One of the interesting things in this compilation is how the diverse array of commentary quotes has such a unity of thought in connection with when the "last days" start. The only printed references that I am aware of that differ in opinion with the views expressed below is the viewpoint expressed in WT references, namely, that "the last days" began in 1914 CE. Although. I am sure if I looked long enough I would find other viewpoints (such as 1948 with the establishment of the modern nation of Israel).
Here is a brief index or outline of the main sub-groups and verses discussed below:
The Last Days
Similar Last Days Terminology
- Acts 2:17
- 2 Timothy 3:1
- Hebrews 1:2
- James 5:3
- 2 Peter 3:3
- Acts 17:30-31
- 1 Corinthians 10:11
- 1 Timothy 4:1
- Hebrews 9:26
- 1 Peter 1:20
- 1 John 2:18
- Jude 17-18
Conclusion of the System of Things
The Last Day
- Matthew 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20; 1 Corinthians 10:11 (plural); Hebrews 9:26 (plural)
- John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 7:37; 11:24; 12:48
- (Associated Links)
The Last Days:
"The last days" - Found in these verses: Acts 2:17; 2Ti 3:1; Heb 1:1, 2; Jas 5:3; 2Pe 3:3.
On Acts 2:17,
For Peter, this outpouring of the Spirit began the period known in Scripture as the ‘last days’ or the ‘last hour’ (1 John 2:18), and thus the whole Christian era is included in the expression.”[Kent, p. 32. See also Longenecker, pp. 275-76; John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts, p. 73; Barrett, 1:135-39; and Robertson, 3:26-28.]"The apostles read such texts as last-day, kingdom texts and saw themselves in the last days. Since the day of the Lord is also alluded to in this citation, what Peter is really saying here is that the coming of the Spirit is the beginning of “those days.” An era of righteousness will conclude them, and that era comes with the day of the Lord." (BECNT-Acts commentary; Darrell L. Bock, p. 112)
On 2 Timothy 3:1,
From the NAC-Timothy commentary concerning what Paul meant by “the last days”:
"The term “last days” sounds as if it applies “especially to the last days of this age, before the Second Coming.” (R. Earle, 1 & 2 Timothy, EBC, ed. F. E. Gaebelein, 197, p.406) However, in the New Testament the phrase refers to the entire time from the completion of Christ’s redemptive work until his return. Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension have inaugurated the last days. Peter’s speech at Pentecost in Acts 2:16-39 proclaimed this fact, and the writer of Hebrews 1:2 reaffirmed its truth. ... Today we are living in the last days, that period between Christ’s exaltation and his return."From the IVP Bible Background Commentary on the NT (Craig S Keener, p.628) on 2Ti 3:1:
"In "last days" Paul includes the time in which he is living (cf. 1Ti 4:1); he no doubt alludes here to the Jewish idea that came to be called the "messianic woes," a period of great suffering preceding the end of the age. (The length of this period varied as widely as those Jewish texts that speculated on it; it was not fixed in Jewish tradition.)"Concerning how the immediate context of 2Ti 3:1-9 shows that Paul understood himself and Timothy to be in "the last days," see this post.
On Hebrews 1:2,
From the NICNT-Hebrews commentary (F F Bruce, p. 46):
"The story of divine revelation is a story of progression up to Christ, but there is no progression beyond him. It is "in these last days" that God has spoken in him, and by this phrase our author means much more than "recently; it is a literal rendering of the Hebrew phrase which is used in the Old Testament to denote the epoch when the words of the prophets will be fulfilled,14 and its use here means that the appearance of Christ "once for all at the consummation of the ages" (Heb 9:26) has inaugurated that time of fulfillment"
Footnote 14 in the NICNT-Hebrews commentary reads:
"ἐπ᾿ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων [literally, "upon the end of the days these" - Bobcat], a Septuagintalism, reflecting the Heb. bə·’a·ḥă·rîṯ hay·yā·mîm ("in the latter end of the days"), which according to the context may mean "hearafter," "ultimately," or "in the end time." Cf. Gen 49:1; Num 24:14; Deut 4:30;31:29; Isa 2:2; Jer 23:20; 30:24; 48:27; 49:39; Ezek 38:16; Dan 10:14; Hos 3:5; Mic 4:1. The use of the phrase here [in Heb 1:2] implies an inaugurated eschatology."
