Pastor David B. Curtis

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We Are Living in the "Last Days"

Selected Scriptures

Delivered 12/23/14

Are you aware that we are living in the last days? Hopefully, when you hear a statement like that your first question is, "Last days of what?" I could be talking about the "last days" of shopping for Christmas 2014. Or I could be referring to the "last days" of 2014. Or I could be referring to the "last days" of the Obama administration. If I was referring to any of those things, I would be correct. What is really sad is that when MOST Christians hear that we are in the "last days" they never ask, "Last days of what?" They see the phrase "last days" used in the Bible, but they don't stop to ask, "Last days of what?" They assume it is referring to the last days of the world.

Most Christians today would probably say that we (twenty first century American Christians) are living in the last days of planet earth. This is a commonly held view.

Joseph Tkach writes, "Do we see 'the signs of the times?' 'Mark this,' Paul wrote: 'There will be terrible times in the last days' (2 Timothy 3:1). And what do we see now? America at war. Shootings in our schools. Disasters in the weather. Is it all coming to a climax? Will World War III soon be upon us? We are living in the last days!" By "last days" he means the last days of the world, the "last days" of planet earth.

There are many today who believe we are in the last days of planet earth because they see all of the middle-east turmoil, technological advancements, "new world order," etc. They claim that these are fulfillments of biblical prophecy that prove that we are in the last days.

Let's examine what the Bible says about the "last days" and see if we can come to an understanding of their meaning. I think that most everyone would agree that the last days had begun by the time Christ came into the world:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:1-2 NASB

The writer of Hebrews says that they (first century Christians) were in the last days. Most Christians would agree that the last days began around the time of Christ; the big debate comes over when do the last days end? Hopefully, our study today will help us answer that question.

In order to understand the term "last days," let's look at how the phrase was originally used in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Bible's first use of the phrase "last days" is found in Genesis:

Then Ya`akov called for his sons and said, "Gather yourselves together, and I will tell you what will happen to you in the acharit-hayamim. Genesis 49:1 CJB

The "acharit- hayamim" is the Hebrew for the "last days." Consider carefully to whom the phrase "last days" is primarily addressed. Jacob is talking to his sons (the twelve tribes of Israel), and he pronounces the general evil that would come upon them. So, clearly, Israel is the subject of the last days, and the last days concern Israel:

'Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the LORD, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the LORD speaks, that I will speak'? 14 "And now behold, I am going to my people; come, and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come." Numbers 24:13-14 NASB

The CJB has here "acharit -hayamim." The KJV says, "in the latter days." And YLT says, "in the latter end of the days." Here again the vision is concerning the Jews. It was concerning what would happen to Israel in the last days.

Isaiah predicts these "last days" as well:

The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 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 2:1-2 NASB

The vision was concerning Judah and Jerusalem. This is speaking of the New Covenant that is inaugurated in the "last days." Nowhere is the phrase "last days" used to refer to the physical planet, but, rather, it is referring to the "last days" of the nation Israel.

Moses confirms that the "last days" of national Israel would be characterized by devastation and their ultimate scattering:

"And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you shall be left few in number among the nations, where the LORD shall drive you. Deuteronomy 4:27 NASB
"When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice. Deuteronomy 4:30 NASB

He continues this idea toward the end of the book:

"For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands." Deuteronomy 31:29 NASB

Moses says, "...evil will befall you in the latter days..." Moses was leading the company of Israel. There is no reference to Gentiles being the subject of these latter days:

Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD. "They keep saying to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, "You will have peace"'; And as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, They say, 'Calamity will not come upon you.' "But who has stood in the council of the LORD, That he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? "Behold, the storm of the LORD has gone forth in wrath, Even a whirling tempest; It will swirl down on the head of the wicked. "The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; In the last days you will clearly understand it. Jeremiah 23:16-20 NASB

Throughout the book of Jeremiah God condemns the Jewish false prophets. Here Jeremiah predicts that when these last days come, the people of Yahweh will understand what He will do to the nation in destroying it and punishing it for its wickedness.

Yahweh, through Ezekiel, warns Israel (My people) of their destruction by the hand of foreign nations:

and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It will come about in the last days that I shall bring you against My land, in order that the nations may know Me when I shall be sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog." Ezekiel 38:16 NASB

Michael, the archangel, spoke to Daniel associating the latter days with Daniel's people:

"Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future." Daniel 10:14 NASB

The phrase "your people" is referring to Israel. Israel is Daniel's people. The time of this writing is about 536 B.C. He says that the vision of what will happen to Israel in the latter days is a long way off, "...the vision pertains to the days yet future." So, in Daniel's time, the "last days" were a long way off.

