This post is the conclusion of a three-part article examining what the Old Testament (OT) says about "the last days."
"The last days" is an important concept in the New Testament (NT) and has a big impact on Christian eschatology—the study of death, the judgment and eternal destiny of the soul.
Interestingly, the NT writers never define what is meant by "the last days," assuming the primary audience knew what the phrase meant. And they did understand, because they knew the OT Scriptures. And if we hope to properly understand the important biblical concept, we are going to have to study what the OT reveals about "the last days."
In this concluding third part of the article, we resume our study in Ezekiel 38.
Welcome to the 13th post in my series of rethinking Christian eschatology. Because these posts build upon each other, if you've not already done so, I invite you to read the previous posts in this series before continuing here.
Ezekiel was given some of the most vivid and eclectic visions of all the prophets.
In the previous chapter, Ezekiel 37, GOD revealed the famous vision of the valley of dry bones. We'll study that chapter in a later post.
Eze. 38 contains a most curious prophecy which has a relationship to the Revelation letter, something we will observe later as well. Ezekiel 38 reads:
1 And the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him 3 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. 4 I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords; 5 Persia, Ethiopia and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 6 Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops—many peoples with you.
Note: Gog and Magog are discussed in Rev. 20 (see Rev. 20:8). Gog was a descendant of Reuben, son of Jacob (see 1 Chron. 5:4).
7 “Be prepared, and prepare yourself, you and all your companies that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them. 8 After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years [Tim: literally, “in the latter end of the years,” (i.e., “in the last days”)] 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. 9 You will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you.”
Note: These events would happen after the promised gathering, foretold by Moses (see Deut. 30:1-10), Isaiah (see Isa. 11) and others. Remember, this gathering is spiritual—“a second time,” per Isaiah, in reference to the first physical gathering of the remnant from Babylon. So Gog will come into the land after that gathering has begun. Gog is an army (per vv.4, 15). Notice how this army’s entrance into the land is described: like a cloud. This will be important in the future, so mentally file it away for now.
10 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan, 11 and you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates, 12 to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.’ 13 Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, ‘Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?’”’
14 “Therefore prophesy, son of man, and say to Gog, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “On that day when My people Israel are living securely, will you not know it? 15 You will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great assembly and a mighty army; 16 and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I am sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog.”
Note: Verses 14-16 plainly tell us the army of Gog would come against “My people Israel” in the last days. But who are GOD’s people by the time of the spiritual gathering? Remember the distinction from the Song of Moses between “Jacob / Jeshurun” (see Deut. 32:9-19) who was condemned for idolatrous rebellion and “his people / servants” (see Deut. 32:35-36, 43) who were vindicated? Well, “My people Israel” here refers to the latter group—GOD’s righteous servants—during these last days.
17 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them? 18 It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,” declares the Lord God, “that My fury will mount up in My anger. 19 In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all the creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse and every wall will fall to the ground. 21 I will call for a sword against him on all My mountains,” declares the Lord God. “Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone. 23 I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord.”’
(Eze. 38:1-23 NASB)
Key Takeaways from Ezekiel 38
- Gog, a nation from the remote parts of the north, was going to be punished for devising an evil plan and persecuting and taking advantage of GOD’s people who were peacefully living in their land.
- Yet, at the same time, Gog was being used by GOD against His land and for GOD’s glory.
- GOD’s jealousy would be aroused because of Gog’s persecution of His people, and GOD would take vengeance on Gog’s army.
- The army of Gog would come into the land of Israel like a cloud. Other imagery here which is similar to other important prophetic language is used here.
- These events would occur in the last days.
As you may recall, GOD told Hosea to take a wife who was a harlot as an object lesson.
She repeatedly returned to her adulterous ways and Hosea redeemed and forgave her, according to GOD’s command.
This was a visual lesson for the Israelites to see how GOD viewed their spiritual adultery.
In Hosea 3, we read:
1 The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. 3 Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”
4 For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.
(Hos. 3:1-5 NIV)
Key Takeaways from Hosea 3
- Israel would go a long time without a leader, sacrifices and idols.
- In the last days, the Israelites would return and seek GOD under Jesus (David), their king.
Daniel 2, 8 and 10
Lastly, let me briefly touch on 3 passages from Daniel. I will not provide a detailed look at these because we have already considered Dan. 8 and will look at Dan. 10 in a later post.
In Dan. 2, Daniel reveals Nebuchadnezzar’s dream regarding the multi-part statue. This vision revealed to Nebuchadnezzar future kingdoms that would come and how, eventually, an everlasting kingdom would destroy the others.
In the course of these events, we find these statements regarding the timing of the vision’s details:
26 The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. 28 However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. …
44 In the days of those kings [Tim: the days of the kings of the fourth kingdom, Rome] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.
(Dan. 2:26-28, 44 NASB)
This passage tells us that “the latter days” included the timeframe of the Roman kings when the kingdom of heaven crushed the others.
As we previously discussed, Dan. 8 is a vision revealed to Daniel regarding the future of Israel during the timeframe of the Medo-Persian and Greek Empires. In this text, we read:
19 [The man Gabriel] said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.
23 “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise.
(Dan. 8:19-23 NIV)
From Dan. 8 we see that the time of wrath and the appointed time of the end began as early as the latter part of the Greek kings’ reign.
Daniel 10-12 records perhaps the most intriguing (and, some might argue, confusing) vision Daniel saw. For now, though, what we need to observe is that the “man” who revealed the vision’s explanation to Daniel said:
“Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.”
(Dan. 10:12b-14 NKJV)
The phrase “in the latter days,” here, literally means “in the latter end of the days,” i.e., in the last days.
Okay, we’ve covered a lot of Scripture throughout this three-part article. Your head may be spinning by now. I’m pretty exhausted, myself. :-)
Below is a table summarizing the key takeaways from each text we considered.
Now that we've processed all of this information, let’s boil what we've learned down to its essence.
There is one constant theme across all of the Old Testament passages dealing with “the last days:”
Every Old Testament Scripture that discussed "the last days" concerned the end of physical Israel and the future of GOD’s people.
When we consider all of the evidence, the phrases “the last days” and “the end”—and all the prophesies that discuss them—are allusions to the time period of the fulfillment of the prophecy in the Song of Moses—the ultimate end of GOD’s first covenant with physical Israel.
|Dan. 2:27-28, 44||
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