January 25, 2017 by J.A. Hardgrave
Are We Living In The Last Days?
Written By J.A. Hardgrave
I spent my whole childhood and into my early adulthood believing we were living in the last days of planet earth, or the last days of the Christian age.
I always had this terrible feeling in my mind that at any moment the whole world was going to collapse before our very eyes, and I would probably not live to see the age of 30.
This caused me to have an incredibly negative world view that caused me to be fearful of doing anything that involved longevity or the future.
I didn’t see the point in going to college, starting a family, a career, or a ministry since at any moment I thought the world was going to end and it would all end up being cut short.
I have found, years later, I was not alone in this disturbing world view.
All of the negative news articles, end of the world predictions (every September it seemed like), terrorist attacks, rise of the Illuminati and government corruption, all seemed to confirm that we didn’t have much time left on planet earth.
I trusted that the TV preachers and creators of the Left Behind series had let the Bible define their understanding of “the last days”, and not relied heavily on other views outside of the Bible such as Dispensationalism.
Dispensationalism was popularized by a man named John Darby around 1830, and teaches that all past present and future history can be divided into 7 dispensations or “periods of time.”
This system teaches we are currently living in the “Church age”, the world is growing darker, and a secret rapture of Christians will trigger 7 years of tribulation where the antichrist will rise, make a covenant with the Jews, break the covenant after 3 1/2 years, then for 3 1/2 years the world will be in total chaos or “tribulation” until Christ final return with His raptured saints to set up His earthly kingdom, defeat the “antichrist”, and to bring the “Kingdom Age”.
Dispensationalist believe the Jews rejected the Kingdom when Jesus offered it to them so it was delayed until God offers it to them again during a future tribulation period where they will finally accept it, ushering in “The Kingdom Age”.
That’s precisely why Dispensationalist believe the church needs to be “raptured” off the earth, so God can once for all deal with national Israel during the tribulation period.
This belief system also puts the Kingdom in an age that we currently do not have access to, and it creates a worldview that equals a weak and declining church that fails to reform the corrupt systems of this world and needs to be rescued out.
The idea of the last days talking about the days leading up to a secret rapture, the end of planet earth, or the end of Christian age marked by utter evil and moral decline, is intimately connected to the Dispensational view which was foreign to the church prior to 1830.
A 1st century Jew would of never contemplated the end of planet earth as we often do.
They were concerned about two ages, “The present evil age, and the glorious age to come” (age of the Messiah).
I did not study what the Bible had to say about the last days because I was not taught any other views than Dispensationalism (Pre-Tribulation rapture) which states we are currently living in the last days of planet earth/the Christian age.
I did not even know my end time view was causing my negative world view, and I believed that since there were so many millions of loving Christians that were declaring we were living in the last days, it must be true.
How could I deny the evil that was happening in our world? Surely these were the last days and we were the terminal generation.
I was wrong, very wrong.
The question is what does the Bible say about the last days?
If we don’t go to the Bible for our understanding of the last days, then the concept of the last days becomes incredibly subjective and can be applied to virtually any generation and any time period as they often are.
The questions we have to ask are:
1) Does the Bible speak about the Last Days?
2) If so, which “Last Days” is the Bible refering to?
3) Are the last days in the past or in our present/future?
Once we have asked those questions, then we can make a determination of wether we are living in the last days right now.
Let me give you an example of how dangerous it is to not let the Bible govern our understanding of “the last days”.
Look at the following photos I took from my email:
Above are two different emails I got from Guitar Center.
I have a Guitar Center credit card and they constantly email me when they have 24 hour or weekend sales.
As you can see one email states that we were in the “Last Days“.
The last days of what?
The last days of a temporary sale they were having for Guitar Center credit card holders.
The other states we were in the “Final Hours“.
The final hours of what?
The final hours of the temporary Presidents’ Day sale they were having.
These “Last Days” and “Final Hours” of these sales are now over.
If I went to Guitar Center and tried to get these sales now, I would be immediately denied because we are not in those last days anymore.
If someone found these emails 2,000 years in the future, printed them out, and tried to explain to a Guitar Center representative “It says in this email right here we are in the last days of this sale”, what do you think the Guitar Center representative would tell that person?
The representative would explain that the last days of that sale were 2,000 years ago, thus they can’t also be the last days right now.
How many times do we read the Scriptures and see statements about “The Last Days” or “The last hour“, and forget about Audience Relevance.
