The Biblical Last Days: A Summary
Are you looking for current events to identify the “biblical last days?” If so, you are reading your own presuppositions into the text. Theologians call that “eisegesis.” That’s an illegitimate methodology for biblical interpretation. Instead, we should be trying to glean the meaning intended by the biblical authors themselves―and the understanding of the original audience, i.e. “exegesis.” Let’s avoid newspaper-eschatology and go to the Bible to define the “last days” or “end times.”
First, let’s consider an important passage from the Old Testament: Daniel 12. This chapter is about the “TIME OF THE END” (12:4, 6, 8, 9, 13). The fulfillment of this passage is clearly delineated. It would be fulfilled when “the power of the holy people comes to an end” (12:7) and when “the regular burnt offering is taken away” (12:11). This clearly happened in AD 70 when God sent the Roman army as the instrument of his judgment against Old Covenant Israel. At that time, the temple was destroyed and the historic Jewish animal sacrifices for sin ended forever (Matthew 23:1-24:2; Luke 21:20-24). This was the Abomination of Desolation predicted by Daniel (12:11) and Jesus (Matthew 24:15). Jesus said all this would happen in his own generation (Matthew 23:35; 24:34).
In the New Testament, there are 19 primary texts about the last days, end times (or end of the age). The writers of the New Testament spoke with one voice that THEY were living in the last days. Contrary to popular opinion, the setting and fulfillment of the last days can only be placed within the first century! Here are seven passages, which one can ignore, futurize, or try to explain away―but you cannot do that and deal honestly with the text:
- “The appointed time has grown VERY SHORT. . . . For the present form of the world IS PASSING AWAY.” (Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
- “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, ON WHOM THE END OF THE AGES HAS COME.”(Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:11)
- “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. . . .” (Writer of Hebrews, Hebrews 1:1-2)
- “He has appeared once for all at THE END OF THE AGES to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Writer of Hebrews, Hebrews 9:26)
- “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but WAS MADE MANIFEST IN THE LAST TIMES for your sake.” (Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 1:20)
- “The END OF ALL THINGS is AT HAND.” (Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 4:7)
- “Children, IT IS THE LAST HOUR.” (Apostle John, 1 John 2:18)
Here are the other twelve, which I suggest you look up and compare in context to the above: Matthew 13:38-42; 24:2-3; 13-16 (ref. v. 34); Acts 2:14-20; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 15:24; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Hebrews 3:14; James 5:1-6; 1 Peter 1:5-7; Jude 17-23. It is clear. You cannot push the last days beyond the generation of men who were writing the New Testament without doing violence to the text.
There is only one logical conclusion. The last days are not about the end of the world. In fact, the Bible never speaks about the end of the physical universe, and indeed teaches that the earth abides forever in some sense (Psalm 78:69; 104:5; 148:3-6; Ecclesiastes 1:4; Ephesians 3:21). They are not about a supposed end of the Christian age, which has no end (Luke 1:31-33). They are not about a future millennium. Rather, they marked the last days of the OLD COVENANT AGE, which came to a violent end in AD 70 at the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple.
The last days/end times did not just begin in the first century―and continue until now. That would make the end time longer than the period to which it was an end! That is, we have been in the New Covenant era for 2,000 years, which is longer than the Old Covenant era which was 1500 years, beginning with Moses and lasted till the first century (Hebrews 8:5-13; 9:19-20; 10:28-29). “At hand” and “It is the last hour” cannot be 2,000 years later. The biblical last days were the END OF SOMETHING―NOT THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING.
AD 70 is when God judged Israel for her sins Matthew (Matthew 23:35), her refusal to accept Jesus as Messiah (Matthew 23:37-39), and for her participation with the Roman authorities in Jesus’ conviction and crucifixion (Matthew 27:24-25). This was the end of biblical Judaism. No longer would the temple be the focus of faith, but rather Jesus became the focus (Revelation 21:22).
Where do you suppose that these writers of the New Testament got such an idea? Well, from our Lord himself, of course, in such passages as Matthew 21-24. In these and many other passages, Jesus placed the “end” at the time of the destruction of the temple, during his own generation. For more detail on the end-times passages, see the articles in Section A here:
Here’s a helpful article showing confirmation of the last days from the Old Testament: