Much discussion of the “Last Days” fills our popular religious literature. In each generation, the clergy seem eager to alert the laymen to the imminence of these “Last Days”.
A primary issue in understanding the biblical “Last Days” is to ask the question, “Of what time period do these “Last Days” mark the end?” Orthodoxy would have us believe that the “Last Days” refer to the end of human history and possibly the end of the physical creation as we know it.
Biblical “Last Days” are generally recognized as a part the study of eschatology, or doctrine of last things, things associated with the return of Christ and the completion of his work. By implication this association links the “Last Days” with the other aspects of Christ’s return, such as resurrection, judgment, and the fulfillment of all remaining biblical promises. The “Last Days” therefore become the climax of God’s plan as expressed in the entire Bible. In this sense, the entire Bible points toward these days, and the entire book can be said to be eschatological.
Hebrews 1:1 tells us that Christ spoke in the last days. Some would have us believe that this “last days” period began with Christ and extends up until today and on into the future for as long as it takes for Christ to return physically to earth. This equates to at least a 2000 year long “last days”. It’s more like the “last millennia.”
What does the Bible say about the period in which Christ lived and ministered? Though the story of Jesus’ birth and earthly ministry are included in what is popularly known as the New Testament, Jesus, in fact, lived and died under the Old Testament Covenant of the Law (Gal. 4:4-5). He was a Jewish Messiah born under the auspices of the Old Covenant relationship. A study of the parables of Jesus (Luke 20:9-16 for example) and of his prophetic discourses, notably Matt 23-25, demonstrates that he taught the imminent end of Judaism and the Old Covenant.
To what then logically do the “Last Days” refer? Jesus spoke in the “last days”. Jesus lived in the Old Covenant Age. The last days of the age in which Jesus lived was the last days of Judaism, as foretold in Jesus’ most famous prophetic discourse (Matt 23-25). One can conclude then that the “Last Days” were those prophesied for
On the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, Peter proclaims that the events of that day were a fulfillment of a prophecy in Joel about the “Last Days”. Peter was living in the last days of Judaism as he preached to the
If, in fact, the “Last Days” are “past days” why are present day teachers so hung up on a future “Last Days”? This question is fairly simple, really. Somewhere in the past, orthodox Christian doctrine was established by the “early church fathers”. They did not understand the “Last Days” and their misunderstanding has been perpetuated into our day. Orthodoxy represents a time honored doctrinal position and to the extent orthodoxy is incorrect, it is simply a device by which erroneous teaching is past on unchallenged from one generation to the next. That has happened over and over in church history. After a time orthodoxy takes on an aura of certainty simply because of its lengthy history. No one dares to question it for fear of being heretical. Thus misconceptions are “set in stone”.
Finally, if the “Last Days” are not part of a future period, where does that leave us. For one it leaves us free from the “gloom and doom” mentality which is so prevalent in the orthodox understanding of future “Last Days”. It becomes the difference between a positive future outlook and worldview versus one that sees God’s redemptive plan as incomplete and therefore thus far ineffective. Seeing a completed “Last Days” along with a completed redemptive plan opens the possibility of removing the stigma associated with the orthodox presentation of the Gospel with its preoccupation with a “Last Days” judgment. God’s message becomes truly unbelievable, not because it predicts doom, but because it reveals unimaginable love and mercy.