Paul R. Lopez: Seven “Last Days” Passages You’ll Rarely Hear Pastors Preach On


This article from Paul Lopez is good food-for-thought concerning the topic of “the last days.” It has been edited somewhat, but only for grammar and punctuation:

When was the last time you heard a “last days” sermon from the Old Testament?

When most pastors preach a sermon on the end times they usually start with the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21) or the Book of Revelation. For years the focus on end times discussions has remained in the New Testament. Unfortunately, that results in our teachers only giving us the end of the story. When reading a story, it makes sense to start at the beginning, rather than at the end and try to figure out the story from there. Yet the study of the “last days” in most churches today has us doing this very thing. I did that too for years, until I finally decided to start at the beginning of the book.

Here are seven Old Testament passages that I’ve come across in my studies that are crucial to understanding the “last days” that you will rarely hear pastors preach on in today’s churches:

1. Jacob’s Prediction of the Last Days: Would you believe the first mention of the “last days” is in Genesis 49? “And Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days‘” (verse 1, NKJV). Ironically, the first passage in the Bible that speaks of the last days is in the first book of the Bible and not the last. This passage speaks of the last days of the twelve tribes of Israel.

2. Moses’ Warning to the Israelites: In Deuteronomy 31:29, Moses tells the Israelites:

For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands” (NASB).

This verse is in the context of Deuteronomy 28-32 and Leviticus 26. God is establishing the Covenant with His people. God promises His people both coming blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Study your cross references and you will find many fascinating connections to the New Testament — particularly Romans 9-11 and the book of Revelation. From this passage you will begin to see that the last days spoken of in Deuteronomy 31:29 are speaking of the last days of the Old Covenant, not the last days of the earth.

3. Jeremiah’s Prediction of the Last Days. Jeremiah 30:24 says: “The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back, until He has performed and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; in the latter days you will understand this” (NASB). Jeremiah 30:24 speaks of judgment coming upon His people, and it is also the context for Jeremiah 31. Jeremiah 31 contains several prophecies fulfilled at the first advent of Christ. For example, Jeremiah 31:15 is a prophecy fulfilled in Matthew 2:16-18. Jesus is born under law (Galatians 4:4), at the end of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is ending with Christ’s birth, and the New Covenant is at hand with the beginning of His ministry. In writing to Jews, the author of Hebrews says in chapter 1:1-2:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”

The things “spoken of long ago to the fathers and prophets” are the passages that we are outlining here. If you study these verses carefully, against current thought, the last days of the Jews and their Covenant were upon them. These references begin to line up with the last days of the Old Covenant, not the last days of the world.

4. Prediction of the New Covenant That Would Come: Another passage in the context of Jeremiah 30:24 is Jeremiah 31:31-34 — a prophecy that predicts that the New Covenant would come at the end of the Old Covenant. The writer of the book of Hebrews verifies this in Hebrews Chapter 8. The New Covenant for His people prophesied in Jeremiah 31 is fulfilled in the First Century, and the Old Covenant is becoming obsolete in Hebrews 8:13. Again, we see the last days of the Old Covenant were upon them in the First Century. The whole context of Hebrews 8 is again stated in the context of Hebrews 1:1-2.

5. Jesus Was Born in the ‘Last Days’: Micah 4 shows that Jesus was born in the last days of the Old Covenant: “And it will come about in the last days, that the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, And the peoples will stream to it.” In the same context, Micah 5:2 reads: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

This prophecy is fulfilled in the last days of the Old Covenant, according to Matthew 2:1-6:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’”

(Cross references: Deuteronomy 31:29: Judges 2:19)

6. Isaiah’s Prediction of judgment on Old Covenant Israel in the Last Days:

Isaiah 2:1-2 , we see almost verbatim the words from Micah 4:1, about the last days of the covenant: 

The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.”

This segment of Scripture is full of description of the last days that can be traced through the New Testament to the book of Revelation. In the same context of Isaiah 2 is the parable of the vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7) – the vineyard is the house of Israel (vs 7)! It is a vineyard that God said produced worthless grapes! This same parable Jesus quotes in Matthew 21:33-46. In verses 40-45, Jesus describes what is coming upon the Jews in their last days. The Pharisees, being familiar with the prophet Isaiah’s words, knew exactly what Jesus was saying, and that Jesus spoke the parable about them. The end of the Old Covenant system ended at the cross, yet the final destruction of the temple system came in 70 A.D.

See also Jeremiah 3:8, 23:20, and 30:24.

