And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions... (Joel 2:28)
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams (Acts 2:17)
For at least the past 150-200 years many people have been convinced that they were living in "the last days". But is that what is actually being said in the Scriptures quoted above? That right before the second coming, prophetic dreams and visions will be happening again?One answer
(please add your own!):
Peter is quoting the prophecy of Joel in Acts 2:17. Peter says, "this is the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy!" So Peter must have been alive in "the last days," right?
We see other references to "last days" being described in present terms by first century writers! The writer of Hebrews says "in these last days
God has spoken to us in His Son... (Hebrews 1:2)," and the Apostle John wrote, "Children, it is the last hour
, and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour
(1 John 2:18)." (oh by the way, that's the verse just before the one I quoted earlier - "they went out from us, but they were not really of us..." - the ideas are connected. But that's a whole 'nother issue.
From these Scriptures we get the idea that "these last days" and "the last hour" were about 2,000 years ago! Or at the very least the "last days" were already underway
that long ago.
The term "last days" and "last hour" do not necissarily refer to the end of the human race on earth, but often the term refers to the last days of the Old Covenant! Jesus
said that terrible judgment would fall upon His own generation
. He said that God would send that single generation" prophets and wise men and scribes" whom they would kill and crucify and persecute from city to city, in order that "upon you may fall the guilt of all righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah... Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation
(Matthew 23:34-36)." See also Matthew 16:28 and 24:34.
The Last Days began with Christ's advent and ended
, at least in the sense of the Old Covenant, in 70 A.D. when Jesus' Olivet prophecy (Matthew 23-24) was fulfilled (though some elements remain yet future). The siege and destruction of Jerusalem was so awesome that it took about 8 months to bury all the dead and burn the weapons of war. Blood ran up to the horse's bridles in the streets of Jerusalem at the peak of the slaughter of thousands of Jews by the Roman army.
The Charismatic gifts ended after 70 A.D. when the warnings they signified had come to pass.
The Temple destroyed, animal sacrifice permanently ended, and the last vestiges of the Old Covenant were swept away. From then until Christ's second advent, there are no charismatic gifts. The "last days" are the last days of the Jewish Old Covenant - and the "first days" of the New Covenant, in which Israel was hugely multiplied by the addition of Gentile believers to the covenant.
There are other good answers to the question of "what are 'the last days' really?
" Obviously in one sense they were already underway when the New Testament was being written. Yet in another sense, what was "last day" about days that came and went nearly two millennia ago?
Jesus said, "I will raise him up on the last day
(John 6:40,44,54)" referring to believers. I know a lot of believers who have died physically and are still dead. So obviously there is a "last day" yet future.
But since Peter on the day of Pentecost said, "this
("that you see and hear") is that
about which the prophet Joel wrote (quoted), it isn't possible to conclude that signs and wonders will reappear "right before the Second Coming."