His Son, Jesus Christ.
Many Protestant / Reformed denominations that usually champion God’s inerrant Word have turned to human philosophy and secular wisdom when Bible prophecy is involved. The effects of their unbiblical teachings have been devastating and damning, not only for the members of those churches, but also discourage those who cling to the blessed hope.
It was the threat of deception that caused the Holy Spirit to inspire Paul to write, “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21–22).
Paul warned that “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1).
2 TIMOTHY 2:14-26
Although 2 Timothy 2:14-26 was not specifically written with prophecy in mind, we can learn much from it, on how to handle our differences in eschatological views, especially when we are attacked by those who reject or twist Bible prophecy.
“Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.” (2 Tim 2:14)
Paul was not speaking about immature wrangling over secondary matters, disruptive as that can be. Logomacheō (wrangle about words) carries the idea of waging a war of words, in this instance with false teachers, who are later described as “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Such deceivers use human wisdom and reason to undermine God’s Word, and believers are not to debate with them, especially within the church.
Even from a human perspective, it is obvious that no debate can be carried on effectively when the two sides argue from completely opposite and contradictory presuppositions. To discuss interpretations of Scripture and doctrine with other believers who recognize the Bible as God’s inerrant and authoritative Word is important when it is done in a spirit of humility and civility and is an honest attempt to grasp the truth. But to argue doctrine with someone who disdains Scripture is both futile and foolish.
Satan does indeed know that most people, including many who are intelligent and well-educated, are more apt to be persuaded by popular jargon than by biblical argument or actual proof—despite what they may claim to the contrary. As Christians become less and less familiar with Scripture and sound doctrine on a first-hand, regular basis, they become easy prey for jargon that sounds Christian but strongly mitigates against God’s truth.
It also does harm to believers, by causing confusion, doubt, discouragement, and disobedience.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15)
The diligent believer gives maximum effort to impart God’s truth as completely, as clearly, and as unambiguously as possible. The purpose of that diligence is not to please others, and certainly not to please oneself, but to present yourself approved to God.
Anyone who ignores, misrepresents, misinterprets, or detracts from God’s truth by adding to it or taking away from it (Rev. 22:18–19) has reason to be ashamed as well as fearful. Whether consciously or not, those who corrupt and denigrate God’s truth are under God’s sovereign and certain judgment.
Handling accurately translates a participle of orthotomeō, which means literally to cut straight. Every aspect of God’s truth is to be handled accurately, as a sacred trust by those who teach it and by those who hear it.
“But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,” (2 Tim 2:16)
Paul had also given Timothy such advice earlier, adding the warning to also avoid “the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’” (1 Tim. 6:20). That sort of talk is time-wasting and confusing at best and spiritually harmful at worst, which obviously is what Paul has in mind here. Words of worldly human opinion are no more than evil chatter.
He is speaking of destructive heresy that perverts divine truth and will lead to further ungodliness. We live in perilous times and as many teachers avoid or twist end time prophecy, people continue to live their worldly lives, as in the days of Noah and Lot, fully unaware of immanency of Christ’s return.
No one is exempt from the corruptive influence of falsehood. False teaching provides no strength for doing what is right and God-honoring. Avoid entering into worldly and empty arguments with those who do not seek the truths of prophecy, but blindly follow the teachings of their amillennial and preterist pastors and church fathers.
“and their talk will spread like gangrene.” (2 Tim 2:17a)
Because the book of Revelation is categorized as apocalyptic literature and contains numerous symbols, it undergoes a great deal of abuse due to allegorical interpretation. Allegorizing is searching for a so-called “hidden or secret meaning” underlying but remote from and unrelated in reality to the more obvious meaning of a text. They are, at best, the wild guesses of men. Sadly, the majority of Protestants / Reformers bought into this form of twisting holy Scripture.
Amillennialism was only systematized by St. Augustine in the 4th century, and this systematization carried amillennialism over as the dominant eschatology of the Medieval and Reformation periods. Augustine was originally a premillennialist, but he retracted that view, claiming the doctrine was carnal. Amillennialism has been widely held in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches as well as in the Roman Catholic Church, which generally embraces an Augustinian eschatology. Today, the majority of Reformers are also following the amillennial position.
A prominent preterist exposition of prophecy was written by the Jesuit Luis de Alcasar during the Counter Reformation. Moses Stuart noted that Alcasar’s preterist interpretation was of considerable benefit to the Roman Catholic Church during its arguments with Protestants, and preterism has been described in modern eschatological commentary as a Catholic defense against the Protestant Historicist view. Today we also see more and more Protestants accepting this false teaching.
“Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some.” (2 Tim 2:17b–18)
To deny or distort the truth about the resurrection is to deny and distort the heart of the gospel. It is therefore a tragic and damnable thing to teach falsehood about that doctrine. Not only does it blaspheme God and denigrate His Word but inevitably it will upset the faith of some.
Isn’t it almost ironic and interesting that full preterists believe that the destruction of Jerusalem fulfilled all eschatological or “end times” events, including the resurrection of the dead and Jesus’ Second Coming?
In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Paul also had to comfort the Thessalonians by telling them that the second coming had not yet taken place. “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.”
We see almost daily how amillennials and preterists harshly attack those of us who believe in the rapture and the millennial reign of Christ, trying to steal our blessed hope.
“Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.” (2 Tim 2:19)
Those who are God’s spiritual children and genuine disciples of Jesus Christ, are part of the firm foundation of God. In this context, the firm foundation of God seems most likely to refer to the church. The foundation of Christ’s church stands on the truth, “and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). Truth on all matters in God’s Word, whether it is creation, salvation, the commandments, prophecy or whatever. Everything in the Bible was inspired by God, to whom it was important enough to include. Can man really say what is important and what is “secondary” (as so many use as an excuse not to treat prophecy with the necessary respect)?
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me,” Jesus assures us; “and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27–28). “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
The seal is a sign of ownership, and God has placed His divine seal of ownership on the church. In the end times, those “who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” will be tormented by the locusts (Rev. 9:4). It is also doubtless that God’s seal on their foreheads will protect believers from taking the mark of the beast (see Rev. 13:16).
“Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.” (2 Thes 2:20)
The large house again represents the entire church of God, the body of Christ, composed of all true believers, the vessels in which represent individual believers—the honorable gold and silver vessels and the dishonorable vessels of wood and of earthenware.
Here, honor and dishonor do not refer to true and false Christians, respectively. Nor is he speaking here of the God-given differences among believers. The honourable vessels represent believers who are faithful and useful to the Lord. By contrast, the dishonourable vessels are only for the most menial, undistinguished purposes. Honour and dishonour therefore refer to the ways in which genuine believers are found useful to the Lord in fulfilling the work to which He has called them. In this sense, all believers should be, but are not always, vessels of honour.
With regards to Bible prophecy, sadly the majority of believers either ignore or allegorize 27% of God’s Word. How many in today’s church are unprepared for the imminent return of Christ? How many are represented by the five unwise virgins in Matthew 25:1-3? Dishonorable vessels of wood and of earthenware , as their preachers neglect to warn them.
“Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Tim 2:21)
These things refer to the vessels of dishonour mentioned in the previous verse, from which a man who is faithful cleanses himself. The vessels of dishonour, from a prophecy perspective, are those who dishonour the prophecies by blindly ignoring it or who rather follow the teachings of men than the Word of God. Paul’s exhortation is therefore for godly believers to separate themselves from the fellowship of these believers, especially if they attack truth and those who respect prophecy.
A doctrinally corrupt believer, especially a leader who is influential, is more dangerous than a pagan or atheist, because weak or careless brothers and sisters may be put under the impression that they are saved, while they are in fact not prepared for the imminent coming of Christ. (Many of them might find themselves becoming tribulation saints.)
Faithful service of the Lord requires separation from those who can contaminate you. God warned Jeremiah about associating with the wrong people, “If you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman. They for their part may turn to you, but as for you, you must not turn to them” (Jer. 15:19).
We should not want to continuously associate with those who have a critical tongue, who do not tolerate truth, or whose respect for God’s Word is shallow and artificial. A vessel for honour cannot remain honourable and usable if it is continually contaminated by vessels of dishonour.
We should be useful to the Master, and be about our Father’s business. In these latter days, we should be watchful and warn others. Especially the leadership in the church should take note of Ezekiel 33:1-6. “Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3 when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will [a]save his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’”
“But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.” (2 Tim 2:23)
Here, Paul forbids speculations, fruitless and unproductive debates that produce quarrels. Such speculations not only are worthless but are ungodly. They question Scripture, distort the truth, create doubt, weaken faith, undermine confidence in the Lord, often lead to compromise of convictions, and produce quarrels.
A vessel of honour to God must develop a discerning mind in these latter days. An unguarded mind, even of a believer, is subject to deceit, misunderstanding, and confusion. “If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:3–5).
As we saw in 2 Tim. 2:14–17, Paul warns us “not to wrangle about words, which is useless, and leads to the ruin of the hearers” and to “avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.”
The things we allow to enter our minds affect our thinking, our beliefs, our values, our motives, and our priorities. And the more willingly we allow them to enter, the more powerfully they affect us. The writer of Proverbs wisely observed that “a fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind,” and that “a fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows” (Prov. 18:2, 6).
From the early days of the church and continuing almost unabated to our own day, many believers have carelessly forsaken personal study of Scripture and have fallen prey to every sort of idea and practice their pastors and church fathers taught them. Not bothering to check what they read and hear against God’s own Word, they are corrupted by foolish and ignorant speculations regarding prophecy, which make them stumble and fall, often without knowing it.
“And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness” (2 Tim 2:24-25a)
This is a warning applicable to all of us. Most of us are guilty sometime or another, of immediately attacking those who have different views than us. As much as we are to speak boldly for the Lord without compromise, we are to do so with the attitude of meekness, gentleness, and humility. We are never to be harsh, abusive, overbearing, unkind, thoughtless, or pugnacious.
The godly man who is an honourable vessel must also be patient when wronged, which is perhaps the hardest qualification mentioned here. We are likely to become very offended when we ourselves are wronged. We need to accept that none of us can be 100% correct, all of the time.
“correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2:25b—26)
The opposition may pertain to “foolish and ignorant speculations” (v. 23) or to the more serious matters of doctrine or morals they lead to. The faithful bond-servant of Christ is to be God’s instrument for correcting fellow believers, and to lead them to truth regarding prophecy.
God’s provision of genuine repentance and knowledge of His truth enable a believer to escape from the snare of the devil, after having been held captive by him to do his will. Our goal in sharing prophecy should be to lead people into truth, so that they may prepare and be found worthy to escape God’s wrath to come.