in the last days: Paul uses the future tense in this verse, saying that “in the last days critical times . . . will be here.” (See also 2Ti 3:2, 13.) So he was referring to a time still to come—“the last days” of the system of things existing at the time of Jesus’ invisible presence. (See Glossary, “Last days.”) These “last days” would occur only after the foretold apostasy had come and “the man of lawlessness” had been revealed, as prophesied at 2Th 2:3-12. (See study notes on 2Th 2:3; 1Ti 4:1.) Paul goes on to list ungodly traits that would dominate human society at that time. (2Ti 3:1-5; see study note on 2Ti 3:5.) The great apostasy would contribute to the spread of those undesirable characteristics.
critical times hard to deal with: This expression renders two Greek terms that Paul uses to describe a time of crisis that he calls “the last days.” The Greek word kai·rosʹ often refers to a distinct or marked period of time and can also be rendered “appointed time.” (See study note on Ac 1:7.) Paul combines the term with the Greek word kha·le·posʹ, here rendered “hard to deal with.” Lexicons define this word as “difficult,” “dangerous,” or “stressful.” At Mt 8:28, the same word is used to describe two demon-possessed men as being unusually “fierce.” Paul warns that because of the bad characteristics of people (2Ti 3:2-5, 13), “the last days” would be, as various reference works put it, “times of stress” or “difficult to endure, difficult to get through, and difficult to deal with.”
For men will be: Or “For people will be.” The Greek word here rendered “men” often refers to humanity in general, both men and women. Paul goes on to list some 20 different traits that people would exhibit “in the last days,” a time far in the future from his day. (2Ti 3:1 and study note) However, Paul does not imply that people in his own time were free from such negative qualities. On the contrary, he urges Timothy to “turn away” from such people, so these traits posed a threat at that time as well. (See study note on 2Ti 3:5; compare Mr 7:21, 22.) Here, though, Paul foretells an era when humankind as a whole would be dominated by these wicked characteristics.
lovers of money: See study note on 1Ti 6:10.
boastful, haughty: A boastful person brags about—and often exaggerates—his abilities, qualities, and wealth. A haughty person thinks that he is better than others. Though these qualities are similar, “boastful” primarily refers to prideful speech, whereas “haughty” primarily refers to prideful thoughts and feelings.
blasphemers: Or “people who speak abusively.” Paul uses a Greek word (blaʹsphe·mos) that refers to those whose speech is “blasphemous, slanderous, defamatory, insulting.” During “the last days,” a great many people would direct such speech against both God and humans.—2Ti 3:1.
disobedient to parents: Centuries before the Christian era, the Mosaic Law directed children to honor their parents. (Ex 20:12; Mt 15:4) Children in the Christian congregation were likewise taught to obey and honor their parents. (Eph 6:1, 2) Even ancient Greeks and Romans, who did not worship Jehovah, widely held that it was wrong and unnatural for children to rebel against their parents. (Ro 2:14, 15) In ancient Greece, if a man struck his parents, he would lose his civil rights; under Roman law, striking one’s father was as serious as murder. Yet, Paul here foretells a time of widespread disobedience to parents. That would be, as one reference work says, “the sign of a supremely decadent civilization.”
unthankful: Some may feel entitled to everything they have received from their parents, from other humans, even from God. (Lu 6:35) Such an attitude basically stems from selfishness.
disloyal: Or “lacking loyal love.” (See also 1Ti 1:9, ftn.) The Greek word here used can convey the idea of being disloyal to people and to God. The term is broad in meaning and can include the idea of being “unholy; irreverent.” The word may thus refer to having no respect for what is holy or, as one lexicon puts it, “regarding nothing as sacred.” A disloyal person does not care about being faithful or fulfilling his duties toward his fellow man and even toward God.
having no natural affection: See study note on Ro 1:31.
not open to any agreement: Paul here foretells a time when people in general would be characterized by an unwillingness to negotiate reasonable solutions to problems or to resolve conflicts. The Greek word could more literally be rendered “without treaty.” This term was often used of a failure to resolve conflicts between nations. It could also be used of a failure to resolve problems between individuals. Other translations render this word “irreconcilable,” “implacable,” or “uncooperative.” One reference work notes: “The word describes a certain harshness and hardness of mind which separates a man from his fellow men in unrelenting bitterness.”
slanderers: In the Bible, the Greek word for “slanderer” (di·aʹbo·los) is most often rendered “Devil” and is used as a title for Satan, the wicked slanderer of God. (See study note on Mt 4:1 and Glossary, “Devil.”) However, in a few cases, the term is used according to its basic meaning and is rendered “slanderer” or “slanderous.” (1Ti 3:11; Tit 2:3) Here in his description of “the last days” (2Ti 3:1), Paul uses it to refer to people who try to injure the reputation of others, both fellow humans and God, by false accusations or misrepresentations.—See study note on Joh 6:70, where the term is used to describe Judas Iscariot.
