Sept 15 2017 - ARE WE ALREADY
LIVING IN THE LATTER DAYS?
First published on the Day of Christ Ministries website August 9, 2015
By John Aldworth
This important Bible truth begins with Job and Jacob and continues with Moses. Even the false prophet Baalam proclaims it against his will while Daniel pronounces it to a Gentile king. Later Hosea gets to the heart of its meaning for Israel while Jeremiah spells out what it means for Israel's neighbours. Ezekiel tells of its outworking in a far future time and in our time the Apostle Paul, in his prison epistles, stresses its importance to Gentile believers saved by grace.
What are they speaking and writing about? Answer: the 'latter days'. This phrase is found 10 times in scripture and refers to the time period and dispensation the Apostle Paul designates in his epistles as the 'Day of Christ'. In some places the words 'last days' or the 'last day' are also used to denote the same period of time.
Perhaps the first thing we should learn about 'the latter days' - or 'day' - is that this will be a time when there is resurrection. Job 19:25-27:
For I know that my Redeemer liveth and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body yet in my flesh shall I see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another, though my reins be consumed within me'.
This is expressed in a different way by the Prophet Hosea (3:5):
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.
My friend Bible teacher Tom Ballinger has hugely contributed to 'right division' understanding in his studies on Daniel. He points out that the above verse must mean exactly what it says, and that David therefore will be resurrected to be Israel's king again in the 'latter days'. This means David with Job, the prophets, Moses and a myriad other Old Testament saints will live on earth again in the Day of Christ. Popularly, of course, the truth of Hosea 3:5 is explained away by asserting that 'David their king' is an oblique Messianic reference to Christ. Tom, however, has stayed faithful to the actual words and in doing so uncovered a most important truth.
It is that in the 'latter times', or 'Day of Christ' (see Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16), the Lord Jesus Christ will resurrect all those He deems 'worthy' (Luke 20:35). In this sense the 'latter times' include a Judgement Day, for, as 2 Tim. 4:1 explains, during this period, 'The Lord Jesus Christ ... shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom'.
The judgement here is not to consign people to hell - they are already in hell, 'the grave' if they are dead - but to determine who is worthy to be resurrected to live again on earth - and, according to Hosea 3:5, David will be one of those.
The second thing about the 'latter days' is that during them Israel 'will return and seek their God'. Today of course Israel is still in blindness (Rom. 11: 25) as the 'times of the Gentiles' still continue. Until these are fulfilled Jerusalem will be 'trodden down of the Gentiles', as Jesus said would be. As I write Gentiles are still treading it down; continued desecration of the sacred Jewish temple site by the Muslim mosque Al Aqsa is clear testimony to this as is the blocked up Golden Gate temple entry in the wall of Jerusalem.
However, this will all change in the 'latter days'. We have already noted the promise of Hosea 3:5 that Israel shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days. However, this blessed state of affairs is only achieved after the remnant of Israel spend long years in the wilderness. Hosea 3:4 states:
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an ephod and without teraphim.
The secular state that today miscalls itself Israel certainly has no king or prince. Nor does it have altar, temple or priesthood (as referenced by the 'ephod') to offer sacrifice. From the holocaust of 70AD which destroyed the rebellious nation, for its refusal to acknowledge Messiah, until today none of these have existed among the Jews.
In God's view, of course, Israel as a chosen people, no longer exists at all. She is 'Lo-ammi', 'not my people'. You recall that Hosea's harlot wife Gomer bore him three children (Hosea 1:3:9). The first, a son, was named Jezreel at God's command. 'For I will avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel' (vs.4). The next child, a daughter, was named 'Loruhamah. For (said God) I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel but I will utterly take them away' (vs.6). When Gomer bore Hosea another son, God insisted:
Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people and I will not be your God.
For Israel the three children were a living but dire prophetic warning. It was a case of 'three strikes and you're out' for that generation. However, the good news of the 'latter days' is that there will be another generation, far in the future from Hosea's time which will be the Israel of God. To that end Hosea 1:10-11 (which marks the start of a new chapter in the Hebrew Bible) proclaims:
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea which cannot be measured or numbered and it shall come to pass that where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the children of the living God. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together and appoint themselves one head and they shall come up out of the land for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
Jezreel is the place where Jehu slew the house of Ahab, where Jezebel was eaten by dogs, where blood was shed and where God avenged it. Interestingly, Jezreel is a word very similar to Israel in Hebrew (Yizrel and Yisrael) and has two meanings: 1. a warning of judgement; 2. a promise of future mercy.
