In our previous studies, we discussed the concept of “Sorting Prophetic Material,” suggested by Otis Q. Sellers in his pamphlet of the same name. We talked about creating “bins” into which we could sort the prophecies of Scripture predicting events in the future. We had used the book of Revelation to establish four future time periods that are set forth in Scripture: Daniel’s Seventieth Week, The Millennium, The Little Season, and The New Heavens and New Earth. We have examined these four future time periods, all of which we suggested considering as “bins” into which we can sort the future prophecies of the Scriptures. All of these take place after the dispensation of grace, the current time period we live in. If we have properly identified all the future “bins” into which prophecies can be sorted, then we should be able to fit any future prediction we find in the Bible into one of these four bins.
In the last article, we discussed the character of “bin” above listed as the Millennium. From Matthew 13:40-43, we established that the Son of Man will send out angels to remove from the kingdom all things that offend, and all those who practice lawlessness, and to cast them into the furnace of fire. From the context, this would describe something that happens after Christ’s return at the beginning of the Millennium. We compared this to II Thessalonians 1:7-10, where Jesus Christ in His second coming is described as coming “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” By combining these two verses, we can be sure that, in the Millennium, all those who practice sin will be destroyed, and all things that would cause a person to sin will likewise be destroyed. So we concluded that the earth during the Millennium will be like the garden of Eden, only without the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For one thousand years, there will be no death, and there will be no sin.
Then, having established our bins, we began to examine the prophecies of Scripture to see if they would all fit into the bins we have already established. We found that Isaiah 60:1-12 and Isaiah 2:1-4, two predictive prophecies regarding events that are to happen in the future, both contain prophecies that do not seem to fit into any of the bins we established above, including the “Millennium” bin. The times described there just do not fit the character of the Millennium as we defined it above. Then, since Isaiah 2:1-4 is said to take place in the “latter days,” elsewhere called the “last days,” I expressed my belief that an examination of the phrase, “last days,” shows it does not fit a time that has the character of the Millennium. To back up this statement requires a study of the words “last days,” and so we will undertake this study in the remainder of this lesson.
Concordance of “last days.”
The Hebrew word for “last” in the phrase “last days” is the word achariyth. This word occurs sixty-one times in the Hebrew Bible, but only fourteen times does it occur with the word “days” after it. These occurrences are listed below:
Genesis 49:1; Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 4:30, 31:29; Isaiah 2:2; Jeremiah 23:20, 30:24, 48:47, 49:39; Ezekiel 38:16; Daniel 2:28, 10:14; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1.
Let us quickly examine each of these to get the facts about this phrase before us.
Genesis 49:1. And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days:
So Jacob’s blessing upon his sons included a prophecy of what would happen to them in the achariyth days.
Numbers 24:14. And now, indeed, I am going to my people. Come, I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the latter days.”
Here, Balaam is speaking to Balak in the word of the LORD, and is going to tell him what the people of Israel will do to Balak’s people in the achariyth days, here translated the “latter days” in the New King James Version.
Deuteronomy 4:30. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice.
Here the LORD predicts the sons of Israel being unfaithful to Him, and coming into distress in the achariyth days, again translated “latter days.”
Deuteronomy 31:29. For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.”
Here again Moses speaks to the people of Israel and tells them that they will turn away from the LORD, and evil will befall them because of it, in the achariyth days, again translated “latter days.”
Isaiah 2:2. “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.
This passage sets forth glorious things that are going to happen in the achariyth days. This is the passage that led us to this study of “last days.”
Jeremiah 23:20. The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.
The LORD suggests that the people of Israel will understand why He has executed and performed the angry thoughts of His heart in the achariyth days, again translated “latter days.”
Jeremiah 30:24. The fierce anger of the LORD will not return until He has done it, And until He has performed the intents of His heart. In the latter days you will consider it.
Again, as we had it earlier in Jeremiah, the things the LORD will do in His fierce anger will be considered by the people of Israel and Judah in the achariyth days.
Jeremiah 48:47. “Yet I will bring back the captives of Moab In the latter days,” says the LORD. Thus far is the judgment of Moab.
