There is no question the New Testament has plenty to say about “the end” or the “last days.” There is no question the topic was of great importance to the early Church. Our difficulty is in recognizing what “end” was in view in any given passage. All too often the modern reader makes an assumption: “the end” or “the last days” refer to a still future coming of Christ. Yet, do we arrive at this conclusion because the Bible leads us to do so, or do we allow our extra biblical presuppositions to lead us to that belief? The writers of the New Testament plainly say again and again they were living in the last days, that the time was at hand, and they were living at the end of the ages and so on (Matt. 24:3, 34, Acts 2:16-17, Rom. 13:11, 1 Cor 7:26, 29?30, 10:11, Heb. 1:2, 8:13, 10:25, James 1:1, 5:3, 5:7-9, 1 Peter 1:20 4:7, 1 John 2:17-18 and so on). And, in The Revelation, we read the prophecy is about things “which must shortly take place” and that “the time is near” (Rev. 1:1, 3). Moreover, the first century church in Ephesus is told to repent or Christ “will come to you quickly” (2:5) as is the church in Pergomos (2:16). The early church in Smyrna is warned they were about to suffer tribulation and “the devil is about to throw some of you into prison” (2:10). To the primitive church in Philadelphia Jesus said, “I am coming quickly!” (3:10).
The book of Revelation ends in much the same way. In rapid fire succession we are told the things written in the book “must shortly take place (22:7), and that the “time is at hand” (22:10), while Jesus says, “I am coming quickly” no less than three times in the closing lines of the prophecy (22:7, 12, 20).
Upon examination of the passages we immediately see that each displays a belief that the people then living were in the last days and that for them the end was near at hand. At first glance this may not seem to pose a problem. However, it does force us to make a decision: did the writers of the New testament believe a physical second coming was going to take place (or was possible), in their lifetime (or soon after). Or did they use language that seemed to say one thing but really meant something else? Did the “last days” language refer to something other than a physical second coming of Jesus Christ, some event that truly was close at hand?