Are We In “the Last Days”? The Last Days of What?


1. When did the Biblical “last days” begin? Before Jesus began His 3.5 year ministry? On the Day of Pentecost? In 1948? In the late 20th century? 

2. What time period or age are we referring to when we speak of the last days? World history? The old covenant age? The new covenant age? Something else?

3. When were the first days? Billions or millions of years ago? 6000 years ago? Around 1200 BC? The 1950’s?

4. When were the middle days of this time period or age? Logically, we should expect this to be the longest period, with the greatest number of days.

Amidst all the rhetoric about “the last days” being here upon us now in 2014, it’s evident that many have done very little to analyze these types of questions. Consider the following two examples, before comparing their ideas to what the Bible says about “the last days.”

1. A poll was conducted in 2006 by McLaughlin & Associates, asking “1,000 randomly selected American adults” the following question: 

“Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Events such as the rebirth of the State of Israel, wars and instability in the Middle East, recent earthquakes, and the tsunami in Asia are evidence that we are living in what the Bible calls the last days.'”

They found that 42% of Americans agreed with this statement, and 58% of evangelical/born-again Christians agreed. See here for the rest of the results. From this survey, a majority of evangelical Christians in the US believe that events in the last 65 years or so prove that the Biblical last days are here now. The suggestion is that the last days arrived in recent decades, not a couple thousand years ago.

2. In 1990 the Christian rock band, Petra, produced a song called “Last Daze” (a play on “last days”) – from their album “Beyond Belief.” I was a Petra fan during the 90’s (I still respect them), and this was one of my favorites. From the lyrics to this song, it’s clear that they believed “the last days” are here now, and that spiritual delusion will intensify until the time of “the blaze”:

…In the last daze, the final haze
There was strong delusion to believe a lie
In the last daze before the blaze
They couldn’t see beyond their misty trance
To grab the truth and have a fighting chance
In the last daze…

Some say it’s a certainty
A sign of the times I am told
But I weep for the souls of those
Who will never return to the fold…

What does the New Testament have to say about “the last days” (and other equivalent expressions) and their timing? Here are a few examples:

“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, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

“He [Jesus] indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (I Peter 1:20).

“He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (I Corinthians 10:11).

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12).

“But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (I Peter 4:7).

“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” (I John 2:18).

According to these and other Scriptures, Jesus lived and ministered in the last days. Notice the distinction in Hebrews 1 between God speaking throughout the old covenant period by the prophets, and God speaking by His Son at the onset of the new covenant period. The last days were linked to the transition period from one covenant to the other. 

We also see that Peter, Paul, and John wrote to believers living at the end of the age(s). John even said it was “the last hour.” This dispels the idea that “the last days” began in the 20th century, and it also dispels the idea that “the last days” began about 2000 years ago and continue until today. How could “the last days” still be here if “the last hour” of the last days arrived almost 2000 years ago? Consider, however, the real possibility that John wrote his epistle around 65 AD. Then it would make sense for John to say it was “the last hour” (of the old covenant age) just a few short years before it came to a dramatic end in 70 AD.

The old covenant age began in roughly 1300 BC during the days of Moses. It was made obsolete by Jesus’ work on the cross (30 AD), but was still “becoming obsolete and growing old” and “ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). This was its state for one generation – about 40 years. In 70 AD it did vanish away when the Roman armies came and burned the city (Jerusalem) of those who rejected Jesus’ wedding invitation (Matthew 22:7; Revelation 17:16, 18:8-10, 17-20). I believe “the last days” covered this transition period. I agree with Model 3 in the chart below (models 1 and 2 represent other popular ideas about “the last days”:

Duration of old covenant Last Days Began Duration of Last Days
Model 1 1300 years Pentecost 1984 years (and counting)
Model 2 1300 years 1948 66 years (and counting)
Model 3 1300 years Time of Jesus’ ministry 27 – 70 AD (Ended)

