The concept of the “last days” or end times captivates the imagination of many Christians. It conjures up vivid images of the rapture, the Antichrist, and apocalyptic events preceding Christ’s return. But what does the Bible actually teach about the last days, and are we living in them now? Intriguingly, the Bible declares we are living in the last days (but not in the last of the last days).
Why We are Currently Living in the Last Days
Thankfully, the Bible talks quite a bit about the issue of the last days. The Old Testament speaks about it prophetically, and the New Testament authors make it very clear that we are currently living in the last days.
For example, in his sermon at Pentecost, Peter declares the dawn of the last days by quoting the prophet Joel: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17). Peter announces that Joel’s prophecy is taking place through the outpouring of the Spirit. The last days have arrived with the birth of the church and the outpouring of the Spirit. This perspective is confirmed by other New Testament passages.
The author of Hebrews teaches that God has spoken to us in the last days through His Son (Heb 1:2). This affirms we are living in the eschatological timeframe of the last days which commenced with Christ’s first coming. Hebrews repeatedly warns its audience they are living in the “Today” of God’s opportunity before the final judgment (Heb 3:7, 13, 15; 4:7).
Although Acts 2 and Hebrews 1 are probably the primary indicators that we are living in the last days, other New Testament passages reinforce this message. In 1 Corinthians 10:11 Paul says the ends of the ages have overlapped upon his readers. 1 Peter 1:20 states Christ was revealed in these last times for our sake. 1 John 2:18 declares it is the last hour, evidenced by many antichrists that have come.
As Scripture makes clear, believers are currently living in the last days. But before one goes too crazy, this is not the end of the story. The Bible also says there will be events that take place in the last days that have NOT taken place yet.
The Last Days According to the Prophets
The Old Testament has a lot to say about the last days (sometimes referred to as the “latter days”). Passages like Deuteronomy 4:25-30 (cf. 30:1-10), Hosea 3:4-5, and Zechariah 12-14 predict a time when Israel will repent as a nation, turn back to the Lord, and subsequently experience restoration, cleansing, and the manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth. The intertestamental Jewish literature between the Old and New Testaments demonstrate the Jewish nation carried on this expectation for a future restoration of their nation.
The New Testament does nothing to dissuade us from this expectation. In fact, Peter affirms our expectation of last day events when preaching to the nation of Israel in Acts 3:19-21.
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”
Of special importance is Acts 3:21, “all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” Peter sees continuity between the Old Testament prophets and the expectation of Israel repenting and being situated as the centerpiece of God’s kingdom, Jesus ruling from Jerusalem.
Additionally, the Old Testament prophet Daniel was given prophecies concerning the “latter days” (Dan 2:28; 10:14). As part of these visions, Daniel describes a little horn which will arise and bring special persecution to the saints for 3 and ½ time periods (Dan 7:24-25). Daniel 9:27 also mentions this 3 and ½ time period being associated with 3 and ½ years (42 months). Revelation confirms this Old Testament expectation of an individual who will bring special persecution against Israel by referencing a persecution for 42 months and 1,260 days (Rev 11:2-3).
So although we are currently in the last days. There still remains significant prophecies that need to occur within the last days.
- A special 3.5 year persecution by the little horn (antichrist)
- A national repentance by Israel
- A national restoration and exaltation of Israel
- The kingdom is established
- The Messiah rules from Jerusalem, the capital of the world
We can expect all of these prophecies to be fulfilled, as well as (in my view) the rapture of the church prior to these events (cf. 1 Thess 1:10; 4:13-18; Rev 3:10). But is there any indication these events could happen within our lifetime?
Are We in the Last of the Last Days?
As the above articulates, I believe we are in the last days. However, when most people ask if we are in the “last days” they are wondering if the above listed events could happen within our lifetime.
Scripture teaches the imminence of Christ’s return. This means that believers in every generation have believed that Christ could return during their lifetimes. This is an important part of what it means to be a Christian—to look for (and yearn for) Christ’s return. In the words of the old KJV, “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh” (Mark 13:34).
However, it is important to have a realistic (and non sensationalist) perspective. Many generations have come and gone, and although each generation longed for Christ’s return, He has delayed. Despite the delay, the epistles give instruction as to what our obligation is during this period of waiting.
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers1 Pet 4:7
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you … For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.2 Thess 3:6-10
Although there are many other texts we could look to, these are representative of the idea that we are to busy ourselves with obedience to Christ’s commands. We are to conduct ourselves as if the judge is at the door (cf. James 5:9).
Scripture tells us that in the last days times of difficulty will come (2 Tim 3:1), and things will progress from bad to worse (2 Tim 3:13). This will culminate in a time of great apostasy and the revelation of the man of lawlessness (2 Thess 2:3). Today it is easy to imagine how all of this could happen within a short time frame. But whether this takes place weeks from now or years from now, the believer’s obligation is the same—to be faithful to the Lord’s commands and look for (and pray for) His return.
Yes, we are in the last days. But when will the last of the last days be? No man knows the day or the hour. So while we await His return, “Do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thess 3:13).
Photo Credit: Envato Elements