Last Days and End of the Age

06Jul11

As we now begin a transition from a discussion of the distinctions and distortions of dispensationalism into a discussion of the Olivet Discourse I thought it might be a good time to deal with a few glossary terms and concepts that cause quite a bit of confusion. They are the terms “Last Day/s” and “End of the Age.” Because of some obvious preconceived notions as to what those terms mean we have a tendency to pour our presupposed definition into the passages that use those terms. Quite often we find our presupposed definitions will actually change the intention of the passage and create a faulty exposition.

THE LAST DAYS

Found often in the Old Testament as “The Latter Days” this term is almost always defined as some time period right before the end of the world, or at least before the “rapture” or “Second Coming.” But we must ask ourselves if that is what the term means when it used. Or more importantly, is it ALWAYS used that way?

In an attempt to make a passage say something it never intended many, especially those in the Reformed community. have a tendency to define the “last days” as the entire time between the first and second advent of Jesus Christ. Is this necessary? Does this definition endanger the original intent of the author as much as the dispensational definition of the term meaning that it is the time right before the rapture or second coming?

Before discussing some passages in the New Testament it is important understand the original meaning of the term “latter days” when it is found in the Old Testament. By definition the term latter days means the “days that follow these days.” That can mean pretty much any time in the future, but usually has a generation or more in the future in the mind. It does not, by definition, mean the end of the world in any sense. Many of the instances of Jeremiah’s use of the term were related to the return of Israel from captivity in Babylon.

But what do we do with the term Last Day or Last Days found in the New Testament?

Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘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;

Note how Peter defends the act and actions of the Apostles. He takes an Old testament prophecy about the “last days” found in Joel and declares it was fulfilled during his time. Was it, as one person in the Sunday School I taught argued, that Peter “got it wrong?” Ugh! What could the meaning of last days be here?

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,

What about here? The author plainly states that the prophets spoke “long ago” but here in THESE LAST DAYS we were spoken to by the Christ.

1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that Antichrist is coming, so now many Antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

Last hour?

John’s not even writing about the last days, but the last hour? Surely either the Apostle was mistaken or we have a seriously flawed definition of the term.

END OF THE AGE

What about the “end of the age.” They appear to be related in their usage and so before coming to some conclusions perhaps it would be best to look at how the New testament authors used the term as well.

1 Cor 10:11 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.

Paul states that his readers were experiencing the “end of the age”

Heb 9:26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself

The author of Hebrews argues that Jesus died as a sacrifice at “the end of the ages”

So to what could those passages be referring. Is it as the dispensationalist argue the end of the world? This is important as we begin the study of the Olivet Discourse and how Jesus refers to the time within a generation that would be the “end of the age”

Or is it as the Reformed writers argue a reference to the entire time period between the first and second advent of Christ? But what do we do with the end of the age being related to Christ’s first coming in the Hebrews passage of John’s reference to his present state as being in the last “hour?”

Perhaps something more important was happening during that time than we realize. I should note here that Gary DeMar has dione a wonderful job on this subject and his book, Last days Madness” would be a great resource to any serious student.

There is a rather blatant clue found in the book of Hebrews and relates the ending of a “current for the time” age that was being replaced with a newer and greater age. This relates directly to the concept of covenants and how God expands His relationship with mankind through covenants. This is a topic for another time, but note how similar the new covenant discussion is with the end of the age terminology.

Heb 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The author relates to the ending or fading away of the old covenant in the same way he previously (and would later – see above) discussed the end of the age. The current age of the writer – and the Apostles who wrote as well – was the age of the old covenant that was promised to be replaced with a better and eternal covenant.

Jer 31: 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah… 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity,and I will remember their sin no more.

This covenant find fulfillment in the work of Christ and is instituted at the Lord’s Supper…

Matt26: 26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus is that new covenant. That is why the author of Hebrews could state that Jesus appeard at the end of the ages because He appeared as the new covenant and brought to an end the old age where man would have to constantly provide a sacrifice for their sins through the blood of bulls and goats, but could now take part in the one sacrifice at the end of the age that would end the other sacrifices.

But as the author of Hebrews explains there was a time of “fading out” of the old covenant and the introduction of the new covenant. This time period known as the end of the age would last about one Biblical generation (the time of repentance that never came from the Jews) before the symbol of the old covenant was destroyed. That symbol was utterly, completely and totally destroyed within a generation of the commencing of the new covenant and completed the old covenant.

That is why Jesus, Paul and the author of Hebrews could speak of an aimmediate end of the age. And John, who was writing his epistles nearly a generation after Jesus ministry could speak of the “last hour.”

Though we will deal in greater detail of the events surrounding the end of the age, please note here that no greater symbol of the rejection of jesus as Messiah would be for someone to take an animal and sacrifice that animal in the Temple after Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice – ONCE AND FOR ALL!

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