By Ward Fenley

There are many today who believe we are in the last days because they see all of the middle-east turmoil, technological advancements, "new world order" etc. They claim that these are fulfillments of Biblical prophecy that prove that we are in the last days. An example of this would be Jack Van Impe's statement in July that the way that people will worship the "image" of the Beast is through the scientific achievement of "cloning." They will clone the Beast, Impe says, and therefore it will provide his image everywhere around the world for people to worship this Beast.

Consequently Impe is a few dollars richer and many gullible yet fleshly people are a few dollars poorer.

In order to determine whether we are in the last days, we should determine how the phrase was originally used in the Hebrew Scriptures. This will help us immensely in regard to our interpretation of the New Testament usage of the term "last days." First, I would like to consider the first usage of the phrase "last days" and consider those who are primarily addressed:

Gen 49:1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. Jacob, in this swan song, basically pronounced the general evil that would come upon the twelve tribes. So, clearly, Israel is the subject of the last days and the last days concern the Jews. Numbers 24:13-14 If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak? {14} And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days. Here again the vision is concerning the Jews. It was concerning what would happen to Israel in the last days.

Isaiah predicts these last days as well:

Isaiah 2:1-2 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. {2} And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. The vision was concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Nowhere is the passage referring to the last days of the physical planet but, rather, the last days of Judah and Jerusalem.

Moses confirms that the latter days of the Jews would be devastation and their ultimate scattering:

Deu 4:27 And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you…
Deu 4:30 When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
He continues this omen toward the end of the book: Deu 31:29 For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands. Moses says, "evil will befall you in the latter days." Moses was leading the company of Jews. There is no reference to Gentiles being the subject of these latter days. Jeremiah 23:16-20 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. {17} They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. {18} For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? {19} Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. {20} The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. Throughout the book of Jeremiah God condemns the Jewish false prophets. Here Jeremiah predicts that when these latter days come the people of God will understand what He will do to the nation in destroying it and punishing it for its wickedness.

Ezekiel identifies Israel also concerning its doom under the nations:

Ezek 38:16 And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes. Michael the archangel spoke to Daniel associating the latter days with Daniel's people: Dan 10:14 Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days. Hosea has at least an optimistic outlook for the elect remnant of national Israel who would be saved: Hosea 3:5 Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days. Finally in Micah, the prophet states with no uncertainty that the last days involves the reduction of Israel to heaps at that time: Micah 3:12 Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.
Micah 4:1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
It is evident that national Israel was the main subject involved in these last days. One might try to argue that this concerned the spiritual Israel of God, however, in light of the evil said to come upon Israel one would be hard pressed to find God bringing such evil upon His beautiful bride.

The nation of Israel has not existed for nearly 2000 years. Those in the middle east who affirm themselves as Israel have no more right to do so than a twentieth century man would to claim He was Jesus Christ manifested in the flesh.

Those who would agree that God has been finished with national Israel for nearly two millennia would be forced to conclude that, in light of the above evidence, the latter days are concerning the nation of Israel. Therefore if they agree that God has been finished with the nation of Israel for 1900+ years they must agree that the latter days have also been finished for the same length of time.

In the book of Acts we find a profound statement made by Peter (a Jew) to a multitude of Jews out of every nation:

Acts 2:14-21 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: {15} For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. {16} But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; {17} And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: {18} And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: {19} And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: {20} The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: {21} And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Peter explicitly says, "This is that." He then explains that what this multitude of Jews was experiencing was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel. Peter is telling this multitude that they were in the last days. Beyond this he goes on to describe what would take place during these last days: dreams, visions, prophesying, wonders in heaven, signs in the earth, blood, fire, vapour of smoke, the sun turned into darkness and the moon into blood. Peter said, "This is that." Jesus predicted strikingly similar events to take place before His return: Mat 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: As we have seen, the latter days concerned the nation of Israel. In fact, the very first mention of the last days was by Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. More importantly Jacob was addressing the twelve sons or tribes in speaking about the evil that would befall those tribes in the last days. The question is, how does this relate to the language of Jesus and Peter in speaking of the sun, moon, and the stars? Our attention should be immediately drawn to the dream of Joseph concerning His family: Genesis 37:9-10 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. {10} And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? This description of the foundation of national Israel would no doubt be an imprint upon the hearts of those born as Israelites. This description basically identified Jacob, his wife, and the heads of the twelve tribes, as the sun, moon, and stars respectively. They represented the foundation of the whole Jewish nation. The Jews were dangerously confident in their nationality and foundation to the point of believing that their nationality along with their works secured them a place in the eternal promised land. When Jesus, therefore spoke of the sun being darkened, the moon not giving its light, and the stars falling from heaven, He was referring to the complete dissolution of the Jewish state. Peter was very likely addressing the same event.

