As stated in our previous blogpost, the Day of the Lord was and is a dramatic intervention of God into human history, judging the arrogant and disobedient, while saving others. Historically, God judged “those who [had] turned back from following the Lord, and those who [had] not sought the Lord nor inquired of Him” (Zeph. 1:6). Isaiah wrote, “The proud look of humanity will be brought low, and the arrogance of people will be humbled; and the Lord alone will be exalted on that day” (Isa. 2:11). Historical examples of the Day of the Lord include: the Assyrians’ destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, the Babylonians’ destruction of Judea in 586 BC, and the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
I have used both “reoccurring” and “recurring” to describe the Day of the Lord. Quite frankly, I have struggled over which word best fits. Merriam-Webster defines the verb “reocurr” to mean “to happen again.” Merriam-Webster defines the verb “recur” to mean “to occur again after an interval, occur time after time.” Both words fit to some extent, but neither word is a complete or perfect fit. Historically, the Day of the Lord occurs multiple times, but it should also be understood as being a very unique and somewhat rare event. As stated in our previous blogpost, the Day of the Lord is a dramatic and world-changing event. As an example, the time period between AD 64 to AD 70 was very unique. First, in AD 64, Nero and Rome instigated their first official persecution of Christianity. The persecution followed the Great Fire of Rome. Many in Rome believed that agents of Nero started the fire to clear space for his grandiose building projects. Significant parts of Rome were destroyed by the fire. To redirect the anger and accusations of the masses, Nero blamed the Christians. Great numbers of Christians were killed in the gladiatorial games for the Roman sport of cruelty and malice. Some were even burned as torches to light Nero’s parties. Ultimately, both Peter and Paul were killed during the Neronian persecutions, depriving Christianity of its two most prominent leaders.
In AD 66, the Jews in Palestine rebelled against Rome. Initially, the Jewish rebels had some military successes against the Romans. Around this same time, Nero’s unstable and poor leadership began to have significant negative consequences in the outer provinces of the Empire. Various Roman Generals rebelled against Nero. Ultimately, Nero committed suicide on June 9, AD 68. Civil War swept across the Empire as various generals fought to be the one to succeed Nero. In AD 69 alone, four different generals (Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian) were called Caesar. By the end of AD 69, Vespasian defeated all of his competitors and consolidated his power.
However, after Nero had committed suicide and the civil wars were concluded, Rome was nearly bankrupt, but Vespasian had not forgotten about the Jewish Rebellion. Vespasian assigned Titus (his son) to complete the subjugation of the Jews in Palestine. In August/ September of AD 70, the Romans completely destroyed and sacked Jerusalem. With the loot, the Romans completely replenished their treasuries. Perhaps as many as one million Jews were killed by the Romans. More than 90,000 Jews were taken to Rome as slaves. As an interesting historical note, many of the slaves and a significant amount of the confiscated wealth was used to build the famous Roman Colosseum during the next decade.
Of great theological significance, the destruction of Jerusalem (along with the Temple) ended all animal sacrifices to this day. For forty years, between the death of Christ and the death of Paul, there was a great debate between the Old Covenant and New Covenant. For the most part, the debate was decided by the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
As discussed in our previous blogpost, the looming destruction of Jerusalem overshadowed all of Paul’s letters. It is my opinion that the events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem are properly identified as “the Day of the Lord.” However, our Lord Jesus Christ’s physical return to Planet Earth and the final judgment of mankind and angels are also appropriately identified and classified as “the Day of the Lord.”
Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians are a good place for us to further examine the Day of the Lord. Paul planted the Thessalonian Church around AD 50, just after his planting of the Philippine Church. However, Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians were two of Paul’s earliest letters, which were probably both written within months of Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica. It should be noted that Paul’s letter to the Philippians was not written until ten to twelve years later. The Day of the Lord is an important topic of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. When addressing the Day of the Lord, Paul seemed to include information about both the relatively near events of AD 64 to AD 70, and (as it turns out) the far away events of Christ’s ultimate return to Planet Earth. Because both set of events are properly described as the Day of the Lord, did Paul conflate the separate events in his mind? Or, did Paul clearly differentiate the events in his mind. Quite frankly, I do not know. Scripture provides other examples of a double fulfillment of prophecy, one being near in time and the other being far away. Isaiah’s prophecy of Immanuel may be the best example.
