Is The Day of the Lord Near?
Peter records that they did not prophesy for their time, but for a future generation. Abraham, who likewise saw the day of the Lord, (John 8:56),
saw it afar off (Heb. 11:13).
On the other hand, some in the New Testament saw the day of the Lord as having occurred as early as the mid-first century. (2 Thess 2:1).
Why is there such a wide span of time related to the day of the Lord? How can this time span as early as the first century to as long as some time in our future?
Such uncertainty creates endless speculations both about the veracity of end time prophecy and the time in which the event would occur.
Understanding the Day of the Lord
How can we come to any degree of sanity or certainty in our understanding? It’s not difficult. It simply takes a little thought, careful reading of the text, and clear thinking.
As we delve into the subject, let’s get a few of the intellectual and textual obstacles before us.
First, it is said that know one knows the day or the hour of the Lord’s return. So isn’t the attempt to know when it happens an exercise in futility?
Secondly, the Lord’s coming is said to be like a thief in the night. Thieves are not in the habit of pre-announcing their arrival, for fear that the owner may be waiting to surprise them.
There are six indicators of the Lord’s return that help us to identify the time without violating either of the requirements above. They answer the question of is the day of the Lord near?
Once these are understood, the mystery about the time of the “”day of the Lord vanishes. The following indicators help to pinpoint the time with a reasonable degree of certainty.
Signs Pointing to the Day of the Lord
- The coming of Elijah the prophet.Malachi announced that Elijah would appear before the coming of the day of the Lord,
(Malachi 4:5, 6)The New Testament records that Elijah isJohn the Baptist. Luke 1:16, 17; Matt. 11:11,17:11–13. This is a first century event.
- The coming of the Holy Spirit.Joel prophesied that the Holy Spirit would be poured out in the last days before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Peter affirms that 50 days after Jesus was crucified, the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost of A.D. 30 as precursor to the end.
- “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pourout of My Spirit on all flesh. . . The sun shall be turned in to darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. . . (Acts 2:16–20).
- The world-wide preaching of the gospel. Another sign that the day of the Lord was at hand in the apostles day was the world-
wide spread of the gospel.“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
The apostles affirmed the gospel was in fact preached to all the world in their day before Jerusalem fell. (Rom. 1:5; 10:18, 16:26, Col. 1:5, 6, 23).
Those who object to the gospel going to all the world in the first century, fail to recognize that “all the world” used in context referred to the Roman empire, per Luke 2:1, 2).
- The abomination of desolation.Daniel predicted the abomination of desolation, i.e. the profaning of the temple in Jerusalem before the time of the end.Jesus announces Daniel’s prophecy relates to the subject of the destruction of Jerusalem.“Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation,’ spoken of By Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Mt. 24:15)What is significant here is that this Luke ties this same prophecy to the day of the Lord, Luke 17:30, 31).“Even so will it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his good are in the house, let him not come down to take them away…In chapter 21, Luke connects all points in connection with the Roman invasion and desolation of Jerusalem, (Luke 21:20–22).
- The great apostasy.In response to the Thessalonicans’ “trigger happy” enthusiasm, in believing that Christ had come as early as 50 A.D., Paul had to curb their zeal.However, it is significant, that these believers did not see the Lord’s coming as a planet ending event. They recognized that life would continue on earth as usual. Nor did they anticipate Rapture. Yet, Paul had to give them some physical signs
so they weren’t misled. (2 Thess 2:1, 2).
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first…” (2 Thess. 2:3)
The apostasy or falling away is well documented in the New Testament from Galatians, 2 Timothy, Hebrews, 2 Peter, Jude and Revelation.
- The coming of the lawless one, i.e. man of sin.The last sign was the coming of the man of sin, i.e. the lawless one, (2 Thess 2:3).
Paul says the mystery of lawlessness was already at work in his day.Obviously, the Thessalonicans knew by former conversations to whom Paul referred. “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I I told you these things?
And you now what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. (2 Thess 2:5–7) Thus, until they observed the revelation of the apostasy and destruction of the man of sin, they could not conclude that Christ came.
Day of the Lord Clearly Marked for First Century Fulfillment
With all of these signs occurring in the first century, it should be clear why Christ taught the day of the Lord would occur within his generation, (Matt. 24:34).
This also shows why the apostles all taught the day of the Lord was at hand, or imminent in their time, (Rom. 13:11, 12; 1 Cor. 10:11; Gal. 5:5; Phil. 4:5; Hebrews 10:25, 37, James 5:7, 8, 1 Peter 4:5–7, 13, Revelation 1:1–3; 22:6–10).
But now we come to the last question of the day and hour being unknown and coming as a thief in the night.
Very simply, Jesus predicted the “generation” not the day and the hour. There is no contradiction. You can know the generation or “general” time in which an event occurs without knowing the day an hour.
For example, let’s say that your children promised to visit you next year. They have not chose a date booked their flights or made any travel arrangements.
If that’s all the information they gave you, would you know the day and hour they would arrive? No. You’d only know a general time, i.e. that they are coming the next year.
In like manner, Jesus spoke of coming within his generation. Yet, he did not specify the day and hour. Thus, the disciples could know the general time and follow the signs being revealed in their generation.
Lastly, Jesus’ promise to come as a thief was directed not to believers, but to unbelievers. It is the unbelievers who did not recognize the signs.
Why? It’s because they did not believe in him as their Messiah and king. In each of the passages that mention his coming as a thief, he always applies that language to the unbelievers.
When the Lord spoke of his coming as a thief, he referred to the event in Noah’s day, saying that the people continued their every day norms and did not know until the flood came overtaking them.
Likewise, it would be the same when Jesus returned upon that generation, Matt. 24:37–39. Paul says the day of the Lord would not overtake Christians as a thief, but those in darkness. In Revelation, Jesus said, he would come as a thief to those who would not watch. (Rev. 3:3, 16:15).
For more studies on the day of the Lord and Jesus’ first century return, order your copy of The Re-Examination by the author.