There are four references to the Day of the Lord in the New Testament. These provide us with certain additional facets of information over and above what has already been learned from the O.T.
1 Thess.5:1-4 “Of the times and seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write to you, because you yourselves know accurately that the DAY OF THE LORD comes as a thief in the night. For when they shall say ‘Peace and safety,’ sudden destruction comes upon them, as labour pains upon a pregnant woman, and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. You are children of light.”
The arrival of the Day of the Lord therefore comes like “a bolt out of the blue”, totally unexpected by the world at large, wholly perplexing, completely irreversible like the labour pains, when women say afterwards, “I felt shut in. I knew that I couldn’t go back, and yet I thought I couldn’t face going on.” That would be a fair way to describe the effect of the Divine Intervention. But Paul expected his converts to be ready for that day, glad to see its arrival, and excited at its prospects. In his second letter, Paul corrects a pernicious error relating to the Day of the Lord. Some were saying that it had arrived. But they failed to recognise the signs of its coming.
2 Thess.2:2-8 “Be not shaken in mind, nor troubled, neither by spirit, nor word [of prophecy], nor letter purporting to be from us, that the DAY OF THE LORD has arrived. Let no man deceive you by any means, because that day shall not come except there be the apostasy first, with the revelation of the Man of Lawlessness, the Son of Perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called Divine, or that is worshipped, so that he sits in the Temple of God showing himself to be God, . . . whom the Lord will consume with the spirit of His mouth, and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”
An apostasy, a word that means more then a “falling away”, or a “great backsliding” therefore precedes the Divine Intervention. It is best defined by the Greek word itself, namely APOSTASIA, a compound of APO and STASIS, meaning AWAY FROM and STANDING. Hence it refers to a deliberate act of dissociation from the basic tenets of the Christian faith, a most terrifying act, and one that must bring deep sadness to God Himself. These people are not of the world, Christ rejecters, but those who have at one time or another espoused the Christian faith, and been baptised into the fellowship of believers, but who now turn their backs on it, as though to bring shame on the One who was crucified to bring them life.
The result of this disaffection is the liberation of an antichrist figure, which, we are told, sets himself up in the Temple, proclaiming that he is God. Now a moment’s reflection is needed here, because some are inclined to interpret this of a literal Temple in Jerusalem, yet to be built, and a false Messiah parading as the true Christ before the Jews. But this is manifestly impossible. Consider this happening in the present day. We all know that the Jews have an earnest desire to build a Temple. It seems politically impossible just now, and might even trigger off another world war if they tried. But just suppose they managed to complete their structure, and a truly charismatic figure arose who passed himself off as the Messiah. What would happen? The world’s press would be awash with news reports, all quoting the above passage in 2 Thessalonians, and the man would have no credibility in the eyes of Jews or Christians or even the world. He would be the laughing stock of all. Hence we cannot attribute deception on a grand scale to any literal interpretation of Paul’s words. But Paul frequently spoke about the Body of Christ in the figure of a Temple, a spiritual building composed of what Peter called “living stones.” To contemplate the possibility of a highly charismatic individual insinuating himself within the Body of Christ, and speaking amazing prophetic words, calculated to cause all to gasp, would be a real deception.
The prophecies of Daniel uphold this view, whereby the Little Horn gains his foothold “by reason of transgressions,” (Daniel 8:12) and as a result “he cast truth to the ground, and did it with effect and succeeded.” And so for a limited period of time a powerful deception grasps hold of the Church, and many are ensnared by it. However, all the prophecies indicate that God allows this to happen as a time of sorting out the wheat from the chaff, and the strong from the weak, before He suddenly intervenes and puts a stop to it. This has to happen before the Day of the Lord according to Paul.
But I get the strong impression from various Scriptures that two forces are at work at the same time. As Jesus said, Elijah will“truly come first to restore all things”, (Matt.17:11) and so the Devil sets up his plan of deception to counter it. Peter earnestly contended with the Jews to “repent and be converted, that your sins be blotted out, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19) and this shows why Satan does all he can to prevent it. In his second letter Peter was emphatic about “the manner of persons you ought to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and HASTENING the DAY OF THE LORD.” Once again, Satan tries to slow everything up, to prevent that day from arriving. But true believers should take courage from Peter’s remark, and turn to the Lord with a whole heart, hastening, expecting, and looking up for their day of redemption is drawing near.
These are the New Testament references to the Day of the Lord, with one exception, which we shall reserve for the next chapter.