Sunday, November 9, 2008

Thesis 85: The Last Days of the Old Covenant

As foretold by the Old Testament Prophets, a glorious New Heavens and New Earth would be created in the “latter times.”[1] Christ established this Messianic Kingdom at the time of the Apostles,[2] who knew they were living in “the last days” of the Old Age.[3] The Old Covenant World (the world of the First Adam) was destroyed by fire in A.D. 70,[4] and as the Church is maturing in obedience all Old Testament prophecies concerning the New Covenant Age (the New Heavens and New Earth under the Second Adam) are being fulfilled.[5]

1. Micah 4:1-5; Isaiah 2:1ff.; Isaiah 11; 65:17ff.; Joel 2:28ff.; Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 23:20; 30:24; etc.
2. Acts 2
3. Hebrews 1:2; 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; 4:7; 1 John 2:18; Acts 2:16-17; #73
4. Matthew 24; 2 Peter 3
5. Acts 3:24; 2 Corinthians 1:20; 5:17

Gary DeMar writes:

Hitchcock and Ice claim that the battle described in Ezekiel 38–39 has to be a distant future battle because it takes place in the “latter years” (38:8) and the “last days” (38:16). “Fortunately,” they write, “Ezekiel actually tells us when this invasion will occur. In Ezekiel 38:8, he says specifically that this invasion will occur in the ‘latter years.’ This is the only occurrence of this exact phrase in the Old Testament” (TBLB 46).[6] The phrase may be unique, but the Hebrew word translated “latter” occurs several times in the OT. More about this in a moment. A careful reading of the text will show that “latter years” is defined for us:

After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them” (Ezek. 38:8).
“The latter years” means “after many days,” that is, sometime in the future when a certain series of observable events take place. Ezekiel wrote during the Babylonian captivity. He is prophesying about the future when God will restore the Jews to their homeland “from many nations.” Of course, this took place when Cyrus issued his decree “in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah” (Ezra 1:1). Some 50,000 exiles returned to Israel to rebuild the temple and city.
The same Hebrew phrase translated “last days” in Ezekiel 38:16 is often translated as “the days to come” in other contexts. In A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament “the last days” is described as “a prophetic phrase denoting the final period of the history so far as the speaker’s perspective reaches.” In the case of Genesis 49:1, it’s “the period of Israel’s possession of Canaan.”[7] The use of the phrase in Numbers 24:14 probably refers to the battle with the Midianites that took place in Israel’s near future (31:1–12; Josh. 13:21–22). The prophecy of Deuteronomy 31:29, where “latter days” is used in some translations, is best seen as referring to the events described in the period of the Judges. How do we know this? Moses says, “For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I commanded you; and evil will befall you, . . . For you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands.”[8]
So then, the phrase the “latter years” is a time reference about events that are future to the writer; it is not “eschatological,” that is, it’s not a reference either to a post-rapture tribulation period or a post-tribulation earthly millennium.

6. The fact that this phrase is used only once in the OT should lead the interpreter not to be so dogmatic in his assertions as to its meaning. The process in determining what a phrase means is to see how it’s used elsewhere in Scripture. If it’s not found in any other context, then the closest parallel must be consulted. Hitchcock and Ice fail to follow this procedure in so much of their exposition.
7. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs (BDB), A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford), 31. BDB does go on to say, “But it often=the ideal or Messianic future.” The Messianic future could be the first coming of Christ which was certainly Messianic and in the future. But all the examples following this statement in BDB refer to events in the near future.
8. “In the days to come, Cf. Gn. 49:1; in the Judges’ period (cf. Jdg. 2:11–16; 3:7).” R.K. Harrison, “Deuteronomy,” The New Bible Commentary, eds. Donald Guthrie and J.A. Motyer, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 227.


But the New Testament writers clearly affirmed that they were then living in "the last days," presumably the last days of the Old Covenant. We are living in "the Messianic future." By a process of elimination, by comparing every occurrence of "the last days" in the New Testament with the prophecies in the Old Covenant, it will be found that there are no "last days" prophecies that are still yet future for us. There are no prophecies of the "Messianic future" which have not already or are now being fulfilled.