Perhaps it’s the approaching end of time (according to modern interpretations of a certain Mayan calendar) or perhaps I’m missing my friend Geth who loves to discuss these kinds of things, but lately I’ve been thinking about the phrase “last days” as found in the New Testament. (Ok, before you tell me not to worry about that Mayan calendar thing, I’m not. Seriously.) (knock on wood)
You know that phrase “last days,” right? It’s the phrase that points us ahead to that time just before the culmination of time and the end of all things and the final judgment and other stuff like that. Right? Right.
But, when we really look at the phrase “last days” in the New Testament, we find something interesting:
And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams… (Acts 2:17 ESV)
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. (2 Timothy 3:1 ESV)
…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. (Hebrews 1:2 ESV)
Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. (James 5:3 ESV)
…knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. (2 Peter 3:3 ESV)
While it’s possible that the passages in 2 Timothy, James, and 2 Peter could point to future times (from the point of view of the authors), the passages in Acts and Hebrews do not seem to be able to point to the future. Instead, in those passages, the authors seem to be referring to the times they are living in.
And, on top of that, the other passages also work with the authors referring to their own times as “the last days.”
In other words, the phrase “the last days” does not necessarily (and may not every) point to a time to come in the future. Instead, in some cases (and perhaps all), the phrase “the last days” actually refers to the time the authors were living in and, therefore, also the time we are currently living in. (By the way, did you notice that there were several different authors who used that phrase “the last days”?)
Interestingly, here is a passage with a phrase similar to “the last days”… does this refer to future time events?
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you… (1 Peter 1:20 ESV)
So, what if “the last days” and “the last times” are not really about the end of the world, but what if those phrases refer to the times we are living in now?
(By the way, my friend Geth – who I mentioned earlier, and still miss after his family moved across the country – always reminds me that there’s another phrase – or word – which does always point to the end of the world as we know it: “the last day” – singular.)