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Doctrines of the Faith

DOCTRINE OF THE LAST THINGS, PART 2—ESCHATOLOGY

Use of “latter days” and some synonyms (“ends of the ages,” “the end of the days,” “consummation of the
ages,” “last times,” “last hour,” “fullness of times,” etc.) in the New Testament. Acts 2:17; 1 Cor. 10:11; Gal.
4:4; Eph. 1:7-10, 20-23; 1 Tim. 4:1ff; 2 Tim. 3:1ff.; Heb. 1:2; Heb. 9:26; James 5:3; 1 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Peter
3:3; 1 John 1:18.

Let us take Acts 2:17-21 as an example. Peter describes what is happening at Pentecost by saying, “this is
what was spoken of through the prophet Joel” (v. 16). Immediately Peter says that “it shall be in the last days
that [God] will pour forth his spirit on all mankind.” What is interesting here is that Peter is describing the
events at Pentecost as being the “last days.” (A question might arise about verses 19-20. Is Peter talking
about that happening at Pentecost? I believe he is, especially when we realize what happened on the day of
the crucifixion. Luke says that darkness covered the whole land at noon (Lk. 23:44-46), and Matthew reports
strange things happening like people coming out of the tomb (Mt. 27:51-53). We should also note that many
passages in the OT use this language to describe judgment upon a nation: Is. 34; Jer. 4; Hag. 2; Is. 13
(judgment on Babylon); Ezek. 32 (judgment in Egypt). That would mean that Peter is speaking of God
judging Israel for the sin of killing the Son of God. Also remember that all judgments like this are
foreshadowing the future great judgment of God upon all who do not trust his Son.

Take another important passage of Scripture. In 1 John 2:18 we read, “Dear children, this is the last hour;
and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we
know it is the last hour.” John describes his own time as the “last hour,” which means that the death and
resurrection of Christ begins the “last days” or the “last hour” (reference all the above passages). What is
significant is that John describes the antichrist by telling us that many have already come, and that is how we
know it is the last hour. Who is this antichrist? John describes him as a liar in verse 22 because he denies that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. So any false teacher is an antichrist. If I could paraphrase John, this is
what he is saying:

You’ve heard from Daniel (chapters 7-12), Jesus (Matthew 24, Mark 13, & Luke 21), and
Paul (2 Thess. 2) that the antichrist is coming at the very end, but I want you to know that his
people are already here. Don’t think you can be at ease and fell like it is not a threat since it is
future because it is happening right now (Remember that Daniel said the antichrist will get
those who are at ease). One of you biggest dangers as Christians it to think the antichrist is
only future. You think you have it figured out and you won’t be here when he comes. What
you face now will not be as bad as the Great Tribulation, right? Wrong! You have become at
ease. The antichrist is not just coming in the future, but he has already gotten into your
churches and sometimes your homes by teaching false doctrines (Jesus is not the Son of God,
or that there is no such thing as the Trinity, etc.).

The parallels between Jesus and the antichrist are significant. Just as Jesus has a body, something that we call
the church, so the antichrist also has a body. His body is the false teachers who have been with the church
since the beginning. Part of the witness of the church is maintaining purity of doctrine and theology. This has
taken place at the many early church councils as Jesus was confessed to be the Son of God, as the Trinity
was explained and defended, and other doctrines were hammered out. in particular I am thinking of the
Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 and then the seven major ecumenical councils of the early church, most
significant of which were Nicaea (325) and Chalcedon (451).
Doctrines of the Faith

The Biblical evidence of these verses shows us that the end-days predicted in the Old Testament prophecies
are seen as beginning their fulfillment with Christ’s first coming. All that the Old Testament foresaw would
occur in the end-times has begun already in the first century and continues on into our present day. What the
Old Testament did not state clearly was that the reality of the kingdom and the tribulation could co-exist at
the same time: for example, John says in Revelation 1:9, “I, John, your brother and fellow-partaker in the
tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus.” Therefore, the latter days do not take place
only at some point in the future, but occur throughout the whole church age, which means we in the 20th
century are still experiencing the latter days, as strange as that may sound to some people.

How do we explain this? The phrase “already/not yet” has often been used. The age to come has “already”
dawned in the first coming of Christ but has “not yet” been completed (Geerhardus Vos). The later awaits the
second coming of Christ (the Parousia, the Greek word for second coming which means “presence”). A
French theologian named Oscar Cullmann used an illustration from Wordl War II to get across this point. D-
Day was the phrase used to describe the victory at Normandy, which is usually referred to as the beginning
of the end of World War II. This battle was the decisive battle for that war. However, V-Day was the phrase
used to describe the final victory in the war. Cullmann described Jesus first coming as ‘D-day,’ since this is
when Satan was decisively defeated. ‘V-day’ is the second coming, when Jesus’ enemies will totally
surrender and bow down to Him. Cullmann put it this way: “The hope of the final victory is so much more
vivid because of the unshakeably firm conviction that the battle that decides the victory has already taken
place” (Christ and Time, p. 87). Vos (Pauline Eschatology, p. 38) attempted to illustrate this truth through a
diagram that I have included below:

ORINIGINAL SCHEME

This age or world The age or world to come

THE NEW TESTAMENT SCHEME

The world to come realized in principle


for believers (Eph. 2:6-7).

[In Heaven]
PAROUSIA
The resurrection of This future age and world
Christ begins this will be fully realized at the
New Creation. Coming of Christ.

[On Earth]

This age or world