This question has captivated many people throughout history, and there is no shortage of speculation and sensationalism. But the Bible is clear on this important truth: the world will end one day. In this article Skip Heitzig gives you a glimpse in the last days and how you can be ready for them.
The big question in every generation is Are we in the last days? Peter’s second letter is a great place to find an answer, as he identifies five hallmarks of the last days.
Hallmark 1: The Last Days Are Foreseen by Scripture
One of the first things Peter established in this second letter, likely written shortly before his death, is the reliability of biblical prophecy:
“No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). He then warned of false teachers and teachings, “that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts” (2 Peter 3:2-3).
That phrase “the last days” shows up five times in the New Testament, mentioned by five different authors: Peter, Luke (Acts), Paul (2 Timothy), James (his epistle), and the author of Hebrews. The Old Testament speaks of the same time period generally, but under different designations. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Micah used the term “the latter days.”
Daniel called it “the end,” “the appointed time,” “the time of the end,” and finally, “the end of the first coming of Christ, and the era between His first coming and second coming falls under the description the last days. I’ll emphasize it in a few passages. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds [or ages].”
In Acts 2, Peter addressed the people of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit arrived in power and came upon the believers, and visitors from all over the world heard the gospel in their own languages. He explained what was happening as a fulfillment of what the prophet Joel had said centuries before: “It shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (v. 17). The age of Jesus’ church had arrived and with it the last days.
We are living in the last days, but so were the apostles and Ignatius and Hippolytus and Martin Luther. Obviously, we are much further along.
History pivoted at the first coming of Christ, and the era between His first coming and second coming falls under the description the last days.
So, it’s a theme we see throughout the Bible, and it begs this question: Are we in those days?
The short answer is yes, we are. But according to Scripture, we’ve been in the last days for 2,000 years! History pivoted at along the timeline of those days than they were, but we still have a common objective: to anticipate Jesus’ return. In Titus 2:13, Paul wrote that all believers should be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The early soon requires patience and faith. Our part is to be prepared, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 44). In C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan, the Christlike lion, has a conversation with young Lucy. He tells her,
“Do not look so sad. We shall meet soon again.”
“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy, “what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon,” said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away.
Are we in the last days? Yes. Is Jesus coming soon? Yes. It sounds like I’m taking the easy way out, but I’m not. Both answers are true. Jesus gave indicators we can look for, signs that foretell the end days, and we’ll look at those in a bit. But for starters, we need to establish that when Jesus does come back at the end of these last days, it was already predicted in Scripture.
Peter said, “We did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.... And so we the church made the idea a way of greeting one another using an Aramaic word maranatha, “the Lord is coming.” It even replaced shalom among them as a common greeting, becoming a reminder of the hope and promise of Christ’s return.
When is Jesus coming? When the time is right. He Himself said in Matthew 24:36, “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” So, the repeated command to be ready because Jesus is coming.
[We] were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
The transfiguration of Jesus into a momentary glimpse of His heavenly glory is what we would call a preview of coming attractions—a trailer, if you will, of the events to come in Revelation 19, Jesus’ second coming to the earth. Those holy moments confirmed to Peter that all the predictions in Scripture of Jesus’ return were sure to happen. His report reminds us of the most important truth about the last days, not whether we are in them (though we are) or the fascinating and bizarre details about the mark of the beast, or speculation about the European common market or the Antichrist—but that the last days are all about the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Skip Heitzig is the Senior Pastor of Calvary Albuquerque, one of the largest Evangelical churches in the United States with some 15,000 attendees.