Until the Day Dawns

RiseThe Day of the Lord is a central, not peripheral, theme of the New Testament. The sheer number of passages which refer to it are staggering. The usages include “day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20, 1 Cor. 5:5, 1 Thess. 5:2, 2 Thess. 2:2, 2 Pet. 3:10), “the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:12), “the great day” (Jd. 1:6), “the great day of God” (Rev. 16:14), “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8, 2 Cor. 1:14), “the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:6, Phil. 1:10, Phil. 2:16), “that day” (Mt. 7:22, Mt. 26:29, Lk. 10:12, Lk. 17:31, Lk. 21:34, 2 Thess. 1:10, 2 Tim. 1:18, 2 Tim. 4:8), “the day of judgment” (Mt. 10:15, Mt. 11:22, Mt. 11:24, Mt. 12:36, 2 Pet. 2:9, 2 Pet. 3:7, 1 Jn. 4:17), “the day of wrath” (Rom. 2:5), “the last day” (Jn. 6:39, Jn. 6:40, Jn. 6:44, Jn. 6:54, Jn. 11:24, Jn. 12:48), “the day” (1 Cor. 3:13, 1 Thess. 5:4, Heb. 10:25, 2 Pet. 1:19), “His day” (Lk. 17:24), “the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Lk. 17:30), “the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30), “the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12), “the day of eternity [lit. the day of the age] (2 Pet. 3:18), and “the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:16).

In simple terms, the Day of the Lord is the great cataclysmic event which transitions “this age” (Mt. 12:32, Lk. 20:34, 1 Cor. 1:20, Eph. 1:21) to “the age to come” (Mt. 12:32, Mk. 10:30, Lk. 18:30, Heb. 6:5). This age is typified by wickedness, sin, and death, being called “this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4) wherein “the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16). It is an “evil age”, for it precedes a future age of righteousness. As the Apostles wrote, “We eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (Gal. 5:5 ESV), “waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13 ESV). This transition from “evil” to “righteousness” occurs in context to the day of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:7-13), for “He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). Just as “David administered justice and righteousness for all his people” (2 Sam. 8:15), so Jesus will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever” (Is. 9:7 NIV, cf. Lk. 1:32-33).

This transition of the ages at the day of Christ will be nothing less than a radical upheaval of all that is perceived as normal today. This age and the age to come will be night and day in their difference. Indeed, this is the contrast given by the Apostles when they spoke of “this darkness” (Eph. 6:12) and described this age as “night” (cf. 1 Thess. 5:1-11) “until the day dawns” (2 Pet. 1:19). Their witness was clear: “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Rom. 13:12 NIV).

Jesus describes “that age” (the age to come) to be synonymous with “the resurrection from the dead” (Lk. 20:35). So, while this age is typified by wickedness and death, the age to come will be typified by righteousness and “eternal life” (cf. Mk. 10:30) when the righteous will “put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). While God raised Messiah from the dead and testified to the good news with signs of “the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:5), the Apostles never proposed an overlap of the ages or “inauguration” of the age to come, but rather a simple timeline. Paul condemned the notion that either the Day of the Lord or the resurrection had occurred in his day (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:18), but simply exhorted believers to live “righteously and godly in the present age” as we anticipate the age to come: “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Tit. 2:12-13). Just as the destination is essential to a sojourn, so the New Testament’s model for discipleship is consistently set in context to the day of the Lord and the age to come.

Only those deemed righteous and worthy will “attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead” (Lk. 20:35), for the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9). In this present age, those who follow Jesus face “persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mk. 10:30). Those who “suffer with Him” (Rom. 8:17), enduring “the sufferings of this present time” which cannot be compared to “the glory that will be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18), will be “glorified with Him” (Rom. 8:17) and receive “the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). Those who “put their hope in God” and give generously in “the present world [lit. ‘age’]will “will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:17-19 NIV).

In Scripture, the future of all things is laid out in linear fashion, like a story. The future does not involve the dissolution of time into a so-called “realm of eternity”. This juxtaposition of time and eternity is a figment of Greek philosophy, utterly foreign to the Scriptures. Concerning the biblical view of time, John Harrigan writes,

“The biblical language… reflects this simple understanding of time and history. The Greek word for ‘age’ is aion. The Greek word for ‘eternity’ is simply the plural form of ‘age’, i.e. aiones. Thus, eternity is seen as ‘unending ages’, which relate on the same continuum as ‘this age’. Rather than the Christoplatonic understanding of timelessness, the biblical concept of eternity is unending time.”

Biblical hope is not ethereal and timeless, but relates to a specific “day” and “time” and “season” which will initiate “the age to come”. When Daniel witnessed God’s plan to set up an eternal kingdom, he praised the God who changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others” (Dan. 2:21 NIV). When the Apostles beheld the risen Messiah, they inquired of Him, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” To which He replied, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” (Acts 1:6-7 ESV) After Pentecost, Peter boldly proclaimed in Jerusalem, “Heaven must receive Him [Jesus] until the time comes for God to restore everything” (Acts 3:21 NIV, cf. Mt. 19:28). For “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Lk. 1:33) and on that day, the saints will be given “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:11). So let us heed Peter’s final letter and “pay attention [to the message of the Prophets] as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the Day dawns” (2 Pet. 1:19).

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