by Micah Gaylor

The Last Days. The End Times. Armageddon. The Second Coming. You may have noticed that the past few years has seen a heightened interest in the above subjects increasing steadily as the year 2000 has approached. Hollywood has pumped out blockbuster after blockbuster about worldwide cataclysmic events and apocalyptic scenarios. During the last few months of 1999 the news was filled almost daily with warnings of possible nuclear terrorism and potential calamity connected with the Y2K bug. Beyond these things there has been a growing fear throughout many places that errant millennial doomsday prophecies could result in mass religious suicides or murders. Indeed the recent tragedy in Uganda has borne this out.

Certainly there have been enough opinions, philosophies, movies, jokes, and predictions concerning the end of the world lately to make your head spin. Unfortunately this millennium madness is not an isolated phenomenon in history. Many scholars and historians are quick to point out that almost every turn of the century and new millennium throughout history has been met by a similar heightened interest in apocalyptic themes. From ancient writings and manuscripts it even appears that many religious cults alive at the end of 999 expected the approaching year 1000 to herald the end of the world.

It didn’t. Now January 1, 2000 has also come and gone with barely a trace of Y2K related computer glitches or terrorist activity. The end of the world obviously skipped the new years party as well. Despite the setback however, many fringe religious cults and escatalogical date setters are busy picking other dates.

Unfortunately with all the hype generated by the year 2000 and the false claims by some religious groups, much of the world has begun to label as fanatical any belief having anything to do with the end of the world or the second coming of Jesus Christ. So strong is this opinion in the world that many mainline Christian denominations have dropped the subject all together, and now even devout Christians, people who have been captured by the reality and passion of the Love of Jesus, are often afraid to talk about His return for fear of ridicule and scorn. As a result many believers no longer even know what they believe about the return of Jesus Christ to this world, and prefer to think of it as some nebulous event so far off in the future that it has no bearing on their life today.

So what are we to think? Could we be living in the generation in which the Lord Jesus will return to the earth? Is this the time the Bible calls the “last days?”

What we believe about this subject will obviously have a profound impact on our lives.

Are we willing to throw away our own ideas and whole heatedly embrace the Word of God?

At a time when so many falsehoods are being propagated about the subject of the last days and the return of Christ, it is imperative that we know the truth. It would be very easy for us as believers to shy away from the subject and thus avoid the controversy. However, as the apostle Paul said, we must “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” Romans 12:2. Let us therefore examine what the Bible says.

What Are The Last Days?
Before we go on we must define, at least in a general way, what the last days are. Are they good days? Are they bad days? What happens during the last days? For the purposes of this article we will only touch lightly upon the substance of the last days. Other articles that will be periodically added to this section will delve more thoroughly into the details of this subject as well as present day news items.

The phrase “last days” is found in both the new and old testaments of the Bible. Throughout the Word of God the last days are presented as times of judgment, war, and great evil:

“Behold, the tempest of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, A sweeping tempest; It will burst on the head of the wicked. 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.” Jeremiah 30:23-24 also see Ezekiel 38

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good…” 2 Timothy 3:1-3

At the same time, however, they are presented as times of restoration and healing (see Jeremiah 48:47, 49:39), and times of excitement and glory for the people of God:

“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.” Micah 4:1

“In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will assemble the lame, And gather the outcasts, Even those whom I have afflicted. I will make the lame a remnant, And the outcasts a strong nation, And the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion From now on and forever.” Micah 4:6-7

As different as these passages may seem, the “sum” of them fit together perfectly.

“The sum of Thy word is truth, And every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting. Psalm 119:160

Throughout the passages dealing with the last days, the central and unifying theme, the one that seems to bring everything together, is the subject of the return of the Lord. In fact, the book of Joel, a beautiful and awesome prophetic picture of the last days of history, describes the last days as a progression of events ultimately leading to the day of the Lord Jesus’ return (see Joel 1-3).

What does all this have to do with us today?

