Are We Living in the “Last Days”?

 

In this blog’s last survey about Peter’s Pentecost sermon, a big majority, 72 percent, voted for that first Pentecost Sunday as the start of the “last days.” A few others believe that our generation is the generation that lives in the “last days.”

Every Generation the “Terminal Generation”?

Click to enlarge

The belief that we are the “terminal generation” is tied to the return of Jews to Israel in 1948. Twenty percent of responders believe the last days started on that year. This is the view of the majority of dispensational premillennialists such as Tim LaHaye (Understanding the Last Days), Hal Lindsey (The Terminal Generation; Israel and the Last Days), Greg Laurie (Are We Living in the Last Days?), John Hagee (Attack on America: New York, Jerusalem, and the Role of Terrorism in the Last Days), and Robert Lightner (Last Days Handbook). “We are the generation that will see the end times… and the return of Jesus,” Lindsey wrote in The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon. Like all false prophets dating back 2,000 years ago, from Montanus (150) to Melchior Hoffman (1533) to William Miller (1843-4), all of the current false prophets believe that ours is the “terminal generation.”

But let us look at the text in Acts 2:14-21 and elsewhere (all emphasis added, English Standard Version) and see what they really say about the last days.

The Last Days: Between Christmas and the Second Advent
When God poured out his Spirit on the disciples on that first Pentecost Sunday, the Jews who were gathered in Jerusalem for that Feast of Pentecost were amazed and perplexed because they heard the disciples telling them in their own tongues the mighty works of God. Some of the people mocked them saying, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter spoke to them, saying that it was too early in the day to be drunk, and instead, what was happening was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy:

16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

Going back to Joel 2:28-32, there is a slight difference in the opening words. Joel begins his prophecy with, “And it shall come to pass afterward” (meta tauta, LXX), while Peter starts with, “And in the last days (en tais eschatais hemerais) it shall be.”

What Peter wanted to convey to the Jews is that the events on that Pentecost mark the inauguration of the last days, a new age in God’s redemptive plan. Where the Jews saw “all flesh” in Joel’s prophecy as a referent only to Israel, Peter saw it later as an expansion of the new covenant to Jews and Gentiles (Acts 2:39). Where Joel saw God pouring his Spirit even on literal servants, Peter saw Spirit-filled men and women who declare God’s mighty works as the Lord’s servants. Paul also understood that the coming of Christ was at the “fullness of time” (pleroma tou chronou, Gal 4:4; see Eph 1:10) when the old covenant was giving ground to the new.

Peter called his time as the last times (eschatou chronon, 1 Pet 1:20-21), but he was not the only apostle who saw Pentecost as the beginning of the last days of redemptive history. Paul also called his days as the “later times” (en husterois kairois) in 1 Timothy 4:1, where he warns believers that there will be people “devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,” so they are to have “nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths” (1 Tim 4:7).

In 2 Timothy 3:1, he calls his time the “last days” (en eschatais hemerais), when already, there was wickedness. But he encourages them, “Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed” (2 Tim 3:14).

As well, John wrote that his days was already “the last hour” (eschate hora, 1 John 2:18), and Jude said his time was part of the “last time” (eschatou chronou, Jude 18).

For the New Testament writers, the first coming of Christ was the midpoint of human history – the end of the old era ushering in the new era – and they were at the very heart of this center. The writer of Hebrews says that in the old covenant, God spoke through the prophets; but “in these last days” (eschatou hemeron), God spoke to them – the apostles – through Jesus (Heb 1:2). When Christ first came, he “appeared once for all at the end of the ages (sunteleia ton aionon) to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb 9:26), the same “end of the ages” (tele ton aionon) that has already come upon the Corinthian believers in the first century (1 Cor 10:11). And again, Peter says that Jesus was “made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God” (1 Pet 1:20-21).

The “Signs” of the Last Days
If the last days have been with us since the first century, then whenever the New Testament talks about the characteristics of the last days, we should expect these same characteristics to be present today as they were present in the first century.