What is Audience Relevance?
Audience Relevance is the essential interpretive principle that causes us to ask the game changing question “What did the term “last days” mean to the original audience”?
When they read these letters 2,000 years ago, and were told they were living in the last days, or “the last hour”, did they believe those days were 2,000+ years in their future, or days they were experiencing right then in the 1st century?
The Bible was written for us, but the Bible was not written to us.
I believe every Bible verse can have some sort of application for us today, however there were events and time periods that only had significant relevance to the 1st century audience as I will show.
Let’s take a look at some of the key Scriptures that speak about “the last days”, and using Audience Relevance, see if they fit the days of the 1st century audience, or our time 2,000 years later.
You decide for yourself.
The last days are either future or they are past, they can’t be both if we want to be Biblical.
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”
The author of Hebrews states Jesus appeared in the last days. Hebrews was written in about AD 65…
If the last days were over 2,000 years ago, we can’t also be in the last days today.
1st Timothy 1-6
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.”
Then in verse 6 Paul tells Timothy:
“If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.
Why would Paul instruct Timothy to “point out these things to the brothers and sisters” if they were speaking about latter times 2,000 years in their future?
Paul knew that these dangerous men and doctrines were currently at that time in existence, and he wanted to warn Timothy, and urge him to instruct others in “the truths of the faith and of good teaching” to help guide them during the latter times they were living in.
2nd Timothy 3:1-8
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Have nothing to do with such people.
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.
Paul describes the attributes of people who would be living in the “last days”, and then tells Timothy “have nothing to do with such people!”.
If these people were 2,000 years in the future Paul would not need to warn Timothy to “stay away from such people”.
Many don’t consider audience relevance and assume because there are selfish and boastful people who oppose truth in our day, we must be living in the end times!
The context clearly places these people as living in the last days that they were living in at that time. If we don’t consider audience relevance then the last days can be at virtually any time in any generation since every generation has people who are lovers of themselves, love money, boastful ect.
“He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
The author of Hebrews states that Christ appeared at “the end of the ages” and also “in the last days“.
1st Peter 1:20-21
“He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”
Peter also agrees Christ was manifested in “the last times”, which were at the time the letter was written, not 2,000 years in the future.
“But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.”
Luke, the author of Acts, declares that the Holy Spirit being poured out on the day of Pentecost was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, and this prophecy was fulfilled in “the last days” right before the Lord would come in judgement.
1st John 2:18
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many Antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.
John states that there were many Antichrist that were already present at the time the letter was being written, and the presence of those Antichrist (people who denied Jesus came in the flesh 1st John 4:3), were proof they were in “the last hour“.
1st Peter 4:7
“But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.”
The end of all things was “at hand” in Peters day. The end of all things was so close in their day that they could reach out and grasp it with their hand (figuratively speaking).
The question now becomes, “the last days, the last hour, and the end of what?”
We know they can’t be referring to the last days of planet earth or the Christian age, because here we are 2,000 years later after these letters were written, and planet earth is still here, and the Christian age has not ended.
The New Testament was written in a 40 year transition period between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
The last days are referencing the last days of the Old Covenant which ended when God used the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.
Between AD 30 and AD 70 God allowed a 40 year period/generation for people to leave the Old Covenant and enter the New Covenant which was based on faith in Christ.
The best way I have heard it stated is imagine you walk outside in the morning, and you see that the moon is still barely visible but is quickly fading in visibility as the sun is rising and appearing.
There is a moment where both the sun and the moon are visible during the transition of the sun coming up and the moon disappearing.
This is the time period that the New Testament was written in, at the establishment and rise of the New Covenant, and the end and soon coming destruction of the Old Covenant.
This is what the writer of Hebrews means when he says:
“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”
The Old Covenant had become obsolete after Christ death burial and resurrection, followed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In this 40 year transition period both covenants were allowed to exist simultaneously until judgement was finally poured out on Jerusalem and the temple by the Roman armies in AD 70 and the Old Covenant world “disappeared”.
In this judgement, the temple was completely destroyed, over 1 million Jews were killed, and the entire city was burned to the ground.
This destruction of Jerusalem was an announcement to the world that God was finished with the Old Covenant system and it would never again be re-instituted since we now have the new and better covenant based upon Christ’s blood and His perfect final sacrifice for sin.
Jesus clearly prophesied these events in Matthew 21-24.
