Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Day of the Lord

      While the return of Christ is sometimes referred to as "the day of the Lord" (2 Pet. 3:10), the same expression is used elsewhere in scripture with reference to several other days of the Lord’s judgment. It is a mistake to overlook the historical and literary contexts in which this phrase is so often used.
     1. Babylon (Isaiah 13:1-22). This was a message of doom against Babylon (vv. 1, 19), delivered around 700 BC. It was called "the day of the Lord" (vv. 6, 9). The instrument of the Lord’s judgment was "from a far country" (v. 5), identified as "the Medes" (v. 17). It cannot refer to the final day of the Lord, since "everyone will flee to his own land" (v. 14), even the children will suffer (vv. 16, 18), houses will be plundered and wives ravished (v. 16), etc. The heavenly bodies failing to give light (v. 10) symbolically depicts this as a dark, terrible day of destruction. These symbols are no more literal than the statement, "every man’s heart will melt" (v. 7). This prophecy was fulfilled in 538 BC.
     2. Edom or Idumea (Isaiah 34:5-12; Obadiah 1-21). Isaiah describes the destruction of Edom as "the day of the Lord’s vengeance" (34:8). Obadiah calls it "the day of the Lord" (15). After suffering intensely at the hands of the Babylonians, the Edomites were driven out of their homeland by the Nabatean Arabs during the 4th century BC. They were forced to adopt Judaism by John Hyracanus in 120 BC, and had vanished from history before the end of the 1st century AD. These prophecies were fulfilled.
     3. Northern-Israel (Amos 5:1-27). This message concerns the punishment of the northern kingdom of Israel, described as "the day of the Lord" (vv. 18, 20). This prophecy was fulfilled in 722 BC when the Assyrians led Israel away into captivity.
     4. Southern-Judah. Because of their wickedness, the southern kingdom of Judah was to be punished, along with the destruction of their principal city, Jerusalem. The Babylonians were the instruments of God’s judgment, and this was described by Jeremiah as "the day of the Lord’s anger" (Lam. 1:12; 2:1, 21-22); by Ezekiel as "the day of the wrath of the Lord" (7:19) and "the day of the Lord" (13:5); and by Zephaniah as "the day of the Lord"(1:7), "the great day of the Lord" (1:14-18), and "the day of the Lord’s anger" (2:2-3). This judgment was accomplished around 586 BC.
     5. Egypt (Jer. 46:1-28; Ezekiel 29:1 - 32:32). The Lord’s judgment against Egypt was called by Ezekiel, "the day of the Lord" (30:3), and by Jeremiah, "the day of the Lord God of hosts" (46:10). The instrument of God’s wrath was identified as Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians (Jer. 46:2, 13, 26; Ezek. 30:10). This was fulfilled in 568 BC.
     6. Jerusalem. Having been rebuilt after the Babylonian exile, Jerusalem (the center of Judaism) was destined to be destroyed again, this time by the Romans in AD 70. Zechariah called it "the day of the Lord," when "all nations" [Rome = the world empire] were to gather "against Jerusalem to battle" (14:1-2). Joel also called it "the day of the Lord" (1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14). This judgment was to be against "the inhabitants of the land" (1:2, 14; 2:1), the city of Zion (2:1, 9, 15), and the temple (1:9, 13-16); and the New Jerusalem or spiritual Israel was to emerge for all nations (2:27; 3:17-21; cf. Gal. 6:15-16; Heb. 12:22-23). When was this to occur? In Acts 2:16-21 Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 and applies it to events that were taking place as he spoke. The Spirit was poured out on the Jewish apostles in AD 30 (Acts 2:1 ff.) and on Gentile men and women approximately ten years later (Acts 10:1-48), and Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, thus completing the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. Malachi foretold that before "the great and dreadful day of the Lord," Elijah would come to help the Jews "remember the law of Moses" and to restore family relationships (4:1-6). This was fulfilled in John the baptist (Luke 1:16-17; Matt. 3:1 ff.; etc.), about forty years prior to Jerusalem’s destruction. 

     7. Christ’s return (Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:5; 1 Cor. 1:8; 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2; 1 Pet. 2:12; 2 Pet. 2:9; 3:7-12; 1 John 4:17; et al.). This has yet to be accomplished, but with the proven track record of the fulfillment of the other days of the Lord, we can have confidence that this one will also certainly come to pass!

Addendum: Symbolism of God’s Past Judgments
     When the violent overthrow of a nation was predicted in the OT and was referred to as the day of the Lord’s judgment, common symbols were used to vividly describe the event. When the sun, moon, and stars were said to be darkened, this figuratively depicted God’s judgment as a dark day of despair (Isa. 13:10; Amos 5:8, 18, 20; Lam. 3:2, 6; Zeph. 1:15; Ezek. 30:18; 32:7-8; Zech. 14:6; Joel 2:2, 10, 31). Earthquakes and constellations falling from heaven symbolized divine judgment and the fall of a powerful nation (Isa. 13:13; 34:4; Ob. 4; Lam. 2:1; Joel 2:10). Fire and blood were common symbols of devastation (Isa. 13:8; 34:3-10; Ob. 18; Amos 5:6; Lam. 1:13; 2:3, 4; 4:11, 13, 14; Zeph. 1:17,18; Jer. 46:10; Ezek. 30:8, 14, 16; 32:6; Joel 1:19-20; 2:3, 5, 30, 31; Mal. 4:1). Since the first six "days of the Lord" mentioned above have all been fulfilled in history, it is a mistake to literalize the symbolism of these prophecies and to ignore their immediate and historical contexts.
--Kevin L. Moore

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