7. Joel’s Prediction that the Holy Spirit Would be Poured Out in the Last Days:

Joel 2:28-32 is quoted by the apostle Peter in his sermon on Pentecost in Acts 2:14-21:

But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT‘” (Acts 2:14-18).

According to the Prophet Joel, the Holy Spirit would be poured out in “the last days.” This prophecy was being fulfilled in Acts 2 according to the Apostle Peter. His audience in Acts 2 are Jews from “every nation under heaven.”

Could all of these Old Testament passages that were fulfilled and pointed to by inspired writers in the New Testament be about the Last Days of the Old Covenant and not the Last Days of the World? It is worth your time and study to research the Scriptures.

All the prophets we have mentioned above were writing to the Jews of coming judgment upon them for breaking the covenant of Deuteronomy 28-32. Last days events mentioned in the Old Testament included the birth of the Messiah, the New Covenant coming, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and pending judgment on the Old Covenant system. Jesus clearly states that this judgment was coming upon the generation He came to in the first century (Matthew 23:36, Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32).

So what does all this mean? The Old Testament references provide the context for the New Testament passages concerning the “last days.” But that’s something you’ll rarely hear from the pulpit today, in a culture that is more fascinated with signs from world events than Scripture.

In real estate the golden rule is “location, location, location.” In eschatology, it’s “signs, signs, signs.” How about we go back to “Scripture, Scripture, Scripture”?

I challenge our pastors and teachers in the church today to begin to address these passages on the Last Days from the Old Testament. They provide the context for the New Testament passages on the Last Days and will spark healthy discussion within our churches today.

Source

Paul Lopez is a longtime student of the Word and a Bible teacher and small group leader at Murrieta Valley Church in Murrieta, Calif.

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Benjamin L. Corey: Jesus Says Those “Left Behind” Are The Lucky Ones (the most ironic thing the movie won’t tell you)


This is an excellent article written by Benjamin L. Corey at Formerly Fundie (Patheos): 

In the lead up to the release of the remake of Left Behind hitting theaters in a few weeks, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about the most ironic thing the Left Behind movie (or rapture believers) won’t tell you about getting “left behind.”

The basic premise of the theology is this: the world is going to get progressively worse as “the end” draws near. Before the worst period of time in world history (a seven year period called the “tribulation,” though there’s no verse in the Bible that discusses a seven year tribulation) believers in Jesus are suddenly snatched away during the second coming of Christ (which rapture believers argue is done in secret and without explanation, instead of the public second coming described in scripture).

The entire premise of the theology and the Left Behind movie is based on a passage from Matthew that you’ll see in the official Left Behind image included to your left. The passage states:

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left.”

And this is where we get the term “left behind”… Jesus said “one shall be taken and the other left.”

Pretty simple, no? It appears from this passage that Jesus is describing an event where some people actually do “get taken” and the others are “left behind.” It must be a rapture then.

Or maybe not.

As I have explained before, the chapter of Matthew 24 is a chapter where Jesus describes the events that will lead up to the destruction of the temple which occurred in AD 70. That’s not so much my scholarly opinion as it is what Jesus plainly states in the first few verses of Matthew 24; it is a context pretty difficult to explain away since Jesus says “this temple will be destroyed” and his disciples ask, “please, tell us when this will happen.” The rest of the discourse is Jesus prophesying the events that will lead up to the temple’s destruction, which we know historically unfolded as Jesus had predicted. (As I have alluded to in What Jesus Talked About When He Talked About Hell and Don’t Worry The Tribulation Is In The Past, if one does not understand the significance of the destruction of the temple to ancient Judaism, one will have a very hard time understanding what Jesus talks about when he talks about “the end.”)

Anyhow, during the end of this discourse in Matthew we hit the “rapture” verse: “one will be taken and one will be left.” Surely, this part must be about the future, and Jesus MUST be describing a rapture. Since that’s what my childhood pastor taught me, it’s probably a good idea to stick with that.

Just one problem: Matthew 24 isn’t the only place where Jesus talks about “some being taken and some being left behind.” Jesus also discusses this in Luke 17 when he says:

 “I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

Building a compelling case for the rapture yet? Not quite. Check this out: Jesus’ disciples in the Luke version of the discourse must have been interested in this left behind stuff, because they ask a critical followup question. However, they actually seem more concerned with those who were “taken” than those who were “left behind” and ask Jesus for a little more information on this whole getting taken away stuff.

“Where, Lord?” is the question of the disciples. Where did all of these people go??

