If the writers of the New Testament believed they were living in the last days and urged the early church to be prepared for the coming of Christ—imagine what they would say to us in our day. We must recognize that the culmination of our salvation is nearer today than it has been since we first believed the gospel. Therefore, our lives and our worship should exemplify the fact that we are living in the last days!
That’s an important question to consider. Suppose you were informed that you would die in one hour, what would you do? Would you make a call to a close friend or family member? Perhaps you would sit down at your desk and write a letter to your family. How exactly would you spend that final hour of life? Needless to say, you would spend it differently than one of the common hours of your life. As we examine Scripture, we find statements that indicate that we as Christians are living in the last hour. What does that mean and how should we be living in these days?
Paul, in writing to the church at Rome, writes the following:
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed (Rom. 13:11).
Paul is pressing upon the church at Rome to see their position on the timeline of history. They were living between the first and second comings of Jesus. They were positioned at a time where the great promises of Jesus’ incarnation, his substitutionary sacrifice, his death and burial, his victorious resurrection, and his triumphant ascension had been fulfilled. They were living, according to Paul, at a time where they needed to wake up from sleep. How easy it becomes as a Christian to hit the cruise control and get into a rut whereby you live without urgency—forgetting the fact that we are living in the last days.
While no man knows the day nor the hour of Jesus’ return—the New Testament authors consistently pointed to the season of the last days and urged the church to live in light of the fact that the return of Jesus is near. In Romans 13, Paul speaks of “the time” in Romans 13:11. The Greek term he used there is “καιρός” which refers to a period of time or a season of time. In other words, Paul was urging the church to see the late hour and notice that Jesus could return very soon.
The Greek term eschatos means “last” or “final,” and the theological term that we often use to describe the study of end times is eschatology. It is the study of events leading up to and including the second coming of Christ and the conclusion of human history as we all know it. As we survey the New Testament we find other verses that indicate the reality that the early church believed they were living in the last days.