THE LAST DAY.
IT is generally, if not universally, conceded that the expressions “day of judgment,” “day of the Lord,” “last day,” “that day,” are all essentially equivalent. Through holding the judgment of the righteous and the wicked to be separated by a long stretch of years, . Pre-millennialists are required to regard this “day of judgment,” etc., as a great period filled with transcendent and diversified events.
The class of Pre-millennialists who believe in a coming of Christ for His people and another with them, include in this day (1) The coming of the Lord for His people; (2) Their resurrection and the rapture; (3) Their judgment and reward; (4) The great tribulation; (5) The restoration of Israel; (6) The revelation of Antichrist; (7) The conversion of the Jews; (8) The coming of the Lord with His people; (9) The judgment of the nations; (10) The destruction of Antichrist; (11) The resurrection of the tribulation saints; (12) The personal reign of Christ for one thousand years; (13) The last great uprising of wickedness; (14) The resurrection, punishment and judgment of the wicked; (15) The last conflagration.
Those of the Pre-millennialists who do not commit themselves to the doctrine of a coming for, and a coming with, His people, believe this “day” to include 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 of the above. Post-millennialists believe this day includes the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of good and bad, the judgment of all, their reward and punishments respectively, and the last conflagration. Let us refer to all the passages in which these terms are used, and see whether there is any allusion in them to the restoration and conversion of the Jews, the personal reign of Christ over a holy people upon the earth, a great uprising of the wicked and their attack upon the saints while He is with them in personal presence and power, which all classes of Pre-millennialists believe included in that day. Almost all believe, also, that during the millennial part of this “day,” the work of salvation which has made little progress prior to our Lord’s coming, will then, in connection with the labors of the Jews who are to be converted at its beginning, sweep over the earth in glorious might, until all men are brought to the feet of Jesus in devoted subjection and adoring love.
But what do the Scriptures say that day contains? The dead are to be raised on that “last day” (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24).
That day shall be the great day of searching judgment. Men shall be then judged by the word of Christ (John 12:48), the Gospel of Christ (Rom. 2:16), must give account for every idle word (Matt 12:36), will have the emptiness of mere formal service exposed (Matt. 7:22), and the character of their service revealed (1 Cor. 3:13).
In the testing of the searching judgment of this day, the wicked shall be declared guilty and shall be punished.
Those who reject the preaching of the apostles shall be under deeper condemnation and penalty than Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt 10:15; Luke 10:15), Capernaum than Sodom (Matt. 11:22), Chorazin and Bethsaida than Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 11:21). The wicked are kept “under punishment unto the day of judgment” (2 Pet. 2:9). That day is to be the day of “destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet 3:7). Evil angels are kept unto the judgment of this “great day” (Jude 6). Because on this day, the doom of the wicked is made manifest and God’s righteous displeasure against sin it is called the “day of wrath” (Rom. 2:5). In that day of searching judgment, the faithful shall be “unreproveable” (1 Cor. 1:8), “void of offence” (Phil 1:10), “have boldness” (1 John 4:17), “have whereof to glory” (Phil 2:16), “receive a crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:8), “find mercy” (2 Tim. 1:18), glory. in those saved through them (2 Cor. 1:14), Christ is then to be glorified in His saints (2 Thess. 1:10).
In that day, there is to be the great conflagration spoken of in 2 Pet. 3:10 sq.
The only other passages in which any of these, expressions is used, are 1 Cor. 5:5, Phil. 1:6, 1 Thess. 5:2-4, 2 Thess. 2:2, 2 Tim. 1:12, Heb. 10:25, which tell us nothing on the question at issue between Pre-millennialists and Post-millennialists.
So far as these declared descriptions of this day, so variously designed, specify, it includes just four things —the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead, the judgment of the righteous and the wicked with the condemnation and penalty and the justification and reward associated with it, and the great conflagration of 2 Peter, which some reverent interpreters do not take literally. There is not the shadow of a shade of a hint that this day includes the restoration of the Jews and their conversion, the great era of the progress and triumph of the Gospel, the personal reign of Christ on earth, and a great rebellion of the wicked in the very face of the omnipotent Saviour in personal presence, and after a thousand years of the display of His invincible might.
If this day is really to include this long and grand series of events, how is it that not the remotest reference or allusion to any one of them is found in a single one of the numerous and varied descriptions of it? Could our Lord and the apostles have believed this day was to include them all and still have kept out the most incidental allusion to them from all their references to it? Where might we more expect to find references to these events than in the descriptions of what is alleged to be the period of which they form some of the grandest features? If the descriptions of this day were few, or these events which Pre-millennialists would thrust into it, of an insignificant character, it would be conceivable that they might make part of this day, though not mentioned in the scant reference to even its more transcendent features; but where the descriptions of this day and the allusions to it are so many and varied, and these events which are alleged to be included in it are so grand and blessed, can we reach any other conclusion than that they are not mentioned in the descriptions of the day, simply because they do not belong to it?
