We hear Christian preachers talk about the Last Days a lot. Generally, many modern Christian denominations teach that the ‘last days’ are a short period of time prior to the end of the world. At that time, Jesus makes his promised return to rapture the righteous into heaven as angels where they join previous believers who have already died.
Although there are many different theories about the mechanics of this end time event, many believers expect that, after the rapture, there will be seven years of tribulation for those unfortunate people Jesus leaves behind on earth. This terrible time of wrath is God’s call to the unbelievers to make their repentance and accept Jesus’ lordship. If they don’t, they will be destroyed in the battle of Armageddon. This last battle will bring human rulership, and the earth, to an end.
What if this scenario isn’t really true; what if that is not quite what the Bible says? The Bible uses terms such as ‘end of the world’, but it is talking to us about the end of an age or dispensation. And as far as the ‘rapture’ goes, that word doesn’t even occur in the Bible. Another article will explain that subject further, however this discourse will focus upon other aspects of the end days, or the close of this dispensation of Grace.
Long ago, the prophet Daniel interpreted a dream for Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon, 605-562 BC) about a huge statue with each section being made of different materials: gold, silver, bronze, iron, clay. Daniel said that the different parts represented different kingdoms imposing worldwide domination, both then and in the future. It is possible to identify the great empires which the statue represented: Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greek, Roman, European-American. This part of the prophecy has already come true.
Finally, the dream shows a stone (representing Jesus Christ) which destroys the kingdoms and grows into a mighty mountain and takes over rulership of earth forever. By destroying the kingdoms, the rock also predicts the impact of Christianity on the world. We are now living in this last part of the prophecy.1 God told Daniel the future history concerning the world’s kingdoms ruling over God’s people, but did not mention any destruction of the earth itself. Read the details of this prophetic dream in the Book of Daniel, chapter 2, verses 24-45.
What is a Dispensation?
According to a dictionary, the word ‘dispensation’ means commands and promises regulating human affairs, or a particular arrangement or provision demanded.2 These dispensations, or ages, are periods of history in which God deals with humankind in different ways; it is all part of our continued schooling. There were dispensations of Innocence, Civil Government, Patriarchal Rule, and more. When Jesus arrived on earth about two thousand years ago, humankind left the Mosaic Law age and entered into the age of Grace. At the end of this age, we will move from the dispensation of Grace into the Millennium age — the reign of Jesus Christ.
Just as our world was wiped clean during the time of the great flood of Noah’s day, all evidence of the sinfulness of our time will soon be destroyed, including the sinful population. (An article about dispensations, titled “Dispensationalism: A Tool for Bible Interpretation”, can be found in References & Notes).3
Our earth may look different after the coming cleansing, but it will remain. And just as Noah and his family inhabited a new earth after the flood, so will the human family of Jesus Christ inhabit a new earth in the coming Millennial Age. Jesus will be our righteous King and we will be his righteous subjects.
You may not find this idea favorable, but that is okay, for God expects you to examine the evidence and make your own decision. Just don’t be one of those that Jesus said “have eyes, and fail to see . . . [or] have ears, and fail to hear” (Mark 8:18, NRSV).4 I am now going to lay out my case, and hope you can think outside the box and examine the evidence from another perspective. I don’t want to argue with people, only witness or testify to them about what I have found and believe to be true.
What does the Bible say about the End Days?
When speaking of ‘the end of days’, most people usually think of The Revelation to John, the last book of the Holy Bible. Written during the latter part of the first century AD, the book of Revelation provides detail descriptions of the last days in both symbolic and realistic events. It relates many apocalyptic circumstances with those in the Old Testament.
So in reality, the end days are hinted at throughout the whole Bible and “the Book of Revelation cannot be adequately understood except against the historical background that occasioned its writing. Like Daniel and other apocalypses, it was composed as resistance literature to meet a crisis.”5 Furthermore, the New Testament is filled with last days rhetoric, especially through the words of Jesus Christ, himself.
But to begin our study, we must go all the way back to the first book Moses: Genesis. After Adam and Eve sinned, because of Satan’s deception, one of the things our Lord said to the serpent was, “I will put enmity [hostility] between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel,” (Genesis 3:15).
This verse is technically known as the protoevangelium (Greek: a precursor of the ‘first good news’ or ‘gospel’),6 because it is the first foretelling of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here God announces that someday a male descendant (Jesus) would give the serpent (Satan) a fatal blow.7
The verse predicts the perpetual hostility between Satan and the woman’s role as creator of offspring, and between Satan’s seed (suggesting his representatives on earth) and her seed (finally delivering the Messiah). The woman’s seed would crush the Devil’s head, creating a mortal wound resulting in his utter defeat.
