“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.” (2 Timothy 3:1–9, ESV)

Surprised By Difficulty?

Some people mistakenly believe that things have never been as bad as they are currently or that the Christian life should be comfortable and easy, but the Bible clearly states otherwise, and history has many lessons to teach. Paul wants Timothy to understand that difficulty should not come as a surprise to this young minister. When Paul speaks of the last days, he is directing Timothy to the recognition that the last days began after the ascension of Christ. The last days are the days awaiting his second advent. To confirm this, Paul begins a list to help identify and explain why things will be difficult. One must avoid the pitfall of thinking that people will only be this way during the last days. The list displays only some of the sin, vices, and character flaws that are the result of the fall. Since the fall, these behaviors and attitudes depict the fallen nature, actions, and vitriol of sinful humanity. 

We live in a complex world and are surrounded by an ungodly culture. German sociologist Max Webber suggests that modern culture is like a beautiful, gilded bird cage. We are caught in it, and we cannot escape. We are encircled by its ideas and ideologies, by its structures and systems. Our culture is essentially unsympathetic—sometimes even hostile—to all we are called to be and to do as Christians.
— Holiness and the Spirit of the Age, Floyd McClung

There is also a great danger in believing that the appearance of godliness is a substitute for holiness. It is possible to participate in the outward ritual of worship, hymns, prayers, and liturgy all the while knowing nothing of the power of the Holy Spirit. This empty formality and empty religion makes empty souls. These people should be avoided. 

Nothing New 

In every age, there are those who are easily influenced by the latest religious theory or novelty. The false teachers that Timothy faced in Ephesus were victimizers who were deceitful and ruthless in their desire for control and corruption. It seems that some of these women may have lacked spiritual insight and morally unstable. Paul then reminds the believer that one may gain knowledge and still not arrive at a knowledge of the truth. False teachers are not a new problem facing God's people, and Paul goes all the way back to Moses and two of his opponents which according to Jewish tradition were the magicians who opposed Moses with their counterfeit magic. They were corrupt and disqualified when it came to faith. Paul assures Timothy that these false teachers and their folly will ultimately fail because the church will be victorious for Christ has guaranteed it.