The Destruction of Jerusalem by David Roberts
The Destruction of Jerusalem (1849), lithograph from a painting by David Roberts (click to enlarge)

Thus, Jesus’ answers to the disciples’ question in Matthew 24 are a guide to the events and nature of the last days. The disciples had a threefold question: (1) “when will these things be,” (2) “and what will be the sign of your coming” (3) “and of the close of the age (sunteleias tou aionos)?” The first question refers back to his prophecy about the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in A. D. 70 in verses 1 and 2. The second question deals with his Second Coming and the third with the end of the world. Jesus’ answer is in three parts: (1) verses 4-14 deals with the last two questions; (2) verses 15-28 answers the first question; (3) verses 29-31 answers the question about his Second Coming.

As he was describing the fearsome events and turmoil of the close of the age, Jesus qualified them, saying, “for this must take place, but the end (telos) is not yet… All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (6b, 8). The destruction of the Temple is not the end, but just the beginning of birth pangs. If these signs are likened to birth pangs, they are to continue until the end of the world’s “labor,” intensifying with the progress of the “birth” process. False christs, wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, persecution, martyrdom, apostasy, false prophets and lawlessness (anomia) will be present throughout the age in increasing severity. Even the preaching of the gospel will increase, such that it “will be proclaimed throughout the whole world… and then the end (telos) will come” (verse 14).

The signs pointing towards the destruction of the Temple are a miniature of the birth pains pointing to the end of the age. The appearance of the “desolation of abomination spoken of by the prophet Daniel” is a foreshadow of the “man of lawlessness” (anthropos tes anomias), the Antichrist, who would proclaim himself as God, control the world, persecute and martyr believers, which will result in falling away (2 Thess 2:3; see Rev 13:5, 6). A great tribulation, false christs and false prophets – signs which precede the Temple destruction – also precede the close of the age.

This is why the New Testament writers warned first century believers about the nature of the last days. Paul warned that false teachers will seduce some to “depart (apostesontai, “fall away”) from the faith” in “later times” (husterois kairois, 1 Tim 4:1); ungodliness and unrighteous will be pervasive in the difficult “last days” (eschatais hemerais, 2 Tim 3:1). John says that his days is “the last hour” (eschate hora) marked by many antichrists (1 John 2:18). Scoffers will mock the faithful in the “last time” (eschatou chronou, Jude 18). All throughout history since the first coming of Christ, we know that all of these tribulations were present like birth pangs, and will be with us until the last day of the present last days.

But these signs do not tell us that the return of Jesus is “imminent” or can happen any moment now. Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, “For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed.” Two unmistakable events that must first take place before the last day comes: (1) a great apostasy, and (2) the appearing of the Antichrist.

The Last Day of the Last Days
Thus, at Christ’s first coming to sacrifice himself, the last days (later times, last hour, end of the ages) was inaugurated, but the consummation (sunteleia) at his second coming – the last day of the last days – still awaits. Christ warns all his disciples – from the first to the present century – not to speculate when that day [hemera] or hour [hora] will be, but that we are to keep watch because no one knows (Matt 24:36, 42), and “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope” (Tit 2:12-13).

Lindsey, a false prophet, has predicted the Second Coming from 1975 through 1988.

The Old Testament writers prophesied of “the day of the Lord” (yom Yahweh) mostly as a day of judgment (Isa 2:12; Joel 2:1, 31; Amos 5:18; Zeph 1:7, 14; Mal 4:5), destruction and restoration.

The apostles referred to Christ’s return in various ways: “the day of the Lord” (te hemera tou kuriou, 1 Cor 5:5); “the day of our Lord Jesus” (2 Cor 1:14); “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:8); “the day of Christ” (Phil 1:6, 2:16); “the day of God” (2 Pet 3:12″); “the day of eternity” (2 Pet 3:18); “day of visitation” (1 Pet 2:12; see Isa 10:3); “that day” (Matt 7:22; 1 Thess 5:4; 2 Tim 4:8).

