Non-Day-of-the-Lord-Days-of-the-Lord

Read the following quotations about the day of the Lord.    

“…To destroy the whole land.” 

“…For the stars of heaven and their
constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going
forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine
…” 

 “…shake the heavens…” 

 “…the earth will move out of her
place
…”

Did you know that all of these
things come from Isaiah 13 which is about the fall of Babylon in 5th
century BC?


          

What
do you think of when you picture the day of the Lord? It may be that you
picture a scene where Jesus is in the sky and millions upon millions of people
go up to meet Him. Perhaps you think about a time when all of the righteous
will vanish off the earth. Some may think of a time when the earth and all that
is in it is burned up after all of the dead are raised out of their tombs and
those that were turned into ashes are put back together. It may be that you
think of everyone who ever has lived or ever will live standing before a huge
throne in the sky with books opened up and everyone judged. When we look at the
Bible, however, we find many “days of the Lord” that aren’t depictions of the
earth-shattering event that so many often picture in their minds. The purpose
of this article is to show forth some of those days, analyze the language that
accompanies some of them, and discuss why God would use language in the way
that He did to describe the overthrow of a nation.
Ancient Babylon
                        
One
of the more “colorful” chapters concerning the fall of a nation in the Old
Testament is Isaiah 13 and 14 where Isaiah depicts the fall of the ancient
empire Babylon. Perhaps one the reasons why such strong language was used to
depict their fall is because of their hand in destroying Jerusalem and because
they were one of the mightiest nations to ever exist outside of God’s kingdom.
Daniel said, “You, O king, are a king of
kings
. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and
glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and
the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them allyou are this head of gold. But after
you shall arise another kingdom inferior
to yours
; then another, a third
kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth…” (Daniel 2:37-39, emp.
added). The nation that would rise up against Babylon would be the Medes who
were led by Cyrus. Isaiah prophesied about them in Isaiah 13:17, but he
mentioned Cyrus by name in Isaiah 44:28 and Isaiah 45:1. Babylon fell seventy
years after they destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah called the fall of
Babylon “the day of the Lord” in Isaiah 13:6 and Isaiah 13:9. For time’s sake,
we will only notice chapter 13 of Isaiah. You can read the chapter yourself, or
read the following verses.
“The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw” (Isaiah 13:1,
emp. added).
The noise of a multitude in the mountains,
Like that of many people! A tumultuous
noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together
! The LORD of hosts
musters The army for battle. They come from a far country, From the end of
heaven—The LORD and His weapons of indignation, To destroy the whole land. Wail, for the day of the LORD is at hand! It will come as destruction
from the Almighty”
(Isaiah 13:4-6, emp. added).
And they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows
will take hold of them; They will
be in pain as a woman in childbirth
; They will be amazed at one another;
Their faces will be like flames. Behold, the day of the LORD comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will
destroy its sinners from it. For the
stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun
will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to
shine
(Isa 13:8-10, emp. added).
Therefore I will shake the heavens, And the
earth will move out of her place
, In the wrath of the LORD of hosts And in the day of His fierce anger”
(Isaiah 13:13, emp. added).
“Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, Who will not
regard silver; And as for gold, they will not delight in it. Also their
bows will dash the young men to pieces, And they will have no pity on the fruit
of the womb; Their eye will not spare children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, The beauty of
the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah”
(Isaiah 13:17-19, emp. added).
                    
In the Old
Testament prophets, God used very dramatic language to describe the fall of
various nations. Imagery such as “the sun being darkened” and “the earth moving
out of its place” are all used to described the destruction of a prominent nation
or city. God used this language in order to show forth His power and His wrath
on nations that would not do right in His sight. The readers of the Hebrews
scriptures knew to not take this language literally because they understood
that prophecy was often written using a type of poetic language – in some cases
called “apocalyptic language” (which is not to be taken as woodenly literal).
No individual looks back on the events surrounding the fall of Babylon and
thinks, “Well, God was wrong because the earth is still here, and He said it
would be moved out of its place.” Nobody says that because they understand the
nature of prophetic language.
                         
The
dimming of stars and darkening of the sun are concerning the crushing of the
glory of the kingdom. The shaking of heavens has to do with the changing out of
the government and ruling structure of the time. The power shifted (though it
was always with God) from the Babylonians to the Medes on that fateful night recorded
in Daniel 5.
                         
This
“day of the Lord” was not the second coming of Christ prophesied about in other
places in the Old Testament and in the New Testament as well. Instead, it was
concerning the fall of Ancient Babylon.
Egypt
            
The
destruction of Egypt was likewise called a day of the Lord in Jeremiah 46:10
and it is included in Ezekiel 30:2. Isaiah, although he did not use the phrase “day
of the Lord,” prophesied about Egypt’s fall as well in Isaiah 19:1 where he
said, “The burden against Egypt. Behold, the LORD rides on a swift cloud, And
will come into Egypt; The idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, And the
heart of Egypt will melt in its midst” (Isaiah 19:1).
Again,
no one looks back to these events and challenges that these events didn’t
actually take place because God didn’t literally ride on a fast-moving stratus
cloud.  Instead, God used the
Babylonians, and even unrest among the Egyptians, to destroy that wicked nation
(Isaiah 19:2; Jeremiah 46:2). Hear what Jeremiah recorded: “Come up, O horses,
and rage, O chariots! And let the mighty men come forth: The Ethiopians and the
Libyans who handle the shield, And the Lydians who handle and bend the bow. For
this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, A day of vengeance, That He may
avenge Himself on His adversaries. The sword shall devour; It shall be satiated
and made drunk with their blood; For the Lord GOD of hosts has a sacrifice In
the north country by the River Euphrates” (Jeremiah 46:9-10). Ezekiel recorded,
“For the day is near, Even the day of the LORD is near; It will be a day of clouds,
the time of the Gentiles” (Ezekiel 30:3). The end result, as Ezekiel would say would
be to, “…scatter the
Egyptians among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries. Then
they shall know that I am the LORD.’ “
(Ezekiel 30:26).
 How would they
know that God was the true God? Would it be because they would see Him on the
cloud, or would it be because He, in His foreknowledge, pronounced judgement on
them and fulfilled that judgement through a nation that He chose?
Jerusalem (5th Century BC)

 Jerusalem
fell in the 5th century at the hands of the Babylonians and was
later rebuilt after Babylon’s fall. Just as we have seen in our other examples,
the destruction of Jerusalem was described with very similar language and was
also called a “day of the Lord” in Lamentations 2:22; Joel 2:1; and Zephaniah
1:7, 8, 14, 18; 2:2, 3. Perhaps the more extravagant of these prophecies is
found in Joel 2.  
“Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy
mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the LORD is coming, For it is at hand: A day of
darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness, Like the morning
clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong, The like of
whom has never been; Nor will there ever be any such after them, Even for many
successive generations. A fire devours before them, And behind them a flame
burns; The land is like the Garden of
Eden before them, And behind them a desolate wilderness
; Surely nothing
shall escape them. Their appearance is
like the appearance of horses
; And like swift steeds, so they run. With a
noise like chariots Over mountaintops
they leap
, Like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, Like
a strong people set in battle array. Before them the people writhe in pain; All
faces are drained of color. They run like mighty men, They climb the wall like
men of war; Every one marches in formation, And they do not break ranks. They
do not push one another; Every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge
between the weapons, They are not cut down. They run to and fro in the city,
They run on the wall; They climb into the houses, They enter at the windows
like a thief. The earth quakes before
them, The heavens tremble; The sun and moon grow dark, And the stars diminish
their brightness
” (Joel 2:1-10).
 Once
more we ask, did people scoff at Joel and say, “We know Joel was a false
prophet because none of the Babylonians came leaping over tall mountains like
Superman!” They didn’t, and if they did they would have been wrong in doing so
because we know that God had His prophets use very impressive imagery to convey
His divine judgement upon a nation.
Pertinent Themes

This section is simply a list of language that was used in
the sections we looked at that will be useful for when we draw our conclusion
in the next part. It will be useful for you to read these again and remember
the context in which they were in.
                         “…To destroy the whole land.”
                         “…They will be in pain as a woman in
childbirth
…”
                         “…For the stars of heaven and their
constellations Will not give their light; The sun                              will be darkened in its going
forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine
…”
                         “…shake the heavens…”
                         “…the earth will move out of her
place
…”
                         “…The
burden against Egypt. Behold, the LORD rides on a swift cloud…”
                         “…And
the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst…”
                         “…A
day of vengeance…”
                         “…the
time of the Gentiles…”
                         “…Then they shall know that I am
the LORD
…”
                         “…The
earth quakes before them…”
                         “…The
heavens tremble…”
My Point

We
see that God often used very strong language to describe the fall of a nation
that sinned against Him. Here’s a question for you: If God used such strong language to describe the destruction of
nations such as Babylon and Egypt, shouldn’t we expect similar, if not
stronger, language to describe the complete destruction of the people that God
worked through for hundreds upon hundreds of years?
 In fact, just as a
sample, notice how the themes above are also employed to describe the day of
the Lord at the overthrow of Judaism in AD70.  
                         “…To destroy the whole land.”
(II Peter 3:10)
                         “…They will be in pain as a woman in
childbirth
…” (I Thessalonians 5:3)
                         “…For the stars of heaven and their
constellations Will not give their light; The sun                              will be  darkened in its going
forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine
…”                            (Matthew 24:29; Acts 2:19-20; Revelation 6:12-17)
                         “…shake the heavens…” (Hebrews
12:25-29)
                         “…the earth will move out of her
place
…” (Revelation 21:1)
                         “…The
burden against Egypt. Behold, the LORD rides on a swift cloud…” (Matthew                           24:29-31; Matthew 26:64;
Acts 1:11; I Thessalonians 4:15-17)
                         “…And
the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst…” (Luke 21:26)
                         “…A
day of vengeance…” (Luke 21:22)
                         “…the
time of the Gentiles…” (Luke 21:24)
                         “…Then they shall know that I am
the LORD
…” (Romans 9:22)
Some may object, “Well, similar language does not mean that
the events are the same.” I agree! The coming of the Lord to destroy Egypt in
Isaiah 19:1 is not the same coming of the Lord on the clouds to avenge the
martyrs in AD70. However, the way in which the language was used is the same.
How would people who grew up hearing texts like Isaiah 19 and Isaiah 13 react
to what Jesus and the apostles said? They would expect God to use language consistently.
If God could use similar language in the Old Testament, fulfill it
figuratively, and still be truthful, why couldn’t Jesus do the same?
 In
fact, Jesus said that His coming would be likened unto the days of the Lord
that God had performed in the Old Testament times. “For the Son of Man will come in
the glory of His Father
with His angels, and then He will reward each
according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here
who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom”
(Mat
16:27-28
, emp. added).
How did God make His glory known? By prophesying about the fall of a nation and
by then destroying that sinful nation. That is how the Egyptians, for instance,
would know that He is Lord. Jesus’s second coming would be in the glory of His
Father to show the Jews that truly He is the Messiah that they rejected. Jesus
also said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of
Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also
does in like manner” (John 5:19).  Jesus’s
working would be like His Father’s working. Why should we expect Jesus to
manifest Himself in a different way then God did throughout the Old Covenant
times?
I’ll
admit, it is awfully hard to look at the Bible without our Hellenistic glasses
on, but we must put ourselves in the first century audience’s shoes and ask, “Was
Jesus being serious when He said that He would return in the generation in
which He was living?” I believe it! Do you?
In
the next article, we will focus more on the nature of the second coming of
Christ at the fall of Jerusalem in AD70.
                        

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