Our study of the Zechariah 14 and the prediction of the coming of Lord with his saints has taken us to several NT prophecies, including the powerful little epistle of Jude. Be sure to read the previous article and our discussion of the correlation between Jude and Zechariah 14, here.
As we demonstrated in the previous article Jude undoubtedly affirmed that he and his audience was experiencing the direct fulfillment of both the OT prophecies of the last days, and the apostolic warnings of the last days. There is no “far off” perspective in Jude!
Zechariah 14 and the “Last Days”
Contra Gentry, Frost, some other Dominionists, and the Amillennialists, Jude’s perspective of the last days was not one of an extended period of time. (Gentry and Frost are at odds, not only with scripture in their definition of the last days, but, they differ radically from DeMar, McDurmon, Leithart, etc. who correctly identify the first century generation as the last days– the last days of Israel’s Covenant age).
Frost argues: “The latter days ends with the last day (John is obviously playing off the phrase ‘last days’.) The resurrection is the last day. There are no more days after this).” (Sam Frost, Why I Left Full Preterism, Powder Springs, GA., American Vision, 2012)23. Frost’s “argument” is an incredibly bad bit of logic. Consider the following:
If (to pose a hypothetical argument) the “last days” is referent to the last days of Old Covenant Israel, then since the last days would have a “last day”, it is not only possible, but logically necessary for the Old Covenant age to have a “last day” after which the Old Covenant had “no more days after this.” When you couple this with the fact that both Gentry and Frost admit that there was “a resurrection” in fulfillment of Daniel 12 in AD 70, then what do we have? We have resurrection on “the last day” climaxing the “last days!”
It is a violation of the text of Jude to suggest he was looking into the far distant future. Furthermore, if, as we have established, Jude was echoing Zechariah 14 and the prediction of the coming of the Lord with the saints, then since Zechariah has no vista beyond the judgment of Jerusalem, it is specious to posit the “last days” coming of Jude into the distant future. The last days were the last days of the Old Covenant age of Israel– not some imaginary last days dispensation extending now for two millennia. See my book The Last Days Identified for an excellent study on the identity and definition of the last days.
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DeMar comments on the last days: “In AD 70 the ‘last days’ ended with the dissolution of the temple and sacrificial system. A similar pronouncement is made in 1 Peter 1: 20… Gordon Clark writes of the meaning Peter gives to the ‘last days’; ‘The last days,’ which so many people think refers to what is still future at the end of this age, clearly means the time of Peter himself. 1 John 2:18 says it is, in his day, ‘the last hour.’ Acts 2:17 quotes Joel as predicting the last days as the life time of Peter.” (Last Days Madness, Powder Springs, Ga, American Vision, 1994,)26-28, 349).
McDurmon adds, commenting on Hebrews 8: “As he wrote, in his time, the Old was becoming obsolete and was ready to vanish away. It has not yet been completely wiped out, but was certainly in its dying moments. It died in AD 70, when the symbol and ceremonies of that Old System– the Temple and the sacrifices– were completely destroyed by the Roman armies. This was the definitive moment when “this age’ of Jesus and Paul ended and completely gave way to their ‘age to come.’ This, of course, is exactly why Jesus tied ‘the end of the age’ to His prophecy of the destruction of the Temple.” (Joel McDurmon, Jesus V Jerusalem, (Powder Springs, Ga, American Vision, 2011)47. You can order this book from my website.
He also says on 2 Timothy 3: “For Paul, everything he said about these decadent persons was meant to be immediately instructive to his audience at that time. It is fairly clear even in 2 Timothy that the references pertain to thee rise of false teachers that had already come among them then (see 2 Timothy 2:16-17). Thus, his warnings about false teachers in 2 Timothy 3 have reference to problems the Church faced already at that time. Thus, ‘the last days’ pertained to them already… This grows even clearer from other Scripture references to ‘the last days.’ Hebrews 1:2 makes it absolutely undeniable that the last days were expiring then, at the time the letter was being written.” (2011, 198).
DeMar and McDurmon are clearly correct. The view of Gentry and Frost is a theological invention, made necessary by a preconceived idea of the last days narrative. Of course, DeMar and McDurmon inconsistently still maintain a futurist eschatology. But, if you deny that the Christian age is the “last days” then logically and Biblically, you have no ground whatsoever for such a futurist perspective.
As we have seen, Jude contains another of those important prophecies of the coming of the Lord with his saints, just as Zechariah 14 foretold. He reminded his audience that the OT prophets had foretold exactly what was happening in their midst, with the appearance of the “last days scoffers.” This could only mean that the Day of the Lord, in judgment of those scoffers, was near.
Zechariah 14, Jude and 2 Peter 3
Notice now that Jude says he was reminding his readers of what the apostles had said about scoffers coming in the last days before the coming of the Lord. As numerous scholars have noted, and the most natural understanding of Jude is that Jude was reminding his audience of what Peter said in 2 Peter 3:1-3:
“Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts”
Notice that Peter said he was simply reminding his audience that the scoffers and the Day of the Lord of which he wrote, was foretold by “the holy prophets.” This is a very clear, undeniable reference to the Old Covenant prophets. Be sure to #8” href=”http://donkpreston.com/the-eschatology-of-zechariah-14-the-coming-of-the-lord-with-his-saints-8/” target=”_blank”>read the previous article in which we set forth Isaiah 28:16f as one of the clearest examples of an OT prophecy of the last days coming of the Lord when the scoffers would reject and deny that work.