It was our Lord’s crucifixion that was victorious over Satan. Although Satan would bruise our Savior’s heel by causing him to suffer, his physical earthly death would not cause Jesus’ ultimate defeat. Therefore, Christ suffered on the cross, and even died, but he arose from the dead, and became victorious over sin, death, and Satan.8 And it was then that this act, of Christ dying and being raised from the dead, began the countdown of the coming ‘End of Days’ when he would return again. But besides Genesis 3:15, there were many other Old Testament hints of exactly how God’s plan would unfold and how the earth would change. We only have time to examine some of them.
The Wonderful New Age to Come
In days to come the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken, (Micah 4:1-4, [also see Isaiah 2:3-4]).
The ‘days to come’ means a future time and the ‘highest of the mountains’ mean not a physically imposing mountain but that, in terms of spiritual importance, it would stand above all the other mountains of the world.9 That is a comforting thought of the future promise for life on earth and there are other reinforcement verses to establish a wonderful future experience, as indicated by scripture from Isaiah and Ezekiel below.
“No longer will babies die when only a few days old. No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life. No longer will people be considered old at one hundred! Only the cursed will die that young! In those days people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards. Unlike the past, invaders will not take their houses and confiscate their vineyards. For my people will live as long as trees, and my chosen ones will have time to enjoy their hard-won gains. They will not work in vain, and their children will not be doomed to misfortune. For they are people blessed by the LORD, and their children, too, will be blessed.”
“I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! The wolf and the lamb will feed together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. But the snakes will eat dust. In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain,” (Isaiah 65:20-25, NLT).
“I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleannesses, and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field abundant, so that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations,” (Ezekiel 36:27-3o).
But, before that time, more evil will come.
But before these positive and morally desirable qualities of the new age arrive, we must prepare for the violent destruction of the evil in this present world. Like in Noah’s day, the earth must be cleansed. This will be the final conflict on earth and the battle will be between the spiritual forces of good and evil. Along with Satan, human sinfulness will be destroyed.
To destroy the evil and prepare the world for a complete ‘reset’, there must be a shaking. These changes will make way for a real new world order, under leadership of our savior, Jesus Christ. Those on earth at that time may include even you and me, and some of us may enter that new age without first dying.
The last generation before cleansing will be a witness to the coming apocalyptic events, not because God wants us harmed or punished, but because Satan refuses to surrender and will fight to the very end, even if it puts human life in jeopardy. His attitude hasn’t changed in more than six thousand years, so don’t expect any Satanic retreat during the end of days. The following scripture in indicative of what is coming, and it may be very soon.
There shall be chaos also in many places, fire shall often break out, the wild animals shall roam beyond their haunts . . . Salt waters shall be found in the sweet, and all friends shall conquer one another; then shall reason hide itself, and wisdom shall withdraw into its chamber, and it shall be sought by many but shall not be found, and unrighteousness and unrestraint shall increase on earth. One country shall ask its neighbor, “Has righteousness, or anyone who does right, passed through you?” And it will answer, “No.” At that time people shall hope but not obtain; they shall labor, but their ways shall not prosper, (2 Esdras 5:8-12, NRSV), [2 Esdras is a Jewish apocryphal book accepted by many Christian denominations.]
The dominant idea above, as spoken by an angel, is that evil will peak as the end of days progresses. It is derived from passages in the Old Testament that assume the balance of nature can be disturbed by human sin. This evil will be characterized by disruption of social, family, and natural order.10 The following quotes, however, are from the New Testament.
Matthew (quoting Jesus’ own words):
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs, (Matthew 24:6-8).
“Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory,” (Matthew 24:29-30).
For a much better understanding of the things Jesus said about the end times, it would be wise to read all of Matthew 24. (Also see the other Synoptic Gospels: Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-28). There are two articles relevant to this chapter in Matthew: “Christ’s Return Prophecies — the Signs of the End of this Age in Matthew 24″ and “The Coming Great Deception — Matthew 24:24″, which are listed in References & Notes.11
Acts of the Apostles:
And I will show portents [omens or warnings] in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day, (Acts 2:19-20).
You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates [recklessly extravagant] , brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them! For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth, (2 Timothy 3:1-7).
