“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.”
“The Last Days”
From time to time I hear the question, “do you think we are living in the last days?” Sometimes people positively state that there is no doubt; “we are certainly living in the last days.” I agree, we are most definitely, with all certainty living in ‘The Last Days’. But do we really understand the meaning and timescale of the period Christians so often refer to as ‘the last days’. How can I possibly be so sure that these are the last days? Do I profess an expert level of understanding prophecy? Or am I endued with a special gift for discerning the times we are living in? I do not claim either. What I do lay claim to though is a simple understanding of the Bible terminology where this phrase is concerned.
I have said, and shall continue to do so, that wrong terminology will inevitably lead to wrong thinking. Looking at it the other way round, correct terminology, though not an absolute guarantee of our real spiritual understanding, will none-the-less frequently help us toward a correct understanding of The Word. On the majority of occasions that I hear this phrase used what the person really wants to know, or state, is “how close are we to the return of the Lord Jesus” – “that great and notable day of the Lord.” For a whole number of reasons I shall not bother to begin to hazard my way into giving an answer for this. But what I do want to say is that there is so often a misunderstanding of the phrase in question. When once we see this, who knows, maybe a little chink more of light may fall on this whole subject of ‘end times’.
The phrase ‘The Last Days’ is used four times in the New Testament. (This is not a study as such of the whole topic so we shall not look at the O.T. references to this but simply seek to establish the meaning of the phrase as intended by N.T. writers). It is interesting to note that it is used once each by four different writers: Acts 2:17, 2 Tmi 3:1, James 5:3 & 2 Peter 3:3. That’s Luke, Paul, James and Peter. Each occasion is translating the same Greek phrase. The key to understanding the message of the Holy Spirit in ‘inspiring’ these authors in their use of this phrase is to be found in the first of our references in Acts 2:17. Although it is Luke writing, he is actually transcribing a message, which can only be described as prophetically inspired, spoken by Peter. In turn, Peter is quoting one of the Old Testament prophets.
It is the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit form God has descended from heaven upon these believing men and women and Peter stands up and says:
“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 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: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy…”
There are no prizes for knowing that this is a quotation from the prophet Joel – chapter 2. Peter, an apostle of the Lord, inspired to speak by the Holy Spirit, interprets the words of Joel and the events of that great day as marking the beginning of “the last days”. The things that follow are all hallmarks of this period and mighty was the manifestation of some of these things on that very day. As you know, prophetic utterances and visions continued to feature throughout the years that followed. We read of such things often in the book of Acts and the New Testament epistles.
So we have a clear commencement date for the period known as ‘the last days’. What about an end date? For this all we need to do is read on further in this very passage:
“And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come.”
Here we are introduced to another wonderful phrase – “The Day of The Lord.” All these things are to happen before ‘The Day of The Lord’. That would seem simple enough to me. The suggestion then is, all these things shall have ceased either by the time of, or immediately after this event. I don’t wish to branch out here into examining this second phrase but I would think that it is near universally accepted that this refers to the second coming of the Lord Jesus. So now we have two absolutely precise dates, which encompass the period of time that the New Testament writers refer to as ‘The Last Days’ – Pentecost to the Second Coming. The simple fact is, we have not been made party to the knowledge concerning that second date.
This period could also be termed: ‘The New Covenant Era’, or, ‘The Church Age’. The important thing is, that we see that this phrase refers to the whole of that period and not just a part. It is not a future time to come. It is here, now and it has been already going nearly 2000 years.
Why ‘the last days’? Because the former days have passed away. There have been ‘days’, or ‘ages’ gone by when God dealt with human beings in other ways, under the terms of other covenants. But these days are the days of a final and ultimate covenant, which God has made with man. This ‘latter day’ covenant has come into being through the offering up of God’s Son of course, which has led to not only the forgiveness of sins, but also to the thorough cleansing of our hearts, which in turn makes mere men capable of being houses (temples) of the Holy Spirit. God cannot give man anything better than this. So this is the final, the ultimate age of human existence, and you and I are extremely privileged to be born into this time.