“Last Days” Understanding Revisited

Do “Last Days” references in the Bible always mean the future, like our own 21st century? Good question. Confusion over this matter occurred with 1st century Jews and with many Christ-followers today.

Last DaysA group of friends was studying the following opening verses in the New Testament’s Book of Hebrews, a book written in AD 64:

“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)

There was not a concensus in the group as to what “in these last days” was referring. I believe this is a common experience for modern day believers looking at this text.

Says Who?
Whatever your beliefs are about what the Bible says about the last days, ask yourself the question, “Who says?” Think “Where did I learn this?

Have you studied it yourself or have you relied on the teachings of your church, or your parents, or the views of a few respected people, or even a few popular articles or books?

What’s your own take on this passage? With the recent pandemic and ongoing unrest around the world, there once again arises the confusing specter of end times calamity combined with the good news of a returning Messiah or the Second Coming of Jesus. 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.

Does It Really Matter?
In fact, it’s not silly. Does it really even matter? Yes, I believe it does.

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 prophecies. Speculating on fulfilled prophecies and applying them to contemporary events ignores 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.

Jesus Called It
Christ himself in Matthew 24, specifically predicts that:

people will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, in power and glory….Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass till all these things take place.” – Matthew 24:30,34 

This is a direct reference to the ‘Son of Man’ imagery used in the Book of Daniel when prophesying the demise of the last kingdom (Rome) that would signal the end of the Jewish Age; that is, after historic Babylon, the Medes & Persians, and Greece. This whole chapter uses Old Testament imagery that is also captured in the Book of Revelation which speaks of this same judgment on Israel.

These are also the same words used by Christ when he was before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin on the evening of his trial. At these very words, the high priest tore his clothes in anguish and claimed “He has spoken blasphemy!” and steered Christ toward a Roman death sentence.

Certainly the high priest did not think Jesus was referring to his coming, post-rapture, 2000 years later.

And Jesus did come, as promised. In AD 70. In great judgment. And yes, he’ll be coming again. Someday.

“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.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 

But in context to its Jewish audience, it is the Old Covenant with its types and shadows (symbols) that was about to pass away. Those opening verses mentioned earlier in the Book of Hebrews put the timing of certain eschatological events into perspective.

Throughout the Old Testament, prior to the coming of Jesus, God spoke via dreams, prophets, written revelation, and types. Now (in AD 64) 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 where Peter is quoting Joel the prophet. This is exactly what happened in the last days, the end of the age – the lifetime 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 commonly believed Dispensationalist end times scenarios of a 7-year tribulation, pre or post Rapture of the Church, Temple rebuilding, Russian attacks, 144,000 Jews, worldwide Antichrist. (Note: If the Greek spelling of Nero Caesar (Neron Kaisar) is transliterated into Hebrew (nrwn qsr), the numerical equivalent is 666).

These do not align without twisting Old and New Testament scripture into knots. For a good book to open up your thinking on Last Days Madness, see Gary DeMar’s well documented writings.1

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.

As stated in other posts, I used to believe in Dispensationalist end times dogma. I believed it and espoused it. 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 references in the Bible?
_________________________
“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)

1 Last Days Madness, Obsession of the Modern Church, by Gary DeMar, Amercian Vision, Powder Springs, GA, 2019.

 



Categories: Abundant Living, Calling, Church, Devotion, Discipleship, End Times, Evidence, Faith, Fathering, Israel, Jesus, Marketplace, Old Testament, Parenting, Prophecy, Purpose, Suffering, Theology

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