In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul mentioned the “day of Christ” three times. First, Paul was confident that the Philippians would continue on their journey to spiritual maturity until the “day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Secondly, Paul prayed that the Philippians would remain sincere and blameless until “the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10). Finally, Paul encouraged the Philippians to “[hold] firmly [to] the word of life, so that on the day of Christ I [Paul] can take pride that I did not run in vain nor labor in vain” (Phil. 2:16). Paul had labored for the Philippians, and He did not want his labor to have been a waste of time. Paul was indicating to his readers that a big test was on the horizon.
The phrase “day of Christ” is most likely an equivalent phrase to the more often used phrase the “day of the Lord.” The Day of the Lord refers to a period of time when God dramatically intervenes in human history to judge some and save others. It is a time when men are humbled, and God is exalted. Typically, it refers to a period of time, not a single day. The Prophet Isaiah declared, “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore, all hands will fall limp, and every human heart will melt” (Isaiah 13:6-7). The Prophet Joel wrote, “Woe for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and it will come as destruction from the Almighty (Joel 1:15). Imagine what it would have been like for Noah and his family to wait and prepare for the coming flood. In a similar way, the First Century believers (particularly, John (the Baptist), Paul, and Peter) were anticipating a very dramatic historical event.
In many respects, God’s delivery of the Israelites out of Egypt and His judgment of the Egyptians is also properly classified as a “Day of the Lord” event (Exod. 6:28, 12:51, 13:3). It provides the believer with a seminal pattern of the “Day of the Lord” and its meaning. On that day (a period in time, not a single day), the Lord saved His people out of Egypt and dramatically judged the Egyptians. Moses told the Israelites, “Remember this day when you departed from Egypt…” (Exod. 13:3). Regarding the dividing of the sea and the destruction of Pharaoh’s pursuing army, we read, “So the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore” (Exod. 14:30). In a very dramatic way, the Israelites witnessed the power of the Lord and His control over human history (Exod. 14:31).
However, it turns out that all of humanity and even God’s own people can be the target of God’s wrath during the Day of the Lord. The Prophet Zephaniah wrote that the Day of the Lord can be directed against “those who have turned back from following the Lord, and those who have 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). Isaiah called the Day of the Lord a day of reckoning against the arrogant and haughty (Isa. 2:12). Isaiah explained that “the pride of humanity will be humbled,” and “the Lord alone will be exalted on that day” (Is. 2:17). Examples of God’s wrath toward His own people include the Northern Kingdom’s destruction by the Assyrians in BC 721-722 and Judea’s destruction by the Babylonians in BC 586. God can put a wall of protection around His people, and He can remove the wall because of His peoples’ arrogance. Speaking of Judea’s destruction by the Babylonians, Jeremiah wrote,
So the Lord was no longer able to endure it, because of the evil of your deeds, because of the abominations which you have committed; so your land has become a place of ruins, an object of horror, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as it is this day.
In Scripture, the Prophets made it clear that God’s wrath or vengeance could be directed against the nations of the world or His own people (Jer. 47:4). God’s primary target was and is humanity’s hardened arrogance and His people’s unfaithfulness. He accommodated His words and warnings to bring understanding to a simplistic and arrogant humanity. God referred to such times as “the day of His anger” (Lam. 2:1). The Prophet Ezekiel warned, “For the day is near, indeed, the day of the Lord is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations” (Ezek. 30:3). The Prophet Daniel also added insight and understanding regarding the Day of the Lord. Daniel explained that Jerusalem was destroyed in BC 586 because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh (Dan. 9:7).
The Prophet Joel also made it clear that God’s wrath could be administered through the agency of a godless, foreign military power. Joel wrote,
The Lord utters His voice before His army; His camp is indeed very great, for mighty is the one who carries out His word. The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome, and who can endure it?
Helpful to our understanding, Joel also taught us that the Day of the Lord is always a very dramatic, world changing, and historically significant event. Such events were often described with very dramatic figurative and cosmological language. Joel wrote, “The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day the Lord comes” (Joel 2:31). The old sources of light and understanding would no longer provide spiritual illumination. In fact, a stubborn adherence to the old sources of illumination could bring death. Unfortunately, many over literalize such descriptions, and therefore, they wait for something that will never occur, or they fail to see something that has already occurred.
John the Baptist’s ministry preceded and prepared the Israelite audience for their coming Messiah, but he also warned his audience of a coming judgment. John, the Baptist, preached, “But indeed the axe is already being laid at the root of the trees, so that every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9). John explained to his audience:
As for me I baptize you with water; but He [Jesus] is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the straps of his sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
In these verses, John the Baptist prophesied that two specific things would be associated with the coming of the Messiah. First, after the resurrection of Jesus, on the day of Pentecost, believers were going to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in a way never previously experienced. Second, there was going to be a time of great judgment. Many have associated this judgment of fire with the great judgment of God that will occur at the time of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. However, in my opinion, John, the Baptist was prophesying about the destruction of Israel and Jerusalem by the Romans, which occurred between AD 66 and August/September of AD 70. The Biblical writers most often used the image of fire as a synonym for God’s wrath, discipline, judgment, or even trying circumstances. Occasionally, such events included some actual fire, like in the above artwork of John Roberts (painted in the year 1850) depicting the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. (Please see my earlier blogposts: “Matthew 24 Fulfilled.”) We have commonly over-literalized the Biblical imagery of fire, which has led to unnecessary confusion and misunderstanding.
In some upcoming blogposts, I will make my argument that the Day of the Lord is a recurring event in human history. It includes historical events like Israel’s (the Northern Kingdom’s) destruction by the Assyrians in BC 722/721. It also included Judea’s destruction by the Babylonians in BC 586, and it included the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The overarching reality of this prophesied “coming soon” or “near” judgment impacted most all of the New Testament letters.
In contrast, First, Second, and Third John were all written after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. In John, the Elder’s epistles, there is no longer a conflict between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The issue was settled with the destruction of Jerusalem. John, the Elder’s letters reveal the beautiful simplicity of the Christian’s spiritual life. Finally, we all wait for Jesus’s Second Coming, which is also properly referred to as the Day of the Lord. It will be a day of salvation and judgment, and it will also be a day wherein God is exalted and men and women are humbled.
The featured artwork on this page is titled “The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70” by David Roberts, c. 1850 CE.
 https://eyestoseetherevelation.com/matthew-24-fulfilled-part-1/; https://eyestoseetherevelation.com/ad-70-matthew-24-part-ii/; https://eyestoseetherevelation.com/matthew-24-part-iii/; https://eyestoseetherevelation.com/matthew-24-part-iv/