Christians of today believe they are living in the “Last Days.” Christians in the first century believed they were living in the “Last Days.” Both cannot be correct.
In Part 2 I listed every passage of Scripture in the New Testament that referred to “This Generation.” Each passage referred to the same generation. That generation was obviously the generation that existed in the first century AD. That generation began with the birth of the Lord Jesus. It ended in 70AD with the complete destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and what was left of the nation of Israel. Israel was thus no more, exactly as the Lord Jesus had prophesied forty years before.
The Lord Jesus said that last generation of Israel would see the fulfillment of all the prophecies made about that time, which was referred to by New Testament writers as the “Last Days.” Why were they the “Last Days?” –Because they were the last days of Israel. “This Generation” was the final generation.
THE NATION OF ISRAEL
The nation of Israel had begun with the call of Abraham. This took place in approximately 1876 BC when Abraham was 70 years old. It was birthed with the miraculous birth of Abraham’s son Isaac in 1846 BC, which represented the first generation. The nation was birthed in great joy, as Isaac’s name means at root, “to laugh,” or “laughter,” or “he laughs.” Isaac was a very happy child! One pictures little Isaac as a happy, smiling, joyous, laughing baby and little boy.
Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” [Genesis 21:6]
Isaac grew up and was blessed with a loving wife. Rebekah gave birth to the first-born twins Esau and Jacob in 1786 BC. Though Esau was born first he had no heart for God. God thus chose Jacob as the new heir. Later, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel.
Jacob/Israel had twelve sons. His sons married and began having children. Some of these children grew up and had children. Ten years after the great Patriarch Isaac died, when the young four-generational family group of Jacob consisted of seventy-plus persons, they left the land of Canaan in approximately 1656 BC and went to live in the Goshen area of Egypt. This was made possible by Jacob’s son Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers when he was seventeen years old and ended up in Egypt, preparing the way for his family’s future salvation. Joseph rose to become the second-most powerful man in Egypt by the time he was thirty. This family group of seventy-plus persons consisting of generations two, three, four, and five was the original nation of Israel.
All the persons belonging to Jacob, who came to Egypt, his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob’s sons, were sixty-six persons in all, and the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob, who came to Egypt, were seventy. Now he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out the way before him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. [Genesis 46:26-28]
Untold multiple generations later we arrive at the time of the last generation of the nation, initially characterized by great joy and laughter once again with the miraculous birth of the long hoped-for promised Redeemer and Messiah. A Great Light had come into a land of darkness. When the Lord Jesus was thirty years old His forerunner, John the Immerser, prophesied about Him and the nation of Israel in the following:
Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” [Luke 3:15-17]
This verse has been misinterpreted often yet is actually quite clear. John is speaking in terms anyone there could understand: The wheat will undergo a harvest. The Messiah, winnowing fork in hand on His threshing floor, will do the work of separating the edible grains from the useless chaff. He will gather the wheat (the saved and redeemed of Israel, the sheep, the righteous) into His barn. But He will burn up the chaff (the unsaved and unredeemed of the nation, the goats, the unrighteous) with unquenchable fire.
He will thus baptize (immerse) the redeemed of Israel with His Holy Spirit, but will baptize the unredeemed with fire.
We see these two fates of the nation again in the following illustration of John:
“Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” [Luke 3:9]
In both of these prophetic pronouncements of John we see that the final generation (“this generation”) of the nation of Israel is under pressure to get right with God and produce good fruit. We see that the axe of judgment is already poised against the nation. The axe is about to drop. But before the end comes, as the nation will be divided by those who will either become wheat or chaff, so will the nation be divided by those who will be baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit of God to produce good fruit and those who will do the opposite. Again, the nation of Israel will be divided into two distinct parts during the final generation.
On that great Day of Pentecost at the beginning of the final thirty-eight years of the nation and continuing until the end, the Holy Spirit will be given to all those who properly repent and are cleansed by the Blood of the Lamb. This large group of the redeemed within the overall nation of several million, most likely the smaller of the two groups by percentage, will honor their Messiah and prove themselves with consistent discipleship and as trees bearing good fruit. At the conclusion of the final thirty-eight years the end will come when the besieged city of Jerusalem and the great Temple will be burned by unrelenting fire in a great conflagration just as both John the Immerser and the Lord Jesus had prophesied roughly forty years before. The end of Israel arrived in 70 AD.
