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The Last Days of this Age of Grace

Howard A Barnes, Westhoughton


If it were possible to know what will happen in the future, then believers in particular would be greatly advantaged if they had such information, warning them about any potential upcoming dangers. Therefore, since the Bible often speaks about conditions in "last or latter times" or "last days", such mentions deserve our special attention.

The phrase "last days" appears a number of times in the Old Testament. The first mention is when Jacob called his sons together and said he wanted to "tell you that which shall befall you in the last days" (Gen 49.1). Much later Isaiah prophesied that "it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it" (Is 2.2), and Micah repeated the same words (Micah 4.1). These last days [the end of the days, JND] refer to Israel and the forthcoming tribulation and millennium, which are also referred to in the New Testament - see for instance (Mt 13.39,49; 24.3; 28.20 etc). However, also in the New Testament, we find a number of mentions of last days with particular reference to this present age of grace in which we live, before the last days referred to above. Important questions that we will examine here are: "When do the last days of this age begin?", and "What characterises them?".

The last days of this age of grace

Four writers of New Testament epistles contribute to answering our questions. Each one will now be considered.


One of the first indications of coming problems in later days was the warning given to the Ephesian elders by the Apostle Paul to "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock…For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse [twisted, distorted] things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember" (Acts 20.28-31; cp. Mt 7.15). With prophetic insight Paul gives this warning of difficulties from without and from within. Later he wrote to Timothy, whom he had left in Ephesus, saying, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly [plainly, distinctly or clearly], that in the latter [later, after this] times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (1 Tim 4.1). A few years later, in writing his second letter to Timothy, Paul warns that the last days had all but begun, for "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come" (2 Tim 3.1). These perilous days [paraphrased by some writers as "hard, difficult, dangerous times; of great stress and trouble; hard to deal with and hard to bear"] would arrive in Timothy's lifetime, and, as Paul was soon to leave this scene, instruction is given on how Timothy is to react. In particular he is warned that there would be people "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (2 Tim 3.5). The command to turn away, or avoid, shows that for Timothy "last days" would soon begin and would continue with no hope of remission. They would be all the more difficult for him since his counsellor Paul would soon be in heaven (2 Tim 4.18). Paul holds out no hope of any relief or remission, for "evil men and seducers shall wax [grow] worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2 Tim 3.13), "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…And they shall turn away their ears from the truth" (2 Tim 4.3-4).


In his second epistle Peter asked the believers to be "mindful of [remember, RV] the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour…that there shall come in the last days scoffers [mockers, RV]" (2 Pet 3.2-3). So, it was already well-known by his readers, because of the previous prophecies of New Testament prophets and apostles, that these last-day mockers were coming, and all Peter needed to do was to tell them to remember what they had previously heard or read.

The mockers would say, "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Pet 3.4). He went on to explain that what might look like delay in the Lord's coming is in fact a manifestation of His longsuffering, and "the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation" (2 Pet 3.15), to those who repent. However, the coming mockers would twist the facts and be derisive about the serious matter of the Lord's coming, making light of it, and at the same time would live self-centred, carnal lives.


Peter's words about what the apostles predicted would become true in Jude's day, but sadly it took the believers by surprise. Jude had been giving "all diligence" to thinking about the contents of a letter he was about to write regarding "the common salvation", i.e. the salvation common to all believers. However, he had to change his theme hastily when he heard that among his readers "certain men [had] crept in unawares". These men, as we have seen, had in fact been written about beforehand - "of old were marked out" (Jude v.4, JND). It seems that the believers being addressed had forgotten this, and Jude urged them to now "remember". First he explains, using many examples, that there was Old Testament teaching, "I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew…" (v.5) in the stories of many Old Testament situations, where evil would come in among the people of God.

Then, as we have seen, New Testament predictions existed and had also been forgotten, so he had to tell them, "But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit" (vv.17-19). The false teachers, however impressive, had now been exposed – they were not even saved (Rom 8.9). Jude does not require to stipulate what should be done about these "who had crept in unawares", all he had needed to do was to uncover them and the Christians would act appropriately.


John wrote, "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. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction [anointing] from the Holy One, and ye know all things" (1 Jn 2.18-20).

These many antichrists - i.e., those opposed to the real interests of the Lord Jesus - and their like had been able to find an ear with the saints largely because they put their errors across in impressive words - which kind of words good men assiduously avoided – as follows: "good words and fair speeches" (Rom 16.18); "wisdom of words" (1 Cor 1.17); "enticing words of man's wisdom" (1 Cor 2.4; Col 2.4); "words which man's wisdom teacheth (1 Cor 2.13); "vain words" (Eph 5.6); "flattering words" (1 Thess 2.5); "feigned words" (2 Pet 2.3); and "great swelling words" (2 Pet 2.18; Jude v.16).

The existence of these antichrists established clearly that the last days had now begun. We can say therefore that the "last days" started in the last days of the apostles, when they were going off this scene, and now only John is left in his old age. In that case, we too are living in last days, and these things will persist until the Lord comes without warning.


Predictions about last times in this age of grace were known from early days from the apostles and prophets and from what they wrote. We can see that the "last days" were often predicted and in fact came about in John the apostle's later years, when the other apostles had departed this life.

Sadly, when these things actually came along, the believers did not remember the warnings, were not vigilant, and had been taken in and surprised by the false teachers and mockers. Paul had warned Timothy that some false teachers would come (1 Tim 4.1ff), and in Timothy's lifetime last-day characteristics would be seen (2 Tim 3). Peter said of these particular false teachers that "they are coming; Jude said, "they are here", and John said, "they have gone out".

Last days conditions would show no improvement, so we are living in the same last days, and should therefore expect the same conditions to exist. The situation where false teachers find their way into the sphere of Christian profession still persists in our day with Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, etc. Even when they have been exposed, as in Jude, John said that they are still a danger, even on the outside. They could come knocking at believers' doors, as today, and John warned, "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 Jn vv.10-11). There are plenty today who would virtually mock, or at least make light of serious matters such as the Lord's coming.

The believer's resource for last times

All true believers have an internal safeguard against erroneous teaching, since we "have an unction [anointing] from the Holy One, and ye know all things" (1 Jn 2.20). Of course this must be seen in the light of the inspired Word, which is our flawless source of truth. As we have seen in the Scriptures we have examined, we are forewarned that the devil will seek to infiltrate the sphere of Christian profession with error and low moral standards.

Peter reminded his readers that "the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch [be soberly vigilant] unto prayer" (1 Pet 4.7), so being wide-awake to the real spiritual situation was necessary "in such a manner as to lead you to embrace all proper opportunities for prayer" (Albert Barnes; see also 1 Pet 5.8). Tyndale interestingly rendered this verse: "Be ye discreet and sober, that ye may be apt to prayers". Because "the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (James 5.8) we too should be sober, serious and prayerful. If these things are so, then in our lives the apostle's prayer will be answered - "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess 5.23). To be forewarned is to be forearmed in these last days.



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