Many Fundamentalist and Prophetic-type Writers and Websites Persist in an Unbiblical and Confused Focus on “The End-Times” Which is Alien to New Testament Teaching
When are the “end-times”?
Many prophetic and apocalyptic type preachers, writers and websites persist in applying a very narrow focus to this topic which ignores New Testament Scriptural teaching. They insist on seeing the 'end times' as the period immediately prior to Christ's second coming, even though this is a scripturally very unsafe assumption.
So what do the Scriptures say on this topic?
In Acts 2:17 Peter clearly teaches that “the last days” (NIV and NKJV), were the present time period which witnessed the first Christian Pentecost.
Then, the writer of Hebrews states this,
“But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son...” (underlining my emphasis). (Phrase 'in these last days' occurs in both the NIV and NKJV).
The writer of Hebrews (9:26) is also in no doubt that it is entirely appropriate to refer to the period in which Christ first appeared in world history as “the end of the ages” (NIV and NKJV), “the end of the world” (KJV). This clearly refers to the first coming – not the second! To ensure that we are explaining this correctly and not twisting the context, lets pick up this whole verse in the KJV,
“For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 2:26, KJV). (My emphasis).
In James 5:3 James also writes of “the last days” (NIV and NKJV), as a current reality, that is, a reality when he was writing his epistle.
In 1 Peter 1:20, Peter writes of the “last times” as a current reality, that is, when he was actually penning his epistle. Notice it here:
“He was chosen before the creation of the world, but he was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (underlining my emphasis). (Phrase 'in these last times' occurs in both the NIV and NKJV).
In 1 John 2:18, the evangelist writes, “Dear children, this is the last hour...” (NIV), “..It is the last hour...” (NKJV).
Jude is also quite clear that the phrase “the last times” applied to the days in which he lived! This can be simply established by considering Jude 17-19. Let us do that:
'But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.' (When Jude said, “These are the men who divide you” he was speaking of the present – not the far future).
The only conclusion which we can draw from all of this is to recognise that 'the last days' or, 'the last times' commenced with the sacrifice of Christ and continue on to the present. We currently continue to live in 'the last days' – so this is not an expression which applies exclusively to the period immediately before Christ's second coming! (Certain 'extreme preterist' or 'full preterist' Christians go much further than this and insist that 'all things are now fulfilled' and that we presently live in the New Heavens and New Earth).
But there is another surprise here for some:
The New Testament does not differentiate between a first and second coming of Christ – even though all our theological approaches always do!
As South African theologian Adrio Konig has pointed out,
'The Greek word most commonly used for his comings (erchomai) is used indiscriminately for all.....It is applied to his first advent or incarnation with marked frequency in the Synoptic Gospels (eg., Matt 5:17; 9:13; 10:34-35; 11:3, etc.). It appears also in John (1:11; 3:19; 5:43; 7:28, etc.) and in 1 Tim.1:15. But this same word is used for the second advent just as frequently – and extremely often in the Synoptics (Matt. 24:30,44,46; 25:13, 31, etc.; Mark 13:26; 14:62, etc.) and in Acts 1:11; 2 Cor.4:5; 11:26; 2 Thess.1:10; and Rev. 1:4, 7, 8, 11, etc. Further, it is striking that the same term refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit (eg., John 15:26; 16:7-8, 13). Yet more remarkable, Jesus himself uses this term about his future coming in such ways that it is often impossible to tell whether he means his resurrection, the ourpouring of the Holy Spirit, or his second advent (cf. John 14:18 with vv. 16-17 and v. 28 with vv. 26-27; see also 16:16).' (Konig, The Eclipse of Christ in Eschatology, p16, paperback version, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London. 1989).
Of course, we do not deny the validity of the belief in the Second Coming (and we would wish to separate ourselves from those who believe that the second coming has already past), but we should at least recognise and carefully note the fact that the Bible, specifically the New Testament, does not put some of these things in the water-tight compartments which our theological approaches so often like to do; Moreover, we can be quite certain that if Peter, Jude and the apostle John considered that the period in which they lived could be classified as 'the last days,' then we too continue to live in 'the last days' – this is very definitely NOT a reference to a period of anything from three and a half to 50 years immediately preceding Christ's second advent. Biblically, Christ's first advent established the last days and the Church operates during this entire period of perhaps 2,000 years. If you think I am wrong, then your argument is with New Testament teaching - not with me.
Robin A. Brace, 2006.