Bible Prophecy in Chronology series (post #1)
A farmer and his wife were lying in bed. It was midnight and the wife was asleep, but the farmer hadn’t dropped off yet. Suddenly the grandfather clock out in the living room began to bong. The old clock’s bonging was a familiar sound to the farmer, and he began to count off the bongs. Bong. “That’s nine.” Bong. “That’s ten.” Bong. “That’s eleven.” Bong. “That’s twelve.” “Okay,” the farmer thought, “now I can get to sleep.” But then the old clock got hung up and just kept on bonging. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. In a panic, the farmer shook his wife and said, “Honey, wake up, wake up.” The wife groggily opened her eyes, rolled over to look at him, and asked, “What’s the matter? What time is it anyway?” The farmer answered, “I don’t know, but it’s later than it’s ever been.”
Obviously, we are always living in a time that is later than it’s ever been, right? But are we living in the so-called “last days”? Would it surprise you to learn that the Bible answer is, yes? If it does, then you’ll really be surprised to hear that we’ve been living in the “last days” for over 2,000 years. According to scripture, the “last days” time period began with the birth of Jesus Christ that night in Bethlehem. As Hebrews 1:1-2 says:
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, who He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds. (N.K.J.V.)
This one passage might be enough to make the case, but the fact is that multiple other passages also teach that we are living in the “last days” period. Here are some more (all from the N.K.J.V.):
- 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. (1 Peter 1:20-21)
- 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. (1 John 2:18)
- But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy….And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5) (Notice that Paul encourages Timothy to “turn away” from such people, which implies that Timothy would be encountering them, which implies that Paul and Timothy were living in the “last days.”)
- Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. (James 5:1-3)
- “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 My Spirit on all flesh…” Acts 2:16-21 (The point of this passage is that the fulfillment of the prophet Joel’s “last days” prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13) and will carry on up through the incredible days described in Acts 2:19-20.)
Of course by now you might be asking, “But how can a period of time at least 2,000 years long and counting be described as the last days?” Well, consider a couple of meanings for the word “last.” First, the word can refer to the numerical end of something. For example, I might say, “I ate the last cookie.” Used in this way, “last” means that no more will follow. The “last days” time period fulfills this definition in that it concludes God’s dealings with the human race before Christ’s second coming. Think of it this way: Christ’s first coming began the “last days” and His second coming ends them. The “last days” are that period of time sandwiched between the two bookends of Jesus walking the earth.
Second, the word “last” can also convey the idea of being the most advanced version of something. For example, a car company might say of its latest model, “This car is the last word in luxury.” In that sentence, “last” means that no matter what cars are produced in the years to come, they’ll never outdo the luxury of that particular model. So, when the Bible uses the phrase “last days,” “last hour,” or “last times,” it means that the era that Christ’s birth ushered in for the human race is the most advanced version of God’s revelation to mankind that will exist before Christ’s second coming. We now have the life, death, burial, resurrection, miracles, and teachings of Jesus at our disposal, not to mention the Holy Spirit who comes to indwell each individual who believes in Jesus as Savior. And what is all this revelation? It is nothing less than the most advanced revelation from God that is available until Jesus returns to walk this earth again.
Now, the New Testament does provide us with many of the distinguishing characteristics that earmark this time period. The relevant passages are: 1 Timothy 4:1-5, 2 Timothy 3:1-7, James 5:1-8, 1 John 2:18-23, 2 Peter 3:1-4, and Jude verses 3-19. The sins described in these passages were being committed in the days in which the New Testament was being written and they are still being committed today. Certainly over the course of the centuries there have been ebbs and flows to the frequency and intensity of the sins, but there has never been a time since Christ’s ascension back to heaven that the sins haven’t to some degree been on display in the human race. We might think of this package of sins as the box in which humanity exists and will continue to exist until Jesus returns to the earth.
Still, though, my guess is that none of this information I’ve provided in this post has answered the question you really want answered, which is: Are we living in the last days of the “last days”? That, admittedly, is a different question, and in my next post I’ll offer my answer to it. Until then let me encourage you to read those passages that name the distinguishing characteristics of the “last days” time period. As you read them, I think you’ll find that by in large they read like a copy of today’s newspaper or the latest news feed on an internet site. And why wouldn’t that be the case? After all, mankind has had over 2,000 years and counting to perfect those sins.