Keys to Understanding The Last Days!
Lesson one - What are the Last Days?
Jesus Christ's disciples admired the enormous and intricate design of the temple buildings in Jerusalem. Some of the foundation stones of the temple complex were massive, weighing many tons. Other stones were carved of beautiful white marble. The sunlight sparkled on the polished stones and intricate gold ornamentation of the temple.
The disciples wanted to know if their Teacher was as impressed as they were. Matthew 24:1-2 describes the setting: "Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, 'Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.' "
Jesus' dogmatic statement (referring prophetically to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70) must have astonished His disciples. They were greatly troubled by His statement that the beautiful temple buildings would be destroyed. Later Christ's disciples came to Him privately, their minds still fixed on His shocking comments. "Tell us," they asked, "when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?" (verse 3).
Searching for understanding
Some 2,000 years later, Christians are still asking what events will signal the end of the age and the return of Christ. He answered this important question. The problem most people face with His answer has to do with interpretation. We want our answers clean and neat, like a precise solution to a math problem.
Instead, the meaning of Christ's answer involves an understanding of the periodic repetition of trends and devastating events that have transpired over the last 2,000 years, as well as a perception of the increased intensity and magnitude of similar occurrences as we near the end.
But we should remember that Jesus made it plain that no one could know the exact time of His return: ". . . Of that day and hour now one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (verse 36). Only the Father knows the precise time of His Son's return. Yet we can perceive important prophetic principles.
Jesus gave His disciples signs that require a broad perspective of understanding. Some prophetic trends would occur over time but intensify before Christ's second coming. Other conditions will be unique to that one point in history. Some of the crucial prophecies that will usher in Christ's return are not fully apparent; many of the correlating signs we find in Jesus' Olivet Prophecy and the writings of other biblical prophets are still unfolding.
We will discuss these biblical signs, the keys that unlock future events in the light of Bible prophecy. But first let's examine how the Bible uses the term the "last days" or "End Times".
What exactly is the "Last Days" or the "End Times"? When will it come? Are we actualy living in the "Last Days" or "End Times"? Is there a way to know?
The subject of the time of the end spans the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It is one of the major themes of Scripture.
It is important to understand what the end time is. Misunderstanding it can cause great confusion, uncertainty and anguish. But a good biblical grasp of the subject can bring comfort and confidence. So let's go to the Bible to see what it reveals about the end time.
The meaning of the "Last Days" or "End Times"
One of the most succinct explanations of the time of the end is in the book of Daniel. In chapter 12 God reveals to Daniel a summary of major events to take place at the end time.
God tells Daniel: "At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt . . . But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase" (Daniel 12:1-4, emphasis added throughout).
Here the last days or end times is described as "a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation." It is also a time of increased travel and communication and an explosion of knowledge, as seen from the description that "many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall increase."
Several centuries after Daniel's time, Jesus' disciples asked Him about the last days or end times. His response echoed Daniel's words: "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21).
Later God revealed to Daniel more information about the end. "And one said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, 'How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?' Then I heard the man clothed in linen [say] . . . that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished. Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, 'My lord, what shall be the end of these things?' And he said, 'Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Daniel 12:6-9).
This scripture indicates that the term "last Days" or "End Times" refers primarily to a period of unparalleled world trouble and will conclude with the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth. This lesson series focuses essentially on prophecies directly or indirectly related to the the close of "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4).
A word of Warning
Although Scripture reveals that certain conditions will deteriorate as the end of the age draws near, we should not be ignorant of the conditions we now see around us with the specific final period prophesied in the Bible. Global conditions are degenerating rapidly and are quickly leading to the concluding events of the last days. The final days of this era will be marked by specific prophetic events.
Christ cautioned His generation not to be ignorant of the "Signs of The Times"
Consequently, He warned, many would come in His name, claiming to represent Him. This in itself is conducive to the signs of the end times. But we would be wrong to not heed the warning signs. (Matt. 24)
Specific events unfolding
The Bible describes specific key events and conditions that would occur in the final days:
Rebirth of the Nation of Israel - This took place in 1948. - The Bible not only predicts the restoration of Israel (see Ezekiel 37), but also the revival of the old Roman Empire. (The EU.) (Dan. 2:41; 7:7-8; Rev. 13:1; 17:12).
- Jerusalem would be trodden down by the gentiles until the time of the end. -In 1967 0f June for the first time in almost 2000 years the Jews stormed into Jerusalem and in that incredible six days war, they liberated the city from the gentiles (non-Israelites). At that point that was the last warning prophetically that we are at the time of the end. (Luke 21:24)
It will also be a time of intense persecution of God's people. Jesus warned of many troubling trends that He called "the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:8). Then, He said, "they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (verses 9-13).
The 20th century could well be labeled "the century of martyrs". Thousands of Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world have been imprisoned, tortured, and murdered on account of their faith. In fact, more Christians have been killed for their faith during the last century then in all previous centuries combined.
In the book of Revelation, John sees a vision in which some of God's people, and speaking of "The Jews" are depicted as being of the woman of Jesus's birth, that they are sheltered from Satan's persecution and "nourished for a time and times and half a time"--for 31/2 years (first half of the Tribulation) (Revelation 12:14). Furious at being unable to attack these people, Satan will "make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (verse 17).
Thus we see in three prophecies that the focus of end-time predictions is primarily on a specific 31/2-year period of worldwide distress so terrifying and threatening that God will never allow such to occur again. Such prophecies help us understand the conditions and events that will mark the beginning of this crucial period.
Noah and Our Time: A Sobering Parallel
Jesus Christ used the example of Noah to reveal attitudes that would predominate near the end: "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:37-39).
This is history and prophecy working together. Their meaning is clear: The attitude of people in Noah's day would prevail again just before Christ's second coming. To both groups God seemed far away, virtually unconcerned about human activities on earth, and life appeared to go on as it always had (2 Peter 3:3-6). These people would be unconcerned as to their true spiritual condition and blind to God's impending judgment.
The key to the example Christ gave is to understand that people can be so concerned about the cares of this life that they neglect to seek their Creator (Matthew 6:33; Luke 21:34-35). It happened before, and it is happening again.
The apostle Paul commented to Timothy about other carnal attitudes and activities that would characterize the last days: "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
This perfectly describes the dominant attitude and outlook of our age. Such attitudes will prevent the vast majority of humanity from believing God and the biblical warning signs until all havoc breaks loose. Like the people in Noah's time who laughed and mocked his building an ark, the end of this age will come when the overwhelming majority are unprepared.
Proceed to lesson two - The Three Ages Of Man's History!