The Second Epistle to Timothy has a more personal tone to it than First Timothy. It is sent from “Paul,” who is represented as being close to death. But a number of themes are carried over from the first letter (there are some scholars, in fact, who think that 2 Timothy was written before 1 Timothy).
Of most interest ot us, Hymenaeus and Alexander are still making trouble. Apparently, Satan has not performed his expected function, heralded in 1 Timothy, of reforming them. Or, at least, the state of having been handed over to Satan has not caused them to stop saying bad things. Moreover, they still seem to be members of the Christian community. Alexander, if he is indeed the same person, is now identified as a coppersmith, who, Paul says, did him great harm. But Paul offers no remedy against him, saying only that the Lord will “give it” to him according to his works. He warns Timothy to be on guard against him, because he greatly opposed Paul’s words (2 Tim. 4.14-15).
Earlier in the letter, we see that Alexander’s former colleague in deviation, Hymenaeus, now has another partner, a man named Philetus. Their problem is that they are in with a crowd who indulge in profane and vain babblings. Specifically, “they have missed their aim concerning the truth” by saying that the resurrection has already occurred. The result is that they have shaken or overturned the faith of some of their fellow-Christians (2 Tim 2.16-18). The only course of action that Paul suggests against Hymenaeus and Philetus is to avoid them.
He further tells Timothy to avoid stupid and senseless controversies, which give rise to quarrels. The Lord’s servant must use mildness in teaching those who oppose him. Then God may give these opponents a change of heart, so that they come to recognize the truth. By so doing, perhaps:
They may return to soberness, having escaped from the snare of Devil, from which they are snatched alive by Him (God), [or: in
which they had been caught alive by him (Devil)], at His (God’s) desire [or: at his (Devil’s) desire].
(2 Tim. 2.26).
The “snare” of Devil here is probably the metaphor of the net of a “fowler,” that is, a bird-catcher. The last phrase reads, literally, “to that one’s desire,” and, as I indicate in my translation, “that one” can stand for either God or Devil. If it means God, then the sense is either: 1) that God has willed their escape from Devil; or 2) that, once escaped, they can begin to do His will again. But if it refers to Devil, then it means that they were captured 1) at Devil’s will, or 2) in order to do Devil’s will.
Whatever the exact meaning of the text, it is clear that Devil is in the habit of luring Christians away from their faith and trapping them. Why? Just to test/tempt them, to see if they are worthy of being Christians? Or does he have some ulterior purpose in mind? We can’t be sure.
“Paul” goes on to list the great variety of sinful people who will proliferate “in the last days,” namely, right now, and they include diaboloi, opposers (2 Tim. 3.1-3), like the female diaboloi of the previous epistle (1 Tim. 3.11).
There is no mention of “Satan” in 2 Timothy.