by Dr. Dan Hayden •
A man with a sign that said “Judgment Day Is Coming” stood on the corner of a busy city street in 1969 and yelled to passersby, “The last days are upon us!” An author electrified his readers by announcing that he had done the math, and according to his calculations, Christ was coming back in 1988—so in the mid-’80s the Christian community was told they were living in the last days. Yet the years have come and gone—and we are still waiting. So how much more time do we have to wait until the last days really come? Well, would it surprise you to know that for two thousand years people have been living in the last days?
The writer to the Hebrews begins his apologetic to the Jews by saying, “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” (Hebrews 1:1-2). This beginning statement in the book of Hebrews sets the stage for a convincing argument to the Jews that the New Testament Gospel of Jesus Christ is the culmination of all that God had said through the prophets of Israel. God had spoken through the prophets, but the last installment of God’s special revelation to man was spoken through the message of His Son. God has no more to say to us. We are living in the last days because Jesus Christ and His Gospel are the final episode of the divine story of salvation for humanity.
The phrase “the last days” obviously includes the last days of the last days. In other words, the events still future to the early years of the twenty-first century are also included in the last days. However, it is important to realize that the last days were initiated by the first appearance of the Son of God on earth. It was then that Christ actually accomplished the redemption of humans and their environment by His death on the cross (Romans 8:19-25). So the New Testament is indeed the last volume of God’s trilogy (the Law, the Prophets, and the New Testament). It is in this writing that we see the Son of God conquer sin and death and then return in great glory to establish His kingdom of righteousness and peace on the earth. The New Testament is the final volume of God’s message to humanity—therefore all the days that follow it comprise the last days.
The word “last” in this phrase is the Greek word eschatos, which is where we get our English word “eschatological,” referring to anything in the future associated with the final events of world history. Eschatos is the superlative form of the idea of continuity or contiguity—in other words, the farthest reaches of place or time (the latter end, the uttermost, the finale). It is truly the end of all things, “the last days.”
F.F. Bruce has some instructive thoughts on the phrase “in these last days”:
The story of divine revelation is a story of progression up to Christ, but there is no progression beyond Him. It is “at the end of these days” that God has spoken in Him, and by this phrase our author means much more than “recently”; it is a literal rendering of the Hebrew phrase which is used in the Old Testament to denote the epoch when the words of the prophets will be fulfilled, and its use here means that the appearance of Christ “once for all at the end of the age” (Ch. 9:26 RSV) has inaugurated that time of fulfillment. God’s previous spokesmen were His servants, but for the proclamation of His last word to man He has chosen His Son.
So here is what God is saying: You have read the first two episodes of My story—the Law of Moses and the record of the Prophets. Now I am giving you the final installment—the coming of the King and His triumphant return. There will not be a volume four. This is the last thing I am going to say to you. It is the climactic conclusion of My trilogy. It is the LAST DAYS.
This article was published in Sola Scriptura Magazine, Summer 2004