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):
To answer the four questions at the beginning of this post then, I believe Scripture reveals that  the Biblical last days began at (or before) the time of the 3.5 year ministry of Jesus (27-30 AD);  they were the last days of the old covenant age;  “the first days” were in the days of Moses, around 1300 BC, when the old covenant was established, and  “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 3:3; 1 John 2:18; Jude 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.