If this were a passage about the “rapture” as depicted in the Left Behind movie, one would expect Jesus to answer something to the point of “they were taken to be with me to wait out the tribulation.” But, that’s not what Jesus says. Instead, Jesus gives them a blunt answer about those who were “taken”: “just look for the vultures, and you’ll find their bodies.” (v. 37)

That’s right. The ones who were “taken” were killed. Not exactly the blessed rapture.

The Roman occupation was brutal, and when they finally sacked the city and destroyed the temple in AD70, things got impressively bloody. To be “taken” as Jesus prophesied, was to be killed by the invading army. This is precisely why, in this passage and the Matthew version, Jesus gives all sorts of other advice that makes no sense if this is a verse about the rapture. Jesus warns that when this moment comes one should flee quickly– to not even go back into their house to gather their belongings– and laments that it will be an especially difficult event for pregnant and nursing mothers. He even goes on to warn them that if they respond to the army with resistance (the very thing that causes the mess in the lead-up to AD70), they’ll just get killed (“whoever seeks to save his life will lose it”). Jesus, it seems, wants his disciples to get it: when the Roman army comes, flee quickly or else you might not be left behind!

Surely, Jesus is not talking about a rapture. He’s not warning people to avoid missing the rapture because they went home to get their possessions… he’s talking about fleeing an advancing army and not doing anything stupid that will get them killed (v 30-34).

Very practical advice for his original audience and would have come in handy for those who wanted to avoid being “raptured” (slaughtered) by the Roman army.

And so my friends, this is the most ironic thing the Left Behind movie won’t tell you: in the original “left behind” story Jesus tells in the Gospels, the ones who are “left behind” are actually the lucky ones.

So the next time folks tell you that they don’t want to be “left behind,” you might want to tell them to be careful what they wish for.

In our study of Matthew 24:36-51, I also proposed that Jesus said it would be better to be “left behind” than to be “taken,” and noted that 2-3 centuries ago this was taught by John Gill (1746-1763) and Albert Barnes (1834). Benjamin Corey does an excellent job showing the revealing connection between what Jesus says in Luke 17 and what He says in the more frequently quoted Matthew 24:40. His article also comes at a good time, less than two weeks before the remake of the Left Behind movie hits the theaters on October 3rd. Hopefully the theology in this film will soon be left behind by many followers of Christ.

The Early Church Fathers and the Last Days of the Jewish Age


The following resource was compiled by Bishop George Kouri, an author and the pastor of The King’s Church in Jacksonville, Florida. He references the stated beliefs of Barnabas, Clement of Alexandrea, Origen, Tertullian, Athanasius, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus concerning “the last days”, “the end of the age,” and Daniel’s 70th Week (Daniel 9). This is not exhaustive, and there’s no doubt that leaders in church history have held quite a variety of views about these and related topics in the field of eschatology. When researching their beliefs, though, it’s easy to see that many did not view the Biblical “last days” as being about the (alleged) end of world history, but rather as the last days of the old covenant age. Here are just a few examples, as provided by George Kouri (all emphasis in the original):

BARNABAS:

Written anonymously around 100 AD, the “Epistle of Barnabas” is the earliest extra-Canonical source we have. Although not included in the Canon of the New Testament, it is an incredibly early documentation of the early Church’s beliefs about the last days. The Apostle John was probably alive when it was written. And although the authorship is disputed, we will refer to Barnabas as the author.

The Epistle of Barnabas sets forth the common view held by the early Church that the seventieth week of Daniel ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, as Messiah’s Day dawned and Christ’s Church was born. Barnabas writes, “For it is written, ‘And it shall come to pass, when the week is completed, the temple of God shall be built…in the name of the Lord.’ I find…that a temple does exist. Having received the forgiveness of sins…in our habitation God dwells in us….This is the spiritual temple built for the Lord.” (EOB, 16:6)

Barnabas uses the expression “the week,” but does not mention Daniel. Yet scholars agree from the context that this is definitely a reference to Daniel’s 70th week. And it is assumed by many scholars that the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks was so well known and so widely expounded in the early Church that it needed no further explanation. The early Church did not avoid Daniel’s prophecy.

This early Christian writer connects Daniel’s vision of seventy weeks with the prophecy of Haggai 2:7-9 and the building of a “spiritual temple,” the Church. The author of the Epistle of Barnabas obviously believed that Daniel’s 70th week was fulfilled with Christ’s first advent. This was when the Old Temple was destroyed and the new “spiritual temple” was initially established. Writing in 100 AD he clearly believed the 70th week of Daniel was already completed.