Hosea talks about how the elect remnant will turn to Yahweh in the "last days":

Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days. Hosea 3:5 NASB

This is talking about Israel trusting their Messiah Yeshua. Finally, in Micah, the Prophet states that the last days involves the destruction of physical Israel, and the establishment of the true Israel:

Therefore, on account of you, Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest. Micah 3:12 NASB

Here we see the destruction of national Israel. But look at:

And it will come about in the last days That the mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, And the peoples will stream to it. Micah 4:1 NASB

In order to understand these verses, we must understand that there are two Israels:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; Romans 9:6 NASB

What does that mean? Israel is not a term like Ammon, Moab, Greece, or Rome. Israel cannot be defined in terms of physical descent, or understood simply on the human side; it is created not by blood or soil, but by the promise of Yahweh. Within national Israel is "true Israel," or "spiritual Israel." Most of Israel was faithless, only a remnant was redeemed. Those of faith made up the remnant.

The Dispensationalists says, "God is going to defend National Israel in His time." The exact opposite was true! Yahweh said that there was going to be an end to some aspect of Israel and a resurrection of something else. Yahweh was going to destroy her national, political existence and spiritually resurrect her:

She has fallen, she will not rise again-- The virgin Israel. She lies neglected on her land; There is none to raise her up. 3 For thus says the Lord GOD, "The city which goes forth a thousand strong Will have a hundred left, And the one which goes forth a hundred strong Will have ten left to the house of Israel." Amos 5:2-3 NASB

National Israel will be destroyed. But spiritual Israel will be Restored:

"In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; Amos 9:11 NASB

"Booth" refers to his family line. Yahweh said He was going to destroy and rebuild Israel, meaning that National Israel would be destroyed, never to rise again, but Spiritual Israel will rise from her ruins.

Look at what Paul taught the Galatians:

Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. Galatians 3:6-7 NASB

Who are Abraham's true children? Those of faith, not physical descent:

So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. Galatians 3:9 NASB

The blessing comes from faith, not physical descent with the "last days." Their last days came, and Yahweh destroyed them. The nation of Israel has not existed for nearly 2,000 years. National Israel was destroyed in A.D. 70. Those in the Middle East who affirm themselves as Israel have no right to do so. There is no Jewish race or nation today. Yahweh put an end to Judaism in A.D. 70. The "last days" were the "last days" of Israel. The last days ended when the nation Israel ended.

Let's move into the New Testament and see if we can't verify these truths. In the book of Acts we find a profound statement made by Peter (a Jew) to a multitude of Jews out of every nation:

But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. "For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but 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; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. Acts 2:14-18 NASB

Let me ask you a couple of questions here, "Who is Peter talking to?" The answer is: men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem. "When did Peter say this?" He said this in the first century.

Peter explicitly says, "This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel." He then explains that what this multitude of Jews was experiencing was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel. Peter is telling this multitude that they (first century Jews) were in the last days. Beyond this, he goes on to describe what would take place during these last days:

'AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. 'THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. Acts 2:19-20 NASB

Notice how this corresponds to what Yeshua said in:

"But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Matthew 24:29 NASB

Yeshua spoke these words in answer to the disciples' question as to when the end of the age would come:

Yeshua came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down." As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" Matthew 24:1-3 NASB

Their question was two-fold. First they ask, "When will these things be?" The "these things"refers to the temple's destruction in verse 2. In verse 1, the disciples point out the temple buildings to Yeshua. In verse 2, Yeshua says, "All' 'these things' shall be destroyed." It should be clear that they are asking, "WHEN will the temple be destroyed? When will our house be left desolate?" After all Yeshua had just said about judgment on Jerusalem (Matthew 23), and then about not one stone being left upon another, the disciples' response is, "When?" That makes sense, doesn't it? I would hope so..

The second part of their question is, "What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age." If you compare all three synoptic Gospel accounts, you will see that the disciples considered His "coming" and "the end of the age" to be identical events with the destruction of the temple:

"Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?" Mark 13:4 NASB

Notice in the first part of the verse, he says, "When will these things be?" --referring to the temples' destruction. Then in the second half, he asks, "What will be the sign when all 'these things' will be fulfilled?" The sign of His coming and the end of the age was the same as the "these things," which referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year AD 70. The disciples had one thing, and only one thing, on their mind, and that was the destruction of the temple. With the destruction of the temple, they connected the coming of Messiah and the end of the age. Their question was, "When will the end be?" Yeshua tells them quite clearly that the end would come in "This generation":

"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Matthew 24:34 NASB

The word "generation" means: "those who are contemporaries, or live at the same time."

So, the age that was to end was the Jewish age. It would end with the destruction of the Jewish temple and the city Jerusalem. It was not the "last days" of planet earth or the "end" of the world; he is talking about the "last days" or "end" of the age of Judaism, the Old Covenant Age. The disciples knew that the fall of the temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant Age and the inauguration of a New Age:

"But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Matthew 24:29 NASB

Modern commentators generally understand this and what follows as the end of the world; but is that consistent with biblical language? Is this talking about global destruction?

If you are not familiar with the apocalyptic language of the Tanakh, you will not understand what Christ is saying here. This language is common among the Old Covenant prophets. This idea is seen clearly as we look at passages where mention is made of the destruction of a state and government using language which seems to set forth the end of the world.

