The Day of Christ and The Day of the Lord
Unique to Paul's epistles is the phrase, The Day of Christ (and its variations). The Day of the Lord, in contrast, is found extensively throughout the Old Testament prophets. Our goal will be to explore these two terms and how they interrelate and differ. We will especially seek to comprehend the Day of Christ.
For the Day of Christ, Paul consistently emphasizes the relationship (their being perfected by Him and made blameless) of believers to that day and how they are blessed. Two verses illustrate:
For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the Day of Christ.. Philippians 1:8-10
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you.......I (Paul).....deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5
Regarding the Day of the Lord, in contrast, Zephaniah writes of its character thus:
The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the Day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land. Zeph 1:14-17
This Day of the Lord is a time of severe judgment for Israel, preparatory to her conversion & millennial blessing. For the nations it is a time of harsh and deserved righteous judgment, coinciding with the latter day events revealed in Daniel 2 and much of Revelation (and elsewhere). It affects both individuals and nations. It is a dark foreboding Day. Its meaning is fairly well accepted as a future time of judgment on man (Israel & the Gentile nations).
It is evident, that both terms refer to the future. The two have been contrasted as follows:
There is much to commend this thinking, and it is clear that things related to the two "days" coincide. Because that which pertains to the church was not revealed in the Old Testament, the emphasis of the "Day of Christ" was revealed by Paul and is unique and a newer revelation. The two terms are related in time, yet very different in aspect. One is the vindication of Christ, and the other, we suggest, is related to His joy.
Notice in particular, that the Day of Christ references for His own, matters of excellence, sincerity, being without offense, and even the final salvation/deliverance of a wayward one. In Philippians 1:3-6 Paul writes of the believers being perfected unto the Day of Christ Jesus. In that same epistle, chapter 2:14-16 the apostle says that he will have reason to glory in the day of Christ Jesus because he did not toil in vain.
Together these references paint a portrait of persons in making ready for a special day. It hearkens to Esther's 6 months of oils and myrrh, followed by 6 months of sweet perfumes. She was to have a tremendous preparation to become the Queen (with him in view mind you), albeit under a pagan ruler, well below the prospect of them who look forward to the Day of Christ.
There is a tremendous anticipation in these things for saints in Christ, as these next two verses exhibit:
The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day 2 Timothy 1:16-18
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing 2 Timothy 4:6-8
We see more of what is in store for the body of Christ in that day. Reward, mercy, crowns...for them that love His appearing.
Ephesians 5:27 recaps coming events for the bride in "that day", even though the "Day of Christ" as such isn't stated, yet the link is clear: "...that he might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish..."
We propose that to emphasize the "Day of Christ" as merely a time of blessing for the Church is to miss the point. It is after all the Day of Christ not the Day of the Church. We suggest that it goes well beyond the consummate blessings given to His bride, and encompasses His joy in it. The day of man has reached its end, being judged in the Day of the Lord, whilst the Day of Christ begins somewhat concurrently. It is His day. It is His joy.
Part of His joy is understood in His own words "It is more blessed to give than to receive." He gives her much, presents her to Himself, and His Day is consummated.
If a definition is needed, the Day of Christ then, is related to the completion of the present age, where His bride is readied and blessed beyond measure, and presented to Him. And the Day moves beyond to the coming age(s). It is His Day.
The Day of the Lord - lest we forget we were discussing that too, includes those judgments that end of the day of man, and its scope moves on to the Millennial period as well.
One last verse for our study, perhaps the most interesting in many ways because it is the one verse that includes these two textual variants, The Day of the Lord, and The Day of Christ. (Thus we say "interesting", because textual variants are not edifying-they are at times annoying to have to deal with - but we cannot pass this by in fear).
2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 ... be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as if the Day of Christ* is present. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition ...
We turn to Wilbur Pickering, a champion of the Majority Text studies of the Greek New Testament, for some help on whether this verse should say Day of the Lord or Day of Christ, because Greek manuscripts have both:
*Some 15% of the Greek manuscripts have ‘Lord’ (as in NIV, NASB, LB, TEV, etc.); the 85% that have ‘Christ’ (including the best line of transmission) are doubtless correct. I remember one day in a Greek exegesis class, the professor stated that one reason he preferred the ‘critical’ text (that reads ‘Lord’ here) is that it fit better with his view of eschatology—the ‘Day of Christ’ is usually associated with the Rapture and blessing of the saints, while the ‘Day of the Lord’ is usually associated with heavy judgment upon the world and unrepentant Israel, including the outpouring of wrath just before and after the Second Coming of Christ, when He returns in glory to establish His Millennial Reign. The perceived difficulty here would appear to be that while verses 1, 6 and 7 evidently relate to the Rapture, verses 3-4 and 8-10 evidently relate to the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming. What to do? Look carefully at the Text. In verse 2, why would the Thessalonian believers be “disturbed”? Someone was teaching that the Rapture had already happened and they had been left behind—I would be disturbed too! So ‘day of Christ’ is precisely correct with reference to the content of verses 1 and 2..
We would stand with the majority text reading "The Day of Christ," though admitting that the "Day of the Lord" is easier on the theology to explain. But if we see the day of Christ not merely as that moment of the Church's blessing, but encompassing all the joys in store for Christ and His bride (dare we write it thus of His joy?), all falls into place beautifully, and it is edifying indeed.
What Paul is telling the Thessalonians is that they cannot now be in the Day of Christ (much less the Day of the Lord). Their suffering could not possibly be part of either day. And in that they can rest and view the trouble all around them properly without being influenced and misled by false teachers.
Their blessed hope is His appearing, His coming, His presence, in its multifaceted revelation concerning the joy of saints in Him, it touches all - both of the Day of the Lord and The Day of Christ. The joy of saints with Him in that coming day is closely linked to His vindication, and the setting right of things in creation in the millennial day.
The Day of the Lord - His vindication
The Day of Christ - His joy
A final note, 2nd Peter 3 speaks of the Day of God. Not much is told of this momentous day, but it is wherein a new heavens and a new earth are found, and where righteousness dwells. Surely here too, in the Day of God, we see another facet of these "days' or epochs. All are in contrast with "man's day" which is today.