Here’s a question that has been the subject of much debate: When are the last days?
Mr. Futurist: “We’re living in them! Study the signs and you will see that we are the last generation.”
Mr. Preterist: “The last days are the final days of the temple and AD70.”
As you can see, the last day’s question is a contentious one. Are the last days now? Are they in the future? Or the past?
The Bible provides an unequivocal answer. Altogether there are about a dozen last-days scriptures. Half of them are in the Old Testament and half of them are in the New. Here’s one:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. (Hebrews 1:1–2, NIV)
When did God begin speaking through his Son? It wasn’t recently and it wasn’t in AD70. This passage is referring to the days when Jesus walked the earth.
This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: “And it shall be in the last days,” God says, “That I will pour forth of my Spirit on all mankind …” (Acts 2:16–17)
God poured out his Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Again, this did not happen recently or in AD70, but it happened in the last days.
The most famous last days’ scripture may be this one:
Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it. (Isaiah 2:2)
Isaiah gives three signs of the last days. First, the house of the Lord (i.e., the church) will become the “chief of mountains,” meaning it will exceed the religion of the hilltop temple. The glory of the latter house (the church) will be greater than the former (Haggai 2:9).
Second, the church will be established, meaning it will endure forever. The Jerusalem temple was built and demolished by men, but the church is built by Jesus (Ephesians 2:20). Since the house of the Lord was not built by human hands (Mark 14:58), nothing can knock it over. Not Romans, death, or anything (Matthew 16:18).
Third, the Gentile nations will come streaming to the church, in contrast with the temple, which was reserved for the Jews.
All three signs have been fulfilled: the church has outgrown its Jewish roots, it has endured persecution, and the nations have been streaming to it since the time of Jesus. From this we can conclude that the last days are the days of the church.
Isaiah’s mountain is Mount Zion a.k.a. the New Jerusalem or the church (see Revelation 21:10). The last days began with Christ’s first coming and will climax with his last. Like the apostles of old, we are living in the last days or the gospel age of the church.
But when is the end of the age? We’ll look at that question in our next post.
Extracted from chapter 34 of Paul’s new book AD70 and the End of the World.