Many are concerned about the “last days.” A large number of Christians believe we are in the “last days” now as we approach the year 2,000. There are some who believe the “last days” started almost 2,000 years ago and will end with the Return of Christ. What does the Bible teach about “last days”? When do these “last days” end?
The phrase “last days” only occurs a handful of times in the Christian Bible, the New Testament. The words are drawn from the Greek ESCHATAIS HEMERAIS and the first occurrence is found in Acts 2:17 when Peter gives his Pentecostal speech to the Jews. His language would seem to confirm that Peter believed in the year 33 CE he was in the “last days.” [Jesus never uses such a term.]
Other occurrences of the words “last days” occur in contexts, which would argue that the designation was being applied to the final period of the Jewish Temple Age. Speaking to Timothy, Paul writes, using the singular “you” -- “You know [Timothy] that in the last days difficult times will come.” [2 Timothy 3:1] These words would seem to apply to Timothy who was living before the end of the Jewish Temple Age. Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians before he destruction of the Jewish Temple: “[God] hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” Hebrews 1:2 KJV] This would also put the “last days” before the end of the Temple as well as indicate they began with the coming of Messiah in the year 29 CE when he began to speak to the Jews. The disciple James warns rich Jews, “It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure.” [James 5:3 NAS] These were alive before the end of he Jewish Temple Age in the year 70 CE.
Peter is to use “last days” again and likely he has the same context of his initial use in mind. 2 Peter 3:3 says, “In the last days there will come mockers with their mockery.” It seems the disciple Jude quotes this statement in his small epistle: “The apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ spoke beforehand in their message, ‘In the last days there will be mockers.’” [Jude 17, 18] Thus, both Peter and Jude confirmed they were living in the “last days” of the Jewish Temple Age. However, how long were these “last days”? When did they begin and when did they end?
We learned above that it seems likely these “last days” began when Messiah came preaching following his baptism in the year 29 CE. [Hebrews 1:2] Would these “last days” have a precise end? Or, would they continue on for more than two thousand years, including our own day and beyond?
It seems fair to state that by the very phrase “last days” must have a conclusion or consummation. Did the “last days” that began with the coming of Jesus Christ have such a conclusion, bring those “last days” to their end? It seems so.
When Jesus was discussing the time when the Jewish Temple would be desolated or destroyed his disciples asked him, “What will be the sign ... of the conclusion of the Age?” [Matthew 24:3] Though there are several views on the meaning of this question, may we suggest one? The disciples are found used a Greek word SYNTELEIAS which means consummation or conclusion. The context of their question was regarding the end [HO TELOS] of Jerusalem’s Temple. [Matthew 24:1, 2; for details see Nazarene Commentary] Where did the disciples get this word?
It seems possible they drew upon a prophetic context in Daniel which also foretold the SYNTELEIAS upon Jerusalem and her Temple. Consider Daniel 9:27, And on the Temple shall be the abomination of desolations; and at the end of times [SYNTELEIAS] an end [SYNTELEIA] shall be put to the desolation.” [LXX Bagster] This would seem to predict a definite conclusion to Jerusalem’s “last days” when her Temple was desolated. In answering his disciples’ question, Jesus himself draws on Daniel 9:27 at Matthew 24:15 indicating this conclusion surely deals with Jerusalem’s Temple. Thus, it would seem those “last days” ended with the desolation of the Jews in the early 70s CE.
How can we sure this is the meaning, however? We remember that Paul had used the phrase “last days” in Hebrews 1:2. Does Paul teach these “last days” would have their own conclusion during his own contemporary times? We find the answer in Hebrews 9:2, “Now [Jesus] has been made manifest once for all time at the conclusion [SYNTELEIA] of the Age [TON AIONON], putting away of the sin by the sacrifice of himself.” The phrase “conclusion of the Age” is exactly the same used by the disciples in Matthew 24:3. [Compare also 1 Corinthians 10:11.]
Thus, those “last days” of which Peter first spoke were upon that period of time -- the Jewish Temple Age -- which began in the year 29 CE and ended -- or had their conclusion -- with the desolation of the Jews during the war with the Romans from the fall of 66 you to the spring of 73 and the conquest of Masada. [This actual period was predicted in Daniel 8:14 as 2,300 days which would bring the “time of the end” to an actually conclusion.] Does all of this mean there will be no future “last days”?
The above would argue we are not now in the “last days” as no such phrase occurs in the Bible in relation to our own time period before the year 2,000. This does not necessarily mean we are NOT in the “last days”? Why?
The phrase “last days” does not appear in the book of Revelation. However, there is a precise period of time which is to precede the Return (or, Parousia) of Jesus Christ. It is a period lasting three and a half years [or, 42 months, 1,260 days]. This period of oppression against the Messianic Saints is described in Revelation chapters 11, 12, and 13. The prophetic idea is drawn from Daniel 7:21-25 as well as Daniel 12:1-3, 7, 11, 12. With the conclusion of this period of great oppression [Revelation 7:14; Matthew 24:21] Messiah arrives in his foretold parousia to deliver his Saints out of harm’s way -- and this by a rapturous snatching off this planet’s surface! [1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; Revelation 11:12]
No one knows the “day and hour” [Mark 13:32, 33] -- or even appointed “season” [Acts 1:7] -- of the approaching of this period. Indeed, our Savior warned about some false prophets and pseudo anointed who would false preach, “The time is at hand!” And then warned not to follow or join such persons. [Luke 21:8] Judging from all of these matters it seems that no one can state with surety we are in the “last days” now. However, once the “great oppression” with its 1,260 days becomes apparent, perhaps then, and only then, could Christian Saints look back and say, “We are in the Last Days!” They will have to yet endure the holocaust of the great oppression and await the Rapture off this earth as those “last days” continue to their finale. [Revelation chapters 17-19] It will be during that time that a voice from heaven will declare, “THE END HAS COME!” [Revelation 16:17 Phillips Modern English] Those “last days” of Satan’s disastrous rule of the world will end to be -- O Joy! -- replaced by Messiah’s Kingdom. [Revelation 11:15-17]
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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