The Revelation to John
“The end-time period surrounding Jesus’ second coming is variously called the last times, last hour, last days, day of the Lord, day of judgment, day of God’s wrath, time of punishment, end of the ages, end of all things. The temporal finality of these expressions highlights the firm New Testament belief that the present course of history will come to an end when Jesus returns. The certainty of the first advent guarantees the certainty of the second (Acts 1:7).”12
The book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse, gives us a peak preview concerning the details of that final time on earth. It is the only non-historical book of the Bible. The first few chapters are about individual prophetic letters addressed to the seven churches of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and declares their triumphs and failings. These churches, although real at the time the book was written, symbolizes current day congregations who are forewarned to repent of their sinful ways. But the rest of the book describes an extensive amount of visions, symbols, and allegory, especially in connection with end time events and persecution.13
“Although Christ is clearly the central figure of Revelation, an understanding of the text presupposes familiarity with Old Testament language and concepts, especially those taken from the books of Daniel and Ezekiel.”14
This last book of the Holy Bible is too perplexing to be discussed in one article, but we have an excellent article on one of the most prominent descriptions — the opening of the seven seals. As each seal is broken, it activates an earthly end time event. The first four of these seals, as described in Revelation 6:1-8, are when the Four Horsemen ride. That article titled “When the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Ride — Revelation 6″ is listed in References & Notes.15
The end of days does not mean the end of the earth, nor the end of earthly life for the righteous followers of Jesus’ teachings. This article presents my view and I realize yours may be a bit different and that is okay. I believe that if I do what Jesus expects of me, I will live my future life with him in heaven.
But, my expectation of heaven is continuing my life with Jesus right here on earth, helping to mold this world into what it was first expected to be, before the sinful fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden. I, too, will see those believers who died before me, but they will be resurrected to life on earth. We will all live together in the new age.16 And, if perhaps those resurrected didn’t live by Christ’s standards, they will still get their chance to learn truth and make their decision after Jesus returns.
Maybe your image is a heaven in the sky, another dimension, or another realm. Whatever you envision heaven to be, the song I picked for the subject matter of this article will fit perfectly. The song, “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be”, was recorded live in Alexandria, Indiana (USA) in 2020 by the Gaither Vocal Band. Selected lyrics are below and the music video is listed in References & Notes.17
We read of a place that’s called Heaven
It’s made for the pure and the free
These truths in God’s word He has given
How beautiful Heaven must be
The angels so sweetly are singing
Betrayals and failures destroyed
All pain and all suffering forgotten
And all tears will be turned into joy
Copyright © 2021, Dr. Ray Hermann
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References & Notes
- Knowles, Andrew, (Ed.), The Bible Guide, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001), p. 346.
- Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).
- Hermann, Ray, “Dispensationalism: A Tool for Bible Interpretation”, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 11 February 2019), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/dispensationalism-a-tool-for-bible-interpretation/
- Unless otherwise indicated, all biblical references are from The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989). Used with permission.
- “Revelation”, (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, retrieved 19 September 2021), https://bible.usccb.org/bible/revelation/0
- “Protevangelium”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 July 2021), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protevangelium
- Bergen, Robert D., in CSB Study Bible: Notes, (Nashville TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), p. 11.
- MacDonald, William, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, (Ed.) Arthur Farstad, (Nashville TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995), p. 36.
- Longman III, Tremper, CSB Study Bible: Notes, (Nashville TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), p. 1044.
- Mays, James Luther, (Ed.), Harper’s Bible Commentary, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), p. 780.
- (1) “Christ’s Return Prophecies — the Signs of the End of this Age in Matthew 24″, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 20 May 2020), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/christs-return-prophecies-the-signs-of-the-end-of-this-age-in-matthew-24/
(2) “The Coming Great Deception — Matthew 24:24″ (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 27 March 2021), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/the-coming-great-deception-matthew-2424/
- Buckwalter, H. Douglas in Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Walter A. Elwell, (Ed.), (Ada, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 1996), p. 775.
- “Revelation to John”, (Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc, 20 July 1998), https://www.britannica.com/topic/Revelation-to-John
- Hermann, Ray, “When the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Ride — Revelation 6″, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 29 February 2020), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/when-the-four-horsemen-of-the-apocalypse-ride-revelation-6/
- Hermann, Ray, “Our Future After Death — Resurrection on Earth or Life in Heaven?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 20 January 2020), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/our-future-after-death-resurrection-on-earth-or-life-in-heaven/
- “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be”, Artist: Gaither Vocal Band, (Licensed by UMG, BMI, Capitol CMG Publishing, others; used under ‘fair use’ copyright for teaching under Section 107 of Copyright Act of 1976) – MUSIC VIDEO: https://youtu.be/t8UAR030Maw