The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw. Isaiah 13:1 NASB

In this chapter, Yahweh is talking about the judgment that is to fall upon Babylon. The word "oracle" is the Hebrew word massa': "an utterance, chiefly a doom." This introduction sets the stage for the subject matter in this chapter, and if we forget this, our interpretations of Isaiah 13 can go just about anywhere our imagination wants to go. This is not an oracle against the universe or world, but against the nation of Babylon:

Wail, for the day of the LORD is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Isaiah 13:6 NASB
Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, To make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises And the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil And the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud And abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold And mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, And the earth will be shaken from its place At the fury of the LORD of hosts In the day of His burning anger. Isaiah 13:9-13 NASB

Now, remember he is speaking about the destruction of Babylon, but it sounds like world wide destruction. The terminology of a context cannot be expanded beyond the scope of the subject under discussion. The spectrum of language surely cannot go outside the land of Babylon. If you were a Babylonian and Babylon was destroyed, would it seem like the world was destroyed? Yes! Your world would be destroyed:

Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them, Who will not value silver or take pleasure in gold. Isaiah 13:17 NASB

This is a historical event that took place in 539 BC. When the Medes destroyed Babylon, the Babylonian world came to an end. This destruction is said (verse 6) to be from the Almighty, and the Medes constitute the means that Yahweh uses to accomplish this task. This is apocalyptic language. This is the way the Bible discusses the fall of a nation. This is obviously figurative language. Yahweh did not intend for us to take this literally. If we take this literally, the world ended in 539 BC, and we're not really here.

As we have seen, the "last days" concerned the nation of Israel. In fact, the very first mention of the "last days," as we have seen, was by Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. More importantly, Jacob was addressing the twelve sons, or tribes, in speaking about the evil that would befall those tribes in the last days. The question is, how does this relate to the language of Yeshua and Peter in speaking of the sun, moon, and the stars? Do you remember Joseph's dream about his family?:

Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, "Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." Genesis 37:9 NASB

Is Joseph's dream about the literal sun and moon and stars bowing to him? How would the sun bow? This may confuse us, but Joseph's father knew exactly what he was saying:

He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?" Genesis 37:10 NASB

Jacob, Joseph's father, interprets this dream as referring to himself, his wife, and their sons, who were the heads of the twelve tribes identified as the sun, moon, and stars, respectively. They represented the foundation of the whole Jewish nation. When Yeshua, therefore, spoke of the sun being darkened, the moon not giving its light, and the stars falling from heaven, He was not referring to the end of the solar system, but of the complete dissolution of the Jewish state. Peter was addressing the same event.

In the prophetic language, great commotions and revolutions upon earth are often represented by commotions and changes in the heavens. None of these things literally took place!

So we saw in Acts 2 that Peter was claiming that Joel's prophecy was being fulfilled, and that they were in the "last days." As we saw earlier, the writer of Hebrews expressed this identical sentiment as he began his discourse comparing the fading Old Covenant with the Everlasting New Covenant:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:1-2 NASB

Yeshua was speaking in the last days. What last days? The last days of the Old Covenant Age:

Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Hebrews 9:26 NASB

When was it that Yeshua appeared? He was born, not at the beginning, but at the end of the ages. To suppose that he meant that Yeshua's incarnation came near the end of the world, would be to make his statement false. The world has already lasted longer since the incarnation than the whole duration of the Mosaic economy, from the exodus to the destruction of the temple. Yeshua was manifest at the end of the Jewish age. Peter says the same thing:

For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 1 Peter 1:20 NASB

Yeshua came during the last days of the age that was the Old Covenant Age, the Jewish age. That age came to an end with the destruction of the temple in AD 70.

Certainly the writers of the New Testament were very aware of those passages we have studied involving the "last days" of Judah and Jerusalem. Therefore, it is safe and logical to say that the New Testament writers believed that they were in the "last days" of the Jewish age. Paul believed they were living in the end of the Jewish Age:

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 NASB

Paul said that the end of the ages was coming upon them (first century saints). James taught the same thing:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! James 5:1-3 NASB

Clearly James taught that these men were in the "last days." John taught this also:

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 1 John 2:18 NASB

John believed they were in the last hour of the Jewish age.

There are many other passages that could be used to support the fact that the first-century believers, and particularly the apostles, believed that they were in the end of the Jewish age or the "last days" of the Jewish age.

Contrary to popular opinion, we are not living in what the Bible calls the "last days". We are certainty living in the last days of something, Christmas shopping days, days of 2014, days of the Obama administration, but NOT the biblical last days--those referred to the last days of Old Covenant Israel. We are now living in the New Covenant age. The New Covenant age is "the eternal covenant."

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Yeshua our Lord, Hebrews 13:20 NASB

An eternal covenant has no "last days." We are living in the first days of the eternal age. Missing these important time statements causes people to misapply, by nearly 2000 years, many verses in the Bible.

The old heavens and earth of Judaism have passed away, and we now live in the New Heavens and New Earth of the New Covenant. May Yahweh help us to fully understand and appreciate our position in the New Heaven and Earth where righteousness dwells, and where Yahweh dwells with His people.

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