Who Are "They?"
P. J. Casebolt
Paul said, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine..." (2 Tim. 4:3). In this and the following verse the pronoun "they" is used three times; "their" twice; and "themselves" once.
The inspired writer is referring to people, not to some abstract force or inanimate object. Some people try to make themselves believe that no one would teach or obey a false doctrine, in spite of all the teachings of the Scriptures to the contrary. These are the ones who are easily deceived.
Paul also said that an apostle, an angel, or "any man" would be accursed for preaching anything other than the gospel (Gal. 1:8,9). In similar language he said, "Beware lest any man spoil you..." (Col. 2:8). An automobile doesn't go out and run over people by itself--someone is at the wheel, or responsible for the automobile's behavior. A gun doesn't shoot someone by itself--someone shoots it or causes it to be discharged. A false doctrine doesn't originate and perpetuate itself--someone has to be behind it.
Don't wait for the one who teaches a false doctrine to identify himself as a false teacher, for he will never do it. Neither will you ever hear anyone confess to being the "they" of 2 Tim. 4:3. I have yet to meet the person who will admit that they can't endure sound doctrine. Yet, Paul said there would be some, and I think I know some. I think you do too. But, let us not wait for them to admit it. If they know they can't endure sound doctrine, they aren't going to confess it; if they are not even conscious of the fact that they are in that category, they couldn't confess it anyway. Jesus said, "... for the tree is known by his fruit," and "...out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Mt. 12:33, 34). We'll just have to decide as best we can now who "they" are, and then wait until the judgment to see if Christ decides likewise (John. 12:48).
Truth Magazine VII: 6, pp. 9