It seems clear from this passage in the Epistle of Barnabas that less than a century after Christ’s passion (remember that according to Daniel the Messiah would be cut off in the middle of the 70th week), it was the widespread belief of the Church that the 70th week of Daniel was completed. It is certain that Barnabas placed the end of the 70th week no later than 70 AD. His mention of the building of the Church (which was able to grow largely unimpeded after 70AD) makes it probable that Barnabas saw 67 to 70 AD and the destruction of Herod’s Temple as the end of the Jewish or Old Covenant Age and the dawning of Messiah’s Day. As David B. Currie writes in his book, Rapture, The End-Times Error That Leaves The Bible Behind, “He (Barnabas) assumes his readers will agree that the events of ‘the week’ led to the building of the Church”  (Page 422).

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDREA

Within a century of Barnabas, Clement became bishop of Alexandria until his death in 215 AD. Clement taught that the blessings of the New Covenant required the end of biblical Judaism within the 70 weeks of Daniel. Clement writes of the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD in the prophetic language of Daniel’s seventy weeks, “Vespasian rose to the supreme power (Emperor of Rome) and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place”  (STO, XXI, 142-143).

Clement of Alexandrea believed the Jewish Age, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel and the great tribulation were behind, not ahead of the Church.

ORIGEN (185-254 AD)

A student of Clement of Alexandrea, Origen agreed that the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD marked the end of the Jewish Age and the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy regarding the 70 weeks. Origen writes,“The weeks of years up to the time of Christ the leader that Daniel the prophet predicted were fulfilled” (TPR, IV:1:5).

Like Clement, Origen also believed the Jewish Age, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel and the great tribulation were behind the Church, not ahead of it.

TERTULLIAN

In 203 AD Tertullian wrote his famous treatise Against The Jews. This early Church father also taught that Daniel’s 70th week had been fulfilled in 70 AD: “Vespasian vanquished the Jews…and so by the date of his storming Jerusalem, the Jews had completed the seventy weeks foretold by Daniel”  (AAJ, VII; CID).

Contrary to modern postponement preachers and teachers, Tertullian believed the Jewish age, the abomination of desolation, and the great tribulation was behind, not ahead of the Church.

ATHANASIUS

Athanasius was bishop of Alexandria from 326 to 373 AD. Like the early Church fathers before him, he also taught that the 70 weeks of Daniel culminated and the Jewish Age ended in 70 AD: “Jerusalem is to stand till His coming (Daniel’s reference to Messiah’s appearing in His First Advent), and thenceforth, prophet and vision cease in Israel (the end of the Old Covenant or Jewish Age). This is why Jerusalem stood till then…that they might be exercised in the types as a preparation for the reality…but from that time forth all prophecy is sealed and the city and Temple taken” (INC, XXXIX:3-XV:8).

Athanasius clearly reflects the view of the entire early Church: once the Messiah had come, the role of the Temple in Jerusalem would be ended. “Things to be done which belonged to Jerusalem beneath…were fulfilled, and those which belonged to the shadows had passed away” (FEL, IV:3-4).

This important early Church father clearly believed that the Jewish age ended in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

IRENAEUS AND HIPPOLYTUS

Irenaeus was a contemporary of Clement of Alexandrea whose widely held view we dealt with above. Irenaeus and his pupil Hippolytus are the only two writers from the early Church period who believed in a still-future fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week. They both placed the 70th week at the end of the gospel age and so are the first interpreters to postulate a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks (AG, V). Both predicted a specific date for the second coming that has long since come and gone.

But their belief in a future 70th week was never widely accepted! St. Jerome specifically pointed out that the number of years in their system did not coincide with the historical events they purported to cover. He wrote, “If by any chance those of future generations should not see these predictions of his (Irenaeus) fulfilled at the time he (Irenaeus) set, then they will be forced to seek for some other solution and to convict the teacher himself (Irenaeus) of erroneous interpretation”  (CID).

David B. Currie points out in his scholarly work, “As a point of history, the views of Irenaeus did give seed to premillennialism. But the early fathers of the Church strongly and universally denounced this concept. The early Church understood the presumptuous-parenthesis theory that rapturists employ…but they resoundingly rejected it”  (David B. Currie, Rapture, page 425).

The prevailing view of the early Church fathers was that Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks was fulfilled in 70 AD. The final or 70th week began with the baptism of Jesus and his presentation to Israel by John the Baptist. The Messiah was cut off in the middle of the 70th week when Jesus was crucified. The abomination of desolation and the great tribulation spoken of by Daniel were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD.

These events marked the end of the Jewish age and the dawning of Messiah’s Day.