The day of Christ will mark the end of this age and the beginning of the age to come.

In my next post, I will discuss the relationship between the last day and the resurrection. But first, please answer the new anonymous survey: “In the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, when are the two separated?”

Recommended Resources:
Dr. Michael Horton’s lecture on “The Last Days and the Book of Revelation”
Dr. Kim Riddlebarger’s discussion on Issues Etc. radio program, “Are We Living in the Last Days?”

____________________

My Favorite Eschatology Books
Beale, G. K. 1-2 Thessalonians. IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: IVPress, 2003.
_________. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
Demar, Gary. Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church. Atlanta: American Vision, 1999.
Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967.
Hoekema, Anthony. The Bible and the Future. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.
Johnson, Dennis E. Triumph of the Lamb. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2001.
Koester, Craig R. Revelation and the End of All Things. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001.
Mathison, Keith. From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2009.
Poythress, Vern S. The Returning King. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000. (This book is published online by permission of publisher.)
Riddlebarger, Kim. The Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth About the Antichrist. Grand Rapids: Baker, June 2006.
Venema, Cornelis. The Promise of the Future. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2000.

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24 thoughts on “Are We Living in the “Last Days”?”

  1. Pingback: The Noisiest “Secret” Rapture Ever

  2. Hal Lindsey has had a very interesting life, to say the least. If you are doubting this,  go Googling and put in “Hal Lindsey’s Many Divorces.” In a world of predictions, would on Planet Earth could have predicted all this?     Benny

  3. Too bad, Raul is leaving.   I’m just starting to enjoy his emotional & heated argument even though it is really off tangent.  A site like Nollie’s is worth visiting because of exchanges like this. 

    One sisterly advice I would like to give to Raul:  Be like the Bereans, examining and investigating everything you hear and preached to you.  Be faithful to the Word of God, not to the person, whether he is a pastor, a missionary, an evangelist or an elder of your church.  The Bible says that even if he is an angel from above, if he brings another gospel, let him be anathema, or be condemned.  The common mistake of Christians today is being faithful to personalities and organizations rather than to the “Truth,” the “Word,” that became flesh, “the Christ Jesus.”

    I also came from the Unida Church, had been a church worker for almost twenty years.  Wrote the very first Unida history as my Church Profile paper while at Febias (even before Atty. Filio wrote the first offficial history of Unida).  You might be referring to the discipline and practices of the Unida members of recent years, not the foundational doctrine and beliefs.  You can be critical of the present state of some local churches but you cannot issue a sweeping judgmental statement upon a denomination based on observable or empirical infos.

    Another important thing to note is that serving and teaching people out of love for them and in obedience to God’s command do not mean you support their wrongdoings.  Remember that Jesus was also accused of  going to questionable group of people.  His answer was, He came to heal the sick (sinners and those lost sheep) not to the well (the self-righteous, arrogant, religious) people.

  4. I think everyone is getting a bit off the point anyway. The point is, no one knows when Jesus will return, so to say that He will return during this generation’s lifetime is false prophecy, period. No matter how wonderful a preacher that person is and no matter how genuine their faith may be, to say that they know when the end times are is false prophecy. That is not meant to offend anyone. It is simply what the Bible says.

  5. To everybody, I’m sorry if I offended any of you. That’s not like me but when Nollie included Greg Laurie as one of the false prophet, then I have to defend him too. Obviously he does not know Greg, but that’s beside the point now. To Pastor Gaying, yes I still love those people in Unida like I still love my father even though he is still a Catholic. I apologized if I sounded that I’m mocking the Unida church bec.   I’m not!  I was saved in a  retreat in a Unida church……but I still don’t agree with some  the  doctrines. And no, I”m not putting my faith on shifting sand….I just happen to know things that the average person  will never hear from the news about Russia. I never put my faith on the government, I always put my faith on the Lord. Obviously, there are things that we won’t agree on…that’s why the atheists and the agnostics have a hard time believing some of us. But whether we agree on some doctrines, we all agree on how we are saved….and I won’t go  over that. To Mr Medina, I apologize If offended you,  but   thank you for the offer to visit churches in Los Angeles, but no thanks, I’m happy with my fellowship  with my church right now. To Pastor Nollie, I’m sorry for what I have said  even though I still don’t agree on some of the postings you have made….and that won’t change. Well, this is good bye…I know I said that before but this is it.

