Thursday, February 27, 2014

Greek Words for Evil People – 2 Tim 3:1-5

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent [no self-control], fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady [reckless], highminded [conceited], lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (KJV)
Bad to Worse
Paul just finished telling us how to deal with people who quarrel over their speculations. They are trapped by the devil. That sounds pretty bad, but what he now describes for the last days will be far worse. Paul uses eighteen words to describe how evil people will be. He sums up his description with the root reason for their evil attributes as lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. When we love anything more than God, some or all of these attributes follow.
The Last Days
It is amazing how often the end times, end of the age, and other phrases are mentioned in the Bible. Most often they carry warnings of disaster or judgment. Peace and security are also promised but only after a period of tribulation. The time of judgment is often called the Day of the Lord. In some cases, the judgment has already occurred such as when Israel and Judah were taken into captivity. Even in those pronouncements, there was always a far future prophecy woven into the warning. As we look at Paul’s warning here, we can assume the same thing.
The persecution of the Church in Paul’s day was carried out by people who fit this description. The dark ages when the Catholic Church was nothing more than a corrupt world power may have been even worse as true Christians were hunted down and burned at the stake.
Today, we generally think we are past that. However there are still forces in the world driven by people who fit this description. But the truth of these words is that it will get worse before it gets better.
Evil Men[1]
Lovers of Their Own Selves – philautos – Greek which means selfish. We are familiar with philos which is commonly called brotherly love. That is the first part of the word and we’ll see it several more times in these descriptions. The second part of the word comes from autos which essentially means self. It is plain and simple. Evil people love themselves. They put all other things in subjection to their own wants and desires because they will take care of what they love. This is the root of sin and it is the very thing that Jesus turned upside down (Mark 10:42-45). This is a common sin for each of us.
Covetous – philarguros – Greek which means lover of money. The first part of the word is philos, love. The second part is arguros, means silver as in the metal in coins. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim 6:10). I was reading one of the get rich quick hypes somewhere and the author made the astounding statement that he loved money and that we shouldn’t be fooled by anyone who says loving money is the root of evil. This sounds just like the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Did God really say that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil? When we love money we will do just about anything to get it. Companies care less and less about employees and even customers as long as they can make more money and not get caught doing something that hinders making money. Don’t fall into the devils snare over money.
Boaster – alazon – Greek which means braggart. Since evil people love themselves so much, they can’t resist telling others how great they are. When they speak so highly of themselves, they are taking the glory from God and ascribing it to themselves. King Nebuchadnezzar was convicted of this and suffered God’s penalty when he was banished or lost his mind for seven years. What makes his example even more potent is that he was warned in a dream that this would occur. Daniel pleaded with him to repent, but if he did, it didn’t last long as the judgment eventually came upon him as he was bragging about how great he was. Finally, when he turned to God, he was restored. Nebuchadnezzar stated that his reason returned to him (Dan 4:4-37). Evil men who are boasters are like Nebuchadnezzar but in these last days, there will be few who turn. This is a dire warning to us.
Proud – huperephonos – Greek which means appearing above others, haughty. The root words are huper, meaning over, and phiano, meaning to lighten or shine. This is definitely the bad concept of proud. Proud, evil people are always thinking they are above everyone else. They live in opposition to the idea that we should consider others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3). The evil in this is that when one person considers himself above another it allows that person to treat others as less than human. We saw this in the way Hitler tried to exterminate Jews because he believed they were inferior. The same happens today with unborn babies. As long as we consider ourselves more important than them, we can kill them if they get in our way. This is the ultimate end of pride and it will only get worse as the end approaches. Let’s not succumb to that but consider others better than ourselves.
Blasphemers – blasphemos – Greek for abusive, course, vulgar, or obscene language, slanderous against men or impious against God. The root words are blapto meaning to hinder or injure and pheme meaning a saying or rumor. Please note that blasphemy is primarily against God, but it is also against men. I remember long before we had a TV, the worst language I heard was from the man who controlled the amount of water we could get from the public irrigation ditches. He made his rounds through the farms opening and closing floodgates as the farmers had need. He would stop and talk with my dad. I heard God and damn repeated as adjectives before almost every noun. I thought it was rather strange since I only heard that from my parents when they were angry. When we finally got a television in 1958, there wasn’t any abusive blasphemous language on it. It was only then creeping into movie films. When I joined the Navy, I found out how prevalent blasphemy really is among non-Christians. However, what is sad is how far it has come since then. Even Christian today flippantly burst out with, “Oh my God” or the letters OMG thinking that that is OK. Either would have resulted in a strong lecture about using God’s name in vain from parents or teachers who were Christian even in name only. How far has it really gone? The issue is in the heart and in the end times it will reveal the contempt for God and men that will be even worse at that time. How is your heart?
