Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What is the day of the Lord?

As mentioned in my previous post, not all pretribulationists agree on when the day of the Lord begins. There is also disagreement as to its scope and whether it includes the Millennium or not. For my purpose, I want to concentrate on when the day of the Lord actually begins because most rapture believers agree that it contains God’s wrath and the church is not destined to see His wrath.

Most often when people quote verses relating to the day of the Lord they’ll appeal to Joel 2:31 and Joel 3:14-15. Frequently these verses are associated with the cosmic signs of the 6th seal and Matt 24:29. For these people, the day of the Lord is the time of God’s wrath and is a distinct period within the last half of Daniel’s 70th week, or at the end. Some believe the day of the Lord begins at the 7th seal some time after the Abomination of Desolation. Many hold similar views but they do not see the seals occurring chronologically and so, according to their system, the day of the Lord occurs at the end of the week.

If we were to take the day of the Lord as a single event ONLY occurring AFTER the mid-point of the 70th week, we come to what I consider to be contradictions in Scripture. I struggle to see how an event with all the precursors we see in Revelation can be imminent or sudden and yet harmonize with what Paul is telling us in the following verses:

1Th 5:1-6 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

To summarize what Paul is saying: The day of the Lord will come like a thief – a thief takes something away and comes suddenly without announcement. The thief idea also occurs in Rev 16:15 but in that verse we do not have the same surprise element of Thess. Some see this remark as a parenthesis. Paul tells us that the day of the Lord comes when they are saying “peace and safety”, which is not occurring at Rev 16:15. Note that Paul also associates the destruction with the beginning of labor pains.

In Matt 24:8 the Lord mentions birth pangs occurring long before the Abomination of Desolation. In light of that, the birth pangs may be associated with the DotL and labor pains of 1 Thes 5. Can the earth dwellers be experiencing peace and safety after the Abomination of Desolation or post mid-week? Two main views have the DotL occurring after that event. An end of the week DotL has to occur after the gathering of the armies for the Armageddon campaign. And both post mid-week DotL versions occur after the 2nd seal where Scripture clearly tells us that peace is taken from the earth.

Rev 6:3-4 When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come." And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.

If we take both Rev 6:3-4 and 1 Thes 5:1-6 literally, then some aspect of the DotL must occur BEFORE the 2nd seal. One can try to stretch the timing of the seal within the framework of one’s presuppositions but the problem cannot be avoided. One should also note that the results of the 2nd seal are non-discriminatory and therefore include believers and unbelievers alike.

Problems also emerge for those who hold the DotL occurs at the 7th seal, regardless of where they place it within the 70th week.

Rev 6:15-17 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"

Some translations have “is come”. The claim is that the unbelievers are crying out in terror at the expectation that wrath of God/DotL is about to come (7th seal). In my opinion this has at least three problems:

One is of a linguistic nature – the expression the great day of his wrath is come is in the indicative mood with the augment. According to Dana and Mantey “A Manual Grammar of the Greek new Testament” pp 193-94, normally, that kind of aorist tense verb refers to an occurrence of that event in the past unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. A T Robertson and R L Thomas concur. See Showers’ “Maranatha – Our Lord, Come”. My position is that the unbelievers are simply reacting to what has just transpired and in light of what has been happening in the previous seal judgments. Therefore the wrath of God is present at that stage.

The next problem is that the statement is made by unbelievers who are in darkness (I Thess 5:4) and John is only quoting them, so it cannot be accepted without analysis.

Finally, given that they are terrified unbelievers (no peace and safety) and - according to Paul – in darkness, how could they possibly prophesy the 7th seal coming wrath of God/DotL and still harmonize literally with the 1 Thess 5:1-6? This is a contradiction.

The grouping of Joel 2:31, 3:14-15, Matt 24:29 and Rev 6:12-17 as a single event also has some problems:

We learn from Joel 3:14 that armies are gathering in the valley of decision before the day of the Lord. At the 6th seal we see the earth dwellers hiding in caves and among the rocks - NOT gathering for battle. No armies are said to be gathering there between the 6th and 7th seals. The only place where we read that the armies begin to gather in Revelation is at the 6th bowl (Rev 16:12-14). Any argument for a gathering of the armies between the 6th and 7th seals is speculation. It also contradicts the requirements for a harmonization of 1 Thes 5:1-6 and Rev 6:3-4. If armies are gathering for war at that time (before the DotL) then there isn’t any peace and safety.

Finally, a sequential and chronological order for Revelation has problems for those who see the cosmic signs of Rev 6, Matt 24 and Joel 3 as the same event because the Lord says “after the tribulation of those days”, yet the great tribulation lasts for three and a half years.

