Days of the Lord
We tend to speak of “day of the Lord” univocally, but Scripture uses it in a layered fashion: First, it can refer to Jesus’s weekly visitation of his people: “Lord’s day” and “day of the Lord” are essentially the same (e.g., Isa. 58:13). On the Lord’s day Jesus visits his church, walking among the lampstands (Rev. 1ff) and welcoming but also evaluating her. Second, it can refer to archetypal times when Jesus visits his people in judgment and vindication in a peculiar way, such as Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem (Isaiah 2) or Jesus’s destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (2 Thess. 2). Third, we can use it to refer to other times in history that fit this same pattern, when Jesus visits in judgment and vindication in a special way. Finally, we can use it in a sort of “capital letter” sense to refer to the final visitation of Jesus (1 Cor. 5:5) at “the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Cor. 15).
An interesting pattern to observe is how often the “day of the Lord” is connected to Jesus visiting his church. It is true that all nations will experience days of the Lord (Ezek. 30:3). Jesus is visiting to vindicate the faithful and to bring low his enemies, but judgment begins at the house of God. Apostate Israel is brought into exile. Apostate Jerusalem (the “Babylon” of Revelation, “where their Lord was crucified”—Rev. 11:8 together with 18:10ff) is destroyed. There is a special warning in this for the church, in that the day of the Lord will bring about destruction both without and within the church. We see this even in the weekly visitations as Jesus warns the lampstands, and if we consider the double-edged sword of the weekly Lord’s supper in 1 Cor 11.
Finally, if we think about a prophetic pronunciation that the day of the Lord is coming (whether we are thinking about its coming soon to our nation, or at the end of history), we can say that Jesus’s visitation is inevitable. We do not call people to repent so that they can somehow postpone Jesus’s coming; we call people to “die” in repentance so that they can pass through the coming fire and flood, and experience the resurrection that will certainly take place on the other side.