without self-control: A person without self-control readily gives in to immoral inclinations, fits of anger, and other selfish tendencies. One reason that people in the last days would be without self-control is that they are “lovers of themselves” and “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2Ti 3:2, 4) Without love for God, they lack the primary motivation for restraining themselves when tempted to do what displeases him. They also lack God’s spirit, which helps Christians to develop and strengthen self-control. A Greek noun related to the expression rendered “without self-control” is translated “self-indulgence” at Mt 23:25.—For an explanation of the expression “self-control,” see study note on Ga 5:23.
fierce: Paul uses a Greek word that literally means “untamed; wild.” The word can also be rendered “brutal; cruel; savage,” conveying the idea of “lacking human sympathy and feeling.” (Compare Mt 24:12.) In Paul’s day, this term was often used of both animals and humans with a ferocious disposition.
without love of goodness: This phrase translates a Greek word that occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. It is broad in meaning and may include the idea of hating goodness or good people. It may also refer to those who have no interest in anything that might work for the public good. Those who do not love goodness cannot love Jehovah, who is good in the supreme sense.—See study note on Mr 10:18.
headstrong: Paul uses a Greek word that literally means “falling forward.” It describes the way that people may willfully forge ahead in their course, ignoring the advice of others despite knowing that bad consequences are likely to result. The same Greek word may also be rendered “reckless.” According to one reference work, those who are headstrong or reckless “throw caution to the winds, no matter what disaster or punishment they may bring upon their fellow citizens.” Another reference work notes: “A man who is reckless stops at nothing to gain his ends.” The only other occurrence of this word in the Christian Greek Scriptures is at Ac 19:36, where the city recorder of Ephesus warned the angry crowds not to “act rashly.”
puffed up with pride: The Greek verb used here (ty·phoʹo·mai) is related to the word for “smoke.” It could be used of one who was enveloped in and even blinded by smoke. This term occurs three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, always in a figurative sense and apparently describing one who is blinded by pride. (1Ti 3:6; 6:4; 2Ti 3:4) Some translations render it “conceited” or “swollen with self-importance.” One reference work says that the word describes people “who are full of themselves.” Jewish writer Josephus used the term to describe some Greek authors who looked down on the Jews and slandered them.
lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God: Paul here says, not that people would love pleasures more than they love God, but that they would love pleasures instead of loving God. The Bible does not teach that all pleasures are wrong, but it does contain warnings about pursuing them rather than building a friendship with God.—Compare Lu 12:19-21; 1Jo 2:15.
having an appearance of godliness: Paul says that “in the last days,” many would have “an appearance” of godliness, that is, a mere outward form or a semblance of godly devotion. (2Ti 3:1) Some Bible translations render this thought: “They will maintain the outward appearance of religion” or “They will look like they are religious.” Even though people may profess to worship God, their wicked conduct or their excessive love of themselves, money, or pleasures contradicts their claim.—2Ti 3:2-4.
proving false to its power: True godliness has power to change the personality of people. (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:10) Those who merely make an outward show of serving God actually deny, or disregard, that power. They do not allow true godly devotion to affect their lives. (Compare Jude 4.) They do not have a genuine Christian faith that is supported by works.—Jas 2:18-26.
from these turn away: Paul has just foretold how bad the world situation would become “in the last days”; however, he also knows that even in his own day, there are people who to some extent display the traits he has listed. (See study notes on 2Ti 3:1, 2.) Paul here uses a strong verb that may suggest avoiding with horror. He thus emphasizes the need to avoid unnecessary association with those who exhibit the qualities he listed. Of course, Christians would treat even such people gently and with kindness but would not choose them as close friends.—See study note on 2Ti 2:24.
men who slyly work their way into households: Such corrupt men were among those “having an appearance of godliness but proving false to its power.” (2Ti 3:5) The Greek verb rendered “slyly work their way into” conveys the idea of entering through devious means or pretense. It could also be rendered “slip into; infiltrate.” These sly men may have tried to entice “weak women” into immoral conduct.
weak women loaded down with sins: Paul here refers to certain women in the congregation who were weak spiritually; they did not hate what is bad. As a result, they were led by various desires, possibly in the sense that sinful desires weighed heavily on them. Wicked men could easily captivate such women or influence their thinking. Perhaps these men slyly suggested that these women could count on a merciful God to excuse sinful conduct.—Jude 4.
always learning: The women whom Paul wrote about were learning to some extent, but they did not seek to progress to “an accurate knowledge of truth.” Christians with “accurate knowledge” have more than just facts. (See study note on Eph 4:13.) They progress to the point of thinking like Jehovah and conducting themselves in full harmony with his righteous principles.—Eph 3:17-19; Col 1:9, 10; 2:6, 7.
