PMT 2016-012 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
A reader writes:
“What are the “last days” in Scripture? Some see this as referring to the last days of the old covenant administration. But others understand this as referring to the whole period between the first and second advents, i.e., all of church history.”
I will offer a succinct explanation of what I (and the majority of non-dispensational) theologians holds.
First, by the very nature of the phrase, “the last day,” we should expect that it occurs at at the end of the period known as the “last days.” But the “last day” has as its defining feature the final bodily resurrection of the dead. Therefore, it cannot be the end of the old covenant at AD 70.
“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:39-40
“No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” John 11:24
As It Is Written
by Ken Gentry
This book provides in a simple but clear presentation the basic argument for a six-day literal interpretation of Genesis 1. It also explains and rebuts the framework hypothesis.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Second, in fact, the “end of the age” will witness the final judgment as well as the resurrection.
“The enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:39-43
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, Matthew 13:47-49
Third, the “last days” period will experience a glorious time of worldwide peace and righteousness, wherein the world will lay aside its warring ways. This obviously has not occurred yet. Therefore, the “last days” must be at least partly still in our future.
“Now it will come about that / In the last days, / The mountain of the house of the Lord / Will be established as the chief of the mountains, / And will be raised above the hills; / And all the nations will stream to it. / And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, / To the house of the God of Jacob; / That He may teach us concerning His ways, / And that we may walk in His paths.” / For the law will go forth from Zion, / And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. / And He will judge between the nations, / And will render decisions for many peoples; / And they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. / Nation will not lift up sword against nation, / And never again will they learn war.” (Isaiah 2:2-4).
Micah puts it even more vigorously:
“And it will come about in the last days / That the mountain of the house of the Lord / Will be established as the chief of the mountains. / It will be raised above the hills, / And the peoples will stream to it. / And many nations will come and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord / And to the house of the God of Jacob, / That He may teach us about His ways / And that we may walk in His paths.” / For from Zion will go forth the law, / Even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. / And He will judge between many peoples / And render decisions for mighty, distant nations. / Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares / And their spears into pruning hooks; / Nation will not lift up sword against nation, / And never again will they train for war. / And each of them will sit under his vine / And under his fig tree, / With no one to make them afraid, / For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.” (Micah 4:1-4)
Before Jerusalem Fell
by Ken Gentry
My doctoral dissertation defending a pre-AD 70 date for Revelation’s writing
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Fourth, Paul tells Timothy (around AD 67) that “difficult times will come” (2 Tim 3:1) in “the last days.” This does NOT suggest that “the entire New Covenant Age” can be construed as “terrible times.”
Rather, it tells us two things: (1) The last days will not be totally and universally a period of good time. The word for time is not singular, but plural. After all, “difficult times will come” during the “last days.” He does not say “the last days will be a difficult time.”
But also we learn that: (2) those “difficult times” represent many punctuations during the “last days.” That is, though the gospel of the kingdom will grow to conquer the world, it must experiences episodes (plural) of “difficult times.” And those “difficult times” are not just for the paltry period of only forty years, but extending over many “difficult times,” even up to our time and beyond. These difficult times will gradually fade as the full glory of the kingdom overwhelms the world (as a gradually growing mustard seed, as slowly permeating leaven, as a sprouting seed (Mark 4; Matthew 13).
Thus Paul’s statement regarding “difficult times” informs us that there will be periods (plural) of bad times in the “last days.” These periods suggest a longer period than forty years, and well describe history to this point.
Fifth, Peter signifies that the last days cover a long period of time.
(1) The thrust of the book seems to promote a spiritual perseverance in anticipation of the historical long run – a long run that ends up in the eternal new creation. Peter urges the perseverance of his readers (1 Pet. 1:6) and warns against short-sightedness (1:9). It is only through long-term perseverance that we may expect access to the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ (1:11). Peter himself expects to die soon (1:13-14; as did Paul, 2 Tim. 4:6-8). Consequently, he urges his readers to recall these things after he is gone (1:15), apparently not expecting a rapture of the Church in A.D. 70 (as per radical preterists).
Peter gives Noah and Lot as examples of those who persevered through hard times, like those facing the looming destruction of Jerusalem. They came out on the other end still upon the earth (2:5-9). The rescue of believers from the oncoming temptation (2:9a) associated with A.D. 70 (by preserving them in trial, Luke 21:18-22) is set in contrast to the reserving of the fallen angels and the ungodly until the (later) Judgment Day (2:4, 9b). While contemplating the judgment cleansing of the earth, we are urged to “holy livings” and “pieties” (Greek plurals of these words occur only here, 3:11), suggesting many acts of righteousness for the long term. The book ends with a call to perseverance, as well (3:15, 17).
(2) The mockers scoff at the promised second advent of Christ due to the long wait associated with it (2 Pet. 3:3-4, 9). Despite the trials to come soon (2:9), Peter even suggests it may be thousands of years before Christ’s return, in that the delay is based on God’s time rather than man’s: “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (3:8). This fits well with Christ’s “now/not yet” teaching elsewhere, where He contrasts the short time until the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 23:36; 24:34) with that of the long wait for the second advent to end history (Matt. 25:5, 14).
(3) The longsuffering of the Lord is due to a process necessarily age-long: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9 NKJV). “Account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (2 Pet. 3:15a). The process of calling the “all” to “repentance” unto salvation spans the entire inter-advental era and is still continuing today. This “slowness” (bradutes, v. 9) of Christ’s second advent is so that the postmillennial kingdom victory might continue to grow unto full fruition.
In verse 12a Peter urges Christians to “hasten (speudo, “speed up”) the coming of the day of God” (3:12). Vincent comments: “I am inclined to adopt, with Alford, Huther, Salmond, and Trench, the transitive meaning, hastening on; i.e., `causing the day of the Lord to come more quickly by helping to fulfill those conditions without which it cannot come; that day being no day inexorably fixed, but one the arrival of which it is free to the church to hasten on by faith and by prayer.’ “4 This is in keeping with “the cumulative evidence from Scripture, inter-testamental literature, and Jewish sources” regarding the term speudo. The way that we “hasten the coming of the day of God” (3:12) is by evangelistic endeavor. Hence, the earnest prayer “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10; cf. Acts 3:19ff).
(4) The reference to the unraveling and conflagration of the heavens and the earth is expressly tied to the material creation. Hence, it refers to the consummation and not to A.D. 70, despite certain similarities. Peter expressly refers to the material creation order: “from the beginning of creation” (3:4; cf. Gen. 1:1); “by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water” (3:5; cf. Gen. 1:2, 97); “the heavens and the earth which now exist” (2 Pet. 3:7). He defines the “heavens and earth” to which he refers. He is not contemplating the destruction of the old Jewish order, but the material heavens and the earth.
(5) The strong detailed language of the destruction of the heavens and the earth seems to go beyond apocalyptic imagery, referring to the actual consummation: “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10). “The heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat” (3:12). In the apocalyptic-symbolic passages thought to parallel 2 Peter 3 we find time frame factors and cultural limitations. Neither does this destruction terminology appear in Isaiah 65:17ff, where the phrase “new heavens and new earth” first appears.
In the final analysis, we must look at “last days” as “the last days of earth history.” They obviously will include that end-time period, but “the last days” is a redemptive-historical phrase. It focuses on Christ as the dividing point in history. All that went before (the old covenant) was the “former days.” That which comes after is the “latter / last days” (Heb 1:1-2). We need to interpret the phrase not in terms of mundane temporal history, but in terms of the progress of redemptive history.
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