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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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It is commonly understood amongst us that the prophecies concerning the 'last days' of AD70 have relevance to our last days, and we have pointed out earlier that this means that there may be a tribulation period for the saints, as there was then.  Hebrews and the letters of Peter abound in reference to this time, and highlight a number of problems among the believers of those last days which must also be relevant to us. The following are but a few of the relevant passages:

2 Tim. 3:1-3 " In the last days,  fierce (Gk.) times shall come. For men (in an ecclesial context) shall be lovers of their own selves...proud...without natural affection...despisers of those that are good, traitors (cp. Mt. 24:10)...highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God (implying they do love God); having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof" . The spirit of fierce aggresiveness which is increasingly seen in the world will enter the ecclesias; brethren will become proud, argumentative, materialistic, despising the truly righteous, disregarding the needs of the household. And there are other NT passages which suggest that this was indeed the ecclesial situation in the prelude to AD70. The increasing bitterness and subdivision amongst us indicates this will all be seen in the latter day body. Ultimately, human relationships within the ecclesia will go crazy; brethren will hate and betray each other. There will be little real spiritual mindedness; the power of Godliness, the spirit / mind of Christ, will de denied, and only the outward form of Godliness remain (cp. Eph. 3:20; 6:10; Col. 1:11). The abounding wickedness of the world will so permeate the ecclesia that true agape-love will grow cold amongst us (Mt. 24:12). The antidote to this is offered in 2 Tim. 3:14 - 4:3: Love the word, hold on to the doctrine you were taught by faithful brethren, study the word, make it your life, challenge the apostate majority of the ecclesia with no fear of the result, preach to the world, look to the blessed day of Christ's coming.

Heb.10:25 " Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another...the more, as ye see the day approaching" - both of AD70 and the second coming. A laid back attitude to attending meetings designed for spiritual upbuilding was a problem then- and why is it that such events seem to have a decreasing attraction today? The immediate context of Heb.10:25 in the first century would be of the believers being ashamed to publicly associate themselves with their persecuted brethren for fear of reprisals. Paul went through the same, just a few months before AD70 (2 Tim. 4:16). Will this also be the position in the very last days?

Heb.10:32,33" Call to remembrance the [persecutions of the] former days..." because these were to recur in the period around AD70. The subsequent list of the faithful in Heb.11 focuses on those who were persecuted for their faith but endured- to prepare the readers for the last days of tribulation. This recalls the oft repeated theme of Peter's letters: " Stir up your minds...remember" (e.g. 2 Pet.1:12-15; 3:11).

Heb. 12:29; 13:1 " Our God is a consuming fire [as manifested in the AD70 burning of Jerusalem]. Let brotherly love continue" . This would imply that there was a marked lack of brotherly love in the lead up to AD70- also mentioned in Rev.2:4; Lk.12:45. And with the need to fight the inevitable apostacy in the body in these last days it is so easy for an unloving, bitter attitude to develop. Sadly this prophecy is proving far too true.

Heb.13:5" Marriage is honourable in all...but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" - i.e. they were within the ecclesia and responsible. This is matched by 1 Pet.3:1-5 warning that the sisters were increasingly rebelling against their great prototypes of Eve and Sarah, unwittingly egged on by their unspiritual husbands. So many other New Testament passages imply a surge of marriage and sex related problems in the run up to AD70. The ecclesia of Israel was an adulterous generation; this was their main characteristic (Mt. 16:4). Looking around our sisterhood and brotherhood today there can be no doubt about the reference of all this to our last days. Add to this the parallels with Sodom and the times of Noah in this respect too. No wonder Paul advocated the single life for the last days.

Heb. 13:7" Remember them that have the rule over you" implies there was a tendency to despise ecclesial elders- also mentioned as a last days problem in 1 Pet.5:5; 2 Pet.2:10 etc. The world's spirit of independence and self-determination seems to have affected the latter day ecclesias too.

1 Pet.4:12" Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you" - i.e. some thought that Peter's warning of a coming holocaust, based as it was on Old Testament precedent, was " strange" [Greek: 'foreign, an intrusion']. And how many will react to similar warnings made in our last days in just the same way? The Greek word translated " strange" here often refers to the Gentiles- as if Peter is correcting any feeling they may have had that the tribulation predicted would only affect the Gentiles. 'Think it not strange, a Gentile thing only- it will affect both you believers and the Gentile world at large'. This is a highly relevant warning to those today who state with such dogmatism that believers will not experience any of the tribulations which are to come upon the surrounding world. A suggestion worth testing is that the sufferings of natural Israel have always been matched simultaneously by difficulties for Israel after the spirit.

