The Last Word on the Last Days
Number 3 of 12 in the Second Coming Series
Of course, it is God who has the last word on the last days. If
we find our definitions and speculation at odds with what God has revealed about
the last days in His Scriptures, then we are wrong. And the fact is much of what
is said about the last days today is indeed at odds with what God has said about
this period of time. And as we approach the magical year 2000 A.D. the
speculation is multiplying.
A favorite question many ask today is "Do you believe that we are living in the last days?" The favorite answer is "Yes." Well, that would be my answer too, but I must tell you that what the Bible means when it uses the term last days is far removed from the typical way in which that phrase is used today. Usually, people are referring to a period of time just prior to the second coming of Christ when they talk of the last days. It is supposedly a period of time which will hold many signs and so forth that Jesus' coming is imminent. We have previously discussed the fact that the Bible makes it abundantly clear that no one can know when Jesus' return will be (please see articles in the January and February issues of The Expository Files).
When the Bible uses the term last days, it does not refer to only that short period of time (be it a few days, months or years) just prior to Jesus' return. Get this! The Bible never uses the term "last days" to refer to that period of time just prior to Jesus' return! And yet, that is exactly how the speculators regarding the return of Jesus use it. Or more correctly, misuse it.
THE BIBLE'S USE OF THE TERM "LAST DAYS"
"In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream into it." (ISAIAH 2:2). When the Bible uses the term last days, rather than referring only to that time just prior to Jesus' return, it refers to the whole period of time from the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ to the end when He comes again. Yes, we are living in the last days, but so was Napoleon, Christopher Columbus and Constantine. The whole age of the gospel is the last days or last time or even last hour in the Biblical definition of the phrase. It is called the last days because there is no future age as far as this world is concerned; we are in the last one. We live under a new, and final covenant, the testament of Jesus Christ. He will not be establishing another one to replace the one we are now under. The end of these days will see the end of the present heavens and earth as they are replaced by the new heavens and earth (II PETER 3:10-13; REVELATION 21:1).
The proof is in the Bible. Starting with the day of Pentecost as the apostles preached the first gospel sermon, it was announced that the last days had arrived. They began in the first century, not in the twentieth, according to God's record. Peter, James and John lived in the last days and any doctrine that says otherwise is false.
The verse from Isaiah which is quoted above was written concerning events which would take place in the last days. This prophecy also found itself fulfilled in the first century. Peter said that all the prophets of the Old Testament were speaking about the days of the first century onward; "And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days." (ACTS 3:24). So when the prophets spoke of events which were to occur in the last days, they were talking about the days in which the apostles lived. The last days of the prophesies are the these days in which Peter lived, according to the Bible.
Looking at the context of Isaiah 2, we find several events that were to take place in the last days.
1. The mountain of God's house would be established and all nations would stream into it (vs 2). This prophecy saw its fulfillment from the day of Pentecost after Jesus' ascension. We find people from all nations being taught the gospel and being added to God's house. The apostles had been commanded to take the gospel to all nations and they did; to both Jew and Gentile (COLOSSIANS 1:23).
2. The Law will go forth from Zion, and the word from Jerusalem (vs 3). Again, the Holy Spirit comes to and inspires the apostles to begin their preaching task. Where does this event take place? According to Acts 2 it took place at exactly the place Isaiah had prophesied it would; at Jerusalem.
3. In the last days (vs 2). When would this take place? In the last days. Again, Peter confirmed that they were in the last days as he and the rest of the apostles preached their message on the day of Pentecost in the first century (ACTS 2: 16,17).
EVENTS OF THE LAST DAYS
"And it will come about that whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be delivered." (JOEL 2:32). We have already noted some of the events that had been prophesied would occur in the last days and found their fulfillment in the New Testament. Now we shall notice some of the testimony of the New Testament that the last days began in the first century and continue until the end of the world.
1. God speaks to us through His Son today (HEBREWS 1:1,2) . "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son...." God's Son has come to our world and revealed God unto us firsthand. The prophets had predicted His coming in the previous days, but now that He has come we are in the last days and God therefore has nothing to say to us except through His own Son; This is My beloved Son; hear Him!"
2. Christ has been manifested. (I PETER 1:20). "For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you." The human race has beheld the coming of the Christ. When He came, He brought with Him the last times. The people of the first century entered the last times and we continue in them unto this day. They will end when Jesus comes again, but we know not when it will be.
3. Difficult times will come (II TIMOTHY 3:1). "But realize this that in the last days difficult times will come, for men will be lovers of self..." Timothy is warned in this final letter from Paul's pen that times will not improve. They will get worse. In spite of this, he urges Timothy to continue in the things he had learned even while evil men are proceeding from bad to worse (Vss. 12-14). Obviously, history has since proven Paul's appraisal of the last days to be accurate, from the things that Timothy and other disciples faced in the first century to our own day.
4. Mockers will come. (II PETER 3:3,4). "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?" We see plenty of such mockers today, but they are not new. Peter's words were fulfilled back in the first century. Jude refers to the words of Peter and the other apostles and says, "...that they were saying to you, 'In the last time there shall be mockers following after their own ungodly lusts.' These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit." (JUDE 18,19). Joel affirms that the events of the last days began during his own century.
Yes, we are living in the last days. Though we can affirm this, because this is what the Bible teaches, we cannot confirm that His coming is imminent anymore that it was imminent during the first or second or tenth century. These are all the last days. Will Jesus come soon? Perhaps. But whether He does or not, the best life any of us can live is that of a faithful Christian. We do not need to know the time of His coming if we are prepared. If we love Him as we ought, we will so live our lives to please Him, and we shall be ready for eternity when this life is over.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 6.3; March 1999