The last days

Church bulletin:

Are we living in the last days? Many Christians believe we are because Biblical spirituality and morality are in serious decline in the west. The end is nigh they claim. Christ is coming soon they say. But what exactly and when exactly are the last days? The terms “last days / last times / last hour” appear in the New Testament eight times. Some examples:

* Acts 2:16-17, But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: (17) ‘and it shall come to pass in the last days, says god, that I will pour out of my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.

* 2 Tim 3:1-2, But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: (2) For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy…..”

* Heb 1:1-2, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, (2) 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……”

* 1 Peter 1:20, “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world but was manifest in these last times for you.”

* 1 John 2:18, 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 agree that we are living in the last days. But so were Martin Luther and Augustine, so were people in the first century during the time of the apostles. According to the scriptures, the “last days” (and similar expressions) represent the period from the ascension of Christ to the return of Christ. For 2000 years people have been living in the last days. The New Testament indicates that the last days are characterized in the following ways.

* The outpouring of the Holy Spirit – resulting in the worldwide growth of the church.

* The proliferation of wicked men and their wicked ways.

* The end of direct, supernatural revelation – we now have the completed canon of scripture.

* The clear proclamation of the person and work of Messiah – in other words the gospel.

Many Christians understand the expression “last days” to mean the end of days. They believe we must be very close to the end – the return of Christ. How though, do we define close – 50 years, 100 years, 200 years? People throughout history have believed they were living at the end. We can at least say this – we are closer today than we were yesterday. God has not given us any clues by which we can calculate when the end will come. Who knows, there may yet be many more spiritual ebbs and flows before the Parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not prepare for His coming by speculating over signs – because there aren’t any (Matt 24:36-44; 1 Thess 5:1-4). The current state of society is not evidence that the end is nigh. We are to prepare for the end no matter what is going on around us. We prepare for the end by engaging in the purposes of God – growth in Christ likeness, undertaking good works and Christian service, the evangelization of the lost. Live with a view to the end, but don’t get caught up in “end times” madness.