By Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
The “day of the Lord” may be “sometimes used by the prophets to refer to any specific period of time in which the God of Israel intervenes in human affairs to save and judge” and “invariably the Day of the Lord is associated with acts of violent judgment” (DBI 196, 197). This concept always appears in the singular form, as an individual day. Nevertheless, “the ‘day of the Lord’ is not a one-time occurrence” for “there have been days of the Lord in the past” (EDBT 147). We see them coming against Babylon (Isa 13:6, 9), Egypt (Eze 30:3–4), Jerusalem (Joel 1:14–15), Edom (Oba 8, 15), and others.
Ultimately, however, “it seems necessary to distinguish between a primary day — one of intervention by Yahweh with limited effect — and a secondary day — one of universal cosmic judgment” (ABD, 2:85). Though several experiences of “the day of the Lord” appear in Scripture, they all relate to one another in that they each point to the ultimate, final day of the Lord. In chapter 12 I focus on 2 Peter 3:10 which highlights the ultimate day of the Lord that concludes history. Consequently, since “the prophets not only view historical events as ushering in the day of the Lord’s visitation” they also “look to an ultimate eschatological event . . . . Therefore this ‘day’ is both near and far, both historical and eschatological for Israel. It may be a divine visitation within history as well as a final visitation that climaxes history” (EDT 295).
For the purposes of preteristic postmillennialism, I should note that we have in the New Testament “the early Christian view that in some fashion the eschatological era had been inaugurated with the coming of Christ and the Spirit. Thus in Acts 2, Peter can cite Joel 2 and interpret the experiences of Pentecost in light of eschatological fulfillment” (EDT, 295). In fact, the dark clouds of the “day of the Lord” in AD 70 hang over much of the New Testament. God is preparing to punish his people Israel, remove the temple system, and re-orient redemptive history from one people and land to all peoples throughout the earth (Mt 8:10–11; 21:43; Jn 4:23). This dramatic redemptive-historical event not only ends the old covenant era, but points to the end of history itself.
In the New Testament we have some debate over categorizing any given “day of the Lord” statement. It seems that only two options exist: it may refer to AD 70 or to the Second Advent. Nevertheless, we do have at least three clear passages that point to AD 70 as a “day of the Lord.” Acts 2:20 must highlight AD 70, for it appears in the very context of Jerusalem and includes tongues-speaking which is a sign of coming judgment upon Israel (cf. Dt 28:49; Isa 28:11; 33:19; Jer 5:15; 1Co 14:21–22). Peter’s sermon not only blames the Jews for Christ’s recent death (Ac 2:22–23, 36), but urges the Jerusalemites to “be saved from this perverse generation” (Ac 2:40). Below in chapter 15 I will show that “the man of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians 2 arises in the context of Israel’s AD 70 destruction, because that passage speaks of near term concerns (2Th 2:6–7). And once again, the context involves “the day of the Lord” (2Th 2:2). Hebrews 10:25 urges the first Jewish Christians to not forsake “our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Heb 10:25). And this in a book declaring the old covenant order is “ready to disappear” (Heb 8:13).