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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Are We Living in the Last Days?

I hear the following statements often: “We must be living in the last days; the signs are everywhere.” “Jesus must be coming very soon; look at all the signs.” But they need some clarification.

I realize we live in tumultuous times, but the designations “last days’” and “last times” do not apply exclusively to our generation. The New Testament identifies the entire Church Age as “the last times” (1 Peter 1:20; Jude 18-19), “the last days” (Hebrews 1:1-2), and even “the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Christians of every generation have lived in the last days. Of course, we may be living in the final period of the last days. We simply must not dogmatically claim that we are.

But what about the signs? In His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 and Luke 21) Jesus identified certain signs as precursors to His coming. Some of those signs are earthquakes, international conflict, famines, religious deception, persecution, and tidal waves. We observe such occurrences today, but they are not exclusive to our generation. Many past generations have seen similar tragedies. Other signs identified by Jesus include unprecedented distress, solar and lunar darkness, and the shaking of stars and planets from their orbits. My point is, when all these phenomena occur collectively, Jesus will come again.

However, the coming He referred to in the Olivet Discourse is His coming as the Son of Man in glory with His angels to establish His kingdom on earth. I distinguish this return of Jesus to the earth from His return in the air to remove the Church from the earth (the Rapture; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The Bible doesn’t offer any signs as precursors to the Rapture. It could happen any moment— now or in the future.

So let’s read Matthew 24 and Luke 21 again, and weigh carefully those statements about living in the last days with all the signs. And let’s live every day as though this might be the day Jesus arrives in the air to take us Home.