What is significant about Peter's statement is that he was claiming that they were in the last days. The writer of Hebrews expressed this identical sentiment as he began his discourse comparing the fading Old Covenant with the Everlasting New Covenant:

Hebrews 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, {2} Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; "Hath in these last days" the writer confirms. Without any speculation those in the first century believed they were in the last days. Certainly the writers of the New Testament were very aware of those passages we have studied involving the last days of Judah and Jerusalem. Therefore it is safe and logical to say that the New Testament writers believed that they were in the last days of the Jewish age. The writer of Hebrews confirmed this: Heb 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the age hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Paul believed they were living in the end of the Jewish age as well: 1 Cor 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the age are come. Paul was describing the history of the Jews and their rebellion against God in the wilderness. We should not ignore the fact that Paul, in discussing the ancient rebellion which took place in the 40-year period between the giving of the Old Covenant and the entering into the earthly promised land, was describing the rebellion taking place during the 40-year period in which he was living: the period between the giving of the New Testament and the entering into the heavenly Promised Land.

Consider the statement of James as he addressed the unbelieving Jews:

James 5:1-9 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. {2} Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. {3} Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. {4} Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. {5} Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. {6} Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. {7} Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. {8} Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. {9} Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. Clearly James taught that these men were in the last days. To prove this with even more authority, James declares that the coming of the Lord was drawing near and that the Judge was standing at the door. This corresponds very well with the previous statement declaring the unbelieving Jews to be in the last days ready for the slaughter.

Jude, in describing the same group of unbelieving Jews, also speaks of this period, although with a different phrase:

Jude 1:17-18 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; {18} How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. The word "time" is the Greek word chronos, defined by Strong's Exhaustive Concordance as:

5550. chronos, khron'-os; a space of time

The word "last" is defined as:

2078. eschatos, es'-khat-os; a superl. prob. from G2192 (in the sense of contiguity); farthest, final (of place or time):--ends of, last, latter end, lowest, uttermost.

Certainly we can conclude from Jude that they were in the farthest or uttermost space of time of the Jewish age. They were in the last days of the Jewish state.

The apostle John made a similar statement:

1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. Here, the same word "eschatos" is used for "last." However, the Greek word for "time" is slightly different, though very related: it is the Greek word "hora" defined by Strong's as:

5610. hora, ho'-rah; appar. a prim. word; an "hour" (lit. or fig.):--day, hour, instant, season, X short, [even-] tide, (high) time.

John believed they were in the last or farthest season or hour of the Jewish age. Paul believed the same:

Rom 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. There are two different Greek words used here translated as "time." In the first cause Paul says "knowing the time." The Greek word here is "2540. kairos, kahee-ros'; of uncert. affin.; an occasion, i.e. set or proper time:--X always, opportunity, (convenient, due) season, (due, short, while) time, a while. Comp. G5550." Strong's. In the second clause Paul uses the phrase "high time." "High time" is the same Greek word used in first John. Both Paul and John firmly believed that they were in the last time or days of the Jewish age.

There are many other passages that could be used to support the fact that the first-century believers and particularly the apostles believed unanimously that they were in the end of the Jewish age or the last days of the Jewish age.

When Jesus spoke of the last day, He was making strong reference to the final day of the Jewish age in which the elements of the Temple, rituals, and curse would be done away. There are many futurists who would say there was nothing spiritually significant concerning the destruction of the Jewish state. However, consider this very confusing, nevertheless profound statement by Arthur Pink concerning Hebrews 10:25 which reads:

Heb 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Arthur Pink:

On Hebrews 10:25 "and so much more as ye see the day approaching." There seems little room for doubt that the first reference here is to the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth, which was now very nigh for this epistle was written within less than eight years before Jerusalem was captured by Titus. That terrible catastrophe had been foretold, again and again, by Israel's prophets, and was plainly announced by the Lord Jesus in Luke 21. The approach of that dreadful "day" could be plainly seen or perceived by those possessing spiritual discernment: the continued refusal of the Nation to repent of their murder of Christ, and the abandoning of Christianity for an apostate Judaism by such large numbers, clearly presaged the bursting of the storm of God's judgment. This very fact supplied an additional motive for genuine Christians to remain faithful. The Lord Jesus promised that His followers should be preserved from the destruction of Jerusalem, but only as they attended to His cautions in Luke 21:8, 19, 34, etc., only as they persevered in faith and holiness, Matt. 24:13. The particular motive unto diligence here set before the Hebrews is applicable to other Christians just to the extent that they find themselves in similar circumstances. Pink-Volume 2 Commentary on Hebrews (10:25).