(For discussion of inaugurated eschatology, see the references/links at Addition Point # 4 near the bottom of this post - Bobcat)From the NAC-Hebrews commentary (David L. Allen, pp. 102-03):
"The expression “in these last days” contrasts with “in the past” [NIV; “long ago” NWT] of Heb 1:1 and is descriptive of the time when the readers of the epistle lived. The phrase “in these last days” (ep’ eschatou ton hemeron) is found in the Septuagint (with various inflections) and translates a Hebrew temporal idiom for the future as distinct from the past. The Jewish perspective of two ages – this age and the coming eschatological age – is well known [except among those taught by the WT – Bobcat]. The rabbis debated in which age the Messiah would appear, finding Old Testament evidence both ways. It is probably best to link the two at the appearance of Jesus: the closing out of “this age” and the inauguration of “the coming age.” The phrase had come to have a technical eschatological significance in Jewish thought, and this was incorporated into the New Testament. The author of Hebrews, like the other New Testament writers, viewed the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus as the inauguration of “the last days.” The present time in which the readers [of Hebrews] are living is “the last days” in contrast to the palai [“long ago” NWT – Bobcat] of Heb 1:1. It is not only that the appearance of Jesus occurred during the last days, but that his appearance initiated the last days."The NIGTC-Hebrews commentary (Paul Ellingworth, p. 93) also comments about “in these last days”:
"["In these last days"] is Septuagintal, used in eschatological contexts such as Numbers 24:14 and Daniel 10:14 LXX, passages which have other points of contact with Hebrews. Esxatou [“last”] is neuter, meaning not “on the last of the days,” but “in the last days,” or more idiomatically “in the end time.” ... Hebrews distinctive (not Septuagintal) addition of toutwn [“these”] indicates that the last days have begun. Toutwn should be taken with the whole phrase: “in these days which are the last days,” not “at the end of these days.” " [Contrast with the NWT's "at the end of these days," which appears to be motivated by the WT's insistence that "the last days" started in 1914. - Bobcat]From the IVP Bible Background Commentary on the NT (Craig S Keener, p.651) on Heb 1:2:
" "Last days" was Old Testament language for the time of the end (Isa 2:2; Ezek 38:16; Hos 3:5; Mic 4:1; cf. Deut 4:30, 32; 8:16), now inaugurated in Christ"See also the quote from Barne's Notes on Heb 1:2 under the portion on 1Pe 1:20 below.
On James 5:3,
Hoarding wealth is a particularly serious sin for Christians since we are living in the last days, the days immediately preceding the Lord’s return. We should be using our money to get the Lord’s work done, not to enable us to live lives of luxury and laziness (cf. Mt 6:19-24). (Constable's Notes on James 5:3)Note also that the hoarding of wealth was in preparation for "the day of slaughter" (Jas 5:5), fattening oneself just as an animal may be fattened, but unknowing to the animal it is for the purpose of being slaughtered.