Disobedient to Parents – goneus apethes – Two Greek words, the first is parents (goneus). The second, apethes, is unpersuadable or flagrantly disobedient or rebellious. Parent is clearly parents, it is referring, just as the text says, disobedience to parents. Apethes is made up of the word peithos meaning to convince by argument or to agree. It has the letter a before it to negate the meaning just as we often see in English. So what is so alarming about being disobedient to parents? Perhaps it is the concept of being flagrant about it. Perhaps it is the astounding fact that the parents are also exhibiting all these negative qualities teaching the kids by example so they aren’t able to obey simple common courtesies. My neighbor works in a primary school office. She deals with parents as well as kids. She could write a book about the current generation that has rebelled against their parents and are now raising kids and encouraging them to be even worse. We are commanded to love God and following the command to teach His commands to our children (Deut 6:-7). When we fail to do this, we are breaking down the very moral fiber of the next generation leading to the end times.
Unthankful – acharistos – Greek for thankless, ungrateful. The letter a negates the root Greek word charizomai which means to grant a favor, kindness, pardon or rescue. Being ungrateful ties in with disobedience to parents and more importantly ungrateful to God. It has its roots in the me-first attitude which demands entitlement instead of seeing that everything we have is a gift from God. We have established a society that expects the government to take care of us instead of looking to God. God doesn’t get the glory and we complain about the government. There is no thankfulness. This is also true in families, work, and other places. If you think it’s bad now, just wait as God is expelled more and more from society.
Unholy – anosios – Greek for unholy. The letter a negates the root word hosios which means something of divine nature that is proper or right. It looks like people will simply be against anything that is of God since holiness is one of His prime attributes. Perhaps, in the end times, it will manifest it in unbridled Satan worship as people worship the beast in Revelation. However this manifests itself, it can’t be good for people who want to live godly lives. They will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12) even more that we have seen in the past. History shows just how unholy society can be.
Without natural affection – astorgos – Greek for hard hearted toward kindred. Again, the a in front of the word negates the root word. Stergo is a Greek word for love that isn’t used in the Bible. We are familiar with three other words but this one is used to describe a belonging love. A family has this kind of love. A husband and wife should feel comfortable and belonging to each other. It could even extend to neighborhoods and communities where people work together. It is something that is peculiarly lacking in the Pacific Northwest and is spreading as people are isolated from each other by activities that keep them apart. The internet, cell phones, texting, claim to connect people but this bonding doesn’t occur. Sports activities and other functions that require us to get in a car and go outside our neighborhood do the same thing. Churches that don’t have small groups who meet suffer the same thing. There is no natural affection among the members of mega churches without small groups. This makes it easier for the enemy to divide and conquer.
Trucebreakers – aspondos – Greek for being without libation. The a negates the Greek spendo which means to pour out or be offered. You are probably wondering how this is translated into trucebreaker. Just about every Bible translation has come up with something different. Unappeasable (ESV), unforgiving (NIV, NKJV), irreconcilable (NAS), implacable (RSV, ASV, YLT), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement). When someone made a truce, it was often with a toast or libation (pouring of a liquid). Refusal to make a truce, forgive, be appeased, reconcile, or be placated all have the same idea of holding a grudge and refusing to compromise or get along with others. It all gets back to the me-first attitude. However, the animosity, hatred, and bitterness that this causes just reinforces all the other negatives. We should be careful to heed the Word and be careful to get rid of all these things and not grieve the Holy Spirit. It gets back to forgiving others because we have been forgiven in Christ (Eph 4:30-32). As the end comes, unforgiveness will be rampant because it is just the opposite of how God has forgiven us.
False accusers – diabolos – Greek for a person who says critical or disparaging things about others. It is the same word that is translated devil throughout the New Testament. It is translated differently here and as slanderer in 1 Tim 3:11. Is it shocking that people who accuse falsely should be called a devil? When you think of Satan, who is the one who accuses the Saints before God day and night (Rev 12:9-10), then anyone who does the same is simply his child (John 8:44). At the end, Paul is saying that everyone will be devils. Just to make it clear, Eph 2:1-3 lets us know that at one time, we were all in the same boat. We the sons of disobedience, sons of the devil. It isn’t until we are born again that we can escape his snares.
