Understanding The Bible
STUDY REFERENCE
Clarence E. Mason's "Earlier New Testament Epistles"
First Thessalonians

SPECIAL NOT ON "THE DAY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST"

BY THE AUTHOR
Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
1971


Special note on "THE DAY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST" (1 Corinthians 1:8)

Formerly Bible teachers of premillennial persuasion carefully distinguished between four DAYS spoken of in Scripture as follows:

  1. MAN'S DAY of vaunted progress, when he prides himself in the accomplishments of the human family, and to that extent feels no need of God or salvation. (The expression is a literal rendering of the AV phrase in 1 Corinthians 4:3: "man's judgment" (lit., "man's day").)
     

  2. The DAY OF CHRIST (Philippians 2:16, etc.) when Christ comes to the air and catches up the Church to heaven, which is the occasion of the evaluation of believers' works at the Judgment Seat of Christ. (See New Scofield note on 1 Corinthians 1:8.)
     

  3. The DAY OF THE LORD (or Jehovah), the period which begins when Christ comes in judgment to the earth (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) and reigns 1000 years with a rod of iron. (See New Scofield note on Revelation 19:19.)
     

  4. The DAY OF GOD (2 Peter 3:12) at the end of the 1000 years when the heavens and earth will be purified by fire (2 Peter 3:7).

While being fully committed to the same order of events as charted above, for a number of reasons an increasing group of premillennial brethren have felt that the partitioning of time by mutually exclusive phrases is arbitrary and unwarranted. Indeed, it leads to needless problems of exposition.

First, it can be shown that some of these terms are not mutually exclusive. For instance, within three consecutive verses (2 Peter 3:10-12) the same event is designated by both the terms "Day of the Lord" and "Day of God." Certainly in that context both are used synonymously.

Second, the thesis is untenable that the term "Day of Christ" is the official and only title used in the N.T. to describe the coming of the Lord to take His Church to heaven and evaluate their deeds at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Indeed, this title is used by only one apostle in just one book and only twice (Philippians 1:10; 2:16), if A the better reading of "Day of the Lord" is adopted for 2 Thessalonians 2:2. It would seem definitely demonstrable that this same event is plainly in view in the following passages where eight different variant phrases using the word "day"
are recorded:
 

  TITLE SCRIPTURE
1. Day of redemption Ephesians 4:30
2. Day of the Lord Jesus 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14
3. Day of Jesus Christ Philippians 1:6
4. that day 2 Timothy 1:12,18; 4:8
5. the day 1 Corinthians 3:13; Romans 13:12
6. Day of the Lord 1 Thessalonians 5:2
7. Day of our Lord Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 1:8 (cp. v.7)
8. Day of Christ Philippians 1:10; 2:16

 
The force of this argument is that there is a well-defined event plainly taught, but it is variously described and not limited to one title. This variety of expression for the same doctrine occurs often in Scripture.

Third, as suggested in the list of terms above, the phrase Day of Christ (and its variants) and Day of the Lord are not always describing a different time. Also, there are good reasons for suggesting that the Day of the Lord must be seen as extending over a longer period than the Scofield definition, beginning with the Rapture of the Church, going through the 70th Week and the 1000 years, and culminating with the purgation of heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:10-12).

Fourth, in this connection, let us look at the term, "the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ." A comparison of 1 Corinthians 1:7 with v.8 shows that on this occasion the title is used of the time of the catching up and rewarding of the saints. May it not well be that this designation is the full title which combines a number of different titles in itself, including most of those listed under the second point above, and particularly combining the terms "Day of Christ" and "Day of the Lord"? Why should not these terms be considered complementary rather than antithetical and mutually exclusive? Probably we have here the same situation as is involved in the varying accounts given in the four Gospels as to what constituted the title over Christ on the Cross. Not one of the Gospels gives the full title. We must put all the Gospel narratives together to obtain that full title, which was:

"This is (Matthew, Luke) Jesus (Matthew, John) of Nazareth (John) the King of the Jews (all)."

Would it not be foolish to argue that the titles were different or contradictory or that they meant various things? Is it not clear that all quoted that part of the title that was appropriate to their emphasis?

While generally Day of Christ and its variants are used concerning the Church, and Day of the Lord comes into the N.T. with heavy overtones from the O.T. concerning God's dealings with Israel and the nations (Zechariah 14:1-4, 9), the difference is not one of time but of emphasis. Very often the two terms may be used of things happening at the same time. So the N.T. takes up all these terms and unites them in a full title "The Day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (who is God). This full title permits an interchange of various parts of the title without limiting any particular phrase to one fixed time. The context of a particular usage will determine the particular group of people, the particular event, and/or the particular point of time under consideration.

To make visual this suggested solution to the problem, the following chart is furnished:



It will be seen by the chart above that the coming of the Lord to take the Church out of the earth is followed by an extended period known in Scripture as the Day of the LORD, which is a condensation of the full title, "The Day of our Lord Jesus Christ." This period extends from the translation of the Church to the creation of the new heavens and new earth after the close of the millennial age, and includes the period of the tribulation, the whole millennium, and the judgments following the millennium. The Day of the Lord is always associated with judgment in Scripture. Beginning at Psalm 2:9, the student may trace the related Scriptures by following the references in the margin of the New Scofield Reference Bible.

