Are we living in the last days? With all that going on in our world that’s a fair question to ponder. The last days in the Bible are surely coming true, right?
There’s no shortage of opinions and pieces written about the end times. Many of them are a little crazy and not actually found in the Bible. To actually answer that question we need to ask another question, what does the Bible say about the last days?
Most of what you will read about the last days is not found in the Bible. They don’t define the last days the same way that the Bible defines the last days. Many have their theology based out of their own personal definition that’s then forced onto what the Bible says. And that’s a very dangerous practice.
In this blog post we are going to look at what the Bible actually says about the last days. So, let’s put aside what we think we know and look at the question, “what does the Bible say about the last days?”
Last Days In The Bible
The phrase “in the last days” only appears in the Bible 6 times. That might be surprising considering how much it’s talked about. But maybe more surprising is that this phrase is not found in Revelation.
Since the last days in the Bible only appears 6 times I want to look at each occurrence to see what we can learn.
Last Days In The Bible = Acts 2:16
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:14-17
Acts 2 records what has become known as Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit (God) came and dwelled in his people. In the moment there’s some confusion, so Peter stands up to clear the air and explain what’s happening.
Peter turns to an Old Testament prophet that the mostly Jewish crowd would have been familiar with, Joel.
Joel is a short book that prophesied about something that was coming that would literally change all of creation. He was describing Jesus’ resurrection and the coming Holy Spirit. Peter points back to Joel and tells his audience, today is that day.
While a fascinating book, what we are really after is how does Acts define the last days. In context, Peter is saying that we are living in the last days now. In other words, Peter is claiming the last days are not some date in the future, they are the present reality almost 2,000 years ago.
Let’s look at another time Peter uses the term “in the last days.”
Last Days In The Bible = 1 Peter 1:20
He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:20
Notice here how Peter chose to phrase his words. He says, “in these last times.” Peter is putting himself in the last times.
Just like in Acts 2:16 Peter didn’t see the last days as something in the future. He claimed the last days were a present reality.
We are starting to see a pattern. What does the Bible say about the last days so far? They started over 2,000 years ago. Peter uses this term twice with the same definition.
Let’s see how other parts of the Bible use the term “in the last days.”
Last Days In The Bible = Hebrews 1:1-3
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:1-3
The author of Hebrews says in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. The author is claiming we are living in the last days at the time this book was written, roughly 2,000 years ago.
We are starting to see more consistency in the definition of last days. Thus far the Bible is defining the last days as starting with Jesus. Jesus ushered in the last days. According to the Bible, we’ve been living in the last days for 2,000 years.
But we aren’t done yet, we have 3 more to go. Let’s keep looking at the last days in the Bible.
Last Days In The Bible = 2 Timothy 3:1-9
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Alright, this sounds a little more like what we are used to. This passage is commonly pulled out to talk about what the last days will be like and as proof that we are finally entering into them.
Many people that define the last days as in Jesus is coming soon will point to this verse. We are certainly living in a time that fits this description, right?
But, think about this for a minute. When was this description not true? Can you tell me about a time where people didn’t love money and kids didn’t disobey their parents?
Paul is writing these words to Timothy who would have recognized these qualities in the people around him mere decades after Jesus rose from the dead.
Paul isn’t describing some future time where things will get more difficult, he’s describing the world they were living in at that time.
Still, the Bible seems to be holding the same definition of the last days. Let’s keep looking at what the Bible say about the last days.
Last Days In The Bible = 2 Peter 3:1-9
Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 2 Peter 3:3-5
Look at the context in which these words are written. Is Peter writing in the future tense or present tense? You can read this verse either way. So we will have to approach this from a different angle to see how this passage is defining the last days.
Think about the people receiving this letter. If the church that Peter was writing to was not experiencing scoffers that were saying, where’s Jesus? I thought he was coming back? then why would Peter even mention it in the letter? Why would Peter write to a struggling church about a future event 2,000+ years in the making that would not impact them?
While you could read this verse as future tense, it makes more sense that it’s written in the present tense.
Peter was most likely writing to a church that was facing scoffers at the time of writing. Thus, Peter was defining the last days as right then and there.
Last Days In The Bible = James 5:1-6
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you. James 5:1-6
This verse contains an inditement about those who hoard wealth in the last days. But remember this was written to a real group of people. So how could he indite them on something they have not done?
Unless they were hoarding their wealth and they were living in the last days at the time of writing.
In other words, James is saying that we are living in the last days starting with the time his words were penned.
Meaning Of The Last Days In The Bible
Let’s put all this together. What does the Bible say about the last days? How does it define the term?
The Bible defines the last days as the time between the first coming of Christ to the second coming of Christ.
In other words the last days have been going on for 2,000 years.
This differs from how most people today think about the last days and define the term. Many Christians tend to think the last days means Jesus is coming back in the coming years or maybe at most the next few decades.
And maybe you are thinking, surely now we are living in the very last days right? With everything happening Jesus has to be coming back within a matter of years.
But that’s pure speculation. The Bible doesn’t tell us that or really give us any clues. Despite what some claim.
Jesus could return soon, as in the next few years. But we just don’t know. Even Jesus himself says He doesn’t know in Matthew 24:36. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to try to outdo Jesus.
Yet there’s no shortage of people claiming Jesus is returning soon, that we are in the actual last days. But their claims are baseless, they are not supported in the Bible. I suppose they could get lucky. Jesus could return tomorrow, but it could also be another 2,000 years.
The Bible doesn’t tell us. Instead, it keeps its usage of the last days as a broad scope of time and refuses to get specific.
Are We Living In The Last Days?
So, are we living in the last days? Yes, we have been for 2,000 years. Is Jesus coming soon? Who knows. I see little benefit in speculating. The Bible doesn’t give any clues, instead, it tells us how to live in the here and now in light of what Jesus has done.
I see so many people take their own idea of what the last days are and impose it on the Bible. I see it all the time. And that practice is so dangerous. You can make the Bible say anything you want when you fail to read it in context.
The most common interpretation of the last days in the Bible focuses on Jesus’ immediate return but neglects what we are supposed to do. Most would rather try to predict Jesus’ return, rather that do the work set before us.
This misses the point of what the Bible is actually challenging us to do.
Technically, yes we are living in the last days. But that doesn’t mean Jesus is for sure returning in the next few years or even in your lifetime. If you want to believe that, that’s fine. But don’t twist the Bible to support your opinion.
The Bible isn’t interested in telling you when Jesus is going to return. And no Revelation doesn’t offer a timeline. But that’s another topic for another time.
Instead, the Bible tells us how to live in the here and now. We need to stop taking our preconceived notions about what “in the last days” mean.
The Bible doesn’t define the last days as in the handful of weeks, months, or years before the world ends. Rather it says the last days are between Jesus’ first coming and second coming. We should hold to that definition too and avoid imposing our own preconceived ideas onto the Bible.
You might also like: Why The Rapture In the Bible Isn’t What You Think
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Let’s hear from you! What have you heard people teach about the last days in the Bible? Don’t forget to leave a comment! How would you answer the question, “What does the Bible say about the last days?”
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