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WORSE AND WORSE
by Philip Owen

            Is the world becoming a better place?  Are the secular idealists who hope to usher in a universal utopian civilization going to succeed?  Or is the church going to “win the world” for Christ?  As different as are the perspectives from which these various questions derive, the answer to all three is the same.  If the Word of God is true, we may answer all three with a definitive “No.”  Innumerable passages address this point, most notably and extensively the book of The Revelation, which recounts prophetically the disastrous course and destructive end of this age.  But one simple verse from Paul’s second letter to Timothy gives us more fodder on this theme than we can digest in this brief space:  “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (3:13).


            The inescapable people.  During His incarnation, Christ explained to His disciples that “ye have the poor with you always” (Mk. 14:7).  In a similar vein, Paul told Timothy that he must expect to be continually contending with “evil men and seducers [“imposters”].”  Those who think that some humanistic form of good is going to triumph over evil are in for a rude awakening.  Man is not evolving into some higher and better form of life; good is not overcoming evil in any universal sense; nor is the world is being won for Christ.  Sin and sinners are rampant.  Technological advances may suggest that man is on the verge of some great breakthrough, but there is no correlation between technological advancement and moral or spiritual progress.  In fact, technology just enables men to be more clever and efficient sinners.  Neither wealth, nor education, nor positive life experiences eradicate evil.  Noah represented a remnant; the nation of Israel represented a remnant; Joshua represented a remnant; and the true church represents a small remnant.  Evil men and imposters have always been in the majority.

            The inevitable progress.  The reality is that evil men and imposters not only continue to exist but  actually “wax worse and worse,” which means that they “advance” or “progress,” not toward good and righteousness, but toward increasing sin and evil.  The prophecy suggests both the individual progression of those who are evil (that individual sinners left unchecked grow increasingly sinful) and the historic progression of civilization (that the nature of culture is to become increasingly corrupt and rebellious against righteousness).  This actual retrogression could not be graphed in a straight downward line; rather it is jagged with here and there a little upward tick; nevertheless, the inevitable trend is downward from righteousness to sin.  It is not merely that the media make us more conscious of sin today than in the past (though there is some degree of truth in that); rather, it is that there is more sin and degeneracy to report.  Half a century ago, children were generally safe to wander their neighborhoods or attend their schools.  Not so today.  The difference lies in the fact that wickedness is really increasing, not that news reporting is more aggressive.  This increasing physical danger reflects what is an ever-increasing spiritual danger, namely, a departure from spiritual truth.  The Word of God is being abandoned wholesale today by people professing to believe and uphold it.  Paul says that evil men and imposters will proliferate, “deceiving and being deceived.”  The fact that many charlatans finally wind up believing their own lies, not only seals their own condemnation, but makes them doubly dangerous to the unwary.  For people who begin believing their own lies can lie with more conviction and therefore deceive with more effectiveness.  A liar who knows he is lying is far less convincing than one who comes to truly believe them himself.

           The ineffable promise and plea.  Our text prophesies the inevitable course that this world is taking—one of ever-increasing sin and the danger and tragedy that accompany departure from a scriptural foundation.  But Paul offers this assurance:  “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his” (II Tim. 2:19).  The believer’s security rests in the saving work of Christ and the omniscience of God.  And to safeguard us from harm he offers this exhortation:  “And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (v. 19).  We will not win the world, but Christ is calling out a people for His name, whom He will save, sanctify, and ultimately glorify.  May those who know Him be watchful and faithful.                                                    

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