Many believe the world will go on indefinitely as it always has, but what does the Bible say? Will there be a set of last days? When will the last days be?
Many people would likely back away from you if you were to say that humanity is now in the last days approaching the end of the age spoken of in the Bible.
The book of Revelation focuses on a time when a conglomeration of nations will be united under a government led by two individuals known as the beast and the false prophet, who will capture the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people through spectacular miracles, such as calling down fire from heaven. Their reign and existence will ultimately end at Jesus Christ’s second coming (Revelation 17-19).
The period of time when these and other end-of-the-world prophecies will be fulfilled is sometimes called “the last days.”
It’s a time that God’s servants have eagerly anticipated for thousands of years, but for nonbelievers it’s a target for laughter and mockery and simply more reason to believe that Christians are just fanatics who believe in apocalyptic fiction.
But are those last days real?
More relevant: Are you now living in those last days?
What does the Bible mean by last days?
Let’s review how the Bible uses the term last days.
The first occurrence of the phrase in Scripture is found in Genesis 49:1, where Jacob called his children to tell them a crucial prophecy. He said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days.”
Under God’s inspiration, Jacob went on to tell his sons about the national traits of the tribes of Israel, who, unknown to most people, are still identifiable. (To learn more about the modern identities of the tribes of Israel, see our booklet The United States, Britain and the Commonwealth in Prophecy.)
Isaiah 2:2 contains another occurrence of the same Hebrew words, this time translated “latter days.” Isaiah prophesied, “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains.” This refers to the time when God’s Kingdom will be established on earth—after Christ’s return.
In Daniel 2:28, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar, “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.” Daniel then went on to prophesy regarding a broad range of time when Babylon would be followed by three successive great empires and then ultimately supplanted by the Kingdom of God (verse 44).
In the New Testament, Paul wrote that “the end of the ages” had come upon him and the brethren—nearly 2,000 years ago (1 Corinthians 10:11)!
The author of the book of Hebrews wrote that God has “in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2).
By these references in the Old and New Testaments, it is clear that the term the last days is used in different ways and in different contexts to talk about the time when Christ returns, after Christ returns (during the Millennium) and even a time period that encompasses 2,000 years before Christ’s return.
So, the answer is yes, we are in the last days. But are we in the time just before Christ returns?
Jesus’ signs of the last days
There are at least two scriptures that prove conclusively that we are close to the time in which the prophecies of Revelation get underway and the earth is shaken up.
The first is found in Matthew 24.
The chapter opens with Jesus Christ prophesying the destruction of the Jerusalem temple and the disciples asking Him, “When will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (verse 3).
In other words, how will we know when we are at the conclusion of the last days?
Jesus went on to explain how the last days would see the rise of counterfeit religious leaders, wars and rumors of wars, ethnic rivalries, severe food shortages, crippling plagues and devastating earthquakes—all of which, He says, are “the beginning of sorrows” (verse 8).
“Unless those days were shortened”
Notice the key scripture in verse 22: “And unless those days [the last days] were shortened, no flesh would be saved.”
J.B. Phillips New Testament translates this verse, “If those days had not been cut short no human being would survive.”
The implication here is that mankind’s ability to cause himself to become extinct would define, or at least introduce, the last days.
Think about it. At what point did man develop the capacity to actually obliterate himself? This prophecy could not be realized until the arrival of the 20th century, with the development of nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction.
The lesson is that we must continue to pray and watch what takes place on the world scene—observing how those events relate to being in the last days—and to be spiritually prepared at all times.There are about 13,000 nuclear warheads in the world today. Mankind now possesses the capability to extinguish human life several times over.
Scripture is clear: If the last days were not shortened—if God did not intervene to save His creation—humanity would ultimately use such armaments to blast itself off the face of the earth.
There has never been another time when the technology has been available to do that, so this is a sure indicator that we are in the last days and getting close to the return of Christ—when the idea of “no flesh would be saved” is a very real possibility.
Gospel preached in all the world
Another scripture that shows that we are in the last days is found in the same chapter, verse 14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
That means the true end of the age would be preceded by the preaching of the gospel on a global scale.
Make no mistake about it, the original apostles and evangelists were zealous men who did the most they could with the transportation methods and the technology of their day. But were they able to reach “all nations”?
Not at all! At that time, the gospel message moved on foot and spread by word of mouth, and it was only available in a few languages. People on the opposite side of the planet during the first century would have lived and died without ever hearing a peep about anyone named Jesus of Nazareth.
That is in stark contrast to what may be accomplished today, when the ability to preach the gospel has reached unprecedented heights.
Thanks to the ubiquitous usage of smart devices and access to the vastness of the Internet, a video can be uploaded from New York City, seen in Australia within minutes and garner billions of views around the world.
Think about what that portends for the spreading of the good news of the Kingdom of God!
Paul, Peter, James, John and the rest of those men would be ecstatic to see the sheer force in how powerfully the gospel can be transmitted today.
Now and only now can the gospel truly be “preached in all the world.” The Church of God today takes this mission very seriously and zealously strives to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Mark’s parallel account, when read in the King James Version, provides another aspect to this passage. He wrote, “And the gospel must first be published among all nations” (Mark 13:10).
To this very day, the Bible is the most published and most read book in the world, with billions of copies distributed in many different languages.
In fact, according to “2021 Scripture Access Statistics,” the complete Bible has been translated into 717 different languages, serving 5.75 billion of the world’s population. Although there are still over 2 billion people, speaking 6,661 languages, that do not yet have access to a full Bible in their native language, those numbers are decreasing with time.
Is the Bible, which includes the gospel message, on its way to being published in all nations? Few would deny that.
From these two verses, along with many others, we can confidently infer that we are in the last days.
We are in the last days, but now what?
Being in the last days does not mean that all the events of the book of Revelation and the return of Jesus Christ will unfold tomorrow. There are still other dominoes that need to be set and arranged before we’ll see the string of events that will culminate in the end of the age. (For more details about the sequence of end-time prophecies, see our booklet The Book of Revelation: The Storm Before the Calm.)
In the meantime, we need to learn from the parable of the fig tree.
Christ warned, “When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” (Matthew 24:32-33).
The lesson is that we must continue to pray and watch what takes place on the world scene—observing how those events relate to being in the last days—and to be spiritually prepared at all times (Luke 21:34-36).
We are in the last days, but no one knows how many last days there are.
For further study, especially about what we should be doing now, see our online article “When Will Jesus Return?”