The Last Days Part 5
© 10.24.16 By D. Eric Williams
The word "end" has a certain meaning. It does not mean "a two thousand year span of time." If we decide that phrases like "ends of the ages has come," "the last hour," "must shortly take place" and "the time is near" denote a span of two millennium, then we have made those expressions devoid of meaning and find ourselves confronted with a problem not unlike the mistaken inspiration dilemma. Nor can those phrases carry some sort of dual or elastic meaning that had one sense in the first century and another meaning now. To insist on either of these positions is symptomatic of self-centered human wisdom.
If the writers of the New Testament were willing to ignore the common rules of grammar without explanation in their use of last days language, where else do they do so? If, without any scriptural model to work from, they decide to discard the normal meanings of certain words and phrases - without leaving any clue that they have done so - how are we to be sure they did not do the same elsewhere in other seemingly obvious statements? If this were so, it would render the message of the Bible virtually lost to human understanding, a puzzle without a key to unlock its meaning. In short, both the Old and New Testament passages considered above should be understood as meaning exactly what they say. An end of some type came upon the original audience not long after they were warned about its proximity.
Yet, does not 2 Peter 3:8 at least open the door to the possibility that "soon" may sometimes mean "not soon?" After all, in this passage Peter says, "with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day." Does this mean the word "day" may refer to a long undetermined amount of time - as in "last days" that stretch on for centuries? Actually this passage in Peter is not concerned with measuring or defining time. It has to do with the fact that God is not constrained by his creation. In other words, time is not relevant to God in the same way it is to us. To God, one day may as well be a thousand years because he is always in the present and his plans unfold before him in the "now." He does not wait, in the sense that we do, for events to take place, thus a thousand years is as a day. God deals with us in the created dimension of time, but he is beyond and above time. Because he deals with us in a time space creation, he communicates with us in a way appropriate to this realm.
If, in fact 2 Peter 3:8 (and the Psalm 90 passage it is referencing), is meant to define "day" and "thousand years" then we should expect the thousand-year reign of Christ to last only one day. After all, if these passages are the operative verses concerning chronology, we cannot think otherwise. Instead, Peter means to supply us with information concerning the character of God. He does not attempt to define "day," nor "last day," "close at hand" and so on.
We will resume our discussion of the "last days" in a couple weeks.