Jannes and Jambres: These two men from the time of Moses are not named in the Hebrew Scriptures, but under inspiration, Paul includes their names. (2Ti 3:16) They were likely prominent men in the ancient Egyptian court of Pharaoh, and they may have taken the lead among the magic-practicing priests who opposed Moses. (Ex 7:11, 22; 8:7, 18, 19; 9:11) They are mentioned in traditional Jewish writings, some of which apparently date from the first century B.C.E. A few non-Jewish writers from the first and second centuries C.E. also mention one or both of these men by name. Paul here refers to them in order to reassure Timothy that the false teachers in Ephesus will ultimately fail.
they will make no further progress: Paul had warned the overseers in Ephesus of the arrival of false teachers. (Ac 20:29, 30) Those wicked men may seemingly have made progress in their efforts to corrupt and divide the congregation. Faithful Christians surely found any success of these men disturbing. But Paul reassures Timothy that such “progress” would be limited. He does so by comparing the false teachers to Jannes and Jambres, who opposed Moses and who may have taken the lead among the magic-practicing priests in Egypt. (See study note on 2Ti 3:8.) The Exodus account shows that even though those priests duplicated some of the miracles performed by Moses, their success did not last. Starting with the third plague, they proved unable to duplicate Jehovah’s miraculous acts or even to protect themselves from them.—Ex 8:16-19; 9:10, 11.
their folly will be very plain to all: Paul assures Timothy that the false teachers in the congregation would be exposed for their folly, or foolishness. They would end up as did Jannes and Jambres, the two men whom Paul had just mentioned. In their case, everyone involved could clearly see that they were fools for opposing Jehovah.
But you have closely followed: Here Paul stresses the difference between false teachers and Timothy. Over the course of 14 years or so, Timothy has learned from Paul and has imitated him in a number of ways—in his teaching, his course of life (or his conduct), his single-minded sense of purpose, his intense and unwavering faith, his lasting patience, his warm love, and his steadfast endurance. Paul is not boasting when he says that his example is worth imitating. Rather, he is writing under inspiration, simply confirming what is true. He has imitated Christ, so his own example is worth imitating.—Compare 1Co 11:1; Php 3:17; Heb 13:7.
in Antioch, in Iconium, in Lystra: During Paul’s first missionary tour, he and Barnabas were thrown out of Antioch in Pisidia and were threatened with stoning in Iconium. In Lystra, Paul was actually stoned and left for dead. (Ac 13:14, 50; 14:1-5, 8, 19) Afterward, Paul was assisted by a group of disciples that possibly included Timothy, who was apparently from Lystra. (Ac 14:20; 16:1) Because Timothy had “closely followed” Paul’s faithful endurance, he certainly knew about “the persecutions and sufferings” that Paul endured in the three cities mentioned. (2Ti 3:10) Paul refers to those earlier events to encourage Timothy to endure any persecution he might face.—2Ti 3:12.
the Lord rescued me from them all: Paul often acknowledged that he needed to be rescued, and he ascribed such rescues both to Jehovah God (2Co 1:8-10) and to Jesus Christ (1Th 1:10). So in this context, “the Lord” could refer either to Jehovah or to Jesus. Some consider Paul’s words to be an allusion to Ps 34:19.
those desiring to live with godly devotion: The Greek word rendered “desiring” may involve more than a passing wish; here the verb form implies an ongoing determination. Regarding the effect of being determined to live with genuine “godly devotion,” one reference work notes: “To be different from the world, to have a different set of standards and a different set of aims, is always a perilous thing.” (See study note on 1Ti 4:7.) As Paul here shows, such people of godly devotion would inevitably face the enmity of persecutors. (Ge 3:15; Re 12:9, 17) Christ faced such dangers and persecution. So did Paul and Timothy, and so must all true Christians.—Joh 15:20; Ac 17:3; Php 3:10; 2Ti 2:3.
wicked men and impostors: “Wicked men” might include people who openly exhibit such traits as those listed at 2Ti 3:2-5. But “impostors” would more likely hide their wickedness under an appearance of righteousness. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek word rendered “impostors” occurs only here. The term was commonly used of sorcerers or conjurers. Because such men were viewed as frauds, the word came to refer to swindlers or impostors, as in this verse. Some impostors would be “misled,” perhaps even believing their own lies.
continue in the things that you learned: Timothy is to stand by the truth, unlike the “wicked men” previously mentioned. (2Ti 3:13) Timothy had been persuaded to believe. This phrase renders a Greek word that has the sense of being fully convinced. Timothy reasoned on what he had been taught by his mother, his grandmother, Paul, and others. He was convinced that what he had been taught was Scriptural, accurate, and trustworthy. He had every reason to continue in what he had accepted as truth.—Ro 12:1, 2.