Besides, the whole impression made by an exhaustive study of all the passages in which the “day of judgment” and its kindred terms are used, is just the opposite of its being a long period. This day bursts upon the world with lightning-like suddenness. It comes like the stroke of doom to all the wicked. All arms opposed to Christ are palsied by the glory, and grandeur, and divine might of the personally-present Judge. No puny arm of rebellion will ever be lifted after He appears in transcendent majesty. There is no long and gracious period in which Christ’s loving calls continue to woo the wicked, and draw multitudes into the kingdom, as never before. There are no long centuries of blessed life on earth in this “day.” It is to be as swift in its progress as sudden in its coming. Its tremendous events crowd each other across the scene. They are all homogeneous, having their centre and unity in the judgment seat of Christ, His coming and the resurrection as preparatory to it, and the reward and penalty as consequent upon it.
While, therefore, we must not restrict the “day” to twenty-four hours, it does appear that the persistent and invariable use of this brief natural period to describe the era of these grand events, was intended to impress upon us its relative brevity—that it is to be too short to include a millennium of years with the addition of an indefinite period, as Pre-millennialists believe.
Nor is this all. Notice the significance of the fact that this day is called “the last day” as well as “the day of the Lord” and “the day of judgment.” Reference is made to the same period, as the end of the world, or age, in Matt. 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20, where the same great events, the judgment separation, the coming of the Lord, and the end of the gospel age, are spoken of John uniformly calls this period “the last day,” Matthew “the day of judgment" and “the end of the world” or age, Paul “that day” or “the day of the Lord,” Peter “the day of judgment” and “the day of God.” Its designation as “the last day,” and “the end of the world” or age, fixes its relative place in time. So far as we know, there is no dispute, either that all these designations refer to the same period, or that the age of which it is “the last day,” or “end,” is the present gospel age, which is to close with the coming of the Lord, as distinguished from the age to come which then sets in. Pre-millennialists, believing not only that the age to come is introduced by the coming of the Lord, but that He will come to introduce the millennium, hold that the millennium forms part of the age to come.
It does not require much penetration to see the contradictions and inconsistencies which the premillennial conception of “the day of judgment” or “last day,” involves, when brought face to face with their belief that the millennium forms part of the age to come—nay, constitutes that age. Unquestionably, “the day of judgment,” which is also termed “the last day,” includes the judgment of the wicked, as well as the coming of the Lord and the judgment of the righteous. But Pre-millennialists all hold that the judgment of the wicked is not until after the millennium has been succeeded by the great uprising of wickedness at its close (Rev. 20:11 sq.). They, therefore, make the day of judgment, which is also described as the last day, include all the millennium, with all the events they believe will then take place. That is to say, the last day or end of this evil age, as distinguished from the glorious millennial age which is to follow, includes all this very age to come and perhaps more! What would we say of the man who should declare that the last day, or end of the nineteenth century is to include all the twentieth century with all its crowding events?
What shall we say of the theory which makes it necessary to suppose our Lord and His apostles guilty, in their use of language, of folly just as great?
If anything is plain, it is that these ages stretch over different periods of time. No event, therefore, of the one can occur in the temporal limits of the other, any more than an object can be in two places at the same time. In any case, can we conceive scripture writers to be so unmindful of the properties of language as to designate as a day of an age a period longer than the one they call an age It will also be noticed that the pre-millennial view makes the resurrection and judgment of the righteous and of the wicked occur in two distinct ages, the wicked being raised and judged in the age or world to come.
Does not all the plain teaching of the New Testament give the opposite impression ? In this case, especially, we do not see how it is possible to force the pre-millennial interpretation of Rev. 20:4-11 upon the rest of the New Testament without bringing these verses into such flat contradiction with the teaching of the passages which refer to the day variously designated “the last day,” “the day of judgment,” etc., as to endanger the inspiration of either Rev. 20:4-11, or of all the passages with which it is brought into conflict. Will anyone venture to assume, in order to escape the difficulty, that “the day of judgment,” “the day of the Lord,” etc., do not refer to the same period as that covered by “the last day”? But this would require great hardihood. It would be necessary to maintain that “the day of judgment” and “the last day” were not the same period, although the same grand events are said to take place in them both. It would also require him to defy the consensus of Christian scholarship.
Or will anyone say that the millennial age belongs to the present age as distinguished from the age to come? But this would be to give up the central doctrine of Pre-millennialism, and take the heart out of that whole system. Shall we then conclude that our Lord and His apostles used language with no more discrimination and propriety than to include in the last day of this age much if not all, of the age to come, from which, apparently, this term “last day” of this age was meant to distinguish it? There seems to be but one alternative to all these assumptions; and that is, to conclude that the theory which puts the millennium and the judgment of the wicked beyond the coming of the Lord in an age to come, as distinguished from the present age, is untenable, and must be abandoned in order to escape impossible conclusions.
 E.g., see Cremer, Thayer, Robinson, “Lex. New Test. Greek,” art, day (ἡμερα).