The Day of Christ, of Jesus Christ, or of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:8; 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6, 10; 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:2 margin) is that portion within the Day of the Lord in which the Lord is particularly dealing with the Church in heaven while the judgments of the tribulation period are being poured out on the earth.

The Day of God (2 Pet. 3:12) is that portion of the Day of the Lord in which God is judging the heavens and the earth to remove the curse of sin from the universe.

Thus we see that the coming of Christ for the Church releases all the judgments within that period known as the Day of the Lord, or the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As further evidence that there are not just three or four mutually exclusive titles for "days, " as listed in the chart used formerly by premillennial Bible teachers, the following listing will indicate many phrases and uses of "day" (20 in fact). Thus, there are a number of variations for the periods shown on our chart, with the first of these ("my day") referring to Christ, prior to His Cross, as well as His Cross.

VARIOUS "DAYS" MENTIONED BY THE NEW TESTAMENT

  TITLE SCRIPTURE
1. my day (i.e., Christ speaking, "Abraham saw my day") John 8:56
2. man's day (literal) 1 Corinthians 4:3
3. day of redemption Ephesians 4:30
4. day of our Lord Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 1:8 (cp. v.7)
5. day of the Lord Jesus 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14
6. day of Jesus Christ Philippians 1:6
7. day of Christ Philippians 1:10; 2:16; (2 Thessalonians 2:2? - probably should read as no. 8)
8. day of the LORD (cp. O.T. day of Jehovah) 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10
9. the day Luke 17:30; Romans 2:16; 13:12; 1 Corinthians 3:13
10. that day Matthew 24:36; 26:29; Mark 13:32; 14:25; Luke 10:12; 17:31; 21:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Timothy 1:12, 18; 4:8
11. a day Acts 17:31
12. last day John 6:39, 40, 44, 54;-11:24; 12:48, cp. no. 8; (last days: Acts 2:17; 2 Timothy 3:1; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:3; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 3:3)
13. the great day Jude 1:6 (cp. no. 8)
14. the day of judgment Matthew 11:22,24; 12:36; Mark 6:11; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; 1 John 4:17
15. his (i.e., Christ's) day Luke 17:24
16. great and notable day of the LORD Acts 2:20
17. great day of His wrath Revelation 6:17
18. day of wrath and revelation Romans 2:5
19. great day of God Almighty Revelation 16:14
20. day of God 2 Peter 3:12

Application of the above to Thessalonians

Quite apart from the overall interest and enlightenment which the study above may afford, the particular purpose of giving it is to guide us in an important point of interpretation in 1 Thessalonians 5 and elsewhere in the two epistles.

  1. This viewpoint and chart clarifies what was formerly a problem in 1 Thessalonians 5. Previously it was difficult to make it appear that Paul was not contradicting in chapter 5 what he had just said in chapter 4. He closed chapter 4 with the revelation that Christ might come at any moment before the predicted events of Daniel's 70th Week which are to be climaxed by the return of Christ to the earth; which, according to the old view, was called "the Day of the Lord." Thus, if this view were correct, Paul then exhorts the saints in chapter 5 to be watchful, not to sleep, but be ready for an event (v.2, "the Day of the Lord") which the old viewpoint said would occur 7 years after the Church had gone to heaven in the translation (rapture) of 4:16-17. This did not make sense and played right into the hands of the post-tribulation rapturists who said Christ would not come for His Church until after the tribulation. But if the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ starts at the time the Church is taken away from the earth before Daniel's 70th Week, then Paul enforces in chapter 5 that which closely harmonizes with what he has just taught in chapter 4. Be ready for the Rapture is his exhortation.
     

  2. In 2 Thessalonians 2:2, the old view and the validity of our so interpreting it hung entirely on the insistence that the better textual reading was not "day of Christ" but "day of the Lord. " If this reading were not sustained, then "the day of Christ" was forced to cover the tribulation period conditions, which sunk the pretribulation rapture view. So all pretribulation-ists became textual scholars and insisted upon the text being "the day of the Lord." But, if our study has proved its point, there is no problem whether the text reads "day of Christ" or "day of the Lord, " if the flexibility of the terms is admitted and context left to determine which part of that extended day is intended. In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul is saying in essence: "The persecution and trouble through which you are now passing, though exceedingly severe, must not be mistaken for that unparalleled period of wrath and tribulation (the 70th Week) which is going to come on the earth after the Church is raptured. 'Let no one deceive you that you are now present in the day of the Lord (v. 2). That day cannot be asserted to be present until there come first 'the falling away' (or departing) and second, the manifestation of the man of sin (v.3). Since these events have not yet come, then you are not in the day of the Lord.' The Wicked One will not be revealed (v.8) until the Hinderer (v.7, the Holy Spirit and with Him the Church) be taken out of the way (i.e., from earth to heaven). Ergo, since you are here and the Hinderer has not been revealed, you are not in 'the day of the Lord, "the tribulation period."

    The theory here expounded releases the tension from this interpretation and makes it easy and natural.


 

 

"Mason's Notes"


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