  6. To Raul, Wow, that was a mouthfull.  But you assumed too much and yet you accused Nollie of precisely doing that.
    I don’t really care if you rile against what Nollie writes but when you attack my Unida Church that is below the belt.  Unida church, whose people you profess to love (?) is not into this issue that Nollie has written.  If you love it then why do you have to bring out “their doctrines are off the mark too” in a discussion that it is not part of. 
    By the way, it is not pertinent if you work for the US Department of Defense because that is also not part of the discussion.  Nobody but God knows what will happen in the future and if you tell me that the US Department of Defense knows it then you are putting your faith on shifting sand. 

  7. Raul, I’m sorry if my strong words have offended you. I know where you’re coming from, since I formerly held doctrines and practices like yours. What I can suggest to you is visit one of our United Reformed churches in the L. A. area listed here. All UR churches have morning and evening services. Just for you to see where I’m coming from, and then compare what you see and hear with your church’s doctrine and practice. That’s what I did years ago when I started hearing about this “strange thing” called Reformed theology.

    But thanks for participating in the discussions. I hope you’ll be back.

  8. To Mr. Medina….not bec. someone is a missionary, that doesn’t mean he is right. Mormons, Jehovah witnesse have missionaries around the world too. I’m done with this site. This will be my last posting. I have to go to a Bible Study..at Harvest Christian Fellowship and listen to…….let me see…… Pastor Greg Laurie.

  9. I am aware of his position. I grew up in a Unida church in the Philippines and I know his relationship with them.  Bet, you didn’t know that either.  Although I loved those people at Unida, their doctrines are off the mark too and yet Nollie continue to support them( them have worship bands in their service, you know). How can he mock worship music with bands and drums…and yet continue to support churches who uses them? You said I object on his view of worship…where did I say that?   He claimed some of the people above as false prophets……..then Nollie is also a false teacher. Now, it your turn to get offended Mr. Medina.  Goodbye!

  10. Raul, Pastor Nollie is simply explaining the historic Reformed postion as a response to that system of theology we now know as dispensational premillenialism. The authors he cites are among the most popular advocates of this system. You may have been offended by the strong language Pastor Nollie uses. But you are apparently unaware of how dispensationalists characterize and describe the Reformed position. Do you know that it is the contention of many dispensationalists today that believers who hold to the position explained here by Pastor Nollie are advocating a form of  “anti-Semitism”? Are Reformed believers “anti-Semites”? Do YOU believe in that?

    It is precisely because we love the Jews that we do not want them to believe in the empty promises of many (not all) dispensational teachers. It is our prayer that they may understand that a Jew is one who is inwardly whose circumcision of the heart (Rom. 2:28-29), and that a true child of Abraham is one who is united to Christ by faith (Gal. 3:16, 29). Physical descent and circumcision never guaranteed salvation. This is the message of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus. Apart from Christ who fulfilled the covenant God made with Abraham (Rom. 4; Gal. 3-4), no person whether Jew and Gentile will receive the promises to the believing Patriarch. The promises moreover is more than just a small piece of land in the Middle East. Abraham did not see it in that way (Rom. 4:13; Heb. 11:9-10; Heb. 12:22-24), and so should we! We are in the age of fulfillment, and we must let the NT interpret those OT promises which were given through types and shadows.

