Our question for this afternoon is – “What are the latter days?” The angel strengthened Daniel and then told him that he had been sent by God to tell him about what the Lord was going to do in the “latter days.” Nearly every preacher is willing to tell you exactly what the “latter days” are, but very few of them will point you to scriptures in order to prove their thesis. Exactly what are the latter days?
The Hebrew which Gabriel and Daniel used is found 61 times in the Bible. It is translated “end” 30 times and then “latter” 12 times & “last” 7 times along with several other renditions. So according to our translators, this word may be translated either “latter” or “last.” This makes that man’s theory about the latter days, the last days and the last day very difficult.
What’s more, this word is sometimes used without any reference to eschatology – future things. Here in Daniel Gabriel was clearly speaking about the last days as far as earthly history will be concerned. But sometimes the word has other meanings. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the END of that man is peace.” “But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the END of the wicked shall be cut off.” “Let (the wicked man’s) POSTERITY be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.” “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the END thereof are the ways of death.” Speaking of alcohol, “At the LAST it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.” What I’m trying to say is that using definitions alone, it is impossible to define “the latter days.”
For example, here in Daniel the word is found several times. In chapter 2 when Nebuchadnezzar had his dream of the fantastic statue of gold, silver, brass and then iron and clay, God’s message was that there was coming a succession of kingdoms from Babylon to Rome. In 2:28 Daniel prefaced his explanation by saying, “But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the LATTER days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these….” Does this help us to define the word “latter”? Yes, it does, but not a lot.
One of the first times that this word is used in an eschatological or prophetical way, Moses was exhorting Israel to obey the Lord. In Deuteronomy 4, he prophesied that future generations of Israel would forsake the Lord. He said in verse 25 – “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you… But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in TRIBULATION, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the LATTER DAYS, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that God used the words “tribulation” and “latter days” in the same sentence. It will be during the period that the Bible calls “the Great Tribulation” that the Roman Antichrist will nearly completely destroy Israel. The “Tribulation” will be the means of bring Israel to her knees before the return of her Messiah. From this scripture, I believe that we should conclude that the “latter days” are speaking of the “Tribulation.”
And with that idea in our minds, many of the Old Testament references to “the last days,” or to “the latter days,” begin to make the clearest sense. For example when Moses nears the end of his life, he tells Israel – “For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the LATTER days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.” Israel has provoked the Lord on and off throughout her history, and at this moment they are almost daring God to judge her. But Moses’ pronouncement makes the clearest sense if we think of it in the light of the Tribulation.
How about Jeremiah 23 – “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: In the LATTER days ye shall consider it perfectly.” Israel, as a nation, has never “considered anything perfectly,” but during the Tribulation – sometimes called “Jacob’s Trouble” – they will be brought to an unprecedented understanding.
After that, Jeremiah 30 is again talking about the effects of the “Tribulation” period – “Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof. And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them. And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the LORD. And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. Behold, the whirlwind of the LORD goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have done it, and until he have performed the intents of his heart: in the LATTER days ye shall consider it.”
Ezekiel 38 talks about the Battle of Gog and Magog, saying that it will occur in “the latter days.” Hosea 3 can be talking only about one thing – “the Tribulation.” “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the LATTER days.”
Daniel, “Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the LATTER days: for yet the vision is for many days.” There are only two more chapters left in the revelation given to Daniel. And the next chapter gives us historical details which have yet to become history – they are prophecies of events which I believe will take place in the tribulation. The latter days for Israel, will most definitely include the “Tribulation.”
I quote: – “Within this present age between the two advents of Christ, God is bringing to fulfillment two distinct programs: that with the church (the New Testament saints), which will be completed at the rapture … and that with Israel, which will be completed after the rapture (and after the Tribulation) at the second advent of Christ. Both of these have descriptive passages concerning the end times of their respective programs. There is a reference to the “last TIMES” for the church …and to the “last TIME” for the church. There is reference to the “latter days” for ISRAEL (Daniel 10:14 & Deut.4:30) and for the CHURCH. Scripture refers to the “last days” for ISRAEL and also for the CHURCH…. In these observations it is important to observe that the references to any given time period must be related to the program of which it is a part. When used in reference to Israel’s program, it can not refer to the program for the church. Careful distinction must be made, or one will relegate to the church that which constitutes closing events for Israel or vice-versa.”
Pentecost went on to quote his teacher, Louis Sperry Chafer – “… Distinction must be made – the “last days” for Israel – the days of her kingdom glory in the earth – and the “last days” for the Church, which are days of evil and apostasy (cf. 2 Tim, 3:1-5). Likewise, discrimination is called for between the “last days” for Israel and for the church and “the last DAY,” which, as related to the Church, is the day of the resurrection of those who have died in Christ.”
Since it is not my theme for today, I will give you on one illustration of OUR last days. II Timothy 3:1-5 – “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” II Timothy’s reference to the “last days” is what we are seeing around us at this moment. Israel’s last days will be coming up very shortly during the Tribulation. Thankfully, the saints of God will not be personal witnesses of those “last days.”
Even though we, as Christians, have much to learn from Daniel, we must remind ourselves that what he is told is from the perspective of Israel, not as a member of the Lord’s church.