This article is a continuation of the article appearing in the previous issue under the title “The Prophets.” The title should have been the one appearing above this article.
In these articles I address myself to the task of ascertaining:
- The doings of the Lord in “that day.”
- The significance of “that day.”
- Its successive and final appearing.
What was that day to these prophets? It was the day of the Lord, thus a day filled with His doings. And these doings were the fulfillment of all the predictions of each and every prophet of God. In this day all their prophecies were realized. The truth of this statement is born out by the fact that in their discourses the expression that day is associated with all their predictions.
As the doing of the Lord to be accomplished in “that day” are, as was said, the very events foretold by each and every one of God’s prophets, showing what these doings are is a task that consists in setting forth at least the substance of the predictive sections of the discourses of the prophets of God. We came up to the content of the prophecy of Obadiah.
The date of Obadiah’s prophetic activity cannot be determined. This prophet announces the utter destruction of Edom on account of his hostile purposes against Judah, the deliverance and exaltation of the Church and Jehovah’s universal sway.
According to the heading in 1:1, Micah prophesied in the days of Hezekiah, commencing his labors before the dispersion of the ten tribes in 741. In his discourse he sets out with announcements of judgments, which he directs against the ten tribes and Judah. He predicts the utter destruction of Samaria and Judah, but also the return of a purified remnant under the leadership of Jehovah, and further the healing of the dispersed, the revival of the kingdom of David, the destruction of the enemy, and the birth and reign of the Messiah. He, too, holds forth to God’s people the promise of a glorious restoration, and ends with a song of praise to Jehovah, Who alone is God.
The date of the prophetic activity of Nahum must remain a matter of uncertainty. The prophecy decrees Nineveh’s doom, holds forth the promise of Judah’s deliverance, and depicts the universal exaltation over the fall of Nineveh.
Habakkuk must have prophesied about 625 B.C., thus before the exile of Judah. The book expresses the prophet’s perplexity over how Jehovah can justify His indifference of the wickedness and violence of His apostate people. The reply of Jehovah is that He is not indifferent but that a fearful judgment to be executed by the Chaldeans is about to overtake the sinful people. This gives rise to a new perplexity on the part of the prophet. How can a holy God employ a godless agent? Jehovah’s reply is that the Chaldeans, though temporarily victorious, will meet with certain doom and that the righteous, though temporarily afflicted, will live forever. The discourse closes with a prayer in which the prophet extols Jehovah’s mighty works of the past and voices his confidence in Jehovah, the God of his salvation.
As to Zephaniah, the title of his book places his prophetic activity in the reign of Josiah, that is, between 639-608. This prophet forecasts universal judgment. There are judgments coming against Judah and Jerusalem and against the nations, to wit, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Ethiopia, Assyria. But Zion is exhorted to rejoice for her salvation by the Lord.
The prophecies of Haggai were uttered in the second year of Darius, that is, in 520 B.C. The prophet rebukes the religious indifference of of the Jews who returned from exile, with the result that the temple is built. When once completed, the prophet promises the overthrow of the nations, the establishment of the Kingdom of God, and the exaltation of Zerubbabel.
As to Zechariah, also his prophecy is placed by its title in the second year of Darius. This book predicts the final conflict and triumph of the kingdom of God. Ephraim and Judah will be rejuvenated. The exiles will be restored from Assyria and Egypt. Jerusalem will be captured and delivered. The hostile nations will be destroyed. The whole land will undergo a most remarkable fertility and felicity. The remnant of the nations will be converted. And Judah and Jerusalem will be holy unto Jehovah.
We may gather from the prophecy of Malachi that also this prophet began his labors after the captivity of Judah. The prophet declares Jehovah’s love of His people in reply to their inquiry: “Wherein hast thou loved us?” He condemns the people’s neglect of the service of God, their mixed marriages, and their religious indifference and skepticism, and foretells the utter destruction of the wicked and the exaltation and glorification of the righteous. His closing word is an exhortation to faithful observance of the law, and an announcement that the Lord will send them Elijah before the coming of His great and terrible day to turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to the fathers.
As these sketches indicate, there is remarkable agreement between these discourses, and this of necessity as each foretells what will come to pass in that day. All therefore have in common the same great themes. Their collective contents are comprehended in three expressions: judgment; permanent redemption of the church through judgment; the everlasting glory and blissfulness of her heavenly existence.
As to the character of that day, it is a day of terrible wonders. In it the Lord will cause the sun to go down at noon and he will darken the earth in a clear day (Amos 8:8ff), show wonders in the heavens and in the earth (Joel 3:21). The land shall tremble and every one mourn that dwelleth in it (Amos 8:8). The Lord in that day will come forth out of His place, and will come down and tread the high places of the earth; the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft (Micah 1:3, 4). The superficial and unbelieving populace, deceived by the false prophets, liked to contemplate it as a day to be desired. But in contrast to this unbelieving attitude, the true prophets of God affirmed its terribleness. Every decisive event or combination of events, by which the ends of God’s kingdom are promoted, must be a sifting of the Lord’s people, a thorough purging of His floor. Hence the day of the Lord is one of great judgment for His people. In this day God will send fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem (Amos 2:5). Against the family of Israel He will revise evil from which they shall not remove their necks (Micah 2:3). He will send the Assyrian, the rod of His anger, and will give him charge to take the spoil and to tread them down like mire of the streets (Isa. 1:6).
