In the Last Days

Isaiah spoke a lot of the Messiah, particularly His coming kingdom and reign on the throne of that kingdom. The prophet wrote, “It shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains and exalted above the hills and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2). In prophetic language, “mountain” equals “government”, thus Isaiah predicted that the kingdom of God would be established in the “last days”. However, without more detail to aid us that would not lead to a specific date. Peter said his people lived “in the last days” yet 2,000 years later we live in the “last days” as well.

However, the period of the last days can be narrowed down by more than 1,500 years! In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream God showed him a vision of five kingdoms: four earthly and a heavenly kingdom as the fifth. The four earthly kingdoms would rise and fall but God’s would last forever. It would begin during the time of the four earthly kingdoms. Daniel 2:44 says, “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed”. While “in the days of these kings” would allow the kingdom to be set up during the time of any of them, that was not the case for the Lord was specific. The stone that struck the image of the four kingdoms would fall on the feet of that image. The fourth kingdom was Rome, so God would set up His kingdom during the time of the Roman Empire — a time span of 400 or so years.

Furthermore, both John the Baptist and Jesus taught that the “kingdom of heaven was at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). This indicated that since the kingdom of God was yet future, and since the first three kingdoms pictured in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream had come and gone, God’s kingdom must come in the days of Rome, the fourth kingdom, the time in which both John and Jesus preached. If God’s kingdom was not set up during the days of that fourth kingdom, Daniel was a false prophet. The Roman kingdom began 60 years before the Messiah’s birth and extended at least another 300 years after His death. Thus, we have narrowed the period of the kingdom’s establishment to a period of about 400 years.

The establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom can be narrowed to a window much lower than this. Jesus promised the apostles, “Verily, I say unto you, there are some here of them who stand by that shall not taste of death till they see the kingdom come with power” (Mark 9:1). This passage shows that the kingdom would come during the lifetime of some of His apostles. He indicated that not all the apostles would live to see that kingdom come and He was right! Judas killed himself before it began. So while we can narrow the beginning of the kingdom to 60 or 70 years (which would have meant that some of the apostles would have been nearly 100 years old before they died), can we establish exactly what day the kingdom began?

The pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the coming kingdom were both to be “in the last days” (Joel 2:28; Isaiah 2:2). Both the coming of the Spirit and the coming of the kingdom was to be “with power” (Acts 1:8; Mark 9:1). The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost. Peter said of its advent, “This is that which hath been spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). Thus, if the Spirit came on Pentecost, the power came on Pentecost. And if the power came on Pentecost, the kingdom also came on Pentecost for the kingdom was to come when the power came.

The Messiah’s kingdom is spiritual, unlike the kingdoms of men. Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Christ’s kingdom is His church. Hebrew Christians came to the church, but they received the kingdom (Hebrews 12:23, 28). Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, but those in the  church were in the kingdom (Colossians 1:1, 13). John wrote to the seven churches of Asia but identified himself as partakers with them in “the tribulation and kingdom” (Revelation 1:2, 9).

The church and the kingdom are not two different entities. The church is the kingdom and the kingdom is the church. Christ is the head of the church; He is also the king of the kingdom (Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Timothy 6:15). The kingdom was prepared before the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34); the church was built according to an eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:8-11). The kingdom is entered by a new birth, born of water and spirit (John 3:5); one is baptized into the one body (1 Corinthians 12:13). If the time can be determined when the church began, one has learned when the kingdom began because both are the same. Can we determine when the church the began? 

Acts 10 tells of the conversion of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. The conversion of Cornelius is fully recorded because God’s promise was that the blessings of Christ would be experienced by all flesh (both Jew and Gentile). Cornelius’s conversion shows that they were. The record tells how Cornelius, a devout believer in God but not yet in Christ was instructed by an angel to send men to Joppa, find a man named Peter, and hear words from him as to how he could be saved (Acts 10:1-8). Meanwhile, God revealed a vision to Peter which showed a sheet with all kinds of creatures, clean and unclean, let down from heaven, which then said, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat”. Peter said, “Not so, Lord, nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth”. God’s response was, “What I have cleansed, call not thou common or unclean” (Acts 10:9-16). The Lord told Peter to go with the men Cornelius sent. Peter obeyed the Lord and when he met Cornelius he told him that while it was unlawful for Jews to enter houses of those of another nation, God had shown him that he should call no man common or unclean (Acts 10:28). Peter preached to Cornelius and an unusual thing occurred: the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his house just as He had fallen on the apostles at Pentecost. And, just as at Pentecost, Cornelius and his house spoke with tongues (Acts 10:34-45).

When Peter returned to Jerusalem, brethren there demanded he explain why he had preached to Gentiles. Acts 11 records the account of that meeting. Peter told how God had instructed Cornelius to send to hear words from him; how God had instructed him to go with Cornelius’ messengers; how he had preached to Cornelius and those assembled with him; and, the startling fall of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius’ household. Peter explained that phenomena in this way: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as on us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). Peter thus indicated when the church or the kingdom began. We now know the beginning. That happened on Pentecost, the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus kept His word: the kingdom was at hand; some hearing Jesus did not die until they saw the kingdom come with power.

The prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, and Joel came true. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit came and the kingdom did too. That kingdom is still here and you, whoever you are, can be a part of it.

Jim McDonald

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