The “Last Days”—What They Mean to You
UNDOUBTEDLY you have heard the expression “last days.” Many persons are familiar with it because of its use in God’s Word the Bible. But since the expression has a foreboding tone and portends doom, it is often an unwelcomed subject. Some persons even scoff at that there could be such a thing and close their minds when the Bible subject of the “last days” arises. Yet, it is a fact that many things do come to their end, and, hence, experience their final days.
For example, people enter the last days of their life, or of some aspect of their life. If you were to visit a large library and look in its card catalog, you would find books on such subjects as “The Last Days of Charles II,” “The Last Days of Marie Antoinette,” “The Last Days of General Grant,” “The Last Days of Abraham Lincoln,” “The Last Days of Hitler,” and so forth. Certainly no one doubts that people experience the “last days” of human life!
Other things, too, experience their last days. Thus at certain libraries you will also find books entitled “The Last Days of Sevastopol,” “The Last Days of Pompeii” and “The Last Days of Herculaneum.” Devastating warfare at times brings an end to the ordinary functions of a city, as happened to the city of Sevastopol on the Black Sea during the second world war. Or a volcanic disaster can bury a city and its population out of existence, as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius did to the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 C.E.
Yet, not only persons and cities, but entire nations and empires have experienced their final days of existence. Only a few generations ago mighty Indian nations roamed the plains of the western United States, living a simple nomadic life. But now they are gone, stamped out of existence by the westward-moving white men. Robert M. Utley, in his recent book The Last Days of the Sioux Nation, describes the final conflicts and events that brought this once-powerful Indian nation to its end.
It is not uncommon for old governments or systems of rule to experience their last days, and, in time, be replaced by new ones. This is noted in the book The Last Days of the French Monarchy. “In August 1788,” the author writes, “the days of the old [French] regime ended, and a new order began.” A more recent book, The Last Days of the British Raj, discusses the concluding days of British rule in the country of India. And a widely publicized volume published just last year, The Last 100 Days, describes the last days of Nazi Germany.
SUBJECT TO MISUNDERSTANDING
“Last days” is clearly a common topic. So to scoff because mention is made in the Bible of the “last days” is certainly unwarranted. However, since the expression can have various meanings, it is easy for uninformed or misinformed persons to draw wrong conclusions and have misunderstandings.
For example, a person might assume from the title of the book The Last Days of Richard Nixon that the man is dead. But this is not true, for in this instance the expression “last days” does not refer to the final days of the man’s life, as is the general case, but to an episode or phase of his life. The cities of Sevastopol and Pompeii might be taken as other examples. While both of them experienced “last days,” the results were quite different. Pompeii and every single person that remained within the city were obliterated, and Pompeii still lies in ruins after nearly 1,900 years. On the other hand, Sevastopol, while suffering great destruction, was rebuilt and is now a thriving city of well over 100,000 inhabitants.
So people unfamiliar with the facts of a matter can easily misunderstand the significance of the expression “last days.” This is also true relative to the use of the term in the Bible. Many persons have an entirely wrong impression as to what the Bible means when it speaks of the “last days.” However, it is very important that we know the truth on the subject. What are the “last days”? The “last days” of what? Can they be avoided? Are they to be viewed with horror? What do they mean to you?
WHAT ARE THE “LAST DAYS”?
At Second Timothy chapter three, verse one, the Bible explains: “Know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.” Also, at Second Peter chapter three, verses three and four, the Bible says: “For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’”
The “last days” here spoken of in the Bible are obviously an important period in history that would be marked by unusual distress, yes, “critical times hard to deal with.” Yet, the Bible shows that, in spite of the evidence that the “last days” were at hand, people would not believe it. Instead, they would ridicule: ‘Where is this promised presence of God? It will not come in our day. All things are continuing as they always have been.’
Jesus Christ also spoke unmistakably about the “last days.” When he was on earth his disciples approached him privately and asked: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3, King James Version) Or, as a modern translation more accurately renders the latter question: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (New World Translation) By his answer Jesus showed that his second “presence” and “the conclusion of the system of things,” or “end of the world,” would involve a period of time. This time period corresponds with what the Bible also calls the “last days.”
LAST DAYS OF WHAT?
Since “last days” and “the end of the world” are thus linked in the Bible, many persons believe that the “last days” will mean the end of the literal heavens and earth. Somehow, they believe, a tremendous fire will ignite the earth and heavenly bodies, and these will all be burned into desolate cinders. It is claimed that the Bible supports this view when, in speaking of the “last days,” it says: “The heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” (2 Pet. 3:3-7) It is no wonder that persons with such a belief consider the “last days” a foreboding and unwelcome subject!
