Updated: Nov 22, 2020
Monday's Messianic Taste of Hidden Manna #52
The 'End Times': A Full Biblical Explanation
A Deep Read that is Worth the Investment of Time—in the End
The Scriptures Have the End in View from the Beginning
The phrase 'in later times', or 'in the last days', or 'in the end times' is a flexible phrase that has a long history in the Scriptures. It can simply refer to later times in the future, in contrast to earlier times in the past, as in Deut 4:30 & 32. However, of profound importance, the phrase is first found in the Torah (i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy) in three poetic passages that complement the continuous 'story' of these first five books. These three poetic passages that act as important 'seams' of the Torah are Genesis 49, Numbers 24, and Deuteronomy 32. You will want to read these three passages now. In light of the first Hebrew word of the Bible, 'B'reishit', which means 'In the beginning', these three poetic passages in the Five Books of Moses show that the beginning and the 'end times' were never meant to be separated. The Scriptures have the end in view from the beginning!
The Poetic Passage of Genesis 49
The term that is sometimes to be translated 'in the last days' is found in the first poetic passage at Gen 49:1. The central compositional theme of this poetic passage is found in the part about Judah (Gen 49:8–12). It presents a vision of the victorious reign of a future 'Lion of Judah' (later to be revealed as 'Davidic') king whose authority extends beyond Israel to the other nations of the world. Moreover, the imagery of Gen 49:11–12 suggests that the days of this king will be accompanied by a restoration of the abundance of the Garden of Eden. Can you already see how the 'end' is in view from the beginning in the Scriptures?
The Poetic Passage of Numbers 24
This second poetic passage confirms the central compositional theme of the first poetic passage of Genesis 49:8–12. In Num 24:5, Balaam begins his oracle with a vision of the restoration of the Garden planted by YHWH (Num 24:5–7a) and the rise of a future king in Israel (Num 24:7b–9). This poem thus begins with allusions both to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 and the king in Genesis 49. The term that is sometimes to be translated 'in the last days' is found in the second poetic passage at Num 24:14. In Num 24:17, it specifically refers to "a star that will come from Jacob, and a scepter that will arise from Israel". A careful reading of this second poetic passage of Numbers 24 shows a thematic link with Genesis 1–11, especially with the 'victorious warrior' who would bruise, strike, or crush the head of the serpent and his seed (Gen 3:15). Moreover, Sailhamer observed that a careful reading of this second poetic passage not only shows a thematic link as far backward as Genesis 1–11, but as far forward as Daniel 11 and Ezekiel 38. Again, can you already see how the 'end' is in view from the beginning in the Scriptures.
The Poetic Passage of Deuteronomy 32
The term that is sometimes to be translated 'in the last days' is found in the third poetic passage at Deut 32:20 & 29. This third poetic passage is known as 'The Song of Moses', and its universal scope is identical to the previous two poetic passages of Genesis 49 and Numbers 24. It is a virtual compact retelling of Genesis 1–11 with a focus on the ultimate 'end' or 'end times' of God's people, Israel, especially related to the promise of the Land. Most striking is in this regard is Deut 32:43, "Rejoice, Oh nations, concerning his people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants. He will take vengeance on His adversaries; He will purify His Land and His people". Observe how Paul (Sha'ul) invokes Deut 32:43a in Rom 15:10. Thus, we should now be able to see that the 'end' has always been in view from the beginning in the Scriptures.
In review, the 'end times' (or its equivalent) is a flexible term that can simply refer to 'later times' in contrast to 'earlier times' as in Deut 4:30 & 32. However, in these three poetic passages that function as the critical 'seams' of the Torah (i.e., Genesis 49, Numbers 24, and Deuteronomy 32), we find a very specific focus on the 'last days' or the 'end times' that involves what is later understood as the reign of the permanent promised Davidic king, Yeshua Messiah, and the Edenic restoration of the Land and people of Israel. This reign also extends beyond Israel to the other nations of the world.
The End Times in the New Covenant Scriptures
What is especially clear in the New Covenant Scriptures is that the 'end times' can refer to the period of the inaugurated new covenant that everyone from the time of Yeshua Messiah's first appearance has been living in, or to the yet to be realized period of the fullness of the new covenant from the time of Yeshua Messiah's second appearance—which will constitute the ultimate 'end' of the 'end times'.
The 'End Times' Period from the Time of Yeshua Messiah's First Appearance
We see the first usage regarding the period of the inaugurated new covenant that everyone from the time of Yeshua Messiah's first appearance has been living in, in passages such as Heb 1:1–2; 9:26; and 1 Pet 1:20 as shown below.
"In many portions and in many ways, long ago, God spoke to the fathers by the prophets. In these last days, He has spoken to us in (His) Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He created the world". (Heb 1:1–2)
"Otherwise, He would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself". (Heb 9:26)
"He (that is, Messiah) was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for the sake of you all". (1 Pet 1:20)
The 'End' of the 'End Times' from the Time of Yeshua Messiah's Second Appearance
We see the second usage regarding the yet to be realized period of the fullness of the new covenant from the time of Yeshua Messiah's second appearance, which will constitute the ultimate end of the 'end times', in passages such as Jas 5:3 and 1 Pet 1:5 as shown below.
"Your gold and silver have become corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days". (Jas 5:3)
"Who by the power of God are safeguarded through trust, for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the end (last) time". (1 Pet 1:5)
A Final Word on the 'End Times' That We Currently Live In
Arguably, one of the most important passages about the 'end times' that humanity has been living in since the first appearance of Yeshua Messiah is 2 Timothy 3:1–5, "But understand this, that in the 'last days' there will come difficult times. People will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, demeaning, obstinate toward their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unreconcilable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness but denying its power. So avoid these people". Notice that the exhortation is to avoid these so-called brothers and sisters! Moreover, in the 'end times' that we currently live in, Paul warned that "evil people and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim 3:13).
How Shall We Then Live in These 'End Times'?
I have chosen to provide the simplest yet profoundest of answers to this question as found in Titus 2:11–13, "For the graciousness or loyal covenant lovingkindness of God has appeared, bringing rescue to all people—instructing us to reject godless ways and worldly desires or lusts, and to live in a sensible, self-controlled, righteous, and godly way in the present age—while we wait for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Yeshua Messiah". Moreover, as is stated in 2 Peter 3:11b, 12a, & 13 in paraphrase here: "Given the realities of the coming Day of the LORD and end of all things, it is clear what sort of people we ought to be in sanctified behavior and devotion to God, habitually characterized by eagerly anticipating and expediting the coming Day of God. Indeed, based upon His promise, we eagerly anticipate and wait for the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells". Need more detail about how we then shall live? Then let us ask God for wisdom, and follow the one in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden, Yeshua Messiah. Because such wisdom and knowledge is lavishly granted when we ask for it, we will truly receive the necessary additional insight to form and transform our thinking, being, speaking, behaving, doing, and living!
In your service always, Henri Louis Goulet
Note Well: This post is indebted to the following two works:
Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter: Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1983), 104; and John Sailhamer, "Creation, Genesis 1–11, and the Canon", Bulletin for Biblical Research 10.1 (2000): 89–106.