For the true Israel the day of the Lord is characterized by hope and joy ultimately. God will bind up the breach of His people, and heal the stroke of her wound (Isa. 30:20). The day of the Lord will be a day of terrible vengeance against Israel’s enemies. All the despots who oppressed Israel shall be broken. The day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen; as they have done, so shall it be done to them. Their reward shall return upon their head (Obad. 15). Jehovah will come from His holy mountain in all the glory and majesty of the tempest. He will march like a lion before His people. He, the great king of all the earth, who possesses all nations, will come to dwell on Zion, to set up His royal throne there over the whole earth, and manifest His glory, so that all nations may know that He is king forever.
As the above sketches indicate, the day of the Lord is the greatest turning-point in the history of the Church and of the world, when heaven and earth are finally set in motion and when all relations are completely changed, so that, among all the days, of time, this is the day which God has and creates for Himself and His great work, of which He speaks and in which He is glorified (Isa. 29:17-24; Haggai 11:6, 22; Ezek. 30:3; Zech. 14:1; Zech. 3:8; Ezek. 34:13).
So we are finally confronted by the question: When did this day come? It came when the Lord came in judgment against Israel and Judah and the foreign nations and when he redeemed His people from Babylonian captivity. Yet the transpiring of these events, however dreadful, does not satisfy the predictions of God’s prophets. This is clear from the consideration of the following scriptures of which the discourses of the prophets are full: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together. . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountains: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:10). For behold I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people, and the voice of weeping shall no more be heard in her, nor the voice of crying. . . .” (Isa. 65:17, 18). Malachi continues to prophesy of the coming of God’s terrible day with Judah again in Canaan.
Thus these prophecies call for still another coming of the “day of the Lord.” The “day of the Lord” has once again come, truly come. It did so when God sending forth His Son “made of a woman, and made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, put Him to grief for our iniquities, engulfed Him by the billows of His wrath on account of our transgressions. Then was Zion redeemed with judgment. Then, too, was the judgment of this world on account of its having crucified the Lord of glory. So, raising up His Son unto the justification of His people, God exalted Him by His right hand. And He reigns now, does Christ—reigns in the midst of His enemies—the kings of the earth who set themselves, and the rulers who take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder ,and cast away their cords from us. He breaks them with a rod of iron and dashes them in pieces like a potter’s vessel—He, God’s true anointed King upon His holy hill of Zion, the Jerusalem that is now above (Ps. 2). So has the terrible day of the Lord truly come.
And yet, even with the transpiring of these events the Holy Spirit by the mouth of the apostles continues to speak of the coming of the day of the Lord. God’s believing people, they say, “know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (I Thess. 5:3). “And the heavens shall pass away then with a great noise and the elements shall melt with a fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up” (II Peter 2:10). And there will be new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (II Peter 3:13), thus an earth cleansed from the race of men that now corrupt it. Then will God’s tabernacle be with men.” This will be the last of the greatest of judgments, the final world-catastrophe, the consummation of all things. Then all the requirements of all prophecy, comprehended in the promise as first revealed by the Lord to the first parents of the human family—the promise: “I will set enmity—will be fully satisfied. Then all Christ’s enemies—those who, while in the flesh, derided Him and denied His existence—will be made—actually made—His footstool in that place of everlasting desolation. As subdued and humbled sinners, they will say to Him: “Truly, Thou were and art Lord.”
So will the day of the Lord once more certainly come, as it has come again and again; first through the destruction of the world by the flood; second, through the devastation of Egypt by the ten plagues, the slaying of Egypt’s firstborn, the drowning of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, and the extermination of the Canaanites; third, through the destruction of the neighboring nations of the people of Israel; fourth, through the final destruction of Jerusalem; fifth, through the last judgment.
But the judgment came also against Christ through His being bruised for our sins. This judgment was foreshadowed first, by the deluge; second by Pharaoh’s oppression of God’s Son, the people of Israel; and, third, by the great grief to which God put Israel, His Servant, through the agency of the Syrian, Assyrian, and the other heathen conquerors. So was the day of the Lord, as often as it came, a season of greatest grief first for God’s people and this on account of their sins, and then for the enemies who had oppressed them. But their Redeemer lives—He, who through His bearing the grief of God’s terrible day, atoned their sins. Through the sufferings of God’s terrible day He therefore leads them to the glory. Out of all their troubles He will deliver them in the day of His appearing. So, looking out upon the career of the church as set before us in the Scriptures, we see in them five greatest judgments and deliverances, each of which marks the end of one epoch, dispensation or day and the beginning of another. The last great judgment and the final deliverance marks the commencement of the day eternal.