Here is a promise of what the LORD will do for Moab in the achariyth days. So the promises regarding these days are not only to Israel.
Jeremiah 49:39. “But it shall come to pass in the latter days: I will bring back the captives of Elam,” says the LORD.
So Elam too receives a promise from the LORD regarding the achariyth days.
Ezekiel 38:16. You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes.”
Gog and its allies attack Israel, and the LORD is hallowed in them, in the achariyth days.
Daniel 2:28. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these:
Nebuchadnezzar’s great dream in Daniel 2 was given to him by God to let him know what would happen in the achariyth days.
Daniel 10:14. “Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.”
The supernatural being who speaks with Daniel in this passage had come to him to make him understand what would happen to his people, that is, the people of Israel, in the achariyth days.
Hosea 3:5. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days.
In the achariyth days, the children of Israel return to seek the LORD their God and David their king, and then they fear and serve the LORD. This will be a glorious time when this happens, but again, does this fit the character of the millennium, as we defined it above? Is there any room for Israel to seek the LORD and return to Him, when all who do not already know God and obey the gospel have already been destroyed?
Micah 4:1. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And peoples shall flow to it.
This passage is very similar to Isaiah 2:2, and speaks of wondrous things the LORD will do in the achariyth days.
Now we have examined all the occurrences of this phrase, the “achariyth days.” Yet the phrase “last days” occurs in the New Testament as well. Of course, there it is not “achariyth days.” Rather, the Greek word for “last” is eschatos, from which we get our word “eschatology,” which means “the study of last things,” and is used to refer to the study of Bible prophecy. A quick concordance of the occurrences of eschatos with “days” is listed below.
John 6:39, 40, 44, 7:37, 11:24, 12:48; Acts 2:17; II Timothy 3:1; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:3; II Peter 3:3.
Let us quickly examine these passages as well, so we will have an idea of all that the Scriptures have to say upon the subject of the “last days.”
John 6:39. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.
The Father does not wish the Lord Jesus to lose anything that He gave Him, but that He should raise it up at the eschatos day. As I said in my study of John 6, this is not talking about people, as verse 40 does, but about things. These could include things like the temple of the LORD, or the throne of King David. These things were given to Christ, and the Father does not wish Him to lose any of them.
John 6:40. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
This corresponds with verse 39, but this talks about the people the Son has. These people will be raised up at the last day, rather than the things the Father gave Him, as we had it in the previous verse.
John 6:44. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Again, those who belong to the Son will be raised up by Him at the eschatos day.
John 7:37. On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
In this case, the “eschatos day” has nothing to do with the future, but just speaks of the last, great day of the feast.
John 11:24. Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Martha was confident that Lazarus would rise again in the resurrection at the eschatos day.
John 12:48. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
The word that the Lord Jesus had spoken would judge the one who did not receive it in the eschatos day.
Acts 2:17. And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
This passage is a quotation of Joel 2:28, where “last” is the Hebrew word achar, which is related to achariyth. In this passage, God makes the staggering declaration that He will pour out of His Spirit on all flesh. This is a radical statement, and, whatever this means, there can be no doubt but that a huge change will take place in this world when this prophecy is fulfilled.
II Timothy 3:1. But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
This verse speaks of perilous times coming in the last days. Many people have seen a problem in this, since Isaiah 2 sets forth the last days as being a glorious time period, whereas this passage sets forth a last days that are full of peril and wickedness. Did Paul and Isaiah have a very different idea about what the last days would be like? If we believe that God inspired them both, then this cannot be our explanation. We will deal more with this passage later.
Hebrews 1:2. has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
In this passage, very interestingly, the writer of Hebrews makes the eschatos days to be the time already then present!
James 5:3. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.
Those whom James was writing to had heaped up treasure in the eschatos days. Again, like Hebrews, this makes it sound as if the last days were something that was already present when James wrote his book.
II Peter 3:3. knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
Peter’s last days seem more in line with Paul’s last days of II Timothy 3:1, although he also could be speaking of the time then present. His declaration is concerning scoffers who will come in the eschatos days, walking in their own lusts. This is a very different character from those who come to the mountain of the LORD’s house in the last days as Isaiah 2 sets it forth.