The approaching day was the same day that would come in a little while according to the author of Hebrews:

Heb 10:37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Pink again with incredible insight, still employs a hermeneutic that radically distorts the text:

A little while: "The Greek is very expressive and emphatic. The apostle used a word which signifies 'a little while,' and then for further emphasis added a particle meaning 'very,' and this he still further intensified by repeating it; thus, literally rendered this clause reads, 'For yet a very, very little while, and he that shall come will come.'…'For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.' The reference here is to the person of the Lord Jesus as is evident from Hab. 2:3, to which the apostle here alludes. Like so many prophecies, that word of Habakkuk's was to receive a threefold fulfillment: a literal an initial one, a spiritual and continuous one, a final and complete one, The literal was the Divine incarnation, when the Son of God came here in flesh, The final will be His return in visible glory and power. The spiritual has reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 when that which most obstructed the manifestation of Christ's kingdom on earth was destroyed- with the overthrow of the Temple and its worship, official Judaism came to an end, The Christians in Palestine were being constantly persecuted by the Jews, but their conquest by Titus and their consequent dispersion put and to this, That event was less than ten years distance when Paul wrote: compare our remarks on 'see the day approaching' (10:25) We trust that none will conclude from what has been said above that we regard v.37 as containing no reference to the final coming of Christ. What we have sought to point out was the immediate purport of its content unto the Hebrews. But it also contains a message for us, a message of hope and comfort, It is out privilege too to be waiting for God's Son from Heaven. Let us add that is a big mistake to regard every mention of the 'coming' of Christ in the N.T. Scriptures as referring to His 'appearing the second time' (Heb 9:28). Pink-Commentary on Hebrews-Pg 145

John Brown also makes some unique remarks:

John Brown commentary on Hebrews 10:25: "The day’ here referred to seems plainly the day of the destruction of the Jewish State and Church. That day had been foretold by many of the prophets, and with peculiar minuteness by our Lord Himself: (Luke 21:8-12)..."These events were now very near; and the harbingers of their coming were well fitted to quicken to holy diligence the Hebrew Christians, that they might escape the coming desolation

John Brown commentary on "these last days" of Hebrews 1:2: "...the meaning is, towards the conclusion of the Jewish dispensation. It seems equivalent to the expressions used by the Apostle, 1 Cor, 10:11, ‘the ends of the world (age) are come’-the conclusion of the Mosaic economy; Gal. 4:4, ‘the fulness, or the fulfillment of time’-the accomplishment or termination of the period assigned for the duration of the Mosaic economy; Eph. 1:10, ‘the dispensation of the fulness of times’-the economy which was to be introduced when the times of the Mosaic economy were fulfilled; Heb. 9:26, ‘the end of the world,’ literally ‘of the ages’-the period of the termination of the Mosaic economy-the time when the present age or world was about to be changed into the coming age-the world to come. The Christian revelation was begun to be made in the conclusion of the Jewish age. It was before the conclusion of that age that God spake to the Jews by His Son, who, according to our Lord’s parabolical representation, was sent last of all to the husband men: ‘He sent forth His Son made under the law.’ His personal ministry, and for some time that of His Apostles, was confined to them; and though by His death the Mosaic economy was virtually abrogated, yet it was not in fact dissolved till forty years afterwards, in the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, and the consequent final cessation of its services."

John Owen comments on Hebrews 10:25:

John Owen--"It is not such a day, such a motive, as is always common to all, but only unto those who are in some measure in the same circumstances with them....Wherefore this day was no other but that fearful and tremendous day, a season for the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, city, and nation of the Jews, which our Saviour had forewarned His disciples of, and which they had in continual expectation"--Commentary on Hebrews

With the exception of this last comment by Owen, it is manifestly evident that the preceding quotations are in gross error of applying a hermeneutic that is completely unwarranted both contextually and historically. Nevertheless, we have seen that even the greatest scholars cannot ignore the particular reference given to the Jews and the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 and the last days.

A question should be raised: if, as we have seen, the last days were concerning Judah and Jerusalem, and we believe that God is done with the nation of Israel, then how can we affirm that we are in the last days?

Also, if we have proven that they were in the last days and the end of the age, and that those last days have come and gone and the Jewish age has come and gone, then in what age are we now? Jesus spoke of two ages:

Mat 12:32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age, neither in the age to come. Interestingly, the Greek phrase used is aeoni houtay en toe mellonti, literally translated "age about to come." Jesus spoke of the present Jewish age and the ensuing New Covenant age. Because of the obvious overlap, which, even the authors cited recognized, Paul could say: Eph 1:21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is about to (mello) come: This age is synonymous with the city of the living God: Heb 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one about to come. With the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple, Jesus Christ brought to complete establishment the eternal Jerusalem from above. The last days concerned Israel and its covenant and nation. We are now in the age that was about to come, the everlasting Covenant through the blood of that great Shepherd of the sheep.

Ward Fenley