Jesus spends Matthew 21-23 targeting the Pharisees and Scribes as the recipients of the judgement that would come within their generation. Look how Matthew 23 ends. Notice the use of the word “you”. Not you as in “us”, you as in the Pharisees and Scribes who were the main representatives of the Old Covenant world/order.
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
Jesus and the disciples walked out of the temple and go to the mount of Olives where we start Matthew 24.
“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.
“Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
The disciples had heard that judgement would be poured out in their generation, the temple would be left desolate, and the temple would be thrown down one stone upon another.
Hearing these things they asked Jesus questions based upon their observations.
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Notice the coming of the Lord, the end of the age, and the destruction of the temple are a conjunction, they were all the same event.
The coming of the Lord was a judgement coming that was to take place before their generation passed away. This judgement coming took place when God used the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.
Because the temple was destroyed, there was no place to perform the animal sacrifices, thus the Old Covenant age was officially over.
The disciples are not asking about the end of planet earth, or the end of the Christian age, Jesus had not even announced the New Covenant or died on the cross at this point.
The disciples were asking about the signs that would lead up to the end of the age, the age they were living in, the old covenant age with its animal sacrifices and temple service.
They knew with the destruction of the temple and those unbelieving Pharisees and Scribes, the Old Covenant age would cease to exist.
In Matthew 24, Jesus gives the signs that would lead up to the end of the age, the old covenant age, and these signs were in “the last days” which was the 40 year transition period between covenants prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Christ gives the signs prior to His judgement coming on the Old Covenant system:
-False Christ and false prophets misleading many showing great signs and wonders misleading even the elect.
-Wars and rumors of wars.
-Nation rising against nation.
-Kingdom rising against kingdom.
-Famines and earthquakes.
-Jesus disciples delivered into tribulation and killed, and hated by all nations.
-Many will fall away and deliver and hate one another.
-People’s love will grow cold.
-Gospel preached to the whole world(Greek word for world is Oikumene meaning “Inhabited earth” or “Roman Empire”, the same Greek word used when Cesar taxed the whole “world”, the Roman world) (Luke 2:1)
-Abomination of desolation standing in the Holy Place spoken of through the prophet Daniel.
-Believers fleeing to the mountains of Judea.
-Great tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world.
-Eagles gathering around corpses when the Son of Man comes like lightning.(An Eagle was the Romans symbol and they often placed it on their shields).
-Sun darkened, moon won’t give its light, stars falling from the sky(Blood moons are not a prophetic sign of the end of the world as many use this verse to back their claim, the sun going dark, and the moon not giving light were to happen before that generation passed away, and this is typical Old Testament apocalyptic language and should not be taken literally, study the way the sun, moon, and stars are used in the Old Testament it’s pretty interesting).
-The Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory, God will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and gather together the elect.
Then Jesus states in Matthew 24:34
“Assuredly I say to you, all these things happen before this generation passes away”.
These events were to soon take place for the 1st century audience. Look at a few verses that show the nearness of this judgement coming of the Lord.
“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Matthew 10:23
“For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what they have done. Truly I tell you, some of you who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Matthew 16:27-28
When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him? “Jesus answered, “If I want him(John) to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:21-22
“And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:11-12
“But this I say, brethren, the time is short…. For the form of this world is passing away.” 1st Corinthians 7:29-31
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” 1st Corinthians 10:11
“Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:5
“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:12-13
“For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.” Hebrews 10:37
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, lest you be condemned, behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” James 5:7-9
“The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.” Revelation 1:1
“Nevertheless, hold fast to what you have until I come. Revelation 2:25
“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” Revelation 3:11
“The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.
“Behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of prophecy in this book.” Revelation 22:6-7
“He also said to me, “Don’t seal the prophetic words of this book, because the time is near.” Revelation 22:10
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to each person according to what he has done.” Revelation 22:10
“He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20
(Also see 1 Peter 1:13; 1st Corinthians 1:7-8;2nd Thessalonians 1:5-10; 1st Timothy 6:14; Philippians 1:6; 1st Thessalonians 4:15;Revelation 1:3)
You and I have never lived in “the last days”, because the last days were never supposed to be applied in our day, but were the days prior to the end of the Old Covenant age.
That doesn’t mean there are not evil things that happen in each generation, but if we are going to be Biblical, we can’t attribute those events as being associated with the last days of planet earth or the Christian age, when the Bible clearly states the last days were a time period the Bible writers were living in at the time the letters where being written.
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