The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
THREE DAYS characterize the history of mankind from the beginning to the consummation. They are Man's Day, the Day of Yahweh and the Day of God. The first grand section of this Unveiling deals with the destruction of all that was in Man's Day by the ushering in of the Day of Yahweh. The second division deals with the Day of God.
Man's day is the only day we have ever known, but it is fast nearing its close. All of the first division of this Unveiling, up to the new earth, is in the Lord's Day. Thenceforward to the end we are occupied with the Day of God.
Man's day is done when the action of this book commences, but it will be well for us to use the light which the phrase gives us to illuminate some of the dark corners of the time in which we live that we may understand better why Yahweh deals so harshly with its achievements.
The phrase is used by the apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor.4:3): "With me," he says, "it is a very small thing to be judged by you or by man's day..." "Man's judgment," the old version rendered it, and thus covered up a great mine of truth. Their judgment is the same as man's judgment, so that nothing is really added to the thought. But "man's day" opens up a vista of principles and practices, of motives and methods so out of line with the apostle's purpose in life that he made no effort whatever to conform to its decrees.
The underlying principle of each of these days is the same. It is exaltation. Just as the prophet concludes his description of the Lord's Day with the reassuring declaration, "Yahweh alone shall be exalted in that day," so also in the other two days. Up to the present time mankind is striving to exalt itself. Yahweh alone will be exalted in the coming day. God will have the highest place on the new earth.
In Man's day mankind is given a free rein to show what the race is capable of accomplishing. Man is being tried under all conceivable circumstances. Before the flood the test was conducted under anarchy; since then man has tried every variety of government from democracy to despotism, from Socialism to plutocracy. Laws are made by the million and broken by the billion every year. Government is being continually reformed but nothing is ever final.
The truth that we are living in Man's day is the answer to some of the most perplexing questions which have ever been propounded. Again and again the complaint arises, If God has all wisdom why does He allow such a state of affairs to exist? The answer is, that He is displaying His wisdom through human folly. If He has all power why does He not use force to end the violence of man? But how can we know His power except by the impotence of human might? If He is Love why does He not care for His creatures and comfort them in their distress? But God's love never glows so brightly as when stirred by human hate.
But these answers would not satisfy if Man's day were interminable. The day of man must last long enough to give ample opportunity to the human race to prove its impotence, but not one instant longer. We may not judge God by the history of the human race during this period in which He has purposely withdrawn. The next two days will provide ample proof that His ways with mankind are in perfect accord with His glorious attributes.
The first intimation of the period in which the action of this prophecy is placed is found when John tells us plainly that, in spirit, he came to be in the Lord's day. The old version would have us believe that he was "in the spirit on the Lord's day," that is, in a trance on the day we call Sunday. A reference to the interlinear will quickly show that it should read in and not on. These two connectives are quite distinct in Greek and are never confounded with one another. The offensiveness of the substitute lies in the English idiom by which "on the Lord's day" suggests a day of the week, misnamed by many "the sabbath," or "the first day of the week," or "the Lord's day." All of these are most mischievous and unscriptural substitutes for Sunday. Saturday, the seventh day, is the sabbath for Israel. "The first day of the week" is a fable forced upon us by a company of translators who deliberately manufactured the phrase to sanction the keeping of Sunday, while "the Lord's day" has absolutely no support in holy writ as applied to a day of the week.
It is not revealed what day it was when the seer perceived his visions. And, indeed, what would be gained if we knew the day or the hour? What we wish to know is the time to which the vision applies. A hasty glance will soon show us that Man's day is past. His highest efforts fail. His haughty head is humbled. There is no question at all but that the terrible time foretold by the prophets and called by them "the day of Yahweh" was vividly brought before John's vision and that he was, in spirit, in the day of the Lord.
If, then, he was in the Lord's day, what would be more to the point than to open the vision by telling us the time of its application?
Some have suggested that there is a difference between "the Lord's day" as it is given here, and "the day of the Lord" as it is in the Hebrew Scriptures. We hardly need to mention that in Hebrew there is no means of saying "the Lord's day." The Hebrew translation of this book, we understand, translates this phrase just as it is in the prophets, "the day of the Lord."
But there is a good reason for the change here. In meaning there is not the slightest difference between "the Lord's day" and "the day of the Lord," but in emphasis there is. The prophets laid their stress upon the character of the day: it was the day of Yahweh. The seer of Patmos dwells on the time of the vision: it was in the Lord's day. Hence the noun "Lord" is lowered in rank to a descriptive term and placed before the noun it modifies in order to allow the emphasis to fall on the day in which the vision was perceived.
The prophet Isaiah gives us two notable descriptions of the coming of the day of Yahweh. First he enlarges upon it in connection with the blessing of Jerusalem. Later he treats of it as it affects the destruction of Babylon. These are the two cities which come before us in the temple section of this Unveiling. No one who will compare Isaiah's description with the later revelation will be able to doubt for an instant that John was transported into the day of Yahweh foretold by the ancient Hebrew prophets.