The promise of Hosea 1:11 also turns on two other words: 'children' and 'them'. It was not the Israel of Hosea's time that would receive mercy, but the children of the living God who eons of time later would be called Israel in the very place God then called Jacob's descendants ' not my people'. They would be the 'them'. This revived Israel (see below) would comprise both many resurrected Old Testament saints, such as David and Hosea, for example, and those saved from among Jacob's descendants living in Palestine in the 'latter days'
The period of waiting for them spans thousands of years. Hosea likens it to the long delay between the 'former and the latter rain' (Hosea 6:3) in ancient Israel's agricultural season. The seed was planted in faith in spring but would not ripen and mature until the latter rains of autumn. In between, long time passing. Importantly, the 'latter days' depict a time when the 'latter day' Israel will be brought into being much as the seemingly dead and dormant wheat is brought to life by the 'former and the latter rain'. And this was God's promise to the Israelites of Hosea's day. They would die but they could rise again in resurrection to be a new and holy Israel for the Lord. This pledge is beautifully set forth in Hosea 6:1-3:
Come and let us return to the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in his presence. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning: and He shall come to us as the latter and the former rain to the earth.
The former rain was when God first called Israel and she flourished under his care. Hosea warned that she would be cut off and perish but those who believed his report would be saved to rise again in the 'latter days', which occupies the same
slot in human history as the 'Day of Christ' which God through the Apostle Paul has promised to us Gentiles.
This will be an exciting time when the blindness which befell Israel because of her unbelief in Messiah Saviour, when He visited them, and was crucified and rejected by them, is removed. Then they will see clearly. As Jeremiah 23:20 says:
The anger of the Lord will not return until He have executed, and till He have performed the thought of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.
Only in the 'latter days' (a.k.a. the Day of Christ) will Israel come to her senses. Only then will God's anger be turned back. And even at that time there will be huge trouble and stress for descendants of Israelites living at that day. This was prophesied by Moses in his song to Israel in Deut. 31:29:
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 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.
Earlier, however, in Deut.4:30 he had hinted at mercy and restoration for those who would repent:
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 ...
The 'latter days', however, are not just a prophecy for a future Israel but also to the enemies on her border which, it seems, will still live at the time of her resurrection. Thus, in Numbers 24: 14, 20 the false prophet Balaam is constrained by God to tell Balak, king of the Moabites:
...come therefore and I will advertise thee what this people (Israel) shall do to thy people in the latter days... There shall come a star out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel and shall smite the corners of Moab and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies and Israel shall do valiantly.
Importantly, the 'latter days' will bring in a very different world, not just for saved and resurrected Israelites but for all people on earth. This is made clear in Daniel 2: 28 where Daniel interprets the dream of the 'terrible image' to Nebuchadnezzar, saying:
...there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.
And here again, as right dividers, we are indebted to Tom Ballinger for drawing this important truth to our attention. As set out in his studies on Daniel on his Plainer Words website, use of the term 'latter days' here means that the whole prophecy about the five great empires of the image must take place in the Day of Christ. That they had fulfilment in Daniel's time and succeeding centuries is of course obvious. But, it seems, that, particularly in the case of Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar and Darius and the Medo-Persian Empire, what took place in Old Testament times was by way of rehearsal and preparation for the major event in the 'latter days'.
On the basis of scripture Tom Ballinger asserts that in the Day of Christ Nebuchadnezzar and other ancient Gentile emperors will be resurrected to rule over the world in a succession of kingdoms that last for some 700 years. To my mind Tom's understanding of Daniel makes sense. Why else would Nebuchadnezzar be made to eat grass like an ox until seven times passed over him 'till thou known that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever He will' (Daniel: 4:25), unless God was preparing him for later duties in another age?
Furthermore, it seems all the heavenly visions imparted to Daniel in his book concern or culminate in the 'latter days'. For example, the angel sent to Daniel clearly states (Daniel 10:14):
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.
And in Daniel 8:17 the angel Gabriel tells the prophet:
Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.
The words 'the time of the end' and similar expressions run like a river through Daniel's prophecy. In 10:1, for example, Daniel understands that 'the time appointed was long'; After being foretold of the rise and fall of Persia and of Greece the prophet is reminded by the angel in 11:27, 'for yet the end shall be at the time appointed'. As to Daniel's own people, he is told that even those that 'understand' shall fall (11:35) 'to try them and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.
The 'latter days' timeline is restated again in 11:40:
And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him (until the indignation be accomplished) and the king of the north shall come at him...
Thankfully, for Israel there will be deliverance amid her great trouble in these times. Daniel 12:1 proclaims that:
At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people, and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time, and at that time they people shall be delivered, every one that shall be written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
We Gentiles should not be ignorant of this 'latter days' time of resurrection, for in 2 Timothy 4:1 the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy tell us:
The Lord Jesus Christ (who) shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.
This, of course, is the Lord's 'heavenly kingdom' (2 Timothy 4:18), to which we Gentile, grace-saved saints of the 'high calling' are called. It is the time when He will rule from heaven over earth, as we see Him doing, in rehearsal as it were, in the Book of Daniel.
This will be in the 'latter days'! And what a time it will be! Great trouble, great deliverance, wonderful resurrections and the bringing in of righteousness. But what of Daniel himself? Will he be there? No doubt he will, for in Daniel 12:13 the prophet is told his destiny:
But go thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of days.
By God's grace may we who believe and understand and die meantime be there with him.
©John Aldworth August 2015.