THE “LAST DAYS”
Thus we see that what was referred to as the “Last Days” were actually the last days of Israel which took place almost two thousand years ago in the first century AD. Though referred to with other terminology, the following are the five Scriptural occurrences when the exact term “Last Days” is referred to in the New Testament by at least three if not four different writers, which greatly adds to its credibility (dates approximate):
ONE / 32 AD
15 “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.’” [Acts 2:15-18]
TWO / 64 AD
1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. [2Timothy 3:1-5]
THREE / 63 AD
1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. [Hebrews 1:1-2]
FOUR / 50-60 AD
1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! [James 5:1-3]
FIVE / 65 AD
3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. [2Peter 3:3-7] 
We can see that four of the above five works were written just as the nation of Israel was coming to a close, in the twilight hour so to speak. They served collectively as a latter bookend to the former bookend at Pentecost. Each is filled with dire language describing very well the final times. Since Pauline authorship of the Book of Hebrews has never reached a consensus it could very well be that these were four different men using the exact “Last Days” terminology at a time when the end was extremely close and they could feel it in their spirit. The great Jewish Revolt against Rome began in mid-summer of 66 AD. Vespasian’s siege barricades began being constructed around Jerusalem in the spring of 67 AD. This was one of the signs of warning the Lord gave to His people dwelling there concerning when they should depart.
Only those who honored Him, who had treasure in heaven, would heed His words.
© 2022 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
What is the true essence of historical, first-century Christianity? What did our Lord Jesus actually teach His disciples? Is it anything close to what developed in later centuries?
It is not. It is not close at all. Picture a small band of real men roaming the countryside like homeless artisans working on a new craft, but a craft so new and so unprecedented that its practitioners did not understand what it was or what they were actually attempting to put together.
They are obscure. They blend in according to appearance and dialect, words and movement, and appear as just another group out of touch with the reality of the times.
Judaism did not really exist as a unified religion. The land was inhabited by a splintered collection of various sects and beliefs based on the teachings of any number of prophets and rabbis, both present and ancient, and carried a tone of defeatist lethargy and a longing for what once was.
Only what was had not been in many centuries. The glorious kingdom of Solomon was but a very distant memory that recalled not merely a tarnished legacy but the loss of something precious and unique. It was Solomon’s father David who had carved out and created a kingdom through ongoing wars, but personally lacked the opportunity to see it reach the heights of what this world sees as glory.
Many Jews of the first century gloried in the great exploits of Joshua and King David, and longed for a return to those times when Hebrew men threw off the yokes of oppressors and ran off squatters and pretenders to the their holy land. Could this not happen yet again? Where were all the great warriors?
The priests longed for another Moses. Many wished the powerful prophets such as Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and Jeremiah could return once again and right the nation’s course.
But they knew in their hearts it was too late. There was hardly any kingdom left. Multiple generations of Hebrews had repeatedly and collectively sinned against God with impunity and those of the Lord’s time knew they deserved little. But they continued to yearn anyway. They pined away dreaming of the past as the hated Romans desecrated their lands and liberty.
Could God ever give them another chance?
This was the setting as the little-known Rabbi from Nazareth led His band of men from town to town and throughout the countryside of Galilee. The people wanted real life again and He was fulfilling the early stages of a plan to give them just that, though a very powerful enemy sat squarely on the land like a heavy, dark cloud of oppression.
It was not the Romans. It was religion—dogmatic, heavy-handed, dead, insipid, joy-killing religion. The land had become infused with it over time ever since the last prophetic word was heard over four hundred years before. The priests had achieved their dream of taking over, and created a hybrid strain based on the Mosaic code that had more in common with Communism than the true teachings of the Torah. They had created a strange hard-nosed casuistic conduct code spelling out everything imaginable that a person might be involved with in life. There was an answer for everything and great force to make their congregants toe the mark and fulfill their duty.
And it was sorry to the core. Their approach was entirely lifeless and void, and demanded regimented obedience and heavy fines for non-compliance. It caused great fear among the descendents of those great Israelites who had won their freedom from foreign dominance and slavery. Imagine those mighty ones who had fought for liberty now under the heavy boot of religion, and imagine that it all grew from within the nation by blood descendants. Imagine kings becoming paupers and those on top of the world becoming moles beneath it.
This was Israel in 30 A.D. These were the times when the Messiah arrived on the scene.
© 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.