The new covenant age has already outlasted the old covenant age by 700 years (i.e. 2000 years and counting, compared to 1300 years):

Last Days Timeline

To answer the four questions at the beginning of this post then, I believe Scripture reveals that [1] the Biblical last days began at (or before) the time of the 3.5 year ministry of Jesus (27-30 AD); [2] they were the last days of the old covenant age; [3] “the first days” were in the days of Moses, around 1300 BC, when the old covenant was established, and [4] “the middle days” were the next 1200 or so years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, covering the time of the judges, the kings, and the prophets. In light of what Scripture says about “the last days,” how would you answer these questions? 

Here is what the great preacher, John Owen (1616-1683), once said:

“Most expositors suppose that this expression [In Hebrews 1:2], ‘The last days,’ is a periphrasis [euphemism] for the times of the gospel. But it doth not appear that they are anywhere so called; nor were they ever known by that name among the Jews, upon whose principles the apostle proceeds… It is the last days of the Judaical church and state, which were then drawing to their period and abolition, that are here and elsewhere called ‘The last days,’ or ‘The latter days,’ or ‘The last hour,’ 2 Peter 3:31 John 2:18Jude 1:18… This phrase of speech is signally used in the Old Testament to denote the last days of the Judaical church” (The Works of John Owen, Volume 19, pp.12 – 13).

For a more extensive study of the topic of “this age and the age to come,” please see this post.

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5 thoughts on “Are We In “the Last Days”? The Last Days of What?

  1. Hello Adam, I was wondering what you do with the “last day” of John 11:24?

    “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

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    • Hi Steve. I observe that Martha made this statement, and that Jesus responded by saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (verses 25-26).

      What “last day” do you think Martha was speaking of? The last day of what? The age they were living in? World history? The text doesn’t say.

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      • Adam, I agree with your treatment here on the “last days.” I, too, believe these “last days” are already past. I believe we are now in the “thousand year” reign of Christ.

        The reason why I ask about the “last day” of John 11:24 is because I have heard others take this even farther, to claim that the “last day” must belong to the “last days” spoken of here – that the resurrection must have happened in 70 AD. (I hope I am being clear this is not directed at you, Adam, but others I’ve talked with.)

        I think we both agree that it takes more than just a superficial similarity to prove different passages are linked, there must also be similar in substance. For example, I have seen some argue that all trumpet blast passages MUST refer to the same event, which is obviously false (there are no less than SEVEN different trumpet blasts in Revelation!).

        But as you pointed out, the question is one of context: “The last day of what?” Does the “last day” refer to the end of the same era as the “last days,” or the end of a different era?

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      • To respond to your questions about John 11:24-26, I will break this up into two comments: one on Martha’s question, and the second on Jesus’ answer.

        The way John has framed Martha & Jesus’ discussion, I believe Martha is reflecting a correct belief that Lazarus and the rest of the dead will be resurrected on the “last day.” Jesus acknowledges this as correct, and provides more information about this day, saying that it comes through Him. There are a couple of passages that have striking parallels: 1 Cor. 15 and Rev. 20.

        In 1 Cor. 15, we see that the saints are resurrected “at His coming, then comes the end.” It is at this time death is defeated: “The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” This fits John 11:24-26, speaking of Jesus, the resurrection from the dead, and the “last day”/”the end.”

        Compare this to Rev. 20, which speaks of the “great white throne” judgment at the end of the “thousand year” reign of Christ. Like 1 Cor. 15, Christ’s reign ends with the resurrection of the dead and the abolition of death: “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.”

        I’m not saying Martha understood all this at that time, I believe she was just expressing the commonly held Jewish belief of her day – the dead would be resurrected, necessarily bringing an end to life as we know it – “the last day.”

