Eschatology is simply defined as: the study of last things. I personally like the phrase last things instead of end times because the latter phrase can leave a lot of scary images in peoples’ minds. We need healthy and hopeful theology, whatever camp one lands in.
When studying eschatology, one of the first questions that could arise is: When are the last days? And I’d say it’s an important question. Some teaching might place it around a time period such as the last seven years before Christ returns, or something of that nature (what many have termed the “Great Tribulation”). But I’m convinced we are already in the last days……and we’ve been in the last days for a very long time.
Here’s how I come to that conclusion.
In Acts 2, after the Holy Spirit was poured out and the people began to speak in other languages (or tongues), some were mocking what they saw, claiming that the people were drunk. But Peter took his stand and declared:
For these men are not drunk, as you suppose…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.” (Acts 2:14-17)
Peter was proclaiming that Joel’s prophecy about the last days (connected with Joel 2:28-32) was already being fulfilled right there in front of their eyes, or better yet, in their hearing. The last days began at Pentecost in Acts 2, and it is to continue for all generations until all things are completed in Christ – the renewal of all creation.
The prophets looked forward to a beautiful and amazing age in which God’s Messiah would reign, where restoration would happen, renewal would be the major part of all things and salvation would go to the four corners of the earth. Ladies and gentlemen, if you haven’t realized, we are in that age – one that’s been going on nearly 2000 years.
Of course, many (including myself) can get caught up in the fact that it’s not all finished. Sin is still prevalent, the earth is still groaning with decay, injustice seems around every corner. We await the finality of the finished work of Christ. However, it is here and the mustard seed of the reign of God is growing ever more in to the full tree Jesus spoke of in Matt 13. The leaven is being worked throughout the full lot of dough. One day it will fully pervade the batch.
So, contrary to some popular teaching, we did not enter the last days 100 years ago, 50 years ago, nor 10 years ago. The last days are not a seven-year period before Christ returns. We entered into the last days when the Spirit was poured forth at Pentecost. We need not worry about blood moons and the sort, especially if we interpret Scripture in its first century, Jewish context. Or, we could rightly and healthily focus on these things – Acts 2:19-20 speak of cataclysmic events in the heavenlies, which denotes a shifting and changing in some kind of order. We know something new was upon us – the old was losing its luster, the new was arriving as Jesus, the Messiah, now sat next to his Father reigning over all.
We are in the last days, and that means we are in a time of renewal, restoration and liberation-salvation. How shall we then live?
Great post Scott. I think we should live with the mind set that Jesus is returning soon and that mindset create in us an urgency to live out our lives fully dedicated to bringing God glory and making disciples. The last days may yet last for a long time more, but we should live as though it were very short.
Yes, there is the reality that Jesus’ final return & the consummation of all things (one event) might happen at any moment. I tend to think it won’t. I imagine greater movement towards something like what we read in Eph 4:11-13 – “… until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Something says we are still a far cry from that.
I will add that bringing glory to God and making disciples includes bringing renewal to our world (cleaning up, restoring, making beautiful) and justice/rightness to the hurting.