Let the reader turn to the second chapter of Isaiah and read the whole of it. The keynote is struck in the eleventh verse:
"The eyes of the haughty human are low,
And prostrate is the highness of mortals,
And Yahweh alone is impregnable in that day."
This is repeated in the seventeenth verse. This is the very antithesis of Man's Day when Christ not only humbled Himself but was unutterably humiliated by the heads of haughty human institutions. The high priest, the religious head, exalted himself and humbled Christ. Herod the political authority, shielded himself while he allowed them to crucify Christ.
But in Yahweh's Day all this will be reversed. The Crucified One will be crowned with many diadems. The earth will be filled with blessing but it will be the portion of the meek and humble in heart.
The closing section of the chapter (vss.19-22) gives us a remarkable description of the means which will be used to bring this about. It corresponds closely with the sixth chapter of this Unveiling, where men call upon the mountains and hills to fall upon them and hide them from the face of the One Who is sitting on the throne. Isaiah says 2:19:
And they come into caves of the rocks,
And into tunnels of the soil,
From the face of awe-inspiring Yahweh,
And from the honor of His pomp,
When He rises to terrify the earth.
Yet not all of Yahweh's Day is filled with destruction. Peace, the great desire of all nations, will then be realized. Until then men will fight for it, but never taste its sweets for long (2:4):
And He judges between the nations,
And corrects many peoples.
And they pound their swords into mattocks,
And their spears into pruners.
And nation is not lifting the sword against nation,
Nor learning still further to fight.
This is the result of the righteous rule of Yahweh, for the law for the whole earth will go forth from Jerusalem.
A different aspect of that dreadful day is presented to us in the thirteenth chapter of the same prophet. Not Jerusalem but Babylon is the theme here. First we have the gathering of the nations against Babylon. Then we are taken back to the heavenly portents under the sixth seal. The stars, the sun and the moon refuse to shine. Both heaven and earth are shaken. The effect on Babylon will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. As a result (Isa. 13:20):
It shall not be indwelt permanently,
Nor shall anyone tabernacle there further, for generation after generation,
Nor shall the Arabian tent there,
Nor shepherds recline their flocks there.
How this reminds one of the destruction of Babylon in the Unveiling! "Thus Babylon, the great city, will be hurled down, and never more be found in it" (Rev.18:21)!
The Minor Prophets Joel and Zechariah have notable accounts of the Lord's day and, in each case, they describe the very scenes which are found in this Unveiling. Joel begins with the description of a famine (Joel 1:15-18; Rev.6:8). Then the ravages of fire follow (Joel 1:19,20; Rev.8:7). Even the cavalry of the abyss is described (Joel 2:4-9; Rev.9:17). The great earthquake and the eclipse of the heavenly bodies are vividly predicted (Joel 2:10; Rev.6:12; 8:12).
Zechariah gives us the closing scenes of judgment which cluster around Jerusalem and the manifestation of the Lord in power and glory. The mobilization of all nations at Armageddon, the capture of Jerusalem, and the great earthquake when the Lord descends upon the Mount of Olives, is detailed with great fullness, as it affects the city and the land.
"And Yahweh shall be King over all the earth."
All of these prophecies are distinctly and definitely located in the day of Yahweh. All of them describe the very same events which are seen in vision by John when he was transported, in spirit, into the Lord's day.
In view of this, how can we even consider any other interpretation of these words? If it was on the sabbath, why was it not so stated? If on Sunday, this, too, could have been indicated. But the spirit of God avoided all such terms and chose one well known and loved by all who read the prophets.
The distinction between Man's Day and the Lord's Day is easily grasped. But what difference is there between the Lord's Day and the Day of God? The latter phrase is not found in this Unveiling, but the new heavens and the new earth are associated with this phrase by the apostle Peter, who also describes the close of the Day of the Lord because of the presence of the Day of God (2 Peter 3:12): "Hoping for and hastening to the presence of the day of God, because of which the heavens, being on fire, will be dissolved, and the elements will be decomposed by combustion. Yet we may be hoping for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness is dwelling."
From this passage it is evident that the Day of the Lord comes to its end with the burning of this earth and the Day of God commences with the new earth. By comparing conditions before and after this event we doubtless would be able to get glimpses of the knowledge we are seeking. But a much more direct method is to examine the titles themselves as they are used in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The title "Lord" refers us to the Hebrew "Yahweh:" "God" is the usual translation of "Elohim." Among the many divine titles in the Hebrew Scriptures these two are the most notable. They are used thousands of times and always with precision and due regard to their significance. They cannot be interchanged without spoiling the passage in which they occur. We read that Yahweh is the Elohim of Israel (Isa.45:3). This is full of satisfactory sense. But if we transpose the titles and say that Elohim is the Yahweh of Israel, the statement, though true, lacks all point.
