The apostles could be sure they were living in the last days because of the testimony of Israel’s prophets through the holy Scriptures.
Isaiah had written:
Isaiah 2:2 Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
Isaiah 2:3 And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Isaiah 2:4 And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.
In this passage, Isaiah is describing what will happen in the last days. Therefore, if the disciples were observing those things happening, they could be sure they were living in the last days. (This sort of assurance is the same sort Jesus gave to John the Baptist in his moment of weakened faith; see Matthew 11:2-6. That is, the Scripture is a more sure word of testimony than anything else; in this regard see also Luke 16:31.)
The apostles knew that “the mountain of the house of the Lord was established as the chief of the mountains” when Jesus was raised from the dead and taken to the right hand of God according to Psalm 2:6 and Psalm 110:1-2. That is, Jesus was installed as the Messianic King in the Zion of heaven – heaven being God’s “holy mountain.” No first-century Jews had been expecting a heavenly Zion to replace the earthly one they knew…but the resurrection and ascension of Christ made the true meaning of the Scripture undeniable – and altogether preferable, to those who truly understood its import.
The apostles knew that “the nations were streaming into it” by their own testimony in Acts 15, especially when they cite Amos 9:11-12 in Acts 15:15-18 as being fulfilled in their experience.
The apostles knew also that the glorified Jesus was pouring out the Holy Spirit on those gathered in His name (as in Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12-14), making known to them God’s words and teaching them God’s ways.
The apostles also knew that Jesus had taught them that the ways of war, practiced by ancient Israel, had become obsolete. Thus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) He put forth a way of life that would not resist evil (see especially Matthew 5:39). As if to dramatically prove the point, He told Peter later in the same gospel to put away his sword when His own life was threatened, saying, “All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” Thereby, Jesus “hammered swords into plowshares.”
It was the nonviolent approach of Jesus – after centuries of fighting by Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, and all the kings of Israel – that dramatically marked an undeniable turning point in Israel’s experience.
Therefore, enough of Isaiah’s prophetic signs were being fulfilled that the apostles could indeed be fully assured that they were living in the last days – the days just before the coming of the Lord.
The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.