There are matters we often take for granted. In life. In religion. We have certain ideas passed down to us without ever examining them. One such idea I was always exposed to was the teaching on the “last days.” I believed we were, indeed, in the Last Days and these began in 1914. We were deep into “the time of the end.” It never dawned on me for a moment to examine this subject of the “last days” with a more reasonable eye.
I took these words and with computer search programs keyed up those occurrences of the phrase, “last days.” First, I wanted to know if Jesus ever used such a phrase? He did not. Did the phrase appear in the Bible’s last Book, the Apocalypse? No. How often did it appear in the Christian Scriptures? It is interesting how matters look when one lists the occurrence of a certain word or phrase on a chalkboard. In the case of this phrase “last days” there were only six! A whole doctrine based on so few occurrences.
It would be nearly impossible to convince any JW that “the last days” only occur half a dozen times in the Christian Bible. Let alone that all of these occurrences deal with the “end” of Jerusalem’s Temple Age and not our generation today. There would be an unreasonable mental block to this idea. But, here I list those texts which would carry the phrase “last days” in most Bibles.
1. ‘On the contrary, this is what was said through the prophet Joel, “And in the last days,"46 God says, "I shall pour out some of my spirit.’ (Acts 2:16, 17) This is from Peter’s Pentecostal speech where he quotes Joel 2:28-31 and applies it to those “last days” upon the Jews.
|46||LAST DAYS. In this case the phrase “last days” does not occur in Joel but are the result of Peter’s interpretative paraphrase.|
2. ‘But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.’ (2 Timothy 3:1) This is an often used text by JWs. I know because I used it often and gave many a public lecture trying to prove this was not talking about the end of the Jewish world. However, two things began to bother me: a) the Greek has the singular “you” in the opening words showing it has a timely application to Timothy; and, b) the context between 2 Timothy 2:20-3:9 would argue Paul has in mind Timothy’s own circumstances and not a generation two thousand years in the future.
3. ‘God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days [last days, KJV] spoken to us by means of a Son.’ (Hebrews 1:1, 2) These “last days” seem to clearly apply to that generation in the First Century.
4. ‘Something like fire is what you have stored up in the last days.’ (James 5:3) This could not apply to the future for it is addressed to James’ own contemporaries.
5. ‘For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: "Where is this promised presence of his?”’ (2 Peter 3:3, 4) At first glance this text could be speaking about some ridiculers two thousand years after Peter wrote. However, I discovered this verse is actually quoted by the disciple Jude. Note this: ‘As for you, beloved ones, call to mind the sayings that have been previously spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, how they used to say to you: "In the last time there will be ridiculers, proceeding according to their own desires for ungodly things."’ (Jude17, 18) Thus, Peter’s words applied to those times and not the future.
It was striking to discover this. But, what about the Nazarene’s answer47 to his own disciples when they asked: ‘Tell us, what will be the sign of your Presence and the conclusion of the system of things?’ (Matthew 24:3 NW) This was to bother me greatly and it would be almost a year before I had solved that problem which began at that assembly in San Diego three years before. I will get to this later.
|47||NAZARENE’S ANSWER. For details see Nazarene Principles and Nazarene Apocalypse!|
Conclusion of the System of Things. There was something I had observed, however, about the use of this phrase “conclusion of the system of things.” JWs make much of this. I sought to discover the Greek form used in this verse. It was synteleias tou aionos. Where might Matthew get such a word as synteleias to put in the mouths of the disciples in his Greek translation? I discovered the same word was used in the Jewish Greek Septuagint at Daniel 9:27: ‘And one week shall establish the covenant with many: and in the midst of the week my sacrifice and drink-offering shall be taken away: and on the Temple shall be the abomination of desolation; and at the end (synteleias) of the time an end (synteleia) shall be put to the desolation.’ This text has always been applied by the Society to Messiah’s death in 33 AD and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus himself paraphrases this verse at Matthew 24:15. And, so, this “conclusion” was the end of the Jewish Temple Age and not “the end of the world.”
I found the whole phrase synteleia ton aionon, nearly identical to that in Matthew 24:3 at Hebrews 9”26: ‘But now he has manifested himself once for all time at the conclusion of the systems of things to put sin away through the sacrifice of himself.’ How could Paul have written that without thinking first of Daniel 9:27 and the disciples’ question at Matthew 24:3. (Compare also 1 Corinthians 10:11) All of this seemed to indicate the disciples had the end of Jerusalem in mind and not some generation far into the future. The “last days” were those upon Jerusalem and its Holy Temple. These “last days” had an “end” or “consummation” described in the Greek word synteleia. They do not continue on for nineteen centuries.
Time of the end. There is another phrase, “time of the end,” which is very familiar among JWs. This also came under scrutiny. I was beginning to detect a pattern in all of this. This phrase, “time of the end,” occurs exactly 6 times in the NWT. All in the Book of Daniel. (Daniel 8:17, 19; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9) A comparison of these shows the strong possibility they all apply to that “end” upon Jerusalem foretold in Daniel 9:27 and not our day approaching the year 2,000.
Nazarene Commentary 2000©
Mark Heber Miller
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