These two titles are like two great pillars which uphold the temple of His glory. They are founded in the very constitution of the universe. Every act or event in the history of the creation may be described from two standpointsplace and time. God's great purpose to reveal Himself makes use of these two elements. The sphere of His self-revelation is comprised within the heavens and the earth. The time is confined to the ages or eons. In conformity with this He assumes a place-name and a time-title. Elohim is God in His connection with space; Yahweh connects Him with the course of time.
In the beginning, we read, Elohim created the heavens and the earth (Gen.1:1). Mark the title. Not Yahweh, but Elohim. He created the stage on which the tragedy of humanity was to be enacted. And so throughout the chapter. It is Elohim who makes and creates the creatures and their environment. Man is created in His imagea term referring to form. As soon, however, as the stage is set, the history of man's creation is rehearsed from the new standpoint of time. Yahweh Elohim formed the man out of the soil of the ground, and man became a living soul. Here it is that human history begins. At this point the clock begins to tick off the seconds and the story of man, which needs not only place but time for its unfoldment, begins. This is the reason that the title "Yahweh" is associated with Elohim. The introduction of a new element calls out a new side of the divine character, which is expressed by the title He assumes.
That Yahweh is the title which links our Lord with the sphere of time is evident from the very title itself. It is usually derived from the Hebrew substantive "to be" in its three time-forms. It comprises the future HE WILL BE, the present, BEING, and the past HE WAS. This is the order in the Hebrew. But when we come to its thrice repeated equivalent in this Unveiling, the future no longer occupies the place of prominence at the beginning, but is found at the end. Why is this? Is there some mistake? Not at all. There is no change in the components of the title, but only a shifting of its emphasis from the future to the present. And what could be more apt under the circumstances? In the prophets, the name Yahweh was the name of hope, of future fulfillment. They looked forward. But now that the day of Yahweh has come, the emphasis falls on the fact that He IS, and all that occurs is founded on the fact of His present operation. Indeed, so flexible is this title, that its later occurrences omit the future altogether. That part of the incommunicable name which has been fulfilled falls off (Rev.11:17; 16:5). Hope gives place to realization. Have we not here a plain indication of the transient nature of this one of the divine assumptions? Elohim is permanent as place; Yahweh is transient as time. Yahweh is the eonian God, the God of the ages. Beyond these the title has no application.
But the most important point lies in the association of this title with the nation of Israel. Yahweh is not the God of all the nations. He is confined to one nationthe sons of Jacob. Ever since they have been separated from the rest and made the appointed channel of blessing for the earth, Yahweh has been their God, and the day of Yahweh is their day as well as His. That day holds no hope for any other nation, as such. But for Israel it has a thousand promises. It is the day of days for them, when, as the priest kingdom, they hold the highest place for a millennium. Let us never connect the title Yahweh with any other nation.
The tremendous import of this fact in interpreting this Unveiling is hard to realize at first. But gradually, as other facts confirm it, the light breaks into our dull hearts. This day is not for the nations. They had their opportunity in Man's Day. The day of Yahweh is for Israel and Israel's God.
That Elohim associates God with the universe of space is remarkably confirmed by its Greek equivalent Theos. The ending os is merely an addition to indicate the nominative case. We have Theou, Theoo, Theon, and Thee, for the genitive, dative, accusative and vocative cases. The real root isTHEThis Greek element carries the constant idea, to PLACE, and is so defined in the Concordant Version. The Greek equivalent of Elohim is "Placer"the divine Creator of the vast realm of space and all its contents.
As Yahweh is the God of the covenant people, so Elohim is the God of creation. He is bound by ties unbreakable to every being in the universe. He breaks down the barriers between Himself and mankind at the beginning of His day. "God Himself," we read, "shall be their God." He will tent with them. He will comfort them. He will not dwell in a temple, inaccessible except to a favored few. While the ascendancy of Israel in the sphere of politics still remains on the new earth, their priesthood vanishes. In the beginning, before the days of Abraham and Isaac and Israel, God dealt with all mankind directly. So will it be in the final eon. A glorious day will dawn, more splendid far than the much mentioned millennium, in which the breach between mankind and God will be well nigh bridged. As much as the millennium surpasses the present, so shall this marvelous day outstrip the glories of the day of Yahweh.
The Unveiling of Jesus Christ, then, marks the climax in the relations between God and His creatures. Man's miserable attempt to get along without Him finally fails. He takes the helm and guides the universe straight towards its final goal.
Man's day is nearly done. The day of Yahweh impends! What a marvelous comfort this should be to us! No more of man's misrule with all its untold harvest of sorrow and suffering! Soon, very soon, the pride of man shall be brought low, and Yahweh alone shall be exalted! God speed the day!
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