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In 2 Timothy, Paul warns Timothy as follows:

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)
3 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

The gist of this passage seems to be Paul warning Timothy about how to act in "the last days". This gives rise to some questions:

  1. Does "the last days" refer to the end times, or could it refer to some other historical event (destruction of the temple?) that Timothy did indeed live through?
  2. If "the last days" is interpreted to refer to the end times, does this imply that Paul thought Timothy might live to see it? (Matthew 24:36)
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Clearly, Paul did expect Timothy to see the "last days". That, and other similar phrases in the NT refer to the last days of the old creation.

Note the context of the "new heavens and new earth" passage in Isaiah. God talking to Israel:

Behold, my servants shall eat,
But you shall be hungry;
Behold, my servants shall drink,
But you shall be thirsty;
...
For the Lord God will slay you,
And call His servants by another name;
...
For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth;
[Isaiah 65:12-17]

The "old creation" was the old order, where you had things like the Jew/Gentile distinction. That distinction is gone in the new. The old and the new co-existed for the 40 years from Pentecost to AD 70, with the events surrounding Jesus' vindication in the destruction of the temple. For further discussion of these things, see chapter 18 of "Through New Eyes" by James B. Jordan, and "The Vindication of Jesus Christ" by the same author.

This sort of understanding of things is going to be quite strange to modern Western Christians, particularly Dispensationalists, but then you will always be stuck with this strange thing that so much of the New Testament seems to have this expectation of the "end times" being immanent.

For a more in-depth treatment of the subject, see "Last Days Madness" by Gary DeMar, freely available here.

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    Thanks for the edit Jeff, we appreciate you taking the time. – Jack Douglas Jun 14 '13 at 19:25
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Paul's warning about "the last days" would be strange if he were merely describing the normal brokenness that has been common to man since the dawn of time. (Such brokenness would not be news to anyone, and would not be specific to "the last days.") He seems to be anticipating something unusual. ...And yet, the characteristics he is describing have been common to man since the dawn of time -- at least to some extent. Perhaps the best solution is to see Paul's statement as an anticipation of the present condition getting "much worse" prior to the end.

Thus, Paul could expect Timothy to be familiar with "such people" in Timothy's present situation, but that would not imply that Timothy's present situation was equivalent to the escalated state of things that Paul anticipated just prior to the end.


Note: "The last days" is a period of time referenced throughout Scripture, which began with the coming of Christ, and will continue until Christ rules on earth and subdues His enemies. The focus of the prophecies are on the Christ, and so from a Christian perspective, many focus on events that occurred 2,000 years ago, and many focus on events yet to come, but technically the age we live in also counts as "the last days."

So Timothy did technically live in "the last days" (see below), but that does not imply that all prophecy had therefore been fulfilled, as if "the end times" had already come and gone.

At Pentecost, Peter explains what they are seeing by quoting a prophecy:

'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' -Acts 2:17

Peter's point is that "the last days" is now, and that what was prophecied is what they are seeing. The author of Hebrews makes similar use of the term:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 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

He is referring, of course, to Jesus coming in the flesh. His point is that "long ago" (prior to Christ) God spoke through the prophets, but "in these last days" He spoke to us by sending His Son. This implies that "the last days" began with the coming of Christ.

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  • You've shown well that the NT writers lived in "the last days", but I think you've only assumed that those last days continue until now. The "last days" of the NT are long-gone. If we were still in the same "last days" today, the term would be pretty-much meaningless. – Jeff Roe Jun 12 '13 at 5:39
  • I would have to agree with Jeff Roe. Very true is it that the apostles were living in the last days. Whether we ourselves may say we are living in the last days cannot be so easily proven. – user862 Jun 13 '13 at 8:53
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I dont think Paul expected Timothy to see the end days.

If this was the case, then he probably would have told other churches in other epistles as well. 1+2 Thessalonians are wild because they have so much information about the rapture and the end times that it wouldn't make sense for Paul to not include something more explicit than 'it shall come like a thief in the night'.

Additionally, Paul wrote these letters to Timothy intending for him to pass this information down to further generations, to 'faithful men who will be able to teach the word also'. Everything Paul writes to timothy is profitable for passing down to other men, so you could use the same argument the other posts are using to say that Timothy expected the end times, and so did Timothy's guy, and his guy, etc. It's just a warning to avoid toxic people, because we can all agree, that no matter what, we are one day closer to seeing Jesus today than we were yesterday.

