In our previous studies, we discussed the concept of “Sorting Prophetic Material,” suggested by Otis Q. Sellers in his pamphlet of the same name. We talked about creating “bins” into which we could sort the prophecies of Scripture predicting events in the future. We had used the book of Revelation to establish four future time periods that are set forth in Scripture. From this study, we constructed four time periods. However, by examining other evidence, we concluded that there was a fifth time period, coming before all these, and which we called, as a working title, the “last days.” Thus, we can construct a chart of five time periods, as is shown below:
The Last Days
Daniel’s Seventieth Week
The Little Season
|The New Heavens and New Earth|
1 2 3 4 5 6
Once we had established this fifth time period called the “last days,” we went through all the Scriptural occurrences of it to get an idea in our minds of what this term means. We concluded that this phrase does not speak of only one time, but that none of the time periods of which it speaks fit into that time period called “the millennium.” We concluded that the word “last” in this case means “result” or “outcome,” and the phrase “last days” indicates a time period that is the result of all that came before it. Thus, the last days of Isaiah 2:2 and Micah 4:1 are the result of God’s great work to bring in His order upon the earth through His government.
I had been bold in saying that the “last days” of Isaiah 2:2 cannot be the millennium. One reason I believe this is because of what the Bible says must happen “before the day of the LORD.” Thus, to move forward in this study, I believe a study of the term “day of the LORD” and what it means must be entered into. In this message, we will perform this study.
The Day of the Lord
In examining the phrase, “The Day of the Lord,” let us look first of all at Acts 2:16-21.
16. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17. ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18. And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
19. I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
20. The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
21. And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Shall be saved.’
Peter in this passage is quoting from Joel 2:28-32. According to this passage, he is proclaiming things that take place in the last days, and he also claims that they take place “before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.” So this passage is important, as it places the “last days” as occurring before the “Day of the LORD.” Now the next important question we must answer is, “When is the day of the LORD?” This question, I believe, can be answered for us by looking at Revelation 1:10.
10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,
Here, John is starting off the record of the great visions he was shown by the Lord. He tells us that when this began, he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” Perhaps the most foolish idea regarding this is that John means he was in a particularly spiritual state of mind on a Sunday. I say foolish, because this is based on our own conceptions, preconceived notions, and Christian lingo, and not based on any kind of evidence from God’s Word. Those who argue this argue from what they know and their own experience. This only makes sense when it is backed up by our own, human traditions, and not when one might search for an indication of it in the Word of God. Our traditional observance of Sunday is not a Biblical one at all. There is no indication that the Lord held Sunday as being in any way special, any more than any other day, and there is certainly no reason to connect it to the phrase, “the Lord’s day.” It seems possible that the Lord rose on a Sunday, although Saturday night is perhaps a more likely time. But the Lord rising from the dead on a day does not make that day of the week from then on the “Lord’s Day.” This is just reading our traditional viewpoints into the Word of God. This is not honest study of the truth.
Now some who are of the seventh day persuasion might now want to say, “Okay, then we can link this up with Saturday, the Sabbath Day.” Would these have a point? Would not the Sabbath Day be the “Lord’s Day”? Yet again there is no evidence to link this phrase to the Sabbath Day, which for them was what we would call sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night. This day is called the “Sabbath of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 5:14,) but never is it called the “Lord’s Day.” I say this while completely acknowledging Isaiah 58:13, which reads,
“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the LORD honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,”
This verse appears to call the Sabbath Day the “holy day of the LORD honorable” here in the New King James Version. Yet the careful student will notice that, in most Bibles, the word “day” is printed in italics. This is to indicate that this word does not actually occur in the Hebrew. So this passage does not read “the holy day of the LORD honorable,” but “the holy of the LORD honorable.” Young’s Literal Translation makes this verse, “If thou dost turn from the sabbath thy foot, Doing thine own pleasure on My holy day, And hast cried to the sabbath, `A delight,’ To the holy of Jehovah, `Honoured,’ And hast honoured it, without doing thine own ways, Without finding thine own pleasure, And speaking a word.” So this verse is not saying that the Sabbath is the day of the LORD, but that it is holy and of Jehovah and honorable. It does not make the Sabbath day the “day of the LORD.” Yes, it is a day. Yes, it belongs to the LORD. But, in Scripture, the term “the day of the LORD” refers to a specific thing, and the Sabbath day is not it.