The Early Church
The first century Church and the writers of the new testament believed and proclaimed that they were living in the last days of history (see 1 John 2:18 and Hebrews 1:1-2).

’And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit upon 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 upon My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit And they shall prophesy. And I will grant wonders in the sky above, And signs on the earth beneath, Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.’”
Acts 2:17-20

At the very beginning of the Church some two-thousand years ago the apostle Peter pointed to the powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit they were then experiencing as evidence that they were entering the “last days.” In associating the day they were then living in with the days Joel prophesied about, Peter was proclaiming the beginning of those days! Furthermore, these last days, he said, would culminate with the glorious return of the Lord Jesus! Thus the Church began looking toward and eagerly awaiting His coming.

Like us, however, the believers in the first century often needed to be admonished when their love for the Lord began to grow cold, and their endurance began to wane. In one such time of encouragement, Peter again spoke of the last days:

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:3-10

It is obvious that the early church did not view the last days as some future event that did not affect them. They knew they were living in the last days and they expected to see the day of the Lord in their lifetime. Peter continues in the above verse:

Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way,
what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning and the elements will melt with intense heat! 2 Peter 3:11-13

Not only did they look for the Lord’s return, but they lived their lives in such a way so as to be ready when He did return. They were intimately acquainted with the prophecies foretelling the events that would precede His coming and they encouraged one another with these things (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-11).

What Now?
It seems apparent from the statements made by Peter, and from the sum of the rest of the Word of God, that the last days actually began at Pentecost, and by their very definition, will end with the return of Jesus. But if the early believers lived expectantly for the Lord to come, what reason do we have for living with the same expectation? After all it has been almost two-thousand years and the Lord has not yet returned? Why should we believe that He will return in our lifetime?

The early followers of Jesus learned to believe His words without question. When Jesus ascended to Heaven after His resurrection, His angels appeared to His followers with these comforting words:

and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11

They were given the promise of the Lord’s return, and they believed it with all their hearts! Should we not do the same? When Peter proclaimed that they were living in the last days, they were energized because they knew that the day of the Lord was not far off. This knowledge was heart-changing for them, and it caused them to live differently. Should it be any different for us?

Every day that we live brings us one day closer to the return of our passionate Bridegroom! The early church lived with this knowledge and it provoked them to love and good deeds. Sure, it has been two-thousand years since His ascension, but what does that mean?

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9

If we truly believe the words of Jesus then we must believe, just as the first church believed, that we will see Him returning with the clouds! To not hold tightly to this knowledge would be to align ourselves with the mockers, spoken of by Peter, who followed after their own lusts, declaring, “Where is the promise of His coming? (see 2 Peter 3:3-4).”

We must be like the five prudent virgins, who brought along an extra flask of lamp oil while they were waiting for their bridegroom. When the bridegroom delayed, only the prudent virgins had enough lamp oil to last until the bridegroom appeared (see Matthew 25:1-13).

Come Lord Jesus!
While this article is definitely not intended to serve as a biblical expository on the last days, it is our hope to present you with a biblical basis for believing that we are living in the last days! As to how these days will ultimately unfold, we hope to explore in future articles. However, we understand that there are many different interpretations of the prophecies concerning the last days, the return of the Lord, and everything in between. Just as the nation of Israel misunderstood many of the prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah at the time of Jesus’ birth, and even those who loved and followed Jesus did not understand their true interpretation and fulfillment until after Jesus had fulfilled them, we believe the true interpretations of many of the prophecies concerning the last days will not be fully understood by His Church until they actually begin to be fulfilled in our midst.

“But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase” Daniel 12:4

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”
Matthew 24:32-33

Therefore let us fix our eyes upon Him, and not grow weary or tired of doing good, but like the five wise virgins let us keep our lamps burning bright until the return of our Bridegroom (also see 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8).

Regardless of how it all unfolds, one thing is for sure: Jesus is coming, and He desires that His bride be ready and looking for Him!

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus…” Titus 2:11-14

Hallelujah! Come Lord Jesus!