All Bible readers stumble upon names, places, and phrases that can be intriguing at best and outright confusing at worst. One of the phrases nestled in Scripture that has caused much discussion is the phrase, “the day of the Lord.” Why is this particular phrase important for Christians to understand? Many Christians have interpreted this phrase to describe such concepts as “end times”; “Armageddon”; or simply “Jesus coming again on a white horse”—but what do these phrases mean? The folks at the Bible Project tackle this very issue in a recently published video.
Many of those vivid images come from the book of Revelation, but to understand them we must actually go all the way back to Genesis. It’s there where we read of the familiar historical account of Adam and Eve and how God gave them dominion and stewardship over His creation. Unfortunately, they bought into the lie of the serpent that they could define good and evil in their own terms and put themselves in God’s place. Consequently, this foolish and sinful choice brings unimaginable strife into humanity. This eventually leads God’s people to build a city named Babel and within that city, they attempt to build a huge tower to elevate themselves to the place of God.
God knows that this attempt will only bring more pain to humanity as they redefine good and evil according to their fleshly desires instead of God’s good wisdom. God graciously destroys the tower and confuses their language as a restraint against their evil actions. From this point on in the biblical story, the term “Babylon” becomes a type of shorthand to describe humanity’s corporate rebellion against God. An example of this happening is when Pharaoh himself defines good and evil and enslaves God’s people, the Israelites. God turns Pharaoh’s evil back on himself and gloriously frees the Israelites out from under Pharaoh’s rule. The Hebrew people to this day celebrate that rescue by God by calling it “the day” or the Passover.
The “day” was not always seen as judgment against Israelite’s enemies. In the book of Amos the prophet, God pronounces a day of judgment against the Israelites for they too had redefined good and evil resulting in cultural violence and corruption. The rest of the Old Testament shows how time and time again God’s judgment allows for the Israelites’ enemies to conquer and subdue them. This was the context Jesus was born into as the Israelites were then under the Roman Empire. Though many had an expectation of the coming Messiah as a political warrior that would go toe to toe against Rome, Jesus came to go after the ultimate enemy, the devil, and to break the power of his accomplice, the corrupted human heart.
While on the cross Jesus allowed evil to exhaust all of its power by using its most powerful weapon.. death. By His own death in our place and His resurrection, Jesus opened up the way for anyone to escape from Babylon and to discover what it means to be human as God intended. Yes, there is still evil in this world and humanity continues to build its own Babylon but there is good news. Jesus is coming again to completely eradicate evil once and for all. We see foreshadows of the “day of the Lord” when Christians resist the evil of this world and proclaim the promise that Jesus is coming again to gather all of His children not for just a day… but for eternity!