    Who is being consistent here? Reformed Christians maintian that Jews like the Gentiles will never be saved apart from union with the Lord Jesus. The Jews have to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30), and believe in the Messiah (1 John 3:23) promised to them (cf. Mark 1:15).  Then and only then will they receive the promise of God to Abraham (Gen. 15, 17; Rom. 4; Gal. 3-4)), and be true Jews in the sight of God (Rom. 2:28-29), true children of Abraham (Gal. 3:16, 29), and grafted into the olive tree from which they were cut off because of their rejection of the Christ (Rom. 11). The land promise looked forward to the new heavens and the new earth (Rom. 4:13; Heb. 11:9-10; Heb. 12:22-24). This was how Abraham understood the promise of God to him (Rom. 4; Gal. 3-4), and (again) so should we. This is the message Reformed Christians proclaim! John Hagee (though admittedly not representative of all dispensationalists) has gone off to dispensationalist extremes, and believes that Jews may be saved apart from repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus? But is this the teaching of the Bible? Is this love for the Jews? Or isn’t this “anti-Semitic”? The Jews should know HOW the promise of God to Abraham was fulfilled in Christ. Dispensationalists (especially John Hagee) unfortunately are not doing this.

    Your objection to Pastor Nollie’s view on worship is not just an objection to HIS position. It is an objection to the position of the entire confessing Reformed community. We do not let the people decide how God is to be worshiped. We let God do it for us through his Word. It is true that we must spread the gospel by telling it to people outside. But you are arguing as if Pastor Nollie’s does not believe in this. Are you aware that he is an ordained minister, and a missionary at the same time? What do ministers and missionaries do?

  11. Sorry, but I don’t agree..I’m not sure about Lindsey’s  predictions about rapture in the 80’s. I might missed that one. The last book I read about Lindsey was in the late 70’s. The rest…they haven’t really made a  real predictions. Show me in Greg Lauire’s book that he actually made a prediction. What they have wrote is re-emphasized what Jesus said in the book of Matthew and what is written in the book of  Revelations….the rise of the cult, the wars, etc… and the beast from the East. If  no one explains ( the word is explain, not predict)  these signs to people, then who will? We are commanded to spread the Gospel to the whole world. With today’s liberal attitude of society, you can’t even say the word Jesus anymore without being reprimanded.  I’m thankful we have Pastors like Greg Laurie who doesn’t compromsie the Gospel and tell it like it is on  what the Bible says.You have criticized a lot about worship music…I agree to some extent, but to claim that the whole idea of other type of music  beside a choir singing is absurd. Having a website is not enough to spread the true Gospel,Nollie. You actually have to be out there and tell it to people…face to face…. and be criticized…just like the Bible says.

  12. Granting that Iraq and Russia might be able to do something (which I doubt very much), it doesn’t mean that Lindsey and company are off the hook as false teachers. First, Deuteronomy 18:20-22 says that true prophets of God must be correct 100 percent; if they were not, they are to die. And since they have predicted all kinds of things that never happened, they are false prophets.

    Second, the reason why they have been wrong is because of their false hermeneutics: interpreting Scriptures in the light of current events. That has never worked in history. The only hermeneutics that work is this: Scripture interprets Scripture. Under this principle are these sub-principles: the NT interprets the OT; clear passages interpret unclear passages; no text contradicts any other texts; no doctrine contradicts any other doctrines.

  13. Nollie, I work for the US Department of Defense…there’s a lot of things about Iraq and Russia that I know and you don’t.  And you won’t hear from me.  If it hasn’t happen yet, then it’s not really false.

  14. Raul, read a sample of their writings and you’ll know what I mean by “false prophets.” They usually cop out with words like “probably” and “might.” Compare this with the OT prophets who say, “Thus says the Lord.”

    The sample quote from Hal Lindsey in 1980, isn’t that false prophecy? How about his prophecy that the Rapture will be in the 1980s? Or how about their prophecy that the Antichrist will be revealed when the European Economic Community has 10 members? Or that the Soviet Union will invade Israel? Or Iraq is the new Beast? And so on and so forth…

  15. “False prophets” is such a strong word coming from you. None of these authors you mentioned ever specifically mentioned any dates. What they are simply sayings are the signs that Jesus told us are more obvious than before. Look around us…and you can see what they mean. Are they false prophets? I don’t think so.

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