The Last Days
This Position Paper was contributed to this web site by Jim Gunter, firstname.lastname@example.org
After many years as a serious student of our Father’s word, there is one absolute truth that has become abundantly clear to me, and that is the old adage, “One never gets too old to learn.” Surely, we all place a great premium on learning; and well we should! In looking back over the many years that I have been a Christian, I do so with great love, respect, and appreciation for those brethren who tutored and guided me in my early years, some of whom were even younger than I. I’m so thankful that they instilled in me one of the great and noble principles that has stuck with me all these years. That great principle is: to have the humility of mind so as to always be ready and willing to change my thinking anytime I should learn that I have been mistaken on any Bible matter! I sincerely feel that for all of us, our minds should hunger perpetually for those Bible truths out there, of which we may not have been previously aware. Surely, not one of us knows it all! Not one of us has the corner on truth! And the older I get to be, the more I realize that my quest to learn must be commensurate with my willingness to change my mind when truth warrants! For to be otherwise minded, I cannot profit from acquiring any newly-discovered truth, for it then becomes, for me, simply “truth squandered.” And so, for this reason, it would seem to me that humility of mind really should occupy a lofty place of permanent residence in our lives. I believe this is evidenced by our Father Himself in Isaiah 66:2 where He says:
“But to this one I will look; to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at MY word.”
O dear God, O how I need to remember that! Over the years, I have changed my thinking on a number of things, as I’m sure we all have as we grow and learn better. Although, I cannot deny, that to sacrifice those sacred cows can sometimes be a very difficult undertaking, simply because we can be very stubborn creatures sometimes, having a strong reluctance to let go of something we have always believed to be correct.
My Former Concept of The Last Days
As an old man now, and looking back over some of the more recent things on which I have altered my thinking, the Bible truth regarding “the last days” is one of those things that comes to mind for me. Obviously, I cannot know what your thinking might be regarding the last days, but as for me, the understanding to which I previously subscribed was: That you and I are presently living in the last days, and that we have been ever since the first Pentecost after the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, I also believed that “the last days” would not end until someday in our future. There are also some Christians who say that they ended the day Jesus died on the cross! It may be that perhaps one of these views expresses your understanding as well. Day after day, we hear from pulpits across this great land, that all the sensational events which we see happening around the world, especially in the middle-east, and even in our own country, are undeniable evidence that these must be “the last days.” And, that someday very soon, in fact any day now, Jesus will return. Good folks, as I said a moment ago, I am well aware that this may be where you stand on the matter. And I also realize that there is a possibility that you may still be there even after you finish reading this little essay. And if you are, I want you to know that in spite of that, if you belong to Jesus, as far as I am concerned, you are still my brother or sister. But for the next few minutes, I would appreciate so much if you would examine with me, a few things that our Father’s word says regarding this matter of the last days.
In recent years I have encountered some very interesting things in the Scriptures regarding what God says about the last days; things which I had not really considered before. And if you would be so kind as to bear with me for a few minutes, I would like to offer these things and let you examine them to see if you find them to be consistent with the balance of the testimony of the Scripture. Obviously, these are not “new” things, for they had always lain right there before my very eyes all the time. However, because of the perspective or paradigm from which I then approached the Scriptures, I simply did not see them. And so it is because of these discoveries that not only did my understanding change regarding the last days, but it also brought about a change in the perspective or paradigm from which I now view the New Covenant Scriptures. Not only that but I also acquired a desire to share these thoughts with others for their consideration.
The Challenge to My Former Concept of the Last Days:
In Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts, chapter 2, beginning in vs. 14, the apostle Peter addresses the great mass of Jews who were there from every nation under Heaven. The apostles were empowered with the miraculous gifts of The Holy Spirit (the gift of tongues being one of them), which enabled them to linguistically accomodate the many different nations of Jews who were there for this great feast [vss. 8-11]. When the apostles began speaking and praising God in the varied tongues and dialects of these Jews, some of them mocked, accusing the apostles of being drunk on new wine. But Peter, taking his stand with the other eleven apostles [vss. 14-16] addresses the multitude, assuring them that they most certainly were not drunk, but that what they were witnessing was the very fulfillment of the prophet Joel’s words in Joel 2:28-32, which were prophesied some 800 years prior. Peter continues on and quotes Joel, saying:
“And it shall be in “the last days, God says, ‘That I will pour forth My Spirit upon all mankind…”
Folks, it’s right here in these last two passages [Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21] that I first ran into difficulty with my former understanding of the last days. First of all, from my then “futurist” (Amillennial) perspective, I reasoned that the Old Covenant came to a complete and full end at the cross. And then, because Joel’s prophecy specified a “last-days fulfillment” (Acts 2: 16-21), I viewed Pentecost as the point in time when the New Covenant was fully consummated. It should also be noted that this view further concludes that the entire New Covenant age, and the period of the last days, are one and the same period of time. In other words, I understood the “last days” spoken by Joel, to have begun on Pentecost, and that they would continue on until what I perceived to be the “end of time,” i.e., end of the world! In other words, from this perspective, the entire New Covenant age constitutes the time period known as the last days.
