Signs of the Last Days — Widespread ViolenceMay 17, 2017
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be…heady, high-minded….
— 2 Timothy 3:1,2,4
Many years ago, Denise and I took our sons to Rome for a study tour of the ancient world with a special emphasis on early Christian history. As we stood inside the great Roman Coliseum, we listened as our doctoral guide spoke to us at length about the barbarism and atrocities that were so loved and cheered by the Roman citizens who packed that great stadium nearly 2,000 years ago.
You’re familiar with the scenes I’m referring to — gladiators fighting one another to the death and wild animals ripping people limb from limb, devouring them before the leering gaze of a bloodthirsty crowd. Most of us have seen such scenes in various movies at some point in our lives. Who could ever forget the movie Spartacus or Gladiator in which barbarians mercilessly killed each other as the Roman audience roared with delight!
But the fact is that these bloody events did not occur only in the city of Rome. Violent entertainment occurred in every place where the Roman Empire was established. From Rome to the northern shores of Africa, from Britain to the Middle East, scenes of violence were regularly performed and enjoyed as entertainment by adoring crowds who erupted with thrilled delight at the sight of human blood. The shedding of blood was the most popular form of amusement of that time! Although the Romans claimed to be the great educators and civilizers of the world, the truth is that in many ways, they were barbaric.
Today we look back at the Romans and wonder how they could have tolerated such barbarism. Their ancient ruins stand as memorials of a society that ran amuck with murder and brutality. It’s amazing to realize that at the time when these enormous stadiums were packed with people cheering on such atrocities, the Holy Spirit foretold that a time at the end of the Church Age would come when violence would once again become a mainstream occurrence in society.
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In Second Timothy 3:4, the Holy Spirit pointed His finger toward the future and prophesied that in the last days, violence would become more widespread and worse than it has ever been — even more depraved than the events that occurred in the Roman Empire. Paul wrote that society will become “heady” in the last days. The word “heady” is a poor translation of the Greek word propetes, a term used to depict people so wholly given to violence that they become known for their violent, reckless behavior and hot-headed, emotional intemperance that exhibits a lack of self-control. Based on this word, it is clear that the Holy Spirit was prophesying of a time when members of society in general would fully embrace violence and lose their ability to control their tempers.
Since the Holy Spirit chose the word protetes to describe a last-days generation, I want to ask you: Is this current generation known for violence and intemperance? When history looks back at our time, what will they write about us? We remember the Romans for the violence that filled their stadiums. But how will history remember our generation and our own forms of entertainment and what we tolerate as society in terms of violence against its weakest members?
Was the Holy Spirit correct to forecast that violence in the last days would be more wide- spread than at any other time in human history? Of course, we know that He is the Spirit of Truth, and He predicts the future with absolute precision and accuracy. So, of course, the answer to that question is yes!
Unfortunately, it is true that our present generation is the most violent generation in human history. It has far surpassed the Romans with its love of bloodshed that now dominates movies, television, music, video games, and the Internet. This is a generation that feeds on violence and is, not surprisingly, experiencing increasing levels of actual violence in every facet of society.
Because the Holy Spirit prophesied this trend toward increasing violence, He clearly felt it was important for us to be informed about these things before they happen. The Holy Spirit said that society in the last times would be “heady” — protetes, meaning violent or known for violence.
One need only look at the violence in the media today to see how accurate the Holy Spirit was in His predictions about the last days. The percentage of households containing multiple televisions and computers is at an all-time high. It is therefore not surprising that the potential for violent words and images coming into those homes from the outside is also exponentially rising along with an increasing thirst for violence in every form of media.
By age 18, the average young person will have seen hundreds of thousands acts of violence on television. This doesn’t include the thousands of hours of secular music he or she will listen to. Since much of this music is violence-related, it means that words and ideas concerning acts of violence are being poured into the minds of teenagers. Studies have shown that such music may be a significant marker for substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, suicide risk, other tendencies to anger and violence, and alienation from healthy, formative relationships.
We know biblically that it’s true: Whether positively or negatively, what a person continually sees and listens to will directly affect him in his soul, in his spiritual life, and in his walk with God. And the company a person keeps will affect him spiritually and influence the way he views God and others. Thus it stands to reason that while a person is isolating himself from good relationships that are formative in a beneficial way, he is connecting himself to wrong relationships that can cause him to be malformed socially and emotionally.
Literally hundreds of studies on the effects of television and film violence have been done in recent decades — and the majority of these studies have reached the same conclusion: Television and film violence leads to real-world violence. One expert on child behavior concluded that to argue against this conclusion is like arguing against gravity. I agree with this.
Violent video games also have an effect on children and youth similar to that of violent television and film. Studies reveal that the more often children practice fantasy, virtual acts of violence on video games, the more likely it becomes that they will carry out real-world acts of violence. These violent games have been compared to simulators used in military training. Players — often very young children — are cast in the roles of shooters, earning points and commendations for each “ kill.” Consequently, children are being conditioned to expect violence to produce a corresponding reward.
Youth today are also exposed to violent words and actions online — in music and images on hundreds of websites that are created to foster bigotry and violence and to glamorize bloodshed. Music lyrics have become increasingly explicit concerning sex, drugs, murder, and violence against women. The accessibility to online sources of violence has become so vast, it is nearly impossible for parents to monitor what their children see and hear in this digitized age.
I’ve shared only some of the effects of violence in the media on our children and youth. I didn’t even talk about these violent effects on the rest of society — the impact this exposure and influence is having on the increase in crime overall.
The fact is, this is the most violent generation that has ever lived. We may not fill a stadium to watch actual murders as the Romans did, but we are every bit as barbaric. In fact, this modern barbarism is even worse than the Romans. Think how desensitized the soul of society has become to think it normal to watch a movie filled with murder and bloodshed — or listen to music focused on violence — in the comfort of our own homes with our family and friends. Each one of us must ask ourselves, Is this normal?
Although the facts I’ve shared here are dismal, take courage and remember that as the world gets darker, Isaiah 60:1 prophesies that the glory of the Lord rises and shines on those who walk with Him. This is not the time to retreat and hide. It’s the time to charge full-steam ahead to rescue the perishing and care for the dying! Those without Christ need to see His light shining through us!
If you are among those who find violence entertaining, I want to tell you that I am not writing this to condemn you, but rather to encourage you to take a good look at your soul and ask yourself: Have I become influenced and affected by the world in these last days?
What about your children? Do you allow them to watch acts of violence in the media, forgetting the effects it has on their souls in their minds and emotions? Do you really want your children to watch and listen to endless hours of bloodshed? If you will listen to the Holy Spirit, you will hear His voice pleading with you to turn off that violence so you and your children can maintain hearts free from the desensitizing decay of the world in these last days.
In connection with this, it must be pointed out that the apostle Paul next wrote that society will be “high-minded” — a word that is very important at this juncture. The word “high- minded” is a translation of the Greek word typhoo, which is where we get the word typhoon. When a typhoon comes, it covers the entire landscape and arrives with destructive winds. As it approaches, the sky looks ominous and foreboding, turning dark and turbulent. When the storm arrives on shore, everyone in close proximity is affected, except for those who fled from the storm or took adequate shelter.
As dangerous and destructive as typhoons are, the good news is, they never last long! They are short-lived and eventually pass! Likewise, the events that the Holy Spirit is describing may seem overwhelming as you read about them. But right in the middle of the text, He reminds us that none of this will last long. Just as a typhoon passes, these events will also pass. Those who have taken shelter in Jesus will be safe from the destruction that “lays waste” in the unbelieving world around us (see Psalm 91:6 NKJV)! All of this will eventually pass away!
An interpretive translation of these words in Second Timothy 3:4 could be taken to mean:
“People will be preoccupied with and known for their violence, but all of this will pass. Just as a storm appears on the horizon and brings destruction with it, these violent winds in society will not last long. As threatening as it may look, it will pass just as surely as storms always pass….”
In light of what the Holy Spirit has warned us about in this verse and our need to find shelter in Jesus and His Word, I want to remind you what the Bible tells us about Lot. Lot was a righteous man who was tortured in his soul because of his habitual seeing and hearing wrong things. Second Peter 2:8 says, “For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.”
The word “vexed” in this verse is a translation of the Greek word basinadzo, which means to torture. You see, when Lot first moved to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the evil sights he saw in those cities were a torture to his soul. But because he dwelt among them and saw their sinful deeds from day to day, after a period of time his soul was no longer tortured. In “seeing and hearing” their unlawful deeds “from day to day,” his righteous soul became desensitized, and he acclimated to that evil environment. He completely lost his spiritual sensitivity because of the images that became so commonplace to him.
What a lesson the story of Lot teaches us! Especially in these last days when violence abounds, we must set a guard and stay vigilant regarding what we see and hear. The scenes and sounds we allow to enter our eyes and ears have the ability to either save us or desensitize our souls.
I encourage you to lovingly set down rules not only for your children, but also for yourself in order to guard your family’s eyes and ears against messages of violence. If your hearts become hardened or desensitized by wrong images and messages, it will eventually have an impact on every part of your life. That’s why Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” The New Living Translation says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
There is nothing more important than the condition of your heart and soul — so take every measure you possibly can to avoid the spiritual desensitization moving across the globe like an epidemic in these last days. Above all, make sure that you fellowship with Jesus every day in the Word and in prayer. Nothing will help you more to stay sensitive and responsive to His heart in the midst of this violence-loving generation!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I am deeply convicted by what I have read today. I admit that I have allowed myself to watch movies and listen to messages that are detrimental to my relationship with You. I didn’t mean to do wrong, but now I understand how damaging it is to permit wrong images to enter my soul. Holy Spirit, I am sure that I have grieved You by watching wrong images and listening to words and messages that You find foul, so today I repent. I ask You to please forgive me for grieving You, and I ask You to help restore my soul from any desensitizing effect that these things have had on me. I don’t want to be like Lot who became desensitized by the things he saw and heard, so I am asking You to help me do what is right and to turn away from all contaminating influences that have the power to negatively affect my spirit and soul.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I acknowledge my responsibility to watch over my own soul, and I will not permit the filth of this world or the violence so accepted in society today to tarnish God’s work in my life. God wants my spirit to be sensitive, tender, and compassionate, but the constant images of violence dulls that sensitivity. Therefore I make the decision to turn off and walk away from any bombardment of images and sounds that will affect the spiritual sensitivity I need to be effective in this world for Jesus Christ. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I will do everything I can to make sure that no vile thing enters my eyes or my ears!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you noticed how scenes and stories of violence now fill television and movie screens? Does it grieve your spirit and hurt your soul to watch such things or have you, like Lot, become so acclimated to what you see and hear that it no longer affects you?
- If the Holy Spirit has spoken to you today to stop tolerating such scenes and messages, what action are you going to take to obey Him? What steps is the Holy Spirit asking you to take to free yourself or your family from these soul- desensitizing images?
- If you take an honest look at your movie cabinet in your home, how many of your films would Jesus be willing to watch with you? Since He lives in your heart by His Spirit, and you don’t want to offend Him, would you be willing to “clean house” and remove those things that hurt Him and wound your own spirit?