The last days is a common phrase in Scripture, especially with the prophets of the Old Testament. They often speak of the last days and other derivative phrases such as days are coming or latter days or in/on that day. The Hebrew words for “last/latter” and “days” can be understood “end” and “times/age” respectively. As a result, this look at last days is more popularly known and studied as “end times doctrine” today.

As is typical with the prophets and with prophetic books in general, the texts share vivid imagery and are figuratively rich. Prophets were, after all, “Seers” — God primarily showed them these things. To be sure, the internet is full of very colorful and highly speculative content regarding the last days. There are even complex mathematical calculations put forth to determine the timing of the last days often revolving around the figuratively charged books of Daniel and Revelation.

Instead of relying on manmade speculation and imagination, can we look to God for the answer? If Scripture interprets Scripture, we should be able to determine the “when” of the last days topic within the full context of Scripture.

how Scripture answers "When are the last days?"

Scripture tells us the last days began on the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension1 and continue to this present day, until the “day of the Lord”12. In the normal course of their writing, all of the New Testament writers refer to their time as the last days or some variant1,2,3,6,7,8,9,11,12,13,14 – whether “last time”2, “end of the ages”3,13, “last times”6, “last hour”7, “days are coming”10, “these days”8,11, or even “this salvation”9.

Furthermore, we have the prophets that spoke of the “last days”1,4,5,10 (not an exhaustive list) coupled with the New Testament writers that by inspiration interpreted that what the prophets prophesied about began during their days (the first century)1,4,8,9,10,12. These are evident with a quick reading/review, but possibly the most involved and interesting is Jeremiah10. His prophecy (given the confirmation and interpretation of it by inspired, New Testament writers) and the broader context of verses with other characteristics of the last days is worth a read10.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;

This is what the prophet Joel had prophesied about, that in the last days God would pour His Spirit out on all flesh and people would prophesy, see visions and have dreams.

Peter is preaching on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. The people had just witnessed a “rushing wind” and “tongues as of fire” resting on them (vss 2,3). They were speaking in tongues (the native language of the many different nationalities present – vs 6). It was an obvious miracle since they were known Galileans (vs 7) and did not speak those languages naturally.

How does it inform?

Peter, an inspired writer, is interpreting a prophesy from Joel (2:28-32) and in so doing he declares that day (the day of Pentecost) as the ushering in of “the last days” prophesied by Joel. He says that they were witnesses of the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh.

Does it apply? Yes

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.

Remember the predictions of Jesus’ apostles.  They said that in the last time there would be scoffers (derisive, mocking) that follow their own wicked desires.

Jude’s letter to Christians warning them of false teachers that have “crept in unnoticed” (vs 4).

How does it inform?

Jude refers to their present time as the “last time.”

Does it apply? Yes

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

These things happened as an example and were written down for our instruction during the end of the ages.

Paul is relating the events of the children of Israel during Moses’ time and reminding the Christians of his day (first century) about their example.

How does it inform?

Paul refers to his time as “the end of the ages.”

Does it apply? Yes

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

But there will be no sorrow for the woman [Jerusalem] in pain.  Formerly, the land of Zebulun and Naphtali was worthless/disrespected, but now it is glorious.  The people there groped in the darkness, but now they can see. They lived in a land of great darkness, but now a light shines on them.

In the midst of a rebuke of Jerusalem for, among other things, their cry to “mediums and necromancers” (8:19), God (through the prophet Isaiah) says they will be in “distress and darkness” (8:22) as a result…”there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.”  The context then shifts to contrast “the former time” (Isaiah’s day) with “the latter time”.

How does it inform?

Fast forward about 700 years from Isaiah, and Matthew records and interprets Isaiah’s “former time – latter time” prophesy to the time of Christ (Matthew 4:12-17). Specifically, after Jesus’ tempting by Satan in the wilderness, He retires to Galilee where he “began to preach.” Thus, Galilee (where Jesus preached) was made glorious and those there where shown the light of the gospel.

Does it apply? Yes

but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these:

There is a God in heaven that revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar the mystery that will happen in the latter days.

In his second year, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a  dream that bothered him but nobody could interpret it for him…until he called on Daniel. His dream (vss 32-35) was of a large image, “The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”

The interpretation given to Daniel from God was that each component represented kingdoms that would follow his own, until in the latter days there would be a kingdom that stood forever.

How does it inform?

Based on the interpretation that God gave to Daniel, the “latter days” would consist of a kingdom with three distinct qualities:

  1. Set up by the “God of heaven” (2:44),
  2. Represented by a “stone cut from a mountain” (2:45) that itself “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (2:35),
  3. Lasting forever, bringing other kingdoms to an end (2:44).

While Daniel doesn’t tell us exactly when this happens, we can track it based on historical fact. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream included his own kingdom (the head of gold) followed by three more kingdoms (the last of these a “divided kingdom”) before the final, everlasting kingdom from God. History records the kingdoms following Babylon as Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. If this aligns with Nebuchadnezzar’s image, Rome would be the iron and, eventually the iron mixed with clay (its demise). This would put God’s eternal, spiritual kingdom (stone) during/succeeding the Roman kingdom – the first century – the “last days.”

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

He [Jesus] was present before creation, but was made visible for your sake during the “last times”.

Peter is writing to Christians in difficult times, reminding them to continue in their faith of Jesus.

How does it inform?

Peter calls the first century manifestation of Jesus the “last times.”

