I have studied a vast array of different approaches to Eschatology. After leaving SDA there was a time that this was something I really wanted to nail down. In time that became a much less pressing concern but I understand the need for others to go there. Due to a lack of clarity on the Biblical texts related to the end of things, I think there is a great deal of Christian freedom with regards to this study. As long as we hold to the essential truths and strive to stay Biblical in our approach we are on the right path.
The only thing I am very dogmatic about is the eschaton in general, and this is what is taught in the Nicene Creed.
“He [Jesus] shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” -Nicene Creed
Anything outside of that confession I reject as heresy. That said, if you have been reading the few posts I have done on eschatology then you know I am studying Amillenialism. Not a very popular end times framework in america today. Furthermore it doesn’t sell a lot of books or make good movies, but I do believe it is true.
Before continuing I recommend you read my post on the Millennium if you have not already. I will be building on the conclusions that I came to from that study and will not be repeating them in depth.
A key buzzword in amillenialism is “The Last Day”. Essentially the belief is that since the beginning of time there have been a preordained consecutive number of days. Starting of course with the “first day” of creation and then culminating with the “Last Day”, after which of course there is no time thus no more days.
This post is going to focus on a more narrow concept related to that. The questions I seek to answer are:
Is the “Last Day” a clear theme in scripture?
If so what events set apart the “Last Day” from all others?
What are the implications on other eschatological traditions that rely on a timeline of events which define the “end times” as a latter day season consisting of many days?
My primary source for study on this topic, besides of course the Bible, was an Eschatology Blog which I have linked HERE.
|The Last Day|
Below we see a passage in John whereby he identifies critical eschatological events transpiring on the “Last Day”. I will dig into this verse again later but right now I just want to point out his use of the term.
“39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.; 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.; 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.; 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:39-40, 44, 54 KJV
John seems to be teaching in a circular fashion by re-iterating the same points with greater clarity over an over again, what stands out is this concept of those in Christ being raised on the “last day”.
“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” John 12:48 KJV
Above we again see John teach again this concept of a “Last Day”.
Below we see that the Apostles believed themselves to be living in the “Last Days“. I demonstrate this more fully HERE if you are unconvinced by the proof-texts I have posted.
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Cor 10:11 KJV
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” 1 John 2:18 KJV
The broader idea is that the Apostles taught the Last Days began at the cross and persist until the “Last Day”. Thus, we have been in the end times for the past 2000 years. We are not looking for a grand epic finale right before the end of the world, we are in it right now and have been for some time. Thus we are looking for the “Last Day” in which all things come to an abrupt end.
Furthermore, we should expect to be be surprised by the Last Day. Everything else regarding “those days” in the passage below has signs associated with it. While conversely “that day” has no signs and comes like a thief in the night. Most traditions collate these themes, but I believe there is a biblical distinction between the two which clarifies the apocalyptic texts.
“17 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 18 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. 19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. 20 And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days…… 24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light…… 26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory….. 27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven…… 31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” Mark 13:17-20, 24, 26-27, 31-32 KJV
“Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” Rev 16:15 KJV
The next logical question is;
What events does the scripture teach happen on the “Last Day”? How will we know for sure when this day has come?
|All are Resurrected|
We see a consistent theme in scripture that at the end of the world all are resurrected. Not just the good and not just the evil, but everyone. Some are risen to Heaven and some to Hell.
Daniel clearly identifies the Resurrection as the finality of the eschaton. We see his teaching resonate in John as well.
“1 And 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 thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.; 2 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.” Daniel 12:1-2 KJV
“28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28-29 KJV
In this next passage Jesus points to the past regarding the Queen of the South, presumably from Daniel 11, as being resurrected to judgement at the same time as those who would be damned in the first century. This hasn’t taken place yet so we would presume it occurs in in the Judgement day spoken of by the prophets and apostles.
“42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” Matt 12:42 KJV
“15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” Acts 24:15 KJV
Again, we see the Resurrection of both the just and the unjust. At the time I am writing this no such event has transpired, we would have noticed. This event is spoken of as happening concurrently with both the good and the evil at once. That established, when can we expect the Resurrection to happen?
|Resurrection occurs at the Second Coming|
There is a specific event in scripture spoken of in many places. That is the coming of Christ on the clouds and visible for all to see.