On 2 Peter 3:3,
In the last dispensation; in the period during which the affairs of the world shall be wound up. The apostle does not say that that was the last time in the sense that the world was about to come to an end; nor is it implied that the period called "the last day" might not be a very long period, longer in fact than either of the previous periods of the world. He says that during that period it had been predicted there would arise those whom he here calls "scoffers." On the meaning of the phrase "in the last days," as used in the Scriptures, see the Acts 2:17 note; Hebrews 1:2 note; Isaiah 2:2 note. (Barne's Notes on 2Pe 3:3)"The phrase "the last days" (eschaton ton hemeron) is rather common in the Scriptures (LXX Gen 49:1; Isa 2:2; Jer 23:20; 25:19; 37:24; Ezek 38:16; Dan 2:28; Hos 3:5; Mic 4:1; Acts 2:17; 2Ti 3:1; Heb 1:2; Jas 5:3; cf. Jude 18). New Testament writers emphasized that the last days had arrived in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see esp. Acts 2:17; Heb 1:2). Hence, there is no suggestion that the prophecy recorded here [at 2Pe 3:3, 4] was still unfulfilled. Peter believed it was fulfilled in the false teachers that had arrived in the churches he addressed. We see the same phenomenon in 1Ti 4:1-5; 2Ti 3:1-9; and Jude 18. Paul himself prophesied that false shepherds would arise among the flock (Acts 20:29-30). Jesus also predicted that false prophets would emerge (Mt 24:3-4, 11)." [A footnote (# 17) "points out the remarkable similarities between 2 Peter 3 and Mt 24:34-51." - Bobcat] (NAC-1, 2 Peter, Jude commentary, Thomas R. Schreiner, pp. 371-72)
Similar Last Days Terminology:
"[God] commands all people, everywhere to repent" - Acts 17:30-31,
In the context of these verses, Paul shows that, as a result of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection, all of mankind has entered into a final era before the day of judgment, a final era where it becomes necessary for "all mankind, everywhere to repent." And thus, without specific "last days" terminology being used, these verses still fit in this listing.
Heb 9:26-28 presents a similar view of history as Acts 17:30-31. It presents the Christian era (or sometimes called the "inter-advent era") as a final era between Christ's first advent and "the next time that he appears." (Compare 1Co 10:11; See also point number # 6 in the next post for a link to a thread discussing Acts 17:30-31.)
"The ends of the systems of things" (or "ages") - 1 Corinthians 10:11,
This phrase and its context indicate that Paul considered the Christian era to represent a culmination of all the previous eras. On this phrase, Barnes' Notes comments:
Upon whom the ends of the world are come - This expression is equivalent to that which so often occurs in the Scriptures, as, "the last time," "the latter day," etc.; see it fully explained in the notes on Acts 2:17. It means the last dispensation; or, that period and mode of the divine administration under which the affairs of the world would be wound up. There would be no mode of administration beyond that of the gospel. But it by no means denotes necessarily that the continuance of this period called "the last times," and "the ends of the world" would be brief, or that the apostle believed that the world would soon come to an end. It might be the last period, and yet be longer than any one previous period, or than all the previous periods put together. There may be a last dynasty in an empire, and yet it may be longer than any previous dynasty, or than all the previous dynasties put together. The apostle Paul was at special pains in 2 Thessalonians 2 to show, that by affirming that the last time had come, he did not mean that the world would soon come to an end.The phrase "on whom the fulfillment (lit. "ends") of the ages has come," is found only here in the New Testament. The phrase is unique in the use of the two plurals ("the ends" and "the ages").181 The eschatological emphasis is obvious, but Paul does not explain precisely what he means. The end itself has not yet arrived, as 1Co 15:20-28 makes clear, but in some sense the "end(s) of the age(s)" has arrived. (NAC-1 Corinthians commentary, Mark Taylor, pp.235-36)
Footnote # 181 reads: If a Hebraic idiom that uses the plural where English uses the singular, the meaning would be "the end of the age" or "the last days."
"The latter part of the days" ("In later times" - NET)- 1 Timothy 4:1,
On this phrase, Constable's Notes comments:
In contrast to the true revelation of God (1Ti 3:16), false teaching would arise as time passed. Whether Paul referred to a special revelation he had received by the Holy Spirit or simply to previously revealed revelation (“the Spirit explicitly says”) we cannot determine for sure. Nevertheless God had revealed through Christ that as time passed some who held the truth would repudiate it (Mt 13:21; 24:10-11; Mr 4:17; 13:22; Lu 8:13; cf. Acts 20:29; 2Th 2:1-12; 2Ti 3:1-13; 2Pe 3:1-18). This would come about as a result of their listening to persuasive arguments put forth by God’s spiritual enemies and, behind them, demons (1Ti 4:1).
