The last days began in the first century and ended with the end of Jerusalem and her temple. That isn’t to claim that the Bible contains nothing in our future; it does. But when we consider this text and the ones that have come before, we can conclusively conclude that these events have already happened.
Swing and A Miss
When Christians hear the phrase “The Last Days” or “The End Times,” what images come to mind? For some, a clandestine government laboratory where a pseudo-scientist whose name rhymes with Dr. Ouchie is busily brewing the next super woo-flu that will kill a quarter of the population is well in view. For others, it could be a one-world cryptocurrency, planes falling from the sky, a maniacal and blood-lusting monarch, or the Romish pope (if you’re really old school). Whatever the case, for the vast majority of evangelicalism, we have utterly missed it.
Now, when I say we have missed it, I don’t mean a booming foul ball ovah tha Green Monstah, kid! No. We missed it like an undersized middle schooler trying to make contact against a Randy Johnson slider. It wasn’t even close.
Instead of the final fleeting moments at a cataclysmic end to human history, when the Bible talks about the “Last Days,” it means the last days of the old covenant era. It refers to the winding down of that redemptive epoch where priests mediated between God and us, temples were where you traveled to meet with God, and animal blood sacrifices stood between you and the almighty. The “Last Days” picture the close of that significant era and the dawning of the final chapter of human history, where the world will know God through His one and only Son.
We are not waiting for that great eon to materialize in the uncertain future. The old covenant has been closed already, the new and final covenant era is fully here, and the events we will look at today, from Acts 2:17-21, will overwhelmingly confirm this.
17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Acts 2:17-21 KJV
Ten Proofs the “Last Days” Are Past
A Bit of Background
Whenever one of the three great pilgrimage feasts prescribed in the Law occurred, Jerusalem’s population would swell from a couple hundred thousand to well over a million. This is because all Jewish males were required by the Law of God to attend these three festivals every year. And, since most Jewish males were also married with sizable families, the city would balloon up rather quickly.
Intriguingly, history reveals that numerous Jewish pilgrims embarked on journeys from the farthest reaches of the known world to partake in these festivals. While some hailed from nearby Judea and Galilee, a significant contingent had settled in the distant corners of pagan cities, towns, and nations across the vast reaches of the Roman empire. This widely scattered group bore the title of “diaspora Jews,” they arrived in Jerusalem, each carrying the rich history and traditions of their native people and the languages from their far-flung homelands.
Now, on the morning of Pentecost, downtown Jerusalem would have been packed with no shortage of extra bodies. Once-quiet city blocks, home to only a handful of families, now teemed with hundreds, even thousands, of individuals pressed tightly together. According to the account of Luke, as the Spirit descended, a deafening crescendo of sound erupted, undoubtedly piquing the curiosity of neighbors, onlookers, and the naturally inquisitive.
They found a group of very ordinary, a run-of-the-mill assortment of blue-collar Galileans. But, with one extraordinary twist. Instead of those Galileans praising God in Aramaic, the common tongue of the Jews, everyone present heard them praise God in their native tongue. For instance, picture those from Rome hearing hymns sung in Latin or Greek while those from Egypt listened to Peter’s preaching in the elegant flow of Coptic. Even pilgrims journeying from as far as Seluecia, modern-day Iraq, were met with the disciples speaking fluently in their Parthian tongue. They all collectively saw the ancient curse of Babel being miraculously reversed before their very eyes. Well… Not all of them.
Among them stood a few who remained untouched by the Holy Spirit’s power, hearing only an incomprehensible babel crescendoing from a cacophony of gibberish. Instead of recognizing the nature of this event as a fulfillment of eschatological prophecies, they hurled derision and ridicule upon the disciples, accusing them of inebriation.
For the one group, God had chosen to freely give them the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That outpouring caused them to praise Him, to hear His praises in their own dialects and languages, and to go on to serve Him for a lifetime. For the skeptical party, God intentionally chose to withhold His Spirit, leading them from skepticism to utter ruination, poignantly demonstrating His total sovereignty over election and regeneration.
To clear up any confusion between these two groups and let everyone in earshot know what was happening, Peter stood up and declared precisely what was happening from the prophet Joel. Within those very poignant words from Peter, we will see ten undeniable proofs that the end times have already come.
This week, we will look at the first five that Peter mentions, describing the situation for those who love Christ and receive Him. They are the ones who will experience the Holy Spirit’s power, inherit the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit, and they are the ones who will endure to the end, and be saved in those last days.
Next week, we will look at the final five signs that Peter mentions from Joel’s prophecy, which concern those who hate Christ and reject Him. For them, incredible signs and wonders will demonstrate they are on the wrong side of the end-times debate. They will not make it alive into Jesus’ Kingdom; they will be buried in the ashes of Jerusalem, along with all of the other old covenant trappings and shadows.
With that, let us look at the first five proofs that the “last days” concern the events in the first century, focusing on how that applies to believers and Christians.