The term, “the last days” is used a number of times in the Bible. However erroneously, many apply the term to the relatively short period of time prior to the second coming of the Lord when it is never used in that sense. Let us give a bit of consideration to just what is meant by “the last days” as the term is used in the Bible.
Let us first note that there is a difference in the term “last days” and “last day”. Most of the time the singular term is used, it is used in reference to the very day in which the Lord will return. For instance, our Lord said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). The last day in that text is the judgment day. Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus used the term “last day” saying, “…I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). Rather than days, this is one specific day, the day spoken of by the apostle Paul when he told those of Athens, “…he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). So let us turn our attention to what is the “last days” spoken of in the Bible.
In preparation of mind to grasp the significance of the term “last days”, it is needful that we get a very large picture in snapshot form. That picture is the overall picture of what the Bible is all about. In the beginning, we find that sin occurs resulting in man loosing his place in the garden of Eden, or in other words, man lost paradise (Gen. 3). When we get to the end of the Bible, we find where man finds that paradise again in the realm of heaven (Revelation 21-22). The reason that this snapshot view is so important is that we can now see that there is a gradual progression from that lost state of man to eventually reaching the salvation in heaven’s paradise. Along that gradual route, there were various times or “days” that led toward the eventual goal of the eternal paradise of heaven. For instance, Paul explained the general purpose of the old law of Moses when he told the Galatians that “…the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). The old law of Moses was never intended to last until the end of time and was never intended to provide the forgiveness of sin and thus return man to paradise. The Hebrew writer stated, “But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (Heb. 10:3-4). The finding of paradise once lost through the teaching of the gospel of Christ was not some last minute effort dreamed up because man did not co-operate with God and crucified the Lord. It was God’s plan from “the beginning of the world” (Eph. 3:8-11).
Now note that the term is used in the Old Testament by a couple of the prophets in reference to some time in their future. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:2-3). Micah used almost the exact same words (Mic. 4:1-2). Both are prophesying of the coming kingdom that Daniel said would be established during the days of the kings of the Roman empire (Dan. 2:44). Isaiah said that it would begin in the last days, in the city of Jerusalem, to all nations and that the word of the Lord would go forth or be preached. Just prior to the Lord’s ascension into heaven, He told His apostles, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).
On the day of Pentecost, when the Jews were gathered in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and they began to speak in languages they had not formerly known. When some accused them of drunkenness, Peter stood up and said, “…these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh…” (Acts 2:15-17). Thus according to the apostle Peter, this day was the first day of the last days. In other words, this is the beginning of the Christian age, which is the last age before the return of the Lord. Remember that Isaiah said it was the house of God (Isa. 2:2-3) and Paul said that the church is the house of God (I Tim. 3:15). We are indeed living in the last days and man has been doing so for nearly two thousand years. We know not when the last days shall end and the last day arrives, therefore we need to be ready for that day every day.
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.