Incontinent – akrates – Greek for powerless or without self-control. This is another word starting with a to negate the root word, kratos, which means dominion, might, power, or strength. The problem with sinners is that they can’t control themselves. According to Eph 2:4, we were dead in our sins. How much self-control does a corpse have? Spiritually speaking, that is exactly what we were before God made us alive. Incontinent is a very accurate description of the way we were as a spiritually dead person. Can you imagine how ugly the world will be when no one even wants to have self-control? They will be free to do anything they want, no matter how heinous. The presence of the Holy Spirit in this world is the only thing keeping that from happening now (2 Thess 2:7). Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Do you exhibit this fruit?
Fierce – anumerous – Greek for savage. There are lot of words in this passage that start with a, to negate the meaning of the second and this is another one. The second word isn’t found in the Bible, it is hemeros meaning lame. So a savage or a fierce person is someone who isn’t lame. What do you think of when you think of a savage? Political correctness has changed our thought of savagery. It is someone who is unrestrained in violence, severely brutal, essentially living without any moral or social controls. We still see this exhibited today by people we would no longer call savages. The nicer ones carry automatic weapons to slaughter multiple people, put bombs on buses, rape and pillage villagers living in peace. What will it be like if this were the norm in society around the world? When we don’t support punishment that fits the crime, we allow savagery to increase.
Despisers of those that are good – aphilagathos – Greek for hostile to virture. The a at the beginning negates the next word, philagthos, which is made up of two root words, philos (friendly or as some state, brotherly love) and agathos (good). To make it simple, they hate what is good. They will hate the Bible and anything that causes good to be encouraged in us. When society bases its morals on the Bible, it will restrict the base nature of mankind. When the Bible is scorned, then laws that are supported by biblical standards keep people in check. When the Bible is scorned, laws are changed allowing perversion and ungodly actions to become commonplace and acceptable. This is when society goes downhill. In the end, it will have already hit the bottom. We should support those who stand up against the political mainstream and still call evil wrong and encourage good.
Traitors – prodotes – Greek for giving into the enemy’s hands or surrender. This is the same word used to describe Judas in Luke 6:16. Jesus chose Judas and knew at that time that he would do. Yet Jesus gave him a chance. During his defense, Stephen used the same word just before he was stoned. He said the people, including their leaders were betrayers when they killed Jesus (Acts 7:52). The word only appears these three times in the Bible. Think about that for a while. In the perilous time of the end, people will be traitors or betrayers just like Judas and those who gave Jesus into the hands of the Romans to be crucified. The selfish self-interest of Judas and the leaders was evident and that same spirit will be at work full time in all people. We are pressured in many ways to deny Jesus and be a traitor today. We must stand firmly in our testimony of Jesus. We can’t be ashamed to be called a follower of Jesus.
Heady [reckless] – propetes – Greek for falling forward or headlong. This is a compound word with two roots. Pro, a preposition meaning before, and pipto meaning to fall. It is translated as reckless or rash in other versions. We have often heard the quote, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”[2] This is the meaning of the word and the attitude of people in the end times. Reckless or rash is an excellent translation of the word. People will make judgment on little more than their feelings. They will be quick to condemn what is good and take action to destroy it. They will harm others and do evil simply on a whim. Instead we should be patient and forgiving just as Christ is patient with us.
Highminded [conceited] – tuphoo – Greek to envelop with smoke, figuratively to inflate with conceit. It is derived from tupho which means to consume slowly without flame. It is an interesting concept to associate conceit with smoke and a slowly smoldering smoke at that. Perhaps it isn’t all that hard to imagine a conceited person with his head in a cloud of smoke, concerned only with his own importance and supposed greatness. It is also fitting because a smoldering object will eventually be consumed and a conceited person will often destroy relationships and any good he could have accomplished. Think of the most conceited person you know then consider that all people will be like that in the end. How will anyone be able to get along with anyone else? A solution to being conceited is to live in harmony with other and be willing to associate with people of all positions (Rom 12:16).