It's an admonition for social holiness, not a prophetic text.

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. – Steve Taylor May 19 '16 at 14:28
  • This is a good first answer, and sums things up well - you have an obvious gift for condensing detailed thoughts into few words, which will serve you well here! This could be improved by being expanded slightly though, making clearer reference to the passages you're quoting in order to make a more robust argument. – Steve Taylor May 19 '16 at 14:30
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Yes, Paul did know that Timothy was going to live through the "last days." And, Yes, the "last days" did refer to the "end times." The problem is that most people do not understand what the "end times" and "last days" mean in the scriptures. When we critically examine the scriptures without the preconceived, taught biases of church dogma they become clear.

Beginning with Gen. 49:1, where Israel was blessing his children before he died, He said:

" And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days." (KJV)

We first notice that the blessings concerned the sons of Israel, the tribes of Israel, and then notice that the last days were of the end of the tribes of Israel. No where in this discussion is any warning of an end of the world scenario.

Gen. 49:9-12, concerning the "last days" of Judah:

"9 Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?

10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (KJV)

The sceptre was to pass from Judah to Christ (Shiloh) during the last days of Judah's existence. The scepter passed from Judah to Christ at His death on the cross in 30-31 AD.

In Gen. 49:24, discussing the end of the tribe of Joseph:

" But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)" (KJV)

The shepherd and the stone of Israel was the appearance of Christ. The last days were the last days of the tribes of Israel when Christ would be manifest on earth!

We can now see some very clear time statements which John the Immersor (Baptist) and Christ both said in the New Testament.

Matt. 3:2,

"And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (KJV)

Being "at hand" meant the time was near, it was very close, and would be there soon after John's prophesy when he spoke those words in the first century AD.

Matt. 3:10, John told the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to watch,

"And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."

The axe being laid to the root of the trees indicated that the time was near that their tree (nation)would be cut down. Trees represented nations, or strong men in the OT (Isa. 10:15-19; 37:24; 61:3; etc.) John was telling them that they were about to be destroyed.

Matt. 11:13,

" For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John." (KJV)

Christ told them that all of the prophets and all of the law were UNTIL John. John's coming to clear the path for Christ, the Messiah, was the time of which all the law and the prophets spoke. And, when did John come to them, but during the last days of the tribes of Israel - in the first century A.D.

In Matt. c.10, Christ was telling His disciples how they should go, what they should do and say when He sent them to the cities of the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (vs. 6), and He told them in vs. 23:

"for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come." (KJV)

As He was standing before them when He spoke those words, Christ spoke of His second appearance (coming) in that generation of the first century A.D. They were not going to finish preaching the gospel to the cities of the tribes of Israel before He came back to them.

In Matt. 16:27-28, when speaking to His disciples Christ said:

"27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." (KJV)

Jesus told the disciples that some of them would live to see His coming in His kingdom. That very clearly placed His second appearance to that generation of the first century A.D.

Matt. 23:35-36, prophesying judgment upon the scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem,

" That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation." (KJV)

After His resurrection while speaking to His disciples the third time, Christ told Peter that John would remain to see His coming:

"Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me." John 21:22 (KJV)

Gal. 4:4 affirmed the time:

" But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law," (KJV)

Heb 1:2 affirmed the time:

"Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;" (KJV)

Christ spoke to the people in the first century A.D. during His earthly ministry, and the scripture said that He spoke to them in the "last days", therefore the time of the "last days" was the first century A.D.

1 Pet. 1:20 affirmed the time again:

"Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you," (KJV)

Christ was manifested during the fulness of times, and He was manifested in the "last times", and that was in the first century A.D.

As the physical world is still here, then the "last times" and the "end times" of the scriptures were not speaking of the "end of the world". The scriptures were always speaking of the end of the old covenant, the end of the old Mosaic animal sacrificial system (end of sins, Dan. 9:24), and the end of the tribes of Israel.

His second appearance promised to that generation (Heb. 9:28) was His coming in judgment against those who had crucified Him - the Jews - and He told them He was bringing His kingdom with Him (Matt. c. 23, 24, &25). The destruction of Jerusalem, and the destruction of that earthly temple with all its animal sacrificial system was the fulfillment of His second coming and it happened in A.D. 70.

The Bible prophesies never spoke of the end of the world. In fact, it implies the opposite. "...world without end. Amen." (Isa. 45:17; Eph. 3:21.)