So there seems to be contradictions with comparing Scriptures describing the day of the Lord. Sometimes a narrow view is quite appropriate yet at other times it doesn’t fit. What’s the answer? I think a possible solution is that the term “day of the Lord” is not always meant to depict a narrow, single-day event.

“In itself, ‘the Day of the Lord’ is a general and comprehensive expression for the consummation of God’s purpose, alike in victory and judgment.” J. A.T. Robinson “Jesus and His coming” p 19

“It is a day that is a special time; and it is the Day of the Lord, belongs to Him, is His time for working, for manifesting Himself, for displaying His character, for performing His work – His strange work upon the earth…” A. B. Davidson “The Theology of the Old Testament in International Theological Library” p 374

"Though the 'Day of the Lord,' as the expression implies, was at first conceived as a definite and brief period of time, being an era of judgment and salvation, it many times broadened out to be an extended period. From being a day it became an epoch." A B Davidson “Theology of the Old Testament” p 381

J Barton Payne (The Theology of the Older Testament p 464): “The comprehensive phrase, by which the Old Testament describes God’s intervention in human history for the accomplishment of His testament is yom Yahweh, “the day of Yahweh’”

E W Bullinger in referring to the day of the Lord of Joel 2:31, “It is called ‘the great and terrible day of the Lord’, as if though it were the climax of the whole period known as ‘the day of the Lord.’”

The term “the great and terrible day of the Lord” of Joel 2 applies to Joel 3. Mal 4:5 also uses the term “the great and terrible day of the LORD” to describe the same event.

Given this, Dr Renald Showers in his book “Maranatha – Our Lord, Come” postulates (in agreement with other scholars) that there are two aspects of the day of the Lord. The broad aspect is when He begins to sovereignly inaugurate His program with the opening of the first seal - while the narrow aspect is the culmination of the great and terrible day of the Lord that we see in Joel.

In other words it’s like a teacher telling a student to prepare for an exam which will occur on a day yet to be revealed. All the student is told, at that point, is that the “terrible” exam will take place at 3:00 PM on that day. One day at 9:00 AM the student suddenly notices that the teacher is setting up the room where the exam will take place. So at 9:00 AM of that day, it is still exam day but the “terrible” exam does not commence until 3:00 PM.

The opening of the first seal is the beginning of the labor pains that are associated with the suddenness of the broad day of the Lord. Let’s look at some of the relevant verses again:

Mat 24:8 "But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

1Th 5:2-3 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

Rev 6:4 And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.

Further reading:

The Day of the Lord

Analysis of the Use of Cosmic-Sign Passages




GT said...

Thanks for starting this blog on eschatology, I will bookmark it and follow along. I know I will learn much here. Your first posting are interesting already. I have been reading may "versions" of theories on this subject lately also. God Bless you brother for your work and dedication in keeping these blogs going!!


mac said...

Thanks for the encouragement, GT.

As I’ve said, I don’t want to be dogmatic and I could be wrong in so many areas. There’s no verse in Scripture that is an iron-clad guarantee for any of the rapture views. I just think pre-trib addresses all the issues better than the others – contrary to some of its critics.

Irv said...


Guess what. If you can figure out when the "sudden destruction" of wicked persons takes place in I Thess. 5:3 (and also when "death" is ended in I Cor. 15:54), you will know where to place the rapture on your prophecy chart because those passages talk about the "times and seasons" (and also the "when" and "then") of the rapture. Neat, huh? And if you would like to locate the ONE article that Ice, Jeffrey, Missler, Strandberg, Lindsey, LaHaye, Van Impe, Hagee, and Swaggart don't want you to read, visit the "Powered by Christ Ministries" site and click on "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" !

mac said...

Irv, you should carefully reread my article re I Thess 5:3

1Th 5:2-3 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

Labor pains? See Mat 24:8 “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” Then take a good look at the seal judgments. Is there peace and safety after the second seal?

I’m not really sure what your point is re 1 Cor 15:54. The last Trump does not correspond to the seventh Trumpet. This point has been addressed at length by many pretribulational AND prewrath rapturists. It might also interest you to know that many preterists use this verse to support their own view. Besides that, death does not cease at the rapture as it continues through the Millennium until the Eternal State.

As for the “Powered by Christ Ministries” website – I’ve already been there. It should really be called “Powered by Gossip Ministries”. You know very well that what you do is classified as spamming. The same message you posted is plastered all over the internet by different people. I mean how many people really bother putting a dot after Cor and Thess.

The really sad thing is that I wrote an article on my other blog addressing Gay Marriage and fully expected to receive lots of flak over it. But I didn’t get one negative comment. Yet when I write a pre-trib article I get you. It seems that defending pretribulationism is more politically incorrect than speaking out against homosexuality. That has to tell you something.