Difficulties Experienced in This View:
In retrospect, as I now look back on that view, I can see where my former understanding presents some real difficulties which I did not recognize before. The first difficulty that I now recognize is this: If the Old Covenant fully ended at the cross, and the New Covenant having its beginning at Pentecost, then there is a period there of fifty days where God had no covenant at all with His people. But are we to understand that for those fifty days, He had no covenant relationship with anyone and that everyone who died physically during those fifty days were under no covenant with God, and thus were lost? Surely, this cannot be the case!
My old view further presented confusion because, if the last days of which Peter speaks, has a nexus or connection with the New Covenant (or Christian) age, and not the Old Covenant (or Mosaic) age, then it seems to me that it would contradict a number of other passages in the New Covenant Scriptures; passages that we will explore momentarily. And so the more I studied, the more I could see glaring discrepancies between what the Scriptures actually said and what I “perceived” them to say. And good folks, I learned many years ago, that anytime there’s a seeming contradiction between what the Scriptures actually say, and what I think they say, well, I’m the loser, O.K? God’s word wins every time!
Now I don’t know, but perhaps you, too, may have experienced some of the same confusion as well in your studies on this matter of the last days. And, that you, too, have wondered about these things. If that should indeed be the case, then let’s both look just a little further and see if we can reach a conclusion that will not only clear up the confusion, but that is also totally consistent with the message our Father is conveying.
In our effort to accomplish this, I believe that a recognition of “audience relevance” must be applied. By that I am simply saying: When reading the Scriptures, we simply must keep in mind that the things we are reading, whether spoken by Christ or written by His inspired writers, were not spoken and/or written to “us.” Good folks, I am now persuaded that one invaluable thing we must always keep in mind is that the Scriptures, even though they were written “for” us, they were, in actuality, written “to” those in that era. And for that reason, I believe it is crucial that we study and understand them in their setting and context! For I believe to do otherwise is but to set ourselves up for a distortion in our interpretation and/or understanding of God’s message!
So, in light of the above, there are two questions that immediately come to mind for me:  Just what are these “last days,” and  At what point do or did these last days come to an end? But good folks, please let me say first, that I find no place in the Scriptures that speaks of more than just “one” last days period. I must be honest and say that I can find no consistency with Scripture for any teaching that would provide for both a “last days” period for the Old Covenant age and then another “last days” period for the New Covenant [See Daniel 2:44; 7:14; Isaiah 9:6, 7; Luke 1:32, 33; Ephesians 3:20, 21; Hebrews 12:28; 13:30]. Luke, for example, in recording the words of the angel Gabriel, regarding the birth of Jesus said:
“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end” [Luke 1:32, 33].
Notice also what Daniel prophesies:
“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days, and was presented before Him. And He was given dominion, Glory and a Kingdom that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” [Daniel 7:13, 14].
Then there are the words of Paul in Ephesians 3:21, which say:
“To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen”
And so I ask you, dear ones, in light of the three passages (plus the others in the group above), is it really appropriate for us to speak of the last days of something which has no end?
Testimony of the Inspired Writers Concerning the Last Days:
Earlier, I mentioned one reason why I now do not believe that the Old Covenant and its “the last days” came to a full end at the cross of Jesus.” Please consider this with me: If that were indeed the case, then how would we explain the fact that the quotation by Peter [Acts 2:16-21] of Joel’s prophecy in 2:28-32, was made fifty days “after” Jesus rose from the dead? Moreover, please note with me another passage of great significance to these questions. The scribe of Hebrews penned his epistle to Jewish disciples about 64-65 A.D. and he had this to say in 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.”
Good folks, please look very closely at that passage! Do you see what I see? Do you see how the writer puts into the same “last days” time-frame both the “preaching by Jesus” and the “writing of the Hebrews epistle?” I find that really remarkable! Yes, the writer says that God’s Son has spoken [past tense] in these [present tense] last days. And so, in this passage there is one thing that now comes into perfect focus for me, and that is: That the last days period in which Jesus spoke while on earth (30 A.D.), and the last days period in which the Hebrews writer penned his epistle (64-65 A.D.), were one and the same “last days” period! Therefore, this tells me that the old covenant age could not have come to a full end, neither at the cross, nor by 65 A.D. when the Hebrews epistle was penned!
What Does Peter Mean; These Last Times:
If you would be so kind, would you please consider another passage which in my view is also quite definitive regarding the term, “the last days.” The apostle Peter wrote his first epistle at about the same time as the Hebrews scribe. Please listen to what he said in 1st Peter 1:20:
“For He (Jesus-jg) was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you (you 1st century disciples-jg).”
