Confusion abounds when fulfilled prophecy is interpreted as if it were unfulfilled prophecy. This error was made by the 1st century Jews and is being made today by many 21st century Christ-followers. ♦
With ongoing unrest in the Middle East, there once again arises the confused specter of end times calamity combined with the good news of a returning Messiah – Jesus’ Second Coming. Throw in the modern concept of the Rapture, an evil Antichrist, and Christ’s millennial kingdom on earth and you have a recipe for ‘last days madness’ and spirited theological debate amongst otherwise good and friendly Christians. No wonder secularists shake their heads in bemusement and want no part of this perceived end times silliness.
Nothing Silly Here
In fact it’s not silly. It’s serious confusion and misinterpretation of Scripture that is clear and consistent in Old and New Testament contexts. Like many Jews of Jesus’ day, many modern Jews and evangelical Christians do not believe that the messianic prophecies were fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus in the 1st century. These prophecies have been taken from their 1st century fulfillment context and have been projected into the distant future as unfulfilled prophecy. Speculating on fulfilled prophecies and applying them to contemporary events ignore the time texts that speak of a very near coming of Jesus in a spectacular and terrifying judgment upon an apostate Judaism that rejected its Messiah in the 1st century.(For more background see 3/23 post Rapture Miscalculations and 8/17 post More Rapture Miscalculations).
‘Last Days’ (of the Old Covenant)
When we read the term “last days” in the Bible, it’s natural to think of the “end of the world.” The New Testament clearly states that the “end of all things” was at hand in 1 Peter 4:7. But in context to its Jewish audience, it is the Old Covenant with its types and shadows (symbols) that was about to pass away. The Book of Hebrews’ opening verses put the timing of certain eschatological events into perspective: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers through the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) The Book of Hebrews was written in approximately AD 64.
Throughout the Old Testament, prior to the coming of Jesus, God spoke via dreams, prophets, written revelation, and types. Now through the New Covenant God “has made the first obsolete. But what is obsolete and outdated is soon to disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13) Indeed the last days were in operation in the 1st century when God was manifested in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.
In AD 70 the “last days” ended with the dissolution of the temple and the sacrificial system. In 1 Peter 1:20 there is a similar pronouncement: “For he was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.” This was in Peter’s day. See Acts 2:17 quoting Joel the prophet. This is exactly what happened in the last days, the end of the age – the life time of Peter, not 2000 years later.
But Yes, Jesus is Coming Again
So is there a Second Coming of Jesus? Yes, there will be a future “coming” in final judgment and the ushering in of eternity. It could be tomorrow, or it could be centuries from now. Nobody knows, so no need to guess. But there will be no doctrinal variety plays of a 7 year tribulation, pre or post Rapture of the Church, Temple rebuilding, Russian attacks, 144,000 Jews, worldwide Antichrist (the 666 figure was Nero), etc. These do not align without twisting Old and New Testament scripture into knots.
Why Does This Matter?
There is a risk in believing these doctrines on end times that we Christians are lifted out of responsibility (Rapture) and hope that an unbelieving society “left behind” will do better with their second chance. There is no escape hatch and there is no second chance. We are living in a dark world with a calling and the power of the Holy Spirit available to us to live for Him and impact our worldly domain under His authority in our current lifetime. We should not relax and be lulled into waiting for warning signs to get it together with God.
I used to believe in Dispensationalist dogma. I bought it hook, line and sinker. I believed in it because that is what I was taught and heard in sermons. I always just bought into whatever other people told me. For me I was lulled in spiritual passivity – excited I was ‘saved’ but free to conduct my life. Now knowing God is seriously coherent throughout the Scripture forced me to face accounting and transform my purpose for Him rather than my own safe parallel path with a nice escape route. For me, ‘last days’ understanding changed everything.
How do you understand Last Days?
“Now these things happened to [Israel] as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11