However, I do have some definite opinions on what it means for a human to prophesy. When a human prophesies about something, he or she does not become all-knowing. He or she has only been granted bits and pieces of information from God. He or she is still a finite being. We will never know everything about anything. When someone like Paul is granted bits and pieces of information about a particular subject, he must be very careful about what and how he writes or speaks. He must practice self-control and discipline. He should speak or write no more than what God has given him to write or speak. He must do a right thing in a right way.
Around AD 50, the Thessalonian church had turned from idols to serve the true and living God (1 Thess. 1:10). They were waiting for the return of Jesus Christ from Heaven, who would save them from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:11). Notice that the idea of salvation is juxtaposed to the idea of wrath. If the Thessalonians remained faithful, they would remain a source of pride and joy for Paul at the coming of Jesus Christ from Heaven (1 Thess. 2:19). Paul taught the Thessalonians that they should anticipate some degree of affliction and suffering if they continued and remained faithful in their journey of faith (1 Thess. 3:3-4). Paul taught them to increase in love for one another and for all people (1 Thess. 3:12). By doing so, their hearts would be established as blameless in holiness at “the coming of the Lord Jesus with all of His saints [holy ones]” (1 Thess. 3:13). At Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul addressed Jesus’s Second Coming in conjunction with the resurrection of the dead, which will be addressed in a separate blogpost.
In Paul’s 5th and final chapter of First Thessalonians, Paul specifically mentioned the Day of the Lord. Paul explained that the Day of the Lord would “come like a thief in the night,” meaning unexpectedly (1 Thess. 5:2). Most would be anticipating “peace and safety,” but then the destruction would come, just like the labor pains coming upon a pregnant woman, building with increasing intensity (1 Thess. 5:3). However, Paul explained that the faithful believers (the sons of light) would not be caught off guard (1Thess. 5:4-6). Then Paul explained that God had not destined the faithful for wrath, but in fact, the faithful were destined for salvation. Finally, Paul prayed that the Thessalonians would be sanctified entirely, without blame, “at the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:23).
The idea of the Lord coming to judge the earth has its roots in the Old Testament (1 Chron. 16:33). There is a strong connection between the Day of the Lord and the idea of the Lord coming in judgment. At Psalm 96:13, we read, “He is coming, for He [the Lord] is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness” (see also Ps. 98:9). At Isaiah 13:9, we read, “Behold the day of the Lord is coming, cruel, with fury, and burning anger….” The Prophet Jeremiah warned that the days were coming when the Lord will punish all that are “circumcised and yet uncircumcised” (Jer. 9:25). The Prophet Joel wrote, “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; indeed, it is near…” (Joel 2:1). Micah wrote, “For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth” (Micah 1:3). Zephaniah wrote, “The great day of the Lord is near, near and coming very quickly” (Zeph. 1:14). Malachi wrote, “But who can endure the day of His coming?” (Mal. 3:2).
The Jewish Bible student was prepared to see a coming of the Lord as, primarily, the Lord coming in judgment by His overriding control of human history. However, the Jewish Bible student was also prepared to see and consider a physical manifestation of the Lord (Dan. 7:13). With the New Testament writings, the Bible student primarily anticipates Jesus Christ’s physical return to Planet Earth. With the judgment of Rome by civil war between AD 68-69 and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Lord demonstrated His control over human history. At some point in time, there will also be a Second Coming of Jesus. Paul addressed both events in his two letters to the Thessalonians, each of which are properly classified as the Day of the Lord.
 “Reoccur.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reoccur. Accessed 7 Nov. 2022.
 “Recur.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recur. Accessed 7 Nov. 2022
 “Immanuel.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Volume Two: E-J, Gen. Editor Geoffrey W. Bromiley, et al., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988, pp. 806-807.