And just what are “these last times?” Please notice that Peter prefaces last times with the demonstrative adjective, “these” which means: “the one(s) here.” At this point we are at least clear on just what “last times” are under consideration in his statement. Concerning “these last times, there are three things that now become evident to me in this passage:  Peter was presently living in them, and  the 1st century recipients of his epistle were presently living in them, and  Jesus’ first appearance came during them! And now if we can learn the exact meaning of the term, “last times,” then I would think we can get an accurate understanding of the passage.
In Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, this term, “last times” is under his #2078, and is from the Greek word, “es-khat-os.” Interestingly enough, this term is the same word from which we get “eschatology,” i.e. the study of last things. This word, “es-khat-os” is used a total of 48 times in the New Covenant scriptures. Moreover, there is something else that is even more interesting and also quite definitive about this particular word; something I believe all of us really need to remember: Anytime we see the expressions, “last day, last days, last time, last times, or last hour” in the new covenant scriptures, the Greek word that is employed, without exception, is this very word, “es-khat-os.”
Personally, I would now think that this really should remove all doubt as to what period of time is under consideration here in our passage. For this must be “the last days of the old covenant age.” Yes, this is the age which was about to disappear at the time Peter wrote his epistle.
I say the old covenant age was about to disappear at the time Peter wrote simply because the Hebrews scribe (who also wrote circa 64-65 A. D.) addresses the very subject of the “passing away of the old covenant.” He wrote in Hebrews 8:13:
“When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.”
We have already noted above where this same writer stated in Hebrews 1:1, 2 that he was presently writing “in these last days.” And here he says (at the time of his writing this epistle) that the old covenant was presently in the process of becoming obsolete, growing old, and as such, was ready to disappear. Can there really be any doubt as to what the inspired writer is saying here? Can there really be any doubt that as late as 64-65 A. D. when the writer penned this Hebrews epistle, that the Old Covenant had not yet “fully” passed away?
And so, good folks, please allow me to end this particular point with this simple question: If the Old Covenant was “becoming” obsolete, and “growing” old when this writer penned his epistle, which was some 35 years after the cross, is it even reasonable or logical to suggest that the Old Covenant came to a full-end at the cross, or at Pentecost? Personally, I believe to even ask that question is to answer it!
And so we have seen how both Peter and the Hebrews scribe treated this matter of the last days. We have learned from both of them that not only were they living in the last days period, but were also approaching the end of that period. And this I believe to be of great import! It is important because of something Peter wrote near the end of his life, perhaps around 66 A.D. Please notice in 1 Peter 1:4, 5, what he said to his fellow 1st century disciples concerning their salvation for which they were eagerly waiting. He first declares in verse 3 that they had been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And then he continues, saying:
“…to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (you 1st century disciples-jg), who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Again, as we can see here, these disciples were presently living in “the last time” or “last days,” and as Peter says, they were awaiting the coming/presence of their Lord with their promised inheritance. This is the same inheritance that their Master had personally promised and expressed to the apostles in His Olivet Discourse in Luke 21:28 [Comp. Hebrews 9:28].
There is also another inspired apostle who wrote during that period, albeit toward the very end of that period. I’m speaking, of course, about the apostle John. Please notice what he said to his 1st century recipients in 1 John 2:18:
“Children, it is (present tense) the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now (present tense) many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.”
As we see here, John is alerting these 1st century disciples to the fact that there were many antichrists that had come on the scene and were fighting against the cause of Christ. From these words of John, I conclude that not only was he writing in “the last days,” but near the very end of the last days! It should be noted that John says the very presence of “antichrists” at that point in time, was proof that they were then living in the “last hour” of the “last days.” It was proof simply because the antichrists were to come in the “last days,” were they not? Surely, this kind of language would indicate that the time was very, very short before the parousia (coming/presence) of their Master would occur.
O dear brothers and sisters, please let us not be misled into thinking that the last days of which the 1st century inspired writers spoke, were pointing to a time twenty centuries in their future! I believe we have seen irrefutable evidence that they wrote of the times in which they lived. As we bring this little enterprise to a close, please look with me at what the very brother of our Lord wrote to his recipients with reference to those Israelities of his day, who placed their confidence in their earthly riches. In James 5:3 he declared:
“Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is (present tense) in the last days that you have stored up your treasure.”
Dear ones, just as in all the other passages that we have examined, the Lord’s brother, James here shows clear indication that those disciples were presently living in the last days. And it seems quite clear that the last days to which all of these inspired writers have reference, are indeed those of “The Old Covenant age,” the world of “fleshly” Israel and Judaism which was soon to come to an end. As for the New Covenant age, as we have already pointed out earlier, the scriptures clearly indicate that the age of the New Covenant Kingdom has no end and consequently no “last days,” and therefore will remain forever and ever. Thank you so very much for sharing this time with me.
Yours in Him,