Sometimes people ask me when the last days will come, and I tell them that the last days started two thousand years ago. They commenced with the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter tells us that the coming of the Christ was prophesied and foreknown, and “in these last times” He has been “revealed” (1 Peter 1:20, NIV). As Hebrews 1:2 says, “In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son,” showing that the last days arrived with the coming of the Son. And the Son has spoken the final and definitive word in the last days.
In the same way, Peter declares on Pentecost that Joel’s prophecy about the last days has been fulfilled in the sending of the Spirit (Acts 2:16–18). Since Jesus has been crucified and exalted, the Spirit is now being poured out on all those who repent of their sins and put their trust in Jesus Christ. The Apostle John even declares that “it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18), and thus we have been living in the last hour for two thousand years.
The kingdom has come in Jesus Himself, and it is evidenced by Jesus’ casting out demons by the power of the Spirit (Matt. 12:28). The parables Jesus tells in Matthew 13 unfold “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” (v. 11), and we could summarize the message of the parables by saying that the kingdom is inaugurated but not consummated. The kingdom did not come first in apocalyptic power but is as small as a mustard seed and as invisible as leaven in dough.
The last days have arrived and the kingdom is inaugurated, but the kingdom of God will also be consummated one day, which is why we pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10), and we also pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). As believers, we live between the times, and so although we are sanctified by the grace of Christ even now (1 Cor. 1:2), full and complete sanctification will be ours on the day Jesus returns (1 Thess. 5:23–24; 1 John 3:2). As believers in Jesus Christ, we are now God’s adopted children (Rom. 8:15–16), but the fullness of our adoption will be realized on the day of the resurrection when our bodies are transformed (v. 23). In the same way, since the last days have commenced, we are redeemed through the blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14), but our redemption will be completed when our bodies are raised from the dead (Rom. 8:23). Believers are now saved by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8), and yet we await the day of final judgment when we will be saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9).
The Last Days and Sanctification
Since the last days have arrived, we now live in the era when God’s promises are being fulfilled. We are promised that we will be like Jesus when we see Him (1 John 3:2), and this hope of end-time transformation motivates us even now to be more like Jesus, and thus we endeavor to live pure and holy lives (v. 3). God is sovereign over all that happens, but at the same time our holy lives can “hasten” the day of His coming (2 Peter 3:12). In other words, the holiness of our lives may be one of the means God uses to bring about the final end. The promise of end-time holiness doesn’t quench our desire to be like Christ but stirs up our passion to live in a way that pleases God.