Q: What Is Meant by ‘The Last Days’?
People often ask how the phrase the last days should be interpreted and what events signal that we’re living in the last days. To answer these questions, we must differentiate between God’s program for the church and His program for Israel because the term is applied one way when it speaks of the church and another way when it speaks of Israel.
The writer of Hebrews wrote, “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” (Heb. 1:1–2, emphasis added).
According to Scripture, the last days began with the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 1:1–7), who prophesied He would institute the church (Mt. 16:18), which was established after His resurrection and ascension to heaven on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16–21).
The church’s last days on Earth will culminate at the Rapture, when believers (dead and living) will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (Jn. 14:1–3; 1 Cor. 15:51–54; 1 Th. 4:13–18). Thus, the New Testament indicates we are living in the last days. Christ’s return for His church is imminent; there is no prophecy that must be fulfilled for this event to take place.
The last days for Israel will continue on Earth after the Rapture until the eternal state begins. They will include the following prophetic events:
1. The Antichrist’s seven-year covenant with Israel (he will break it after three and one-half years, Dan. 9:27), followed by the Antichrist’s attempt to annihilate Israel (Rev. 12:1–17) and his killing of two-thirds of the Jewish population. One-third will survive the Tribulation (Zech. 13:8–9).
2. Christ’s Second Coming, which ends the Tribulation, destroys the Antichrist and his reign (2 Th. 2:8), delivers Israel as predicted by Moses and the prophets (Dt. 4:27–30; Zech. 12:10–14), and redeems Israel (Rom. 11:26–27).
3. Christ’s establishment of His Millennial Kingdom in Jerusalem (Ezek. 36:1—37:28) and His rule from King David’s throne (Lk. 1:32). At this time, Christ will build the Millennial Temple (Ezek. 40:1—47:12) and bestow on Israel New Covenant blessings (Jer. 31:31–34). Redeemed Old and New Testament believers will return with Christ and rule under Him.
4. The end of the Millennium. Then all the redeemed will enjoy the eternal state in a new heaven and Earth throughout eternity.
When will Christ rapture His church? No one knows. God has chosen not to reveal this information. We do know the Lord’s return is imminent, and He instructs all Christians to live in readiness for His coming.