Lovers of pleasures – philedonos – Greek for fond of pleasure. We again see the word philos, that friendly brotherly love connected with another word, this time hedone which means sensual delight. We derive the word hedonism from it. While you may argue that loving pleasure is not necessarily wrong, the definition of hedonism reveals what people will really be like in the end. They will be devoted to self-indulgence or pleasure as a way of life. They will believe that pleasure is the highest good or source of moral value. The problem is that all the doctrines of Christianity about developing endurance, character, and hope through suffering (Rom 5:3-4) are tossed out. By being devoted to pleasure, men will cave in to the slightest pressure. Jesus said you can’t be devoted to two masters (Matt 6:24).
More than – mallon e – Greek for – you guessed it, more than. Mallon comes from the word malista which means most, in greatest degree. We aren’t really talking about a close comparison here. The degree in which people will love pleasure is way much more than they love God. Loving God will be so low on their priority list that it won’t even register.
Lovers of God – philotheos – Greek for fond of God. Again we have pilos for friendly love and this time the word, theos meaning the supreme divinity. The problem is that people won’t be lovers of God but they will love pleasure more. This is just the opposite of what God has commanded and Jesus affirmed to be our chief occupation. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt 22:37) or might (Deut 6:5). When we put this at the bottom of our priorities then it is no wonder that God will abandon us to our devices. We will fall into the downward spiral of ungodly and self-destructive behavior (Rom 1:20-32). The only way to get out of it is to repent and put God first. The only way to do that is to turn to His one and only way to Him and that is Jesus.
Form of godliness – morphosis – Greek for appearance. It comes from the Greek word morphoo which means to fashion. Outwardly people will appear to be godly but if you look at the root word, then the appearance will be fashioned or made by their own works and efforts. Eusebeia is the Greek work for godliness or holiness. Its root is eusebes which means reverent or pious. It seems contradictory that men could have all these evil traits and yet still appear to be godly. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from some of the Popes that ruled during the dark ages. They made great shows of being godly, even proclaiming to be inerrant regarding matters of the faith. At the same time, they would call for unprecedented persecution against anyone who opposed the evils of the church at that time. They promised complete absolution for anyone who would kill reformers and take their property. Many were burned at the stake not to mention other atrocities. Lest we be too quick to judge, we must remember that God judges us not on the outward appearance but on what is in our heart (Matt 5:21-22). We too, can appear godly on the outside without having a repentant heart.
Denying the power – Greek dunamis – Greek for force but especially miraculous power. The root word is dunamai meaning to be able. Arneomai is the Greek word for deny or contradict, reject, or disavow. It starts with the same letter a to negate the root word, reo which means to speak. Perhaps this has already happened in many churches. The power of Christ to transform sinners to saints is negated when the deity of Christ is denied. His deity is denied when the miracles He performed are denied. His deity is denied when the virgin birth is denied. All these and more are the teaching and beliefs of many who call themselves Christians. What we believe has a significant impact on what we can do in living godly lives. If we believe the world, we will have no power. If we believe the Bible, we will see God’s power at work in our lives (1 Cor 2:4) to avoid all these negative qualities.
Turn Away From Them
Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. (Matt 7:6 NKJV)
There comes a point in witnessing where we just have to avoid some people. I don’t know that I’ve ever run into anyone who was so evil as is described for those who will be in existence during the end. My normal approach would be to share the good news of Jesus’ death for our sins predicted in the Bible, His burial and resurrection also predicted beforehand in the Bible. We have proof of His resurrection by witness to whom He appeared afterward (1 Cor 15:3-8). I would currently share that with people, no matter how vile they are. However if they threatened me with physical harm if I continued, I would certainly respect their wishes. There have been some, who were outwardly nice people who have politely requested not to be approached with the Gospel and they require the same respect.
The point is to turn away from them when they clearly resist the message. I think of how many times Paul witnessed to Felix while in prison. Felix clearly didn’t like the message, yet he often had Paul brought before him, even if his motive was to get a bribe. Each time gave Paul an opportunity to share the Gospel over two years (Acts 24:24-27). So we need to always be prepared (1 Pet 3:15).
In the end times, it is likely that sharing the Gospel with people who are described here will result in them trampling the message and trying to destroy any who share it. Generally we aren’t in those times even though it seems like it in some countries of the world. So we should continue to share when we have an opportunity as long as we aren’t trampled underfoot.

[1] All Greek definitions are derived from Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.
[2] Pope, Alexander. An Essay on Criticism. 1709

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