1 Pet.4:13 " But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings: that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" . We have shown that our sufferings in the holocaust will associate us with Christ's sufferings- so that the joy on his return will be " exceeding" ! " The time [AD70] is come that judgment must begin at the house of God" [4:17]. Going through the holocaust will effectively be our judgment seat. " The righteous [will] scarcely be saved" [4:18]- spiritual survival during this time will be by the skin of our teeth; as was our Lord's spiritual survival on the cross which we will then fellowship.

2 Pet.1:5Add " to virtue knowledge" . There is a great emphasis by Peter on the need for " knowledge"   to overcome the coming tribulation: 1 Pet.3:7; 2 Pet.1:2-6,8,16; 2:20; 3:18; an impressive list. By all means compare this with Dan. 12:10, which prophecies a sudden jump forward in understanding God's word by the faithful of the last days. The increasing branding of Bible classes, study articles etc. as 'academic' seems to indicate that  we are in the same position as those weak believers whom Peter encouraged in the first century. It seems that we are willing to stop at 'Christian service' (" virtue" ) rather than adding knowledge.

False teachers

It should be evident by now that the warnings of the New Testament letters concerning the state of the ecclesia just prior to AD70 also have reference to our own times, living as we do on the brink of the second coming. The final part of this study is written unwillingly. But in all spiritual, expositional and intellectual honesty, it is impossible to overlook the fact that just prior to AD70, there were groups of false teachers within the ecclesia, nibbling away at the basic tenets of the true faith, whilst appearing to be respectable believers. 1 Pet.4:4 and Heb.13:4 indicate that some of these people advocated that any form of behaviour was acceptable, especially in a sexual context. It should be noted that the man of sin is associated with those within the ecclesia; he is framed as a Judas-like character. We have seen earlier that there are connections between the image of Daniel 2, Goliath, and the man of sin. All of these are to be destroyed by Christ's return. The tribulation of the first century ecclesia was both from the Jewish/ Roman beast outside it, as well as from the supporters of those systems inside it (see Eph.6). It is therefore to be expected that there will be elements within the latter day ecclesia affiliated to the persecuting beast also.

The 'last days' letters are full of warning not to follow the false teachers who will be within the ecclesia. " There were false prophets also among the people (of Israel) even as there shall be...among you" , the new Israel [2 Pet.2:1]. And dare we continue: " Many shall follow their pernicious ways" . This has to be connected with the Lord's teaching that " many" (Gk. the majority) would fall away just before his coming (Mt. 24:12); Peter is perhaps picking this up, and shewing that this will be due to a tolerance of false teachers. The failures of natural Israel are likewise traceable to false teaching from the priesthood, rather than purely personal apostacy. All the examples of rejected false teachers mentioned in 2 Pet.2 were responsible, and in the ecclesia of their times. These false teachers had once known the Truth [2 Pet.2:12] and would therefore be reserved to judgment [2:9]; they attended the memorial meeting [2:13], they had the gift of prophecy as Balaam did [2:15 cp. Heb.6:4-6], and had once left the world, although now they were returning to it [v.20-22]. In other words, they had all the external trappings of good Christians. We must expect something similar in the latter day ecclesia.

The Letters Of Rev. 2 and 3

Notice the end-time language found throughout the letters to the seven Ecclesias:

Ephesus:   repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly. (2:5)

Pergamos: Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (2:16)

Thyatira: Behold, I will cast her [Jezebel] into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. (2:22, 25)

Sardis: If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (3:3)

Philadelphia: Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly. (3:10-11)

Laodicea: Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.  (3:20)

Rev.2& 3 is primarily speaking of the state of the ecclesias before AD 70 . However is it not also a prophecy of the end time condition of the ecclesia?

Any student of the New Testament epistles cannot fail to notice these repeated warnings against false teachers. Peter reminded his readers of " the words...spoken by the holy prophets [New Testament ones?] and the apostles...knowing this first [i.e. most importantly], that there shall come [false teachers and mass apostacy] in the last days" [2 Pet.2:3]. Unless we say that " the last days" is a phrase which has no reference to our own times, we have to accept that there will be major false teaching and apostacy within the brotherhood just before Christ's return. Personally, I can't see that we have completely reached the position described in the letters for the last days- yet (although it is quite possible that we take a more positive view of ourselves and our community than God does). But the holocaust to come will no doubt crystallize the attitudes which are now developing, to create the horrendous situation prophesied. " Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new Heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless" .