Based on Constable's comment, "the later times" could reference either the whole of "the last days" or a period of time within "the last days," during which apostasy would flourish.From the IVP Bible Background Commentary on the NT (Craig S Keener, p.614) on 1Ti 4:1:
"Some Jewish groups (including the Qumran community) predicted widespread apostasy in the end time, influenced by evil spirits. "Later times" probably refers to the "last days," which by the Old Testament definition were normally understood as inaugurated by Israel's repentance and deliverance (e.g., Isa 2:1; but cf. Dan 2:28; 10:14); in the New Testament these days have begun because the Messiah has already come."
"Conclusion of the systems of things" - Hebrews 9:26,
In the end of the world - In the last dispensation or economy; that under which the affairs of the world will be wound up; see the phrase fully explained in Hebrews 1:2 note, and Acts 2:17 note; 1 Corinthians 10:11, and Isaiah 2:2. (Barne's Notes on the NT on Heb 9:26)
"At the last times" - 1 Peter 1:20,
Barne's Notes on the NT refers to this phrase as, "the last dispensation of things on the earth." He then references his notes at Heb 1:2 where he says:
In this the final dispensation; or in this dispensation under which the affairs of the world will be wound up. Phrases similar to this occur frequently in the Scriptures. They do not imply that the world was soon coming to an end, but that that was the "last" dispensation, the "last" period of the world. There had been the patriarchal period, the period under the Law, the prophets, etc., and This was the period during which God's "last" method of communication would be enjoyed, and under which the world would close. It might be a very long period, but it would be the "last" one; and so far as the meaning of the phrase is concerned, it might be the longest period, or longer than all the others put together, but still it would be the "last" one.The NAC-1, 2 Peter, Jude commentary on 1Pe 1:20 (Thomas R. Schreiner, p. 88) says:
"The "end of the ages" (ep eschaton ton chronin) signals the last days of salvation history, which commenced with the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Michaels rightly notes that the phrase here [at 1Pe 1:20] is to be distinguished from "in the last time" (en kairo eschato) in [1Pe 1:5]. The latter refers to the eschatological inheritance that awaits believers, but the phrase here [in 1Pe 1:20] indicates that the last times have commenced with the coming of Christ."
"The last hour" - 1 John 2:18,
While the phrase "the last day" refers more specifically to the final point in world history, the day of the coming of Christ and the judgment, the last hour has a sense more like that of "the last days." (NICNT-The Epistles of John (I. Howard Marshall, p. 148)John has a habit in his writings of using the term "hour" idiomatically, with a similar meaning to Jude's "the last time." See under point # 3 under the sub-title, What John Had to Say in this post.Notice also, John's use of the present tense. He tells his readers that "it IS the last hour" and that "we know it is the last hour." The verbs, "it is" (used twice) and "we know" are both present, indicative, active verbs. John also links the then presence of "many antichrists" as evidence that it is the last hour. From Constable's Notes on 1Jn 2:18:
In the drama of human history all of John’s readers, including ourselves, play our part in the last act. Throughout the New Testament the writers regarded the present inter-advent age, after the Incarnation and before the Lord’s return, as the last hour or the last days. This is the final period before the Lord Himself breaks into history again. Then the first stage of the new age will be judgment (the Tribulation) and the second stage blessing. In the second stage Jesus Christ will rule directly over human beings, first in the Millennium and then in the new heavens and the new earth.
