The phrase “in the last days” occurs several times in the New Testament. The word last translates from the Greek word eschatos from which we get the word eschatology. Two of the usages indicate parallel tracks.
2 Timothy 3:1 — “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.”
Acts 2:17a — “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.”
In both contexts the phrase is used in a way that the human instrument speaking the words considered himself in that time period. Yet, we are still in that time period today. The phrase “the last days” began at the beginning of the New Testament era and continues still. Let’s consider the two usages that indicate parallel tracks.
On the one hand “in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1). The passage goes on to describe humankind including descriptions like “blasphemers,” “unholy,” “false accusers” [slanderers], “fierce” [brutal], “despisers of those that are good,” “highminded” [haughty], “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” We see these expressions all around us. Yet, this has been true throughout history. But it is unashamedly so, before our very eyes today. The word perilous conveys the idea of difficult or terrible.
In recent years we have observed the world seemingly coming apart at its seams. Good is called evil, and evil is called good. Blatant perversity flaunts itself, demanding that all accept it as normal. We hear of wars and rumors of wars. Brutality escalates, it seems, by the day. The theme of prophecy has resurged among the saints. And yes, it certainly appears the eschatological clock is ticking.
But on the other hand in the same last days, God says, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17). Quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost to explain the powerful moving of the Spirit, this declaration is stated in a way as to extend in potential throughout the time period of “the last days” which continues still. The outpouring of the Spirit is the manifestation of the presence of God (Ezek. 39:29). There is a difference between God’s omnipresence and God’s manifest presence. God is everywhere present. Yet most individuals are not aware of His presence. But wherever God pours out His Spirit, everyone in that vicinity becomes arrested with an awareness of the presence of God. This manifestation of God’s presence is not physical, it is spiritual, but it’s just as real as if it were physical. When God’s presence is “felt” people see God in His impeccable holiness, and when you see God for who He is, you see sin for what it is. This clarity brings many backslidden saints to their knees in contrition, then cleansing, then restoration to spiritual life—revival, and the love of God flows. This same dynamic awakens the lost to their desperate need of a Savior. O how we need these seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord!
God delays His coming “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore it is in the heart of God to bring a great awakening before Jesus returns. So in these last days, while certainly perilous times surround us, we must seek the Lord in earnest for the next great awakening. God has always preferred to revive the revivable and save the savable before judgment falls.
John Van Gelderen