The Sabbath Day is called the “Lord’s Sabbath,” but it is never called the “Lord’s Day.” The day of the LORD is a day predicted to take place in the future of God’s program and plans, when certain things will take place. This phrase is used throughout Scripture, and it always refers to a time or a season, not a day of the week. I believe this phrase, “the day of the LORD,” relates directly to what we have in Revelation 1:10, the “Lord’s day.” It appears to us, in English, that there is a great difference between “the day of the LORD” and the “Lord’s day.” And indeed, this might be true, in English. Yet in Greek, this was not necessarily the case.
Remember, in Greek, unlike English, there is no set word order. In English, we have rules regarding in what order words are to appear in the sentence. For example, the subject is supposed to come before the verb. “The dog left” is a proper sentence, “left the dog” is not. And another rule is regarding adjectives. These are always supposed to come before the noun they modify. We say “the red dog,” never “the dog red.” In Spanish, the rules are different, and “the dog red” is proper, whereas “the red dog” is not.
Now we have these rules in English, but the Greek does not. There are no rules like this regarding word order. Generally, words can go in whatever order the speaker wishes them to go. He could say “the red dog” or “the dog red,” whichever way he wanted. He could say, “the dog left” or “left the dog,” whichever way pleased him.
Since this was true, another rule emerged in Greek. This was that the word given first in the sentence was the word that the speaker (or writer) wanted to emphasize. Since no set word order existed, they used the word order to show which words they wanted to stress the most. Therefore, if they said, “the red dog,” they would be emphasizing his color, “the RED dog,” like we might say, “Wow, that dog is red!” On the other hand, if they said, “the dog red,” they would be pointing you to the dog, “the DOG red,” like “see that dog over there, the red one,” that last phrase being added just to distinguish this dog from any other ones that might happen to be wandering around. In this case, I would be pointing you to the dog, and just letting you know which one I meant by pointing out his color.
So when it comes to a phrase like “the day of the LORD” and “the Lord’s day,” these phrases would not have a different meaning in Greek like they do in English. What would change would be the emphasis. When John said, “the Lord’s day,” he was emphasizing “Lord’s.” It was as if he wanted to make sure that no one could mistake which day he was in. He was in the LORD’S day. Not his own day. Not any other day. The LORD’S day was the one he was in. He was trying to emphasize for us which this fact. Yet we look at this phrase and get mixed up, thinking he was talking about some other time entirely, like a day of the week! By doing this, we have missed the whole point of what he was writing.
So what John is saying here is that the entire book of Revelation, from this verse on, is going to take place in the day of the LORD. John is just letting us know that the Day he was taken to and about which he saw these revelations was the LORD’S day, and no one else’s. This phrase speaks of a time that is no different at all from the Day of the Lord. So Revelation 1:10 tells us that all of John’s vision, and thus all of that book from that point on, takes place in the Day of the Lord! And since Revelation covers Daniel’s 70th Week, the Millennium, the Little Season, and the New Heavens and the New Earth, we know that all four of these time periods have to be considered as being in the “Day of the Lord.”
Yet the “Last Days” are said to take place BEFORE the Day of the Lord. Therefore, they must be in a time period that takes place before any of the events in Revelation take place! So we can conclude that Acts 2:16-21, the promise that God’s Spirit will be poured out upon all flesh, will be fulfilled before the Day of the Lord. And since the entire book of Revelation, including the Millennium, takes place IN the Day of the Lord, Acts 2:16-21 will be fulfilled before the first predictive prophecy in Revelation ever takes place! No wonder those who use the book of Revelation to set up their entire future scheme have failed to see this time period at all. This time period, by definition, cannot be found in the book of Revelation. This is a time period that takes place before that book begins.
So, we have positively identified a new “bin” into which we can sort prophecy. This bin takes place before the New Heavens and New Earth, before the Little Season, before the Millennium, and even before Daniel’s Seventieth Week. We can call this period, at least as a preliminary name, the “Last Days,” understanding by this that we mean the last days of Isaiah 2 and Acts 2, not the last days of II Timothy 3.
Therefore, we now have a fifth “bin” that we can add into our chart, as I have done above. Let us now move on through Scripture and see if we can find any more passages that we can sort into it. Let us look first at Ezekiel 20:33-38.
Ezekiel 20:33. “As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you.
Quickly in this set of verses we come upon the pronoun “you,” and we need to look to see what the antecedent for this word is. We can easily find in verse 31 that this is spoken concerning the “house of Israel.” God here declares His determination to rule over them. Though it may take a mighty hand, an outstretched arm, and fury poured out, He will do this. He has promised it, and He will bring it to pass.
34. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out.
God promises to bring them out from the peoples and gather than out of the countries where they are scattered. He will put all His power behind this, as He expresses that He will do this “with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out.” Nothing will be able to stand in the way of this return when it happens. God will see to its success.
35. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face.
The Lord Yahweh will then bring them into “the wilderness of the peoples.” Where exactly this might be it is hard to say, but it hearkens us back to the wandering of the children of Israel through the wilderness before they entered their land in the book of Joshua. There, we read, the Lord Yahweh will plead His case with them face to face. The word “plead” here is actually a form of the word for “judge.” The idea of this form of the word is to present one’s side in a controversy. God will set forth His case to the house of Israel, and He will do so face-to-face. Of course, this could only be done through the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose is the face of the Lord.
36. Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you,” says the Lord GOD.
We can see more of the idea of the Lord pleading His case here. The Lord did not beg or grovel for the fathers of Israel in the wilderness. Instead, He set forth Himself and His plans for them, and entered into a covenant with them. This was how He pleaded with them. This has nothing to do with begging or cajoling.
37. “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant;
Notice that this is how Israel will enter into the New Covenant, not by believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ, as men do today. We do not enter the New Covenant when we believe. Even a Jew does not enter the New Covenant when he believes. The house of Israel will not be brought into the “bond of the covenant” until they are led out into the wilderness by the Lord Yahweh “with a mighty hand, with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.”
38. I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.”
The rebels are purged out from among the house of Israel. These men have refused to go along with the LORD when He brought the people out to plead with them. Perhaps they did not want to go out into the wilderness. Perhaps they liked their homes and the country they were living in before, and didn’t want to leave. Perhaps they never obeyed the Lord before, and they are not about to start now. At any rate, they choose to rebel. The LORD’s response is not one of grace, as all His works are today. Rather, the LORD responds to these people in judgment, and brings the most severe punishment upon them. They are brought, in spite of themselves, out of the land where they dwell. Yet the LORD will not bring them into the land of Israel along with those who do submit themselves to Him. What happens to them, we are not told, but it seems clear that they will no longer be allowed to live once they have thus rebelled against the LORD’s clear command. They are cast out of the country of their sojourn, and their lives are taken away from them.
Then, when all this has happened, Adonai Yahweh assures us that then “you,” the house of Israel, “will know that I am the LORD.” What an amazing time this will be, and what an amazing result God’s work will have!
Now, if we would attempt to sort this prophecy into a bin, I believe it must fit into our new bin, the “Last Days.” It cannot fit into any other bin, particularly the Millennium, where most would like to sort it. It cannot go into the Millennium for several reasons. First of all, instead of punishing the house of Israel with everlasting destruction for not knowing Him, as God will do when Jesus Christ returns at the beginning of the Millennium, God pleads with Israel to bring them to Himself. Then the Lord GOD teaches them to know Him. Yet at the Lord’s return, He would destroy them for not knowing Him, as we have it set forth in II Thessalonians 1:7-10 and Matthew 13:40-43. At the Lord’s parousia, He will take vengeance in flaming fire against all who do not know God. He does not plead with them. He does not set forth a case before them. He destroys all who do not already know Him and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. These events cannot take place in the Millennium. They must take place before it, or they will never take place at all.
Now let us consider in more detail Malachi 4:5-6, a passage we touched on briefly earlier in this study. There, we read,
5. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
6. And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
The LORD is speaking here, from verse 1. We learn of Him sending Elijah the prophet. This takes place “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” And we learn as well why He does this. If certain conditions were true upon the earth when the Lord Jesus Christ comes, He would have no choice but to smite the earth with a curse. Since He does not wish to do this, He will send Elijah first, before the coming of the Day of the Lord. He will do a work that will keep the LORD from having to strike the earth with a curse when He comes. This will be a great work indeed! What does this passage say that this work will be?
First of all, it says Elijah will turn the heart of the fathers to their children. To understand what this means, let us examine Matthew 18:3. The Lord Jesus is speaking here.
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
These disciples, though they were grown men and wise in the ways of this world, are told that they must be converted and become “as little children” in order to enter the government of heaven. Little children are submissive, and believe what they are told. This is what men must do before God if they are to enter His government. Even those who are fully grown and worldly-wise must become submissive like little children before God if they are to have a place in His government. And that is what Elijah will do: he will turn the hearts of those wise in the ways of the world and make them as open and submissive before God as the hearts of little children.
Now Elijah also turns the hearts of children to their fathers. To understand this, let us look at Luke 1:17. This verse is speaking of John the Baptizer, and telling how he would do a work similar to that which Elijah will do in the future.
“He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
John the Baptizer would go out in the spirit and power of Elijah. This means he would do similar things to what Elijah will do in the future. Some try to make out that John’s work fulfilled these prophecies of Elijah. Yet this does not make sense at all, for Elijah never did anything like this in his ministry to Israel in the past. He never turned the hearts of the fathers to the children, or the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. He never made ready a people prepared for the Lord. The closest he came to doing something like this was his showdown with the prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel. Yet it seems clear that the people of Israel in general were no more prepared for the Lord after this than they were before it, for Elijah had to flee for his life, and Israel remained as wicked as ever. No, John the Baptist is said to be like Elijah because of what Malachi predicts Elijah will do in the future. So if Elijah never does this, then John the Baptist was not like Elijah at all. He cannot be like Elijah because he did something that Elijah never did and never will do. The only way he could be like Elijah is if Elijah actually does this in the future!
So John, like Elijah, would turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. He makes the hearts of the disobedient wise. This is what turning the hearts of the children to their fathers means. He makes them wise. Children are not as wise as their fathers. Generally, we suppose that a child will know less than his father, particularly while he is still a child. Yet through the work that Elijah does in the future, the hearts of the children will be as wise as the hearts of their fathers. The hearts of the innocent will not be ignorant, but will know the wisdom of God. This will be a blessed addition to childhood indeed!
Now this did not happen in John the Baptist’s day, as I said above. He did not do anything that could affect the earth so profoundly that it would still keep the Lord Jesus from striking the earth with a curse when He comes. Moreover, John the Baptist himself said he was not Elijah in John 1:21.
This also cannot happen in the tribulation. Many try to argue that Elijah is one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11. Yet again this does not fit. First of all, what Revelation describes the two witnesses doing is not what Malachi describes Elijah doing. If Elijah’s ministry meets with as little success as Revelation 11 describes the two witnesses having, then we have no hope whatsoever of Christ not striking the earth with a curse when He comes. Yet Malachi 4 assures us that Elijah’s coming will accomplish this. And, secondly, the sending of Elijah cannot happen in the tribulation because it is described as happening “before the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord,” and yet I believe that the events described in the book of Revelation take place entirely in the Day of the Lord. As I explained above, this is set forth clearly in Revelation 1:10.
10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,
So Revelation is entirely in the Day of the Lord. Yet this takes place BEFORE the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. Thus, Elijah cannot be one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11. His mission and work must be done before the Day of the Lord ever comes in, and so before the book of Revelation starts to take place.
So we understand that Elijah will someday return from heaven. It will not be difficult for the LORD to send him, for remember that Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind long ago, as is described in II Kings 2. What he has been doing there since it is hard to say, although it seems quite possible that God has been preparing him ever since he went there for this great task he is to do in the future. This is a gracious work that God will do before the second coming of Christ. And it will have such positive results that, as a direct effect of this work, the LORD assures us that there will be no need for Him to “come and strike the earth with a curse.” If men were as wicked and godless as they are today when Christ returns to earth, then, as I said above, God would have no choice but to wipe out the vast majority of men on earth in a massive extermination. Yet this prophecy predicts that this will not have to take place. And a major reason it will not have to happen is because Elijah will be sent by the LORD to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. This cannot happen in the Millennium. This happens in our fifth time period. This happens in the “Last Days.”