Topical Studies

Guest Article: James and the Last Days

I am happy to share with our visitors an excellent article by John Carlisto, a fairly new preterist. John has been a minister, but was terminated for his views on eschatology. John has appeared on Two Guys and A Bible radio program, with William Bell and Don K. Preston. You can find that program archived at www.fulfilledradio.com. Be sure to check that out.

Below, you will find an article on James and the Last Days, that should be helpful to anyone investigating the topic of the Last Days. Be sure tor read my book, The Last Days Identified, for an extensive discussion. For now, read John’s helpful article.

James and the Last Days?

The epistle of James is a great source for a practical study that encourages endurance through tribulation, ethical living, and a pure heart before God.  In addition it is also another epistle that can provide a lot of help to the 21st century student to understand the unique times of the first-century. Because we cannot possibly attempt to make the proper application of scripture until we understand the way in which it would have been understood to its original audience, the book of James is crucial. 

The first thing that must be observed about this letter is that it was specifically written to Jews living in the first century. James begins by addressing the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (1:1). Some have suggested that James is writing to “spiritual Israel”, i.e. the church, but the nature of the book implies that James had in mind ethnic Jews who had either converted to Christ or were rebellious against the Lord.    

It may also be concluded that the term of endearment, brethren, in verse two suggests that his audience was solely Christians, but this term is often times used to refer to a fellow Jew (see Matt. 5:47; Acts 2:29; Acts 3:22; Acts 7:2; Acts 9:17; Rom. 1:13; Rom. 7:4). While we today use “brethren” in the religious sense to refer to only Christians, in the first century there was still a very important emphasis placed on physical Israel because their favor with God and economy was approaching its last days.  In this light even Paul, messenger to the Gentiles, proclaimed that the gospel should go “to the Jew first, and to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

It makes sense that James would write to his fellow Hebrew brethren because he was apparently one of the elders and pillar of faith at Jerusalem (Acts 21:18; Gal. 2:9).  While Paul and others were to seek out Gentiles, the work in Jerusalem was still focused on physical Israel (Gal. 2:9). Consequently, the book of James should be approached more like a pamphlet that was designed to be distributed to non-believing Jews as well as those who had accepted the gospel. This clarifies some of the harsh rebuking language that accuses its readers of being an envious and strife-motivated people that were fighting and killing their own brethren—qualities that were characteristic of Israel (3:14-4:3; 5:6; Matt. 13).  In fact, one of the reoccurring themes of Christ during his ministry was to expose the evil motives of many Jews and the blood that was on their hands because they were uncircumcised in heart. 

James tells these wicked Hebrews to cleanse themselves and humbly repent if they wanted to be lifted up (4:4-10). This language is specifically an instruction to a people outside of fellowship with God.  This is not just a confession of sins by a well-intended people as we see in 1 John 1:7-9. James is speaking to arrogant and double-minded men with defiled hearts and guilty hands that needed to become contrite and mourn over their wickedness if they were going to draw near to God (4:8-10). These are the same Jews that James tells us are living their lives in pursuit of wealth, inconceivably even while the day of their judgment is drawing near (4:13-5:1). James is writing to the same men who were building up their financial portfolio on the backs of laborers whom they were cheating (5:4).  Yet, these very same men were only fattening themselves up for a slaughter that would be distributed upon many of the reader of this letter in the last days (5:3-5). This must be a reference to that portion of the Jews that had not embraced Christianity but went about to suborn false witnesses and execute their brethren who had adopted Christ.    

So, then the question is—when would this coming slaughter take place?  Again, one of the time indicators is in the last days (5:3).  [Without making a case in this study, suffice it to say that the term “last days”, in the B
ible, only ever references the time from Christ birth to the destruction on Jerusalem in 70 AD.]  With that in mind, James describes for us a little about the last days under consideration.  Men to whom this letter (written probably between 60-63 AD) was originally addressed were then building up treasures for these last days (5:3).  This reckoning could not have been delivered after their treasures were dispersed to their heirs.  The Lord of Sabaoth (host, armies) was presently hearing the cries of his persecuted people (5:4).  The context is clearing that the Lord was listening with a longsuffering that was fading.  These carnal men had nourished themselves for a day of slaughter (5:5).  This judgment could not possibly be poured out when they were no longer in their moral bodies.  To the church they are told to wait patiently for the coming of the Lord (5:7).  The idea of patience during persecution indicates a forthcoming time of rest to which they could look forward.  What kind of comfort would this message offer if Christ arrived beyond their lifetime and the lifetime of their persecutors? Then finally the brethren are told that Christ’s coming is drawing near and that He is standing at the door (5:8,9). There can be no other way to interpret this text but that the coming of Christ was imminent. The very next thought is considering the patience of Job.  Job was a man who suffered persecution by Satan himself, but endured until his faith was perfected and God, in his compassion, brought Job relief and restored his health and wealth. 

Spiritually, the church has been established, restored, and strengthened.  We ought to feel grateful that God saw fit to fortify the church in such a miraculous and wonderful way.  We ought to feel further grateful that we do not have to live during the days of the great tribulation that many of our brethren suffered. We are not like the initial audience of James’s pen.  They awaited victory while daily being slaughter by vicious and powerful people.  We live in the days of victory!  We live in the age that was to come—beyond the last days.  To God be the glory.

John Carlisto                               

 

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