"THE LAST DAYS"
A. Ralph Johnson
Nothing much fires up the imagination more than a discussion of what will take place in the "last days." People's ears perk up. Preachers grow eloquent. People come to listen. The Hal Lindsay types have made fortunes selling books. Cults like Adventists and Jehovah's witnesses have built empires on the subject.
I would like to take a brief look at the question, what, or when are the "Last Days"? Let's begin by looking at the passages.
1. Daniel speaks of the "latter days."
Daniel, chapter two, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a great image with head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass legs of iron with feet of iron and clay mixed. A stone is cut out without hands which strikes the image on the feet and destroys the image. The stone becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth.
Daniel 2:28 28 But there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days...
Daniel then interprets the dream. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon is the head of gold. After him was to come three more kingdoms—Persia, Greece and Rome. In the latter days of the forth kingdom it would be divided, partly strong and partly broken.
Daniel 2:44 44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
The "kingdom," set up by God in the "latter days," is the church, established by Jesus during the Roman Empire. It was not a kingdom of this world (John 18:36). It was Christ ruling in the hearts of His people (Luke 17:20-21; Col. 1:13).
2. Isaiah and Micah both prophesied of the "Last days."
Isaiah 2:2-3 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (see also Micah 4:1-2)
Again, this is speaking of the church which began in Jerusalem, into which all nations have flowed (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1Tim. 3:15).
Luke 24:45-49 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
3. Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, concerning the prophecy of Joel about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the "last days" said, "this is that."
Acts 2:16-17 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
4. The Hebrew letter indicates they were already in the "last days."
Hebrews 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, who he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
5. Peter, in his first epistle says that Jesus was made known "in these last times."
1 Peter 1:19-20 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
6. John tells us that "it is the last time."
1 John 2:18-19 18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
This indicates the "antichrist" had already come. They were the Gnostics who denied that Jesus came in the flesh (1John 4:3; 2John 1:7; John 1:1, 14)
From these passages we draw a clear picture of the times of Jesus and the Apostles as already in the "last days." They began with John the Baptist who was to "prepare the way of the Lord" (Mal. 3:1; Matt. 3:5).
The question of the end of the last days is more difficult. Were they the last days of the nation of Israel? If so, that would appear to have been in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed. Daniel warned of that time (Dan. 9:26-27), Jesus warned of it several times. (Matt. 23:35-39; 24:1-2; 15-16; Luke 21:20-24; cf. Matt. 21:40-45; 22:1-13)
Or, do the last days extend to the end of the world? Some passages would seem to suggest this. John wrote around 90 AD, twenty years after the destruction of Jerusalem saying "it is the last time." 1John 2:18
Daniel 2:28, 44 says that in the "latter days" the kingdom of God "shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms." The Roman Empire was not broken up until at least 476 AD, and if we include the revived Holy Roman Empire—not until around 1800 AD.
Peter may suggest a later date in linking it to the future destruction of the earth.
2 Peter 3:3-4 3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation....