Will people be more wicked? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Today, we continue our look at the Olivet Discourse. We are going to be talking about wickedness. Let’s look at the verse.
“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold”
Okay. So maybe some could say that this can apply today, and of course, it could. However, what we are asking is if it applies to the time of Jesus. This is what is known as a necessary but not sufficient condition. Just because it applies to the first century, it is not sufficient to show that it must be the time Jesus has in mind, but it is necessary that that time be included.
So was there an increase in wickedness?
Indeed there was. Look at what Josephus says about the practices going on at the time. When the siege started, everything seemed to be permitted. Murders were frequently taking place. An excellent fictional look at this are the chronicles written by Brian Godawa on the topic.
Nero and Caligula were both crazy emperors. Nero especially was known for wickedness. (One reason I think he’s the Beast in Revelation, but that’s for later) Nero could kill anyone easily, even if that someone was his own mother.
This was going on also in the New Testament. Jude and 2 Peter both have long sections on wicked people. It’s generally thought that one borrowed from the other since they are quite similar, but that would mean at least that both saw the problem. I am aware some skeptics place 2 Peter late, but I am not someone who places it later on.
Consider 2 Timothy 3:1-9
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
Note something about this. Timothy is told to avoid these people. These people are already around. Paul is speaking about present realities going on in the life of Timothy. Some will say, “But this speaks of the last days!” Yes. Let’s see what was said in Acts 2.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
When did Peter say the last days would come? When God would pour out His Spirit on all people. We see this going on at Pentecost and it happens throughout Acts with Gentiles getting the Holy Spirit. Some will wonder about the wonders described later on, but we will get to that eventually in the discourse. We already live in the time that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved so both bookends of this passage are fulfilled. Keep in mind that this is similar to the question about the end of the age. The last days are not the last days of the world but of the age the people were living in.
So again, we have a consistent fulfillment.
We shall continue next time.