Also available as MP3: The Spirit Speaks for Itself – 1 Timothy 4:1-2
The Bible was written by the Spirit, who spoke through men (IIPe.1:21), so what does Paul mean when he says He spoke “expressly” about the latter times (4:1)? Didn’t he speak expressly or directly all the time to Bible writers?
Well, when Peter says men spoke as they were “moved” by the Spirit, the Lord was “moved” with compassion to tell the leper “Be thou clean” (Mark 1:41). He could have been moved to say, “I now cleanse you,” or something similar, but the Spirit allowed Him to speak in the way He spoke as a man, as He did with all Bible writers. Luke spoke like a doctor (Acts 3:6,7 cf. Col.4:14). But don’t let that make you think Bible writers didn’t express God’s exact words (IISa.23:2).
Speaking expressly is how the Spirit spoke to Ezekiel (1:3), that is, out loud (2:1), 93 times in Ezekiel. He spoke to Ezekiel expressly about the future, as He did to Paul here, because the future was God’s domain and His alone (Isa.41:21-23). Since only God knows the future He didn’t allow Bible writers to use their own words describing it so everyone would know the future is His domain and His alone. Other prophets used phrases like “Thus saith the Lord” in describing the future, quoting Him directly.
Since there are two second comings of Christ, one to rapture us (ITh.4:16,17) and one to defeat the Antichrist and set up the kingdom for Israel (IITh.1:7,8), there has to be two sets of “latter times” before each one. Israel’s latter times will be in Tribulation (Num.4:30,31), the kind where demon spirits will rise out of hell and sting people (Rev.9:1-10). Before our second coming, demon spirits will be teaching “doctrines” (4:1), not stinging people.
Christians who don’t see the difference in these two sets of last days say the Rapture must be near because Muslims are killing Christians (Mt.24:6-9). But if we apply Matthew 24:6-9, we have to apply verse 13 to us as well. Only Paul speaks about the Rapture and the last days before it so don’t look outside his epistles for signs the Rapture is near!
Some say the latter “times” (4:1) aren’t the same as the last “days” (IITim.3:1), but the Bible uses these words interchangeably (Ps.77:5), as does Paul (IITim.3:1). Others say the “latter” times aren’t the same as the “last” days, but these words are interchangeable as well (Hos.3:5 cf.Isa.2:2)
ITimothy 4 and IITimothy 3 describe the same time, but the former describes those who “depart” from the faith, the latter speaks of those who never had the faith. Only grace believers have the faith, so only they can depart from it. If the Lord comes in our lifetime, you might depart from the faith, unless you “watch” yourself about listening to non-Pauline pastors (ICor.16:13) and “stand fast in the faith.” If you don’t listen to them you won’t give “heed” to the seducing spirits who inspire these men (4:1).
The first seducing spirit was Satan (Gen.3:4,13), but we know those kind of seducing Spirits are still around or Paul wouldn’t warn us of them (IICor.11:3,13). Demons know how to speak through false prophets (IKi.22:22). Seducing spirits will use miracles in the Tribulation (Mark 13:22), but Satan’s not using miracles today because he knows grace believers love doctrine, so he uses that.
Not all false teachers are lying (4:2). If a pastor believes salvation is by faith plus works, he’s not lying when he preaches that. If he knows salvation is by faith alone, then he’s lying. But he may not be “speaking lies in hypocrisy” (4:2), he may be speaking lies in misplaced faith in James 2:24. But if he knows James isn’t written to us (James 1:1) then he’s speaking lies in hypocrisy. And that’s who Paul is talking about, grace believers who will depart from the truth and speak lies, knowing better. Why would a grace believer do that? To draw away followers (Acts 20:30).
Their conscience won’t bother them for it will be “seared” (4:2). The Greek word is kauterizo. Men used to cauterize wounds to numb the pain, and consciences can be numbed to being “past feeling (Eph.4:19). No wonder God didn’t make the pastor “the pillar and ground of the truth” (ITim. 3:15). Some may be led away after false teachers, but the church will always be the pillar and ground of the truth.