The Doctrine of the Last Days
The nominal understanding of the Last Days is one of doom and gloom, as some erroneously call it. Sadly, even true Christians don’t comprehend this vital doctrine because of what little they know of it. For, in most places they read of it referenced by the apostles in the New Testament, for example in 2 Tim. 3:1, Jas. 5:3, 2 Pet. 3:3, & 1 Jn. 2:18, their expectation of the Last Days isn’t positive. Rather, the expectation is of foreboding apostasy and tribulation because of divine judgment. For the unstudied interpreter it is hard to see past so many references of like emphasis to wit it goes unconsidered whether there is anything else important about the Last Days.
The 2nd Restoration Generation of the Jews
However, when Peter spoke of the Last Days in Acts 2:16-21 his expectations were far from doom and gloom. Peter spoke of the Outpouring of the Spirit of God like rain resulting in unprecedented experiences of prophecy upon all peoples. Moreover, when he made reference to it in Acts 3:12-26 he openly declared the timeliness of his expectation in the saying, “when the times of refreshing shall come from the Presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19), and, “until the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21). It is only meet for Peter to expect a restoration of the Jews seeing he was born into the of the Jews! In speaking of these things, Peter cited the prophets to substantiate his expectation, saying, “…which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). My reader, we can be certain that Peter wasn’t misled in his understanding of the Last Days, but perhaps we don’t understand what he is saying because we haven’t searched out the clarion witness of all the prophets who spoke of the Last Days since the world began!
For, the Doctrine of the Last Days was originally forged by God in Covenant with the Jews in the Old Testament. Meaning, it used to be something strictly experienced by the Jews and intended for the Jews. Harmonious with the apostolic witness, the foretold experience of the Last Days in the Old Testament was one of general and widespread apostasy among the Jews (Deut. 31:29, Jer. 23:20, 30:24). However, the Last Days Doctrine also foretold the certain hope of restoration and glory for the Jews amidst and in the aftermath of the great tribulation (Num. 24:14, Duet. 4:30, Jer. 48:47, 49:39, Ezek. 38:16)! My reader, permit me to state the obvious: we better learn the terms in which this Restoration Doctrine was framed to the Jews if we are going to understand how it pertains to the Gentiles.
Emphatically, the prophetically identified means of a Jewish restoration was metaphorically rendered in the promise of Spiritual Rain (Hos. 3:5, 6:3, Joel 2:23, Zech. 10:1); this was otherwise called, “the Latter Rain”. My reader, consider how pointed this promise was delivered to the Jews by God through Zechariah in the saying, “Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the Latter Rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field” (Zech. 10:1). Sound familiar? Upon a thorough study it becomes increasingly apparent what was on Peter’s mind in that fateful moment when he stood up on the Day of Pentecost and quoted the Latter Rain promise of Joel 2:23 as an explanation of the present experience of the New Covenant. Peter was minded that this indicated the full restoration of the Jews! A cursory overview of Acts demonstrates this.
In Acts 1, the apostles were under the strong impression that the Kingdom was about to be restored to physical Israel and therewith all the promises of the restoration [the restitution] would be fulfilled (Acts 1:6). This is to be expected seeing that they were the of the Jews. Even after 40 days, the question went unanswered: “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Even so, the Upper Room was filled with 120 fervent disciples of Jesus (Acts 1:13) and “these all continued with one accord in prayer and in supplication” (Acts 1:14) …and what were they waiting for? They were asking for what they were waiting for as Jesus had commanded them, saying, “wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). They were waiting for the Baptism of the Holy Ghost as foretold by John (Mk. 1:8, Acts 1:5), the man who was the Voice Crying in the Wilderness (John 1:23) according to Isaiah 40, and according to Isaiah this meant: “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him” (Isa. 40:10).
Hence, upon the Outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2, Peter arose and preached on the Latter Rain (Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:16-21), the Sure Mercies of David (Acts 2:25-28), and the foretold era of redemption pertaining to the Davidic Throne (Acts 2:34-35). This of course meant the full restoration of the Kingdom of Israel according to the prophecies, one of them being Ps. 110:1-7 (which Peter was quoting in Acts 2:34-35). Peter was rife with expectation as he mused upon the Latter Rain outpouring of the Presence of God (speaking of it in Acts 3:19-21), even while acknowledging that Jesus was the Headstone of Zerubbabel in Acts 4:11 (Zech. 4:7)! Moreover, in Acts 4 the apostles were united in expectation as they beheld the manifestation of Psalm 2:1-2 (Acts 4:25-26). Being filled with awe at what was about to take place according to Psalm 110:1-7 (Acts 2:34-35) & Psalm 2:9-12 (Acts 4:25-26), the apostles prayed with extraordinary wonderment! My reader, can anyone doubt what was bearing upon Peter’s mind at such a time as this?
Peter was unknowledgeable of the era of the Gentiles at this point in time (what we now call the Gentile Church Age), and he will continue to be until Acts 10. In other words, Peter was unknowledgeable that the present generation of Jews would ultimately refuse God and reject the means of restoration, which in turn meant that the Kingdom wouldn’t be restored to Israel as the apostles had hoped. This is not ignorance on the part of the apostles. Rather, this is because the apostles were appointed to strive with the Jews for the restoration of the Kingdom for the making of a written account of why God was turning to the Gentiles in a change of mind towards the Jews.