        What comes after this “last day”? In Luke 20:34-35, Jesus refers to “that age,” the age that comes after the resurrection of the dead, where life will be very different. So the resurrection marks the end of “this age,” the world as we know it, as well as the end of the “thousand year” reign of Christ, and ushers in a new age, the age of resurrection which will last forever (2 Cor. 5:1; 1 Thes. 4:17-18).

        This cannot be referring to 70 AD because of the description of the resurrection in various passages, but also consider Matt. 11:23-24. I think we’d agree that Matt. 11:23 is speaking of 70 AD, when those people in Capernaum would descend into Hades. However, at the final judgment when the dead are resurrected, people aren’t descending into Hades, the wicked are resurrected OUT of Hades (while death and Hades are abolished – Rev. 20:13-14) to be cast into the lake of fire!

        So again I think we see that the 70 AD judgment, and the final judgment/resurrection of the dead, are two different events.

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      • Jesus’ answer is directly related to Him deliberately waiting until Lazarus had been dead for four days (John 11:6 & 17), which also relates to Jesus being raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:4). But for now, let’s look at Jesus’ verbal answer.

        Jesus’ answer comes in two parts: #1. “I am the resurrection and the life” & #2. “he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”

        The two parts themselves consist of two parallel sections:

        #1. “I am the resurrection” with “he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” That is, the followers of Christ who die before the “last day” will be resurrected back to life.

        #2. “I am… the life” with “everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Those followers of Christ who happen to still be alive when the “last day” comes will bypass death altogether.

        I believe this is the teaching Paul refers to in 1 Thes. 4:15-17, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who fave fallen asleep… the dead in Christ will rise first.”

        The Thessalonians were apparently familiar with the teaching found in John 14:1-4, that Jesus would one day return to take His people to the place He has prepared for them in Heaven. Well, that is great for those who would still be alive, but what about those who died before Jesus returned? Would they miss out, as appears to be the Thessalonians worry? Paul reassures them the dead in Christ will not be left behind at Christ’s return, for “the dead in Christ will rise first.” The dead are raised so they can be joined with the living in Christ who “will never die,” and together as one group, go to be with the Lord forever (1 Thes. 4:17).

        Compare the teaching of hyperpreterist Kurt Simmons with the Bible on the nature of our resurrection: “The bodily resurrection of Christ thus served a unique purpose that makes Jesus’ resurrection unlike our own.” Notice Simmons, under the yoke of a resurrection that supposedly began in 70 AD, is forced to claim our resurrection will not be like Jesus’ resurrection. But let’s look at some of what the Bible says:

        “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” 1 John 3:2, now compare it to…

        “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory…” Philip. 3:20-21, now compare it to…

        “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” Rom. 8:23, now compare it to…

        “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies…” Rom. 8:11, now compare it to…

        “…certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection… knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again…” Rom. 6:5-9

        This is in complete contradiction of Simmons (and the teaching of all hyperpreterists) that are forced to deny our resurrection is like Christ’s. When Paul writes that God WILL give life to our MORTAL BODIES in Rom. 8:11, what does that mean? The same thing Paul says in 1 Cor. 15: “But when this perishable (body) will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal (body) will have put on immortality,” then death will be defeated once and for all. Why? Because all are made immortal, the dead AND the still living.

        Notice that this change of the body into immortality affects both the living and the dead TOGETHER (1 Thes. 4:16-17), both the righteous and the wicked (Acts 24:15, 1 Cor. 15, Rev. 20) at the same time – the final judgment that occurs on the last day. The resurrection isn’t a past completed event, or something that began in 70 AD and continues at the death of every individual. It occurs at “the last trumpet,” and by last trumpet, Paul didn’t secretly mean billions of last trumpets (one for each individual death after 70 AD under Simmon’s theory: “It is now our view that there is a ‘last trumpet’ for each of us, that calls us home to eternity”). The dead in Christ are joined together with the still-living in Christ in order to meet Him at His coming, but the hyperpreterist would have the still-living in Christ trickle in individually AFTER His Second Coming!

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