Keep in mind that in 1 Peter 1:10-12, Peter tells us that the OT prophets who spoke of the coming of the Lord for salvation– the coming of the Lord of Zechariah 14 for instance– were informed that the events they foretold were not for their day. They were far off. Yet, Peter affirmed that the time foretold by all of the OT prophets had arrived in the first century (Acts 3:21-24). He tells us in 1 Peter that those OT prophets spoke of the work of the Spirit in Peter’s day.
Notice that Peter says the OT prophets foretold the appearance of the scoffers in the last days. Now, Frost and other commentators ignore the context of Peter and turn this into a reference to modern uniformitarians, or simply skeptics, who deny the very idea of the parousia of Christ. Commenting on 1 Timothy 4, and those who would abandon the faith in the last days, Frost says: “How can this not be descriptive of each generation since Paul wrote these words?” (2012, 23). Perhaps Frost should ask DeMar or McDurmon to explain the concept of proper hermeneutic, and the idea of audience relevance, since he seems to have forgotten what it means.
So, who were the scoffers that Peter says were foretold by the OT prophets? I think Leithart explains it well:
Leithart says that the scoffers are the false teachers of 2 Peter 2 who are in turn those who say they are Jews but are liars. (The Promise of His Coming, Moscow, Id, Canon Press, 2004)84. Clearly, when one reads 2 Peter 2, the scoffers were not far off, and they are not described as an endless succession of scoffers throughout the generations. They were present, right then. Furthermore, in 2 Peter 2:1-2, the apostle undeniably affirms that the judgment of those scoffers was near. As Bauckham notes, the language of 2 Peter 2, which says the false teachers (scoffers) would bring on themselves “swift destruction”, “Does not mean ‘sudden,’ but ‘coming soon, imminent.” (Richard Bauckham, Word Biblical Commentary, Jude, 2 Peter, (Waco, Tx, Word Publishers, 1983)241.
So, the scoffers of 2 Peter 3 are the false teachers of 2 Peter 2. The false teachers of chapter 2 were facing imminent judgment. Therefore, the scoffers of 2 Peter 3 were facing imminent judgment– at the Day of the Lord.
Leithart argues that the question of the scoffers and their challenge: “Where is the promise of his coming” is parallel to several OT passages in which judgment was predicted against Israel, but there was a “delay” and the scoffers were asking “where is your God?” He lists Jeremiah 17:5; Psalms 79:9-12; Joel 2:17, Malachi 2:17, etc.. (Ibid).
Consider one of Paul’s messages, in Acts 13. As he preached in the synagogue of Antioch of Pisidia, he offered the gospel to the Jews first. They rejected that offer, even though Paul documented that God was, right then in the first century, fulfilling the promises He had made to the Fathers of old. In spite of that evidence, that audience rejected the gospel, causing Paul to say:
“Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: “Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.’” (Acts 13:40f)
This is an amazing text that corresponds perfectly with 2 Peter 3. (See my book The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, for an excellent discussion of the “scoffers.” Peter did not have in mind an endless succession of scoffers, generation after generation. This is a specious claim that violates the text).
Notice that Paul warns his audience against rejecting the Word of the Lord, by citing Habakkuk. The message of that prophet was that the Day of the Lord was coming. It would be the Babylonian invasion of Judea, with the attendant destruction of Jerusalem, when, by the way, the “heaven and earth” would be laid desolate (Jeremiah 4:24f)! Sound familiar?
But, there were those who scoffed at the idea (cf. Jeremiah 6:14f), denying that the Lord would bring judgment on His people (cf. Jeremiah 7). Paul, in Acts is warning his audience that if they rejected the message of the Lord, and scoffed at it as their forefathers had, they would be subject to the same kind of covenantal judgment as those in Habakkuk!
One cannot help but notice the parallel with Zechariah 14, where the coming of the Lord against Jerusalem is, without doubt, a covenantal judgment (cf. Zechariah 11)! So, the connection between 2 Peter 2-3 and Acts 13 is very strong.
In Acts 13 Paul warns his Jewish audience that failure to accept Jesus as Messiah would result in covenantal judgment. If they scoffed at the work of God in their midst, they would perish just like their brethren who perished in the Day of the Lord of BC 586.
Be sure to see Peter’s similar warning in Acts 3:19f where he warns the audience that rebellion against the prophet like Moses would result in being “cut off out from among the people”! This is covenantal judgment! And now, in 2 Peter 2-3 Peter is writing about those who were denying the work of God taking place in their generation. But, judgment was coming on them soon.
Peter, just like Jude, had a contemporary situation in mind. Remember, Jude says that what the apostles had foretold about the scoffers was being fulfilled which is why he had to write his letter! The reality was so pressing, so urgent, that he had to foregoe writing an epistle that he wanted to write to address that crisis.
That theological emergency was taking place– in fulfillment of OT prophecy and in fulfillment of what the apostles said. It necessitated this urgent epistle. To ignore, or seek to mitigate that urgency, that imminence, exhibits a regrettable willingness to ignore the language of the text.
Now, if 2 Peter 2-3 has Zechariah 14 in the background– while admittedly not quoting the prophecy directly– then there is really no excuse for positing 2 Peter 3– or Jude– into a distant future, and make it predictive of generations after generations of scoffers.
In our next installment, we will examine the coming of the Lord with his saints- as foretold in Zechariah 14– as that thought is set forth in Revelation. Stay tuned!