"The last time" - Jude 17-18,
"Jude conceived of the apostle's words as directed to his hearers,and not as intended for some far off generation, for he said their admonitions were "said to you" (hymin). The reference to "the last times" does not contradict the fact that the prophecies were directed to Jude's readers. New Testament Christians believed that the last days had dawned with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and with his death and resurrection. The author of Hebrews could say, therefore, that "in these last days" God "has spoken to us by his Son" (Heb 1:2; cf. Acts 2:17; 1Pe 1:20), indicating that the last days had arrived. Similarly, in both 1Ti 4:1 and 2Ti 3:1 the entrance of false teachers is located "in later times" and "in the last days" respectively. In both cases Paul understood these predictions to be fulfilled in the false teaching troubling the Ephesian church. A connection is likely drawn here [in Jude 18] to Jude 4, where Jude implied that the arrival and judgment of the intruders was prescripted." (NAC-1, 2 Peter, Jude commentary on Jude 18, Thomas R. Schreiner, p. 478)About Jude 17, 18, Barne's Notes says:
There is a striking similarity between these two verses and 2 Peter 3:1-3. It occurs in the same connection, following the description of the false and dangerous teachers against whom the apostle would guard them, and couched almost in the same words.
In the context of all these references the Bible writer places the Christians he was writing to in the time period he described. I accept that that view doesn't set well with how some understand the term "last days." The viewpoint of many current and former JWs is still influenced by the WT's view of "the last days" (aka, since 1914). But regardless, the Bible references above place the Christians reading those letters within "the last days."
As the numerous Bible commentaries quoted above show, many others have also noticed that same fact that NT writers link the start of "the last days" with Jesus' first advent. So this isn't some strange new idea. It is a consensus view among a good many that have put a lot of study into the Bible books referenced above. It might be new to many JWs. But that is only because the WT has successfully isolated many of us from non-WT viewpoints.
None of the NT writers referenced above knew that "the last days" would last until now. Most of them seem to have expected Jesus to return much sooner than this. (Compare Jas 5:8; 1Pe 4:7) If they were suddenly alive now and saw how long it has been since the time of Jesus, would they change their terminology to something else? I don't know. But my comments above about "the last days" are only meant to stay within how the NT writers used the term.
Conclusion of the System of Things:
On the phrase, "conclusion of the system of things":
It occurs in Mt 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20; 1Co 10:11 (plural); Heb 9:26 (plural).
See this post. It is not equivalent with "the last days." Rather, it describes what happens when "the last days" have run their course. A briefer discussion of the phrase, "conclusion of the system of things" occurs in this post, about halfway down.
It is used in the plural ("systems of things" or "ages") in 1Co 10:11 & Heb 9:26. In those verses the context indicates that the Christian era represents a final and culminating era to all previous eras.
The Last Day:
Concerning the phrase, "the last day" (Greek esxatos  hemera ):
This phrase is used in the 4th gospel exclusively. It occurs at:
John 6:39, 40, 44, 54 (By Jesus, in reference to the resurrection)
John 7:37 (By the gospel writer in reference to a festival, and thus, not eschatological usage)
John 11:24 (By Martha, speaking of a future resurrection)
John 12:48 (By Jesus, in reference to a future judgment)Concerning Martha's use of the term, the BECNT-John commentary says, " Martha's affirmation of end-time resurrection was in keeping with Jesus' own teaching (cf. 5:21; 25-29, 6:39-44, 54), which in turn cohered with Pharisaic beliefs (cf. Acts 23:8; Josephus, Ant. 18.1.3 §14; JW 2.8.14 § 163; see Barrett 1978:395) and those of the majority of first-century Jews (Bauckham 1998b)."
1. See additional comments on "the last days" in this post.
2. On the NWT's rendering of Heb 1:2 & Jas 5:3, see this post.
3. Post # 21 & 22 in another thread (starting here) discuss the idea of the restoration of Israel in 1948 as marking the beginning of the "last days."
4. Post # 23 in another thread (here) lists scriptures indicating that the disciples expected/hoped for the parousia of Jesus to happen soon.
5. On the parousia and when Jesus began ruling, see posts # 1 & 2 in this thread.
6. On the relationship between Jn 12:47-48 and the "scrolls" that are opened in Rev 20:12, see the links in point # 7 in the next post.
I apologize for the length of this post. I was hoping to make the listing here as complete as possible. I did try to format it so that it would be relatively easy on the eyes.
See the next post for additional links related to this post.