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Are These the Last Days?

Introduction

Believers are often told that these days we are now living in are the "end times" or the "last days." In the Bible we read about the "last days," "latter days," "end time," etc. [1], and people tend to think that these phrases, all of the time, are referring to the same period of time. These words require some explanation since the Bible uses this terminology in a variety of ways. Some Bible references do refer to our persent time, the Church in the last days, while others do not, they refer to Israel in the Tribulation period. The context enables us to know whether the Bible is speaking of the last days relating to Israel or the last days in reference to the Church.

Scripture teaches that this present age will end with the Rapture of the Church. At some point in time after the Rapture the Tribulation begins, which will end with the second coming of Christ to set up his earthly, millennial Kingdom. So, it is important to distinguish between the last days of the Church age and the last days for Israel in the Tribulation.

Church Age Signs?

Many believe that there are specific signs that relate to the end of the Church age, which I don't. I see the Bible indicating what the condition of the Church will be like, the course of this age, as it warns about general conditions towards the end of the Church age.

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, (2 Peter 3:3)

These verses speak of the apostasy within the Church that was predicted to occur.

The Church Age Use of Last Days

There are several New Testament passages where "last days," "last times," and "last time" clearly refer to the Church age.

Hebrews says,

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 (Heb. 1:1- 2).

The context of this passage makes "last days" a reference to the current Church age in which we presently live.

Peter also states,

For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you (1 Pet. 1:20).

The "last times," to which he refers to is the last two thousand years in which we still live, the Church age.

John supports this too when he says,

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour (1 John 2:18).

Jude, speaking of the last days says,

that they were saying to you, In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts (Jude 1:18).

Note that there are at least four clear references in the New Testament that use the end times vocabulary to refer to what was going on in their own day as well as to the entire Church age. [2]

So we are clearly living in the last days, since the entire Church age is to be considered the last days. But that is not what the typical Christian means when they ask, "Are these the last days?" They want to know if we are living in a time when the final prophecies of Scripture are being fulfilled. And to that I'd have to say no, since the Tribulation has not begun yet.

The Old Testament Use of Last Days

The Old Testament use of end times vocabulary refers to the time leading up to the coming of Messiah, to set up His earthly kingdom, which is known as the Tribulation period. The Old Testament usage of these terms is quite different than those which speak of the Church age.

The term "latter days" is used of the Tribulation by Daniel:

However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days (Dan. 2:28).

Daniel begins to reveal God's plan for the future, which revolves around events of the Tribulation period.

The same is true in Daniel 10:14:

Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future (Dan. 10:14).

Daniel uses other "latter day" terms that refer to the Tribulation period. Terms like "end of time" (Dan. 8:17; 12:4, 9) and "end of the age" (Dan. 12:13) speak of the Tribulation period to come. These terms are used three times in Daniel 12. This chapter speaks of "a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time." The Hebrew word is translated "distress" and means tribulation. The context is once again a reference to the coming Tribulation.

The teachings about the end times in Daniel are to be sealed up for the Jewish people until "the end of time."

But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase. (Daniel 12:4)

There are at least six clear references in the Old Testament that use end times vocabulary. [3]

Conclusion

The Bible clearly speaks of the last days or end times, but it does not always refer to the same period of time. As we said earlier the context enables the reader to know whether the Bible is speaking of the last days relating to Israel or the last days in reference to the Church.

For the church, the "last days" began with the first advent of Christ (Hebrews 1:2) but have special reference to the time of apostasy and decline at the end of this age (2 Timothy 3:1); (2 Timothy 4:3-4). For Israel, the "last days" are the days of Israel's Tribulation and then exaltation and blessing during the Millennial Kingdom (Isaiah 2:2-5).

So are these the last days? From the above discussion, we are currently living in the last days because we are in the Church age, which is called the "last days," "last times," and "last time." But in no way are we in the last days, as the Old Testament indicates for Israel. Those terms, "latter days," " last days," " latter years," "end of time," and "end of the age" all refer to a time when Israel is in her time of tribulation, a future time.

I believe we are seeing the events unfolding today that will culminate in the Tribulation, though we are not currently in that time today.

Written by Alan Torres

Endnotes

[1] Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1995


[2] The Last Days for the Church

last days: 2 Timothy 3:1; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:3; 2 Peter 3:3

later times 1 Timothy 4:1

last times: 1 Peter 1:20

last time: 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 1:18

last day: John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48

last hour: 1 John 2:18


[3] The Last Days for Israel

last days: Isaiah 2:2; Jeremiah 23:20; 49:39; Ezekiel 38:16; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1; Acts 2:17

latter days: Deu. 4:30; Jeremiah 30:24, Daniel 2:28; 10:14

latter years: Ezekiel 38:8

end of time: Daniel 12:4,

end time: Daniel 11:35, 40;12:9

time of the end Daniel 8:17, 19

end of the age: Daniel 12:13

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