In my last post, “Defining the Last Days,” I tried to lead us into a biblical definition of the last days. I noted that according to the New Testament the last days began with the coming of Christ and will end sometime after his second coming when he destroys death at the Great White Throne Judgment. Often people have the impression that the last days is one generation long, but the Bible is clear that the last days is an era, not a generation. Simply put, the term “last days” refers to the Messianic age.
In this post we want to get a general picture of what is to be expected in the last days. Usually people want to look for “signs” that we are living in the end times, but the Bible is more interested in telling us what to expect than trying to prove to us that we are living in that age. We don’t need signs to know it is the last days, the Bible has already told us that is (Heb.1:2, 9:26,1 Cor.10:11). But we do need to be prepared for the things we will face.
What did Jesus and the Apostles tell us would be characteristics of the Messianic age? For this we will need to look at their teachings recorded in the Bible. We will go through some selected passages in order to get an idea of what they warned was to be expected. We will focus particularly what they had to say concerning the Church. The Bible does give us some insight in what the world in general will be like in the last days, as well as what events are to be expected after the return of Christ, but here we will focus our attention on the experience of the Church in the era before the Second Coming of Christ.
Matt 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
-Jesus warned his people that they would face the challenge of false prophets. He said that men would come teaching false things.
Matt 10:16-18 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.”
Matt 23:34 “Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,”
John 15:20-21 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”
John 16:1-3 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.”
John 16:33 “…In the world you will have tribulation…”
-In these sections of scriptures Christ makes it clear that besides false teachings, the Church was going to deal with the hatred of the world. The believers are warned that serving Christ is not going to be popular, but that they would face danger at every turn.
2 Timothy 3:1 & 12 “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:” & “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
Acts 14:22 “Strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
-When we turn to Paul, we find that he also had some warnings for the Church of Christ. He let them know in no uncertain terms that it would not be an easy rode ahead. He, like his Lord, knew and prophesied of sufferings and persecution against the Church in the last days.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy,…”
2 Timothy 3:1 & 13 “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:” & “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
2 Timothy 4:2-4 “Preach the word! For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
Acts 20:29-30 “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves”
-Paul in his epistles and his missionary travels made the Church aware of the deception that was to be expected in the years from Christ’s first coming until His return. He warned that men would teach false teachings and lead men into the doctrines of demons. And he made it clear that they would be prosperous in their deceptive missions because of the willingness of people to listen to things they want to hear.
2 Peter 2:1-3 “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”
2 Peter 3:1-3 & 3:15-17 “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,” & “Account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation– as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;”
-Peter, along with Jesus and Paul, makes it clear that truth was going to be under attack in the Church during the last days.
1 Peter 4:12-13 “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”
-Peter in many places warns that suffering is part of the believers lot in the Messianic Age.
I John 2:18 & 26 “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” & “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.”
2 John 7-11 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked schemes.
I John 4:1-6 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
-The Apostle John talks about the spirit of Antichrist that was in the earth. It was leading many that were in the Church to leave, as well as teach and believe false doctrines. This caused them to become false Christians. He calls them antichrists and says that their presence in the world proves that the last days had already arrived. False teachers and cults were not a surprise to John, he knew that the last days would see such things. He understood what the prophets had proclaimed about the last days, and was not surprised to find these antichrists (false teachers and false Christians) already in their midst.
Revelation 1:9 “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
-John also acknowledges that he was a partaker of the persecution that was promised would come upon believers. He also makes it clear that the other believers were fellow partakers of the same persecution.
These passages are often overlooked when people study the end times. Because everyone knows that persecution and false teachings have plagued the history of the Church, it seems not even worthy of noting these obvious scriptures. But we must keep in mind that when these warnings were given, the last 2,000 years of cults and persecution had not yet taken place. These were not just warnings of concerned religious leaders, but were prophesies given by the Lord and Apostles by the power of the Holy Spirit.
These prophesies are as miraculous as any fulfilled prophesy given in scripture. They give us two very clear characteristics of the last age of the world as it relates to the church before the Second Coming. They tell us, with specific reference to the life of the Church, that false teachings and cults will abound and that the world will hate and attack the Congregation of Christ. This is exactly what the Church has faced over its entire history, from the time of the Apostles down to our very own day. And this pattern will continue up until the time of Jesus’ return from heaven at which time he will enforce his lordship over all men. Truly God knows the end from the beginning. And He has shared part of that knowledge with us by the Holy Spirit through His Apostles, Prophets and even His very own Son!
We usually look at passages that talk about persecution and false teaching in the “last days” and “end times” as proof that we are in the “last days”. And it is true! We are in the last days and false teaching and persecution hounds the Church everywhere it exists. But we must not imagine this makes us different from our forefathers in the faith. From the time of the Apostles, through the persecution of Pagan Rome and the false teachings of the Gnostics, throughout the martyrs of the Reformation who fought the heresies of Papal Rome, up to the recent era of Communist and Islamic persecution along with all the modern cults of Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness and various other heresies, the Church of Jesus Christ has suffered persecutions from without and false teaching from within! Yes, we are living in the last days, but not more so than our Christian forefathers!
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