Ultimately, I think in examining these, we cannot help but admit if we are honest that these various occurrences of the phrase “last days” do not all refer to the same period of time. But be that as it may, from our studies above, we can safely conclude that none of these passages regarding the “last days” set forth a time which fits the character of the Millennium. None of them fits a time when all those who sin, and all things that would cause one to sin, have been taken away.
So what does “last days” mean? What time period is this phrase talking about? To find the answer to these questions, I believe we need to establish the meaning of the word “last” in this phrase as it is used in Hebrew and Greek. We think of “last” as meaning “that’s all there is.” My “last dollar” is the last one I have. Yet this is not what the word “last” means in Scripture, at least not when it is used to translate achariyth and eschatos. We can clearly see this in many of the passages above, such as Isaiah 2:2, Acts 2:17, II Timothy 3:1, and Hebrews 1:2, for in none of these passages are the “last days” the last that the earth will ever experience.
A study of the Hebrew word achariyth and the corresponding Greek word eschatos will reveal, I believe, that these words translated “last” mean, basically, the outcome or result of a thing. This meaning can best be seen in passages where the word is not translated last. Let us examine a few of these passages.
Psalm 37:37. Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; For the future of that man is peace.
The word “future” here is the word achariyth in Hebrew. Clearly, this is not talking about the end of the man, or his last time ever. This is talking about the outcome or the result of this man being blameless and upright.
Proverbs 20:21. An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning Will not be blessed at the end.
Even though “beginning” is contrasted with “end” here, it is clear that this is not the very end of the inheritance. What is meant here is the outcome or the result of that inheritance. For the one who receives an inheritance hastily, the result or outcome will not be good. Many who long after winning the lottery could use to learn this verse!
Proverbs 24:14. So shall the knowledge of wisdom be to your soul; If you have found it, there is a prospect, And your hope will not be cut off.
Fascinatingly, the word achariyth is translated as “prospect” here. There is a (positive) result or outcome that comes from the knowledge of wisdom.
Proverbs 24:20. For there will be no prospect for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
Again, the word achariyth is translated “prospect.” This could not be translated as “last” or “end,” for that would make the first part of this statement and the last part of the statement to be at complete odds with each other! There will be no positive result or outcome for the evil man, is what this passage is saying.
Proverbs 29:21. He who pampers his servant from childhood Will have him as a son in the end.
Here, the warning is that a servant pampered from childhood will become a son in the end. In this case, achariyth or “end” clearly means “as a result.” Pampering a servant will result in this.
Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Here, the word “future” is the word achariyth. The LORD is going to give them a result in accordance with their hope, that is, their expectation. Those are the thoughts He thinks toward them. He is not going to bring them to an end. That was not their hope.
So, we can clearly see that “last” means a result or outcome. Because of this, the “last days” might be called instead the “resultant days.” The achariyth days are the outcome of all that has come before. So then it becomes obvious that the question we should ask next is, “the result or outcome of what?” And we must answer this question depending upon the context in which the phrase “last days” occurs.
So in Isaiah 2, the “last days” are the result of all God’s work to save and redeem Israel and the world that He has accomplished in the past. Thus, we read of the glory of these last days, and of all that God is going to do then. In II Timothy 3:1-8, however, the “last days” are the result of God’s long dealing with men in grace and letting them go their own, evil ways. Thus, these resultant days are full of wickedness and ungodliness. So, now that we understand the meaning of the phrase “last days,” we realize that Paul and Isaiah do not contradict, when Isaiah declares glorious times in the last days, and Paul predicts terrible times. The reason their assessments of the last days are different is that they are talking about the days that result from two different things! Isaiah’s last days result from God’s work, whereas Paul’s last days result from man’s rebellion. Isaiah’s last days follow Paul’s. I believe we are living in Paul’s “last days.” Isaiah’s last days are still to come.
Now, to conclude the study of the phrase, “last days,” let us move on to examine other passages predicting future events, and examine another important phrase, “the Day of the Lord.” We will perform this study in our next article.