Does it apply? Yes

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

Brothers, it is the last hour, and many antichrists have come just as you heard would happen.  This is how we know it’s the last hour.

The Apostle John is writing to Christians to remain steadfast.  After reminding them that they are “not of this world”, he calls to their attention those that are personally antagonistic to Jesus (“antichrist”) and His teaching.  He marks those false teachers and implores his “children” to “let what you heard from the beginning abide in you” (vs 24).

How does it inform?

John identifies the first century, Christian times as “the last hour.”

Does it apply? Yes

Moses said, The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people. And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.

Moses said that God would raise up a prophet like him from amongst you and to him you will listen (Deuteronomy 18:15).  Further he said that any that don’t listen will be destroyed (Deuteronomy 18:19).  All the prophets from Samuel onward have proclaimed these days.

Peter (with John) is addressing the crowd gathered at Solomon’s porch in his second recorded sermon.  He refers to the prophets and their testimony as his primary argument for the “times of refreshing” – the sending of the Christ – that they were experiencing (vs 20).

How does it inform?

Peter says that all the prophets spoke of “these days” (those first century, “Christ appeared” days).

Does it apply? Yes

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

The prophets prophesied about the salvation through Christ (or, “grace that was to be yours”) and wondered themselves about the timing and person that would be Jesus as they predicted His sufferings and glories.  Yet, they were told they were serving someone else with the things (prophesies) that have now been fulfilled (“announced”) in the revelation of the gospel by the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s letter(s) of encouragement to the saints that were facing great persecution and longing for their reward in Christ Jesus.

How does it inform?

Peter is speaking of the fulfillment of the prophets’ mission and objective.  Their “work” was for the benefit of the Christians at that time (and now), during the day of salvation (1 Corinthians 6:2).

Does it apply? Yes

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

The Lord says there is a time when He will make a new covenant with the Israel and Judah, unlike the covenant made with their fathers after coming out of Egypt.  They broke that one, even though they entered it with God.  The new covenant coming in later days will be written on their hearts.  It will be known that He is their God and they are His people.  He will forgive their sins, and remember them no more.

Jeremiah’s book of prophecy as the people of Judah (the northern tribes of Israel already long lost to Assyrian captivity) are faced with Babylonian captivity.  Jeremiah’s main message (from God) is that they should not resist and they will be there for seventy years.  However, for this specific question the context around this passage is critical and actually begins back in chapter 30.  It’s there where several references to these “last days” are referenced by the prophet:

  • “For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.” (30:3)
  • “And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. 9 But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” (30:8-9)
  • “The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intentions of his mind. In the latter days you will understand this. At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.” (30:24-31:1)
  • “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. 28 And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the Lord.” (31:27-28)
  • In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But everyone shall die for his own sin. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (31:29-30)
  • “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah. The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord. It shall not be uprooted or overthrown anymore forever.” (31:38-40)
How does it inform?

These four verses in Jeremiah are quoted by at least one New Testament writer and referenced by others.  The Hebrews writer directly ties this “new covenant” in the “days coming” to the new covenant in Jesus Christ  (Hebrews 8:7-13 and again in 10:16-17).  This is an inspired writer telling us (e.g. God telling us) what Jeremiah meant.

Additionally, we have other New Testament, inspired writers expressing the same sentiment of Jeremiah’s prophecy if not directly quoting it.  For example, Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:3 and Romans 11:27 or John in Revelation 21:7.  The contexts for all of these (and more) confirm Jeremiah’s prophesy that “days are coming” came in the first century.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

In a previous time God spoke to man through the prophets, but now (“these last days”) He has spoken through His son, Jesus Christ. Additionally, God appointed Him heir of all things and through Him created the world.

Opening to the letter of Hebrews, written to Jews that had believed and obeyed the gospel.  The writer is beginning his argument and evidence for why everything is better in Jesus by pointing to the prophets (and angels) that had, in times past, delivered God’s message.

How does it inform?

The writer identifies the days of Christ as the “last days”.

Does it apply? Yes

that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.

You should remember that the prophets and apostles predicted that scoffers will come in the last days, following their own, selfish lusts.

As in his first letter, Peter is still warning of false teachers in his second letter.  In this context not only does he remind them their presence is evidence that they are in the “last days”, but he encourages them of what comes next — the “day of the Lord” (vs 10).

How does it inform?

Peter again links a present reality (scoffers) to the period (last days). Therefore, according to Peter (and the “holy prophets” and the “commandment of the Lord and Savior”), they were living in the last days. Further, he distinguishes their time (the “last days”) from the final judgement (“day of the Lord”) later in the text.

Does it apply? Yes

Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Nor was it [necessary] to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest does – entering the holy places to offer blood that’s not his.  If it was, he would have to had suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  Rather, he has appeared once for everyone at the end of ages in order to put away sin by sacrificing himself.
The Hebrews writer is in the midst of his argument about why Jesus and the new covenant are better than the old – here specifically arguing about His superiority as a High Priest.
How does it inform?

Jesus appeared “at the end of the ages.”

Does it apply? Yes

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Therefore I [Jesus] tell you every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven – not in this age, or in the age to come.
Jesus is in the midst of his public ministry.  He is teaching harder sayings and the division between those that accept him and those that don’t is becoming starker.
How does it inform?

Jesus indicates two distinct times or days – “this age” and “the age to come.” If demarcated by covenants, Jesus lived his days living under the old (Mosaic) covenant (e.g. “this age”) and ushered in the new covenant (e.g. “the age to come”).

Does it apply? Yes

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