In this article, I shall survey various Scriptures that point to the last days. I have listed the topics alphabetically. I certainly do not guarantee that I have found all the Scriptures that should be included. In each topic, I make a few comments. I shall continue the survey in one or more additional articles.
ANTICHRIST: Most scholars agree that the “Antichrist” is the same person as the “Beast” in Revelation 13 and the “Man of Lawlessness” in II Thessalonians 2. There are also references in Daniel that apply to this person. In John 5:43, Jesus says: “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.” (Scripture quotations are from English Standard Version.) This was said to the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day. It could have a broad application, but it also could apply to the Antichrist. The additional Scriptures are as follows:
· I John 2:18-23: Verse 18: “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.” John ties together the eschatological Antichrist to the spirit of error of his own day. In verse 22, he writes: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.” Thus, the Antichrist is of that spirit that denies the person of Jesus.
· I John 4:1-6: This passage makes a similar point—that the spirit of false prophecy is the antichrist spirit. It also connects the spirit of antichrist with “the world.”
· II John 7: This verse again connects deception and error with the antichrist spirit. It warns against those who do not acknowledge “the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.” This was probably an incipient Gnosticism. Notice that in these Scriptures, the deception that is labeled “antichrist” has to do with the doctrines of Jesus Christ—His divinity, His incarnation, His fulfillment of the role of the Messiah, etc.
APOSTASY: I Timothy 4:1-5, Paul warns of departure from the apostolic teachings of the faith. Verse 1 states: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…” In this passage, he focuses especially on ascetic teachings: forbidding marriage and advocating abstinence from certain foods. Other passages name additional evils that will develop in the church. The other passages are as follows:
· II Timothy 4:1-5: Paul exhorts Timothy to “fulfill [his] ministry” (verse 5), even as he warns him that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions…” (Verse 3). The emphasis here is more on the people who wander from sound doctrine in order to find something that suits them rather than the teachers themselves.
· II Peter 2:1-3: Peter warns against false teachers. He warns his own readers, but his warning could apply to any generation. Their heresies are “destructive.” The false teaching is mixed with “sensuality” (verse 2) and “greed” (verse 3). Here the emphasis is on the false teachers and their motivations as well as the result of their deception: “Because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.” (verse 2)
· II Peter 3:1-7: Peter warns that, in the last days, people will scoff at the idea of the coming (Parousia) of Jesus: “Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’” (Verses 3-4) Note that the scoffers are motivated by “sinful desires.” Their perspective is short-sighted, as they believe that things are pretty much the same as always. Peter argues with them that the Noahic Flood is evidence against their theory and that fire is the way the world will be destroyed next time (Verses 5-7). He goes on (Verses 8-13) to expand on last things. In 3:1-7 Peter specifically warns that error in the last days will include a rejection of the idea of the Lord’s Second Coming.
· I John 2:18-23 and 4:1-6, II John 7: In these passages (also mentioned in the entry on “Antichrist”) the false teaching that is warned about has to do with the doctrines of the person of Jesus.
· Jude 17-21: This passage actually makes reference to Peter’s warning in II Peter 3:1-7. It is possible that Jude had heard Peter and other apostles preach the same message and was not referring to the book. Jude focuses on the “scoffers” and not on their scoffing at the Parousia. A scoffer generally is a person filled with pride who belittles people and ideas to build himself or herself up. Jude characterizes these scoffers as “devoid of the Spirit.” With no appreciation for spiritual things and their hearts set on ungodly passion, it is no wonder that they would becomes scoffers and cause divisions in the church.
· Notice how, as we look at these various Scriptures, we are beginning to have a picture in our mind of those people and ideas that will lead people astray—and indeed have been busy doing so for some time. The doctrines of such people will be “doctrines of demons” (I Timothy 4:1-5), in some cases advocating asceticism (I Timothy 4:1-5). The false teachers will be motivated by sensuality and greed (II Peter 2:1-3) and ungodly passion (Jude 17-21). They will deny the deity of Christ or His humanity (I John 2:18-23 and 4:1-6 and II John 7). They will make fun of the idea of the Second Coming (II Peter 3:1-7). In addition, such teachers will have willing disciples who will seek out those who teach them only what they want to hear (II Timothy 4:1-5).
ETERNITY: The idea that a future awaits us that will be a state of bliss forever is found in a number of Scriptures. The Greek word that is translated “eternal” is the adjective form of the word aion. The latter word can mean “time,” “age” (such as “this present age”), “world,” or “eternity.” Thus, “eternity” and “eternal” is that which belongs to the age to come—God’s great future.
· Matthew 6:19-21: Jesus admonishes us to lay up treasure in heaven. Such treasure will not be what is valued here. It will be eternal virtues that come out of those things that last—faith, hope, and love. Jesus assures us that the destructive forces on this earth cannot touch such treasures. They last forever—eternally.
· John 3:16: That greatest of all verses assures us that God has given eternal life through faith in His Son.
· II Peter 1:10-11: Peter exhorts his readers to be diligent in their walk with the Lord, growing in the faith (a process that is described in 1:5-9) so that they may enter into the “eternal kingdom” of the Lord.
FEAST: A banquet, a wedding banquet, a feast—these are terms that appear to correspond to God’s great future. At least in the short term, I do not try to distinguish these.
· Matthew 22:1-14: Jesus tells a parable about a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. The fact that it was the king who threw the party makes this a “command performance”: you don’t miss this kind of affair. Yet, Jesus says, people snubbed the king and his son. Moreover, they even killed those who brought the invitations. The king responded by destroying them and their city. So, the king invited others into the banquet and filled the hall. However, he caught one person who did not wear the wedding clothes (possible ones that the king had provided, since the invitees were poor). This malefactor was ejected from the wedding. Jesus then concludes with the saying: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Verse 22:14) The interpretation of the parable most likely is that those who snubbed the king and his son are the majority of the Jews and that the secondary invitees are the Gentiles. (See Matthew 21:43.) The need for wedding clothes is most likely the need to receive the clothes offered by the king—the garment of salvation. The banquet is God’s great celebration—one that takes place in the present but one that will especially be experienced in the future Kingdom of God.
· Matthew 25:1-13: This is the Parable of the Virgins. Its setting is a wedding and the virgins who were ready entered the wedding banquet (Verse 25:10). This parable has been discussed in another article on Matthew 25.
· Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25, Luke 22:18, 22:16: The first three of these verses are practically identical. Jesus has just instituted the cup portion of the communion meal: “This is my blood…” Now, He states that He will not drink the cup again until He drinks it “new in the kingdom of God.” Thus, He looks forward to a day when He will have fellowship with His disciples at table in a great time of renewal. In the other reference from Luke (22:16), He refers to the Passover meal. He will not eat it [again] until “it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Jesus is referred to as our “Passover” (I Corinthians 5:7), referring especially to the Passover lamb. So, in one sense, the Passover was fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus. In another sense, when the consummation of all things comes about, then we will fully be delivered from our enslavement and will have been carried “on eagle’s wings” to our liberty. And the Passover will be fulfilled in the realization of the Kingdom of God. All of these Scriptures understand the communion to look back to the crucifixion and forward to the final redemption. One is reminded of the words from the Great Thanksgiving: “…until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet” and of Paul’s words: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (I Corinthians 11:26)
· Luke 13:28-30 (wider context is 13:22-30): Jesus is discussing whether many or few will be saved (Verse 13:23). He has admonished people to be diligent in their pursuit of salvation (though salvation is not by works, it does call for attention and decision). He warns that some will be left out (Verses 13:25, 27, 28). Then, He addresses His Jewish listeners: “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” (Verse 13:29) The Kingdom is characterized as a great banquet or feast spread out by God Himself. (See Isaiah 25:6.) Again, Jesus drives home the point that many Jews will miss out on the Kingdom and Gentiles will enter it. He drives home the point that there will be reversal in the Kingdom and the first will be last and the last first (Verse 13:30).
· Luke 14:15-24: This passage is very similar to Matthew 22:1-14. Jesus responds to a person who looks toward the future Kingdom (Verse 22:15). He tells a story to make the point that some may, in fact, miss the Kingdom. He characterizes the Kingdom as a banquet. When the banquet was ready, a servant goes out to give a secondary invitation to those who had been invited: it’s ready now; you can come. But they gave lame excuses, so the servant was sent to those least likely to be invited to a “great banquet.” Then, when the banquet hall was still not full, the servant was sent outside the city to find those homeless in the shelter of the hedges along the highway. The man was determined to have a full house at his banquet. However, the original ones who were invited were crossed off his list. This parable has application to all who receive the invitation from God. There is no doubt that those who heard the parable applied it to the Jews. The religious leaders rejected Jesus, but those who were considered God’s rejects gravitated to Him. (See Matthew 21:31-32.) Notice especially that the man—who represents God—was determined to fill his banquet hall. God is throwing a party, and He is determined that it will be a BIG party, full of people.
· Matthew 6:19-21: See under “Eternity.”
· John 14:1-6: This is one of the most familiar of Scripture passages, one that is often read at funerals. The setting is the Last Supper, the night when Jesus would go to the garden and there be arrested, put on trial, and the next morning be crucified. In the face of this, Jesus encourages His disciples not to be troubled. He then gives the information that there are many “rooms” or “dwelling places” in His Father’s house. The word that is translated “rooms” was translated “mansions” in the King James Version. It led to a great old gospel song, “A Mansion over the Hilltop.” It is a great old song that probably distorts our understanding of the passage. The only other use of the word in the New Testament is in this same chapter, verse 23. There Jesus promises He and the Father will come to the believer and “make our home with him.” So, Jesus is promising a home with the Father. This is an extension of the ancient patriarchy, in which the clan lived in the compound of tents of the father of the clan. Jesus says He is going to prepare a place for His disciples (and, by extension, for us). Notice carefully that His “going” would begin at the cross. Too often we have read this passage as Jesus going to build us a mansion, or at least a nice apartment. The new and living way to the Father (verse 14:6, see also Hebrews 10:19-22) is through Jesus and all that He accomplished in His redeeming work. Besides His work in preparing a place in the Father’s house through redemption, Jesus makes the further promise to come again and take us to Himself. The word “take” is best understood as “take along with me.” To be with Jesus is to be with the Father for He is the way to the Father (verse 14:6). As Paul states in I Thessalonians 14:7b: “so we will always be with the Lord.” Although this passage refers to a heavenly dwelling, it really is more about the work of Christ and all that means for us.
· II Corinthians 5:1-10: There are a number of passages that create a background for us in our spiritual thinking, even though we may not know the passage. This is one of those passages. In a way it is a strange mixture of metaphors that helps us think about our bodies and our future.
o In verse 5:1, our earthly bodies are represented by a tent. We also have a heavenly “building” that is given to us by God, that is eternal, and that is in the heavens. It is possible that Paul is contrasting the earthly and heavenly in that the heavenly is a solid, powerful building whereas the earthly is only a tent. In verses 5:2-5, Paul voices the desire of the Christian, who has an earthly dwelling—a tent—but also a heavenly dwelling that awaits him or her. The desire is to be clothed by that heavenly “dwelling.” We do not want to be unclothed or stripped (verse 5:4). So, we groan, longing to be clothed in that heavenly dwelling. God has prepared us for this destiny—to have heavenly clothes (verse 5:5). This preparation is the redemptive work that God has done in us. The Spirit is a “guarantee,” like a deposit of earnest money, guaranteeing our future.
o In verses 5:6-10, Paul applies this idea to the life of the Christian. We live a life of faith—operating on the basis of realities that are unseen. (Verse 5:7) We understand that we either are in this present order of existence “away from the Lord,” or we are at home with the Lord. (Verses 5:6 and 5:8) This perspective on life gives us “courage.” (Verses 5:6-8) It also motivates us to please the Lord in this present order as well as in the next order of existence. (Verse 5:9) For there will be an accounting. (Verse 5:10)
o Though this passage is a comforting passage, it creates a lot of questions. What exactly is the “heavenly dwelling”? Notice that it is in parallel with the “earthly tent.” That would naturally be interpreted to be a body of some sort. But then we must ask: Is this heavenly body one that we experience in heaven or is it the resurrection body described in I Corinthians 15. Note that the idea of mortality being swallowed up by life (verse 5:4) echoes language in I Corinthians 15:53-54, which is a passage describing the Resurrection/Rapture. Also, the “groaning” (verse 5:4) is an echo of the groaning that anticipates the Resurrection of the believers in Romans 8:18-27. Finally, I Corinthians 15:45-49 refers to “the man from heaven” (Christ) and our destiny to “bear the image of the man of heaven” (I Corinthians 15:49) in the Resurrection. The Greek words are not quite the same in the two passages, but the reference in II Corinthians 5:1 to “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” is similar.
o Another possible understanding is that this heavenly dwelling is simply a place in heaven. In this case Paul is characterizing our heavenly existence as putting on a garment—the garment of our dwelling place in heaven. In the latter part of the passage (verses 5:6-10), Paul does seem to be indicating an intermediate state (a condition between physical death and the Resurrection) by positing two states: at home in the body and away from the Lord (5:6) or away from the body and at home with the Lord (5:8). This second interpretation of the heavenly dwelling that is discussed in 5:1-5 would be congruent with the intermediate state that is indicated in 5:6-10. However, as I have already stated, the language of 5:1-5 seems to favor a resurrection body.
o In fact, the ESV Study Bible (as a third interpretation) distinguishes the two sections of the passage: In this view, the first part (5:1-5) refers to the Resurrection, and the second part (5:6-10, especially 5:6-9) refers to the intermediate state.
o A fourth possibility is that Paul envisions a heavenly body which we “wear” during the intermediate state until we receive our permanent bodies in the Resurrection. One possible confirmation of that idea is Revelation 6:11, where the martyrs in heaven are given white robes. This third possible interpretation is not very satisfying.
o I tend to favor the third possibility, which is that the two halves of the passage refer to our two-stage future. In the “intermediate state,” when we die, we instantaneously enjoy a conscious presence with the Lord (Verse 5:8). Our ultimate destiny, however, is a heavenly body—what Paul calls a “spiritual body” in I Corinthians 15:44—which we receive at the Resurrection (II Corinthians 5:1-5).
· Philippians 3:20-21: The context of these verses goes back to that high point of Scripture (3:14): “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul applies that ideal to his readers by admonishing them to follow in his example as well as avoiding those who live as enemies of the cross and whose minds are on earthly things. “But our citizenship is in heaven,” writes Paul (3:20). That statement can be distorted by those who desire to do so. To have our citizenship in heaven does not mean that we do not have a destiny on earth. Pentecost (page 212) maintains that the destiny of the church is heavenly. I do not believe he is correct in that claim, but it is beyond the scope of this article to argue that. Jesus told Pilate that His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), but He did not necessarily mean that His Kingdom could not come to earth. He also told the disciples that they were not of the world (John 15:19). Later, He would pray to the Father for them:
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. (John 17:14-18)
So, we can be in the world but not be of the world. Our prayer is that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Note that we await a Savior from heaven. (verse 3:20) The Savior is the “man of heaven” of I Corinthians 15:47-49. Literally, the word “man” is not present in that passage; it simply says “the of heaven” or “the one from heaven.” If we think of heaven as that place where God dwells in fullness of glory, then Jesus in heaven bears that full glory of God. Through God’s redemptive work, we have been given a citizenship in that place that is full of the glory of God. And someday, that glory will fill the earth. Paul affirms that our bodies will someday be transformed into glorious bodies, just as Jesus now has a glorious body. In addition, there will someday be a new heaven AND A NEW EARTH. And when that takes place, we shall dwell on earth forever with the Lord, where our heavenly citizenship will shine forth. In the meantime, we live in this world, faithfully expressing our heavenly citizenship in all that we do. For this reason, Paul exhorted the Philippians to walk in his example—one who pressed on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
· Hebrews 11:13-16: These verses are from the “roll call of the heroes of the faith” in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Although this comment is inserted before the complete roll call has been given, it applies to all the heroes. The verses give us insight into their motivations and perspective. The chapter especially emphasizes perspective. Verse 11:1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The people could see far into the future the fulfillment of the promises that they had been given (verse 11:13). This perspective gave them the perseverance in the face of frustration and opposition. Moreover, they considered themselves aliens (11:13)—not the UFO kind of aliens in popular culture—but aliens in that they did not really belong among the idolatrous, immoral people of their time. Their focus was on their homeland, which was nothing like this present order of existence nor the perspective of the culture that surrounded them. They desired a “heavenly” country (11:16). What was the nature of that “heavenly” country? I believe we get a picture of it throughout the Bible. First of all, it will be filled with righteousness (II Peter 3:13). Righteousness is defined throughout the Scripture, especially in the Law of Moses, the teachings of Jesus, and the admonitions of the apostles. The heavenly country will be holy—totally dedicated to serving God. The heavenly country will be full of power—the miracle-working power exemplified by Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and the apostles. The heavenly country will be full of the glory of the Lord. And the prayer that Jesus taught us will be fulfilled: God’s Kingdom will come and the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven. So, the characteristic of heaven—that it is where God’s will is done—will characterize the “heavenly” country that will fulfill the promises made to the Old Testament saints. I recognize that I am being polemical here, contesting against the Pentecost’s concept, which I mentioned in the entry for Philippians 3:20-21. Pentecost (201ff) makes a distinction between Israel and the church. This distinction includes an earthly destiny for Israel and a heavenly destiny for the church. Note that the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is dealing with Old Testament saints. Pentecost would not agree that the “heavenly” country for Israel is in heaven. Rather, he and I would both agree that the heavenly country the Israelites sought was on earth but had the characteristics of heaven. So, the term “heavenly”—an adjective—is a word that does not always refer to geography but rather may refer to quality. The “heavenly” Father is not limited to heaven (Matthew 18:35). The “heavenly things” that Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:12) have relevance to our life on earth. Obviously, this principle does not always hold. For example, the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” are characterized by their location, not by their quality. Nevertheless, the “heavenly” country is that quality of life that partakes of the righteousness, holiness, power, and glory of heaven. The final statement in these verses in Hebrews 11:13-16 refers to a city. This most likely refers to the New Jerusalem, which is described in Revelation 21-22. In that description, John sees the city come down out of heaven. This seems to be a vision of the union of heaven and earth, for the amazing statement is made: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3)
Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible (Kindle Locations 306677-306678). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publ. House, 1958.