knowing from whom you learned them: Timothy had been instructed from the Hebrew Scriptures by his mother, Eunice, and by his grandmother Lois. (See study notes on 2Ti 1:5.) But on becoming a Christian, he learned much from Paul as well as from other fellow Christians.—Ac 16:1, 2; 1Co 4:17; 2Ti 2:2; see study note on 2Ti 1:13.
from infancy you have known the holy writings: Timothy was very young when his mother, Eunice—and probably also his grandmother Lois—taught him “the holy writings” of the Jews, that is, the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. (2Ti 1:5; 3:14; see study note on Ro 1:2.) The Greek word breʹphos, here rendered “infancy,” may refer to very small children, newborn babies, or even unborn children. (Lu 1:41; 2:12; Ac 7:19; 1Pe 2:2; see study note on Lu 18:15.) Timothy received an early education in the Hebrew Scriptures, which laid a solid foundation for his growing faith. When Timothy was a young man, he and his mother and grandmother learned about the “salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” and they became Christians. As Timothy grew older, he continued to make excellent progress.—See study note on Ac 16:1; see also Php 2:19-22.
All Scripture: This expression, which is broad in meaning, certainly includes the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures. (Lu 24:44 and study note) Timothy knew those “holy writings” well. (2Ti 3:15 and study note) Further, it seems that the first-century Christians viewed the part of the Christian Greek Scriptures that had been written up to that time as belonging to the inspired Scriptures. For example, when Peter wrote his second letter, about 64 C.E. (probably not long before Paul wrote this letter to Timothy), he mentioned some of Paul’s writings as part of “the Scriptures.” (2Pe 3:16; see also study notes on 1Co 12:10; 1Ti 5:18.) By saying that “all Scripture is inspired of God,” Paul reminds Timothy as well as all Christians to trust the wisdom of God’s inspired Word and to rely on it in all that they do.
inspired of God: This expression translates the compound Greek word the·oʹpneu·stos. It is composed of the words the·osʹ (god) and pneʹo (breathe; blow), thus literally meaning “God-breathed” or “breathed by God.” The Greek verb pneʹo is related to the word often rendered “spirit,” pneuʹma. (See Glossary, “Spirit.”) God caused his spirit, or active force, to operate on faithful men whom he used to record his written Word. Jesus confirmed this role of holy spirit when he quoted from the Psalms and said that David had written it “under inspiration [lit., “in spirit”].” (Mt 22:43, 44; Ps 110:1) The parallel passage at Mr 12:36 reads “by the holy spirit.” Similarly, Peter referred to men who “spoke from God as they were moved by holy spirit.” (2Pe 1:21) In the Hebrew Scriptures, King David conveyed the same idea when he said: “The spirit of Jehovah spoke through me.” (2Sa 23:2) It is worth noting that a 19th-century translation into Hebrew (referred to as J17 in App. C4) renders the first part of 2Ti 3:16: “All Scripture is written by means of God’s spirit.”—See Glossary, “Canon (Bible canon).”
beneficial: Paul explains that the inspired Word of God is beneficial (or “helpful,” “useful”) in a number of areas. As an elder, Timothy had the responsibility of making skillful use of God’s Word for the benefit of others both inside and outside the congregation. (2Ti 2:15) In addition, all Christians needed to use God’s Word to adjust their own attitude and actions, bringing them into harmony with God’s will.
for teaching: That is, for giving instruction on true beliefs and right conduct.—Tit 1:9.
for reproving: Christian overseers have the responsibility of reproving “those who practice sin.” (1Ti 5:20 and study note; Tit 1:13) They patiently use the Scriptures to convince such ones that they have strayed from godly principles and to readjust them accordingly. (Ga 6:1; 2Ti 4:2) Christians can also use the Scriptures for self-correction.
for setting things straight: Or “for correcting.” The Greek word involves restoring what is correct or improving what is faulty.
the man of God: The Greek word here translated “man” (anʹthro·pos) can include both men and women. Although Paul is addressing Timothy, who was an overseer, Paul may have had in mind any Christian man or woman who is fully dedicated to Jehovah God. Thus, some translations use such wording as “the person who belongs to God” or “the person dedicated to God.” As the preceding verse indicates, “the man of God” needs to study the inspired Scriptures regularly and live according to them.—See study note on 1Ti 6:11.
completely equipped: The Greek word rendered “completely equipped” literally means “having been fitted out.” For example, this word was used in ancient times of a boat that was fitted out, or fully furnished, with everything needed for a voyage. Similarly, through his Word, Jehovah provides Christians with the knowledge and wisdom that enable them to do all that is good; they are completely equipped for carrying out his work.