Are We Living in the Last Days?
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
Biblical teaching about the last days is typically called Eschatology. Teachings and sermons on this subject typically focus on the events that occur just before, up to, and after the return of Jesus. In this article, we will address some fundamental questions on this subject, such as: Are we living in the last days? If so, when did these days begin?
First of all, teaching about prophetic events concerning the last days is not new or recent (contrary to what some people say). We will look at a few examples. In the 1520s, Hans Hutt taught that Christ’s second return would take place on Pentecost 1528. In the 1840s, William Miller taught that Jesus was imminently returning. In the 1900s, other Bible teachers set dates and tried to predict Jesus’ return. All of us realize that none of those prophetic predictions came to pass.
We know that Jesus is coming back because He promised that He would do so (John 14:1-4). It is prophesied many places in the New Testament (such as I Thess. 4:13-18, Hebrews 9:26-28, and Rev. 19:11-20). But when exactly did the ‘last days’ begin? Is modern teaching missing a dimension of balance on this subject?
To get to the heart of this question, one must understand some basic concepts of time in the New Testament. There are three basic Greek words relating to time: Chronos, Kairos, and Aion.
Chronos refers to time as God designed for us to experience in the natural world. Another way to look at it is measurable time. Some examples: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday…etc. 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, etc. Chronos in the Bible can also refer to a measurable period of time. For instance, the gestation period of a woman is 9 months. Thus 9 months is a chronos (Luke 1:57). In Acts 7:23, forty years old is called forty chronos.
Kairos refers to a season either natural or spiritual. The usage tends to be mostly spiritual in the New Testament. This refers to time as a promise from God comes to pass or some other season God allows. Most of the time it is not clearly predicted by chronos or natural time. In Galatians 6:9, Paul said that we will reap a harvest in due season (Kairos) if we do not give up. We don’t know when in chronos time we will reap, but it will happen in God’s ordained timing. Many prophecies in the Bible utilize the word kairos, especially relating to prophecies about Jesus first coming and future second coming (see Matthew 13:30, 16:3, 21:34, 26:18, Mark 1:15, Luke 1:20, Acts 1:7). We don’t know exactly when these prophecies will come to pass in chronos, but God the Father has established when the kairos will occur according to chronos.
The third Greek word is aion, which is among the more misunderstood words in New Testament. Most of the time, it refers to an epoch of time and is best translated as AGE. Unfortunately, not all translations of the Bible render this word as age. Our understanding of this word will greatly clarify the meaning of the phrase ‘Last Days.’
“…none of the rulers of this age knew for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” ( I Cor. 2:7-8, NKJV). Paul and Jesus lived in the same age. When did this age start?
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied in Luke chapter 1. He said: “As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been from the age…” (Luke 1:70, Young’s Literal Translation). It can also read “from the beginning of the age.” The age that John the Baptist and Jesus lived in began with the first prophet. In Luke 11:50-51, Jesus said that Abel was the first prophet to be slain. This means that the time of Adam, Eve, and their offspring was the beginning of the age in which Jesus lived.
Jesus death and resurrection changed the direction of the age which began with Adam. The author of Hebrews wrote the following: “God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through prophets at many times and in various ways, in these last days has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the ages” (Hebrews 1:2, New Heart English Bible).
In this verse, the Greek word translated as last is eschatos. It means the last time or place or the final thing in a succession of events. This is where we derive the term eschatology. Why does the writer of Hebrews use the phrase “Last Days?”
Christ’s first coming marked the “Last Days” of the age which started with Adam. In other words, His first coming started the countdown to the very end of the age. When He returns again, He will end this age (and previous ages). Future ages will then begin.
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7).
In the ages that are to come, we will learn even more about the grace of God.
The countdown to the end of this age (and all previous ages – see Hebrews 9:26) started with Christ’s first coming. While we don’t know when that is in chronos time, we can always exude balance in our doctrine and lifestyle regarding this subject. Three quick lessons for viewing the last days:
First of all, we always want to avoid setting dates for Jesus return. Jesus said no man knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). We cannot know the chronos and kairos established by the Father (Acts 1:7). Secondly, we do not want to lose heart that He will return soon. His second return is called the blessed hope and should encourage His people (Titus 2:13, I Thess. 4:18). Lastly, we also want to avoid an apathetic attitude that ignores Jesus return (see Matthew 25:1-30). He taught us to discern the times and to be prepared (Matthew 24:42-44; Lk. 12:56).
Next week we will review our duties as a Christian as we await His return to end this age and all previous ages.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org