“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” Rev 1:7 KJV
“31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:;…. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” Matt 25:31-34, 41 KJV
It is fair to say based on the above that the same event when Christ is coming in the clouds is the event when the sheep and goats are judged.
“16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” 1 Thes 4:16 KJV
“39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:39-40, 44, 45 KJV
The two passages above speak of the same Last Day in which the ressurection occurs. This is tied to the second coming. One passage identifies this date as the “Last Day” and the other as the Lord “Decend[ing]” from “heaven”. Both are associated with the Resurrection and both have language consistent with the judgment. There is no Biblical reason to divide these events into different segments on a grid separated by dispensations of time.
|All the Living are Judged when Christ Appears|
Just like we see that the Resurrection occurs on the Last Day, we also see that the Judgment does. This is the Judgment spoken of the in the creed:
“He [Jesus] shall come again with glory to judge the quick [living] and the dead” – Nicene Creed
Parables can be tricky, due to the tendency for people to twist them I prefer to build my hermeneutic in other places in scripture and then come back to the parable rather than the other way around. I believe that I have done this, but even still the only thing I want to point out in the parable below is that Judgment is tied to the eschaton, notice both are happening in a gap-less sequence.
“39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.; 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear…… 49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, 50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Matt 13:39-43, 49-50 KJV
Below in the poetic narrative of the Psalms it is seen that God comes to earth to Judge the world.
“12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice; 13 Before the Lord: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” Psa 96:12-13 KJV
This next verse is very compelling. It is used by Roman Catholics to substantiate purgatory. I don’t see purgatory at all in this passage, in my assessment it is something they are bringing to the text rather than pulling it out. That said, you do see a testing by fire of all in the eschaton. Once again Judgement is associated with the end of time.
“13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” 1 Cor 3:13-15 KJV
Just a side note on the above verse in 1 Corinthians, in my opinion the kind of Judgement it is speaking of is the one for believers. That is, not in the sense of damnation but in the sense of one’s life and how much treasures were stored in heaven.
Did you fulfill your duties as a father or mother? Did you proclaim the gospel? Did you live your life in love a charity? While such things do not merit salvation one who abdicates their vocation may find that though they themselves go to heaven those closest to them do not, or other such consequences along those lines. I could be wrong about this and am certainly not dogmatic, but I thought I would share my interpretation just the same.
“7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” 2 Thes 1:7-9 KJV
In the above passage we see judgement tied directly to the coming of the Lord. When all these passages are understood as occurring at the same time as the Resurrection what we see is a singular event. The plainest reading is that this event is the “Last Day” that John speaks of.
|The Saints are Glorified|
Another event that happens at the same time is the Glorification of the Saints. For those who don’t know, that’s when you get a new body. The one we have now dies off and is gone forever. At the Resurrection we receive new bodies.
“50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.; 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Cor 15:50-52 KJV
To be more specific, I believe time literally ceases to be a thing at this “last trump”. This is what we see in the “twinkling of an eye”. It is the last day because after this moment there is not more time at all.
“29 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, 30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” Luke 18:29-30 KJV
“29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30 KJV
“10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” 2 Thes 1:10 KJV
“2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2 KJV
“21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Php 3:21 KJV
“3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” Col 3:3-4 KJV
This last verse very clearly ties the appearance of Christ with the glorification of the saints.
One gap-less chain of events starting with the Appearance of Christ. These events are not dispersed between dispensations of time. The Glorious Appearance, the Resurrection, the Judgement, and the Glorification of the Saints are a chain of events described as transpiring in the “twinkling of an eye”.
I haven’t studied every brand of eschatology out there, I don’t think anyone has. But I know enough to be aware of how most slice up all of the events I have mentioned above. For example, in the Tim Lahaye model the saints are raptured and glorified at one point, and then seven years later the Sheep and Goats Judgement (Matt 25) takes place. Then 1000 years later another Judgement day takes place. That is essentially three Judgments and three Second Comings. The scripture never states Christ will come again three times before the last day.
I have quoted the clearest passages on the eschaton above and the plainest reading is that all of these things happen at once. The “Last Day” motif is a Biblical one. I would argue that the best understanding is that we are in the “Last Days” now. In this time we are to expect a loose Devil in the world causing persecution and tribulation, and the Binding of the Devil in Word and Sacrament. In this we are sustained in Christ by the riches of his Grace through Faith.
But on the Last Day…..
“He [Jesus] shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” -Nicene Creed