Gen 8:21,

"...and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done." (KJV)

We have God's assurance that He will not bring a world-wide judgment upon the earth as He once did. The end times of the NT prophesies concerned a local judgment, not a world-wide judgment, and it was aimed at the those who crucified their promised Messiah, and persecuted His church. It concerned the end of the tribes of Israel, just as Jacob had prophesied in Gen. c.49.

See the posts at my blog ShreddingTheVeil Parts I - X of It's Not The End of The World, and Did Christ Lie to His Disciples, as well as The Whore of Babylon, The Beast of Revelation, The Seventy Weeks of Daniel chap. 9, and others.

Further readings can be found at: PreteristCentral, and specifically on the "latter days" here.

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  • I know that "the last days" of the age of temple-centric judaism but might there be another "last days" as in the "last days of the church age"? – Ruminator Sep 23 '18 at 21:02
  • World without end, Amen - Eph. 3:21. I have searched and all I do not find any supporting scriptures for an end to the everlasting kingdom, or Christ's everlasting reign. Even when God caused the flood in Noah's day, He left a remnant to begin again. I believe the flood is an example of how God gave a wicked ppl time to repent, to turn back. For 100 yrs Noah preached as he built the ark, and no one believed him. Gen. 8:21 "...neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done." I can only say that should such a wicked time again come that no one else will turn to Him.. – Gina Sep 23 '18 at 23:31
  • I'm not talking about the end of the earth, which in my understanding "abides forever". I think there are "ages to come" hence ages that will end: NIV Eph 2:7 "in order that in the coming ages (αἰῶσιν) he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." – Ruminator Sep 23 '18 at 23:33
  • KJV 1 Cor 15:24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. – Ruminator Sep 23 '18 at 23:39
  • Maybe... but that is His sovereign purview, His decision. We r stepping on His toes to anticipate or even call for such judgment. The harm that has been done by the current teaching to expect an end of time judgment is for good ppl to sit back and wait on Christ to do something. Which is exactly what the veil ppl wanted. We let them have their way. God expects us to judge righteously (Lev. 19:15; Deu 1:16; John 7:24). If we sit down and wait on Christ to fix everything, then how are we His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). He is waiting on us to stand up for Him. – Gina Sep 23 '18 at 23:39
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This is an example where often the theological presuppositions guide the interpretation.

My presupposition is that the days of Gen 1 are not only literal days of creation but metaphoric days or ages of God's work in the world, culminating in the marriage of the Lamb, and the man and his wife being fruitful and multiplying before entering into God's Rest.

As such, the 'last days' are days 6 and 7. God makes man in his image and likeness. Christ is the express image of God, and we are made to be like him. The marriage of the Lamb takes place after the cross, in this world, since there is no marriage in heaven. Christ and his bride are fruitful and multiplying in this world, until we enter his rest.

Therefore, the time between the cross and entering His rest are the last days. Paul and Timothy lived as the bride of Christ and were fruitful and multiplying until they entered God's rest.

Paul's instruction for the last days were for Timothy and for us.

**Addressing issue of marriage. לקח laqach means both 'marriage' and 'doctrine' The marriage (doctrine) feast of the lamb (creator) is the explosion of doctrine that took place at the cross. Indeed there is no teaching (marriage) in heaven because all will know him.

Heb 8:11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

If your presupposition is that there is a literal banquet to entice you with gluttony, then it would be impossible for you to come to the same conclusion.

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    If there is no marriage in heaven and that includes our marriage to Christ, then we will be in a heap of trouble after the resurrection. We'll all be separate from Christ (a.k.a. Hell.) Or do you just mean there will be no weddings in heaven? If that's what you mean, please note that the Sadducees question to Jesus that you referenced (Matt 22, Mark 12, Luke 20) was specifically about how things would work between people who were already married and thus has nothing to do with the idea that there will be marriage, but no weddings in heaven. – Jas 3.1 Jun 11 '13 at 22:46
  • Jas 3.1: Paul proved in Romans 7:1-4 that death annuls the marriage bond between a husband and a wife. Of course, that is God's design so that those who are resurrected can be married to Christ and Christ alone. – user862 Jun 13 '13 at 8:56
  • For a relevant laugh and a small morsel for thought consider Larry David's vow renewal scene: youtube.com/watch?v=bsQpWHEYEMU – Ruminator Sep 23 '18 at 20:59

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