Well, then, do the “last days” mean the last days of the planet earth? Does the “end of the world” signify the end of the literal heavens and earth? Certainly it is unreasonable that this beautiful planet, which God pronounced “very good” after preparing it for human habitation, should be completely destroyed, burned to a cinder, because of the waywardness of some wicked men. (Gen. 1:31) Not only is this unreasonable, it is also unscriptural.
Note what God’s Word says on the matter: “For this is what Jehovah has said, the Creator of the heavens, He the true God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isa. 45:18) God created the earth, not simply for nothing, in vain, but to be lived upon and enjoyed by righteous inhabitants.
That this purpose of God will be carried out is clearly shown in the Bible, where it says: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Ps. 37:29) Yes, eternal habitation of the earth by righteous persons will be possible, for as the Bible further says: God “has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever.” Therefore, the “last days” do not mean the end of the planet earth. This earth, as well as the beautiful starry heavens, will last forever, even as the Bible promises.—Ps. 104:5; Eccl. 1:4.
So, then, “the heavens and the earth,” spoken of at Second Peter chapter three, that “are stored up for fire” at the climax of the “last days” are obviously not the physical heavens and earth. (2 Pet. 3:7) This is shown in the previous verses of that chapter, which explain that the destruction of an ancient world occurred “when it was deluged with water.” Certainly it was not the literal planet earth that perished in the floodwaters in Noah’s day, and so neither will the conclusion of the present system of things include the destruction of the literal earth. Rather, God’s day of judgment, at the conclusion of the “last days,” will result in the wiping out of wicked people, the “destruction of the ungodly men.”
This helps us to understand what the expression “last days” refers to—what it is the last days of. It is the last days, not of the physical world, but of the present wicked system of things, which is made up of all organizations of men that refuse to submit to God’s direction. Yes, all earthly governments of mankind in opposition to God’s kingdom will be destroyed, as the Bible explains: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Dan. 2:44.
HEED THE WARNING!
But when will this occur? Are we now living in the “last days” of this worldly system of things? Yes, we are! All the physical evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecies points to that conclusion. Just as cities, nations and even empires have in the past experienced their last days, so we have now reached the time when ALL nations and kingdoms are, at the same time, in their last days! True, it may seem unbelievable, but it is a fact! The evidence is conclusive.
In recent years Christian witnesses of Jehovah God have been sounding the warning that time is running out, that these “last days” will soon conclude with a destruction comparable to the global flood of Noah’s day. Although many persons scoff, remember: The Bible foretold that “in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule.” It is characteristic of people to ignore lifesaving warnings.
For instance, when Mount Vesuvius was sending forth warnings in 79 C.E., the majority of people in the city of Pompeii did not heed. While a few left the city at the mountain’s first outburst, one historian explained: “Many Pompeians—chiefly the wealthy—refused to abandon precious homes and possessions and took shelter, hoping the horror would pass. The decision cost them their lives.” They realized that things were not right, yet they did not flee. How foolish! Rather than make a similar mistake, we today should heed the warning of the end’s approach. But what action should be taken?
ACTION THAT IS URGENT NOW
Obviously the “last days” cannot be avoided; for they are now here, accompanied by all the calamities, distress and moral decadence that were foretold to mark them. God’s “day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men” is fast approaching! (2 Pet. 3:7) But should it be viewed with horror and dread? Should we consider the “last days” an unwelcome subject, and refuse to consider what they mean to us? Not at all!
Please note that God’s judgment will adversely affect only “ungodly men.” It is only those who refuse to submit to God’s laws that will suffer destruction. On the other hand, for those who love righteousness and long for God’s kingdom to remove wickedness from the earth, the “last days” are indeed a time in which to rejoice. True Christians can rejoice because God’s kingdom is near and deliverance from this wicked system of things is at hand. (Luke 21:28-32) But to be among those blessed with survival when this entire system goes down in destruction, positive action is urgent.
First of all, you must prove that, like Noah and his family, you are walking with God and love his ways. In that pre-Flood era God separated persons either for survival or destruction, and he is doing the same today. Jesus Christ has been appointed as judge, and the Bible explains that he is separating people either as “sheep” to his right hand of favor or as “goats” to his left hand of disfavor. (Matt. 25:31-46) What will you prove to be, a “sheep” or a “goat”?
You determine this by how you treat God’s message carried by his ministers. Sheeplike persons will listen to the instruction that God gives in his Word and heed it, patterning their lives in harmony with God’s righteous principles. This action will benefit, not only themselves, but other members of their households as well. For just as the heeding of the warning by parents before the destruction of Pompeii meant preservation for their minor children, similarly at the end of this system of things your conduct will directly affect whether your children take up the service of God, and, hence, whether they receive his favor and blessing or not.
So with the “last days” speedily running out, positive action is indeed urgent. It is a time in which you can rejoice. For these need not be the last days of your life, but of only a particular phase of your life. Yes, you may have the grand prospect of living through the end of this system of things with your family, and on everlastingly in God’s righteous new order.